Canada at 150 (2)
Lots to think and argue about after the three-day Montreal Conference. Some challenging questions – do we Canadians care less than we used to about poverty and social justice; are we ready to pay for the services and pensions we have taken for granted in the past, and, if so, do we want to pay privately or through taxes; are we willing to dive in again on carbon taxes (I can hear the screams), and if not what is our plan; can we articulate a foreign policy that is more than a shadow of the US, and can we earn a place of note at the global tables; and what is the role of the central government in all of this, to name a few.
A big political question as well: We hate doomsayers especially when we are feeling pretty good about things. Bad news is often bad politics. But speaker after speaker warned of the dire consequences of the debt, the aging population, climate change, low productivity, changing geopolitics, loss of trust in government. The political temptation will be to defer the bad news for another day. Pundits and pollsters will no doubt debate just what is politically saleable. What do we Canadians want for our kids and theirs and are we willing to sacrifice now for a better future? Is distrust of government and Ottawa such that we will simply not accept that government can provide solutions or that the gains could justify the costs? We can already anticipate the push-back – accusations of “tax and spend”, “nanny state”, “social engineering”, all the slogans that both reflect and inflame distrust of collective solutions.
I suppose the counterpoint to these questions is one of leadership. Will somebody have the political wherewithal to raise our aspirations not just for ourselves but for our country, to challenge us to sacrifice where necessary, and to inspire confidence in government, and in our resiliency and ingenuity to meet the challenges honestly set forth? What kind of leadership do we want and what kind of leadership will we accept?
Lots to think and argue about.