MacDougall: Let’s dump Trump’s accomplices: social media and cable news

Hard not to agree:

Now that Donald Trump has been fired by (enough of) the American people, it’s time to think about how to bin his accomplices: cable news and social media.

The Trump Era has been exhausting and the lion’s share of that exhaustion stems from our grossly expanded information economy. What used to come to us in dollops of papers and broadcasts is now streamed non-stop across all hours of the day on too many platforms to count. But there can be too much of a good thing. A glass of water quenches your thirst; a firehose knocks you over and leaves you drenched. It’s time to turn off the tap.

Whatever the intention at their points of creation, cable news and social media have flown a long way off course. Watching CNN or Fox News during (and after) the Presidential election was to subject yourself to a marathon of preachy monologues/inquisitions interspersed with furious nine-person panels, in which various partisans were invited to bark at each other, not listen to an argument or concede a point. It was a stark reminder of how far our public sphere has degraded.

But it’s actually worse than that. Cable news has also sought to make stars out of journalists but journalism isn’t meant to be celebrity entertainment. It’s supposed to serve a nobler purpose. It’s the work that’s meant to be important, not the author. What’s more, inviting reporters on to discuss or opine on the news of the day is to make them active participants, not impartial observers. What news value is there, for example, in having CNN’s Anderson Cooper calling the President of the United States of America an “obese turtle”? Is it any wonder that trust in the news is at record lows?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, social media then picks up the baton to make everything worse. Instead of bringing hidden expertise to bear on conversations, social media makes everyone ‘experts’ on everything, no matter what they don’t know about the subject. Even worse, the loudest and most extreme takes get the most attention. As study after study has shown, social media encourages people to indulge their emotions, not to apply logic or reason. These channels encourage us to huddle amongst like-minded people and then helps us radicalize. It makes enemies of citizens instead of encouraging a common understanding.

That’s why the sooner we get our politics and news off 24/7 platforms, the better. If the past four years of Trumpism have taught us anything, it’s that our brains simply cannot handle the volume of information they’ve been receiving. Seeing so much means we retain little of actual value. And it’s not just politics that suffers from this consumption pattern. Our recall with music, for example, was much stronger when we had to buy physical albums than it is now when we can stream literally anything for a few bucks a month. Everything now goes in one ear (or eyeball) and out the other.

It turns out quality content isn’t a gas; it doesn’t expand to fill the available space. If anything, whatever quality exists in our news environment now gets choked by the amateur fumes polluting our screens and feeds. Using quality to compete for attention in the 24/7 information economy is to lose the battle before it starts. Everybody is more interested in the outrage. A better approach would be to evacuate the pitch and find a new place to play, somewhere it has a chance of being noticed.

Pulling news content off social media would be a risk, yes, but it’s less of a risk than hoping the current information environment will improve. The news can either die on its terms or someone else’s, and right now social media companies and cable news programmers are incentivized to virality and outrage, not analysis or introspection. More importantly, their current output is cheap, unlike quality journalism. They do not, as presently constructed, serve a civic good. We wouldn’t miss them when they’re gone.

Of course, we can’t actually bin cable news and social media. For one, the purveyors of cable news and social media make too much money doing it. They won’t stop. But we can make the choice to stop watching and clicking.

It would help if the media outlets took the first step of not seeding the outrage machine with the lifeblood of their content. It would also help if they forbid their reporters from appearing on cable shows. We have enough data now to know that social media and cable news aren’t gateways to serious news consumption; they’re pathways to polarization and misinformation. They are platforms for the already convinced. More pertinently, they’re not serious money makers for news organizations. Media organizations need to make their content scarce, not ubiquitous. It’s time to put up paywalls and demand money for quality.

And now that we’re all properly exhausted, people might be open to a return to the subscription model. I know my mood has improved significantly since I prioritized one paper in the morning to the exclusion of all others. And while I might miss some stories because of it, I trust in the quality of my morning read to know that I won’t be out of too many important loops.

As strange as it seems after years of the firehose, we’ll have to consume less to understand more.

Andrew MacDougall is a director at Trafalgar Strategy, and a former Head of Communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Source: Let’s dump Trump’s accomplices: social media and cable news

Lang: Missing – public servants who could warn Trudeau about WE conflict

Good commentary by Lang who worked under Herb Gray when he was deputy PM (I worked in PCO at the time and interacted with him time-to-time):

“Mandarin” is another word sometimes associated with such powerful bureaucrats, who were occasionally resented – but often valued – by politicians for their knowledge, wisdom and willingness to stand up to ministers to ensure the basic integrity of the ministry.

