KAHAR'S STATE OF NATURE (column by Andres kahar)
Public Eye Online (Victoria, BC)
(editor and publisher Sean Holman)
July 05, 2004
On election night, thanks to CBC Newsworld, I was in Toronto and British Columbia - simultaneously. But, by 02:07:39 AM EST, British Columbia was looking like a decidedly sad scene. And not even the self-consciously handsome Ian Hanomansing could save Lotusland from the fate of sloppy seconds. Anyway, that's how it appeared from Toronto, a.k.a. Hogtown, the centre of the freakin' universe. Let me explain...
By the time Hanomansing took over anchoring duties from Peter Mansbridge - who, for all I know or fantasize, had gone on to co-star in a very private kind of show with one Street Legal survivor - the federal election was already decided, pretty much. Hence Hanomansing's show title: "After the Vote."
It was a depressing temporal-spatial fact: eastern and central Canada had apparently decided the fate of all Canucks already. By late-evening news time in British Columbia, the only real excitement was the gripping question of whether Con MP John Reynolds would win. (Cue "Duelling Banjos" theme from Deliverance)
Centralization's a bitch, eh? Granted, this is Canada's oldest and possibly most shopworn news story - our alienated regions. During and after the election, however, some pundits were heralding change. It's been said that this campaign actually gave British Columbia its most significant say in some time. It's also been said that this election will begin the diminution of federal dominance in Canadian politics.
Well, um, maybe.
But, speaking as one of those smug bastards in Hogtown, let's just say I still caught a whiff of western marginalization on election night - even via CBC. Yes, the CBC - that socially constructive instrument created in part to knit our consciousness together as one Canada, even though most of us will never meet each other. Here in TV prime time Ontario, we were hosted by CBC heavy-hitters. Mansbridge. Newman. Even the ever-impressive and ever-fetching Wendy Mesley, who was in Montreal, keeping us abreast of the latest. But when the big guns at CBC HQ headed for bed around 00:00:00 AM EST, leaving the broadcast to Hanomansing's after-hours crew in Vancouver, I wasn't left with the impression that British Columbia was terribly crucial to the outcome.
I'm not sure about the province's profile in a minority government either. It's an open question whether the province's most probable reps at the Liberal cabinet table - Ujjal Dosanjh and David Emerson - will more represent British Columbia or the vaulting ambitions of Paul Martin.
And that must irritate British Columbians as much as...as much as...well, as much as the hypothetical scenario of, say, some political prankster-terrorist ferreting itching powder into Gordon Campbell's boxers before a major televised news conference, after having spiked his coffee with Spanish Fly and having had a commando team of transvestites shave off his eyebrows and give him a Mohawk for the TV appearance. (I summon this hypothetical example only because I could imagine such an act of prankster-terrorism really getting up poor Campbell's nose. Boy, that'd be irritating.)
Of course, this problem of disproportionate power and attention - centralization, if you'll permit - is not unique to Canada. Yet, our political system is supposedly unique because of constant efforts at rebalancing and safeguarding, so individuals and regions aren't subject to the tyrannies of a majority. Consider: our federation's equalization payments to have-not provinces, provincial-federal roundtables, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our world-envied social safety net. All noble Canadian efforts at levelling the field. Even the allegedly biogenetic creation of Ralph Phillip Klein in 1942 by arch-Tory Calgary scientists - five years before the Roswell UFO crash - was aimed at one day giving Alberta a fighting chance in the federation.
All that said, it's no wonder our focus is so fixed on central Canada: Ottawa is in Ontario, much of our national media is rooted in Toronto, and the country's big money and big population are in that neck of the woods, too.
Of course, short of deportations, population balance is a slow-changing thing, assuming it does shift. And, until The Revolution, redistributive monetary justice will be but a hope fertilized by dogged socialists. As for the national media: the Asper media empire may have been planted in the west, but most of its reporters are spilling seed in the east.
Finally, there's the hard fact of our national capital being in Ontario. Hey folks, I know we're a generally conservative society, not easily given to radical change, BUT...
Why don't we move our capital?
Not forever. For a five-year term, or maybe a year. We could even rotate it every six months, giving most towns and cities a shot at the title. And, just in case the Yanks get into War of 1812 mode again, a moving target would really knock them off their game.
My modest proposal for a new Canadian capital: Pincher Creek, Alberta.
Why, you ask? Why indeed.
Well, it'd work out okay for you folks in British Columbia - it's not far away. Also, it'd knock technocrats and media rats off that Ottawa hamster wheel, thereby forcing them to countenance a reality other than urban Ontario. Moreover, Pincher Creek whispers in the ear like something out of Anne of Green Gables - which could mean tons of Japanese tourists!
(There's a personal reason, too: I knew a fellow from Pincher Creek. He's a first-rate fellow. A bit right-leaning for my tastes, but I'm confident he'll come around. If his hometown became the Canadian capital, I believe his political comportment would improve markedly.)
Most importantly, setting up our national capital in Alberta would shut up Ralph Klein for a while - possibly until his retirement. Some individuals are defined by what they're against, and I suspect King Ralph is one of those guys. Robbed of his Alberta alienation argument, he'd be temporarily lost - and then freed to pursue his sidetracked academic career.
Just think: the rest of Canada would no longer need to suffer that nasal twang, feathered hair and puck-sized gold ring. Moreover, we'd have a capital city with a cool name that'd look neat on any newspaper dateline.
Go west, indeed.
But, then, where would that leave Newfoundland?