Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Biker Chaos

Recently, Justin Trudeau had to cancel a public appearance in  British Columbia. Michael Harris writes:

The RCMP decided that it would not be safe for Justin Trudeau to make a public appearance at a Liberal fundraiser because an anti-Trudeau crowd gathered outside, complete with truckers driving in a loop around the venue, might become an anti-Trudeau mob.

Once again, a pack of hooligans masqueraded as protesters, just as members of the Freedom Convoy did in their recent occupation of Ottawa. Their belligerent presence in the nation’s capital paralyzed the city and forced the evacuation of the PM and his family for several days.

Their goal was to occupy and take over, not to protest. Real protesters make their point; these thugs try to stop whomever they don’t like from making theirs. That is the exact point where democracy turns into a bikers’ New Year’s Eve party.

These were not dudes in British Columbia standing up for something.  They were duds shouting racist epithets at South Asian Canadians who wanted to hear the PM speak. It was the familiar ugliness. Turban-trashing, Trudeau-hating, and even a noose carried by one of these sorry-assed goons with a sign: Treason and Trudeau. Trudeau ended up speaking to the fundraiser remotely to defuse a bad situation.

Our politics has taken an ugly turn, inspired by the Orange Moron south of the border:

You know you have a problem when there are multiple threats against members of the government, including several against Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland personally. And no one should forget how far these threats can advance.

Remember Corey Hurren, the heavily armed ex-military guy who crashed the gates of Rideau Hall looking for the prime minister? He wanted to arrest Trudeau over COVID-19 restrictions, and the ban on assault-style weapons. Like the ones used in Texas to wipe out 19 children and two teachers.

For those who remember the last election campaign, Trudeau was dogged by ignorant, abusive mobs, including one that hurled not just insults and obscenities, but stones at the PM. Sorry. Fuck off is not a political statement. It is abuse. And it is also the death knell of politics as we know it.

As NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said at the time, “I can’t imagine that I’m saying this in 2021—don’t throw rocks at people because you disagree with them. That is basic. That should not be happening.”

As I wrote yesterday, it's time to call this what it is -- fascism on the march.

Image: Bangkok Post

Monday, May 30, 2022

Calling It What It Is

Jennifer Rubin doesn't mince words. She writes in The Washington Post:

Now is the time for precise language. “Forces” are not the problem; one political movement encased within the Republican Party is. “Ultra-MAGA” ideas are not the problem; Republicans spouting anti-American ideas that threaten functional democracy are.

It’s not the plague of “polarization” or “distrust,” some sort of floating miasma, that has darkened our society. Bluntly put, we are in deep trouble because a major party rationalizes both intense selfishness — the refusal to undertake even minor inconveniences such as mask-wearing or gun background checks for others’ protection — and deprivation of others’ rights (to vote, to make intimate decisions about reproduction, to be treated with respect).

There is a through line between celebration of a defeated president who demeans women, excuses neo-Nazi marchers and refuses to accept election results and the GOP’s appeals to White grievance, contempt for political compromise and displays of toxic masculinity — which celebrate unbridled access to guns, excessive use of police force and authoritarian strongmen.

The results of that toxic masculinity have been revealed in the most recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. But it's no secret what is at the root of those shootings:

Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, wrote recently in Time about the MAGA formula, ascendant after the United States’ election of its first Black president: “the stoking of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Black sentiment while making nativist appeals to the Christian right.”

“The nostalgic appeal of ‘again,’” Jones observes, “harkens back to a 1950s America, when white Christian churches were full and white Christians comprised a supermajority of the U.S. population; a period when we added ‘under God’ to the pledge of allegiance and ‘In God We Trust’ to our currency.”

Our future as a tolerant, decent society ultimately may depend on White Christian communities’ recovering their moral equilibrium and support for American democracy, and rejecting the movement to turn churches into platforms for QAnon and white nationalism. But we cannot wait for an evangelical reformation.

Unfortunately, that equilibrium appears nowhere in sight:

MAGA voters think everyone else is the problem. As perpetual victims, they feel entitled to ignore the demands of civilized society — e.g., self-restraint, care for actually vulnerable people, pluralism, acceptance of political defeat. Their irritation with mask-wearing gets elevated over the lives of those most susceptible to a deadly pandemic. Their demands to display an armory of weapons mean schoolchildren become targets for acts of mass gun violence. Their religious zealotry, fed by the myth that Christianity is under attack, means poor women cannot have access to safe, legal abortions.

Under such conditions, Democrats would do well to eschew avuncular bipartisanship and abandon the fantasy that they can reason with the unreasonable or shame the shameless into dropping their conspiracies and lies. “Lowering the temperature” or seeking unity with those intent on dividing Americans is counterproductive.

Like other toxic political movements, the MAGA crusade flourishes thanks to the collaboration of cynics, true believers and cult followers. In turn, our democracy’s salvation depends on a broad-based coalition that rejects the MAGA crowd’s reactionary aims and myths of White victimhood.

Democracy’s survival demands that mainstream media prioritize candor about the nature of today’s GOP over fake balance in political coverage. And it needs pro-democracy politicians to rise to the occasion with exacting, truth-based language — not to fuzz up the stark reality of a democracy imperiled by one political party.

It's time to call it what it is.

Image: Hampton Institute

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Catastrophe Is Upon Us

Robin Sears writes that the pandemic has exposed just how fragile our public healthcare system is:

The list of the collective failures would fill an entire page of this newspaper. The top four might be terrible communications, inconsistency and contradiction, duelling governments, and a lack of transparency. This could be widening the serious trust gap, as revealed by the annual Edelman Trust Barometer.

Our leaders have pledged that they are going to fix things:

Everyone pledged the lessons learned from our very shaky anti-COVID campaign — the revelation of how underfunded, understaffed and inefficient our health-case systems are — meant this time, we really were going to make the big changes needed.

B.C. Premier John Horgan, chair of the provinces-and-territories club the Council of the Federation, had marshalled by last fall a series of promising breakthroughs on health-care reform with most club members. Ottawa has slow-walked the discussions since. As one frustrated senior provincial official exclaimed, “Why would a Liberal prime minister not want to have as part of his legacy the first breakthrough in health care in a generation, for Pete’s sake?” Indeed.

And now we're facing another virus:

Even its name inspires dread: “monkeypox.” We know how close genetically we are to monkeys — a lot closer than bats! Any virus with “pox” in its name brings back memories of all the terrifying poxes that have plagued humanity. We had declared smallpox — monkeypox’s close cousin — exterminated. Now we wonder.

The new virus is partly associated, so far, with men who have sex with other men, reviving memories of another nightmare — HIV/AIDS. Not only in its killing potential, but the possible rise in stigma and shame once more. Some on the right are sure soon to revive the old hatreds for partisan gain, just as Reagan-era Republicans and others did a generation ago.

