Reflections on the Trump Overseas Tour

Reflections on the Trump Overseas Tour

by

Howard Adelman

My overall impression of Donald Trump’s first excursion overseas as President is the low standard American commentators have set for their President. Further, Trump has surrendered American leadership in the world, although the focus has been on whether his visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican and the G7 were far less damaging than expected.  I examine the trip thus far one stop at a time.

Saudi Arabia

The glitz was familiar. Friendships were forged and solidified. The dancing at the ardha ceremony on the part of the Americans was awkward, and that may have been the metaphor for the whole visit. At the same time, a number of issues came into sharper focus.

  1. Donald’s supreme ignorance concerning terrorism

Though Trump declared that the war against terror was not a war of one civilization against another or one religion against another, but a war against evil, Iran alone was blamed as the heinous source of terrorism, as “the tip of the spear of global terrorism.” To some extent, in the Middle East, the country is a prime source. However, most radical Islamicist terrorism in Europe, in North America and even in the Middle East, is a product of Sunni, not Shiite, background. Wahhabism, rooted in Saudi Arabia, is both a source of proselytizing as well as repression, though both merge together in terrorism in only a small proportion of adherents to this fundamentalism. ISIS in its theology and jurisprudence is far closer to Saudi Arabia than to Iran.

  1. Donald proved he could be diplomatic

He learned to follow Barack Obama’s lead, a lead at which he once aimed withering criticism, and avoided the phrase “Islamic terrorism.” He also deliberately ignored his anti-Islamic rhetoric in addressing Muslim leaders and conveniently forgot that he had once declared that Muslims hate us.

  1. Donald’s Respect for Democracy

Saudi Arabia is a dynasty and theocracy, permitting only male descendants of the founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman al-Saud, to rule. Further, the Basic Law that dictates a dictatorship is rooted in sharia law; punishment can be severe for apostasy, sorcery and adultery. Trump could have offered indirect criticisms of the Saudi democratic deficit by applauding the honesty of its December 2016 elections and the innovation in allowing women to both vote and run as candidates, while urging moves towards further reform. If he had a deeper sense of diplomacy than he exhibited, this need not have emerged as a scolding, but as encouragement towards judicial independence and due process in opposition to rampant use of arbitrary arrest, particularly targeting human rights activists. However, Donald Trump’s “principled realism” unveiled an absence of any principles.

  1. Donald’s Ethos

Donald seems to have no sense of human rights – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly – and universal values; he expresses a positive disdain for them in the leaders he admires. He never once brought up the issue of human rights or confronted the repressive government of the Saudis. Instead, a member of his executive, Secretary Wilbur Ross, lauded his visit to Saudi Arabia by noting there were no protesters. “There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere there during the whole time we were there. Not one guy with a bad placard.” When Ross was offered an option to amend or qualify the statement, he abjured and, instead, doubled down on the plaudits he awarded Saudi Arabia without reference to the authoritarian reasons.

(See the U.S. Government Report: https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/253157.pdf)

This State Department Report explicitly notes that, “the [Saudi] government categorically forbids participation in political protests or unauthorized public assemblies.” Two protesters currently sit on death row sentenced to be beheaded.

  1. Donald’s Economic Interests

While the billions in trade deals (selling billions of dollars in arms to the Saudis whom he once charged with masterminding 9/11) were being celebrated, so was Saudi investments in America – $55 billion in defence, manufacturing and resource companies. Sales and investments also promised to bring more jobs to America. Less apparent was the fact that a close associate of Donald Trump, Hussain Sajwani, whose DAMAC Properties built the Trump International Golf Course Dubai, might be a big beneficiary.

  1. Saudi Middle East Peace Plan

Though the fifteen-year-old Saudi-led plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians had previously led nowhere, there were hints that the Saudis had modified their approach by offering Israeli recognition as well as trade and investment cooperation if Israel took positive steps towards peace – freezing settlements, releasing prisoners. The increasing surreptitious cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia in trade, security and even diplomacy has, in fact, provided the possibility of making the current period propitious for an advance toward peace, however unlikely that seems to be.

Israel and the Palestinians

At this time, virtually no one with any in-depth knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict expects any breakthrough on the conflict. This is especially true of the Palestinians. Some still believe that Palestinian stubbornness on the “right of return” is a, if not the, major impediment. In fact, there is a deal in the backdrop which allows Israel to ensure its demographic Jewish majority while giving a nod to Palestinian honour. Since there are agreements in place for trading territory and various resolutions are thrown about in dealing with the 80,000 Jewish settlers outside Area C in the West Bank, the problem of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel versus East Jerusalem serving as a capital of a Palestinian state still seems insurmountable. Could that problem be bracketed and a peace deal agreed upon on the other issues?

  1. Orthodox Jews were already suspicious when an unknown rabbi purportedly gave permission to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner landing in Saudi Arabia after the sun had set for the beginning of shabat.
  2. Donald Trump arrived in Israel against a background in Washington where he let the Russians know that intelligence had come from Israel.
  3. Former MK Moshe Feiglin, former leader of Zehut, criticized the $110 billion dollar-weapons-deal signed by Donald with Saudi Arabia.
  4. Netanyahu had to order his ministers to meet Trump at the airport; extreme right wing members recognized that they could not win Trump’s endorsement for a one-state solution based on Israeli victory.
  5. Netanyahu welcomed Trump to the “united capital of the Jewish state.”
  6. Donald Trump, whatever the huge range of his ignorance and inadequacies, does have a keen ear for identity politics and an ability to appeal to that side of Palestinian political concerns. In the past, efforts to strike a deal based on Palestinian self interest have failed. Would Donald be able appeal to their identity concerns?
  7. Recall that in February, Trump suggested that he, and the U.S., were no longer wedded to a two-state solution, even as the State Department reaffirmed that the U.S. still supported a two-state solution. Only a bare majority of Israelis continued to support a two-state solution and the support among Palestinians had dropped to 44%. However, it was not clear whether Trump had dumped the two-state solution or whether he was holding out that possibility if the Palestinians refused to bend and compromise. In his dealings with Israel, he was much clearer that he continued, for the present, to support a two-state solution, but it was also clear that it would not be based on a return to the Green Armistice Line, though Trump disdained the use of a label to characterize the solution without clarification of any content.
  8. When Donald Trump went to Bethlehem to meet Mahmud Abbas, he was greeted with a banner declaring Trump to be a man of peace: “the city of peace welcomes the man of peace.”
  9. Donald Trump did urge Palestinians to refrain from inciting violence.
  10. Trump broke a taboo and flew directly from Riyadh to Tel Aviv.
  11. Trump broke another taboo and, as U.S. President, visited the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, but without any Israeli politicians.
  12. He also reinforced Netanyahu’s propensity to demonize Iran as Trump insisted that Iran would never be allowed to make nuclear arms in the same week that a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, had just been re-elected as President of Iran.
  13. On the other hand, Trump did not announce moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as he had promised.
  14. Further, Trump asked Netanyahu to “curb” settlement expansion, but did not ask for a freeze on building housing units in existing settlements.

The Vatican

  1. Instead of building bridges, as Pope Francis favoured, the Pope had criticized Trump’s promise to build a wall on the Mexican border during his campaign.
  2. Trump in return had called Francis “disgraceful.”
  3. Pope Francis, a critic of climate change sceptics, openly advocated adopting policies to deal with climate change. (Francis gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on preserving the environment – of course, there is little possibility that Trump will read it).
  4. Francis is also perhaps the best-known world figure who identifies with giving a helping hand to the poor, with compassion for refugees and, in a Ted talk, he had urged the powerful to put the needs of the people ahead of profits and products.
  5. Francis and Trump did not end up in fisticuffs, but the half-hour visit appeared to be a downer for the Donald and certainly for Sean Spicer, a Catholic, who never got to meet the Pope; the background of the Manchester terror attack did not help, though Trump is all sentiment when children are killed and riled up when terrorists do the killing.

Brussels

  1. The visit to the heartland of globalism was bound to depress the Donald, especially when the UK placed a curb on sharing intelligence with the U.S. since Washington leaks could have compromised the investigation of the Manchester terror attack.
  2. The release of the CPO discussed yesterday did not help.
  3. Donald lectured other members of NATO – totally ignoring the progress made towards the 2% of GDP to be dedicated to the military; he claimed other members owed “massive amounts”; “23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying.”
  4. The combination of ignorance and bravado earned some open sniggers from a few European leaders but more frowns.
  5. Donald did not say that NATO was obsolete or dysfunctional, but neither did he pledge America’s unconditional fealty to NATO as required under Article 5 dealing with collective defence and the requirement that each member come to the defence of another.
  6. Donald was mostly left to wallow in his depressed isolation.

