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