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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Doing Nothing Is Not A Strategy

  - Mel Brooks

The Conservative ideology is based on this basic premise - people are rational actors and, left to their own devises, will make the choices that are in their best financial interest.  It's when you have things like social programs, regulation and unequal tax breaks that people and businesses get all squirrely.

Therefore, he has no interest in expanding the Canadian Pension Plan.  He isn't a fan of welfare programs.  Like his family friend, Rob Ford, Flaherty thinks that a job is a job - people should just get one.  If the opportunity is driving taxis, like he did, then do that.  If it's moving to Alberta to work in the oil sector, do that.  

The pressure is on individuals to make themselves worthy of hire by companies, who should be taking a laissez-faire approach to hiring, and innovation, and corporate social responsibility.  After all, they have to spend their money wisely - investing in something that's not a sure thing isn't wise.  

Except, he also thinks it's the responsibility of the Private Sector to stimulate the economy.  Canada's already done it's party, he said: "We've done a lot through the tax system to encourage Canadian executives, business people, to start utilizing some of the capital they have on their balance sheets."

Yeah, and?  Just as Flaherty is telling Canadians its their job to plan for their individual economic futures, Canadian businesses are planning for their future.  More money in the bank and less expenditures means better individual long-term sustainability.  Winter has come and Canada is in economic hibernation.  They intend to carry on carrying on, looking for cost savings in cuts and hiring more people on contract so as not to have to invest in their individual well-being through pension and health plans.

So, you have individuals who are either stuck in positions that don't provide benefits/don't make enough to save or don't have work at all.  The unemployed would love to get work, but the fact is they aren't trained for existing positions or worse, are over-trained; employees aren't going to invest in people they don't think will stick around, even though they'd only put them on contract anyway.

What happens when you have a risk-adverse government that's not interested in investing, a business culture that is anti-risk and anti-investment and individuals who are struggling to keep roofs over their head today and therefore unable to plan for their long-term sustainability?

When nobody is investing in long-term sustainability, you end up with long-term societal rot.  This takes the form of broken infrastructure, poverty, crime and more self-interested thinking that reduces charitable giving and leads to frayed nerves and antagonistic behaviours - not something you want in densely populated communities.

As federal administration and planning fails, provinces are looking to seize political wins and also invest in solutions; as they're closer to ground-level, they will wear the brunt of the feds failures more than the feds themselves will.  This is exactly what Team Harper want, of course - a breakdown of social systems and an increasingly feudal approach to problem solving.  For all their fiscal focus, the CPC seems not to understand economies of scale.

So Ontario is jumping in with plans to do its own pension plan, which is s starfish solution if ever there was one.  But then again, they haven't been left much choice.  Someone has to lead and when the feds ignore national problems, someone has to step up.

There's no way Ontario can afford to do this properly and besides, they've got other issues on their burner.  The Opposition Parties are going to focus on every fault and scandal they can tie to the governing Liberals and for their own interests, are stirring up resentment and hostility between their core constituencies.  Whoever wins, there will be a lot of unhappy people agitating for change.  Like Flaherty, they're looking for their own wins and aren't going to be interested in spending their own money to invest in someone else's benefit - be it unions, welfare programs or tax dollars that seem to fund corporation-friendly policies over social justice.

Fortunately, there's a small foundation of forward-thinking people and institutions starting to emerge on the social/political landscape.  Police are looking into social media and creating community relationships.  Social entrepreneurs are structural solution development ahead of personal fortune. Even some private-sector organizations are recognizing that the world is changing and are working to adapt.  Open Government is trendy, though its implementation is far from certain.

Some people are looking ahead and realizing that the road we're on leads to a dead end, so they're branching out, changing direction, looking for bridges.

But not Flaherty.  He's got his one last chance to build a positive legacy for all time, to validate all the losses of his career - if he can balance the budget by 2015, then his time in office will have meaning.  

In his defence, Flaherty is in need of something positive to cling to right now.  He's tired, his health isn't great and he has various political albatrosses, some of which are named Ford, constantly circling him. Like anyone under stress, he is becoming functionally fixed on what he's defined as a win and is less and less prepared to spare a thought on anything that doesn't get him there.

Which means he's making a choice not to look at the big picture, not to take a look at emerging trends and pointedly ignoring the consequences of his inaction.

Doing nothing theoretically creates opportunities for everyone to step up, but it doesn't guarantee it happens - nor does it guarantee coordinated efforts.  Ragging the puck doesn't get you further ahead, it simply eats up the time you have available for action.  Inaction is not a strategy and playing "wait and see" is not leadership.  We sorely need leadership right now.

We might think if funny if Flaherty falls into a career sewer because he refused to look ahead - it won't be so funny if he brings Canada's economy and our own fortunes with him.

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