In my last column I introduced the idea of “two new solitudes” that have emerged in Canada, that I labelled “Neo-Conservative” and “Progressive.” These two new solitudes have major differences in how they perceive the world, and especially the role of government versus the role of corporations in our lives.
One solitude believes that government should minimize regulations on markets and industry because market forces (multinational corporations) do the best job at creating a strong economy and a healthy society. If corporations influence public policy, the better off we will be as the benefits trickle down to all of us. Government has no role in providing programs like childcare or affordable housing and the individual is ultimately responsible to find work and to save for retirement. Low income taxes will stimulate the economy and give people more spending power. Low corporate taxes will allow corporations to better compete in world markets and we will all, eventually, benefit from this.
On the other hand, the “Progressives” believe that government does have a role in our lives. The officials you elect to represent you should be driving the public policies and regulations that address the diversity of our communities’ economic, social and environmental needs.
A fair taxation policy can more equitably distribute who pays what and to ensure long-term benefits for all. For example, by investing more in education and training, society reaps the benefits of a well-educated, skilled and competitive workforce.
By providing affordable housing, childcare and pensions, government can increase personal and community health, increase the numbers in a productive workforce, reduce health care expenses and make business more competitive.
Corporate “free trade” agreements are not free. What is needed is a “fair trade” policy. What sense does it make to sign a trade agreement and lose control of our natural resources to corporations?
Or lose our government’s right to protect local hiring, set rules that protect us or the environment or prevent farmers from going out of business? Any trade agreement should be fair to Canadians and be based on basic human rights, the rule of our Canadian laws, fair labour practices and environmental safety.
I belong to the “Progressive” side and believe that government has a role to play in fostering a fair and just society for all. It is possible to work for and with our businesses, our workforce and our communities to create a prosperous future for our children and future generations.
Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior