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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The political debate over migrants hasn’t turned ugly yet – but it could

Good piece by Aaron Wherry:

The Liberals want the Conservatives to watch their words. The Conservatives want a plan. They’re both right.

The debate over what to do about the asylum seekers crossing our southern border — revived this week after the Quebec government worried aloud about its ability to deal with a possible surge of arrivals this summer — is serious, tawdry and dangerous.

On Wednesday, for instance, Conservatives celebrated when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged in the Commons that crossing the border between official points of entry could be called “illegal.”

(The government typically refers to “irregular” border crossings. The Conservatives insist on calling them “illegal.”)

NDP MP Jenny Kwan later stood on a point of order to argue that, according to a strict reading of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the people crossing the border at places like Roxham Road in Quebec aren’t committing a crime.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel accused the NDP of quibbling over “semantics,” but the adjective “illegal” is obviously meaningful to the Official Opposition. And when applied to human beings with families and children who might have excellent reasons for fleeing their home country, “illegal” is at least a fraught term.

Playing politics

The Conservatives, who describe the ongoing border crossings as a “crisis,” would like the government to table a plan for resolving the situation. They went as far as tabling a motion in the House this week calling on the Liberals to do so.

But — in the classic style of opposition motions — the request for a plan was buried in text that would have had the government acknowledge its “failure to address the crisis” and “admit the Prime Minister’s irresponsibility of tweeting #WelcometoCanada to those seeking to enter Canada through illegal means.”

 

And so Liberal MPs declined to support the motion in a vote on Tuesday, and so Conservative MP Ted Falk stood in the House on Wednesday and lamented the prime minister’s refusal “to even commit to a plan.”

The Conservatives also charge that the irregular arrivals are “queue jumpers,” a description the government rejects.

The Liberals argue the Conservative and NDP proposals — respectively, to declare the entire border to be an official port of entry, or to unilaterally suspend Canada’s border agreement with the United States — are both irredeemably flawed. And the situation is certainly complicated, legally and practically.

But writing down and publishing a detailed plan could still be useful.

In the meantime, each side is warning the other about where all this might be headed.

‘The flames of fear and division’

“I recommend that my colleague choose his words carefully, because false information and incendiary rhetoric only fan the flames of fear and division,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Tuesday, scolding Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus.

“I’m worried that the dialogue in Canada is going to switch from ‘how we do immigration’ to ‘if we do immigration,’ ” Rempel told CBC radio’s As It Happens that same day.

On Wednesday, Trudeau said it was “completely irresponsible of the Conservatives to arouse fears and concerns about our immigration system and refugees.”

But Rempel contends that it’s the Liberals who could be inciting division.

“As someone who supports compassionate, planned, orderly migration, and sees it as a key to sustaining the Canadian economy over time when done properly, legally, and safely, I worry that by abdicating the responsibility to do this, it is actually the Liberal Party that is creating divisiveness in the country,” she told the House this week.

More than 6,000 people have crossed the Quebec border seeking asylum so far in 2018 and officials expect the surge to continue with the onset of warmer weather 7:34

Trudeau’s tweet and Trump’s edicts

Canada takes pride these days in not being the sort of place where such divisiveness dominates. But you don’t need to look far here to see how large-scale, unplanned immigration can trigger something ugly and destructive.

In the United States, migration has helped to inspire a nativist litany of grievances that is warping American politics. In Europe, it has helped to birth a new era of nationalism. All sides should be aware of the forces at play here.

However much the prime minister’s tweet on January 28, 2017 acted as a beacon to those seeking refuge, policy decisions in the United States are no doubt giving people good reasons to flee.

But that American approach isn’t likely to change soon. On Thursday, the Trump administration announced that 9,000 Nepalese immigrants will have to leave by June 2019. And even if Trudeau had never hashtagged a message of welcome to the world, the federal government would still bear the responsibility for managing the border.

Liberals can point to the emissaries they have dispatched to dissuade would-be travellers, but such efforts will be discounted if the rate of crossings doesn’t decline. The Trudeau government can point to the funding and resources it has committed to dealing with the new arrivals, but ultimately the Trudeau Liberals may find they have little room now to quibble with the premier of Quebec, or to suggest that it’s the province that should be doing more to accommodate asylum seekers.

