For 15 years, Rick Mercer travelled across his country for The Rick Mercer Report, acting as Canada’s personal tour guide. He weighed bear cubs in Algonquin Park. He climbed the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia. He went cod fishing in Petty Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador. He even went dog-sledding across the Arctic Ocean. In an interview this week on Three Trips Ahead podcast, Mercer said if travelling from coast-to-coast-to-coast has taught him anything, it’s that Canadians need to travel their own country more.

“It’s really important to travel in our own country,” he said. “Especially because the stakes are so high. I mean the country is you know in my lifetime it has been on the verge of breaking up twice. That could happen again in the blink of an eye.”

“Angus Reid just put out this poll the other day… It was like what do people in Alberta think about people in Quebec and what do people in Quebec think of people in Alberta? People in Ontario apparently hate everyone and everyone apparently hates Ontario. And the more I read I just thought we’re doomed! But travel makes a big difference because how many times do you talk to people and they might be going on and on about the problem in western Canada, or the problem with those Newfoundlanders and then you dig down a bit and say, ‘well have you ever been there?’ [and they say] ‘No!’”

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During his time on the show, Mercer visited over 500 places and met interesting Canadians along the way. Sometimes he brought famous Canadians with him. People like athlete and activist Rick Hansen. Or musician Alan Doyle. Jann Arden frequented the show, too.

Wherever he went, and whomever he was with, he always managed to capture the trust of the place he landed in and left its people with sore cheeks and an aching side from all the laughter he stirred up.

“I loved showing off the country,” he said. “I think a lot of Canadians they’re really proud of where they’re from but they don’t wear their pride on their sleeves so they’re not necessarily comfortable going on and on about how great their neck of the woods is. But they knew that I was never going to make fun of them or I was never going to make fun of the place that they lived and whatever activity it is that they were passionate about. I wasn’t going to make fun of that.”

All jokes aside, Rick said he knows travelling Canada can be tough.

“It’s a complicated country to travel in,” he said. “Like where I’m from, Newfoundland and Labrador, access is a big deal. Like I’m tired of hearing people like you say, ‘It’s the one place I have never been’…But I know why. It’s cost, it’s accessibility…and also if you and I go online right now and it’s now very cold outside and we look at going on a trip going to Florida is about half the price of going to Calgary. I think the desire is there but we just happen to be too big.”

But, he says if you do get the opportunity, you have to.

“The culture shock you can experience inside your own country is as great as the culture shock you can experience going to Mumbai or Somalia.”

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