ANDREW COYNE: Why Conservatives have more at stake than Liberals in Canada’s class war

Coyne, as often happens, nails it. A plague on both houses, but more so for Conservatives:

Liberals, it is true, need to find a way to reach out to less educated voters, but not as badly as Conservatives need to make their peace with the eggheads

Democracy, in G. K. Chesterton’s careful definition, means government by the uneducated, “while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.”

The enduring value of this distinction was suggested by the ruckus stirred up over the weekend by Amir Attaran, professor of law at University of Ottawa. Responding to a recent Abacus Data poll finding the Tories leading the Liberals by a wide margin among Canadians with a high school diploma or less, with the Liberals ahead among those with bachelor degrees or higher, the professor tweeted: “The party of the uneducated. Every poll says this.”

In the ensuing furor, Attaran tried to protest that he was just stating a fact, but the disdain in the tweet was clear enough to most. For their part, while some Tories quibbled with the data (just one poll, within the margin of error, misplaced correlation etc), most seemed less offended by the sentiment — every poll does show the less formal education a voter has, the more likely they are to support the Conservatives — than by the suggestion there was something shameful about it.

It was, in short, another skirmish in the continuing class war: class, now defined not by occupation or birth, as in Chesterton’s time, but by education. Conservatives, true to form, professed outrage at this arrogant display of Liberal elitism, while Liberal partisans protested that they were not snobs, it’s just that Conservatives are such ignorant boobs (I paraphrase).

The professor compounded matters by objecting, not only that he is not a Liberal, but that he is not an elite, since his parents were immigrants. And everyone did their best to be as exquisitely sensitive (“let us respect the inherent dignity of labour”) as they could while still being viciously hurtful (“not uneducated, just unintelligent”).

There is, of course, much to object to in Attaran’s remark. Not all or even most wisdom is to be found in higher education. Lots of people who go to university don’t learn a thing, while much of what they do learn is tendentious rubbish. A society that sneers at tradespeople is a society on its way to the poorhouse.

Today’s populist conservative is prone to dismiss the analysis of experts, on everything from sex education to climate change, not in spite of their expertise but because of it.

But Conservative rhetoric too often seems to go beyond attacking snobbery to attacking education itself: expertise, knowledge, the whole notion that people who know more about a subject than the rest of us ought to be listened to with respect.

There is a rich tradition, to be sure, of conservative skepticism of intellectuals — recall William F. Buckley’s crack about preferring to be governed by “the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory” than the faculty of Harvard. But the target then was the hubris of intellectuals, convinced they could plan an entire economy or overturn the accumulated wisdom of centuries of tradition, not intellectualism itself: scientism, not science.

Today’s populist conservative, by contrast, is prone to dismiss the analysis of experts, on everything from sex education to climate change, not in spite of their expertise but because of it. A society that sneers at “so-called experts” is a society on its way to the madhouse.

As in most wars, there is fault on both sides. If Trump and Ford voters brim with resentment at “liberal elites” looking down their noses at them, it is not entirely without cause.

And yet we should beware of drawing the class lines too starkly. Graduates of apprenticeships and community colleges are themselves relative elites — 46 per cent of adult Canadians have no post-secondary education — and earn more accordingly: a premium of 12 and 18 per cent, respectively, over those with only a high school diploma.

At the same time, universities are for the most part glorified trade schools. Only 12 per cent of today’s university students graduate in the humanities, the object of so much (deserved) conservative ridicule. The rest are there to learn a trade — only trades of a tonier kind, like doctoring and lawyering.

It isn’t so much about the level of education, then, as the kind of education. (Trump, as he likes to boast, is a graduate of Wharton.) There is a high degree of overlap between “liberal elites” and “symbolic analysts” (in Robert Reich’s term) — people who make their living manipulating words, numbers, images, code.

It is Conservatives who have played the class card more heavily, and with more destructive results.

What is common to all those doctors and lawyers, academics and bureaucrats, designers, artists, and, yes, media people is that they deal in ideas — with the abstract versus the physical, representation versus reality — and are typically good at communicating these to others. Not for nothing are they sometimes called the “chattering classes.”

The ability to do so earns not only income, but social and cultural “capital,” at least among their fellow class members, clustered in the centres of our major cities. That there should be some degree of estrangement between them and those outside is not surprising, but one wishes political leaders would seek to bridge these divides rather than exacerbate them.

There is fault, as I say, on either side for this; but there is not equal fault. Liberal “virtue-signalling” may flatter the moral vanity of the educated classes, but it is Conservatives who have played the class card more heavily, and with more destructive results. Class wars are always toxic, but class wars organized around “is education a good thing” are suicidal.

And not only for society. Here’s the thing: the numbers of the higher educated are growing. The 2016 census was the first to show more than half the adult population — 54 per cent — with some kind of postsecondary degree, college or university, up from 48 per cent a decade before. And it is only going to continue: younger Canadians are more likely to have a degree than their parents, and their children will be more likely still.

