Donald: Give us your wired masses, yearning to breathe free

Intriguing idea of Scott Gilmore (have seen similar suggestions from India and Europe):

Two historic developments have aligned to create a momentary and monumental opportunity for Canada.

First, we are weathering a global pandemic that has dramatically changed the way the world works. Suddenly, we are all discovering that the technology exists to allow many of us to work remotely, and to continue to be effective doing so. In fact, experts are predicting a sizeable portion of the workforce will choose not to return to the office when this is over.

At the same time, a tide of nationalism has risen in many western countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. There, governments are making it increasingly difficult for immigrants to arrive or to stay.

For example, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that cancels the H-1B visa category, which permits highly skilled workers, who have already been offered a job by an American company, to live and work in the United States. American economists and CEOs are horrified at the decision. Without these well-trained immigrants, Silicon Valley would still be pastureland.

And here is Canada’s golden opportunity: we should immediately offer residency to all 85,000 holders of H-1B visas, permitting them to live in Canada while they work remotely for their current employers in the United States.

The benefits to Canada are numerous and obvious. To begin with, this would not take any existing jobs from Canadians. There are legitimate (albeit mostly misplaced) concerns that our current unemployment crisis would be exacerbated by increased immigration. Holders of this visa would be permitted to remain only if they have a full-time job in the United States (or another foreign country) that can be performed remotely.

It would give Canada an instant boost in revenue. These new arrivals might be working in the U.S., but they’d be paying their taxes and spending their paycheques here. Our services industry is in desperate need of a boost, and with international travel facing a long recovery, relying on foreign tourism will not be enough. We can replace that by effectively transplanting billions in household spending that is currently rooted south of the border.

This new visa class would be a tremendous boost to our pool of creative and productive talent. Canada has traditionally been a runner up when it comes to attracting the world’s best and brightest. This has gradually been changing, but this new visa could accelerate the shift. We would inject some of the world’s brightest minds into our cities, and if the visa provided a pathway for citizenship, we could hold on to that talent and all the benefits it would bring.

As many public policy experts, demographers, economists and others have pointed out, we need more Canadians. We have an ageing population that will produce relatively less tax revenue to support a growing number of elderly people. And if we want to achieve our full potential, we need a critical mass of talented citizens to do so. This is an argument that has been best made by Globe and Mail writer Doug Saunders in his recent book ‘Maximum Canada’. This visa class is one of the easiest paths towards that goal. The U.S. government has basically pre-screened all these immigrants, vetted them for security and health issues, confirmed they are employable, and socialized them to living in a western democracy. We should be paying Washington for the privilege of taking these people off their hands.

This visa would be an obvious blessing for the would-be immigrants. Unwelcome in the U.S. and facing unemployment, they will be greeted warmly here and allowed to continue to do their work and even remain in the same time zone. What’s more, they will benefit from Canada’s high quality of life, and excellent (but improvable) health-care system.

They will also discover that the American Dream has moved north. Compared to the United States, Canada now has higher rates of employment, education and homeownership. We even have longer lives and more vacation days. And while working from home is not ideal, all of our major cities now have ample shared workspace facilities.

This visa is even good for American employers. First and foremost, they get to keep their talent. And, they would no longer have to pay extravagant health insurance costs. Even Donald Trump would welcome this move. In his mind, out of sight is out of mind and these would be just one less class of immigrants to worry about.

We could call this an IWFC: an International Work From Canada visa and offer it to more than just H-1B candidates. If someone has a high paying job in Paris that they can do on their laptop from Montreal, why wouldn’t we want them to do so? It is a new world, and we need to look at it from a new angle. As the global workforce shifts to tele-commuting, the idea of living in Whistler while managing a marketing team in San Jose is not only possible, it is logical.

If Canada were to seize this opportunity, we would have to do it fast. Other countries are likely considering something similar. Who wouldn’t? And, the American election is just months away. The political landscape could shift, and this incredible pool of talent might be allowed to remain in the U.S. Let’s act before then, let’s bring them home to Canada, before someone else puts out their own welcome mat first.

Source: Donald: Give us your wired masses, yearning to breathe free

You can’t drink an apology

A somewhat cynical column by Scott Gilmore on apologies. While I agree that an apology by itself may not address (or redress) historic injustices, their symbolic value should not be discounted:

Canadian parliamentarians are so chronically petty and partisan they typically cannot agree on the colour of the sky. Yet, all but 10 were able to agree on one seemingly important issue yesterday. They voted in favor of an apology for the now infamous residential school system.

Our political leaders have already made two previous apologies for the residential schools. A decade ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons to express our collective regret and then nine years later his successor Justin Trudeau repeated the apology, this time while in Newfoundland. For this third time they’ve opted to kick it upstairs to a higher authority, the Pope.

