Writing posts like this is never easy. Partisans of one stripe or the other relentlessly claim that their party’s policies will do the trick, introduce a new era of prosperity, or restore voter confidence in politics and democracy. We’ve heard all this before, numerous times, and in diverse fashions, but the net result always seems the same – loss of voter confidence that leaves many wondering if anybody can really turn things around.
Yesterday I did an interview with our local paper on a Toronto Star story that concerned how government interventions at various levels have helped the city’s food bank – the country’s largest – see their numbers decline somewhat. It true – all of it. Remedial efforts through things like tax credits, transport passes, housing funding and the removal of claw-backs that inevitably robbed Peter to pay Paul have had clear effects and for the families in need of such actions there is some relief.
But do we honestly believe that rolling out a diverse array of social programs is going to end poverty? They are welcome and we credit those governments for implementing such initiatives, but by themselves such actions will never deal effectively with mental health problems that are systemic, an affordable housing crisis that will take years, decades even, to finally meet the demand, or Indigenous poverty that remains at alarming rates. And how will poverty be overcome when jobs continue to disappear and those that are appearing are primarily minimum wage in the service sector? A Basic Income Guarantee could be promising but it’s still too early to tell. Regardless, people would still prefer a good job. Can poverty be overcome in my own city of London when almost half the workforce (48%) is presently employed in precarious or vulnerable employment? Fix that problem and then we can sit down and seriously discuss the eradication of poverty.
What of our collective response to the emerging catastrophe of climate change when we can’t even agree of a price for carbon emissions? When will Canadian women attain equal pay for equal work? These are serious challenges in an age of relentless hurdles. No government has the funds to seriously attack the problems. Citizens don’t want to be increasingly taxed to pay for such improvement. Corporations remain focused on their bottom line. And let’s not get started on discussing political renewal.
It doesn’t matter which part of the political spectrum one occupies, none has solutions that are fulsome and truly revolutionary. The sad fact is that whichever party gains power there is little progress to show for it – things remain stubbornly stagnant or in a state of gradual decline.
Why has there been such little forward movement? The answer should be obvious: such things cost substantially and all parties are reticent to draft election platforms proposing that we must all share in the burden of progress by investing more. There is no vision, agenda or long-term plan for this. Instead we have tinkering – take a little bit here, give a bit there, and limp along as before, hoping to win government in the process.
The sad truth is out there: no one has the plan or temerity to challenge us as citizens and companies to step forward once more, as we did following the Second World War, and indulge in the kind of civic activism and sacrifice that can build communities, hospitals, local businesses, hospitals, universities, a vibrant arts culture and a media climate that puts citizenship before click revenue. Parties and their respective leaders would love to adopt such a vision, but they are firm in their belief that we want more, not give more, and so they promise, promise, promise.
So little is changing for all those promises and all those governments of all stripes. Governments around the world are as equally flummoxed as to what to do. The reality is that neither the Left, the Right, nor the Centre presently has the solutions that can tackle our deepest challenges and we’d best come to terms with it. It’s tough to have vision when you believe citizens and companies who say they actually want it have no intention of paying for it. And, so, the electoral promises always come up short.
How can we build a better future world if we can’t even repair this one? Seriously. The scriptures say that without a vision the people perish. That is equally true today since no vision can work that doesn’t include the people themselves. All those promises of progress have become cursed by stagnation. Jobs without people. Wealth without work. Politics without principle. Citizenship without sacrifice. All these add up to what we have and will never change until each of us steps up and demands to be part of the solution.