Kelly McParland: Trudeau’s first senate appointees are exactly the sort of people you’d expect Liberals to appoint

Valid points by McParland but one can have general values and experience ‘alignment’ while also having a measure of independence. And notably, he criticizes the general orientation of the appointees rather than taking issue with their individual qualifications.

But the degree with which they may or may not exercise their independence may be seen not just in their review of Government legislation but on the nature and tone of debates in the Senate and its committees:

Still, you’d think there would be at least a smidgen of curiosity about the latest appointees. They’re the first by the new prime minister, the first in three years (since former prime minister Harper gave up in disgust and quit appointing anyone at all), the first under the Liberals’ heralded new arm’s-length advisory council, the first to be appointed entirely as independents, and the opening wave in the Liberals’ proclaimed plan to de-partisan the benighted second chamber.

Surveying the names on the Liberal list of appointees, two thoughts spring to mind. 1. The Liberals appear to have concluded that the best way to escape the sort of Senate controversy that engulfed the Tories is to make the process as boring as humanly possible. 2. Having achieved that, they’ve used public ennui to appoint exactly the sort of people you’d expect Liberals to appoint.

To get the apathy ball rolling, Trudeau’s government announced in January it had appointed a three-member committee to advise it on potential appointees. It had three permanent members: a federal bureaucrat and two academics, plus “ad hoc” members from provinces with vacancies. The first ad hoc advisers included another bureaucrat, the head of a native women’s group, the head of a Quebec doctor’s organization, an athlete, a singer and the head of a charity.

It duly sent some names to Ottawa, from which Trudeau picked his chosen seven: the head of his transition team, a former Ontario NDP cabinet minister, an academic, an “expert on migration and diversity”, a Paralympic athlete, a federalist journalist from Quebec and the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools.

Since the Liberals claim all new senators have to be non-partisan, we’ll have to assume all these people assured the prime minister of their independence, though, looking at the list, it’s not hard to guess they skew pretty much to the left. Not a lot of closet Tories in that group. As my colleague John Robson put it, the list is so predictable of a Liberal government it might have been selected by an affirmative action random-elite-candidate-generator.

And what else would you expect? Examine the membership of the advisory committee and you notice it’s heavy with people paid from the public purse, or dependent on government for grace and favour. Who else would they put forward but Canadians who reflect their own background: public servants, academics, friendly faces, administrators, reliable interest groups and members of other Liberal-friendly operations. They don’t reflect Canada so much as they reflect the Liberals’ view of Canada: people like them; people you see in the salons of Ottawa, people who will be sympathetic to Liberal aspirations and the Liberal way of doing things. Even if, under Trudeau’s directive, they have to promise not to call themselves Liberals.

Source: Kelly McParland: Trudeau’s first senate appointees are exactly the sort of people you’d expect Liberals to appoint

Kelly McParland: McCallum’s plan to rewrite guide book is a historical stumble

Predictably, and legitimately, concern has been raised regarding the plans to revise Discover Canada, the citizenship test study guide.

When providing advice to the Conservative government on the guide in 2009, I argued for greater balance in their choice and treatment of elements, along with messaging, aiming to ensure a guide that would survive any possible change in government (while there was an advisory committee, it never met together to have a fullsome discussion and debate).

In terms of McParland’s particular concerns, while military history is important (and not just the previous peacekeeping focus), so is social history, which Discover Canada largely downplayed. It was a deliberate political choice to downplay the Liberal narrative in favour of a more Conservative one.

The wording of  ‘barbaric cultural practices’ was largely chosen to attract media attention (it worked!). Arguably, it also was a precursor to the Conservatives use of identity politics, seen in the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act and the late unlamented proposed ‘snitch’ line announced by former Ministers Leith and Alexander.

The same points can be made more effectively in the context of the history of women’s equality rights and how ‘honour’ killings and the like are against the law.

