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Lawrence Martin Fears A Multicultural Fascist Party?

Posted December 2nd, 2011 in Canada and tagged , , , , , by Adrian MacNair


The kind of scene that terrifies Lawrence Martin. Photo: Shaun Best/Reuters

Of the various conspiratorial-driven hyperbole-prone Canadian political writers, people like Murray Dobbin or Heather Mallick spring to mind. Which is why I was surprised it wasn’t either writer who penned this ridiculous piece about “rightwing nationalism”, but long-time author and journalist Lawrence Martin.

It takes quite a bit to rile me up these days enough to get me to sit down and put my own thoughts foward, but Martin’s diatribe could not stand. I suppose what bothers me most about the piece is that it seems to ignore all of the evidence pointing to the contrary of his position, which is that far from becoming a more rightwing country, Canada has probably never been more staunchly socialist. I’ll address each of Martin’s points in kind:

Message Control. It’s not central to rightwing nationalism, so much as it is central to modern public relations. You don’t just see it at a federal level either. Increasingly these days you see provinces and municipalities vetting the comments of their public servants, hiring communications officers or spokespeople, in order to deliver a consistent message to the public.

And why is that of primary importance? Well, without disparaging every journalist, which is my occupation, the answer is that the media play a lot of “gotcha” politics with the stories of the day. It’s often safer and prudent to ensure that communications be filtered through a central command, less because anybody has anything to hide, but more because the appearance of deviation from one consistent message is often distorted by the media into something malign.

As a person in the media I find this frustrating. I didn’t like the fact I had to have my interview with a biologist in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources approved by the bigwigs in the B.C. Liberal government. But, by stepping outside of my job as a journalist I can see the necessity.

Flag-Waving Populism. This one confused me. If anything, the most avid flag-wavers are the newly-minted South Asian and African citizens who want very badly to be Canadian. You see the same thing with the Punjabi and Mandarin penetration of the foreign language broadcasting for NHL games, as immigrants want to feel Canadian by joining in our traditions. Unless Lawrence Martin thinks that a largely multicultural country in which almost everybody is a dual-citizen will somehow start a multicultural fascist party that suddenly becomes xenophobically opposed to sponsoring their own relatives, I don’t quite understand his point.

Less Tolerance. Indeed? Admission targets for 2012 are 259,900 people, not including foreign temporary workers and students. This is consistent with previous years under Conservative rule, although if you include foreign temporary workers and students, the Conservatives set a record for allowing foreigners into Canada in 2007 with 429,649 people. Pretty intolerant, eh?

Having said that, Martin makes a point about the oddly selective decision to uphold who is a Canadian citizen and who isn’t, as evidenced by the Abousfian Abdelrazik fiasco. Either Canada upholds citizenship as a paramount right, or else enshrines in law naturalized and dual citizens as a secondary class.

Anti-Intellectualism. In some respects he’s right. The government’s battle against Vancouver’s legal heroin injection site is baffling, mainly because they’re not fighting it on moral grounds but on medical grounds. But by the same token, many of the Conservative decisions to buck the scientific consensus have been vindicated, particularly by opting out of the Kyoto Protocol, which would have devastated Canada’s economy even more than the financial meltdown has already. Although support for spending money to fight climate change is still strong, it’s clearly declining year over year.

The Smearing of Opponents. And this is a rightwing tactic? It’s true the attack ads on Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion were unethical, relying mainly on misquotes and half truths, but it isn’t as though the Conservatives are the only ones playing that dirty game. Having said that, the Conservatives do play the dirtiest, probably because they have a fundraising machine that outearns all other political parties combined.

Anti-Labour Bent. I think the anti-labour movement has been prevalent for more than a decade, long before the Conservatives took power. And the reason for that is obvious. A perfect example is in the recent job action by the B.C. Teacher’s Federation, which has caused teachers to refuse to do their jobs properly, opt out of any non-essential work duties, and pretty much make demands that are unaffordable and unreachable for any government in the current economic climate.

Another example is the greedy Canada Post union, which for whatever reason wanted to keep salaries at $23 an hour to start, which is probably about 120 per cent higher than the free market starting wage for unskilled labour. There is very little sympathy among those of us in the private sector, many of whom have more education and responsibilities, for public sector workers earning inflated salaries that simply don’t compare to the real world. In fact, union collective bargaining agreements are one of the largest source of local government inflation in Canada.