As the government has lurched from the SNC-Lavalin scandal of a year or so ago to the WE charity controversy of today – both of which centre on questions of prime ministerial and ministerial ethics and judgment – one question that isn’t asked enough is “Where are the mandarins in all this?”

When Justin Trudeau’s government came to office nearly five years ago, its chief hallmark was inexperience. The few ministers from previous Liberal administrations in its ranks at the beginning had little power. From its inception, power in the Trudeau government has been highly concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office and among a few trusted ministers — notably Chrystia Freeland and Bill Morneau — none of whom had any prior government experience.

The feeling among some Ottawa watchers in the early days was that this inexperience would be managed and shaped by the mandarins. They would help ensure the government remained stable, competent and exhibited good judgment most of the time. This expectation was re-enforced by the prime minister himself, who stated early on that his government would rely much more heavily on the advice and counsel of the professional public service than his predecessor, Stephen Harper, had.

It doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. Or, perhaps there are no “old school” deputy ministers left in the government of Canada.

Take the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The issue boiled down to a big company allegedly threatening to cut jobs and investment in Canada if it was not given a specific legal concession from the government that would enable the firm to continue to bid on federal contracts.

Any decent mandarin should have known at the outset that corporations routinely tell the federal government job losses will result if they do not get X, Y or Z. This kind of thing used to be greeted with skepticism by the public service, justifiably so. But if the SNC threat was judged a serious risk, there was also a time when a few senior deputy ministers would have sprung into action and developed options for the government to manage its way of out of the issue, such that it might never even have come to public attention, much less have led to two ministerial resignations and threatened the viability of the government.

Today, we have the controversy surrounding WE, a charity that the prime minister and his wife have had a longstanding and very public association with, and to which the government intended to direct a contract worth some $19 million. The Clerk of the Privy Council, the prime minister’s deputy minister, must have known about Trudeau’s general relationship with WE.  He must have seen a conflict of interest here, or at least an appearance of conflict. An “old school” Clerk would have insisted on the prime minister recusing himself from any cabinet decision-making on this issue to protect the prime minister and the government. Instead, if we are to take Trudeau at his word, the public service more or less boxed him and his ministers in to an inevitable appearance of conflict of interest by recommending that only WE could do the job and offering no alternatives, something very rare in government.

None of this is to say that public servants are responsible for either the SNC-Lavalin scandal or the WE mess. Responsibility for both rests on the shoulders of the prime minister and his cabinet.  There is no legal, or even ethical, obligation on deputy ministers to stop ministers from exercising terrible judgment. Yet there was a time, not that long ago, when the expectation was that some wise, “old school” deputies had the government’s back.

Source: Lang: Missing – public servants who could warn Trudeau about WE conflict

Andrew MacDougall’s take is also worthy of note:

The thing you have to understand about the federal public service is that it isn’t geared toward excitement; it’s a “safety first” kind of place.

Pick a policy, any policy. If there’s a Flashy Option A and a Boring Option B, the public service opts for boring every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And that goes treble if Flashy Option A is, to pick a random example out of thin air, a sole-source contract worth nearly $1 billion to an organization with no track record of delivery of federal programming.

Put differently, the only way the public service recommended WE for the CSSG is if the political wing of the government gave it such narrow specifications that it could return only one answer. You can bet there exists, somewhere, an exquisitely crafted memo from the public service to cabinet saying, in effect: “If you really want to go forward with this completely brain-dead approach to federal programming, then you go right ahead, ministry.” The job of the opposition and the press is to now surface that memo.

Because thankfully for Trudeau, the federal bureaucracy is also rather polite, which explains why the prime minister is being allowed to hide behind his version of events. The public service is used to being human shields for politicians and will keep quiet.

Which isn’t to say the prime minister’s story is surviving contact with reality. Every day brings another WE tale of woe.

In this (still-surfacing) version of events, a charity with a long association with the prime minister, his family and his advisers, one that pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to Trudeau’s family members and puts together slick, campaign-style videos promoting the prime minister while simultaneously receiving millions of dollars of government grants and contributions and other sole-source contracts, is being laid low by the pernicious effects of the coronavirus. There is massive churn on the board of directors and large numbers of staff are being laid off as Canada enters lockdown. All looks lost. Until, that is, the Trudeau government comes to the rescue with an offer to administer a pandemic-related program.

