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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable

Brian Gable

Being a Canadian for any extended period in the United States can be a, er, challenging experience. Last Friday night I was out with an otherwise intelligent American who found Canada a puzzling notion. "It's like an attic on our house with thirty million people in it." On that issue I demurred but suggested a variety of ways in which Canada might otherwise be characterized. My interlocutor now even more obviously befuddled replied: "So you take this Canadian thing pretty seriously."

With this observation ringing in my ears I watched an hour or so of the House debate on the health-care bill. On the Republican side, the terms Canadian, British and/or European became, in this context, oft repeated euphemisms for baby-killing freedom-hating pinko nihilist. I found the whole thing so distressing I got up from the common area in a university building where I was watching and, sotto voce, spoke from the heart: "What a load of crap."

A women with a broad South Jersey accent turned on me and said: "I suppose you're a democrat." I looked at her with all the contempt I could muster and said: "Madame I'm a Canadian, which by your standard makes me a Bolshevik." Actually I didn't have the nerve to say that (because I'm Canadian) but oh my goodness I wish I had.

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In the end, the late evening vote in the house was a near-run thing (220-215) with 39 Democrats voting against. A fact of American life is that " freedom" is the foundational animating priority of political life. To the extent that Republicans can drive a wedge into the "new deal" Democratic party's commitment to equity in health care, renders the Canadian perspective on the issue somewhere between Enver Hoxha era Albania and Cuba. The fight in the Senate will no doubt ratchet up the ideological vitriol. Pure laine conservatives like Mitch McConnell will no doubt have things to say about Canada's inherent health-care depravities. Hang on to your toques.

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