Les Horswill writes on politics and public policy. He has worked as an organizer, speechwriter and policy advisor. As assistant deputy minister, he advised various Ontario governments on national unity, energy and trade. Les blogs at <les-horswill.blogspot.ca>.
Related Letters and Responses
Dimitry AnastakisPeterborough, Ontario
Les Horswill’s review of Open and Shut: Why America Has Barack Obama and Canada Has Stephen Harper, John Ibbitson’s strange little book, both totally misses the mark and is bang on.
Horswill ignores the parade of stereotypes and anecdotal claptrap that make the book a right-wing equivalent to Michael Adams’s Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, except without the poll results. In 2003 Adams told us that “hot” George W. Bush was America, to smugly reassure “cool” Canadians in their own superiority. Now Ibbitson tells us that “open” Obama is America (and worse, “closed” Stephen Harper is Canada), to needle them with their own inferiority. Neither is right, of course.
Horswill also ignores the fact that Ibbitson’s book actually has almost nothing to do with either Obama or Harper. Instead, we have a smorgasbord of policy recommendations (hopes? dreams?) that make some sense to Ibbitson, but are much more difficult for the reader to understand as anything remotely approaching a coherent whole. There is an overwrought demand to “open” the Canadian bureaucracy, something about pushing charter schools, a rant that members of Parliament swear allegiance to the constitution, another bit about having the feds play a larger role in urban affairs, even a call for high speed rail.
Horswill ignores these shortcomings to serve his own purpose, which he correctly understands is the real core of Open and Shut: advocating deep integration with the United States, which Horswill calls “impeccably mainstream.” This is probably news to most mainstream Canadians, who might favour free trade but haven’t shown a scintilla of interest in deep integration, either by creating a customs union, as Ibbitson suggests, or better yet, in Horswill’s view, by allowing Americans to vote in our elections, adopting the U.S. currency or, ultimately, simply joining the United States.
Both Ibbitson and Horswill are providing the one panacea deep integrationists always offer, no matter what the question, crisis or conundrum is. The way for Canadians to get rid of their stiff Harper and get a shiny new Obama is deep integration. Deep integration was also the answer to the plunging dollar. It will be so when the dollar reaches parity, too. Deep integration was the solution after 9/11, and the solution before 9/11. And so on.
Stranger still, while Ibbitson and Horswill think that Obama’s ascendance can convince stubborn Canadians of their logic, they both ignore the reality that Obama is probably the greatest obstacle to their dream.