Many Canadians are enjoying a rare surge of optimism as they welcome a new prime minister, cabinet, and presumably, a new direction, for Canada. I’m one of them, although I find myself stepping back to a more cautious mindset.
After 10 years of oppressive democratic, environmental, and public services darkness it seems almost logical that there is no where to go but up. But it’s important that we keep in mind that “up” comes with a price tag; I’m OK with that, to a degree and for the near term, but discounting costs is dangerous territory. Governments and corporations have specialized in shoving costs down the road with, for example, incremental and now significant cumulative damage to our environment, biological diversity, public and social services, and climate. But with each passing day someone will have to pay with a notch or a chunk taken out of their life, perhaps a lost opportunity or less “on the table” and that “someone” is usually “the people” you and I.
Reports tell us there are at least 100 aboriginal communities without water and sewage services. At this stage in our history that’s insulting, and while I remain suspicious that there is some bleeding going on between government funding and native spending in their communities, this critical situation has to be corrected. It will cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.
The new census forms, of which I strongly approve, will require tens of millions of dollars to process and analyze. Mail services – to homes, and perhaps maintaining post offices in small communities, another correction I think important, will costs tens of millions of dollars. Resurrecting our Coast Guard, implementing an honest environmental assessment process that ensures Canadians a legal right to be heard without being labeled as radicals, and rebuilding federal science libraries will come at a cost. Reforming our pension system to remove the insult of over half a million seniors living below the poverty line and provide greater payment to all seniors, so they don’t descend into that frightening world, and providing long overdue benefits to veterans and disabled persons will consume hundreds of millions of dollars.
Why then, I question, as do over half of Canadians polled, is Canada rushing frantically to burden our social system, our already stressed natural environment, our overloaded health care system, in a world in which overpopulation and overconsumption are internationally recognized threats to the earths life support systems, to relocate 25,000 refugees? It has always been difficult for people to link their actions with consequences, particularly when the latter are incremental and diffused. Most humans operate in a short term, visual world. But lack of awareness, or outright denial of impacts, serves only special interests, not society.
Canada can, given our relative wealth, help slow, perhaps some day even stop, the exodus of humans from their homeland, but it will take help flowing from here to their land; relocating refugees simply stalls and complicates serious and essential reform. Failure of this rash agenda is something I would accept. Perhaps then we would concentrate on a collective strategy to preempt forced emigration that already threatens to destabilize critical ecological, social, and political systems.
Dr. Brian L. Horejsi