We must keep up the struggle for decency despite the pain of war and homelessness
Reflecting on what passed in 2023 tells of a year of brutal wars, a climate crisis that seems to have no end, the soaring cost of food and housing, a worsening refugee crisis, and homelessness.
The start of the year marked the first anniversary of what is a brutal and seemingly endless war between Russia and Ukraine. And while the blood flows in this conflict, our sensibilities were further assaulted by the outrageous Israel- Gaza mutual brutality that has turned Gaza into a killing field.
Even as the bombs fell in these distant places, Canadians were quite busy tackling the problems that 2023 presented.
Covid exposed the weaknesses of our health care system, something that Canadians see as a defining element of the country.
The pandemic showed that the lack of capacity in the health system made the it ill prepared to cope with the stresses of unforeseen occurrences that lead straight to understaffed hospitals, and to overburdened family care clinics. Let’s hope that the lull we are experiencing, now that the worst aspects of covid seem to be behind us, will result in a much-improved system that could withstand future stresses brought on by restless microbes.
Few predicted after the Covid lockdowns that housing prices, food, and fuel prices would quickly replace the fear of the pandemic as a major preoccupation. After all, for nearly three decades the inflation rate did not exceed 3 percent, but by 2020 it hit 7. Mercifully, after considerable pain Canadian families experienced, the inflation rate is now around 3 percent. Even so, the cost of housing and food remains unacceptably high. An example of who profits? It’s enough to point out that in 2022, Loblaws declared a profit of $436 million while in the previous five years from 2016 to 2021, its best profit was $180 million per year.
Through all this, many welcomed the relatively warm winter we are currently experience. No bone-chilling temperatures, no snow, so what is there to complain about? Plenty. No cold, no snow cover means lower farm yields, reduced export earnings, higher food prices at home. Furthermore, there’s an item called global warming which seems so distant from our daily lives, we ignore its deadly effects at our peril.
The world registered the hottest temperatures on record. The results were the worst forest fires in Canada. Smoke from fires in eastern Canada was so intense that the smoke reached Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, New York and Washington, D.C. Floods, countless hurricanes, famine and disease have taken millions of lives around the world. And it’s only getting worse.
If all of us don’t pitch in to reverse global warming, we won’t be around to worry about housing and inflation.
The year ended with some positive news – hubris brought down to earth our aggressive bully of a premier, Doug Ford, after his government was caught red-handed attempting to open up parts of the protected Greenbelt that surrounds southern Ontario. The legislation that allowed the opening of the greenbelt also would have allowed his well-heeled business friends to reap profits of at least $8 billion. Fortunately, the Ontario Auditor General nipped the scam in the bud, thereby forcing Ford to cancel his greenbelt giveaway.
With ongoing investigation of greenbelt scam, a chastened Ford has been a model of generosity, which is to the benefit of the province and Toronto in particular.
For those who remember Ford when he first appeared on the political scene as a Toronto city councillor, this is one of the few positives we can draw on as the year ended.
Let’s hope that greater positives are in store for 2024 like an end to human suffering due to wars and the ravages of an avenging Mother Nature.