We share both a horror at this new enemy, but also a deep weariness about virus-fighting overall. Every time we approach the finish line, the goalposts get moved. How prepared are we now, after all our bitterly earned experience? Apparently, not very. The same opaque and changing communications from public health officials; the same tug of war about access to vaccines. Skeptical citizens wonder if “those guys really know what the hell they are doing,” as one friend said.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam and her deputy Dr. Howard Ngoo may be great epidemiologists, but great communicators they will never be. They either need a persuasive Anthony Fauci-like spokesperson, or perhaps it’s time for them to hand on the baton. Public health has no exclusive minister in any Canadian government. Why? Health Canada and its provincial cousins have ignored, dismissed and treated it as a secondary health-care issue for decades.

There are national forums on many subsets of health-care issues, but not on public health. Why not? At the most basic level, most governments are ignorant of science itself. Ottawa briefly had an effective science minister a few years ago, Kirsty Duncan. The bureaucracy did in her and her ministry; few even noticed.

In public health systems and health care overall, real-time data sharing is still a pipe dream. How in God’s name can one urgently roll out best practices and important discoveries, if access to the data is buried in an annual report months later? A cliche loved by cynical Japanese people is: “We never learn from experience, we only learn from catastrophe.”

The catastrophe is upon us.

Image: Just Watch

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Kenney's Long Goodbye

It's been a couple of weeks since Jason Kenney resigned as the leader of Alberta's United Conservative Party. Andrew Nikiforuk addresses Kenney personally in analyzing Kenney's failure:

Goodbye Jason Kenney. And good riddance.

Every day you managed to insult the electorate with a barrage of hubris and political bullshit.

You hammered health-care workers when they criticized your appalling incompetence during the pandemic.

You hammered ranchers and your own rural base when you brazenly defended open-pit coal mining in the Rockies.

You hammered environmentalists for exercising their rights to question the dysfunctions of a petrostate in a time of climate change.

You hammered university funding for being the source of unwanted ideas.

Hell, you hammered anyone who didn’t agree with you. Or challenged your authority.

It wasn’t enough to disagree with your critics. Your party stalwarts had to attack them, remove them from office, harass them online or disparage them in print.

And when it became clear even your own party was worn out from all that pounding, you couldn’t even resign with a modicum of grace.

And Kenney is still around:

After a brutal caucus meeting you emerged once again as “the boss” until a new leader is chosen and all for reasons of “continuity and stability.”

You then had the gall to portray yourself as an eternal victim on Edmonton radio: “I won a million votes in 2019, and 16,000 people forced me to resign.”

Your long-predicted political demise, of course, has elicited much commentary. Conservative pundits typically blamed the COVID pandemic for sowing populist divisions in an unruly party. Don Martin, a former colleague, even suggested that you deserved a better political death.

There are plenty of reasons for Kenney's failure:

In 2017 you, an Oakville boy, waltzed into Alberta and pretended to belong. Your admitted lodestar was the New York-based Manhattan Institute, the right-wing think tank founded by a British advisor to Margaret Thatcher and funded by the Koch brothers. Their “dark money” supported America’s radical right which served, well, the Koch brothers and their bitumen interests.

You assumed Albertans would be fooled by your pathetic props of a white cowboy hat and a blue truck. You then, by hook or crook, cobbled together two warring parties, the Wildrose party and the Progressive Conservative party, to serve your political ambitions. An RCMP investigation into voting shenanigans during the United Conservative Party leadership campaign remains on the books and incomplete.

During the 2019 election your political oratory of blame and outrage convinced Albertans that their political class long ruled by conservatives (who failed to conserve) wasn’t responsible for mismanaging the province’s oil wealth.

In truth the petrostate of Alberta had not diversified its industry nor its tax base. Nor had it prepared for oil price volatility. But you stirred the pot of irrationality, resentment and mendacity so expertly, and all for your own political gain, that insurrectionists now drive around Alberta with “Fuck Trudeau” flags and think that’s the new normal.

After feeding such dark politics, you did not expect the same genie of discord might want to screw you, too. And it did.

Like the sorcerer's apprentice, Kenney released the forces that eventually destroyed him.

Image: TV Tropes

Friday, May 27, 2022

Conservative Paranoia

Paranoia permeates the Conservative Party of Canada. Andrew Coyne writes:

Candidate Pierre Poilievre warns his followers that the government of Canada “has been spying on you everywhere. They’ve been following you to the pharmacy, to your family visits, even to your beer runs.”

The government hasn’t been doing anything of the kind, of course: A private company prepared a report to the Public Health Agency of Canada on population movements during the pandemic, using anonymous, aggregated cellphone data. The data allow researchers to count how many people visited a pharmacy or a beer store, not which people did; still less are individuals followed from place to place.

But Mr. Poilievre knows his followers don’t know this, and is quite content to mislead them. Just as he is when he claims he opposes allowing the Bank of Canada to issue a digital version of the dollar because the government would use the data generated thereby to “crack down” on its “political enemies.”

Then there’s candidate Leslyn Lewis, whose particular fear is the World Health Organization, or more precisely a package of amendments to its International Health Regulations put forward earlier this year by the United States. The amendments seem chiefly aimed at preventing the sort of information vacuum that hampered efforts to contain the coronavirus in the early days of the outbreak, notably stemming from China’s refusal to level with the world about what it had on its hands – but also abetted by the WHO’s own credulousness.

Thus, a critical amendment would require the WHO, should it find there is a public-health emergency “of international concern,” and having first offered assistance to the affected country, to share information with other countries about it, even if the first country objects. (Until now it had been left to the WHO’s discretion.) In conspiracy circles this has been cooked up into an open-ended power for the WHO to force countries into lockdown, take over their health care systems, even, in Ms. Lewis’s formulation, suspend their constitutions.

Where does one begin? The WHO does not have the power to dictate policies to member states. No country would ever agree to give it that power, let alone all 194 member states at once. And of all those countries, the least likely to agree to any such transfer of national sovereignty, let alone propose it, is the United States: the country that, for example, refuses to this day to participate in the International Criminal Court. The only way it could be done even in theory would be by passing the necessary enabling legislation through each country’s legislature, not by simply ratifying an amendment to a regulation.

But it's not just Poilievre and Lewis. Consider the party's stated positions:

Vaccine mandates become “vaccine vendettas.” Carbon pricing is equated with Chinese-style “social credit” scores. The Bank of Canada’s purchases of government bonds in the middle of the sharpest economic contraction since the Great Depression are depicted as if they were directly bankrolling the Liberal Party.

This cynical act is sometimes dressed up as “sticking up for the little guy” or “taking on the elites.” It is not. It is exploitation, pure and simple, shaking down the gullible for money and votes. It’s a con as old as politics. Before Mr. Poilievre can promise his audience to “give you back control over your lives,” he has to first persuade them that control has been taken away from them – and that he alone has the power to give it back. Or rather, that they should give him that power.

The Conservatives used to aim their fire at their perceived enemies within. Now it's different:

One, the targets of populist wrath are increasingly external to Canada: bodies like the WEF or the WHO, whose remoteness from any actual role in controlling our lives only makes them seem more darkly potent, to those primed to believe it.

Two, the “outs” no longer simply reject a particular political narrative, but increasingly science, and reason, and knowledge: the anti-expertise, anti-authority rages of people who have been “doing their own research.”

And three, the crackpopulists used to be consigned to the party’s margins. Now they are contending to lead it.

That last point is the most important point of all.

