With less than a week to go until Election Day the outcome of Canada’s 43rd general election is no clearer than the first day of the campaign. The only thing that has become clear throughout this election is that Canada is more fractured than ever, regionalism is rearing its head and contentious issues are being exploited by political puppet masters for political gain.
People may blame their anger on a particular issue but at a foundational level, much of the dissatisfaction can be traced back to a society that is obsessed with stuff; how much stuff we have, how much we feel we ought to have, and jealously surrounding how much stuff others have. As long as we don’t kick our addiction to materialism, our political parties will keep using the time honed practice of bribing us with our own money to get our vote. At a time when household debt in Canada has become the highest in the G7, promoting policies that will deepen household debt border on dangerous.
The Liberals and the Conservatives have based their entire pitch around ‘affordability’ by promising tax credits for this and rebates for that. What no one acknowledges is the majority of the promises made this campaign still require us to spend more than we will get back. You can’t get a home renovation tax credit without renovating your home just as you can’t enjoy a subsidy for a new home purchase without actually purchasing a home. When talking to friends and neighbours about this phenomena a common theme arises…instead of offering all of these targeted programs that cost millions to administrate and ensure that deficit budgets are a permanent fixture, why doesn’t government let us keep more of our own money? The fact is that as long as political operatives can influence the outcome of an election with goodies, they will keep rolling out this strategy. Until people stop falling for this, nothing will change.
Beyond the issue of materialism fuelling dissatisfaction and political fracture, we are remaining blind to the fact that it is this consumerist obsession that is the greatest threat to the environment. As long as we remain a society that would rather browse Amazon for a new trinket that will be delivered to our door in excessive plastic packaging in an oversized cardboard box instead of going for a walk to visit with our neighbours we will fail to truly address the environmental issues facing us right now. Every item you buy, from the most basic necessity to the most lavish of luxuries, has an environmental cost not captured by the purchase price.
If we are serious about wanting to address environmental degradation we should use it as the motivator to tackle the household debt crisis. Instead of policies that incite more spending; let’s encourage savings and frugality at the household level. Lower income tax levels, get rid of the plethora of complicated boutique tax measures, and replace the forgone revenue with consumption taxation. If household debt continues to be swept under the rug, the bubble will burst at some point and it will far more painful than a gradual cooldown.
The 43rd general election will go down as a missed opportunity to address a divided country. It seems like everyone is angry right now. A collective deep breath is needed. We live in a beautiful country that offers all residents blessings that billions in this world can only dream of. Looking ahead to the 44thgeneral election, which could come much sooner than we think, there will be another opportunity. Let’s hope that we do better next time.