The G7

  1. At the G7, Trump lost the control he had exhibited in the Middle East and even Rome.
  2. It is difficult to say whether this was because of events back in Washington – John Brennan’s testimony that there definitely was Russian interference in the election and “possible” collusion because of Trump campaign officials contacts with the Russians, the breaking news of Trump possible obstruction of a criminal probe when he urged his intelligence chiefs to announce that there was no evidence of collusion, and the continuing parade of information that the Trump budget would be disastrous for Trump’s working class white supporters, or whether it was a result of events at the G7, or some combination thereof.
  3. First, while Trump refused to commit to the Paris Accord on the environment, he bragged that he won two environmental awards. And he did – for soil erosion control and preserving a bird sanctuary on one of his golf courses and for donating park land to New York State. Donald did not add that the first on the golf course complemented his self interest and the second was a way to get a charitable donation for land on which he was refused permission to build a golf course. Further, as one drives on the Taconic State Parkway through Westchester, you are greeted with large signs advertising the approach to Donald J. Trump State Park, but one finds the park is small (436 acres of woods and wetlands) relative to the signs, lacks any amenities – trails, parking, washrooms and picnic areas – and is uncared for (overgrown pathways and buildings deteriorated and covered with graffiti) since Trump never donated the money needed for its maintenance.
  4. President Xi of China told Trump that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord would be irresponsible.
  5. Was America’s pledge to commit $2 billion to the Green Climate Fund alive or would Trump issue an executive order this week cancelling the American commitment?
  6. In turn, European leaders lectured Trump on the fallout for the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Accord – a wave of international anger that would lead to retribution, declining trade with the U.S. and destroy the last shred of trust in Washington; withdrawal would be treated by the world as “diplomatic malpractice” and characterized as betrayal; Trump had delayed an announcement before he arrived at the G7 and, perhaps, might allow U.S. state interests to take precedence over fulfilling his wild and destructive promises.
  7. Europeans tried to educate Trump on globalization and trade policy, but there was little indication that they had made a dint in his thinking. However, a private meeting with Justin Trudeau seemed to indicate that Trump would not scrap NAFTA, but would work to iron out wrinkles. On the other hand, the Europeans rejected out of hand his plea for bilateral trade deals instead of multilateral ones.
  8. The Donald was sabotaged in his effort to deliver French President Emmanuel Macron his traditional macho pull and handshake. Macron, instead of greeting Trump first, let him stand there, as he planted cheek kisses on Angela Merkel, greeted several others and then, having been briefed, subverted Trump’s effort and even pressed his hand harder and longer and would not let Trump pull away.
  9. When all other leaders are seen chatting informally with one another as they look over an iron fence at the spectacular view, Trump is nowhere in sight. Instead of walking there with the others, he went in a golf cart. When he arrived, he was surrounded by a phalanx of security men and only then joined the group and appeared to dominate the conversation.
  10. When Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, as host of the conference, addressed his fellow leaders, all leaders had on headphones and listened – except Donald Trump, sitting two seats away, Donald without headphones sat looking vacantly at the table. Perhaps no one can understand Italian as well as he can.
  11. Trump had been gone too long from living in what he owned and projected his possessive individualism. Was it the requirement of collegiality that made him slip from his vacuous demeanour at the Vatican to his glumness in Taormina, Sicily?
  12. There was a media dustup over whether he referred to Germany as evil or bad, and, if “bad,” as seems to be the case, did he mean the situation in which Germany finds itself, specifically with respect to refugees, or did he mean German political policies were bad?
  13. The meetings confirmed what Angela Merkel had come to believe: a) that the U.S. was no longer a reliable ally on which Germany could depend; b) American current policies on trade and climate change were disastrous.
  14. Trump had gone from dancing with swords in Riyadh to dodging darts at the G7.

The trip overseas marked the U.S. loss of leadership in the Western world and threatened America with negative repercussions because the Europeans had linked action on climate change with trade policy. Trump managed to keep his head above water in this overseas trip as he escaped the domestic closing in on the administration in its fourth month in office, but only by moving America towards disastrous policies that would be economically and politically detrimental to the U.S.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

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VII: Samantha Power: R2P Applied

VII: Samantha Power: R2P Applied

by

Howard Adelman

When Samantha was appointed to chair President Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board set up to actually prevent mass atrocities and genocide as a core U.S. national security interest and foreign affairs responsibility, the cheerleaders for R2P jumped with joy, “At last,” they screamed, “Something will be done about preventing, or, at the very least, mitigating mass atrocities.” Indeed, Samantha Power credited the administration with “an unprecedented record of actions taken to protect civilians and hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable.” In reality, the false claim of credit and the inability to mitigate let alone prevent atrocities are two sides of the same coin.

What were these claimed unprecedented actions and accomplishments? And did they have anything to do with the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P)?

In the next series of blogs, I will take up a number of specific issues on which Samantha Power at one time or another claimed credit was due to the administration for “an unprecedented record of accomplishment”. I will see what if any connection there is to R2P and briefly deal with the claims made and whether any credit is warranted in a number of specific cases. Of necessity, I will have to be very brief and succinct on each crisis. Before undertaking the specific case study analysis, including Darfur, South Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Myanmar, I want to raise a number of general faults with R2P and then offer two individual cases – of accountability rather than prevention or intervention as illustrations.

As I will try to show in the case studies, when R2P is actually applied to protect populations in peril, such as the Yazidis in Iraq, the motivation has little to do with protecting that very endangered population. And when protecting an actual population as the real aim, as in Libya, the course of events set in motion by the intervention seems to make the situation go awry leading seemingly to many more deaths and atrocities than might otherwise have been the case. When protection or mitigation actually seem possible and could be effective, as in repressing and even eliminating Boko Haram in Nigeria, the conditions for its application are undermined. All of this will emerge in the case study analysis. In this blog, I offer some theoretical reasons why R2P is inherently bankrupt and why this will always be the case. R2P was not only stillborn when the UN endorsed the doctrine universally by effectively gutting its core premise of making sovereignty conditional instead of absolute, but was sterile at its conceptual birth. The genetics of the doctrine doomed it to crashing.

If the dialectics of the analysis of the theory bothers or deters you, wait until you can read the case study analysis. Alternatively, you can skip this blog and go to a second I will write this morning, a brief review of the movie, The Foxcatcher, a movie that presents, but does not go into the mind of a sociopath who could commit mass atrocities.

Part of the problem with R2P is the difficulty of application – the greater the challenges in figuring how to apply the doctrine, the more worthless it appears to become. For its credit depends upon use, but without a proper line of credit, it turns out to be useless, hence contributing to its increasing loss of credibility. And the more it is not used, the more worthless it appears to be. However, these are but the manifestations of the root conceptual flaws in the doctrine. Let’s start with the central premise of the relationship between the sovereign state and its citizens.

In liberal democratic theory, the governors of a state are responsible for its citizenry and accountable to that citizenry for carrying out a state’s responsibilities. ‘Responsibility for’ and ‘accountability to’ are the two intertwined dialectical links between a population and its government. But in R2P, if a state fails in its prime responsibility of protecting its citizens, that responsibility function shifts to the international community which substitutes its own authority for that of the state. State authority is no longer absolute but conditional upon its exercise and removable with failure. The state is reduced to a trustee of the international community. And that international authority that takes over the responsibility for the citizenry is not responsible to that citizenry. So R2P only works if it undermines the principle of democracy. More importantly, when it does not work – which as I will show is the norm – then responsibility itself becomes emptied of any meaning, thereby even more fundamentally undermining the doctrine of responsibility for and to the people.

If we approach the conceptual issue, not from the nature of a democratic state, that is, the collectivity, but from the other pole of the equation in R2P, the rights of a citizen to protection, we get into another dilemma. Citizens not only have rights of free speech, rights of assembly and the other traditional rights necessary for the preservation and enhancement of a democratic polity, but they have a right not to be subject to mass atrocities. This is not just a right not to be tortured or a right to a fair trial or a right to legal representation. The latter are all rights that belong to the individual in a democratic polity. What we have in this case is a collective right, that is, a right of a community within a polity to continue its existence as a community; if the state denies that right by either trying to evict the community to which an individual belongs (ethnic cleansing) or goes even further and tries assiduously to exterminate that group in whole or in part (genocide), then the only way prevention or mitigation can be effected is by granting a group rights. Inherently, however, this puts limitations on individual rights rather than enhancing them.

If an individual has all of the liberal rights, why does he need to be recognized as a member of a group with collective rights? Where is the added value of the collective right to the individual qua individual? Further, one of the paradoxes at the root of the conception of the nation-state is that when a collection of individuals contract among themselves as individuals to transfer all coercive power to the state on condition that their rights are protected, those rights do not include group rights.

The compact between the individuals and the state goes further. The rights to determine who belongs to the state, that is, who can be its members, is transferred to the state. So if a state wants to abrogate the rights of a group, the only way to protect those rights is to insist they belong to every individual member of the state. But group rights only belong to a group and its members within the state, not to all members of the state itself. So if groups within a state are to have specific group rights – such as aboriginal peoples within Canada concerning the rights of a community to exclude non-aboriginal members or revoke the rights of individuals in that group when they marry non-aboriginals – then it is the group, not the state who defines who is a member of that group. If the state assumes responsibility for that decision – as was done in the Holocaust, in the Rwanda genocide and in some cases of aboriginal rights -, then the very idea of a self-perpetuating collectivity with rights within the state is undermined. The fact is, the issue of collective rights is the Achilles heel of a democratic liberal state. Insisting that a state cannot mistreat any of its minorities and, if it does, the collectivity of all states will take over the responsibility, means only that the irresponsibility only gets writ large and exposed for what it is.

So what has actually happened? The Obama regime has sincerely bought into the principle that the U.S. does have a responsibility when minorities are persecuted. And, unlike the United Nations, it is not just a rhetorical buy-in. As stated above, Obama issued a directive that “the prevention of mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest of the United States.” But then the most powerful state in the world showed that it could not possibly implement that responsibility – not only for all the minorities being afflicted with atrocities, but surprisingly, not one single one – except when the real and deep motivation is the old fashioned self-interest of the state.

So the issue is not even which group, among all those persecuted, a state should protect. Nor is the issue simply when to apply the doctrine of protection, let alone adopt the last resort of coercive intervention. The inherent incapacity of the most powerful state to protect any group outside its own jurisdiction based on R2P, which requires collective authorization via the United Nations before any action based on R2P is legitimized, undermines both the sovereignty of the state as well as the potency of that sovereignty. Does the endorsement by the UN authorizing military force help, as when the U.N. Security Council authorized military force to protect “civilians and civilian-populated areas” in Libya? R2P does offer permission to a state to act on behalf of the international community, which may provide temporary protection and which can prevent some murders from proceeding, but what happens next? Unless the intervening state or group of states is willing to assume full responsibility for those endangered citizens and not simply provide protection in an acute crisis, then the violence simply recurs in a different form.

Further, if a country decides to become involved, the intervener has to either take full control (unlikely) or to support one side in the struggle, presumably representing those persecuted. Then the persecuted are empowered to destroy their enemies – which inherently means the other side, the persecutors. They take control and sometimes even become the persecutors. Those states which have an interest against that group that have gained power become highly critical of the intervening state as behaving like an imperial power, not as a saviour of minorities. The intervener is no longer the representative of the world community, but only a section of it intent on victory. R2P just becomes a cover for an exercise in imperial power. At the same time, the intervener becomes a producer of victims as well as a protector of victims.

One result is that altruism is depreciated and devalued. Force in the service of altruism is an oxymoron. What is more, the altruism only seems to work when it is intermixed with the self-interest of the intervening state that drives the intervener to assume the full responsibility required to complete the task at hand. Of course, that only further undermines the moral status of R2P. Since the ostensible success, protecting civilians, is difficult to assess and measure, but the body counts, the civilians killed, those wounded as “collateral damage,” are quantifiable – the empirical evidence seems evident for all to see. The cure may be worse than the disease.

What is more, when a state assumes the responsibility for its members, for its citizens, this is an ongoing and continuing duty, not one that ever ends. But intervention inherently demands and requires an exit. Yet there never is an appropriate time to leave by the very nature of the problem. In reality, an intervener leaves when the government of the state within which the intervention takes place insists once again on assuming responsibility, thereby both undermining the R2P doctrine, which is based on the presumption that the will of an individual state is trumped by that of the international community.

