Blame Air Canada, the CBC and Stephen Harper: the rest of the world just isn’t that in to us. The latest Monocle magazine has a ranking of countries by “soft power”—the ability of a country to get what it wants in the world by using its own sense of legitimacy and attractiveness. Canada, ever the wallflower, makes it modestly right in to the middle: of the top 25, Canada is 12th behind such international powerhouses as Finland and Denmark. The ranking is built by looking at a number of indicators of how well a country performs internationally, including things like Olympic performance and media exports, like film and music. So what’s keeping Canada back? According to Monocle, the CBC.
A reputation for punching above its weight when it comes to contributing troops to peacekeeping operations and also producing female pop singers (Avril, Shania, Celine, KD, Nelly, Alanis), Canada is strong on soft diplomacy but is not a superpower.
Part of Ottawa’s problem is that much of what it does on the world stage is refracted through a US prism. Female chanteuses and Cirque de Soleil aside, Canada doesn’t make quite as big a cultural contribution as it could. The CBC could easily be an alternative international voice to the BBC but it’s not. Canada could also boast a strong international newsweekly to push a slightly different Americas agenda but it’s seemingly content to play within its own borders.
And herein lies the problem, Canada is very content with its lot. While it threw considerable resources at Afghanistan and was a key player in Haiti, it could have gone much further with the latter. Looking north, the issue of Arctic sovereignty is looking for a leader and Canada should be manning this bridge as everyone scrambles for shipping routes and resources.
Meanwhile, Monocle’s panel discussion simply says, “let down by its airline and leader.” Let’s dwell on that last bit for a moment, only because it’s hard to hoard soft power when the federal government is out of step with much of the rest of the world. On climate change Canada is one of the most notable holdouts (now that George W. Bush is out of the picture) and during the G20 we saw Canada stand in the way of a global bank tax.
Trying to make the CBC an international player on par with the Beeb? Nice idea, and maybe even worth trying if the Feds want to quadruple the CBC’s current funding to bring it up to BBC levels. But somehow we suspect that the current government is not that keen on cultural funding, and even if they were they’d be skeptical that the CBC is the best way to spend that kind of money. Besides, there are all these F-35s that we need to face down Russian jets. Or something.
The Monocle article is not on-line, alas, so go buy the dead-tree edition.