A glimpse into modern Canada:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled to make a stop at the Ford plant in Oakville, Ont., Friday afternoon, to announce a multi-million-dollar subsidy program for the auto industry, but he could be greeted by a First Nations protest.
The group, “Rising Tide Toronto,” has planned a rally at the plant at 10 a.m.
Pause to consider the scene. The Prime Minister is taking time out of his busy day to shovel millions of dollars of pork into one of the largest industrial firms in Canada. By the strangest coincidence said firm's headquarters and primary production facility are located in a swing riding, which the Tories had spent years trying to capture from the Liberals. Accompanying the PM will be the Minister of Labour, not as one might expect the Minister of Industry, who just happens to represent the neighbouring riding of Halton.
It's amazing how much coincidence occurs in Canadian politics.
Greeting Mr Harper and Ms Raitt will be a group loosely affiliated with the Idle No More movement. The anti-Idlers are not your typical protest group. The homepage of their website helpfully explains their mission statement:
Idle No More calls on all people to join in a revolution which honors and fulfills Indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water. Colonization continues through attacks to Indigenous rights and damage to the land and water. We must repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth.
In other words they want to remain stuck in the eighteenth century. Sadly it's not even the positive bits of the eighteenth century, the Adam Smith and James Watt stuff, but instead trying to preserve some highly romanticized version of the aboriginal past. The great wilderness is not coming back. Not that most aboriginals have the slightest interest in abandoning the benefits of western civilization. Bitch as aboriginal nationalists may about the white man, they seem rather fond of the technology developed by European societies and their offshoots.
Amidst the despair of the aboriginal reserve welfare ghettos, aboriginal nationalists have spun a mythology of a golden age that needs to be returned to. No matter how deluded such myths are to the vast majority of Canadians, they represent hope to the desperate. There will, however, be no return to those imagined arcadian splendours. The life of men and women of all races before the industrial and scientific revolutions was nasty, brutish and short. The choice that faces the aboriginal peoples is whether to join the modern world or reject it.
Semi-nomadic tribes cannot survive in a society of settled agriculture, mass production and high technology. They may eek out an existence on the margins of that society, as supplicants or threats, but such an existence is hardly to be envied. The mythology of the aboriginal nationalists, acceded to by a cowardly intellectual establishment, gives false hope to their people. Hope brings expectations and the inevitable dashing of those expectations brings anger. History tells us that anger expresses itself in many ways.
Less dangerous, because they are regarded with less pity, are the vanishing working classes of Canada. For a century southern Ontario was one of the world's great industrial regions. Its thousands of factories manned by a vast unskilled and semi-skilled labour force. During a golden age which stretched from the end of the war until about the mid-1970s such work, always physically demanding but now well paid, allowed for an unprecedented middle class existence. With the advance of technology and the pressure of international competition that way of life is now largely gone.
A few days ago I was talking with a professor of economics who teaches at a well regarded MBA school in southern Ontario. He bemoaned the fact that many of the top graduates in the program had struggled to find entry-level positions at car rental companies. It isn't simply the humanities and social sciences degrees that have seen their market value plunge. Even the more applied fields are seeing their graduates struggle.
If these people are having a rough go of it, imagine being a high school graduate with few marketable skills who has spent a lifetime engaged in a single menial task. That high school graduate is often also middle aged and with all the obligations that entails. The world has changed and left him behind.
Meeting in the leafy and pleasant suburb of Oakville will be two groups trapped in nostalgia and afraid of the future. The economic structure of the auto industry has changed forever. A few hundred millions in subsidies may purchase some votes for the governing party, but it cannot change the underlying reality. The billions which the taxpayers of Canada pour into the bottomless pit of aboriginal affairs will not make real the dream of Turtle Island. The money goes we know not where, we know only that the Chief's driveway is always paved and his home well heated.
Government will not solve the problems it helped create. Instead it preserves those problems, allowing them to be passed on from generation to generation, open wounds that are never allowed to heal. Had governments allowed the auto industry to sink or swim on the market tide the workforce would have been compelled to move on. A short period of pain and readjustment, followed by a cold and frank look to the future. Instead another generation of unskilled labour is being deluded about their future.
Had governments in generations past stopped subsidizing the reserve system, stopped treating the aboriginal peoples as witless children who were to be alternately pandered to and bribed, the aboriginals would have suffered and then moved on. In time they would have made their peace with modernity. Instead yet another generations has been raised into taxpayer subsidized delusion.
Big government is ultimately a Big Lie that breeds smaller ones. Among the most pernicious of those lies is that the state can stop the clock.