A CANADIAN’S VIEWPOINT

July 4th, 2010

From David Cameron, Nova Scotia

Interesting for me, a dual citizen, to read your definitions & opinions. Canada has a little different political setup, three parties & almost a fourth (Greens), but still very much a capitalist democracy with somewhat socialist overtones. Far as I can see the socialist influence has been the humanizing factor in Canadian culture. The Greens will naturalize it. The multi-party situation means an ass like Harper can’t always get his way (prevents the dictatorship tendency you mention in 2 party systems). Canada is slowly moving towards acceptance of the concept of proportional representation, but at least it is moving. And we have a multi-cultural agenda rather than an english-speaking melting-pot agenda. Native languages and Gaelic are our cultural hot-spots just now. Quebec does not generally even offer english in its public schools.

From where I sit, size matters. A given system seems to work best at a regional level and not so well smeared across the board. Since we live with national and provincial levels simultaneously here, our political people often end up with divided attention and loyalty. The municipal level has been subsumed into the provincial level here, which is really hurting our educational and medical systems. When municipalities and even towns looked after their schools and hospitals, people had real choices, just as they still do with fire departments for instance. Want a top notch force with the latest equipment? Do the breakfasts & bake-sales, pick a charismatic chief, and away you go! Same with schools & hospitals in the old days before centralization and regional management took hold. If an individual or family put a higher value on top schooling than their district peers, they always had the option of moving to satisfy that value. With the current policy of trying to give the same levels of service in all sectors to everyone, we’ve ended up with regional schools & hospitals, which means less personalized service and huge transportation costs in $ & time (born by the individual in the case of hospital care), and often a more mediocre service by many measures.

Municipalities continue to shoot themselves in the foot by adopting national building codes, health codes, etc, depriving themselves of the ability to leverage local advantages or innovation. Meanwhile the provinces collect the taxes and tax redistribution from the feds and decide how much if any will go to the municipalities for services while also deciding what services the municipalities must shoulder. People need localized control stemming from a local context if they are to have a real say about the quality of their lives and what fruits their hard work will bear.

On the capitalist side of things size is everything! Bigger boats & fleets caught all the fish. Bigger trucks and bigger fleets paved over the land and ruined local farming and local production of almost everything. Bigger cities sucked the life and vitality out of rural towns. Bigger stores ruined the mainstreets of countless towns. Big farms took away the soil and a way of life for hundreds of thousands of people. Big mills took the forests. Economies of scale are euphemisms for funnels that pour the money into fewer and fewer hands. Most recently we see this in the renewable energy sector. The newest wind turbines here dwarf the landscape and are meant to generate power to sell out of the country. When I first started watching the global renewable industry ten years ago the news was all about innovation. Now the news is all about mergers as the big fish gobble up the little fish. Which is partially how our provincial electrical power distribution system ended up being owned by a company in California! Do I think the investors in that company have my interest in lowest-cost locally generated renewable power at heart? Probably not! A Spanish company and a Korean company are the biggest investors in our wind.

Back to broader political philosophy. Where do the concepts of the greater good and the greatest good for the most people fit, or is it only socialists that care about those things? Also missing seems to be a concept of “enough” and limits to greed. Without those the environment and our grandchildren’s futures take one hell of a hit and hard working thieves get their unjust rewards. Humans and the environment need balance in the affairs of mankind. Conservatism and liberalism can only address part of the balance issue. A greed-oriented small government isn’t any better for the constituency or the environment than a greed-oriented large government. A healthy economy is one that engenders healthy land, healthy water, healthy air, healthy bio-diversity and healthy people.

I think we must keep in mind that our respective founding fathers had a very limited view of what was at stake or how fast the pace of change would become. You know, back in the days when women and children and people of color and poor people and everything else were chattels. Back when there were frontiers (if one overlooked those already on the land) that stretched in all directions. Back when prairies were endless and buffalo made the earth tremble by their numbers and passenger pigeons blotted the sun and whales outnumbered ships in the sea. Back when the human world population was less than a sixth of its present number. Back when wind and sail was the fastest means of travel or communication, when people (including slaves) and oxen, horses and mules did most of the labor. Back when people knew where their food came from, in fact grew or hunted or fished a large part of it themselves. Back when people could drink from the streams and lakes. Back when a few really smart people believed their right to as much a they could grab and hold was ordained by God. Their God. Who spoke English. Or Latin.

Neither conservatism nor liberalism has been up to the job of balancing our act.

David Cameron

Windsor, Nova Scotia

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