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LOEWEN: Unseen hands and the big squeeze to come

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
August 05, 2015 - 7:11 AM

For those of us who follow politics closely, it’s easy to get excited at the prospect of a federal election on the horizon.

But even the most die-hard politico pales at the sight of a prime minister announcing the official start of an election campaign that will run for nearly eighty days before voters get a chance to mark their ballots.

Especially when the announcement comes at the start of August, a month ordinarily typified by languorous days spent by the water with a few cold ones close at hand, the scent of sausages grilling on a nearby Hibatchi, and guilty but pleasurable reading that alternates between pulp fictions and re-visited favourite tomes from times past.

PM Stephen Harper figures it’s as good a time as any, however, for an election call. And with the Tory treasury bursting at the seams, there may be some strategic merit to his timing.

After all, the Conservative Party of Canada has been in campaign and fund-raising mode pretty much since Canadians elected a Harper-led government in 2006. And never before, has the party ideological fiction of its expert economic stewardship been so contradicted by current Canadian economic realities as they are presently.

It’s going to take a helluva lot of dough, trying to convince the electorate that the recession that we are currently witnessing is a mere blip and that the Conservative Party of Canada are the only trustworthy managers to lead us all down the merry road to national prosperity.

But at the risk of sounding like a political naïf, I need to ask: are we not putting the cart before the horse when it comes to forging ahead with the current thinking about the economy generally? God knows it’s issue numero uno for most political parties; and the mantra emerging constantly from the CPC is that the other parties are either naive economists or utterly unsuited to carry on business as it has come to be since they so expertly managed things since the crash of 2008.

What many working Canadians I speak to are questioning these days, as their disposable incomes vanish and their personal prospects grow increasingly bleak, is the very legitimacy of the current economic model that we all labour under. And working Canadians are not alone in this.

Dissent is emerging from across the globe, as citizens realize that their futures have been hijacked by corporate robber-barons. International trade deals have concentrated  capital in fewer hands than ever before, and in the Canadian context, it is becoming ever more clear by the day that our government is not giving us the straight goods on deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership that Stephen Harper insists he will pursue even amidst the punishing demands of the campaign he has only just announced.

A government that branded itself with the concepts of accountability and transparency has been revealed to be (surprise, surprise) double-talkin’ its way into power for years.

It will be a fascinating next few months, to watch as federal politicians vying for your vote attempt to describe to you how their trade agenda is going to benefit you and not the cadre of corporate con-men that finance the party platforms.

One might want to come prepared to ask your candidates on the hustings all about their party plans for economic growth. Ask the PM, if you have a chance to ask him a question at all, how threatening the existence of crown corporations will strengthen the national scene and our sense of belonging. Ask them how deals that prevent Canadian citizens from voicing opposition to foreign multi-nationals at the risk of being sued by these esteemed trading partners moves forward the business of Canadian economic interests. Ask the self-anointed economic experts how present-day global capitalism liberates Canadians into an era of self-empowerment and aspired-to personal dignity. Ask every one of these cats how dispossessed Indigenous peoples are to play an equal part in the pursuit of the national good when no government in our history has ever been honest enough to broker honourable deals with Canada’s First Peoples.

Ask the Elected about their Vision, finally.

You’ll be met with equivocations if you’re lucky, and more commonly by blank stares. What are you talking about, they’ll ask. Don’t you know anything? We’ve just got to make these deals, man, or we’ll be on the losing side of history. We’ll be paupers. If we fail to fulfill the terms of our trade agreements we’ll get sued into oblivion. And what do the Indigenous have to do with anything at all, you nut!

We travel a tricky trail these days. And directions to navigate it effectively are difficult to discern. One thing is glaringly obvious to many of us paying attention to what working and under-achieving citizens are saying the world over: the global economy is rigged to fit the demands of the Unseen Hands in our pockets. And the people are definitely getting restless as we all endure the Big Squeeze.

A hard rain’s gonna fall, sang one of our favourite prophets, and that stormy day is nearer at hand than the powerful and the elected realize. The inchoate masses are slowly developing a language to run counter to the lies, the double-speak, and the false promises from the election-contenders. And the issues that concern us most are what your inscrutable Wednesday scribe plans to articulate in the weeks to come. I hope you’ll be along for the wild ride and the conversation to come.

— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer to plays music by day and politics by night

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