[The] United States is "a great country in spite of its government structure, rather than because of it."
"The United States of America is a wonderful creation -- the Constitution is a spectacular thing," Mr. McKenna said.
"But it was anticipated that it would be established as a country in which there would be a check and balance on the exercise of power. And I can tell you categorically that what has been institutionalized instead is total gridlock. The government of the United States is, in large measure, dysfunctional."
He said one senator there has 75 staff members, which shows that U.S. policymaking is "so complex that even people who work within government need help to navigate through it."
Reading the article, I could not help but think that McKenna's words were very much a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Continuing on with the article, however, I learned that I had some misconceptions about Canada. Perhaps this was due to watching the American media, or perhaps it was due to being out of the country for a number of years, but for some reason, I had the impression that Canada was fiscally struggling. Not so, as I found out.
In comparing Canada to the United States, McKenna notes:
Canada is in its eighth consecutive year of surplus, with a dropping ratio of debt to gross domestic product.
"Our pension plan, instead of being in deficit, is actuarially balanced for the next 75 years."
He also praised Canada's health care system and the country's abundance of natural resources.
"And with respect to energy, in an energy-starved world, where our neighbour to the south of us, the United States of America, relies [on] export markets for 60% of its oil, Canada is self-sufficient in every category."
It certainly is nice to read something positive about Canada, especially when it seems like our fine country is constantly under attack by the American media and even some members of the Canadian blogosphere.
Canada's federal government is in surplus, sure. Because they raised taxes while downloading costs to the provinces. Which leaves the provincial budgets in deficit.
And the government is willing to call anyone "unCanadian" for merely mentioning the facts about Canada's dysfunctional healthcare system. Don't ask how long you'll wait for, say, a hip replacement. Or how often medical errors will kill you.
As for the Canada Pension Plan, saying that it's "actuarially balanced" is another way of saying that we're paying more into the plan than we can expect to get out of it.
McKenna is a politician (not a diplomat). And, apparently, not a very friendly one at that.
Paul makes some good points, except I think about the CPP.
Everything I've read about the CPP suggests it is the envy of the world (or would be were anyone paying attention). And I don't think that's a partisan "right" or "left" issue either. One could probably argue about tweaking specifics at the margins, but it seems to me we've figured out a good way of properly investing the money of the CPP to keep it solvent and ready for my retirement. People are often surprised to hear that, because there was a time, and not at all long ago, that the CPP was in rough shape too (like the American Social Security system - though never quite that bad) but it's largely been fixed from what I can tell, and we should be proud of that accomplishemnt I think.
Then you find Mr. Martin attacking the US for what he claims is ignoring trade rulings on softwood lumber, while his government has promised to ignore the latest ruling from the WTO on the very same issue.
I am continually embarassed by the Canadian government.
@LKO: to "fix" CPP, "contributions" (read: taxes) were doubled over the course of a decade, from 2.4% of employment earnings in 1992 to 4.95% today. (9% if self-employed) How many jobs does that cost the economy? (Wiki)