Mario Canseco – In the mid-1990s, Peter C. Newman pointed out—in “The Canadian Revolution”—that Canada was the only country on Earth whose citizens dream of being Clark Kent, instead of Superman. Back then, the Americans were the dominant economic force, and Britain was a country we looked up to in reverence. “Brain drain” was one of the favourite buzz phrases, as Canada appeared to be primarily attractive for immigrants fleeing war, corruption and inflation. Even our beloved hockey teams were relocating to American cities with warmer climates.
What a difference 16 years make. America and Britain are in a state of alarm, following months of financial uncertainty, low ratings for politicians, and even riots in London. Canada’s economy is doing much better. The Jets are back in Winnipeg, and Quebecers expect the Nordiques to follow suit. Taking all this into account, a three-country poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion in partnership with Maclean’s suggests that, if a decent phone booth were available, Canadians would shed their suit and glasses and emerge with a cape and tights.
In the survey, practically nine-in-ten Canadians and Americans regard their own country as “the greatest in the world.” This outcome was not surprising south of the border. Americans have long been tutored to look at the United States as “the greatest in the world.” There are more than 2 million matches for this exact phrase on Google.
In Britain, only half of respondents see the United Kingdom as the greatest country in the world. Setting aside the assumption that Britons are not boastful when discussing national pride, we find a fascinating development. It is the youngest of Britons—those aged 18-to-34—who are feeling particularly downtrodden. Lack of opportunities to get meaningful work, a more expensive education, and a coalition government that has not pleased either of its two main components, are all to blame for the low proportion of young adults who are hopeful.
Respondents were also asked about their respective country’s past and future. By a 2-to-1 margin, Canadians believe that the best days are ahead of us (42%) instead of behind us (22%). Americans are evenly split on this question (36% look to the future for the best days, and 33% look to the past), with middle aged respondents showing some pessimism. In Britain, respondents are three times more likely to believe that the best days are behind (58% to 17%), including two-thirds of the oldest respondents.
A majority of Canadians are definitely satisfied with their daily lives, and want to stay in the country to find a better job, have access to high quality health care, raise a family, and live in a respectful and peaceful society. Conversely, a third of Americans believe that moving to Canada would be an improvement on the health care and society questions, and half of Britons think they would be able to provide a better standard of living for their family if they relocated to Canada. In addition, three-in-five Britons look at Canada as the best place to live in a respectful and peaceful society.
Over the past four years, Americans and Britons have had to withstand the collapse of banks and financial institutions, lived through debilitating mortgage crises, and saw how the promises of “hope and change” and “taking power away from politicians and giving it to people” have been hard to fulfill. On economic confidence, Canada continues to outrank the United States and Britain. The current situation reverses long-standing theories. Americans continue to feel a deep sense of pride, but are divided on whether they will continue to reign. Britons are dejected, and ready to accept that the best days are behind them. Canadians are not only convinced that their country is the best right now—they are also more inclined to forecast even greater things ahead.