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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mr Obama Goes to Ottawa

So that's what a leader looks like. Unfortunately he's not our leader, the stiff looking man next to him is. I used to believe the old saying that a country gets the leader they deserve. But if that is true then I rise on a point of order. While the last American administration (which the voters elected twice) ran the country into the ground, letting the banks and big business run amuck, financing a unwinnable war and promoting xenophobia, Canada was quietly paying down our national debt, taking in more refugees than ever before and going about it's business as a responsible member of the new world order. But now America has a charismatic new President who inspires billions of people the world over to have hope, to believe in change while we Canadians are stuck with the same old tired bunch, plodding along, recycling the same old tired policies. I'm sorry but what did we do to deserve this?

I watched Mr. Obama's visit to Parliament Hill yesterday and was surprised by the level of excitement it brought to stuffy old Ottawa. But even Mr. Obama's shining star couldn't rub off on Stephen Harper, our pedestrian, mediaphobic and completely uninspiring Prime Minister. For the last eight years, we Canadians took solace from the fact that we could look down on our neighbours to the south and sadly shake out heads and tsk, tsk as George W. forged a path of destruction through every facet of American society. But now we are the ones stuck with a right wing (by Canadian standards anyways) leader who will barely lower himself to talk let alone, listen to Canadians and when he does he repeats himself. Word for uninspiring word, first in French and then in English. What's the point of similtaneous translation or even that some of us that can understand both of official languages, if you just say the same thing twice. It doesn't make it any more meaningful.

The chances of an Obama-like leader rising up through the mire of Canadian politics is so remote that even the most optimistic of glass half full-types aren't holding their breath. In the meantime we can only hope that Mr. Obama succeeds in his rather daunting task of reinvigorating the American economy because that will help us all. Canada is the US's largest trading partner (which apparently was news to the Fox broadcaster covering the visit yesterday) and while I know that this six hour visit was purely symbolic at least it happened, unlike when George W. visited Mexico on his first foreign trip, snubbing Canadians and setting the tone for his administration's interest, or lack thereof, in anything north of the border. I just hope that Canadians will demand more of our leaders and force them to lead not just ride on Mr. Obama's coat tails. I certainly don't want to have to tell my children that they should sew an American flag on their backpacks when they take their first trip to Europe. But I am glad that my American friends can once again proudly show their flag when they travel, thanks to their new President.


  1. I used to believe the old saying that a country gets the leader they deserve.

    I didn't know this was an old saying, but it's a cruel and untrue one. Pinochet? Suharto? Marcos? Stalin? Saddam Hussein? George Bush? None of them were elected. Why would the countries "deserve" them?

    I hope you will not be so star struck by Obama's graceful demeanor that you imagine him something he is not. He is not so very different from Mr Ignatieff... who is not so very different from Mr Harper.

  2. Harper killed me that day. He was up there with Obama, acting like the applause was for him too. Uh, no, Stevie...

    It would be great to have a charismatic leader in Canada. Of course other qualities are important, but really, could we not have someone with a bit of spark for a change??


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