11 September 2008

Isn't it always cold in Canada?

It's happening again.

"Where are you from? America?" asks the woman sitting across from me. She's a friend of a friend and she has seized on the fact that my accent is not the one she's used to hearing. I smile and politely reply, "Actually, I'm Canadian."

"Canadian? Oh I've always wanted to go to Canada, it looks so beautiful. Where in Canada are you from?"

"I'm from Halifax...Nova Scotia."

Blank stare.

This is not an uncommon response and fair enough. I would hardly expect someone from the other side of the world to know all the Canadian provinces, territories and their capitals. I take a deep breath, then attempt to clarify. "It's on the east coast of the country", I say.

At this point I'm hoping that she has a vague picture of North America in her head and will realize that I'm from somewhere on the eastern seaboard. Not a very accurate description but at least she'll get the general idea. Yep, I can see a spark of comprehension in her eyes now. "Oh that's the really cold bit, isn't it?"

Heh? Did I say "east coast" or "north pole"? As my notions of cold and warm have always had a general north/south orientation, her logic has me a bit baffled.

But I don't tell her this. Instead I reply,"Well yes it can get cold. But only in the winter."

She bursts out laughing.

I'm perplexed for a moment because I hadn't meant it to be funny; just a statement of fact. Then I realize she's not laughing because it's funny. She doesn't believe me. It's an ah-ha-ha-very-funny-but-you-can't-fool-me sort of laugh.

Then she asks me what I do here in New Zealand and the conversation moves on.

I'm sure this is not an unfamiliar story to many Canadian's who've been abroad. But where does this image of Canada come from? Sure Canadian winters are cold and admittedly there are places in the far north where temperatures only reach the single digits in the middle of July. However the fact remains that many places in the country get fabulous summers.

Is it all the adverts for ski holidays in Whistler? All those pics of Victoria glacier at Lake Louise? Perhaps our obsession with ice hockey?

Whatever the cause I desperately wish someone would fix it. I hate having to explain that I've never been ice skating in the summer because there's no ice.

I'm not asking for much. Just believe me when I say that I spent much of my childhood swimming and sun-bathing on a Nova-Scotian beach. Is that really so implausible? For the woman sitting across from me at least, the answer would seem to be yes.

10 September 2008

Where's the policy Canada?

As a Canadian living in New Zealand, I am currently following the election news of both countries with avid curiosity. Here in NZ one thing that seems to keep popping up over and over (other than Winston’s latest denials) is the National Party’s lack of concrete policy. And it was these accusations that got me wondering. With an election just over a month away what were Canada’s major parties proposing?

So I did what all seekers of info do in this day in age...I went on the internet of course! I went to the websites of 3 of Canada’s major parties (Conservatives, Liberals and NDP...the Bloc I neglected as I’m not from Qu├ębec) and what I found, while not wholly surprising, was still more than a little scary.

My first stop was the Conservatives. Upon clicking on their ‘Policy’ link I found oodles of facts on past achievements and, of course, past screw-ups of the other parties. But upon sifting through the “Speech from the Throne” and the 2008 budget I got a fairly clear picture of what they’ve got in mind for the next couple of years. No surprises there. As they are heading up the current government , they had bloody well better know where their headed.

Next up? The Liberals. As the traditional opposition party surely they had something interesting to say. I clicked on the ‘Vision’ link. And what did I find? “The Green Shift”. Eh? That’s it? Surely there had to be more. So I looked. I really did. I found a picture proclaiming they will bring back the “Court Challenges Program”. Well that’s lovely. What about health? Education? Unemployment? The current nightmare that is Canadian telecommunications?

The NDP, much to my surprise, faired a bit better. At least Mr. Layton did more in his opening campaign speech than lambast Mr. Harper. But while it all sounds good there’s not a lot of substance. So you’re going to invest in my kids education? How much and who gets the funding? You plan on fixing healthcare waiting lists by training more doctors and nurses you say? Sorry Mr. Layton but if you did just a tiny bit of homework you’d know that our health care problems are just slightly more complex. And this is, according to the latest polls, Canada’s second choice for PM. Yikes!

I must admit I’ve never been a huge fan of the Conservatives and much less now that they’ve become a cover for the right wing nutters of the old Alliance Party. But the alternatives are absolutely non-existent. Where’s the vision? Where’s the country going and how is it getting there? If this were a job interview these guys would have been thanked politely and asked to leave ages ago. And still they ask us to vote for them.

As all this started with the NZ National Party, I decided to do a quick comparison. Were they really as bad as all that? In short, no. What most have been calling a ‘lack of policy’ turned out to be surprisingly comprehensive compared to their Canadian counterparts. Frankly I’ll take the NZ version of “a lack of policy” over Canada’s any day. Sadly it’s a bit late to expect anything more than shoddy, thrown-together-at-the-last-minute election promises from our Canadian crew. Perhaps next election...AH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!