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The Truth about Canada: Some Important, Some Astonishing, and Some Truly Appalling Things All Canadians Should Know About Our Country [Hardcover]

Mel Hurtig
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 29 2008
Renowned as a passionate Canadian, bestselling author Mel Hurtig has combed through world statistics to see how Canada really measures up — and the results are astonishing, and often shocking.

This book is about how Canada has changed, very much for the worse, in the last twenty years. As a result of these profound (often hidden) changes, we are no longer the people we think we are. To take one example, the Canadian media usually leaves us with the impression that Canadians are really heavily taxed. Yes, compared to the U.S.A., the usual point of comparison. No, compared to other countries with our standard of living, other OECD countries, for example; there we come in 23rd on the high-tax scale.

The shocks in this book build up, chapter by chapter. How do we rank in the world in voter turnout? Try 109th. Number of physicians per 100,000 population? Try 54th. Our rank in reducing pollution? 126th out of 146 countries.

Some of the statistics are internal, comparing Canada then and now. They back up two of the book’s most powerful themes: the failure of Canadian big business to turn record profits into ongoing investment in our country, and (no coincidence) the sellout of our assets at a rate that no other country would allow.

This statistics-based book ranges across all areas of our lives — including health, wages, productivity, culture, the media (“the most concentrated in the world”), and much else. Mel Hurtig’s message is that we can’t do anything to fix the direction we’re drifting in unless we recognize it — and recognize The Truth About Canada.

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About the Author

Mel Hurtig is the legendary Edmonton bookseller, publisher, and creator of The Canadian Encyclopedia who became a political activist, then an author in 1991 with his huge bestseller The Betrayal of Canada. He is also the author of Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids, The Vanishing Country, and Rushing to Armageddon. He is a member of the Order of Canada, and has received many honorary degrees and honours. He lives in Vancouver.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Preface

This book is about how Canada has changed, and changed very much for the worse, under the governments of Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, and Stephen Harper. It is also about how, as a result of the profound changes that have occurred, we are no longer the country we think we are, and no longer the people we think we are.

In chapter after chapter, you will discover just how very different we’ve become from our long-time self-image and from what has been our international image. You’ll see how far we’ve departed from the principles and the ideas that helped Canada become one of the most admired countries in the world and the country the overwhelming majority of Canadians have so cherished for so long.

An important feature of The Truth About Canada is the fascinating international comparisons it contains that show how we stack up against other countries around the world, but principally against the other OECD developed countries. It’s no exaggeration to say that you will find a great many of these comparisons disappointing, shocking, and even appalling.

Another main theme in the pages that follow is the dismal failure of our powerful corporate leaders to use their gigantic, record-breaking profits and reduced taxes to adequately invest in our country and to conduct reasonable levels of research and development that would help make Canada more innovative, more productive, and more competitive so we can raise our overall standard of living. You will find many of the facts that follow relating to big business in Canada both disturbing and dismaying.

A further theme is the unparalleled sellout of our country in a manner no other developed country would ever dream of allowing. While this has been taking place at an accelerating rate, the purposeful dissemination in the print media of false information about rapidly growing foreign ownership and control of Canada goes a long way towards explaining why our myopic politicians have failed to take action on this and other related problems that are very quickly robbing us of our ability to plan and manage our own future.

The chapter on the Free Trade Agreement is subtitled “The Most Colossal Con Job in Canadian History.” When you read it, I hope you will ask yourself why you have never read any of this information in our newspapers or magazines, or have never seen anything remotely similar on television. God knows, you’ve been inundated with an abundance of right-wing, continentalist propaganda to the contrary. The chapter on the media in Canada should help explain why this important information has never before been available to you.

When you read the economic chapters in this book, on foreign ownership, trade, investment, productivity, competitiveness, and taxation, I hope you will be aware of the fact that exactly the same people who have left us in these weakened positions have for some time been very secretly planning more of the same in private, high-level meetings designed to integrate Canada further into the United States.

Big business, in the form of the Business Council on National Issues and its well-financed successor, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (the very same people who helped put Canada, as you will see, into two terrible so-called “trade” agreements), are now covertly planning “deep integration” with the United States, a process that will rob us of our ability to maintain our independence, protect our sovereignty, and preserve the important values so many of us cherish.

I hope you will be angry after reading The Truth About Canada, very angry. Angry at greedy, hypocritical, intentionally misleading corporate executives, and angry at the remarkably inept politicians who have allowed a small and wealthy plutocracy to sell out our country and our destiny for their own selfish motives.

The Truth About Canada is the result of many long days, months, and years of research. It certainly will be regarded as my most controversial book, and will bring immediate cries of protest from the usual Neanderthals at the Fraser Institute, the C.D. Howe Institute, the CCCE, the increasingly continentalist Conference Board of Canada, and, of course, the house organ of all of them, the National Post.

One editor asked me if I was not apprehensive about the strong criticism such a tough book will inevitably bring. The answer is simple. You cannot ever expect to accomplish anything important without bringing criticism from the entrenched forces this book describes, criticizes, and blames for what has gone wrong in our country.

I have been very fortunate in having some of the best minds in the country available to me for consultation as I wrote The Truth About Canada. You will find their names on the acknowledgements page. Many of the most important pages of original research in this book are the result of their help, for which I am very grateful.

