Inroads 29 | page 1
The Canadian Journal of Opinion | Issue No. 29 | Summer/Fall 2011
FRON T M AT T E R After the election: What have we wrought? Inroads election editorials by John Richards, Bob Chodos and Henry Milner...6
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IN ROA DS LIS T S E R V
Letter to the editor Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare: Doubts about the doubts...22
WikiLeaks: Freedom of information hero or anarchist wrecker?...26
The Inroads listserv’s campaign diary...33
IN ROA DS COLU M NIS T S A system that worked First-past-the-post brought the change voters were looking for
The great recession (of the left)
The Christian right, Israel and Stephen Harper
by Finn Poschmann...10
by Reg Whitaker...14
by Arthur Milner...18
FOR EIGN P OLI CY
LO OKING BACK
LO OKING FOR WA R D
Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, 50 years later
Politics, new style
by Pierre Fortin...90
Are two nontraditional campaigns harbingers of change or momentary hiccups? by Roberta Lexier...100
BO OK S New players on the international scene and Mario Vargas Llosa and the end of authoritarian regimes
The treason of the intellectuals − again by Philip Resnick...58
An introduction by Henry Milner...42
Al Qaeda challenge, American response
An Establishment answer to Canadian declinism
by Carl Cavanagh Hodge...108
by Gareth Morley...118
Transformation, continuity and diffusion South Africa’s foreign policy under Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma
That doleful October, 40 years later − 1
by Chris Landsberg...64
Voices of dissent, in English
The francophone discovery of Jewish Quebec
by Pierre Joncas...124
That doleful October, 40 years later − 2
Rebranding the oil sands
China has astonished the world, but is the dragon as formidable as it looks?
Without concrete action, efforts to portray Canada as a clean energy superpower are likely to fail
CIDA, governance and Muhammad Yunus
by Reg Whitaker...44
by Richard Nimijean...76
by John Richards...86
The Beijing Consensus
PUBLISHERS Henry Milner and John Richards
BOOK REVIEW EDITOR Reg Whitaker
MANAGING EDITOR Bob Chodos
LISTSERV MODERATOR Dominic Cardy
EDITORIAL BOARD Linda Cardinal, Dominic Cardy, Bob Chodos, Arthur Milner, Henry Milner, Finn Poschmann, Philip Resnick, John Richards, Reg Whitaker
DESIGN & PRODUCTION Nadene Rehnby & Pete Tuepah
circulation manager Frances Boylston
WEBSITE DESIGN CWA with Paul Barber © Contents may not be
reprinted without permission
BUSINESS MANAGER Frances Boylston
Published twice a year by Inroads Journal Publishing Inc.
by Bob Chodos...136
We acknowledge the financial assistance of the Canadian Government through the Canada Magazine Fund and Publications Assistance Program Printed by Printwell Offset, Brampton, Ontario Member of Magazines Canada and the Independent Press Association
For Louis Hamelin, Quebec is characterized by its flatness by Patrick Coleman...130
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Introducing Inroads 29
has been remarked that a century generally does not take shape until its second decade. That was certainly true of the last century, whose tragic destiny was first played out on the battlefields of France and Belgium. Whether the same will hold for this century will be for future historians to decide. There is no doubt, however, that in the first half of 2011 there has been shifting ground. The most dramatic events have been in the Middle East and North Africa. Elsewhere in the world, new forces have been emerging as well. Even in Canada, in our typically restrained way, an election that seemed set to give us a repeat of past parliaments produced what may be a long-term political realignment. When the government was defeated in the House and the election was called in late March, we decided to adjust our production schedule so that we could take account of the results. We do so with the editorial that follows this introduction and Finn Poschmann’s page 4 | front matter
column, while also giving some of the flavour of the campaign through our selection from the listserv. However, we decided to persist with our original intention of devoting this issue primarily to foreign policy. As a twice-yearly journal we cannot keep up with the roiling changes in the Middle East, but we have been able to take an in-depth look at two rising powers: China and South Africa. Reg Whitaker examines the far-reaching changes in China with an eye toward how they affect China’s stance in international affairs. He describes China’s growing assertiveness, especially in Asia, and its emergence as an imperial power, but he is sceptical of claims that China and the United States are inevitably on a collision course. Chris Landsberg relates how former President Thabo Mbeki manoeuvred South Africa into a position of significant influence in Africa and elsewhere. The current President, Jacob Zuma, has been less sure-footed in foreign policy, and South Africa may gradually lose its strategic place in world affairs.
We also look at two aspects of Canadian foreign policy. Richard Nimijean describes how efforts to “brand” Canada as a “clean energy superpower” are being undermined because reality – especially the development of the Alberta oil sands – does not match the rhetoric. John Richards accuses the Canadian International Development Agency of a kind of “Canadian angélisme” that prevents grappling with harsh political realities in many “countries of focus” for Canadian aid. The most dramatic current example is to ignore the campaign of character assassination waged by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina against Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank. And we do touch on the Middle East, even if obliquely. More saddened than outraged, Philip Resnick points to how Western intellectuals, many of them with sterling reputations as democrats, were taken in by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. Henry Milner directs our attention to Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel about the fall of a dictator in the Dominican Republic, The Feast of the Goat, which although set in a very different historical context offers insights into the process taking place in the Middle East in the past few months. This issue’s focus on international affairs spills over into the book review section. Carl Cavanagh Hodge looks at two books on the American conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and finds considerable continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations. Gareth Morley examines a significant book on Canadian foreign policy, Paul Heinbecker’s Getting Back in the Game.
Also in this issue: •
Pierre Fortin looks back at Quebec’s Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, and finds that its goals have been achieved to a remarkable degree.
Roberta Lexier sees the election of Naheed Nenshi as Mayor of Calgary and Ryan Meili’s nearly successful campaign for the leadership of the Saskatchewan NDP as possible harbingers of change in Canadian politics.
Columnist Reg Whitaker asks why the political benefit from the financial collapse of 2008 was reaped more by the right than by the left, while Arthur Milner suggests that the Harper government’s unshakeable support of Israel is designed to appeal more to Christian than to Jewish votes.
Pierre Joncas and Patrick Coleman review two books that cast new light on the October Crisis of 1970, while I look at three new books in French that touch, in one way or another, on Quebec’s Jewish community.
Camil Bouchard and John Richards continue the debate on Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare program that began in the last issue of Inroads.
In another selection from the listserv, participants debate the complex questions of privacy and freedom of information raised by the WikiLeaks website’s release of thousands of diplomatic cables last December. — Bob Chodos Inroads 29 | page 5
After the election: What have we wrought? The sun is shining still
here are two obvious winners in this election – Stephen Harper and Jack Layton. Harper has his long-sought majority. It will allow him, he says, to implement his agenda unimpeded by the messy compromises imposed by a minority Parliament. What agenda? He may, for example, rein in the family unification component of immigration. While this is controversial, there is a case for doing so in order to reduce the risk of ethnic “ghettos” that fracture the national community. He may insist that the Department of Indian Affairs finally get serious about the low quality of federally funded on-reserve schools. Again controversial but also justifiable. On the other hand, Harper may pursue the least attractive features of his reign: foot dragging and obfuscation on the climate change file, accelerating tar sands development in his home province, wielding arbitrary control via the PMO over far too many dimensions of the federal bureaucracy. Layton deserves credit for overcoming an obstacle that has frustrated every leader of the Canadian left since J.S. Woodsworth led the CCF in the depths of the Great Depression. Finally, Quebec social democrats have voted for the same party as their anglophone comrades. The Achilles heel of the federal NDP has always been a chronic inability to undertake an adult conversation with supporters on how to pay for an expanded public sector. The NDP makes the case for better pensions, more generous medicare, universal child care and so on, but degenerates into waffle on the subject of taxes.