Image: Optimum Consulting

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Insanity, Pure And Simple

A week after a kid walked into a Buffalo supermarket and killed 10 people, another kid in Uvalde, Texas walked into an elementary school and killed 21 people, 19 of them children. Max Boot writes:

We are now embarked upon a distinctively American ritual such as the Super Bowl or the Fourth of July — only much, much grimmer. We are, for the umpteenth time, in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting. Nineteen children and two teachers were just massacred at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., by a teenager who had been able to legally purchase two AR-15-style assault rifles — weapons of war — as soon as he turned 18 years old.

As usual, both Democrats and Republicans react with horror but with widely divergent perspectives on how to respond. Anguished Democrats call for more gun regulation. That makes sense since America not only has more guns in private hands than any other nation in the world (nearly 400 million) but also some of the world’s loosest gun laws. But Republicans want to do, essentially, nothing. They fiercely resist calls to make it harder to buy and carry guns with a variety of deceitful dodges that are no less contemptible for being so familiar.

The most common reaction on the right is to offer, as the Internet meme has it, “thoughts and prayers.” It’s as if Uvalde had been struck by a hurricane or tornado that we poor humans can do nothing to affect. Indeed, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted, “You cannot legislate away evil.” That is not, of course, the Republican reaction to Islamist terrorist attacks. After Sept. 11, 2001, they did not shrug their shoulders and say “What can you do?” They worked with Democrats to massively beef up airport security while also launching invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Likewise, Republicans have no problem passing legislation to address the perceived evils that concern them — e.g., abortion or critical race theory. Many members of the “pro-life party,” however, simply do not appear to view the murder of children who are out of the womb as an issue that cries out for a legislative solution.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) opined that “We need to return to God,” as if religious fanatics never perpetrate violence. She also echoed a common refrain on the right: “Our nation needs to take a serious look at the state of mental health today.” No doubt that’s true, and she’s Exhibit A. But (a) there is no evidence that the United States has more mental health problems than any other country and (b) Republicans consistently oppose more funding for mental health services. Indeed, conservatives are targeting mental health programs in many schools for elimination.

The reaction on the right is not merely stupid. It's insane. Full stop.

Image: The Independent

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Trump Of The North

In his quest for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Pierre Poilievre is following Donald Trump's playbook. Susan Delacourt writes:

Show him an institution and Poilievre will knock it down — the Bank of Canada, the media, anyone deemed a “gatekeeper,” or the World Economic Forum. He doesn’t just disagree with his opponents, he calls them liars.

At the risk of giving the “freedom” candidate any more ideas, it should be noted that there is one institution Poilievre hasn’t directly challenged, at least not yet — democracy itself. But if Poilievre is going to go full Donald Trump in his bid to be the next prime minister, an assault on the legitimacy of the voting system is almost inevitable.

His stepped-up campaign against the World Economic Forum — declaring this weekend that a Poilievre government would ban Canadian officials from involvement with it — veers very close to the suggestion that the democratic system is rigged.

On the holiday Monday of a long weekend, as many people in his own Ottawa-area riding were cleaning up damage from the megastorm, Poilievre was tweeting comments from WEF chair Klaus Schwab as proof of an international governance cabal.

Like Trump, Poilievre has gone over to the dark side:

Generally, politicians don’t start suggesting the system is rigged unless they’re losing. Trump was fine with the U.S. voting system after the 2016 election, but not so much after Americans chose Joe Biden over him in 2020. (Pause here for Trump enthusiasts to assert again that Biden is not the real president of the United States.)

Poilievre currently has little reason to question a voting system here in Canada that has given him seven election wins since he was 24, several senior roles on the government benches and a pension that will keep him in six-figure salaries for the rest of his life.

But he is trying to lure support from people with a shaky knowledge of the system of government in Canada — the convoy protesters, for instance, who camped out in front of Parliament Hill for three weeks this winter to call for an end to pandemic restrictions imposed by provincial governments.

I am, to be candid, worried that Poilievre won’t be able to stop himself from whipping up suspicion about why Conservatives have been losing elections — it being far easier to blame a rigged system than the party’s own internal problems.

Like Mr. Trump, Poilievre knows he doesn't have the votes to become Prime Minister. And, if he can't get what he wants, he's willing to bring the house down.

Image: Twitter

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Bigger Egos Than Brains

America's technocrats are in in a snit. Paul Krugman writes:

The sultans of Silicon Valley are in a political snit, with some billionaires suddenly turning against Democrats. It’s not just Elon Musk. Other prominent players, including Jeff Bezos, have lashed out at the Biden administration, and we now know that Oracle’s Larry Ellison participated in a call with Sean Hannity and Lindsey Graham about overturning the 2020 election.

The timing of this hard right turn by some tech aristocrats is remarkable given what’s happening in U.S. politics. It’s hard, for example, to imagine what kind of bubble Musk lives in that he could declare Democrats “the party of division and hate” at a time when Tucker Carlson, not a politician but still one of the most influential figures in the modern G.O.P., is devoting show after show to “replacement theory,” the claim that liberal elites are deliberately bringing immigrants to America to displace white voters. (Polls show that nearly half of Republicans agree with this theory.)

Why the storm in Silicon Valley?

The plutocrats railing against Democrats are also remarkably petty; nothing says “visionary titan of industry” like sending poop emojis. But the pettiness may actually be central to the political story. What’s going on here, I’d argue, isn’t mainly about greed (although that, too). It is, instead, largely about fragile egos.

Even if Democrats defy the odds and retain control of Congress this November, there is no realistic prospect of a New Deal-type campaign against extreme inequality. Furthermore, any conceivable redistributive policy would still leave billionaires incredibly wealthy, able to buy anything they want (except, possibly, Twitter).

What wealth can’t always buy, however, is admiration. And that’s an area in which the tech titans have suffered major losses.

The tech elite . . . had it all. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg was, for a while, a feminist icon. Musk has millions of Twitter followers, many of them actual human beings rather than bots, and these followers have often been ardent Tesla defenders.

Now the glitter is gone. Social media, once hailed as a force for freedom, are now denounced as vectors of misinformation. Tesla boosterism has been dented by tales of spontaneous combustion and autopilot accidents. Technology moguls still possess vast wealth, but the public — and the administration — isn’t offering the old level of adulation.

And it’s driving them crazy.

They have bigger egos than brains.

Image: The New York Times

Monday, May 23, 2022

Something Wicked

Trumpism is destroying democracy in the United States. Michael  Harris writes:

Who could have imagined a traditional political party like the GOP standing for the Big Lie that Joe Biden and the Democrats stole the 2020 election, especially after that allegation has been thoroughly debunked in every official recount and court case that looked into the facts?

Who could have imagined the need to fence off the Capitol Building in Washington to protect it from an insurrection of American citizens bent on bringing down a duly elected government? Five people dead. For weeks in Washington, it was National Guard democracy at best.

Who could have imagined any candidate in the U.S. primary season banning reporters from their meetings, and eschewing public debates? That is what happened in more than one Republican primary.

Who could have imagined the wife of a justice of the U.S Supreme Court exchanging 29 text messages with Trump’s chief-of-staff in the wake of Biden’s victory, asking him to overturn the result of the election?

