Does Australia’s values test have a future in Canada? Konrad Yakabuski

Yakabuski asks the valid question: could Australian dog whistle politics happen here?

To a certain extent, they already have: the use of the niqab and “barbaric cultural practices” tip line in the 2015 election, the Kellie Leitch and Steven Blaney leadership campaigns. As he notes, survey questions highlight an underlying concern about immigrant values.

That being said, while we naturally enough see the similarities with Australia – immigration-based countries, large number of foreign-born voters, considerable diversity – we often fail to see some of the differences:

  • Indigenous/white settler dichotomy in contrast to the more complex Canadian Indigenous/French settler/British settler background and a history, albeit highly imperfect, of accommodation and compromise;
  • a political system that provides greater opening for far right extremist voices;
  • a political system that results in fewer visible minorities being elected than in Canada; and,
  • a generally harsher political culture.

So while we always have to guard against complacency, we also need to keep in mind that national elections are largely fought in the 905 and BC’s Lower Mainland, where new Canadian voters, mainly visible minority, form the majority or significant plurality of voters.

The Liberal success in these ridings (they won 30 out of the 33 ridings where visible minorities are the majority) suggest that values or identity-based wedge politics are a losing, not winning, strategy:

When Malcolm Turnbull staged an internal Liberal coup to replace an unpopular Tony Abbott as party leader and Australia’s prime minister in 2015, it was hailed as victory of the moderns and moderates over the ultraconservative ideologues and their nasty dog-whistling strategists.

Guess who’s blowing dog whistles now?

The plan Mr. Turnbull unveiled last month to screen immigrants for Australian values (sound familiar?) and make it harder to obtain Australian citizenship represents a crass U-turn for a Prime Minister who only a few years ago attacked a then-Labor government for seeking to cut the number of temporary foreign workers entering the country. “If you support skilled migration and a diverse society, you don’t ramp up the chauvinistic rhetoric,” he tweeted in 2013.

Now, it is Mr. Turnbull’s turn to target the so-called 457 visa, replacing it with a program that puts new restrictions on foreign workers. The Prime Minister says the immigration changes are all about “putting Australians first.” But they are really about exploiting largely, but not exclusively, working-class resentment toward visible minorities, especially if they’re Muslims.

“If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence … is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part, a very fundamental part, a very prominent part, of our process to be an Australian citizen?” Mr. Turnbull asked last month.

Well, for starters, because it demonstrates an astonishing degree of contempt for the very values that liberal democracies such as Australia purport to champion.

Is it really necessary to ask immigrants “under which circumstances is it permissible to cut female genitals” to convey the unacceptability of excision, which is already illegal? You can only answer yes if the real objective of such a measure is to pander to a substantial, but misguided, group of voters who seeks to alleviate their own insecurities by humiliating others.

You’d almost think this cockeyed plan was something cooked up by Sir Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist who may or may not have been behind the 2015 election promise by former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to set up a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline. But Sir Lynton – the knighthood was bestowed by former British prime minister David Cameron after the so-called Wizard of Oz helped him win the 2015 British election – is currently too busy exercising the political dark arts in aid of Tory PM Theresa May’s election bid.

Sir Lynton’s business partner, Mark Textor, however, happens to be Mr. Turnbull’s chief pollster. And what the polls are telling Mr. Turnbull is that white, working-class voters in Australia are increasingly turning sour on immigration. This is something of a paradox in a country in which 28 per cent of the population is foreign-born, compared with about 21 per cent in Canada, and that has long been held up as a model multicultural society.

The truth is that both the Liberals (who are actually conservatives) and the Labor Party now only pay lip service to multiculturalism. Both are seeking to scratch an itch among white working- and middle-class voters. Labor recently ran an ad in Queensland promising to “build Australia first, buy Australian first and employ Australians first.” All of the dozen or so workers in the ad were white.

Support for the current policy of turning back boats of asylum seekers, or detaining them on islands off the Australian coast, remains strong, even among Labor voters. Hence, the dilemma for Labor Leader Bill Shorten, trapped between his party’s white working-class base and the urban progressives and immigrant voters Labor needs to win elections.

Mr. Turnbull, meanwhile, is looking over his shoulder at a renewed threat from the far-right One Nation party and Mr. Abbott, who appears to be angling for his old job. He just gave a speech denouncing the “cultural cowardice” of the elites, including the folks at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and their “pervasive ambivalence verging on hostility to our country and its values.”