page 6 | front matter
Layton has been more guilty of tax waffle than his predecessors. In the 2008 election, Stéphane Dion attempted to persuade Canadians to “do something” about climate change through a carbon tax. Layton opposed this “Green Shift” and argued for a nebulous cap-and-trade alternative. He also opposed the pioneering British Columbia carbon tax introduced that year. In addition, every European government – including every European social democratic party – has endorsed consumption taxation based on the principle of taxing “value added” at each stage of business. Not the NDP. Layton ran television ads against the Ontario valueadded tax (the HST) and verbally damned the B.C. equivalent. Beyond the uncertainties of their respective agendas, Harper and Layton are Americanizing our politics – creating the Canadian equivalent of blue and red states. Canadian Conservatives insist on a “low tax advantage” that implicitly sets U.S. taxing effort as the ideal; they have become geographically concentrated in traditional “have” provinces. Of their 167 seats, 133 are in the resource-rich provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan plus Ontario. The Canadian left looks set to be the voice of “have not” provinces interested in greater interpersonal and interregional income redistribution: 64 of the NDP’s 102 seats lie in Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Maybe I’m wrong about the failings of our leaders and the polarizing potential of the election. Admittedly, not all ridings in “have” provinces are wealthy, nor are all ridings in “have not” provinces poor. The morning after
The NDP makes the case for better pensions, more generous medicare, universal child care and so on, but degenerates into waffle on the subject of taxes. Layton has been more guilty of tax waffle than his predecessors. a night of counting Canadians’ ballot choices, the spring sun is shining on my corner of this very privileged country. Maybe it will continue to shine on us in the coming Parliament. — John Richards
Two elections in one A Canadian federal election is best seen as being made up of two subelections, one in Quebec and one in the rest of the country. Most of the time the two subelections have very different outcomes, and May 2 was no exception. The Quebec subelection was won handily by Jack Layton’s NDP, while the Harper Conservatives lost ground in terms of both seats and the popular vote. The ROC subelection was a solid victory for the Conservatives. For the New Democrats, it was a successful election but not a breakthrough: the 44 seats they took outside Quebec was an improvement of one over their previous high of 43 in a smaller House in 1988 (an election in which they won no Quebec seats). What the two subelections have in common is that both were disastrous for the Liberals. That Quebec and the rest of the country follow different political paths has consequences. These consequences are as real when Quebec gives its support to an ostensibly federalist party such as the NDP as they were when it was dominated by the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois. While the differences may turn Inroads 29 | page 7
more on social issues than on the national question, the fact remains that Stephen Harper built a majority without Quebec, and is likely to pursue an agenda to which most Quebecers, and almost all of their representatives in Parliament, are opposed. Nor should the turn from the Bloc to the NDP be interpreted as a turn away from Quebec nationalism. While much remains to be discovered about the NDP’s Quebec caucus – which represents a majority of the whole NDP caucus – it is clear that it contains many Quebec nationalists within its ranks. Quebecers will expect their new NDP MPs, like the Bloc MPs who preceded them, to represent the interests of Quebec in Ottawa. Those MPs will face additional pressure if, as expected, the Quebec election that will take place within the next two years results in a victory for Pauline Marois’s Parti Québécois. Whether a rejection of the Bloc was a primary reason for the NDP wave can also be questioned. Although reduced to four seats, at 23 per cent the Bloc remains a solid second in the popular vote, well ahead of the Conservatives and Liberals. In his blog on the day after the election, columnist Jean-François Lisée suggested that while Quebecers wanted to “escape” from the status quo and the Bloc offered them nothing new, they weren’t angry with the Bloc. Their anger was directed at the Conservatives and Liberals and the Bloc was more a “collateral victim” than a target. In short, the declaration heard from many commentators after the election that this was a great victory for federalism may be a little premature. — Bob Chodos page 8 | front matter
Polls, young voters and Vote Compass We all expected a cliffhanger. But we were disappointed. With the last polls showing the Tories at 35 per cent and the NDP at 30, a Tory majority appeared less likely than the NDP and Liberals combined winning more seats than the Conservatives and in a position to govern together. But a Conservative majority was evident a short time after the polls closed. With the largest party garnering close to 40 per cent, the result was much the same as during the 1990s, except that our electoral system rewarded Harper rather than Chrétien. Why did the polls get it wrong? The answer is actually quite simple. The polls showed Tory voters generally to be more enthusiastic about their choice and less likely to change their minds, more positive about the way the country was moving than the other parties’ supporters were negative, and more certain to vote. While the pollsters tried to take these factors into consideration, they did not account for the other crucial factor. Table 1 shows how intention to vote for the Conservatives broke down by age groups. In 2008, according to Elections Canada’s estimates, 18-to-25-year-olds turned out at 37 per cent while turnout of over-55s was 67 per cent. If, as is likely, something similar happened this time, then we need look no further to explain the gap between the polls and the actual results. We won’t know for sure until we get the breakdown in turnout by age, which takes Elections Canada months to complete. Admittedly, there was more of a concerted effort to get young citizens to the polls, but having investigated the phenomenon of young political dropouts in Canada and elsewhere, I suspect that the effect was marginal.
Table 1: INTENTION TO VOTE CONSERVATIVE BY AGE, % AGE
18–24 25–44 45–64 65+
22.7 31.3 36.8 43.9
Source: EKOS Research Associates (other pollsters provided similar numbers).
Observers agree that this was the nastiest election in living memory, and all the attack ads certainly couldn’t have helped generate interest among politically apathetic young people. It was not only the Tories – though they started it with their repeated refrain that Michael Ignatieff “did not come back to Canada for you.” Apparently it was a Conservative-backed website alleging that his father wasn’t the poor immigrant Ignatieff made him out to be that drove the Liberal leader to release attack ads with a parallel message. After telling us that “the Prime Minister acts like he’s above the law,” they asked, “Is this your Canada? Or Harper’s Canada?” Some potential young voters may have been driven to vote for the NDP by this kind of campaigning by the other two. But some others were surely turned off voting altogether, or rather not turned on. Getting them to vote will take a more systematic effort, starting with what goes on in school – in civic education. Here a new wrinkle in this election could prove useful: the CBC’s Vote Compass. There is no indication that it brought young citizens out to vote this time, but the potential is there. In this election Vote Compass served especially to illustrate graphically to anyone who used it that we have four centre-left parties and one centre-right party – that the distance between the Conservatives and the other
four parties on 30 campaign-related issues is notably greater than the distance among those four. This makes it plain for all to see that we elected a majority government opposed not only at the ballot box but on underlying issues by 60 per cent of voters – something that should be disturbing even to defenders of our electoral system. The right-wing media were convinced of a pro-Liberal bias in Vote Compass, as a creature of the CBC and left-leaning academics. In reality there was no intended bias, but the methodology tends to favour the more moderate party in that the way it is set up, for most users it does not take intensity into account. A Conservative supporter who takes a conservative position on that minority of the 30 questions that really matter to him or her, but a more moderate position on the remaining questions, can end up being placed in the Liberal camp. In the end, though, given the very poor showing of the Liberals, Vote Compass could not have changed many minds. Nor does it seem to have affected overall turnout, which stood at 61.4 per cent, a small increase over the 2008 turnout of 58.8 per cent, the lowest ever recorded. Yet Internet user–friendly innovations like Vote Compass do have a potential for bolstering youth participation if used effectively. Similar systems in other countries allow users not only to find out more readily where each party stands on each question, but also to view the arguments underlying those positions, as well as relevant facts and figures, as they make their decision. And in some countries they are incorporated into civic education classes and other activities aimed at young people. — Henry Milner Inroads 29 | page 9
Inroads 29 | OPINION
A system that worked First-past-the-post brought the change that voters were looking for
by Finn Poschmann
write in the aftermath of the May 2 federal election, amid a wide-eyed and surprised electorate. From that surprise I draw some thoughts on voting systems and behaviour, and make some predictions about agenda-setting.
Finn Poschmann is Vice President, Research, of the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto and an Inroads columnist and editorial board member.
The surprise, of course, is the product of an election that, at
its outset, was quite emphatically an election about nothing – one which brought to the surface very few significant policy distinctions among parties and where no scandalous behaviour seized or held public attention. Political leaders and their spokespersons made mistakes, but there was no single vote-polarizing issue evident at the outset, and no single game-changer as the election wore on. And yet this election-about-nothing drove a meaningful increase in voter turnout, delivered a clear majority mandate to Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party of Canada, dealt a crushing blow to the near-term hopes of the Liberal Party, removed the Bloc Québécois as a political force in Quebec or anywhere else, and firmly installed the New Democratic Party as the official opposition.