Further, the resentment and internal discord within the intervening state are enhanced. A state assumes responsibility for its own citizens, not in gratitude for the “international” community acting as a temporary protector, but because the country has become tired and even resentful of the so-called protector. On the other side, the citizens of the intervener sooner rather than later grow tired of the burden and resentful in turn of the lack of appreciation of those who they sacrificed to protect. Alternatively, the situation gets worse, and the intervener is required to increase its commitment, the self-sacrifice of its citizens and the cost of its project, which in turn enhances the resentment of at least part of the citizenry of the intervening state and exacerbates the divisions and schisms within.

As we shall see, none of these paradoxes and dilemmas has even touched the problem that neither the strongest state in the world and certainly not the international community can possibly assume the responsibility for even a small portion of the atrocities taking place in various parts of the world. So the international community and the intervening state(s) come across as hypocrites incapable of living up to the promises they have ostensibly made.

One of the results of all these inherent failures is a propensity to boast about relatively tiny and insignificant accomplishments, even when one had hardly anything to do with responsibility for them. Before I begin the series of case study analyses, let me offer an example of one case that is neither about prevention nor intervention, but about accountability. The Obama administration supported the arrest of Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić and boasted about it. What did that support amount to?

Samantha claimed this credit among a long list justifying her successes as the chair of President Obama’s Atrocities Prevention Board set up in 2011. It is true that the R2P doctrine is not only about prevention, but also includes punishment of those guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide. But that is not what is novel about R2P. As President Obama said himself on 2 April 2013 upon learning of the arrest of the Butcher of Bosnia, Ratko Mladić: “Fifteen years ago, Ratko Mladić ordered the systematic execution of some 8,000 unarmed men and boys in Srebrenica. Today, he is behind bars. I applaud President Tadic and the Government of Serbia on their determined efforts to ensure that Mladić was found and that he faces justice. We look forward to his expeditious transfer to The Hague…From Nuremberg to the present, the United States has long viewed justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide as both a moral imperative and an essential element of stability and peace. In Bosnia, the United States – our troops and our diplomats – led the international effort to end ethnic cleansing and bring a lasting peace. On this important day, we recommit ourselves to supporting ongoing reconciliation efforts in the Balkans and to working to prevent future atrocities. Those who have committed crimes against humanity and genocide will not escape judgment.”

That is a fair and judicious statement. Obama gave credit where credit was due for the arrest – to President Tadic and the Government of Serbia that first gradually asserted control over the Serbian military. The effort was helped both by EU pressure requiring the arrest of the wanted war criminals as a condition for the entry of Serbia into the EU and the British military and British politicians, particularly Paddy Ashdown when United Nations High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004. Obama did not link the arrest with R2P, but with a long American bipartisan tradition going back to the Nuremberg trials after WWII. He also gave credit to the Clinton administration for its leading role in the intervention in the former Yugoslavia and for forging the peace agreement. The only credit he gave his own administration was for a recommitment to supporting ongoing reconciliation efforts in the Balkans and his government’s work to prevent future atrocities. None of this had anything to do with the arrest of Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić.

Even the rewards offered for information leading to his arrest, initially €1 million by the Serbian government, upped in 2010 to €10 million, and $5 million dollars offered by the American government, subsequently supplemented by an offer of €1 million by the U.S. embassy in Belgrade just for information on his location, had nothing to do with those arrests. Initially Mladić was protected by the governments of Serbia and Republika Srpska, then after 2002 by the Serbian army and the army of Republika Srpska, then by paramilitary extremist organizations similar to the ones that helped Nazi war criminals escape Germany after WWII, and finally only by members of his own family. Neither strenuous UN and NATO efforts nor offers of bounties led to his arrest – just good police work and serendipity.

Goran Hadžić was the last fugitive war criminal wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and he was arrested by Serbian police just over a month after Ratko Mladić near the village of Krušedol, where he had been hiding since his indictment by the ICTY. He had tried to sell a stolen Modigliani painting and police tracked him down. America had no more to do with this arrest than with the capture of Ratko Mladić. President Obama’s statement on Goran Hadžić’s arrest was in the same vein as the previous one, with one exception. “Over the course of its 18-year history, the United States has been and remains a steadfast supporter of the ICTY and its critically important work.” A smidgeon of credit was taken for supporting the ICTY. Was this what Samantha Power was declaring as an example of an “unprecedented action”?

My country may have been the sponsor and midwife of R2P. I continue to believe in military intervention – when possible and when needed. But the overarching doctrine supposedly providing a rationale for such actions is a far greater hindrance than help. It is much better to establish practices than to proceed from an abstract principle, especially one so terribly flawed.

Turkey – Domestic Changes

Turkey – Domestic Changes

by

Howard Adelman

I begin with domestic matters because they help understand the direction of the Turkish leadership. Tomorrow I will take up foreign policy.

Sixty-year old Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the founder of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s current president and former prime minister for the last eleven years, and mayor of Istanbul before that, has transformed Turkey domestically and certainly redirected Turkey’s foreign policy. Erdoğan is to Turkey what Putin is to Russia. After founding his new party in 2001, that party in the Turkish elections of 2002 took two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. A year later, after his banishment from politics was overturned and his then ally, Abdullah Gűl, served as interim Prime Minister for a year, Erdoğan became Prime Minster. Only this year did he assume the role of President after converting the Turkish political system from a parliamentary to a quasi-presidential democracy by shifting the largely ceremonial role of president to the most powerful figure in the country. However, in contrast to his earlier victories, he only won the presidency with less than 52% of the vote. However, he has set up a shadow government of directorates to monitor Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Cabinet who all come from his own party.

Control of the Media

Unlike Russia, where corruption and control of the media have allowed Putin to undermine the nascent democracy of Russia, Erdoğan has not achieved the position yet. Events, however, are changing the situation rapidly. Though Erdoğan seven years ago began arresting critics in the media whom he accused of being the propaganda arm of a coup effort, only in the last two years has he revealed himself to be determined to assert absolute control over the media. Yesterday afternoon I received news that Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of Zaman, Turkey’s top-selling newspaper, and Hidayet Karaca, the director of STV, a news channel, had been rounded up two days previously by Turkish police. The mysterious twitter account, Fuat Avni, had three days before that predicted these arrests and that of 150 or so other journalists. Some of these have gone into hiding. The charges: affiliation with the Fethullah Gulen movement, Erdoğan’s once erstwhile ally in overcoming the stranglehold the military held over the state, and an alleged conspiracy to undermine and/or attack a small rival Islamist group, the “Tahsiyeciler”, a group whose leaders Erdoğan had arrested only four years earlier who follow the teachings of the Islamic scholar, Said Nursi. Is it a wonder that Turkey ranks 154th on the world press freedom index, according to Reporters Without Borders?

The attacks on the domestic press were matched by a vicious campaign castigating the foreign – particularly Western – press of distortions, disinformation, ignorance, lying and even spying. Ceylan Yeginsu, a journalist working for the New York Times, that in its editorials had once lauded Erdoğan for his leadership role in the emerging Turkish vibrant democracy, had to flee the country for his life after being attacked in the AKP-controlled press and receiving multiple death threats. When Erdoğan himself was not deriding the Western press for being propagandists and undermining the new Turkey, that role was taken up by Ibrahim Karagul, editor-in-chief of the pro-Erdoğan newspaper, Yeni Safak, and the new English newspaper in Turkey, Daily Sabah, initially owned by Erdoğan’s son-in-law. And this is just the surface in this information war that permeates the electronic media as well.

Turkey’s Deteriorating Democracy

So much for the hopes for democracy in Turkey once the military had been removed from power in the name of rule by and for the people. That populism has been enhanced by the distribution of free coal to the needy. However, the crushing of the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 was just more public action in a coordinated effort to destroy any opposition in Turkey. The cronyism and corruption that is endemic and very widespread in Turkish society has permeated the AKP (one in five Turks and about 50% of businesses pay bribes to access public services). The effort to protect ill-gotten gains once that corruption had been revealed by the Fethullah Gulen movement have led the government to place a publication ban on the parliamentary committee looking into corruption. At the same time, Turkey has followed the lead of the Canadian parliament under Harper’s Conservatives of passing legislation through complex omnibus bills with relatively little time for debate. The bills in Ankara include provisions which infringe human rights protections.

The corruption scandal possibly accelerated the leadership’s plans to enhance its control of the media. Turkey has slipped from 53rd to 74th on Transparency International’s corruption index. Further, that corruption as well as increasing disparity between the rich and the poor are now being legalized as a new presidential provision permits young Turkish men to buy out their compulsory military service for $US8,700. Turkish writer and 2006 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Orhan Pamuk, has also denounced Turkey’s increasing climate of fear.

Educational Revisionism and Social Policy

In addition to its educational reforms that provided free textbooks for needy students, Erdoğan and his allies have pushed for making Ottoman Turkish compulsory in schools, introducing more and more elements of Ottoman culture into the curriculum, introducing segregation of schools by gender, and introducing Islamic religious instruction for students in fourth grade and higher, and planning to introduce such education at even lower grades in the face of EU demands that compulsory religious education requirements be scrapped. In the meanwhile, the educational authorities have eliminated human rights and democracy classes previously taken in fourth grade. These changes have taken place in parallel with the long term trend of religious cleansing of non-Muslims in Turkey as property disputes affecting the Armenians, Syriac church and the Yazidis drag out through the bureaucratic and legal process.

Unfortunately, at the same time, Erdoğan has pushed for technological modernization. Language, cultural and religious revisionism are difficult to blend with modernization that becomes self-propelling and innovative instead of simply copying from the West. Thus, Turkey ranks last among 44 countries on the English proficiency list, even though English is compulsory in Turkish schools. Raising a generation of devout Muslims may be at odds with encouraging technological innovation. Turkish pupils, along with other pupils from predominantly Muslim countries, are in a race for the bottom. Turkey now ranks 44 out of 65 countries in the measurement of 15-year-old educational achievements in mathematics, science, literacy and problem-solving.

The social indicators have been very bad. Child poverty has risen by 63.5%. With 301 minors killed in the disaster at Soma this year, Turkey had by far the worst record of workers’ deaths compared to any European state. On the gender front, the news is even worse. Although Erdoğan in 2004 passed a new penal code protecting women’s sexual and body rights, and although Erdoğan has promoted changes in the treatment of women in the army by increasing the number of female officers and NCOs to facilitate dealing with terrorism and to enhance the professionalism of the military, on 24 November he claimed that gender equality contradicted the laws of nature even though 22% of AKP seats were held by women.