According to the charity, the Prime Minister’s Office rang up the day after the program was announced in April to say it needed help from WE to deliver the program. All with the blessing of the federal public service of course, which already, by the way, runs the Canada Summer Jobs program targeted at much the same audience as the new Canada Student Service Grant. What are the odds?

Not that WE had ever delivered a similar program, mind you. Not that WE even have the staff to deliver the program (the charity had to hire back hundreds of laid-off staff in anticipation of getting the work before the program was formally announced in June). Not that WE even have any particularly good ideas to pull students into the program, other than throwing money at other groups to do it for them. And we’re meant to believe this group was the “only” one capable of delivering the program?

A sure sign Trudeau’s version of the story isn’t true is the fact he won’t release any evidence to support it. The government won’t even say which other groups were considered to deliver the grant.

In other words, this contract was friends, not safety, first.

Source: https://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/macdougall-trudeau-ducks-for-cover-behind-the-non-partisan-public-service/wcm/0748db2c-65e8-4ddd-999d-b5bb87c16067/

MacDougall: Imperfect Canada can afford to give itself a break

Good and needed balance and perspective (from another white guy but with two half-Persian adult children):

Can we give ourselves a break?

I ask, because the country is still under tremendous stress from the novel coronavirus. Millions are out of work, the economy is tanking, and parents are going insane trying to “work” from home. Is now really the time to beat ourselves up for being one of the most progressive, tolerant and accommodating societies ever constructed?

We are failing on some fronts, however, as many Black, Indigenous or minority Canadians are busy pointing out. But why are disclaimers being placed on the Canadian flag only now? Why the loss of confidence in what’s gotten us so far? Hasn’t the country always been riven by faults and tainted by failings? Indigenous versus the European settlers; the French versus the English; Catholic versus Protestant; “old stock” versus the wave of post-First and Second World War immigrants; men versus women; and so on. Some of these faults – particularly the oldest – remain painfully unresolved.

Thankfully, the country is still learning. Pace the most fervent “anti-racists,” we aren’t in need of a mass societal reset, nor are we in need of the mother of all guilt trips for white people, including any forced readings of huckster texts such as Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. Putting people into boxes only blinds them further. Besides, guilt or moral panic is rarely constructive; it’s better to rediscover the liberal fundamentals that underpin our free society and use them as guideposts for strengthening and renewing our (admittedly sclerotic) institutions.

We certainly won’t get further along by focusing on our differences, not when there are so many now thanks to years of profound and beneficial change. The shorter path is to focus on what’s the same. My school pictures were lily white, whereas those of modern city classrooms are not. That’s different, and good, but they’re all still children. And while it’s true the upper echelons of our institutions don’t yet reflect this diversity, give them another generation or two and they will. They’ll have to.

And while the urge to shove the process along more quickly than it goes on its own is understandable, provoking a bitter cultural backlash will only delay the inevitable. Renaming every Dundas Street in the country feels like a victory, but it’s a symbolic one. Even worse, it urges others to aim for similar low-hanging fruit, instead of focusing on the bigger problems.

Reckon with our past, sure, but focus more on our future. And be constructive. So let’s make CVs “blind.” Let’s push governments and corporations to actively seek minority hires. Most importantly, give people the space to have difficult conversations and show them charity if they stumble along the way. We’re not always going to get it right.

Easy for me to say as a white guy, I know. But I have two small children who are half-Arab. Their maternal grandparents came to Canada with little money and a funny surname, but their mother is now a national television reporter (initially hired in local news through a diversity hire program) and their futures will be brighter still.

If, that is, we give ourselves a break.

Remember: perfect is the enemy of the good. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The English lexicon is full of expressions urging caution in the face of mania. We need to rediscover that corner of our language because, right now, things are hard enough without looking for any extra trouble.

Source: MacDougall: Imperfect Canada can afford to give itself a break

MacDougall: Journalists are addicted to Twitter, and it’s poisoning their journalism

Valid points by MacDougall. Other observation, to be corrected as necessary by journalists, is the degree to which it cuts down on their time for more detailed investigation and reporting, thus resulting in less deep coverage of issues:

What’s the problem with the media?

