Canadian’s sudden interest in the Bank of Canada is puzzling

In the past, the operation of the Bank of Canada has been only been of interest to policy wonks.

Now almost everyone has an opinion according to recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute. Only 13 per cent of those polled did not respond when asked whether they trust the Bank of Canada.

image: ArchDaily

On average, less than one-half (41%) said they do not trust the Bank of Canada. But more than one-half of Conservative voters (59%) say they do not trust the bank. For voters of the People’s Party of Canada, almost nine out of ten (86%) say they do not trust the bank.

Populist Conservative and PPC voters have, no doubt, been influenced by politicians who would like to see the Bank of Canada politicized. It’s a spill over effect from U.S. politics where right-wingers have politicized the Supreme Court.

Despite offering an opinion, I suspect that most Canadians know little about the role of the Bank of Canada. I had to look it up. Their website says, in part:

The Bank of Canada’s areas of responsibility are: Monetary policy, Financial system, Currency, Funds management, and Retail payments supervision.

This doesn’t seem like particularly exciting stuff to me but there’s a growing perception that the Bank of Canada is an arm of the federal government. However, the BoC is an independent Crown corporation that is strictly independent of the politics.

Perhaps the populist voters of the Conservative and PPC parties confuse the BoC with the role of banks under the Emergencies Act.  That act directed banks and other financial institutions to stop doing business with people associated with the anti-vaccine mandate convoy in the nation’s capital, with the intention of drying up the well-funded occupation.

Or maybe Canadians think, as armchair quarterbacks, that they could have done a better job than the experts on the board of the BoC.

I doubt it.

We live in times of great uncertainty and two years ago, no one could have predicted the way things have unfolded.

Back then, everyone agreed that the only way to halt the pandemic was to have people stay at home. And if they couldn’t work, give them money in order to make ends meet.

Canadians saved money during the pandemic and now they want to spend it. Demand for goods and services is high and supply is low.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Economists are now predicting a recession but they have been wrong before.

“Why did economists fail to see inflation coming?” wonders business reporter Ian McGugan. “Why did central banks stumble in the battle to control rising prices? It’s easy to blame the problem on politics, on complacency or on the specific issues around the pandemic, but what seems to fit the facts best is a simpler explanation. There is just a lot we don’t understand about inflation (Globe and Mail June 25, 2020).”

What happens next is anyone’s guess. We live in unprecedented times and anyone who suggests that the BoC could have done better job has the benefit of hindsight.

Freedom’s just another word for anarchy

The word “freedom” has been co-opted by the Ottawa occupiers as a rallying cry. Like many words that become politicized, it’s lost its original meaning

image: The localreport.in

The meaning of freedom is fluid. Janis Joplin sang; “Freedom‘s just another word for nothing left to lose” in the song Me and Bobby McGee. I think she meant that the accumulation of useless stuff is a burden and you’re better off being free from consumerism.

More significantly, freedom has been used historically by civil rights movements to liberate slaves and the oppressed.  Martin Luther King said: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

But whose freedom is being promoted by the Freedom Convoy of Ottawa. Just who do they imagine are the oppressors and the oppressed?

I asked a Kamloops’ Facebook user, a supporter of the occupation of Ottawa, what the issue was? She replied: “Freedom to choose”

The use of the word freedom has been subverted. It now means the right to do as you please regardless of the harm to others through the spread of disease and the clogging hospitals with vaccine deniers; regardless of the harm to the economy through the shutting of boarders; regardless of the harm caused to the mental health of Ottawa citizens though the occupation of Ottawa.

The right to spread disease and clog hospitals is not exactly what Martin Luther King had in mind.

The truckers and their anarchist supporters want an end to “vaccine mandates” but no such mandates exist. No one is being hunted down and forcibly vaccinated. Rather, if you want to work in certain professions you must be vaccinated.

