Canada a well-run country by global standards, despite Ibbitson’s assertions

The Globe and Mail has set up a forum where people can gather to discuss some of the controversial ideas put forth in columnist John Ibbitson’s new book, Open and Shut: Why America Has Barack Obama and Canada Has Stephen Harper.

The most explosive of Ibbitson’s recommendations is bound to be his proposal for the easing of border controls in order to allow for a EU-style free flow of people, goods and services between Canada and the U.S.

Never mind the fact that pooling sovereignty with the neighbours is a political non-seller in both Canada and the United States, and that there are other ways to secure a better life for Canadians that do not involve turning our country’s political life upside down for the next five years.

Such as:

  • Improving educational outcomes and conquering learning disabilities
  • Making good choices in labour market policy — e.g., making it easier for people in low-productivity jobs to move forward to higher productivity jobs.
  • Increasing the amount of research and development that takes place in Canada
  • Making Canadian governments at all levels more transparent and less prone to corruption.

A detailed discussion of those kinds of policy issues won’t cause books to fly off the shelves quite as quickly as the more inflammatory ideas that Ibbitson raises.

However, there was something else on the web site that caught my attention:

Open & Shut argues that Barack Obama’s election last November, and the opening weeks of his presidency, reveal the amazing resilience of America’s political culture, even after the disasters of the last eight years.

“Ottawa is in the midst of a crisis of competence,” as I write in Open and Shut. “The political class is a wraith of its former self. There is not a shadow of the statesman left in our politicians, nor much notion of public service in our public servants. The federal power is steadily weakening, losing legitimacy, surrendering a national vision to parochial interests.

“…This is a really good way to wreck a country.”

The idea that Canada is going to the dogs seems to be a bit of a stretch, considering that:

  • Transparency International ranked Canada as the 9th most corruption-free country in the world in 2008.  The U.S. ranked 18th.
  • The U.N.’s Human Development Report ranked Canada as being the 3rd most highly developed country in the world in 2008. The U.S. ranked 15th.
  • The Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development ranked Canada as having the world’s 8th most competitive economy in 2008. The U.S. bested us on this one, ranking 1st.

To make the Top 20 on all three lists, as both Canada and the U.S. did, you have to be doing something right.

To make the Top 10 on all three lists, a country really has to be at the top of its game. Only four countries can claim that honour: Australia, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands.

These four countries set the standard when it comes to running a country well.

The controversy should help sell Ibbitson’s book, and throwing the Obama/Harper comparison into the title won’t hurt either.

But I wouldn’t take his recommendations as being a solid prescription for making Canada a better place to live.

And I wouldn’t take the recommendations of forum participants the least bit seriously, given the problem that the Globe and Mail’s forums have long had with moderate voices being driven out by the ideologues and people with anger management issues.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

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