Last week, a Canadian journalist tweeted that global issues don’t “tend to play big for Canadian voters.”
Before you accept that as fact, consider how much Canadian leaders actually prioritize those issues (or not) and whether it’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg question.
In other words, are Canadian leaders doing enough to elevate the international dimensions of the challenges the country faces among the public?
The short answer is no — even in the face of a pandemic that has taken thousands of Canadian lives but by definition is global and will only end with a coordinated global vaccination effort; and even in the face of a global climate crisis already deemed to be at “code red” with deadly natural events happening around the world, including unprecedented wildfires in Canada’s west.
One thing is for sure: What happens abroad impacts Canadians at home. But will the candidates in this latest federal election and the country’s next elected leaders ignore the world at Canada’s doorstep?
This election comes at a key moment for Canada.
For much of the pandemic, like other countries, Canada hunkered down and limited its concern to within its borders. Now, 64% of the population is fully vaccinated, provinces across Canada are re-opening, and there is reason for optimism. But there’s also concern about the recent uptick in cases as a result of the Delta variant largely spreading among the unvaccinated.
The saying “no one is safe until everyone is safe” means something. To protect and continue Canada’s recovery, the country’s next elected leaders need to rally Canadians behind stepped up and sustained global efforts to fund and redistribute COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies to the world’s most vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa. We should also support proposals for the suspension of intellectual property (IP) rights surrounding the production of these tools. We need to do our part and actively push other countries to do theirs.
If not, Canadians will remain at risk to ever-more dangerous variants emerging from undervaccinated parts of the world.
On climate, the Canadian government has a national carbon tax and this year increased Canada’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, and doubled international financing to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.
These are notable commitments, but meanwhile Canada’s emissions haven’t gone down. We continue to subsidize the fossil fuel industry, and as the largest per capita emitter in the G20, we’ve not truly come to grips with the changes we need to make quickly to protect the planet and reduce the impact of our actions on poorer nations.
No one country alone can end the threat of climate change; it will take significant international cooperation and everyone doing their part. To that end, all parties and candidates should encourage the Canadian public to see the common global good in climate action.
Canada used to be internationally regarded for its contributions and leadership in tackling global challenges. This is not to discount some of the significant international aid commitments that have been made by recent governments, for many of which Global Citizen campaigned. These will make a difference.
But no one can say at this point that Canadian leaders are truly prioritizing global concerns and tackling them with the ambition, resources, and energy needed — even as they impact Canada.
Look no further than Canada’s stagnant foreign aid budget. Despite a temporary bump in the course of the response to COVID, it is still below the rich country average measured as a share of national wealth.
We need to be big and bold in our engagement in the world — no more “just enough” so that we can say we did our part. Let’s actually do our part. Let’s be visible and vocal, and push other countries to follow our example.
To all of the candidates running for election this year — let’s be Global Citizens.