Friday, September 30, 2022

Truth And Reconciliation Day

The history of any nation is part of the history of humanity. That means that every nation must confront its Heart of Darkness. Some nations refuse to do that. At the moment, the United States is trying not to do that. Attempts to confront history are labeled "woke."

With this newly established holiday, we are compelled to confront the dark part of our history. With each passing holiday, we will be forced to consider how far we have progressed or devolved. Let's hope we can learn from history -- and not repeat it.


Thursday, September 29, 2022

The R Word

A recession, we're told, is just around the corner. Heather Scoffield writes:

Deloitte Canada joins economists at Bank of Montreal, Desjardins and Royal Bank in seeing two straight quarters of “mild” economic contraction in our near future — perhaps as soon as the fourth quarter of 2022 which starts in October.

Don’t worry too much, we’re told. It will be painless, and it may even be good for us.

That’s wishful thinking.

Jobs, of course, are top of mind as soon as anyone mentions the R-word. Let’s not gloss over the fact that unemployment is near record lows. Canada’s labour market bounced back from the pandemic recession with surprising strength — a testimony to flexible and resilient employers and employees, as well as plentiful government support.

We are entering the downturn with a tight job market that has pulled in new workers and marginalized workers alike, buoying optimism for a more inclusive and diverse workforce over the long term.

So can it really be that bad?

There’s reason to be leery.

For one, the jobs bonanza of last year is over. Canada’s labour market has shed jobs for the past three months, and the unemployment rate rose to 5.4 per cent in August, albeit from a rock-bottom 4.9 per cent in July.

Brendon Bernard, economist at job-posting site Indeed Canada, has his hands on the day-to-day churn in hiring, and he still sees plenty of strength in the labour market. But it’s not like it was a few months ago. In May, for example, job postings were 74 per cent above their pre-pandemic levels. Nowadays, they’re 59 per cent above.

“We’re still in a job-seekers market, but there has been a momentum shift,” he says. “Things are starting to ease.”

Over at Deloitte Canada, chief economist Craig Alexander has just called a mild recession starting in the fourth quarter. He too sees a cooling of the labour market but, as long as things unfold as he expects, he is forecasting “recession with an asterisk.”

The main reason the economy is poised to shrink, he says, is because companies stocked up heavily on everything they could earlier this year in the face of supply-chain disruptions. But now, supply chains seem to be working themselves out, and companies have no reason keep their inventories high.

In other words, nothing to do with jobs.

The question is, how will governments react?

In the wake of a poorly conceived mini-budget in the United Kingdom that introduced deficit-financed tax cuts, global markets have gone into convulsions. Currencies are churning, bond markets are in turmoil and the Bank of England was pushed into “whatever-it-takes” mode, intervening in markets to counteract the damage.

In Canada, the central bank has signalled it will continue to raise interest rates even as momentum in the economy is slowing. Its attempt to crush demand so it is better in sync with supply is delicate at best, and poised to hurt many vulnerable workers at worst.

And the latest poll suggests Canadians favour Pierre Poilievre as prime minister.

Buckle your seatbelts.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

It Can Be Devastating

We're not done with COVID. And it's not done with us. Andrew Nikifork writes:

This question demands to be top of mind: What can COVID do to our brains?

Add to a growing stack of relevant research a controversial report published last week by Nature Medicine.

It suggests that seven out of 100 COVID cases could lead to serious brain problems that may last a lifetime.

The authors, led by Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis, used U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical records to track the brain health of 154,000 people who had tested positive for COVID.

Their conclusion, as summed up in a press release: “Those who have been infected with the virus are at increased risk of developing a range of neurological conditions in the first year after the infection.”

The lingering effects can be severe:

They include strokes. Cognitive and memory problems. Migraine headaches. Epileptic seizures. Involuntary muscle contractions. Hearing and vision abnormalities. Balance and co-ordination difficulties. Depression and anxiety. And symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.

“We’re seeing brain problems in previously healthy individuals and those who have had mild infections,” said lead researcher Al-Aly.

“It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, female or male, or what your race is. It doesn’t matter if you smoked or not, or if you had other unhealthy habits or conditions.”

Dr. Wes Ely, an ICU doctor and expert in long COVID at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, called the results “shattering” and “insane” in a TikTok video.

The study has its critics. But, nonetheless, it raises several red flags:

Ely noted: “This VA Study is very large and even though it is 70 per cent white males who were unvaccinated, we already have data showing that vaccinated patients are still at risk for neurological and cardiological complications months after acute and mild COVID.”

Other research shows, for example, that even mild COVID infections can result in significant shrinkage of grey matter as well as lasting damage to neurons essential for sensory and motor function.

The virus can also penetrate the blood-brain barrier and ignite central nervous system inflammation. The blood-brain barrier is a sort of immunological roadblock that prevents infections in the blood from entering the brain.

A Danish study also found that risk of ischemic stroke, which blocks blood flow to the brain, was more frequent in COVID-positive patients than in those with respiratory infections.

“There have been several studies by other researchers that have shown, in mice and humans, that SARS-CoV-2 can attack the lining of the blood vessels and then trigger a stroke or seizure,” Al-Aly said in the news release. “It helps explain how someone with no risk factors could suddenly have a stroke.”

So don't throw away that mask. And don't listen to the morons who tell you that the mask is an infringement on your personal freedom.


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Zombie Reaganomics

Last week, the Republicans released their campaign "platform." They called it a  "Commitment to America." Paul Krugman writes:

If you squint hard at the economics section of the Commitment to America, however, you can see the faint outlines of a familiar set of ideas — zombie Reaganomics. Which raises a question: Why are deregulation, benefit cuts and tax breaks for the rich still the ruling ideology of a party that now claims to stand for the working class?

First, it’s striking how many of the economic complaints are about things that are barely, if at all, affected by government policy, like the price of gas (which has come down a lot since its peak) and supply-chain disruptions (which have been diminishing).

Second, immediately after declaring that “we have a plan to fix the economy,” House Republicans say that they will “curb wasteful government spending.” As anyone who follows budget debates knows, that’s the ultimate weasel phrase. What spending are we talking about, specifically?

Bear in mind that the federal government is basically an insurance company with an army: The great bulk of spending is on health care, retirement and the military. You can’t meaningfully cut expenditure without attacking at least one of these. So which parts of that spending are wasteful?

Senator Rick Scott wants to get rid of the insurance company:

Rick Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has called for sunsetting all federal programs — including Social Security and Medicare — every five years, which would open the door to gutting America’s social safety net. Other Republicans have tried to distance themselves from that idea, although without removing Scott from his position. But again, what is this wasteful spending they propose to cut?

We've seen and heard all of this before:

We now have four decades’ worth of experience showing that deregulation and tax cuts for the rich do not, in fact, produce higher wages and faster economic growth. So the idea that tax cuts are the secret of prosperity should be dead, yet somehow it’s still shambling along, eating Republican brains.

