No, America couldn’t have been Canada

What if William Howe, the dithering British commander, hadn’t let the American army escape in the Battle of Long Island in 1776? What if he had nipped the whole damn thing in the bud? In that case, as dual Canadian-American citizen Adam Gopnik complains in the New Yorker, ‘We Could Have Been Canada’. That’s not exactly a hill to die on, but it’s catnip for other dual nationals such as Malcolm Gladwell, who some years back produced an amusing plea for Canadian World Domination in the Washington Post. Gladwell wrote that in 1993. Gopnik’s essay is more recent. The earlier essay was light-handed and witty. Gopnik’s was ponderous and dry.

Another stupid, redundant, dismal Canadian election

Canada has just surpassed even its own previous records for absurd and boring elections yielding predictable and dreary results. Almost inexplicably, Trudeau called this election with the shortest possible campaign. He believed he could regain his majority as a recognition of what he imagined to be his distinguished leadership of the country through the coronavirus pandemic. Like Theresa May seeking a strong mandate to leave Europe and remain within it, Trudeau wanted a strong mandate to take the country on a drastic turn to the left which most people did not wish and Trudeau never seriously outlined. In fact, Trudeau’s imposition of the Covid shutdown was far too severe and

Justin Trudeau’s election gamble is backfiring

In 1966, a year before Pierre Elliott Trudeau first blazed to power, the bard-poet Leonard Cohen published his second and final novel, Beautiful Losers. The book is a hallucinogenic, stream-of-consciousness steam bath of Catholic allusions, French separatist indignance and extra-marital forest porn with hot indigenous chicks. Needless to say it’s basically unreadable. Back home in Canada though, the book is still widely taught and read. Over half a century on it still sells thousands of copies each year. The reason, as one early critic noted, is that the book, while being an obvious failure, is nonetheless ‘an important failure.’ Which brings me to the matter of our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Having

Justin Trudeau isn’t the progressive leader he thinks he is

It came as no surprise to me to see activists ‘celebrating’ Canada Day by setting fire to churches and toppling statues of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, while chanting, ‘No pride in genocide.’ Canada has managed to cultivate a culture that is simultaneously self-hating and self-righteous. We have no pride in being Canadian. Yet we are confident we are better than everyone else. It is true that Canada has a shameful not-so-distant history. An estimated 751 unmarked graves were recently discovered at a former residential school site in Saskatchewan. This is not an imagined or non-serious issue. But calls to cancel Canada Day seem wholly misguided and typically Canadian, as

Justin Trudeau’s prorogation memory loss

A prime minister better known for his charisma than his policy achievements proroguing parliament to ride out a political storm. Sound familiar? No, it is not Boris Johnson, but the quintessential liberal heartthrob Justin Trudeau. Trudeau’s party promised not to use prorogation to ‘avoid difficult political circumstances’ When Johnson suspended parliament a year ago, Nicola Sturgeon immediately branded him a ‘tin-pot dictator’. Mr Steerpike will wait with bated breath for a similar SNP comment on the Canadian PM. Trudeau’s decision to prorogue parliament amid concerns over his conduct has sparked much controversy, and means that the hearings into the issue by the Canadian parliament’s ethics committees will not be able to resume until 23

Every part of England would pass Germany’s Covid test

As much as the government has any kind of strategy for lifting Britain out of lockdown it appears to revolve around the ‘R’ – or Reproduction – number. So long as this stays below one, we are told, the epidemic cannot progress – while the moment it strays above one then the disease will start to grow exponentially. That is easy enough to understand in itself. What is less easy to work out is just how this R number is calculated. We are told that for Britain as a whole it currently lies somewhere between 0.7 and 1. But whether this really means an awful lot is open to question.