Erdoğan, however, is a champion of motherhood rather than sisterhood. In spite of an enormous increase of almost 40% in GDP per capita under his rule, there was still only a 30% female participation rate in the workforce. His policies threatened to exacerbate the health, education and income disparities between men and women already deeply rooted in Turkish culture. Not to speak of honour killings! While not as bad as the situation in Pakistan, those murders still take the lives of 200 Turkish girls each year in spite of the 2004 law designed to combat such crimes. Between 2002 and 2009, the murder rate of women in Turkey went up 1400% and since Erdoğan came to power, 7,000 Turkish women have been murdered. On the UNDP’s Gender Equality Index, Turkey’s standing has slipped from 69th to 77th out of 187 countries.

When my brother, a renowned Canadian cardiologist, was invited to Turkey in 1996, and where they first diagnosed him with a blastoma after he had fainted on a golf course where he had gone to play with other Turkish doctors, Al had been very impressed with the advanced state of medicine in Turkey in the hospital he had visited. Now Turkey seems to be moving backwards in time to revive traditional medical practices including:
• acupuncture (the stimulation of specific points along the skin with thin needles)
• apitherapy (the use of honeybee products for treatment)
• phytotherapy (treatments based on traditional herbalism)
• hypnosis
• the use of leeches
• homeopathy
• chiropractic treatments
• wet cupping
• larval therapy (the introduction of live, disinfected maggots into the skin)
• mesotherapy (the injection of special medications into the skin)
• prolotherapy (the injection of irritating solutions into an injured spot to provoke regenerative tissue response)
• osteopathy (nonsurgical treatments of the muscle and skeleton system)
• ozone therapy (the introduction of ozone and oxygen gas mixtures into the body)
• reflexology (massage-like treatment of pressure on reflex areas).

The issue is not the legalization of these treatments, but making them part of the education in medical schools. Some, like the use of leeches, are already part of modern medical practice. Others, however, have not been validated by science. So in addition to taking time away from enhancing modern medical practice, practices which have not yet been validated by science will be introduced into the medical curriculum. Further, the system of independence in educational decisions by qualified professionals is being undermined by state dictates in favour of validating traditional culture.

There are those who posit that this is merely a method of bringing traditional medical practices under state supervision. Then why are the costs of those treatments not covered by public health insurance? Some argue the expansion has been introduced to enhance medical tourism. Further, Turkey is far from unique in allowing and regulating such practices.

Standing in opposition to these rationales, one of the indicators to the undermining of scientific medicine has been the lethargic response to a rise in measles which has been blamed on the large number of Syrian refugees who have found a haven in Turkey, rising from very low numbers – 7 cases in 2010 – to over 7,000 cases last year. No provision in the Turkish 2015 budget targets contagious diseases like measles. Further, excluding Syrian refugee births, infant mortality and maternal deaths increased in 2013 for the first time since 1945.

Crime has also increased, much as a by-product of the Syrian civil war. Almost 500 high quality 4x4s have been stolen from Turkish car rental companies for transfer to Syria.

Kurdish Separatism

Erdoğan has to be praised for beginning the process of recognizing the Armenian genocide, enhanced by Pope Francis’ recent visit to Turkey, but with little sign of real progress. Erdoğan is perhaps best known for pushing reconciliation with Kurds who had been forcefully resettled in the thirties and banned from using their language. He has even entered into discussions with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers Party) itself. However, while now allowing school children to be taught in Kurdish, would Kurds also have to learn classical Ottoman Turkish? Further, was Erdoğan strongly motivated to make peace with the PKK early in his national political career because he respected the group rights of the Kurds or because he wanted to undermine the rationale of the military for maintaining a relatively large army while, at the same time, solidifying his support with the Turkish public?

One very much suspects the latter given his subsequent career in national politics in Turkey and seemingly confirmed by the recent decision on December 10th in the face of the adjacent threat of Islamic State to enable middle and upper class military recruits to buy their way out of national service, a decision made without any consultation with the military general staff as required by the Turkish constitution. However, Erdoğan has never seemed to care about the constitution when it is to his populist advantage (currently an average Turkish citizen contributes about US$200 for each member of the family for defence) and when it undermines support for his critics on the left who were bound to vigorously oppose the move’s inegalitarian character. Further, if, as projected, 700,000 young men pay the state $8,700 each (men older than 30 pay US$13,300), US$5.7 billion will be added to state coffers from the men under 30 years of age alone, especially since parliamentary elections are to be held in June 2015. This is in addition to the monies saved on defence. The loans men are taking out to pay for the exemption in response to a spate of bank ads and the sales of unproductive capital (property, gold rings) has already acted within days to stimulate the economy. The greatly increased revenues to the state may be bad for the economy in the long run, but, in the short run it is much more than enough to pay for Erdoğan’s vain, enormous, lavish and enormously expensive presidential palace.

Is Erdoğan’s populist and Islamic program complemented by his foreign policy?

Branding and the Apocalypse

POSTCRIPT: Branding and the Apocalypse

by

Howard Adelman

Sanjay Khanna, a Visiting Scholar at Massey College, wrote a very intellectually stimulating position paper with James McKee, a PhD student in Political Science. The paper, “A Force of Nature: Emerging Conditions of Social Protest” (http://www.fondationtrudeau.ca/sites/default/files/u5/khanna_final_english-mai-final.pdf) was written for the 2013 Trudeau Summer Institute. I initially responded by suggesting a reservation to my enthusiastic initial reception – that the apocalyptic message seemed in total contradiction with the academic style of the writing and the reformist benign message. Upon reflection, I think the problems is far more serious.

While the Khanna/McKee piece was written in cool academic language, its message was anything but. The authors see the future in terms of VUCA – volatile, unstable, complex and chaotic, as well as ambiguous. Externally, climate change is the prime source of volatility, but it extends to economics, politics and the character of future societies. Increasing complexity and chaos are matched on the subjective side by ambiguous responses and resultant instability in the political and economic realm. Yet, in spite of the horrendous message, the report weakly suggests that they can help people navigate through this apocalyptic vision and transition to a more resilient future for Canadians.

For example, politically the confidence in democracy is seen to be on a declining trend with a response, especially among youth, characterized by apathy and a general transition from a civil to a courser political environment. Given the increasing costs of health costs well above general increases in GDP, given the increasing rates of unemployment among youth (17% youth unemployment in Ontario according to very recently released figures) and the declining youth political participation rates and the shift to confidence in non-political processes or single issue politics, the authors predict a continuing shift to micro-targeted politics and continuing to ignore young people’s priorities thereby enhancing the democratic deficit and the risk of following more and more irrational courses of action. Less listening, more manipulation, rougher politics and greater risk for non-rational political processes leads to “the central presumption that politics will be an increasingly emotion-laden process, the shift away from policy and into the political ‘tribalism’ of a polarized electorate” …and “the transformation of political policymaking into something resembling a continuous appeal to a political ‘lifestyle’ or ‘brand’ that treats the citizen primarily as a passive consumer limited to selecting options rather than driving policy change.”

In the discussion of brands, the authors went on to argue that people in societies under stress do not behave deliberatively but become driven by immediate fears, prejudices and tribal affiliations, but they can be encouraged “to hold onto their core values of tolerance, dialogue, mutual respect, and respect for diversity.” They argue that efforts should be undertaken “among coalitions of corporate partners to meet social aims through brands, using brands as an element of trust-building within and between generations.”

Since the paper at several points brings in a discussion of contemporary branding so, to make my points in the discussion of the prognostication and formulation of a rescue plan, I will make reference to Ira Basen’s one hour long radio feature documentary on branding cleverly entitled, “A Brand New World” that was broadcast a week ago on CBC’s Sunday Morning Magazine show. (http://j-source.ca/article/going-native-death-journalism-or-way-future) Ira argued that we are entering an era where, “People behave like brands and brands behave like people.” What he meant by this catchy phrase was that consumers were no longer simply passive recipients of brand messages focused on the selling the name and quality of a specific product. Rather, businesses were transforming brands into associations with lifestyles in order to connect with consumers on a personal level and connect to their value biases. Business wants to become your friend and show the brand shares your vision of the world. As he said in his special, “Brand used to talk to you but now brand has to listen and has to link to what people think and feel. Brand is now controlled by the people who use it.” In the process, companies become communities as they seek new connections to brands and efforts of brands to articulate the values of the consumer to develop an active dialogue between the brand and the consumer. So instead of expecting less from businesses and government, consumers and citizens expect more.

So we get two very different pictures of the future through the perspective of trends in branding. Instead of just enhanced volatility leading to greater ambiguity as the whole economic, political, social and natural environment becomes both more complex and more chaotic, the apparent instability reveals a pattern that is varied and diverse and decentralized. The ambiguity is then whether those businesses are in control and merely manipulating consumers or whether businesses are entering into a partnership with consumers. Is Coca Cola teaching the world to sing and to save polar bears and to fight obesity simply as a ruse? But consumers are too sceptical and Coca Cola had to prove its sincerity and integrity by developing Coca Cola plastic bottles made from plants. Companies can only do well by doing good. 

Is that true of politicians? Unfortunately, not! On closer examination, the tale Khanna and McKee (KM) tell of increasingly dirty and manipulative politics that use branding to identify political parties that touch the ideology of constituents suspicious of government and gain voters by appealing to irrational fears is not inconsistent with Ira Basen’s alternative tale of business allied with an increasing savvy youthful generation to market their products by lining up with an identification with the lifestyle of youth and their predominant values that celebrate diversity, tolerance and freedom. These two tales are not inconsistent even if they appear contradictory on the surface. For KM are telling the story of how more conservative approaches in terms of both method and content will work on an increasingly aging population increasingly fearful about the size of their pensions and whether the benefits accrued will see them comfortably through their old age. Ira Basen was writing about the innovations of business trying to take advantage of the new technology as well as the very different attitudes of youth towards business, politics and youth. Taken together, both are describing the landscape of a new generational war radically different than the battle fought in the sixties.

