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Canada and the United States

Canada and the United States: Differences that Count, Third Edition

edited by David M. Thomas
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 2
Pages: 400
  • Book Info
    Canada and the United States
    Book Description:

    "Deeply substantive, thoughtful, up-to-date, and lively. For anyone wanting to understand the differences and similarities between these two countries, and the reasons behind them, this is the place to start." - Kent Weaver, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-0238-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
    David M. Thomas
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-18)

    As I was doing my preparatory work for this second edition ofCanada and the United States: Differences that Count,I gave some thought to placing a question mark after the title to indicate my impression that, in some ways, the differences between Canada and the United States are eroding. But as the commissioned essays started to arrive, and during the course of editing and reviewing them, it became clear that intersystem differences are still considerable, and a question mark was not warranted. The differences still count. I am not arguing that this is in itself a good or a...

  5. I. Health Care, Taxes, and Guns:: Archetypal Issues

    • 1. Two Systems in Restraint: Contrasting Experiences with Cost Control in the 1990s
      (pp. 21-51)

      Our system of universal public insurance for health care is by a considerable margin Canada’s most successful and popular public program. We think of it, not just as an administrative mechanism for paying medical bills, but as an important symbol of community, a concrete representation of mutual support and concern. It expresses a fundamental equality of Canadians in the face of disease and death, and a commitment that the rest of us will help as far as we can. John Ralston Saul’s statement, “Medicare becomes an evocation of the soul of the country,” may be a bit extreme but catches...

    • 2. What Price Canadian? Taxation and Debt Compared
      (pp. 52-67)

      Is there a price to be paid for staying in Canada? There are certainly convincing reasons for staying, or even moving north of the border, just as there are equally convincing reasons for moving south. Many of those questions involve political or philosophical considerations, not simple questions of dollars or cents. There are a number of economic advantages that pull people south, including the size of the population and the advantages that a large and varied market can offer to those in search of wealth or fame. The same differences in size can offer advantages, on the other hand, to...

    • 3. Between the Sights: Gun Control in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 68-94)

      On the surface, Canadian and American gun control policies appear to fit the usual stereotypes. The US has relatively permissive laws, particularly with respect to handguns, while Canada is embarked on one of the most restrictive legislative regimes of universal gun registration in the world. However, the challenges of passing the Canadian federal Firearms Act, and eventually implementing it, suggest that the societal and interest group dynamics north of the border have more in common with the US that is commonly thought. Legislators have faced similar objections, and opponents of gun control have tried to mobilize in roughly similar ways....

  6. II. Social and Cultural Foundations

    • 4. Melting Pot and Mosaic: Images and Realities
      (pp. 97-120)

      Most Canadians are proud of being different from Americans. One way they see this difference manifested is in their approach to nation building and to the challenge presented by an increasingly diverse population. Canadians are very apt to believe that they value diversity more than Americans do and to point to the contrasting symbols of the mosaic and the melting pot as reassuring proof that they are not Americans. For their part, Americans, who generally know very little about Canada, are much less aware of the mosaic image, or of the differences in national experiences it embodies. To the degree...

    • 5. Who are the Most Deferential — Canadians or Americans?
      (pp. 121-140)

      Few would challenge the proposition that Canada and the United States are two countries that share a great deal in common. Far more contentious is the suggestion that Canadians and Americans share similar political cultures. Distinct historical inheritances¹ and varying formative experiences² are believed to have differentiated North American values. Canadians, in particular, are conventionally regarded as being moredeferentialtoward authority than Americans.³

      This chapter uses direct empirical evidence from the 1981 and 1990World Values Surveysto compare Canadian and American values toward authority. Our analysis centres on both perceptions toward the general principle of authority and authority...

    • 6. The Backlash and the Quiet Revolution: The Contemporary Implications of Race and Language in the United States and Canada
      (pp. 141-164)

      Demographic differences, constructed as language in Canadian politics and race in American politics, promise to shape the futures, as they have the histories, of both nations.² Comparing the two cases, one might suggest, as did Pierre Vallieres inWhite Niggers of America,that there are many interesting commonalities between the race- and language-related tensions in the two societies. In the final analysis, though, it is the differences that are striking, especially if one is concerned with the political challenges facing the two societies.

      The capacity of key political processes and institutions, including the party system, to bridge the gap between...

    • 7. Football, Frats and Fun vs. Commuters, Cold and Carping: The Social and Psychological Context of Higher Education in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 165-191)

      In 1986, I was invited to a reception at the White House in Washington at which then Secretary of Education William Bennett was a guest. We later chatted informally, and, hearing I was a Canadian, he asked my opinion of American higher education. “It seems to consist, on the undergraduate level, mainly of the three F’s,” I responded, “football, frats and fun.” He was not entirely amused by my reply.

      My analysis was, admittedly, largely impressionistic and anecdotal. It was based on my observations of, and, later, teaching experience at, Gettysburg College, a private, highly selective, residential undergraduate liberal arts...

    • 8. Swimming Against the Current: American Mass Entertainment and Canadian Identity
      (pp. 192-208)

      John Meisel, a much-respected Canadian scholar and a former chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission, once argued that “Inside every Canadian whether she or he knows it or not, there is, in fact, an American. The magnitude and effect of this American presence in us varies considerably from person to person, but it is ubiquitous and inescapable.”¹ According to Meisel, many Canadians, especially heavy TV viewers, look to the United States for their cultural orientation. Their cultural compasses point south. They watch blockbuster Hollywood movies and hit TV shows, follow American celebrities, tune in to American talk TV...

