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They pop up on our screens with such regularity that they eventually lose their impact on us.  Worse, they can turn us smug.  Canadians are just as good at holding opinions as any other nation – a democratic necessity – and complaining about our lot is part of who we are.

Nevertheless, when we read this week of the U.S. News and World Report’s 2019 ranking of Canada as the number one nation in the world for quality of life, there is grudging assent that we don’t really have it so bad.  The same release noted that we are the fifth best for bringing up children and in the top three when it comes to women and the opportunities for education.  And then to read in another current report that we are the seventh happiest country in the world and holding our own in that regard, is just another reminder that we have much to be thankful for.

That same report noted that America is getting progressively sadder over recent years, regardless of the state of their economy.  Deeper research going into the report revealed that the feeling of community registered higher on the contentment scale than material goods.

Our system of government and services in this country is so complex that we fail to understand just how consistent it has been, despite episodic failures.  Americans are discovering this in an entirely new fashion, as their government has remained shutdown for weeks and not only government workers and their families, but entire communities are feeling the strain.  Economists warned this week that a recession will prove inevitable if the gridlock continues much longer and then the entire country will be in a whole new world of hurt.

Consider what’s been going on now that the system is hampered:

  • There is no monitoring compliance keeping the nation in collaboration with environmental laws
  • Farms are beginning to close down for good because of the lack of government loans and services
  • Small business loans from government are stalled, leaving these operations in their final days of operation
  • 43,000 daily flights, carrying some 2.6 million passengers, are increasingly in danger as workers go unpaid
  • Food stamps and federal assistance for the Women, Infants and Children program, designed around the needs of poor mothers are about to run out of resources
  • Food safety inspections have been halted by the Food and Drug Administration
  • National parks are being vandalized as people trash the sites and increasingly cut down trees normally protected by federal laws
  • Federal security agencies are warning that the country is now at increased risk for attacks and mayhem
  • Many of the 800,000 not getting paid are on the verge of bankruptcy and those businesses and services that counted on their patronage are also at risk of shutting down

This is life without government and an efficient bureaucracy.  A booming economy can hardly help it.  And now Wall Street is warning that the same economy is about to fall into a tailspin without an efficient government framework managing the country.  As water systems become contaminated with E.coli, museums and institutions remain shuttered, airports and train stations come to a standstill, fire and polices services become rationed, mortgages and financial services come under increased strain, and food is at increased risk of contamination, it seems to matter little what happens on Wall Street when peoples’ lives are impacted like this on a daily basis.

These are the government service providers people love to complain about – the ones we say get paid too much and provide too little.  America is beginning to comprehend just how much they depended on such people for their very health, prosperity, mobility and standards.  All this is leaving average citizens with a better understanding of just how essential their government is the moment it is taken away from them.

Canada faces nothing equivalent with this, yet our system of government is every bit as essential as what goes on south of the border.  Polls are revealing that we are not only living comfortably but that we are also overall contented with our daily lives.  And others are seeing it and continuing to marvel at the Canadian experiment at fashioning together a collaborative out of so many identities and such a vast last mass.  We have our troubles and there are certain groups, including politicians and their parties, who would seek to tell us that what we are feeling isn’t real, or is under threat.  But each time we turn on the tap and the water flows, or our nurses, doctors, teachers, firefighter, police, inspectors, accountants, legal experts, ambulances and standards officers show up at work each day, we are reminded that our governmental systems are what keep us surviving.

Even better, we remain happy as a result and our children have a better chance for a future here than in most places.  Our quality of life is the envy of the world and there is the polling to prove it.  And the essence of it all is our democracy.  For all its flaws, false starts and failures, it remains effective enough that it not only protects us, but equips and resources us for better lives.  That not so bad in a world so often devoid of good news and effective government.

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.

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on National Newswatch are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.
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