What are Canada’s shortcomings?
Having lived now in Canada, coming from an Asian background, I would say that Canada has several issues that I think need to be addressed:
- Low levels of political engagement: Turnout is not very high in many Canadian elections and people are cynical. I would advocate for a reward system for people to become knowledgeable about our nation and civic engagement. Perhaps a Swiss style referendum system would also be worth looking into.
- Growing economic inequality: A very serious problem right now in Canada, because high inequality leads to social problems. An even bigger problem is that the economy is not working out for many Canadians, especially in the bottom 80%. There is also a permanent underclass, particularly among Aboriginals. The housing market in Vancouver and Toronto is not affordable and in a bubble state. See:
- Very short term oriented: In the business world, there is an excessive focus on quarterly profits over long term ones. There is also little investment in employee training. On the infrastructure and R&D front, there is too little investment, leading to few jobs, and less innovation in Canada. Funding for education also should increase and I would advise a student debt relief program to allow the next generation a serious shot at middle class status.
Note that it is worse than the US. Be more like the Swiss or the Nordic nations it would seem is the way to go.
Note the decline in R&D too since about 2005. It peaked around 2001 and then seemed to stagnate, but is now in rapid decline. Business R&D is falling rapidly, and government R&D is falling slowly too.
First of all, the Canadian government must immediately reverse the trends since 1981 of cutting. Even more shocking is the drop in business R&D.
Note of course how bad business R&D is compared to the rest of the world:
This must be reversed immediately. There is a reason why South Korea is still rising and why Israel, despite its smaller population, often is at the forefront of many technologies. Japan also punches above its weight and I believe that the stagnation or “Lost Decade” hides the fact that Japan actually leads the world in many areas, especially producer goods. Canada is way behind the US as well.
It can be difficult for immigrants as well to get settled in because Canadians often only recognize Canadian experience and credentials.
- Lack of economic diversification: Our previous Prime Minister focused excessively on the tar sands to the detriment of other industries. Now with oil prices low, a problem because tar sands are more expensive than light sweet crude oil, the economic consequences are apparent across Canada.
This is an extremely alarming development and one you would expect from a nation whose economy is not diversified. To be fair, Harper’s predecessors must also take their share of the blame on this one. So in that regard, the past several Prime Ministers and their respective Cabinets must all take responsibility their share of the blame. It is only now with the price of oil dropping that the Canadian dollar seems to be decoupling from price of oil.
- A case could be made that Canada is overly dependent on the US right now. With 10 times its population and by far its largest trading partner, if the US is in trouble, it will take Canada with it. Given the direction the US has gone, Canada may need to diversify greatly.
- I think that universal healthcare should also cover universal dental care. There are a few other gaps and I would like the doctor to patient ratio to go up. A universal prescription drug plan would also be a good idea ( ). Take a hard look at New Zealand’s program.
As far as overall Canada’s performance in healthcare:
It is certainly better than the US, but it seems to be in the middle of the pack. Finding opportunities for cost savings would be a big plus. I suspect that dental care, if made universal (as it resembles the US more than anything else) might lead to similar cost savings.
- Eastern Canada is stuck in a decades recession. Alberta is also in trouble right now due to its over-reliance on oil with high unemployment.
- Low birth rate below replacement rate. I would advise more incentives, a system allowing parents to go back to work, and subsidized childcare (currently only in Quebec, and often with long wait lists).
It’s difficult to answer this question in greater detail without going on for pages or for that matter about specific areas that the question asker wants. I have focused on the challenges I think that Canada could solve.
There are some inherent challenges, such as the northern climate, the large size combined with low population density concentrated along a line near the US border, etc. I have tried to structure this answer around the “self inflicted” problems though (ex: we can’t change our latitude from the equator!).
Canada is certainly not the only nation with these challenges, but I think that these are the most serious problems that Canada faces.
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