Photo by Aviva West
1. Relive the Olympics
If we had wanted to create national unity from Haida Gwaii to St. John’s seven years ago, we could not have done better than bid on the Winter Olympics. Canadian hearts were glowing and most of the cynicism had been washed away long before the final hockey game. How can Canada sustain this patriotism? By sustaining funding for sports, and supporting the people who get up at 5 am to help young athletes train.
2. No More Minority Governments
Nothing can be more divisive for a country than to be ruled by a governing party that is opposed by 65 per cent of its citizens—it creates the feeling that the government is politically illegitimate. No other country follows this undemocratic practice. In Europe, when no party wins an outright majority, the right to become Prime Minister goes to whoever can command a political majority by forming a coalition government.
3. Go High-Speed with Trans Canada Rail
Most Canadians have no idea what it’s like to zip across the country at 250 km/h, as they do in Europe, China, Japan, and soon in the U.S., where they’ve committed $8 billion to highspeed rail. High-speed trains could take you from Toronto to Montreal in 2.5 hours or Calgary to Montreal in 18 hours. There are active plans for trains from Vancouver to Seattle, Calgary to Edmonton, and Montreal to Boston and New York. We just need leadership. See www.highspeedrail.ca.
4. Reform the Senate
A second chamber can add wise and informed reflection to proposed legislation, but an elected Senate could cause the complete breakdown of government if its majority ran counter to the Commons. The current system, which encourages political appointees, has almost no merit at all. If membership in the Senate was offered to all Canadians on a randomly selected basis, for a limited three-year term, it might imbue a deeper sense of fair representation.
5. Better Support for Public Radio and TV
There is great merit in funding public media with a mandate to create cultural, scientific, and historical programming to reach out to the full diversity of Canada’s population. When a country neglects to build a shared understanding of global culture and science, the resulting misunderstanding and hatred can tear apart the fabric that holds it together, as we are seeing in the U.S. We shouldn’t underestimate the value of the cbc as glue holding Canada together. See www.friends.ca.
6. Go Low-Speed with the Trans Canada Trail
The Trans Canada Trail is a testament to our unique landscape. When it’s complete, it will be the world’s longest trail, stretching 22,000 km from the Atlantic to the Pacific through Alberta and B.C., then up to the Arctic. It’s almost 70 per cent complete, so there’s still a way to go. Whether cycling or walking, it certainly beats being on the highway. The Trail needs our support. See www.tctrail.ca.
7. Shared Sustainability Goals
Nothing would unite Canada more than singing from the same songbook as we move into the future. And that means setting clear, inspiring goals for sustainability in every province, city, university, and chamber of commerce. We need to move together to create green cities, green industries, and super-efficient buildings. We need to plan together for a future without oil, and without carbon emissions. It’s the only kind of future that makes sense.
8. Canada’s Heart: Parks and Wilderness
Deep in our Canadian hearts, it may be nature, free and wild, that inspires us the most. The forests and mountains, the prairies and open skies, the lakes and creeks—and the knowledge that we share this land with many other species. Right now, less than ten percent is protected. The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society wants to keep at least half of Canada’s public land and water wild forever. See www.thebigwild.org and www.cpaws.org.
9. Create More Democratic Representation
A healthy democracy encourages diverse political expression, but Canada’s “first past the post” system causes a quarter of the voting public to feel permanently frustrated and locked out of power. We have come to think that it is normal when an mp wins with only 36 per cent of the vote, but this breeds cynicism and anger. There are better ways to elect our mps, including systems like Proportional Representation. See www.fairvote.ca.
10. Our Home & Native Land
We may think we’re united, but for too many of Canada’s first peoples, who have been here for many thousands of years, being a part of Canada means being up against miserable poverty, lousy housing, poor health, and little economic opportunity. If we are to unite as a nation, we must do more than speak fine words and sentiments. For true national unity, Canada’s First Nations must have real economic and political inclusion.