Our MPs were unified in believing that since we’ve already done our bit and apologized, and given that the corrosive legacy of the residential schools continues to persist, obviously it’s now someone else’s turn to sort this thing out. Amen.

It has been theorized that there are 12 different types of Canadian “sorries,” including the “sympathetic,” the “ostentatious,” and even the “libidinous.” There is, in fact, a thirteenth type: the “political.”

Abroad, we have the reputation for being chronic apologizers. Compared to our politicians, though, the average Canadian looks callously unrepentant. An incomplete list of their official apologies includes Acadians for being deported in the 1700s, Japanese-Canadians for interment during World War Two, Chinese-Canadians for imposing a head tax, Sikh-Canadians for turning away migrants, and gay and lesbian Canadians for discrimination.

All these official “sorries” have two things in common, which explains why our politicians are so eagerly remorseful. First, the official apology is the least expensive thing they can do. In many of these cases the legacy of the original sin is so vast and pervasive there would not be enough money in the federal treasury to fully repair the damages done to the victims or their descendants. By comparison, apologies are cheap and in full supply. Here, have another.

Second, these statements of regret are for sins committed almost entirely by white, male, straight Canadians. We, as a group, have done very well over the last few centuries. And while our position of power and wealth is no longer unassailable, we’re still on top and would like to stay there. When public values shift, and we are forced to acknowledge that our previous behavior was utterly criminal, we really don’t want to do anything too dramatic.

In light of this, and the low cost, it is obvious why our political leaders like to apologize so often. But it’s well past time we recognized these rituals for what they are: distractions. The politicians making the apology (or telling the Pope he should), are probably genuinely remorseful for the sins of the past. But sincerity will not right past wrongs. Even worse, it just reduces the pressure to prevent future ones.

Consider the fact that just hours after the House voted on the Pope’s apology, the Prime Minister was across the river in Gatineau speaking at the Assembly of First Nations. There he pledged (again) to fix the water problems plaguing Canadian reserves for decades. There are currently 76 Indigenous communities without clean drinking water. Since coming to office, the Liberal government has managed to remove 61 communities off that list, but another 32 were added.

If the people of Rosedale or Westmount woke up this morning to discover they had to boil their tap water, the problem would be fixed by the end of the day.

Given this indisputable truth, standing in front of a room of Indigenous leaders to promise yet again that we are eventually going to fix this should be so unbearably humiliating that it would render Trudeau speechless from shame. Instead, he walked up to the podium with a smile. He had just voted for another apology (via the Pope). That’s something. It’s a step in the right direction. Sure, you can’t drink an apology, but it’s progress. Right?

Source: You can’t drink an apology

Canada’s last lines of defence against populism: Geddes and Gilmore contrasting views

Two contrasting views on the risks of populism in Canada, starting with the stronger one IMO by John Geddes:

If the Canadian election map makes taking an anti-immigrant line a losing proposition, and the Canadian way of choosing party leaders makes it hard for a populist outsider to win, there’s still the possibility that the Conservatives might try to activate the economic side of populism.

Even there, though, the formula behind Trump and Brexit doesn’t look like a natural fit in Canada. Trump blended his anti-immigrant rhetoric with promises to scrap or overhaul free-trade agreements. The Brexit forces linked discomfort with foreigners to resentment of the EU free-trading order. But in Canada, liberalized trade enjoys broad buy-in—particularly on the political right, and notably in the Conservatives’ resource-exporting western strongholds.

So echoing Trump and the Brexiters in railing against unfair foreign competition is a non-starter for Canadian Conservatives. That leaves, perhaps, finding a way to give voice to the anxieties of that broad swath of Canadians who, as Graves portrays them, fear that the middle class is shrinking and that opportunities for their children and grandchildren are dwindling.

But the Tories would find themselves playing catch-up with the Liberals when it comes to tailoring a populist message for those worried voters. Trudeau has been arguing since 2014 that failure to push income growth down from high-earners to middle-class families would eventually prompt a dangerous backlash. His answer, or at least part of it, came in last year’s budget, in the forms of a modest middle-income tax cut, an upper-income tax hike and a significant boost in federal payments to parents.

Is more policy in the same vein coming in next month’s 2017 budget? In a significant recent speech in Germany, at Hamburg’s annual St. Matthew’s Day Banquet, Trudeau strongly suggested he isn’t done trying salve that middle-class sense of grievance. “With the pace of globalization and technological change,” he said, “there is a very real fear out there that our kids will be worse off than we are.”

