Sex abuse cases color immigration debate before Finnish election

Likely impact on upcoming April election:

The parliamentary heads of two of Finland’s largest parties have called for action after investigations against 19 foreign-born men on suspicion of sexual abuse of minors.

The issue has boosted the support of the anti-immigration, populist The Finns Party, whose popularity jumped two points to over 10 percent in the latest poll published by the national broadcaster YLE ahead of a parliamentary election on April 14.

Police have said there were foreign-born men among the 16 investigated for rape or other sexual abuses of adolescent girls in the town of Oulu over the last two months. On Sunday, police in Helsinki said they had arrested three foreign-born men on similar charges.

Antti Kaikkonen, parliamentary head of the coalition-leading Centre Party, called for a meeting of all the parliamentary party heads, tweeting: “Everyone who comes to Finland has to follow the local laws.”

Antti Lindtman, parliamentary head of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, said: “The question is, are there measures we could take now – even during this term – to prevent cowardly crimes like these? Yes, there are.”

Prime Minister Juha Sipila tweeted that the government would discuss the “inhuman and reprehensible events” twice next week.

The topic is shocking for many in Finland, which sees itself as one of the safest and happiest countries on earth.

A citizens’ initiative to withdraw asylum from people convicted of a sex crime has doubled its signatures in just a few days and reached 25,000 on Sunday – half the total needed to force parliament to consider the issue.

The country of 5.5 million people has historically had very few immigrants. But the issue has become more fraught since the European refugee crisis of 2015, which caused the number of asylum seekers to almost quadruple to 28,208 in 2016.

Statistics Finland says around 1,200 cases of sexual abuse of minors are reported to the police each year, and that foreigners were involved in 18 percent of the cases that came to trial last year.

Lindtman proposed toughening the penalties for sex crimes against minors and withdrawing asylum from people convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes.

Canada is a tinderbox for populism. The 2019 election could spark it.

Frank Graves and Michael Valpy focus on the shifting views of millennial men, visible minorities as well as not visible minority, towards populism and the right. The 2019 election will provide a test of their thesis but certainly the Conservatives seem to mining this resentment in much of their messaging:

As Canadians, we sit atop the continent, watching as our neighbours slide into cultural civil war. It has become easy to just be appalled as America becomes riven, with social media and antagonistic rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum erasing the middle ground. There are two Americas, incommensurably separated on the fundamental issues of the day: climate change, the economy, social issues like health and education, employment, the media, immigration in particular, and globalization and free trade.

We’ve learned more and more about the populism that has fuelled this complicated moment as the fracture in America races like wildfire throughout Western democracies. It is the biggest force reshaping democracy, our economies and public institutions. It is the product of economic despair, inequality, and yes, racism and xenophobia. It is an institutional blind spot, largely denied or ridiculed by the media, and by the more comfortable and educated portions of society.

It is very much alive in Canada. In fact, our populist explosion has already had its first bangs and is likely to have a major impact on next year’s federal election.

The shifts in the democratic world order over the last decade have increasingly prompted social scientists to discard the left-right political spectrum in favour of an “open-ordered axis,” or what The Economist calls drawbridge-down vs drawbridge-up thinking. The former are cosmopolitan-minded people, in favour of diversity, immigration, trade, and globalization, and who are optimistic about the future; they’re guided by reason and evidence-based policy, and believe that climate change is a dominant priority. Drawbridge-up people, with an “ordered” worldview, are largely parochial, and they have reservations about diversity, are deeply pessimistic about the economic future, believe more in moral certainty than reason and evidence, are disdainful of media, government and of scientific expertise, and are convinced that climate change is trumped by the economy and their own survival. It’s ordered thinking that is metastasizing in Western societies, including Canada’s, especially among the political right. EKOS research from 2017 suggests about 30 to 40 per cent of adult Canadians are drawn to it.

Meanwhile, research over the last 10 years has found that Canada, like the United States, is turning into a society fissured along fault lines of education, class and gender. These are social chasms defined by the concentration of wealth at the top of society and, for everyone else, by economic pessimism and stagnation; by a comfortable feeling on one end of the societal teeter-totter, and a fear on the other end that a subscription to the middle-class dream might no longer be available.

Although there has been a recent uptick for the first time in 15 years, the portion of Canadians who self-identify as middle class since the turn of the century has declined from 70 per cent to 45 per cent, a stark number that mirrors America’s—signalling that Canadians have a deeply pessimistic view of their personal economic outlook. Only one in eight Canadians thinks they’re better off than a year ago. Only one in eight thinks the next generation will enjoy a better life. And EKOS finds that, by a margin of two to one, Canadians believe that if present trends with inequality continue, the country — this country! — will see violent class conflicts.

Ordered populism has already become an illusive, misunderstood theme in provincial elections in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario. Indeed, Doug Ford and his Ontario Progressive Conservatives won thanks to a preponderance of working-class, male electoral support—but a closer examination of the vote shows that male millennials, against expectation, supported Ford in significant numbers and had a high turnout. Millennial women, meanwhile, preferred the New Democratic Party by a margin of 25 points, and the millennial women who didn’t vote NDP largely stayed home. Millennial men split their votes between the NDP and Progressive Conservatives, and they led females millennials by 10 points in turning out to cast ballots.

