Lawrence Martin Fears A Multicultural Fascist Party?

Posted December 2nd, 2011 in Canada 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.

What’s wrong with Canadian journalism?

Posted December 20th, 2010 in Canada, Humour by MarkOttawa

At least seven of the 24 names on this sub-list for inside the Queenswayers are plain awful; few of the rest are beyond mediocre.  Your thoughts in the “Comments”, any names?

The Hill Times’ top 100 most influential people in government and politics in 2011

MEDIA

CBC’s The National’s At Issue Panel

The CBC’s At Issue Panel is one of the most-looked-forward to political panels because Andrew Coyne, Allan Gregg, and Chantal Hébert’s comments on the day’s top issues are insightful and accurate. Politicos usually take note of the 13-minute panel and is a must watch among the country’s top decision makers.

QMI Agency bureau chief David Akin

As the bureau chief of the wire agency for the largest news publisher in Canada, David Akin is influential in shaping the news agenda. He’s also a top social media user and often breaks stories on Twitter and through his blog.

La Presse bureau chief Joel Denis Bellavance

Joel Denis Bellavance is a well respected and well connected reporter who often break stories that the English media follows. As one insider said, if Mr. Bellavance has a story, “you can almost rest assured it came straight from the PMO.”

CBC reporter Rosemary Barton

Since veteran broadcaster Don Newman left his seat at the CBC-TV’s Rosemary Barton has taken on an even bigger presence for the national public broadcaster. She’s been called upon to fill in for Power & Politics host Evan Solomon, and she often breaks stories that shape the news agenda. Ms. Barton is new to the list and is also an influential Twitterer, engaging her followers with witty commentary and political news.

George Cope, CEO Bell

With the $1.3-billion purchase of CTV, President and Chief Executive Officer Bell George Cope steps into a whole new league as he leads the transformation of the country’s largest communications company. The deal will split the assets of CTV Globemedia, which includes The Globe and Mail newspaper, which will go to the Thompson family’s Woodbridge Company Ltd., although BCE will keep a 15 per cent stake in the newspaper. BCE will have full ownership of CTV and its specialty television, digital media, conventional TV and radio. Mr. Cope plans to broaden the media corporation’s content assets across its Bell mobile, online and television services.

Le Devoir reporter Hélène Buzzetti

Hélène Buzzetti has a keen political sense and often breaks stories which the English national media later follow. Her stories are a must-read for her in-depth analysis of the federal political scene from a Quebec perspective.

Toronto Star senior writer Susan Delacourt

Susan Delacourt is a Hill veteran who writes for Canada’s largest circulation daily paper. Her stories are full of insider perspectives and analyses. Top political players keep a close eye on her work, as does her large blog, Twitter, and Facebook following. She’s one of few Hill reporters who uses her blog to give insightful political commentary on the day’s top issues.

La Presse columnist Alain Dubuc

Alain Dubuc has been covering federal and provincial politics for more than 30 years and is a must-read columnist for any top political players wanting a French-Canadian perspective on the day’s most important stories.

CTV Ottawa bureau chief Bob Fife

Top political players and government officials often take note of Bob Fife’s stories. As a Hill veteran, he’s cultivated many sources on all sides of the House to break stories that shape the political agenda.

Toronto Star, Le Devoir, The Hill Times columnist Chantal Hébert

Chantal Hébert has covered politics since 1975 and top federal political players trust her honest, ever sharp and insightful views of Parliament and federal politics. She’s definitely an influential must-read and often shapes the political agenda.

The Globe and Mail Ottawa bureau chief John Ibbitson

As the Ottawa bureau chief for one of Canada’s national newspapers, John Ibbitson plays a large role in shaping both the news and political agenda. He has close contacts inside the PMO and often is the first to break stories which are followed closely by top political and government players [see here].

National Post columnist John Ivison

John Ivison is well-known for his Scottish accent, but is also best known for his gritty, insider, and thoughtful must-read columns that often have Hill reporters chasing stories of their own. Top political and government players watch his column closely.

Halifax Chronicle-Herald Ottawa bureau chief Stephen Maher

As the bureau chief for a regional paper, Stephen Maher has been successful at breaking original and exclusive national stories which are later followed by other Parliament Hill media.

CTV Power Play host Don Martin

Don Martin only recently started hosting CTV’s influential political show, Power Play, but is an influential media personality on his own. For years, he’s written thought-provoking insider columns with significant scoops that every politico follows intimately. Apparently, the government’s recent decision on BHP came partly to prove Mr. Martin wrong. He had written a column suggesting the government would allow the takeover. That’s some influence [see here].

Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin

Anybody who follows the federal political scene also follows Lawrence Martin, The Globe and Mail’s influential columnist. Not only is his latest book, Harperland, an insider’s account of the Prime Minister’s control on Ottawa, a must-read, but so are Mr. Martin’s columns [see here].

Political satirist Rick Mercer

Through seven seasons of the Rick Mercer Report, Rick Mercer has not only entertained Canadians by poking fun at politicians, but he’s also influenced public opinion through his political satire. Federal political players and insiders always want to hear what he’s saying, unless of course he’s ranting about them.

National Newswatch founder Will LeRoy

Every morning, it’s almost guaranteed that the first website politicos visit is Will LeRoy’s nationalnewswatch.com news aggregator. Mr. LeRoy’s aggregator is so popular, that he’s attracting top advertising dollars, and is often breaking his own stories with inside scoops and tidbits of information that reporters take note of to follow-up on. He’s hot.