Let me play out that battle on three fronts: 1) health services; 2) medically assisted suicide; and 3) post-secondary education. The first is the easiest. With an aging population, with advances in technology, there is simply no way to keep the costs of health care from going up at rates significantly faster than the growth of the economy. The rate of growth of the latter has shown, as KM illustrated, a propensity to increasingly lower rates of growth in developed countries. The rate of growth of health costs, in contrast, has shown an increasing propensity to higher rates of growth. Governments may answer this squeeze by the federal government downloading costs onto the provinces and by increasing the age of retirement to increase productivity, but the downloading method combined with increasing revenues from elsewhere and decreasing costs of pensions only shifts the mode of payment, not the amount. And the latter may increase revenues but not nearly sufficiently to offload costs. The baby boom generation is not going to tolerate their addiction to good health care and the values of reduced suffering and enhanced enjoyment of this life while also being told they have to work longer and further postpone the satisfactions they anticipated in their retirement years.

This takes us into the second issue – medically assisted death with dignity. This is NOT euthanasia. This is not a public body deciding upon who should live and who should die based on their medical condition. Medical assisted death with dignity places the value of choice over death in the hands of each individual. This “freedom to choose” appeals to both the baby boom generation as they age and the new generation of youth. It is an issue on which they can – and will – unite to change existing laws. It is, therefore, a wedge issue that can generate coalitions, address directly the issue of fast rising health costs and the issue of a possible generational war of conflicting values.

This is also true of the next issue – post-secondary education. This is the other area of government costs increasing at greater speed that the rise in productivity. These costs are already being carried primarily by the provinces. As those governments face the burden of carrying increased health costs downloaded by the federal government, they will desperately look for ways to save money and not continually increase the level of indebtedness of this level of government. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is an obvious place to save that money that fits in with the values of the new emerging consumer culture insistent on being in control and new developments in both the technology of delivering higher education and branding. This is the development of MOOGs, those courses delivered via the new technology directly to youth and others all over the world by the universities with the best brands in higher education. When those universities learn that a much greater investment in the preparation of the product is needed to fit in with the new media, and that the costs of doing so will be minimal relative to the overall costs of the whole product and the radically reduced costs to consumers of education, it is very easy to realize how enormous savings can be made in this area to deliver both high level education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences and realize huge savings.

What will happen to the huge investments in capital in the plethora of colleges and universities? They will be used to foster innovation and co-research projects as businesses partner up with people of all ages to rent the facilities as campuses of innovation and development of ideas replace the primary model of passive learning inherited from the past. What will happen to the old order of professors and teachers employed by these institutions? They have increasingly been replaced by adjuncts, recent under-employed PhD graduates and researchers following an independent path who will now continue in more tutorial rolls as adjuncts to the MOOGs. 

In other words, here are three areas in which interests coalesce with both the old politics of manipulation and irrational appeals (what I have called populism) and the new politics of co-partnerships through issue specific priorities coalesce. But how does that deal with the huge issues of climate change over which there is an almost unanimous consensus among environmental scientists that these changes are real, that they are relatively dramatic and that they are fuelled by human intervention in the environment, and that challenge the environmental change deniers of the older generation? They do not. In this area, the politics of brand manipulation versus the politics of business-youth partnerships are at odds. What we are witnessing is a new political alignment. Big business in the areas of the media, communications, (travel and electronic) is siding with youth and environmentalism. The old politics has shifted in an effort to appeal to consumers over control of media companies, airlines and cell phone companies and trying to brand themselves as state run consumer protectors. It may work to some degree in appealing to the older generation susceptible to this type of older style brand manipulation. But it will not work for youth.

So, ironically, we are witnessing a realignment of politics, not with business on one side and workers on the other, but with some types of businesses on one side – old fossil fuel based industries, as an example – versus communication, transportation and media businesses on the other side and a necessary realignment of political allegiances and parties.   

Lauren Zinn in Michigan sent me a note saying how she was moved by my memorial to Sam Ajzenstat, but asked, “Does the moral project of taking responsibility for one’s life necessarily lead to Zion-ism or any other -ism?  Is there no other option between naive idealism and Zionism/other nationalisms?”  I argue that there is not. If the old politics of manipulation, populism and appeals to irrational fears is to be dealt with, if the politics of defining a nation in terms of a political leader and branding a political leader in terms of a polity to substitute the Harper nation and the Ford nation or the sovereigntist PQ nation for the Canadian nation, then the only uniting social appeal is to appeal to the nation as it has been developed through the years of experience of all voters, young or old. There has to be an emotional connect. The natural connect is the nation – whether American in its melting pot vision or Canada in its multi-national development and vision, but that nationalism must be articulated with greater clarity, with more resonance with how it has actually developed and emerged and with a greater connect with citizens of all ages.

The war between the troglodytes of manipulation, of shouting less government and lower taxes in easy slogans of appeals to fears and trepidations and the new politics of partnerships and facing the environmental crisis head on, of new realities in education and health services – as well as conflicts abroad and new forms of refugee flows – are coming into place and will require a shake up in the make-up and character of the opposition parties that will make the shake up on the other side look like child’s play. For the transition of uniting populism with personalism, of uniting anti-centralized politics with fiscal conservativism, fit a slash and burn method of dealing with excessive costs but does not fit the challenges facing politicians or the people currently at the forefront of concern. Politicians using the new forms of branding will require new partnerships, new alignments, new ways of communicating and new ways of rallying coalitions that will have to rely on nationalism – not as a simplified reactionary appeal – but as a deeper understanding of the developments of the values of this nation that will throw off the knee-jerk anti-nationalism of people such as Pierre Elliot Trudeau who preceded Stephen Harper in successfully introducing cognitive populism and personalized political branding to Canada but at a tremendous cost of a disconnect with this nation as it emerged and developed.

The new democracy requires more listening and less manipulation, more partnerships and less posturing, more inter-personal civility and less crassness in either gesture or methodology, more facing real risks than allowing risks to multiply and accumulate without facing them, more genuinely emotional politics and less reliance on fear, a new appeal to what unites us to balance the new individualized politics to counteract a widely differentiated electorate that is trying to be manipulated in terms of the old polarized ‘isms’ and politics of manipulation.  In this process, business can be no substitute for politics, but politics will have to make common cause with business in celebration of this nation. 

The State of Democracy in Canada

A Philosopher Reflects on Governance in Canada: Is Democracy in Decline 

by

Howard Adelman

 [delivered at Massey College at lunch on Monday, 23 September 2013]

 

Introduction

I am far from the best person to offer an assessment of the state of Canadian democracy. Most of my work has been spent on issues of international ethics such as refugees, genocide, just war, humanitarian intervention, though, as you shall see, I have written on minority rights as well as good governance but mainly applied to foreign countries. Overseas, the democracy deficit can be very severe.

For example, in Foreign Policy on 13 September 2013, Maikel Nabi Sanad, an Egyptian human rights activist, offered four benchmarks on different dimensions of liberty to measure Egypt’s progress towards democracy.

 (http://transitions.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/09/13/what_egypt_needs_to_do):

1. Ensuring freedom of expression denied in Sections 11 and 14 of the Egyptian Penal Code which makes the following criminal offences — publishing erotic literature, insulting the president, a foreign leader, members of the armed forces or a civil servant, committing blasphemy or even detracting from the reputation of Egypt;

2. Strengthening civil society by guaranteeing the right to assemble, in particular, to form non-government organizations;

3. Ensuring fair elections by eliminating fraudulent names and repeated names and making provision for foreign monitors;

4. Accept international legal norms with respect to civil and political rights.

These are all standards of freedom, a precondition of democracy. If the same benchmarks were applied to Canada, this country would pass with flying colours. 

However, Canada has entered a period where, relative to its own history, it has slipped when it comes to the freedom of expression for civil servants and professional scientists, in the respect, latitude and support provided to non-government organizations (especially if those organizations are involved in environmental advocacy), in illegal activities during elections and with respect to supporting and being guided by international norms. With respect to the latter, for example, this country has withdrawn from certain international protocols such as the Kyoto Accord. But in all examples of the above four criteria, as we shall see, from an international perspective, these are tiny peccadilloes.  

Before I offer examples of these shortcomings, let me place the issue in a theoretical context.

Part I – The Framework
The Intellectual Context

Left-wing intellectuals in the heritage of Karl Marx think critically about society in terms of an analysis of the presumed failure of modern bourgeois society. For Marxists and neo-Marxists of the critical school, bourgeois society is inherently repressive. I think critically about society, not in the tradition of Marx, but in the tradition of a bourgeois philosopher, G. W. Hegel. Like Marx, Hegel argued that philosophy was NOT primarily concerned with eternal questions but about the HERE and NOW. Philosophy has a responsibility to be diagnostic without abstracting philosophy from its historical context. In fact, one of the best places to undertake critical philosophy is by dealing with the HERE and NOW as a diagnostic and critical task.

Immanuel Kant had asked about the presumptions informing our thought in the Critique of Pure Reason and about the presumptions informing our actions in the Critique of Practical Reason. Hegel argued against abstract eternal assumptions and insisted on two premises, both of which I accept:

1. We can only think and do in the context of possibilism and not in the context of eternal verities and necessities; all thought is an expression of its own time;

2. All deeds and actions of humans in our own time can only be understood if we try to comprehend our own time in thought.

Thus, reciprocity prevails between the world of thought and the world of action. Thought divorced from action is impotent. Action divorced from critical self-reflection is blind. Marx, in contrast, imposed an essentialism on the HERE and NOW arguing that it was irredeemable and that history was governed by laws of necessity rooted in the distribution of power and the exploitation of one class by another. I make no such presumption. Redemption is always possible. Democracy is now the best tool to ensure that societies are able to be redeemed and for citizens to ensure that the redemptive process continues. 

These are the premises that inform this inquiry into the state of democracy in Canada. What is the state of democracy in Canada? Since my inquiry is a philosophical one, this talk focuses on actions examined within the context of thought on the premise that rationality is not an abstract exercise primarily, but an inter-subjective and publicly shared facility and faculty which must inherently always be self-critical as it proceeds. Though I work on theory, I also relied on an informant, Brian Bitar, a Senior Resident in Massey College this year visiting from the Program on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and, more particularly, one of his long time mentors, Pierre Manent.

In general, liberty and equality, defined as equality of opportunity, are usually taken for granted compared to equality of distribution or justice which I take up under the responsibility for the distribution of risk. The French 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man stressed both liberty and equality. “Men are born and always continue, free and equal, in respect of their rights.” The American constitution echoes a similar sentiment, that a self-evident truth is that “all men are created equal”. But we know that for most of the existence of either state, equality served as mere rhetoric to a far greater degree than liberty. And conservative democrats like Lord Acton belittled the stress on equality on the unarguable natural fact that men and women are born inherently unequal – in physical attributes, in genetic possibilities, in family circumstances and certainly into the political state which may have promised them little but authoritarian repression if not outright persecution. For these conservatives, liberty, as the right to be free as much as possible from government restrictions and edicts, was far more important than equality.

