A lament for a lost Canada

Does this sound like the sort of thing you might read today — in 2012 — from any number of Canadian newspaper columnists?

Our provider-state is being hollowed out. Social programs and payments will be cut back and parcelled out among the provinces by way of “block grants.” Nation-defining institutions like the CNR, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and probably the Canadian Wheat Board will join Air Canada and Petro-Canada in being privatized so that, by definition, their interests will no longer be the national interest. Simultaneously, the CBC will be reconfigured into a supplementary network rather than a national one.

Our provider-state isn’t going to vanish. An entire new generation of young people and middle-aged self-employed are learning how to provide for themselves so that they no longer need the kind of state that’s been around for half a century… Political fads change – today’s obsession with deficit reduction as successor to yesterday’s alarmism about global warming …
The Canadian state, though, will never again be there for us in the way it has been throughout the lifetimes of almost all Canadians now alive. Its fundamental justifying premises, of managing the national economy and protecting citizens against intenal as well as external socio-economic forces, have – largely – vanished.

That, dear reader, is Richard Gwyn, writing in Nationalism Without Walls: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian, published in 1995. Gwyn was despairing of what Liberals Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were about to doto right the nation’s finances. Plus ça change

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