I have the immediate urge to praise Canada, set in motion by Justin Trudeau’s recent rebuke of Donald Trump at the G-7 summit. There, Trudeau made it plain that he and his country were not about to be bullied by the American President, not on a question of unilateral tariffs, not about anything. Trump responded with gangster-style threats and sneers, followed by more threats and sneers from his associates.
.. The question worth asking is what it is in the Canadian national character, if I may call it that, that makes Canadians so ready to take on bullies.
Canada has been doing this as long as there has been a Canada. The Mounties wear red coats, we were taught in school, to defy villains by their very presence.
.. Lester Pearson prompted Charles de Gaulle to cut short a visit to the country, in 1967, after he had insulted Canadian sovereignty.
.. When Pierre Trudeau learned that Richard Nixon, in 1971, had called him an “asshole,” he delivered an unforgettable Canadian retort: “I’ve been called worse things by better people.”
.. Famously obliging in attitude—how do you get twenty-five Canadians out of a swimming pool? You say, “Please get out of the swimming pool”—Canadians are also notoriously stubborn of spirit.
.. Canadian democracy is supported by some of the strongest social capital in the world, exceeded only, by most academic measures, by that of Scandinavia and New Zealand.
.. Trust in social institutions, in the honesty of government and the solidarity of citizens, remains strong in Canada, even when its results, as with the election of Doug Ford—the smarter brother of the late Rob Ford, the onetime mayor of Toronto—to the premiership of Ontario, is not what progressive-minded people might like.
.. the United States now ranks below Canada, it still scored high in recent registries. But it once led the world in social capital. Can it do so again?
.. The term seems to have originated, or at least become most closely associated, with the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam.
.. in northern Italy, where citizens participate actively in sports clubs, literary guilds, service groups, and choral societies, regional governments are “efficient in their internal operation, creative in their policy initiatives and effective in implementing those initiatives.” In southern Italy, by contrast, where patterns of civic engagement are far weaker, regional governments tend to be corrupt and inefficient.
.. If you have experience working outside your immediate clan or cohort, you’re likelier to be able to practice democratic politics.
.. Jürgen Habermas captured in the phrase “the public sphere,” when he showed how essential civic life was to the Enlightenment: a government is only as strong as its cafés.
.. for all the South’s cultural self-proclamation, it was a paralyzed, frozen society, while the North was full of activity. “Our young men are members and managers of reading rooms, public libraries, gymnasiums, game clubs, boat clubs, ball clubs, and all sorts of clubs, Bible classes, debating societies, military companies; they are planting road-side trees, or damming streams for skating ponds, or rigging diving-boards, or getting up fireworks displays, or private theatricals; they are always doing something,”
.. it was the strength of Canada’s commonplace civilization, the knowledge that a huge and hugely variegated country would find bullying unacceptable, that gave Trudeau the nerve to speak
.. his defense of the idea that there is more to politics than the rituals of domination and submission, which are the sum total of Donald Trump’s understanding of society.
.. The bankruptcy of America’s social capital becomes more evident when we see it flourish elsewhere. It’s no accident that Trudeau, in addition to receiving the support of his own Parliament, has received that of what used to be called the free world. The American President, meanwhile, has found himself more at home with the brutal leaders of gangster governments.
Trump has repeatedly praised Canada’s health-care system, which has a very similar structure to Medicaid, as offering a model for the United States to emulate. However, the reforms proposed in both the House and the Senate bills would in fact bring Medicaid even closer to the structure of Canada’s health-care system — only with a far more generous level of funding.
.. Canada’s federal funding system was established in 1957, with the national government providing one dollar for every dollar that provinces spent on hospital and physician services. By the 1970s this arrangement was widely recognized to be causing costs to soar, and the Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau reformed this “Canada Health Transfer” so that provinces would receive a fixed annual allocation from the national government.
.. The U.S. Medicaid matching payment to states ($344 billion, or $1,071 per American, in 2015) already well exceeds the Canadian block grant to provinces (US$26 billion, or US$716 per Canadian) — even though the Canada Health Transfer is supposed to cover Canadians of all ages and income levels, whereas Medicaid is dedicated to 21 percent of the U.S. population with low incomes.
.. U.S. federal taxpayers spend an additional $646 billion on Medicare, and $122 billion on other health entitlements such as CHIP or VA — yielding total federal health-care entitlement spending of $3,461 per capita.
.. Canada is not getting more value for money; it is just getting fewer services. Canada’s federal payment doesn’t cover prescription drugs; only hospital and physician services are paid for. Canada also saves money by rationing operating-room time and the ability of physicians to order costly services.
