Canada’s GDP says nothing about our well-being – it often benefits from social ills and environmental crises

Last week, Statistics Canada announced that the gross domestic product increased by 1.3 percent during the last quarter. This is largely because of an increase in household spending, which means more money is coming out of your wallet.

Does growing our traditional measure of economic success mean you’re doing better? May be; maybe not. But it’s time we accepted GDP for what it was always meant to be: a measure of the value of goods and services produced by our country, rather than a mark of our collective well-being.

Our economic system does not distinguish between what is good and what is bad for society. It often takes advantage of social ills and environmental crises. Using money to pay for or provide a good or service stimulates economic activity. With the wildfires, governments must spend money on extinction, rescue and reconstruction, all of which support more jobs. No one would argue for the spread of more forest fires. But from the perspective of increasing GDP, there is a transactional advantage to supporting a growing industry.

Today’s economy is growing not in spite of some of the greatest challenges facing our society, but because of them. More people than ever are struggling to make ends meet as the dual biodiversity and climate crisis threatens the very future of humanity. Yet we continue to focus on growing GDP, as if this will someday translate into greater human and ecological well-being.

If we are to break the vicious circle that results from the pursuit of economic growth above all else, we must redefine our economic goal. We must strive for well-being as if it is the only thing that matters. Because ultimately, is not it? Don’t we all want better health and more time to raise our children? Or meaningful jobs that satisfy us?

There is something profoundly wrong with an economic system that values ​​a sick child over a healthy child, as a sick child creates more jobs and services and thus increases GDP. It seems that our society is the one that is sick.

We can still disagree on political priorities. But until we overcome this obsession with economic end as growth, we will never achieve well-being for all. Until we can stop treating each other and the world around us as factors of production just begging to be converted into money at the cheapest rate possible, we will be trapped in the same thought. economy that has brought us to where we are today: a world where the wealthy few propel themselves to new planets, while the vast majority struggle to survive on the one planet they will ever know.

It is not a radical idea to develop an economy intentionally designed to generate well-being for people and ensure the health of nature in perpetuity. Indigenous peoples around the world have been guided by such holistic thinking from time immemorial. All we have to do is listen and learn from their experiences.

GDP can tell us how much an economy has grown, but it doesn’t say anything about the quality of life of those who make it grow. It’s time we put people and the planet first.

Yannick Beaudoin is Director of Innovation and for Ontario with the David Suzuki Foundation.


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