Survey evidence strongly suggests that these are young men angered by the economic realities they face, and they are hit the hardest by what is happening in Ontario’s economy. A joint study by United Way Toronto and York Region and Hamilton’s McMaster University on poverty and employment precarity in southern Ontario reports that only 44 per cent of millennials in the region — the heartbeat of Canada’s economy — have full-time, permanent jobs, that the majority have not found work that provides extended health benefits, pension plans, or employer-funded training, and that formerly high-paying blue-collar jobs there are rapidly vanishing. The lack of good jobs, coupled with the social catastrophe of affordable housing and the resulting need to delay family formation, is resulting in anxiety and depression that disproportionately affects millennial men—making them ideal targets for the appeals of ordered populism.

What is happening challenges the conventional view that the youngest adults of Canadian society—the millennials, now Canada’s largest electoral demographic—operate with roughly similar, progressive views and values.

Another assumption in need of challenging is the idea that Canada’s ordered populism, like its American counterpart, is a besieged white citadel. In fact, our northern brand is as much the choice of multicultural new Canadians as of white native-born Canada. A significant chunk of new Canadians, many of them non-white, indicate they will vote Conservative in next year’s federal election — even though 65 per cent of Conservative supporters told EKOS this year that Canada admits too many non-white immigrants. And while a majority of Canadians are open to immigration, the intensity of the opposition is red-hot, including in other parties: 20 per cent of New Democratic Party supporters and 13 per cent of Liberal supporters also believe too many non-white immigrants are entering the country..

There are two possible explanations for this: First, new Canadians may bring with them into the country strains of social conservatism that make them hostile to issues like same-sex marriage and what they see as immoral, too-liberal sex education, an inflammatory issue in Ontario over the past couple of years. Thus, what they see as an assault on their values may be more important than a party trying to appeal to voters who want fewer of them in the country.

Second, where neighbourhoods are ethnically homogeneous as many are around the core of Canadian cities—white, brown or otherwise—populism holds appeal. Where there’s more diversity, it doesn’t. As social scientists have discovered, communities which have the least contact with with minority groups are the most hostile to them.

The looming federal election could be a spark for all the populist tinder largely being ignored in Canada. In the 2015 federal election, voting differences by gender for all age groups were flat. Now the federal Conservatives hold a 17-point advantage among men from all age groups other than seniors —a huge change in three years. Federal Conservatives also hold an advantage over Liberals and New Democrats with voters who self-identify as working class, and the party has overwhelming support from non-university-educated Canadians, the group most likely to feel left behind by the disappearance of blue-collar industries.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper led a party supported by the economically comfortable. His successor, Andrew Scheer, leads a party of the economically unhappy, of the new economy’s losers, a base increasingly comfortable with raising the drawbridge even as the Liberal government announces Canada will admit an additional 40,000 immigrants by 2021, bringing the annual number of new, mostly non-white arrivals to 350,000. Any campaign rhetoric that confuses this new support with its old party will only exacerbate the anger—and for the angry to find comfort in populism’s temptations.

What we do know is that Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government, with its populist strains and its vague campaign promises, is what many angry young men voted for. Maybe they didn’t vote for its policies; maybe, in their anger, they just voted to burn the house down, even if the history of populist movements show they’ve rarely worked out.

We can try to understand why it’s happening. We can insist that governments tackle inequality and affordable housing. We can build a future that preserves progress for all of us but addresses the real injuries of those who have embraced populism, while also refusing to bend to their fear, anger and ignorance. But letting populism burn the house down benefits nobody—and we can’t just ignore the smell of gasoline in the air.

Source: Canada is a tinderbox for populism. The 2019 election could spark it.

The Rise of the Resentniks: And the populist war on excellence.

Interesting take by Brooks. Always felt there was an element of resentment in Canadian conservative attacks on elites, and the exaggerated distinctions between the “anywheres” and “somewheres”:

There’s a powerful moment at the start of Anne Applebaum’s recent essay in The Atlantic. She’s recalling a party she threw on Dec. 31, 1999, at her home in Poland. Many of the hundred-odd guests were Polish, but others flew in from around the world for a weekend together, to greet the new millennium.

Most of the guests were conservatives — which in those days meant being anti-Communist and pro-market, but also believing in international alliances like NATO. The party was a great success, lasted all night and continued into brunch the following day. Everybody felt a part of the same team.

“Nearly two decades later,” Applebaum writes, “I would now cross the street to avoid some of the people who were at my New Year’s Eve party.” She estimates that half the people at that party are no longer on speaking terms with the other half.

For example, in recent years Applebaum has not had a single conversation with a woman who was once one of her closest friends and is godmother to one of her children. She tried to reach out to this woman and suggested they get together, but the woman refused. “What would we talk about?” she texted.

Those of us who came of age in conservative circles know exactly what Applebaum is talking about. The same kinds of rifts have opened up among conservatives around the world, in Britain, Italy, Germany and the U.S.

Some conservatives stayed on the political trajectory they were on in 1999. Others embraced populist nativism. They wandered into territory that is xenophobic, anti-Semitic, authoritarian. Still others were driven leftward by the reactionary revival.

What happened? This is the story I would tell.

