Finding a way forward for Canada

Posted on December 24, 2013 in Governance Debates – Opinion/Readers’ Letters
Dec 23 2013.   Salvatore (Sal) Amenta / Brian Graff / Cameron Miller

Fixing the tears in our social fabric, Dec. 22

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s agenda is no longer hidden but in plain view, not just in his own office, but also in his latest efforts to gag whistleblowers for life. With our civil and democratic institutions eroding all around us, what we see isn’t pretty. It demands urgent attention, and Michael Valpy’s call to action involves restoring cohesion through greater harmony, inclusivity and belonging. To this end, he wisely prescribes mandatory voting, proportional representation, a guaranteed income, and protecting the precariat.

Will any of this happen under the Conservatives, especially if progressive Canadians continue to split the vote and allow them to keep governing? (Remember, even a minority didn’t stop the prime minister from doing what he wanted!)

If we are to act before it is far too late, Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair need to set aside their partisan interests for those of most Canadians. We implore them to find the resolve among all parties to collaborate in forming a progressive government. Only then can we hope to take back the country we love by following Valpy’s prescription.

Salvatore (Sal) Amenta, Stouffville

Michael Valpy’s series was excellent, but his recommendations need a little tweaking. His recommendations include “proportional representation” (PR), but many people pushing for change use this term to exclude the “alternative vote” (AV) or ranked ballot system.

Another recommendation is for mandatory voting — well, Australia has mandatory voting and the alternative ballot system and they seem quite happy with both and are not considering a switch to a PR system. Ontario and B.C. rejected PR, as have other provinces, but no province has seriously consider an AV system.

My bigger concern is that Valpy has no real solution to the bigger issues of wage stagnation, chronic unemployment and under-employment — despite long term issues of an aging workforce, for now, the demand for labour is clearly far less than the supply of workers.

We need a higher minimum wage, and for it to be implemented across the country. We also need changes to immigration policy, as Haroon Siddiqui has called for earlier this year.

And also, the Bank of Canada needs to change its policies to put more emphasis on unemployment and less on inflation — given how low inflation is, the bank should be far more aggressive in printing money (quantitative easing) — a lower dollar and higher inflation are necessary, and this would also have the benefit of reducing the governments interest payments by reducing outstanding debt.

Brian Graff, Toronto

Thank you to Michael Valpy for this great series. It has taken 30 to 40 years of wrong-headed policies to get Me, You, Us into this mess, and it would likely take a similar length of time for a course change to bring us back to where we were socially in the Canada of my youth.

I admire Valpy’s proposals for advancing social cohesion, although I doubt that the federal government to be elected in 2015 would implement mandatory voting or proportional representation. My hope is that it will prove possible for governments to start with protections for the precariat, and Canadians could try to build from there.

I find it very sad that my generation (I’m in my 70s) will be leaving behind this blasted landscape for our children and grandchildren. What a terrible legacy.

Cameron Miller, Toronto

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