Need for equal society has never been more apparent

Originally published by Kamloops This Week (December 31. 2013):

“Issue facing Kamloops in 2013 & 2014: What were they? What will they be?”

The biggest issue is an evolving one, what kind of city and community are we going to be? The emergence and visibility of commercial and retail hubs in different areas of the city was distinctly noticeable in 2013 – such as Dallas, especially the North Shore, and future plans for mixed development at TRU – through the hard work and vision of business, civic and citizen groups. Much effort has gone into shifting Kamloops from a resource dependent community to one with a more diversified economy over the past 25 years. It is a large spread out city and still heavily automobile dependent. These hubs and a move towards densification will improve accessibility, attractiveness and increase the diversity of areas within the city. However, the holiday season brought home more visibly the plight of many in our midst, across our city, that are struggling to make ends meet – child poverty and hunger is real in our city. Food bank usage has become permanent. More working and middle class families are struggling. Growing inequality – an unraveling – is an emerging issue for our city, as it is across the continent.

It is the same issue: for 2014: How can we find positive solutions and move towards a happier, fairer future? Our region, province and country remain overly dependent on resource extraction for wealth, decades after recognizing our vulnerability to a “too many eggs in one basket” economy. Profound economic shifts and the great recession – with a lack of good paying jobs and cutbacks – has resulted in a growing inequality. Too many people live in insecurity. This creates negative pressures and it is dividing our communities. It will take responsible leadership, respectful dialogue (not “us versus them”), and unity of purpose to look into the future and make proper decisions. Creating the new jobs of the future economy and leaving a positive future and healthy environment for our children is the challenge of this generation – it will require wise investments and hard choices.

Inequality is bad for our economy and our environment. Societies with a bigger gap between rich and poor are bad for everyone in them – including the well-off. Almost everything – from life expectancy to mental illness, unsafe communities to children’s educational performance – is affected not by how wealthy a society is, but how equal it is. More equal societies are healthier and more successful.

The choices we make, how we live, our economic system and governance policies will determine what kind of city, country and people we will be. These are issues for 2014, including right here in Kamloops.

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Canada’s Conservatives: Debasing Democracy

Canadians should be deeply concerned at the erosion and debasement of democracy by Canada’s federal Conservative government.

Using CSIS and the RCMP to spy on environmentalists, including seniors in a Church basement in Kelowna and the all-native high school basketball tourney in Prince Rupert, all the while cozying up to energy companies; to complicity in spying on leaders at G-8 and G-20 summits while using force to suppress democratic protests; NSA type intrusions into the private lives of Canadians; manipulating and stacking advisory committees on food safety, the environment and judicial appointments; stifling parliamentary debate, omnibus bills, prorogation and vicious personalized attacks on political opponents.

It is inflicting harm on our democratic culture.

The muzzling of government scientists, weakening independent governmental watchdog agencies, and attacks on Kevin Page – the outgoing and highly effective Parliamentary Budget Officer – who exposed the real costs and truth behind government budgetary numbers are further examples of debasing of responsible and accountable parliamentary governance.

Canada’s declining image on international human rights and climate change – being designated as international “fossil of the year” – is a blight on it’s historic and hard-earned image as a respected and responsible global player. It is reflective of a government that does not listen to voices, at home or abroad.

The sordid display during parliamentary Question Period, by the PM’s right hand man, Paul Calandra, refusing to answer questions and defying the Speaker, is a new low. It shows a disturbing contempt for parliamentary principles and practices. It is more than unaccountability; it reflects an arrogance and bully political culture that says, “We are perfect, you are worthless.”

Conservative MP’s and Senators do what they’re told or keep silent, their loyalty to the party seemingly greater than respect for fairness and rights. These are issues that transcend party affiliation; they are integral to respect for democracy and ought to concern all Canadians – irrespective of political stripe. Power corrupts. As the song goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got, ‘til it’s gone.”

We should all be concerned.

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