Canada is in crisis, but the pandemic is only the tip of the spear.
Not long ago, Canadians were strong and free and proud of their history. Immigrants armed with faith, freedom, family, and industry overcame a vast geography and harsh climate to establish a flourishing and prosperous nation. Unfortunately, these pillars of Canadian greatness have been undermined for decades; without a reversal, the future is bleak.
My own family’s story highlights what post-Confederation Canada was all about. My great-great-grandfather, John Thomas Harding, left England and settled in Adamsville, Quebec, in 1895. In 1907, he found land in southern Saskatchewan and walked over 100 kilometres to Moose Jaw to file for the land title. Two years later, the 50-year-old returned with his wife and two youngest children to homestead. They built their house out of the ground itself in an area without trees or roads, whose only landmarks were the surveyors’ stakes.
The landscape was vast and the government small. Post-Confederation Canada lasted five decades with few levies, save for municipal property taxes and import duties. People made it by their own hard work, the co-operation of their friends and families, the hope and morals inspired by a predominantly Christian faith, and the assurance that what they earned was theirs to spend, save, or give as they pleased.
This kind of arrangement has been, and always will be, a great formula for success, and our history proved it. Canada blossomed as millions of people poured into a land of opportunity. By 1911, innumerable family farms made Saskatchewan the nation’s third most populous province after just five years of existence.
During World War I, when Canada turned 50, things began to change. The Income Tax War Act of 1917 brought the first levies on earnings, and sales taxes soon followed in 1920. The Bolshevik Revolution installed communism in Russia, but its diluted form of socialism was slow to gain ground in the West. When the first old age pension was introduced in 1927 it offered up to $20 per month, but only to British subjects in need who were 70 years of age or older and had resided in Canada for at least 20 years.
The Regina Manifesto, signed in 1933 during the Great Depression, was the Great Reset of its day. The document said it aimed to “replace the present capitalist system” with a new social order and promised that “economic planning will supersede unregulated private enterprise and competition” in a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF).
In 1944, Tommy Douglas, the first leader of the New Democratic Party, was elected premier under the CCF banner to lead the first socialist government in North America. He introduced 76 pieces of legislation in his first term, created numerous Crown corporations, and scared private enterprise out of the province. The oil industry fled to Alberta and boomed while Saskatchewan stagnated for 70 years. At least Douglas was committed to balanced budgets, something that delayed implementation of public medicare until 1960.
In the 1960s, some leftist intellectuals envisioned that the West could be buried under the weight of its own social programs. Cultural Marxists launched critical theory to attack Western institutions, including Christianity, the traditional family, and sexual mores. As Pierre Trudeau led Canada into its post-Centennial era, he aided both of those visions with his policies.
In 1969, with a single piece of legislation, Trudeau legalized abortion and created no-fault divorce. In 1974, he stopped interest-free borrowing from the Bank of Canada. The burden of interest payments drove deficits deeper. By the 1995–1996, the government debt-to-GDP ratio had reached 68.4 percent. The crisis led to a 20-year reprieve during which both Liberal and Conservative governments reined in taxation and spending.
The reprieve ended when Justin Trudeau was elected on a platform of running deficits. He has cast off restraint ever since.
For example, the Harper Conservatives delayed the age of eligibility for Old Age Security (OAS) from 65 to 67, a change slated for the mid-2020s so that Canadians could adjust their retirement plans. Trudeau reversed that decision.
While the Guaranteed Income Supplement is more analogous to the old age pension of the 1920s, OAS is an entitlement program divorced from justifiable need. This $40 billion annual expenditure—set to cost twice as much by 2030—currently pays seniors up to $615.37 per month and only gets clawed back for recipients who make $77,580 or more in net income for the year.
In the past few years, Canada has increasingly taken an axe to its own roots. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission condemned Canada, the most multi-ethnic country in world history, as a racist society from its inception until now. Some statues of the Father of Confederation, John A. Macdonald, have been removed. Former cabinet minister Stockwell Day was fired as a commentator by our public broadcaster for saying Canada was not systemically racist. And, in a strange twist on Canadian heritage, broadcaster Don Cherry was fired on Remembrance Day 2019 for calling on immigrants to wear poppies.
The recent pandemic response has incurred as much public debt as either world war and done more to destroy the faith, family, freedom, and industry of Canadians than any virus ever could. Representative democracy has collapsed under the dictates of public health officials, isolating elderly care home residents from their families, suspending worship gatherings, tracking and restricting people’s movements, and killing private industry. Meanwhile, nearly all government employees have kept their jobs and generous benefits, as their bosses flaunt excessive spending as a virtue.
Much more could be written about Canada’s cultural and fiscal erosion, especially the precipitous decline of recent years. The trajectory is clear and dire. Without a renewed emphasis on faith, freedom, family, and industry, the Canadian story will turn from triumph to tragedy.
Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.