Letter from the editor: Canada’s election comes at a generation-defining moment

In five weeks we will find out the composition of Canada’s 44th Parliament. 

This will be an election campaign framed as a referendum on Canada’s response to a global pandemic, with parties jockeying for position on how the governing Liberals did or didn’t manage the crisis. But I hope this election will also surface hard questions about the direction of the country. 

Canada is in the midst of a generation-defining moment that will shape its long-term competitiveness on the world stage. The country is in a global arms race against the U.S., China and the U.K. in cleantech, fintech and even quantum computing, to name but a few. 

Meanwhile at home, Canadians are staring down rising debt levels, the energy sector is in the throes of transformation, our health-care and education systems are straining after 18 months of a pandemic, and there is increasingly visible inequality on the streets of small towns and big cities. 

This election matters not because of who wins, but because of what it will say about the country we aspire to be.

Pandemic emergency-income measures led to a 75 per cent increase in federal spending in the last year. As a result, our national debt hit nearly $1.1 trillion as of March 31—an increase not seen outside of wartime. And growth has stalled. Canada’s real output per capita has grown by 0.2 per cent annually on average since 2005, according to Bloomberg. That’s about one-tenth the pace in the ten years prior. Non-housing-related investment makes up just seven per cent of Canada’s economy. Are we a country with a growth plan to get future generations out from underneath this immense debt?

Last week’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which the UN secretary general called a “code red for humanity,” baked in an increase in global temperatures and in turn more natural disasters. The urgency of the moment will sharpen global efforts toward 2050 net-zero targets and strengthen calls for institutional divestment from Canada’s oil and gas sectors. This means a doubling down on carbon capture technologies and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. The industry has the talent, expertise and resources to lead this transformation. Are we a country ready to equip the energy sector for the skills retraining and corporate transformation needed to transition the lifeblood of our economy?

China’s continued detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor is an ongoing reminder that Canada is caught in a proxy war between two hegemonic global powers. At the same time, our inability to control our own supply chains in food production, biotech and manufacturing have made us dependent on those same powers. Are we a country with a plan to position Canada as a self-reliant but reliable partner to our allies in an increasingly polarized world? 

Innovation is instrumental to our future, of course. From intellectual property and Big Tech, to a regulatory environment that promotes competition from new entrants, and incentivizes research and development, will we be a country that fosters innovation or stifles it? 

And what about Canada’s human capital? Are we a country that takes care of our senior citizens, and not only educates, but creates opportunities for our youth? Are we a country that lifts its citizens out of poverty, and is bold enough to tackle the scourges of homelessness and drug addiction? 

Earlier campaigns would have stiff-armed some of these questions as being only for provincial or municipal jurisdictions to answer. But as the pandemic has shown us time and time again, arbitrary geographic borders are irrelevant in a global crisis. If you thought vaccine diplomacy was elbows-out, bare-knuckled fighting among nations, wait until climate-change diplomacy steps to the fore. Our voice on the world stage relies on strategic alignment more than moral or economic persuasion. Canada is the sum of all its parts, and its leaders should be judged on how they work across global, party and provincial lines.

We’ll leave the horse-race polling and partisan jockeying to others. If this election is a test on whether Canada can do hard things, The Logic’s newsroom will be there every step of the way sifting through the election noise to get at that answer. This is a serious time that calls for serious journalism. The Logic’s experienced reporting team, who among them have covered a total of more than two dozen federal election cycles, will be asking politicians these tough questions on your behalf. 

This election is about what this country has learned about itself during trying times and how it can launch into a prosperous future. We’re here to cover it. 

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