For what it’s worth, financial markets share my skepticism. Look at what’s happening in Britain, where Prime Minister Liz Truss’s recent announcement of a Reaganite economic plan sent interest rates soaring and the pound plunging.

Billionaires may no longer run the G.O.P. the way they used to, but the party still wants their money. So plutocrat-friendly policies may be a way of keeping wealthy donors and corporations on board, even if many of them are uncomfortable with the right-wing social agenda.

The party still works for the wealthy. But it's added hate -- for all kinds of people -- to the mix.


Monday, September 26, 2022

He's In Trouble

Vladimir Putin is in trouble. His army is experiencing reversals. And he's calling up kids to replace his dwindling forces. Michael Harris writes:

In making these announcements, Putin has planted both feet in a bear trap. U.S. military experts who study developments in Ukraine with a lapidarian’s eye think that conscription will lead to more reversals on the battlefield. Does Russia even have the capacity to take such a large number of men and turn them into soldiers overnight? The Americans don’t think so. They say these new conscripts will be ill-trained, poorly equipped, and demoralized—which is a pretty good description of the ragged Russian units already in Ukraine. Putin has even taken to using mercenary convicts to shore up his battered forces.

Putin -- convinced that he  is a very stable genius -- has personally taken control of his army:

No modern, professional army operates like that. Command and control in combat is a vital component that goes out the window when the leading politician of a country makes himself the boss-hog general. Putin simply doesn’t know his ass from a bomb-crater when it comes to conducting a war. The results in Ukraine are making that painfully clear.

When Putin sent his invaders into Ukraine, most observers thought the Zelenskyy government would fall in a few days. There was a time when Russia controlled roughly 20 per cent of Ukraine.  Now, with continuing Western support, the betting is that Ukraine can not only reclaim lost territory, it may even be able to win the war.

And, once again, he's making nuclear threats:

If Putin is still rational, he will understand that the person who lifts the lid on that Pandora’s Box won’t see anything good happen. Russia is not the only country with tactical nuclear weapons. The West would be under tremendous pressure to ride to the rescue if Putin actually used his most fearsome terror weapon on Ukrainians. 

However, there are signs that ordinary Russians have had enough:

There is a real possibility that the war in Ukraine will not be decided on the battlefield of the world’s bread basket, but in the public squares of Russia. When was the last time you saw men, women, and children taking to the streets to oppose Vladimir Putin? That is exactly what they have been doing in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

More than 1,800 of them have been detained, half of that number are women and children.

Why are they in the street, knowing that their lives could be blown out like a candle, by a regime that doesn’t tolerate opposition? In a country where people keep falling out of windows, the sudden knock on the door could come at any time. They are in the street because they have heard the news from the front, where thousands of young Russians have been killed or wounded in this misbegotten and mismanaged war. According to the Ukrainians, who lost 9,000 military personnel in the first six months of the war, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s forces have killed or wounded 45,000 Russian troops.

The message in Russia is getting clearer: Putin’s “special military operation” is not a patriotic effort to liberate Russians or to “de-Nazify” Ukraine. It is Putin’s folly, a dreadful meat grinder that mothers in Russia have come to see as a threat to their families. That’s why 18 different regions in Russia have actually called for Putin’s resignation. Sadly, dictators don’t resign, they get even.

Or they are overthrown. Stay tuned.


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Don't Believe Him

Robert Rotenberg -- who shared an office with the late Eddie Greenspan -- has some advice for Donald Trump's lawyers -- don't believe him: He writes:

I’ve been a criminal lawyer for more than 30 years, and at some point in almost every case my client will turn to me and say: “You believe me, don’t you?”

I always give the same answer. “My job is not to believe you. It is to defend you.”

When you see the repeated folly of Trump’s many lawyers, it is painfully clear they have crossed that line, or at least have tiptoed right up to it. It is astounding that any lawyer would sign an affidavit stating they had themselves done a “diligent” search of a client’s home for evidence. Hence, you see their silence in court on issues such as whether or not Trump declassified the documents.

Speaking of documents, I have a hunch about the Mar-a-Lago case. You may remember how Conrad Black got caught on video secreting boxes of evidence out the side door of his office. Have you noticed that Trump and his lawyers have gone quiet on the question of security videos from his resort?

My prediction: at some point we will see a video of the former president padding around in his bathrobe at three in morning, rifling through his boxes of documents. My advice to his lawyers: do not ever sign an affidavit stating you have never seen the video.

There is a reason why Donald Trump's lawyers eventually get disbarred.

Image: Politico

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Pure Theatre

Following in the steps of the Orange Jesus, the Conservatives have gone to war with the media. Bruce Arthur writes:

First, let’s all hope Garnett Genuis is OK. You would hate to see the Conservative MP taking different routes to work, holed up in a motel, mattresses against the windows, worried for his life. You’d hate for him to feel unsafe.

That said, we should live in the real world, too. Every week the federal Conservatives seem to find a new way to make media the enemy, and this week one member of the media helped them along. Freelance journalist Dale Smith, who is often accused of being sympathetic to the government, watched Genuis pepper an inflation question with lyrics from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was based on the largely imaginary crisis before this one, if you’re keeping track.

So Smith tweeted, “Genuis tries to includes lyrics from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in his question, and I cannot adequately tell you how lame it is. When horses are this lame, you shoot them. #QP.”

Smith is said to have a tendency to irritate much of the Ottawa press corps, and this was a careless, irritating turn of phrase. But let’s be honest: any real-world interpretation of that phrase would not find any more violence in the tweet if Smith had said, say, break a leg.

But the Conservatives have decided media is the enemy, and that this serious moment in human history is a great college debate club game. Genuis, House leader Andrew Scheer and party leader Pierre Poilievre took public umbrage, and the usual right-wing press cranked up the outrage engines. There was some confusion, but it was clear the Conservatives asked that Smith be banned from the West Block on a security basis, and removed from the Parliamentary Press Gallery either temporarily or permanently.

Genuis asked the Speaker to rule whether Smith’s tweet impacted his ability to do his job, which could open a big parliamentary can of worms, or give the Conservatives a chance to complain the system is rigged against poor ol’ them.

Smith's tweet was stupid. There's a lot of that going around these days. But the Conservative response was pure theatre:

This is such patently empty and performative grievance that it’s a wonder CPC members didn’t stock up on fake blood. You might note the obvious asymmetry between the parameters of political rage — the convoy, for instance, was deemed a national security threat by law enforcement, and the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre confirmed that, involving specific threats to at least four ministers. You could point out the Conservative Party itself has embraced the convoy, and all the anti-public health, media-hating rage that came with it.

