It’s when you
no longer know where your milk comes from, let alone where you
got your opinions, that you have become over-urbanized. I note,
with Allan Gregg, that the Conservatives did not win a single
seat in Montreal, Toronto, or Vancouver -- our three largest cities.
Let me enlarge on remarks I have made in many previous columns,
applying the famous Red State/Blue State division in the U.S.
to circumstances in Canada. I disagree with Mr Gregg that the
inner urban constituencies should be assuaged. The future of Canada,
as the U.S., is -- if we are lucky -- “ex-urban”.
(As opposed to “rural”.)
Canada is different
from the States in fewer ways than any of our city-borne media
realize. We have the same basic Left/Right division, with the
same sorts of views on both sides (both in English and French).
The difference between countries is geographic -- and derives
from the fact that so little of Canada is habitable. We lack the
vast, occupied, American outdoors. Against the wind blowing from
the Arctic, we are huddled together more densely in cities. A
much higher proportion of our population is therefore to be found
in typical “Blue State” environments -- where people
have lost all contact with nature, and by increments, with the
realities of life.
are the willing clients of the nanny state. They are loathe to
take responsibility for anything; they assume when anything goes
wrong, some specialist or expert will fix it. Even when they have
children they expect “child-care facilities”. They
are salaried people; few have ever taken a risk on their own dime.
Their taxes are lifted from them at source. They are easily frightened
when a Paul Martin or a Jack Layton warns that a bogeyman from
Alberta is going to take their entitlements away.
They think of the
city and the government as something that was always there --
as a second nature. They are defenceless when primary nature reasserts
itself (as we saw, poignantly, in New Orleans). Like isolated
and primitive peoples elsewhere, they develop superstitions --
“urban myths” -- that account for the mysterious provision
of their public services, and they worship their “rainmaking”
urban political gods. Their lives are regulated by principles
of “political correctness” bound in on every side
I am giving you the
profile of a “Blue State” voter, but it is not different
in kind from a “Red Province” voter up here. In neither
case do we have the boundaries right. Upstate New York can be
as Republican as Texas; the difference between Vancouver and the
B.C. interior is night and day. The attitudes that animate Toronto
diminish, in concentric rings, as you move away from the CN Tower.
Canada was not built
by the government; it was built by men and women taking responsibility
for things. Yet the over-urbanized have lost this sense that anyone
could take responsibility. The postmodern conurbation is vast,
and the person who lives in the middle of it, lives 10 or 20 or
30 miles from the nearest open space. He walks or drives past
thousands on his way to work. He participates in what used to
be called a “rat race”. He adapts quickly in neighbourhoods
subject to constant inundation by strange new people -- often
speaking languages he can’t understand. His home is something
that can be quickly exchanged, more likely rented than owned.
He develops a profound sense of personal powerlessness, together
with the compensating vanity -- that as an adaptive urbanite,
he is especially clever. He assumes people who live away from
the second nature of the city are stupid. For after all, they
don’t know what living in the city is like; they couldn’t
cope with it if they tried.
Now, the funny thing,
today, is that “they” do know what life is like in
the city, and that is why they left -- in the process, leaving
the city to become even more Liberal and New Democrat. Indeed,
the Liberals have done a superb job of buying out traditional
rural strongholds (such as the fishing Maritimes or the mining
Ontario northland) with urbane welfare programmes. Whereas ex-urbans
move, not there, but to places where the opportunities are, such
It is not for Alberta,
per se, but for these ex-urban people, that Stephen Harper speaks.
They know why they left, and they’re damned if they’re
going to let Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver rule them.
2006 Ottawa Citizen