Bold And Visionary National Leadership In Action (September 2007)

Imagine a Canada with bold and visionary national leadership – leadership that inspires Canadians once again to believe that those in public life can translate rhetoric into action.

Imagine a Canada with bold and visionary national leadership – leadership that inspires Canadians once again to believe that those in public life can translate rhetoric into action. Imagine leadership that demonstrates a true commitment to building a Canada today and for future generations that is the envy of those outside Canada, a source of pride for all of us fortunate enough to live or move here. Imagine leadership that obtains and honours a clear mandate from the Canadian people, and brings forward national initiatives with clarity and forcefulness, persuading provincial premiers to acknowledge the national interest involved and cooperate productively.

Here are some examples of what such leadership could achieve:

The time is long overdue for the national government to assert itself, step up to the plate, and to:

  • put an end to the costly, wasteful barriers to trade among provinces,
  • create a single national securities regulator, and
  • take firm steps to make Canada the greenest country on the planet, with a Minister of the Environment on a par with the Minister of Finance.

We can start by putting a price on carbon, and introduce a carbon levy on polluting activities including a levy on gas at the pump.  This will provide substantial dedicated funding for a wide range of initiatives designed to increase energy efficiency, conservation, and develop new sources of clean renewable energy including a national electricity grid. The additional national revenues can also contribute to a reduction in personal income taxes and ensure that business and investment taxes remain competitive.

The time is also long overdue for a well-funded national infrastructure program to help establish public transit, new sewers, safe water supplies, and ensure repairs to existing bridges, roads and railways.

We should have true national standards for Medicare with a commission at the national level establishing what services should be medically necessary for all Canadians, from autism therapy to physiotherapy.

As important as it is that we find cures to the diseases affecting Canadians, we must also take much more aggressive national action against environmental causes of ill-health and disease, such as by identifying and eliminating the toxic chemicals and pesticides to which Canadians are exposed daily.

We must once and for all devote all the attention and resources necessary to put an end to third world conditions among aboriginal Canadians.

We must likewise take all necessary steps to achieve real equality of opportunity for all Canadians. We must solve the foreign credentials problem that has deeply hurt so many new Canadians, and provide adequate infrastructure to help new Canadians maximize their potential through language training, settlement services and internship programs that provide work experience. We must also establish wage security to enhance the employment insurance of those whose jobs are displaced by global forces.

Finally, if indeed our people are our most valuable national resource, we need a vigorous national commitment on the part of all legislators to work together constructively to establish the best public education system in the world, from preschool to post-secondary.  Among other things, this should mean:

  • childcare, including early childhood education, available in the schools (elsewhere as necessary) from the age of three,
  • enhanced parental leave to permit one parent to stay home with children for at least the early years of a child’s life.
  • no public-funding for faith-based schools and a curriculum that includes serious study of religions of the world,
  • funding to ensure that there is a teacher’s assistant in every classroom,
  • schools open in the evening and serving as community hubs, and
  • assured access to the full range of post-secondary education to all qualified students.

All Canadians should be concerned with the fact that very few, if any, of the foregoing initiatives will be possible under Mr. Harper’s “open federalism”.  “Open federalism” will dismantle the national government. “Open federalism” means reducing national revenues so that the national government no longer can undertake the kind of national standards and national programs that we require as a nation. “Open federalism” means so-called national initiatives will simply be a lowest common denominator amalgam of what provincial governments are willing to undertake.  Most importantly, “open federalism” means that Canada will not speak coherently with a clear voice on the international stage and will lack the clear global vision and bold national leadership needed to ensure that Canada is in the front ranks of a world without borders.