When Ignatieff speaks of national unity, the common refrain from Conservatives- support for seperatism has never been lower in Quebec, a testament to the false premise that Canada is fractured and divided. No dispute on that score, although that argument tends to superficially dismiss latent problems. However, when I hear talk about bringing the country together, I don't necessarily look to the kneejerk "two solitudes" dynamic, in fact I see the "call" as something entirely different and more encompassing.
I've lived in British Columbia on two seperate occasions, a fact I mention often for a reason, which I'll address later. I've lived in Vancouver, and I've lived in Invermere, the latter also afforded me considerable exposure to Albertans, whether it be frequency of their presence in this town, the exposure to Calgary media, or my many sojourns to the province, based on proximity. My wife was born in Calgary, and we've made many visits since I left the interior. We've also spent time in places like Sundre and High River, the Crowsnest pass. I've been to the Yukon, up and down every mountain range in British Columbia. I've spent time in Newfoundland and other eastern jewels. What's your point? The "name" dropping is nothing more than a counter to the Ontario mentality, because I see myself as a Canadian, capable of processing all the diversity at play, not handicapped by regional sentiment.
During the Convention, we were in a pub (shocking I know) and someone in our party mentioned they were from Toronto to a "local". Over the years, I've trained myself to note the response, because it's fairly typical and you see if often- the eyes rolled with a sense of mild disgust. It's here where my resume comes to the fore, because this perception highlights a basic ignorance or intolerance. To be fair, the lack of tolerance is a two way street, because I've seen the Ontario response in reverse.
When Ignatieff speaks about national unity, strengthening the "spine" of the country towards common interest, maybe I hear what I want, but it translates to something more than the usual angst. I love every region of this country, each brings its own character, natural and social, that all congeals to form the Canadian identity. In truth, people who live in Vancouver have more in common with people that live in Toronto, than they do with people who live in Prince George. However, rather than embrace certain affinities, Canadians spend far too much effort denoting their own tribal sentiments and in so doing belittle other circumstances. I find this to be a waste of energy, because in my experience, I've never felt like a "foreigner" or uncomfortable anywhere in this country. As a matter of fact, I'm generally stunned by the uniformity, more a question of rural/urban divide than regional geography.
If there is one hope I have moving forward, the new technologies that make the world smaller, will manifest to the point that Canadians don't sneer at other Canadians, but instead we feel some common bond that denotes mutual respect. I don't see the call for unity as exclusive to the English/French interplay, but something broader that gets us past combative perceptions throughout the country. Naive perhaps, but not necessarily misguided or without merit in the grand scheme.