How relevant is the Occupy Wall Street movement to Canada?

Logo for "Occupy Toronto" happening on Saturday

Last Friday I participated in a “General Assembly” for the Occupy Toronto demo happening on Saturday. Discussions and debate led late into the night about political theories and the relevance of capitalism. All throughout I kept wondering; How is this relevant to Canada? It isn’t. Let me tell you why.

This Occupy Wall Street movement happening in the United States has the potential of starting a revolution of fundamental change in their politics and public engagement. It’s a decentralised movement, with the likes we haven’t seen before. What will come of it is anyone’s guess, but right now, it’s one for us Canadians to keep a southward eye on with keen interest. Unfortunately, to do so will confuse the heck out of us, for very good reason.

I really do believe Canada is the best country on Earth. I don’t say this over-inflated jingoism, but with a Canadian humility and under-inflated pride humbly shouted with neither bellow or chant. Our respect for dialogue, familiarity of important issues (domestic and international), and sincere concern for our fellow neighbour pushes the envelope of debate, raises our ever-cynical expectations of our political leaders and engages our involvement in the issues that affect us. I can’t say the same of our neighbours to the south, where views are getting increasingly polarised, resources spread thin from corporate interests, and economics going into uncharted territory. “What the heck is happening” you may be asking.

Quite simply, it has to do with people taking on debt, and a crisis of credit.

The following video applies to economics of Canada as much as the US. It describes to you what has been happening to the middle class for the past generation:

There you have it, people have been having increased debt, and corporations have been getting lots of money and increasing their influence on affairs. The perfect set up for a credit crisis. And it happened in the US. The following nice infographic-heavy video describes this well:

Putting aside the politics and history of the United States and Canada aside, the crisis that the United States is facing is very different from any possibly impending crisis that Canada could be facing, for 4 reasons:

  1. Canada has not had a deregulation of the markets/banks that would result in a flurry of dangerous investments
  2. Canada has not had resulting massive defaults in an over-saturated housing market resulting in plummeting housing value
  3. Canada has not given massive bailouts to banks 1: note
  4. Canada is not approaching bankruptcy from being unable to pay its debts (our GDP is 2x our national debt)
Canada is 4 steps removed from the same crisis affecting us. So how could an “Occupy Toronto” movement be relevant north of the border? I see 2 ways Occupy Toronto could be relevant to Canadians (and Torontonians):
  • It’s to show solidarity with our American neighbours;
    • This depends on your alignment or support of the United States, which I doubt is the common sentiment among the Marxist organisers;
  • It’s to send a message to Ottawa we don’t want to go down that same path;
    • Which is a bit of a stretch, considering how much has to happen in the right sequence to face the same thing;
    • But Canada is going into a recession! Nothing of the likes the US is going into, and Canada has faced recessions before, nothing new here.
Not to say there aren’t issues in Canada to discuss and raise (like tuition fees, the environment, copyright reform, etc.) , but they’re separate, and I don’t they should be under the “Occupy Toronto” banner, like as if we need to franchise another American issue in Canada in order to get traction on pushing our own Canadian issues. What mobilisers can learn from the Occupy Wall Street movement and others, is that this new type of movement that is decentralised and horizontal. That, for sure will have an influence north of the border.

Note: (1) There may be a notion that the Government of Canada bailed out Canadian banks to the tune of $125 billion back in 2009, but this is a very different situation. The Government of Canada purchased guaranteed low-risk assets (which contrasts with the US’ misleading risk-assessed assets), which were actually sold at a profit. Very opposite from a bailout. 
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