Some trends of our times

June 1, 2017   ·   0 Comments

SOME OF US ARE OLD ENOUGH to remember an era when Canadians looked enviously at conditions south of the border.

That certainly was the case in the 1970s, when seemingly countless doctors fled our new system of socialized medicine, seeing the grass as a lot greener in cities where they could bill (and get paid by) their patients rather than having to deal with a bureaucracy.

But these days, with the election of a seemingly moderate leader of the Conservative Party, Canada has three major political parties that to most Americans would seem at least a bit left of centre, with perhaps seven out of 10 voters having supported more than one of those parties in recent elections.

And what a contrast that is to what we are witnessing these days south of the border – a population so sharply divided that even when the current president is getting an approval rating of only about 38 per cent, the support among those who admit to voting for Donald Trump is close to 100 per cent.

In the circumstances, we found an “op ed” piece in last Saturday’s Globe and Mail by Michael Adams, president of the Environics Institute, both fascinating and instructive.

The article’s theme was that the vivid contrast in the personalities of Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau is reflected in the societies they govern. “One is a macho bully who demands deference, the other a people-pleasing metrosexual.”

It seems Environics has been conducting an analysis of the evolving social values in each country every four years since 1992.

“In order to understand the orientation to the structure of authority in the family in each country, we periodically ask representative samples of people 15 and older if they agree or disagree with the statement: ‘The father of the family must be master in his own house.’ ”

In 2016, 50 per cent of the 8,000-plus Americans surveyed agreed with the statement. In Canada, the equivalent proportion (with a sample of 4,000-plus) was 23 per cent.

“When we first asked this question in 1992, the proportion in the United States agreeing was 42 per cent. It rose to 44 per cent in 1996, and to 48 per cent in 2000. It remained at that level throughout the post-9/11 George W. Bush years and then declined somewhat during the Barack Obama era, to 41 per cent in 2012. However, as U.S. Republicans and Democrats were in the process of selecting Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton as their respective presidential candidates, the proportion returned to its historic high.”

Meanwhile in Canada, the proportion of patriarchy supporters has been hovering in the low 20s throughout the past two decades, despite the inflows of migrants from more male-dominated countries.

“Patriarchy is only one of more than 50 values we track,” Mr. Adams wrote, “but it is clearly among the most meaningful. It is also a value that is highly correlated with other values such as religiosity, parochialism and xenophobia, and views on issues such as abortion, guns and the death penalty.”

Another interesting trend: “In 2002, EKOS asked Canadians if Canada was becoming more like the United States or less like it. At that time, 58 per cent said we were becoming more like the United States and only 9 per cent thought we were becoming less like our American cousins. A few weeks ago, we repeated this question in a national survey and found a change of opinion: Only 27 per cent think Canada is becoming more like the United States and a nearly equal proportion (26 per cent) say we are in fact becoming less like our southern neighbour. Perhaps the latter group read The Globe and Mail.”

As we see it, there’s little doubt remaining that of two countries sharing the same mother, the one formed by a revolution has become far more conservative in just about every way imaginable than the one that has evolved with the mother’s guiding hand.

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