And even if you could put all that aside, you have to have a child’s sense of cleverness to consider this a real-world gotcha. It’s like saying that because someone said speak of the devil, they were summoning Satanism. Scheer tried this before, pretending that referring to political defenestration meant encouraging murder via open windows. Maybe, somehow, he even believes it.

That's what politics have become these days -- pure theatre.


Friday, September 23, 2022

At the Funny Farm

Two days ago, Donald Trump claimed that he could declassify documents in his mind. Chris Walker writes:

In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Wednesday, former President Donald Trump claimed that he could have declassified government documents he removed from the White House upon leaving office simply by using his mind.

“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump said. “You’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it.”

It's Trump's latest defense in the ongoing FBI Mar-a-Logo saga:

Trump’s comments contradict his previous claims about the transfer of classified documents to his home, however. Last week, for example, the former president said he had given “verbal orders” to declassify the government materials — although experts have said that this argument doesn’t hold up in court, either.

Trump’s latest defense — that he can just “think” the documents declassified, and they will be — was panned by many social media users.

“If all documents can either be classified or unclassified by the president in his head, but no one knows it until he says it, are all government documents both classified and unclassified?” a tweet from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said. “Did we just invent Schrödinger’s Document?”

Others noted that Trump’s comments undercut his previous defenses of his removal of classified documents.

“The focus is understandably on Trump’s claim of mental declassifications from his Hannity interview,” tweeted New York Times senior political reporter Maggie Haberman. “But he appeared to indicate he intentionally sent the documents to Mar-a-Lago, which cuts against the ‘it was an accident’ claims.”

Trump keeps trying out new defenses. But, with each defense, it becomes increasingly clear that he doesn't belong in the White House. He doesn't belong at Mar-a-Logo. He belongs at the Funny Farm.

Image: Truthout

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Anti- Populist

Pierre Poilievre claims that he's a populist. Actually, Linda McQuaig writes, he's an anti-populist:

Let’s face it: Pierre Poilievre is a dead-ringer for someone you’d meet at a private school debating tournament.

I mean no disrespect — either to the new Conservative leader, or to private school debating tournaments (which I confess to attending in my youth). I just mean that all the media hype about him as a fiery populist is just talkity-talk. In truth, Poilivre is more debating nerd than populist — by a country mile.

Indeed, the notion that he’s a populist — someone who backs working people over elites — isn’t just wrong, it’s downright silly. He’s actually the anti-populist: instead of championing the interests of working people, he routinely crushes those interests.

Sure, he’s quick to bad-mouth the “elite” — you know, people like teachers, public health officials, journalists or anyone who supports vaccine mandates or thinks it’s bad to honk horns all night while people try to sleep.

Strangely missing from his elite are CEOs, billionaires, hedge fund managers and other corporate bigwigs who actually make the decisions that shape our economy and impact the pocketbooks of ordinary Canadians.

Today’s corporate elite is focused on suppressing the suddenly revived aspirations of working people to make more money.

If workers want to make more money, they have to act collectively -- in a union:

So where does Poilievre, the fiery populist, come down in this classic struggle? Well, he’s solidly on the side of the corporate owners who want to make it hard for workers to flex their muscles through unions. He has a long history of pushing anti-union legislation and denouncing “union bosses.”

In 2020, he proclaimed himself dedicated to bringing “right-to-work” laws to Canada. These notorious U.S. laws, with roots in the Jim Crow era, are aimed at undermining unions. Barack Obama said they’re about “the right to work for less money.”

Poilievre has enthusiastically served wealthy interests most of his life. As a teenager, he was already focused on helping the rich, arguing in an essay competition that, if he were prime minister, he’d abolish the capital gains tax — an odd policy choice for a 19-year-old supposedly grappling with how to make the world a better place. Poilievre didn’t win the contest, but he landed a job with its corporate sponsor.

He also blended seamlessly into the right-wing Alberta crowd, glomming onto Preston Manning, Stockwell Day and Ezra Levant. But his conservative juices really started flowing when he served as a pit-bull in the cabinet of Stephen Harper, acting out the prime minister’s basest instincts.

Poilievre could be dubbed Harper Lite, or maybe Harper XXL; he’s got all Harper’s ideological rigidity, mean-spiritedness and ruthlessness — just without the charm.

Like his hero to the south, Poilievre is a fraud. In the case of Trump, New York's Attorney General made that abundantly clear yesterday.

Image: YouTube

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Food Insecurity

Food Insecurity has become a major problem for millions of Canadians. Armine Yalnizyan writes:

Almost six million people were food insecure last year in Canada. More than a third of them were in Ontario, where 16 per cent, or one in six households, struggle with food insecurity.

Food insecurity ranges from having to limit the essentials to doing without food entirely because of lack of money.

In Ontario in 2021, 249,000 households missed meals, reduced their intake of food or went days without eating. Ontario was the only province where more people were food insecure in 2021 than in 2020.

Count on more people going hungry this year. That’s because food is the most difficult to ignore of the three basic drivers of decades-high inflation rates: housing, gas and food.

Food has also become the most relentlessly rising cost in household budgets, up 10.8 per cent this year over 2021, the fastest pace of price growth since 1981.

To deal with the problem, the Trudeau government has put several measures in place:

Last week the Trudeau government introduced $4.6 billion in federal aid to be spent on inflation relief until the end of 2023, almost every penny for those with low incomes.

The package includes $2.5 billion over the next six months to provide a bit of extra cash for about 11 million people currently receiving the GST tax credit, providing low-income seniors an additional $233.50, a single mom with a child $386.50 more, and a couple with two children an extra $467.

There is also a one-time $500 top up to the federal housing benefit, costing $1.2 billion and reaching 1.8 million eligible renters.

Predictably, the Right is up in arms:

Bank economists and some fiscal conservatives have pushed back hard against these measures. As in other countries, the chattering classes have embraced a new economic theme: government efforts to fight inflation will trigger even more inflation by adding spending to the mix.

Pierre Poilievre, Canada’s new leader of the Official Opposition, chimed in, saying: “The problem with spending more money as a solution to inflation is that it simply pours more gasoline on the inflation fire.”

In truth the measures are so modest (only $3.2 billion in additional spending this fiscal year, targeted to cash-strapped households) that they amount to about 0.1 per cent of nominal GDP and one per cent of current growth, hardly a tail that could wag a dog.

Along with the child-care fee rebate, financed by the feds and promised by the Ontario government to start in April (money that has yet to arrive in mailboxes), there’s a lot of talk but not a lot of cash flowing to households.

There’s no chance current measures will spur inflationary overspending anytime soon, and there is more trouble on the horizon this fall.

Gas prices are down from the highs of the summer, but forecasts are pricing in significant increases in the coming months.

Poilievre blames all this on Trudeau. He calls it "Justin Flation." He's loud. But he doesn't know much.

