Poor leadership can come in many forms. Sometimes someone in power enacts a law that negatively affects the general public, and then subsequent governments have to spend years correcting it. Or it can come in the form of inaction and lack of leadership. Making a lot of promises and then not following through, causing problems to fester until we are in a state of crisis.
Canada unfortunately is a victim of both. There have been policies enacted that have set us back years, particularly in terms of the climate crisis and poverty. Plus, policies take so long to change that they are continuing to affect us long after they should have been gotten rid of. In addition, inaction on getting to the root of the deeper issues causing harm to the average Canadian by only introducing band-aid solutions is also ultimately making a lot of our struggles worse.
On one hand, while frustrating, there is still hope. Identifying the problems is the first step towards a solution, and policymakers are more aware of the issues that need addressing. On the other hand, there are a lot of things that have slipped through the cracks due to bad policy or lack of action, and all of them are equal in terms of urgency.
According to Human Rights Watch, Canada is a top 10 global greenhouse gas emitter. According to Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Jerry V. DeMarco, “Canada was once a leader in the fight against climate change. However, after a series of missed opportunities, it has become the worst performer of all G7 nations since the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in 2015.”
How did this happen? Canada’s Ministry of Environment was created in 1971, and Canada was the second country in the world to create a ministry dedicated to the environment. For decades Canada was a global leader in the fight to combat climate change.
The decision of the Stephen Harper government to not only largely ignore the climate crisis but make it worse by investing more in the oil sands and avoiding researching the need for renewable energy is a driving factor in Canada’s poor environmental performance. They also made the decision to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, a multinational agreement to combat climate change.
Now, some progress has been made since, but it’s not enough. We need to work together to make actual change. For instance, since we know what the oil and gas industry is doing to our lands, we need to involve all provinces in transitioning away from oil and gas, not just the provinces most directly affected.
If you do a quick search regarding the biggest problems faced by Canadians today, you will come across pages and pages of articles detailing the state of poverty in this country. Poverty is something that has always existed here, and while other countries have eradicated homelessness entirely, and are making great strides towards economic equality, the financial crisis only seems to be getting worse here at home.
For 2023, Food Banks Canada released a report card on Canada’s poverty landscape, giving it an overall score of D+. What was found was that current policies do not actually support the low-income earners in Canadian society and most policies need a huge overhaul.
In the report card it was found that social assistance is not covering the wide array of people who need to access it, in particular in the form of non-cash benefits such as drug and dental coverage and affordable housing supplements among many other things.
Again, in this case, poor leadership comes in the form of the Harper government slashing people’s access to social subsidies. They made it significantly harder to access EI benefits and the amount of time benefits could be accessed was cut as well. Additionally, who could access assistance programs, and how much help they were entitled to decreased significantly as well.
In the present day, nothing has been done to repair the changes that were made. Instead, we are given short term payouts that aren’t actually helping anyone.
Lauren Schwartz | Staff Writer