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Deep divisions facing Canada's next PM

Milne Jared-P
Columnist Jared Milne

Preston Manning was recently quoted in the Calgary Sun talking about the regional alienation problems that await whoever wins our current federal election. That’s putting it mildly, given the breadth of divisions we’re facing in Canada right now.

Philippe Fournier wrote in Macleans about the divide between urban and rural voters. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh spoke to the CBC about his goal to change Quebecers’ views about visible minorities, even as he was confronted in Montreal by a man who told him to cut off his turban. Andrew Leach wrote on Twitter about just how complicated and difficult the climate change issue is, particularly with the workers who still depend on resource development for their livelihoods. Tanya Talaga wrote for the Toronto Star that settler Canadians should remember just what’s at stake for Indigenous people in this election.

The debate over energy development is one example. On the one hand are people, Indigenous and settler, who depend on hunting, fishing, farming or tourism, and who’ve been repeatedly harmed by everything from mercury dumping to oil spills. The literally toxic effects it’s had on their livelihoods have led them to oppose further oil and gas development. On the other hand, oil and gas employs thousands of people, as we continue to depend on it for everything from heating to transportation. Different peoples’ livelihoods are at stake, regardless of the options we pursue.

While visible minority people like Singh face harassment and racism for the ‘crime’ of wearing religious symbols or having dark skin, people born in Canada wonder how immigration affects the country’s shared values and histories. They feel that if they voice their concerns, they’ll be attacked as racists even if they’re only concerned about things like what our common languages should be.

As for the issues Indigenous people face, they’ve had to deal with everything from the impacts of residential schools to being over-targeted for child welfare to murder to the federal government constantly appealing the courts’ ordering it to compensate them for everything non-Indigenous society's put them through over the years. Meanwhile, many settler Canadians might wonder what the implications are of recognizing Indigenous rights and the darker sides of Canadian history. Does it become wrong to feel anything positive about Canada or its history?

With all the challenges our next prime minister will have to face, I don’t envy whoever wins the election. These aren’t even the only issues Canada still has to deal with. Canada’s internal economy is still hampered by internal trade barriers; racist alt-right violence still threatens immigrants and visible minorities; the federal tax code is still a mess; income inequality is still a serious problem; our veterans are still mistreated; and there’s no end in sight to the deficits.

John A. Macdonald and Wilfrid Laurier are two of our greatest prime ministers. They faced huge challenges and accomplished great things. That said, if Macdonald or Laurier were alive today, I wouldn’t be surprised if they hesitated to take the job again.  

Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.

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