Does Australia represent the ghost of Canadian politics yet to come? Polls show Canadians from across the political spectrum really like Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s idea of screening immigrants for Canadian values. She’s sticking to her guns, no matter how many old Red Tory friends she loses.

Hey, if Australia can go that low, why can’t we?

Source: Does Australia’s values test have a future in Canada? – The Globe and Mail

Dutch voters deliver a treat: Sears

Will share with some of my Dutch friends but interesting analysis of the results and possible implications for Canada:

The headline across the continent this week was, “Europe Breathes a Sigh of Relief.” Common sense and the ‘centrist’ Dutch prime minister had survived. But drill down just a little and a different picture emerges. Yes, conservative Mark Rute did survive, but he lost 25 per cent of his caucus. The biggest loser was the Dutch Labour party, which lost 75 per cent of its MPs.

The real winner, however, despite the media hysteria pre-election day was not Geert Wilders, who won only five new seats. It was the Green Left party, which tripled its caucus, D66, a liberal party, and the Christian Democrats, traditional progressive conservatives. Together these three doubled their size in the new Parliament.

What is the voters’ message to this complex collection of pizza slice parties? It’s very clear.

Those who indulged anti-immigrant, racist dog-whistle politics and more austerity — including PM Rute — were punished. Those who supported the EU, economic stimulus and a Holland open to immigration and the world were winners. Greasy Geert was the outlier for only the bewildered and angry.

This is a powerful message for progressive politicians. The giant of Dutch progressive politics, the Labour party, was decimated, after supporting austerity and flirting with anti-immigrant rhetoric. The Greens, in Holland as elsewhere, may be economically incoherent, but voters rewarded their toughness on austerity and immigrant bashing.

Of course, progressive politicians should never patronize the anger of working class white voters as “deplorable.” Their anger is well-founded and demands a response. But, no, those same politicians should never slime up to racist populists as a survival strategy. As my socialist grandmother used to say to right-drifting New Democrats, “There are two more believable capitalist parties than us, why would you think copying them will fool anyone?”

Wilders — a man who equates the Qur’an with Mein Kampf — is a long time former staffer in Rute’s party. His populist costume conceals a traditional conservative ideology. Why would any thoughtful progressive try to compete with his current poisonous politics by imitating him?

The great Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor observes that no one is borne racist, we learn it. Taylor cautions that each of us is genetically wired to be susceptible to a fear of “the other,” given the right fear-mongering baits. We have built a broad social consensus for an open, tolerant society here, but it is fragile. It can be fatally undermined by enough angry voices in hard times. This is what makes the dog-whistle racism of some Canadian Conservatives so despicable.

As Taylor puts it, each society has the ability to swing from a dark place to a sunnier plateau — and back again. Working in Egypt during the Tahrir Spring, my young Yemeni female colleagues sighed sadly, as they recalled pictures of their bathing-suited mothers playing soccer with their male friends on the beach in 1960s Aden. Many Arab nations have travelled toward openness and freedom and then slid back again.

Taylor reminds us that from the revolution in 1789 to the late 1950s France was the most welcoming and socially inclusive society in Western Europe, where thousands of Russians, Poles, Asians and North African refugees had fled. What Changed? The Algerian War, in part, and a quiescent leadership elite that first tolerated and then promoted racial division, exclusion and hate.

The real roots of populist anger — rising inequality and falling incomes, rising barriers to the newly arrived and those starting out, and falling standards of living for a new generation — must be addressed boldly and creatively. But let’s drop the flirtation with racist politics in doing so.

Imagine a different, more courageous response …

A pioneer such as Conservative leadership candidate Deepak Obhrai celebrating his success, his qualification to lead and, yes, his difference. Would it not be a proud Canadian moment, if Obhrai delivered a thundering endorsement of anti-racist, pro-immigrant politics — a strong Progressive Conservative tradition — and then got a standing ovation from party members?

Or imagine New Democrat Jagmeet Singh, speaking in French to a crowd at the Quebec City mosque, delivering a ringing denunciation of the racial, religious and ethnic provocateurs, and having the crowd — including niqab-clad women and pur laine Quebecers — rise to their feet.

Let’s hope the Conservatives have learned the lesson of their niqab humiliation and that they have the wisdom to smack down those who would play dangerous games with the hard-won harmony and social cohesion we have built.

And let’s ensure that any Canadian progressive tempted to play footsy with racism understands the certainty of their political humiliation.

