Delacourt: Are you a good Canadian? Justin Trudeau offers the coronavirus as a lesson in responsible citizenship

Good commentary and yes, a lesson in civic responsibility, one that the PM has had to personally demonstrate given his self-quarantine and cancellation of the FPT meeting given his wife having tested positive:

Ask not what the federal government is doing for you about the COVID-19 pandemic, but ask instead what you are doing to keep Canadians healthy.

Justin Trudeau didn’t exactly borrow from John F. Kennedy’s immortal lines about civic responsibility at his news conference on Wednesday, but the prime minister also, very deliberately, cast the virus crisis as a crash course for all of us in good citizenship.

“Often there are global crises or events when the average citizen does not feel particularly powerful to affect the fate of the economy. We are in a situation where the choices our citizens make will have a direct impact on the health of Canada and on the Canadian economy,” Trudeau said in French toward the end of his morning appearance in the National Press Theatre.

It was billed as a high-level update on what the Canadian government is doing for citizens as the novel coronavirus spreads its damage throughout Canada and the world. “We get it and we’re on it,” Trudeau said.

But slipped into all the talk of government having our backs — another new, favourite phrase from Trudeau’s team this year — was a gentle reminder or two that citizenship is a two-way street. The government is in a giving frame of mind, but a taking one too, in terms of what it’s asking of average Canadian citizens to keep the virus contained.

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, spoke at the news conference of how citizens — not the state or even the health-care system — would ultimately determine the trajectory of this virus.

“The advantage of being in the Canadian system is that people will be supported to do what public health has asked them to do but everyone can change the dynamic of that curve,” Dr. Tam said. “That`s such an important message that I don’t want people to lose sight of. Individual physicians can’t do it, public health units on their own can’t do it. Everyone has to contribute.”

The prime minister followed up with reinforcement. “At this point our strongest recommendation is for Canadians to be involved in keeping themselves and their families safe,” Trudeau said.

Asking people to change their behaviour for the sake of the country is a very 20th century concept in North America, when war, duty and sacrifice were part of the political lexicon. In this century, political appeals to people’s selflessness is usually framed as: do it for your kids, or the next generation.

But governments are still keenly interested in what they can do to change individuals’ behaviour to align with national or state goals, especially when it comes to climate change, for instance. Britain set up its famous “nudge unit” within its cabinet office in the early 2000s to study how behavioural-economic insights could be turned into public policy. And Canada, for its part, has something called the “impact and innovation unit” inside government, inspired in part by the British example.

The COVID-19 virus, now a pandemic, could well become a laboratory into how governments nudge their citizens into different behaviour. Certainly that old British unit, now a separate company called the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) has been having thoughts in that direction.

In a recent blog post, BIT laid out some thoughts on “how do we encourage the right behaviours during an epidemic?” It’s not easy, BIT acknowledged: the incentives for changed citizen behaviour are neither clear nor immediate. “People have no way of knowing if taking preventive steps will actually stop them contracting the virus. You’ll never know what didn’t happen.”

The blog post talks about the importance of public-health officials being front and centre to cultivate trust and why governments should be transparent, but also sparing about details,

“In some cases, less rather than more information leads to more accurate judgments,” BIT’s blog post states. “Communicating simple instructions that are easy to remember makes it more likely that people will follow them.”

I don’t know whether anyone inside the government is reading the BIT blog, but Trudeau’s news conference on Wednesday revealed a high degree of interest in the social science — as well as the medical science — of managing a pandemic.

“This is on all of us,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters later on Monday.

Canadian citizens have been asking a lot of their federal government in the past few months — from requests to fix snarled train traffic to the rescue of Canadians in trouble abroad. COVID-19 has turned that equation upside down. As Kennedy might have put it, this pandemic is forcing citizens to ask not what the country can do for them, but what they can do for the country.

Yakabuski: Trudeau government’s deliverology experiment ends with a whimper

While all governments have both bureaucratic and political level tracking systems, deliverology being just one approach, the success or failure is often determined more on the lower priority files than the high profile screwups that Yakabuski highlights.

And execution has been the Achilles heel of many governments:

One of the great ironies of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is that it has proved so ineffective in the one area where it so emphatically promised to outdo its predecessors.

It was always presumptuous on the part of Mr. Trudeau and his former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, to suggest they would run a more effective government than any of those that came before them. But by dropping the ball so spectacularly on so many key files, Mr. Trudeau’s Prime Minister’s Office set itself up for the failure that has now befallen it.

There were self-satisfied chuckles of schadenfreude across the civil service this week as Mr. Trudeau announced the departure of Matthew Mendelsohn as the deputy secretary to the federal cabinet heading up the government’s “results and delivery” unit. With Mr. Mendelsohn’s return to academia, the Trudeau government’s much-hyped experiment in “deliverology” has ended in a whimper.

Mr. Trudeau thanked Mr. Mendelsohn for his “service to Canadians,” but cited not a single accomplishment made by the results and delivery unit that he and Mr. Butts had so championed. Nor did he name an immediate successor to Mr. Mendelsohn, a top official in former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s government who is joining Ryerson University in Toronto.

Mr. Mendelsohn, in Twitter posts, tried to put a positive spin on his tenure, insisting that the “new governance, processes and routines we established helped the government overcome implementation obstacles and hit most of the key targets it identified four years ago.”

Still, the Prime Minister’s silence on the successes (or lack thereof) of the unit Mr. Mendelsohn headed contrasted sharply with the hubris that spewed out of the Butts-led PMO in 2015, which promised to revolutionize policy making and implementation in the federal capital.

Mr. Trudeau’s government spent at least $200,000 to pick the brain of Sir Michael Barber, flying the British consultant and “deliverology” guru to cabinet retreats at resorts in New Brunswick, Alberta and Ontario. Sir Michael was handed a mandate from the Privy Council Office to “provide ongoing information, recommendations and advice on a tailored program to guide departments to meet commitments and deliver on priorities.”

Unfortunately, Sir Michael’s services did not come with a money-back guarantee. And in the end, they may have bought only grief for Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Butts, who resigned last year in the wake of the scandal involving alleged pressure from the PMO on former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement.