Ping a journalist that question, and you’ll get back chapter and verse about the money problems facing newsrooms and the indifference of advertising-stealing platforms such as Facebook and Google.

Ask a random bloke on the street, however, and there’s a good chance the answer will be “bias” or “trust,” as in: “I don’t trust the press, they’re all biased.”

Ah, yes. The “fake” news. The “enemies of the people.” It’s not the best time to be repping the fourth estate.

The question now is how the press should fix their dismal approval ratings. A good start would be to stop being their own worst enemies. And a good place to start with that is ditching social media. It’s simply too easy for opinions to slip into posts that would never make it into news copy, leading to perceptions of bias.

Reporters should instead treat social media like the poison it is. For one, it’s not a representative sample of the public. Nor is the “shoot-first, think-later” mentality encouraged conducive to good journalism. Most importantly, social media reveals way too much of a reporter’s own bias to the people they cover and the people who read that coverage.

The ability of social media to reveal reporter bias has been apparent for years, but it’s shifted into overdrive now that Donald Trump has turned Twitter into grotesque political performance art, dragging an enraged global press corps with him, most of whom tweet their disgust or puzzlement at what the president does every day. And it’s affecting political journalism in every country. A day now isn’t a day without reporters broadcasting hot takes that risk tainting the coverage they ultimately provide.

And while it’s true most media organizations have guidelines or social media codes of conduct — most of which prohibit opining — they are largely self-enforced. Stretched editors simply can’t track their charges all day long on Twitter.

Forget about columnists, who are paid to give their opinion; it’s a mystery why straight news reporters would want to reveal anything about themselves or their views on public policy. Most politicians already think the press is biased — why risk confirming it for them in real-time?

Why, for example, would a freelance journalist want Conservative leader Andrew Scheer to know that his views on Scheer’s views on government are that they are a “ridiculous collection of straw men?” They might be, but good luck convincing Scheer’s people that anything you ever write will be a fair shake.

Sadly, it’s not just the smaller fish in the profession who blunder in this way; the problem reaches up much higher.

Lots of people heaped scorn on Maxime Bernier’s clumsy foray into multicuralism on Twitter before his split from the Conservative party, but did one of them really need to be the senior broadcast producer of Canada’s most-watched television news broadcast?

And then there was Rosemary Barton of the CBC, who suggested on Twitter that her network didn’t have a clue about Bernier’s motives for tweeting about diversity, even though reporter Evan Dyer inferred in his report that the one-year anniversary of the alt-right march in Charlottesville had informed Bernier’s timing, if not his thinking.

These examples are the kind of clever or knowing things journalists have always said to each other or their subjects. In private. Now they fire away for all to see. And for what? A bushel of RT’s and “likes”?

Ten years or so into the folly of social media, it should by now be clear that it’s the ranters and shouters who get the most clicks, not the neutral observer. Reporters should stop trying to play the game.

Ten years or so into the folly of social media, it should by now be clear that it’s the ranters and shouters who get the most clicks, not the neutral observer. Reporters should stop trying to play the game.

They should instead go back to being a mystery. To valuing personal scarcity over ubiquity. To ditching Twitter, and forgetting Facebook. Or, at least limiting appearances there to the posting of their work. They should also say “no” to shouty panel appearances alongside partisans.

Reporters might even find the lack of distraction focuses them on their work. And if a politician’s B.S. needs to be called out in real-time, reporters should have an editor or colleague peek over their shoulder to give them a sense check on tone. Because even super-fact checkers such as Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star can appear biased owing to the sheer volume of material they post to their channels. And most reporters aren’t dedicated super-fact checkers, they’re just smart people with opinions, ones the news-consuming public shouldn’t know.

Political journalism is at a crossroads. Reporters need to keep doing their valuable work. But do the work, full stop. Keep your opinions to yourself. More people will believe the good work you do if they have no idea who in the hell you are, or what you think about what’s going on.

The term ‘alt-right’ has become a cudgel against conservatives: MacDougall

Two good op-eds by Andrew MacDougall, calling on both parties to tone down the virtue signalling and name calling:

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Gerald Butts, the Prime Minister’s principal secretary, Ahmed Hussen, the federal immigration minister, and Lisa MacLeod, Hussen’s provincial counterpart, walk into a bar and…

Fine. I’ll spare you the joke, which (believe me) requires a mountain of set-up, and instead leave you with the punchline: Lisa MacLeod is a white supremacist!