Source: Dutch voters deliver a treat: Sears | Toronto Star

Terry Glavin: Sorry, Canada, when it comes to political leadership it turns out you’re not uniquely feminist

Interesting study by Environics Institute, underlying the importance of data and analysis in challenging assumptions:

Sorry to disappoint you, Canada, but it turns out you’re nowhere near as uniquely feminist in your ideas about political leadership as you seem to think you are. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s inaugural gender-parity cabinet, and his Jan. 10 shuffle which the majority of cabinet posts to women, Canada is better than the average, sure.

But when asked whether women are just as qualified to lead their country as men, Canadians are less likely to agree than respondents in such stereotypically macho countries as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Venezuela. Going strictly by the numbers, Canadians are less likely to agree with the proposition than Kenyans.

That’s just one of the surprising findings in a groundbreaking international survey undertaken late last year by the Toronto-based Environics Institute, made available exclusively to the National Post. Involving 62,918 respondents in 60 countries, the Environics survey is the most ambitious of its kind that the institute has ever undertaken.

Here’s another one of its surprises: age and education levels play no clear role in whether people will agree that women are as qualified as men to serve in political leadership positions. In some countries, the older and less educated you are, the more likely you’ll be content with women holding political power.

The Swedes, whose government boasts that it’s “the first feminist government in the world,” are not statistically different than Chileans or Mexicans, or Canadians for that matter. And the rigidly theocratic Saudis, who are notorious for requiring women to cover themselves from head to toe in niqabs and won’t even allow women to drive, come in only slightly below the thoroughly democratic Japanese, who are only barely likely to agree that women are as capable as men in political leadership.

In most countries, there’s not much difference between what women and men say on the subject, either. Here’s a shocker: people who are most emphatic that women are as capable in national leadership positions as men are more likely to cleave simultaneously to the “patriarchal” notion that a man should be the head of the family.

Of the United Nations’ 193 member states, only 19 heads of state or heads of government are women. If this isn’t mainly because of institutional barriers or differences in political systems, and if it doesn’t simply reflect what men want, or what old people want, or what people without much schooling want, then what’s going on?

“It looks like it’s mainly culture,” says Keith Neuman, the Environics Institute’s executive director. Another lesson from the study is that the assumptions Canadians tend to make about certain cultures, and the implications for the status of women, might also be more than just a bit wonky.

“Nobody’s ever asked these questions of all these countries so we didn’t have clear expectations, but what surprised me I guess was the level of support in a number of patriarchal societies. I was surprised by the level of support, for instance, in Latin America,” Neuman told me. “Part of me assumed that it would be the western progressive feminist countries, the countries with the strongest feminist leanings, that would be the counties where people would be be inclined to say, yes, absolutely, women of course are just as qualified as men. That didn’t come out the way I’d expected.”

Globally, nearly eight in ten people are pretty much like Canadians, at least mildly agreeing with the statement: “Women are just as qualified as men to lead our country.” Respondents were given a ‘totally agree’ or ‘totally disagree’ option, to identify responses that were emphatic and not merely indications of a ‘Yeah, sure, whatever’ attitude. Latin America comes in with a higher “totally agree” score than any region in the world, at 85 per cent, exceeding even Western Europe’s 77 per cent average.

But in that same “totally agree” category, Canada comes in at 62 per cent, below Spain (72 per cent), Portugal (71 per cent), Italy (65 per cent), and Kenya (66 per cent).

Cold comfort: at least Canadians score higher than Americans. Only 43 per cent of American respondents “totally” agree. Canada gets to rub it in, too: the United States scores lower than Pakistan, where 48 per cent of respondents “totally” agree.

Unsurprisingly, the Arab countries come in low in the total-agreement category, at 38 per cent of Syrians, for instance, 22 per cent of Algerians, and 24 per cent of the Saudis — roughly half of whom, surprisingly, at least basically agree that women are as qualified to lead as men. Respondents in the East Asian countries came in generally low in “total agreement” with the idea that women are as qualified in politics as men. But the Japanese come in close to the Saudis. While 63 per cent at least agree, only 27 per cent totally agree.

Undertaken in collaboration with Environics Communications and Environics Analytics — two commercial firms in the Environics group — roughly 1,000 people were surveyed in each of the 60 countries in the study. The surveys relied on technology pioneered by Toronto’s RIWI Corp., which gets around the usual recruited online panels by teasing out random samples of country populations through cellular phones and laptop computers. (RIWI has racked up quite a few predictive bullseyes lately, pinpointing the tipping point in Egypt’s popular uprising against dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and correctly forecasting Donald Trump’s electoral college win despite Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote lead in the U.S. presidential elections. RIWI also called the margin of defeat in Italy’s constitutional referendum within a single percentage point last December.)