And Harris warns that Trumpism -- the political equivalent of syphilis -- is heading our way:

The risibly named Freedom Convoy was Canada’s capital insurrection without the deaths. The nation’s capital was high-jacked by people whose idea of freedom was pissing on the tomb of The Unknown Soldier, waving Confederate flags, costing their fellow taxpayers $36-million, closing businesses, and robbing Ottawa residents of the use of their city and enjoyment of their property for more than three weeks.

Why did they keep everyone awake all night for over three weeks? They didn’t want to follow any mandates during a pandemic that has killed more than 40,000 Canadians and more than six million people worldwide.

Not long afterwards, came Rolling Thunder, which rumbled into Ottawa on motorcycles in a feckless attempt to gum up the city the way the Freedom Convoy did. After the 350 uneasy riders attended a biker’s church service as their last event of their three-day protest, they rolled out again. Nine people had been arrested, dozens of vehicles were towed, and almost 1,000 traffic and bylaw violations were enforced by police.

Make no mistake about it. The police did a good job. But it didn’t bring much joy to see a massive police presence on the beautiful streets of Ottawa, as the only way of preventing another fiasco in the downtown core. And it’s not just an Ottawa problem. Similar disturbances have taken place in Toronto, Québec City, Winnipeg, and Coutts, Alta., where four anti-mandate protesters were charged with conspiring to murder police officers.

The Conservative Party of Canada legitimized this dangerous and illegal activity by standing with the 10 per cent of truckers who showed up in Ottawa, rather than the 90 per cent who recognized the importance of vaccines in fighting COVID-19; the ones who stayed behind the wheel doing their jobs.

Pierre Poilievre, who is promising “freedom” to Canadians if he becomes prime minister, took selfies with the truckers and tried to extract political benefit from a lawless situation. Candice Bergen made the stunning statement that there were good people on both sides of the occupation of Ottawa.

That was virtually the same sentiment Donald Trump expressed after a Unite the Right rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent. It ended with 19 people injured and the death of Heather Heyer. Despite that, Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Now the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has candidates in both Sudbury and the Nickel Belt in the provincial election who are skipping debates and shunning media questions. It might just be time to Unite the Left against the rising tide of populism that is transforming American democracy into a metaphor out of The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats.

Something wicked this way comes.

Image: The Hill Times

Sunday, May 22, 2022

An Ill Wind

The American disease has crossed the border. It's showing up in Ontario's election. Haydn Watters writes:

Marjorie Knight used to knock on doors alone. This Ontario election, her campaign team has decided to always have her canvassing with someone else.

"I had people call the police on me because I was 'casing' homes as I was going door to door knocking," said the Cambridge NDP candidate. "You go up to somebody and they slam the door in your face and tell you that they don't deal with your kind. Not sure what kind that is."

Knight, who first ran in 2018, doesn't want to put herself at risk — she doesn't know who she may bump into while campaigning. One of her election signs was recently defaced with slurs.

"It was definitely hateful. And sadly, it's within my community," she said.

Scarborough—Guildwood Liberal candidate Mitzie Hunter has had her campaign signs vandalized too, with hateful words like Nazi and fascist. In Peterborough, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was accosted by protesters at a rally for a provincial NDP candidate. Protesters hurled vile insults and threats at him, and gave him the middle finger. (Peterborough police investigated and say there's no grounds for criminal charges.)

Krystal Brooks, Green Party candidate for Simcoe North, felt upset and hurt after finding one of her signs defaced with personal attacks. Brooks is from Rama First Nation and is a human trafficking survivor.

"On the one side, it said, 'Go back to the reserve,'" she said. "On the other side, it was a little too inappropriate to even say. But it was fairly targeted at my human trafficking background."

The OPP has been tracking this kind of behaviour:

Bill Dickson, OPP spokesperson, is noticing a shift in tone this election campaign.

"Things have changed. The climate has changed. People seem to have changed and some have blamed it on COVID," he said. "If you don't agree with a candidate, that's fine. But to target them with words that are hateful? It's just wrong."

Dickson notes that between 2020 and 2021, the OPP saw a 14 per cent increase in "threatening and inappropriate communications toward government officials." This anger and polarization was well displayed during last fall's federal election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau even had gravel thrown at him during a campaign stop in London, Ont.

It's an ill wind that blows from the south.

Image: CBC News

Saturday, May 21, 2022

COVID? What's That?

In Ontario, COVID  cases are sprouting like dandelions in the spring. Two of the party leaders are self-isolating. Martin Regg Cohn writes:

The Green Party’s Mike Schreiner disclosed his positive result just two days after sharing the stage with his counterparts in Monday’s televised debate. Horwath tweeted out her sympathies and good wishes to Schreiner, but by the next morning similar sympathy tweets were coming her way.

What’s notable is how little notice they both attracted. Fleeting stories and ephemeral headlines, to be sure, but their campaigns went on because the show goes on (as with other politicians across Canada and around the world who caught COVID before them — premiers and PMs, presidents and the Queen).

Holed up in her airport hotel room, sinuses stuffed up, Horwath assured supporters and reporters at her next scheduled event that the party had contingency plans for precisely such an eventuality. Beamed in via Zoom, the NDP leader appeared at a Sault Ste. Marie photo-op promising she was still a contender, thanks to vaccines and Tylenol.

The Greens’ Schreiner, too, has kept up his hectic schedule — off the campaign trail but online. No more staged arrivals in electric vehicles painted green in the party’s official colour scheme.

The takeaway message — despite the political script blaming Ford’s Progressive Conservatives for COVID claiming so many lives — is that life goes on. Schreiner was essentially asymptomatic, while Horwath had nagging throat and headache symptoms.

They talked about how other Ontarians had been far less lucky in their pandemic afflictions, and deserving of paid sick days. But the two leaders stayed on the job — living proof of living with COVID, and that democracy must also live on.

Meanwhile, as Monkeypox spreads, public health officials have suggested that we follow the same portocols that we have used for COVID. But fewer and fewer of us are following them. We have succumbed to that other monkey virus.

Image: Dreamstime.com

Friday, May 20, 2022

Conservative Rage

The fall of Jason Kenney has brought forth nary a word from any of the contenders for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party. Susan Delacourt writes:

No thanks or goodbyes, no public comment on the Alberta premier who was once seen as a leading light for modern-day conservatism in Canada.

Pierre Poilievre and Patrick Brown, who served in federal government with Kenney during the Stephen Harper years, took shots against each other instead. Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who knows a thing or two about leading and losing in provincial politics, had nothing to say about Kenney either.

Maybe these would-be leaders were worried about offending one side or the other in the province that is also the heartland for the party. The 51-49 per cent vote in the Kenney leadership review is a vivid, perfect picture of the sharply divided landscape on the right in Alberta — if not Canada at large.

Or maybe, more correctly, conservative leadership aspirants are seeing what happened to Kenney as a warning.

Conservatives hate Justin Trudeau. But they are taking down their own people:

For all of the efforts conservatives are making to harness the rampant rage out there toward Justin Trudeau — embodied in the convoy protests — it’s conservative leaders who keep falling. It was federal leader Erin O’Toole a few months ago; Jason Kenney this week. Trudeau is still standing, by the way.

