We all have a role

  • March 9, 2009
{mosimage}The latest economic report from Statistics Canada reinforces the need for swift and decisive action. Governments at all levels must implement policies that are prudent, just and comprehensive, but this is not their problem to solve alone. All of society has an important role to play.

Led by dramatic losses in the automotive and housing sectors, Canada’s gross domestic product shrank in the fourth quarter by an annual rate of 3.4 per cent. The national unemployment rate topped 7.2 per cent in January and will continue to rise, according to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

According to the Globe and Mail, this is not all bad news because the sharp decline in GDP historically portends a quick rebound, sort of a storm before the calm. We’ll leave it to economists and academics to debate the merits of the Globe’s conclusion. Meantime, the worsening economic situation requires that federal politicians put aside partisan bickering and quickly pass Flaherty’s $40-billion economic stimulus package.

The prospect of such extravagant spending makes many Canadians uncomfortable. When even the so-called leading economists are divided on how much to spend and how to spend it, what chance does an average person have in wading through the data and comprehending the debate? Voters are asked to trust political leaders to make the right decisions and then further trust them to act with integrity to ensure public funds are not misappropriated or misused.

So there is considerable apprehension, and understandably so, given such recent government boondoggles as the billion-dollar gun registry fiasco and the adscam scandal. Voters bristle at the notion of bailouts for large corporations whose greed and mismanagement contributed significantly to the current mess. They detest the thought of public funds subsidizing multi-million dollar executive salaries and bonus packages. They fear partisan politics will trump legitimate need in deciding how funds are allocated. And even compassionate people are conflicted when it comes to pouring money into industries with little long-term prospect of survival in order to create short-term employment.

Recently in Toronto, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput addressed a breakfast meeting of business leaders. He suggested that we pray for our political and business leaders to be guided by Christian morality as they implement policies to fix the global economy. And Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to a gathering of priests in Rome, called for reform of the global financial system but also said that, in addition to business and political leaders, individuals have an important role in troubled times. He called on us to remember those in need.

For Catholics, the call is to become actively engaged in society and to embrace Christian stewardship as a guiding principle in our lives. As our political and business leaders debate the big-picture remedies, our call is to use our God-given gifts of time, talent and treasure to the betterment of our local communities.

Governments need to act with speed and compassion, but not alone. We are all called to do our part.

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