What? That’s not funny? Well, I suspect that’s in the ear of the beholder. In any case, please direct all complaints to the Prime Minister’s Office, ℅ Mr. Butts, the author of the joke.

To be fair, the Butts quip wasn’t that blunt or direct. He wouldn’t dare call MacLeod a white supremacist outright. His dig was of the dog-whistle variety, one the federal Liberals have been blowing with increasing frequency as we approach the next election. And so let’s just say it wasn’t a surprise to see it deployed following the acrimonious federal-provincial meeting on immigration starring Hussen and MacLeod.

“Enough is enough,” Butts tweeted after the meeting. “It’s time to stand up to this divisive fear-mongering about asylum seekers. Let’s not allow the alt-right to do here what they’re doing elsewhere.”

And what were the particulars of the Hussen-MacLeod dispute, that it devolved to “fear-mongering”? It hardly matters. It’s the use of “alt-right” that’s key. Indeed, it’s the latest slur gifted to the right from the left. That’s why Doug Ford is now “alt-right.” It’s why Andrew Scheer is “alt-right.” And it’s why cookie-baking hockey mom MacLeod is “alt-right,” too.

And as with so much else in the world today, we have Donald Trump to thank for it.

It was Trump who brought the “alt-right”—then, as now, a bunch of white supremacists and violent fascists—into the light. But the President’s tacit acceptance of these “deplorables” gave license to Trump’s political opponents to paint all of his support—the vast majority of which are neither racist or supremacist—with the alt-right brush, especially those who oppose the current immigration system, which no one can describe as perfect. This is the dynamic the Liberals—once the purveyor of sunny ways, let’s not forget—seem to be trying to import into Canada.

Although the migrant problems facing Canada’s borders are nowhere near the scale of those between Mexico and the United States, they are as complex, and nearly as intractable, absent a willing partner in the White House. Hence the PMO’s desire to reach for the shorthand of the “alt-right”: It’s better to brand your opponents than explain why you can’t get the job done.

Because MacLeod is certainly correct that the feds don’t (yet) have a workable plan to stem arrivals at non-designated border crossings. She’s also correct when she says the provinces are bearing a lot of the costs of housing and caring for refugees and asylum seekers. Nor is she the only one raising the alarm; it’s been a constant criticism from the federal Tories as well. No wonder it rankles the PMO. I’d be yelling “alt-right” too, especially if I knew my opponents didn’t have a workable plan either.

Now, Butts doesn’t actually think MacLeod is a noxious white supremacist like Richard Spencer, the lodestar of the U.S.’s alt-right movement. But he is certainly happy to have that association linger in your mind, no matter how untrue or uncharitable it might be. Here, the application of the label “alt-right” is meant to stifle debate on immigration, not encourage it. If there can be no reasonable critique made on immigration then the status quo, no matter how bad, will carry the day.

It’s a trick the right has pulled on the left on many occasions. A school shooting? Can’t criticize the Second Amendment, my fellow American, or else you ain’t a patriot. Or, to pick a less noxious example, any plan by a left-of-centre party to raise a tax—any tax—is evidence of economy-killing communism or socialism. Again, it’s a tactic meant to kill nuance and throttle debate. Just ask Stéphane Dion about his “Green Shift,” aka the “permanent tax on everything.”

The Liberals are clearly casting around for slurs that stick in a similar fashion. They’ve largely leaned on using Stephen Harper’s name as a bogeyman; voters grew tired of the Harper government’s perceived nastiness in the last election, hence the longtime Liberal habit of shouting “Harper” in every crowded theatre. It’s why Trudeau himself fronted the “it may be Andrew Scheer’s smile, but it’s still Stephen Harper’s party” attack line at the recent Liberal convention. Slagging Harper sells.

But it doesn’t work nearly as well when speaking about problems the Liberals have created, like the deficit, or inherited and made worse, like the border. Tweeting “Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada” might have won a news cycle, but it’s come back to bite the Liberals in the backside in the form of multiplying “temporary” asylum shelters and an  overwhelmed processing system.

