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Monday, January 7, 2013

GDP narrowly defined only thing that matters in Canada

By Brent Hodnett, Special to National Post, January 7, 2013
It is also the structure of our economy that ensures that many of the issues that are important to First Nations will never be resolved. Currently in Canada we measure our success as a country, and determine what policies to follow, based not on the well-being of our citizens, but on a very narrow definition of the growth of our economy. We use the increase or decrease of the GDP to indicate whether or not we are improving as a society. Even worse than this, it is only the GDP of today and not the future costs that we care about, and we don’t care how those dollars are produced.

By defining success this way we ensure that only things exchanged for money have value, and that all things exchanged for money, however good or bad, have equal value. In this system we have created, Aboriginal rights, the protection of traditional lands, or ensuring a prosperous future for our children have zero value. Although no one will say so out loud, our economic system counts an oil spill on traditional lands as a positive thing. Because we only look at short term economic indicators to judge the health of our country, the clean-up and associated costs are counted as positive since they increase our GDP and create jobs. All money spent is positive in this perverse method of accounting for the public good, but the importance of the place to those who live there, or whose children were hoping to benefit from the riches of the land in the future have no value.
I listened to a doctor once tell a story about his profession. "There are some," he said, "who need to know everything about their speciality so they go in to "ear, nose and throat" because the area is so small that they can know virtually everything about their speciality."
A similar view is relevant when reviewing the current federal government of Stephen Harper. It is not only that, as Mr. Hodnett correctly points out, we judge everything by the GDP rise or fall, as the indicator of our "improvement"...there is no full "accounting" and no full acknowledgement of the context or the supporting 'evidence' because such matters are outside the purview of the government's tunnel vision.
We could just as easily have elected a robot, for the kind of 'vision' that is currently operating in the government's modus operandi. It is single-minded, narrowly focussed, imperially administered and both walled and moated from outside penetration, debate, discussion and compromise.
And what is more, it is sustained by a "corporatism" that funds such a compliant puppet, and demonizes opponents as heretics, radicals, tree-huggers, and irrelevants out of touch with (the government's) reality, when in fact, the opposite is closer to the truth.
Managing the message is at least as, if not more, important to this government than the generation of inclusive policies that respect the wishes of those with whom it does not agree. There is a principle in democratic and federal politics that once elected, a government and prime minister is the government and prime minister of all the people, and not merely of the "base" of the party whose name the government wears. That principle has been relegated to the trash bin, in the case of this government, and so long as the Canadian electorate remains  only semi-conscious about the depth of the insouciance at the heart of this government, including the reductionisms and aphorisms on which it bases its "arguments" to the Canadian people, it will have a life longer than the merits of its approach deserve.

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