Image: The Toronto Star

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Ends And Means

If you've been following the comments at this site, you will notice that I have received a lot of blowback on my post about migrants being trafficked to Martha's Vineyard. I assume a lot of the commenters are Americans. I usually don't receive many comments from Americans. Obviously, I touched a nerve.

My response has been that the post was about means, not ends. It seems to me that many of those who disagree with me have missed the distinction between the two. Never mind that these people were in the United States legally. To send them north means that they will miss their appearance in court and risk deportation. Deportation seems to be the point. 

Migration -- like inflation -- is a worldwide problem. But, as happens so often, the problem is seen from one's backyard. Yes, it is a problem that is very complicated and difficult to solve. But you don't solve it by trafficking human beings. There are laws against that.

We used to believe in a simple moral principle: The end doesn't justify the means. That principle applied in a world where good and evil were seen as two guideposts for living one's life. Those guideposts have now been replaced by Winning and Losing. Under the new paradigm, what matters is winning. How you win no longer matters. All that matters is that you win.

That, unfortunately, is the prime directive in our brave new world.

Image: Shmoop

Monday, September 19, 2022

Far From Rosy

Pierre Poilievre has taken over the Conservative Party and Michael Harris is not impressed:

It has been a rocky debut. It seems the boys over at headquarters stuck their hand in the blender when they sent a text message to party members in the Quebec riding of Richmond-Arthabaska. They advised members to demand that former Conservative MP Alain Rayes resign his seat. Rayes couldn’t stomach the prospect of Poilievre’s leadership and became an Independent. That triggered the attack of the cyber goons.

The party quickly apologized for its overreach. Their ludicrous explanation for this obvious exercise in punitive politics was that the message was “automated.”

Even automated messages don’t send themselves. It wasn’t sent in error. The only error was underestimating the blowback surrounding this act of petulant payback. They seem to have forgotten something pretty basic. Rayes’ political future is between the MP and the constituents who elected him, not Poilievre’s minions in head office.

What did Poilievre do? He got even:

Poilievre himself did what a lot of autocratic personalities do when put in an embarrassing situation: he made stuff up. The new leader dismissed Rayes’ own explanation of why he became an Independent: the man didn’t like what he saw on offer from Poilievre during the leadership race.

Then he blamed worldwide inflation on Justin Trudeau:

Trudeau’s inflation is, of course, one of the unpleasant fictions Poilievre hopes to market to Canadians. The PM has some heavy baggage, as any third-term leader has. But Trudeau doesn’t own inflation, any more than Joe Biden does in the United States, or former British PM Boris Johnson did in the United Kingdom—other than in a cynical political sense.

Inflation is a global problem and Poilievre knows it. But in the politics of anger and blame, which will be the twin pillars of his leadership, there is no political advantage in the facts. Poilievre’s big bet is that “normies” are so pissed off with the price of gas and groceries, they are in the mood for some major scapegoating. What better scapegoat than the man currently on top of the political wedding cake: Justin Trudeau.

Unfortunately, many Canadians are unaware of how Poilievre became leader:

A very small number of Canadians, in a political party run by control freaks from the Harper era, made him leader. Poilievre does not in any way have a national mandate, just the overwhelming endorsement of a party controlled by his patron, Stephen Harper.

For all his championing of everyday Canadians, and the excesses of the “gatekeepers,” the man who has lived off the public dime all his working life is set to move into a mansion where the public will pay for his meals, his booze, and his entertaining.

With Poilievre in this country's future things look far from rosy.

Image: Macleans

Sunday, September 18, 2022

First Principles

 Andrew Coyne tries to make the case for centrism:

Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre are far from twins, or (so far as I know) space aliens. Yet they, and the parties they lead, present the voter with much the same predicament: a choice limited to two wholly unappetizing options. Both parties, it is widely acknowledged, have strayed far from their traditions, to the point that each has become unrecognizable to large numbers of long-time party members.

Each, in its own way, has lost contact with the vital centre of Canadian politics. Rather than practical approaches to questions important to the average voter, each offers a mix of doctrinaire policy and irrelevant hobbyhorse issues. Which may explain why, for the first time in Canadian history, neither party can attract the support of more than a third of the voters.

Yet the one thing that can never be suggested is that this situation should not continue: that it is anomalous in any political community that the middle ground should be deserted soil, unrepresented and uncontested; and that, so long as the two main parties continue to court the fringes, the broader public interest will remain ignored.

In the end, centrism is hard to attain -- because the centre keeps shifting:

It is true that elections are decided by the median voter – as a matter of arithmetic. But the median is not some fixed meridian. It moves, in response to the push and pull of political debate. The party that tosses aside everything it ever believed in pursuit of the middle may find the middle simply recedes before it. Success in politics, rather, goes to the party or the candidate who moves the middle to them – sometimes by redefining what “the middle” means.

Which is to say: A party need not aim for the middle, and yet still end up there. Centrism ought in this sense to be considered much like the other “isms” – conservatism, liberalism etc. – not as something to be pursued in its own right, but as the indirect result of a number of more fundamental choices.

It's deadly to decide that you're a Conservative or a Liberal before deciding what you believe:

It is striking how many people decide first that they are a conservative, or a liberal, or what not – or, worse, a Conservative or Liberal – and only then decide what they believe. Their reaction, on encountering an issue for the first time, is therefore to consult their chosen belief system, as if it were an all-explanatory guide, and not a mere tendency.

Surely the reverse makes more sense: figure out what you think about things first, then see which ism most closely resembles the result. Start from first principles. How absolute are individual rights, and in what circumstances might these be overridden? Is everyone equal? Should they be? In what ways, and in what ways not? How far would I go to make them more equal, and by what means? And so on.

A serious effort to think these through might well find that none of the isms fully answers these questions, on its own; each gives a part of the answer. In which case the wiser approach might well consist in taking from each what it has to offer, striking a balance between them. That begins to look like centrism.

Centrism, then, need not and should not imply an aversion to ideology. Ideology is simply the set of principles by which we make sense of the world. Centrism is the realization that a useful ideology is not necessarily contained within the limits of the conventional isms – in fact, probably isn’t.

The "centre" is where your first principles are -- not what a political party says it is. These days, few of us give a lot of thought to first principles.

Image: AZ Quotes

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Ugly Stuff

In recent days, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas have sent a bus load and a plane load of migrants to Washington and Martha's Vineyard. The Martha's Vineyard stunt focused the attention of the nation. Michele Norris writes in The Washington Post:

It’s all part of an ongoing shift-and-dump campaign from Southern Republican governors who are using desperate people as political pawns to protest the Biden administration’s immigration policies. It happened again Thursday when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) claimed credit for sending two surprise buses full of migrants to D.C., where they were dropped off near the residence of Vice President Harris carrying all they have in clear plastic trash bags.