Step forward the “alt-right.” And even if the shoe doesn’t quite fit, the Liberals are going to try their damnedest to make the Conservatives wear it. Because, whether Canadian conservatives like it or not, a lot of their European brethren are piling in against immigration in a nasty fashion. And the reality is that Canada’s vaunted all-party support for immigration might crumble all the same if it faced European-like numbers of asylum seekers, too—just the kind of circumstance that birthed such alt-right movements elsewhere. No conservative party is truly safe.

Nor should liberals rest easy either. The European left is struggling mightily too, and it’s largely because they underestimated the people’s tolerance for an immigration system that clearly could no longer deal with what was coming its way.

To fight back against the alt-right slur, Conservatives in Canada need to do three things: keep supporting much-needed immigration and legitimate refugee claims; avoid hyperbole while making valid criticisms of the government’s actions; and uprooting any actual and visible forms of alt-right support in their party. The Republicans missed their weeding moment; the Tories can’t afford to miss theirs.

Because if they do miss it, it will be Trudeau’s Liberals who have the last laugh—no matter how poor their joke.

Source: The term ‘alt-right’ has become a cudgel against conservatives

And:

…First and foremost, opposition politicians need to stop performing for their bases and begin the challenging task of reaching out to Ford’s supporters. This is both the path to a more civilized discourse, as well as the eventual route back to power.

This isn’t to suggest the opposition remain quiet or docile. Far from it.

Ontario’s system of government requires a strong opposition, especially in holding a majority to account. But a sober critique can land as effectively as a headline-searching cheap shot. Mr. Ford’s support isn’t a monolith; it can be picked off if done reasonably. If he bungles government, people will notice.

And the opposition’s lessons apply equally to the media.

So much of today’s surging populism is fuelled by the sense the arbiters of a society’s discourse – including the press and the politicians they hold to account – are happy to ignore their views. And right now a lot of people are worried about crime and border security. Mr. Ford understands that. Their fears might not necessarily be backed up by statistics, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Here, the sneering tone of journalism on platforms such as Twitter does the profession no favours.

The media need to remain clear-eyed in their work, even if the Premier isn’t their cup of tea. It was a mistake to equate Ford Nation with Mr. Trump and his “deplorables” during the campaign, and it remains a mistake now that Mr. Ford is in government. One thing is certain: The “fake news” drumbeat, still quiet in Canada, will surely grow louder with every unforced reporting error and torqued editorial position.

Premier Ford might not like the press (what politician does), but he isn’t in the class of Mr. Trump. For the moment Mr. Ford is busy running his government, not running against the media. That Mr. Ford doesn’t court or flatter the press shouldn’t count against him, even if it does ultimately make his job more difficult.

For his part, the Premier would do well to keep his ears open to legitimate criticism. Yes, “the People” have spoken and, yes, there are still many promises to keep, but there is also wisdom to be found on all sides. Lashing out at critics isn’t a plan; Mr. Ford must keep his famous temper in check if he is to keep “the People” on his side.

Governing is a marathon, not a race. Mr. Ford won’t secure his re-election in a single day, nor will he be defeated in one. Keeping the hysteria to a minimum gives voters the best chance to make a reasoned decision the next time around.

Ford is not Trump. Ontario’s opposition would be wise to lower the outrage

Andrew MacDougall: Conservatives of all stripes must pass the Charlottesville Test 

Solid advice:

After taking two days to condemn the race-baiters in Charlottesville, President Trump reverted to form the very next day, when he drew an angry equivalency between the alt-right and what he termed the “alt-left.”

Trump’s obstinance in the face of such disgusting bigotry forces conservative politicians — many of whom owe their election to Trump’s coalition — into a choice.

Call it the Charlottesville Test: Would I be proud to march with my brothers and sisters in the harsh light of day with the world watching?

If the answer is “no”, the barge poles must be deployed. There isn’t enough distance they can put between themselves and their president.

Or, to put it in terms conservatives will better understand: The neo-Nazis are ISIL, Trump is their elite apologist, and you are the Muslim community. It’s time for you to denounce and expel the cancer in your midst, as you would ask moderate Muslims to do in the wake of a similar terrorist attack.

Canadians Conservatives are certainly wasting no time in condemning Charlottesville, such is the power of events to taint all of conservatism. Andrew Scheer, Michelle Rempel, Patrick Brown and others are making clear they have no desire to trade on the hatred Trump and others are all too willing to ignore.

They needn’t be applauded for doing what is right and obvious, but had they not done so the Liberals would have tried to hang Charlottesville’s goat horns on the party and the movement.