In Canada, however, liberty and equality were joined at the hip. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads:

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Equality did not mean equality of endowments but equality of opportunities. That, of course, only muddies the water rather than clarifying the matter for it only moves the issue a short distance downstream. For in slipping from equality of endowments to equality of opportunity, we try to sidestep the undeniable fact that inequality in endowments is the principle barrier to equality of opportunities. The only way in which equality can act as a counterweight to liberty is by stressing equality of results and not simply of opportunities, what I refer here as the distribution of risks and the most basic principle of justice and fairness. Further, the removal of class, creed and belief as barriers can, in fact, be used to suppress liberty in the name of liberty as when, in the name of secular equality or what the French call laicité, a concept imported into Québec, political representatives appealing to majority sentiments legislate against the wearing of religious symbols by public officials – Sikh turbans and kippas, headscarves and large crosses. This does not mean that equality should trump liberty — that the equal distribution of resources is a precondition of democracy as a socialist or Marxist might argue. Rather, I suggest that equality in the sense of equalizing risk is a measure of the degree of success of a democracy rather than a precondition of its attainment.

How we deal with risk and responsibility is a measure of whether a democracy is healthy. After all, we presume political equality in the very nature of the principle and practice of one man and one woman one vote. We also accept that all people must be treated equally before the law. But we also generally accept the argument that, if the difference in incomes between classes grows too large, a society becomes stressed and its democratic character is threatened. Social and economic equality may not be essential conditions of a healthy democracy, but growing social and economic inequalities can be measures of a democracy under strain.

We may distribute risk through state medical schemes, an essential democratic premise in the Canadian distribution of risk, and in paying for natural disasters. But most other risks are subject to private insurance schemes and are not the subject matter of democratic legislatures. Further, when it comes to making money and accumulating wealth, risk is heralded as an individual virtue rather than a public responsibility. So the issue of risk is where responsibility is located. I, however, argue that risk and where it is located is always a public responsibility, for without allocating that risk, democratic regimes as a whole ignore basic responsibilities and put democracy itself at risk.

Methodology

Philosophy needs material upon which to reflect. I am no longer limber of limb and eager to live in refugee camps and wander around in war zones so I am happy to stay at home and reflect on the state of democracy here rather than deliberating on the effects of power in producing refugees, genocides, crimes against humanity and the horrors of war. I love the relative tranquility of my home turf.

However, I am now also a lazy gardener. Though, in some cases, I relied on my own collection of information, mostly I gathered my samples from others rather than doing my own home work. What better way to do that than to interview the journalists who are fellows of Massey College this year. In any case, they are trained and far better observers of the Canadian scene than I will ever be. So my cases are mostly drawn from their work. The political and moral issues which I examined include:

a) liberty of expression in the last election;

b) liberty of expression in the governance of Canada, particularly for scientists; my informant was Véronique Morin, the Webster McConnell Fellow at Massey College this year;

c) equality of opportunity for First Nations; my informant was Jody Porter, the CBC/Radio-Canada Fellow in journalism at Massey College this year;

d) equality of distribution with respect to health services under the theme of risk management with the recognition that a very large majority of Canadians view our health care system as the most important and central characteristic of the Canadian polity and the best measure of Canada’s commitment to democracy; my informant, but in this case, only in part, was Kelly Crowe, the Kierans Janigan Fellow here at Massey who covered the health beat at CBC;

e) minority rights and, in this case, I will be my own informant and focus of the new proposed Charter of Quebec values introduced by the Minister Responsible for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship, Bernard Drainville;

f) representative democracy as expressed on the municipal level; my informant on this issue was David Rider, the St. Clair Balfour Fellow in journalism in Massey College.

I have to apologize to José Perlata because I have not written on pipelines as I planned. In any case, I learned a great deal about Uruguay, Chile and Argentina from him and for that I am grateful.

Now, clearly, one cannot deal adequately with any one of those topics in itself let alone in relationship to the state of democracy in Canada in a 25 minute talk. I dealt with five of the above issues separately in a more extended fashion in five blogs and provide only summaries of those results here. Although my selection of cases was determined by a combination of my personal knowledge and the expertise of this year’s Massey journalist fellows to provide as random a cross section of issues and connecting themes as any other approach to offer a barometer into the state of democracy in Canada, I hope six case studies selected relatively at random is sufficient to get some sense of the state of democracy in Canada.

Part II – Case Studies

a) The Principle of Liberty and Fair Elections

One example of the “small potatoes” of such offences with respect to fair elections was the pattern of misleading robocalls allegedly placed by one or more officials of the Conservative Party in the last election. Elections Canada determined that the Conservative Party national voter database, known as CIMS, was used by someone to systematically target non-conservative voters and misdirect them by telling them that the location of the polling station had changed so they would not vote. Evidently, 7,760 voters were contacted. This took place mostly in a Guelph Riding but also in 246 other ridings of the 308 total. The caller used a prepaid credit card to buy a prepaid cell phone registered under the fake name of Pierre Poutine at a phony address in Joliette Quebec.  In several ridings where robocalls were made, the election was won by less than a 1000 votes – Nipissing-Timiskaming, Mississauga East-Cooksville, Winnipeg South Centre and Willowdale  – Yukon

The largest effort took place in a Guelph riding won by the Liberal candidate. Nevertheless, Michael Sona, an ex-Conservative staffer, was charged by Elections Canada for placing the calls, though he insists on his innocence and denies any fault, even though he admitted that he called Conservative headquarters to learn how to place untraceable calls. Soma was charged under section 491(3)d of the Canada Elections Act for preventing or trying to prevent a voter from casting a ballot. The maximum penalty is a $5,000 fine and five years in prison. It has never been determined whether he allegedly acted alone or under the direction of a higher official in the party; Ken Morgan, the campaign manager for the Conservative candidate in Guelph, Marty Burke, moved to Kuwait, changed his email and refused to speak to Elections Canada.

On the other hand, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) determined that the Liberal riding association in Guelph had used a robocall to tell voters that Conservative candidate Marty Burke opposed abortion. The violation of the Elections Act came because the call failed to disclose that the call originated from the local campaign of Liberal candidate Frank Valeriote and thereby violated the CRTC’s Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules.

In Etobicoke Centre, where 53,000 votes were cast, the Conservative candidate, Ted Opitz, won by only 26 votes. The addresses of two voters were outside the riding and 32 other voters were listed in another riding; five voters illegally voted twice. Further, 5 registration certificates from three polling stations were missing. Justice Thomas Lederer set aside a total of 79 ballots and ordered a by-election, but that order was overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada in a split 4-3 decision. The Supreme Court agreed with the test Lederer applied, “that an election should be annulled if the number of invalid votes is equal to or greater than the successful candidate’s plurality.” But it also determined that the degree of misdirection was insufficient to affect the results of the election. The Supreme Court by a majority decision also determined that Lederer was wrong on at least 59 of those ballots and may have been wrong on the 20 others. More to the point, Conservatives, while offering full cooperation in some areas, fought strenuously against the investigation and put up extended delays in others even though the original problem stemmed from Elections Canada and not a political party.

There were other instances. For example, calls were placed ostensibly by the Liberal party to Orthodox Jewish voters on the Sabbath, calls which the Liberal Party denied making. The evidence is overwhelming that significant intentional efforts were made at voter suppression in highly contested and close-call ridings, especially by the Conservative Party. Further, noted Conservative academics signed affidavits that the Conservative campaign school, borrowing from the dirty tricks campaigns of the Republican Party in the USA, instructed attendees that misleading robocalls to misdirect or be rude in the name of an opposition party were legal. They are not. Third, and possibly most importantly in what seems in the overall scheme of things to have been relatively minor infractions of the principle of free elections, the Conservative Party often took an obstreperous stand to the legal proceedings rather than always cooperating to ensure the principle of fair elections was upheld. The delicate line separating political partisanship from ensuring legal processes were observed was clearly crossed.

Relative to Egypt, Canada is a paragon of virtue. Relative to its own history, Canada has slipped, in at least one benchmark of liberty, the conduct of fair elections.

b) The Principle of Liberty and the Suppression of Scientific Voices

Following interviews with the science journalist, Véronique Morin, the Webster McConnell Fellow in Journalism at Massey College this year, in my blog on the topic, I surveyed the various efforts of the Harper government to limit the output of and access to scientific data produced by government scientists, particularly related to environmental issues. The government redacts much of the data given out after delay, delay and delay. This is part of an even larger operation to undermine the professionalism of the civil service and its critical role in ensuring a strong and responsive democracy.

I was out of touch with the media when scientists demonstrated last summer on Parliament Hill decrying the “Death of Evidence” and asserted “no science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy”. I had also missed the early April news that The University of Victoria Environmental Law Center and non-partisan Democracy Watch had requested that Canada’s Information Commissioner conduct a probe into “systematic efforts by the government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media — and through them, the Canadian public — to timely access to government scientists.” Calvin Sandborn, the legal director from the University of Victoria’s Law Centre, noted that, “the topics that require the highest level of ministerial control are topics related to the tar sands, climate change, polar bears, caribou and the oil and gas industry.”

(http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2013/04/02/Canada-to-probe-muzzling-of-scientists/UPI-87461364941159/#ixzz2f828QlBs (Science News “Canada to probe ‘muzzling’ of scientists,” 2 April 2013)

Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly protects freedom of expression. According to rulings of Canadian courts, governments can restrict a person’s freedom of opinion and expression only for important overriding purposes. There are three tests of such seriousness: 1) is the override rationally connected to the purpose it is intended to achieve? 2) is the impairment as little as possible? 3) do the beneficial effects of any restriction outweigh the deleterious effects? The pattern of muzzling government scientists passes none of these tests and seriously undermines the three underlying values of freedom of expression: participation in social and democratic decision-making, attainment of truth and individual self-fulfillment.

The evidence of muzzling contained in the over one hundred pages of appendices to the 26-page joint petition and complaint filed on February 20th by The University of Victoria Environmental Law Center and non-partisan Democracy Watch seems overwhelming. (For a summary, see Carol Linnit’s May 2013 article, “Harper attack on science: No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy,” in Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education.) Not only have government scientists been muzzled, but important research programs and mechanisms for collecting information, such as the Long Form Census, have been cancelled. Sometimes, as Linnit wrote, the suppression is ludicrous as when Mark Tushingham was prohibited from attending the launch of his own novel exploring a future world destroyed by global warming. Federal scientists in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are required to obtain high level permission to meet with the media to discuss peer-reviewed research.

