Milloy: Where is the progressive counter-narrative to Pierre Poilievre?

Important question:

As a member of the lefty chattering class, I am not sure what concerns me more — the rise of Pierre Poilievre or the inability of his progressive critics to develop a positive counter-narrative to his message.

The main criticism of Poilievre from those on the left seems to be that he is an angry “nut” with bad policies.  Although he may be popular in some circles, they would argue that it tends to be with the not-too-bright and ill-informed. Clever people from downtown Toronto, Ottawa or other urban centres have no time for him.

Labelling someone early in the game can work — just ask Michael Ignatieff — and maybe Poilievre is simply a crank who is just stirring up a small fringe minority.

Perhaps there is nothing to worry about.

I am not convinced.

From where I sit, it looks like Pierre Poilievre has touched a nerve. Canadians are angry, exhausted, divided, and looking for answers. Poilievre is providing them. He has developed a narrative about how he would address Canada’s problems that has caused many to sit up and take notice.

So, how is the other side responding?

Let’s start with one of Poilievre’s most high-profile promises. If he were prime minister, he would fire the governor of the Bank of Canada for his apparent role in fuelling inflation.

“Ridiculous,” say his critics. Not only does Poilievre not understand basic economics but look at what happened when John Diefenbaker tried to fire the governor of the Bank of Canada in 1961.

I have news for my progressive friends: When gas is two bucks a litre and grown children can’t afford to move out of their parents’ basement, ordinary Canadians aren’t interested in history lessons from the 1960s.

Then there is the issue of restoring freedom — the central theme of Poilievre’s campaign. Once again, the progressive crowd dismisses Poilievre as touting crazy conspiracy theories about big government.

But hold on a minute. I don’t care where you stand on vaccines, lockdowns, and masks. The last few years has seen an unprecedented intrusion in the lives of Canadians. Governments have regulated and curtailed our activities like never before, all in the name of public health.

Where are the limits? What is the progressive narrative about the need to balance personal freedom with the common good? Where is there even an acknowledgement from those on the left that the level of government control over our lives during the pandemic has been scary for some Canadians and they understand and respect that fact?

What about natural resource development and climate change?

Like all Conservative leadership candidates, Poilievre is anxious to cancel the carbon tax and dramatically increase oil and gas production in Canada.

What is the left’s counter-narrative?

Why has it been seemingly impossible for progressives to develop an easy-to-understand story that explains how we need to balance short-term support for oil and gas through actions like the purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and approval of Bay du Nord offshore oil project with a long-term commitment to fighting climate change?

How about defunding the CBC — a proposal that always produces cheers at any Conservative gathering?

Sure, enjoying Canada’s national network over a latte or a glass of chardonnay is a favourite pastime for of every small “l” liberal.  But is it just me, or has the CBC increasingly turned into a northern version of MSNBC? Shouldn’t we be concerned that a big chunk of the population doesn’t see their views represented on our taxpayer-funded network?

Could progressives not even acknowledge the concern and outline a way forward to improve our national broadcaster?

And yes, Poilievre appears to have an unhealthy obsession with cryptocurrency and its growing presence in the global economy.

But how do progressives propose to deal with this emerging phenomenon?

What about the whole style of political discourse these days?

Poilievre claims that Canada is governed by “a small group of ruling elites who claim to possess moral superiority and the burden of instructing the rest of us how to live our lives.”


Be honest all you lefties. Can you see how some people (maybe many people) might view progressives that way? What are you going to do about presenting a style of leadership that is open, prepared to listen and willing to engage?

I end this column where I began. Maybe Pierre Poilievre will ultimately go nowhere.

But be careful. Although I am generally uncomfortable with comparisons between Canadian politicians and Donald Trump, there is one point worth making: Love him or hate him, Trump entered the 2016 election campaign with a whole range of easy-to-understand solutions to the apparent ills facing the United States. The counter-narrative from the other side left much to be desired.

Let’s not make the same mistake here in Canada.

Source: Where is the progressive counter-narrative to Pierre Poilievre?