What's going on?

Probably the best post-Kenney commentary came from Sean Speer, former senior economic adviser to Harper, now an editor at large with The Hub. Speer looked at what happened to Kenney on Wednesday night, sat down at the keyboard, and produced what he titled as a lament for the current state of conservatism.

“There’s a small yet spirited minority of grassroot conservatives who’ve come to define their politics in solely oppositional terms,” Speer wrote. “The result is a siege mentality that’s more reactionary than it is conservative. These people aren’t interested in incremental policy reforms. They’re looking for a fight. They want to toss a hand grenade into the cathedral of our mainstream institutions.”

I’ve been saying something like this since the convoy protests were raging in Ottawa this winter. If it was Poilievre, not Trudeau as prime minister, it would be the Ottawa MP’s name flying on all those “F— Trudeau” flags.

The target of this free-ranging anger isn’t partisan; it’s institutional. The angriest, darkest strain of those protests is nihilist, not at all conservative.

Another insight from Speer: “The forces that have led to Kenney’s departure aren’t interested in or capable of making conservatism relevant to ordinary working people. They have nothing of an affirmative agenda. They are agents of outrage and that’s it.”

The same thing happened south of the border. And we've seen where that has led.

Image: The Guardian

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Alberta's Cannibals

If you're a conservative these days, you swim with sharks. And the sharks are cannibals. Carson Jerema writes:

Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party has eaten itself.

The dismal 51.4 per cent approval rating that led Premier Jason Kenney to announce Wednesday that he will step down is a victory for a long-percolating revolt, one that came mostly from the party’s right wing. But this is no win for conservative politics in Alberta and could signal the movement’s shift further away from where voters are comfortable.

Kenney’s handling of the COVID pandemic irritated the more conservative elements of his caucus, who had been publicly criticizing him and calling for his resignation for months. While some of the dissent came from corners that believed Kenney wasn’t doing enough to quell the spread of COVID-19, it was driven chiefly by those who thought he was doing too much.

This is a faction that demands nothing less than ideological purity, with any deviation dismissed as unforgivable, even traitorous, socialism.

A Stephen Harper acolyte, Kenney ran the most conservative government in the country. But, for some Albertans, it wasn't conservative enough:

In the fall, a group of angry MLAs were expected to bring a vote of non-confidence, but they lost their nerve when it was clear they didn’t have the votes. But after a group of riding associations requested it, a planned fall leadership review was moved to the spring.

Somewhat controversially, the party executive altered the rules to make it a mail in ballot, which prompted howls the change was made for Kenney’s benefit. Whether that was true or not, it clearly didn’t matter. The unhappiness the party membership had with the premier was evident.

With Kenney gone, there is no guarantee a more ideological conservative leader will take over. A more moderate leader could force a split, while someone too far to the right may be unappealing to the average voter.

For the federal Conservatives, the fall of Kenney may serve as a cautionary tale. We'll see how that works out.

Image: newscientist.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Fire Burn And Cauldron Bubble

Thomas Edsall writes that Donald Trump has uncorked lots of nastiness in the United States:

The chilling amalgam of Christian Nationalism, white replacement theory and conspiratorial zeal — from QAnon to the “stolen” 2020 election — has attracted a substantial constituency in the United States, thanks in large part to the efforts of Donald Trump and his advisers. By some estimates, adherents of these overlapping movements make up as much as a quarter or even a third of the electorate. Whatever the scale, they are determined to restore what they see as the original racial and religious foundation of America.

“While these elements are not new,” Robert Jones, chief executive of P.R.R.I., wrote by email, “Donald Trump wove them together and brought them out into the open. Indeed, the MAGA formula — the stoking of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment while making nativist appeals to the Christian right — could accurately be described as a white Christian nationalist strategy from the beginning.”

White Nationalism was on display yet again over the weekend in Buffalo. Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshipers, prefers the term "religious nationalism," which she describes as:

a reactionary, authoritarian ideology that centers its grievances on a narrative of lost national greatness and believes in the indispensability of the “right” religion in recovering that lost greatness. This mind-set always involves a narrative of unjust persecution at the hands of alien or “un-American” groups. The specific targets may shift. Some focus their fears on the “homosexual agenda”; others target Americans of color or nonwhite immigrant groups; still others identify the menace with religious minorities such as Muslims, Jews and secular “elites,” or perceived threats against gender hierarchy and sexual order. And of course, many take an all-of-the-above approach.

They call themselves Christians. But they obviously are not who they claim to be. Like their Orange Idol, they call Truth a Lie, a Lie the Truth, Good Evil, and Evil Good. They are like the witches in Macbeth, gathered around their cauldron. Something wicked this way comes.

Image: The Council On Foreign Relations

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Groundhog Day

By this time in his political career, Michael Harris writes, Justin Trudeau might have been plotting his exit. But Pierre Poilievre has given him a reason to stick around for awhile:

Not many people in federal politics win the PM’s job and a majority government on their first try. Even fewer win three consecutive federal elections, albeit by lesser margins, in the age of drive-by-smear politics.  

Few besides Trudeau have inherited—and navigated—a deadly pandemic that stole lives, liberties, and economies. Trudeau has also answered the international bell in two staggering tragedies, the Syrian War, and now Putin’s sick assault on Ukraine. Canada was there with both humanitarian and military assistance.

It hasn't been all sweetness and light:

Trudeau’s record on climate change has been mixed. But while slow to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, setting carbon emission targets more aspirational than real, and actually buying a rickety pipeline, he did give Canada a meaningful carbon tax. He also gave the country a piece of environmental assessment legislation that could be a game-changer: that is, if the Alberta Appeals Court decision striking down Bill C-69 is itself reversed on appeal by a higher court.  

His much-vaunted feminism was put to the test and failed during the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and the government’s handling of harassment of women in the Canadian military.  

Most prime ministers have mixed records and those records eventually catch up with them. But Pierre Poilievre presents a problem for the Conservatives:

The political odds right now favour Pierre Poilievre to become the next Conservative leader in September, another ex-Harper acolyte who has no chance of becoming prime minister.  

“Freedom” might pass for public policy at a biker rally, or in a non-representative trucker’s convoy. It will be merely comical during a federal election campaign. Canadians are cosmopolitan citizens of the planet. They know that few countries in the world can boast the freedoms, social safety net, and opportunities that Canada does. 

Who could take a candidate seriously for PM who argued against mandates that saved people’s lives during the pandemic, including crucially important vaccines?  

This is the same man who championed the right of fringe-truckers to tie up the national capital for weeks over COVID-mandates, but who wanted First Nations protestors immediately kicked off the railway tracks to guarantee the public’s right to move.

This is the MP who as a Harper cabinet minister endorsed a “snitch line” so neighbour could rat out neighbour over so-called “barbaric practices.” He was also the author of the laughably named Fair Elections Act, which would have put a Cheshire Cat smile on the face of any Texas Republican.  

Jean Charest -- another Quebec native son -- would be a much more formidable opponent for Trudeau. But it appears that, for the Conservatives, every day is Groundhog Day.