Whether it’s our pathetically low number of doctors, our high comparative levels of both adult and child poverty, our truly awful record of educational funding, our shameful levels of foreign aid and peacekeeping, our abysmal voter turnout comparisons, our totally inadequate research and patent performances, our high infant and under-five mortality rates, the broad deterioration in our social programs, our increasing gaps in distribution of income and wealth in Canada, our treatment of our aboriginal peoples, the rapid decline of our manufacturing sectors, our serious post-secondary education problems, our continuing and very dangerous decentralization, our coming confrontation with the United States over water, our mind-bogglingly stupid NAFTA agreements regarding oil, natural gas, and water — in any or all of these topics, and in many more, you will frequently encounter vitally important and newly documented information that will make you cringe. Whether it’s our pathetically low number of doctors, our high comparative levels of both adult and child poverty, our truly awful record of educational funding, our shameful levels of foreign aid and peacekeeping, our abysmal voter turnout comparisons, our totally inadequate research and patent performances, our high infant and under-five mortality rates, the broad deterioration in our social programs, our increasing gaps in distribution of income and wealth in Canada, our treatment of our aboriginal peoples, the rapid decline of our manufacturing sectors, our serious post-secondary education problems, our continuing and very dangerous decentralization, our coming confrontation with the United States over water, our mind-bogglingly stupid NAFTA agreements regarding oil, natural gas, and water — in any or all of these topics, and in many more, you will frequently encounter vitally important and newly documented information that will make you cringe.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly as Advertised Sept. 4 2011
Format:Hardcover
Reading this book you will learn 100% "Some Important, Some Astonishing, and Some Truly Appalling Things All Canadians Should Know About Our Country." Mel's presentation isn't poetry, it is a book of facts which point out the dismal state of Canada. Very rarely are they used to draw any specific conclusions, and when they are I can hardly say that they're very disagreeable arguments.

Another reviewer (Chris Horlacher), who appears to have put the book down before getting half way through the first chapter, has misrepresented Mel's argument on healthcare. Mel is arguing that Canada has high expenditure on private healthcare, and that this is pulling down the efficiency of our healthcare system. This point is further supported by the unarguable fact that countries with greater public health-care spending and very little private health-care spending, end up spending far less overall due to the fact that well rounded funding reduces inefficiencies.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The 51st State of America is... July 31 2008
By Coach C TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
From self-proclaimed anti-continentalist, Mel Hurtig's latest book is certainly his most controversial. "The Truth about Canada" acts as an exposé for what Hurtig feels to be the absolute wrong direction for Canada.

Hurtig's arguments boil down to (in no particular order):

1. Canada is quickly becoming the 51st American state, economically and culturally
2. Canada's once comprehensive social services are decaying daily
3. Canada is no longer a peacekeeping country
4. Canada is no longer a primary aid donor to developing countries

It's hard to argue against any of Hurtig's arguments, especially with the insane amount of OECD statistics he cites. And if you thought Hurtig's polemic is focused just on Harper and Co., you'll be surprised (or not) to know he reserves his most critical judgments against the Liberals.

The major issue I have with an otherwise fine text is that Hurtig provides little if any of the necessary background, context or significance of what he is saying and why he is saying it. Hurtig takes for granted that his reader actually agrees with everything that he will argue, before you read the book. Books are supposed to be written the other way around, to convince us WHY we should care. Of which, unfortunately, Hurtig fails to do other than to say "this is what Canada was built on and look how it is changing".
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Statistics, Flawed Analysis Sept. 27 2008
Format:Hardcover
Mel accurately assesses the symptoms being experienced by Canadians today, inadequate health care, increasing income disparity, increasing income inequality etc. but fails to describe WHY this is happening. The reader will get the distinct impression that Mel believes that it is up to the government to deal with everything he views as the inadequacy of the Canadian experience. The problem is that Mel's analysis is only superficial and fails to provide proper context for the issues that he brings up.

For example, in the first chapter he lambastes the Canadian health care system for not being able to keep up with other health care systems in the OECD nations (Mel cites OECD statistics extensively throughout the book). He's very good at describing where Canada falls short and even correctly shows that it is not due to any lack of funding because Canada spends far more per capita than other OECD nations who rank higher than us on health care. Unfortunately, in the next part of the chapter he simply states that under no circumstances should Canada adopt what he incorrectly calls 'two-tier' health care. His emotional appeal to class warfare belies the fact the Mel really has no idea why Canada's health care system is the way it is and his only solution seems to be that he wants to throw more money in to it. But he already proved that the problem is not due to a lack of funding. Mel's superficial analysis quickly becomes apparent when we realize that the top ranked OECD nations he so praises are employing the exact kinds of systems that Mel calls 'two-tier' and says that we must avoid at all costs. Mel repeats the same errors throughout the book.

Overall this book is quite good at telling us what's wrong with Canada and where the country is falling behind.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars give it a rest Aug. 4 2009
Format:Paperback
This book covers a lot of important issues that should concern all Canadians. However, instead of providing a balanced argument, relevant context or suggestions for improvements, Hurtig hammers the reader over the head with one message: "canada sucks." There are valid points raised in this book such as the failure of provincial governments to raise the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation. But even when Hurtig makes his case he proceeds to undermine it by manipulating statistics to bolster his case even when they don't. For example, when he talks of wage discrepancy over the past decade he blasts the top 10 percent for seeing their incomes increase by some $23 000 against very minimal increases for the lower tiers. However, the $23 000 barely works out to keeping pace with inflation of 2-3% compounded for a decade. After reading a hundred pages I started to feel as though I was reading an undergraduate paper by a political science student. I'm hoping to find some more constructive and balanced analysis out there.
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