While Discover Canada was a marked improvement compared to the ‘insufferable lightness’ of its predecessor, A Look at Canada, my hope that the Liberal government, in revising and renaming the guide, doesn’t make the same mistake. Hopefully, it will keep some of the stronger points in Discover Canada while ensuring a broader narrative, one that lives up to the diversity and inclusion commitment, and speaks to those with both conservative and ‘progressive’ values:

Canadians continue to celebrate the people and events of the time despite the Liberal government’s apparent perplexity. Re-enactments are held each summer. Streets, schools and universities have been named in commemoration of its key figures. Reminders of the war are dotted across regions that are among Canada’s most popular tourist areas.


HandoutLaura Secord became one of Canada’s first heroes for warning of an impending American attack. featured in The War of 1812.

There is an unfortunate and dispiriting tendency in current culture to try and re-interpret the past. Oddly, it is deemed inappropriate to honour the events that made Canada a country and set the foundation for the culture we’ve become. We would prefer to condemn previous generations for lacking our own views, as if 19th century Canadians should somehow have shared the perspective of a future society they could never imagine.

The Liberals have shown an eagerness to roll back any initiative they view as too reflective of their Conservative predecessors. McCallum would do well to recognize that Canada’s history does not belong to any particular political party. He should be expanding efforts to acquaint Canadians with their history, not trying to erase it from guidebooks for the sake of a cheap political snub.

Source: Kelly McParland: McCallum’s plan to rewrite guide book is a historical stumble

Kelly McParland: Refugee hysteria reaches a new low with plan to search migrants for jewelry

Contrast with Canadian approach striking, as is sad state of conservatism:

Perhaps it had to come to this.

In the squalid competition for the most wretched position on Middle East refugees, Denmark can claim a new low. Having already placed an ad in Lebanese newspapers making clear to asylum-seekers they weren’t welcome, the Danish government is debating a new measure: it wants to seize their jewelry.

In an email to the Washington Post, the Danish integration ministry said the bill — which is expected to pass — would empower officials to search the clothes and luggage of asylum-seekers “with a view to finding assets which may cover the expenses.” Authorities would allow claimants to keep “assets which are necessary to maintain a modest standard of living, e.g. watches and mobile phones,” or which “have a certain personal, sentimental value to a foreigner.”

It is only looking for items with considerable value: for example, the minister of justice said on TV, refugees arriving with a suitcase full of diamonds.

One wonders why a person with a suitcase full of diamonds would need to plead for a place to live, especially one as distant and chilly as Denmark. And while they’re at it, why not search their teeth for gold fillings? But the abject assault on people fleeing the chaos of Syria and Iraq isn’t troubled by simple logic. It’s all about fear, bias and discrimination. Unfortunately, it’s also a cause that has been taken up with enthusiasm by right-wing politicians and ultra-conservative governments, who see political gain to be had in spreading hysteria.

Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Akos Stiller/BloombergHungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban

Conservatism is not about hate, bigotry or exploiting the needy. But its brand is in danger of being permanently tarred by the outspoken braying of demagogues like Donald Trump, or small-minded governments like those in Denmark, Poland and Hungary. The Hungarian government’s response to the flood of people fleeing Syria was to erect a razor-wire fence, accompanied by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s declaration that Muslims were not welcome and his rejection of European Union resettlement quotas. Hungary’s fence forced others to soon erect their own, as each sought to direct asylum-seekers elsewhere.

The ugliness of discrimination is not lessened by the political gains it sometimes brings.

Poland’s newly-elected right-wing government announced it would refuse to accept the 4,500 refugees assigned it under the quota system, reversing the acceptance of the previous government.

Trump, of course, has assured himself the attention he so openly craves with increasingly loathsome remarks about the purported threat of the refugee hordes. His proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. — even though the U.S. has millions of honest and patriotic Muslim citizens – has been overwhelmingly denounced, but succeeded in cementing his runaway lead in the Republican presidential sweepstakes.

The ugliness of discrimination is not lessened by the political gains it sometimes brings. The more Trump is attacked, the more support he seems to gain. Orban’s policies were initially reviled, but have been highly popular in Hungary and are now being quietly studied across the EU. Poland’s government was elected on the back of anti-immigrant fervour, and includes a stark anti-Semitic streak.

