What does it mean to be Canadian when we come from everywhere?
How do we forge a shared national purpose among people who have never shared anything before?
The world is coming to Canada. More and more Canadians are global citizens, exploring the world or staying connected to our countries of origin more instantly, more easily and more inexpensively than ever before.
We are Canadians without borders, looking outward to an exciting future. We have come together from every corner of the globe to continue to build a progressive, vigorous, multi-ethnic democracy that is unique in human history. We want to embrace the national responsibilities that have been thrust upon us because of our unique place in the international community.
Our destiny is to show that Canada can be a model for a troubled world increasingly challenged by religious and sectarian friction and environmental catastrophes. Our growing diversity as a people, our huge pool of human talent, is our greatest strength from which to forge a clear, national purpose.
We need bold and visionary national leadership to inspire us to confidently take on the world and convey a sense of forwarding motion.
We need national leadership that inspires Canadians once again to believe that those in public life can translate rhetoric into action. We need a national government that governs for the Canadian people, not the provincial premiers, and that brings forward initiatives with clarity and conviction.
Here are some examples of what such leadership could achieve:
We need a vigorous national commitment to establish the best public education system in the world. Among other things, this should mean:
Child care, including early childhood education, available in the schools (elsewhere as necessary) from the age of 3.
Enhanced parental leave to permit one parent to stay home with children for at least the early years of a child\’s life.
No public funding for faith-based schools and a curriculum that includes the serious study of religions of the world.
Funding to ensure that there is a teacher\’s assistant in every classroom.
Schools open in the evening and serving as community hubs.
Assured access to the full range of post-secondary education to all qualified students.
We must once and for all devote the attention and resources necessary to put an end to Third-World conditions among aboriginal Canadians.
We must likewise take all necessary steps to achieve equality of opportunity for all Canadians in practice, not just in theory. We must solve the foreign credentials problem that has deeply hurt so many new Canadians, and provide adequate infrastructure to help new Canadians maximize their potential through language training, settlement services and internship programs that provide work experience.
We must also establish wage security to enhance the employment insurance of those whose jobs are displaced by global forces, and take much more effective steps to eliminate poverty and unemployment.
We should have true national standards for medicare, with a commission at the national level establishing what services should be necessary for all Canadians, from autism therapy to physiotherapy.
As important as it is that we find cures to the diseases affecting Canadians, we must also take much more aggressive national action against environmental causes of ill health and disease, such as by identifying and eliminating the toxic chemicals and pesticides to which Canadians are exposed daily.
The time is long overdue for the national government to:
Put an end to the costly, wasteful barriers to trade among provinces.
Create a single national securities regulator.
Take firm steps to make Canada the greenest country on the planet, with a minister of the environment on a par with the minister of finance.
We can start by putting a price on carbon and introducing a carbon levy on polluting activities, including a levy on gas at the pump. This will provide substantial dedicated funding for a wide range of initiatives designed to increase energy efficiency and conservation, and develop new sources of clean, renewable energy, including a national electricity grid. The additional revenues can contribute to a reduction in personal income taxes and ensure that business and investment taxes remain competitive.
The time is also long overdue for a well-funded national infrastructure program to help establish public transit, new sewers, safe water supplies, and ensure repairs to existing bridges, roads, and railways.
Finally, almost every aspect of our daily lives has a global dimension. All the serious challenges we face – whether climate change, dreadful poverty, wars, sicknesses, nuclear proliferation, terrorism – require global co-operation and decisive national leadership.
With a clear global vision and bold national leadership, Canadians are uniquely positioned to be in the front ranks of a world without borders.