.. Nor does Canada pay significantly less for its physicians than the United States; it just limits access to the expensive ones. In 2010, family physicians earned incomes (net of practice expenses) averaging $159,000 in the United States and US$156,000 in Ontario, while cardiologists averaged $325,000 in the United States and US$283,000 in Ontario. According to the World Bank, the United States has 2.45 and Canada 2.07 physicians per 1,000 inhabitants, while the United States has 0.55 specialist surgeons per 1,000 and Canada 0.35.
.. Waiting lists save lots of money because some patients get better by themselves, others give up seeking care, and a substantial number die before receiving treatment.
.. the allocation of federal payments by open-ended matching has caused funds to be distributed according to how much states can themselves afford to put in. As a result, the states that need help the least received the most assistance. In 2015, Connecticut collected $12,240 in federal Medicaid funds per resident under the poverty line, whereas Alabama received only $4,070.
To keep funds from being captured by the richest states (which generally use them to expand eligibility to wealthier individuals who mostly already had private coverage), it therefore makes sense to cap the increase in funding that each state is able to claim from the federal government every year.
.. The Canada Health Transfer currently increases the funds received by each province at a standard rate of 3.0 percent every year. By comparison, the House GOP’s proposed reform would limit the annual increase in federal payments claimed by each state to a statistic that has increased around 7.0 percent for spending on the aged and disabled and 4.9 percent for that on able-bodied adults and children
Outsiders might assume this is because Canada is simply more liberal, but they would be wrong. Rather, Canada has resisted the populist wave through a set of strategic decisions, powerful institutional incentives, strong minority coalitions and idiosyncratic circumstances.
.. In other Western countries, right-wing populism has emerged as a politics of us-versus-them. It pits members of white majorities against immigrants and minorities, driven by a sense that cohesive national identities are under threat. In France, for instance, it is common to hear that immigration dilutes French identity, and that allowing minority groups to keep their own cultures erodes vital elements of Frenchness.
Identity works differently in Canada. Both whites and nonwhites see Canadian identity as something that not only can accommodate outsiders, but is enhanced by the inclusion of many different kinds of people.
Canada is a mosaic rather than a melting pot, several people told me — a place that celebrates different backgrounds rather than demanding assimilation.
.. Around the world, people tend to identify with their race, religion or at least language. Even in the United States, an immigrant nation, politics have long clustered around demographic in-groups.
Canada’s multicultural identity is largely the resultof political maneuvering.
.. Mr. Trudeau’s solution was a policy of official multiculturalism and widespread immigration. This would resolve the conflict over whether Canadian identity was more Anglophone or Francophone — it would be neither, with a range of diversity wide enough to trivialize the old divisions.
.. It would also provide a base of immigrant voters to shore up Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
.. Then, in the early 2000s, another politician’s shrewd calculation changed the dynamics of ethnic politics, cementing multiculturalism across all parties.
Jason Kenney, then a Conservative member of Parliament, convinced Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the party should court immigrants, who — thanks to Mr. Trudeau’s efforts — had long backed the Liberal Party.
“I said the only way we’d ever build a governing coalition was with the support of new Canadians, given changing demography,” Mr. Kenney said.
He succeeded. In the 2011 and 2015 elections, the Conservatives won a higher share of the vote among immigrants than it did among native-born citizens.
The result is a broad political consensus around immigrants’ place in Canada’s national identity.
.. That creates a virtuous cycle. All parties rely on and compete for minority voters, so none has an incentive to cater to anti-immigrant backlash.
.. In Britain, among white voters who say they want less immigration, about 40 percent also say that limiting immigration is the most important issue to them. In the United States, that figure is about 20 percent. In Canada, according to a 2011 study, it was only 0.34 percent.
.. One reason may be Canada’s unusual immigration policies. A sponsorship system, in which Canadian families host newcomers, allows communities to feel they are a part of the country’s refugee resettlement program.
And a points system, which favors migrants who are thought to contribute economically, makes immigration feel like something that benefits everyone.
.. Virtually every immigrant to Canada is brought here deliberately. Research suggests that uncontrolled immigration, for example the mass arrival of refugees in Europe, can trigger a populist backlash, regardless of whether those arrivals pose a threat.
“We have the luxury of being surrounded by oceans on three sides, and then by the U.S. border,” Mr. Hussen said. “Which, relative to your southern border, doesn’t have the same amount of irregular migration.”
.. Immo Fritsche, a professor at the University of Leipzig, in Germany, has found that when people feel a loss of control, they cling more closely to racial and national identities. And they desire leaders who promise to reassert control.
.. But Canada’s points- and sponsorship-based systems, along with its geographic position, help communities feel a sense of control over immigration so that, even as new arrivals change politics and society, backlash has been minimal.