Aided by corrosive social media, omnipresent angry groups and the need for climate tempering, the countdown to the federal election has been divisive and grouchy.
While many viewed at least one of the leadership debates, I sense Canadians understand that there’s much more at stake than individual party leader street credentials in this election.
Some evidence of this is that Jagmeet Singh outpolled the other leaders after the main English language debate but the NDP didn’t move up in sync with its leader.
Clearly the Liberals entered the election with a tested team, some notable legislative achievements and the benefit of a robust national economy. The successful renegotiation of a North American trade deal, carbon tax legislation, the legalization of marijuana and the decade’s lowest unemployment figures (a national jobless rate of 5.5 per cent, with 54,000 net new jobs added in September) are signals that different forms of progress are possible.
The Liberal team that delivered these achievements is worth noting. Ministers of the calibre of Chrystia Freeland, Catherine McKenna, Bill Morneau and Jonathan Wilkinson have delivered impressive performances in tough portfolios, with outcomes that outshine ego. The bench strength of the Liberal caucus is the strongest in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and, to be fair, his advisors, have led the way with cabinet selections. Yes, ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have left, but I would argue that the rest of the cabinet is getting on with business and achieving results.
Meanwhile, the PM has remained publicly accessible, has apologized for his “white privilege” in the blackface affair, and has pointedly not shirked his duties regarding the country’s challenges with the climate crisis and the pressing need to begin the move away from hydrocarbon combustion.
Needless to say, this issue is extremely difficult for many Albertans.
Since the Leduc oilfield was discovered in 1947 and provided the key to Alberta’s prolific conventional oil reserves, all of Canada has benefited. Through the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, generations of Albertans have seen high wages, no provincial sales taxes and impressive public infrastructure development, ranging from colleges and universities to state-of-the-art medical centres.
Via federal equalization agreements, the rest of the country has also shared in this largesse.
Unfortunately, while the widely acclaimed Peter Lougheed (premier from 1971 to 1985) saw the need to plan for what follows an oil boom, subsequent Alberta Progressive Conservative governments did not. Instead of thinking like Norwegians (their oil royalties fund totals over US$1 trillion) and stashing away large volumes of oil royalties, the PCs continued with public infrastructure development, no provincial sales tax and low corporate taxes. As a result, the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund has a value of C$18.1 billion.
The consequences of this lack of planning are now obvious. And so is the need for federal assistance in moving Alberta’s economy in the direction Lougheed foresaw. Obviously, the Liberals know they have their work cut out for them.
As we cast our votes on Oct. 21, we might also give heed to our nation’s international reputation. If you don’t normally read the international media, check out what publications like The New Yorker, the Guardian and Le Monde have to say about us.
Better still, take a trip to Europe and see how citizens there react to your Canadian citizenry. I’m just back from a month of European travels and can report that being Canadian counts like never before in my life. It’s synonymous with decency and pulling our weight in the global boat.
I think a Liberal vote best keeps us pointed in that direction.
Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery. Mike has chaired the national boards of Friends of the Earth, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. In 2004, he became a Member of the Order of Canada.