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book review

A Canadian flag is seen painted on a scull oar during the women's lightweight double sculls heat at Eton Dorney during the London 2012 Olympic Games July 29, 2012.JIM YOUNG/Reuters

My fellow Americans: Lift up thine eyes beyond the 49th parallel, from whence cometh our help. Our help cometh from the North, which made Timbits and the Swiss Chalet special sauce. They will not suffer thy foreign wars to multiply and will preserve thee from all Mitts and Baracks.

That, in a purplish pastiche of psalms, is Canada's message to us in this fevered, frantic and foolish election season. Or at least that's the Canada Party's message to the 312 million of us living in Canada's beleaguered, benighted neighbour to the south, the one that has been conducting an election campaign for … what seems like forever.

Oh, how I wish the Canada Party – not the one that put up more than four dozen candidates in the 1993 federal elections, but the one that this month produced America, But Better: The Canada Party Manifesto, just out in a handy $16.95 paperback – were on the ballot at my polling place on Nov. 6. Because here, in a mere 148 pages, is the roadmap out of our troubles. We simply need to add a little Canada to our politics – kind of like adding a little vinegar to our fries – and before you can say "John Diefenbaker," our troops would be out of the war in Afghanistan, our banks would be out of trouble, and we'd be relieved of zanies on the left and zealots on the right who are out of their minds.

Let me whisper a little insight of my own into the ears of my own people: Any nation that has figured out how to reduce a football possession from four downs to three – a 25-per-cent reduction! – can surely help us reduce our deficit, and our contention. America, But Better is a beguiling little bagatelle in a dispiriting political year, and Chris Cannon and Brian Calvert are to be thanked for adding maybe the only dash of humour to the entire proceedings, unless of course you count what Mitt Romney said in almost every country he visited this past week and what Barack Obama said when he asserted he wanted to take the money out of American politics. Can you believe those guys? In a word, no.

Cannon and Calvert may sound like a Bay Street firm, but in my mind their manifesto possesses the key to reforming our politics: "a nation returned to the principles of liberty and equality, plus some stuff about hockey." Here, for example, is the kind of wisdom we Americans would be smart to adopt: "As Canadians find actual wars costly and inconvenient, we've become purists in the realm of sports, choosing to honor our athletic forebears by conducting all our murder, rape and pillaging in controlled 60-minute sessions on Saturday afternoons. Because we also prize our dry sense of humor, we hold this sport on a sheet of ice, combining the grace of carefree skating with the brutality of beating your colleagues with large wooden sticks."

Any damn fool will see the sense in all of this, but only the shrewd eye will note that in spelling the words "honor" and "humor" in the American way, Cannon and Calvert have made a profound statement to all of us Penguins and Bruins fans. One of our big problems is that there is no "u" in many of the words in our language, which we have debased with negative advertisements, debates spawned by Bill Clinton's 1998 ruminations on rhetoric ("It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.") and inscrutable remarks from two presidents named George Bush. Put the "u" in "honor" and perhaps we can add a bit of you to our politics. So as we prepare for two national conventions in which nothing will happen and three presidential debates in which no minds will be changed, maybe we should junk the whole thing and take a few pages from the Canada Party manifesto. Perhaps we should start with the CP's proposed constitutional amendments. Here's the one I like best:

The public, particularly the media, shall not convict fellow citizens in the court of public opinion based on something they saw on Geraldo.

I'm willing to adopt the entire manifesto – almost. I'll take it page after page, word for word, except for the part about curling. I can tell you right now that there's no way many of us down here are going to wear curling pants. Just not going to happen.

David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has written about American politics for four decades.