I think I have always been an enthusiastic Canadian nationalist. There are many characteristics of my country that make me proud:
- The formidable but beautiful geography of our vast land.
- The creation of one of the more prosperous and civilized societies on this planet, in spite of the difficult geography, fierce climate, and a sparse population.
- The evolution of a compassionate society with an emphasis on justice and equity and the provision of advanced health and social programs bringing security to our population.
- The development of an uniquely tolerant society and culture, reflecting our two official languages while welcoming the contributions of new Canadians coming from many cultures around the globe.
- Our well established democratic institutions and advanced governmental and legal processes.
- Our substantial contributions on the world stage toward the promotion of peace and human welfare.
Those are surely good reasons for pride in one’s country. But … are we letting it all slip away? I can also compile a discouraging list:
- Persistent high unemployment.
- Increasing poverty.
- Growing reliance on food banks and soup kitchens.
- More and more homeless persons on the streets of our cities.
Disintegrating health systems.
- Weakening education systems.
- Deteriorating transportation systems.
This list could go on. It seems obvious to me that Canadian civilization peaked some time ago and is now in rapid decline. Where did we go wrong?Perhaps it was inevitable. After all, we are situated on a planet which is looking decidedly unhealthy. According to the United Nations 1998 Human Development Report, the world’s richest 225 individuals have a combined wealth equal to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the world’s population. The assets of the three richest people exceed the combined gross national product of the 48 least developed countries.
Surely this is untrammelled capitalism running amok!
Consider also such symptoms as the Asian economic crisis, the chaos in Africa, the one billion unemployed around the planet, and you have a frightening picture of a world out of control.
To my mind, this is the so?called “globalization” process bearing its natural fruit. As we have more mergers and more concentration of wealth and power in fewer corporate hands, we will find ourselves with still more disparity, poverty, starvation, revolution and bloodshed. Governments around the globe are ceding more of the real power to corporate giants who do what they will to maximize profit while moving investment and industries around like chess pieces, disrupting national economies, destroying communities, exploiting slave labour conditions, and generally contributing to a miserable planet.
Canada embarked on this mad globalization caper when it entered the Canada ? U.S. economic integration agreement (the so-called free trade agreement) in 1989. Those of us who opposed it at the time warned of such calamities as: partial de?industrialization, job loss, increased foreign takeover of Canadian enterprises, decreased capacity to govern through our democratic institutions, weakening of health and social programs, threats to our culture. All these things have come to pass.
There are those who argue that the agreement was a good thing, because our exports to the U.S. have risen to record levels. I would question the idea that one can justify the damage done to Canada by pointing to an increase in exports. In any event, this increase would have happened anyway. It is our low dollar, not that agreement, that led to the export figures. We did not have to sell off our sovereignty to maintain our position as a key supplier to the U. S. colossus.
However, we did enter that agreement, and we now have the consequences. Furthermore, it would appear that the situation can only grow worse. We seem to have no ability or will to stop the takeovers, mergers, and closures that are transforming our economic landscape. We have lost the sovereign authority to manage our energy resources and even our water resources in our national interest. Our capacity to adopt independent fiscal, monetary and taxation policies is now severely constrained. We apparently cannot even take measures to protect our magazines.
At time of writing — in February 1999 — a former Prime Minister (John Turner) has expressed the fear that Canada faces a future as a colony of the United States. (One might wonder, too, about the extent to which the American people are being colonized by their own corporations.)
Given the reasons for pride in Canada which I enumerated at the start of this article, I seem to be ending on a pessimistic note. Do we have to accept this situation? Are these great Canadian achievements to be allowed to crumble away?
I submit that we cannot allow ourselves to accept meekly such an unhappy fate. Even if the Canadian apocalypse seems almost inevitable, we must try to turn things around.
Can little Canada do anything in the face of world wide acceptance of globalization? I would like to think so. A start has to be made somewhere. Why not in Canada, which is particularly vulnerable and could disappear if nothing is done? I like to recall what a few determined people in the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) achieved 50 years ago towards reversing the ravages of uncontrolled capitalism.
What we need is the determination to re?assert cur right to govern ourselves and to rebuild the advanced society we had achieved. We have to make it clear that the people, through their democratic institutions, are going to run the country ? not a few corporate executives and international money manipulators.
This means, for example, that we must be prepared to insist upon a more equitable taxation system, including the elimination of a wide range of tax shelters that are exploited by the privileged. To take another example, the assurance of security for our citizens will require more public ownership (not less) of basic infrastructure and of hospitals, clinics and other essential social services and institutions. Placing our well being in the hands of profit seeking enterprises is folly, as illustrated by the health care situation in the U. S. today.
There will no doubt be a price to pay if we attempt to take on the globalization forces and reverse what is happening. We have to be prepared to fight some tough battles.
But if we were to succeed in averting the apocalypse and preserving our country, would it not be worth the fight?
And just possibly, small though we may be, we might give some inspiration to other countries to make a similar effort. That would be good for us, and for the whole planet.
D. M. Lyngseth,
Smiths Falls, ON