If social services in Quebec are noticeably stretched, if immigration procedures bog down, if community tensions rise, Ottawa will be blamed.

Of course, all of this — the number of people crossing the border, the processing and integration of those people while they’re here, the language being used to talk about them — are ripe for political exploitation.

Responsible critics have a duty to avoid overstating the danger here. Responsible governments have a responsibility to limit the grounds for concern.

Source: The political debate over migrants hasn’t turned ugly yet – but it could

Forget sovereignty, a new political divide is ready to split Quebecers – Macleans.ca

New political fault lines? Or just another variation of identity politics?

The divisions that once defined Quebec are dissolving before the eyes of its oldest political parties. Less than a year before the next election, fear of another referendum—or desire for one—is no longer top of voters’ minds, challenging the raisons d’être of both the ruling federalist Liberals and their rivals, the separatist Parti Québécois. Freed from the old worries, though, Quebecers might soon be following the worldwide trend of right-left polarization, splitting along populist and progressive lines.

The Liberals were elected with a majority in 2014 after the PQ’s attempt to capitalize on Quebec’s decade-long identity debate with the Charter of Quebec Values. It will go down as one of the worst misplays in the province’s political history, says François Pétry, a Université Laval political scientist, because much as they like debating the value of state secularism, Quebecers are disturbed by the idea of fighting with each other.

Now, after three years of focusing on the province’s economy, and pulling it out of deficit, Premier Philippe Couillard is wading into that same territory. Bill 62, a new law banning face coverings while receiving public services, was championed by the Liberals, and is already subject to two court challenges.

 It is drawing ire from all sides. Civil liberties advocates say it unfairly targets a tiny portion of Muslim women, while the nationalist opposition parties, Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) and the PQ, say it doesn’t go far enough. Premiers across the country have denounced it and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the federal government is studying legal ways it could join the chorus. “It’s not a good initiative, purely on the electoral front,” Pétry says, adding the law figured nowhere in the Liberals’ election platform. “If you start to create conflicts between Quebecers, [you’re] probably going to suffer the consequences.”
It’s one of the few mistakes Couillard has made, according to Pétry, who tracks politicians’ promises and says Couillard has kept more of his than any premier in recent Quebec history. That and the government’s strong fiscal performance makes the Liberals’ recent slump in the polls a paradox. The most recent by Leger, published in October, had the Liberals running second to the four-year-old, right-of-centre CAQ on the question of voting intentions, with 29 per cent support compared to 34 per cent for the CAQ.

Couillard may be paying, says Pétry, for ethics blunders made by the party under its former leader, Jean Charest, which have tainted how voters view the party. What’s more, the Liberals have been in power since 2003, save for a two-year stint by the PQ under Pauline Marois, leaving many antsy for change.

“For the first time in 40 years, a party other than the PQ and the PLQ could be in power, and that’s a real feat,” says Dan Pelletier, a 45-year-old Laval security guard who plans to vote CAQ in the next election. Pelletier says he’s for legislation like Bill 62, as long as it’s done “with respect for the [minority] communities that live with us, without becoming authoritarian.”

Still, the CAQ, which has been criticized for sowing us-versus-them political division, has vowed to enact even further-reaching religious attire legislation, which would put Quebec at greater odds with the rest of the country. It’s a prospect that worries Emilie Nicolas, co-founder of Québec Inclusif and a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Toronto, who says Quebec has seen “a progressive normalization of distrust of Muslim communities” since the early 2000s.

Discussions surrounding religious accommodations have long been placed in the context of Quebec’s separating of church and state in the 1960s. Some say that watershed moment can no longer be used to explain Quebec’s unease with those different from its French settlers. “In this day and age no society is an island,” says Arjun Tremblay, a postdoctoral fellow at the Université du Québec à Montréal who studies the politics of multiculturalism. He doubts any Quebec leader can steer clear of addressing identity for long—it “strikes an emotional chord in a lot of people,” he says, “and can be used to mobilize segments of the electorate.”

Tremblay, like others, points to the Trump administration’s “thinly veiled anti-Muslim” immigration and refugee bans. A far-right movement is gaining ground in the province, especially in Quebec City, where less than a year ago a mass shooting at a mosque left six dead and 19 seriously injured. The suspect, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, was said to have an affinity for Trump and the white nationalist groups supporting him.