Source: Terry Glavin: Sorry, Canada, when it comes to political leadership it turns out you’re not uniquely feminist | National Post

ICYMI: Conservative MPs laugh at Amarjeet Sohi’s past as city bus driver

So ironic, if not hypocritical, as the Conservatives, in government or opposition, always take aim at “elites.”

(My recent analysis of Senate appointments confirmed that senators appointed by PM Trudeau have more “elite” backgrounds than those by former PM Harper – Diversity in the Senate – Policy Options):

A federal cabinet minister who learned to deal with the public while driving an Edmonton transit bus was laughed at this week in the House of Commons, apparently for that very reason.

Amarjeet Sohi, the minister of infrastructure and Liberal MP for Edmonton Mill Woods, rose in the house Tuesday to speak about transportation.

He began his remarks by acknowledging that as a former transit driver he was especially shocked to learn that a bus driver in Winnipeg had been stabbed to death earlier in the day.

“Mr. Speaker, as a former bus driver, I want to convey our thoughts and prayers,” Sohi said.

On the video recording of the proceedings of the House of Commons, loud laughter could be heard coming from the opposition benches.

Sohi’s colleagues on the Liberal side could be seen shaking their heads in disbelief.

“What I heard was laughter,” Sohi said Wednesday during an interview from Ottawa.

The former transit bus driver went on to serve two terms on Edmonton city council, before winning a seat as a Liberal member of Parliament in the 2015 federal election.

“I take pride in my background,” Sohi said.

“I think it does demonstrate a streak of elitist attitude in the Conservative party, where maybe they don’t appreciate we have working-class people in Parliament in the Liberal government who are making a difference in the lives of Canadians.”

Adam Vaughan, a Liberal MP from Toronto, raised a point of order in the House on Wednesday and asked that the laughter be “withdrawn,” which would strike it from the record.

“This is offensive to the values of this House, to the values of Canadians and the diversity of all of us,” Vaughan said.

But Conservative House leader Candice Bergen refused.

“There’s all kinds of laughter that occurs here,” Bergen responded in the House. “So we absolutely respect and honour all of the jobs that we’ve done, and the experience we bring to this house.”

Sohi said he wasn’t personally upset by the laughter, but he thought Bergen’s statement fell short of what was required.

The politics of 2036, when Canada is as brown as it is white: Ibbitson

Good column by John Ibbitson on the political implications of the 2036 projections on Canada’s demographics (and a much more likely prediction than his earlier one in his book The Big Shift, although he still sticks to the Jason Kenney line that immigrants are inherently more conservative, which the 2015 election indicated was overly simplistic, given the diversity among immigrant groups and the wide margins the Liberals enjoyed in 33 visible majority ridings):

…The transformation of Canada is already far advanced, and continuing. By 2036, the agency predicts, as many as 30 per cent of all residents will not have been born in Canada. Another 20 per cent of the population will be native-born, but with at least one immigrant parent. Since the vast majority of immigrants come from Asian or Pacific nations, within 20 years Canada will likely be as brown as it is white.

Some old-stock Canadians, as Stephen Harper called them, will resent this. No one asked them, they will say, whether they wanted the European, Christian country they grew up in to be transformed into something so cosmopolitan. They lament the loss of traditional values and social solidarity. Some of them look with envy to the United States, where Donald Trump surfed nativist resentments all the way to the White House.

But a Canadian Donald Trump – at least one who wins a general election – is unlikely. There is no future courting the angry white vote. There just aren’t enough angry white voters.

Some Conservative leadership candidates are flirting with nativism nonetheless, because the Conservative Party membership is older and whiter than the general population. But, in fact, Conservatives should welcome immigrants. The Philippines, India and China accounted for 40 per cent of new arrivals in 2015. They are economically and socially more conservative than many of the native-born; many of them voted for Mr. Harper in 2011, and they are a natural constituency for the Conservative Party.

Justin Trudeau, however, won suburban ridings with large immigrant populations across the country in 2015. Politically, keeping those voters loyal is his first and most important task. Winning them back should be the first and most important task of the next Conservative leader.

