Canada’s cup of cold soup

Allan Fotheringham August 8 1994

Canada’s cup of cold soup

Allan Fotheringham August 8 1994

Canada’s cup of cold soup


In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations—it’s cold, half-French and difficult to stir.

—Stuart Keate

The analysis by the late and witty Vancouver Sun publisher still applies. We are in the August of our years. As we swore as a nation never to do again, we are once more Waiting for Godot, paralyzed while we sit in resignation for the result of the Quebec election.

No one can divine the genius of the Quebec government calling an election in the middle of summer. Hoping no one will notice? Figuring that people with their heads under water at the lake can’t think? The rationalization behind the strategy remains obscure. And difficult to stir.

The nation is topsy-turvy, even more than usual. The Toronto Blue Jays, highest-paid team in baseball, are floundering like amateurs. The Montreal Expos, who have no money at all, are leading their division on the way to the World Serious.

In Ontario, everybody assumes Bob Rae and the NDP are toast. Maurice Strong, the chap handpicked by Rae to save Ontario Hydro wants, after a mere 18 months on the job, to shuck his CEO role because he wants to be secretary general of the United Nations. Earth to Bob: have you never read his résumé?

All the pollsters agree the Liberals will win the Ontario election although their leader, I think the name is Lyn McLeod though not sure, would not be recognized by three people if she walked the length of Yonge Street, the longest thoroughfare in the world. (You could look it up in Guinness.)

In British California, Svend Robinson—the highest-profile NDP MP in the land—is in summer camp at Chilliwack, a no-bars prison complete with TV and fax machine. Audrey McLaughlin has completely disappeared, possibly in yet another canoe up the Amazon.

Who would want her job? Would Stephen Lewis bite? Bob White? Which party does Nelson Riis belong to this week? Svend will

probably go for the leader’s post, Tommy Douglas whirling furiously in his grave.

Meanwhile, forest fires are threatening Penticton in the Okanagan Valley, which probably will add an insouciant smoky tone to the wine. Eric Lindros has proved once more that, off the ice, he’s a jerk. The United States wants Alan Eagleson, but he’s not crazy about the idea.

In Ottawa, Jean Chrétien, who happens to come from Quebec and who happens to be the Prime Minister of Canada, maintains that he isn’t going to say a word about the Quebec election. This is like a skier, a snow avalanche descending on him, who decides not to move.

In Alberta, Ralph Klein issues dumb threats to Quebec and then goes fishing. Jacques Parizeau grins in glee. In Newfoundland, all the cod have disappeared, which as someone has pointed out is like imagining Saskatchewan without wheat. The Ameri-

cans threaten to put a 50-per-cent tariff on Saskatchewan wheat exports, which may make it all true.

In Manitoba, the only excitement is the world sail-boarding championship, but I’ve met only one Icelander who’s ever been on one of the craft. I guess you’d have to be there.

In Toronto, they’re holding the world basketball championships, which means all the hotels in town have had to order in extralong beds. European sportswriters will write once again that 95 per cent of the American Dream Team II is black while only 12 per cent of the American population is black.

No one can figure out why we’re building a bridge to Prince Edward Island since the only people it will aid are Japanese tourists going to buy dolls that look like Anne of Green Gables. Front Page Challenge, probably, will go into its 38th season.

In Reformland, the major crisis seems to be whether Parson Manning, who came to Ottawa to change the world, should sit in the front Commons row or stick in the second row where, to supposedly demonstrate democracy, he has been slumped, a leader who doesn’t lead. What happened to the cheap shoeshines? On such major issues does a nation founder.

No one pays any attention to the Atlantic provinces, as usual. Even Clyde Wells has been struck mute. What is the name of the premier of Nova Scotia? Quick now? Gotcha.

Waiting for Godot. Waiting for la belle province. Daniel Johnson has been described by friends as having the personality of a tombstone. Jacques Parizeau comes across as a self-satisfied Oxford don, just come from a rather too good lunch.

Canada comes across, in the August of its years, as an underpopulated collection of regions. The binding force is no longer an abiding hatred of Toronto. Or the fury and irritation at insular Ottawa.

It is now about the sadness surrounding Quebec, that we have come to this, that we are still Lord Durham’s “two nations warring in the bosom of a single state.” Charlie Lynch is dead, and the country may be also.

Buck up. The Argos are mediocre. Ralph Klein may catch no fish on his vacation, which could add wisdom to his soul. Jean Chrétien may recover from his laryngitis and his amnesia. Mike Harcourt may keep his yap shut about Quebec, and Roy Romanow also.

After the baseball strike, the Expos will win the World Serious. Jacques Parizeau will be invited to the White House and Hillary will have a sincere conversation with him in the Rose Garden. Think on the bright side of life.