OTTAWA – NOTE: The Canadian Press’s Ottawa bureau will be writing a weekly reflection about why recent events in federal politics are relevant to the everyday lives of readers. Here is the second edition:
It was another week of adoring crowds and fawning foreign dignitaries for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he took New York, making the pitch for Canada to be on the U.N. Security Council in 2021. Back in Ottawa, there was much debate about new appointments, not just to the Senate but to a powerful advisory council on economic policy.
But New York was more than foreign policy pitches and pictures. It was also about the role of women in Canadian society and in their own families. And the new appointments — especially to the economic advisory body — are worth watching closely for the advice they give.
Here are three ways Canadian politics had an effect on Canadians in their homes this week:
1. NEW YORK, NEW YORK:
Trudeau has made a point of calling himself a feminist whenever the opportunity presents itself, and in New York this week, there was opportunity aplenty. The prime minister pointed to the 50-50 make-up of his cabinet, and almost scolded the public for cheering him.
“I’m going to keep saying loud and clearly that I am a feminist until it is met with a shrug,” he said. “It’s just really, really obvious that we should be standing up for women’s rights and trying to create more equal societies. Like, duh.”
Mounds of research show that it’s not enough to talk about the discrepancies in pay or the uneven workload that many women face at home. Often, it’s every woman for herself, with only limited support from co-workers or family members to back up her quest for respect or equal pay or a more equitable burden at home. So when someone with the stature of the prime minister says, and repeats, that equality should be a matter of course, will that inequality that many women face on a daily basis become harder to ignore in their own homes and workplaces?
2. ADVICE FROM BIG THINKERS:
While most of the country’s eyes were focused on the seven new Senators who were named in the Liberal government’s first attempt at making the upper chamber less partisan, a second set of appointees was also being named: a group of business leaders and economic thinkers to join Dominic Barton in advising the government how to get Canada’s economy on a growth path.
Barton, a leading figure at global consulting firm McKinsey, is a Canadian, and is known for his push for long-term strategies in business and investment, and for his embrace of disruptive technologies as a way to increase productivity and boost growth. Those themes pop up frequently in the Liberals’ campaign literature and pre-budget talk, and will no doubt figure prominently in next week’s budget.
The plan, clearly, is for Barton’s new advisory committee to plot a way for government and business to deliver on these ideas and push Canada out of the economic doldrums.
There’s a lot at stake here. On the political side of the ledger, the Liberals absolutely need stronger, sustained growth to eventually move the country’s books closer to balance. They’ve also said they want to strengthen the middle class, and so these disruptive technologies and long-term strategies will need to deliver the potential for good, solid jobs.
Beyond politics, the new advisers will be looking to nudge — or perhaps jolt — Canadians out of their comfort zone and into a high-tech, global world of new ideas that imply different and challenging roles for students, their parents, employees, bosses, companies and their governments.
A POINT IN TIME:
The federal government has started its first-ever point-in-time count of homeless people, and the results are starting to roll in. The count acts like a census of street people in 30 communities across Canada, looking at how many shelter beds they sleep in, how often they need a shelter, why they became homeless.
In Thunder Bay, the count revealed that 17 homeless people had died in the past year, and that homelessness was most often a result of being poor, aboriginal, far from home, and often addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Researchers who are compiling the numbers are struck by the commonality of factors in communities across the country — a commonality that could lead policy makers to craft useful solutions that are applicable everywhere.
No surprise that affordable housing is key. Research new and old shows as much. While next week’s budget is expected to inject funding into social housing and probably the government’s homelessness initiative too, the demands are enormous and costly. Will the budget help parallel the new evidence and make a difference to the fabric of our communities?