On the road in Atlantic Canada

‘There, that’s what we want to see,’ shouts our captain, pointing. My head flings back as the Zodiac flies through the open water towards a plume of ocean spray. Metres from our boat, there’s a breach, then a tail slap and more spray. Two giant humpback whales. ‘Meet Flip and Flop,’ the captain announces smugly. Flip and Flop glide only inches away, dwarfing our boat. They perform to wails and applause from a grateful audience. I am in awe and keep my camera tucked firmly in my bag — I want to enjoy every moment. The spectacle lasts for 40 minutes or so before we bid farewell and head back

The Canadian election is turning into a comedy of cringe

Next week my compatriots will cast their votes in what has arguably been the worst Canadian election ever. By ‘worst’ I don’t mean allegations of voter fraud or political corruption or scenes of civil unrest but a collective release of hot prairie wind followed by a vague sinking sensation — the feeling of a prosperous nation of decent people settling into a new low of political disillusionment. The campaign kicked off with a bang, as Time, a US magazine, humiliated the Canadian press by breaking the story of the year: yearbook images of our dreamboat PM — the thinking non-gender-binary person’s gluten–free crumpet — cavorting in blackface back when he

Justin Trudeau is not a racist – but he is a fool

The election campaign was off to an unexciting start even by Canada’s standards. A well-known but fluffy incumbent, Liberal Justin Trudeau, faced a Conservative leader, Andrew Scheer, whose strategy had been to lay low. The Trudeau message these past four years has been total  political correctness: equal numbers of male and female cabinet members, ‘peoplekind’ instead of ‘mankind’ and requiring summer employment project hirees to sign a pledge to uphold abortion rights. Probably as many Canadians groaned at these fatuities as were impressed by them, but it assisted the Liberals in taking votes from the left, as the Conservatives unhistrionically asked for common sense. The Liberal plan for 2019 was

How Canada failed to smash the cannabis black market

I had forgotten how much I disliked cannabis until I found myself under its influence, in the rain, trying and failing to find Toronto’s Union Train Station so I could get to the airport and go home. The plan had been to enhance my mood for a long journey, floating back to the UK in a higher state of consciousness. In practice, I just got confused, wet and was lucky to make my flight. I had intended to purchase the kind of low-THC, high-CBD weed that disappeared from Britain’s black market when skunk took over in the 1990s. Put simply, THC is the psychoactive component that gets you high but

Frozen in time

In May 1845, HMS Erebus and her sister ship HMS Terror set sail for the Arctic, never to be seen again. Erebus, named after a Greek god of darkness, was herself cast into oblivion for the next 170 years, until she was found in 2014, by sonar, submerged off the Arctic coast of Canada. Immediately after her disappearance, ten years and £28 million (in today’s money) were spent looking for her. It was during a golden period for British exploring, between the end of the Napoleonic Wars of 1815 and the Crimean War of 1854, with a Royal Navy that had shrunk from 145,000 men to 19,000. Instead of fighting

Fish in troubled waters

‘Help!’ I thought, when I read the Author’s Note. ‘It’s about salmon, and I hate fishing.’ But by the first page I was hooked. Adam Weymouth writes well. He is poetic, but also precise. His subject is the return of the ‘king’ salmon to their birthplace and final destination, the north ridge of McNeil Lake in Canada. These fish are many pounds of muscle, toned from years of swimming headlong into Pacific storms, and their flesh is as red as blood. They force against the Yukon’s current, shouldering their way upriver, setting their fins like sails. Eventually they will push thousands of miles into North America’s interior. They will reach

Justin Trudeau takes his Captain Snowflake act to India

If your week was less than fun, spare a thought for Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Prime Minister’s seven-day visit to India went down like an undercooked biriyani on the subcontinent. When he landed in New Delhi last Saturday, Trudeau was greeted on the tarmac, not by the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister but by the junior minister for agriculture and farmers’ welfare. Other world leaders, including Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, have been given a personal welcome by Narendra Modi. Prime Minister Modi, a savvy social media user, failed even to note Trudeau’s arrival on Twitter, though on the same day he found time to tweet about plans to unveil