page 10 | FRONT MATTER
This unexpectedly clear outcome, this sharp delivery of change to the political landscape, reflects a system that worked. Our archaic first-past-the-post election machinery produced the sort of change that many voters seemed to want and expect. My hypothesis, or claim, is that this unexpectedly clear outcome, this sharp delivery of change to the political landscape, reflects a system that worked. Our archaic first-past-the-post election machinery successfully aggregated voters’ preferences, counting them up on a local basis, and produced the sort of change that many voters seemed to want and expect. And it did so in the context of regional differences, which the system reflected in a way that a proportional voting system would not have. To sustain this argument, I begin by looking at vote distributions at the national level, then contrast those results with a view that separates Quebec’s quite distinct distribution from the rest of Canada’s. First, the national popular vote share for the Conservative Party was just under 40 per cent, a share that would not historically be presumed to deliver a clear majority. Yet the Conservatives won 167 seats, 54 per cent of the total. On this view, the Conservatives got a good deal, in that each percentage point of the votes won them more than 1⅓ per cent of the seats. Their bang for the buck, or terms-of-trade, expressed as a seats-to-votes ratio, was 1.37 – whereas under a “pure” proportional voting system that ratio would be near 1.00. Contrarily, the Liberal Party was unable to trade its votes for seats on such good terms. Each percentage point of votes bought it only 0.58 per cent of the seats – not a very good exchange rate, but not an untypical one in a multiparty parliamentary system. Nationally, the Bloc Québécois’s province-specific focus ensured that it would get less, and it did, with a ratio of 0.22, and the Green Party even less, at 0.08 per cent of seats per percentage point of votes. And that, of course, is why fringe parties always favour proportional representation. This traditional, top-line view, however, does not well reflect the obvious regional dynamics driving voter preferences, which have led to a profound reshaping of Parliament. Separating Quebec voting data from the national total reveals a different seat purchasing power for the parties, one which more realistically reflects what voters did. In Quebec, the Liberals performed similarly to elsewhere – their 14 per cent of the vote bought them 9 per cent of the seats, for a trade ratio of 0.66, versus 0.56 outside Quebec. The Conservatives managed a trade ratio of only 0.48 and the Bloc converted votes to seats at a dismal – for them – rate of 0.23. The New Democratic Party clearly got a very good deal in Quebec, winning 1.80 per cent of the seats for each 1 per cent of the vote. Outside Quebec, things were truer to their historical form, and the NDP’s votes turned to seats at a 0.72 trade ratio. Inroads 29 | page 11
This rehearsal of numbers pitches actual results against those that would flow from a purely hypothetical proportional norm, fully recognizing that if our system was in fact proportional then parties and voters might have behaved differently. My message, however, is that the existing first-past-the-post mechanism delivered profound change, when so many observers argued that it could or would not. To be clear, the regional dimension to Canadian voting, and likewise the distinction between Quebecers and voters elsewhere, is hardly new. Nor is it new that vote splits should matter. The regional results of the actual vote, however, do matter in interpreting the political message. One key point is the newly gained, or regained, confluence of political interests between Ontario and the western provinces. As distinct from a generation ago, the Conservative Party’s voting strength, its majority, derives from seats in the west and Ontario, not the west plus Quebec. And this is a result not of change in the west or Quebec, but of Ontario voters’ at least temporary rejection of the federal Liberal Party’s agenda. Things are different in Quebec, where all the usual parties were rejected but the NDP resonated as a resting place for discouraged voters. Hence Quebecers will now be represented by a party mostly lacking operational infrastructure within the province and, for the near term, the ability to operate in French. An odd state of affairs, but one chosen resoundingly by those same voters. While claiming success for the first-past-the-post electoral mechanism, owing to its demonstrated ability to capture regional dynamics, I hasten to add that mixed-member or multimember proportional systems, a common mechanism for implementing proportional representation, are capable of capturing some of these elements. But in doing so, they are simply capturing what first-past-the-post already does well. The bottom line for this election is that Canada’s creaky old mechanism delivered change where little might have been expected. And lest the point be missed, the new configuration reflects a regional division that again leaves Quebec with a limited role within government. That will matter on some important agenda items that the Conservative majority may wish to address:
One key point is the newly gained, or regained, confluence of political interests between Ontario and the western provinces. As distinct from a generation ago, the Conservative Party’s voting strength, its majority, derives from seats in the west and Ontario, not the west plus Quebec.
On corporation income tax relief, the Conservatives’ program clearly has the approval of voters. However, it is one of the few economic areas where the cleavage among parties is abundantly clear, and Quebec’s views will be represented through the NDP’s opposition
page 12 | FRONT MATTER
The issue of a national regulator for securities markets is before the Supreme Court at the time of writing; if the Court sides with the government, the Conservatives will be emboldened to push forward their plan. It is an understatement to say that such a push will not be well received in Quebec.
to the government and to the tax relief agenda. Yet it seems likely that this is one area where the government’s view will dominate easily, and one unlikely to generate significant public unrest in Quebec. •
The Conservative government’s agenda also contains a commitment to a national regulator for securities markets. The issue is before the Supreme Court at the time of writing; if the Court sides with the government, the Conservatives will be emboldened to push forward their plan, which will be supported in Ontario. However, the push for federal paramountcy runs headlong into a traditional area (property) where provinces’ constitutional primacy has historically been recognized. It is an understatement to say that such a push will not be well received in Quebec, and it may achieve some resonance among the public for that reason.
Agricultural supply management, particularly with respect to dairy and poultry farming, holds back the development of Canada’s food processing segment, raises prices to consumers and presents a barrier to international trade liberalization. The Conservatives have committed themselves to defending the dairy cartel, but this is one area where economics may successfully militate for a change to the political agenda. It is a mercantile issue for Quebec farmers, and they represent a powerful political constituency; proposals for change, however incremental, will attract fiery opposition. That said, if there was a time and opportunity for a government to implement change in this realm, it is now.
Taken together, Canadians’ voting choices have delivered extremely interesting change to the political landscape. This fact, I believe, will defuse the calls for electoral reform that might otherwise arise from unusual vote splits. Whether important policy changes will arise from the current configuration of government is another question, which only the passage of time will answer. Inroads 29 | page 13
Inroads 29 | OPINION
The great recession (of the left) by Reg Whitaker
In Political scientist Reg Whitaker writes a political column for Inroads and is a member of its editorial board.
page 14 | FRONT MATTER
2008 there was a global financial crisis comparable to the storied Wall Street Crash of 1929: some of the biggest investment banks in the world, followed by the American automobile industry, tottered on the brink of collapse. If these had gone, the entire global financial system and the heart of American industry would have gone with them. The consequences of the two crashes were, however, quite different. The 1929 crash was followed by a global depression, with catastrophic consequences in mass unemployment, poverty and social dislocation. In the United States, the New Deal brought a progressive coalition to Washington with innovative social and economic programs. Europe witnessed the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of fascism. Japanese militarism swept over Asia. The world slid into war on a scale never witnessed before or since. Only that war and its aftermath resulted in the end of economic stagnation and a new golden era of postwar prosperity. The crash of 2008 had ugly consequences, especially in unemployment which was ratcheted up to historically high post-1930s levels in North America, with only moderate relief three years later. But unlike the earlier crisis, panic on Wall Street did not automatically translate into worldwide economic
collapse. Emergent economies, notably China and Brazil, felt scarcely a ripple. Australia sailed through unscathed. Canada experienced far less negative impact than did the United States. By 2011 even badly affected economies, with a few exceptions, seemed to be limping back toward a semblance of recovery. For Western capitalist states, the narrow escape from a rerun of the “Dirty Thirties” rests largely on lessons learned the first time around. In addition to the huge state bailout of the banks and the North American auto industry (all “too big to fail”), a Keynesian response to the market crash was promptly instituted across the board with massive economic stimulus measures – precisely the appropriate medicine that was not followed after 1929 when governments were still prisoners to classical economic nostrums. Social For Western capitalist states, the narrow escape from safety net provisions, largely set in place after a rerun of the “Dirty Thirties” rests largely on lessons the ravages of the Great Depression, prelearned the first time around. vented the worst human costs of unemployment and economic dislocation. In other words, the Keynesian countercyclical prescriptions for saving unregulated capitalism from its own excesses – objects of bitter political contestation in the 1930s and 1940s – were shown to work relatively effectively in 2008 and after. Only days before the crash of ’29, the eminent economist Irving Fisher declared that “stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” Fisher not only lost most of his personal savings in the crash, but spent the rest of his career trying to repair the damage to his neoclassical general equilibrium theories caused by the brute facts of market failure. And yet, by 2008, mainstream economists had largely rejected Keynesian economics, and so-called “efficient market” theories that pronounced the definitive end of boom-bust cycles in the free market had reemerged. There were a host of Fishers in all the leading departments of economics, and even more importantly in the treasury departments and central banks of all Western countries. Keynes had long since been put in the shadow by Milton Friedman’s conservative monetarism, and at the U.S. Federal Reserve Board free-market guru Alan Greenspan had told the world not to worry unduly about asset bubbles in the market caused by what he lightheartedly referred to as “irrational exuberance.” Inroads 29 | page 15
By the time irrational exuberance nearly brought down the pillars of the global economy, some serious rethinking might have been expected. There were some efforts to bring Keynes back into the academy, and even some vague references here and there to Marx’s much more radical critique of capital. But three years on, the extent to which everything has returned to business as usual in economics and finance is quite astonishing. While academic economists may have made some minor adjustments in thinking, in the world of policy advice and business journalism it seems that the crash of 2008 never happened, nor was there ever a global financial crisis. How else can we explain the persistence of strident assertions that only the unregulated free market can effectively allocate resources, and that governments can only make things worse by any kind of intervention? The Australian economist John Quiggin has addressed this irrational behaviour in a recent book strikingly entitled Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us. The self-satisfied reasoning of the zombie economists contains a remarkable intellectual sleight of hand. Massive state intervention in the market actually worked so well to avert another depression that the state’s role in retrospect is simply whisked away, out of sight, out of mind, replaced by shameless reiteration of the free-market shibboleths that helped precipitate the crash and financial crisis in the first instance. Take the rescue of the auto industry. GM and Chrysler had screwed up so badly that the very core of American industry was threatened with massive meltdown, with incalculable consequences for the wider economy. The Obama administration took a controlling interest in the two corporations (critics sarcastically renamed GM “Government Motors”). Despite right-wing alarms about government incompetence, Washington’s direction proved not only benign but also effective: the industry was put back on track with a sensible restructuring plan, government stepped out of direct management as quickly as possible, and in the end almost all the bailout funds will likely be recouped. Has this kind of successful state intervention led to any rethinking of Fraser Institute−style demands for yet more privatization and downsizing of the state? Not for a moment. In fact, launching huge cutback projects is now the rage among Western governments. The coalition government in Britain has placed cutbacks to the state sector at the very top of its policy agenda.
