We are living in tough times these days and many signs point to a prediction that it is going to get tougher.
Inflation is higher than it has been for decades, gas prices are through the roof, and the cost of almost everything else is rising dramatically.
I thought one meme I noticed on Facebook this morning summed it up rather well.
“My gas tank bill is starting to look like a grocery bill and my grocery bill is starting to look like a Costco bill and my Costco bill is starting to look like a mortgage payment and I don’t know how people are affording to live right now.”
On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard, in one way or another, on most people, whether it be illness, losing loved ones, lifestyle restrictions, increased caregiving, financial difficulties, or isolation. Everyone took a hit, somewhere.
Globally there is a lack of stability as well with the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine and the real threat of a larger war, a much higher degree of civil unrest in the United States, and the world- wide challenges with the supply chain.
No wonder there is a mood of unhappiness and worry in Canada that in some ways has manifested into an undercurrent of hate and anger. Indeed, there are signs that we will see a repeat this summer of the so-called Freedom convoys returning to Ottawa. Exactly what we don’t need.
Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, in recent, almost Churchillian remarks, put it this way: “A truck is not a speech. A horn is not a voice. An occupation is not a protest. A blockade is not freedom, it blocks liberty for all. A demand to overthrow a government is not a dialogue. The expression of hatred is not a difference of opinion. A lie is not the truth.”
Yet the hard truth, in my view, is that in many ways that is where we are now and that must change. The real question then is how do we reverse this? My answer to that is that it’s a matter of leadership. It is easy for the federal government to blame others for serious issues facing Canadians right now. Although there is a degree of truth in that—the pandemic has been a global problem, inflation is global, and rising conflict is global—in finding ways to address these issues in Canada, the buck stops here.
As an example, the rising cost of gasoline is generally blamed on the war in Ukraine. That is only partly true. There are other sources of oil and gas that can and, given current circumstances, should be tapped here in Canada as well.
A recent check of gas prices in the United States, taking the difference in the value of our dollar into account, revealed it was more than 50 cents cheaper per litre than in Canada. One should be asking why. The answer could be that the government gains tax revenue when gas prices increase. When in difficult times, real leadership, I believe, is not in increasing revenue for the government but rather in taking measures to reduce the cost of living for ordinary citizens. Why not at least a temporary reduction in gas taxes, the HST, and yes, even the plentiful “sin” taxes? True, that would reduce revenues for government to spend on their pet projects, but it would also ease the burden and pressure on Canadians when times are tough.
In my view, we have weak leadership at the federal level in Ottawa. I include all three major parties in that statement. Jagmeet Singh and the NDP think playing Robin Hood will solve all the problems in the country. The Conservatives are currently moving too far to the right and the Liberals are trying too hard to be all things to all people. That is just not possible. But the buck really does stop with the government and not with opposition parties. That is where Canadians need really strong, positive, and effective leadership right now. I seriously question whether we are getting it.
Justin Trudeau is clearly heading toward his best before date, and it is starting to show. There are also those in his Cabinet who are chomping at the bit to take his place. The good news is that three of these are women! But that could be three years from now. As a journalist and former diplomat Norman Spector said recently, “While the Prime Minister is undoubtedly pondering leaving, the entire government seems incapable of any initiative. As if absolutely everything in Ottawa is on autopilot.” And therein lies the rub.
Many Canadians are hurting right now and worrying about the future. One poll today indicated that a quarter of Canadian homeowners fear that they will have to sell their homes if interest rates continue to rise.
Unless Prime Minister Trudeau wants to leave now, he needs to step up to the plate. He needs to give Canadians hope and he needs to give them relief. He needs to demonstrate how he and his government have our backs, instead of just saying so and blaming others for the problems we face. That would ease the frustration and anger of Canadians and mute the effect of further “freedom” convoys, conspiracy theories, and civil disobedience.
For the well-being of Canada, we had better hope that Prime Minister Trudeau can pull that off. We simply can’t wait three more years.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.