So the votes are counted and (most of) the results are final. The Conservatives won a majority with 39.62% of the vote. In the next four years we will see new fighter jets, new prisons, lower corporate taxes and strict new copyright laws. These we know for sure. The question now is what else will we see? With a minority, a government can refrain from acting on controversial issues and blame the opposition for holding things up. With a majority they will need to take action on a number of lingering issues. How will they fix the Canadian pension plan? Will they allow individuals to contribute more to their federal pensions or will they bow to the banks? They will need to make a real effort to come up with a plan for a future Canada that is more environmentally friendly. I understand that our economy is heavily dependent on natural resources, but relying on vague ideas about carbon capture and sequestering to solve our emissions problems will need to end. (This is a technology that is extremely expensive and unproven, a bad combination). One thing I believe we will see is an increase in free trade agreements all over the world.
I am in favour of free trade but if we are going to expand our free trade agreements to Europe, South America and the rest of the world then we also need to balance this with strong investment in education. We cannot compete on labour prices with developing countries so we will need a highly educated workforce that is able to provide highly skilled labour that is not as easily moved elsewhere. Manufacturing jobs are hard to keep when there is an unlimited workforce in foreign countries that is willing to work for a fraction of domestic wages.
What I am talking about here is not simply pouring more money into the current system. We need to really understand how the amount of knowledge in our world has increased in the recent past. First year university courses are teaching the same thing today as they did ten year ago. In order to understand the latest innovations in any field students require an education well beyond a standard undergraduate education. We need to figure out a way to make a major shift in education levels. What I mean is that we start a transition that would see elementary and high schools begin to teach more advanced material earlier. This would allow our universities to begin first year with more than the basic concepts. It would truly make university a place of higher education rather than somewhere people go to learn the basic skills of an advanced economy. I am not an education expert and I understand that we cannot simply shift the curriculum overnight. I also understand that there are many factors that affect the effectiveness of basic education. It just seems to me that for a long time people have been happy to keep everything moving along at a snail’s pace.
The problem with all of this of course is that this change in education does not have a short term effect while jobs that are lost to cheap foreign labour most certainly does. This is hard to justify to voters because they see big spending and the loss of jobs but if we want to have stability and prosperity in future this is a necessary step.
More discussion on election results as the week rolls on.