So a British guy is hired by Canadians who want to build an electric car in Canada with (private!) Canadian cash and Canadian parts, and Canadian know-how, by Canadian folks. Fantastic. Next: que-up the news media (who, in their defense, are probably only accurately reflecting actual Canadian attitudes), and proceed to call the car a “Tesla north.” And refer to Brit you hired as “James Bond.” Because this thing can’t be just Canadian.

To wit, this headline in the Financial Post today: “The man with the golden wrench: James Bond car engineer joins Canadian effort to build a Tesla north“.

It’s really a not-Canadian two-fer: both James Bond and the Brit movie reference; and Tesla (America), are both credited with securing the legitimacy of what is otherwise but a cute little “Canadian effort.”

The story nonetheless goes all Canuck: “building an all-Canadian car,” and points out that it is a car being created with private Canadian cash from 335 Canadian companies. And, “Enter Canada, a nation awash with everything an EV might need: nickel, lithium, cobalt, an educated workforce, a vibrant tech sector, a century’s worth of experience making cars, first-rate universities, political stability and domestic auto-parts makers.” The story includes the line, “a Canadian effort to build a zero-emissions vehicle made with local know-how, raw materials and parts, and one that its backers hope could lead to the birth of a domestic EV car manufacturer.” It concludes with, “Canada is the perfect place to make it.” The story fully acknowledges its true blue Canadianness!

So it is 1,000% Canadian, right? Wrong! Next line: “A Tesla North, if you will.”

No, I will not.

First of all, I think Teslas are ugly, overpriced junk, and its buyers are dumb-dumbs. But that’s a personal thing. It’s this carrying on as if Canada and everything its citizens do can only be as a junior partner to America, or only as serfs working in but another branch plant of American or other foreign companies; and in this case being led by a foreign “A-Team” of the aforementioned Brit plus an Italian fellow (“A-Team” is the term used in the story to describe not the Canadians behind this, but rather the foreigners they hired).

It’s not for nothing that we think that way. Canada has long been but a branch plant of America, particularly in the automotive arena, but also in entertainment, technology, and in other industrial and service-sector industries. But here’s a chance to go all-Canadian, you’d think.

That’s what gets my goat. Their job as journalists is not to generate Canadian pride, I suppose, but you’d think pride might be a natural by-product of being Canadian. Apparently not. The fact that it is not a natural by-product is something I think we should work on. (And we can do this without the government socially-engineering it, thanks, just as private people can build that car without Health Minister Patty Hadju’s help; and we can deal with this ourselves fully in-house or in-country — you know, without hiring some star A-Team guru from India).

This so-called Arrow Project car is no more a “Tesla-North” than any third-generation Pakistani is a “Pakistani-North”. I believe you call that fella “a Canadian.” This car is being built by Canada’s automotive parts cohort, calling themselves Project Arrow with no hyphens. No Bond reference. No nod to Tesla. No America-North. No Across-The-Pond From The United Kingdom nonsense.

“Hollywood North” is but one of the other myriad examples of this Canadian sickness. “American Idol” becomes the even more idiotic “Canadian Idol,” and “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” becomes the stupid “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Canada.” “Big Brother – Canada.” Ugh. Granted, those are purely American or U.K. rip-offs, not Canadian things at all. But damn. It’s embarrassing. It’s obsequious. It’s subservient. It betrays a total lack of confidence and pride (to say nothing of imagination or creativity).

It’s some sort of a national psychosis. It’s like a national inadequacy syndrome. An all-Canadian, home grown one at that, and one which is globally unique to Canada as far as I can tell. It’s as if we’re embarrassed to stand out or succeed. Not that I’m a psychologist, but I think there’s some psychological connection here to the (also self-defeating) Canadian habit of (or at least the weirdly well-embraced reputation for) tepidness and neutrality and quietness and politeness and meekness and humility. Showing pride in Canada seems to be strictly reserved for comparing ourselves — always smugly and ingratiatingly (and wrongly, 99% of the time) — to the Americans whenever there’s a problem down south, wherein those idiot Canadians ignore our utter reliance on the Americans, their products and services, and their very model. But again: here we (“we”) are building a Canadian car!

I think one of the weirdest national branding oddities is Canadian bacon, which we all know Americans call our back bacon. American predilection to call it “Canadian bacon” stems from the fact back bacon was introduced to America by a Canadian butcher, via a random export of meat from Canada. It’s a “Canadian” thing, to Americans, so Americans dubbed it “Canadian bacon.” Note they did not call it “bacon-south.” It’s a wonder we don’t call back bacon “Canadian bacon-North.”

Joel Johannesen
Follow Joel
Latest posts by Joel Johannesen (see all)