Has successful state intervention led to any rethinking of Fraser Institute−style demands for yet more privatization and downsizing of the state? Not for a moment. In fact, launching huge cutback projects is now the rage among Western governments. page 16 | FRONT MATTER
In the United States, the Obama administration is hastily Social democratic contributions trying to cover its fiscal backside by offering to slash on to the stability of capitalism (the a scale slightly more moderate than the Texas chainsaw welfare state; managed and regulated massacre demanded by the Republicans. And small markets) have undermined social states in Europe badly caught out by the credit crisis face enforced cutbacks so severe that, in the case of Greece, democratic political support. they have already called forth widespread social unrest. This is one of the more puzzling aspects of the Great Recession. A crisis in the capitalist economy has led not to a crisis of conservatism in politics, but rather to a crisis of social democratic and left parties. Throughout the Western world, it has been parties of the centre-left that have been in retreat and disarray since 2008, while parties that profess worship of the very market that has just faltered so badly have experienced almost uniform electoral success. We should never assume, of course, that a crisis in capitalism automatically benefits the left. Credit with the public has to be earned, not scooped like a windfall. Left and centre-left parties have obviously not done enough to win the trust of voters. But this failure does not explain the vehement rejection that many centre-left parties have experienced, the “shellacking” that Barack Obama spoke about after the Tea Party onslaught in the 2010 congressional election. Like the Keynesian response to the crash whose very success caused it to disappear from view, social democratic contributions to the stability of capitalism (the welfare state; managed and regulated markets) have undermined social democratic political support. Originally dedicated to advancing the democratic citizenship of the working class and the poor, social democracy has been victimized by its own relative success. When workers are integrated into the consumer society, they become consumers as well as citizens. Capitalism and its favoured political instruments successfully appeal to consumers, while left parties flail about trying to find a handle on their former constituencies. Right-wing parties, especially in their contemporary populist guise, have framed a simple, perhaps simplistic, narrative that seems to work better than the confused and often contradictory stories on the left. Still, ideology has its limits. The very real pain experienced by those on the sharp edge of the Great Recession is surely leading to questions about the system that has so hurt them. According to a global poll (GlobeScan), 80 per cent of Americans in 2002 agreed that the free market was the best system; by 2010, that support had fallen to 59 per cent. There is room for centre-left parties to capture this discontent. The spectacular rise of the NDP to official opposition status in the 2011 Canadian election might seem a hopeful sign. But this came at the cost of splitting the opposition vote and handing the Conservatives a majority government based on 40 per cent of the popular vote. To displace the right, centre-left parties will have to come up with their own framing narrative that is more compelling than that so successfully devised by the defenders of the indefensible. Inroads 29 | page 19 17
Inroads 29 | OPINION
The Christian right, Israel and Stephen Harper by Arthur Milner
J Arthur Milner, Inroads’ cultural columnist and a member of its editorial board, lives in Val-desMonts, Quebec.
page 18 FRONT MATTER 20 | front matter
ournalists have largely ignored the political influence of Canada’s right-wing Christians – especially when it comes to Conservative policies in the Middle East. Hence Marci McDonald’s The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada1 is a good and important book, although you would never know it from the reviews. In her negative (and confusing) Globe and Mail review, Molly Worthen implicitly includes Canada’s policy on Israel when she writes, “McDonald sees Christian nationalist conspiracy everywhere she looks. Yet much of what she describes sounds merely like politics as usual.”2 Worthen ends by cautioning that “Canadian evangelicals who set their minds on politics do not have to be zealots in order to be disconcerting,” but she doesn’t tell us how or why. In his disparaging National Post review, John G. Stackhouse, Jr., admits that McDonald “rightly shines her journalistic spotlight on people such as Timothy Bloedow and Gary Goodyear [and] Stockwell Day.”3 But, he advises, “forget making fun of the creation-science museum in Alberta, forget trying to demonize Preston Manning. Forget Charles McVety and Faytene Kryskow. Focus on Stockwell Day and his associates and the religious culture that spawned and supports them. How have such people become so powerful and stayed so prominent even under Prime Minister Harper, who” – Stackhouse tells us – “is not like them?”
The truth is, McDonald does quite a good job of explaining how that’s happened. The answer is roughly this: The various organizations of the Christian right in Canada became increasingly desperate and well organized after losing the battles on abortion and same-sex marriage. The Christian right had supported Day, and after winning the leadership Harper wanted its money, organization and electoral support. But the almost always pragmatic Harper knew that a too-vocal Christian right would cost him among moderate Conservatives. With help from similarly pragmatic right-wing Christians like Preston Manning, many on the Christian right were taught that political effectiveness means knowing when to shut up. They still needed their rewards, however. It was political suicide to raise the two issues nearest and dearest to right-wing Christians, abortion and same-sex marriage, so Harper gave them what he could: funding for stay-at-home mothers; funding (for the first time in Canada) for Christian postsecondary education; a criminal justice system based on an-eye-for-an-eye; thousands of appointments to senior positions in the bureaucracy and to judicial bodies; positions of power in cabinet, in the PMO and among his personal staff; and speeches that ended in “God bless Canada.” One can understand the appeal of each of these to biblical literalists, social conservatives and right-wing Christians. But Harper gave them one more gift: an unreserved, uniquely stupid government policy on Israel. “Wait a second,” you say. “Didn’t he adopt his Israel-right-or-wrong policy to win support from Jews?” That’s what journalists suggest. I think they’re wrong. The Jewish Israel lobby has some clout, and might be able to deliver the odd riding to the Conservatives. But a direct link between Harper’s policy and more Jewish votes isn’t easy to demonstrate. Canadian Jews have been moving to the right on a number of issues and some would have supported the Conservatives anyway. They had no great objection to the Liberals’ nominally balanced but decidedly pro-Israel policies, so it’s hard to know how many Jewish votes the new policy will attract, especially since many Jews disagree (privately) with the Harper position and are as likely to be repelled as attracted by it. In any case, Jews make up about 1 per cent of the Canadian population. They have money to offer but not many votes. There may be a small benefit, but can it be enough to justify turning Canada into an international laughingstock? Are a few votes and a bit of money worth losing a seat on the UN Security Council? The Christian right is another matter. In their formerly controversial book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,4 John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt suggest that Christian Zionists are a major component of the Israel lobby. In his 2005 article “The PD Factor: Christian Fundamentalists and U.S. Policy in the Middle East,” Inroads managing editor Bob Chodos explained why that might be.5 Inroads 29 | page 19
