Canada in the Balance
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
This is a book about the ideas and policies that will dominate Canada’s future.
In a world that is getting smaller and more competitive, Canada needs a new set of public policies that will put learning, education, and investment in new technologies at the centre. The vulnerability of the planet itself to pollution and global warming, continuing violence, ethnic conflict, and threats to world peace also put Canada’s place in the world at the centre of a new agenda.
Bob Rae’s book is a candid assessment of where we are and where we need to be.
It draws on his deep experience in Canadian public policy at home and abroad, and points to how Canada, and Canadians, can make a difference. From health care to taxes, from poverty to wealth creation, this is a creative and provocative blueprint for change.
We paid it down in the 1950s and 1960s, and returned to borrowing in the 1970s. This became a serious challenge in the 1990s. I know whereof I speak. Getting the books into balance, and surplus, was a significant achievement of the Chrétien/Martin years. With higher revenues on all fronts, and tough decisions on spending and transfers, the fiscal position of the federal government was transformed. We should keep it that way. Successive Liberal governments have paid o? more than $60 billion in federal debt so that today the federal debt-to-GDP ratio stands at just more than 30 per cent, its lowest level in decades.
It is also clear that the other bookend of lifelong learning – early childhood education – is the springboard for all that follows. My three children have taught me over the past many years about the marvellous capacity of children to learn new things, about how critical it is to foster a love of, and skills for, learning from the very beginning. Canadians are rightly proud of our medicare system. They want to improve on the basic concept, not turn it upside down and go the private funding route of the United States.
Are we dealing with a two-province solution, or a multi-province solution? What should be federal powers, and what provincial powers? Is Sri Lanka willing to consider asymmetrical federalism? What guarantees would be in place for Sri Lanka’s racial, linguistic, and religious minorities – not only as the indigenous Buddhist Sinahala and Hindu Tamils, but also as its small Muslim minority and hill-country Tamils who arrived in the nineteenth century to pick tea on British colonial plantations? Will they all be protected by an entrenched charter of rights enforceable by the courts?
Canada and the European Community have now joined the British and the Americans in listing the LTTE as a terrorist organization. Denmark and Sweden are leaving the ceasefire monitoring mission. The death toll is mounting with depressing regularity. The LTTE is unwilling to make the shift, as did the African National Congress and the Irish Republican Army, from guerilla army to political party. The government of Sri Lanka is unable to present a plan for a federal constitution that would give important powers and guarantees to those parts of Sri Lanka that have historically been the homeland of the Tamils.
We need less rhetoric and more realism about Afghanistan. An unpoliced border with northern Pakistan, an economy still deeply dependent on poppy production and the heroin trade, powerful warlords with extensive foreign networks: the notion of a quick military victory and a sudden transition to liberal democracy is problematic. We need to be realistic about what we can achieve, and how long it will take. There are other options for Canada in Afghanistan between traditional peacekeeping and a largely counter-insurgency role, even if the prime minister does not want to discuss them.