A British Diplomat Comments on Canada

22 10 2009

The British government has recently declassified a large volume of correspondence from British diplomats stationed abroad. Some of these diplomats had very unflattering things to say about their host countries. One of the documents released was a memorandum on Canada written in 1984 by the British High Commissioner in Ottawa. Lord Moran spoke about the mixed legacy of Pierre Trudeau, Quebec nationalism, and the First Nations. Moran’s comments about Canada were largely neutral or even positive, but he described individual Canadians as rather “boring” and said that the lack of the fierce competitive spirit found in other countries has promoted a culture of mediocrity in Canada. He observed that, in Canada, the calibre of the people who go into politics is inferior to those who make careers in private industry. I think that this observation is absolutely correct- the calibre of people in public life in Canada has always been quite low and result is that the typical Canadian politician is poorly educated, a poor public speaker, physically unattractive, and devoid of accomplishments outside of politics.

The document also mentions Canadians’ destructive attitude to the environment, making special mention of my city, Sudbury (see paragraph 12).  You can read it online.


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4 responses

22 10 2009
Jeremy

Your assessment of the typical Canadian politician is so cynical I find myself asking if you’re trying to be ironic. Does physical attractiveness really figure into how you evaluate the quality of a public servant?

22 10 2009
andrewdsmith

Ideally, physical appearance shouldn’t be an issue in politics or any other job. Sadly, appearance matters in many fields (acting, sales, etc.), so bad looks may be an additional factor pushing people into politics. Many people in Canadian politics, especially those without an LLB degree as a fallback, are essentially unemployable outside of politics. Appearance is one of the many things that pushes people away from more demanding fields into politics.

I’m not saying that that Canadian situation described by Moran is a bad thing. It may be better to have mediocrities in politics and bright people in private industry than the other way around, since businesspeople probably do more to promote human welfare than politicians. Some people argue that Britain in the 1970s had the opposite problem– the really bright young people went into politics and allied fields (journalism, law) and the dullards went into manufacturing (e.g., quality control at Jaguar cars).

26 10 2009
Joel

Hi Andrew,

Our colleague A. B. told me of your blog, which I just checked out. Very interesting stuff, my friend. How do you ever come accross so much of it? Officially a fan (you’re on my rss list): keep it up!

27 10 2009
andrewdsmith

glad you like it. to answer your question: Google News alerts.

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