Rockies horror show

Tin Star, the latest Sky Atlantic drama, has a comfortingly familiar premise: Jim Worth (Tim Roth), an ex-detective from London with an alcohol problem, heads out to rural Canada with his family to start a new life only to find himself embroiled in crime, violence and personal tragedy far worse than anything back home. It begins well. There’s a lovely establishing scene where Roth walks down the street with his new Canadian sheriff’s badge and everyone greets him, as people presumably do in sleepy Canadian Rockies towns like Little Big Bear, where everyone’s got time for one another. In the police station, his two junior officers have so little crime

In praise of Netflix

All this week I have been trying, with considerable success, to avoid being bludgeoned by TV programmes telling me in various sensitive and imaginative ways just how brilliant, heroic and historically maligned homosexual men are. I achieved this by sticking to Netflix. One of the great things about Netflix (whose annual subscription costs just half the BBC licence fee, by the way) is that though it’s probably run by lefties it doesn’t try to ram its politics down your throat. Maybe this is one reason why its 100 million-plus subscribers are so much less resentful than BBC viewers: they’re being offered choice, variety, entertainment — not worthiness, race, gender quotas

How to make drugs boring

Bill Blair, the former police chief of Toronto, slides into his restaurant chair and twinkles at the waitress. He’s 6ft 6in, white-haired now but perky. Bill has 120 years of policing behind him. He, his father and his grandfather all served 40 years in the force. Now he’s an MP and he’s legalising cannabis in Canada. The restaurant has been here since early in Bill’s father’s time on the beat. It claims to have invented the bacon cheeseburger. We sit round a plastic-topped table and Bill tells me how he ended up pushing drug reform. ‘When I left the force all three political parties wanted me to run for office.

Pump up the volume | 23 February 2017

Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World is one of those angst-ridden dramas focusing on what is commonly referred to as a ‘dysfunctional family’ as if there might be any other kind and it isn’t just a question of degree. This family certainly doesn’t hold back. This family has everyone shouting at everyone else for 95 minutes, blurting out brutal truths that might equally be brutal untruths (hard to tell). It has not been rapturously received. It was jeered at Cannes (even though it won the Grand Prix) and has been described by various critics as ‘insufferable’ and ‘intolerable’, which can only make you think that they haven’t

Drake’s progress

Those poor Canadian rappers. Hailing from a country with a functioning benefits system, sensible firearms restrictions and relatively harmonious race relations, it must be a job convincing people of their authenticity. Aubrey Drake Graham, however, has risen above this cruel accident of birth — in Toronto, to a white Jewish mother — to become not only one of the world’s most respected rappers, but its biggest pop star too. For a man with the world at his feet, Drake manages to find an impressive number of things to complain about in his lyrics, from fickle friends to the administrative headache of paying two mortgages. But if the approval of others

A shameful whitewash

I have been researching and writing about black British history for over 30 years but never before have I been fortunate enough to review a 600-page book on the subject, published to accompany a recent major BBC documentary. The book and the four-part series give some indication of the extent of a history which David Olusoga presents as ‘forgotten’: the subject, he argues, has been largely excluded from the mainstream narrative of British history. Why it should be forgotten, and who might have forgotten it should give us all pause for reflection, since the denial of black British history by those who should know better could be considered tantamount to

High life | 29 December 2016

What a great year this has been, what a good mood I’m in, why, it’s almost like being in love. The year 2016 will be seen as the worst ever by many patients of Dr Klinghoffer, the famous German psychiatrist who treats those suffering from the extreme distress of post-electoral disappointment syndrome, and a man about to make a fortune treating the poor dears. There are many Brits under the Herr Doktor’s care, and his clinic, situated near Ossining, New York, resembled a British retreat for broken-down thespians following 23 June of this annus mirabilis. Now more American voices have been added, and when I last spoke to Dr Klinghoffer