Like The Hub?
Join our community.
Join

Ginny Roth: Poilievre’s picture of Canada’s future looks a lot like the Calgary Stampede

Commentary

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre with his wife Anaida Poilievre during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, July 7, 2023. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press.

I visited Calgary last week for the start of the greatest outdoor show on earth—a cultural phenomenon the roots of which extend all the way back to 1886. I woke up Friday morning and made my way to the route for the parade that kicks off the festival every year, something I’d never had the time to witness in my previous work-focused trips. Watching not only the parade but the crowd of people gathered to see it crystalized a thought I’d had hints of on previous visits, but which hadn’t previously come together.

The Calgary Stampede is one of the only sincere, monocultural phenomena left in our country. It’s a celebration of history, community, trade, and tradition that almost everyone in Calgary participates in collectively, absent irony, disdain, or selfish individuality.

As I stood there and observed the marching bands, the Stampede Princesses, and the corporate sponsors, I realized that almost everyone there—from recently immigrated new Canadian, to First Nations dancer, to old stock rancher, to bachelor party tourist—was participating in the same thing. The same style of dress, the same type of music, the same celebratory spirit, the same respect for tradition, the same reverence for history, and the same excitement about the potential for the future.

That parade was a microcosm of the whole week-long annual cultural phenomenon—a tradition Canada’s held on to despite itself, and despite the increasingly cynical tribalism and individualism that make up our national non-culture.

Canadian millennials grew up learning that multiculturalism was an unalloyed good. And it wasn’t just that that’s what we were taught. We saw it with our own eyes. People around the world saw Canada as a paradise of wealth and relative equality, and if they found a way to get here, Canadians welcomed them with open arms. Our cities were cultural mosaics, and we reaped the benefits of good food, good music, and a symphony of languages from around the globe, giving our lives texture and difference.

At the same time as multiculturalism allowed for micro-cultures to thrive in real life, the internet was allowing micro-cultures to thrive online. First on Myspace and in chat rooms, then on Facebook and Twitter, no matter how niche our interests, we could find communities of people who shared them. No matter how specific our opinions, we could find people to validate them.

Now that we’re grown though, millennials are learning that society can have too much of a good thing. Immigrants are displeased to learn that the governments that welcomed them here didn’t create the conditions for them to thrive and that their new prime minister thinks of the country they came to as more like a hotel than a home. New Canadians arriving in our big cities face a punishing cost of living, rising crime, and the powerful social forces of isolating individualism and exploitative diaspora politics.

And as the unmitigated benefits of simplistic multiculturalism became harder to glean, our online lives curdled into clannish culture wars, where speech is either nasty or over-policed, and nameless accounts tear down citizens and boost strong men. As millennials struggle to build real communities, unable to form relationships, reach major life milestones, or sometimes even feel safe enough to walk around downtown, online communities have become echo chambers, heightening their members’ worst, most narrow instincts and eschewing the moderating influence of in-person relationship building and the mediating institutions that facilitate them.

Amidst these worrying trends, the Calgary Stampede stands out as rare proof that we can still channel the power of a monoculture to unite across generations, ethnicities, backgrounds, and classes. Even Canadian participation in the Stanley Cup final—an event that can be viewed by new Canadians in their native Punjabi, Cantonese, or Tagalog—doesn’t replicate the feeling of thousands of people gathered physically together in one place, marking tradition.

No one public policy initiative will allow Canada to create and replicate more Calgary Stampedes. But government can create the conditions for monocultures to emerge.

As a starting point, there can be no strong community without public safety, no real patriotism without a shared history, no thriving relationships without sound drug policy, and no integration without thoughtful immigration limits.

It’s perhaps not a coincidence that Conservative Pierre Poilievre was the only federal party leader to participate in the Calgary Stampede parade this year. Nor is it incidental that his speech at a barbecue the following evening dwelt on these important themes. As Poilievre often repeats “It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going.” His meritocratic but patriotic vision is in many ways typified by (and perhaps, in part, inspired by) the Stampede’s monocultural experience. He ended his speech by painting a picture of an ideal Canadian life that while broad, isn’t universal, while accommodating, sets a standard, and while unique, is welcome to anyone.

Poilievre’s picture of Canada’s future seems to look a lot like the Calgary Stampede, where if you work hard and play by the rules, you get to show up at the parade every year too.

Trevor Tombe: Canada’s resource sector is its productivity powerhouse

Commentary

An oil pumpjack near Cremona, Alta., Friday, July 29, 2022. Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press.

Canada’s lagging productivity and economic growth, especially relative to the United States, should be concerning.

For many, including me, it is very concerning indeed.

But there are some who argue that Canada does not, in fact, have a productivity problem at all.

According to recently published research, for example, “the observed stagnation during the last 20 years is accounted for entirely by the oil sector.”

“When [the researchers] netted out the oil components of the economy and looked at productivity in the rest of the economy,” explained a Globe and Mail article covering the paper last month, “they found it rose at about the same rate as in the past and compared with the U.S.”

The implications for some are “don’t worry about the productivity of the Canadian economy” and “Canada’s oil industry is a drain on productivity.”

I disagree. Strongly.

Far from being a drain, the oil industry—and the resource sector more generally—is a boon. Without it, we would be poorer and our economy worse.