150 years old and counting

By Greg Holden

With cancelled fireworks as my inspiration to pause and think, it’s time to take stock of what makes Canada Day a little more special than usual this year.

I recall the optimism in Canada when it turned 100. A much different time than now, we had no terrorism, technology meant a dial phone and there were a lot less Canadians with more places to grow. Our family arrived in Chatham on Canada Day 2008 for the first time and liked it so much that we moved here less than 2 weeks later. Today is our 9th anniversary of first seeing CK. Besides the numbers and the history, or the media hype about the number 150, the reason this year is notable is that Canada is at many crossroads at once. Our identity is shifting quickly as a nation towards more multiculturalism, better understanding of diverse sexual orientations, our concept of the world outside Canada is shifting and complex. The decisions made in other turbulent periods of our history have effect now. This year is special because we are forging the foundations of tomorrow’s Canada more than we normally are.

The choices we make in the following years will have a profound effect on the Canada our children live in as adults. How much public debt is too much? Can we curtail public unions and maintain a high standard of government services? Can we give our children a Canada that offers as much opportunity as once existed? Probably not. Much of that optimism has been spent. Today it’s impossibly high real estate prices, the possibility of higher interest rates on the horizon and the probability of an increase in inflation. Inflation has taken it’s toll since we moved here and is over 13% since 2008. If we had stuffed $10,000 under a mattress the day we arrived, it would take $11,300 today to equal the purchasing power. Ontario’s minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, coupled with protectionist policies from the US and retaliatory polices from Canada, spell an increase to inflation.

Our military role is shifting too. Once a complacent observer of world events, Canada has increasingly become involved and needs to assess it’s role moving forward very cautiously. From our active support of Operation Reassurance in Central and Eastern Europe and operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, to our recent increase in military spending of 70%, there is a shift in how we perceive our role internationally. It’s not for me to say here what we should or should not do, but rather it is to underline the consequences of those decisions and how it affects the future.

First Nations people have less to celebrate than non-indigenous people have. Many non-native people are not celebrating as well, citing few reasons to boast about Canada. Since celebrating is not obligatory, they are free to excuse themselves. There are many reasons to celebrate without universal agreement as to why. This country we share gives us almost all of us privileges other people never have, including a chance at getting a job and a good life… but if you look around the world then just having a toilet is a privilege. Our citizenship is worth more than gold is. Canada is the best country on earth. A single day that goes past where a Canadian doesn’t thank their lucky stars is a day taken for granted. Today however is special, because we can assess where we are and more critically where we are going. What we decide now, will shape the Canada that turns 200 a lot. As a nation, we need pause and ask what that Canada will look like. When the fireworks go off, celebrate with all you have inside if you do celebrate. But let’s follow that up and get down to business with a renewed optimism that by working together we can resolve the problems we face today, and ensure that even more Canadians celebrate Canada in 50 years. It’s up to us.

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