An election looms on Monday, following one of the longest election periods in Canadian history. Not entirely coincidentally, the four-year term drawing to a close feels like one of the longest in Canadian history. During this period, our environmental laws have been gutted like our fish. Our libraries have been trashed, years of irreplaceable data discarded like empty Tim Horton's cups. We have acquired mandatory minimum sentences and a habit of using solitary confinement as an oubliette. Veterans—you know, those people who risked life and limb for us—have been stripped of their pensions. Largely due to the tar sands, our pollution levels are increasing and Alberta's caribou are disappearing.
Yet the Progressive Conservatives are at 30% in the polls. The Oct. 5 issue of Macleans displays a picture of a Conservative candidate and her supporters holding signs that read, "Economy #1 Priority" and "Protect the Economy".
The focus of many a political debate suggests that this premise is widely accepted. To hell with justice, human rights, air, water—it's all about money! This is what we get if we allow Stephen Harper and his spin doctors to control our conversations. Which is what we have done, so far. Let's stop it, shall we? Should the economy be our number one priority? Of course not. No sane and civilized society would think so.
This government has created a tremendous amount of human suffering. That should trump any discussion of the economy. Why aren't we talking about that? Why aren't candidates and party leaders bringing it up in debates? The assumption is that we Canadians are all selfish and care about nothing that doesn't affect us directly. If we as a country want to embrace that, then we need to stop pretending we're "nice." The out-of-date perception of Canadians as nice people persists for now, but it won't forever if we continue down this road, and we shouldn't expect it to. Nice people care not only about their immediate interests but about what's happening next door. Such people would have a problem with a government that refuses to do anything about sky-high rates of murder of Aboriginal women. They certainly wouldn't plan to vote for said government at a rate of 30%. (Yes, it's a minority but it's far too large a minority.) This is shameful and a disgrace.
Of secondary importance is the fact that making the economy our number 1 priority will not keep us safe and secure. Anyone who prioritizes the economy for this reason has not thought things through, and there are a lot of people who have not thought things through. Apparently it's a popular idea that as long as we have a strong economy, we don't have to worry if we're not growing enough food to feed ourselves; we can simply buy food from abroad. Pierre DeRochet says as much in the Oct. 5 edition of CBC's The 180.
Sure, that'll work—until we do something our food supplier doesn't like, and they decide to withhold food from us until we change what we're doing. What might the reason be? Well, maybe we have good relations with another country that our food-supplying country is at odds with, and they want to change that. Maybe they don't like our laws. Maybe they don't like our immigration policies. It could be anything, really. But as food diminishes on our grocery store shelves, we will do whatever they say. Once our entire food supply is in the hands of someone else, we will have zero autonomy.
Perhaps you think they won't do that because they want the money that we pay them for our food. That might work in our favour for a while, until something comes up that they hold more important than money. After all, just because we're stupid enough to value money more than anything else doesn't mean everybody else is that stupid. They can manage with less money for a while. They have food, and without the cramp of hunger in their bellies, they can hold out until they get what they want.
Another scenario is that the food-supplying country has seen a huge drop in their yields, due to unfavorable weather, and no longer has any surplus. They cease to export food, because they need it all to feed their own populace. In this scenario, there are no demands we can give into in order to feed ourselves, no terrible trade-off to make. We simply starve. This scenario becomes more likely as progressive global warming leads to more extreme weather conditions, droughts and floods.
When that happens, those who prioritized the economy can eat their money. Too bad it's now made out of plastic. The paper money we used to make would have been a little more digestible.
Canada, it's time to grow up. Start prioritizing the things that really matter: people, animals, lakes, rivers, beauty, compassion, love. Vote for these things on October 19. Stop prioritizing that crackly stuff in your wallet. Your infatuation with it degrades you now, and it will surely let you down in the end.
1. The longest election period in Canadian history was in 1872. See The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 3, 2015. http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/two-down-76-to-go-the-longest-election-campaign-since-we-first-re-elected-john-a
2. Linnitt, Carol. "New Report Shows 'Systematic Dismantling' of Canada’s Environmental Laws Under Conservative Government." DeSmog.ca, Oct. 14, 2015. http://www.desmog.ca/2015/10/14/new-report-shows-systematic-dismantling-canada-s-environmental-laws-under-conservative-government
3. Kingston, Anne. "Vanishing Canada: Why we're all losers in Ottawa's war on data." Maclean's, Sept. 18, 2015. http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/vanishing-canada-why-were-all-losers-in-ottawas-war-on-data/
4. Department of Justice, Government of Canada. http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/ccs-ajc/rr05_10/p2.html
5. White, Patrick. "Confined: the death of Eddie Showshoe." The Globe and Mail, Dec. 4, 2014. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/confined-the-death-of-eddie-snowshoe/article21815548/
6. See http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/benefits-for-wounded-canadian-veterans-do-not-stack-up/article23381161/ and https://www.change.org/p/government-of-canada-our-wounded-veterans-deserve-life-long-support?recruiter=14631496
9. I believe that these days, the word "progressive" in the party name is short for "progressively worse."
11. The 180. "Food Security: Is it better to 'eat local' or global?" Oct. 11, 2015. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/the180/burka-avenger-and-the-niqab-decriminalizing-polygamy-and-legalizing-apologies-1.3261221/food-security-is-it-better-to-eat-local-or-global-1.3264960