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This article was published 19/9/2009 (3806 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values
By Brian Lee Crowley
Key Porter Books, 357 pages, $35
ARCH-CONSERVATIVE pundit David Frum gushes approvingly on the back jacket.
Stephen Harper's longtime sounding board Tom Flanagan also weighs in with high praise, while Maclean's national editor Andrew Coyne pens a flattering introduction referring to this work as "a compelling argument for change."
Brian Lee Crowley is the fiercely ideological founding president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a free enterprise-oriented public policy think-tank.
Clearly, he has spent considerable time reflecting on the nature of the Canadian economy and society, although his observations in this predictable diatribe will strike many as prescriptive and even preachy.
Most of this book is about what Crowley sees as the Good Canada, which lasted from the time of "our founders" until 1960 when Quebec's Quiet Revolution took hold.
While this battleground was largely in Quebec, Crowley insists that significant collateral damage occurred within the rest of Canada, as extravagant federal and provincial government programs, labour unions, marketing boards and other negative forces spilled beyond the borders of La Belle Province.
On the topic of public servants, Crowley maintains that many are merely biding their time in what he calls "pseudo-work," where little or nothing in the way of productive value is produced in exchange for their tax-supported wages.
Using a preposterous estimate based on observations volunteered by a few unnamed and presumably like-minded "analysts," Crowley posits and then repeatedly reaffirms the number of Canada's federally supported army of Maytag repairmen at 133,000.
Smack-dab in the middle of this already too long polemic comes a hefty chapter titled — wait for it — Family and the Audacity of Love.
Here Crowley takes a bizarre departure from what has been a historical and economic discussion and launches into an inquisition into the sad state of commitment, marriage and fertility in Canada.
Marriage, Crowley insists, is desirable because those who walk down the aisle are "promise keepers" and, as such, are more likely than others to be hardworking responsible and morally upright citizens.
"Cohabitators" and singles, on the other hand, exist in a world of "moral permissiveness and hedonistic individualism."
Much of what Crowley sees as the ills of Canada's public sector and welfare society is ruthless, misunderstood or just plain wrong.
His view of the poor, for example, seems especially cruel. He urges those who are concerned with the welfare of our most disadvantaged citizens to stop looking at poverty as victimization but rather to focus on the true reasons for this condition: the behaviours of the poor themselves. Please!
Just as it would seem that Canada is destined to collapse under its own bureaucratic and moral decay, Crowley offers us hope in the form of demographic destiny.
The baby boomers, you see, are about to retire and, with any luck, they will be replaced with a kind of born-again class of citizen. And because these new morally upright, hard-working "committers" will be far less abundant than the bulging mass of slackers that were the boomers, we can expect this next generation to recreate our society and economy in the image originally envisioned by our founders. Amen.
Twice the length it needs to be, Fearful Symmetry repeats its central arguments ad nauseam. It would take patience from even the most hard core of social and economic conservatives to endure this entire harangue. For the rest of us, it is simply unbearable.
Scott MacKay is the president of Probe Research Inc., a Winnipeg-based public opinion and marketing research firm.