When I was nineteen, I joined my first political campaign. In some ways, it was odd. For, while, I lived in a house that talked about the problems of the world, a house where the news was avidly watched, I had never thought about joining a political party. I just assumed I was a Federal Liberal. My Dad was a Liberal and, with hindsight, in many ways, I just wanted to be like me.
Consequently, when he said something like “if you believe in something, then you should work to make it happen and ‘pushed’ me out the door”, I listened. I found the Liberal campaign office in my riding and I walked in: a scared lamb to the slaughter. The volunteers made me feel welcome and I learned. I met the candidate, Barry Campbell, and he would eventually stay something quite profound to me.
“When you walk out of your front door, government is there and all around you. At the end of your street, there is a stop sign. That is government in action. When you go beyond that stop sign and walk on the sidewalk or ride your bicycle down the road that is because of government action. When you go to school or to the pool or to the park, all of those things are there because someone in government made it happen”. Now to be fair, that is not an exact quote; but, the point is not lessened or diminished. Over time, the exact words have faded and the order to. But the point is hopefully just as clear. Mr. Campbell pointed to the various things that we take for granted and whipped each of them into a story. Knowing my childhood street and neighbourhood, he explained how government acted and reacted to my needs and why citizenship matters as a result.
The other day, I learned that lesson again. On Thursday, a neighbour’s house was engulfed by flame. Another neighbour was able to get the family out, so no one – to my knowledge – was hurt. For that, I am grateful.
However, since I was out dropping my wife and child at the airport, I was not able to protect my home from any flames. But I didn’t have to worry. Police Officers, EMS Personnel and Fire Fighters were all on the scene. They were there because they travelled streets paid for by city taxes. Because of their attendance, the fire didn’t spread. First Responders, paid for by city taxes, were able to redirected traffic and presumably made sure the residents were okay. Those First Responders were also able to take the family, if necessary, to hospitals funded by provincial taxes; where they could get drugs and treatments developed and reviewed for efficacy and safety by the federal government. In the coming days, that same family will apply to provincial and federal programmes for relief and the First Responders will be protected by provincial and federal regulation. This is why government exists: to protect all of us.
Our form of government is not perfect. We have problems with pipelines and trade, education funding and the like. But to be honest and truthful, we will always have problems since our government is as human and as frail as any of its citizens. However, when I travel around the world, I know that we get what we pay for. In Canada, we don’t have the mass shooting incidents that the US has. Nor, do we have the mass corruption of some places. Our country is almost always among the top 10 when measured by the most desirable scales including wealth accumulation, standard of living and quality of the business environment. In my years, I have attended the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, only later to be stopped at gun point by police with submachine guns for a residency check. In my years, I have seen the extreme poverty that is evident in Jamaica and parts of the US. I have seen amazing cities like Rome, New York City, Paris, Amsterdam and Honolulu. And on each occasion, I have remarked how Government Revenue Generation is essential to the life of each community. Without a transparent, accountable and resource rich government, society cannot function at its fullest potential.
So to anyone who says less government means more, I disagree. Less government always means less. This could translate into less administrative staff which means longer times for programme delivery. It might mean less capacity to deliver programmes which means fewer people are helped. While, I agree that government can’t do everything for everybody and sometimes citizens can do more, we should not try deceive ourselves into saying “less is more” or “less can be more”. If we want our country to be the best in the world, we have to acknowledge that that means having a robust government because bad things happen. The market is not always there for people when the things collapse. There are many reasons for market absence. It could be because individual don’t want to pay for the service because they don’t think they need it. Other times, it is because indiviudals can’t afford it or the market can’t figure out how to provide it at a profit or individual or firm has figured out that there is a need to be serviced.
However, government is always there. It is there to pick up the pieces after a catastrophe or to prevent it. Whether it be due to weather, flood, fire, famine, poverty, disability or sickness, our democratic liberal representative government model is there to protect us. So let’s not rob governments of their assets because the next time there is a fire, you might be affected. Won’t it be a shame if you didn’t get the help you need because we underfunded our government?