Two neighboring countries, bound closely by land, trade, and an infinite amount of border crossings. And yet, how we hate to be called America’s shirt, or they to be called Canada’s pants (for entirely different reasons). We often support each other on foreign policy, trade deals and celebrities, but hockey is certain for a friendly chat between two different North Americans (sorry Central America) to turn into a bloodbath, and it’s been proven that Americans know basically zero about Canada. Thanks, Rick Mercer!

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Image source: Water Governance Blog, 2011.

First, we must look at some basic political differences between the two nations. The head of state in Canada is the Queen, although she plays very little into political decisions and is represented by the Governor General. The Prime Minister is often known as the leader of the country. The President is America’s head of state, as well as head of government. He cannot serve in the House of Representatives or the Senate, and can only be president for a maximum of two terms (or eight years). The parliamentary system is made up of two houses in both countries. However, the Senate has an election every six years, while Senators in Canada are appointed. Also, in America, the House of Representatives changes every two years. With so many separate elections, currently there is Republican House of Representatives and Republican Senate, but a Democrat President. This can lead to huge frustrations, where all three parts of the legislative branch need to be in agreeance to get anything done. A President has veto power over any bill passed. In the USA, each house can introduce a bill, add or take out information or stop them. Canada’s primary house is the House of Commons.

Differences and similarities on policy are where the two countries seem so far apart, but still so much the same: they both favour capitalistic trade symbols, such as stock markets, have a pretty bleak outlook towards Europe (although Canada’s role in negotiations with the continent are much more diminished than the US) and are for military intervention against ISIS, the jihadist terrorist group. On the other hand, the 2015 78-day election in Canada is the longest one in 150 years, while the current American race is nearly six times that, at 454 days. There have been a total of five leader debates in Canada. In the US, there will be at least a few dozen in total before the next election. Gay marriage was approved oodles of time ago in Canada, but is still under fire in the United States. Guns are outlawed in Canada, but not in the United States, where mass shootings take place almost every day. And finally, no one in Canada can rival the outrageousness and flair that Donald Trump has. But that’s a good thing, with Trump’s racist and derogatory comments dividing America. The closest character we have to him is Rob Ford, and everyone knows how that story turned out for the former mayor of Toronto.

Image source: Pete Souza, 2009.

As for the leaders of the country, (former) Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama have some pretty chilly relations with each other. Ever since Obama stepped into office, they haven’t agreed on much, Harper putting full backing behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, saying he “won’t take no for an answer”, while Obama has refused to support the pipeline. From the Syrian government using chemical weapons, the hot topic of Israel, or creating trade deals, Obama sometimes has come off as non-committal to international issues, and according to those close to Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister has definitely been annoyed by that. Keystone has been the main reason of anger from Harper towards Obama, but not only that. During preliminary stages of Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, Canada had huge conditions imposed on them by America when they asked to join. Harper has furious, and stated that “Friends don’t do to friends what the Americans did to Canada on the TPP.” All this animosity between the two countries could be chalked up to the fact that Harper’s and Obama’s political ideologies simply do not align, whereas the well-known relationship of left-wingers Jean Chretien and Bill Clinton was famously warm. As Obama will step out of office next year, and Justin Trudeau is now the new PM, hopefully the two leaders can press the reset button and begin to thaw the ice that has been building on either side of the 49th parallel.

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Image source: Rick Mercer, 2015.

Back to the Rick Mercer blurb. Canadians have been portrayed by Americans as Mounties who ride on the backs of polar bears, sleep in igloos and only eat maple syrup and bacon. And oh, did I mention the profuse amount of saying “sorry”, “eh” and “aboot” by Canadian characters on American television? And in That 70s Show, characters have even said “Oh honey, Canadians don’t matter”. On the other side, Canadians portray Americans as over-nationalistic goons that don’t know anything other than their country (which, as a non-partisan journalist, I will not agree nor disagree with). This is showcased in Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans, where Americans are proved to agree with anything that is said about Canadians. President Bush mistakenly agreeing with Mercer calling Prime Minister Jean Chretien “Jean Poutine”.

Overall, Canadians and Americans do differ on quite a lot of things, from hockey to who appoints members to the Senate. However, there’s not too much different in land, economy and culture between us. After all, we are two neighbors separated by nothing but a line!


Author: Lucas