The massive demographic shifts under way in Canada speak to both growth and decline across the country. In 2036, StatsCan predicts immigrants will make up at most 10 per cent of the population in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. About a third of Montreal’s population could be immigrant, but in the rest of the province they will be hard to find. In Ontario and British Columbia, about a third of the population will be foreign-born, and Alberta should be near 30 per cent.

In terms of both population and politics, Canada will be a country of large, growing, young, diverse cites, with everything in between older and whiter and continuing to decline.

Quebec will struggle to make its voice heard: those whose mother tongue is French will decline from 21 per cent of the population today to 18 per cent in 2036. The number speaking English as a native language will also go down, but up to 30 per cent of Canadians will have a mother tongue that is neither English nor French.

Canada is losing its old-time religion. Ninety per cent of Canadians identified as Christians in 1970. Today, it’s two-thirds, and will be just over one half by 2036. Christianity is not being displaced by other religions – only 7 per cent, at most, will identify as Muslim by 2036 – but by no religion at all. A quarter of all Canadians today identify with no faith, and that number could reach a third by 2036.

The fact that this country has deliberately transformed the makeup of its population in a way no other country has managed, or even attempted, speaks to the tolerant, diverse society in which we live. Multiculturalism works and Canada is proof.

If you’re grinding your teeth at this, if you long for the Canada that was, it’s easy to understand your frustration. That Canada has gone away. By 2036 it will be barely a memory.

Source: The politics of 2036, when Canada is as brown as it is white – The Globe and Mail

Note to Conservatives: There is no future in Donald Trump Lite – The Globe and Mail

From the ‘big shift’ to understanding Canadian political realities, John Ibbitson reflects on the Conservative leadership race.

While I share his general assessment, I always worry about complacency and assuming that Canada is resilient to the overall political trends in the US and Europe. Better to be less categorical; after all, whenever European leaders pronounce multiculturalism dead, there is an echoing chorus in Canada:

To varying degrees, several candidates for the Conservative leadership seek to unravel the conservative coalition forged by Stephen Harper, hoping to replace it with a populist, nativist movement similar to the one that elected Donald Trump.

Either they will fail and a Harper Conservative will win the leadership, or one will succeed, condemning the Conservative Party to many years in the wilderness. Because the Trump coalition simply doesn’t exist in this country.

Canada routinely ranks among the happiest nations on earth. The 2016 United Nations World Happiness Report had us at sixth, behind the Nordic countries and Switzerland.

Happy countries share in common governments that are committed to sound finances. They also enjoy high-quality public health care, education and other social services, something Harper Conservatives support. Harper Conservatives also join other Canadians (six-in-10, according to most polls) in endorsing high levels of immigration. Immigrants are welcome in Canada because our immigration policy is based on economic self-interest rather than compassion, and because the points-based system ensures that no one ethnic group dominates others.

And although the Ontario manufacturing sector has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs since 2000, the province as a whole is prospering, powered by the service-sector economy of Greater Toronto, the high-tech sector centred in Kitchener-Waterloo, and new, smaller, manufacturers springing up in Southwestern Ontario….

In this context, another word for happiness is trust. If citizens trust their government to spend tax dollars on needed services, their police to treat them fairly, their central bank to protect a sound currency and so on, then populist uprisings will be few and weak. All in all, Canadian citizens trust the Canadian state.

But in the United States, trust is eroding, thanks to foolish wars, government waste and free-riding fat cats, leading to ideological warfare and populist rebellions.

In the rust-belt states that swung to Mr. Trump, white working- and middle-class voters blame foreigners for taking away their factory jobs, environmentalists for shutting down the coal mines, Latino migrants for changing the ethnic mix of their communities, and Muslims for making them feel less safe. They trust neither the state nor each other.

There are doubtless some Canadians who are this angry. But you won’t find many of them in the suburban ridings of Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver, dominated by new Canadians. You won’t find many of them in Calgary and Edmonton. People are hurting there, but they know the downturn in oil and gas prices is to blame for the slump, not immigrants or low-wage factory workers overseas.

That doesn’t mean Kellie Leitch, who is channelling a toned-down version of Trump memes, has no chance of winning the leadership. Only about 100,000 Conservative party members will vote for a leader, and that membership is older and whiter than the nation itself.

But whoever wins will have to appeal to voters in Mississauga-Erin Mills, to choose just one Greater Toronto example. That riding is 60 per cent non-white. In 2011, the Conservatives won the riding with 21,646 votes. In 2015, that vote went up slightly, to 21,716. Contrary to popular belief, the Conservatives held their suburban immigrant base in the last election.

