Saturday, December 28, 2019

Our Work Is Cut Out for Us

In the wake of the last election, Canadians feel more divided than unified. So, in the new year, national unity will be a theme we're going to hear a lot about. Susan Delacourt writes that, traditionally, there are three threads which bind Canadians together -- symbols, values and policies:

Of the three, values are the most knotted thread. Take, for instance, this idea that Canada is a country open to newcomers. Quebec’s new secularism law, banning outward displays of religion in public places, is a case in point. While Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada didn’t do all that well in last year’s election, there is still a considerable audience for any anti-immigration talk in Canada, [David] Coletto says. According to Abacus’s research, a full 40 per cent of Canadians have a not-quite-open view of immigration, seeing it as a drain on Canada.
Trudeau came to power in 2015 with a throne speech laden with outward-looking talk of Canada’s place in the world and welcoming messages for Syrian refugees. Liberals simply assumed four years ago that these were baseline values for Canadians. In 2019, Trudeau’s second throne speech talked more of protecting Canada from negative forces outside its borders. In 2020, Canada is not currently expected to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
When it comes to building national unity from the outside in, the United States — and the current president in particular — has re-emerged as a uniting force for Canada. If Canadians have historically had a hard time figuring out who they are, they have had less trouble uniting around what they’re not: Americans. So Donald Trump’s impeachment drama and his bid for re-election in 2020 could knit the country together, even as the U.S. is more deeply polarizing around those big political events.

Trump can go a long way to unify Canadians. But antipathy to Donald Trump has its limits:

Anti-Americanism, even anti-Trumpism, is not really an option for a country so economically tied to the United States and ratification of the new Canada-U.S.-Mexico free trade deal will be high on Trudeau’s agenda in the new.

In the end, we're bound together -- or divided -- by policies:

If there’s a preoccupation with health care, that’s not an accident. Coletto says that people still point to this policy as quintessentially Canadian: something that distinguishes us from Americans and makes us feel lucky to live here. It’s actually a value, a policy and a symbol all wrapped in one.
Pharmacare, now dangling as a promise from the Liberals and a deal-breaking demand from the New Democrats in Parliament, could be a route to building national unity on a policy plane. But that terrain is fraught and there’s no guarantee, as Chantal H├ębert has pointed out in a recent Star column, that provinces will opt into a new program.

Policies on healthcare, pharmacare and climate change can serve as unifiers -- a long with something else:

Canada’s wealthy people won’t be happy to hear this, but Coletto says that taxing the rich is definitely a unifying policy in Canada in 2020, one of those rare policies capable of drawing support from the left and the right of the political spectrum. It is true: on any given day in question period over the past couple of years, it often seemed that all the parties were in competition to denounce millionaires and corporate giants.
This is the temper of the uncertain economic times, it seems: if you want to marshal the support of 99 per cent of Canadians, rail against the one per cent. Class warfare is not normally a unity-building exercise, but in an era of deep income inequality, anything that looks like “making the rich pay” could be a policy winner.

Of course, declaring war on the rich could backfire. In fact, missteps on healthcare, pharmacare or climate change could wind up causing Canadians to go to war with each other. Weaving this country together -- since the days of Charlottetown -- has never been easy.

Once again, our work is cut out for us.



John B. said...

Now I get it. Trudeau's gibberish about the world's first post-national state was an appeal to national unity, at least among those of us who liked seeing real estate prices double over less time than it takes to make a dent in a used car loan. The rest of the slugs will have to be satisfied with their churning zero-hour gigs and side hustles. See you later. I'm off to my winter digs.

Yuk, yuk and yuk.

Owen Gray said...

I take it that's where you'll spend New Year's, John. Happy New Year.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Having a government whose finance minister doesn't consign its working-class population to a future of "job churn" like yesterday's trash would be a good start, Owen. I've gone on at length about the erosion of social cohesion in Canada and other developed countries if only because every possible effective response to the climate crisis will demand changes in our governance, our economy, and our society that will be nearly impossible or worse unless we achieve a robust social harmony. Resources will have to be diverted and that may mean allocation issues, sacrifice and sharing. In some cases we may have to impose rationing which, given that what's coming could eclipse even a world war in magnitude, should not come as any surprise. Too many of us fail to see the fairness in society that we once expected. Equality - fairness of opportunity - has plummeted. I see class divisions as none I can remember in my lifetime. Look at university tuition. How many of our age group would have been unable to get that first much less second or third degree at today's tuition levels?

Yuval Harari in his book, "Homo Deus," foresees a world emerging that will more closely resemble feudalism than democracy. It's a disturbing but very worthwhile read.

the salamander said...

.. Few in Maintream Media.. a la Ms Delacourt et al have much to crow about.. or lecture us upon. Just as they will harp upon or parse or dissect.. so must they be examined and roasted when found wanting..

I find treasure of reportage, analysis, opinion, thought, expression.. in so many diverse resources.. ie Indie Bloggers, Tweeters.. etc .. Thus I kick this discussion.. right back to your previous post.. the George Monbiot article.. 'Political Rewilding' .. Sadly, MainMedia cannot or will not 'keep up' or has completely 'sold out' .. They do not 'speak for us' .. I trust them as far as I can throw them.. but might get 'slimed' in the process. I am 'expert level' re manure, horse droppings, smoke and mitrrors, partisan screetching & pontification, nonsense, fantasy.. etc..

Trying to make sense of the convoluted cerebral pronouncements of Coyne, Delacourt, Lilley et al seems a fool's game.. after all our governance is now driven by electoral popularity polls.. published daily in MainMedia.. essentially 'potemkin' hand waving and raving.. down by the river.. Its daily non-nutritional chaff .. pablum and soothers for the masses.. One must be willing to truly till the fields.. and discover, harvest reality (which may not be at all optimistic, indeed discouraging, even frightening) These same self apponted 'scribes' are fixtures as panelists on CTV and CBC.. along with the Fife and other Public Relations pimps, spokeswanks.. to let toxics like Huckabee Sanders or Ezra Levant, Kenney, Christy Clark, Goldstein, Wente or Lorne Gunter 'shape' or groom our perception is beyond laughable.. down a rabbit hole

I leave it there.. and my New Years resolution.. (or self deceit).. is to proof my comments re spelling - grammar - flow - usefulness, nastiness (if any) as of 2020.. Ideally I can become more scathingly observant.. a la Michael Harris.. or the late Hunter S Thompson or Tom Wolfe.. I aspire to be as un-noticeable as a wolverine suddenly unleashed in a beauty salon.. grr.. (a high calling ! Eh ??)

Owen Gray said...

The future of the planet -- and our own existence -- will require shared sacrifice, Mound. We live in an era which insists that everyone has the right to whatever he or she wants. That mentality does not bode well for the future.

Owen Gray said...

A wolverine in a beauty salon can leave a lasting impression, sal.

the salamander said...

.. another resolution for this year is more attention, attribution & accreditation to what or whom I may reference or mention. Thus H/T to the late John B Parker re the wolverine - beauty salon line.. from his Spenser series. In my view he is right up there with John D MacDonald & his Travis McGee series, Louis L'Amour, and of course Elmore Leonard.. all for their blowaway characters & their astonishing dialogue or observations

Owen Gray said...

Parker was good, sal. He was very good.