To anyone who has worked in government, the whole concept of “deliverology” smacked of warmed-over administration theory repackaged by former bureaucrats-turned-consultants seeking to monetize their insider knowledge of the public service. And career bureaucrats do not take kindly to know-it-all political appointees telling them how to do their jobs.

The Trudeau PMO “imposed another layer of administration on some public servants. Their departments had been abiding by evaluation and performance policies for more than 40 years,” former Ottawa Citizen reporter Kathryn May wrote last year in Policy Options. “With deliverology, the public service still did all that work, and now they also had to report the progress on all the government’s goals to a ‘delivery unit,’ which, along with ministers and the Prime Minister, monitored and tracked these priorities.”

The Trudeau PMO has never seemed clear on its own priorities. So how could it expect the senior bureaucracy to be clear on them? At both the micro-policy level (electoral reform, balancing the budget by 2019) and macro-policy level (reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, supporting economic growth while fighting climate change), the Trudeau government has continually sent mixed signals to the bureaucracy about how seriously it takes its own promises.

When it has sprung into action, the Trudeau PMO has typically made a mess of it. The SNC-Lavalin affair, which started out with a straightforward move to bring Canadian law on deferred prosecution agreements in line with that of other developed countries, nearly destroyed Mr. Trudeau’s government all because the PMO failed to abide by its own deliverology credo.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the Trudeau government’s most notable successes – the implementation of the Canada Child Benefit and medical aid in dying, and the negotiation of new health-care funding agreements with the provinces – were overseen by low-key ministers who kept their eyes on the ball rather than their Twitter feeds. Social Development Minister Jean- Yves Duclos and Jane Philpott, Mr. Trudeau’s first health minister, were focused on results, not retweets.

Overall, however, execution has proved to be the Achilles heel of this government. It has proved inept at buying fighter planes or fixing the Phoenix pay system. It promised a bigger role for Canada in global affairs but has earned a reputation abroad for being fickle and stingy. The Canada Infrastructure Bank extends its record for overpromising and underdelivering.

Indeed, the scariest words in Canadian English may have become: “I’m from the Trudeau government, and I’m here to help.”

Source: Trudeau government’s deliverology experiment ends with a whimper

Last election marked shift in the type of growth Canadians are seeking

More interesting analysis on the recent election by Andrew Parkin of Environics Institute:

There is never any shortage of public opinion polls on the eve of an election. A steady stream of data sets up the electoral contest by gauging who is starting in a leading position and who is lagging at the back of the pack.

The main limitation of this type of “horserace” data is that it doesn’t help us anticipate what might happen next. To get a good sense of how the campaign might unfold, we need to know more about the public’s mood – what citizens are feeling good about, and what is keeping them from getting a good night’s sleep. Not that broader survey data on issues and outlook can foretell the eventual outcome with any degree certainty. Human actions and reactions will always disrupt the expected course of events, especially during election campaigns. But a good understanding of the wider context of public opinion on the eve of an election should minimize the extent of our surprise at what ultimately transpires.

This applies, for example, to the issue of inclusive growth – the notion that economic growth and the equitable distribution of its benefits should be seen as mutually reinforcing rather than mutually exclusive policy objectives. Talk of inclusive growth has animated international forums such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Economic Forum for much of the last decade. In Canada it was a central preoccupation of the federal Liberal government that was elected in 2015.

While the term inclusive growth has only recently moved into the vernacular, we can still ask whether, as the government sought a second mandate in 2019, the public was feeling more or less included in the country’s prosperity, and whether historic fissures in Canadian society seem to be widening or closing.

At first glance, the data suggest that the public should have been fairly receptive in October 2019 to the incumbent Liberal government’s claim to have made growth more inclusive. At that time the proportion of Canadians citing the economy as the country’s most important problem had declined to 14 percent, the lowest level since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. More Canadians were feeling positive about both the country’s and their own economic situation. The proportion of Canadians saying that it was a good time to find a job in the area where they live had jumped from 36 percent in 2015 to 61 percent in 2018. And the proportion describing their own incomes as inadequate had dropped 10 points (from 39 percent to 28 percent) over the course of the Liberals’ first mandate. As they headed back to the polls, they could hardly have wished for more (figure 1).

All these numbers, however, reflect national trends, and they obscure contrasting regional ones. The modest 5-point increase since 2014 in the proportion of Canadians with a favourable view of the country’s economic situation subsumed the much larger 22-point increase in Quebec, and a counter-acting 22-point drop in Alberta. In fact, over the course of five years (between 2014 and 2019 – a relatively short space of time), Quebec and Alberta had essentially switched places: in 2014 Quebec was the least economically optimistic and Alberta the most optimistic province; the reverse was true in 2019.

In Canada, the issue of inclusive growth is not just about equity across social groups, it is also about equity across regions.  Framed in this way, it was less of a “winning issue” for the incumbent government than they might otherwise have expected (figure 2).

No one who had these Alberta numbers in full view, then, would have been surprised that the Liberals were shut out of the province in terms of seats come election night. But the flip side of the story is also important. Going into the 2019 election campaign, it would have been useful if the opposition parties had thought harder about what they were offering voters in Quebec. This might have prompted them to go beyond a pitch based on the premise of how much harder it was getting to make ends meet. (At the city level, affordable housing and the rising cost of living were top issues for those living in Toronto and Vancouver, but not Montreal.)

A sober review of public opinion data as they pertain to notions of inclusion also helps explain something that didn’t happen during the 2019 election campaign. In the wake of increases in the number of refugees “irregularly” crossing the Canada-US border in Quebec and Manitoba, and the launching of the Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, which had an overtly anti-immigration platform, the risk that immigration would emerge as a defining (and divisive) election issue appeared high. But it did not become a defining issue, largely because, in spite of some heated rhetoric on talk radio and social media, Canadians themselves have never felt more positively about immigration than they did on the eve of the 2019 campaign.