Image: You Tube

Monday, May 16, 2022

Bill 96

I'm tired. I'm tired of the language merry-go-round in Quebec. Francois Legault's government is on the cusp of passing Bill 96, which would further restrict the rights of Quebec's English speakers. The Montreal Gazette reports that:

Quebec’s anglophone community rarely protests in the streets against government policy. However, many who came out Saturday said while they are in favour of protecting the French language and culture in Quebec, Bill 96 — which is expected to come to a vote in the National Assembly at the end of the month — would have disastrous consequences in education, language and health-care sectors.

The law would give increased powers to the Office québécois de la langue française, the province’s language watchdog, such as search and seizure without a warrant. It would also restrict service in English in health-care institutions and the courts.

The bill has also raised the ire of the province’s Indigenous communities who called it a form of cultural genocide, and asked to be exempted from it, to no avail.

“The Mohawk language was spoken here thousands of years before French was ever spoken,” [Kenneth]Deer said. “We are being recolonized again by the Quebec government because of Bill 96. We don’t force you to learn Mohawk. Don’t force us to learn your language.”

The Two Solitudes no longer exists in Quebec. It was there when I was a kid growing up in Montreal. But it disappeared thirty years ago. Nonetheless, Adam Bright -- who teaches English at Dawson College -- is worried:

“It’s kind of heartbreaking to see how few people actually understand what this bill is going to do to their opportunities,” said Bright, who teaches English literature at Dawson College. Bright believes he will lose his job if the bill is passed, because there will be less of a need for English instruction in the CEGEP system. “So many of us are investing in French in Quebec. My son is going to a French daycare and will go to a French elementary school, but the bill is based on a misguided notion that to learn English, it somehow imperils French.”

I taught high school in Quebec for twelve years. When Rene Levesque's Parti Quebecois came to power, it severely restricted the ability of students to enter English schools. When I began my teaching career, the school where I taught had 1100 students. When I left, it had 300. I told my wife we'd better leave before they turned out the lights.

I love Quebec. Growing up there opened my eyes to the world. But there is a paranoia that runs deep in in la belle province. And it never goes away. Quebecers always fear the barbarians at the gates. And, in every generation, that fear rises -- like a phoenix from its ashes.

Image: The Montreal Gazette

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Faux Populist

In his first quest for the brass ring, Doug Ford ran as an unapologetic populist. Robin Sears writes:

Like Donald Trump, Ford’s deepest angst is being viewed by his hated “elites” as not very smart and somewhat vulgar socially. It’s what lies behind the bluster of every bellowing, red-faced populist. What was his campaign team thinking when they publicly signalled he is not the sharpest blade in the drawer?

Many populists with more blarney than brains have been great political successes — Ralph Klein, Mike Harris, Bill Vander Zalm — so this is not a fatal weakness. It does often lead, however, to your campaign team being too desperate to shield your less-than-persuasive knowledge of issues from careful examination.

And that weakness was apparent last week, at the first leaders' debate, when Ford showed up with notes from which he read -- a clear indication that Ford is not who he would like to appear to be. And there's more evidence of that. Ford wants to build a new highway near the GTA:

For GTA voters, though, perhaps the most insulting promise is his brag he intends to waste billions on a pointless new superhighway to be punched through farmland at the very edge of Ontario’s priceless agricultural jewel, the Holland Marsh. This is very much off-brand for the New Ford, and is a return to the Old Ford’s rants about “war-on-the-car” elites.

His talking points claimed it will cost only $10 billion dollars, and will save commuters hours of struggle in traffic. Those not trapped in a 1960s vision of the future — that is too say almost every urban planner, transit and traffic expert in the province — say it is likely to cost a great deal more and save only seconds of travel time. One wonders how many affordable houses those billions might build.

When Conservatives are financially dependent on rich corporate backers — that certainly defines this gang — and they brag about a clearly absurd policy, follow the money. The land this superhighway will plow through is owned by several of Toronto’s richest development families. It will see their adjacent land values soar. As Malvina Reynolds once sang, they will seed that farmland with hundreds of “little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky-tacky.”

The Globe revealed that many of the executives of these family empires are among Doug Ford’s biggest contributors. Surely, Ontario deserves a less craven government — one not trapped in visions of the past. One led by a premier who doesn’t need cheat sheets.

The unapologetic populist has always been a faux populist.

Image: CBC

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Not Their Party

If you want to know how far the Conservative Party has devolved, consider former prime minister Kim Campbell's comments on what's going on there now. Sarah Turnbull writes:

Amid discussions about the battle for the soul of the Conservative Party, former Prime Minister Kim Campbell says without leadership on policies such as climate change, the party’s identity will remain in question.

“I'm sorry, if you're not worried about climate change, and you're not worried about resurgent authoritarianism, and you're not a champion of the rights of women to make the contributions they need to make in society, I’m not interested,” she said in an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday.

“Canada has got to be part of the solution to climate change and the fact that there could be any party that drags its feet is just so depressing.”

Campbell is no friend of Pierre Poilievre:

The former leader also weighed in on Pierre Poilievre’s attacks on the Bank of Canada, and specifically comments that Governor Tiff Macklem should be fired for failing to manage soaring inflation.

Yeah, he should have predicted you know, the disruptions of the COVID supply chains and the war in Ukraine, right? Yeah. Get rid of the dude, he's not consulting his tarot cards. Grow up,” she said.

And on the independence of Canada’s central bank, she said “when people are appointed to hold independent positions you need to suck it up and respect that unless there is clear evidence that what they are doing is either incompetent or done in bad faith or dangerous.”

The party is obviously not Campbells's Party. It's not Joe Clark's Party. Or Brian Mulroney or Bob Stanfield's Party.

Indeed. CTV News

Friday, May 13, 2022

Student Debt

In both Canada and the United States, proposals are being floated to deal with the problem of student debt. Paul Krugman writes:

What I think I do know is that much of the backlash to proposals for student debt relief is based on a false premise: the belief that Americans who have gone to college are, in general, members of the economic elite.

The falsity of this proposition is obvious for those who were exploited by predatory for-profit institutions that encouraged them to go into debt to get more or less worthless credentials. The same applies to those who took on educational debt but never managed to get a degree — not a small group. In fact, around 40 percent of student loan borrowers never finish their education.

But even among those who make it through, a college degree is hardly a guarantee of economic success. And I’m not sure how widely that reality is understood.

What is widely understood is that America has become a far more unequal society over the past 40 years or so. The nature of rising inequality, however, isn’t as broadly known. I keep encountering seemingly well-informed people who believe that we’re mainly looking at a widening gap between the college-educated and everyone else.

When governments stopped issuing grants to students and started providing loans to them, the assumption was that their lifetime earnings would far outpace their debt. They could, it was said, easily repay their loans.

But the economy changed. University students graduated into the gig economy, where a regular paycheque was far from guaranteed. The result has been that students graduate from university with the equivalent of a home mortgage on their backs. That's quite an achievement by the age of 22. Recent statistics indicate that newly graduated doctors owe a quarter of a million dollars as they begin to set up a practice.

In Canada -- for the past two years and until March 2023 -- the federal government has stopped including interest payments on that debt. But there is so much more that could be done.

