We Canadians are usually a pretty contented lot. We have an enviable standard of living compared with other countries around the world, enjoy a large and beautiful geography with much variety and wide open spaces, a climate that can be quite variable but is not plagued by the regular natural disasters that afflict many other nations, a largely peaceful society and the good fortune of valuable natural resources that contribute significantly to our wealth. We are a country of immigrants that by and large get along very well with each other. People from other countries seem to consistently want to come to Canada, so we must be doing something right. Right? So why are we so worried about our future?
Over the past few months we have seen a number of public opinion polls that show Canadians to be quite concerned about what the future holds. Back in January of this year, almost half of Canadians stated that they were $200 or less away from insolvency at the end of the month as they felt the pinch of higher interest rates and other cost-of-living increases. For some time now we have been told about the very high indebtedness level of Canadians, far outstripping the comparable number in other countries. In March 2019, Statistics Canada informed us that growth in debt outstripped income growth throughout most of 2018. Canada also slipped two spots in the United Nations’ Happiness Report – to 9th place as compared to 7th last year. And just before Canada Day, the CBC published the results of a poll it sponsored showing a deep level of disquiet among Canadians on a number of fronts. This negativity was surprising coming from the CBC, who in their perpetual Liberal apologist role more customarily informs us of just how wonderful things are under Justin Trudeau and his Liberals.
Nevertheless, the CBC poll results were quite negative overall. Fully 72 per cent of those surveyed were worried about the future. The number one issue, expressed by 32 per cent, was the rising cost of living, with those in the 25 to 44 year age group being the most concerned. The number two issue, at 19 per cent, was climate change. Despite this concern, however, Canadians simultaneously said they would not be willing to pay more than $100 per year to deal with climate change. Other results showed 78 per cent of Canadians believe that Canada is divided between “ordinary people” and “the elite”, 65 per cent feel that Canada has gone too far in accommodating every group in society while we remain proud of our tolerant national character, and 56 per cent worry that accepting too many immigrants will change Canada for the worse.
These results are interesting coming from a country that remains relatively prosperous and successful and in many respects the envy of the world. They could in part be an outcome of our constant bombardment by conflicting and often erroneous information via all the various media, social media, infotainment and other sources in the information overload world we live in. Poll results are also clearly a result of frustration with politicians who keep telling people they are helping the “middle class” – which is most of us – do better when those very same people know full well they are struggling to get by. They could also be a reflection of the deteriorating state of public discourse, with shrill politicians and others calling those who deign to disagree with them “racists”, “white supremacists”, “Nazis” or the like. The current environment of very rapid change also takes a toll, especially on younger age groups who do not foresee a life as stable and comfortable as that of their parents. The viewpoints expressed in the poll results could also be a sign that Canadians are looking ahead to a federal election in a few months time, and are starting to weigh the issues at play.
Despite the fact that there are indeed some worrisome trends afoot for many Canadians, we really should lighten up. The plusses still far outweigh the minuses in our wonderful country, which is why so many immigrants choose Canada. And the really good news is that if enough of us don’t like things like higher taxes and other factors increasing our cost of living, a chaotic immigration policy that is making a mockery of our borders, and policies that divide the ordinary people from the elite, we have a chance to change things up this October. Happy Canada Day!
Catherine Swift is currently President and CEO of Working Canadians (www.workingcanadians.ca. Prior to that, Catherine Swift had been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business since September 1987, initially as Chief Economist. She became Chair in June 1999 after being named Chief Executive Officer in July 1997 and President in May of 1995. Her various responsibilities included coordinating policy issues at federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, representing CFIB with politicians, government, business, media and other groups.
Ms. Swift has worked with the federal government in Ottawa holding several positions with the Departments of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Industry and Communications. Her areas of specialization included corporate and industrial analysis and international trade. Catherine Swift has a MA in Economics.
She has published numerous articles in journals, magazines and other media on such small business issues as free trade, finance, entrepreneurship and women small business owners. Ms. Swift is a Past President of the Empire Club of Canada, a former Director of the C.D. Howe Institute and past President of the International Small Business Congress. She was cited in 2003 and again in 2012 as one of the top 100 most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network.