The proportion of Canadians who say there is too much immigration in Canada was trending downward, as was the proportion questioning the legitimacy of refugee claimants (figure 3). While in 2018 and the spring of 2019 one in two Canadians agreed that too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values, this was the lowest figure ever recorded (in 1993, three in four Canadian held this view). Perhaps most importantly, heading into the election, in April 2019, only 3 percent of Canadians felt that immigration was the most important issue facing the country (a proportion that was nine times lower as that in the United States).

Further analysis also reveals that attitudes on immigration in Canada correlate less strongly with economic concerns than they do with general political outlook (that is to say, ideology). So despite the overall brighter mood in 2019, plenty of Canadians were anxious about the economy and their own financial situation as election day approached. But this anxiety propelled them to blame Ottawa insiders, not newly arrived outsiders. In retrospect, then, the table was not set for a heated debate about immigration, and it should have come as no surprise that the more a party pushed this issue to the fore, the worse they did on election night.

Looking back, however, there was one signal in the pre-election polls that might have warranted more attention. While fewer Canadians were expressing concerns about the economy, more were expressing concerns about the environment – and specially about climate change. In fact, by the spring of 2019, climate change had overtaken the economy as the top issue for Canadians for the first time since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. That said, in spring 2019, the proportion of Canadians singling out climate change as their top issue was only 14 percent – up from 5 percent two years earlier, and tied in order of importance with the similar proportion expressing concern about the quality of government leadership.

At that time, there was no way of knowing whether the share of Canadians preoccupied with climate change was already peaking or just beginning to grow. It took a subsequent survey, conducted during the election campaign, to reveal the answer. We now know that the priorities of Canadians were evolving quickly over the course of 2019; by October, the proportion citing climate change as the country’s top problem had jumped a further 10 points, to reach 24 percent, while the proportion concerned with the either the economy or government leadership continued to fade. This trend was especially pronounced in Quebec, where the proportion preoccupied by climate change doubled from 18 percent to 37 percent between the spring and fall of 2019

So, heading into the 2019 election, Quebecers were less concerned about the economy or the cost of living than other Canadians – a pattern that the pre-election survey data made clear. What could perhaps have been better anticipated was the extent to which this was creating space for climate change to emerge as one of the defining issues of the campaign, in Quebec and beyond.

In retrospect, the election campaign was decided more by the issue of sustainable growth – the question of how to balance economic and environmental imperatives – than by that of inclusive growth, which is perhaps why the opposition parties’ strategy of approaching the carbon tax mostly as a pocket-book issue had limited appeal.

Source: Last election marked shift in the type of growth Canadians are seeking

Discrepancy between Elections Canada, StatsCan reports likely due to social desirability bias

Of note. The limits of self-reporting and social bias:

Despite an 11-percentage-point discrepancy between self-reported and actual voter turnout, a recent Statistics Canada survey still provides valuable information on the electorate and voting trends, experts say.

The StatsCan survey, which relies on self-reporting, collected data by adding five election-related questions to the 2019 Labour Force Survey, which is distributed to approximately 56,000 households. The survey does not include Indigenous people living on reserve, full-time members of the Canadian armed forces, prisoners, and households in remote areas with very low population density.

Because the survey misses certain groups, it actually looks more like the electorate than the entire population, Richard Johnston, professor at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in public opinion, elections, and representation.

“The people who are missed by the survey tend to be the sort of people who are generally socially disconnected and are least likely to be subject to kinds of social pressure that get people to the polls,” Prof. Johnston said.

There was a similar gap between the reported turnout numbers after the 2015 election. Actual turnout in 2015, as reported by Elections Canada, was 68 per cent. The StatsCan post-2015 election report had self-reported turnout at 77 per cent, a difference of nine percentage points.

The data in the Elections Canada post-election survey is more accurate, said Lydia Miljan, University of Windsor political science professor, as the StatsCan survey relies on self-reporting. Prof. Miljan said the social desirability bias explains much of the discrepancy between the StatsCan survey and Elections Canada report.

“It’s not socially desirable to say, ‘I don’t vote’, so that’s why you always end up having a higher rate of self-reporting as opposed to what’s actually happening,” Prof. Miljan said.

Despite the discrepancy, Prof. Miljan said StatsCan’s report is valuable for the details it offers on demographic splits, which can “give a good trend analysis from one election to another.”

“If you’re trying to get inside the guts of social, psychological, or political differences in turnouts, these surveys are pretty good. It’s just that the baseline is too high,” Prof. Johnston said.

No interest in politics still top reason

A disinterest in politics was the top reason voters, in every age group except non-voters 75 years and older, cited for skipping out on the 2019 federal election, at 35 per cent, StatsCan’s report suggested. The same reason topped the list in the 2015 and 2011 federal elections. No data exists for prior elections, according to the agency, as the survey was inaugurated after the 2011 election. In 2019, the surveyed showed 23 per cent of Canadians did not vote.

Non-voters between 55 and 64 were the most likely to cite no interest in politics as the reason for not voting, at 38 per cent. Non-voters between 18 and 24, and 25 and 34, commonly thought of as the least-engaged age groups, were actually less likely than older voters to cite no interest.

Interest in politics appears to sharply increase between those who are 65 to 74 years old and those 75 years old and older. For voters between 65 and 74, 34 per cent said they lack sufficient interest, but that number drops to 21 per cent for voters 75 and up.

Women also appear to be generally more interested in politics than men, with 32 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men reporting a lack of interest as the prime reason for staying home.

Among the provinces, voters in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Quebec were the most likely to say they lack an interest in politics. Quebecers appear to be the most disengaged, with 41 per cent lacking an interest, compared to 40 per cent in Nova Scotia and 39 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Other voters reported they were too busy to vote, making it the second most-common reason at 22 per cent, which is also consistent across the three elections surveyed.

Younger voters were much more likely to cite being too busy than older voters. Voters between 25 and 34 years old were the most likely to be too busy, with 30 per cent reporting it as their reason. As voters get older, it drops precipitously. Just 16 per cent of voters between 55 and 64, seven per cent between 65 and 74, and four per cent older than 75 report being too busy to vote. Discrepancies in gender are virtually nonexistent, with 22 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women reporting being too busy.

