By: Robert Roach
There are two main ways of addressing the fact that Canada is a collection of diverse regions.
The first is to embrace this fact as a fundamental strength and seek ways to work together and support one another. If we respect our differences and build on our similarities, a strong, united, dynamic and great nation is the result. Taking this path is not easy; it requires empathy, sacrifice, the ability to see beyond narrow perspectives, a willingness to compromise and an abiding commitment to the belief that Canada is strongest when all of its regions are thriving.
The second option is all too common and involves playing one region (or city or industry) of the country off of another for short-term gain, out of jealousy or because of ignorance. This approach sees the different parts of this great nation as competitors locked in a zero-sum game in which one region triumphs as the expense of the others. The result is bickering, missed opportunities, counterproductive animosity and a frayed national fabric. We can do better.
Politicians, business leaders, journalists, policy wonks and citizens from all parts of the country sometimes default to the second option. Most recently, Thomas Mulcair has said a number of things that focus on what divides Canada rather than what unites it. His remarks have been critiqued—and rightly so!—but we have to be careful not to let them become more fuel for the fire of division.
I have heard Albertans blame Quebec for Canada’s problems. I have heard people in Ontario berate life on the Prairies. I have heard people from Toronto tell tourists to avoid Calgary because it is ugly and full of rednecks. I have heard people in BC complain about EI recipients in the Maritimes. On top of these taunts and insults, there are old grudges against eastern banks, the oil sands is blamed for everything from the common cold to global warming and there are far too many Canadians who think breaking up the country is a good idea.
As we react to the recent wave of regional tension, it is worth considering that we are all better off working together as a country of strong regions rather than throwing stones at each other in an attempt to score points in a game with no real winner.