A tale of two (possible) Canadian futures

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Robert McGarveyLike Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, 2015 in Canada looks to be a study in contrasts.

It is the best of times.

According to wellbeing economist Mark Anielski, happiness is on the rise in Canada. Despite many dire threats to Canadians’ economic security, this northern nation ranks near the top of the charts in terms of ‘Well-being’ indicators. The United Nations has reported that Canadians are among the happiest people in the world because of their long life expectancy, high average income and robust social relationships.

Canadian’s are uniquely optimistic about the future and keen to shape a new identity as the world’s most multi-ethnic society. The levels of crime and violence in Canada have continued to fall over the past few decades as Canadian society has become progressively more diverse in ethnic background, core values, language and social complexity.

It is interesting to note that this Canadian pride in diversity has paralleled a growing fear of ‘outsiders’ in many European nations.

It is the season of light.

Canadians are finally beginning to take the lead on many troubling global issues as well. A thousand lights of innovation are burning in Canada. For instance, Bill Craig’s Genuine Cities initiative is reinventing the urban experience around a new concept of ‘livability’ while the iHuman Youth Society and the ‘I-am-dignity’ campaign are setting a new social justice standard by reinforcing the simple principle: human dignity for all.

It is the spring of hope

There is an astonishing First Nations revival starting to bloom in Canada. After decades (centuries) of despair and marginalization, a new generation of original peoples is emerging with greater pride in their culture. For many youth, education and a natural savvy is leading them to new business opportunities and positive futures while strengthening property rights (based on recent Canadian Supreme Court judgments) has presented vast new opportunities for their communities.

A new day is dawning; a New Commonwealth is emerging that seeks to level the playing field for all Canadians.

And, despite global stagnation, Canada’s economy ranks near the top of the G7. True, the recent fall in oil prices has hit the Western provinces hard – Alberta in particular – but lower oil prices are having a positive impact on the manufacturing core of Canada in Quebec and Ontario.

The Canadian dollar is perceived by many traders to be a ‘resource’ currency and is predictably sliding ever lower in foreign exchange markets. But there is also an upside to this; the Loonie’s fall is positively strengthening the competitive advantage of Canadian products and services in global markets and partially offsetting the halving of oil prices (which are priced in U.S. dollars) for the resource industry in the West.

But . . .

It is also the worst of times and the most foolish of times

Canada is not immune from foolishness. Our own government seems to have abandoned the notion of rational discourse; for instance, we’re chronic deniers of climate change; our singular response to political problems in the Middle East seems to be bombs; our response to falling crime rates is to ‘get tough on crime’ and build more prisons; our response to growing inequality is to reduce social programs and punish the poor.

Also, like many others, we’re not divorced from Wall Street’s shenanigans.

On the U.S. Senate’s last session in December a budget bill was passed keeping the United States government operating into 2015. So far so good, but buried in that bill was one of the most dangerous new laws ever passed. Designed by Citigroup lobbyists, the bill guaranteed bank trades in derivatives. Yes, in hurrying home for the holidays, the U.S. government put the public on the ‘hook’ (financially) for bank derivatives like those that nearly brought down the global financial system in 2008.

The real troublesome derivatives (as we now know) are Credit Default Swaps (CDS). CDS are unregulated insurance-like financial derivatives. The outstanding value of CDS is in the range of US$700 billion, while the present obligations in case of default are in the range of US$2 quadrillion. Now guaranteed – the mind boggles.

Nevertheless, for Canada, all that (potential) pain lies in the future. For the moment Canadian’s are coasting along on a season of good cheer and a rosy optimism for the future – a future they are actively and enthusiastically reinventing.

Robert McGarvey is an economic historian and former managing director of Merlin Consulting, a London, U.K.-based consulting firm. Robert’s most recent book is Futuromics: A Guide to Thriving in Capitalism’s Third Wave.

Robert is a Troy Media Thought Leader. Why aren’t you?

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