Today's discussion:

Canada really is broken right now

The truth is there’s a profound sense of malaise in the country right now. Although it has economic roots, it also reflects a deeper sense that the basic features of Canadian life aren’t functioning as well as they have in the past and that government action or inaction is largely responsible.

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Sean Speer

Hi all: Thanks for the comments and feedback. I really appreciate it.

As I write in the article, obviously judgements about whether Canada “is broken” are inherently subjective. But one does get the sense that there’s a broad-based view that something seems off. That the country’s economic and social conditions aren’t quite what we’ve come to expect. There are various factors behind this and it would be wrong to lay the blame solely at the feet of the Trudeau government. But it’s axiomatic in politics that governments claim credit for good outcomes and then try to absolve themselves of responsibility for bad ones. Polling suggests that Canadians believe that Ottawa is disproportionately responsible for today’s economic challenges. If one believes that we’re in the midst of a “lost decade”, we need to be focused on how we get out of it.


30th January 2024 at 1:09 pm
A Gen Z Subscriber

This malaise and sense of resignation characterize almost every aspect of our existence, seemingly doomed to lives of incremental improvement. However, a politics that hammers on a narrative that “Canada is broken” without any kind of prescription other than vague notions around paycheques and the carbon tax is not one I’m eager to line up at the polling booth to support. I want a politics that has big and bold policy prescriptions because at some point in time, we forgot that effective politics, and governing, means you’re going to annoy some part of the population to govern effectively for the vast majority. We need both incentives and penalties to get there.

Universities and post-secondary institutions need dramatic reform that creates incentives to build housing for their students, adopt innovation to better serve students, cut bureaucracy, and bring new and interesting ideas and research to the fore. The business community has underinvested for decades and to quote Amanda Lang, “share buybacks are lazy.” It’s time to create incentives for reinvestment and building great Canadian companies. Do you know how difficult it is for Canadian entrepreneurs to access risk capital? They all have to go raise in the US and Europe to get any kind of meaningful funding, as is the case with emerging VCs. We do have a thriving PE sector with well-funded buyout programs. Because we love consolidation and corporate largess rather than thriving and competitive markets. Break down the barricades and let competition flow! It’s time for the airlines, telecoms, grocers, dairy producers, and banks to face real competitive market forces. We need bold investment in job training programs and supports alongside income support reforms that allow people to transition from poverty to possibility. I know people first-hand that run supportive employment programs that have trainees working only 5-10 hours a week because otherwise, they’ll lose their income supports. People are responding to incentives and our incentives are backwards! It’s time to radically reform the public service in a way that looks to automate many functions that are already automated in many other sectors, employ merit-based promotion rather than tenure-based promotion, restore power to individual public servants rather than rendering them feckless to consulting firms, and ensure experts with experience in the field/sector rather than experience in government are in these roles.

It’s time for a politics that is bold and optimistic because lord knows, you don’t beat malaise by sitting around in a circle and complaining about how broken everything is. We have a culture problem as much as we have a policy and government problem.

30th January 2024 at 9:26 am
Don Morris

Good comment.Thank you.

30th January 2024 at 11:53 am

Must be another AI fake.

30th January 2024 at 5:15 pm

You mean promises like the ones we heard from this government since 2015 about *sunny days my people * and the budget will balance itself ect.

30th January 2024 at 5:13 pm
Michael F

Finish the quote you cons so love to repeat.

30th January 2024 at 6:08 pm

Canada truly has fallen. Basically bad government ,over taxation bleeding off productivity. Reduced economic activity due to overtaxation especially with energy and single issue preoccupation with Climate change. Our international standing destroyed by buffonery. Walter Benstead

30th January 2024 at 9:55 am
Bruce Westmoreland

Right from the start Trudeau referenced his government to the weather [“sunny ways”] but it’s been dark and cloudy ever since. His and the party’s unethical governance is solely to blame. Virtue signalling is not the way to govern, and it seems that’s all they know and care about. Time for a change.

30th January 2024 at 8:29 am
Don Morris

As the statement,”Canada is broken” tends to upset liberals,I’ll refrain from using it. But the cold and not-very-nice facts are: inflation has driven many of us to a “heat or eat” situation, petty crime (the theft of anything that isn’t locked away) is on a huge upswing, immigration levels are simply far too high, there are hundreds of homeless in the streets in medium sized cities and thousands in large cities, in B.C. over a millions of us have no family doctor, health care wait times are absurd in what is supposed to be a modern developed country, the carbon tax is increasing the price of everything and the rebates don’t compensate for it, and there is a feeling of hopelessness among much of the population.
I talk to a lot of people everyday, none have expressed optimism. Political corruption at the federal level seems endemic with the government appointing friends to head every inquiry into Chinese interference in our elections. Our Prime Minister flaunts his wealth and position like a modern day King and seems more out of touch with the average Canadian than ever.
Canada may not be broken yet, but the foundations are rotting and shaky. Add to those crises and you have unaffordability and little hope of home ownership by most young people,and soaring national debt.

