Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 26, 2009
Canadians deserve a political vision based on justice
BY CHANDRA PASMA
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Where there is no vision, the people perish,” said the writer of Proverbs (29:18). These seem like apt words for today.
While a new year usually holds great promise, 2009 is not looking so bright. As an economic downturn descends, everyone is waiting to see what will happen next.
We await the government’s response to the economic crisis, which will be announced in the Speech from the Throne and in the Jan. 27 budget. We also wait to see which political party or parties will be in government following these announcements.
So far, our political leaders have not offered any vision for 2009. But while 2009 is beginning with a crisis, that doesn’t mean it can’t hold hope for a better future. Citizens for Public Justice’s vision for 2009 is for a year in which our political parties work together to achieve the common good.
God calls us to practise justice, compassion, love and stewardship. We must do this in every aspect of our lives, including as citizens. Public justice is a biblical vision that offers a better way of living together, a careful analysis of how society works, and principles to guide governments in making decisions that affect daily life.
For government, public justice requires promoting just relations between people within God’s creation, correcting injustice, protecting the environment and nurturing conditions that enhance the common good.
What could this look like in practice for 2009? This year is the 20th anniversary of an all-party resolution passed in the House of Commons to end child poverty by the year 2000.
That 1989 commitment was never met. Twenty years later, it’s time for the government to make good on that promise. A comprehensive poverty reduction strategy introduced in the 2009 budget and developed in consultation with citizens over the course of the year would offer hopeful change to the 3.3 million Canadians living in poverty.
It would also assist those Canadians who will suffer most during this economic downturn. Measures to reduce poverty, such as reforming the Employment Insurance program and investing in affordable housing, early learning and child care, also act as automatic stabilizers for the economy by providing cash transfers and jobs. They are a compassionate stimulus plan.
The unanimous resolution 20 years ago also suggests another opportunity for 2009: the example of all parties working together for the good of the most vulnerable Canadians. Whether the Conservatives stay in government or a coalition takes over, political parties need to cooperate. We need to see a return of the conciliation and cooperation promised in the November Throne Speech.
Parliamentarians of every party represent the legitimately held views of Canadians. All Canadians deserve respect and the right to have their voices heard in the decisions of our country. This cannot be accomplished unless parties are willing to put aside partisan attacks and work together to achieve the common good.
Finally, 2009 marks another milestone: in Copenhagen, world leaders will finalize the successor treaty to the Kyoto Accord. This treaty will mandate the world’s response to climate change. Canada will be expected to lower its greenhouse gas emissions much more than in the government’s current weak commitment.
Canada must accept responsibility for its climate change actions and stop hampering the global process. We need to participate in negotiating a robust plan that commits every country to enacting its fair share of change. We must then create and implement our own plan of action.
Action on climate change will require difficult changes. But it will also prevent many harmful consequences of our current irresponsible behaviour. Investing in new, green technologies and practices can also stimulate our economy. Canadians would be wise to continue to lower their own emissions, as change will be required to our way of life.
In November, Barack Obama’s new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”
The incoming U.S. administration sees an opportunity to do politics differently.
There is no reason why Canada can’t also take this moment of rethinking, restructuring and economic stimulus to offer hope and create a better future.
(Chandra Pasma is a policy analyst with Citizens for Public Justice, www.cpj.ca.)