This month’s election in Alberta sent shockwaves through the country when the NDP took the win in a longtime conservative stronghold. That province’s recession is held up as a primary reason for the upset. While incredulous that a once-rich province could have come to such a pass, many are hopeful that the new premier will lead the way back into prosperity.
I’m hopeful too, but cautiously so. Rachel Notley faces real challenges with the way capitalism has stacked the deck. The new Canada-China trade agreement threatens to hobble local economies, protecting the interests of foreign investors over our own. And we’re stuck in an outdated economic model based on quick extraction and export of raw resources, with toxic impacts here at home.
Mitch Anderson, a journalist for The Tyee, travelled to Norway a few years ago to investigate the reasons for its social and economic success. That country is considered the best place to be a citizen, has a uniformly high standard of living, and successfully manages a trillion-dollar oil industry. Canadians, on the other hand, are the victims of our own attitudes: the resistance to taxation, the distrust of government, and the appeal to privatization as the answer to everything.
This situation isn’t unique to Alberta. Anderson writes:
“B.C. is home to some of the most valuable timber in the world. Since 1940, some 4 billion cubic metres of it has been carted away with a current market value of close to half a trillion dollars. What do we have to show for it? Canada remains the second richest country in the world based on per capita resource wealth, yet for some reason we can’t afford postal delivery. The root of this endemic Canadian problem is fear. Fear that companies will pack up their capital and go elsewhere if we drive a harder bargain or claim more control over this incredible endowment. “ (The Tyee, May 4/15)
And there’s the heart of the problem. Norway thinks like a boss; we don’t. Economically, we’re a nation of codependents, thinking that if we give in to every demand made of us, we’ll stop getting beaten up. It’s gotten us nowhere. We deserve a healthy, diversified, localized economy that places the needs of our citizens first. We have the natural wealth and brainpower to make this possible, but it can’t be achieved without a respectful stewardship of the environment and its inhabitants. To achieve it, we need a political system that truly allows us to be heard — proportional representation, anyone?