There is a mendacity (untruthfulness) in politics today that demands a return for politicians like one of Canada’s heroes. Tommy Douglas understood the United Nations Gross National Happiness Index (GNH). He understood the wealth of a nation, of a society, can’t be measured purely by economic factors. Tommy Douglas understood the need for a social democracy. Tommy Douglas understood that healthy people are essential to have a truly great nation. Tommy Douglas was the ‘Father of Medicare’ and Canada’s conscience to remember people mattered.
In our quick fix mind-set of today where news through twitter, social media and sound bites of the hot issues of the day it is difficult to have the kind of discussion about where our country, province and city needs to be, needs to go. The kind of society we need to have. Politicians and business leaders do not want to enter into dialogue about the unfairness and inequalities of current economic policies.
In today’s Great Recession the rich seem much more complacent. They can afford to be. We’re not experiencing a recession for the rich, only a recession for the rest.
OECD: Inequality Rising Faster than Ever
Canadian and American politicians and business leaders want us to believe everyone has an equal opportunity to be successful or as our neighbours to the south say ‘Live the American Dream’. Over the last 25 years the mobility between lower, middle and the wealthiest Americans and Canadians is minimal. The poorest citizens have gotten poorer, the middle class or working class have been hit hard during times of economic crisis while at the same time the top 1% of the wealthy have gotten richer. During the economic crisis and recession of the early to late 2000s it was the working class that lost their pension investments, houses and spiraled into debt searching for that elusive dream. Seniors are working longer as private pensions went belly up. Fewer workers have private pensions are often non-existent, making the likelihood of working longer for most people essential. Bankers and businesses were bailed out or often bought out as the wealthiest financially benefitted from the recession.
Canada did not suffer to the same degree as our southern neighbours mostly because of our regulations that provided a protection for our housing market. There is an untruthfulness to the rhetoric being told ‘we must remove red tape’, we must develop policies that make it easier for business to be successful. Why Social Democracies (based on United Nations Happiness Index) work is it creates a society with a balance of power. A power to create strong and healthy economy as well as create a healthy and educated society. A society that provides regulations to protect us from business leaders and politicians wanting us to be concerned about the day-to-day issues rather than the true economics of what is happening.
Think you live in a country dedicated to fairness and equity? Think again. Recent data on wealth and poverty in Canada is stark and deeply disturbing
We need to look no farther than what is happening politically in our city to recognize the untruthfulness to the rhetoric. A removal of the safeguards (red-tape) essential to doing business with our city has led to city contracts that appear to be more concerned with friendships rather than what is good for the people of Winnipeg. A series of mismanaged and over-budget projects that has resulted in a mistrust of politicians and a need to raise taxes. There is an untruthfulness to the idea that having the Private Sector take over Government essential services will provide savings. How can a for-profit business provide as low-cost service as a non-profit?
A social democracy recognizes what those essential services are? These social services be it health, education, water, road repair, city planning and structural organization must be available and affordable to everyone and don’t fall victim to supply and demand.
So ‘Where in the World is Tommy Douglas’ or the people like him who stand up for a civil society and are the conscious of the government. Where are the newspapers and media providing the truth to the propaganda our politicians who are telling us about what we must do to make things better for big business, will also be better for everyone? The research and certainly the reports from the OECD do not support what we are being told. The evidence of homelessness, seniors working and inequalities can be seen if we dare to look.
Social Democracies may have higher taxes but they also have less crime, less mental health issues, education for everyone (including University), public health care, high life expectancies, and according to the United Nations are happy.
More important, in any capitalist society most people are bound to be part of the middle and working classes; public policy should focus on raising their standard of living, instead of raising their chances of getting rich
The Mobility Myth by James Surowiecki, March 3, 2014
Our current answers to our societal problems can be defined as quick fix at best but are reinforced by the untruthfulness of politics. A strong society, a strong city needs to develop policies that support healthy educated people. A strong society needs to have strong and vibrant communities. A strong society needs a return to the voice of one of Canada’s heroes. We need a voice for the people. We need a Tommy Douglas who brought a morality and honesty to our politics. We need someone to be a conscience to our government and bring truth to the mendacity of politics.
Tommy Douglas didn’t care about fiscal responsibility which means the pleasures of today need to be paid for by the children of tomorrow. As we continue to overspend and live out our happiness today, tomorrow’s generation can’t enjoy it because they have to work harder and longer to pay the government bills which continue to grow. A happy socialist makes for happy bankers. Determining social success by a “happiness factor” is selfish as it consumes the living standards of tomorrow for the benefit of today. Socialists live like oil barons, extracting as many of today’s resources regardless of its impact on the generations of tomorrow. The rest of the world had already turned from living the folly of the days of Tommy, Canada needs to evolve from that too and live sustainably, and it won’t happen if we try to go back to failed ideology of bygone eras that benefit only the bankers.