CTV Question Period host Craig Oliver

Craig Oliver has been covering federal politics for more than 50 years, and continues to be an influential journalist. He’s seen as a thoughtful and respected journalist who political players can trust. He often shapes the news agenda [see here, and second comment here--which raises a theme I often raise].

CBC blogger Kady O’Malley

Kady O’Malley is the mother of live blogging and continues to do it best. She has a large following as people tune in to her blog postings to get real time coverage of the most important issues of the day, coupled with insightful commentary [see here].

Corriere Canadese, The Hill Times and The Toronto Star columnist Angelo Persichilli

Angelo Persichilli’s influence comes from the platforms that he has to give his insider’s perspective of the top daily stories. He writes for Canada’s largest circulation daily, The Toronto Star, and Parliament Hill’s influential weekly, The Hill Times, as well as the daily Italian-language paper Corriere Canadese. He has close sources and he breaks news in his insightful columns.

Canadian Press bureau chief Rob Russo

Rob Russo recently won the prestigious Charles Lynch Award for best coverage of national issues at the 2010 Parliamentary Press Gallery Dinner, a testament to not only his outstanding reputation as a newsmaker, but also the respect his peers have for him. Through leading a top-notch bureau, Mr. Russo’s team is often the first to break the day’s news, as a result influencing the federal political scene. The Canadian Press Ottawa bureau is trusted and influential.

Globe and Mail senior reporter and CTV Question Period host Jane Taber

Jane Taber’s stories are a must-read for the exclusive insider perspective of life on the Hill. As the senior political reporter for one of Canada’s national newspapers and the lead on a widely-read blog, Ms. Taber is an influential must-read [see here].

CBC pundit Greg Weston

Greg Weston left his years of writing for Sun Media during the Kory Teneycke fiasco, but has landed well at the CBC. Insiders say he’s responsible for heightening CBC’s profile with the scoops he has and the stories he breaks. He remains a key player among the Hill media, and is an influential player when it comes to shaping the federal political agenda. He’s an old fashioned journalist who breaks stories [see here, more on others too]…

Via David Akin at his blog.

Predate: Word sketches of mine from 2006 (in last link in quote):

English Canadian TV Pundits: 10 words or less

Jane Taber: Katie Couric without looks, brains or money

Jim Travers: Punching above his cranial capacity

Don Martin: Hunter S. Thompson without serious drugs or brains

Susan Riley: The class struggling

Rex Murphy: Only in Canada you say? Pity

Susan Delacourt: Hair punching above its weight

John Ibbitson: A conflicted but intelligent pixie

Gilles Paquet: The real and delightfully cynical deal

Don Newman: The chuckling fog (I like Mel)

Mike Duffy: The chortling tummy that showed a backbone a few months ago

Greg Weston: Something stinks and it couldn’t possibly be my judgement…

Mark
Ottawa

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You thought US missile defence plans for Europe were pretty dead, eh?

Posted August 1st, 2010 in Canada, International, united states by MarkOttawa

You might well have thought so if you’d read the Globe and Mail piece by Lounge Lizard Larry Martin to which this unpublished letter responded:

Lawrence Martin (On many vital issues, the NDP have been on the mark, Sept. 24 [2009]) highlights President Obama’s decision to kill the American missile defence system that was planned for Poland and the Czech Republic.  He then uses this example to applaud the NDP for their supposedly far-sighted opposition to missile defence in general.

But there’s a problem with this line of reasoning.  The president didn’t actually kill American plans for missile defence involving Europe.  He simply abandoned one system and intends to replace it with another using different types of missiles, initially sea-based but subsequently to be land-based in Europe itself.  So missile defence itself is still alive and well.

It’s also worth noting something about which most Canadians, including Mr. Martin, seem unaware.  NATO itself is fully committed to creating various missile defence systems, one planned to be operational by 2010.  It’s only in Canada that there appears to be a practically fetishistic opposition to the concept.

Mark Collins

References:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/opinion/20gates.html
http://www.nato.int/issues/missile_defence/index.html

Now a Washington Post story; I don’t think these facts will get much coverage up here:

U.S. nears key step in European defense shield against Iranian missiles

The concept of a missile shield began with former president Ronald Reagan, who first described his vision of a defense against a Soviet nuclear attack in his “Star Wars” speech in 1983. Its development accelerated during the George W. Bush administration, which saw missile defense as a way to deter emerging nuclear powers in Iran and North Korea.

It has expanded further under President Obama, despite the skepticism he expressed during the 2008 campaign about the feasibility and affordability of Bush’s plan for a shield in Europe.

In September, Obama announced that he was changing Bush’s approach. Instead of abandoning the idea, he directed the Pentagon to construct a far more extensive and flexible missile defense system in Europe that will be built in phases between now and 2020…

The Bush plan would have consisted of only 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and a large radar installation in the Czech Republic. It was designed to shoot down long-range or even intercontinental ballistic missiles fired by Iran against Europe or the United States…

Obama announced in September that the Pentagon would scrap Bush’s system for Europe and replace it with what he called a “phased, adaptive approach.” The first phase officially becomes operational next year. Aegis ships, armed with dozens of SM-3 missile interceptors, will patrol the Mediterranean and Black seas and link up with the high-power radar planned for southern Europe.

In 2015, the next phase will begin. Romania has agreed to host a land-based Aegis combat system on its territory.

In 2018, the system will expand further with another land-based Aegis system in Poland, as well as a new generation of SM-3 interceptors and additional sensors. The shield is scheduled to become complete by 2020, with the addition of even more advanced SM-3s…

NATO allies…may eventually plug their own, more limited missile defense systems into the overall shield [Canada excepted from all forms of that horrid idea, of course]…

Mark
Ottawa