PD – “premillennial dispensationalism” – is a lot like astrology or creationism, except that there’s a lot less empirical evidence for PD. PDers claim that, interpreted properly, certain passages in the Jewish and Christian bibles predict the conditions for Christ’s return and his “thousand-year reign.” One of those conditions is that Jews must be in control of their entire biblical homeland. The whole story is remarkably insane.6 As you can imagine, Christ’s return and his thousand-year reign are a tremendously big deal. Abortion and same-sex marriage pale in comparison, because once Jesus comes back, everyone knows what will happen to those sinners – unless they’re born again, of course. PDers are completely opposed to Israel’s giving up land for a Palestinian state. They see a settlement freeze as the thin edge of the wedge of the two-state solution, which, they fear, will set back Jesus’ return. Most Canadian Jews would happily or grudgingly accept a Palestinian state in the occupied territories. Harper’s extreme position is not aimed at them. No one knows how many PDers there are in Canada – it’s not the kind of thing people proclaim outside the comfort of their churches. McDonald estimates that the “evangelical community” makes up 10 to 12 per cent of the Canadian population. Most PDers are evangelical Christians, but not all evangelicals are right-wing and, certainly, not all evangelicals are PDers. Still, in the United States the biggest names in right-wing Christianity – the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, John Hagee – are or were PDers. Many of Canada’s leading rightwing Christians are their disciples. It’s clear that several MPs and others close to Harper are Christian Zionists, which is pretty much a codeword for PD beliefs. In other words: As a group, right-wing Christians are extremely important to Harper’s coalition, and PD is life and death to many right-wing Christians. Right-wing Christians contribute a great deal of money, they’re well organized and they have very high voter turnout. And right-wing Christians who reject PD seem not to object to the PDers among them. These are the people for whom Harper’s Israel policy is constructed. Which should give us pause. This is not a matter of religion and politics. It’s one thing for biblical literalists, say, to campaign for MPs with similar views; everyone’s ethics come from somewhere. But PD isn’t an ethical system. It’s a statement about the physical world. Is it okay for Palestinians to be killed if it will hasten the second coming? Do we actually want Canada’s foreign policy fashioned to satisfy people with secret, magical beliefs? As for Stephen Harper, either he’s willing As for Stephen Harper, either he’s willing to to subvert what is likely the most subvert what is likely the most important area of Canadian foreign policy in pursuit of support from important area of Canadian foreign the Christian right, or he’s a PDer himself. I’m not policy in pursuit of support from the sure which is more frightening. Christian right, or he’s a PDer himself. Can we not get a few journalists to follow up on I’m not sure which is more frightening. Marci McDonald’s important beginning? page 20 | FRONT MATTER
The Conservatives have: • refused to criticize any aspect of Israel’s attack on Lebanon, even after a Canadian UN peacekeeper was killed. • refused to criticize any aspect of Israel’s attack on Gaza. • refused to criticize any aspect of Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla. • barred outspoken critic George Galloway from entering Canada. • eliminated funding to UNRWA (UN assistance to Palestinian refugees). • eliminated funding to Gaza after Hamas’s electoral victory. Canada was the first country to do so. • eliminated funding to KAIROS Canada (“eleven churches and religious organizations in faithful action for ecological justice and human rights”) for supporting the boycott of Israel – which they never did. The government confused them with another organization. • eliminated funding to the Canadian Arab Federation. • virtually destroyed the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy) for providing small grants to one Israeli and two Palestinian human rights groups. Here lies a sordid tale. The new vicechair, Jacques Gauthier, is the lawyer for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which Marci McDonald describes as “the largest and most influential of the country’s Christian Zionist organizations.” An excellent CBC documentary on Rights & Democracy can be found at www.podcastdirectory.com/podshows/9747899
Toronto: Random House Canada, 2010.
Globe and Mail, May 14, 2010.
National Post, May 21, 2010.
New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
Inroads, Winter/Spring 2005, pp. 63−67. Available online at www.inroadsjournal.ca/archives/inroads_16/ Inroads_16_Chodos.pdf
For more detail about PDers – and their alliance with Jewish parts of the Israel lobby – see Chodos, “The PD Factor,” and McDonald, The Armageddon Factor. Inroads 29 | page 21
Letter to the editor
Quebec’s $7-a-day daycare: Doubts about the doubts
different conclusion. These studies show that when government benefits and allowances are subtracted from the taxes and contributions that people pay, Quebecers’ net fiscal burden is smaller than it appears. Thus, single-parent families in Quebec, rather than contributing, receive 28 per cent of their income on average from the government, compared to 14 per cent in the rest of Canada and 1 per cent in the United States. For two-parent families with two children, the fiscal burden in Quebec is only one twelfth of what it is in the rest of the country. — Camil Bouchard
Dear Mr. Richards, I have read with interest your response to Luc Allaire regarding low-cost daycare services in Quebec (“Quebec’s $7-a-day universal childcare: Introducing a few doubts,” Inroads, Winter/ Spring 2011, pp. 107−09). In light of your criticism of these services, I would like to draw your attention to four aspects of this issue. The first aspect is costs. I’m sure you know that if you take into account both fees and the taxes they pay, the parents who use the daycare services assume 40 per cent of their costs. Second, poverty is expensive. Low-cost daycare has made a major contribution to reducing the poverty rate among families with children aged three to five − a 43 per cent reduction for single-parent families and a 52 per cent reduction for two-parent families. In this way too, Quebec is not Alberta! Third, it’s true that, in general, enrolment in daycare has not had the impact on the development of young children that had been hoped for. However, data from the Étude Longitudinale du Développement des Enfants du Québec (ÉLDEQ) show that daycare does make a difference for children who are in regulated daycare environments. In addition, the most vulnerable children are still underrepresented in the low-cost daycare system. This is because government’s first priority in the conception and administration of the system has been balancing work and family, not the cognitive development of the most vulnerable children. No doubt, there is still much work to do in terms of quality of service, especially in relation to training staff in home-based and for-profit private daycare. And while you advocate age-four kindergarten, studies show that intervention needs to begin earlier than that. In terms of Aboriginal children, as you know, there are many Centres de la Petite Enfance in Inuit and First Nations communities. Undoubtedly, these CPEs face the same issues of organization and quality, only more acutely. You are right to highlight this question and call for more to be done. Finally, you maintain that Quebec imposes high taxes on its citizens. However, this assertion needs to be nuanced, and recent studies at the Université de Sherbrooke come to a substantially page 22 | front matter
Inroads 29 | page 25
John Richards replies: Cher M. Bouchard, It is a pleasure to exchange a few ideas on social policy, a subject that has engaged both of us for many years. I make two points. The first is the danger of ignoring a rising debt/GDP ratio. The second is to think carefully about the goals of social programs, especially expensive programs such as Quebec’s $7-a-day childcare. Quebec has made enormous progress over the last half century in closing economic and social gaps with the rest of Canada – and, as you say, in creating a society more egalitarian than the rest of Canada. Pierre Fortin makes this point clearly in his article in this issue.1 Writing elsewhere, however, Fortin warns: In early 2009, the prospect of a growing fiscal imbalance in Quebec suddenly appeared after 10 years of ... moderate growth in program spending. This imbalance was structural in nature. It did not stem chiefly from the 2008/2009 recession, which was rather moderate in Quebec. If nothing [was] done, the budget deficit would persist and worsen, even after the economy returned to full employment. The financial imbalance was not the result, either, of any deteriorating performance of the Quebec economy over the past two decades.2
Quebec’s fiscal problem is structural in the sense that, even after restoration of pre-2008 rates of economic growth, extrapolation of present programs and present tax rates results in unsustainable deficits and provincial debt. Fortin calls on the Quebec government to “avoid procrastinating” and undertake major program adjustments now. Delay means more traumatic adjustments later. Among the adjustments I would endorse is targeting of a $7-a-day daycare program to families with children at high risk of décrochage. This means either regulations on access or raising the daily fees charged to middle-class families. The second point I make is to be wary of mission creep. Is the “first priority ... of the system ... balancing work and family”? If so, it would be far less expensive simply to provide a generous supplement to the National Child Benefit System, phased out much more slowly than the present system as family income rises. The first priority of early childhood programs, I suggest, is not that; rather, it is to give a leg up to children from families that, for many reasons, are at a disadvantage when it comes to formal school learning. Given Quebec’s high secondary school dropout rate, among francophone boys in particular, that priority is very much worth pursuing.
Amitiés, John Richards
“Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, 50 Years Later,” pp. 90–99.
