Today's discussion:

Canadians are right to despair over a dysfunctional Canada

A “despair” index is harder to measure than a “misery” one but it may more accurately capture the current public mood. We’re feeling collectively down.

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Sean Speer

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Trudeau warned a group of global progressives meeting in Montreal that the biggest challenge facing them and the implementation of their economic and social vision is poor communications. As I outline in today’s article, I think the problems run far deeper than that.

The Trudeau government came to office with heterodox views about the role of state in the economy, the causes and sources of economic growth, and the trade-offs between equity and efficiency. The past seven years have provided an opportunity for the prime minister and his team to test their policymaking hypotheses.

Mounting evidence shows that they were wrong. That government is no substitute for market forces, that growth comes from entrepreneuralism and innovation rather than redistribution, and that just because you call a policy “pro-efficiency” (e.g. childcare) doesn’t make it so.

At this point, it seems clear to virtually everyone besides the Prime Minister that the problem isn’t the government’s communications. It’s its ideas.

18th September 2023 at 7:22 am
John Trainor

For trudeau to blame communication in an age when Canada’s MSM resemble trained seals makes one wonder what his next draconian legislative initiative will be. Its interesting that many people i know are seriously longing for a return of local print media when a byline held someone accountable…..who could forget during the Harper administration the breathless reporting on his perceived ‘meanness’ or his aloofness etc……we now have a PM who can’t open his mouth without lying and it’s crickets at 6pm. When trudeau bragged about how he bought the media he was telling the truth for once.

18th September 2023 at 5:04 pm
Lynne Tuff

I have never seen Canada in such a depressed stat, even in the 80’s there was hope. JT has talked about
many issues saying they were unacceptable and not seeming to realize his policies are the cause.. He certainly doesn’t show that he has any understanding of economics or how to make a country prosper.He has quashed some industries while giving millions in handouts to others and wasting billions of dollars
on his own personal spending habits too numerous to mention here.Most Canadians are aware.

18th September 2023 at 9:52 am
Marion Leyland

Trudeau explained he is “dysnumeric” in a video filmed when he was still a teacher in Vancouver. His learning disability is called dysarithmia or dyscalculia – the inability to comprehend arithmatic, performing mathematical calculations, learning facts in mathematics. The video was of a talk Trudeau delivered to a large crowd. So your observation of his lack of understanding economics is accurate. He should never have been a leader of any country, ever, with this learning disability.

18th September 2023 at 11:40 am
Michael F

Have you ever considered that the federal government has a department full of PhDs in economics who actually come up with policy?

18th September 2023 at 12:03 pm
John Trainor

Have you ever considered that Trudeau chooses the weakest and most enept of advisors and ‘experts’ because he does not stand for challenges to his authority……take a look at his cabinet and name a single competant soul…..he is tyrannical and the majority of Canadians are getting the picture.

18th September 2023 at 4:35 pm
Lauraine Howatt

This is the vomit that makes the country miserable.

18th September 2023 at 12:14 pm
Bill Williams

When any organization of any size has no leadership it will fail.
A country is no different. Trudeau makes decisions only for political benefit and not for for the benefit of the country as a whole. That combined with his pet NDP lap dog creates a huge sinkhole with no real options.
The situation is grim in my opinion and I am not sure the population will grasp, or care, about the issues when the election takes place.

18th September 2023 at 9:46 am
Gordon Divitt

One problem is when I contemplate the leadership candidates for any upcoming election (Federal or Provincial) the answer seems always to be “none of the above”.

18th September 2023 at 10:34 am
John Trainor

None of the above is a cop out for a lazy mind…….and that is exactly the response trudeau craves….’you think i’m bad?…..that other guy could be worse than me!!….every time trudeau opens his yap he exhibits his deep distaste for the canadian public and his marxist dictatorial bent. Seeing the Indian news casts during his recent visit gives the world an understanding of just how vapid this puppet of China is.