Sounds broken to me, but maybe not irreparably if we change government..

30th January 2024 at 11:51 am
Michael F

You live in a bubble. Most of the things you feel are a problem are either municipal or provinicial areas of governance. A lot of Canadians are carrying unsustainable levels of personal debt. They were warned over and over that interest rates would rise. Those that didn’t lock in their mortgage and decided to ride it out brought this on themselves. I live on the edge of downtown Vancouver and see first hand the issues in the DTES. The homeless don’t number in the thousands and the petty crime has been an issue for years. Every time I go out I see the bars and restauarants doing a brisk business. Canada is growing and experiencing some growing pains but that too will pass. We need new young blood in this country to keep it strong and competitive.

30th January 2024 at 1:54 pm
Paul H

I want to thank the subscriber who recommended the book entitled Estonia. I started reading this book yesterday and quickly realized that it is a must read for every Canadian. Readers will understand why the Fraser Institute teamed up with the book’s authors once they get past the first few pages. It’s a warning to Canadians to stop messing around with creeping socialism. Maybe Canada really is broken.

30th January 2024 at 9:02 am

Author??? I tried to find the book but many are entitled “Estonia”. Would I be able to find it on Amazon? Thanks.

30th January 2024 at 9:58 am
Paul H

I found it on the Fraser Institute website. Search for Estonia when you get there.

30th January 2024 at 10:31 am

How can we trust a government when their leader tells bold face lies? We don’t need a dictator, we need a leader who understands the problems we face. A multi-millionaire who inherited his money & life style, has no idea what a working man & his family face.

what a working man & his family face.

30th January 2024 at 8:41 am

Judgement offers no solutions to anything.

30th January 2024 at 2:34 pm

Judgement = Judges.

30th January 2024 at 5:20 pm

There is no doubt Canada is broken, and the Laurentian Elite is the cause. It is their determination to hold power at all costs, by pitting regions agains each other. Their real fear is that real power will move West where the economic power is. Everything from land claims to immigration is designed to ultimately work in their favour. Anyone old enough to remember the Crow freight rate will know it has always been this way.

30th January 2024 at 8:36 am
Michael F

The GDP of Quebec and Ontario dwarf that of the west. Look it up, it’s quite simple on Google.

30th January 2024 at 9:51 am

Blaming the Laurentian Elite sounds like an Alberta 1950 mentality. The educated are not our countrys problem.

30th January 2024 at 2:31 pm

They don’t want to know how many more people have to use food banks every day.

30th January 2024 at 5:24 pm
Richard Courtemanche

Yes, it is broken. With an election more than a year away, it is frustrating that we cannot stop government traitors from continuing their sabotage toward our demise. It is appalling that these unstable Canadians and favourite mentees of the WEF can be so corrupt and disloyal and that no one in this country, for example, provincial premiers, seems capable of intervening collectively. Even our apolitical Governor General doesn’t have enough character to intervene. Shame on those who elevated Liberal clowns to so much power.

30th January 2024 at 9:59 am

It is easy to continue the whine without any idea as to facts. There have been far too many years of gold stars handed out for participation, no one knows what responsibility is, what maturity is, all with this sense of entitlement.

30th January 2024 at 2:27 pm
Dan Ostroski

We should have an election Now…Canada will be more than broken if we wait

30th January 2024 at 10:21 am
Paul Attics

We have really bad governance, largely due to the current LPC leadership but also because our system(s) allows for bad governance. However, the slogan “we need across-the-board improvements in our governance from better than FPTP election systems to effective ethics controls to reliable and non-partisan government performance metrics and more” does not inflame the populace as well as “Canada Is Broken!”.

30th January 2024 at 8:04 am
Ray Howarth

At one time I felt that proportional representation would be good for Canada but, I now realize that it would most likely end up where we currently are; with extreme socialists back-stopping the other socialists. To make matters worse, everything is run from the PMO.
Pragmatism is out, and idealism is in.

30th January 2024 at 3:22 pm
Michael F

Namely because proportional representation would more accurately reflect the wishes of the populace? Sixty percent or more of Canadians are moderate to left of centre. There’s no getting around that fact.

30th January 2024 at 6:11 pm
Michael F

There are two huge factors that put this government into emergency response since being elected. 1. Our largest trading partner elected an unstable megalomaniac that proceeded to ignore government convention and norms in 2016. 2. An unprecedented global health emergency in 2020 that disrupted the world economy.

