THUNDER BAY – Leaders Ledger – This past week saw some very important developments outside of Ottawa that should shape the work of MPs and the government in the months to come.
The tragic suicide of British Columbia teen Amanda Todd caused people across Canada and around the world to pause and take stock of what is going on with our teens and bullying. Bullying is different nowadays. How can a bright young woman be made to feel so hopeless and helpless that she feels she must take her own life to relieve the suffering?
The truth is that no one has the answer to that question, but I believe that we all bear some responsibility. Parents need to be more engaged in the lives of their children, both those who are bullied and those who bully others. Educators, coaches, and other adults in leadership positions who deal with children on a fairly regular basis need to better identify children at risk of bullying as well. Finally, lawmakers must accept our own responsibility and take action to protect the social and physical well-being of the children in the families we represent. In short, it seems that we are failing our youth like never before, and must do more to ensure they are able grow up to realize their full potential. Their future and our future depend on it.
There was also some unwanted news on the Canadian economic front. Statistics Canada reported last week that for every $1.00 of income Canadians are spending $1.63. Said another way, Canada’s debt to income ratio is 163.4. Statistics Canada recently changed how they calculated this figure so that Canada could begin using the same measurement as other industrialized countries and the OECD. Unfortunately, the new figure is 12% higher than previously estimated.
The debt to income numbers above probably don’t mean much without context, so let’s add some. Our level of debt is tied to our ability to make day to day and large purchases, but also make regular payments on outstanding debt, and our ability to take on more debt such as a mortgage or line of credit. At this point in time, the 163.4 debt to income ratio in Canada is higher than the ratio’s that prompted the housing collapses in both the United States and the United Kingdom where both property values and net worth decreased by 15-35% for most families over a three year period. In short, the new debt to income figures when combined a 20% decline in home sales year over year is a real threat to the broader economy and many families who continue to struggle to make ends meet while carrying high debt loads.
Finally, it’s time to say goodbye to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty who announced last week that he was resigning as Premier and not running in the next provincial election. I’ll offer a tip of the hat to any man or woman who offers themselves up for public office, but I Ontario will be better off with a new Premier. For Northwestern Ontario I can say it has been a difficult decade under the Liberals. With a loss of 30,000 forestry sector jobs during McGuinty’s time in office and a stagnant regional economy I believe that change will certainly be better than more of the same. While I will work hard to ensure that Andrea Horwath’s Ontario New Democrats receive a mandate to govern in the next election I will likewise be wishing Mr. McGuinty a safe and relaxing retirement at home, and I am certain that many of you will be doing the same in your own unique way.