The third most-common reason was suffering from an illness or disability. In 2019, 13 per cent of non-voters said an illness or disability prevented them from voting, up from 12 per cent in 2015 and nine per cent in 2011.

In a supplementary post-2015 report from Elections Canada that broke down turnout by demographics, youth voter turnout was actually 57 per cent. A similar supplementary report for the 2019 election has not yet been released.

Self-reported turnout amongst voters aged 55 and up has held steady around 80 per cent over the past three elections, but self-reported turnout amongst those 44 and younger jumped at least 10 points between 2011 and 2015, and remained high for the 2019 election.

“In 2015, there was a sort of social movement quality to the Trudeau victory, and the evidence suggests that the turnout surge in 2015 was a surge of younger people looking for a new kind of politics. And a lot of those younger people stuck around in 2019,” Prof. Johnston said.

Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest self-reported turnout in the 2011, 2015, and 2019 general elections. In 2019, provincial turnout was 68 per cent, seven points lower than Manitoba at 75 per cent, the province with the second lowest turnout rate in 2019. Manitoba faced severe storms during advance polling time, causing evacuations, power outages, road closures, flooding, and some polling stations to close. Elections Canada set up an additional polling station at the University of Winnipeg for voters from four electoral districts, and teamed up with the Canadian Red Cross to transport voters. Elections Canada reported that 270 people used this option. Emergency workers helping with disaster response were also provided with additional polling stations, and 592 voted at the additional stations.

Prince Edward Island had the highest turnout in the 2011, 2015, and 2019 elections, topping 80 per cent each time. In 2019, turnout was 82 per cent, down from 86 per cent in 2015. Prof. Miljan and Prof. Johnston said P.E.I is usually the most turnout-heavy province in both federal and provincial elections.

Despite P.E.I.’s high turnout, the rate actually decreased the most between the 2015 and 2019 elections, from 86 to 22 per cent. Quebec, from 78 to 76 per cent, and British Columbia, from 79 to 76 per cent, also had turnout drops. Turnout largely remained the same in the remaining provinces.

Prof. Johnston provided an anecdotal explanation for the Atlantic provinces turnout numbers. He said the social pressure to vote in P.E.I is potentially higher given the population density, 25.1 people per square kilometre, which is the highest in the country. Newfoundland and Labrador is the province with the lowest population density, at 1.4 people per square kilometre.

“There’s a sense in which someone from P.E.I is going to feel social pressure to turn out because they see each other more regularly and they know each other. There are social networks that reinforce participation,” Prof. Johnston said.

Turnout increased the most between 2015 and 2019 in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta turnout rose from 77 to 80 per cent, and Saskatchewan from 77 to 81 per cent. 

Prof. Miljan suggested one reason for increased turnout in Western Canada was due to frustration with the Trudeau government.

“When people don’t vote, it means they’re pretty happy with the regime and they don’t feel it [their vote] matters one way or another,” she said. This theory suggests that Western voters are “not happy with the regime and they really wanted to make sure their voices were heard.”

Source: Discrepancy between Elections Canada, StatsCan reports likely due to social desirability bias

The Coronavirus Is Exposing the Limits of Populism Expertise matters. Institutions matter. There is such a thing as the global community. The system must be made to work again.

Indeed:

During the 2008–09 financial crisis, the stock market, global trade, and economic growth all fell by greater margins than in the same period of the Great Depression of 1929–33. However, unlike in the 1930s, governments set aside smaller disagreements, coordinating domestic policies to save the global economy. After a rocky year, the economy stabilized and a second great depression was averted. The response, not the scale of the initial shock, mattered most. As Daniel Drezner, an international-politics professor at Tufts University, put it, the system worked.

The coronavirus, which causes the disease now called COVID-19, may be another once-in-a-century event. If some of the gloomier projections of COVID-19 play out, the world will face one of its worst peacetime crises of modern times. Unfortunately, this crisis occurs in a dark political climate, more similar to that of the early ’30s, when many governments pursued nationalist, beggar-thy-neighbor policies such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, and international cooperation was very limited. Over the past decade, the world has grown more authoritarian, nationalistic, xenophobic, unilateralist, anti-establishment, and anti-expertise. The current state of politics and geopolitics has exacerbated, not stabilized, the crisis.

Wuhan officials’ failure to acknowledge the scale of the problem early on, and their suppression of medical personnel, meant that valuable time to contain the virus was lost. The international community once saw China’s growing influence in multilateral institutions as a positive development. But now that involvement is having a complicated effect on the World Health Organization (WHO), whose leadership is widely seen as overly deferential to Beijing, a stance that could compromise public trust in the organization.

China is not alone in its initial missteps. President Donald Trump, a self-acknowledged germophobe, sees the outbreak through the prism of the stock market and his own reelection. He has reduced funding for the National Security Council and had already abolished the office within the NSC dedicated to combatting epidemics. He seems to put pressure on his own officials to downplay the risk posed by the virus. Trump, and some of his officials, have actually said the virus could “have a very good ending for us” or “boost jobs” in the American economy. In South Carolina, Trump said that the virus is under control, and that any notion to the contrary is a “new hoax” by Democrats to get rid of him. But there will be no escaping reality. As the virus spreads and more people die, Trump could pivot to his authoritarian impulses, on display before he was president when he called for draconian measures during the 2015 Ebola outbreak.

Other governments are struggling too. Japan failed to deal with the rapid spread of the virus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Cambodia let another ship, the Westerdam, dock and allowed the passengers, at least one of whom was infected, to disembark and travel on. At least seven senior Iranian officials have gotten the virus; one has already died. The virus is now spreading throughout the Gulf with potentially seismic geopolitical consequences. South Korea hesitated before taking more serious steps to isolate and stem the spread of the virus in a secretive cult.