18th September 2023 at 4:49 pm
Gordon Divitt

None of the above is an indictment of the candidates not me. The parties put those who are presumably their best but looking at as an executive of many year’s experience I would not hire some of these people as janitors never mind leaders of a country

18th September 2023 at 6:13 pm

It’s more than just economics, though that’s a part of the issue. Anyone I speak to agree that the structure of society feels like it’s falling apart. Drug addiction and homelessness has never looked like this. BC Ferries can’t provide reliable service for a variety of reasons. Airlines can’t fly or arrive on time and are canceling routes due to staffing issues. What can be said about the state of medical care? The world is burning up–literally. I just finished Peter Zehan’s book, “The End of the World is Just the beginning” and think he’s on point. Where are the leaders who will address our distemper?

18th September 2023 at 12:20 pm
Paul Haliburton

One missing element in the discussion pertains to Canadian’s underlying fear of the type of policies the Trudeau Government might be capable of implememtimg in future. In the past, Canadians never in their wildest dreams considered that their government would freeze their assets. Many Canadians still cannot understand why they can’t find employment following Covid. Trudeau recently stated that he still has a great deal of work to do. Canadians should be fearful of the type of work he is refering to and the unimagined consequences of that work.

18th September 2023 at 10:17 am
Marion Leyland

Totally agree! Trudeau have proven time and again that he and his caucas cannot be trusted!

18th September 2023 at 11:27 am
Lauraine Howatt

Are you referring to the selfish convoyers who believe their freedom is more important than anyone elses?

18th September 2023 at 12:11 pm
Michael F

The RCMP testified that a total of 247 bank accounts were frozen during the convoy protest. Many businesses can’t find suitable employees at the moment. The unemployment rate is 5.5%, almost 3% lower than the historical average of 8.07%. But perceptions are reality when you live in an ideological echo chamber.

18th September 2023 at 11:38 am
Bob Anderson

One demographic that it seems no-one thinks about is seniors that cannot work any longer, yet have not been able to build their portfolios to a level that will sustain themselves to say, anticipated max death date. I know a couple that have worked all their lives, second marriage for each, have owned their own homes in the past, but due to adverse events now have to rent. Mid seventies, one can’t work and the other needs to stay home and care for him. They had anticipated that if they lived a moderate but frugal life they should be ok till they died. Not anymore. The brutally rising rent costs and brutally rising food costs have dispensed with that hope. They have decided they won’t live in some rat hole the rest of their lives just to save $800 a month. I asked them what are they going to do if the money runs out? MAID was their answer; there’s a difference between living and barely surviving. The concluded that at that point, all they would be is a drain on the social system, and there would be no pride left. It’s pathetic that our country has come to this, and Trudeau’s bureaucracy has been known to suggest this route.

18th September 2023 at 9:47 am
Lauraine Howatt

as the treatment of elders showed during covid…. for profit organizations making money off the suffering and misery of long term care residents shows the canadian provinces are at the heart of failing health care and MAID looks more like an alternative.

18th September 2023 at 12:20 pm
Michael F

Many seniors right now are living in homes worth millions and are getting great rates of return on their retirement savings. Some people plan well, some plan poorly. To push this notion that many will turn to assisted suicide is ridiculous.

18th September 2023 at 12:05 pm
MP Martin

It is really depressing when you see the debt load Canadians have to shoulder, the amount of taxes on taxes we pay, the tight, friendly relationship between our government, the banks, and big corporations. Canadians have a hard time to pay their way, eat, put gas in the car to go to work, rents have taken off like a rocket to Mars, but…a government announcement today gives another 30 odds millions for Ukraine. I also have a hard time taking the lack of transparency, the lack of giving answers when they are asked questions by our elected government PM and ministers. They show a disdainful attitude towards Canadians.

18th September 2023 at 1:25 pm
Michael F

Canada has a large Ukrainian population and it the responsibility of western powers to confront a dictator like Putin. Would you have complained about the Allies in WW2?

19th September 2023 at 1:16 pm
Rob Tyrrell

“At this point, it seems clear to virtually everyone besides the Prime Minister that the problem isn’t the government’s communications. It’s its ideas.”

The ideas are certainly missing. At the highest-level, ideas, when forthcoming, should be aligned with a clear vision, also missing.