During the Cold War, being a conservative was a moral cause. You were fighting Communist tyranny — aligned with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lech Walesa. But you were somewhat marginalized in your own society. Liberals controlled the universities, the news media, the cultural high ground, so the right attracted many people with outsider personalities.

Then with the election of Reagan and Thatcher and in the years afterward, conservatives built their own counter-establishment — think tanks, publications, broadcasting outlets. As conservatism professionalized, it despiritualized. After the Soviet Union collapsed, conservatism no longer had a great moral cause to rally around. It became a technocratic, economics-focused movement concerned with small government and entitlement reform. Compassionate conservatism and the dream of spreading global democracy were efforts to anchor conservatism around a moral ideal, but they did not work out.

Many conservatives simply could not succeed in the new conservative counterestablishment. In any meritocracy, there are going to be a lot of people who lose out and do not get the glittering career they think they are due. Sooner or later those people are going to rise up to challenge the competition itself and to question its idea of excellence. “Resentment, envy, and above all the belief that the ‘system’ is unfair — these are important sentiments among the intellectuals of the Polish right,” Applebaum writes.

At the same time, they resent how spiritually flat conservatism has become. “The principles of competition, even when they encourage talent and create upward mobility, don’t necessarily answer deeper questions about national identity, or satisfy the human desire to belong to a moral community,” Applebaum continues.

In such a situation, you’re almost bound to get a return of blood-and-soil nationalism. The losers in the meritocratic competition, the permanent outsiders, seize on ethnic nationalism to give themselves a sense of belonging, to explain their failures, to rally the masses and to upend the meritocracy.

In office, what the populist nationalists do is this: They replace the idea of excellence with the idea of “patriotism.” Loyalty to the tribe is more important than professional competence. In fact, a person’s very lack of creativity and talent becomes proof of his continued reliability to the cause, as we’ve seen in the continued fealty to King Trump.

While there is a sprinkling of good professionals in the Trump administration, they are there by accident, not by intent. Many of those staffing the White House could not get a job in any normal Republican administration, which selected people according to any traditional criteria of excellence.

And now, as Trump reshuffles his administration yet again, we see the remnants of the B and C teams replaced by members of the D team. Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of gossip over whether Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will keep his job. But it almost doesn’t matter, because from here on out, it’s Whitakers all the way down.

If conservatism is ever to recover it has to achieve two large tasks. First, it has to find a moral purpose large enough to displace the lure of blood-and-soil nationalism. Second, it has to restore standards of professional competence and reassert the importance of experience, integrity and political craftsmanship. When you take away excellence and integrity, loyalty to the great leader is the only currency that remains.

In Search of a New Equilibrium: Immigration Policymaking in the Newest Era of Nativist Populism: MPI

Relevant MPI report. Worth reflecting upon, even if the Canadian situation is quite different from Europe:

When faced with the growth of radical-right populism, mainstream political actors face a dilemma: respecting the democratic mandate of populists and treating them like any other political actor, or drawing a line in the sand by ostracizing and refusing to cooperate with them. Regardless, mainstream politicians need to reckon with how to respond to the forces driving support for nativist populism in the first place— deep concerns about cultural identity, rising inequality, pressure on limited public resources, deepening political polarization, and the politics of fear and resentment. In doing so, they will also need to grapple with how to build a new consensus on immigration. Points of reflection include:

  • ƒThe many benefits of running a tight ship on immigration policies. Governments need to rebuild public trust in the integrity and fairness of their migration-management system. Doing so will require minimizing immigration disorder and ensuring effective and orderly return procedures, while tipping the balance towards a more selective system that is better aligned with national economic and labor-market needs.
  • ƒThe challenges and crucial importance of communicating complexity. Policymakers need to think carefully about how to communicate their policy priorities and decisions, and the evidence that underpins them, to a concerned public. This includes speaking candidly about what the evidence does—and does not or cannot—say about hot-button issues such as immigration. This must be done in terms that can be readily understood by a wide audience of nonexperts and, when it comes to immigration, include an honest discussion of the benefits of a well-managed immigration system and the tradeoffs such a system can entail. These communications must also include concrete actions to address these emotive issues, especially in times of crisis.
  • ƒThe need to redress inequality by investing in communities. The rise of populism and nativism should serve as a wake-up call for mainstream policymakers on the importance of acknowledging and targeting disadvantage by adopting policies to redress the uneven costs of immigration, globalization, and economic crises. In striving to revitalize neglected regions, governments face tough decisions about whether to invest in costly social and economic development policies to help people stay—and attract new residents, especially immigrants— or to help people relocate to areas with more economic opportunities (at the risk of further shrinking the fiscal base of struggling regions).
  • ƒThe promise of employing a whole-of-society approach to immigration and integration issues. In an era of growing “welfare chauvinism,” with populists calling to limit access to welfare benefits to citizens, policymakers should confront head on the perception that immigrants benefit disproportionately from government programs and services. Research has also demonstrated the advantages of moving away from programs that target certain groups, such as immigrants, and towards robust services available to and flexible enough to meet the needs of all who qualify.

Ultimately, the rise of nativist populism should be understood both as a symptom and driver of political turmoil in Europe and the United States. Its rise is rooted in longstanding social and economic grievances and divisions that have been overlooked by mainstream politicians for far too long. Governments need to learn from their mistakes and respond much more proactively to manage these divisions—or risk seeing societies drift further apart and create a breeding ground for nativism and populism.


