A week and a half into the election campaign, and things are not exactly going according to the script. A couple of weeks ago, it seemed as if the governing Parti Québécois would easily saunter into majority status. The Liberal Party had a terrible time of it in the run-up to the election. Its untested leader, Philippe Couillard, seemed weak and indecisive in dealing with Fatima Houda-Pépin, the Liberal MNA who took exception with what she saw as her Party’s excessively lax stand on religious accommodation issues. She managed to steal the headlines from her boss for weeks, before ultimately slamming the door on him in a very public way. (She will be running in her old riding as an independent, and the PQ has made it plain that they would not run a candidate against her). The PQ on the other hand seemed unable to take a wrong step. The “Charter of Values” provided them with an inroad into the key swing suburban ridings around Montreal and Quebec City.… Continue reading
Excellent paragraph from Jack M. Balkin, “The Last Days of Disco: Why the American Political System is Dysfunctional” (SSRN), describing the dilemma that radical Republicans find themselves in:
They disdain the expertise- and elite-driven politics that the progressives championed. But they face the opposite problem. The acceptance of scientific policymaking as the proper mode of government action, and widespread popular expectations that the government is now responsible for social welfare, social insurance, full employment, environmental protection, and economic prosperity, means that libertarian radicals will find it almost impossible to dismantle the modern policy state wholesale. Instead, the best they can hope for is to undermine it and prevent its further expansion, leading to… a “permanent siege” against the policy state.
This strikes me as an excellent summary of the bind that Canadian Conservatives find themselves in right now. And while it does not manifest itself in the form of “dysfunction,” the way it does in the United States, it does explain the peculiar paralysis of the federal government (remarked upon by many disappointed conservative commentators), where they can’t seem to find anything better to do with their time than pick fights with the civil service.… Continue reading
Almost thirty years ago, when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was brand new, the Supreme Court of Canada made two decisions that were vitally important for the rights of non-citizens in Canada. Since that time, it has been all down hill.
What has gone wrong and why? The beginning was promising. In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled than anyone physically present in Canada was protected by the Charter. This ruling was followed in 1989 with a decision that a lack of citizenship was analogous to the grounds of discrimination listed in the Charter and thus was a basis for equality protection.
My study published late in 2013 showed both that very few questions of non-citizens’ rights reach the Supreme Court of Canada, and that those that claims that do are frequently rejected by the Court. The commitment of the Court to ensure that the Charter meets international human rights standards is not being met in this area. … Continue reading
I’m not what you would call a “radical environmentalist”. Nevertheless, when it comes to pollution and waste, there are a few bright lines that I try not to cross. One of those is heating the outdoors. If you find yourself doing this, you should rethink the choices that you’ve made that have brought you to this point in life. For example, I’ve always been a bit scandalized by outdoor patio heaters. My neighbour has one on her back deck. Every time I look at it, I think to myself “Seriously? You can’t just put on a sweater?”
As if this weren’t bad enough, there’s a new lifestyle trend sweeping upper-class Toronto that’s irritating me to the point of distraction. It’s heated driveways. People are installing heating coils in their front driveways, so that they don’t have to clear the snow. It’s just like a radiant heat floor inside your house, except that it’s, you know, outside.… Continue reading
In the name of democracy Minister of State (Democratic Reform) Pierre Poilievre wants to put the “rule breakers out of business”. In particular, he wants to stop the scourge of voter fraud. Sounds like a good idea, right? But perhaps it is the Minister who is flouting norms of democracy.
Legitimate democratic processes involve more than fair electoral and parliamentary voting processes. They have a deliberative component. Legitimate legislation is not merely legislation that secures the support of majority of elected representatives in some procedurally fair process of vote counting. Rather democratic legitimacy depends on good faith efforts by political actors to provide credible justifications for the laws and policies they wish to see adopted.
Of course, there are often heated disagreements as to what counts as good political justification. In democracies there is wide latitude in political debate and discourse about the features of sound political justification. But not everything is up for grabs.… Continue reading
Here’s a video of talk I gave in Ottawa last month (in the parliamentary restaurant), on the subject of “reason in politics.” The presentation is basically an ultrashort version of the argument of a new book that I have coming out April 15 (called Enlightenment 2.0), in which I, quixotically, try to make the case for a return to reason in politics.
The talk is just 25 minutes long, it starts at 4:30 and after 35:00 it’s Q&A.
If I may permit myself a moment of “meta” commentary, I just want to acknowledge that the talk itself is what we in philosophy sometimes refer to as a “performative contradiction,” in that I am making the case for an increased role for system 2 thought processes, while using every trick in the book to make the case in a way that will be system 1 intuitive (even stooping so low as to use cute pictures drawn by children).… Continue reading
A week ago the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers joined together to call for independent oversight of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The press conference was well attended, and the mainstream press ran a series of pretty good stories about it. But almost no one reported on the CBSA horror stories that those of us involved the conference thought would get the most attention.
I am still wondering about this. I just can’t bring myself to conclude that the mainstream press in Canada is not interested in salacious detail.
Here are some of the things that did not get noted in the dozen or so stories that followed the press conference:
- A CBSA officer handcuffed a man who had voluntarily attended a meeting and told him that during his deportation flight if he caused trouble he would be forcibly put into a diaper.
Here is a copy of the open letter in opposition to Bill C-23, signed by 160 Canadian university professors who study democracy and constitutional law. It was published today in the National Post and Le Devoir.
The number of people who signed it (160 by my quick count), is another way of saying “practically everybody.”
If you don’t know who Cheryl Gallant is, it’s probably because A) you don’t live in the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, and B) you missed one of the more revealing political stories of the year.
I’d like to dwell on this story for moment, because as far as I’m concerned it came and went a bit too fast. I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind, because for me it exemplifies the thing that disturbs me most about a range of extremely sneaky fundraising tactics that the Conservative Party has been using of late. (I think of it, for example, when reading the more recent story of the Conservative party using the Prime Minister’s meeting with the Aga Khan to harvest email addresses, then sending out party fundraising appeals, thereby co-opting official government business for partisan purposes.)
So Quebeckers will be going to the polls on April 7th. At issue is whether my fellow citizens will follow the Parti Québécois’ hard right turn on identity issues. The centerpiece of that turn is the so-called “charter of values” which would, among other things, alter the province’s own Charter of Rights and Freedoms so as to allow the government to prohibit anyone drawing a salary from the public coffers from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols.
What’s going on here? To begin to answer that question, one has to realize that many strategists within the governing Parti Québécois have come to the conclusion that unless a winning referendum can be held during the PQ’s present turn in power, the dream of an independent Quebec can pretty much be kissed goodbye forever. Were they to leave power without getting a “yes” on a sovereignty referendum, they would next be coming to power after 7 or 8 more years of Liberal rule.… Continue reading