Sunshine and lollipops
Canada has become a place where people are busy all day, every day, without getting much done.
We have slumped into a preference for sitting at tables and debating, rather than lacing up work boots and getting back to building a better place. We are tied to the politics of inertia – at all levels of government. Stand still and argue while critical projects and important opportunities languish.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities reports that more than one-half of Canadian city-owned roads are in need of repairs, and that one-quarter of our waste water systems need billions of dollars in update spending.
The federal Parliamentary Budget Officer reported earlier this year that only $7.2 billion of $14.4 billion budgeted for a first phase of infrastructure updating had been spent.
Things are rotting and falling apart because we are too busy talking and not doing.
One prominent example of our inertia is the much discussed, much delayed pipeline expansion. We are losing billions of dollars because we can’t get more pipeline built to deliver one of our more valuable assets to market.
Most of our oil and gas goes to the United States at huge discounts because we don’t have the pipeline capacity to get it to international markets and their higher prices. We continue to debate, yet find it impossible to settle our differences over more pipeline capacity and environmental concerns.
Another example is the time-and-dollars-consuming debate over reducing the size of Toronto city council by almost one-half. That debate rages on while Toronto continues to become the most unpleasant city in Canada and among the most unpleasant in North America.
Maybe Toronto needs a smaller city council. Maybe not. I don’t know but I do know that the country’s largest city has huge problems that affect many who do not even live there.
While they argue about the size of Toronto city council, one or more persons every day are victims of shootings, stabbings or beatings in the city. Gang violence is out of control and Toronto-area traffic is a nightmare most days. Subway and bus travel is not much better.
To folks on the outside looking in, Canada on the whole appears to be doing well. The prime minister is out there talking about all the right things – inclusion, diversity, environment, disparity. Everything is sunshine and lollipops.
Meanwhile, we are grossly underperforming. Growth is stagnant, employment is lagging. A six-per-cent unemployment rate is nothing to brag about.
The strongest part of our economy is a credit card industry driven by low interest rates. Those will rise and when they do, you don’t want to even think about the consequences.
We Canadians need to pull our noses out of the flowers and get the country moving. The best way to start doing that is to change our attitudes about politics and the ways in which we do politics.
Politics here, and in the United States, have become far too polarized. Politics no longer is the art of the possible. It is the art of political theatre.
We need to get back to prioritizing what needs to be done and get doing it without hyper-partisan debates. We need to elect people who will do the right thing for the majority, not people who will do the right thing for their political party.
Anyone in politics should be free to review a position and change his or her mind without fear of being smeared as weak or disloyal.
Most importantly, we the voters need to become more informed and rational. Taking time to understand issues and to see the value in opposing ideas is an important part of being a citizen, and critical to our democracy.
Winston Churchill was quoted as saying the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
Most of us are not nearly informed as we should be. We know what the problems are but solutions can be complex and require information culled from a variety of sources.
Information is everywhere and easy to get to these days. We just need to spend a few minutes each day absorbing some of it.
When we buy a new car or a TV set we spend time researching the item. We need do the same for political issues.