  7. III. Institutional Structures

    • 9. Turning Out or Tuning Out? Electoral Participation in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 211-228)

      One of the principal characteristics which differentiates democracy from other political systems is the opportunity for citizens to participate in selecting their government. Regular, meaningful elections in which citizens have a real choice are an essential part of representative government. Elections remind representatives that their political power derives from the people, and limit how far government decisions can stray from popular preferences. In Canada’s parliamentary system and in the United States’s fragmented system of separation of powers, the collective decisions of millions of voters can either reaffirm the direction taken by an old government, or install new officials to try...

    • 10. The Grass is Always Greener: Prime Ministerial vs. Presidential Government
      (pp. 229-247)

      The word execute is derived from the Latin exsequor, which means “follow out.” Thus thepoliticalexecutive is understood to follow out or to give effect to something. And that something is the will of the legislators as expressed in the laws. This is stated clearly in the American constitution, which requires that president take care to execute the laws faithfully. It is also expressed in the doctrine of the president as “chief clerk,” according to which the president can act only when explicitly empowered to do so under the constitution or the laws of the Congress.¹ But there must...

    • 11. A Tale of Two Senates
      (pp. 248-261)

      It is no coincidence that Canada and the United States both have bicameral national legislatures, with lower chambers designed to provide representation by population and upper chambers designed to provide regional representation. After all, the two countries are federal states and the Canadian model of federalism was designed after a conscious reflection on the American experience, albeit a highly critical reflection that found much at fault with the American model. However, this is not to say that the two Senates have a great deal in common — they are in fact very different creatures. Nor, as we will demonstrate, is it...

    • 12. Dividing the Spoils: American and Canadian Federalism
      (pp. 262-283)

      Canada and the United States both have federal political systems characterized by a distribution of powers between the federal government (Ottawa and Washington) and local governments (provinces, states and local bodies). As Thomas J. Anton notes,

      Federalismis a system of rules for the division of public responsibilities among a number of autonomous governmental agencies. These rules define the scope of authority available to the autonomous agencies — which can do what — and they provide a framework to govern relationships between and among agencies. The agencies remain autonomous in that they levy their own taxes and select their own officials, but...

    • 13. The Canada-United States Political Relationship: The Pivotal Role and Impact of Negotiations
      (pp. 284-298)

      Pacific salmon. Softwood lumber. Agricultural products. Magazine publications. The Landmines Convention. The International Criminal Court. Cuba. This list of subjects is but a representative example of a number of prominent cases that have recently spotlighted strong differences of national interest between Canada and the United States. To the casual observer, it may seem that the prevailing atmosphere of the contemporary Canadian-American political relationship is one of broad-based disagreement and profound polarization—bordering on bilateral incompatibility. Certainly issues do arise that prove to be a nagging source of bilateral irritation. Any political or bureaucratic official in Ottawa or Washington who focuses...

  8. IV. The Law in All Its Majesty

    • 14. Rights and the Judicialization of Politics in Canada and the United States
      (pp. 301-318)

      The judicialization of politics has become increasingly common in western liberal democracies since 1945.¹ The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights have made the discourse of rights a global phenomenon, and provided practical instruments for the declaration and, in some cases, enforcement of rights. Despite these international instruments, however, the judicialization of politics in Western Europe, Canada and elsewhere represents global convergence toward what has been common practice in the United States since the early 19th century. As Tocqueville remarked, “[s]carcely any political question...

    • 15. Gender and Society: Rights and Realities — A Reappraisal
      (pp. 319-337)

      Whenever the United States and Canada are compared, there is a certain misapprehension: it seems as though the United States is the leader in the area of feminism and women’s rights, while the words and actions of Canadian feminists are but a pale reflection of those of their southern neighbours. The American women’s movement appears to be more worthy of attention than the Canadian one — even in the eyes of Canadians themselves. Granted, the American movement is one of the oldest and most active. The first conference on women’s rights dates back to 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, where,...

    • 16. Finding Answers in Difference: Canadian and American Aboriginal Policy Compared
      (pp. 338-358)

      Were Canada and the United States created out of a history of genocide that continues to the present? Certainly this is the controversial claim that Ward Churchill makes inA Little Matter of Genocide.In a brutally powerful argument, he documents the holocaust that occurred in North America from 1492 to the present,¹ stripping the veil of ignorance from the eyes of North and South Americans and laying bare the horrifying atrocities committed against Aboriginal peoples by the newcomers. He exhorts the settler societies to end their denials of the past and present reality of the treatment of Aboriginal peoples...

    • 17. Two Nations under Law
      (pp. 359-376)

      What interests people about the way the law works? On the positive side, both Canadians and Americans sense something about the majesty of the law—the way it seeks to treat people fairly equally and the way it offers drama of the courtroom. On the negative side, the prevalence of crime tops every list. Litigation expense, long trials, and delay probably gain a high rating, as well as the phenomenon, troubling for many, of a judiciary dominated by middle-aged men who were successful lawyers.

      These problems, however, exist in both Canada and the USA, and this essay primarily aims at...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 377-386)

    The point has often been made that Canadians spend far too much time making comparisons with the United States when they should more sensibly look for comparative examples to other countries such as Spain or Italy or France, at least when it comes to institutions and policy at the subnational level. Having said this, one can still also make the point that Canadian scholars, with some important exceptions, undertake far too little in the way of a close analysis of US institutions and policies. There are precious few centres for American studies in Canada while there are 30 or so...

  10. APPENDIX Statistical Comparisons
    (pp. 387-390)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 391-394)
  12. Index
    (pp. 395-400)