Peace, order and good government

Last Wednesday I watched the unfolding of the transfer of leadership in the United States. It was impressive pageantry that we do not see in Canada. And as I listened to the singing of “America the Beautiful” by the choir, I remembered back to elementary school as we sang those same words in a classroom. I remember our teacher telling us that the song was not just for the people of the United States, but also for Canadians because we lived in part of America, North America. The words resounded with us as we could see the amber fields of grain and the purple mountain majesties of the Rockies and knowing Canada stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific and north to the Arctic ocean. The song had begun as a poem written by Katherine Lee Bates in 1895 and was put to music in 1910 by Samuel Ward.

We never considered it a second national anthem of the United States.

We hold many similarities to the United States and many differences. The US has a Republican form or government with a clear national and state leader elected directly by the voters. In Canada we have adopted the British parliamentary system, with each riding electing a member to either national or provincial legislatures. And the party with the most elected riding members forms the government. The leader forming the government is elected by the members of their party. We do not directly elect prime ministers or premiers.

Could we become divided politically as we see in the United States? Could almost half of Canadian voters believe the election was stolen and storm parliament to reverse the outcome of a general election?


Whereas the US only has a two-party system, in Canada we have a multi party system. That creates differences and opportunities. In Canada as in South Africa, Australia, and Ireland we have imbedded in our constitutions the words “Peace, Order and Good Government.” It is much different than the US which calls for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” or the French Republic that calls for “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”.

As a Canadian I wonder why there continues to be major battles over Universal Health Care in the US. I wonder why protecting one’s self by social distancing, wearing masks and isolating make people feel that their liberties are being taken from them. In Canada it did not become a political statement, but it did in the United States.

I ask myself if we in Canada could become as split electorally as in the United States. I realize that with our multi party system, no party will have received 50 per cent of the votes cast and, in all elections, today, more votes are cast against the elected government than for. We accept that; knowing that all the parties will have a clear say in the legislatures of Canada.

In the end, I wonder if “Peace, Order and Good Government” is more important to Canadians than “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Jim Cumming
Former Publisher
Fort Frances Times