Fourteen years isn't much, even in the life of a youngish country like Canada, but how things have changed. True, in 1992, as now, there was a Conservative federal government, albeit one flying toward certain disaster in uncertain times. Politician and voter alike were lost in the constitutional morass of the Charlottetown accord. Central Canada was writhing in recession. The national debt was growing like a hormonal teen. Doubt and debate raged over the value of the three-year-old free trade agreement with the United States. The year's most vile import, speaking of unfair trade, was a tune called Achy Breaky Heart. Yup, things were ugly
The nation today, under another Conservative government of uncertain longevity, is a changed place: richer, confident, somewhat less likely to two-step to just any old American tune. Canadians feel it, and much of the world does too, according to a survey by Angus Reid Strategies for Maclean's of 20 countries and their views on Canada and the world. The results are in sharp contrast to 1992, when the Angus Reid Group (now Ipsos Reid) conducted a similar survey of 13 of the same countries. "There was a sense then we were a nation of losers," Angus Reid says. "Here we are 14 years later, and when we compare the zeitgeist of Canada, especially with the United States, it's not bad."
In fact, it's downright robust, and a bit cocky. Canada may have formed the world's largest trading relationship with the U.S., but the survey shows the Canadian identity is "remarkably intact," says Michael Byers, who holds the Canadian Research Chair in Global Politics and Law at the University of British Columbia. The resurgent Canadian spirit is all the more dramatic in contrast to the U.S., where the survey reveals a profound loss of faith in that country's political and national institutions. The world sees an America in decline, says Byers. "We look pretty good in comparison to our neighbours, who are not doing very well." The terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have had a huge impact on U.S. foreign policy and the American psyche, says Antonia Maioni, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. Partly as a result, Canada's international role diverges from the U.S. on many issues. She cites as examples the refusal to join the Iraq war, and Canada's lead in securing an international ban on anti-personnel landmines. Legalizing same-sex marriage also drew world notice. "They might not agree with it," she says, "but they at least see it as an indication of a wider tolerance."
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