ICYMI – Milloy: Election debates lack real purpose

Valid questioning:

Why do we have leaders’ debates?

I suspect those Ontarians who bothered to watch the most-recent election debate are probably asking themselves that very question — I know that I am.

It’s not that there was anything particularly wrong with the evening and kudos to both the moderators and party leaders for all trying their best. But what was its purpose?

Theoretically, I guess it was to inform voters on the various policy positions of the parties to allow us to compare-and-contrast them.

However, all I remember hearing was the intention of each leader to throw huge amounts of money at every problem in a way that was somehow different from the boatloads of money promised by their competitor. Did I really talk that way when I was in politics?

In fairness, there were a few points of contrast, such as the differing party positions on the building of Highway 413. But let’s be honest, examples like these were few and far between.

Why does this happen?

Mainly it’s because public policy has become unbelievably complex and there are no easy solutions, yet voters have short attention spans. The only way for a party to get noticed is to simplify issues, couch them in bumper-sticker slogans and ditch the nuance.

Source: Election debates lack real purpose

Milloy: The role of religion in the Ottawa protest

Of interest:

The end of the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa has already led to much soul searching — how could it have happened? One of the topics certain to be discussed is the role that the Christian faith played in the protest. There wer

The end of the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa has already led to much soul searching — how could it have happened?

One of the topics certain to be discussed is the role that the Christian faith played in the protest.

There were a lot of Christians up in Ottawa — you could see it in protest signs and hear it in media interviews. There were numerous accounts of prayer services and Christian preachers addressing the crowd and an American Christian crowdfunding website helped funnel money to the cause.

As a CBC report concluded: “Christian faith — with an overtly evangelical feel — flows like an undercurrent through the freedom convoy in Ottawa.”

The situation puts me in a bind. Although I watched the protests in horror, I also regularly write, teach and speak about the positive contribution that faith, particularly my Christian faith, can make to public discourse.

So, in response, let me offer several observations.

First, I can’t criticize someone for holding strong religious beliefs. As a person of faith, I recognize that it is part of their identity. People are frustrated and scared, and these are often the circumstances where you most often look to God.

The situation is also far from black and white. Governments have made their share of mistakes in dealing with the pandemic and are not above criticism. I tried to think about the protesters with compassion and take their views seriously.

Source: The role of religion in the Ottawa protest

Milloy: In this increasingly polarized society, how can we learn to trust each other again?

No easy answers in terms of how we address weakening trust:

How should we react to calls for both sides of the COVID-19 debate to try to find common ground? Many federal Conservatives as well as a collection of commentators are urging dialogue on vaccine mandates and public health restrictions. The new Conservative leader, Candice Bergen, has talked of the need to extend “an olive branch.”

Their arguments are simple. Although there may be racists and extremists involved in the anti-vaxx movement, most of those protesting current COVID-19 rules are ordinary Canadians who deserve to be heard. The trucker’s protest in Ottawa, which has now spread to other communities, is symptomatic of a divided nation that needs to be healed.

Communication is generally a good thing, and both the “pro” and “anti” vaccine sides could certainly benefit from a dose of humility. But beyond gaining a deeper appreciation of each other’s basic humanity (never a bad thing), here is a question to ponder: if they ever did meet what would the two sides talk about?

Those who oppose COVID vaccines and restrictions have made it clear that they don’t trust our political leaders. They mistrust scientists, public health officials, doctors and much of the mainstream media.

And on the other side, proponents for vaccine mandates and restrictions don’t trust the protesters. They don’t trust their claims about science or public health. They don’t trust their opinions on politics or governing and would be quick to point to their bizarre calls for the Governor General and the Senate to somehow force the federal government and provinces to end COVID-19 restrictions. Most of all, they don’t trust their motives and see them as a bunch of yahoos looking simply to cause trouble.

We have a problem in our country. The level of polarization seems to be growing exponentially. Extreme views are becoming more commonplace, but perhaps more concerning is the fact that even middle of the road people are increasingly admitting that they have no time for anyone who doesn’t share their opinion. A recent Angus Reid poll found that close to 40 per cent of Canadians believe that “there is no room for political compromise in Canada today.

