After Ottawa

Truckers’ protest in Ottawa: what happened to turn Canada into such a hot-mess?

In Canada, if there wasn’t before, there’s now a palpable sense of public discontent, which might be attributed to a variety of causes, but it’s visible for all to see.

What’s behind such a marked changes to what were thought to be the constitutional values of Canadians and their collective desire for peace, order and good government? 

What causes people to drive hundreds and thousands of kilometres, to join others in raucous demonstrations of protest, ostensibly for ‘FREEDOM!’ and against ‘MANDATES!’ while displaying the Canadian flag in a variety of unconventional ways?

It depends who you listen to

Some ascribe it to specific issues, (‘Masks, Mandates, Media); some to a dislike of (‘Government’), others to a generalized anger toward ‘the rich’. For others, it’s hatred of the current Prime Minister, “Justine” Trudeau.

But it’s clear the roiling public mood of late has ruptured its vessel of containment.

What has caused so many to act out an ‘all roads lead to Ottawa’ action, ostensibly to ‘bring down the government’?

Why have the heretofore mainly silent struggles of many thousands of working-class Canadians have exploded into angry, chaotic, demonstrations of noisy contempt?

It’s probably not “vaccine mandates” or “tyranny” or a lack of “freedom”; it’s probably economic hardship.

It’s still, “the economy, stupid”

Arguments exist which support the view that economic ‘growth’ ended in Canada on or about 2007.

Since then, 15 years’ of continuing increases in the costs of things without fully compensatory wage increases, have steadily eroded the ability of wage-earning Canadians, not only to earn a living, but, before every other cost, to pay the increasingly oppressive gate fees; the ‘pay-to-play’ expenses to pay for the actual job you need to earn a living.

Over the years, governments at all levels, and a myopic media continued to speak using the language of prosperity, but their depictions ring increasingly false to the ear of people who have seen their actual standards of living deteriorating for at least 15 years.

Self-employed truck drivers, owner-operators, do not need to be told such economic security as may have attracted them to the job is disappearing fast; for many it is already gone, fallen far out of view in their rear-view mirrors. 

Low interest rates have not helped

The enticements of low-interest and long-term loans have lured many into in a debt-trap loop, where credit is used as a substitute for cash to pay for not only shelter and capital expenses, but also to meet annual and monthly operating expenses — even such basic necessities as personal shelter, transportation and food.

Successive governments with the power to borrow, print and gather money have, through a combination of low interest rates and loose monetary policies, consistently encouraged borrowing among populations least able to pay them back.

At the same time, support for saving in the form of net-gain-post-inflation interest rates continues to punish thrift.  A dollar saved in 2020 and counted in 2021 has already lost 5 percent of its value to inflation alone.  Compounding erosion of savings continues.

The end of the truckers’ protest is not the end of social unrest in Canada

It is not only owner-operator truck drivers for whom economic prosperity is waning; other wage-earning sectors are experiencing it too.

Government policies are failing to address the actual needs of increasing numbers of workers to pay their bills, to be paid a living wage, and to save a portion of what they earn for the future, and to retire, someday.

Despite the obstinacy and expressed determination of truck drivers to maintain their protest in Ottawa, “ . . . for as long as it takes. . .”,  the average trucker has neither the means nor the ability to do so.  

In Windsor, where the Ambassador Bridge, Canada’s highest volume land border had been blocked by truckers and others for a week.

Over this past weekend, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police made it clear that to continue to block access and use of the bridge with vehicles would result in vehicles being towed away, impounded and possibly forfeited.

While media showed pictures of two defiant pickup truck drivers being arrested and their vehicles being towed away, the same media story reported two long-haul tractors simply driving away with air-horns blasting it was probably a prudent decision on their part. 

The  average owner operator already knows that tow-charges, impoundment, and forfeiture fees are all extraordinary costs which they can not afford to bear. For some, nothing would be worse, (nor more infuriating), than being obliged to pay a monthly truck-payment on a truck that has been forfeited to the government.

It’s for reasons such as these that I am expecting things to get worse, not only for self-employed truckers, but for most Canadians, before they get better.

By Paul David Steer

Wu wei the live-long day.

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