Justin Trudeau's Postnationalism

Recent media coverage of a demographic study in Canada appears to show globalism’s acceleration north of the border. The elite in Canada are arguably ahead of America’s in their trajectory towards mass rootlessness, perhaps most notably observed when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proclaimed that the country was a “postnational” nation, one that had “no core identity” anymore -- something never so explicitly stated by Barack Obama or the Democratic leadership since he left office. Alarmingly for Canada, we’re now seeing evidence that Trudeau’s declaration is becoming broadly and deeply internalized among that country’s elite. Although Canada is generally an afterthought in American politics, spreading globalism up north cannot portend well for the U.S.

A few weeks ago, major Canadian media outlets the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the Globe And Mail, BNN Bloomberg, and the Financial Post all ran headlines stating a variation of the following: “Think millennials are leaving Canada's big cities? Think again” (this one taken from the CBC). Each were reporting on a research note from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC; the country’s Citigroup, basically) in which senior economist Robert Hogue concluded that millennials are apparently not leaving the cities of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal, as had been feared following years of sky-high property prices -- Similar to the U.S., immigrants to Canada tend to go to the major cities, pushing up rents and home prices in the process. As these outlets reported, Hogue’s research found that more millennials are actually moving to those cities than leaving them.

But just by looking at the media’s headlines, you wouldn’t have picked up that Hogue’s report did indeed say that Canadian millennials are leaving these cities en masse and that the net gain in new urban millennials is actually only due to immigrant millennials coming in from abroad e.g. foreigners between 20 and 34 who were either student-visa holders, temporary foreign workers or new permanent immigrants. As the study noted:

The number of millennials bidding farewell to Canada’s big cities pales in comparison to the number of their peers flocking in. In 2018, net immigration added a total of 76,300 young adults aged 20-34 to populations of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. There were also an additional 28,200 net non-permanent residents (mostly students and temporary workers) coming in from abroad and 3,800 net migrants moving from other provinces. 

Only two of the referenced outlets (the Mail and the Post) bothered to mention the outgoing Canadian millennials and, again, no outlet made it their lead. Instead of reporting on a disturbing development about young Canadians being displaced in their own cities, they all chose to cover it as a positive economic story i.e. young workers are not leaving Canada’s major cities in droves, the industries that depend on them shouldn’t worry, real-estate markets will continue to stay lofty, etc.

To ignore the real story of young Canadians’ exodus is to reject a distinction between foreign migrants and one’s conationals. That’s also the logical conclusion drawn from many of Trudeau’s other frequent decrees about Canada e.g. that ‘diversity is what makes the country strong.’ Among mainstream Canadian journalists already in this camp (likely many to most), the study’s coverage appears to show they’re now confident enough to frame their reportage in openly postnationalist terms. 

To be sure, RBC’s Hogue framed his own findings in a similar light, as seen, for instance, by the report’s title: “There’s no millennial hollowing-out of Canada’s largest cities: Future housing demand still poised to grow despite high cost.” Still, his conclusion about an exodus of young Canadians from high-priced cities was clear, and journalists could have chosen it as their lead angle, had they thought it important enough.

Hogue’s choice of framing, which was solely on economic, rather than social, terms, shouldn’t surprise. RBC is a top mortgage-originator and lender to homebuilders in Canada, and their quarterly profit expectations are closely tied to a steady and rising real-estate market. Meanwhile, Hogue’s readers, who are members of the real-estate industry, do not want to hear negative news and certainly not criticism against trends that move in their financial favor.

It’s also not surprising Hogue’s report failed to mention what helped create the exodus-inducing home-price rises in the first place: the many years of unrestrained mass immigration and foreign-homebuying in each of the mentioned cities. As former Canadian diplomat and immigration expert the late Martin Collacott routinely stated in his many appearances before parliamentary committees in Ottawa, it was the concerns of the real-estate industry in particular that motivated previous governments (conservative ones, specifically) to consistently push so hard for expanded immigration.

Canada’s drift towards deracination is important for Americans to understand because of the similarities both countries share. And although not quite there yet, the trend in the U.S. isn’t looking great. Major corporations, especially the big investment banks like RBC, are more or less the same everywhere in that they view citizens simply as cogs and consumers. As Adam Smith warned, “[a] merchant… is not necessarily the citizen of any particular country” and that a “government of an exclusive company of merchants is, perhaps, the worst of all governments for any country whatever.” Although driven by profit, rather than postmodern ideology (a key motivation for most western journalists), the grinding effect big business has on national cohesion is the same.  

As for the U.S.’s political elite, Trudeau’s ‘we’ve-no-culture-to-protect’ sentiment is still generally verboten, however, the country is seeing something similar among its lower-level politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s statement that illegal aliens are more worthy or ‘more American’ than Americans themselves, or Rep. Ilhan Omar saying that many parts of America are “ignorant” and need the “perspective of a foreigner.”

The RBC report and Canada’s institutional media’s coverage of it show well the twin values of postnational globalism: the erasure of the fellow-citizen/foreigner distinction, and the championing of a free flow of foreign capital and people. Patriotic nationalism, by contrast, requires a distinction between citizen and alien, and elevates in-group considerations such as community ties, shared historical memory, and generational protection above growth-for-growth’s-sake economics. But to a postnationalist, there is no difference between Canadian millennials and foreign millennials; they both share similar economic prospects and consumer characteristics, and that’s what’s important. For average people, however, there’s plenty that is more important.

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