Pierre Fortin, “Staying the Course: Quebec’s Fiscal Balance Challenge,” Commentary 325 (Toronto: C.D. Howe Institute, 2011).
page 24 | front matter
Inroads 29 | page 27
Inroads 29 | list s e rv
WikiLeaks: Freedom of information hero or anarchist wrecker? Selected and edited from the Inroads listserv by Bob Chodos
The Inroads listserv began in 1997 as a means to link Inroads readers and others interested in policy discussion. With nearly 130 subscribers, it offers one of the few chances for people of diverse views to grapple with social and political issues in depth. To subscribe, send an email note to listserv@ lists.queensu.ca with the following in the subject and body of the message: subscribe inroads-l
page 26 | front matter
he release in December 2010 by the WikiLeaks website of hundreds of thousands of leaked diplomatic cables raised a number of questions. Is freedom of information always good? Is government secrecy ever justified? If so, when? The Inroads listserv was sharply divided on these questions. It was a suggestion by Tom Flanagan – no stranger to Inroads or the listserv – that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deserved to be assassinated that set the debate in motion. For a more extended selection from the debate, see www.inroadsjournal.ca/newsletter/
From: Philip Resnick I December 5 Tom Flanagan, Julian Assange and the Return of the Mailed (Maled) Fist It is impossible to ignore the significance of the material that WikiLeaks, with the cooperation of five of the world’s leading newspapers (none of them Canadian, I would note) has made public – 250,000 documents from the American State Department, unveiling the operations of the arcana imperii (the secrets of the empire) for all to see. It is an extraordinary development of the Internet, a new form of journalism and an equally extraordinary insight into the hypocrisies of diplomacy,
the corruption of power (the Putin-Berlusconi interface alone is worth the price of admission) and the fault lines that characterize our planet in the second decade of a new millennium. A tiny item caught my eye when the list of contributors to the Winter/Spring issue of Inroads was posted the other day. One of the contributors was Tom Flanagan, no stranger to the world of Canadian political commentary and strategy and a one-time contributor to this list. No great shakes, except for another little item. The same Tom Flanagan, in an interview on the CBC’s Power & Politics on December 1, had the following to say about Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks: “Assange should be assassinated [laughs]. I think Obama should put out a contract on him.” When the program’s host, Evan Solomon, said to him, “that is pretty tough,” and asked for clarification, Flanagan simply said, “I’m feeling pretty manly.” Flanagan subsequently issued an apology for his statement, but the cat was out of the bag. For the manly right, Assange was a dangerous enemy, and the prescribed punishment for enemies of the empire is the traditional one of all empires – off with their head. The chorus of opponents to Assange and WikiLeaks is a swelling one – Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Sarah Palin – and they all come from the right of the political spectrum. No surprise here, given the solace some of these documents will give to opponents of American foreign policy in various parts of the world. (Not that Turkey, China, Russia or the Governor of the Bank of England, for that matter, emerge from the WikiLeaks documents as shining lights.)
The most striking feature of the Flanagan intervention is how quickly hard ideologues reach for the metaphorical gun or the mailed fist when the political game takes a turn which they despise. No bullshitting about civility, freedom of the press, the need for transparency in public life – this is for the sotty set, or wets as Margaret Thatcher might have called them. The manly types, the Tom Flanagans of this world, deal in a harder political currency – that of friends and enemies. He is not unique. That great German democrat, Hermann Göring, once famously stated, “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.” Comrades Stalin and Mao, and their smaller clones, also knew how to deal with pesky opponents who might stand in their way. Interesting, how quickly the veneer of civilized discourse peals away and the reptilian brain takes over for the practitioners of realpolitik. As for Julian Assange, he is no modern-day saint, to be sure. But he is a whistle-blower who deserves the respect of any and all who value openness and veracity in public life. Philip Resnick is Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and a member of the Inroads editorial board. Inroads 29 | page 27
Whacking Assange is not funny, and Tom has already apologized. But hey, a Calgary Poli Sci prof doesn’t actually command hit squads. – Reg Whitaker From: Reg Whitaker I December 6 I have been out of the country for the past three months, but it seems on my return that not much ever changes – including fatuous media commentary on public affairs. Tom Flanagan is usually an articulate and thoughtful exception, even though I don’t often agree with him, but in this case his quoted remarks on putting out a contract to whack Julian Assange fall, I think, into the silly category. Philip takes the remark as sinister, and reflective of a “hard,” nasty edge to right-wing attitudes. There is no doubt a lot of nasty stuff on the right these days – the relentless, reckless attacks on President Obama as un-American verge on the hysterical and irrational – but I can’t agree that Tom’s silliness needs be taken seriously. He sometimes plays a conservative curmudgeon role on TV panels, and on occasion can actually be funny: one of the last things I saw of him prior to departing the country was on the so-called gun registry “debate”; he brought a popgun to the panel which he waved around like a crazy NRAer. Whacking Assange is not funny, and Tom has already apologized. But hey, a Calgary Poli Sci prof doesn’t actually command hit squads. His fellow panelist, Liberal adviser Scott Reid, has waved the remark off. Reid knows all page 28 | front matter
about silly remarks: remember his “beer and popcorn” gaffe in the 2006 election? That too was met with a lot of sanctimony.
who deserves the respect of any and all who
Political scientist Reg Whitaker is a member of the Inroads editorial board. He lives in Victoria, B.C.
members Daniel Ellsberg. Because of his job,
value openness and veracity in public life.” Philip and I are of the generation that reEllsberg had access to documents that showed a concerted, systematic government effort to distort the reality of the Vietnam war. In releas-
From: Alastair Sweeny I December 6 It seems to me the major hit against Assange is that he makes it a whole lot easier for the bad guys to operate. Is this transparency? For example, there’s a shopping list of “Critical Foreign Dependencies,” including some Canadian ones. So now the loonies know where to go. Thanks, Assange. Alastair Sweeny is Vice-President, Development, of Northern Blue Publishing in Ottawa.
From: Henry Milner I December 6 In the Winter/Spring Inroads, Tom Flanagan uncritically portrays the Harper government’s efforts to control information about itself, an attitude reflected in his own antagonism toward Julian Assange et al. But if Flanagan represents one extreme, there is another one. And to judge by the voices of the callers to Cross Country Checkup Sunday [December 5], it is a position held by many Canadians, especially those who have grown up with the Internet. It states, without reservation, that transparency is good: in publicly posting messages intended to be private, Assange is doing what comes naturally. That’s what the Web is for. Philip Resnick seems to agree, concluding that “as for Julian Assange, he is no modernday saint, to be sure. But he is a whistle-blower
ing the Pentagon Papers, he knew just what he was doing, and what effect it would have. I would describe Ellsberg as a whistle-blower who deserved our respect. Can we say the same of Assange? I don’t believe so: I don’t buy the principle of transparency for the sake of transparency. Henry Milner is co-publisher of Inroads.
From: Philip Resnick I December 6 A few quick thoughts. Reg, I fear, is being unnecessarily charitable toward Tom Flanagan, who is not given to show the same indulgence toward those whom he opposes. In the context in which figures in public life are calling for Julian Assange’s elimination as a cyberterrorist, to go on television and smirkingly call for his assassination is to join the braying hounds. And it behooves those of us who do not want to join the chorus of furies to call him out on it, and to underline the mailed fist that underlines the more conventional rhetoric that a Flanagan deploys. As for Henry’s point, not all whistleblowing is necessarily virtuous, nor is transparency an unalloyed good. Assange may well be a narcissistic publicity seeker of a type that Daniel Ellsberg was not, and some of the material that he is releasing is not of the same incendiary quality as what the Pentagon
Light shone into the hidden corners of political, corporate and military power is to be welcomed. WikiLeaks has taken the Internet and global communications to a whole new level of information. I see this a step toward a more, not a less, informed democratic public. – Philip Resnick Papers contained. The fact remains, however, that we live in a world where control over the media by the Murdochs and Berlusconis and Putins of this world is increasingly constricting what ordinary citizens can access, and that light shone into the hidden corners of political, corporate and military power – C. Wright Mills’s old power elite – is to be welcomed. WikiLeaks has taken the Internet and global communications to a whole new level of information. Call me a naive Canadian, if you wish. But I see this a step toward a more, not a less, informed democratic public.