Andrew Coyne: Conservative war on media fizzles in Canada, but war on truth remains

Another good column by Coyne:

So is the war on the media off? Late last week, the national press were ablaze with stories about how the Conservatives were planning to target the media in the coming federal election.

“The Conservative party appears to be gearing up for a fight with news outlets as part of its 2019 electoral strategy,” reported the Toronto Star.

“The Conservatives are making it clear,” the Globe and Mail reported the same day, “that taking on the media is now a key part of their political message.”

The evidence for this grand strategy is a little thin. MP Pierre Poilievre called a Bloomberg reporter a Liberal. A Conservative senator accused Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells of being a “liberal.” Andrew Scheer gave a speech complaining “the media” were taking the Liberal side in the carbon tax fight and promised, in an open letter in the Toronto Sun, to stand up to “this government, the media and the privileged elite.”

Still, with what’s been happening lately south of the border, the president calling the media the “enemy of the people” and whatnot, nerves in our business are understandably a little jangly. Were there parallels here? Had the war already begun?

And then, just as suddenly, the whole thing appeared to have been called off. Monday, Scheer’s director of media relations, Jacqui Delaney, a brash populist last seen bragging of her taste for the media “jugular,” left after just five weeks on the job. The next day, Scheer himself was mildly avowing his belief that it was the media’s role in a democracy to “hold politicians of all parties to account” and to “hold us responsible for what we say.”

What’s going on? Scheer’s apparent backtrack may be evidence of a rethink at Conservative HQ, or simply a pause to regroup, a tactical retreat in the face of the previous week’s blowback.

Or there may never have been such a strategy. All parties like to “play the ref” sometimes, hoping to influence the press to call a few their way as proof of their fairness. Conservatives, in particular, have never been averse to complaining about media bias.

Nor is the complaint entirely unfounded: while most reporters are professionals who try to be fair, stories tend to be framed through a crisis-and-response lens that, while more a narrative bias than a partisan one, nevertheless is broadly favourable to parties of the left.

At any rate, let us hope that is all this amounts to. If indeed there are Conservatives who think aping Donald Trump’s approach is a winner, they should think again. They risk doing grave harm not only to public discourse but their own cause.

I don’t mean there aren’t upsides to picking a fight with the media. It’s especially fun if the media take the bait, as arguably I’m doing here. Who could resist being called a “threat to democracy” by a bunch of self-appointed Solons never elected to anything? What gladder sight could there be to a critic than the media rising as one to declaim on their own specialness? What firmer proof of media bias, than the media denying it?

But Canada is not the United States, and Scheer is not Trump. The Harper Tories made some yards with this approach, but eventually the voters they needed to reach, the ones just outside their base, tired of the act. The image Scheer is attempting to project is of that Nice Young Man Who Isn’t At All Like Harper. A darkly paranoid campaign focused on the party’s supposed media enemies would scarcely help in that regard.

Neither does Canada appear to offer rich soil for the kind of nihilistic, post-truth tribalism that has taken root in the United States. It exists here, of course. But a new survey by the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill and the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy finds large majorities of Canadians — upwards of 85 per cent — still profess trust in the country’s major media outlets. Moreover, divided as they are on partisan and ideological lines, they appear to believe in broadly the same set of facts about the issues.

That’s good news. But it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. We haven’t been scarred by the same traumas the States have that have given rise to such distrust of elites there, but we are exposed to some of the same forces, notably the rise of social media, breaking down our ability to reason collectively.

The issue isn’t whether people trust the press these days, but whether they trust anyone. Healthy skepticism about this or that story or source is too often curdling into a blind rejection of knowledge itself, and of those whose business it is to know stuff: experts, or as they are now dismissed, “elites.” What do economists know about free trade? What do climate scientists know about climate? After all, I read something on the internet …

This is the bitter fruit of today’s class politics, where class is defined, not by income, but by education and culture. There’s fault on both sides of this divide, but the Conservatives’ indulgence of populist egghead-bashing is especially dangerous. It puts the whole institutional apparatus through which knowledge is collected, tested and disseminated — what journalist Jonathan Rauch has called “the constitution of knowledge” — in play: mere experts, to be dismissed not in spite of their expertise but because of it.

When Scheer sneers, for example, that on carbon pricing the Liberals have not only the media on their side, but “the academics and think-tanks” — when he takes a broad consensus of experts as suggestive, not of the weight of the evidence and analysis, but of a near universal partisan bias among the educated classes — he veers close to conspiracy theory.

Expert consensus need not be taken as proof that a position is right, but it should never be offered as proof that it is wrong. That way lies madness.

Here’s how to beat the populists: stop talking about immigration

Not sure whether this approach will be anymore effective but it does have the advantage of addressing the more fundamental and broader threat of populism to the rule of law:

While the British Brexit debate rages on, it continues to ignore entirely a more important European political battle: the search for the best way to defeat populists on the continent within the next eight months – the time left before the EU parliamentary elections. That little of this seems to get factored into internal British discourse is not surprising: for all the headlines about Theresa May’s “Salzburg humiliation” or “EU dirty rats”, Brexit is essentially the British talking to themselves.

Across the Channel, a new line of attack against Europe’s populists is taking shape: it focuses on breaches to democratic rule of law, rather than the issue of immigration. That’s why the most important piece of EU news this month was not the Salzburg situation (entirely predictable) but the 12 September vote in the EU parliament on the rule of law in Hungary (much less so). For the first time, an EU institution which is hard to describe as “anti-democratic” (it is elected directly by its citizens) called for the activation of article 7 procedure against a member state’s government because of the way it has been disemboweling essential democratic institutions and rights.

For a long time now, Europe’s liberal democrats have been struggling to curtail political forces that threaten core principles. But since the 2015 refugee crisis they have let themselves get dragged into precisely the debate that populists can thrive on: migration. Not only was the EU at a loss over how to deal with the arrival of a million people in 2015, but its liberals have mostly failed to convince large swaths of the population that immigration is needed, that it needn’t upend social services, and that it does not spell the end of a certain sense of European or national identity.

Migration conjures up fears that rational argument struggles to cope with. Hungary’s avowedly “illiberal” Viktor Orbán and Italy’s far-right Matteo Salvini have secured major electoral breakthroughs by relentlessly pounding away at migration, depicted as a “Muslim invasion” (Orbán) or as something that requires “mass cleansing, street by street” (Salvini). With that rhetoric, they are now preparing to launch their bid to take control of the EU parliament, along with like-minded European politicians.

With that rhetoric also, the Swedish far right has won a position that allows it to foster political instability, as shown by this week’s no-confidence vote in Stockholm. Pushing back at these forces with talk of multiculturalism and inclusiveness will go only so far. A better strategy is to nail them on the democratic rule of law. That’s where the populist achilles heel is found; and it’s where the EU has tools to act, such as article 7, which can suspend EU voting rights, or European court rulings.

By this, I certainly don’t mean that the moral and legal argument for saving people fleeing war and persecution should not be made. But it may be too late now, before the May 2019 vote, to shift those parts of public opinion in Europe that have come to believe asylum is shorthand for demographic upheaval or “replacement”. Studies show European citizens overestimate the percentage of migrants in their countries (Italians believe it is three times higher than the real figure). The bare fact that migration flows have dropped steeply since 2015 does not register in perceptions. It is no coincidence that anti-immigration narratives have now spread from Europe’s hard right to its hard left – with Germany’s Sahra Wagenknecht and France’s Jean-Luc Mélenchon arguing that the arrival of migrants is a capitalist European plot to suppress workers’ wages.

At this point, to shift the argument against Europe’s extremes away from migration makes much better sense.

Saying that the democratic rule of law is under siege holds more political potential. This is what happened on 12 September, when two-thirds of European lawmakers drew a line marking what is acceptable and what isn’t. Think of it as a case of European checks and balances at last kicking in. The resolution voted through that day is a clear indictment of everything Orbán has done to violate democratic standards, from restricting freedom of the press to undermining the electoral system. It ought to serve as a template for a wider grassroots European campaign to protect the democratic rule of law.

Rather than lambasting Orbán for rejecting the 2015 EU refugee redistribution scheme (compulsory quotas that never translated into reality), cornering him on the dismantling of mechanisms that give citizens a proper say in democracy, and allow them to make informed decisions, is likely to be more rewarding. A better way to counter Orbán and Salvini is to focus on how they threaten what protects citizens. Populists aim to destroy the safety that comes from being able to count on an independent judge if you have been the victim of abuse; the safety that comes with getting pluralistic information, not state propaganda; the safety that comes from being confident your shop or your business won’t be choked by kleptocratic, corrupt power networks.

It helps to picture populists as a bulldozer over which a large banner reading Migrants Out has been slapped to hide the grinding wheels and huge metal shovel that are busy dismantling the democratic rule of law. It’s happened in Hungary and Poland, and it’s threatening to happen in Italy if Salvini gets his way. Ask a European citizen if they want more migrants and they may answer uneasily. Ask them if they want their government to deprive them of the tools that give people a say and the protections that come with democratic rule, and the response will be more forthright.

Rule of law – as a shield against abuse of power and corruption – should be the signature theme of next year’s election.

Choice of vocabulary matters too. Framing the debate as a battle of “progressives versus nationalists” has limits because populists will push back by equating “progressivism” with enforcing “open-border” or “anti-Christian” policies. A shrewder approach would be to cast this existential battle for Europe’s soul as “democrats versus authoritarians”. At the end of the day, our common enemy is autocracy. Arbitrary rule leaves citizens unprotected; Europe’s body of law protects them. Populists want that to come undone, so they can redraw the continent as they like. That’s where the real, immediate danger lies – not in all the fantasising that, from Brexit to Orbán, has surrounded migration.

Source: Here’s how to beat the populists: stop talking about immigration

Canadian politicians are playing a dangerous game on migration: Craig Damian Smith

While I find Smith overly alarmist in his assessment (the dynamics if immigration debates in Canada are very different from those of Italy, reflecting the different geographies, histories and politics), his warnings about the need for care in political and public discourse are valid:

Canada has joined the club of states embroiled with irregular migration.But our challenges are not unique, and we have two decades of European misadventures with irregular migration to guide our response. Unfortunately, Canadian politicians are following a well-rehearsed script in which crisis responses to anti-refugee sentiment undermine liberal values, limit policy options and open us to blackmail by hostile neighbours.

I have spent several years studying Europe’s relationship with irregular migration, most recently on a six-week trip that included looking at the Italian government’s hardline policies.

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini came to power on a promise to expel 500,000 migrants, and has spent his short tenure repealing services, criminalizing migrant rescue NGOs, fostering xenophobic nationalismand undermining European solidarity.

Salvini, also serving as deputy prime minister, blames migrants for longstanding Italian social problems like youth unemployment. In June, Tito Boeri, head of the Italian pension agency, clashed with Salvini on a very simple point that immigration was needed in light of an aging workforce. Salvini responded by stating that the tenured economist “lives on Mars” and that evidence-based arguments about demographics “ignored the will” of Italians.

This kind of populism has troubling parallels in Canada. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has blamed asylum-seekers for longstanding affordable housing challenges and ended cooperation with the federal governmenton the issue. His stonewalling and scapegoating to foster a crisis in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election are well-worn tactics.

Fears trump facts

Anti-immigrant populism trades on two interrelated trends. First, facts matter far less than voters’ feelings; second, as Daniel Stockemer from the University of Ottawa puts it, scapegoating migrants pays off at the ballot box. Ruling parties are caught in a bind since governments that want votes should be responsive to their citizens. But responding to anti-immigrant sentiments means policies with negative economic, social and security outcomes.

Ruling parties in Europe have tried to thread the needle by getting tough on irregular migration while maintaining open asylum systems. They must show voters that they’re doing something when their political challengers claim they have lost control of borders and undermined public safety. Statements by Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Party of Canada’s immigration critic, about irregular migration are thus wholly unoriginal.

Xenophobia fosters false opinions. Many Italians believe foreigners comprised 26 per cent of the population, when in reality it is only nine per cent. Similarly, a recent Angus Reid poll found Canadians overestimated the number of asylum-seekers by almost 60 per cent. The majority said Canada was too generous, and that the current situation represented a crisis despite the swath of Liberal ministers and range of credible experts saying the opposite.

Crises demand action

Crises demand extraordinary measures. Seventy-one per cent of respondents in the Angus Reid survey would devote resources to border security if they were in charge. Only 29 per cent said they would focus on assisting arrivals. Respondents were more aware of the asylum issue than any other in 2018. But as in Europe, Canadians’ strong opinions are based on feelings rather than facts.

The federal Liberals have reacted by shuffling the cabinet and appointing a tough-on-crime ex-police chief to oversee the issue. But Bill Blair has been named Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction. While this might seem like a savvy move, bundling migration with security narrows the range of options to reactive and counter-productive policies that exclude economic and social interventions. When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Not to be outdone, the Conservatives would extend the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entirety of the border, meaning asylum-seekers could be turned back anywhere.

Securitizing borders is expensive, rarely works for long and undermines refugee protection. It also results in more criminality. Prohibition in the face of high demand fosters black market supply. Illicit economies and more dangerous routes also make migrants vulnerable to human trafficking.

What’s more, criminalizing migrants reduces policy options. Politicians in Europe are obsessed with “breaking” smuggling rings, with little interest in the supply/demand logics that drive them. Irregular migration becomes more spectacular, offering politicians fodder to escalate the response. This leads to right-wing parties framing migration as a civilizational threat, the starkest examples of which can be found in Austria, Hungary and Italy.

Maxime Bernier’s tweets about “extreme multiculturalism” and the “cult of diversity” were cribbed from European populists. His break from the Conservative Party in favour of forming an intellectually and morally authentic right-wing party was right on script.

Despite Conservative attempts to brush off Bernier’s defection at the party’s recent policy convention, a far-right fringe party could bleed voters. If Europe offers any lessons, the Conservatives will likely mimic Bernier’s arguments.

That both Andrew Scheer and Michelle Rempel supported far-right activists to score points against Justin Trudeau is telling. So is the fact that Conservative delegates voted for ending birthright citizenship based on apocryphal stories of citizenship tourists.

Canadians like to believe we are exceptionally tolerant. Environics pollster Michael Adams argues that Canada is particularly resistant to xenophobic populism, partly because of our immigration history. But the current situation reveals a different story: Canada’s openness is more about exceptional geography.

In a 2017 study, Michael Donnelly from the University of Toronto found that Canada is no more tolerant than similar countries, and argued our resistance to populism is because we’ve been spared migration crises. That’s no longer true.

Frays the social fabric

What can be done? The government inherited a broken refugee system from Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, but the Liberals must address unsustainable backlogs in asylum processing, which cascade through the system and decrease people’s trust in its efficacy. Conservatives must ask whether scapegoating asylum-seekers for votes is worth the cost. It frays the social fabric, and will leave them holding the bag if they win the 2019 election.

Political discourse matters. The migrants and asylum-seekers I interviewed this summer told me time and again that Salvini ascension had changed the mood. People routinely approach them in the street to tell them that their time is up and they’ll be expelled to Africa. Italian nationalists have shot migrants in the street. Recall that the Québec City mosque shooter was motivated by xenophobic nationalism. It can, and has, happened here.