Image: North Shore Community College

Thursday, May 12, 2022

More Bombast

The Conservatives had another raucous debate last night. And it's clear, Bruce Arthur writes, that Pierre Poilievre will say anything in his quest for the party leadership:

In a Conservative leadership campaign defined by convoy praise and high school debate club burns, Pierre Poilievre also takes time to attack the Bank of Canada. Sunday, former Bank governor David Dodge responded, “well that’s bulls---” on a national talk show. You don’t see that every day.

The Ottawa-Carleton MP seems to be leading the Conservative leadership race thanks in part to predatory, distorted attacks on institutions during a time of global uncertainty. The Bank of Canada is a target thanks to the rise of inflation, which is largely due to the war in Ukraine and oil prices, house prices, China and COVID, and maybe some profiteering. People notice pocketbook economics.

In response to this thorny global financial challenge, Poilievre blames domestic spending and Bank bond-buying to support government deficit spending — he has always been against the pandemic financial supports to Canadians — and pitches … Bitcoin? That attack on the Bank came after its research showed five per cent of Canadians owned Bitcoin between 2018 and 2020: mostly young men whom the Bank described low financial literacy. Pierre, courting such young men, shot back that the bank was financially illiterate. Poilievre has also pitched Canada as a global cryptocurrency leader, proposed banning a government version, and has sold Bitcoin as a way to opt out of inflation.

It truly is a Trumpian performance -- loud on volume and high on ignorance:

Economists look at Poilievre the way a plumber would look at your plan to build a cardboard toilet: befuddlement, rising to annoyance. Bitcoin as a watchword for sound money is more or less the gold standard rebranded, and former Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has already noted that a fixed money standard historically raises the risk of deflation and depressions.

Maybe you could view Poilievre’s Bitcoin pitch simply as the broader trend of hawking crypto: buy Bitcoin, make lots of money, opt out of inflation, the dream. He’s like Matt Damon telling people that fortune favours the brave so he can afford a new boat or something.

But Bitcoin is down 50 per cent since November as part of a greater cryptocurrency slump, and one estimate had 40 per cent of its holders as being underwater. It might go up again. But it’s not stable.

His attacks on the Bank of Canada are similarly reckless. He wants the Bank to focus on keeping inflation as low as possible, while knowingly pushing lines of attack that could undermine its ability to do so. Expectations of inflation affect wage expectations, which affect prices, and if the market doesn’t think the Bank of Canada is serious about bringing down inflation, inflation doesn’t slow.

Really, the simplest throughline to Poilievre’s bit is that if your goal is to hammer freedom to an audience that found wearing masks was an imposition, that vaccines were a conspiracy rather than a collective victory, and that are angry or confused by what’s happening with the world, then Bitcoin is just another aspirational buzzword that signifies the world doesn’t have to work the way you’re told it does. Poilievre has been pumping conspiratorial theories about gatekeepers for much of the pandemic; He’s still doing it. He’ll say just about anything, and that opens the door to all kinds of conspiracies, all kinds of anger, all kinds of extremism.

These days, morons get a lot of press coverage.

Image: CBC

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

A Recipe For Electoral Disaster

There was a big difference between Ontario's leaders' debate in North Bay and the Conservative leadership debate in Ottawa. Susan Delecourt writes:

It may not be fair to compare them, but the first Ontario leaders’ debate on Tuesday was far superior to last week’s debut debate between the federal Conservative leadership candidates.

Here’s one big difference: the Ontario leaders spared some words for lives lost and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Thursday night, anyone listening to the Conservative leadership debate would have thought the only damage wreaked by the pandemic was on the poor convoy protesters and all of those Canadians forced to get vaccinated.

The Ottawa debate was among enemies:

What last week’s debate definitely demonstrated was the depth of division among the contenders — particularly between the front-running Pierre Poilievre and former Quebec premier Jean Charest.

If it was just a personality clash, that division might be shrugged off as the intensity of competition, a demonstration of the personal stakes in this race.

But the competition is really all about the personality of the party. Under Charest, Aitchison or even Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, the Conservative brand would be more or less like it has been for decades: strong on fiscal conservatism, law and order, and steeped in institutions. It would likely be more than simply the “I Hate Justin Trudeau” party.

Last night's debate was between opponents:

There were clashes, sharp ones even, among the four on stage, but all four — Ford, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Green Leader Mike Schreiner — talked about practical policy issues and getting Ontario back on its feet after the pandemic.

They all talked up collaboration, too — even, imagine, with Trudeau’s government in Ottawa. Ford fondly recalled his nightly calls with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The federal Conservatives are taking their cues from American Republicans. That's a recipe for electoral disaster.

Image: Global News

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Riley On Carbon Capture

Susan Riley has become a fierce critic of Justin Trudeau's climate policy. She writes:

Well, that didn’t take long. Mere weeks after the federal budget offered a generous tax credit to help oil and gas companies create carbon sequestration projects—aimed at redirecting greenhouse gas emissions from oilsands projects underground, or into storage—industry pooh-bahs are moaning that the government proposal isn’t generous enough.

As Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix complained recently, carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) projects are costly and complicated and the industry isn’t sure they will pay off in the long term, due to oil’s uncertain future. Despite the dizzying profits of recent months, this is one gamble Big Oil isn’t willing to take. Instead, it wants taxpayers—federal and provincial—to pick up the tab for cleaning up the industry’s growing emissions.

Instead of the 50 to 60 per cent tax credit Ottawa offered—worth a notional $8.6-billion by 2030—the industry wants governments to cover at least 75 per cent of the cost of CCS, a technology that has existed for decades, but has yet to be successfully adopted for large-scale use. The so-called Oil Sands Pathway Alliance, representing the six largest companies in the patch, points to Norway, where government has taken on much of the direct cost of building CCS.

By now, we should know who the oil barons are. Former environment minister Catherine McKenna's eyes are wide open:

“When you see companies issue large dividends, fail to invest in technology, and make large profits, then ask government to step up—but say there is no way they’d do it themselves—it actually makes you wonder about the business model.”

In fact, Trudeau wants to have it both ways -- big oil profits and low emissions. That circle can't be squared. And that impossibility may affect national unity:

The constant appeasement of Alberta’s powerful fossil fuel industry and its political spear-carriers—federal cash to clean up abandoned wells, reduce methane emissions, buy a pipeline to the coast!—has done anything to fortify national unity, much less lower emissions. If anything, it has exacerbated divisions.

When it comes to climate change, for instance, Quebec may as well be a separate country. It recently became the world’s first jurisdiction to ban further oil and gas exploration. This wasn’t a federal initiative, of course, nor is it entirely a mark of the province’s superior virtue. But it does point to the wisdom of previous provincial governments, that prudently developed Quebec’s abundant hydro power. Those investments, mostly in James Bay, are now paying dividends in both international exports of green power and the emerging electrification of transportation.

Ontario’s important auto industry, unlike oil and gas, has embraced the future and is embarked on a transition to electric vehicles, with the applause—and significant financial support—of both federal and Ontario governments. A campaigning Doug Ford is showing up with federal counterparts, grinning broadly, as billions in federal-provincial funding is directed at retooling assembly lines, setting up battery manufacturing facilities, and establishing EV research centres at car plants across southern Ontario. (Last week, some $3.6-billion federal-provincial-private money was announced to upgrade assembly lines in Windsor and Brampton, thereby securing well-paying jobs.)