My concerns with the current federal government are also further down the “political fundamentals stack”, with democratic practice, ethics, and governance (each a prerequisite of the next in that order) up from the bottom and execution competency (implementing policy and incident response) at the top.

18th September 2023 at 12:09 pm
Bruce Westmoreland

Liberals are too focused on saving the planet when we can’t save ourselves. They quash investment at every turn it seems. Anyone who disagrees will be labelled and cast aside causing division and despair.

18th September 2023 at 10:12 am
Rob Tyrrell

Alas, today’s (Sept 18) forum is already spiraling. Despair may be the inevitable and rapid destination on establishing a thoughtful and nuanced discourse on POLICY.
example 1: “…hard-right conservatism of Pierre Poilievre”
example 2: “The communists of the NDP…”
example 3: WEF, UN, et al something something vague

18th September 2023 at 9:50 am
Michael F

But there is truth to the notion that the conservative party in Canada is no longer the party of moderate conservatism that it was for most of the 20th century. It was hijacked by the likes of Preston Manning and Stephen Harper and pushed further right. You now have conservative politicians who openly and in fact campaign on spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories. Poilievre has been long on platitudes, slogans and rage farming and lacking on real substantive policy.

18th September 2023 at 11:48 am
Rob Tyrrell

My comment was intended as criticism of all we citizens, not just those clustered at one end of the political spectrum.
If supporters of The Hub, a politically engaged, sincere, and knowledgeable subset of the citizenry, can’t refrain reflexive and fanciful partisanship in lieu of an open mind, then we are in more trouble than I thought.

18th September 2023 at 3:12 pm
John Trainor

The liberal tactic has been and remains…..accuse the opposition of exactly your modus operandi…..spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories is #1 in the liberal playbook and when you’ve got a bought and paid for media to spread your manure, all the better.

18th September 2023 at 4:40 pm
Michael F

Please give us a reputable source for your baseless assertion.

18th September 2023 at 7:28 pm
Sandra G.

Your truth may not be the truth and insulting proves no fact. It seems your tone points to a despair of sorts.

18th September 2023 at 2:58 pm
Dorothy Turcotte

Like so many other Canadians, I am disappointed in Justin Trudeau. However, I fear the hard-right conservatism of Pierre Poilievre. Look what it has done to fracture the USA. For most of my long life, I was a Conservative, often actually paying a membership fee. Not now. The Conservatives have taken a righthand turn that I just can’t support. In recent years, I have been a member of the Green Party. I am only sorry that they haven’t made a better showing, but as I see it, there is no other option.

18th September 2023 at 8:49 am
Bill Williams

“Hard right” ??? Sounds like the Liberal doctrine has scored another victim.

18th September 2023 at 9:49 am
Marion Leyland

Please explain what Pierre Poilievre has done for you to consider him to be hard right.

18th September 2023 at 11:44 am
Michael F

He’s done very little as someone who has been on the government dime since 2004. Please tell us of his many legislative achievements in the almost 20 years he has been an MP.

18th September 2023 at 12:07 pm
John Trainor

Your best bet Dorothy is to tune out trudeau’s bought and paid for media and try talking to real people….as for your assertion that the ‘far right’ has fractured the US, take a trip down memory lane when a newly elected POTUS named Obama declared it was time for white people to get to the back of the bus.

18th September 2023 at 4:53 pm
Michael F

So who is behind all this John? The Clintons? The WEF? Scooby Doo? Wouldn’t you be better served on the comment boards at the National Post or Toronto Sun where you can scream into the void with the rest of the raging anti-Trudeau knuckleheads?

18th September 2023 at 9:04 pm
Rob Tyrrell

Not great expectations, just unrealized and mundane expectations. Worse still, too many citizens have lost hope of ever realizing such modest expectations. That is, despair, to echo Sean’s appraisal.

This is partly caused by a real decline in basic governance (as oft noted by Rudyard). Chronic inaction on key issues would be cause for alarm, but our ever-expanding governing class at all three levels have actively taken disjointed actions that are hurting us.

Our, or any, democracy requires optimistic and vigorous engagement by citizens to improve. Despair among too many of us could easily (is?) lead to a backslide such as we have witnessed south of the border.