Liberals, it is true, need to find a way to reach out to less educated voters, but not as badly as Conservatives need to make their peace with the eggheads.

Source: ANDREW COYNE: Why Conservatives have more at stake than Liberals in Canada’s class war

Canadian think tank under fire for accepting donations from arms maker: Appearances matter

Full disclosure best way to avoid the appearance of bias or conflict of interest – think tanks are no different than other institutions in that regard:

A high-profile Canadian think tank that just published a paper defending this country’s controversial $15-billion combat-vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia recently accepted donations from defence contractor General Dynamics – the parent of the arms maker in this export contract.

At least four of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute’s “fellows,” or affiliated academics, have also written columns this year arguing in favour of the deal to sell weaponized combat vehicles to Riyadh in publications from The Globe and Mail to iPolitics.ca to Legion Magazine. The institute also published a piece in its quarterly publication The Dispatch, with the same thrust, called The Saudi Arms Deal and the Inconvenient Truth.

This all came out even as international condemnation grows over Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human-rights record as well as the Mideast country’s bloody conduct in the war in Yemen, where it stands accused by a United Nations panel of targeting and indiscriminately bombing civilians.

While the Calgary-based Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) acknowledges it accepted money from General Dynamics to help sponsor an Ottawa symposium in May, it won’t divulge precise details of the corporate or major individual contributions it receives annually.

The organization’s 2015 financial statement reports $735,520 in donations and $201,184 in grants and project funding.

Colin Robertson, vice-president of the institute and a former Canadian diplomat, said the organization, which is registered as a charity, complies with all Canada Revenue Agency rules for reporting funding. But these rules do not compel CGAI to divulge the identities and amounts paid by each contributor.

Corporate logos featured on some of the CGAI’s products offer some insight into donors but Mr. Robertson said there are a number who want to remain anonymous or low-key.

The institute’s May symposium discussed Canadian foreign and defence policy and General Dynamics helped sponsor the event, which cost an estimated $45,000 to stage. “My recollection is they gave the most,” said Mr. Robertson, who did not divulge exactly how much the defence contractor provided. “We just about covered the costs with what we got from the sponsors.”

Another significant sponsor for the symposium was Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-35 Lightning fighter.

Mr. Robertson said donors do not dictate what CGAI writes in its publications or what positions its fellows take in the media.

“A number of our fellows have written, all independently, on arms sales, as it is a topic of public debate and discussion. There is no linkage [between] their independent work and the individuals and organizations that support the work of CGAI. Our integrity depends on our independence,” the vice-president said.

Amir Attaran, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa, said it’s incumbent on the foreign-affairs and defence-policy think tank to disclose how much it’s getting from each corporate contributor and major individual donors.

“There’s an obvious appearance of bias – real bias – because you can’t take money from a company and then speak in the company’s interest without it seeming you’re doing so for the money,” Prof. Attaran said.

“If you’re taking money from Philip Morris and you lauded smoking, would it be any different?”

He said a one-time donation by General Dynamics still leaves the appearance of conflict of interest.

“You can’t take money for a single activity and firewall it off from the organization,” he said.

Prof. Attaran said he cannot publish a single paper in a medical journal “without disclosing the money I’ve received.”

Source: Canadian think tank under fire for accepting donations from arms maker – The Globe and Mail

Immigration program for parents ‘discriminatory,’ Federal Court of Appeal rules

42 days vs 37 months:

In 2010, Attaran complained to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, claiming that the program discriminated against parents and grandparents by delaying the processing of their applications.

At the time of his complaint, it took immigration 42 days to screen the sponsors of spouses and children but the same screening took 37 months for those who wanted to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada.

The commission, however, dismissed his complaint, a decision later upheld by a federal judge.

In a ruling released Wednesday, the Federal Court of Appeal said the decision by the human rights commission to dismiss the complaint was unreasonable.

It overturned the lower court decision that there was a “bona fide” justification for the differential treatment. The court referred Attaran’s case back to human rights commission for reconsideration.

“The explanations provided by CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) confirm that it was differentiating adversely based on family status by treating sponsorship applications for parents more slowly than sponsorship applications for spouses and children,” wrote Justice Wyman W. Webb on behalf of the three-member panel. “As a result, CIC was carrying on a discriminatory practice.”

In dismissing Attaran’s complaint, the human rights watchdog had said it did not appear immigration officials treated the complainant in an “adverse differential manner based on age.” It also concluded that the delays do not deprive parents and grandparents the access to permanent residency.

“There is no reference to undue hardship . . . in the decision of the (human rights commission). There is a reference, though, to the justification being ministerial discretion and a general reference to challenges being imposed on ‘the resource allocation for’ CIC,” said the appeal court decision.

Immigration program for parents ‘discriminatory,’ Federal Court of Appeal rules | Toronto Star.