These moves surely delight those in the Trumpian base who have taken to social media with glee. The surprise drops are meant to underscore the alleged hypocrisy of liberals by forcing them to deal with an influx of immigrants.

But the residents of The Vineyard showed DeSantis and Abbott for who they are. It's a place that practices what it preaches:

It’s . . . a place that has over many decades opened its arms to various waves of immigrants, and it did so this week with no warning or preparation, standing up an emergency shelter within hours — finding food, clothing, inflatable beds, children’s toys, feminine hygiene products, linens and volunteer interpreters who speak Spanish.

DeSantis and Abbott claim to be Christians. One of the tenets of their faith is to welcome strangers. Not so for these hypocrites. In fact, they are two modern examples of the essential American hypocrisy:

It was all a hoax, and similar to the play toward hypocrisy this week, the thought then was that if busloads of Black families with lots of kids showed up in Hyannis and other cities, the Northerners would balk, and their insincerity would be exposed for all to see. Instead, local leaders, Black and White, formed a Refugee Relief Committee and arranged housing and jobs and got the children enrolled in schools.

So, what is the real objective when governors such as Abbott and DeSantis engage in this kind of charade? I think we know.

They are playing with people’s lives to impress their base.

It’s ugly stuff. And it underestimates the generous spirit of this country.

There is a long history in the United States of human trafficking. But, recently, those who engage in it have been indicted and jailed. DeSantis and Abbott should be treated like the many others who have spent time in the Graybar Hotel.

Image: The Toronto Star

Friday, September 16, 2022

The Real Problem For Evangelicals

Evangelicals are at the heart of the MAGA movement. They make a lot of noise. But they ignore the real problem they face. Lots of sheep are fleeing the flock. Jennifer Rubin writes:

White evangelical Christians dominate the MAGA movement. Fear of civilizational decline, dire warnings of an existential crisis and howls that religion is under “attack” form the basis of much of the MAGA ideology. And the apocalyptic language deployed by the right wing bears a striking resemblance to Christian end-times imagery.

But while conservative Christians love to blame the left, a new Pew Research Center poll shows that their problem is not secular elites.

Prominent right-wingers, including former attorney general William P. Barr and current Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., cite growing secularism as a threat to our entire way of life. Barr (while still in office!) raged during a speech at the University of Notre Dame: “This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

Alito’s recent rant in Rome was not his first fiery tirade against an imagined assault on religion. Back in 2020, he thundered: “It pains me to say this but in certain quarters, religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.” This summer he was at it again, denouncing “hostility to religion.”

While angry voices on the right rail against barbarians attacking religion from the outside, on the inside the pews are increasingly empty:

In fact, the church quite simply has failed to attract and retain believers. As Ron Brownstein explained last year in the Atlantic: “The claim that any Democratic victory will irrevocably reconfigure the nation taps into a deep fear among key components of the Republican coalition: that they will be eclipsed by the demographic and cultural changes that have made white people — especially white Christians — a steadily shrinking share of the population.”

That process is well underway. The Pew poll tracks the rapid decline of self-identified Christians: “The projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070. Over that same period, ‘nones’ [those affiliated with no religion] would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population.”

Christianity is losing adherents — in droves. “A steadily shrinking share of young adults who were raised Christian (in childhood) have retained their religious identity in adulthood over the past 30 years,” Pew found. “At the same time, having no religious affiliation has become ‘stickier’: A declining percentage of people raised without a religion have converted or taken on a religion later in life.”

In other words: “With each generation, progressively fewer adults retain the Christian identity they were raised with, which in turn means fewer parents are raising their children in Christian households.”

The decline is especially acute for White evangelical Christians. “The overall declines in the proportion of Americans who identify as Christian over the last few decades have been driven primarily by declines among White, non-Hispanic Christians,” Robert P. Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute, tells me. “A first wave of White non-evangelical/mainline Protestant decline began in the 1970s, followed by White Catholic decline and, more recently — just since the mid-2000s — White evangelical Protestant decline.” He adds, “Over the last 15 years, White evangelical Protestant decline has actually been markedly steeper than the White non-evangelical Protestant decline.”

Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters share a common experience: They know they have failed. Their response to that failure has been a determinization to force their vision of the world onto non-believers. And, if the non-believers refuse to accept their reality, Trump and Co. will punch their lights out.

Image: The Christian Broadcasting Network

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Who He Is

If there are those still among us who don't know who Pierre Poilievre is, his first press conference after becoming the leader of the Conservatives should settle the matter. Karyn Pugliese writes:

By now the video has gone viral. At least by Canadian standards.

It shows newly minted Conservative Party of Canada Pierre Poilievre being heckled at his debut news conference by Global News chief political correspondent David Akin.

Before the news conference started, reporters had been told there would be no questions, but Akin asked questions anyway, shouting them out from the floor, drowning out Poilievre’s statement.

At first, Poilievre tried to brush it off as a joke, saying a “liberal heckler” must have shown up. Then he pushed back saying he’d never heard Akin interrupt the prime minister this way. Finally, Poilievre capitulated under pressure and agreed he’d allow two questions from the media. He then restarted his speech without further interruption.

Pugliese asks:

Who the hell calls a press conference, then tells reporters they can’t ask questions?

It’s right in the words: P-R-E-S-S conference.

Dear politicians, if you want to reach the public without the media, you’re free to open a Facebook page or post more of your spicy attack ads to YouTube. Maybe suck up a few million taxpayers' dollars to fund a PR “war room” like Jason Kenney and if your voters keep coming back, more power to you. You can even launch your own news site like Doug Ford did.

However, there are still citizens in this democracy who invest their time and money to support a free press. They want journalists to represent them, to seek truth and demand accountability.
Poilievre demands accountability of others, but he assumes there is none required of him. Make no mistake. He's an authoritarian. And we will see more of the same kind of behaviour.


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A Very Dark Place

Jen Gerson writes that Pierre Poilievre's victory means that the Conservative Party is now actually the Reform Party:

If this Conservative leadership race was a fight for the soul of the party, as former Progressive Conservative activist and senator Marjory LeBreton recently posited, well, the results are in. Reform is back, baby. Moderate conservatism is dead, and the harder-right, angrier, rougher edge will live the life everlasting. In the end, it wasn’t even close.

Self-described centrists in the party have certainly been angered by Mr. Poilievre’s online rhetoric and pro-crypto appeals, not to mention his sympathy for the anti-mandate freedom convoy. Some of them were so perturbed by the prospect of Mr. Poilievre’s ascension that they organized under the title of Centre Ice Conservatives, a dust cloud of respectability meant to form itself into the nucleus of a new party.