Adopting his own version of the populist line, Trudeau took direct aim at corporations that post record profits but somehow can’t afford to offer job security to their workers. “Increasing inequality has made citizens distrust their governments, distrust their employers,” he added. “It turns into ‘us vs. them.’ ”

From the sounds of his Hamburg speech, Trudeau doesn’t intend to leave the next Conservative leader any easy opening to outdo him when it comes to giving voice to the disquiet of Canadians who believe the economic order is stacked against their families. It remains to be seen what additional policies the Liberals unveil in the upcoming budget to back up that rhetoric.

If Trudeau fails to deliver, a right-leaning populist might seize the chance to try to fill the vacuum. Overall, though, the prospects for a right-of-centre populist movement in Canada look dim, even though opinion in Canada, according to pollsters like Graves and academics like Donnelly, contains plenty of the same mix of fear and pessimism that fuelled Trump and Brexit.

There’s no shortage of Canadians who, if they’d heard Ted Falk wishing God’s blessing for Donald Trump, might well have said, “Amen.” But if they’re hoping that Trump-style populism will slip across the border and succeed in Canadian politics, they’re likely to discover that Canada’s welcoming reputation has its limits.

Less convincing, in my view, is Scott Gilmore’s, who views the increased number of foreign-born as a risk, in contrast to Geddes who notes the political importance of that demographic, particularly in the battle ground suburban ridings needed to win:

Which brings us to Canada. Will we see a similar rise in populism here? When I sat down to write this column, my instinctive answer was “no.” I agreed with many of the arguments made by my colleague John Geddes, who sees systemic and political barriers to Canadian populism. My thinking was that the apparent growth in global populism is because we are focused on Trump and starting to pay attention. But where I could find data, it didn’t support my conclusion. One study from Harvard, for example, found that support for populist parties on both the left and the right has grown undeniably and steadily since the 1960s, doubling its support since then.

But it was another study completed late last year by a group of academics from the U.S., Europe and Japan that left me especially troubled. They looked at a dozen European countries to see if there was a correlation between the relative size of the immigrant population and the support for right-wing populist movements. The researchers found that there was a direct connection, and that support grew at an increasing rate as the size of the immigrant population grew. And what is more, their data suggested there was a “tipping point” in western societies: when immigrants comprised 22 per cent of the population, support for anti-immigrant parties approached a political majority. If a country takes in too many immigrants, a populist backlash may be unavoidable.

In Canada, our foreign-born population is already at 20 per cent and growing. This is far higher than in the United States and (except for Luxembourg and Switzerland, where there are large numbers of itinerant professional residents like bankers) it is far higher than in any other European nation. And it’s getting bigger. Statistics Canada just released a report that projected Canada’s immigrant population will increase to between 26 per cent and 30 per cent within two decades. This puts Canada well beyond the theoretical 22 per cent threshold in the European study.

It makes sense that countries become unstable with too many foreigners. I have first-hand experience in places like Pakistan and Timor Leste, where sudden massive influxes of refugees can pull a country apart at the seams. But is it possible that even when immigrants arrive gradually and they are integrated successfully, it can still destabilize a country? Perhaps a populist backlash is inevitable in Western democracies when the immigrant population grows to a certain size.

This is not because the newcomers bring crime or undermine our democratic institutions (they do neither), but because the native citizens, whether they are Canadians or Austrians or Americans, instinctively feel threatened by newcomers. Perhaps the experiences add up—new faces on TV, new clothes in the street, new music on the radio—until the average person reaches a tipping point and pushes back. After all, a fear of strangers is wired into our brains, an instinct that kept us alive in our tribal past.

If this is true, it upends a lot of assumptions that this country is built on regarding multiculturalism, pluralism and immigration. Canada may be facing larger global forces, tectonic shifts which are are not felt until it’s too late and a populist earthquake shatters our carefully built house of peace, order and good government.

This election will be won on citizenship issues. To our shame – Gilmore

Scott Gilmore on the identity politics of citizenship and the niqab:

You can be sure that Immigration Minister Chris Alexander does not actually think a new tip line is an effective safeguard to prevent honour killings. Similarly, no one in Harper’s circle genuinely believes that two women in niqabs pose any threat to our social fabric, nor our security. Likewise, Harper doesn’t really worry that accepting 10,000 refugees (1/30th of one per cent of our population) over the course of two months, versus two years, will harm our country in any way. And his security experts have never suggested that the most expedient additional measure to safeguard Canadians from terrorist attacks is to strip a dozen criminals of their citizenship.

What the Conservatives do believe, however, is that encouraging one group of Canadians to fear another group of Canadians is an exceptionally effective way to get out the vote. When written so bluntly, it sounds preposterous. But that’s what identity politics is: a conscious effort to divide the body politic, and set it against itself. In this election, the CPC politicians have talked about citizenship almost constantly and, every time, it involved Muslim Canadians. Every time, it was so they could pit Canadians against Canadians.