Thanks for your comment. It is important that we have a dialogue about where we are heading as a country. A healthy society will take into account the infrastructure and health of the human capital as well as physical capital. It is the working people who buy the products required to generate revenue. We need to strengthen small business and the local economy that provides work and capital locally. This isn’t a socialist agenda but one rather that recognizes we need people and we need them educated and healthy to have healthy outcomes.
We are where we are because of Tommy Douglas’ social democracy programs. It is his programs that have caused today’s politicians to be virtually handcuffed to the financially draining programs he implemented. If anything our current situation shows the need to move towards a much more right-wing government. Social democracy may have worked in the past but it has hurt its future (our present). Our country is much different than the one in which social democracy programs where first ushered in. There were not the same drains on the system as there are today. Why must I support the family who has 6 kids and mom is pregnant with number 7 and doesn’t know who its dad is? In many cases those children will turn out just like their parents (big famiilies with no means of supporting them except to rely on the system that can ill afford to support them)? Why must I support an immigrant family who uses our health care system, school system, etc, etc, but barely contributes monetarily to our social democracy programs? How does social democracy equate to happiness when people who do not contribute to the system take unfair advantage of the system? Such a system cannot truly breed happiness. It builds animosity and resentment. The social democracy system cannot sustain itself. Whether it is right or wrong the only fix may be a government who sees some value in Mr. Darwin’s theory and which implements policy that sees money not wasted on the archaic ideologies that continue to hurt this city, province and country.
Thank-you for your comment. This is not about anything but a healthy democracy. Power to far to the left (government) or to far to the right (the extremely wealthy) is not what is good for the majority. Historically governments and business when left unchecked create unhealthy societies. We need a system where people matter. Tommy Douglas and you can like or dislike his politics stood for something more than what was in it for him. He was in it to try and make a better world. We need more people like that to help us build stronger community.
It is a lazy argument to blame socialist thinking for having to support the pregnant mom with 6 kids, as if these condition never existed before Douglas or Marx. One only has to read Dickens to be reminded of the great damage caused by unchecked capitalism. Whether or not socialism is the right ideology for the complex issues of today isn’t necessarily the issue. Social responsibility and compassion are. I believe voters and tax payers want leaders to address these issues in an honest manner. This is at the heart of what Jim’s blog was about.
Exactly Dean and well said….
I would have to agree with you. Where is Tommy Douglas. Well i will tell you he never exsisted to the NDP in Manitoba. The NDP in manitoba under Gary Doer and now Greg Selinger has completely abandoned the principles of what it means to be a NDPer. To put it quite simple they are no longer real socialist. They are conservative through and through. They have done nothing in twelve years to rid manitoba of poverty. As a matter of fact they have made it worse. And getting worse everyday. Your column in the winnipeg free press is good and somewhat what should be happening, but it is not. I find it amusing that Manitoba is the only provincial NDP government left in the country and yet we are the poverty capital foodbank capital homeless capital of canada. Where is Tommy Douglas. Gary Doer and Greg Selinger have obviously never heard of him or do not want to know who he is. Send your column to the next NDP convention in Manitoba. It will go in the garbage. Tommy Douglas no longer exsist to the NDP in manitoba. They have had twelve years to make manitoba a better province to live in for everybody and they have failed miserably. Tommy Douglas and what he did does not live on with the NDP leadership. Obtaining power and keeping it is what the manitoba NDP is about. Forgetting about the principles of the NDP has occured and adopting the world democrat third way of running a government has failed the people and the NDP. It takes a true leader to stand up for their political morals. Gary Doer and Greg Selinger were never true leaders. They are followers. They have bowed to the globolized whip and in the process have alienated real NDPers to leave the fold. Tommy Douglas no longer exsist in the eyes of the Manitoba government. Failure has been their biggest accomplishment and when the next election rolls around the end of the NDP in provincial politics will occur in canada and the name of Tommy Douglas will live in vain. R.I.P. NDP.
Thank-you for your comment. It does seem all our politics have become issue based rather than taking a look at strengthening our society. More nurses won’t fix health care nor will a campaign for mayor based on potholes solve the problems of Winnipeg. Issues in Health Care and Infrastructure are far more complicated than one single problem.
My comments are directed to some of the nay-saying commentors:
People seem to think that the politics of the 60s were easy and that everyone was high and full of peace, love and happiness. People forget that the 60s were a period of great upheaval and change. And, these “social programs” that we have now? They were the direct result of the conversations we were having at the time. And, WE approved of them. We wanted them. There was vocal opposition and much discussion and the Majority approved it. The Majority. That does not mean it was forced on anyone. You cannot make any of this go away, but you we can work together to make it better. Working from a single voice will not succeed. There has to be a majority. It does not matter how much you scream and shout If the majority is not on your side; they’re not on your side.
You make excellent points and I agree with you. Change is not easy and one of the modern day challenges is getting accurate information to people. If we could move past the political and social media rhetoric we might discover that some of the changes have not worked. It will as you say take a value based committed leaded to bring people together.
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