These centrists envision themselves as realists repulsed by ungenteel politics and disinclined to pursue policy proposals that would be declared extreme on the CBC. There would be sound logic to this argument, except that no one ever seems to be able to define what a centrist believes, nor what he or she actually wishes to accomplish.

During the Harper years, there was constant tension between the Reformers and the old Progressive Conservatives. That tension is gone:

This division has been palpable in the Conservative Party for decades, and it played out most recently under the tenures of former leaders Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole. Both men failed to resolve the growing populism within their own ranks with the perceived realities of what the general electorate would accept from their party. Mr. Scheer, a genuine social conservative, tried to appear inauthentically centrist in order to win more progressive constituencies. Then there was Mr. O’Toole, a genuine centrist who tried to appear inauthentically conservative in order to win the leadership of his party.

Neither approach achieved an electoral breakthrough.

By winning the leadership handily, Mr. Poilievre has slayed this internal philosophical problem. He can only be exactly what he is, and his party must now be likewise.

The problem is that Poilievre and his followers are just plain ignorant of so many things. That ignorance will lead him -- and those who sing his praises -- into a very dark place.

Image: QuotesGram

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Nihilistic Negation

The American mid-terms are two months away, and the Republican ad campaign, according to one donor, is all about "nihilistic negation." What does that mean? Dana Milbank writes:

Over the past month, the [advertising] fund has posted 35 ads on its YouTube channel that focus on the November elections. Of these, only one is positive. The rest? Pure nihilistic negation.

“Carl Marlinga made his living representing sexual predators. Now he wants to represent you,” announces one ad, in Michigan, targeting a Democrat who worked as a judge, prosecutor and criminal-defense lawyer.

“His first big job? Working for a senator who was indicted for bribery,” proclaims another ad, in California, attacking Democrat Adam Gray, who wasn’t implicated in any crime as a young legislative director for a state senator.

Another, attacking Democrat Hillary Scholten in Michigan, claims she “dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters” after violence at a racial-justice protest. The ad concludes: “She’s with them, not us.” The ad cites a Facebook post of Scholten’s from May 31, 2020, that said precisely the opposite: “I’m pleading with those who take to the streets to make that effort peaceful and to not resort to violence and destruction.”

All of this is straight out of Donald Trump's playbook:

Many of the ads are no more than Trump-style name-calling. “Weak.” “Crooked.” “Self-serving.” “The worst kind of politician.”

“Vote Against Jahana Hayes: Completely Delusional” is the name of an ad in which several (apparently White) voters are shown a clip of (Black) Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.). They comment: “Insulting. … Completely delusional. … It’s laughable.”

One refers to Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) as “clueless Katie” — three times in 30 seconds.

“Tony Vargas Isn’t Just Liberal, He’s Crazy Liberal” is the title of one attacking a Democratic challenger in Nebraska. It calls him “crazy liberal” twice.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic challenger Chris DeLuzio is identified as a “Radical Socialist Professor.”

Trump has swallowed the Republican Party whole. If he were one of Charles Dickens's characters, he'd suddenly fall victim to spontaneous combustion. All that would be left would be the smell of rotting hay.

Too much to hope for.

Image: Listverse

Monday, September 12, 2022

No Quick Moves

Chantal Hebert writes that Justin Trudeau will not be calling a snap election:

Provided the Liberal/NDP pact holds, Canada will not be going to the polls this fall and perhaps not until 2025. Even if Trudeau wanted to call a snap election to try to get an edge on a rookie leader, his own party is anything but on a solid electoral footing.

By rushing the country to the polls for the second time in as many years, the prime minister would only risk putting the Liberals on the fast lane to an exit from government.

But Trudeau says  he'll be there for the next election:

When that happens, expect a no-holds-barred fight to the finish. Trudeau kicked off his tenure in power as a sunny ways politician, but the next election is promising to be anything but that.

The scorched-earth approach that led to Poilievre’s decisive leadership victory this weekend suggests as much.

His team kept its sharp elbows up long after it must have become evident that the prize was in the bag. A strategy designed to convince one’s supporters that their preferred outcome could still be up in the air almost always leads to rewards on the turnout front.

Poilievre did not just beat Jean Charest, he crushed him, including on the former premier’s Quebec turf.

It is not a coincidence that this upset was scored at a time when the dormant provincial Conservative party is undergoing an awakening under Poilievre’s libertarian pal Éric Duhaime. The federal Conservative brain trust may come to think that working with Duhaime could deliver more Quebec votes to the party than securing premier François Legault’s blessing.

Winning the next campaign will not be easy for Trudeau:

The next campaign will almost certainly be Trudeau’s last. History suggests it will be an uphill battle. Sir Wilfrid Laurier was the last incumbent prime minister to secure a fourth consecutive term.

But those long odds did not prevent Pierre Trudeau or Stephen Harper from trying to match Laurier’s record. And if Jean Chrétien had not been beset by internal challenges, he might have been tempted to stick around to take on the newly reunited Conservative party in 2004.

However, with Poilievre in the Conservative leader's chair, there is more than hubris behind Justin's decision:

In Trudeau’s case, it is likely not just that he thinks he can prevail in a battle against Poilievre but almost certainly that he believes he must.

It is not certain the prime minister would have felt as strongly about potentially leaving Canada in Charest’s hands as he clearly does in Poilievre’s case.

It's clear that the Conservatives want Poilievre as their leader. It's not at all clear that most Canadians want him as theirs.


Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Rules Of The Game

Last night, Pierre Poilievre -- the man who allied himself with the Truckers Convoy -- was elected leader of the Conservative Party by a landslide. Poilievre's ascension means that the threat of political violence in this country has become very real. Robin Sears writes:

Every democracy that has fought back successfully against political violence has discovered the same three core principles: education, accountability and severe penalties. Few students today learn in school about the thread that connects social media threats and political murder. Having finally adopted diversity education with some seriousness, schools need now to begin conversations on acceptable and unacceptable political debate, the risk to democracy that political violence always poses, and how to recognize dangerous language and behaviour.

Politicians need to stop pointing fingers at each other and agree on the common standards, regulations and laws required to prevent citizens and officials from having to fear for their lives. A clear declaration from Pierre Poilievre about his views on deadly threats and violence would be refreshing.

The penalties for verbal threats need to be made more severe. Social media platforms must be required to open and clean up their algorithms that help spread hateful speech around the world. Employers, schools, public agencies and others need to declare “tough consequences” policies for threatening speech.

The future looks dark:

We should expect more mass attacks on our major cities by armed protesters. Given the rising number of death threats received by high-profile politicians, it seems almost inevitable that one of them will be acted on. Verbal confrontations like the one Freeland was subjected to can easily slide into physical attacks.

So, yes, we need to beef up our protection systems, from physical and electronic fencing to greater surveillance and prosecutions of known violence mongers. But as we saw only weeks ago when Salman Rushdie was almost murdered on stage, even if he still had heavily armed guardians they could not prevent violent attacks by those willing to die in their assault.

