Worthwhile Canadian Initiative


A standing joke line among American pundits that signifies how marginal and, frankly, beside the point Canada and the Canadian economic, social and political experience are to what they consider to be important.

The phrase itself was the headline of a New York Times column1 by the journalist Flora Lewis describing the Canadian request for a free trade zone between Canada and the United States. The article was published on April 10, 1986.

The term gained its notoriety in the 1980s, when the headline inspired the neo-liberal New Republic editor Michael Kinsley to run a “most boring headline” competition, defying its readers to possibly come up with a more banal or uninteresting example than “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”. “Make us snooze,” wrote Kinsley, “and you win.”

The joke perfectly captures the common view of even the most sympathetic American political elites that for them, Canada barely rates as an afterthought, and is a bland, colourless, benign yet unessential presence in the global scheme of things. Needless to say, the arrogance and patronizing character of this view is something that endlessly annoys Canadians. However, post NAFTA, even the New Republic has since somewhat softened its original stance on the relative merits of NAFTA. A counterpoint to this was the 1971 CBC radio contest held by Peter Gzowski to complete the phrase “As Canadian as…” The winning completion was “…possible under the circumstances.”

Image Source: Hypervocal

References

  1. Lewis, Flora. Worthwhile Canadian Initiative. April 10, 1986. The New York Times.

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