While Central Canada moves, albeit belatedly, towards a zero-carbon future, federal Conservative leadership candidates are back-pedalling furiously on climate, joining western premiers, like Kenney and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, in denouncing a carbon tax and endorsing an expansion of the fossil fuel industry. Even former champion of cap-and-trade, Jean Charest, has rejected the federal carbon tax. Patrick Brown, who included a carbon tax in his provincial platform when he was an Ontario PC leader, is calling for “consultation” with party members before he reveals his climate plans. The front-runner, Pierre Poilievre, wants to revive the Energy East pipeline, the Northern Gateway, and, basically, every LNG project anywhere.

This leaves federal climate debate, literally, all over the map. There is incoherence and mixed signals from the Trudeau government, hostility and denial from the Conservatives and no unity among premiers. As the climate crisis becomes more immediate for voters—with India baking under record heat, severe tornadoes in Oklahoma and another summer of climate threats looming at home—you wonder when, and how, the political fault lines will occur.

But make no mistake: They will occur.

Image: You Tube

Monday, May 09, 2022

Anti-Democratic Justices

The Supreme Court of the United States is anti-democratic. E.J. Dionne writes:

If the Supreme Court adopts the substance of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s draft ruling ending the constitutional right to abortion, the conservative majority’s radicalism will deepen the crisis of American democracy and further divide an already torn country.

There is an irony to this since, in principle, the Alito opinion is all about democracy. “It is time,” he writes, “to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

It has been a long journey to this outcome:

Even as they harvested pro-life votes, conservatives engaged in a deceptive two-step. Except for Donald Trump, who said outright that “I will be appointing pro-life judges,” Republican politicians typically veiled their intentions behind abstract promises to back “strict constructionists” who wouldn’t “legislate from the bench.”

The justices themselves were equally cagey during their confirmation hearings. They never told us they thought Roe was wrongly decided. On the contrary, they spoke of their great respect for precedent, often at length. Whether you call this lying or not, it was certainly intentional misdirection and evasion. The last thing Trump’s appointees wanted was an extended debate on what overturning Roe would mean.

Even now, most Republican politicians don’t want to talk about Roe. That’s because they know how unpopular eviscerating abortion rights would be. So they focus instead on how horrible it is that a draft opinion leaked out of the court.

The decision on Roe is not the only anti-democratic decision the court has made:

The court’s conservative majority has sabotaged all manner of democratically enacted laws: environmental and labor regulations, limits on the role of money in politics. The court’s decisions on voting rights and gerrymandering are anti-democratic on their face since they enable minority rule in the states that would be legislating on abortion. And the justices’ refusal to be candid about their designs on Roe matters. They prioritized their own confirmations over the imperative of a necessary national dialogue on the flaws and virtues of a controversial ruling they apparently intended to scrap.

If Americans expect justice from their Supreme Court, they're as deluded as the most recent ex-president of the United States.

Image: Supreme Court

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Nothing More Than A Bomb Thrower

In his quest for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Pierre Poilievre has made a point of attacking the Bank Of Canada. Andrew Coyne writes:

The bank is always open to criticism, of course, but it matters how it is conducted, and it matters by whom. The independence of central banks from political interference is rooted in much of the same soil as the independence of the courts, and is as sacrosanct. People agree to use a currency for the same reason they agree to obey the law: because they believe it has not been debased by the powers that be.

That does not mean critics should refrain from pointing out when either has in fact been debased. It does mean they should not make inflammatory suggestions to that effect without evidence. That is especially incumbent on those in positions of political leadership, or who aspire to it. A candidate for party leader who runs, essentially, against the bank is not sending a message that he would, if elected, leave the bank’s current leaders to carry on undisturbed. He is implying, even if he does not say it out loud, that he would fix their wagon.

This is a particularly hazardous moment to be playing politics with the bank. After a prolonged period in which interest rates were held at historic lows, the bank has begun to raise them, and promises to raise them further, the better to take the air out of inflation – or more particularly inflation expectations.

But Poilievre is not a man of self-restraint. His mission is to light fires:

To undermine the bank’s credibility at this, of all moments, then, is the height of recklessness. It can do no good, and may do much harm. Mr. Poilievre compounds the fault by pretending that, by baselessly questioning the bank’s independence, he is in fact defending it. The point of siccing the Auditor-General on it, he said in a statement after his press conference on the bank’s doorstep, was to “restore the bank’s independence.”

Poilievre sided with the truckers who wanted to overthrow the government. He also wants to overthrow the Bank. He doesn't have the stuff to be prime minister -- which he insists is the job he wants. He's nothing more than a bomb-thrower.

Image: Quotefancy

Saturday, May 07, 2022

A Dark Future

The Conservatives held their first leadership debate this week. And, if it showcased the future of the party, that future will be dark, indeed. Susan Delacourt writes:

Jean Charest, the former premier of Quebec, was the odd man out in this week’s dust-up between Conservative leadership candidates at the Ottawa convention centre.

The crucial question for Charest, if not Conservatives themselves, is whether the same is true about the entire federal party. If the crowd at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference is representative of the Conservative party as a whole, Charest and his brand of politics are an outlier force.

Or, to put it more frankly, it may be now that the old, progressive conservatism is the real fringe movement in the Conservative Party of Canada.

 The crowd's reaction to Charest was deeply troubling:

It was the chorus of boos greeting Charest that showed just how much he was in unfriendly territory on Thursday night. Standing in a convention centre that was near ground zero of the Ottawa occupation this winter, Charest had the nerve to call the [truckers']protest illegal.

That’s not what the crowd, or the other candidates, wanted to hear. They howled outrage. Not only is Charest the only non-Ontario contender in this race, he is also the only would-be leader who isn’t looking to align himself with the angry mob that put the capital city and crucial border points under siege in February.

He’s also not declaring war on the media or the CBC, conflicted on abortion rights or nostalgic for the days of Stephen Harper. All any candidate needed to do to get the crowd cheering on Thursday was to whip up rage against “legacy media,” elites and anything else deemed “liberal.” Even the moderators got in on the act, positing that Conservatives keep losing elections because the media gangs up on social conservatives.

No, Charest pointed out at one early stage of the debate — Conservatives are still paying a high political price for their “barbaric cultural practices” tip line during the 2015 election, he said. A modern Conservative party has to be welcoming to new Canadians and national in outlook. His own supporters cheered. Many in the room did not.

This isn’t just a question of whether Charest will win or not when the votes are all counted in September. It goes to the heart of what the Conservative party is all about, after losing three elections and the discipline of power they had during the Harper years.

Charest and his team will no doubt be reflecting on that scene at the conference, and whether it’s wise or even possible to lead a party populated by partisans more interested in knocking things down than building anything up. No one talked of climate change, Canada-U.S. relations or even Ukraine in any substantial way.

We've seen how this story plays out. South of the border, it led to four years of Donald Trump and the Supreme Court he built.

Apparently, there are lots of us who are crazy enough to want to repeat that story.

Image: The Toronto Star