The free-trade election of 1988 settled the question: “Are Canadians brave enough to enter the global economy?” The citizenship election of 2015 will decide if Canadians are brave enough to trust each other in the face of fear-mongering and bigot-baiting.

Escaping the election cocoon

Good piece by Scott Gilmore on the risks of living in a bubble (I try to ensure my newsfeed includes a range of perspectives). As always, it starts from mindfulness of one’s own biases and applies to more than just politics).

Sound advice:

Unfortunately, our habit of tuning out ideas and voices we don’t like is part of our biological programming. “Confirmation bias,” the tendency to search for information that confirms our beliefs and to remember it longer, is a well-documented and inescapable element of our behavior. As a result, we instinctively tailor our universe to limit the emotionally upsetting views that contradict us. Until recently, the shortage of media choices made this hard to do. Left or right, we all watched the same suppertime newscast. Now, it’s finally possible to be bound in a nutshell, and count ourselves kings of infinite space, because we can avoid any bad dreams.

This has been very apparent in the refugee debate. A significant number of Canadians are opposed to allowing in more Syrians, due to the possibility that they would include Islamic State supporters, or that they would spread Islam or because we should be helping our own poor first. If you listen to a specific set of radio stations, read certain blogs and interact with people similar to yourself on Facebook, these ideas aren’t only defensible, they are overwhelmingly obvious.

Likewise, another group of Canadians who subscribe to different newspapers, listen to the CBC and read the Huffington Post are equally convinced of the self evident fact that there is a clear need for Canada to do more, and accepting far more refugees would neither strain our economy nor our social fabric. In reality, both sides are filtering out important pieces of information, making it impossible to see the full picture. Which is why neither group can grasp how anyone could possibly be so asinine as to dispute what is so clearly self-evident.

This is bad, and not just because it prevents us from having civil conversations about Canada’s refugee and immigration policies. It creates a lack of empathy that leads us to denigrate and dismiss the opinions of others. The leaders of all political parties, who are equally unable to acknowledge they do not have a monopoly on the truth, demonstrate this attitude repeatedly.

Our self-made cocoons also impair our ability to make intelligent decisions. In this election, most voters will not watch a single debate, read any of the party platforms or attend any campaign events. They don’t need to. They already know whom they’re going to vote for and, coincidentally, everyone else in his or her cocoon is voting the same way.

And for those we ultimately elect? Their own filters will make their governing decisions less effective. Ruling parties of all stripes tend only to listen to academics who support their agenda, only attend rallies that contain true believers, only read newspapers that  endorse their policies and only engage constituents who already voted for them. If it looks as if the Conservative party has only been thinking about its base for the last nine years, it’s because that’s literally true.

There are ways to cut through these cocoons, however. Just by being aware that you are constantly self-censoring the information that reaches you helps. You can also consciously resist the urge to mute the outspoken critic on Twitter, or unfollow the Facebook friend who shares articles in support of that politician you loathe. One step further would be to actually read some of those articles, or pick up a newspaper you wouldn’t normally read, no matter how much of a rag you think it is.

Source: Escaping the election cocoon

Why its time for Canada to grow up – Increasing immigration

Pretty shallow argumentation, with no evidence apart from asserting it will be so.

No mention of inequality issues and that some communities are struggling more than others that the NHS and various studies make clear.

While overall Canada’s success at integration is almost unique in the world, simply assuming we could scale up immigration, integration, citizenship and multiculturalism by 50 percent a year is naive at best.

It would not be hard. Now at 34 million people, we would only need an annual growth rate of 1.3 per cent to reach that target. Assuming our fertility rates remain low, this means an additional 186,000 migrants annually, bringing our total immigration numbers to 444,000 per year. This may sound like a lot, but we could absorb them easily. By comparison to most cities around the world, Canadian urban areas are sprawling and empty. Even if we doubled our immigration numbers, the lineup at Tim Hortons would stay the same. It would only increase our workforce by one per cent per year, a number that our economy could easily engage, especially if we continue to recruit and favour skilled and educated migrants.

More immigrants mean more minds, more hands and more tax dollars. There is a misconception that new arrivals are a net drain on our economy. In fact, they are more entrepreneurial and work longer hours than average Canadians. The added muscle would make us smarter, stronger and louder.

While my bias is towards more pro-immigration rhetoric than the anti-immigration crowd, this has to be grounded in reality, and recognition that our absorptive capacity cannot be increasing by wishing it was so.

Why its time for Canada to grow up –