The greatest repression is connected with environmental research:

  • The Harper government new rules on media contact led to an 80% reduction in department engagement on issues of climate change
  • In 2008, the position of National Science Adviser was eliminated
  • Scott Dallimore of Natural Resources Canada required the permission of Natural Resources Minister, Christian Paradis, to comment on his research on a northern Canadian flood 13,000 years ago
  • Postmedia journalist Margaret Munro was denied access to information or government personnel regarding Canada’s radiation detectors (She subsequently won an honourable mention from the World Press Freedom Award for her story on muzzling scientists; the Canadian Science Writers Association as a collective won the 14th annual Press Freedom Award for their work on exposing government restrictions on federal scientists and deliberate delaying tactics.)
  • Scientists in Environmental Canada were not permitted to discuss their paper published in Geophysical Research on the projected estimate of a 2 degree celcius rise in global temperatures
  • David Tarasick of Environmental Canada was not permitted to discuss his research on the ozone layer over the Arctic
  • Environmental Canada research scientists were not permitted to discuss the petroleum-based pollutants in snowfall near the Alberta tar sands except if their comments were restricted to scripted statements provided to them
  • Media liaison personnel had to accompany all government scientists at the International Polar Year Conference in Montreal
  • The Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2013 announced a policy that all scientific research undertaken by the department was confidential unless released by high level officials in the department
  • In August 2011, 700 Environmental Canada positions were eliminated in the name of fiscal restraint
  • By February 2012, the number of light detection and ranging stations to monitor ozone loss and fossil fuel pollution had been reduced from ten to five
  • Funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmosphere Studies was not renewed in 2012 forcing the closure in Nunavut of PEARL, the Polar Environment Aerospace Research Laboratory
  • Funding for the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy was cut in 2013 and it was restricted from making its information publicly available
  • Peter Ross, Canada’s only marine animal toxicologist, along with 1,074 other Department of Fisheries and Ocean employees, lost his job
  • The Harper government cut $3 million from the Experimental Lakes Area in an effort to shut down this natural laboratory for studying the effects of industrial and chemical pollutants on waterways and aquatic life

Year after year, the Harper government has received a failing grade from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression for policies which deliberately delay and prevent access to information. Canada was ranked 40th out of 89 countries in last year’s Global Right to Information Rating. Further, as Véronique made clear, the attack on evidence and on access to information goes far beyond environmental or even natural science issues. In my own areas of expertise, library resources and policy units have been closed down in departments like immigration and foreign affairs. The effort is not merely to protect and defend policies promoting resource development in the face of environmental criticism, but to make policy independent of any science-based foundation whether applied to incarceration of more people or with respect to immigration and refugee policy. Stephen Harper may have been the smartest kid in his high school class, but he has led a government dead set again evidence-based policies and in favour of policies which have a populist appeal. The mugging of scientists and the destruction of Canada’s esteemed mandarin class, the wrapping up of research sources and reporting mechanisms, are all part of one vast enormous but largely understated political scandal undermining representative democracy and responsible government.

c) Equality of Opportunity: Treatment of First Nations

In addition to the four benchmarks of liberty enunciated with respect to the Egyptian situation, there are also benchmarks of equality, most basically, equality before the law and equality of opportunity. There is an undisputed difference between the French and American assertion of rights and the “Johnny come lately” – in fact, very lately – Canadian version. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms quoted above guarantees equality rights and prohibits specific types of discrimination by governments, but notably exempts affirmative action programs and denominational schools. These equal rights are not guaranteed to corporations which cannot argue that they have equal rights to freedom of expression in the use of their money and the support of political candidates and causes of their choice. Those equal rights accrue to natural individuals and apply to racial and gender issues, physical and mental disabilities and could be said to mirror the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in the US Constitution except equality was expanded from equality before the law to equality under the law thereby referring to outcomes and not just opportunities, to equal benefits and not just equal access.

Laws against advocating hatred could then be enacted without citing freedom of expression as a trump. The measure was not just abstract but dealt with practices if, in fact, discrimination can be shown to result for one group compared to another group in an analogous context related to a group’s actual needs, circumstances and capacities.  

In my blog on First Nations, I attempted to show that the law of real property inherently discriminates against aboriginal cultures. Nothing in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms redresses that inequality. Where the Charter does have effect – in the education of First Nations children – recent government fiscal policies have increased the discrimination against First Nations children and allowed them to fall further behind the situation of other Canadians as increased costs for education for First Nations children has been frozen for years at 2% when costs everywhere have gone up at the rate of 6% per year. As a result, aboriginal children have 25% less spent on them for their education, and, given the fact that many if not most live in remote communities where costs are much higher, that discrepancy is even greater. It is no surprise to learn that First Nations children are on average two years behind and have a significantly higher drop out rate than other Canadians. Given the above two pieces of evidence and the exceptional cases when exemptions were made to provide equal funding but only when First Nations agreed to merge their school boards with local non-First Nations boards, it is not too far fetched to suggest that, in spite of the apologies for the Residential School system, the underling trend of official cultural genocide or genocide by attrition against First Nations continues to be the pattern.

I say this with trepidation because cultural genocide or genocide by attrition is not recognized in the Geneva Convention even though Raphael Lemkin tried to include it. However, when side deals are made to equalize support when First Nations School Board agree to integrate with local school boards, then we can detect that something is amiss and that the doctrine of assimilation continues to be the prevailing doctrine when approaching aboriginal issues. This is the greatest scandal in Canada as far as I am concerned.

d) Access to Health Services – The Management of and Responsibility for Risk

Access to health care has undeniably become a defining Canadian value and, in election after election, in one commission after another, equal access as the core defining feature of the Canadian health system has been a dominant public policy issue. Even the Supreme Court’s interpretation evolved from its 1990 Stoffman v. Vancouver General Hospital in which health delivery was considered a private matter to 1997 Eldridge v. British Columbia in which Justice Laforest on behalf of a unanimous court ruled that governments are required to take special measures to ensure that disadvantaged groups are able to benefit equally from the delivery of health services.

The key variable in guaranteeing equality of access has been the distribution of human professional resources. The law may guarantee anything, but unless there are enough doctors, nurses and medical facilities in an area, the guarantee is empty. This was not adequately applied to aboriginal peoples. I, however, will focus first on taking away access to health care for uninsured immigrants and refugee claimants and then deal with the impact of Canadian policy on exacerbating inequalities around the world before I take up the issue of how the issue of equal access and the principle of managing the responsibility of risk is being downloaded onto the provinces and, likely through the provinces, back onto individuals. 

In my blog and study of health care policy, I argued that the Harper government has developed a gingerly approach to what is considered by most Canadians to be a sacred right as they are very proud of the system they have developed whatever its relatively minor flaws. The Harper Conservatives, in the pursuit of reducing the federal government, tackled costs only on the margins and demonstrated a Hobbesian liberal approach to the management of risk in this area by denying benefits to refugee claimants for relatively very minor savings of $20 million dollars per year. However, their major effort has been an anti-Hobbesian approach. The government downloaded future increases in health costs to the provinces thereby undermining the social contract as Canadian citizens of a sovereign state. The federal government has fractured even further the sense of sovereign and shared membership in this one crucial area as they continue to insist on preserving a unified sovereignty when it comes to aboriginal affairs.

Until 2016-17, the federal government will increase federal health care transfers by 6%. After that, increases will be tied to economic growth including inflation, but with a floor of 3%. Harper is simply obeying the “first law of cost containment” by opting for the easiest way to control costs through shifting those costs to others, in this case, the provincial governments and, likely down the line, increasingly to individual citizens. Given this trajectory, access, universality and comprehensiveness — as principles underlying the system to ensure the fair distribution of risk — will inevitably be undermined. The likelihood of expanding the provision of care to include pharmaceuticals, dental care or chronic care is unlikely.

 

The trajectory in this case is downward though it has been postponed somewhat.

e) Treatment of Religion in Quebec

Against the backdrop of incidents of inter-cultural conflict that were examined in the Bouchard-Taylor Report (B-T) that recommended against the banning the wearing of ostentatious religious symbols by personnel working for the state, my blog on that topic examined the effort to institute a Québec Charter of Values by the Parti Québecois that insisted on such a ban. I found that the initiative had virtually no empirical foundation, was inconsistent with the history of Québec`s Quiet Revolution, and was contradictory in its rationale and in its theory of state neutrality. The proposal is incompatible with respect for religious minorities and has stirred up a hornets nest of intolerance even though the general conduct of Quebeckers towards religious minority on the ground level has been very tolerant. Practice contradicts the preaching. The proposal is no longer supported by most Québeckers even though the proposal was initially supported by a very large majority. In the guise of the `neutrality` of the state, the initiative has been a misguided populist effort to save the fortunes of the Parti Québecois.

f) Democracy on the Municipal Level – Bob Ford and Populism

Whether he stopped the “gravy train”, whether he eliminated waste in municipal spending – a highly dubious proposition but with some evidential support — Bob Ford is perceived as a personable, approachable, regular average guy. He is not a strategic thinker nor will he work well in partnership with mandarins; civil servants are just servants, implementers of the will of their political bosses. Ford is tied to immediate gratification – excellence in service, cost savings, cleanliness – all very positive values but not helpful to the stuff that visions and strategic plans and tough choices and cost allocations require. Bob Ford is a rash, gut-driven populist where his knowledge and political street sense comes from his very large gut. His support, indeed his energy, comes from the Ford Nation who adore him and the name is its own revelation about the politics of Bob Ford. Populism is anti-democratic and I will write a subsequent blog to expand upon and elaborate this thesis further.

Part III – Conclusion

My message is simple. The record of democracy at the federal level, at the Quebec provincial level and at the municipal level in Canada’s largest city is a record of the revival of populism in three different forms to the detriment of representative and responsible government. Populism is inherently anti-democratic. Part of the fault can be laid at the feet of politicians of the left – whether Tory, Liberal or NDP – who have lost touch with the reality that Canada is a nation-state. In fact, it is a multi-nation state formed by the English-speaking nation originally constituted of a medley of Scots, Irish and English that made that Canadian Anglophone nation inherently multicultural, a Francophone – not Quebecois – nation and, most importantly, the First Nations. Because the nationalism of the latter was not only suppressed but crushed by a deliberate policy of cultural genocide put in place that continues to this day in more subtle forms of low educational and health support, denial of ownership of basic resources, in part because, for the last five decades, Quebec rather than Franco-Canadian nationalism has occupied centre stage in the political life of Canada, and because liberal ideological Canadians have sold out to the false god of cosmopolitanism and turned their backs on their roots as they pursued an unholy alliance of interest politics married to abstract values, we are in serious trouble. We gradually slide downward even as we celebrate our good fortune that Canadian traditional prudence has given us as a reward. But it comes with a complacency that is devastating in the long run.

