A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Best of Both Worlds

A guest article by Jared Milne.

Politically, 2013 wasn’t much different than previous years. In Toronto, Rob Ford accused his opponents of wanting to keep the “gravy train” going, while his opponents accused him of hypocrisy and failing to live up to his promises. In Ottawa, the Conservative government accused the opposition parties of wanting to drastically raise taxes to pay for their political promises, while the official Opposition accused the Conservatives of slashing essential services and transfers to Canadians. In St. Albert, critics of the city government’s current direction stated that our current level of spending is unsustainable, while people satisfied with the current direction accused the critics of wanting to eliminate many of the services we’ve come to rely on as residents.
By itself, there’s nothing wrong with these types of debates. They’re what democracy is supposed to be all about. However, what risks happening is that public opinion becomes polarized between one option or the other. We can either pay very few taxes and get very little in the way of services, or we can have very good services but have to pay through the nose for them. Anyone who wants to see good services is automatically accused of wanting to jack income taxes up to 80 or 90 percent, while anyone who wants to see taxes and spending cut is accused of wanting to slash and burn public services.
What I don’t get is why it has to be an all-or-nothing thing. Who says we only have to have a highly taxed welfare state, or a radically laissez-faire society? Why can’t we recognize the benefits of both government programs and private enterprise? Sometimes taxes or spending might need to be increased, while at other times they could be cut.
In 2014 and beyond, we could probably all benefit by defining how far we think things should go. What level of public ownership, environmental regulations and social spending would conservatives be willing to accept, for instance? What limits would progressives be willing to accept on business regulations, income taxation or social spending? By more clearly defining just how far different groups are willing to take these policies, it becomes that much more difficult for the worst and most polarizing voices among us to accuse people of wanting to take things too far.
Canada has never thrived solely through government action or through private enterprise. Rather, Canada has come as far as it has through a healthy balance of government action and private business, of individual initiatives and collective action. Of course taxes can sometimes be too high, and regulations can be too much of a hassle. When that happens, they can and should be reduced. But they are not inherently bad in and of themselves, as they’ve helped set up the social, physical and environmental infrastructure we take for granted today.
In 2014, and beyond, we as Canadians could all benefit from more clarity and discussion, and more of a search for the common ground that exists, than we have in past years.
This article was originally published in the St. Albert Gazette on January 1, 2014 and can be found online at http://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/20140101/SAG0903/301019997/the-best-of-both-worlds
Jared Milne is a writer, researcher and public servant living in St. Albert, Alberta. His major interests including Canadian unity, nationalism and history, particularly regarding how Canada's incredibly rich past has affected the present we live in today.

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1 comment:

Rural said...

Jared is correct in saying that we are increasingly being led to extremes rather than consensus and that middle ground must be found. Unfortunately our 'leaders' across the country, led by the unbending Harper Regime, have no desire to seek cooperation and compromise for the benefit of Canadians but are more focused upon power and division for their own ends. When those within a party are thrown out for publicly expressing a divergent opinion what chance is there of any discussions to find 'common ground' taking place on a wider basis. Such will only happen in minority government situations where two or more partys are forced to cooperate but Canadians have been brainwashed (by said partys) to believe that coalition governments are a bad thing whereas they may be a stabilizing influence.