Cult of the Leader. Yes, the cult of leader issue with Harper has been strong, and borderline disturbing. But is it any more disturbing than the orange crush love affair on Jack Layton? What about federal Liberal-supporter and current B.C. premier Christy Clark putting her name in the logo of the B.C. Liberals? Talk about megalomaniacal.

Frankly, most of Martin’s argument don’t wash. What he fails to mention in his column is that social spending by the Conservatives is the highest level Canada has ever seen. He’s expanded social programs like Employment Insurance and Canada Pension Plan, created regional development agencies, bloated the public sector, and overseen a 22 per cent rise in spending since taking power in 2006. The Harper party governs by a Big Government style that eschews fiscal responsibility for political expediency.

And any of the socially conservative fears of the Harper government have failed to come to pass. No move to restrict abortion, no repealing of the rights and benefits for homosexual marriage, and no infringement of the secular state with religion. All of the fearmongering simply has not come to pass. Even the axing of the gun registry has had moderate support from rural NDP MPs.

Finally, the pro-military shift has been a collective change in Canada, not a rightwing one. After decades of relative pacifism, Kandahar finally thrust Canada into a war where we the public were confronted with casualties on a regular basis. The reaction to that was universal across partisan lines. The loss of life was mourned and the recognition of what our military represents and who they serve was finally brought to the forefront of public consciousness. Though people differed in opinion as to the political reasons for being in Afghanistan, Canadians uniformly supported our men and women in uniform.

I interviewed an Afghan veteran for Remembrance Day, and his thoughts were expressed at the end of this newspaper article:

“Before [the mission] there were times I was afraid to walk down the street in uniform. Now, I walk down the street in uniform, no matter what city in Canada, and someone stops me and thanks me or wants to shake the hand of a soldier.”

No matter what side of the debate you fall on in Afghanistan, says Midan, it has made Canadians realize we have an army and that it’s important.

17 Responses so far.

  1. JenNo Gravatar says:

    The best army money can buy. Small in number compared to others, our army carried themselves double the count. Not only that, they have/are credited for the hard work.
    Unfortunately, for years, 2001-2005, no one really heard much of them(soldiers) far less be given a glance to their achievement. Canadian citizen remained oblivious to the army’s hard work.

    But what we heard though from the opposition parties then echoed and re-echoed by the msm is that “our troops are war-criminals”
    these words were repeated for canadians to remember it well
    But, when it came to the hard work and the lives losts well, they were left in the dark.

    PM SH when he came to power saw to it that our troops were treated properly: from uniforms, shoes, equipments and so on.

    If you meaning (anyone) don’t have pride for your country to speak out with pride… not bash her or insult her ….you definetely don’t have pride for the army or soldiers of any field. The represent and died for country CANADA.

    I don’t think that Lawrence Martin knows anything about Canada.

    I am an immigrant and I share many tears when I hear Canada being spoken highly of in the international sceen or the respectable comments from other nations regarding to the efficiency and hard work of troops. Man, even writing this down, makes my heart swell with such pride for the country I and my hubby came to.. to love.

    God Bless our Canada and our soldiers and their families.

  2. cantucNo Gravatar says:

    I knew it was going to be a bunch of bedwetting bs , but I read it just out of curiousity. WOW!!! It was , like the poor bastard that wrote it , ” a piece of work “. He ,actually believing Pierre Trudeau , capable of walking on water , as much as called Stephen Harper the anti-christ . Wow again !! When are we going to invade France ?

  3. Norman in MexicoNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you for disputing everything that idiot Martin said today. I started reading his but almost barfed and couldn’t finish.

  4. peterjNo Gravatar says:

    Without trying to be too obvious it sounds like he simply can’t stand Harper.

