By Ross Maund and Dave Wilkin
Reflecting on our recent federal election, we are left with increasing concerns over Canada’s future. The election results show a divided Canada:
- Anger and rising national/separatist sentiments in western provinces with an overwhelming Conservative vote
- Resurgence of the nationalist/separatist movement of the Bloc Québécois
- Liberal power confined mostly to the large Ontario and Quebec urban centers, plus Vancouver
- Diminished and fragmented NDP, and a three-seat Green party
- Growing urban-rural divide
The new Liberal cabinet has three-quarters hailing from Ontario and Quebec, most from the large urban centres around Toronto and Montreal, further fueling division. Divisive political rhetoric, poor decisions and lack of focus on the key national challenges are all contributors to division.
It was most disappointing that none of the following important challenges surfaced for critical discussion during the election campaign:
- Growing social tensions and issues – health care (including mental health, drug addiction), destabilizing demographic shifts and economic inequity.
- Transformation of work and the economy – aligning skills in a pervasive technology future – Big data, AI, robotics, biotech, consolidation, social media reach, transformed services industry, extreme global productivity competition.
- Balancing affordability, growth and sustainability in a changed world.
- Continuous growth of debt (at all levels of government, business and consumer) risking future generations.
- Our natural resources at risk – Traditional Canadian economic drivers are struggling – energy, forestry, mining, agriculture, fishing.
- National Industrial strategy/foreign policy in a new (nationalistic) world order – Canada’s lagging innovation, growing trade deficits, lagging competitiveness, weak global capital investment, and mounting security risks exposes a misguided strategy and flawed policy.
Even the issue of climate change has politically evolved, now being framed in the language of fear, yet isolated from a long list of other global challenges.
The election campaign was dominated by personal attacks, issue avoidance, division, and pandering spending promises. The result was the re-election of a scandal-plagued government with an un-inspiring record of accomplishment, broken promises and heightened division. Perhaps many Canadians did not consider it important for their government to conduct itself in a more positive and productive manner? Thankfully, it is a minority government.
Higher expectations for the performance of our newly elected federal parliamentary session may have been set by a throne speech promising collaboration and inclusiveness. But the damage done over the past many months creates the likelihood of a session dominated by more political agendas, negative posturing between parties, higher deficit spending and a media not adequately holding leaders accountable for results that matter to Canadians.
Federal minority governments rarely survive more than a few years, so we should use this coming year to become better informed and ensure our politicians emphasize the biggest challenges, as they will be front and center in the election to come.
This series of op/eds will focus on many timely big challenges, recognizing that many are global and highly interconnected. Rural communities such as Muskoka are particularly vulnerable and we may not be high on the federal government’s list of priorities, so our series will provide a notably local focus.
Increased awareness, sharing important facts and creating constituent mindfulness are important parts in promoting dialogue, preparing all of us for the election to come. This of course is critical to our collective future and helps ensure we get it right.
Watch for our first topic: Growing social tensions and issues, beginning with a deeper look at the looming healthcare crisis.
Ross Maund, career senior executive
Dave Wilkin, P. Eng, M.Eng.
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