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Blog Posted in avatar   André R. Gignac's Blog

The urgency of a confrontation with the donut shop

By André R. Gignac
Posted Dec 18, 2011 in Politics
The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll, and we can be grateful for that.” (Larry Kudlow, economist and CNBC anchor, on the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. He later apologized on Twitter).
We could simply say that this was just another blunder of 2011 and leave it at that. But no. This is another example of the outrageous behaviour we have come to expect from the disciples of capitalism in its most vicious forms. Larry Kudlow is but one of many economists, politicians and business people who for many years have tried -- and succeeded to a great extent -- to promote and instill in society the idea that our moral obligation toward members of the human family, and our responsibility toward social progress and the protection of citizens, must come only after economic output. Bottom line and profits must reign supreme over everything else. That's the message.
Before the present conservative-evangelical-corporatist-right wing government starts to impose its rigid ideology on Canadians, the Left with a big "L" must speak loudly and clearly with words everyone can understand. They must unite with the NDP’s social-democrats to confront not only the Conservative party, but also the whole right wing thing and its economists. Urgency is calling on all to fight against political platforms that look and sound more like accounting reports than real projects for society, and the necessity to protect citizens against damages brought by the excesses of capitalism on our social structures must be written again at the very top of the political agenda.
It should be said and repeated at every occasion that social progress and citizens’ financial security must never suffer in the name of surpluses, ideology, and certainly even less for corporate profits and executives' enrichment.
Seemingly accountable only to the business world, successive Canadian governments have been acting for at least two decades as if their ministers and MPs were members of corporate boards of directors. They forgot most of the time the “social” part of the obligation of good government they owed to citizens who hired them, and they have constantly viewed any social advance as a simple “spending” item which could eventually end up in the “cut” column.
The Canadian Left and the NDP must attack with virulence such ideology. Every effort should be made to elevate the political debate over complicated accounting numbers, and it must be repeated with authority that the safety net and social programs our mothers and fathers worked so hard to create (and fought for during the Second World War) are not just budgetary lines that can be reduced or scrapped, to be replaced by new prisons or military toys, but are the indispensable social foundation for the growth of a progressive society such as Canada.
Canada’s democratic system has increasingly been organized around the idea that citizens are consumers. But while that approach makes politicians more mindful of the voters’ wallets, it’s not clear that it is the best way to promote democracy or the complex art of governance. There is a better way. It’s called public engagement, and it sees the citizens as something more than mere shoppers”, wrote Susan Delacourt and Don Lenihan in Policy Options of January 2011. They asked: “The real question is whether that is all citizens want from their governments. Or, to put this differently, are they content to see government as little more than a mall or a donut shop?
We can - we must - hope that, sooner rather than later, Canadians will come to their senses and answer that question by sending representatives to Parliament capable of expressing new ideas for the development of a progressive society, and who will not spend most of their time thinking about G-20s and their business buddies, or hide behind police lines to impose on us a world governed by corporations.