BACK TO THE FUTURE FOR CANADA
Hello World. Canada here. Long time, no chat. That’s right, we’re back.
Naturally, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the worst had befallen us. The past decade hasn’t been one of our finer.
We let our nightmares get the better of us, seeing a potential terrorist in every refugee from a war-torn country. We thumped our chests about the need for new prisons and mandatory minimum sentences for even the smallest offenses, despite the fact that the crime rate in the Great White North was the lowest it had been in nearly 50 years.
We regarded the natural environment as a supermarket of resources to be exploited, rather than a precious reservoir of clean air, water and soil to be protected. We supplicated ourselves before the altar of oil and gas, all but ignoring the stupendous promise of renewable energy.
We muzzled our government scientists, looked askance at anything that smacked of empirical knowledge (especially if it contradicted our “good-guy-bad-guy” version of reality), and castigated our critics with wild and giddy abandon.
It would be easy to lay the blame for all of this entirely at the feet of the Conservative, federal government under Stephen Harper. After all, he was the inspiration for, and pied piper of, our collective foreboding.
But a shepherd, even a mean-spirited one, needs his sheep. So, we did our duty and followed along — until, of course, we didn’t.
Time will tell whether the new Liberal government of Justin Trudeau will fully restore our reputation as a peaceful, thoughtful, innovative, and progressive country. But the early signs are encouraging.
More women than ever before (88, to be precise) occupy seats in the House of Commons. Consensus and inclusion, not command and control, appear to be the watchwords governing the affairs of the Prime Minister’s Office. Rational critique, even within the governing, majority Grit party seems to be the new “sunny way”.
Granted, it’s a corny rubric, but “sunny ways”, enthusiastically adopted by the Liberals as a point of differentiation from their predecessors, is as good a characterization of the new élan as any.
Consider, for example, Trudeau’s vigorous, international stance on curbing climate change; consider his determination to shake every hand he can reach in the putative interest of promoting global collaboration on the plight of the world’s disenfranchised and undermined.
Consider, even, the words of now-retired Toronto Star columnist Carol Goar, who wrote in January, “Logic is not always the key to human psychology. For the first time in a decade Canadians feel good about themselves and their country. They like welcoming refugees; tackling climate change; being seen as a consensus-builder on the world stage and a friend in Washington. They like working together to accomplish shared goals.”
Meanwhile, public investment in this country’s higher education is beginning to rise (albeit slowly). The muzzles on scientists are falling to the ground. A new mantra — “clean technology” — is being chanted, led by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
“Canadians understand that a healthy environment and a strong economy are not competing priorities,” he declared in March. “Now is the time for Canadian companies to capture their share of the global market for clean technology. From waste management to biofuels to greener solutions for the oil and gas industry, Canadian companies are leading the world in intelligent, environmentally responsible and economically sound solutions in a number of key economic sectors.”
All of which should resonate in even the poorest regions of the nation where, paradoxically, universities cluster to commercialize the good, innovative ideas of small- and medium-sized businesses.
Dear World, don’t get us wrong. We still face challenges no government, however well intentioned, can completely redress. One look at the public finances of Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick will testify to this.
Still, we are beginning to feel better about ourselves; that we are the winners we once were, working together.
That we are back.