The Ottawa occupiers represent a grab-bag of grievances. Some want to overthrow the Liberal government. Others believe the COVID-19 virus is not real and that the media is propagating a lie. Others are simply vandals who want to do their dirty work under the cover of “freedom.”

Canada has gained global notoriety under the banner of freedom. Protesters around the world imagine Canada’s freedom fighters descending on Ottawa to overthrow a tyrannical government. What a joke.

The drive-in protest is a new low in demonstrations. It’s the lazy man’s protest. Real protesters don’t sit in the comfort of their cars and trucks and hold tailgate parties.

Real protesters walk shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, in solidarity.  The couch anarchists should study how genuine demonstrations are held, like in 2006 when thousands of protesters in 40 Canadian cities and towns walked, rallied, and stood in opposition to Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

Under the slogan “Support our troops, bring ’em home”, 500 real demonstrators marched through downtown Ottawa to Parliament Hill to protest the military mission and demand the return of Canadian troops.

Then they went home.

The federal Conservatives have jumped on the freedom bandwagon. Conservative leader candidate Pierre Poilievre’s said he would make to make Canadians the “freest people on Earth,” with “freedom to make your own health and vaccine choices, freedom to speak without fear.”

“Freedom over fear,” Poilievre tweeted.

During the last federal election, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, the far-right’s current standard-bearer in this country, was greeted with chants of “freedom, freedom,” at his campaign stops.

What the anarchists don’t seem to understand is that their freedom to swing their fist ends where my nose begins.

Coronavirus tests Canada’s character

Canadians are seen as “nice” people, sensible, proud of Canada but not jingoistic, modest, not fanatically religious. The way we respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic will further define who we are.

Nice Canadian

The response to the pandemic in the U.S. has been politicized, similar to the response to climate change, with President Trump initially calling COVID-19 a hoax cooked up by his political opponents. Apparently some Republicans are following Trump’s initial lead and not socially isolating themselves by going to bars.

Canada can be an oasis of calm amid the global coronavirus freak-out. Political leaders can instil a sense of calm and confidence. One of those is Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer. She has become the face of Canada’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadians are rising to the challenge of a worsening novel coronavirus outbreak, going out of their way to be kind. Jason Dudas of Kamloops posted on Facebook:

“A co-worker told me about an elderly woman collapsing at a North Shore grocery store this weekend. If you are in a lower risk group and can help out elderly people you know with shopping you will be helping with keeping them safe at home, using extra sanitary precautions around them. If high risk groups don’t change their behaviour we will have a serious run on our health care system. But if we all work together then can make it through this situation.”

Kyle Ashley in Toronto posted a sign in the lobby of his downtown building offering to provide whatever assistance he could. “It’s like a war,” Ashley said, referring to the pandemic. “We will have bad actors, but good will come out.”

I have just returned from Mexico and will to self-isolate for two weeks. Neighbours have offered to buy groceries for me. It’s going to be tough to cut off contact with others, not going for coffee or to meetings at the society where I volunteer.  Social isolation is important, especially for travelers returning to Canada who have gone through busy airports. It’s voluntary but it’s the right thing to do; the only way to “flatten the curve” and slow down the spread which could potentially affect more than half of Canadians.

This isn’t panic, it’s just good citizenship under adverse social conditions.

Universal healthcare defines how we care for each other. Healthcare puts the common good above that of individual desire. Responsible Canadians will weigh what they individually want and what is in the public good. Canadian professor of philosophy Mark Gerald Kingwell says:

“Politics is a series of bargains between individual desire and collective good. What always remains is the goal of robust public trust. Community health is a shared good, just like education, transit infrastructure and building standards. It’s a concept that people against vaccines, flu-shot refuseniks, and turnstile jumpers everywhere just don’t seem to grasp (Goble and Mail, March 12, 2020).”

Herd mentality is not in the common good. Canadian’s response to COVID-19 will demonstrate our steely resolve in the face of adversity. We can hold our heads high with pride in the measures we take to stop the spread of this pandemic.