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Are young Canadians on the verge of rising up against the government over a declining standard of living? If you read a recent column by the National Post’s Tristin Hopper, you could be forgiven for believing that’s a realistic possibility. In it, he suggested that a “secret RCMP report warns Canadians may revolt once they realize how broke they are” and that “Canada may descend into civil unrest once citizens realize the hopelessness of their economic situation.”

This is of a piece with recent conservative commentary, which sets out to portray Canada as an economic basket case with no real prospects for growth or prosperity. Alas, Hopper’s framing was at odds with the report’s actual content, which never once mentioned the words “revolt” or “unrest.” Instead, the heavily redacted document, obtained through an access to information request filed by Thompson Rivers University professor Matt Malone, highlighted a series of potential threats to the country’s near-term stability that include things like artificial intelligence, growing levels of income and wealth inequality and climate change.

We should take those threats seriously. I certainly do. The income and wealth gap between generations is a major problem that brings to mind fundamental questions of fairness and justice. If there is a recession on the horizon, as the report suggests, it will disproportionately harm the generation already bearing the brunt of the last decade’s policy failures and political fallout.

And yes, of course, there’s climate change, which will extract the highest toll on the youngest Canadians. “The situation will probably deteriorate further in the next five years,” the report said, “as the early effects of climate change and a global recession add their weight to the ongoing crises.” Those crises, to be clear, are things like COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other international developments.

Oddly, the threat posed by climate change wasn’t even mentioned in Hopper’s coverage. The report’s authors, on the other hand, weren’t nearly as withholding on the subject. “Canada is facing a wider array of complex environmental challenges than at any point in its history. Most significant among these challenges are the effects of climate change, which will impact all facets of government. In the near future, there will be extreme weather crises that will likely happen in close succession or even concurrently.”

The RCMP report also highlights the metastasizing cancer of misinformation and the danger it poses to our body politic. "Law enforcement should expect continuing social and political polarization fuelled by misinformation campaigns and an increasing mistrust for all democratic institutions,” it said. As if to prove their point, CPC Leader Pierre Poilievre stood in the House of Commons the other day and repeated the National Post’s mischaracterization of the report. So too, as it happens, did the Russian propaganda outlet RT, whose coverage noted that “poverty could trigger revolt in Canada.”

That’s an Olympic-level leap. Even so, the underlying issue being weaponized by this rich variety of bad-faith actors shouldn't be ignored. The recession the RCMP report treated as a foregone conclusion in 2022 has yet to arrive, but the near-term economic prospects for our country are still decidedly underwhelming. That’s especially true for younger Canadians, who aren’t benefiting from the post-pandemic uplift in asset prices that is floating the collective boat of the baby boomer generation ever higher. It explains why there is a remarkable disparity between the reported happiness levels of those over 60 and those under 30. In Gallup’s most recent Worldwide Happiness Rankings, Canadians under 30 years old rank 58th in the world in reported happiness levels, while those over 60 rank eighth. It’s no better in America, where those rankings are 62nd and 10th respectively.

We need, and deserve, a national conversation about how to rectify this situation. As David Moscrop wrote on his Substack, “Now is a good time for us to engage in a serious, good faith discussion about class in this country and attendant material realities. That discussion ought to include a reasonable assessment of the data and the circumstances it attempts to capture, but we simply cannot take any insipid ‘Canada the good’ claims, dubious comparisons, or attempts to minimize the very real suffering so many in this country endure.”

Fair enough. But we’re not going to get that when our right-wing politicians and pundits refuse to engage accordingly. The RCMP report that was so flagrantly misrepresented quotes French President Emmanuel Macron’s 2022 observation that we’re living at “the end of abundance.” Hopper, of course, was more than happy to pick up on that line. What he didn’t include in his column was its full context. As Macron said, “This overview that I’m giving, the end of abundance, the end of insouciance, the end of assumptions — it’s ultimately a tipping point that we are going through that can lead our citizens to feel a lot of anxiety. Faced with this, we have a duty, duties, the first of which is to speak frankly and clearly without doom-mongering.”

An internal report from the RCMP flagged a bunch of key risks facing Canada, from climate change to misinformation and paranoid populism. But we won't be able to address any of them if the right continues to trade in deceit and doom-mongering.

Indeed, we do. The problem, as the RCMP report shows, is that not everyone is living up to that duty. Some are even deliberately shirking it, whether in the name of pageviews or political advantage. Until that changes, one of the biggest threats we face will be coming from within.

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Good article Max, and in the heretofore-valued-context of truth and accuracy, those "threats from within" should be attributed to the conservatives AT EVERY TURN.
The only context they pay attention to is precedence, so they can upend it.
And civilized people are utterly stymied, just keep reiterating the phrase, "we need to have a conversation about...." steadfastly ignoring the fact that BOTH sides have to a)be willing to engage AT ALL and b)there has to be some common agreement of basic, underlying FACTS.
When Reform conservatives started refusing to show up at debates, even during an election it was shocking, unprecedented, and a sign of what was to come.