Who will be our arbiters of fairness

Everybody is looking for their fair share, but the pie is not getting any bigger

We live in an adversarial world.

Even a quick perusal of these pages reveals a host of competing interests.

Crown versus defence, progressive versus conservative, environment versus resource development, Indigenous versus non-indigenous, corporate versus social, secular versus religious.

And it’s not just on those large-scale political and economic platforms.

Charities compete for our discretionary dollars, recreational and cultural groups compete for attention, individuals compete for jobs.

Perhaps it is an indication of our baser nature that our systems are set up that way. They favour the zero-sum game, winners and losers. The winners make the rules and the losers fight to change the rules.

Everybody is trying to get a piece of the pie.

Some people are greedy; they want the whole pie. Some people are content with just a sliver. Some people are more clever or hard-working or advantaged by birth and take a bigger piece. Some of those people take their bigger piece and divide it up among those who don’t get a big enough piece or no piece at all.

Ultimately, we are all just looking for our fair share.

Of course, we all have a different definition of fair.

While it may be in our nature to be competitive, it is also in our nature to be cooperative and collaborative.

We see examples of it every day.

In this issue, we have stories about people sharing their time and energy to raise money for cancer research and mountain bikers and backpackers working together to make trails accessible and safe for both.

Last week, we had a story about stakeholders in the salmon harvest getting together to try to hash out issues of conservation and fairness.

Granted, sometimes these stories have both elements of cooperation and conflict and our better nature does not always win.

When it doesn’t, we need arbiters of fairness, those imperfect systems and institutions that make up our democracy, the courts, governments, tribunals, watchdogs, ombudsmen, etc.

We all have a say in how those systems and institutions work and we must be ever-vigilant in protecting and improving them.

Because the pie is not getting any bigger.

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