National Newswatch
National Opinion Centre

It’s in the DNA of our democracy that we complain about it all the time, frequently hearkening back to supposedly better times, and castigating our politicians simply because they’re the easiest to target.

As we close out 2018, it’s important to remember that certain phrases gained traction in the past twelve months that signal our modern world is at some kind of turning point.  Post-democracy, death of democracy, the end of capitalism – phrases such as these were heard and seen enough in the past twelve months to inform us that the challenges we face at present are likely to escalate until we deal more directly with their causes.

Yet it’s important to recognize where we are as Canadians as this year draws to a close.  For all the confounding perplexities and emerging tensions, Canada is still remarkably well off and remains a source of envy for other nations.  Here is just a sampling of how our country is rated on various issues.

  • S. News and World Report ranks Canada a second in the world based in numerous metrics, just behind Switzerland for the second year in a row
  • The Index of Economic Freedom places us #9 and reminds readers that our quality of life outperforms most of the other nations on earth
  • The UN Development Programme rates us 10th out of 188 nations
  • The World Bank says we are 18th out of 190 nations for the ease of doing business
  • Yale University concluded we are 25th out of 180 on the Environmental Performance Index
  • Reporters Without Borders grades us as 22nd out of 180 countries on the Press Freedom Index
  • The Institute for Economics and Peace, using the Global Peace Index, rates us 8th out of 163 and adds that such a rating is “very high.”
  • The World Economic Forum reckons us as 14th out of 187 on its Global Competitiveness Index
  • The Economist concludes that Canada is 7th out of 167 on the Democracy Index
  • Are we happy? The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network says we are, rating us 7th out of 156 on its 2018 World Happiness Report

While many may quibble with such findings, they are helpful for providing us a view of how the world views Canada and many important aspects of our quality of life – culture, economics, health, contentment, diversity and peace.

But there are troubling signs on the horizon.  It is more than likely that some kind of global economic downturn will arise in the near future and Canada won’t be immune from the effects.  When economies suffer, citizens and organizations grow restless, animated, even angry.  The reality that Canada already houses political leaders who would seek power by creating further divisions in our already complex set of jurisdictional political realities doesn’t bode well for numbers such as those listed above.

Writing in the Chronicle Herald, journalist Dan Leger did us all a favour last week by noting:

“In Canada, federal statistics captured almost 2,100 hate crimes reported to police in 2017, up from 1,049 in 2016 – an increase of almost 50 per cent . . . Hate crimes have increased four years in a row, according to Statistics Canada.  That makes it a trend, not a coincidence.”

We expect such turbulence in these raucous days south of the border, but in Canada?  Sadly, yes.  And for those seeking to exacerbate tensions for political purposes, the damage they will do to this country’s famous cultural hegemony will clearly make governing more difficult in our near future.  That’s their plan.  Problems already facing our political leaders could well become insolvable in the face of such ideological divisions.  The great purpose of effective politics – pulling people together through compromise and fashioning a future for all – could be turned on its head, leaving us with the opposite result.

This year ends with Canada holding its own in a world of growing dysfunction and threats.  Its performance hasn’t been perfect, but its practice of denying violence in order to achieve peace and of desiring the kind of democracy “that becomes a means as well as an end,” as Bayard Rustin put it, still holds.

With a spate of important political decisions to be made in 2019, including a federal election, the next twelve months could well represent our commitment to our historic ideals or the year that we began to lose them.  Either way, citizens and their representatives had best suit up and be prepared to play their part in our collective future.

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 32 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.
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