Will the likely eventual fresh federal government change our chronic governance disfunction? I feel pessimistic, although, thankfully, not despair.

Thank you team for the opportunity to engage! I look forward to reading more…

18th September 2023 at 7:33 am
Stuart Thomson

Welcome back to Hub Forum. Today, we’re talking about the general sense of malaise in Canada and what’s behind it. Although economists generally track this kind of sentiment with a “misery index,” our editor-at-large Sean Speer writes today that a better word for this pervasive feeling of brokenness in the country is “despair.”

From Sean’s piece:

“Misery is typically defined as a ‘state of suffering and want that is the result of poverty or affliction.’ Despair, by contrast, is ‘the loss of hope or confidence.’ The former is more of an individual expression of need. The latter generally conveys a collective pronouncement of doubt. Canadians may not be miserable. But they are despairing.”

18th September 2023 at 6:30 am
Lauraine Howatt

I am tired of the immaturity of the media and their constant need for likes. Where is the list that shows what has happened in and around this country in the past years, over which we as canadians had no control, yet has been stick handled by our government to leave us in a pretty good place vs the world??? Even Mulroney did congratulate our PM for doing a good job around these huge challenges that we have never seen before. Stop comparing now to then, since we are in uncharted waters.

18th September 2023 at 12:29 pm
Bruce Westmoreland

I think we are both despairing and miserable about it.

18th September 2023 at 10:03 am

I score high on the despair index, especially after I talk to senior officials currently employed by the federal govt or recently retired. They recount a lot of serious internal dysfunction, only getting worse thanks to bloat and the hybrid work model. (Michael Wernick seemed to describe fantasy land in his interview with Amanda Lang). This combined with naive, insular political leadership is all bad. I will however give the Trudeau government high marks on one thing – our official poverty rate has been cut in half since the 2015 election. That at least has relieved many Canadians of their misery if not the despair of Canadians at large.

18th September 2023 at 8:48 pm
Don Morris

I don’t know where I sit on the Despair Index, but if it’s on the usual scale of 1 to 10, worsening as it ascends, I’d say about a six.
I’m quite healthy for my age and have a home mortgage free, BUT with the price of everything rising way beyond what the official inflation stats will admit, my modest but sufficient pension has shrunk drastically. I can no longer afford to travel, had to sell my 25 year old motor home bought in my working days, gas is simply too pricey, can’t afford hotel or motel rooms or air travel, so I’m stuck in my home area.

But worse: I can’t afford most restaurants and roast beef is out of the question in my shopping cart. Most usual items such as fish, beef, lamb, shell fish are now out of reach and the price of vegetables has soared way beyond the official statistics, which are calculated by a disingenuous method. And that is the reality for millions of people whose low or fixed income was adequate three years ago, but now only meets about 50% of their needs.

To add insult to injury, the federal government insists on forcing a carbon tax on us that has no effect on the world’s greenhouse gases. To compound the insult, Canada sells China 30 million tons of coal per year, which is burned with little pollution control, and combines to produce 27% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

This government seems to care about other countries more than this country. I realize I’m far below the despair index of millions of Canadians, and am grateful for what I do have, but I can only watch the future approaching with despair.

We are governed by people with no idea of our plight,and no solutions to any of our problems,an d frankly, I don’t think they give a damn.

18th September 2023 at 12:57 pm
Michael F

Canada exports metallurgical coal for the production of steel. Quit spreading misinformation. A large majority of the world’s top economists agree that a carbon tax is the best method to discourage the use of fossil fuels. If you are retired you will remember the inflation of the 70s and 80s that ran into double digits. Inflation in Canada is already trending down and the carbon tax is only responsible for 0.15% of it according to the BOC.

18th September 2023 at 2:10 pm
John Trainor

Name these ‘top economists’…..BC has had a carbon tax for 20 years… the results other than unaffordable energy and food……inflation is not trending down and carbon is not a pollutant….but you likely know this…..its common knowledge to the educated but for disingenious folks such as yourself, it’s an insider joke.

18th September 2023 at 4:26 pm
Michael F

Took about 30 seconds on Google

18th September 2023 at 7:25 pm
Harry Boessenkool

The height of misery is either not working or having no income. As the % of people over 65 is growing the number with no money is decreasing.