But the Liberals took the riding by nearly 6,000 votes. Two thousand NDP voters switched to the Liberals, and the overall turnout increased by about 9,000 votes. (At 68 per cent nationally, turnout in the 2015 election was the highest since 1993).

Will turnout in 2019 drop back down to the post-2000 norm of around 60 per cent? How many disillusioned Liberal voters can be won over to the Conservative side? Can Conservatives broaden their support among suburban immigrant voters? These are the questions Conservative strategists should be asking – not whether the party can foment and surf a populist backlash.

Riding a wave of anger won’t get you very far in the sixth-happiest place on earth.

Source: Note to Conservatives: There is no future in Donald Trump Lite – The Globe and Mail

We can’t let Canada’s politicians divide us with populist labels: Goldy Hyder

While I agree with Hyder on the risk of playing to divisions, ignoring class and other differences also entails risk of denial and addressing issues.

Generally those who decry ‘class warfare’ do so from a position of privilege. What is needed, hard to do so in politics, is more nuanced debate about difference, barriers, and ways to overcome them:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to cancel his plans to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos so he can undertake a cross-country tour and engage directly with Canadians is a symptom of a much larger and more troubling trend where it has become increasingly fashionable for political leaders to frame public-policy decisions in terms of their potential impact on “ordinary,” “real” or “average” Canadians.

These terms, which are now at the heart of debates about everything from health-care funding to the benefits of globalization, have come to be used almost interchangeably with the equally popular “middle class.” To the extent that many Canadians consider themselves, rightly or wrongly, to be part of the middle class, these labels are intended to convey a sense of inclusiveness.

Yet the opposite is true. As we have seen in the United States and Britain, when these types of generic terms are used to describe large groups, they are generally defined on the basis of who they exclude: the so-called elites.

These terms are, in fact, inherently divisive. Just as few of us would self-identify as being “abnormal,” our characteristic Canadian modesty prevents us from thinking we are particularly exceptional. If we are not among those frequently maligned “elites,” we must therefore, be part of some “middle-class” majority. (Even the math holds up, as we’re told “elites” are only the top 1 per cent.)

The problem with vague terms like these is that they invite people to fill in the blanks with their own biases about who fits into each group – and we’ve seen the consequences that has had in other countries. Canadians should not be urged to divide themselves on the basis of income, education, ethnicity, religion or region. To do so would be to unravel our rich multicultural tapestry by pulling on loose threads.

We don’t want Canadians to be inherently distrustful of experts, to presume that a person is less ethical because they have a higher or lower net worth, or to believe that those with global outlooks aren’t patriotic. Any proliferation of populist labels risks creating an “us versus them” conflict within the country, something that can be exploited by those looking for an easy way to galvanize and mobilize a political base.

Some may suggest I am being alarmist, but I have spent the better part of my career in the field of communications, and in my professional experience our choice of language matters a great deal. It has also been my personal experience. As an immigrant and a Muslim, I have witnessed firsthand how quickly the word “different” becomes “foreign,” and how easily “foreign” can become “un-Canadian.”

At a certain point, assigning some meaning to arbitrary or artificial terms inevitably becomes a question of defining values. That is where things get complicated and where the real fissures can emerge. Canada’s 150-year story has many chapters in which divisions between people defined the politics of an era. Some of our worst mistakes have been made by governments in attempts to satisfy one group over another.

Without question, governments must consider the very different realities in which Canadians live when they develop policy res-ponses to pressing issues – but that is about technical implementation. What governments must avoid doing is using the levers of policy to divide Canadians on the basis of their different circumstances, as opposed to building a broad consensus based on shared values and interests.

Moreover, governments must avoid making decisions – such as whether to attend a global conference with the world’s most powerful economic stakeholders – based solely on the perceived optics of those decisions.

In these uncertain times, we cannot afford to make mistakes or miss opportunities. We need to seize every advantage we have, and that means ignoring those who call for us to marginalize or vilify others. Instead of targeting a particular class of Canadian – whether upper, lower or middle – let’s avoid entirely the temptation to engage in any type of class distinctions or, worse still, to inflame class warfare.

When the Fathers of Confederation created our country 150 years ago, they sought to unite us in common cause. Let us invoke that same spirit in this anniversary year by uniting Canadians, not dividing them.

