WHAT EXACTLY DO WE STAND FOR AS CANADIANS? WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A CANADIAN LIBERAL IN A POST-MODERN WORLD OF STATE DE-CONSTRUCTION, NEO-LIBERALISM, AND A RAMPANT CORPORATE CULTURE OF INDIVIDUALSIM, ‘CLIENTISM’, ‘WEALTH CREATION AND WEALTH CREATORS’?
I had the day off today and had the time to contemplate divine mysteries by myself, unfettered by work-related obligations, the telephone, appointments and so on. I got to thinking about just what do we stand for here in Canada? What does it mean to be a Canadian Liberal, whether you are a member of the Canadian Liberal Party or a Provincial version of the same animal or not, what does it mean in today’s world of state-deconstruction, neo-liberal government bashing and libertarian anti-taxation movements and a rampant corporately-driven and centered culture of individualism, ‘clientism’, ‘wealth creation and wealth creators?’
I believe that the Canadian government should first and foremost represent the interests of citizens, not ‘consumers’, or corporations whose primary goal in life is to maximize the extraction, production and consumption of resources, goods and services. This is so because, contrary to what we’re told by the politicians and the corporate interests who’re aiding and abetting them, further maximizing output of everything is only going to further not only the destruction of the biosphere, or physical environment, but it is rapidly causing the destruction of the human environment, by essentially forcing citizens to engage in what amounts to conspicuous consumption of goods and services at an until-now unheard of level.
This is causing a lot of breakdown in the social fabric of society as families are being exhorted to work even longer hours to be able to afford a material level of living which is often well beyond their means and which essentially cuts them off from the spiritual aspect of their humanity by putting an ever-increasing emphasis on the promotion, sale and consumption of consumer goods, mostly consumer electronics, games, fast food and beverages, alcohol, tobacco, gaming, entertainment, information, recreation and leisure products and services, automobiles and home renovations.
All of this consumption takes away from the sanctity of the family unit, not to mention the time spent sharing meals at home, worshiping the God of your understanding at your designated place of worship, which helps solidify family unity, spirituality and affection, or simply playing together outside in the park.
I believe that we’ve gone off track. Our government should actually be encouraging us to consume less, to conserve energy, to reduce, re-use and re-cycle as much as possible. Since when did the maximization of production and consumption become a virtue? I was brought up by my Mother and Father in a traditional Roman Catholic household with the slogan of ‘waste not want not’. We always turned off the lights when we left the room. We wore a sweater in the winter instead of turning up the thermostat even more. My Father rarely threw away food, even Bologna that had mould on it; he cut away the mould and ate it! He had lived through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the Darkness of Duplessis in East-end Montréal and had known poverty. According to Dad, in the 1930s when he was growing up as a kid, only about one family per street had work, the rest were all on Relief, the precursor of Welfare. My Dad’s Mom was lucky enough to have a job, to be bilingual and to know bookkeeping and typing so she worked for a dredging company that had contracts with the federal government, an organization that had remained solvent during the Depression, so my Dad grew up within the ranks of what you might call the Working Poor.
He never forgot that. The Canada that he came of age into was a Canada that his countrymen before him fought, bled and died for in far off lands to defend and promote and hence ensure that the crucial government services and cooperation between government, unions and the private sector which developed as a result of those conflicts, be put into place and be maintained and preserved for future generations. My Father and those who came before him and those like me who came after him did not come into this world only to see a very narrow-minded and short-sighted agenda, driven mostly by men of money, power, property, prestige and personalities, to de-construct the Canada that so many of our forbearers laboured, fought, bled and died for to establish and maintain.
I must ask the business community in Canada if they genuinely know what they are doing and if they realize the consequences of their actions. Ultimately I think they are shooting themselves in the foot and it is already causing us problems. Reducing the size of government and government services, all in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘right sizing’ and ‘allowing wealth creators to create more wealth’ ultimately has many perverse effects on the social fabric of Canadian society.
First of all, when ‘wealth creators’ are allowed to ‘create more wealth’, they do so principally for their own benefit and for that of their shareholders and other stakeholders, which often includes off shoring jobs, laying off workers, cutting back or totally eliminating health, safety, pension and holiday benefits for workers while increasing the net benefit in profits accrued to management and their unit holders, all while often having privileged access to the levers of government largesse in the form of tax breaks, low or zero-interest loans, outright cash grants from taxpayers, all while advocating for the reduction or outright elimination of government entitlements for average citizens as being ‘too costly’ ‘uncompetitive’ ‘unfair to the private sector’ and so on.