All of this might sound like the moralizing of a university researcher (from Toronto, no less), so I will conclude with a national security rationale. Canada’s 2019 federal election campaign will coincide with dates for ending Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of migrants in the United States. While some might choose to come here, the more troubling option is that Donald Trump could send them our way.

Beggar-thy-neighbour policies can be used to exacerbate migration crises, and Trump is nothing if not a zero-sum thinker. As Kelly Greenhill from Tufts University has shown, states routinely use “engineered migration” to coerce or deter their rivals. Turkey did it to Europe in 2016, securing an extra three billion Euros with a threat that it would allow hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers into Europe.

It would take a profound willed ignorance to assume Trump is beyond engineering a migration event to deflect public opinion at home, influence the Canadian elections or leverage trade concessions. Politicians from across the spectrum have a duty to ensure Canada is not exposed to that kind of blackmail, particularly not for gains at the ballot box. That means de-escalating the rhetoric and co-operating to ensure we have our house in order.

Cohen: Why we ought to worry about democracy’s retreat globally | Ottawa Citizen

Good commentary by Andrew Cohen, including Rosalie Abella’s fears for the independence of Israel’s judiciary:

Justice Rosalie Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada lives on public platforms. She lectures often, at home and abroad, and collects laurels celebrating her shimmering career (including 38 honorary degrees) like loose change.

As a decorated jurist of 42 years, she contemplates law and society as a quotidian challenge. So there she was two weeks ago, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, addressing the country’s democracy.

It was an extraordinary speech – a cri de coeur, really – brimming with erudition and urgency. It was also brave. Abella laments the assault on the independence of Israel’s judiciary, whose stature she has long admired.

“As a Jew, it has made me particularly sad to see the judiciary’s noble mission and legacy under rhetorical siege here,” she said. “To me when an independent judiciary is under siege, democracy is under siege, and when democracy is under siege, a country’s soul is being held hostage.”

She is alarmed by the effort to “delegitimize the judiciary … in the name of patriotism.” She finds this “perverse.” After all, she asks, doesn’t patriotism mean reflecting national values, which, in Israel, means being Jewish and democratic?

For defending those values, she sees a judiciary “demonized by some for being independent from political expedience and immune to political will.” Judges are not there to comply with the will of politicians, she warns; those who think patriotism means doing only what politicians want “are the biggest threat to Israel’s values, because they misconceive democracy as majoritarian rule.”

Abella doesn’t name the right-wing politicians targeting the judiciary. What makes her warning timely – like a siren in the night – is that she is addressing the erosion of democracy, in fundamental and disturbing ways, across the world. As Foreign Affairs magazine asks in its current issue: “Can Democracy Survive?”

It’s not hyperbole. Democracy is under its greatest strain since the 1930s. Assaults on the press, free and fair elections, minority rights and civil liberties are common. Look around: the rise of authoritarianism is everywhere.

Having liberalized after the fall of Communism, Russia is an authoritarian state under Vladimir Putin, who fixes elections, jails opponents and kills journalists. In China, which showed signs of liberalization leading up to Tiananmen Square in 1989, the leadership may serve for life.

Poland, Turkey and Hungary have lurched into authoritarianism. That Stephen Harper could tweet congratulations to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on his election was so brazen it was thought a joke; alas, it was not.

The man who once refused to shake Putin’s hand – “You need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper told him – now embraces Orban, who is silencing critics and attacking institutions in Hungary.

Freedom House tracks the state of democracy around the world. In 2017, it found that democracy declined in 71 countries and advanced in just 35. “Democracy in crisis,” it declares.

In old democracies such as France, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, right-wing populists are gaining traction, appealing to anti-immigrant sentiments and shunning civil liberties or the rule of law. Surveys show that while support for democracy remains strong among those over 65, those under 35 care less about it. This is particularly disturbing.

Rwanda, Venezuela, Mexico, Kenya and Honduras are among the countries where democracy has eroded. The same in Nepal, Eritrea, South Sudan, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. In Myanmar, led by a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, ethnic cleansing is horrifying.

In the United States, the president declares the media “the enemy of the people,” and attacks the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies. He refers to “my justice department” and its failure to “protect” him.

In Canada, the threat to democracy comes through bots and fake news filling social media, which will play out dangerously in the next federal election.

For Abella, in Jerusalem, the attack on the judiciary in Israel reflects something larger: an attack on our humanity: “Without democracy there are no rights, without rights there is no tolerance, without tolerance there is no justice, and without justice, there is no hope.”

via Cohen: Why we ought to worry about democracy’s retreat globally | Ottawa Citizen

What’s driving populism? It isn’t the economy, stupid – Bricker and Ibbitson

Bricker and Ibbitson further develop their 2013 thesis in The Big Shift: The Seismic Change In Canadian Politics, Business, And Culture And What It Means For Our Future in which they argued that there was a permanent shift towards more conservative politics, particularly among immigrant groups. Two years later, the 2015 election largely proved them wrong, as immigrant-rich ridings largely shifted to the Liberals.

Even so, they still maintain Conservatives have an advantage over progressives.

However, while their diagnostic relies overly on Putman and Kaufman, along with US and European examples, and less on understanding the significant differences with Canada (see Michael Adams, Could It Happen Here?: Canada in the Age of Trump and Brexit), their key policy prescriptions – need for respect for immigration-related concerns, downplay grand theories about immigration advantages (Barton Commission and Century Initiative to note) – are sound.

