On racism and race consciousness

I have Jonathan Kay to thank for the series of excerpts from my book, Enlightenment 2.0, that the National Post ran during the week of April 14-19. The paper did, however, do me a slight disservice by running the last excerpt under the heading “How to Beat Racism.” (It’s always important to remember, when reading a newspaper, that the headlines are written by different people than the articles.) This made it sound as though I thought there were some kind of easy formula that could be followed to overcome racism. (Ivor Tossell also took issue with this, in his Globe and Mail review, complaining about my attempt “to diagnose and prescribe a balm for America’s race problem in three pages, flat.”)

The fact that I go on to discuss “the eternal problem” of race in America might suggest that I am less optimistic about the problem being solved anytime soon.… Continue reading

Some Enlightenment 2.0 housekeeping

I spent the morning today down at CBC Radio, taping an interview with Michael Enright for Sunday Edition, which will be broadcast in 2 or 3 weeks. I also did Ontario Today on CBC last week, for those who are interested. Phone-in shows are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand they’re pretty relaxed, because people almost always ask really long questions, so you have lots of time to think about what to say (unlike with hosts, who almost always ask very short questions, then get fidgety once you’ve talked for more than 30 seconds). On the other hand, the discussion on these shows tends to be rather untidy, because it bounces from one topic to another. So you don’t leave it with the sense of having said anything in particular.

In any case, talking about the book some more has reminded me of a few items of unfinished business.… Continue reading

Trolling Sun News

Personally I always turn down interview requests from Sun TV. Partly it’s because they’re not a real news organization, but rather a branch of the Conservative Party posing as a news organization. But mainly it’s because of their attempt to smear my colleague Peter Loewen a few years back.

Nevertheless, if you have to do an interview with Sun TV, you can’t do much better than Scott Vrooman the other day. This is level 99 trolling:

 

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About those million jobs…

The other day in the Ottawa Citizen I was complaining about the made-up quality of certain numbers that the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has been throwing around, such as their “Million Jobs Plan”:

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to pluck a number out of thin air and then make it the central organizing theme of one’s campaign.

For reasons of space I neglected to mention that the PCs did make some attempt to explain where they got the “one million” number from. They provided to journalists — not to the public, but just to journalists — a breakdown of where the jobs were supposed to come from. These numbers were suspiciously exact, as opposed to suspiciously round. But it turns out there may be even bigger problems with them.

Just to provide a sense, here is how the CBC reported what they got from the party:

Hudak’s plan acknowledges that more than 523,000 jobs would be created anyway if the government simply continued the policies of the last decade.

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In LNG We Trust

Here in BC, the government has become a strict adherent to the LNG faith. (If you live in BC you’ll already know what LNG stands for. But for the rest of you, it means Liquefied Natural Gas.) The Liberal government believes that development of a massive LNG industry in the province is the best way to secure heaven on earth or at least future economic prosperity. So it is orientating a great deal of public policy toward devout pursuit of the promised salvation of LNG. I venture no opinion here about whether the gospel of LNG is sound economic policy. My concern is how the narrow evangelical focus on LNG is having a deleterious effect on the government’s understanding and approach to higher education.

The government says it wants “re-engineer” education to orient it directly to providing job training. This re-engineering is intended to ensure that there will be a suitably skilled labour force ready to fill the thousands of new jobs it anticipates the LNG venture will create.… Continue reading

In lieu of a post

Apologies for the light-to-nonexistent blogging. Catherine and I were in Osoyoos BC all week at a Trudeau Foundation conference that kept us busy. Jocelyn is heading off on vacation. The others I have no idea. I do have some things I need to write up in the next few days, but in the meantime, here’s a nice bootleg I found of Canada’s greatest band:

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Can Public Funding of IVF be Justified?

Guest post by Carolyn McLeod and Andrew Botterell:

The provincial government of Ontario recently announced that beginning in 2015, it will fund one cycle of IVF for people suffering from infertility. At the same time, it will require single embryo transfer for each funded cycle and will not pay for the drugs required for IVF, nor for the cost of ancillary services, such as embryo freezing. Although this proposal is not as comprehensive as Quebec’s program, which pays for up to three cycles of IVF (with ovarian stimulation), this is undoubtedly good news for women who would otherwise be unable to afford IVF, and for those who see in this proposal the promise of stricter oversight of fertility clinics, which currently operate in a regulatory grey zone.

To state the obvious, this public policy decision raises many medical, economic, political, legal, and ethical questions. But the central question arguably is, “On what basis, if any, can this program be justified?” The cynical view is that the justification is political, pure and simple.Continue reading

Enlightenment roundup

First off, I’ll be in Ottawa on Sunday April 27th, doing a Q&A with Andrew Potter about Enlightenment 2.0 for the Ottawa Writers Festival. It’s at 6:30pm in Knox Presbyterian church (event details here). Also, I’m looking forward to attending the talk by Alison Loat and Michael MacMillan from Samara, just before mine, 4pm at Knox Presbyterian, discussing their new book Tragedy in the Commons. A great evening for all those who want to get together and wring their hands about the state of democracy!

In other news, here’s a half-hour podcast of me chit-chatting about the book, with The Commentary in B.C.

And there’s been a batch of reviews:

National Post, “Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath: Review” by Benjamin Leszcz

Toronto Star, “Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath: Review” by Alex Good.

There is also a very gratifying review by Ivor Tossell at the Globe and Mail (“Is it time for a renaissance of reason?Continue reading

Second open letter concerning reform of Elections Act

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Members of the House of Commons, and Senators of Canada:
 
Last month, over 160 professors signed an open letter to express grave concerns about the damage to Canadian democracy that the  “Fair Elections Act” (Bill C-23) would cause. Today, we the undersigned, an even larger group of professors at Canadian universities who share a deep concern over this legislation, urge the government to withdraw this Bill and draft truly fair election reforms based on meaningful consultations with opposition parties, non-partisan experts, Elections Canada, and the public. There is no reason to depart from this laudable Canadian tradition for electoral reform. 
 
Committees in both the House of Commons and the Senate have now heard from many experts and citizens’ groups. Overwhelmingly, these witnesses have criticized the legislation. Despite the government’s claim that “ordinary Canadians” support the Bill, a recent poll reveals that a majority of citizens oppose it.Continue reading