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Canada deserves to be relegated from the G7

The holy editors here at the hub have agreed to my request to produce one of my two monthly articles for the site as a monthly transatlantic diary. For those readers unfamiliar with the format more common in British journalism, the diary is a grab bag of short articles, sometimes on a common theme, but often not. What they have in common in my case is that they’re either too inconsequential to merit a full article, or I don’t bother to come up with anything more than a knee-jerk reaction or flip comment. this is january


January is my birthday month, and not coincidentally the most depressing month of the year. For most of Canada, it’s the month when the spark of hope brought by an immaculate calendar has been extinguished by the looming reality of four more months of winter (winter replaced by rain on the west coast). Here in the UK, the mood and weather is not just cold, it’s damp. When I arrived for the Hilary appointment, Oxford was floating. The meadows around the city are lakes, and wherever there is grass you can be sure it’s just the deceptively solid surface of a swamp. We are like a temperate colony of Thesiger’s Swamp Arabs. As I walked to my birthday dinner across Port Meadow in the dark, I soaked both shoes and one sock mid-calf. Luckily, the fire at The Perch did its job. I have no doubt that public health commissioners, determined to eradicate all traditional sources of joy, have viewed log fires as a threat. If so, I’m glad the good folks at The Perch are sticking to the old ways for now. The last thing you want to see in a pub with wet feet is the pale glow of an electric heater.

* * *

I mentioned that the mood in Ye Jolly Olde is sad, but I should add that this is not an uncommon condition. Except for the uncharacteristically vulgar sheen of ‘Cool Britannia’ in the late 1990s, the British mood since abandoning its imperial ambitions has been one of wry resignation, occasionally descending into dignified gloom. Politically, we are in one of the darkest times. Nobody, I suspect not even most of their MPs’ families, even considers voting for the incumbent Conservatives, but nobody, including most Labor supporters, seems particularly enthusiastic about Labor leader Keir Starmer, who has all the charisma of three days – old rice pudding. His 20-point lead in polls shows that the system now leaves disaffected voters with no other choice.

* * *

After almost thirteen years of conservative rule, the country is far less conservative in almost every way imaginable – culturally, socially, legally, religiously, fiscally. The only good thing that can be said about the party’s tenure is that it corrected a fifty-year-old mistake by freeing Britain from political entanglements with the corrupt and undemocratic European Union. Otherwise taxes are up, service is down, strikes are back and borders are open. No wonder the Conservatives face a generational defeat in the next election. I almost feel sorry for Rishi Sunak who is like a junior officer who is promoted to command a garrison after it has already been overrun. It’s not his fault that the senior officers squandered all the ammunition on hunt squads before they were relieved of command for incompetence, but he’ll be the poor chap to face the enemy’s javelins at close range.

* * *

If things weren’t bad enough on the home front, it was recently reported that a “senior US general” had bluntly warned Ben Wallace, the former British defense secretary, that the British military “is no longer viewed as a high-profile force”. One wonders what Americans must think of Canada’s military. I suspect the answer is that they don’t. Yes, the CAF put in an impressive performance in the ill-conceived war in Afghanistan, but instead of building on that experience, successive governments have viewed defense as a politically painless source of budgetary savings. The idea that we could fulfill our NATO commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on our military is almost unthinkable at this point.

* * *

Put my cynical hat on, maybe the CAF’s chronic underfunding is okay. What do we even do with a bigger and more capable military? Getting caught up in more West African civil wars? Read the government’s description of the woefully understaffed mission in Mali – ironically dubbed Operation Presence (at least someone at DND has a sense of humor) – if you want a laugh. If I swap my cynical hat for my political hat, a new government will have to make the case for Canada’s military before it makes sense to increase spending. What is the CAF for? By the way, what is Canada for? Does anyone in Ottawa know? Does anyone in Ottawa take care of this?

* * *

Speaking of Canada’s role in the world, I’ve had the nagging heretical thought for some time that maybe it wouldn’t be the worst if the G7 forgot to invite us to their annual Chinwag. Objectively speaking, we should have been replaced by India a few years ago. The shock of relegation could force Canada’s smug leadership class to consider whether we have more to offer the world than smug lectures and the occasional overblown press release from the Pearson Building. As a boy I had an English teacher whose father was one of the last men to be given a hereditary title of nobility. According to my teacher, his father had chosen a lifeline instead because he knew his son and thought it would not be good for him to inherit a title. There is a lesson there. As long as we have a seat at the table, we don’t have to earn it. It doesn’t seem to have hurt Australia, South Korea or Norway not to be in the G7. Maybe it even helped them. Maybe it would help Canada too.

* * *

Finally, a lighter touchI see that a Frasier A reboot is in the works, with only Kelsey Grammer returning from the original cast. Though Grammer, with his absolutely perfect Jack Benny eye-rolls and smug replies, acted brilliantly as the center around which the more colorful supporting characters revolved, I can’t imagine the new show being anything more than sad fanservice for the aging nostalgic TV version of this one old bands that still tour without most of the original members. I hope I’m wrong, but if I had a choice, I’d rather see Hollywood film one final season boss, for which Grammer won a Golden Globe as the Daley-esque mayor of modern Chicago. The pulp drama was a lot of fun, but sadly saw little.

And so on to February, which at least has the benefit of being shorter than January.

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