Canada’s rarest export

It feels as if it’s been a while since the hurricane of Canada’s very own John Daly of politics blew through the media, but for me it’s been difficult to overlook the significance of what Rob Ford has done for his country.

This mayoral debacle has triggered an export of something almost never seen out of Canada:


It’s not as if the lack of news from Canada has gone unnoticed but it has definitely been one of my longest running personal observations, so much so that the first thing I did when arriving in Toronto a few years back, wasn’t hit the tourist trail – Nope. I went straight into the nearest newsagent and bought me a stack of domestic newspapers, found the nearest park bench and read them. This may seem like an unusual thing to do but there’s something I had always wanted to know: Just exactly what is a Canadian newspaper? Merely a synonym for a stack of blank paper? Or is there stuff printed in them, i.e. news, and if so, what kind of news is it? Finally after more than 10 years I had my answer, and immediately found myself asking another question: What is news?

I can’t help but cast my mind back to 1997, when this all began. At the time I was a teenager living in my home country of New Zealand, and Winston Peters’ parties ‘underpants on expenses’ scandal was running red hot, while unlikely to have made global headlines, it was a very big deal at the time and even had our media doing a little soul searching of their own. In particular I recall one story criticising the media accusing them of being too focused on political scandal, crime, violence and the rest, and in particular, that we should be more like Canada. Part of this story featured a couple of Canadian news clips documenting the raising of speed bumps by half an inch, and the second about a new paint job on a city library.

Well it is certainly difficult to accuse that of being sensationalist but it did have me asking: Does news become news because it’s on the news, or is it news because people are interested in it? Back to that park bench in Toronto. I’m sitting smack dab in the middle of the most polite, well mannered and orderly country on the planet, questioning the newsworthyness of the news I’ve just handed over a few dollars for.

I would never dispute that Canada has always had a seat at the table of global news generators, and it very much appears that Rob Ford has been the first person to occupy that seat for quite some time, but what next? Sadly it’s going to take a lot more than one man to get this enormous country punching anywhere near its weight class.

But heck, it’s been a bloody good start.