Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

For four years, with Donald Trump in office, Canada basked in the comparison – peace, order and not-so-chaotic government here, relatively speaking.

But now, with Trump not even 100 days out of office, American superiority to Canada is rearing its head again and Canada, alas, has lost its smugness edge.

In the past couple of weeks, two U.S. cable news hosts have taken pokes at how Canada is dealing with this stage of the pandemic.

First it was Tucker Carlson on Fox News. Granted, Fox has never been overly friendly to Canada or the current Liberal government, but in this particular segment, this country was called “dangerously insane.”

That hit was easy to shrug off. It was Fox, after all.

But then came Jake Tapper on CNN – yes, the network to which so many Canadians were tuned during the Trump years – taking Canada and Trudeau to task on Monday night for what CNN headlined the “vaccine shortage” in this country.

Tapper, who was still tweeting about Canada’s vaccine problems on Wednesday, has roots here.

“My mom was born in Canada, my grandfather fought in WWII for the @RoyalCanNavy, my great uncle was killed flying for @RCAF_ARC, I still have cousins there, and you’re right on our border. Am I not allowed to care that seniors there aren’t getting vaccinated?”

Tapper’s concerns, unlike Carlson’s, made it to the floor of the Commons this week, along with similarly damning articles in the Atlantic and Forbes magazines. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has been asking Trudeau how he likes being the target of international ridicule.

Come back, Trump – our international self-esteem needs you.

In all seriousness, this reversal of roles has kind of crept up on Canada and this country in the past couple of months, roughly since Joe Biden came to office. For most of the pandemic, Trudeau and all governments in this country could point to pandemic successes here that made the U.S. look like a test case in how not to manage COVID-19.

Where Trump fought with state governments, Canada’s first ministers worked together. While Canada locked down and rolled out speedy benefits for its citizens, the United States devolved into exploding outbreaks, revolts against pandemic restrictions and outright denial of the crisis by the White House.

It’s not Biden’s inauguration that changed all that – it was the arrival of vaccines.

There is no disputing the fact that Americans have been getting vaccinated in larger numbers than Canadians have been. As of Wednesday, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine-tracker, about 36 per cent of Americans had been given at least one dose, compared to just 18 per cent of Canadians. The gap widens for the fully vaccinated – nearly 23 per cent of Americans and just 2.2 per cent in Canada.

Here’s why the vaccine gap is particularly damaging to Canada’s national pride: It’s about health care.

For years, even when U.S. superiority was acknowledged in terms of cultural or economic might, Canadians always pointed to universal health care as the distinguishing trait of national superiority. Americans may control the airwaves, but at least no Canadians went broke when they fell ill.

The fact that Americans are coming out of a health crisis more quickly than Canadians, thanks to vaccine-delivery superiority, may rattle those historic boasting rights.

Challenged this week in the Commons about how Americans are taking note of Canada’s vaccine problems, Trudeau has been accusing his critics to base their arguments on facts. This in turn has prompted the opposition to say it’s Trudeau complaining now about “fake news” – Trump’s favourite name for CNN.

It’s another sign of how the tables have turned in a few short months. Trump did very few favours for Canada while in office, but making us look good by comparison was one of them – not a position we now enjoy in the North American vaccination race.

Susan Delacourt is a National Affairs writer.

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