A full-blown pandemic could create a severe economic downturn on par with 2008. Some of the world’s largest economies have ground to a halt. People are limiting their travel. Schools are closing and conferences have been canceled. The Dow Jones fell by more than 13 percent last week and it continues to be volatile. Supply chains have been disrupted and will be difficult to restart. The crisis seems all but certain to reinforce and deepen trends toward decoupling and deglobalization. If the outbreak lasts through the fall, with a lull in the summer, there could be a financial risk if some companies go bankrupt and vulnerable countries face increased borrowing costs.

In addition, information and disinformation flow freely on social media, promoting panic-buying and herd behavior. Civilian hoarding of masks and disruptions to drug supply chains could cause shortages of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals in many countries. Travel disruptions may complicate the effort to get vital supplies to the most vulnerable places.

This moment cries out for a cooperative international response. In 2008, governments generally trusted the experts—for instance, then–Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who had made the 1929 crash his life’s work, led the American response—even when their recommendations were politically unpopular. These responses were decisive and coordinated. Unfortunately, no such response has been forthcoming in recent months. The recent G20 ministerial meeting in Saudi Arabia accomplished little.

The Trump administration has shown no interest in leading an international response, preferring instead to deemphasize the risk. However, this moment demands strong diplomatic action from the United States. The government needs to recognize that this is already a global crisis with economic and security implications, as well as risks to health and human safety. National health organizations are working closely together, but the United States should be convening world leaders, whether in person or by conference, and coming up with a global response.

World leaders and their ablest advisers should be discussing and agreeing on best practices for containing the spread of the virus worldwide, not only within their own borders. This includes understanding the limits of travel bans, which can have an outsize economic impact if overused, and undertaking a massive effort to find a vaccine and ensure it is distributed widely, not just to the wealthiest few.

Leaders understandably need to reassure their citizens on the economy even as they prepare for the worst—hence the recurring rhetoric about the economy remaining strong. However, to limit the depth of the recession that would accompany a pandemic, they should institute an economic initiative, possibly including a stimulus of government investment, to keep the global economy afloat. Wall Street is certainly anticipating such a response. The Fed slashing interest rates is a start.

Stronger states must provide assistance to countries with weaker capacity to deal with the exigencies of the crisis, even if the countries are adversaries. Toward that end, the U.S. and others can look at temporarily lifting certain sanctions on vulnerable countries, such as Iran and North Korea, where necessary to fight the virus. There will be ample opportunity to reimpose the restrictions when the emergency has passed.

COVID-19 is becoming the third major crisis of the post–Cold War period, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the financial collapse of 2008. This crisis may exact a greater toll than the other two and has demonstrated the limits of populism as a method of government. Expertise matters. Institutions matter. There is such a thing as the global community. An enlightened response, even if it’s unpopular, matters. The system must be made to work again.

The Tories need a leader with vision – or risk losing young conservatives like me

Will be interesting to see how this plays out and how representative this view is:

Once again, the future of the Conservative Party of Canada is in the hands of its membership. And once again, I find myself needing to make a desperate plea to my fellow party members.

As was the case in the leadership race in 2017, the party faces an existential debate about its post-Stephen Harper identity. Andrew Scheer tried to forge one, but he failed to win an election that was his to lose.

And as was the case in 2017, the Tories will vote in a leadership contest in which some of the more bigoted tenets of social conservatism are part of the discourse.

I have been involved in partisan conservative politics off and on since 2013. In 2016, I successfully advocated to remove the traditional definition of marriage (between one man and one woman) from our policy declaration. I did not think I would have to debate the topic in 2016; I did not think it would be an issue in 2020.

I believe individuals like Richard Décarie, who declared his candidacy for the leadership and stated that being gay is a choice, represent a very small minority within the party; I am relieved that party HQ ultimately barred him from running when the window for applications closed last week. However, I’m left to wonder why people like him feel at home in my party.

And it’s forced me again to wonder whether, despite the constant platitudes around renewal, energizing young voters and incorporating more colour into the face of conservatism in Canada, the party might be more concerned about maintaining its aging base than losing a conservative, university-educated millennial professional and visible minority like me.

To enact real change, we need a leader with a clear vision for this country and for the future of conservatism. I consider myself a small-c conservative in ideology, but I often struggle to explain to my peers why I am a big-C Conservative when the Tories project themselves as little more than the party of boutique tax credits and blanket opposition to the carbon tax.

We need a leader who is focused on building strong communities and families, but doesn’t care what your family looks like. In our future leader, we should expect so much more than a declaration of support for same-sex marriage or empty chest-thumping about how blue you are. Let’s define what conservatism is for, and not let it become what we are against.

Still, our next leader must encourage a diversity of viewpoints within the party and a healthy respect for those who you do not agree with. This does not collide with my relief at Mr. Decarie being prevented from running; believing that being gay is a choice indicates a desire to roll back the hard-earned rights of others while believing that, say, a consumption tax may be a valid policy solution is a fact-supported idea that’s worth considering in the pursuit of fresh thinking.

That wasn’t my experience. When I worked to change the Tories’ policy declaration regarding the definition of marriage, it was out of a belief that conservatism does not mean things must stay the same forever; rather, it’s about looking to conserve what is good while working to continually make things better. But my efforts were met with intense criticism from fellow party members, simply because I dared to have a different opinion from traditionally held policy views.

Party members shouldn’t have to endure the same level of verbal abuse I did. We need a leader who will not tolerate attempts to bully our members – not by those on the left, and certainly not by our own.

To that point, the next Conservative leader needs to speak out against Quebec’s Bill 21, which bars some public servants from wearing religious symbols and clothing, and advocate for us regardless of race, religion or creed. Real leaders don’t stand idle while others have their rights threatened. Canadians deserve a leader who will defend all of us, without weighing the risk of alienating certain voters.

And we need a leader who will not let party members be tolerant of bigotry and racism – pure and simple. Such people will always exist in Canada, and they will loudly espouse their views. But silence on these issues in the name of free speech is no longer acceptable. For me, and many like me, this is non-negotiable. It will be either me, or them.

So, my fellow party members: What will it be? Will we elect a leader who will grow the party base by fighting to keep disillusioned young conservatives like me? The alternative – a party content to drift down the same, identity-less path as it has for the past three years – is too dispiriting to consider.

