Over the coming years we should put aside our usual apologetic Canadian modesty and agree that the world would be a better place if more countries were more like us. We’re peaceful, open and democratic. We have a good standard of living with a more equal income distribution than in the United States, for example.
And unlike in the United States, most Canadians, even the poorest, have excellent prospects of doing better economically than their parents, especially if they grew up in the major centres like most Canadians.
Inundated as we are with the (mostly bad) news from south of the border, we often don’t realize that we in Canada have successfully dealt with many of our problems.
It’s the people who have made Canada great through the course of our first 150 years as a nation. Geographically and climate-wise, Canada is not easy to live in. No tropical paradise here. The original aboriginal inhabitants had to be hardy, brave and creative to survive. Those on the southern coast of British Columbia, beside waters once filled with fish, may have had it a little easier than the Inuit in the Arctic, who had to go without daylight, let alone plant life, for much of the year.
The early settlers from other continents also faced challenges. A first prairie winter in a sod hut was not for the faint of heart.
Even recent arrivals, coming to a 21st century standard of living, face a different culture, often a new language, and frequently a struggle to be recognized and appreciated for the education, experience and desirable qualities they bring.
It’s all these people and all the challenges they’ve overcome that made – and make – Canada what it is.
And it’s those of us here now and those to come who will ensure that Canada remains great for another 150 years. We still need to be hardy, brave and creative. But instead of using these qualities to face the elements, we need them to continue to thrive in a very different world.
Most of us no longer have to worry about going cold or hungry in Canada – although we’re concerned about the few who do and we could be doing more for them.
The big challenge most Canadians face is finding economic security. The cost of living (including housing) is high. A secure job has become an oxymoron. A wise person said that today security is knowing what you can do next. Figuring out and preparing for what you can do next takes all the hardiness, bravery and creativity one can muster.
We have moved beyond the demanding outdoor skills that First Nation peoples used to deal with Canada’s environment. We have moved beyond the literacy and numeracy skills taught by the 20th century education system. We are in an age of technology that’s as different from the 20th century industrial model as the agricultural model was to the hunter-gatherer system aboriginals once used.
To prosper for another 150 years, we need an ever-growing and changing set of technological competencies. The old educational models can’t deliver them. A series of Canada West Foundation studies, for example, show how we can learn what we need to know. This can help us get the work we need to secure our futures.
In the face of changes and challenges, we can ensure a great future by using the good Canadian qualities of hardiness, bravery and creativity that we have displayed throughout our history.
As good Canadians, we may be too modest to brag about our capabilities, but we have them in spades.
Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker.
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