  5. wilsonNo Gravatar says:

    Poor Larry, he liked all those loose lips in the LPC, gave them all something to write about.
    All lefty journos liked their blue beret’s, or as Ignatieff called them, Herbivorian Boyscouts.
    All of the old boy journos wer sneering about the ceremony for the end of Libya mission. (and they had all previously called it Harper’s war too, even tho every mission, Afghan and Libya, has had Parliamentary approval)

    He will have to write ‘Harperland 2′ before he retires (he’s 2 years from pension)

  6. Sean MNo Gravatar says:

    Crazy Larry has been losing it for years. Crazy Larry is one of these Trudeauvian cultists, a phony “journalist” who just can’t fathom the fact Trudeauvia is falling apart and Canada is making a comeback. Crazy Larry is in dire need of de-programming.

  7. WillNo Gravatar says:

    I would like to know why I’m not allowed to read the opinions of the scientists I pay for.

    I would like to know why I’m paying 1,500 people to filter the information I am being given by my government.

    I would like to know why access to information requests are more stictly controlled now than ever before.

    I would like to know why I’m paying my government to pass legislation to spy on me online.

    I would like to know why the right to strike is a right I apparently no longer have. (Will we have to put blood on the soil to get that right back one day?)

    I would like to know why my government won’t tell me how much it’s going to cost to build prisons to lock up people with a few pot plants.

    These are just a few questions I have. There are many more.

  8. What scientists are you talking about? Who’s preventing you from reading scientific journals?

    What 1,500 people are you talking about?

    I’d like to know why FOIs are controlled, too.

    What spy legislation are you talking about?

    As for striking, I don’t have any sympathy for you. Do you see the unemployment rate out there?

    I think it’s 500 pot plants, but I agree it’s stupid to build prisons for a harmless drug.

  9. wilsonNo Gravatar says:

    Will, like the media who spew opinion instead of fact,
    check out the Info Commish website report cards.

    CBC and Canada Post deserve your distain.
    http://www.oic-ci.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr_spe-rep_rap-spe_rep-car_fic-ren_2009-2010_accessed-evaluees_2009-2010_2.aspx

    And if Harper is controlling ATI how do you explain the emails the media was able to access so fast re: McKay/helicopter…??

    Get a grip, quit reading the Toronto Star and these journos caught in a 1990′s antiCon time warp

  10. wilsonNo Gravatar says:

    If Will is talking about the scientists who had a false positive test for virus in BC salmon, and scientist report suppressed but enviro groups report as truth,
    the government only reports fact, unlike US backed environuts:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/no-lethal-virus-in-pacific-salmon-cfia-says/article2258590/

  11. SusaanNo Gravatar says:

    Turdeau: The man of peace indeed. One solitary death and he invoked full-on martial law in Canada. The War Measures Act suspended our rights and he was instantly spun as a national hero. Why the heck was that so noble?

  12. DwayneNo Gravatar says:

    There is no such thing as a harmless drug. Just like alcohol, pot is one of those things that people consider recreational. And just like alcohol when taken to extremes it is harmful. Also, for some people the recreational use of pot leads to the experimental use of harder drugs, the really bad ones. Since pot is so “harmless” it should be fine to try other stuff, right? Or so some thinking goes.

    The simple thing is to stick to what is legal if you want to get a buzz on. Drink… no one will arrest you for brewing your own either.

    As for the article and Mr. L. Martin, he has been degenerating with a bad case of Harper Derangement Syndrome, similar to the Bush Derangement Syndrome found in the USA a few years ago. All his stories have a similar theme now, he is a sad case to see. Like Mallick and others I don’t bother reading him as I think I know what he has to say now.

  13. “Just like alcohol”

    Exactly, except less harmful.

  14. JJNo Gravatar says:

    That piece is so utterly ridiculous and hyperbolic, the average Canadian will be able to see through it.

  15. DwayneNo Gravatar says:

    Terrible misquote Adrian, CBC worthy in fact.

    “Just like alcohol, pot is one of those things that people consider recreational.”

    I have never said it is “just like alcohol” because it is not. But as my sentence above states, people see it as “just like alcohol”.

    Not going to debate this, but just wanted to point out your glaring misuse of my words.

  16. I was pointing out the part I agree with without bothering to quote the full text. We disagree on the harms but we both agree it’s seen as a recreational substance abuse.

  17. Splendor Sine OccasuNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, Larry sure sounds like a bitter conspiracy theorist…

    Much of what he whines about has been practiced by other governments, at all levels, for many years. He only whinges about it now because it’s not his team acting that way.