University of Toronto
2 min

Backing away from the trigger

It has begun – the slow edging away from the precipice of crisis.

It began on Friday, with word that the government was going to offer some likely $3.3 billion in economic stimulus – or rather bailout – to the auto sector in this country, after news that they were suspending operations and affecting thousands of jobs. And so, Jim Flaherty and Tony Clement have said that even though it’ll likely push us into deficit (assuming we’re not there already, as goes the Liberal allegation), they’re prepared to begin signing cheques as soon as the American bailout happens. That could be delayed until January, however, as the US Senate killed the last attempt at a bailout, and it looks like the White House may try and use money from the previous financial sector bailout to divert to the auto sector. Suffice to say, this act of contrition on the Conservatives’ part may count toward “responding” to the concerns of the Opposition.

Sunday, Jack Layton told CTV’s Question Period that he could understand Michael Ignatieff’s position of “wait-and-see” on the budget, as Ignatieff was a new leader. While Layton may not have any trust in Harper any longer, he sees Ignatieff’s position as reasonable. This admission ratchets down some of the rhetoric of shooting first and reading the budget later.

And while we probably won’t see it until January, I’m waiting for John Baird to start calling photo ops where he’s going to show shovels in the ground for all the infrastructure spending finally going out the door (after they’ve been tying it up in red tape since the last budget). One more way of showing that they’re taking this economic crisis seriously, while conveniently omitting the fact that it’s come a little too late in many cases.

Another story over the weekend that made me sad, but didn’t really surprise me at all, was of a poll conducted by the Dominion Institute in the wake of the near-Constitutional Crisis that we had. They sought to find out just how much Canadians actually knew about our political system, and it was pretty pathetic just how little we really know.

I can attest that while I was in school, we had a cursory summation of the Canadian political system (that bills need three readings and then go to the Senate before royal ascent), but that was about it. And yet, we spent a lot more time learning about the American system, and contrasted it to the Soviet system – all a hallmark of the Cold War mentality that still existed in the curriculum, even as the Cold War ended around that time.

The Dominion Institute poll really demonstrates the utter lack of civics knowledge that we’re given in this country, much like we often forsake our own rich history in favour of learning the history of other countries. If we’re ever going to become a mature and grown-up country, we’re going to have to give ourselves more credit than that, and actually teach our future generations where they came from and the proper mechanisms of government so that they can be responsible and engaged citizens. As it is, we’re doing them a complete disservice.