At this time of year, Charles Dickens’ timeless classic A Christmas Carol springs to mind; however, it is the opening lines of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that sum up where we are as a province as 2021 comes to a close.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
During these tumultuous times, it is easy to forget how blessed we truly are, first as Canadians, but even more specifically as British Columbians.
We live in a verdant paradise of mountains, streams, forests and ocean, and we have one of the world’s most advanced economies, plus an open and inclusive democratic system that remains functional. Considering numerous economic and social factors, Numbeo, a self-proclaimed “crowd-sourced ‘cost of living’ database,” places B.C.’s three biggest cities (Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna) in the top 10 in Canada for quality of life, with Victoria on top.
We live in a beautiful safe place, yet the liberties and opportunities we often take for granted, including personal safety and freedom of expression, are under siege in many parts of the world.
The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) has sounded the alarm in a recent report on the state of democracy around the world, concluding that “the number of backsliding democracies has doubled in the past decade, now accounting for a quarter of the world’s population…including established democracies such as the United States.” Most alarmingly, IDEA states that “the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the trend of democratic deterioration.”
Aside from fundamental political freedoms, there are numerous factors that comprise the standard of living we enjoy, and the quality of life it provides. But looming over those blessings is growing concern in B.C. about the rising cost of living and housing affordability.
In terms of handling health-care challenges and the fight against COVID-19, it may be the best of times in B.C. According to the Angus Reid Institute, B.C. leads the nation in health care performance ratings (49 per cent say the province is doing a good job), and B.C. has consistently posted nation-leading positive ratings for dealing with COVID-19 (66 per cent good job).
But the province also ranks lowest in the country in dealing with other darker threats. The Angus Reid Institute October 2021 study also highlighted abysmal ratings for how B.C. is dealing with housing affordability (85 per cent poor), poverty/homelessness (81 per cent), and dealing with drug use and addictions (77 per cent). The worst of times indeed.
Although the ratings of the B.C. government are harsh on some important social issues, if it is any consolation, government ratings are even worse in other parts of Canada. John Horgan’s approval rating remains at over half of the population (56 per cent), but like all other premiers over the past 18 months, Horgan’s approval has steadily declined. Federal leadership approval ratings are also anemic, with just one in three Canadians approving of Prime Minister Trudeau’s performance, while CPC leader O’Toole has an even lower approval rating of under one in four Canadians.
Despite Canada’s enviable position as a global leader in quality of life, standard of living and dealing with COVID-19, we are in a decidedly ‘bah-humbug’ mood.
Bruce Cameron has been a pollster and strategist for over 35 years, working initially for Gallup Polls, Decima Research and the Angus Reid Group before founding his own consultancy, Return On Insight.