Our Greatest Dangers are Political

  • National Newswatch

One of the most profound debilitating realities of the Covid pandemic was its refusal to move off the scene and permit us to get back to normal life.  It lingers still, not allowing us a clean break.It's clear that the difficulties pervading our economy are having similar effects on the emotional well-being of Canadians in general.  We wait for things to improve but continue to hear of the possibility of an impending recession or perilous days ahead.  We aren't getting our economic groove back and that reality weighs heavily on the political thoughts of average citizens.We're right to fret, especially after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its grim financial forecast a week ago.  Its conclusion was that the next five years will be the weakest for the global economy in more than three decades.  “Ominous forces” and “uneven growth” could hinder living standards for the rest of the decade and beyond.  The forecast weighs on the mind of every government in the G20.  Added to this was the sobering reality of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change release which stated that natural catastrophic events will increase, impacting every aspect of economic life.Most people read such forecasts, shake their heads in confusion, and get on with their day.  Governments have no such luxury since they know that enduring financial struggles will eventually change the political equations in every country.  Alignments will shift as voters grow more impatient.  Canada has fared better economically than some other G20 countries.  But, below the surface, Canadians are restless, and that has huge political implications for the Trudeau government and the opportunists in the opposition parties.Some of the turbulence feels beyond our reach: the war in Ukraine, the deterioration of US-China relations that could lead to two immense global economic blocs, environmental challenges, and political restlessness in many global locations.  These are beyond Canada's ability to manage and will inevitably impact any measures Canada takes to rekindle its economy.The most serious threat to the international economy is the political factor.  As politics in the West becomes increasingly dysfunctional, citizens continue to check out of democracy at alarming levels.  But it will get worse, as their family incomes struggle and the standard of living takes critical hits.  Inevitably, people's economic uncertainty will translate into political anger.Economists, researchers, and seasoned voices can offer strategic guidance, but if governments refuse to listen, or opposition parties care more about gaining power than economic stability through principled cooperation, ineffective politics will lead to national disruption.Some things within our domestic reach could be tackled to ameliorate some of our concerns.  Both corporate and private debt levels are too much in the extreme.  As interest rates hover at current levels, or even threaten to creep up, servicing debt can become a significant problem.  Forcing individuals and corporations to tighten their belts makes sense in times of economic uncertainty, but foreclosure on those debts might become a pending reality, causing stress in the electorate.Ask any food bank director or small business owner in this country about their current struggles and they will put economic equality at the top of their list of worries.  Politicians instinctively understand this but remain too careful about how they remedy that problem.  As middle-class Canadians feel their quality of life is slipping, they will, like Europeans and Americans, be tempted by extremist arguments to take action.  Wage stagnation is a real problem, and yet financial elites continue to contend that rising wages are what drives inflation.  It is both untrue and unfair.  The greatest culprit in this area is excessive corporate profits.  Canadians understand this, and their elected representatives do too.  Yet the decision-makers hold the line on current practices.  Discouraged, the workforce displays ever greater turbulence – a trend sure to increase as both automation and Artificial Intelligence programs invade the blue-white-collar workplace.Look at any Canadian city and you'll see the effects of financial elitism and poor policy.  Homelessness, food insecurity, declining health services, and gender inequality are ubiquitous and without remediation.  Such challenges are at ground level and will ultimately prove the undoing of politicians unless they find the courage and collaboration required to tackle such problems head-on as a country and communities.Economic betterment is also a significant problem, as Canadians are now fully convinced they will never do as well as their parents did.  That might or might not be true, but they believe it is, and it is perception that drives politics.Our greatest problems will ultimately be political ones.  Toxic political environments are the cancer of any economy.  Canada should be doing better.  We are still an economically capable land, but fragmented politics is eroding our ability to connect average Canadians, along with small and medium-sized businesses, to productivity and wealth generation.The IMF's warnings were timely and jarringly realistic.  But it is in our politics and diluted democracy that our real troubles are situated and where our future attention must remain focused.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.