It’s a trend that should be roundly condemned, and resisted at all costs.  The new Liberal government, of course, has begun accepting — indeed, welcoming — refugees to Canada, and has pledged more aid for those still overseas. Canada’s interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose has made clear her party welcomes refugees and will continue Canada’s tradition as “a compassionate country and … compassionate people.” The point can’t be made strongly enough, and whoever succeeds Ambrose as leader should ensure it is a bedrock of future policies. There will come a time when the hysteria will subside and people will look back in embarrassment at the ugliness of the debate it has inspired. Canadians should ensure that when that time comes, they won’t be among those with something to regret.

Source: Kelly McParland: Refugee hysteria reaches a new low with plan to search migrants for jewelry

Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

Good piece by McParland:

The Appeal Court’s reasoning is sound.

“Permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives,” wrote Justice George Strathy.

The decision notes that allowing long-term expats to vote would violate a “social contract” that binds Canadians to laws that they have played a hand in creating.

This makes absolute sense. For every fervent patriot like Sutherland, who presumably lives in the U.S. due to the demands of his acting career, there are tens of thousands, of passport-holders who barely give Canada a thought. At the time the five-year rule was introduced, Canada was in the process of handing out thousands of passports to “investors” who wanted it mainly as a hedge against turmoil in their home country. If you recall, one of Stephen Harper’s earliest international acts as prime minister was a dramatic evacuation of Canadian passport-holders from Lebanon during a confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah forces. It was great theatre, except Canadians learned that thousands of those affected proved to be Lebanese citizens who had met the minimum standards for a Canadian passport before returning home, hanging on to the Canadian document in case of just such an emergency. They knew little about Canada, but without the five-year rule, 50,000 of them would have had the right to vote.

Lebanon is far from the only country where that’s the case. The Vancouver Sun reported in 2013 there were 350,000 residents of Hong Kong holding Canadian passports, and that Asians continue to leave the country in large numbers after completing the minimum requirements. Immigration experts acknowledged many never intended to stay and were merely taking advantage of Canada’s traditional generosity with its citizenship.

The five-year rule may be an inconvenience for Sutherland, who comes across as far less arrogant and self-important than fellow Canadian Neil Young, who prefers jetting into the country just long enough to demand Alberta cripple its economy by getting out of the oil business, before jetting back to California. But both are Canadian the same way Mike Duffy is from Prince Edward Island: it might be where they came from, but it’s not where they live. Even Canada’s Senate now understands that difference.

Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

And Professor Orwin making a similar point about the link between residency and voting:

Yes, the Charter of Rights proclaims voting a basic right of citizenship. But how far does that right extend? As we’ve already seen, only to the boundaries of one’s riding of primary residence. This is an essential feature of our system. It’s the sacred democratic right of Fort McMurrayites (and conversely of downtown Torontonians) that outsiders not be permitted to vote in their riding. Our representative must be ours, and no one else’s. So while Canadian citizenship may be a necessary condition of voting in a given election, it’s obviously not a sufficient one. This is why it’s mistaken to claim that by denying an expatriate the vote, we are stripping her of anything enjoyed by other Canadians. Rather it’s that by permitting her to vote the current law grants her a right denied to other Canadians. Yes, for five years and no more, but she should be grateful for those years, recognizing (having read this column) just what an anomaly she enjoys.

It’s not just in granting five years of electoral amnesty that the present law is quite generous. It is also so in offering expatriates a varied menu of possible electoral residences. They may choose their last previous Canadian address; but they also enjoy other options equally ungrounded in reality. Let’s face it, once Ms. Choi has decided to live abroad, it is the merest fiction to deem her still resident in my riding. As the years pass this fiction grows ever more glaring, and my neighbours and I increasingly testy. Who is this annoying phantom who pretends to live in our riding and insists on voting there? What does she know or care of our local concerns?

 If I can’t vote in your riding, why should expats vote in mine?