Large corporations and financial institutions are undemocratic and hierarchical. They seek profits and power over and above the interests of citizens and the environment. Social ownership is necessary for a more democratic, needs-based economy. A new, democratic socialism for Canada in the 21st century could re-forge the idea of public ownership. Newer forms of public ownership could involve popular democracy, with the input of the wider community and employees, not just senior government officials. This also has the capacity to halt future privatization. A public referendum should be mandatory before any public assets are sold to the private sector.
A New Democratic government should examine Norway’s model of public ownership of natural resources. Norway claimed sovereignty and public control over its natural resources and built up a massive reserve fund from the profits of oil and gas for the benefit of its citizens. On the other hand, Canada gave ownership of its natural resources over to the oil companies that extract the oil from the ground and the government receives only a pittance in royalties in return. The result is that Norway has a massive heritage fund, well in excess of a trillion dollars, while Alberta is in deficit and extracts twice as much oil as Norway. Today’s NDP needs to establish a Green Energy Crown Corporation based in Alberta.
Likewise, the Canada-wide rail system should be returned to public ownership, instead of us silently watching Bill Gates profit from Canadian National Railway. Nationalization can ensure the safe, affordable and timely movement of goods. One needs only to look at the Lac Megantic rail disaster to see how the private sector has screwed up by cutting corners, resulting in the tragic death of 42 people. A return to ViaFast as a first step towards high speed rail can bind this country together, provide a public good, and create thousands of well-paying jobs.
Canada is the only country in the world with universal health care that lacks national Pharmacare. Citizens paid $33 billion for prescription drugs in 2012. We pay more for prescription drugs than most countries, with our drug prices 30% above the OECD average.
A national drug plan would save Canadians over $7 billion a year. It is urgently needed to improve public health, especially of seniors and the poor. Canadians need a Public Pharmacare Corporation that could be an integral part of medicare for all residents of Canada – not just making the federal government a central bulk purchaser of pharmaceuticals, but making free provision of medication a feature of public health care and a matter of right for all patients.