Canadians captivated by US politics ignoring domestic


Monday, Aug. 8, 2016 12:00 AM

TORONTO—Now that the Republican and Democratic conventions are over and Americans have nominated their candidates for the White House, we can watch how the presidential campaign unfolds between now and November. Yes, in Canada, the Conservatives and the NDP are also in the process of selecting new leaders, but who cares?

This overwhelming interest in American politics by our media—conventional and social—should at least raise questions and concerns about who we are and the often-mentioned differences between “us” and “them.” Obviously, we don’t like guns to be sold on shelves beside tomatoes and rapini, and we are very proud of our health-care system. These are differences, but is this enough to justify how different we say we are?

During the last two weeks, I have monitored international newscasts from Europe and other continents, and they have given extensive coverage to the U.S. party conventions. Still, nothing could be compared to what Canadian media have done.

Of course, Canada’s relationship with the United States is different from any other country because of thousands of kilometres of shared border, the integrated economies, trade, tourism, and much more.

For years we have been able to deal with United States despite the huge unbalance of economic power. The ingenuity of our institutions, the creativity of our entrepreneurs, and the hard work of all Canadians allowed us to live close to the elephant without being squashed.

But lately, new technology, the fading of the borders, and the increasing demographic osmosis affecting society on all continents are making very hard to say with sustainable credibility that we are different from the Americans.

The events of the last two weeks should force us to at least ask some questions. We always had a particular interest towards American politics and presidential conventions, but that interest was mostly limited to politicians or consulting businesses looking for ideas to replicate in Canada.

This time it’s different. It’s not just conventional media that has made American politics the most important topic, but also social media. This means that even average Canadians are very much into it. Talking to some non-political friends in recent days, the topic of the discussion was Trump or Clinton. They knew the names of American senators and political leaders, but they were not able to name one candidate for the Conservative or NDP leadership races in Canada. The most popular answer was, “Are they having a leadership?”

I understand that those Canadian leadership races are still many months away from being settled and don’t feature names like Trump or Clinton. But there is still room for concern. Why are names in the Canadian races not as well known? It it because the media is ignoring them or because we don’t have candidates who are as interesting?

If Canadians want more of American politics and events, should Canadian broadcasters simply replicate the American news? If that’s the case, why watch CBC or CTV instead of CNN?

Visiting some friends over the last two weeks, their TV set was glued to CNN. Why? Because, they said, if you need some particular news, you go straight to the source. They have better guests and their coverage is slicker and faster.

I went home and I looked at the coverage more carefully. It was when the news of plagiarism from the Melania Trump speech came out. I tuned into CNN and they were interviewing the blogger who first noticed the similarities between Mrs. Trump’s speech and Michelle Obama’s. I switched on a Canadian network and they were interviewing a professor from an American university about the problem of plagiarism. I switched back to CNN and they were already back on the floor with another guest, while the interview with this American professor on the Canadian channel (by the way, why not interview a Canadian professor?) went on for many more minutes.

This is a subject that deserves more debates and it is important not to reach conclusions before getting all the necessary information. Still, we have to give an answer to the average Canadian viewer asking why we have to watch Canadian broadcasters if they give us coverage of the same news provided by American networks, but only shabbier and boring?

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