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We’ve been in Ontario for a week or so. It appears as though the Province is a likely candidate to replace the American mid-west as the bread basket to the world in this era of global climate change. The Canadian prairie is wonderful soil that gently undulates from the border north at least as far as we traveled. The Canadian farmers have covered a significant bit of the land with greenhouses given over to the propagation of tomatoes, lettuce, flowers and God only knows what other sort of green growing stuff. The land not covered with seasonal growing houses has been given over to golf courses. I have never, ever, seen anything like the sheer quantity of links as are in evidence in Ontario.

I do wonder if this is purely a provincial phenomenon or if it is some deeper reflexion of the Canadian character, as in “well, the ten months of excessive snow and bitter wind have passed for the moment, what do you say we feed the asparagus and then pop out for a round or two of golf before the breeze kicks up, eh?”

The golf courses don’t appear to be overly busy on any day of the week. This is further evidence of the Canadian propensity towards good judgment. Perhaps Ontario could market itself as a tourist destination for fanatical Japanese golfers while waiting for the inevitable socialist mandate to convert the links to grain fields when the American mid-west finally dries up.

I suppose that’s not very funny is it? Precisely.

On a tangential note, it took me awhile to realize the obvious circumstance behind the number of local restaurants specializing in French fries; Ontario grows a very tasty spud. Bear in mind, it ain’t no Idaho baker but it does make a mean French fry. It seems that selling French fries is quite the attractive proposition in Ontario, right up there with peddling ersatz fudge to suspiciously gullible tourists, a perennial favourite in many nations.

Some of you may recall the 3 days I spent years ago on an expedition to British Columbia in the company of Washington State legislators and business leaders and a fellow traveler in the labour movement. We were looking into the delivery of medical services in Canada as the “real” Washington (Washington State) was preparing to implement state-wide access to health care. Apart from the purpose of the trip and the astonishing realizations that we all had, I was struck by the uncommon courtesy and consideration that Canadians usually have for each other and, by extension, for me. (Don’t you find that it is generally “all about me?” I do, too.)

Ever after, when I remark on the details of that experience to my Canadian friends they uniformly and consistently attribute their own genuine concern for the welfare of their fellow citizens to the shared experience of a common system providing medical attention to every Canadian.

Of course I’m not qualified to summarize the Canadian national psyche–certainly not on the basis of my relatively limited exposure, but it does seem that for Canadians it is generally less “all about me” than proves to be the case with my American cohort.

This is reflected in a myriad of large and small ways all of the time, every day that we’ve been in Canada. The evidence can by systemic as when every village of any size has a public training facility tied to the needs of the local labour market, or it is reflected in the countless little personal courtesies that make life pleasant: the orderly merge at lane’s end on the highway, the cordial nod and actual greeting walking along the park path, or an invitation to step through the gate and enjoy the blooms and fruit in a backyard garden, and the enthusiastic recommendation for things to do and see “right here in our little town!”

These social, and now cultural aspects of life in Canada are attractive but do nothing to dispel the raw weather much of the year. Perhaps the Canadian climate will improve in your lifetime, if not quite in mine.

I’m hoping that we find more of the same camaraderie and interest in the commonweal as we visit in smaller towns and villages in the U.S. next month, but for now, Canada: I salute you!


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