We need to develop a broad consensus on the boundaries of acceptable discourse and behaviour in this country — and then enforce those rules at the first signs of trouble.

So let's start thinking about the rules of the game. It's a sure bet that Mr. Poilievre won't like them.

Image: The Hill Times

Saturday, September 10, 2022

How Good The Country Is

Justin Trudeau recently announced that he will be around to fight the next election. Michael Harris is betting that it will occur in the spring. And it will be an ugly fight. Trudeau is facing strong headwinds:

Grocery bills look more like car payments thanks to inflation. To get runaway prices under control, the Bank of Canada keeps raising interest rates, as it did again this week. In time, that may help. But for the moment, it merely turns the screws on people seeking or renewing mortgages.

The price of gas is a daily reminder of how much poorer everyone seems to be, drawing attention to Ottawa’s carbon tax of 11.1 cents per litre. Critics say the policy doesn’t work. Some provinces like Nova Scotia want out of the federal system — even though the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Ottawa’s carbon tax is constitutional.

The health-care system is sputtering like an old lawnmower. After two years of COVID, doctors and especially nurses, the forgotten people of the system, are beyond unhappy. Although the provinces run health care, Ottawa is taking heat for not paying its fair share of the costs.

What was once a 50/50 split has turned into the provinces footing the bill for 70 per cent of health-care costs. If we get another wave of COVID this fall in tandem with a bad flu season, as they have had in Australia, the system could collapse. Even Trudeau admitted that Ontario Premier Doug Ford was right when he claimed that the status quo isn’t working anymore.

Ditto for the teaching profession, where there are shortages across the country. As of May, British Columbia had 500 vacant positions across multiple school districts. Several other provinces are having trouble attracting and keeping educators.

The queue of immigration applicants hoping to come to Canada is longer than the lineup at a Tim Hortons drive-thru on a rainy day. There are now more than 2.7 million people waiting to have their applications processed, up 300,000 from June.

Canada’s biggest airport, Toronto Pearson International, is an exercise in travel masochism. Once viewed as the best airport in the world, Toronto’s air hub is now seen as one of the worst. Now when you head out to catch a flight, you have to bring survival rations and an overnight bag. 

Trudeau's opponent will be Pierre Poilievre:

Poilievre hopes that he can ride the anger train to power, the way another unqualified candidate became president of the United States for one term. Trump demonized Hillary Clinton, and Poilievre will try to do the same thing to Trudeau using similar techniques. Tom Mulcair recently told me that Canada is “too good a country” for that to happen here.

What Canadians will see in the new Conservative leader is pure Pierre — fangs, venom and the smirk. The fact is Poilievre is a dyed-in-the-wool acolyte of Stephen Harper, proud of his far-right populist views and unapologetic for his dismal record as a member of a government that ignored the environment, abandoned Indigenous peoples, undercut democracy and despised the press.

And oh yes, a government that added $150 billion to the national debt during its time in office.

Poilievre’s fossilized views on vaccine mandates, and his chummy relationship with that mob in trucks that took over Ottawa for three weeks, make the point. Pierre Poilievre is a one-trick pony.

It won't be pleasant. We'll see how good the country is. 

Image: YouTube

Friday, September 09, 2022

Elizabeth II

Just a few words about the queen. She was of that generation who came of age during World War II. Perhaps that helps explain who she was. In an age when so many try to make a virtue of selfishness, she so obviously was not in it for herself. She will be missed. But we should not forget her.

Image: DW

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Pure Folly

Andrew Nikiforuk is furious. Our political leaders continue to live in a state of denial. He writes:

A biological transformative event, which may have killed nearly 20 million people by revised estimates and has burdened millions more with chronic illness, continues to burn through the world’s population.

Yet, although the authorities know that masking, ventilation, air filtration and isolating when sick can dampen this fire and protect the public health, they have inexplicably abandoned these tools.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, for instance, even banished an inadequate five-day protocol for isolating while sick and infectious. How’s that for “laissez-faire epidemiology”?

The chief medical officer made this bad decision at a time when, as the epidemiologist Larry Brilliant recently explained in Wired magazine, the BA.5 variant has vastly increased its viral reach “by being able to infect people who’ve had three doses of the vaccine or people who had COVID a month ago.”

Having surrendered all other public health options, the authorities now count on vaccines, whose effectiveness in the face of immune busting variants is steadily waning, to serve as our absolute defense against the disease. Expecting vaccines, already one step behind an evolving virus, to end the pandemic makes about as much sense as expecting bitcoin to end poverty in El Salvador.

Consider the numbers:

COVID has killed more than 14,317 Canadians since December 2021, a month dominated by the first Omicron wave. Or 24,230 if you include estimates of underreporting of COVID deaths — a chronic problem.

By the end of the year the number of dead will likely surpass the totals of the two previous years. Total Canadian COVID deaths calculated solely by year look like this: 13,791 in 2022 up till Sept. 5; 14,711 in 2021 and 15,606 in 2020.

Daily deaths from COVID (500 in the last two weeks) remain five times higher than average Canadian flu mortality.

Tara Moriarty, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Toronto, with associates, publishes an important COVID hazard index as a public health service. In August, Moriarty told us that more than half of Canada’s 190,585 COVID hospitalizations during the pandemic to date have occurred since last December.

Incredibly, one in every 402 people living in Canada has been hospitalized with a variant of Omicron since December 2021.

And we have decided to abandon COVID protocols? This is pure folly.


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Testing Our Common Courtesy

Andrea Mandel-Campbell wonders if Pierre Poilievre will be devoured by the tiger he has unleashed:

Like the dwarves who dug too deep for riches in the mines of Moria, Poilievre has plumbed the depths of social media for conspiracy theories and grievance rhetoric, coming up with campaign gold by embracing the freedom convoy and anti-vaxxers. It has earned him a ton cash for party coffers and a record number of new memberships.

The question now is whether Poilievre can contain the populist beast he has unleashed by channelling his inner Stephen Harper, or whether he’d rather hop on its back, ring firmly embedded, and burn the place down.

Poilievre is the political offspring of former prime minister Harper and has copped shamelessly from his playbook, demanding the ouster of the Bank of Canada governor — much like Harper launched an all-out assault on the Parliamentary Budget Officer and canned the head of Statistics Canada.

But Harper, while keen to anti-establishment grievance, was surprisingly moderate. He leaned into the bread and butter Conservative brand of lower taxes and balanced budgets. He had no big, bold endeavour or signature achievement, so much as he avoided the pitfalls of national unity crises or political scandal.

Indeed, there was no so-called “secret agenda,” just the skewering of the odd sacred cow. He went to Davos and partnered with the Gates Foundation to vaccinate children in developing countries — all QAnon code words now.