Source: The Tories need a leader with vision – or risk losing young conservatives like me: Natalie Pon

Coyne: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Unfortunately, applies to many areas of public policy and debate, where the challenge for any serious government is to seek a balance between different or competing objectives:

Justin Trudeau came to power promising reconciliation, resource development and carbon pricing. On present form, he may leave having achieved none of the three.

The past few days alone have seen deepening national divisions over the paralysis of the country’s rail system by protesters acting, so they claim, in the name of Indigenous rights; the cancellation of Teck Resources’ Frontier oil-sands mine proposal, the latest in a string of major energy projects to be killed, withdrawn or indefinitely delayed; and the rejection of the federal carbon tax by the Alberta Court of Appeal, signalling that the tax’s constitutional status, when it is finally determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, is anything but certain.

There is room to debate the Prime Minister’s particular responsibility for this state of affairs. Was he too quick to raise expectations among Indigenous people about the possibilities of reconciliation, too slow to deliver? Has his approach to environmental regulations been too heavy-handed in principle, too dilatory in practice? Was the whole strategy behind the carbon tax’s implementation, namely to dragoon the provinces into levying it on the feds’ behalf, too clever by half?

But for now it’s worth reviewing just where we have landed and how we got here. Whatever mistakes there were in execution, the basic idea – that reconciliation, development and carbon pricing, far from being mutually exclusive, could be achieved together – was sound enough.

Indigenous people, rather than being the helpless victims of development, could be partners in it, with appropriate mitigation of costs and sharing of benefits. Carbon pricing, instead of impeding resource extraction, could make it more possible, if not by purchasing social licence directly, then by encouraging the reductions in emissions intensity that would do so in the long run. In the decades to come, as the world moved away from fossil fuels, Canadian oil could continue to be extracted and sold as the last best barrel on Earth.

There was, in short, a balance to be struck between these objectives that could simultaneously meet the needs of Indigenous people, the energy sector and the planet. And there was a coalition to be assembled out of the more co-operative elements of each constituency – pro-development Indigenous leaders, socially responsible corporations, market-oriented environmentalists – on the basis that, though none would get all of what it wanted, all would get some of it.

Instead, the debate has been dominated by the most extreme, uncompromising, all-or-nothing voices. While an overwhelming majority of band councils have endorsed project after project, from the Trans Mountain expansion to the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the Frontier mine, a fanatical cult has grown up around the handful of Indigenous leaders in opposition to each.

While an array of business executives, not least within the oil patch, have endorsed carbon pricing as the cheapest and least-intrusive means of driving reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, conservative politicians have mounted their own barricades against it, while proposing vastly more expensive alternatives in its place.

While those with actual responsibility for governing have focused on encouraging more responsible development, including extensive consultation with affected Indigenous communities and the smallest possible carbon footprint, left-wing activists have demanded, with increasing absolutism, that no oil be drilled or pipelines be built anywhere.

So instead of everyone getting something, the growing probability is that no one will get anything. We seem not to care whether we get what we want, so long as we can prevent others from getting what they want.

As, of course, we can. There shouldn’t be any doubt that each side of this conflict can, should it feel thwarted in its ambitions, make it virtually impossible for the others to succeed in theirs. The problem is, so can they; everyone’s got a veto of one kind or another. Yet all seem to think that, while their position is impregnable, their opponents can be made to surrender. And it is this belief that, more than anything, has brought us to this pass.

People who think we can just send in the cops to dismantle all the barricades have not begun to think through how this could be enforced over thousands of miles of rail line.

People who think Canada’s territorial sovereignty can just be waved away, when the very courts on which they depend for enforcement of their rights have consistently ruled to the contrary, are blind to both legal and political reality. People who think we can just shut down the oil sands today have not remotely contended with the consequences, not only for the economy, but the federal union. People who think we can just do nothing about climate change make themselves permanent exiles from power.

But that, alas, is what too many people do think. Only when all sides dispense with the fantasy of total victory will there be a way out of this stalemate.

Source: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Reasons for not voting in the federal election, October 21, 2019

StatsCan analysis of the 2019 election. Some interesting variations between immigrant and Canadian-born voters in terms of reasons for not voting (would be interesting to see if these variations continue into the section generation):

Voter turnout among youth holds steady for the October 21, 2019, federal election

Just over three-quarters (77%) of Canadians reported voting in the 2019 federal election, unchanged from the 2015 election.

In particular, following notable increases of more than 10 percentage points between the 2011 and 2015 elections, voter turnout among younger people aged 18 to 24, and 25 to 34, remained at similar levels in 2019.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections
Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

Chart 1: Voter turnout by age group, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

Voter turnout increases in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario

Compared with the 2015 federal election, the proportion of Canadians who reported voting in 2019 increased in Saskatchewan (+4 percentage points), Alberta (+3 percentage points), and Ontario (+2 percentage points). These are more modest increases than those observed in most provinces between the 2011 and 2015 elections.

While Prince Edward Island had the highest proportion (82%) of people who reported voting in the 2019 election, voter turnout in the province decreased by 4 percentage points compared with 2015. Declines were also recorded in British Columbia (-3 percentage points) and Quebec (-2 percentage points). There was little change in the remaining provinces.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections
Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

Chart 2: Voter turnout by province, 2011, 2015 and 2019 federal elections

“Not interested in politics” remains top reason for not voting

Among the 23% of eligible Canadians who did not vote, the top reason for not voting in the federal election was “not interested in politics,” cited by 35% of non-voters in 2019. This was the most common reason for all age groups, with the exception of those aged 75 and older, who were most likely to indicate that they did not vote due to an illness or disability (49%).

Non-voters who were Canadian citizens by birth were more likely to report a lack of interest in politics as the reason for not casting a ballot (37%), compared with citizens by naturalization—both those who had been in Canada for 10 years or less (26%) and those who immigrated more than 10 years earlier (also 26%).

One in five non-voters report being too busy

Collectively, everyday life reasons were cited by nearly half of all non-voters (46%); these include being too busy (22%), having an illness or disability (13%), or being out of town (11%).

