Canadian politicians must focus on economic growth, not ideological divisions

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As inflation rises and climate crises multiply, it has become very clear that the Canadian economy needs a real post-pandemic growth plan, which prepares us for a post-globalization and post-carbon future. .

The need to act on climate change — and the desire to build a more just and equal Canada — simply cannot negate the requirement for a plan to create sustained long-term economic growth. We will not have the conditions for climate action or investment in social policy without the growth to pay for it.

Yet Canada is uniquely positioned to do both, and do it well.

Our strength has always been precisely that: our ability to invest in economic growth without undermining our social policy agenda. But in a world increasingly polarized between populism and progressivism, we are losing part of our collective understanding that driving growth enables social progress.

The cleavages will only deepen if new Tory leader Pierre Poilievre continues to run in the populist wing of the party and move away from the politics and big-tent economics that have defined most Tory prime ministers. years past.

The Conservatives aren’t the only ones abandoning the centre. Earlier this year, the Liberals struck a big spending deal with the NDP to stay in power and create new social programs — a supply and confidence deal that neglects the economic growth agenda Canada needs.

Caught between grievance and entitlement, we lose the civic space for complex political solutions.

As Parliament resumes, our political leaders face massive challenges that demand a more nuanced debate than the current tenor of the discourse allows.

Climate change is already ravaging our planet, with massive human and economic impacts. Deadly floods in Pakistan followed a summer of deadly heat waves, drought and wildfires in Europe and North America.

The pandemic has created supply chain issues that have become as endemic as the virus; inflationary pressures are challenging businesses, families and governments around the world; the war in Ukraine shattered decades of global stability; and the rules-based international trading order has been disrupted.

The fundamentals of the globalized economy are the most unstable since the fall of the iron curtain, and it could easily get worse before it gets better.

In Canada, these global realities are compounded by the simple fact that we must both deal with climate change and find a real and stable replacement for the nearly 8% of our national GDP that depends on oil and gas. The lack of such a plan stems from the sheer complexity of the problem, the lack of political motivation to do the substantive political work, and the fact that civil society has also failed to do the hard work to generate compelling solutions. .

Nuclear energy is a potential solution that lacks a political champion: the nuclear fuel cycle begins and ends in Canada, yet this emission-free source of energy has yet to be fully embraced as a long-term energy solution. to power the cities, electric vehicles and businesses of tomorrow.

It’s not that we can’t do it. Investing in economic growth can be good policy; just look at how Progressive Conservative Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau worked together to secure the future of electric vehicle manufacturing in Canada – a move backed so strongly by unions like Unifor than by auto manufacturing giants like GM.

This is good news for Canada, but it has only secured the future of an industry we already rely on. When it comes to facilitating the growth of new businesses, the requirements for businesses big and small remain elusive, thanks in large part to the political divides of the moment.

The hyperpolarization in our political debate rewards a mode of mere sloganeering rather than the hard work of generating substantive policies. Ultimately, civil society – business leaders, unions and engaged citizens – must demand better. Because politicians will always respond to the market of voters who are out there.

The solution requires all of us in civil society to put substantive issues in front of political leaders, in opinion pages like this, on the front page, in the figurative limelight. We have to say that we want these issues resolved. The conditions are already manifesting in the collective anxiety of voters around economic issues: inflation, slow growth, interest rates.

If our politics is to lean towards simplism, then a sophisticated civil society must step up and say, “Don’t just give us slogans, give us smart solutions. As leaders of business, labor and academia, we must work with government to create economic growth as the underlying condition required to support climate change action and the social policies of tomorrow.

It’s not simple. It does not fit on a bumper sticker. But it’s urgent work that requires coming together, not walking away.

Tim Murphy is CEO of McMillan LLP, Managing Director of McMillan Vantage and former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

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