Gloomy fiscal and economic news has intruded on Canada’s sunny ways. The Fraser Institute reports that Canadians pay 11 per cent more in taxes than they do for food, housing and clothing combined. Part of the reason is that combined federal and provincial debt has reached $1.3 trillion, or about $36,000 for every man, woman and child. The federal government is determined to see the national debt increase, having tripled-down on its campaign deficit promise, and most provinces are adding to the problem.
Interest payments have ballooned to $61 billion annually, the economy shrank 1.6 per cent in the second quarter, economic growth is projected at a discouraging 1.3 per cent this year and RBC’s CEO said last week it could take Canada’s economy 15 years to reinvent itself.
Perversely, governments are imposing a myriad of taxes and regulations relating to climate change and resource development that exacerbate the problem. Even worse, these policies will have no perceptible impact on global warming.
At what point will Canadians say “no” to expensive and dysfunctional policies? That depends on when they come to grips with the personal burden these policies create, the huge opportunity cost of not diversifying our energy markets, how additional costs undermine Canada’s competitiveness and move oil production to foreign jurisdictions and the minuscule decline in global temperatures that will result from international actions to reduce GHG emissions. Unfortunately, these issues are rarely raised by most mainstream media.
I witnessed an interesting consequence of this phenomenon in two Munk public policy debates held in Toronto, where votes are taken before and after two teams of notable speakers present their cases. The team that sways most minds wins the debate.
One resolution a few years ago was: “Climate Change is Mankind’s Defining Crisis and Demands a Commensurate Response” (on the pro side: George Monbiot and Elizabeth May; for con: Bjorn Lomberg and Lord Nigel Lawson). After the debate, eight per cent of the audience was less likely to believe the alarmist climate claim. A debate a few months ago centered on immigration. In favour of allowing mass immigration were Louise Arbour and Simon Schama. Nigel Farage and Mark Steyn were against it. In that case, 22 per cent of the audience changed its initial pro-immigration sympathies (in both cases the pros retained a slim majority).
I can think of several possible reasons the con side won the two debates. They might have been superior debaters: Perhaps Lawson performed better than May, and Steyn outshone Arbour. Perhaps, but by that much? The most likely explanation is that those spectators who initially supported the affirmative had never really been exposed to arguments supporting the negative views. When provided with new information, some changed their minds. On the other hand, those supporting the negative — those more skeptical of alarmist climate claims, and of mass Middle Eastern immigration — had long been barraged by media stories, opinion leaders and friends holding the more prevalent affirmative position. It is unlikely they heard anything new from the other side.
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