Well, that was an interesting speech our Prime Minister gave in Davos, wasn’t it? From the Liberal PR team’s standpoint, it was a hit, complete with money quote:
Canada was mostly known for its resources. I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness.
Mind you, that’s the official text. Elsewhere, particularly according to Andrew Coyne, there’s a slightly different version:
“My predecessor,” he began, “wanted you to know Canada for its resources. I want you to know Canadians for our resourcefulness.”
Okay, look: there’s nothing particularly wrong, or partisan, about the Stephen Harper reference. Yes, Tory economic management relied primarily on the resources sector to drive most of the economy, and whatever you want to say about its merits or deficiencies, at least we can argue that resources are a Canadian economic advantage; it’s the “how do we manage it” that gets most of the argument.
However, the more worrisome bit is this: Justin seems to be toting the idea that Canadian brain power — i.e. ideas and knowledge — are an economic advantage.
And that problem is, that’s not so easy to justify.
There’s a word for those who generate ideas based on their own knowledge, and who make a living at it: intellectual. Most people have it to some degree or other, but only a select few get to make their living with it, usually college and university professors. The last person we had like that, in politics, was Michael Ignatieff. And look what happened to him.
Justin seems to have forgotten that intellectualism can only become an advantage if there’s an opportunity to apply it. And the opportunity isn’t as big as he seems to think it is, because there are tons of very smart people out there who aren’t from Canada. Our system of education doesn’t generate very many Mark Carneys, or David Suzukis, and they pretty much run smack dab into a ton of David Camerons and Rupert Murdochs and Donald Trumps.
I mention Trump because it brings up another point: usually it’s not the smart guy who has the advantage. There are several candidates in the Republican presidential nomination race who have higher IQs than the New York tycoon. But the tycoon has other talents that have consistently put him out ahead of the opinion polls, much to the frustration of the punditocracy who would be of the same “intellectual” philosophy that Justin seems so determined to tout.
Now, yes, you can drag out any number of Canadian individuals who have made their mark on history due to the products of their brain power. But that doesn’t make for the “economic advantage” that Justin is trying to promote. And though most of his Davos speech talks of Canadian “confidence,” there’s a thin line between confidence and outright arrogance, and one of Justin’s intellectual blinders is he never knows when he’s crossed it.