This isn’t about the need to “hash things out.” This is about trust. We don’t trust each other. We don’t trust our governments, our political leaders, experts, media, multinationals, or our churches.

As a society we have developed ways of dealing with issues and challenges. We have institutions and systems that are supposed to analyze problems and drawing upon the best evidence, find the needed solutions.

Source: In this increasingly polarized society, how can we learn to trust each other again?

Milloy: Where is the outrage over Quebec’s discriminatory law?

Of note, including comment about spending the same amount of energy on current discrimination as on our first prime minister:

Want to see outrage these days? Mention any issue that even smacks of racism or prejudice and you will see Canadians respond with anger and passion.

Why has this energy not extended to Quebec’s Bill 21?

If there ever was a law that flies in the face of everything that social justice activists claim they stand for, it’s Quebec’s “Act Respecting the Laicity of the State.” This law, which prohibits entire categories of public servants, including teachers, judges or police officers, from wearing religious symbols such as hijabs or turbans is an affront to anyone concerned about discrimination. Not only does it close the door to certain professions for many practicing Muslims and Sikhs, but it sends a clear signal that they are second-class citizens.

Don’t just take my word for it.

In his ruling on the law, Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-André Blanchard outlined how the law “dehumanized those targeted.” As he explained: “these people feel ostracized and partially excluded from the Quebec public service … Bill 21 also sends the message to minority students wearing religious symbols that they must occupy a different place in society and that obviously the way of public education, at the level of preschool, primary and secondary does not exist for them.”

Quebec’s use of the notwithstanding clause, however, meant that there was little the judge could do beyond ruling on a few of the provisions around the edges.

Why has Bill 21 not brought Canadians to the streets? Why has it not been given the same attention as debates over the removal of the statues, the renaming of schools or the defunding of police?

I am not suggesting that these issues be abandoned, but why has a current provincial law which effectively allows state-sponsored discrimination not become one of the primary targets in our fight for a society free of prejudice?

Source: Where is the outrage over Quebec’s discriminatory law?

Public prayer debate doesn’t need to create winners and losers: John Milloy

Former Ontario cabinet minister John Milloy on public prayer:

In 2008, the legislature reviewed its policy concerning its practice of opening prayers. Although a decision was made to maintain the Lord’s Prayer as part of the daily routine, a rotation of prayers from other religions was added. Each day members begin by also hearing a recitation from one of Ontario’s other faith traditions — Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and many others. Recognizing many Ontarians hold no religious views, a moment of silence is also included in the rotation.

The Ontario system is far from perfect. The continuing presence of the Lord’s Prayer troubles some, but within the Ontario practice may be the seeds of a different approach to the present situation.

A city council meeting that began each meeting with a prayer or reading from a different faith community would send a powerful message of respect for our many religious traditions. Including a moment of silence or a non-religious reading or meditation would give non-believers an equal and important voice. An approach such as this has been successfully used by the City of Edmonton. Each municipal meeting begins with a prayer or reflection, some non-religious in nature, chosen from a roster suggested by community members.

Politics is a rough-and-tumble game. It is easy in this hyper-partisan political world to lose sight of your immense responsibility as well as the seriousness of the issues before you. Taking a moment before the opening of a session and thinking about the gravity of the situation through prayer or reflection can be beneficial. Anything that reminds politicians that there is something beyond their own self-interests and the need to win re-election can only lead to better decision-making.

Whether approaching this ritual along the lines suggested would comply with the Supreme Court ruling is a question for legal experts and ultimately the courts themselves. But we have to find a way to make our diverse society work. Religious faith has much to offer. Religious traditions have often been at the forefront of progressive change, they are not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and call on all of us to focus on something that transcends our immediate selfish needs. A society where no effort is made to accommodate and celebrate these beliefs and relegate them to merely a “private matter” is one that is greatly diminished.

Public prayer debate doesn’t need to create winners and losers | Toronto Star.