On one hand, my love for Canada is emphatic. Although Canadians would probably be puzzled by the notion of Canada having a mystique, I was a hockey fan before being a hockey fan was cool in the States, and for the small, hard-core cadre of puckheads south of the border, a mystique was precisely what Canada had. It was, of course, the home of the game we loved, and it was culturally and linguistically similar enough to us to be relatable. But on the other hand, it was also exotic in certain ways; the funny way they spelled things, for example, and their habit of calling vacations "holidays," and the fact that a portion of them thought they were French and more or less acted that way.
Our own society was not then nearly as coarsened or as nasty as it has become today, so the distinction between the polite, civilized Canadian and the crude, boorish American of stereotype wasn't quite as pronounced. But I will never cease to marvel at the time I accidentally dropped two hundred dollars on the floor while paying the check (cheque?) at Connie's Pizza in Stratford, Ontario, and the next person to occupy my chair at that table turned it in at the cash register!
I've always liked Canada's political system, too. For one thing, it provides a place for minority political groups such as American centrists to stand. And it's far more responsive than our system; I've often reflected that the Vietnam debacle would not have gone on as long as it did if we had a parliamentary system in the States. Neither would Watergate. Perhaps even our current experience of a corrupt, unstable and wholly unfit head of government might be attenuated if all that was necessary to fix what is broken were a vote of no confidence rather than the long, drawn-out and traumatic process of impeachment, with the only alternative being a mandatory four-year wait until the next election. The chief advantage of our system- the Separation of Powers- has pretty much been shown to be an illusion by the overreach of the Judicial and Executive Branches alike into the constitutional functions of the Legislative.
And then, too, there are the people. I've always liked Canadians and greatly enjoyed interacting with them during my... er, holidays up there. There's enough that is British about them to invoke my fondness for Brits and Britain, and also the Scots-Irish heritage of my dad's side of the family. A long-time girlfriend from days gone by who grew up with duel citizenship could never understand why I found Canada so interesting and exotic. But I do.
On the other hand, Canadians can sometimes be maddeningly condescending. Some- a minority- seem to be anti-American pretty much on principle. Of course, our casual arrogance, tendency to be loud and boorish, and presumptuous, casually boastful sense of superiority to everyone else must make us somewhat toxic neighbo(u)rs at times. For a quiet, unassuming people to have the world's only remaining superpower next door must also be unsettling at times as well.
And in recent years, the constitutional deterioration which has taken place throughout the Western world if anything has gone further and faster in Canada than it has here. Traditional marriage was abolished by judicial fiat in Canada long before it happened in the States, and abortion is if anything even more sacred a civil sacrament. I'm sorry, but a nation in which one can be fined, imprisoned, or have one's right to publish restricted because of bad manners isn't simply a nation which has a different concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of the press than we do; it's a nation in which those freedoms are shriveling and which has lost any clear grasp of those concepts at all.
Perhaps more disturbing is the relative lack of opposition to those developments. "So-con" ("social conservative") seems to be a dirty word in Canada, and the Harper government actively silenced parliamentary opposition, for example, to abortion. This has led me to question whether Canada truly has a conservative party, any more than the UK does; one's attitude toward social issues is a rather large chunk of one's attitude toward governance and even life to be amputated from one's sphere of concern without the political character of that sphere changing drastically. Yet Canadian politicians and journalists sneer at "American-style conservatives" as if the right to treat a biologically separate human life as literal garbage or the undermining of childbearing as the rationale for marriage and the monogamy as a marital expectation and the ability to express oneself freely were tawdry examples of American crudity rather than hallowed principles of our common Anglo-Saxon cultural and political heritage.
But there is good news from north of the border, Canada's Conservative Party has chosen a new leader, and it is neither the vaguely Trumpish Kevin O'Leary or the toxically libertarian Maxime Bernier. Instead, they have selected Andrew Scheer, a solid centrist who sends his kids to a Christian school and does not regard people who hold the values which defined Anglo-Saxon civilization until a generation or so ago as half-Neanderthal and have extraterrestrial, but who nevertheless bears no believable resemblance to Attila the Hun or Donald Trump.
That Canada has gone even further down the road to cultural deterioration than has the United States saddens me immensely. It also saddens me that the superficial charm, worldview, and faux tolerance represented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains so popular. But perhaps the selection of a reasonable, down-to-earth, decent Canadian as the electoral alternative to Mr. Trudeau will have a salutary effect on politics on both sides of the border.
When the people of Canada decide that they want substance rather than empty style again, they have their man. And people such as myself south of the border, who are both social conservatives and centrists (a combination Canadians hitherto would have found incomprehensible and is rapidly growing rarer in the States) are encouraged by the evidence the selection of Mr. Scheer that the dream of a society which is sane and compassionate and rooted in the heritage of Western law, culture, and freedom is shared by at least some in Canada as well.