Like many Canadians (especially but not only) in Ontario or Quebec I watched closely the election in April in Quebec and in June in Ontario. These two provinces make up 62% of the population of Canada so it seems fair to reflect on them for indications of where most Canadians are philosophically.
Canadians have generally seen themselves as caring people living in a community-minded country that has a social safety net providing at least a decent base standard of living for virtually all of the population. To some degree that was true; to some degree a myth. But it appears that government policies have narrowed their focus throughout the last 30 years to be driven by economic policies designed essentially to protect wealth rather than people and it appears that many people are beginning to resent it. Some examples:
- Families who can already place their children in sports or arts programs receive tax credits to help – families who cannot feed their children continue to go to a food bank.
- Sales tax levels have been cut; big spenders save big – those who cannot afford to spend are essentially not helped.
Federal budgets were once developed with a mind to balancing inflation and employment rates. Now minimizing inflation is the focus.
In the Quebec election, a major change in public attitude was visible after one party introduced a major media mogul as a “star” candidate. The public reaction was visceral.
In Ontario, one party put forward strong (but not extreme) fiscal conservative policies favouring low taxes, cuts in spending and reducing public jobs in favour of private sector jobs. Again, the public reaction was visceral.
It gives me hope.
There has always been a strong conservative voice pressing for a return to a time when the privileged provided minimal support for the poor. Two world wars and a depression helped turn policies around such that they served a broad range of people well. Wealth was distributed more fairly than ever before. Over 40 years ago, corporate interests intentionally increased their efforts to shift public policy in their favour. Since then, policies have created a redistribution of power and wealth. There is as much wealth as ever; its distribution has increased huge inequalities. Could the election results reflect a building backlash?
Our federal Conservative government has cited studies purporting to show that the middle class remains well off. Balderdash. When I graduated, every student could look forward to a decent job, home ownership and ultimately a pension. Canada’s youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age, both sexes) was 12.2 per cent when the Conservatives took power in 2006. Today, it is 13.6 per cent. But the numbers tell only part of the story. Hundreds of thousands of young people have given up their job search and gone back to school. Others have simply disappeared from the head count.
What is their future as compared to previous generations? Economists and financiers (those who influence public policies) have created a widespread pessimistic view on this issue. Twenty years ago, they started saying “Our children will be less well off…” and then we let them create policy. Could the election results offer hope of changing policies?
Calvin Fraser, Canadian Teachers’ Federation
As found June 15 at http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/demo02a-eng.htm (Canada 35,158,300; Ontario 13,538,000; Quebec 8,155,300)
For a trip back to this 1964 Bob Dylan song see rock.rapgenius.com/Bob-dylan-the-times-they-are-a-changin-lyrics