Everyday life issues were the most common reasons cited by non-voters in British Columbia, while political issues (including not interested in politics) were most prevalent in Nova Scotia.

Women more likely to report illness or disability

Female non-voters (48%) were more likely than their male counterparts (44%) to cite one of the everyday life issues as the reason for not voting, most notably having an illness or disability (16% versus 10%). This is partly related to the fact that a higher proportion of women were in the older age groups compared with men. One in ten female non-voters was aged 75 or older.

In contrast, men (37%) were more likely to report not being interested in politics compared with women (32%).

Some electors not voting for reasons related to the electoral process

Among Canadians who did not vote in the 2019 federal election, 5% identified issues with the electoral process as the reason for not voting, including not being able to prove their identity or address, a lack of information about the voting process, or issues with the voter information card.

Non-voters aged 75 and older (9%) and aged 18 to 24 (8%) were most likely to report electoral process issues as the reason for not voting. However, the proportion of youth citing this reason declined by 3 percentage points compared with the 2015 election.

Source: Reasons for not voting in the federal election , October 21, 2019 

Public service hiring up, but report finds manager, employee concerns around feds’ new staffing process

As I am in the process of analyzing the impact on visible minority appointments of the 2016 New Appointment Policy (providing more flexibility for non-advertised staffing processes), found this coverage of the PSC annual report of interest:

Although a recent government report shows fairly substantial growth in the federal public service, as well as an increase in the promotion rate within the service for the sixth year in a row, there are concerns among both managers and employees around a new staffing policy—as well as perceptions of fairness around hiring.

The Public Service Commission tabled its 2018-19 annual report on Feb. 6, which found that hiring was up 4.6 per cent across the public service with close to 60,000 hires in the fiscal year. Slightly more than 8,000 of those hires were from the federal student work experience program, with slightly less than 5,400 from the post-secondary co-op/internship program.

But the report also found that according to a “staffing and non-partisanship” survey (SNPS), 87.9 per cent of managers find a new staffing policy framework “burdensome,” that only 53.8 per cent of employees say people hired in their unit can do their job, and only 46.4 per cent of employees viewed staffing as fair.

“We weren’t surprised that the results were a little bit lower than we would want them to be, said Patrick Borbey, president of the Public Service Commission in an interview with The Hill Times.“There was a lot of change in the system and there was still a fair amount of confusion or adjusting to the new reality, both on the part of employees, as well as on the part of managers.”

The New Direction in Staffing (NDS) was introduced in 2016, which the government called“the most significant change to the staffing system we have seen in over 10 years.”

Designed to promote more variety in the hiring processes, “agile approaches” to staffing and policies, allow for more room for managers to apply their own judgment when staffing, as well as “increase focus on outcomes, including the quality of the person hired, and less on process,” the report highlights how the NDS reduces times to staff, makes it easier for candidates to find public service jobs, as well as modernizing recruitment tools like GC Jobs.

“As you can see in the results, managers continue to think that the staffing system is too complicated, too lengthy,” said Mr. Borbey. “However, when it comes to merit, managers had a very different perspective on the issue than employees, because they felt that by and large, the people that they were hiring did meet the requirements of the position.”

“So it’s a bit in the eye of the beholder,” said Mr. Borbey. “Obviously, if you’re an employee who was hoping for a promotion and didn’t get it, then you might question as to whether the process was fair, transparent and led to merit.”

“But one of the things that we’ve we did a little bit more digging on is to make a link between employees’ perception and managers being comfortable in terms of applying the flexibilities of the new regime and communicating both their intentions as well as the results to employees,” said Mr. Borbey. “And we did see a certain correlation—those departments where managers seem to be more comfortable with the change, and perhaps could speak more completely about their intentions and the justifications behind their results, their departments had higher levels of satisfaction on the part of employees.”

Mr. Borbey said he thinks it’s a question of a transition within the system, as well as providing the right tools to mangers to be able to properly plan and communicate their intentions and decisions around staffing.

“The other thing that we wanted to check, is whether there was, in fact, a change in terms of merit being applied in staffing processes,” said Mr. Borbey, which prompted a system-wide compliance audit following the survey.

“The results that we got were extremely high,” said Mr. Borbey. “[There] was a 95 plus per cent compliance rate, and in those cases where there was not compliance with merit, at the end of the day, we’re down to errors of interpretation on the part of managers, particularly when it came to applying preference for Canadian citizens or for veterans.

“And so we felt that that was a pretty good result that indicated that, notwithstanding the perceptions, merit is being preserved across the system.”

Mr. Borbey said the government will be conducting their next round of surveys in the spring, and said they’ve taken steps to modify the survey to better capture more information that will be valuable for future planning.

Stan Lee, vice-president of oversight and investigations with the public service commission, said one of the things they observed in the previous survey, was that there was an association between organizations that had hiring managers who understood NDS and the perception of fairness.”

“So an organization that has hiring managers that understand the new direction in staffing really well generally have employees who have a higher perception of merit in the staffing system,” said Mr. Lee. “We were interested by this, so we added an additional question to employees, as well as to hiring managers, and one of the questions we want to ask hiring managers, is whether they feel comfortable explaining their staffing decisions to their employees.”

“The reason why we’re adding this, is because hiring managers who have a poor understanding of NDS may have difficulties explaining their staffing decision to employees, and employees walk away unsatisfied or dissatisfied with the answers that they’ve been provided,” said Mr. Lee. “We’re going to be asking employees as well whether or not they believe that job opportunities are well communicated in their organization, and whether they feel they are being kept well-informed by their hiring managers regarding staffing decisions.”

Mr. Borbey also noted that the government uses investigations as a way to provide the commission with a sense of how satisfied or unsatisfied people are with the staffing system.

“Notwithstanding the important changes we made to the system a couple of years ago, we haven’t seen a big bump in terms of the number of cases that are referred to us with allegations that either managers or individuals committed fraud or mistakes or other issues related to the staffing system,” said Mr. Borbey. “We’re monitoring those results as well to make sure that again, we make whatever changes we can if we’re seeing any trends from an investigations perspective.”