The true test, however, comes when the media spotlight fades and electoral needs still have to be met. Will conservative politicians continue to shun the significant demographics behind the alt-right movement?

Courting these segments of the electorate wasn’t, until recently, worth the effort (to say nothing of the opprobrium). But the internet has taken what used to be a silent super-minority in any room, and linked them together into a potent online force.

It’s the force that delivered crucial oxygen and votes to Donald Trump in the early days of the Republican nomination, along with millions of clicks to a slew of new websites trumpeting the “alt-right.”

History will record that Trump met these “deplorables” more than halfway in his run to the presidency. Their hatred of Hillary Clinton (“lock her up”) and the establishment (“drain the swamp”), and Trump’s willingness to embrace it, was what made the “politically incorrect” real-estate mogul their choice. Trump’s embrace is what emboldened racists and supremacists to speak out and hold marches like that in Charlottesville.

In Canada, alt-right me-tooism led to the rise of Rebel Media, whose kingpin Ezra Levant regularly features leading U.S. and U.K. alt-right figures such as Paul Joseph Watson, Gavin McInnes, Jack Posobiec, Laura Southern and Tommy Robinson.

This obviously doesn’t make all supporters of Donald Trump — or contributors and viewers of the Rebel, Breitbart and Infowars — neo-Nazis; it does make them guilty of poor judgment. In Levant’s case, the poor judgment was deliberate in the search for audience and revenue.

It’s precisely these growing audiences for the Rebel and its counterparts that makes them attractive to conservative politicians. It’s why Conservative candidates gave interviews to Levant’s crew during this spring’s leadership race, and why Trump hoisted Breitbart’s Steve Bannon into his campaign, then into the White House.

But a few bad apples really do spoil the whole bunch, as Levant found out this week when two of his more mainstream apples — Brian Lilley and Barbara Kay — quit rather than continue on in the wake of Charlottesville.

The lesson for Canadian Conservatives is straightforward: avoid click-merchants and work harder to promote true conservative principles.

Anyone can preach to the converted. Only the weak exploit a grievance and make it deeper. These are the marks of political cowardice, not shrewd electoral strategy.

It takes courage to take on those with extreme views in your own coalition and patience to engage with those who don’t share your political views at all.

Conservatives should speak to people, not whistle past them.

Source: MacDougall: Conservatives of all stripes must pass the Charlottesville Test | Ottawa Citizen

Will Haitians force Trudeau into being hard-hearted? Andrew MacDougall

I always find MacDougalls’ (former Harper PMO Director of Communications) commentary valuable and thoughtful given his conservative perspective is expressed and argued in a largely non-partisan manner (in contrast to some former CPC staffers such as Candice Malcolm and Mark Bonokoski in Sun media).

This piece is no exception:

It’s summertime, and the border crossing is easy.

What was once a slow trickle of bodies from the United States to Canada threatens to become a steady flow. And instead of Muslims fleeing the imprecise scope of Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” across the Manitoba border, it’s now worried Haitians who form the majority of those seeking sanctuary this summer in Quebec.

Why Haitians? Why now?

Essentially, those who fled Haiti in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake have been spooked by a change to their status in the United States under the Trump administration. And so they’re fleeing again. But it’s to a place where a similar change has already been made; Canada sends its failed Haitian claimants back to Haiti.

The particulars don’t matter; the Haitians are here, and more are coming because they think Canada is a soft mark. The Big O(we) in downtown Montreal is even being converted to a shelter for their arrival. And if they come in stadium-sized numbers it means a hard choice is coming for Justin Trudeau.

And it’s a choice (somewhat) of the prime minister’s own making.

When President Donald Trump unveiled his inaugural “Muslim ban” Trudeau responded with a tweet declaring: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. #WelcometoCanada.”

It got great headlines at the time, and isn’t strictly applicable to the Haitians now coming, but what Trudeau is now finding out is that tacking on a sieve or a barrier to the sentiment expressed in that tweet is hard to do, especially when your political brand is basically that of the world’s saviour.

The Haitians in question aren’t fleeing persecution, terror, or war; they’d mostly rather not go back to Haiti. And every place they occupy in our asylum system is one less for those who are genuinely suffering.

Trudeau, for now, is holding firm. “Canada is a country that understands that immigration, welcoming refugees, is a source of strength for our communities,” Trudeau repeated last week. He also added, “protecting Canadians’ confidence in the integrity of our system allows us to continue to be open.”

