The American dream is moving north to Canada

Great uncertainty faces Canada and the United States, but Canada seems better equipped to adapt and flourish

Mike RobinsonSo how did you like last year? Did it advance your favourite causes? Did it fatten your assets? Did it leave you feeling like the world travelled a few metres forward on the roads that counted?

Would it be enough if the 2017 trajectory simply continues for the next 12 months?

Not from the perspective of this dual citizen of Canada and the United States, who files tax returns on both sides of the border. I follow politics with the expectation that my tax dollars are well spent by the politicians we elect to represent us on the issues that really matter.

Those issues include getting serious about the big disruptions we face: climate change, the next economy of alternative energy, the emerging applications of artificial intelligence (and the consequent global job market disruptions), and whether democracy can produce reparative policies that promptly deal with changing realities.

Another three years of President Donald Trump simply won’t advance American climate-change cognition, policy, alternative energy development and transition, and ultimately adaptation.

I’m much more hopeful that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government understands the severity of climate change. But I wish for clearer statements in 2018 about federal policy’s intent and time frames. Generalities need to be replaced by specifics. Proactivity needs to replace issue management on this file.

Specific policy goals are needed on all modes of alternative energy and just how they progressively wean us from hydrocarbons must be explained. The explanations need to be succinct and clear to the average citizen, framing a national understanding that oil is almost over. Consumer choices that alleviate our carbon addiction need to be articulated.

Above all, Canada’s government needs to lead on this issue.

Alternative energy clarity should set the stage for broad understanding that job market transition needs to start now. Electric vehicles are replacing internal combustion engines. American and Canadian governments must start shifting investment in job training to reflect this, while addressing the looming end of employment for hundreds of thousands of cab drivers, truck drivers, automotive mechanics, and related careers ranging from travel agents to spark-plug manufacturers.

Just as electrification of land transport replaces internal combustion, so will economic disruption ripple through all of the allied job markets. Abetted by artificial intelligence and the realities of climate change, the electric transport disruption will make Trump’s 2017 overtures to the coal industry look infantile.

Put bluntly, defending the indefensible will become more and more evident to the “deplorables,” the uneducated and the other members of Trump’s fabled base. Faced with chronic unemployment, increasingly for their children, they will be driven to ask for help. For relevant job training. For health care. For the baseline ingredients of a good life.

It just may be the looming crisis in base employment that creates the renaissance needed to revitalize democracy. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I must still believe that democracy is the best of all the worst systems we have devised to steward human development.

Democracy’s failings have given us Trump. A 38 per cent base, enabled by decades of public education cutbacks, gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, and empowered by an emotive, divisive, partisan media, has set the stage for predictable anti-intellectual argument and self-serving corporatist policy.

Top U.S. corporate tax rates have been cut from 35 to 21 per cent, without equivalent and commensurate cuts to the costs of government programs. More than $1 trillion for program delivery will disappear over the next decade. The American dream of education, employment and good health for all has been further sidelined in favour of corporate profits and executive-level salaries. We’ll see how this plays out.

My guess is Canada is well placed to deliver the family futures that America is sacrificing. The next few decades may show that the American dream is moving north. If this is true, Canadian citizenship is poised to become a growth stock.

Troy Media columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery.


american dream, canada, united states

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