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Canada at 142

We're inferior no more Add to ...

Put a fork in it - or, if you'd rather, a two-pronged Canada Day hot-dog roaster.

We not only know who we are, but we like who we are. And as to how we see ourselves in the years to come, Britain and the United States take note. Or don't take note: Canadians don't much care one way or the other, as they intend to go their own way.

"The cliché about Canadians being timid and diffident and too self-critical is wrong," says Peter Donolo of The Strategic Counsel. "Canadians think they're the cat's meow.

"We have a healthy self-image - in fact, a puffed-up image."

This comes out of an exhaustive spring survey of 1,000 adult Canadians conducted by The Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail and CTV. It discovered some expected truths - Canadians consider their flag and the Mounties to be the country's most-distinctive symbols - but also uncovered some surprises, some might say shocks.

The monarchy is a bust with today's Canadians. When asked if they felt a stronger connection to the Queen or the Queen's representative, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, 20 per cent named the Queen, 10 per cent said the G-G - and a remarkable 70 per cent said " neither ."

And when asked to look beyond the relatively popular Queen, 65 per cent of Canadians thought the ties to the Crown should be severed once she passes. Only 35 per cent care to think of Prince Charles, who will visit here this fall, as a future king of Canada.

"We were frankly surprised by the depth of the desire to cut ties with the monarchy," Donolo says.

Even more surprising to some is an argument that the national food of Canada is now poutine, that fries, gravy and cheese concoction that should only be consumed by the heartless.

More Canadians, it turns out, have eaten this relatively recent invention than have been in a canoe or seen a moose - the traditional tests of being Canadian.

"The food snobs won't like it," says Donolo. "Madame Benoît must be turning over in her grave."

There are signs, as well, that Canadians are finally turning away from picking through their own bellybutton lint in an endless search for self-identity.

That old joke about a Canadian coming to a fork in the road - one sign pointing to "Heaven," the other to "Panel Discussion on Heaven" - and the Canadian scurrying off to talk about it seems out of date.

There's a third sign that says "Home" and there's no debate at all on which direction it lies.

Donolo says there is a kind of new "smugness" out there that goes sharply against the grain of the legendary inferiority complex. Canadians now say, 89 per cent of them, that they live in the best country in the world. They say, 87 per cent, that Canada is in better shape than anyone else to deal with the world economic situation.

They believe Quebec will stay. They believe in their soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. And they think everyone living here could be just a bit more patriotic about it.

"If ever there was a true Canadian inferiority complex," Donolo says, "it's gone. When 90 per cent of the people think they live in the world's best country, that's not a country with a self-confidence problem."

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