The second half of the prime minister’s statement was, in Liberal eyes, butt-covering. But for a lot of Canadians, including the opposition Conservatives, it’s the operative half of the equation.

And right now that half is showing signs of severe strain.

A recent memo on the state of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) released under access-to-information highlights a massive backlog of claims and a system starved of needed resource.

The Trudeau government will either need to increase funding massively, turn down more people at the border, or — more likely — some combination of both to maintain “confidence in the integrity of our system.”

Doing so will be a tricky proposition for a government that has carefully cultivated its tolerant political brand. Any tightening of Canada’s policy under Trudeau could be seen as betrayal, no matter how justified it might be.

Fortunately, for Trudeau’s image anyway, there are no good policy options to stem the flow, at least not with a recalcitrant President Trump in the White House. Canada cannot do a rewrite of the laws on its own, and closing the loophole that allows the current arrivals would only force more people to official border posts, where dealing with migrants is even more difficult politically.

This situation would then seem to favour more cash to the refugee system, but no such funding was included in the most recent federal budget. The Trudeau government has instead opted for a “wide-ranging” review of the system, with a report due in the summer of 2018.

It appears, then, the Trudeau government is hoping to ride out the current situation, hoping the word eventually gets back to the tens of thousands of Haitians in the United States that things really are no better in Canada and that they should stay where they are. Then again, a years-long backlog for processing might still be the better alternative.

For their part, the Conservatives would do well to suggest a fix in addition to keeping up pressure on the government to act.

Who knows? Coming up with a helpful solution could help redeem Tories in the eyes of voters who might not trust them on these and other matters.

Source: Will Haitians force Trudeau into being hard-hearted? | Toronto Star

New policy template aims to encourage gender diversity on boards

Good initiative and one benefit of having a policy is the discussion it engenders:

Canada’s leading association for corporate directors is hoping to nudge more companies to add women to their boards by offering a free template of a board-dversity policy.

The Institute of Corporate Directors has teamed up with law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLC to develop a general model of a board-diversity policy, aiming it at smaller companies that have not complied with new diversity-reporting guidelines. The template includes alternative wording options so companies can customize the content and it is free to download from both organizations’ websites.

ICD chief executive officer Rahul Bhardwaj said his organization launched the project after seeing the results of a review of diversity-reporting rules by securities regulators in September. The review showed that just 21 per cent of 677 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange clearly disclosed that they have adopted a gender-diversity policy for their boards and their executive ranks. While that is an improvement from the 15 per cent of last year, it still signals slow progress since regulators introduced new “comply or explain” rules in 2015 requiring companies to report on their approach to gender diversity.

Mr. Bhardwaj said he was concerned about the lukewarm response by companies to the new reporting rules and concluded that many smaller companies weren’t acting because they didn’t know where to start or didn’t have the resources to hire consultants and lawyers to help them develop policies.

“The first step is to actually turn their mind to it,” he said. “For organizations saying, ‘How do we actually start to craft a policy?’, we’re saying, ‘Here’s an easy way to do it.’ It will get you into the game and thinking about it.”

He said his hope is that boards will not simply “tick the box” by quickly downloading the sample policy and adding it to their disclosure documents, but will instead have a discussion about their approach to diversity.

Osler lawyer Andrew MacDougall, who wrote the policy, said many small companies could find it helpful to have access to a model that is similar to policies adopted by larger companies with help from professional advisers.

“Often the hardest part about making any change is taking that first step,” Mr. MacDougall said. “We thought that the easiest way to jump-start a dialogue at the board level would be to help them with the first step, which is the adoption of a policy.”

The template allows boards to choose whether to make a general statement about diversity, including having an “appropriate number of women directors,” or whether to commit to a specific target level of diversity on the board. They can also choose to add a time frame for reaching the target.

The policy also includes a provision that any search firm hired to help identify board candidates will include multiple women on the possible hiring list, as well as a clause that says female candidates will be included on any “evergreen” list of potential nominees.

Mr. MacDougall said he hopes many who use the template will opt to implement a concrete target for women on the board, but that might be a step too far for some.

“We wanted to make sure that they at least had a policy that forced them to have a dialogue about whether or not to adopt a target,” he said.

Source: New policy template aims to encourage gender diversity on boards – The Globe and Mail