Canada Day - a blog, in 1000 Words or Less
Earlier in June, work took me to the Middle East. I was on the ground in Doha, Qatar less than twenty-four hours. Factor in food and sleep and there wasn’t much time for sight-seeing, not that I was permitted to leave the airport environment anyway, thanks to Covid. Some fourteen hours after that, I was back in Canada, marvelling at how intensely different life in that part of the world is, compared to here, at home. That’s a big reason we travel, of course. If you’re not trying to escape our ridiculous Canadian winters for sunshine and umbrella drinks, or visiting family (which is more an obligation than a vacation), then you’re travelling to see and experience the wonders of a new culture and a different way of life.
To be clear, a business trip isn’t, “like a mini vacation,” as I sometimes hear, especially when suffering from jet-lag, inadequate time to assimilate to a new time zone, unfamiliar food, and a circadian rhythm that hates a strange mattress and pillow.
Contending with the relentless irritations that accompany airline travel these days is another reason a business trip isn’t a vacation, including everything from silly charades at security, “Remove your belt and shoes,” to suffering incredibly arrogant customs agents who think they’re saving the world, to the lunacy of being told to socially distance inside an airport terminal building and then sitting beside a complete stranger for the next several hours…and then doing it all over again without the benefit of a fun two weeks between arrival and departure to “forget” all the annoyances.
Anyway, I only had enough time in Doha to form an “impression.” Setting aside what we already know about the Middle East (the unapologetic racism, the abhorrent treatment of women, the incredible wealth), my immediate thought was this: I couldn’t live here. There’s no green space. Anywhere. With negligible surface and groundwater supplies, Qatar largely depends on desalination plants to produce water. When a country has to desalinate, they don’t use the water to irrigate public parks or front lawns. I can’t imagine what a person does for outdoor recreation in Doha. Forty-four-degree days means people move from one air-conditioned environment to the next. They don’t spend time outside, engaged in active pursuits like biking for example, or inactive pursuits like lounging on a beach.
In Canada, getting out and doing something is as simple as deciding to open the front door. After the Doha trip, I was reminded not to take that for granted. Give me the relentless “wet” coast rain,
the absurdly cold Ottawa winters,
the freeze-thaw cycles of southern Ontario,
the wild temperature swings of southern Alberta,
the repetitive blizzards of the east coast.
I’ll complain because that’s what Canadians do, we justifiably complain about the crazy weather, but I’ll take it all day long over never-ending miles of dust, rock, sand and unyielding forty degree heat and yes, "dust" is part of Doha's hourly weather reports.
Recently, I read two non-fiction accounts about life in North Korea. Both books were written by individuals fortunate enough to have escaped the regime. Had they written and published their books in North Korea, if that’s even possible, both writers would have been executed for their candour; the stories they tell are horrifying and involve torture, murder, slave labour, and famine. Survival is as good as life gets in North Korea, and survival is not the same as living.
Or, consider the people in Syria. Presumably they went about their daily life in a way that wasn’t all that different than yours and mine…job, family, leisure time with friends, etcetera. And then, civil war erupted in 2011. Now, entire cities are destroyed, infrastructure is gone and basic resources are difficult to obtain. Everything about a normal, stable life has disappeared.
Examples like the these make our lives in Canada look good and every now and then, I enjoy receiving a real-world reminder of how good. The Doha trip served that purpose. As I said, the lifestyle we’re afforded in this country isn’t something we should take for granted…
…and it’s worth remembering that taking something for granted can make a person complacent. Just because, comparatively speaking, we are better off than the citizens of North Korea or the former residents of Damascus, doesn’t mean we should accept the imperfections and problems that exist in this country. Read the papers or watch the news and then pick your problem. We are a country of untapped potential, hamstrung by an individual whose numerous, well documented failings continue to make our lives incrementally worse. That’s not going to change anytime soon.
Thanks to Trudeau's uncontained spending through the Covid crisis, our standard of living is going to keep falling. Without a whiff of irony, he said, “We took on debt so Canadians wouldn’t have to.” Is the man-child so monumentally stupid as to believe himself when he makes a statement like that? Doubtful, although given his track record, it’s possible. The more likely answer is, his incredible arrogance means he believes he can say moronic shit and we’ll all thank him for his sacrifice, rather than ask, “How are you going to service and ultimately, repay that debt?” 720 billion dollars doesn’t disappear with the pandemic. Taxes are going up after the next federal election, no matter who wins. I don’t know where Trudeau thinks the revenue to pay those taxes will come from.
Imagine if he quit denying Canada’s resource-based economy and instead, focused on developing it. The various streams of revenue are almost unimaginable and would certainly fund the research, development and implementation of the green economy he so badly wants and thinks he can achieve through taxation.
Canada ranks third in the world, when it comes to oil reserves but we don’t refine it and we can’t ship it. Without getting into a whole big conversation about the green economy with people too ignorant to understand pipelines, imagine for a moment how much money the country would have if we didn’t spend 20 billion dollars a year importing oil.
Qatar ranks thirteenth on the list and that country’s residents have the highest per capita income of anyone in the world and enjoy the associated lifestyle. Admittedly, because of the size of the two countries, we’re not comparing apples and oranges. It’s more akin to apples and…I don’t know…donuts; both are considered food but that’s where the similarity ends. My point is this: one country generates wealth and economically, the standard of living is high. Another country has a (shameful) Ministry of Middle-Class Prosperity to handle a standard of living that is falling in tandem with the leader’s woke policies, vote pandering, and poor judgment. And, by-the-way, does the term, “Middle-Class Prosperity,” strike you as oxymoronic? I mean, is there such a thing as a prosperous middle-class?
Obviously, "standard of living" is measured in more ways than economics. The matrix includes green space and elbow room, to name a couple of my favourites and because of these, I’m happy I live in Canada. As angry and frustrated as the man-child’s ineptitude makes me, despite the absolute desperate feeling of helplessness I experience when he fails us again or,
embarrasses us on the world stage,
obfuscates when challenged on his numerous scandals,
invents policy and makes decisions based on what’s good for him rather than all Canadians…
…I’m still happy I live in Canada.
Yeah, there are problems, past and present, and they need attention. We have that in common with every other country in the world. Who doesn’t have baggage? But, on the one day a year on which we’re meant to celebrate Canada, I plan to to look out the window and appreciate everything I see, instead of focusing on a problem in the headlines. In a quiet, understated Canadian way I'll say, “Thanks,” and acknowledge how lucky I am to live here, rather than in Qatar or North Korea. If there's a Canadian out there who isn't willing to do something similar, it's time he did some comparison shopping of his own.
Happy Canada Day.
That’s all I’ve got for the next few months. In TV terms, it’s the end of the season. There are too many summer time distractions right now. For anyone who’s curious, I’ve finally finished the re-write on my fourth novel, Femme Fatale and I need to spend some time polishing.
As always, thanks for reading this blog. I very much appreciate it.