The attack fuelled calls for the Quebec government to launch a formal commission looking into systemic racism in the province. But a month after it launched, Couillard changed its focus and name, ridding it of terms of reference relating to systemic racism in favour of vaguer language on discrimination and integrating immigrants. Nicolas says the move, compounded by Bill 62, shows how out of touch Quebec politicians are with the appetite among young voters to address social justice issues. “Millennials are not that young anymore,” she says, “and it turns out that they can vote if they feel like it makes a difference.”

Case in point: the Nov. 5 election of Valérie Plante, the first woman voted mayor of Montreal, who ran on a platform of progressive politics and on her independence from the political establishment. Her cheery demeanour helped. Plante’s predecessor, Denis Coderre, a former Liberal MP and cabinet minister, was seen as arrogant. Quebec’s main parties may be driven and divided by 1990s politics, Nicolas says, but that’s changing, “actually as we speak.”

Whether the Liberals find a way to renew themselves or dig deeper into old debates will determine how they do come October 2018, she predicts. Either way, the old guard remains in place and has 11 months to pick up the pieces. And if there’s one thing the experts agree on, it’s that 11 months in politics is a long time.

via Forget sovereignty, a new political divide is ready to split Quebecers – Macleans.ca

A perfect cabinet? Some Italian Liberals disagree. Also Black Canadians

The challenges in meeting the expectations of all groups in Canada, starting with Steve Paiken with respect to Italian Canadians:

But now that the dust is settling and Ottawa is beginning to get back to business, some observers — even Liberals — are allowing themselves to be a bit more critical.

Having spoken Thursday night to two prominent members of the Italian-Canadian community — both of whom are Liberals — they are more than a little miffed that there’s not a single member of their community in the new cabinet.

In some respects, it is a bit shocking. The Italian-Canadian community has always demonstrated overwhelming support for the Liberal Party of Canada.

“We’re not going to make a stink about this because the reaction to the new cabinet has been so positive,” one well-connected member of the Italian community told me. “But four ‎Sikhs and no Italians? I don’t know about that.”

Let’s remember, putting a cabinet together is almost by definition an impossible undertaking. There are so many boxes to check off: gender balance, regional balance, ethnic balance, generational balance, and the list goes on. Satisfying every constituency is a hopeless task.

Nevertheless, the absence of any Italian presence in a Liberal cabinet is noteworthy.

Another Liberal with whom I spoke last night — not an Italian — had less patience for the criticism. This source admitted, yes, Italians are under-represented in this cabinet, but added they’ve been over-represented in previous cabinets.

When Paul Martin took over the prime minister’s office in 2004, his cabinets would feature more ministers of Italian heritage than perhaps numbers warranted (Albina Guarnieri, Tony Valeri, Joe Volpe, Joe Fontana, Tony Ianno, Judy Sgro, and Joe Comuzzi).

“No one complained we had too many Italians back then,” this source said.

It’s not like Prime Minister Trudeau didn’t have enough Italian-Canadian MPs from which to choose. Liberal MPs with Italian backgrounds include former cabinet minister Judy Sgro; Joe Peschisolido, who has previous experience as a parliamentary secretary; Marco Mendicino, whose resume includes defeating floor-crossing MP Eve Adams for the Liberal nomination, then Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver for the seat in Eglinton-Lawrence;  Francis Scarpaleggia, an MP since 2004; Anthony Rota, first elected in 2004, sidelined for the last four years after losing in 2011, but back in now; and rookie MPs Francesco Sorbara, Mike Bossio, Angelo Iacono, David Lametti, and Nicola Di Iorio, among others.

When our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, once checked into a hotel, he was asked on the registration form what his occupation was. He wrote: “cabinet maker.”

Our first PM was a clever guy. He also understood that every time he made a decision to put someone in cabinet, it required a concurrent decision to keep several others out. High profile victorious candidates such as former Toronto police chief Bill Blair, former broadcaster Seamus O’Regan, downtown Toronto’s Adam Vaughan, and former general Andrew Leslie are among the many Liberal MPs who have learned this the hard way.

And so, apparently, are many Italian-Canadian MPs, who for the first time in three-and-a-half decades find themselves outside the Liberal inner circle. As we are learning, it is a curious and uncomfortable place for them to be.