Any government would be sent reeling by those two issues. Canada has emerged from this in relatively decent shape. Inflation has come down, we have avoided a sharp recession and things are nowhere near as bleak as conservatives like to make them.

30th January 2024 at 10:10 am
Greg Webdale

Canada IS broken…probably irreparably (Thanks, Justin!)
We cannot afford houses
We cannot afford our rent.
We cannot afford our groceries

the list goes on.

30th January 2024 at 3:22 pm

Negative propaganda does not help
What are your solutions?

30th January 2024 at 7:13 am
Bruce Westmoreland

Less government restrictions for a start. Because of the constant intrusion, I believe investment is wary of investing. The red tape is long and winding.

30th January 2024 at 10:40 am

Well, the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.

30th January 2024 at 8:48 am

And ax the tax.

30th January 2024 at 5:31 pm
Ian Gray

I think it might be very worthwhile in addressing our malaise is to refer to Preston Manning’s recent article in the Globe and Mail. Sean has touched on it here but the frustration and yes, anger, has deeper roots than just incompetent government.

As well, a dynamic in that incompetence can be found in the prevalence it our time of lack of accountability, often rooted in control exercised by unions and courts and in the past few years, as exemplified at the top by our elected representative, starting with the office of PM.

30th January 2024 at 12:03 pm

If it’s written and led by Sean Speer then it must be something with merit and class and we disagree on different things. I havent read the article yet. Macdonald – Laurier. I am looking forward to discussing policy and ideas not religious ideology and public perception noise. Let’s start with the purpose of good small “l” liberal democratic government: security of citizens and property and legal protection of jurisdiction, individual rights and peaceful transfer of power fought for and progressed over the last 1200 years; collective action towards shared goals even if that means nationalization of public utilities aka infrastructure or privatization because the attempt is balancing commonwealth and private rights with policy tools that can change and should change to respond to the times informed by history and science; and civility and leadership to maintain civility and liberal democratic institutions and rule of law.

30th January 2024 at 10:13 am
A. Chezzi

Conservatives keep repeating this mantra over and over making it a self fulfilling prophecy. An attitude of negativity and fear is what they want to promote so they can gain the levers of power and enrich themselves. Poilievre offers nothing hopeful and continues to drum up division and discord. He uses exaggerations such as our streets are running over with crime and chaos. It is right out of Trump’s playbook. Poilievre is self righteous. He doesn’t see collaboration and dialogue as the means to finding solutions. It is his way or no way so in the end he will be as dictatorial as he claims the Liberals are. Poilievre is the man who tried to suppress the vote. He is not a champion of democracy. He is not about the average Canadian. He has been living from the taxpayers’ purse for 25 years. It is time to reject his false populism and send him packing.

30th January 2024 at 9:14 am
Stephen M

I think you have missed the point. It is not about getting rid of Trudeau and putting Poilievre in. It’s about defining the problem and identifying what works and what doesn’t work. And while all politicians exaggerate one does not need to sift through e rhetoric too hard to uncover the facts to support the claim that we are in trouble and this government must accept a significant portion of the responsibility for the state of affairs in Canada. And yet it does not nor does it offer any solutions other than the status quo

30th January 2024 at 9:54 am
P Lang

What is the alternative? PCs routinely spend and grow our national debt more than any other party. They, the real (financial) elite, scratch the backs of industry through tax cuts and deals, then retire with massive government pensions and go ‘work’ for them.
The writers on this site constantly rail against the sitting government using incendiary phrases that are just inaccurate. The world economy is a mess, mostly fallout from the pandemic, and then profit grabbing from the wholesale and retail sectors (e.g. food producers) who are making up for lost profits by raising prices. They are taking a page out of the retail gasoline companies playbook. You think Poilievre is the answer? A career hack with no helpful policies that pretends to speak for working Canadians? Manitoba just went through a 2 term PC government and has nothing to show for it but health care system in disarray. A PC government will only replicate that chaos at a national level.

30th January 2024 at 9:13 am
Michael F

And where has Skippy the so-called friend of the average guy been on Bill C-58? Conspicuously silent.

30th January 2024 at 9:44 am
Ray Howarth

Broken, but not beyond repair. New leadership urgently required!

30th January 2024 at 3:00 pm

“Rising unaffordability”
I have noticed this. Prices of things are rising but nothing is unaffordable, except farm machinery.
” a cascading housing crisis”
No such crisis here.
” increasing crime rates”
Crime is non existent here. The RCMP stop in and report to council every three months. The odd speeding ticket, but even that is rare.
” deteriorating downtowns”
Downtown is as nice as ever. Population decline has been a factor since the 1920’s. We adapt.
” a general sense of increasingly hopeless malaise in Canada. ”
No such malaise here either. The ongoing drought is the biggest concern.

