Canada Day thoughts 

  • Photo by Hermes Rivera/Unsplash

While I'm not blind to Canada's many faults, past, present and probably future, I really do feel like I live in the best country in the world. That's lucky, because I don't know if I belong anywhere else.

One criticism of my last column—and there were many—took a shot at the fact that I'm from Toronto (guilty as charged) and not a real west coaster though I've lived here 20 years.

Then just a few weeks later, the Toronto Raptors upset the Golden State Warriors, and while I was generally happy for friends and family back in "Six" (it was T-dot when I left), I also realized that I had no longer had any real connection to the team or the city.

I moved west when the Raptors were still new, attending a grand total of two home games at the SkyDome—a terrible venue for what was then a terrible team. I confess that I also hated the name "Raptors"—it made no sense for a city with no dinosaur bones outside of the Royal Ontario Museum. The logo was pure marketing, a lazy way to piggyback on the popularity of dinosaurs after Jurassic Park came out and sell some plushies to kids. Given that it was the '90s, I think I was just happy they didn't name the team the Toronto Extremes.

It's a strange feeling going back there. Toronto is growing and changing rapidly and is a lot different than the smallish city where I grew up. It's a lot more crowded for one thing—over 2 million more people are living in the GTA since I left, and somehow it feels like twice as many. A lot of my friends have also moved away in search of better housing and saner commutes, and I can count the number of classmates that live in my former and now insanely overpriced neighbourhood on one hand.

I do miss it sometimes, but I've visited enough to realize that what I'm really missing are friends who no longer live there and the better (in my opinion) place it used to be.

So if I'm not a west coaster or a Torontonian, what the hell am I? I spent four years as a student in Nova Scotia, ski-bummed in Alberta for a winter, then worked three summers in Alberta planting trees, but that's not really long enough to belong to any those places either. I'm a man without a city, town, region or province—which actually works for me because I've always identified as Canadian first.

And while I do think Canada is a pretty good country, there's no denying the bar really is pretty low these days. Any claims of greatness are still "To Be Determined" by how we address some of our biggest issues.

Like housing. Housing in two of our three biggest cities is completely unaffordable compared to wages, and other cities are catching up as homeowners from Toronto and Vancouver cash out and drive up prices everywhere else. People have been talking about this for more than 15 years now, and governments haven't done nearly enough.

First Nations are an ongoing concern in a country that takes a lot of pride in being fair and just. If we don't reconcile fairly, and soon, the courts are going to continue to reconcile for us.

Canada also has a certain hypocrisy when it comes to environmental issues. For example, we just banned the shark-fin trade, but continue to allow bottom-dragging nets that were a major contributor to the destruction of our east coast fisheries.

Our environment minister declared a "national climate change emergency" a few weeks ago, just one day before our Prime Minister approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline project. We don't yet know what declaring a state of emergency means, but we can calculate what burning 600,000 barrels of oil a day will do to the planet.

While I appreciate the need for jobs and revenues, oil really is on its way out and we need a solid plan to use at least a portion of revenues from oil, gas and coal to fight climate change and transition to 100 per cent renewables. We gave $25 million to Carbon Engineering in Squamish to build a carbon capture plant, and $4.5 billion to buy the Trans Mountain Pipeline. That math is way off.

Like our environment minister said, the climate is in a state of emergency. We're coming off one of our coldest winters in history in Whistler, which was followed by one of our driest springs and starts to summer. In the north, permafrost is melting at a rate we didn't predict for 70 more years. In Alberta, over a million hectares of forest have already burned this year. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, consecutive droughts are taking their toll on wheat and other crops.

And we can't even get some of our provincial governments hardest hit by these emergencies to take the threat seriously or admit that taxing carbon is a perfectly reasonable way to start tackling the problem.

Despite our flaws, I remain proud to be a Canadian even if I'm not always proud of Canada. I know we can and will do better.

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