Source: A perfect cabinet? Some Italian Liberals disagree | TVO.org

And Cecil Foster reflects on Black discontent:

It is as if there is no black in Canada. Maybe despite all its diversity Canada in 2015 is still a white man’s country, where as in time of old all eligible and desirable non-whites and males have been co-opted into whiteness. Just like the Italians, Greeks, Ukrainians, Afghans, etc. that are now all white Canadians. Diversity through assimilation. And as has always been the case, the one unassimilable group – primary because of the colour of skin and the historic outsider status – is blacks. And this is at a time when south of the border there is a black president. Maybe it is true that Canadian and U.S. cultures and politics are fundamentally different.

It is unbelievable that at this moment when diversity is the language and imagery of Canada, yet again we have been told in the jargon of street that if you are black, stand back. If there has been two groups that have been the measure of exclusion and marginalization in the Canada of old they were First Nations people and blacks. It is a moment of pride when we can see First Nations representation in the Canadian government, especially for me a First Nations Justice Minister and Attorney-General.

But whether it was as the original Loyalists that withdrew into what would become Canada, blacks were always part of this country and we have always been the moral conscience of this country. Indeed how can anyone begin a conversation on power, citizenship, multiculturalism, equity, a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, criminality, discrimination and police carding without starting that conversation about historically what has been the role and positioning of blacks generally in this hemisphere and specifically in Canada?

So why are there no blacks in the cabinet? Perhaps because the cabinet was chosen on merit and no black was good enough. Perhaps no one ethnic or racialized group should be signalled out for special attention. Perhaps affirmative action should not be a factor. …

As the Prime Minister stated, the year is 2015. All these questions can be posed about any visible-minority group that is using the pictures of members of their community who are federal government ministers to tell their young see you, too, can become a government minister. For it to be really true, as our Prime Minister implied, that Canada has come a long way when any argument against the inclusion of any ethnic, racial, gendered or sexed group is so absurd that no real explanation is needed. Unless this inclusion is about other minorities, not blacks.

Unfortunately, there is the sense that the blacks in Canada have been slighted. And ironically this is one of the ethnic groups that have resolutely remained faithful politically to the Liberal Party of Canada in good and bad times, even when other ethnic groups with less of a legacy in Canada flirted with and even shifted support to other parties. Most enthusiastically support multiculturalism. Many in the black communities across Canada still revere Pierre Trudeau. What more needs to be said about loyalty or blacks and Liberals.

About two decades ago, I published a book titled A Place Called Heaven: The Meaning of Being Black in Canada. Back then. I was writing about an ethno-racial group that is as old as Canada itself, that for want of a better phrase should be considered as much “old stock” as the English or French. Back then, this was a group still feeling marginalized and dreaming of a day when Canada would make young black boys and girls feel confident enough to believe that they can grow up to become members of the highest echelons of their society.

Source: Canada’s blacks: Still waiting for their moment of ‘real change’ – The Globe and Mail

Immigration policy will be part of election conversation, opposition says | Toronto Star

Pretty skimpy on the details, given the range of changes implemented by the Conservative government.

We may see more precision when the electoral platforms are released, however the tone is markedly different:

Immigration policy under the Conservative party’s watch has changed substantially, with many rules and regulations making it harder for refugees and immigrants to make Canada their home.

The Tories’ tough-on-immigration stance has won over some ethnic groups; others are less than keen. Critics in Parliament have argued vigorously against the changes. But the Tories argue that their changes have saved taxpayers money, streamlined processes, cut waiting times and stopped “bogus” refugees. A spokesman for the Minister of Immigration Chris Alexander said he wasn’t available to talk to the Star to discuss the changes or what lies ahead.

But according to University of Toronto’s assistant political science professor Erin Tolley, immigration rarely makes it as a central election issue because it “has the potential to alienate.”

But this time around both the Liberal and the NDP say they are going to make immigration policy part of the election conversation.

Key points:

NDP:

  • family reunification emphasis
  • loosening of citizenship language test requirements
  • more welcoming approach to refugees

Liberals:

  • Restore pre-Permanent Residence time 50 percent credit for citizenship
  • Repeal intent to reside provision
  • Reduce overall processing times
  • Commit to larger number of refugees, strengthen due process
  • Not assume “every second person is a criminal”

Interesting that revocation not mentioned.

Immigration policy will be part of election conversation, opposition says | Toronto Star.