“Yes, there’s an invasion of outsiders: Google reveals it. They say we may as well be Brazilian, Chinese, Bhojpuri, or Kosovar – they even got a throwaway line about Ethiopians,” said Paul Gessner, Canada’s “wiry, solitary” socialist Prime Minister.
The wry remark was from October 1963. Gessner, and his party were the target of an attack on the West by the British and New Zealand. The growing bilingualism in Canada, with English and French being spoken almost interchangeably, created cultural tensions between British and Quebecois cultures.
British special forces were able to infiltrate the West and start a “campaign of terror” against the separatist movement.
The West has grown to become one of the most successful economies in Canada. The prairie economy has doubled in economic output, ten times that of the other four provinces, since the 1950s.
Last week, the United Conservative Party (UCP) took power in Alberta with a campaign that focused on cutting energy production and enacting a state sales tax on services. Allying with the former premier Alison Redford of the Progressive Conservative Party, the UCP campaigned on a price war against Alberta’s powerful energy sector. The trend since the 2007 boom has been a collapse of investment and jobs.
Why is there so much fuss when a new party is elected with such strong campaign promises? The problems in the Alberta energy industry did not arise from an invasion by the West or foreigners. It was created by government policy and red tape – a history that dates back more than 100 years.
Here are three myths that need to be discredited.
The West has never been rich. It is a capitalist ideology, a way of looking at the world that has to change. The West had a very successful industrial revolution and made Canada one of the world’s wealthiest countries. As early as the 18th century, Louis XIV thought of the British as “nourished by the milk of their gods”.
“When I visit on a farm, most people tell me about their acres and acres of potatoes,” commented Sir Richard Burton, the foreign secretary under Margaret Thatcher. “I must admit they seem a long way from England.”
Today, though, the situation is very different. Excess consumer demand for food is driving up prices. Farm land has become much more expensive. Because of the negative role of agriculture in supplying energy, capital and raw materials, foreign investment and trade have dried up. Production has crashed. In Europe, unemployment is near zero.
The West has never lived off government aid. The West has been in some respects dependent for longer than any other part of the world. Population grew at a very fast rate. Economies grew, followed by a glacial decline. Growth was not self-sustaining and stagnant.
Fertilizer cost had to be subsidized by government, electricity was bought by the state, railroads by the Crown, and hydroelectric dams by the state. The Westerners of Europe and North America built railroad cars, movie theaters, housing, entertainment centres, and airports; but the cars, theaters, housing, entertainment centres, and airports of the East have never needed subsidies. At least not in the same scale.
It’s all time made. The East has always been time and time made. Movements in the West were made by laymen. State-financed press, universities, and political parties had no connection with the common man. The intellectuals from the West were forgotten. They crowded into their crescents at universities and the opposition, already huge, became even bigger.
The West grew bigger and bigger, bigger than ever before. It may not stay that way. The Old World is breaking down – Europe and the United States. The Old World has done its job.
This truth, countermanded by social media, keeps haunting us. We forgot the West grew bigger by working longer hours.
There were naysayers then. They warned of a Bolshevik takeover and an imminent land war. Rememberers do not forget. They became battlers. They struggled and suffered. The enemies made them strong.
They made us small.