Regional racism from sea to sea

Allan Fotheringham November 9 1987

Regional racism from sea to sea

Allan Fotheringham November 9 1987

Regional racism from sea to sea


Allan Fotheringham

The problem with the country, said Mackenzie King, is that it has too much geography and too few people. As true today as the day he spoke it, sitting talking to his dog and gazing at the portrait of his mother. There is still too much geography and too few bodies—meaning that there are great warring factions separated by large hunks of forest or bush or lakes or prairies or whatever.

Canada is the second-largest land mass on earth, composed entirely of jealousy. Because of its geography, it is delineated into separate pockets of jealousy and resentment, as resolute as the scrub in Northern Ontario or the bald prairie.

Denizens of this domicile take on the characteristics—personalities—of their harsh surroundings.

Canadians even vie (save for those in the womb of British California) for the award of who has the worst time surviving:

Portage and Main in February as opposed to Cape Breton; Saskatoon in January up against the swamp heat of Ottawa in August.

Everybody in the country hates Toronto, of course—a very healthy attitude that affords tons of free psychotherapy, just as contempt for New York waters the souls of those in the American hinterland. But these are designated bitters, selected centres who revel in the S-and-M satisfaction of their unpopularity.

What we have in Canada—fostered now by two successive governments, two different parties—is the phenomenon known as regional racism. The Liberals invented it, using one province as the experimental project/punching bag for spurious prejudice. The present rulers of Parliament Hill have advanced the clever ploy by using both ends of the countries. A double-edged blade of hypocrisy and unctuous sleaze.

The Grits, back in the Pearson days, at least had a small smidgeon of justification for their self-righteous cries from the heart. When good men like Guy Favreau and Maurice Lamontagne

Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.

and others were destroyed politically by the voracious wolves under John Diefenbaker’s wing, there was some justification in the claim that lurking underneath the accusations about minor scandals was a suspicious taint of anti-Quebec sentiment (a kind word) among the more elephantine backbenchers in the Tory fold.

It produced the genuine contempt Mike Pearson held for Diefenbaker and the resulting atmosphere poisoned the Commons for years. It was No. 1 Tory hit man Erik Nielsen who was ruthless in pursuing the Liberal ministers from

Quebec—promoted sometimes over their heads by Pearson in attempts to convince Quebec of Ottawa’s sincerity. And convinced bitter Liberals from Quebec that the Nielsen-led witch-hunting was based on something more than charges of incompetence.

How strange then, two decades down the road and the Tories in power, when it was Nielsen of all people who intimated “racism” when the Mulroney accident-prone minister Suzanne Blais-Grenier was caught out with a European expense account that included just a few too many plush limousines. Especially when Nielsen impugned the motives of Chris Young, one of the most honorable journalists in the land.

Nielsen had to withdraw the canard and, not too long after, left politics. That hasn’t stopped his remaining flock from playing the same game— now aimed in the opposite direction. When it was discovered that the generous Tories had inexplicably given a

$5-million grant to the millionaire Ghermezian brothers—poor babies—to help build their goofy West Edmonton Mall, we had the latest example of “regional racism.”

“What do you have against Western Canada?” shouted Federal Handouts Minister Robert de Cotret—apparently meaning that goofy and illegal payoffs to Western Canadian friends are better than goofy and illegal payoffs to other regionally based friends.

Auditor General Kenneth Dye found the handout to the impoverished Ghermezian welfare cases was not kosher;

so did the Alberta government. Nonetheless, anyone who criticized the boondoggle was “against Western Canada.” This is sleazebag stuff.

When the Tories, who know they have lost Quebec, get into trouble with another piddling scandal there, they charge it is anti-Quebec prejudice. When they get into trouble on the Prairies, which they must hold, it is antiWest bias that is blamed.

When the saintly critics in Opposition ranks bring up the grain subsidies to prairie farmers,, the sanctimonious culprits in the Conservative front benches appeal to

the mob by crying that the Liberals and the Few Democrats “are opposed to the interests of Western Canada.”

This is the party that was going to reintroduce “civility” to the House of Commons? De Cotret, his Nov. 11 Remembrance Day poppy displayed in his lapel for TV before October was finished, is a red-faced fraud of outrage, attempting to defend the indefensible, shielding himself in the cloak of a region he has seldom visited and will never know.

Never matter. If the sloppy BlaisGrenier can no longer be defended on the grounds that them in anglo-land are somehow after the frogs, then the next desperate ploy must be to suggest that somebody (who—all those NDPers in Quebec?) is desperately prejudiced against all those Western Canadians. Especially millionaires who don’t need a government subsidy. Give me a break.

Will someone in this government please grow up? Or shut up?