30th January 2024 at 12:53 pm

I still think we are pretty lucky to live in such a great country – plenty to fix but doomsday thinking is not that useful. Polarizing one another is like poison. We should have different opinions and there should be more space for debate (not just yelling & spitting out one liners). Canada still ranks high in many ways – one of the best countries in the world, very safe, stable economy, plenty of resources, reasonable inflation compared to many countries, longer life expectancy and yes lower cost of living than many countries.

The constant barrage that we are broken is less helpful than getting down to nitty gritty of coming up with better plan forward. This is what I would like our politicians to do – actually create a platform and show analysis of costing out programs and impacts of cuts in taxes and/or programs.

What are the best ways we can build affordable housing quickly? Directly with municipalities seems to get money where it needs to be. I’m sure there are other ways to incentivize building of high density housing in areas that are already well serviced with public transportation.
There is much that can be changed with health care and delivery models if we look around the world. We don’t need to follow the US model. Other countries have successfully blended public/private systems that require anyone in private to also owe time to public system. This make sense given how much of our tax $ go to subsidize med students.
Provinces should be more accountable to his they utilize transfer payments w outcomes based indicators.
Climate is definitely an issue. Instead debating the causes – get over all the terminology & buzz words. Let’s focus on keeping our country clean, be proud of wanting to show our best. Why do we tolerate pollution ? No one likes dirty air or chemicals in drinking water. And maybe there’s benefits – fewer forest fires and floods damaging communities (that lead to very high costs hit all of us to rebuild/repair) ….couldn’t make it worse.
So much more we could be doing and maybe we need more grassroots think tanks. Maybe we all need to hold our politicians (regardless of party) to account when they lie and twist facts.
So much more to be done if we could start off by listening to one another with robust discussions.

30th January 2024 at 6:04 pm

My issue is that Canada is very very internationally WEAK and we have been in a downhill steep slide for 8 years due to Trudeau. WEAK Leaders = weak country. There is ZERO respect for the opinion/actions of Canada on the world stage. We need to have Canada relevant again, not a WHINER and continuing acting like an obnoxious Parent scolding all the other leaders and countries.
Not sure if Canada is broken and don’t think the Liberals are fully to blame especially if you look at other countries – ie Germany, England and see what’s happening over there. I am not a liberal or NDP fan, never have, never will, But I also have several issues with the Conservatives, including certain past front runners bringing religion and corresponding ideas, especially the right to chose, anti abortion and MAID.
Anyways, until Canada is once again respected by at least the G7, and a Leader that is respected and not WEAK, Canada is internationally BROKEN and non relevant.

30th January 2024 at 3:41 pm
Ron Mcbride

Well who on here know about Gesara \ Nesara ,the fact that our money our banks are mostly gone ,Banks that don’t confirm with the bezell or have enough of the gold backed $ will be out and are closing daily .were headed for a different world trudeau and his mp,s are done and the mp,s face charges .
The real reason for this is human trafficking and thats almost finished also the cabal there money is soon to be worthless , hang in there are problems now are short lived dont let them scare you as thats all they have left !

30th January 2024 at 11:02 am
Paul Attics

“When Canadians tell pollsters that Canada is broken, they’re not saying that they’re giving up on the country. What they’re really saying is they want to get back to pragmatic governance.”

Sure, that may be true for some/many/most. Did the poll(s) referenced dig into what they meant or is it speculation? I would wager that too many also feel that democracy is broken and a little authoritarianism might be just what we need to fix things, especially if the Liberals seem to be competitive leading up to the next Federal election. Some likely feel that it means that we have too many immigrants from the wrong places. Some may feel that our FPTP electoral system is giving us unrepresentative government. Unless the polls dig into what people meant, your guess is as good as mine.

30th January 2024 at 8:03 am
Michael F

Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize winning economist, has written extensively in The NYT about the disconnect in the US between feelings of malaise and negativity about the economy and economic reality. It largely breaks down by political affiliation. The situation is largely no different here.

30th January 2024 at 9:54 am
Jim R

The question is not whether Canada is broken. The question is, can it still be fixed? I’m increasingly doubtful.

30th January 2024 at 8:44 pm
Anne Phillips

I agree with your assessment. Pay attention to the basic needs of Canadians and give us opportunity to meaningful work.

30th January 2024 at 8:20 pm
Paul Mckeown

We need The Conservatives to win the next election.

30th January 2024 at 7:17 pm