- Pat Atkinson writes that governments at all levels should be setting up realistic fiscal plans to deal with a large group of retiring boomers - not artificially slashing revenues and increasing costs. And Rick Smith laments the fact that the Harper Cons are squandering an opportunity to address Canada's existing problems due to their insistence on creating new ones:
“Seizing” the moment would mean tackling the challenges that today’s Canada faces: stagnant or falling wages for middle- and lower-income Canadians; crises in Aboriginal education, food, housing, and missing and murdered women; high youth unemployment; eroding citizen trust in democracy; and environmental degradation, to name but a few.- Meanwhile, Thomas Walkom focuses on the dangers of Harper's complete neglect of First Nations. And Shawn Atleo's response to a speech from the throne which edited First Nations out of existence signals that the Cons' selective perception of Canada won't pass without some significant challenges.
The throne speech did not offer any real substance on these issues. There was no mention of climate change — only a renewed commitment to oil and gas regulations already twice delayed. [Ed. note - which rather understates the case.] Nothing on addressing either persistent inequality or poverty reduction. And there were only facile musings on addressing the challenges facing First Nations communities, and no commitment to an inquiry into missing and murdered Aboriginal women — a necessary project that was just this week called for by a visiting UN Special Rapporteur.
Instead, the speech outlined its clearest commitment yet to austerity, and to a leaner and meaner government, no matter the cost to our standard of living.
- Jim Stanford writes that an irrational fear of debt will do far more economic damage than actual debt ever could. And the Cons are determined to enshrine perpetual counterproductive deficit hysteria into law.
- Adam Radwanski notes that Ontario is looking at setting up its own pension plan to make up for the Con's refusal to strengthen the CPP - meaning that the best-case scenario (in the event Ontario actually follows through) involves needless duplication of similar entities aimed at the same goals.
- Finally, Christine Boyle and Seth Klein remind us that there's no particular reason to completely detach economic policy from questions about what kind of society we want - and have a suggestion as to what a more moral economy might look like:
So what more specifically would a moral economy look like, and what differentiates it from our current system?
Jobs: In a moral economy, our livelihoods better align with our best ideals for ourselves. Imagine a society that places value on service and caring -- for children, the elderly, and those with disabilities -- and this is reflected in people's wages. The economy provides community-sustaining, family-supporting jobs; jobs that don't separate families, that don't endanger workers or harm others, and that provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Does this mean we will always love everything about our jobs? Of course not. But it means we can feel proud of the work we do, and pleased if our own children choose to follow in our path.
Ecological Justice: In a moral economy, natural resources are not depleted and the commons is not despoiled. Economic development is not driven by a "gold rush" mentality, but is thoughtful and deliberate about how scarce resources are used. The need for income in the present does not penalize the well-being of future generations.
Indigenous Sovereignty: In a moral economy, Aboriginal rights and title are respected, and we strive to honour the commitments made to those who first occupied this land. These rights are not theoretical, but instead are given a place of privilege in economic planning. The upholding of Indigenous Sovereignty is not only at play in matters of specific resource development projects. It is a shift in how we jointly make broader economic and social policy decisions.
Equality: In a moral economy, we do not abide poverty, and policies are put in place to lessen rather than increase the inequality divide by income, gender, and ethnicity. Extreme inequality is actively discouraged; low-wage work is appreciated and properly compensated, and conversely, high-end salaries are not competitively bid into the stratosphere. The goal is true social mobility, rather than one's life chances being determined by the lottery of one's birth.
Shared Good: In a moral economy, the health and security of each family is mainly protected by enhancing the well-being of the entire society, a principle at the heart of public health care. In such an economy, many of our core needs -- for housing, childcare, education, healthcare, retirement security -- are provided collectively. This reality allows us to escape the financial treadmill, and liberates us to take risks and embrace necessary change, particularly in the face of the climate crisis. In a moral economy we seek to uphold a social contract based on mutual responsibility, sharing and cooperation, rather than competition, hoarding and accumulation.
Meaningful: Imagine an economy where a "good life" is not confused with materialism. Excessive wealth is not celebrated and coveted. In a moral economy, we narrow the gap between what has market value and what has social value; wages and prices reflect the true worth of things, rather than being determined by irrational or perverse market forces. Instead of adhering to a shallow measure of income or economic activity, we measure success by people's happiness, health and well-being.