From: Joe Murray I December 6 The public debate is turning a bit into those for and against Assange or for and against WikiLeaks. To bring some nuance it might help to identify a few of the competing ideas at play, and whether WikiLeaks heralds the arrival of a new era. Inroads 29 | page 29
1. Freedom of information In the wake of the Pentagon Papers there were efforts to improve the freedom of information held by governments. These built on centuries-old notions of freedom of the press that are closely allied in liberal philosophy with Enlightenment reason. I buy many of the general justifications in the abstract: shining light on government activities will allow citizens to hold their governments to account for bad policies and bad acts, and having this accountability mechanism in place will provide a strong incentive for governments and officials not to do many things that are wrong or boneheaded for fear of being held accountable. Here in Canada we just need to review the federal information commissioner’s reports or the history of the sponsorship scandal to know this isn’t working well. Putting a regime in place doesn’t really change the motivations and intentions of actors. Bureaucratic systems get set up to ensure that redactions are done in
these traditional ways. Leaking a video of a
security topics, especially when it comes to
military helicopter shooting innocent civilians
tactics and operational matters.
and journalists without good cause and then
Each area provides scope for interested
not owning up to that and trying to mitigate
government officials to keep things secret to
the damage after the fact is an example.
further their self-interest at the expense of the
Assange and some of his current cohort
public interest. We can all think of examples.
of WikiLeaks collaborators have stronger and less mainstream goals. By providing a set of processes and technologies that would protect leakers, they expect that the essential needs for secrecy of organizations like political parties, governments and corporations will lead them to react in ever more coercive and authoritarian ways to stop such leaks from happening, thereby producing more leaks, more crackdowns and eventual collapse. Or perhaps more pointedly, in a competitive environment of such organizations, if one like the United States is hindered by leaks of this sort, it will lose in competition to others that are not subject to such leaks.
2. Protection of privacy and confidentiality
3. Balancing confidentiality and freedom of information Traditionally we’ve worked out various ways to balance these two conflicting principles in order to best advance the interests that are at their core. For example, we anonymize personal information held by governments so that it can be released and used for salutary purposes like fighting diseases or designing social programs, and we set up exceptions to normal practices of secrecy to blow a whistle on abuse. I think we should look past the anarchic tendencies and anti-Americanism of Assange and the current crew behind WikiLeaks to the likelihood or not of their technologies
ways and on timeframes that serve the inter-
There are good justifications in the abstract
and processes heralding a new era in the way
ests of those who would like political control
for government information to be kept secret
confidentiality and freedom of information
over the release and reporting of information.
or private: for example, personal information
Whistle-blower protection laws, another form
about citizens or corporations they govern
We’re currently seeing attempts to put
of FOI, aren’t that effective either when the
that deserve protection, or human resource
a chill on those who would provide or use
whistle-blowers’ careers are still derailed and
matters in their function as employers. More
such infrastructure that are similar to the
those whose actions they have exposed as
importantly, a government’s role as collective
attempts to shut down file sharing of music
wrong are promoted.
agent of its citizens provides justifications
and videos. The jury is still out on whether the
The journalistic ethos of some of the found-
for secrecy or privacy or confidentiality in
“anti-piracy” efforts of the Recording Industry
ers of WikiLeaks was to provide strong guar-
three prominent areas: cabinet discussions
Association of America will succeed. While I
antees of protection to sources in government
to ensure frank exchanges before collective
think that Assange is likely to be successfully
so they could leak documents that could be
decisions and actions; diplomatic information
prosecuted for something soon, and the appar-
added to by citizen journalists to create stories
for ensuring successful negotiations by keeping
ent source of the big leaks from the American
that would hold governments responsible in
strategies and tactics hidden; and national
government will likely be put away as well,
page 30 | front matter
it is notable that the technology is fairly easy to replicate and the source was not revealed through a fault in the WikiLeaks protocols. Napster begat many file-sharing services as the ideas behind its technology have been impossible to expunge. My sense is there will be a cat-and-mouse game of technological and process innovations between the good and bad guys, however they are defined. Each step will likely reshape how large organizations and those who control them attempt to deal with secrecy in their internal deliberations and communications oriented toward external actions in the face of possible leaks. Just as long ago we saw qualitative changes result from the great unwashed getting access to books, and more recently we’ve seen changes result from the great unwashed being able to talk if not back to power at least to one another about the powerful, so might we see significant change when access to authoritative information from the state and other large organizations is routinely available to those who have the resources to pay attention to it and sift through it. Some of this is old – I’ve heard from people who noted that certain appointments would not be marked in their minister’s paper agenda book once they were likely to be subject to legal proceedings. Some of it is applicable in the private sector – a former Microsoft employee was claiming today that internal communications changed at Microsoft once their legal travails began, with executives no longer having their staff make minutes of all meetings or writing memos frankly. But from my perspective, the lasting importance of this batch of WikiLeaks isn’t how many Inroads 29 | page 31
U.S. ambassadors are reassigned, but how our
Expectations about audience can turn out
notions of how governments deal with the
to be wrong, and people used to one kind of
information in their control will change.
technology find out that emails are not a close
The technology of WikiLeaks may not be as
substitute for phone calls. But if a message
important as the printing press, but the releases
leaks out beyond its intended audience, this
of information these last few months may be as
can’t lead to a practice of more open gov-
important as the fall of the Berlin Wall.
ernment. The practice that led to the initial
Joe Murray is president of JMA Consulting in Toronto.
expectation has just failed – which means some new way of confining the message to the intended audience becomes necessary. A public
From: Gareth Morley I December 6 It isn’t just unrealistic or excessively optimistic to think leaks will lead to a utopia of more transparent government. That would imply that if the laws of human nature or fundamental particle physics were different, transparent government would be possible. But transparency in that sense is not just impossible in the actually existing universe that arose from the Big Bang 11 billion years ago. It is impossible in every universe Leibniz’s God could imagine. It is a priori impossible. The reason is basic philosophy of language. Utterances don’t have a meaning independent of context, and a critical part of context is the expected audience. A State Department bureaucrat confidentially telling a more senior official “Berlusconi is vain and unintelligent” is not saying the same thing as the same State Department official issuing a press release to the Italian media with the same phrase. The former is a banal expression of an opinion shared by most people with a belief one way or the other. The latter would be a serious intervention in Italian political affairs, and a serious breach of the NATO Treaty and the UN Charter. page 32 | front matter
official who said the same things publicly that he or she says privately would not be unusually
Inroads 29 | list se r v
The Inroads listserv’s campaign diary
open, but rather grossly irresponsible. Of course, secrecy can be misused and it would be good to get a picture of how government works. Rules like keeping diplomatic cables under wraps for 20 years are an excellent compromise. (I’d like to see the same for internal communication within the Supreme Court of Canada, but the actual rule is omertà
Selected and edited from the Inroads listserv by Bob Chodos
to the grave.) Assange is trying to destroy such compromises in his ultraleft war against the U.S. government. He doesn’t want more openness: he wants the U.S. government to restrict the internal sharing of information so that it becomes less effective. This could easily lead to another September 11. He has probably already killed people by revealing information about people collaborating with NATO in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Certainly, Flanagan was wrong to call for extralegal assassination and properly apologized, but Assange deserves the full weight of the law. Gareth Morley is a litigator with the British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General. All opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect the views of the Ministry of Attorney General.
The Inroads listserv began in 1997 as a means to link Inroads readers and others interested in policy discussion. With nearly 130 subscribers, it offers one of the few chances for people of diverse views to grapple with social and political issues in depth. To subscribe, send an email note to firstname.lastname@example.org. ca with the following in the subject and body of the message: subscribe inroads-l
he Inroads listserv was active during the election campaign, commenting on everything from Stephen Harper’s attempt to demonize a hypothetical coalition government at the outset to the NDP surge at the end. The selection that follows covers the last few days of the campaign, as the possibility of the Liberals being displaced by the NDP as the second largest party loomed large. For a more extended selection, covering the whole campaign, see www.inroadsjournal.ca/newsletter/ photo courtesy waterloo Masjid
From: Garth Stevenson I April 30
Becoming the “official” opposition (an expression of which John Diefenbaker disapproved, but one hallowed by years of Canadian usage) would have enormous psychological benefits for the NDP – and some practical advantages too, such as more research money and more exposure during parliamentary debates. It would finally Inroads 29 | page 33
end the “why waste your vote on a third party?” syndrome and mark a completely new era in Canadian party politics – perhaps the most fundamental change since the achievement of responsible government in 1848. Plus I have no doubt that Jack Layton would make a very effective opposition leader in Parliament – perhaps the most effective since Diefenbaker. If it happens on Monday, as I believe it will, I think historians will record that the decline and fall of the Liberals began when they made fundamental changes to the constitution without Quebec’s consent in 1981–82. That ended the credibility of their claim, on which they traded for almost a century, to be the only party that could build bridges between Quebec and anglophone Canada. Garth Stevenson is Professor of Political Science at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario.
choosing a leader. Policy counts for little. Few find Harper a likeable personality; many dislike him. We tend to forget the Tories set about destroying Ignatieff personally with a blitz of TV advertising even before the campaign began. In retrospect, I don’t think he ever had much of a chance of connecting with voters. That leaves Layton with his seemingly open and cheery appeal. Anthony Westell is a retired journalist who covered and commented on federal politics for the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.
From: Joe Murray I April 30 Ignatieff has been much too hot for TV in his anger and outrage. He hasn’t connected with voters. I even conjecture that Layton’s debate prep had one important feature for the way the campaign subsequently unfolded.