Source: We can’t let Canada’s politicians divide us with populist labels – The Globe and Mail

Conservative Party’s fortunes hinge on immigration policy: Ibbitson

Good overview by Ibbitson of the varied immigration positions of the Conservative leadership contenders (the Harper support mentioned below reflected in part the weakness of the other parties as well as the strong outreach by former Minister Jason Kenney):

Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives enjoyed broad support from immigrant Canadians, many of whom are economically and socially more conservative than many native-born Canadians.

But when the party promised during the 2015 election campaign to root out “barbaric cultural practices,” it made Conservatives look anti-immigrant.

New Canadians will support the Conservatives, but only if they believe that Conservatives support them.

Source: Conservative Party’s fortunes hinge on immigration policy – The Globe and Mail

Conservatives, race and the chicken-and-egg question

Good column by Tasha Kheiriddin:

Are Conservatives more biased than other Canadian voters? They are, apparently — at least according to a recent Forum research poll on attitudes towards minorities.

The pollster asked 1,300 Canadians whether they had “favourable or unfavourable feelings” about a range of religious and racial groups, including Muslims, Jews, First Nations, South Asians and blacks. Respondents had a choice of three responses: “favourable feelings,” “unfavourable feelings” or “don’t know”. While four in 10 respondents overall expressed unfavourable feelings towards at least one group, that number rose to six in ten Conservative supporters, versus three in ten New Democrat, Liberal or Green voters.

Fifty-five per cent of Bloc Quebecois supporters also expressed these “unfavourable feelings”; 57 per cent of Quebecers did as well.

With regard to Quebec, the numbers are, unfortunately, not a surprise. The province’s long-standing fight to protect French culture from erosion by English and immigrant influences has long been tainted by expressions of xenophobia. In 1995, Premier Jacques Parizeau blamed “money and the ethnic vote” when his party lost its second referendum on separation. In 2007 the town of Hérouxville made international headlines for its “code of conduct”, which discouraged would-be immigrants from smelly cooking and helpfully reminded them that the “stoning of women in public” was unacceptable.

And in 2013, the PQ proposed a Charter of Values which would have banned the wearing of religious symbols by state employees, and which went so far as to include pictograms of verboten items, including kippas, turbans, crosses and headscarves.

When it comes to the expressions of bias by Conservative voters, however, the explanation seems somewhat murkier. Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum research, suggested to the Toronto Star that the poll results might be linked to the party’s “dabbling” in identity politics, such as proposals by candidates Kellie Leitch and Stephen Blaney to screen immigrants for “Canadian values” or prevent them from voting while wearing a veil. “Whether they’re reacting to their base (of supporters) or they’re leading their base, there are those feelings,” Bozinoff said.

And that is the chicken-and-egg question. Are candidates like Leitch reacting to pre-existing opinion within the Conservative base, or fanning the flames to even greater heights? Are they trying to capture a ready base of support, or are they building one by rallying voters through identity politics?

open quote 761b1bWhile there exists a base of Conservative voters who hold anti-immigrant or anti-minority views, there aren’t enough of those voters to win power. But within the Conservative party itself, there might be enough of those voters to win the party leadership.

It’s a little of both. The Forum poll echoes sentiments expressed in previous research — such as an Ekos poll published last year which found that 41 per cent of Canadians thought “too many minorities” were immigrating to Canada. Broken down by party, 51 per cent of Conservative supporters held that view against 35 per cent of NDP voters and 32 per cent of Liberal voters holding that view — a clear difference that a candidate for the Conservative leadership mightchoose to target for political advantage.

And philosophical conservatives, as their name implies, traditionally seek to preserve the established order. Since the days of Edmund Burke, conservatives have been wary of rapid change and ‘progress’ for progress’ sake. So they tend to be more skeptical of immigration, particularly when immigrants come from faiths or ethnicities different from those of the majority population.

But conservatives also believe in liberty, the right to self-determination and freedom from tyranny and overbearing governments — something many immigrants are fleeing when they seek a better life on foreign shores. The challenge for the right is always in reconciling these beliefs while reining in xenophobic tendencies — which, when allowed to run amok in other places, have led to horrors such as the Holocaust, an evil even greater than the many left-wing revolutions conservatives condemn.

Here in multicultural Canada, it’s the responsibility of leaders of all party stripes to encourage cohesion rather than sow division. The 2015 federal election campaign revealed that doing so is also a surer path to government. While there exists a base of Conservative voters who hold anti-immigrant or anti-minority views, there aren’t enough of those voters to win power.

