As we in Canada are just getting used to the idea that we may be gently sloping down the COVID hill, providing third booster shots to some while the States recommends boosters for all, we have continued to ignore the third world. We have been warned that the whole world must be vaccinated if we are to be safe. Now the omicron variant looms over us from ‘way far away i and we begin to wonder whether our boosters will protect us. We have been doing the minimum for others, and we are seeing the results.
Politicians and businesses have been kicking the climate crisis can down the road for decades, and now we are confronted by massive and continuing floods on our east and west coasts; destroyed livestock and farms; severely broken main roads needed to transport people and goods to and from the rest of Canada and the world. Whole towns have emptied their people onto other locations because of the heat dome and fires; and now they are joined by other traumatized people who have lost their homes and their places of livelihood and farms – maybe permanently, or at least for the next year.
The loss of farms and livestock will create food shortages in some places. Already some far away countries’ supply from Canada was delayed and made more expensive by the supply chain fiasco. Repair and replacement will cost billions, and Canada and the world are stuck with a system of economics that will always insist that debt is such a bugaboo that we really must kneel before it, rather than take care of ourselves. Modern Monetary Theory would help with much of this problem, although it too must be wary of inflation. If we stay with the current theories of economics, we will do the minimum. We will think we cannot afford to repair the current damage and move ahead to other needs such as basic income, universal pharmacare, and much, much better care of seniors. We will find it difficult to cope with finishing up the current pandemic, let alone prepare for the next, because we have always chased the minimum – lowest cost, long-range supply routes, cheap labour, cheap supplies, cheap products, cheap welfare, useless “employment insurance”, and avoid tax increases above all else.
We have done more than the minimum in the Toronto area for the homeless, but still not nearly enough. We have created a real estate system that privileges those who can own more than one property, and punished the young who will need 30 years to save enough to buy homes, while at the same time minimizing or reducing to almost nothing the opportunities to rent homes at affordable prices.
The Ontario Disability Support Program is still designed to not only keep disabled people poor, but to make them feel guilty about it. Adding a basic income system to this would open up much more life for many people, and would let them benefit society by having greater access to it.
Laws are on the books which would enable law enforcement to keep people from interfering with medical assistance at hospitals, threatening care givers, but they have not been enforced. Instead, the federal Parliament has enacted new, more focused legislation to protect medical workers, to gain political advantage. But we have done the minimum regarding fairly paying staff at nursing homes, ensuring sufficient number of nurses and other medical workers, and ensuring that hospitals have expansion room when the next pandemic comes.
I’ll be surprised if we have had time and forethought to strengthen our civil services to gain some resilience, rather than exhaustion, when the next crisis hits, but perhaps that is underway. Obviously we have, up until now, done the minimum.
This is the time when we should be establishing basic income so that people may be “free from want and free from fear”; when our leaders should be evincing such character and engagement with the various factions in our society (rather than simple confrontation) that people could believe that they have a chance to keep whatever it is they feel they are losing today; to be genuinely heard and given due regard by politicians and civil servants, and by their neighbours. People need to be heard, understood, and sympathized with, as they confront their fears about the future.
Are we really going to get back to “normal” and just do the minimum? We see how wrong this all has been for so very long. Now is the time to do wonderful new things.