From: Anthony Westell I April 30 The Liberal Party has been in long-term decline, losing first the west and then Quebec. The Chrétien-Martin era was made possible only by the Reform/Conservative divide. The apparent rise in the NDP in this election makes a comparison with with the decline of the British Liberals and the rise of the Labour Party after World War I attractive. But the NDP is not the Labour Party. The Labour Party was a socialist party promising a new world, while the NDP is mildly social democratic, promising just a few adjustments in policy. It is not much different from the Liberal Party. So what explains its sudden popularity? As I see it, this campaign has been mostly about page 34 | front matter
The debate was structured this time to ensure equal time for all leaders – if they didn’t get equal time early on it was given to them later. Layton could thus wait to speak rather than needing to interrupt and speak over top of other leaders. While he did pitch in some of the prepared lines used by all leaders (which were way overdone by Iggy), his overall demeanour managed to have a different tone, and his role a different dynamic. He provided a very pleasant contrast in styles of politics – working to get along and work together for Canadians rather than against other parties up in Ottawa – at both the level of message and messenger, and with credibility on things like offering to work with Harper on the budget.
If those are the surface fluctuations and patterns, Layton benefited from credibility in his positioning because it built on years of demonstrated pragmatic approaches to interparty cooperation as well as policy development. Gambles the NDP has been making on a Quebec breakthrough since its founding convention have finally paid off. Who knows where we would be now as a country if Charles Taylor had won in one of his elections as the NDP’s candidate against Pierre Trudeau? Imagine if we had continued the long pragmatic tradition of Britain in accommodating differences between peoples (granted, to greater and lesser extents in different times and places) rather than trying to remake all individuals and the nation in the image of a bilingual person like Trudeau? We might have avoided the backlashes out west, the flag burnings in Ontario and the (politically stoked) resentful reactions in Quebec. While I am like many a Canadan who learned French at one point and am currently sending my kids to partially effective French immersion programs, we are not a country where most citizens are fluent in French and English. Over the long term, Trudeau’s liberal individualistic vision and the Liberal Party’s haughty imposition of a particular form of Canadian nationalism will be seen to have undermined a united Canada and led to the Liberal Party’s decline. The attempt over the last half-century to assimilate Quebec nationalism into a panCanadian nationalism and the bilingual and bicultural status of the English and French into a generalized multiculturalism of all immigrants is over. Its death-knell was support
from all federal parties for Harper’s motion to recognize the Quebec nation within a united Canada – basically Taylor’s vision. New forms of this fight across the centuries will arise, but the success of the post-sixties Liberal Party built on the form of the fight that Trudeau provoked is over. On the positive side of the ledger, we’ve blazed a trail in showing how a separatist movement can choose to take a democratic, nonviolent path, and have most of the body politic accept its legitimacy. Thank the stars our generations squeaked by the historical violence that would surely have attended attempts to prevent Quebec secession by force, or to partition a seceding Quebec as some Liberals proposed. Effective high-stakes realpolitik that helped the No side by engendering fears about secession perhaps. But dangerous in terms of “almost were” scenarios. I hope Harper doesn’t follow that potential pattern by suborning democracy to retain power if he ends up with a plurality that doesn’t have the confidence of the House. Joe Murray is president of JMA Consulting in Toronto.
From: Gareth Morley I May 1 I would argue that the current campaign shows exactly the opposite of what Tony suggests. We are a more ideological country and leadership personality matters less than it used to. First, we have to explain the dog that didn’t bark. The Conservatives appear to have held on to the 40 per cent they came in with. That share has moved incrementally since the right united. I doubt very much that even 40 per Inroads 29 | page 35
cent of Canadians find Harper’s personality
I have zero insight into the second question.
appealing. Rather, there is a solid conservative
Everything that has happened in Quebec pol-
coalition of religious people, tempermental
itics in the last two decades has surprised me.
conservatives, older people, rural people and
Obviously, as in English Canada, bandwagon
business interests. In addition, there are voters
effects are really important.
who vote primarily on the basis of whether
The decline of the Liberal Party makes
they are happy with the incumbents. If times
more sense to me. It has never really fashioned
are reasonably good, they don’t want change.
a modern identity as the coalition party of
The big volatility is between the Liberals
the centre-left, partly because in the Quebec
and NDP in English Canada and between
context, it isn’t really a party of the left at all.
the BQ and NDP in Quebec. We don’t yet
As Canada becomes more ideological, it either
know if the NDP has really closed the deal. Progressive voters don’t see a huge difference between the parties on the left. That leads to volatility within that group, but not between the left and right camps – something European voters are familiar with. Right now, everyone is talking about how unappealing Ignatieff’s personality and TV presence are. But of course the reason the Liberals picked him was as a charismatic, TV-savvy replacement for the professorial and incomprehensible Dion. I can remember when everyone thought Paul Martin was a political genius who would be far more appealing than
had to marginalize the NDP or be marginalized – or find some new organizational unity. Of course, we still don’t really know which of these will happen. But further marginalization seems likely. Ignatieff is only significant in that by choosing him the Liberal Party turned its back on the strategy of hegemonizing the left in favour of a doomed attempt to compete with Harper for the right. Gareth Morley is a litigator with the British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General. All opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect the views of the Ministry of Attorney General.
Chrétien. Harper was a wonky loser. Just a month ago, Layton was tired and past it. I think what really happens is that success-
From: Joe Murray I May 1
ful politicians are considered charismatic – not
Gareth makes a number of good points. I’d like
that charismatic politicians are more success-
to sharpen one of my thoughts from yesterday.
ful. When political analysts can’t get away
The antagonism between a Trudeau fed-
with calling a successful politician charismatic,
eralist Liberal Party and Quebec separatist
they focus on the deficiencies of the opponent.
parties like the Bloc was good for both
But these are just narratives to explain what
of them electorally. When their fight was
is happening for other reasons.
prominent, the NDP got left on the side-
So why is the Liberal Party in long-run decline? And what happened to the BQ? page 36 | front matter
lines. With its current dissipation, both are fading and the salience of left-right politics
is gaining ascendency. I agree that Ignatieff was a rightward-tilting Liberal leader. With respect to coalitions and the possibility of luring a member or two into the NDP caucus, a few other thoughts and reconsiderations. There was a terrible outcry over Emerson’s perfidious decision to cross the floor just after being elected. There would need to be plausible differences. A Bloc member and to a lesser extent a Liberal could say that their party’s lifespan is at an end, and call for it to join the NDP. A Liberal senator and a few Bloc staffers have made calls along these lines in the last week. If the Liberals decide they want to support a Layton administration without joining a coalition it might make sense. Cherry picking would sour relations, unfortunately. If there were to be a coalition, I think it would make sense for it to be for a four-year mandate to provide more stability. Stability, after all, was a key plank in Harper’s platform. I think the Liberals will want to have time to figure things out about why they continue to bleed support down to unimagined levels, election after election, leader after leader. For some on both sides, the prospect that it might allow time for the parties to merge will be attractive. From a New Democrat perspective, it would allow a first-ever NDP administration to get up on its feet without the threat of an immediate or unexpected loss of confidence in the House. It would be good to gain time in office for a variety of reasons, from policy aims to desiring to have a record to run for reelection on to internally focused ones like training a new cadre. Hoping to have a successful quick transition to power and no serious issues with a cabinet lacking experience in governing and
a caucus with a big neophyte contingent, while expecting to be in a good position to win a majority in six to eighteen months seems unwise. Bringing in a proportional voting system might be an alternative to a merger in our federal party system, or preferably an additional change. The history of voting reform at the provincial level in Canada shows attempts to put in place a system for the strategic advantage of the administration making the change often fail to produce that sort of partisan desired result. Nonetheless, I think it could be a good part of a structural remix of our federal party system and its dynamics. Coalition talks will be fraught enough inside each party; merger talks will be seen as treason or unnecessary fatalism in some quarters. In the NDP, early soundings would need to be made across the labour movement in Ontario, British Columbia and elsewhere. Ties with provincial parties are strong in the NDP and significant for Liberals – can you imagine how a potential federal merger would play with the provincial parties in B.C.? I’m not clear how easy it will be for Ignatieff to remain as leader past tomorrow. If he stays, it will be more difficult to have a coalition because of his promise not to enter one. On the other hand, Layton, as senior partner, has made no promise not to have a coalition. And Harper, by running a Tory-majority-orcoalition campaign, has legitimized a coalition to a certain extent.
Inroads 29 | page 37
Published on May 29, 2012
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