Freeing Canada from short-term thinking

Our time for self-help is now, right here in front of us.

We are seeing concrete examples of ways in which we can free ourselves, our federal politicians and our country from going around in circles, painfully unproductive circles.

The dizzying effects of that not so merry go-round are equally split between apathy and despair. For too many decades, our federal politicians seem to be locked into the politics of survival, with no long-term vision and no determination to take our country’s economy to the higher levels of sustainable high-value production.

Moreover, one gets the distinct impression that Canada’s political history and inter-regional rivalries have consistently prevented our federal governments from developing an approach to economic management that takes account of the broad range of inter-related policies that can guide our efforts to reap the full benefits of our material, human and technological resources.

To make matters worse, the current government is ideologically incapable of re-thinking our economic and policy management. Their political values are also stymied by their ingrained conviction that it is not their responsibility to ensure that their neighbors’ children have something to eat before going to bed!

In that context, it is refreshing to observe individuals and groups of individuals who are identifying and creating initiatives to push Canada forward, without the support or involvement of any partisan political interests.

One such private and privately funded initiative is the creation of the Ecofiscal Commission which was brought to public attention towards the end of 2014. The commission’s thinking is strikingly ambitious and tantalizingly well-reasoned: introduce taxes on pollution and eliminate (or at least reduce?) taxes on such positive economic contributors as income, employment and profits.

The credibility of their proposals is reinforced by the political, philosophical and sectoral diversity of its membership: economists, academics, business persons and politicians, all engaged in their personal capacities.

Another equally inspiring non-governmental initiative is the “Canadians for a New Partnership”, launched last year with the declared objective of providing coordinated efforts to manage the challenges facing aboriginal Canadians. Following on precedent-setting decisions of Canada’s Supreme Court earlier that year, it brings together aboriginal leaders, a former Supreme Court justice and two former prime ministers.

A third example of such thinking outside the box is yet another more specific proposal on how to address the challenge of doing justice to the multi-faceted issues surrounding the rights and needs of our aboriginal peoples. This proposal is set out by Dr. Irvin Studin, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Global Brief magazine and president of the Institute for 21st Century Questions, in his very detailed and well-researched article entitled Coequal status for aboriginals vital for our future.

Studin outlines the logic of using the same strategy that led to the gradual and painstaking integration of various political and regional entities (for example Upper Canada and Lower Canada) into what we now call Canada. He suggests engaging and uplifting the aboriginal peoples with mechanisms  designed to restore some of the political and constitutional powers of their previously self-managed communities, to institutionalize equal respect and dignity for their culture ( for example, by including their main languages as national languages alongside English and French), and to empower them with some degree of autonomy and responsibility for their own economic development, along with a meaningful role in the commercialization of the natural resources located in or near to their traditional lands.

The decisive and strategic advantage of initiatives such as those three is that they re-inforce the critical principle that we are not supposed to rely on our politicians and our established and formal political groupings to find and implement solutions to our many challenges. We, as individuals and members of civil society, have an integral responsibility to play an active role in the governance of our country.

That is the essence of participatory democracy.