Perception of staffing fairness highest in Northern regions

According to the SNPS, managers who indicated that the administrative process to staff positions in their organizations is burdensome was highest in both Quebec (excluding the National Capital Region) and in British Columbia, at 92 per cent each.

However, 62 per cent of managers in the National Capital Region (NCR) and in Quebec (excluding the NCR) indicated that the NDS has improved staffing in their organization, with managers in British Columbia coming in at the low end at 43 per cent.

In terms of fairness, employees in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon, 58 per cent of employees surveyed indicated that staffing activities are conducted fairly in their work unit, compared to 37 per cent in Ontario (excluding the NCR)—and 46 per cent public service-wide.

According to the commission’s report, as of March 31, 2019, hiring in all regions outside of the National Capital Region combined increased by 6.2 per cent, and the total population (indeterminate, term, casual and student) was up across all regions except Nunavut.

Despite this growth according to the report, the regional population as a percentage of the workforce has been in decline, from 56 per cent five years ago to 53 per cent in 2018-19.

In 2018–19, 69.1 per cent of all external indeterminate and term hires from advertised processes were of applicants from outside the National Capital Region. This share has been steadily decreasing since 2013–14, when it was 79 per cent.

Source: Public service hiring up, but report finds manager, employee concerns around feds’ new staffing process

Coyne: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings

Possibly more dangerous than the coronavirus:

Over the past four years, it has been hard to escape the feeling that much of America – and even some Canadians – had fallen under the spell of a cult.

That it is also a political movement does not diminish its cult-like tendencies: the imperviousness to fact, the repetition of certain prescribed slogans, the suppression of the critical faculties, the blind devotion to the leader. And while some of this is present in all political movements, the particular zealotry of Donald Trump’s followers – the willingness to believe what isn’t so, and to disbelieve what is – is something else again.

Indeed, it is not only their thinking that appears to have been taken over; it’s behavioural. What we are witnessing is not so much the expression of a particular theory of government as of a personality type; the replication, on a mass scale, of the leader’s own temperament and bearing, if not the underlying psychological disorders, as if the virus of Trumpism had infected, not just people’s minds, but their souls – their character.

Or, perhaps, revealed it. The funny thing is, you’re almost never surprised to find who turns out to be a Trump supporter and who is not. Though they may never before have uttered the sentiments you hear coming out of their mouths now, there was always, you find yourself reflecting, a certain predilection.

This has nothing to do with how conservative they are. Some of the most committed conservatives I know are revolted by the U.S. President and want only to see the end of him. It has to do with character. It has become, frankly, something of a litmus test.

I hesitate to say this. I’m a strong believer in the proposition that “reasonable people can differ,” that there are two sides to every story, that one’s opponents are at worst mistaken. But Mr. Trump, and Trumpism, represents the triumph of unreason and the suppression of differences. To pay the usual respects to such an unworthy opponent is to do dishonour to one’s worthy opponents..

Perhaps it was possible, very early on, if you had not been paying much attention, to see him as a sort of necessary evil, a shock to the system – uncouth, sure, a bit rough around the edges, but a rock through the window, as it has been put, of official Washington, a signal that people were fed up with politics as usual.

But it is not possible now. It is not possible to look at all that Mr. Trump is and all that he represents – the pathological lying, the habitual corruption, the serial groping, the casual racism, the glorification of violence, the winking to Nazis, the laziness, the impulsiveness, the childish tantrums, the bottomless ignorance, the vanity, the insecurity, the vulnerability (so skilfully exploited by America’s adversaries) to flattery, the bullying, the crudity, the indifference to suffering, the incompetence, the chaos in the White House, the attacks on America’s allies and support for its foes, the contempt for experts and for expertise, for norms and conventions, for checks and balances, for limited government, for the very rule of law – it is not possible to be exposed to all this on a daily basis for four years and shrug it off or explain it away or accept it as part of the deal without there being something wrong with you.

Because it is the deal – that’s all there is – and it was obvious it was the deal, long before it was revealed that Mr. Trump’s victory in the last election was achieved with the aid of Russian intelligence – with or without the connivance of the multiple members of Mr. Trump’s circle who were in contact with Russian officials at the time – and quite apart from the explicit and documented solicitation of interference by another foreign power in the coming election that was the subject of his recent impeachment and trial.

The Republican senators who nevertheless voted to acquit may genuinely be Trump loyalists, or they may merely be fearful of retribution from the President and his cult followers. But either way, it would be hard to ascribe their decision to a judicious weighing of the facts before them. Not when so many had announced their intent to acquit before the trial, not when the evidence of guilt was so overwhelming, not when the justification on which they eventually settled – “he did it but should not be punished for it” – amounts not merely to a benediction on the President’s past abuses of power but an invitation to future ones as well. “Acquitted for life!” Rudy Giuliani tweeted afterward, not without cause.

To reach such a verdict, in such circumstances, is beyond a mere error of reasoning. It is moral error, and of a particularly egregious kind. These are not, after all, bar-stool yahoos or internet trolls, but senators who are supposed to know better. To say that one disagrees with it, then, is insufficient. It must be condemned, as surely history will condemn it. To be sure, there is danger in the other direction; people are all too ready nowadays to convert any disagreement into a contest of absolutes. So be it. We have to be able to see every shade of grey, including black and white.

We needn’t make too much of this. The people who have fallen under Mr. Trump’s spell, or at any rate bend themselves to his will, may have other compensating virtues; it may be a blight upon their character without being the whole of their character. But neither should we avoid it. It is not just a mistake to make excuses for Donald Trump. It is a moral failing. It may only be blindness – while some might actively applaud him for his depravities, most just minimize them – but it is, at this stage, culpable blindness, if not willful blindness.

To say that Trumpism is a moral failing is not to place his followers, or his enablers, beyond the pale. I have my own moral failings, and so do you. But it is worth identifying it in such terms; it is clarifying. Sometimes you have to, as it is sometimes said of Mr. Trump, tell it like it is.

Source: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings