EDITORIAL

Morning casualty reports in the new Battle of Canada

Peter C. Newman July 26 1982
EDITORIAL

Morning casualty reports in the new Battle of Canada

Peter C. Newman July 26 1982

Morning casualty reports in the new Battle of Canada

EDITORIAL

Peter C. Newman

In his annual opinion survey made public last week, Toronto pollster Martin Goldfarb discovered some disturbing trends. The confidence that Canadians have in their basic social institutions is evaporating. “The very underpinning of our whole economic system is being brought into question,” he reported. “There is a sense that we are just a step away from economic chaos and collapse.”

Goldfarb’s findings ring true. Seldom, if ever before, has such an impending sense of panic pervaded our society. Instead of the standard casual greeting (“So, how ya doin', eh?''), most conversations now begin with casualty reports, the swapping of names of friends who have lost jobs and homes or who, as they say in Vancouver, “are underwater.” Almost with a single voice, Canadians are expressing a litany of fear, baffled almost beyond endurance by contradictory warning signals, vainly searching for glimmers of better days ahead.

The first prerequisite in turning things around is to admit that at least in part we have caused our own problems. There is no lack of agreement that government expenditures are running too high, yet as soon as any politician dares suggest cutting social programs he is howled down and forced into a hasty retreat. The leaders of organized labor loudly proclaim job security to be their prime objective—then set out to bargain contracts that force companies to reduce payrolls. Executives talk grandly of increased productivity but remain shy about investing more than token amounts in the kind of basic research that would boost the efficiency of their operations.

This state of affairs, which in the rest of the world is known as “the Canadian disease,” reflects the absence in this country of any strong sense of belonging. Canada is still too new, too busy becoming, much too engrossed in survival to have developed any sustaining myths that might help to elevate our collective self-confidence.

That insecurity has kept us stuck in the rut of being a handme-down country. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we keep rediscovering the flat tire.

To quote from Bernard Shaw’s preface to The Doctor's Dilemma, “If you cannot have what you believe in, you must believe in what you have.” This is a sad gospel. Canadians themselves will ultimately have to overcome such nihilism, but to bring a patriotic spirit into existence will require political leadership of a high order. Pierre Trudeau and Joe Clark, each of whom keeps relying on the other’s apparent eagerness to discredit himself, cannot do it.

Having caused most of our own problems, we must create our own solutions. We can start by believing in ourselves and our social institutions. We have come too far and have too much to gain to give up now.