Great article by Matthew Fisher in The Vancouver Sun today regarding our fellow Canadians… (I’m frustrated by them too)
Fisher: My ‘train’ of thought — Canadians are inward-looking but quietly confident
ABOARD THE CANADIAN — Whenever I can find the time when I am back in Canada, I ride Via Rail’s “Canadian” from Toronto to Vancouver.
One reason I took the 4,466-kilometre journey earlier this month was to again marvel at the graceful, 60-year-old stainless steel rolling stock. Another was to revel in the wintry scenery and catch glimpses of old haunts.
Perhaps the biggest justification for making the long transcontinental trek was the chance to hear Canadians talk about their lives, their country and their take on the world. During the four-day expedition, I spoke with a federal prison guard from British Columbia; a similarly optimistic parole officer working in northern Manitoba; a fair-minded adjudicator hearing sex-abuse claims from natives who had attended residential schools in northwestern Ontario; a keen amateur street-car driver from Alberta; a pair of jovial retired railroaders from Quebec City; a politically minded Canadian constitutional law expert teaching in Australia; and a New Democrat MP from southwestern Ontario who wondered with good reason why Tom Mulcair was not getting much credit for his sharp performance in the House of Commons.
This eclectic, constantly changing cast crossed paths several times a day in the dining car or in the glass-roofed dome or bullet-nosed lounge in the tail-end Park car. For some it was a journey of a lifetime. Others had ended up on the train at the last minute because of a fiasco at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, where all flights had been grounded for a time because it was too cold.
Even in the gelid conditions in northern Ontario or out on the open prairie it wasn’t too cold for the train, although the journey west started four hours late because the inbound train to Toronto had been stuck behind freight locomotives that had broken down on the main line.
The odyssey provided an intimate view not only of the landscape but how in the constant passing of container, lumber and wheat trains, Canada’s railways are still a brilliant gauge of the country’s remarkable economic prosperity
To my chagrin although not to my surprise, the travellers captivated by the endless taiga and ice were seldom particularly curious or opinionated about the world. The Harper government has, for example, clearly made unquestioning support of Israel a top priority, but the issue barely registered with this group. Nor did the brutal civil war ripping apart Syria, Egypt’s aborted democratic experiment, the mega-typhoon in the Philippines or the question of whether Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi would be a success.
As everywhere else, the international news stories of greatest interest from 2013 were the birth of the royal baby in London and the death of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.
As for Canada’s global role, few had much to say. Concern was expressed for the welfare of Canadian soldiers who had been in combat in Afghanistan. But few strong opinions were ventured about Canada’s long mission there or the cost in blood and treasure.
Not that it dominated conversation, but the only pressing foreign issue of much interest was what the Obama White House might decide to do about the Keystone XL pipeline. The general feeling was that it was vital for Canada’s future prosperity to develop Alberta’s oilsands as well as the natural gas fields in northern British Columbia.
The only passenger rocking the boat a bit — and he mostly did it in a polite way despite some goading from me — was a young man who had recently come to Canada from the United States to work for a Canadian branch of an American environmental group. He spoke passionately about how, for the sake of the world and for Canada’s native peoples, the oilsands had to be shut down.
Curiously, a result of the Obama government’s dithering about whether to approve the pipeline could be seen every few kilometres. Via’s train No. 1 was frequently shunted on to sidings to let locomotives trundle past that were taking a potentially far greater environmental risk by hauling incredible loads of oil and gas.
Aside from hockey, what really preoccupied those wrapped in the warm cocoon that the sleeper train provided was what was happening closer to home. That is, what was going on in regions and neighbourhoods.
There were exceptions, though. While hardly the cause celebre that have riveted Ottawa, the Senate scandal certainly had everyone’s attention. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s bizarre proclivities resonated, too.
Still, when the journey ended seven hours late in drizzle in Vancouver, I was left with the impression that the decent folks who boarded and disembarked from the Canadian as it snaked across the Dominion were not terribly scandalized by such dramas. Although not much interested in what was happening in Ottawa or Toronto, let alone overseas, these Canadians were quietly confident about themselves and their future.