EDITORIAL: What can we do to see a Canada that's better at 151 than 150?

Published on January 3, 2017

We’re celebrating because Canada is 150 years old this year

©FILE- Lawrence Powell / TC-Media

Anniversaries are a strange thing.

Often, you get to celebrate them literally by being in the right place at the right time — or, conversely, because you simply managed to survive long enough to reach a particular benchmark. And often, they are significant because they are big, fat round numbers — a 50th wedding anniversary, a 100th birthday, the 100th anniversary of Canada’s role in the First World War.

And sometimes, they can be a celebration of a milestone that is in its own way peculiar. We’re celebrating because Canada is 150 years old this year, and we all happen to be here for that point on the nationhood measuring stick, but everyone who actually experienced the creation of the nation has long since passed away.

At least there aren’t a lot of people trying to use that weird word for such an anniversary, so we don’t have to get our mouths around celebrating the Happy Sesquicentennial.

Much of the planning for the celebration this year seems to be of the bread-and-circuses type: for instance, the extra cash expended just a few days ago for larger fireworks displays. Later, there will be larger-than-normal Canada Day events country-wide. There’s federal funding for a variety of federal, provincial and municipal activities, and infrastructure and cultural funding as well.

But while 150 is an arbitrary number to pick for celebration, it’s not without opportunity.

Perhaps that opportunity will provide the possibility for long-term improvement.

 

That might be the question we should be asking right now, at the very beginning of this at-least-numerically-significant year.

Fireworks are nice enough, but what should we do — what can we do — to make Canada at 151 years of age significantly better than Canada at this year’s 150 mark?

How about an electoral system that actually counts and gives value to everyone’s vote, rather than one that simply rewards the politician who gains the most votes in a riding? With several parties in our federal and provincial systems, we shouldn’t end up handing majority control of Parliament and legislatures to parties with the support of just a third or so of their constituents.

How about significant improvements in living standards, including examining concepts like Iceland’s experiment with a guaranteed basic income?

How about a change in our global view of trade deals, such that the rights of international corporations can’t override our ability to make the sorts of environmental and labour laws that the actual citizens of our county want to have for ourselves?

If you look around, you can make the case that 1867 turned out to be a great year to start a country. Why not look at ways to make 2017 a year to make that country an even better place for its citizens to live?