All of this ultimately ‘creates more wealth’ for the ‘wealth creators’ in the form of management and the unit holders who own mutual funds and stocks in these companies, however, it exacerbates the already significant problem of the growing number of structurally-unemployed Canadians, the underemployed, contractual workers with no benefits or holidays, self-employed persons, part timers, seasonal workers and so on. All of this leads to a continued breakdown and erosion within the social fabric in the sense that fewer and fewer citizens are able to entertain the notion of actively and productively living out their citizenship through participation in the labour force, hence their God-given talents are wasted and not valued by the powers that be, so automatically they inevitably have a higher statistical probability of going off track and running afoul of the law, the health care system and becoming either incarcerated, medicated, intoxicated, assassinated or generally obliterated by a system whose prime motivation seems not to give a tinker’s cuss about the common good of society but is rather much more focused on the temporal aggrandizement of the ‘wealth-creating’ class of persons and their acolytes, to the overall detriment of the general society.
We’ve seen how this state-deconstructionist policy and Reaganomics-style of tax structure has led to an exacerbation of the disparities of income as well as of opportunity in America and we seem to be advocating the same thing here in Canada and throughout the western world, as neo-liberal corporatism runs riot throughout our social fabric.
What we all share in common in Canada is our common bonds of citizenship, whether we consider ourselves to be Québecois, English or French-Canadian or simply Canadian, Acadian, Aboriginal, or from a first generation immigrant community. These common bonds of citizenship that we share within our Pan-Canadian nation state are not just ‘values’, which are relative, but rather core beliefs that virtually every Canadian citizen who believes in the dignity of the human condition and the sanctity of the human soul, not to mention common decency and the common good of all Canadians, believe in.
These include fairness, equity, decency, honesty, fair play, freedom, liberty and the rights and responsibilities of the individual not only to themselves, but to other individuals and to the collectivity as a whole. Conversely, we believe that the collectivity, through its duly-constituted and democratically-elected government, has the right and responsibility to act in the best interests of the collectivity as a whole, but also to act in the best interests of individuals and to labour to the best of its abilities to strike a delicate balance in this very important symbiotic relationship.
A government, backed by its corporate stakeholders, cannot purport to belly up to the bar and to claim to speak for all Canadians, as this current government is doing, and to proceed to wilfully dismember the edifice of Canadian society which has resulted from the fruits of the labours and sacrifices of so many generations of Canadians who have come before them and who still toil in obscurity today. Let not their sacrifices be in vain.
A Canada which is worthy of its heritage as a compassionate and Just Society is certainly within our grasp if we choose to endeavour to fight the propertied, moneyed and powerful interests who seek to destroy it in the name of ‘a level playing field’, ‘wealth creation’ and ‘prosperity’. I believe that as Liberals, our government has the moral duty to act as an agent of the common good of society. It is not, as the current neo-liberal and libertarian ideology seeks to propagate, an entity which is at best a necessary evil which has a natural tendency towards tyranny and the infringement of men’s ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’, which, in true late 18th century libertarian parlance is a watchword for government intervening in society to rectify the egregious abuses of laissez-faire capitalism so as to better the lives of the average person, hence ‘increasing the cost of doing business’.
If we are to allow the business community free reign to follow through with this neo-liberal and libertarian agenda, we will be taking a step back to the early to mid nineteenth century, wherein the national government will have been reduced to little more than a blunt instrument of the industrial, commercial and financial bourgeoisie, hence vindicating the Marxian indictment of ‘Liberal Democracy’ as being little more than an instrument of bourgeois capitalism.
Furthermore, if we let this happen, we will further be shooting ourselves in the foot in that the Canadian Market, which is still relatively buoyant, will be decimated by a tremendous drop in citizen’s purchasing power, as fewer and fewer citizens will have well-paying enough jobs with Fordist-style wages which can allow them to not only engage in material consumption, but to have a material standard of living which allows them to entertain the notion of entering into a conjugal relationship, procreating, purchasing property, raising a family and generally engaging in the material, social and spiritual edification of our country.
We will have a country of ultra rich people and a relatively small upper-middle class, like in Latin America, and an enormous underclass of underemployed, structurally unemployed, homeless people, overflowing prisons, economically-driven violence against the wealthy, again like in Latin America, and so on.
What, therefore, do we stand for as Liberals? We stand for defending, promoting and revitalizing and redefining the legacy of Pierre Trudeau’s Just Society, for which Lester B. Pearson and many other Liberal Prime Ministers before him laid the ground work. Going about doing this will definitely take some courage, but, like the Tragically Hip sang, ‘Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time.’
I think we all could use a strong dose of courage in these ‘worse’ times so as to ensure ‘better’ times for ourselves and our descendants.
God Bless Canada.