Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Three Little Birds singing "Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right"

(originally posted at

It’s hard not to dwell on the pessimism prevalent in the national press coverage of the global financial crisis. It seems that almost every day, one expert or another contradicts previous estimates for the length of time that it will be before a recovery sets in. Earlier in the year, the public was being told that recovery would begin in the third quarter of this year, and that the Canadian economy could be expected to grow by upwards of 3%. Now, the latest "experts" are predicting a longer recessionary period with recovery only starting in early 2010, and it’s likely going to be hampered by a period of very slow growth.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives continue to sing the same old tune, which sounds a lot like Bob Marley’s "Three Little Birds" ("Don’t Worry About A Thing"; ok, I confess, I had to look up the title on Wikipedia). Media commentators have been quick to justify Harper’s positivity in the face of this massive economic upheaval by claiming that Canadians need to be told that things are going to be all right, lest there be panic in the streets leading to a larger financial crisis. I guess Harper telling us that every little thing is gonna be all right might actually be the strongest plank in the Conservative’s economic stimulus plan.

But I’ve always believed that Canadians have done much better when we’re told the truth by those whom we’ve elected to power, rather than being led astray by wishful thinking. With this in mind, I started to think whether or not I’m right, or Stephen Harper is right: do Canadians want our government to tell us the truth?

In the last election, the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP didn’t see the need to have a discussion with Canadians regarding a number of the looming crises which our nation will be confronting in the coming decades. There wasn’t even much of a peep about the economic crisis which began to emerge a few weeks before the vote took place, even though it came as no surprise to many in the financial sector. Discussions about global warming were high-jacked by partisan rhetoric about how a tax on carbon would or would not destroy Canadian households. And even that certainly wasn’t high on the list of important issues amongst the three major national parties, particularly after Stephane Dion went silent.

Only the Green Party stood up and talked about the coming crises of climate change and global warming; peak oil and increased energy costs; and, the crisis in public service delivery we’ll experience brought on by shifting demographics as a result of baby boomers retiring.

Based on the results of the last election, one could conclude that perhaps Stephen Harper has it right, and I’ve got it wrong: Canadians aren’t really interested in hearing about the challenges we’re all going to be facing in the very near future. Form triumphs over substance. After all, the Green Party didn’t elect a single MP. It’s easy to think that maybe Canadians aren’t keen on thinking ahead, or planning for a future which is going to be vastly different from our present.

Look beneath the surface, though, and there are some hopeful signs that the opposite is actually true. Support for our Party increased. Our Leader, Elizabeth May, was part of the nationally televised debates after a grass-roots outcry changed the minds of decision-makers. Our party had more organized campaigns than ever before, and although we did not elect any MP’s, certainly many voters, even those who did not vote for us, were sympathetic to our Party.

One of the things that we will have to focus on next time is to convince those sympathetic voters to throw in their lot with us. And I think one of the best ways to do so would be to stand up and tell Canadians the truth about the situation we’re all in, about the future that we’re going to be facing. Whether they want to hear it or not. And I believe Canadians, once they hear about a future told to them by the Green Party, will want to understand more about this future, about both the challenges and the opportunities.

The fact is, the other parties are too focussed on partisan games to have this discussion with Canadians. As a result, we can own this ground. One of the challenges for us, though, as a small party, will be to begin to shift the media around to providing coverage about issues that matter (substance), rather than spending the majority of its time on Stephen Harper’s sweaters or pooping puffins (that’d be "form").

In these difficult economic times, even the media might be more interested in discussing issues. Certainly I believe Canadians are ready to become involved in such a discussion. And together we can begin to turn things around, offering vision, leadership and hope about real issues. Indeed, to become the only choice for Canadian voters concerned about what’s just around the corner. We know it’s there. We can hear it breathing. Why do the "Three Little Birds", the Conservatives/Liberals/NDP, want to pretend it’s not there? Is it maybe because if they tell us about it, we’ll expect them to do something about it, and when we realize they have no plan, we’ll look for someone better to lead us?

No. It couldn’t be that. Maybe it’s just because it’s easier to get votes if no one ever worried about much of anything.

Is it any wonder that it’s so difficult not to be pessimistic?

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