It appears, though, that the word "moderate" is not in Poilievre's dictionary:

Poilievre will need to decide who his constituents are; that is, if he still has a choice. As one long-time Conservative MP recently told me, “he’s caught a tiger by the tail and he may not be able to control what he has created.”

If he can’t, Canada will be the worse for it. While we are far from perfect, we have managed to retain a degree of common courtesy, civility and respect in our public discourse that is in increasingly short supply these days.

Most certainly, Poilievre is testing our sense of common courtesy.

Image: YouTube

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

No Place

Traditional conservatives no longer have a place in the world -- because conservatives can no longer get along with each other. Glen Pearson writes:

Ronald Brownstein, senior editor of The Atlantic, made a prescient observation in an interview this past week.  Speaking not only of American Republicans but conservatives across the globe, Brownstein noted that right-of-centre conservatives are increasingly running out of room in the political world.  The rise of extremist ideologies on the Right has taken on more influence, leaving traditional conservatives “with no place to coalesce.”

In such a light, he could just as easily have been describing Canada, India, Australia, Japan, or Germany.  Everywhere, it seems, the rise of the angry Right has produced democratic upheaval and an erosion of global partnerships.

In yesterday’s election of a new leader to replace disgraced Boris Johnson, we perhaps have our newest example of conservatism ignoring its historical boundaries.  While experienced observers point out that four years of consistent tax increases is hardly a Conservative trait, they also note that Britain’s Conservative government has gone off in directions few would have thought possible after former PMs David Cameron and Theresa May resigned from office.

In a party election that ended up being tighter than predicted, Liz Truss was able to capture only 57% of the vote in the leadership contest –  the lowest vote share among members since the current system of electing Tory leaders was first introduced.  Truss was disappointed, hoping for “more support,” but nevertheless gave a rousing victory speech.

Following Johnson’s tumultuous rule, traditional Conservatives are finding themselves exactly where Brownstein described: with no place to land.  How else to explain the almost 20% of card-carrying party members who didn’t vote?  Having endured a bad run with Johnson, they just couldn’t take a liking to Truss or her main rival, Rishi Sunak.  Truss’s praise of her “friend” Boris during her acceptance speech likely didn’t help.  Her claim that Johnson was “admired from Kyiv to Carlisle” seemed odd, considering that he had lost Carlisle in the most recent election.  That she completely ignored Sunak on the way to the podium likely doesn’t bode well for cooperation in the coming months.  Today, Truss visits Queen Elizabeth and then she will assume office.

As the UK reels from one escapade to another, the Conservative party is facing the unthinkable conclusion that it might be incapable of governing itself.   The Guardian had already concluded that the country was no longer manageable under Tory rule.  The New Statesman had previously published an article with the revealing title, The Closing of the Conservative Mind: Politics and the Art of War.

Not just in the UK, but in all places where modern conservatism has taken hold, politics has returned to Hobbes' state of nature. Conservatives live in a world where there is a perpetual war of all against all.

Image: Middle East Eye

Monday, September 05, 2022

With The Passage Of Time

Thirty years ago, Brian Mulroney was looking at the worst defeat in political history. His chosen successor, Kim Campbell, had won just two seats in the House of Commons. Anthony Wilson Smith writes:

So, when an invitation to lunch came from his friend, the Quebec Inc. titan Paul Desmarais, Mulroney was especially appreciative. Over several hours in the elegant private dining room in the headquarters of Power Corporation on Victoria Square, he listened as Desmarais – the founder of the company and an extraordinarily cultured man with a deep knowledge of history – talked about the need for the former prime minister to allow time and perspective for his achievements to be evaluated in their historical context. What he needed to do, Mulroney vividly recalls Desmarais saying, was to “let the garden grow”; the famous moral of Voltaire’s Candide — “cultiver son jardin” — on the value of narrowing one’s focus to immediate problems that can be resolved constructively.

Mulroney has taken Desmarais's and Voltaire's advice:

Twenty-nine years after leaving office, the key elements of Mulroney’s legacy – including free trade with the United States; the introduction of a federal goods and services tax; early, visionary steps on environmental issues and human rights initiatives – are so entrenched that they’re largely taken for granted. In Quebec, Mulroney is revered even by nationalists (for instance, he has been chair of Québecor Media, owned by the sovereigntist Péladeau family, for many years). Far from being attacked by the federal Liberals, they now, under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seek his advice on key issues — including the time he briefed the federal cabinet during the highly sensitive NAFTA renegotiation with the Trump administration.

I was never a fan of Mulroney's. I never voted for him. But with the passage of time, some legacies begin to look pretty good.

Image: Adam Scotti 

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Poilievre And The Young

It appears that young voters are attracted to Pierre Poilievre. Sam Routley writes:

The voting behaviour of young voters is highly volatile when it comes to both turnout and party preference. Since 2015, Trudeau’s Liberals have lost most of their support among young voters as younger Canadians either supported other parties, become undecided or stopped voting entirely.

Currently, most voters under 34 are, as with most other Canadians, likely to express a lack of confidence in the performance of Trudeau as prime minister.

Most youth support between 2015 and 2021 has instead gone to the NDP and its leader, Jagmeet Singh. By deliberately targeting the demographic through its policy and social media campaigns, the party was the clear favourite of young voters in the 2019 and 2021 elections.

Recently, however, much of this youth support for the Liberals and NDP now appears to be shifting again. For the first time since the 1980s, recent polls show that a plurality, although not a majority, of young voters now support the Conservative Party.

What's behind the shift?

Poilievre’s growing popularity among young voters is likely due to how he’s seized upon an opening by providing coherent messaging that addresses both the general state of dissatisfaction and economic anxieties that are weighing on young Canadians.

That includes continuing frustrations about the inaccessibility of home ownership, income instability and inflation.

The continuing detrimental economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have also affected this demographic the most, contributing to perceptions of a growing divide between older, economically established generations and younger adults.

This has also created a popular feeling among many young voters that the Trudeau government needs to be replaced.

In addition to a series of missteps and scandals that have eroded Trudeau’s personal popularity, the government is also perceived as being unable to deal with these growing economic concerns.

Because the NDP entered into an agreement with the Liberals allowing them to deliver on beneficial policies like dental care coverage, the party is now limited in its ability to craft and convey a coherent alternative to the Liberal government.

This is even though New Democrats have, along with Poilievre, been engaging in populist attacks about economic elites for not “paying their fair share.” The NDP’s ongoing support for the Liberals has come at the cost of credibly tapping into a growing anti-Liberal sentiment by compromising their position as a principled adversary — giving Poilievre yet another opening to electoral success.

Canadians say they want their parties to work together. But they punish them when they do. We are our own worst enemies.

Image: Facebook