I am a proud Canadian. On July 1st I will once again stand with other Canadians to be part of the ‘Living Flag’. This year it will not be at the Manitoba’s Legislative Building but rather in front of the soon to be opened Human Rights Museum. Significant in the fact it symbolizes that we are not just part of Canada, but we are part of a much bigger global community.
I grew up believing that as a country, as Canadians we believed in Human Rights, we believed in Foreign Aide, we believed that people mattered. In a recent poll that identified the top ten Canadians it symbolized more than who they are but what they stood for as human beings. We have Lester B. Pearson largely for his role in the development of the League of Nations, Terry Fox for his memorable and historic walk to fight cancer. Tommy Douglas, the Father of Medicare, and Romeo Dallaire, whose voice was silenced as he tried to warn the world of the approaching genocide in Rwanda. His voice was ignored and silenced by the media, political leaders but most importantly by the United Nations.
There are many other people who have made a difference in the life of Canadians and people globally who did not make the list. My ancestors have fought on behalf of creating a better world for me, Canadians and the world in the face of oppression.During many of these wars I of course wasn’t born yet, but still they were fighting for me as there was this understanding about providing a world for future generations. They sacrificed so that I could have a chance at a better life. Today we seem stuck in the mindset of living for today, rather than looking towards building a strong, sustainable, healthy future for our children and generations yet to come.
Despite the advent of the Internet where information and misinformation can be at your fingertips instantly we seem caught up in sound bites when it comes to debates on economic, global and green policies on a sustainable future. We seem to be caught up in a media fixated on the newest fad, hottest celebrity or the most controversial statements made. Mayor Ford is the perfect example of how media, even mainstream media is caught up in what I call ‘National Inquirer’ reporting. We seem stuck in a system that wants to look at ‘Today’ and not look at where we will be or what we need to do to improve our planet in the next five years, ten years and beyond.
Business seems also trapped in this ‘Today Mentality’. Companies are built on a deck of cards as they trade stocks and try to increase profit through a day trade mentality rather than focus on developing a sound business plan for the future. Our Canadian economy cannot survive if we continue to increase only part-time jobs and not focus on full-time jobs.
Over the past year, if it hadn’t been for part-time work, Canada wouldn’t have any employment growth at all. The country has added 112,200 part-time jobs in the past 12 months, but it has lost 26,700 full-time jobs. Part-time jobs now make up 19.3 per cent of all employment in this country – the highest proportion in nearly three years. As the Canadian job market stumbles, we’re becoming a nation of part-timers – and, increasingly, not by choice.
When someone wants to talk about changing tax and government policies or examines the widening gap between the rich and the poor or those who have and those who don’t they are chastised for being anti-progress or worse yet a communist or a left winger. It is no small wonder that the majority of people in Canada and the United States don’t trust politicians to serve the interests of the people over their own or their business interests.
Let us take for example the rhetoric being bandied about by Stephan Harper and Tony Abbott.
The Australian and Canadian prime ministers have suggested that economic growth is more important than tackling climate change, playing down the prospects of strong co-ordinated global action.
It would be easy to talk about Prime Minister Harper’s connection to the oil industry, his seemingly unrelenting support for the Alberta Tar Sands, the building of a pipeline as his reasons for his truly Un-Canadian view on our need to seemingly put the needs of immediate satisfaction versus the long-term sustainable future of our country, of the world for future generations. The statement of the two Prime Ministers is disturbing to say the least but is also unfounded and blatantly incorrect if we are to read the facts by Canadian Scientists, world scientists but also a new study done by the World Bank called Climate-smart development: adding up the benefits of actions that help build prosperity, end poverty and combat climate change. This is not a question of a healthy economy or develop a more sustainable and greener future. The study provides concrete evidence to help countries like Canada and the United States’ policy-makers address economic and climate issues effectively.
“Climate change poses a severe risk to global economic stability, but it doesn’t have to be like this,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “At the World Bank Group, we believe it’s possible to reduce emissions and deliver jobs and economic opportunity, while also cutting health care and energy costs. This report provides powerful evidence in support of that view.”
How many readers, how many Canadians are aware of this study? Did this study find its way to the front page of newspapers or go viral on twitter? I religiously watch the news every day and I don’t remember seeing any of our local television stations doing any news release on this important study. It seems the people we don’t trust, like politicians, are doing some things to control information that gets to the public. Don’t paint me as a ‘Conspiracy Theorist’ because I am not. However, it seems to be economics that drives media, politics and policies despite how many of the economic policies being developed are based not on research or data but on ideologies that the evidence and data show don’t work.
In the May issue of Academic Matters talks about policies being created to limit the role scientific research is having on decision-making. The Harper Government has made comprehensive cuts to our research budgets and made it more difficult to share the data collected with the public.
Without science neither the public nor its leaders can be sufficiently knowledgeable to make informed decisions. Decision-making becomes little more than an exercise in ideology and the use of power. Nobel Prize-wining climate scientist Andrew Weaver argues that “we have a crisis in Canada.” This crisis, he says, “is in terms of the development of information and science to inform decision-making. What we have replaced that with is an ideological approach to decision-making.”
I have talked about in previous articles about the mendacity in politics. When we have politicians who decide to fear monger and make unsupported claims that if we address issues of climate change or even the gap between rich and poor that our economy will suffer we need to as people take action. We need to stand up to the untruths that are being shared.
Economic policies that support only a few have never historically worked. Tickle-down economics helps the few while hurting the many. Green Policies being instituted by Canada seem to also be more worried about the economics of the few rather than creating a better more sustainable future. We need this to change.
Survival has always meant the need to adapt. We need to look at data and research and make-decisions that will move our country forward both economically and environmentally. The public, the voters do care about the environment. When we were told to recycle, we recycled. When we were told that dual flush toilets would help we went out and bought dual flush toilets. People are adaptable. The jobs moving forward many not be in the oil industry but may be in the development of greener cities, alternate forms of power (wind, solar, water).
When I stand-up on July 1st celebrating Canada’s 147th birthday as part of the ‘Living Flag’ I will be remembering all those great Canadians that put the lives of others, democracy, human rights ahead of their needs. Understanding a healthy country, a healthy society meant for everyone not just the few. The actions that we do to today are important. They are important to us, to our families, to our fellow Canadians and globally. How will history describe us? How will history remember the actions of Stephen Harper? What legacy has he created? Have our global leaders created?
We need leaders that look past today and can build a future for tomorrow. We need to take the politics out of politics and put the civil back into civil service. We need action based on evidence not on ideology. We deserve better and our future generations certainly do.