There’s No Such Thing as the Status Quo

Apr 27, 2015

While we may wish that things will always stay the same, it’s simply never possible.

2015 04 27 Ontario infrastructure

Circumstances change. What was appropriate once eventually ceases to be as effective.

Nowhere is this axiom truer than in politics.

Canadians, lately, have been given high rankings in international assessments of how contented they are with their lives, relative to the citizens of other nations.

The temptation for many, therefore, is to want to hold onto what they’ve got.

This can show up in voting patterns.

Ontario 2014:

Last year, when the people of Ontario went to the polls, they opted to return the MLA members of the Liberal Party to power despite a slew of scandals that should have left them vulnerable.

But the opposition Conservatives promoted a program of public sector job cuts that seemed too radical and most of the electorate chose, instead, the ‘devil’ they already knew.

But it’s a year later and with the most recent provincial budget, what are the people of Ontario getting?

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government, to its credit, has taken notice that’s its financial situation needs addressing. A large and growing debt must be reined in.

Since raising taxes has become political poison, other means will be adopted to achieve the fiscal re-adjustment.

While selling off a large portion of Hydro One will raise billions of dollars, it’s austerity on the spending side that is coming as a shock for many. It’s not consistent with their expressed wishes.

Queen’s Park has already negotiated earnings restraint with the province’s doctors. The number of nurses in hospitals has been reduced.

The government says it will be much tougher in its dealings with teachers. In reaction, there have been work stoppages at high schools in Durham Region.

At the same time, Ms. Wynne and her cabinet ministers have committed to spending a great deal more money on infrastructure projects, with a particular focus on rapid transit. Improved efficiency in moving people and goods has become essential in today’s world, if one is to ‘keep up with the neighbors’ in other jurisdictions.

The construction industry can hardly object to the boost this will provide for its on-site activity levels.

But what the Liberals are providing that’s positive on the one hand for the electorate and the business community, they are taking away with the other.

A vague proposal for a carbon cap-and-trade system threatens to impose another layer of government intervention, while also raising the cost of nearly everything.

Ottawa 2015:

The federal budget, from a week before, was also essentially an attempt to maintain the status quo. Through a series of carefully planned measures targeting key demographic blocks – with two-income families and seniors receiving the most favorable tax advantages − Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping to win re-election in the scheduled vote this fall.

Ottawa’s Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, following the orders of his superior, has balanced the federal budget.

Thus, Mr. Harper’s key selling point will be his ‘steady hand’ at the helm. We’ll soon know if that message carries enough weight.

U.S. 2016:

The U.S. 2016 Presidential election scene is heating up as well, with a similar dynamic.

For the Democrats especially, but the Republicans also, there is the matter of continuance of family dynasties.

In any such race, a Clinton or a Bush enters the arena with a notable plus.

She or he is familiar. One generally knows what to expect.

Even if there are concerns about how he or she will perform in their new position, there is the comfort in knowing they will be surrounded by relatives and advisors who are experienced.

The foregoing may seem as if I’m adopting a specific political stance. Please be assured that is not the case.

Re-read the headline and I think you’ll understand my more open position. Circumstances are continually changing and may require fresh responses.

There’s a story in the Old Testament of the Bible that seems most relevant. God allowed only Lot and his wife to escape the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as they were being destroyed by sulfurous rain.

They were told, though, not to look back while they were fleeing, or there would be a dire consequence.

Of course one of them did and there’s a block of salt still marking the spot.  

Many religious scholars interpret this story as a case of mankind having the temerity to ignore divine will. Go against God’s instructions and you’ll pay the price.

I wonder if there isn’t a more modern meaning.

I would suggest, instead, that the message may be: Adapt, and don’t look back, or you’ll be rendered irrelevant.

(If you should ever hear that I’ve been struck by lightning, know that my blasphemous ramblings have caught the attention of Somebody.)

Having now set out how ‘there ain’t no such thing as the status quo’, maybe I’ll insert another metaphysical moment in a future Economy at a Glance.

I’d like to discuss how there’s also no such thing as time, since days, weeks and years can disappear faster than a puff of smoke and memories from decades ago are often fresher than yesterday’s events. 


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