But within the Conservative party itself, there might be enough of those voters to win the party leadership. Which explains what we are seeing in the current Conservative race.

In the case of Leitch, this rhetoric rings particularly hollow for anyone who has followed her career. For decades — since her student politics days, in fact — Leitch was seen as hailing from the Red Tory wing of the then-Progressive Conservative party. People who have known and respected her a long time (this writer included) are mystified by her values pitch and sudden praise for Donald Trump — stuff that the Kellie we remember would never have said. Previous supporters and long-time friends, including former Senator Hugh Segal and head of the IRPP Graham Fox, have even distanced themselves from her campaign over her remarks.

The only way to explain Leitch’s abrupt U-turn into identity politics is that polls — and her campaign manager, Nick Kouvalis — encouraged her to go that route. But targeting anti-immigrant voters also means promoting their attitudes – and that is the truly objectionable part of the equation.

Sensible immigration policy does not mean demonizing differences, nor does it mean talking in code about “values”. It means correlating Canada’s labour needs with immigrants’ skills, ensuring that people who come here are equipped to succeed, not depend on the state, and showing compassion for those fleeing oppression and discrimination.

We already “screen” immigrants for those things. Calling for more is not sound policy. It’s just self-serving politics.

Source: Conservatives, race and the chicken-and-egg question

Canadian politics are sexist. What are men going to do about it? 

Worth reflecting and acting upon:

A 2016 survey of 55 female parliamentarians from 39 countries found that 44.4 per cent had received threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction, and 65.5 per cent said they had “often” been subjected to humiliating sexist remarks from male colleagues. And, of course, we all know what happened toHillary.

Good ideas have been floated to address this hostility towards female politicians: last week, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters created the Lift Her Upcampaign to challenge sexist bullying; and Notley believes we should be encouraging more women to enter politics. In the U.S., women are already responding to the 2016 presidential election by pursuing their own runs for office: since November, more than 4,500 of them have signed up for She Should Run, a new organization that trains women for public life. 

But a quick and simple solution is unlikely. The threats and harassment are bound to get worse before they get better. And what’s more: This isn’t women’s problem to fix. This one is up to men. Because men—and it is almost entirely men who’ve been targeting female politicians—are reacting to a very real change. As Don Braid wrote in the Calgary Herald, “Alberta has become a kind of social laboratory, unique in North America, to test whether a near-majority of women in a government caucus makes a change in style and substance. The verdict is already in—they do, as shown both by Notley’s conciliatory style and the NDP’s advancement of women and minorities.”

There are some men who find this progress very, very threatening. For them, the advancement of women, people of colour and LGBT people in politics and other arenas feels like a personal attack. It feels like what has been rightfully and unquestionably theirs for so long is now being stolen away.

American author and academic Michael Kimmel calls this “aggrieved entitlement.” In his book, Angry White Men, which came out in 2013 but seems even more relevant now, Kimmel surveys the growing rage among neo-Nazis, gamers, right wing talk radio hosts and men’s rights activists who define their masculinity and manhood in terms of dominance and power and who believe in their “God-given right” to rule the world.

Female politicians from the right, left and middle have been attacked. Those who identify as feminists have been harassed as well as those who don’t. Their haters simply don’t like that these women are smarter, more powerful and more successful than they are. Given the narrow way they define their manhood, it’s emasculating.

To put it in terms those guys will understand, what they really don’t like is that these women have bigger balls than they do. (Because whether or not you agree with the politics of these women, you have to recognize the guts and perseverance and hard work it takes to run for office.)

Men who believe in equality need to champion the idea of women in power and, more significantly, they need to model for other men that they are respectful of and comfortable with female leaders and female bosses. Michael Kimmel suggests we might start to address white male rage by creating a new definition of masculinity doesn’t depend upon male supremacy, but instead embraces egalitarianism and a true meritocracy.

It turns out that inclusion and social equality are good for white guys, too. Men in marriages where the responsibility for domestic chores and financial support are more evenly shared report higher levels of happiness and less depression. And societies that care for the rights and well-being of all their citizens tend to be the ones that provide a social safety net to protect those, including white men, who have lost jobs or feel disempowered.

Over the last several decades, women have redefined their roles, moving into fields that were previously off-limits, like politics. Now it’s up to men—white, straight men in particular—to redefine theirs. What does it mean to be a man when it’s no longer just a man’s world?