Same with the word “recession” it really only applies when you are unemployed.
Surveys measuring this has to be tricky and I have no solution for this.

18th September 2023 at 11:04 am
Linda Feesey

Many news organizations are not delivering in-depth and informative content. I listen to what is sometimes called “conspiracy theory” progressive sources, but with what I hope is a critical mind, I find out more about what is actually happening. They are not government stenographers.

18th September 2023 at 10:13 am
Edmond Chiasson

Sean: compelling analysis but one question; if GDP
per capita is the fundamental challenge for a stronger economy what do you recommend as the policy initiatives required to get us track? And is it fair to say that this issue goes back way before
the JT Government? Thanks

18th September 2023 at 8:32 am
Valerie Harrison

You, your shortsighted public opinionators and your incredibly negative rhetoric are the cause the ‘Canadian malaise’. Pubic commentators should at the least have the basic ability to widen their lens to see issues clearly and be able to see past their own biases to the challenges Canada, and the rest of the world, is facing. The world is yet to recover from a world wide pandemic and dealing with the resulting social and economic disruption fallout. The widening political gap between the Liberals Conservatives is only adding to the gathering descent into an inability of either Party to govern effectively.

An effective government is all parties working together for the benefit and safety of the country. Not for personal or political benefit.

I believe that Canada the world is at a pivotal moment in history that requires putting country and world affairs first.

18th September 2023 at 5:22 pm
Michael F

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman has written about what he referred to as ‘negativity bias’ where essentially people perceive that things are in pretty rough shape despite the real actual economic indicators proving otherwise. This is surely the case in Canada at the moment where we are experiencing a huge disconnect between what is actually happening in the economy and how people who are ideologically opposed to this government are perceiving it. Canada has been through times when inflation and unemployment were much worse issues. Crime has been higher in the past but people will scarcely believe that too. The US and Canada are looking like they have steered the post Covid surge of inflation into a soft landing where we will not experience a long, sharp recession. The stats bear this out but many people will ignore the facts and stick to feelings.

18th September 2023 at 11:57 am
Rob Tyrrell

There are many forces that have an active interest in making the situation as dire as possible.
[Politicians] – nothing new here except that the successful attacks on institutions may be novel.
[Attention Merchants] – outrage is a booming industry and lots are shamelessly monetizing it through the various near-zero-cost platforms.
[The Wealthy] – encouraging skirmishing and divide among we plebes keeps the status quo firmly in place, or perhaps even incrementally better for the most wealthy among us.
[Foreign Adversaries] – sowing discord in free societies is a cost effective way for our global competitors to damage our economies and democracies.
[Anti-democratic citizens] – sadly, too many fellow citizens believe that they can only achieve their political goals with less democracy. To many of these folks seems ready and willing to do it.

18th September 2023 at 12:53 pm
Michael F

I agree. And the attention merchants that you refer to are the most sickening and cynical of all. They are burning down our country and institutions to make a quick buck or to further their own agenda whether it is for power or for other nefarious reasons.

18th September 2023 at 2:15 pm
Rob Tyrrell

I agree with your assertions, and if we were only speaking about those 35 years or older, that is a fair representation of the reality.
However, for people younger that 35 (?), good fortune is now a necessary ingredient in addition to hard work and good choices in achieving a modest lifestyle that includes home ownership (for those that want it), financial stability, and some money at the end-of-the-month (not the other way round).

18th September 2023 at 12:41 pm
Lauraine Howatt

Between Polievres desperate grab at power and the media. the constant drum beat has pounded out despair and ignore facts and what is really going on in the world. Yes Michael. you are right. How do we turn attention to our country’s well being, not that of immature irresponsible selfish indi

18th September 2023 at 12:09 pm
John Trainor

Having to bear listening to and seeing the likes of trudeau, freeland et all brings one back to the days of Saddam Hussien (sp) and his intrepid spokesman Bagdad Bob… US tanks rolled by in the background good old Bob could be counted on to extoll the success of the Iraqi forces…..

18th September 2023 at 5:22 pm