All right — name the one thing that the federal Conservatives repeatedly tell us that they’re doing the very best job at.
If you guessed the economy, you’d be bang on — it is the core of the Conservative mantra, that they are the only party that can protect Canada’s economic future, that they are the only ones who could have kept Canada’s economy intact during the meltdown of the past few years.
Give them a pass on that one for a moment — accept that they did a good job with the economy even if that meant passing the pain onto our kids with billions upon billions of new long-term debt and some of the biggests deficits in Canadian history.
Now, ask yourself a completely different question.
Is just managing the economy enough for a government?
Somehow, our nation’s dialogue on governance has taken a turn. It went from looking at what nationhood meant — from being a country at the same level as other nations, with shared responsibilities for the downtrodden and those in danger — and switch to a far more insular goal.
It turned from what a country should do in the world to what our country can do for us. For our wallets. For our smaller tax bills.
Ask the federal Conservatives about their achievements and they talk about the economy and lowering taxes, as if paying for the services we use and expect is a dirty thing.
Heaven forbid that employment insurance should actually protect people who have lost jobs. Forget that increasing the premiums for the Canada Pension Plan could give seniors enough to have the basic necessities at the end of their working years. Forget the value of home-grown scientific endeavour and advancement that isn’t tied directly and specifically to the corporate good.
Any sort of national altruistic discussion has become a single-note song. Do and Re are gone — but there’s plenty of Mi, Mi, Mi.
A strong economy is not the great tide that lifts all boats — it lifts some, the more expensive and larger craft, further and faster, while the rest of us are expected to feel better with a much larger share.
This country is still the huge land that it was 20 years ago. A big country, but suddenly and sadly, a much smaller place.
National discussions change over time; perhaps the clock will turn, and people in Canada will start looking beyond their own doors and wallets. But, as you listen to the voices that currently make up that discussion, any hope of finding non-selfish altruism seems far off.
And that’s a shame — because we are a country built on much larger principles than net worth.
You can build an entire life on greed.
You can’t build a country on it.