Chairman's Desk

In the face of gloom, here are three reasons to be hopeful

All doom and gloom. Or is it?

It’s beyond cliché to say that the world – and our country along with it – is confronting tremendous and unprecedented challenges. But isn’t that the story of life? Dealing with the new, the unfamiliar, even the horrendous.

To be sure, as we sit on the cusp of a new year, not only is there much to despair, the sanguinity we will need to meet these immense challenges presents a challenge itself.

All that said, here are three reasons to be optimistic heading into 2024:

1. More competitive federal politics. Much of the malaise felt by Canadians has to do with the cost of living and housing. Now, these are real issues but I believe they are getting better for one reason: this government faces a real challenger for the first time in its existence. And just like increased competition in other fields reaps advantages for consumers, this will benefit Canadians.

Pierre Poilievre, unlike his post-Harper predecessors, has exerted meaningful and existential pressure on the government. The result? The prime minister and deputy prime minister are now rolling out and owning major housing announcements, and the federal government is finally taking a role in housing supply, partly through its accelerator fund; a role it hasn’t played in decades.

Sure, the purveyors of doom and gloom will argue it’s too little too late but every house that’s built will make the most meaningful of differences in a Canadian family’s life.

This pressure from Conservatives will continually force Justin Trudeau and his government to perform at their best – a standard that slipped in the face of weak opposition – in other areas as well. And that is good news for all of us.

2. Unprecedented resolve on climate change. This year’s COP28 conference was bound to be controversial and many saw the result as underwhelming. It goes without saying that tackling climate change requires urgent and decisive action, not empty words and domineering special interests.

Of course, there remain significant shortcomings. But for the first time in history, we have commitments from nearly 200 countries to move away from fossil fuels. For young people especially, this seems like the bare minimum. However, for someone with greyer hair who has seen (especially Conservative) politicians for years obfuscate and deny the impact or even legitimacy of climate change, this feels historic.

Wildfires have ravaged our communities in recent years, painfully bringing home the reality of climate change. As the United States Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry noted, this kind of international co-operation is awe-inspiring and sends a strong message to the world. For Canadians, it brings promise that the destructive impact of climate change is no longer up for debate at the highest levels of global governance.

In 2024, we cannot let our politicians and the international community off the hook. But we should be very glad that this major hurdle has been cleared.

3. The promise of Canada’s next generation. Many scrooges are down on this next generation. I’m not. There is plenty of reason to believe that this next generation of Canadians are as capable of meeting the challenges of their age, as those who came before them.

This year, many important people in my life who had made major societal contributions through their selfless service passed away. For me, their lives underlined the burden that falls to the next generation.

But this generation is marked by its resiliency and adaptability. They will grow up with an unparalleled level of education, in a multicultural society with access to diverse wisdom and experience we never had.

But there is the challenge for all of us: Statistics Canada tells us our youth are facing an unprecedented wave of depression. Many had to endure generational hardship and disruption through the pandemic. Despite this, now education participation rates are way back up to pre-pandemic levels. Now is not the time to give up on them.

There you go. Three reasons to feel optimistic about the year to come.