Chairman's Desk

In 2023, Canadians deserve a grand vision from our political leaders

Throughout our country, we must not allow our politics to continue being — as Orwell described it — “the choice between the lesser of two evils.”


A federal election in 2023?

Though far from a certainty, more and more, it feels like one. Federal minority governments have seldom endured more than a few years and the current Liberal-NDP agreement is unlikely to be an exception to this rule.

If the plug is pulled and the current Parliament Hill tone continues, the election will be waged on decidedly pessimistic terms. Take, for example, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent exchange played out over the closing weeks of 2022.

To great effect, Poilievre has repeatedly asserted that “it feels like everything is broken in this country” — a message that resonates strongly with Canadians. At a year-end Liberal holiday party, Trudeau countered that “Canada is not broken.”

While Canada is far from broken, it’s time we acknowledged that there are significant cracks in the land and the current government’s continued approach of ignoring the legitimate concerns of families battling record inflation and a housing crisis can’t continue.

As Poilievre tells it, Justin Trudeau’s excessive spending, runaway deficits and second-rate commitment to infrastructure mean that a continued Liberal reign poses no less than an existential threat to our nation.

Trudeau’s challenge is that circumstances beyond his control — namely brutal economic conditions — make defending against Poilievre’s charges harder and harder. He is left, as many long-term governments are, selling a hypothetical alternative narrative of another kind of doom and gloom.

And so, Trudeau paints a sloppy picture of a Poilievre-inspired hellscape where you pay for groceries with Ethereum and carbon costs less than an FTX token.

Put a pox on both their houses on this one. Better than cartoonish imaginings, our politics requires, now more than in a long time, great causes and long-term objectives.

Nothing places this fact into more apparent relief than immigration.

The Liberal’s target of welcoming 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024, and 500,000 in 2025 is an important objective. Laudable for its human compassion and much needed for the future strength of our economy.

That said, we need to be ready to welcome these newcomers with, among other things, affordable housing and reliable, accessible health-care. The Trudeau government still needs to provide something close to a realistic plan. So far, its approach has been painfully insufficient.

Of course, grand visions amount to very little if they are unaccompanied by concrete plans and dedicated action. Historically, there is no better marriage of these two criteria than the revolutionary New Deal. During a rousing speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1936, the man behind it, President Franklin Roosevelt, asserted, “This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.” He spoke these words while his nation was still caught in the grasp of the world’s most significant economic collapse, five years before it entered its most crucial conflict.

As we awaken in 2023, our challenge — Canadians and our political leaders alike — will be to rally around many of the same appointments: one grand vision, concrete plans, and a dedication to action.

Backward glances into the trials of COVID-19 will do us little good. Instead, meeting such a challenge requires us to rethink and revamp our social, technological, and economic policies. It demands that we ask and answer existential questions: Should we expand our global influence or turn inward? Do we still need a monarchy? Which industries will define our future? What, as a nation, is our greatest priority?

Throughout our country, we must not allow our politics to continue being — as Orwell described it — “the choice between the lesser of two evils.” Canadians deserve a grand vision. Unfortunately, we’ve suffered without it for far too long.

This article first appeared in the Toronto Star on January 5, 2023.