Heading into Election 2011, nobody could have predicted the vastly different political landscape that Canadians would wake to on Tuesday morning. Some were jubilant and others deflated. There was the historic rise of the NDP and the election of the first ever Green MP, the demise of the Liberal Party, and of course, Stephen Harper’s previously elusive majority government.
While it will be some time before we know for certain how this new government will play out, it is clear that things have changed and we are now working within a new context. Still, there are a number of key factors that remain unchanged.
First and foremost is CPJ’s commitment to offer our faithful response to God’s call for love, justice and stewardship and to pursue our mission to promote public justice in Canada – the political dimension of loving one’s neighbour, caring for creation and achieving the common good.
Equally important are the ongoing social, economic, and ecological challenges we face as a nation.
Poverty: We Need a Plan
The daily struggle of the approximately four million Canadians living in poverty continues. The rising-tide-lifts-all-boats approach has proven inadequate, particularly in the face of a recession that for many Canadians is far from over. The need for concrete and sustained action to address the structural causes of poverty is as clear now as it ever has been. Citizens and civil society have mobilized. Parliamentary committees have done their homework. Together, we have agreed: we need a plan.
Yet the only party that did not commit to developing a poverty reduction plan – or a housing strategy or childcare – has been granted a majority.
Ecological Justice: An Opportunity for Action
Canada is the reigning international Colossal Fossil (so designated for our appalling performance in past climate change negotiations). Subsidies to the oil and gas industry continue. Carbon emissions are on the rise. And the Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012. Here too, environmental organizations, individual Canadians and parliamentarians came together and supported the Climate Change Accountability Act through its November 2010 passage in the House of Commons – only to see it defeated in the Senate.
As we approach the critical international climate change talks scheduled for November (in Durban, South Africa), we face a real challenge and a real opportunity to take constructive action to decrease Canada’s green house gas emissions.
Civic Engagement: Not a Time for Apathy
The voice of Canadian citizens is vital to the life of our nation. The split of the popular vote – 39.6 percent to the Conservatives, and 30.6 percent to the NDP – indicates a divergence of perspectives on the best way forward. Remaining informed and engaged – and encouraging respectful dialogue – is therefore essential.
The shift in the political landscape means that there is an opportunity for new leadership for Canadians inside the House of Commons and across the country.
CPJ: Ever Present and Ever Faithful
In Proverbs 31: 8-9, we are called to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
CPJ will remain front and centre in Ottawa. We will meet and dialogue with the MPs returning to Parliament Hill, including the newcomers who may especially need to hear our voice of reasoned arguments for the common good. We will continue to monitor government statements, policies, and actions. We will listen and learn and pray and share. We will work with our members and supporters across the country, with partner organization and political allies – old and new – to continue along the path towards justice and dignity for all.
We will be present in the here and now. But we will also take the long view, offering a prophetic voice on the values and principles that must inform the discussions and the decisions that will shape the future of our country.
We will also recognize that it is by the grace of God that peace and justice will ultimately reign.