The current Ontario PC leadership convention and subsequent June election will provide an early test in Canada’s largest and most diverse province:

…So what is a better approach than simply dismissing the cultural insecurities of voters? First, leaders in politics and journalism and the academy and other fields need to respect where people are coming from – even when they profoundly disagree with where people are coming from.

“If people have concerns, and their concerns are being expressed in anti-immigration sentiment, then you’ve got to ask: Are these people just straight-out opposed to immigrants or do they have something else they’re fearful of or concerned about?” Prof. Loewen said. “And you’ve got to speak to those concerns in an even-handed and honest fashion.”

Second, play down the grand theories about the advantages of immigration, globalization and economic diversification. It’ll all be labelled fake news. And do not appeal to people’s compassion. There is little of it about. Instead, show – don’t tell, show – how immigration is making things better on your street, in your neighbourhood. Make it positive and make it personal. Micromessage.

In these conversations, conservatives have one advantage over progressives. Conservatives share the same attitude toward economic issues as most middle-class immigrants from places such as the Philippines, India and China, Canada’s three top source countries.

Conservatives and many immigrants favour business over government, the private sector over the public sector. They want fewer regulations and less bureaucracy, more freedom and greater personal responsibility, including responsibility for protecting the family and community.

Stephen Harper’s decade-long tenure as a Conservative prime minister depended in part on his party’s ability to coalesce immigrant voters in suburban ridings in greater Toronto and Vancouver with traditional rural and Prairie conservatives.

Not only can that coalition be politically advantageous, it creates a space where people who might be tempted to embrace nativist sentiments can find themselves talking and agreeing with like-minded new arrivals. For social cohesion, such conversations are precious.

Some would say the best way to address concerns over immigration would be to scale back the number of people coming in, especially from countries whose cultures are far removed from Canada’s Christian, European settler heritage. We can’t endorse that view. We know how important immigration is to smoothing the curve of an aging society with low fertility rates. And personally, we adore the multicultural ferment of our big cities.

But we must understand and accept that cultural insecurity affects millions of our fellow citizens. We must address those concerns by celebrating the best of what they cherish and by showing how immigrants cherish the same things – perhaps even more than some of the more progressive of their fellow citizens.

We need to remind ourselves that we are all in this together, old stock as well as new, and we all need to listen to each other with respect.

Otherwise, the next Donald Trump, the next noxious referendum, the next wall of exclusion await us all.

via What’s driving populism? It isn’t the economy, stupid – The Globe and Mail

The cautionary tale of Kellie Leitch: Stephen Maher on populism

Good reporting and analysis by Maher:

Still, there is no reason to be complacent.

Pollster Frank Graves, who recently completed a polling project for the Canadian Press to explore the prospects for northern populism, sees a shift in Canadian attitudes about the economy, immigration and trade that could provide an opening for someone like Leitch.

“I think Kouvalis was likely onto something in that this was a more resonant strategy,” Graves said Wednesday. “I think Kellie Leitch was mining a vein of this new ordered-populist outlook, which is expressing itself in the United Kingdom with Brexit and with Trump in the United States.”

Graves polled thousands of Canadians, putting them on a spectrum from open—pro-trade, with positive views on immigration—to ordered. He found a growing group of Canadians—particularly in southern Ontario—who are anxious about their economic prospects, hostile to the elite policy consensus, anxious about immigration and skeptical about the benefits of trade.

The highest scores were in Oshawa, Barrie, London, Hamilton and Windsor, places where many workers have had to leave traditional industrial jobs, much like the rust-belt voters who made Trump president.

The trend has reversed somewhat since 2015, when Justin Trudeau was elected, but Graves believes there is a significant constituency for a populist message, based mostly on economic pessimism. “It begins with economic despair but then mutates into fear of others, nativism, racism,” he says.

In 2002, 68 per cent of Canadians described themselves as middle class. By 2017, it had fallen as low as 43 per cent. Many people feel they are losing ground, and they are not convinced that the elites are looking out for their best interests.
“They say, quite rightly, this didn’t work for us,” says Graves. “We’re pissed off.”

But I don’t think that this means we can expect a Trump-style figure to arise in Canada. It’s hard to put together an anti-trade message that works in a country as dependent on exports as Canada is, and we are likely better at smoothly managing immigration than any other country in the world.

Ford, the most successful populist in recent Canadian history, was politically incorrect but he succeeded politically because he connected with non-white voters.

The Reform Party, which once flirted with anti-immigrant messages, abandoned those ideas and, after merging with the Progressive Conservatives, sent Jason Kenney around the country to connect with ethnic Canadians, a key part of their winning election strategy.

Conservatives who watched the party lose in 2015 after playing with divisive anti-Muslim rhetoric, do not think it is a winner at the ballot box. “For every vote you win that way, how many do you lose?” said one strategist.

There may come a day when anti-immigrant messages help someone like Leitch get ahead in Canadian politics, but her political career is a cautionary tale that ambitious would-be Trumps will ignore at their peril. In that sense, we should be grateful to her for her public service.

Source: The cautionary tale of Kellie Leitch