Where is the vision? Where is the program to work towards making Canada a constellation of great nations? Where are the proposed structures – such as a revised Senate that can represent the First Nations, the Canadian Anglophone nation and the Francophone nation – to provide leadership and legislation to deal with these serious undercurrents and not be continually entertained by the follies and foibles of various forms of populist politics? For that is what populism is. Populism is entertainment and diversion for the masses while the politicians exercise power behind our backs.

More of this on populism versus representative and responsible government later in another piece.

 

 

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Rob Ford’s Populism Compared

Bob Ford’s Populism Compared

by

Howard Adelman

 

Introduction

I have previously written on Bob Ford by asking whether he was a maggot and examining the question of stupidity. (See attached.) I now want to probe his populism. My informant on Bob Ford has been David Ryder. David was the bureau chief for the Toronto Star covering TorontoCity Hall and, more specifically, was the point man leading the paper’s coverage of the Mayor Rob Ford administration. He is the St. Clair Balfour Fellow in Journalism at Massey College this year. What I learned from David was that Bob Ford is a very hard working municipal politician dedicated to hearing the complaints of the city’s residents and getting something done about it. He has a solid base constituency of supporters comprising anywhere from 20-30% of the voters.

Bob Ford’s Approval

His supporters applaud him for stopping the gravy train and have determined that the press picks on him to degrade his image when his major accomplishment is being the cost cowboy at City Hall. The “stop the waste” mantra has been accepted even if the demonstration of waste has been marginal. He is also seen as personable, approachable, a regular down to earth guy, charming in his own way with the passions and shortcomings of the average man. He is definitely not viewed as a wealthy plutocrat.

He is clearly not a strategic thinker and operates by the seat of his pants, clinging to his short list of slogans. Unfriendly to bikers, walkers and even public transit in spite of his cheerleading for subways, he lives in the twentieth century suburban worship of the freedom of cars and their priority rather than in the twenty-first century move towards much greater investment in infrastructure, particularly mass transit. He is not a fan of mandarins or of expertise and sees civil servants as simply implementers to satisfy people’s every day needs – hence his tromping around with city officials in tow in response to taxpayers’ complaints to get potholes and sidewalks fixed. He is unable to present a long term strategic vision for the city or articulate core values whether it be a caring metropolis or an innovative one, or to understand how arts and culture as well as sports make a city liveable. One can be certain that he has never read the late Jane Jacob’s The Death and Life of American Great Cities that had such an impact on thinkers and planners from this former American who settled in Toronto in the late sixties. Instead, he is tied to immediate gratification – excellence in service, cost savings, cleanliness – all very positive values but not helpful to the stuff that visions and strategic plans and tough choices and cost allocations require.

Bob Ford is a gut-driven populist where his knowledge and political street sense comes from his very large gut. He is courageous and bold – indeed so courageous and bold that he becomes rash and pushes ahead on schemes without thinking them through. In that sense he connects with the everyday ordinary citizen who has to get by with whatever wit and wisdom he or she picks up without long spells spent on deliberation, winnowing down choices in a process of deliberative reasoning based on gathering the best available evidence to inform judgment. He may be a conservative but he is certainly no Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, or even a calculating cerebral populist like Stephen Harper.

Bob Ford Compared to Pauline Marois and Stephen Harper

What cerebral populists like Harper, sentimental populists like Pauline Marois and gut populists like Bob Ford have in common was very cleverly demarcated when Chantel Hébert in yesterday’s Toronto Star (21 September, A8, “PQ takes leaf out of Stephen Harper book”) opined that the PQ on the Québec Charter of Values was borrowing from Stephen Harper’s political recipe book. The common elements include:

1. Addressing very concrete problems in terms of abstractions and slogans:

·         Getting the government off the backs of the taxpayer

·         The obligation of government to be neutral

·         Getting rid of waste

2. Smudging the thin red line between politics and governance so that virtually all governance becomes politics:

  • The template of take no-prisoner governance becomes the mantra of governance
  • You are either a supporter of the Quebecois nation or a treasonous dissident
  • You either go along with me or you are my enemy

3. Political warfare against mandarins, even ones they appoint or even in their own office, who disagree with the party line while running the line that they are encouraging debate

  • Insisting that top civil servants are simply instruments of the governing party and punishing those, even if Conservative appointees, who dare to criticize – such as Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer, and letting Nigel Wright carry the ball for the Duffy Senate scandal
  • Appointment of four new pro-Charter women to Quebec’s Council on the Status of Women to ensure that Council came out in support of the Charter
  • Appointment of a clearly incompetent and intemperate Dave Price and firing Mark Towney, his Chief of Staff, in May, not for anything he did but allegedly for offering advice Bob Ford did not like

4. Policies that smack of wedge politics to win a broader base of support rather than advance the interests of the city, province or country

  • The increase in lengths of incarceration for convicted criminals in blatant disregard to both costs, the lack of evidence for the need or the negative effects on both society and the incarcerated individuals
  • The Quebec Charter of Values sent to every household at public expense
  • Subways, Subways, Subways but no effort to even figure out how to pay for them

5. The war on evidence-based policy making

  • The muzzling of scientists
  • The absence of any evidence of how many civil servants wear ostentatious religious symbols, whether a single citizen was offended or treated in biased way  or even whether the citizen’s belief in the neutrality of the civil servant diminished
  • The wild improvised plan for Cherry Beach

6.  Indifference to the Rule of Law Combined with a Law and Order Agenda

  • The Senate scandal
  • The legal advice from provincial government constitutional experts that key sections of the Charter of Values would run afoul of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Too many incidents to list, including Bob Ford’s refusal to abide by the legal advice that he should not vote on a matter concerning his solicitation and use of funds to support his football team

7. The Extensive Use of Government Monies to Promote Political Agendas

  • The Federal campaign of up to $16.5 million for advertising to promote oil, gas and pipeline companies as well as other Canadian natural resources
  • The Provincial Government costs for promoting the Charter of Values
  • Bob Ford’s launch of his election campaign before the official January start date through sponsoring a number of events, including doubling his annual backyard barbecue now held in two city parks

8. The downgrading of the use of legislatures and councils for passing policies

  • If the federal legislation appears obstructionist to any agenda, Harper prorogues Parliament
  • The PQ went directly to the people with their Charter before it was even introduced into the House and put forth for debate
  • Bob Ford lost control of Council long ago and does whatever political mischief he can do outside the boundaries of Council

9. The Paradox of Secrecy for Such Ostensible Accountable Politicians

  • Harper is a very private and secret person while having been on record since his start in politics his belief in responding to the will of the people through referenda and recall procedures
  • Pauline Marois is totally opaque about the rationale for the Charter, so one cannot help thinking that behind it there are purely political motives
  • Bob Ford seems to be spread out before the people and is totally accessible to them while clearly having some type of underground life related to his probable addictions that leads him also to flee journalists

10. Extreme and deep-seated political partisanship

  • This is very well known of Stephen Harper and extends to members of his own party who cross him even when it is clearly an expression of the integrity of the Other, such as Tom Flanagan, his top political adviser, when Tom as an academic wrote a book about Harper and the Conservatives, and Brent Rathgeber who was forced to resign from the Conservative caucus when he insisted that his private member’s bill be given real consideration and debated
  • While saying they encourage debate, the Bloc fired Maria Mourani from its caucus when she offered a stinging criticism of the Charter of Values 
  • Bob Ford lets his city hall staffers go if they dare to cross him or question him

11. Control Freaks unable to Keep Control of the Political Agenda

  • Stephen Harper has been the exemplary control freak, insisting that MPs stay on message while ostensibly supporting open discussion and debate but he has lost control
  • Pauline Marois thought she was controlling the political agenda by introducing the Charter of Values but only two weeks into the debate it is clear that she has lost control
  • Bob Ford quickly revealed his desire to control the political agenda without discussion but quickly proved himself incapable

12. The Paradox of Personal Integrity

  • While in many countries populism is simply a cover for private corruption and unaccountability, in the case of all three levels of the government in Canada, the various expressions of different type of populism exhibit great personal integrity when it comes to personal expenditures but little integrity when it comes to a political agenda

Populism and Democracy

In the three jurisdictions where populism rather than representative democracy has become the defining benchmark, they are found in three different versions:

1) the cerebral populism of the Stephen Harper government;

2) the sentimental heartfelt populism of the Marois government;

3) the gut-led populism of Mayor Bob Ford mayor in Toronto.

But first a bit of theory. The French philosopher, Pierre Manent, a mentor of Brain Bidard, is my guide in this regard, although my interpretations of the three dimensions of populism in Canada are strictly my own. Manent made the point that democracy in Europe has become post-democratic, a jurisdiction of abstract rights divorced from its roots in history and the social contract upon which a state was founded, its national passions and sentiments. Modern liberalism does begin with the concept of the individual and rights, but it also begins with the separation of politics from religion – in secularism or what the French call their anti-theological secular religion, laicité.  For Manent, that separation is also at the root of the inability of the modern, morally neutral state to successfully dedicate itself to serving a higher moral purpose, whether that be the abstract “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine or the concrete challenge to end the mass killings of ordinary Syrians by the Syrian government’s use of sarin gas.

In Democracy without nations: The fate of self-government in Europe, Manent pointed to religion as the central element in the development of liberalism. That casting aside of one’s Christian heritage has become very widespread except, to some degree, in America. Let me give one very mundane trivial example from my own experience. When I began to teach at York University almost half a century ago, we had a meeting about developing a course on the history of modern political thought. There were five of us on the curriculum planning of this general education humanities course. I wanted to include six hours of the 78 hours of lectures on the history of Christianity, three on the role of Christianity in the roots of the development of modern political thought and three on its shifting role in the pattern that emerged. One faculty member on the committee was distinctly neutral about the idea. The other three were ardently opposed. As it happens, those three were all trained in the Christian ministry and one was a former bishop in the Anglican church. They remained committed Christians. All three were highly moral individuals. In a deep belief in the separation of church and state, they insisted that Christianity could not be taught as part of the course because it risked providing an opportunity for proselytizing. Modern history was an intellectual history in which religion had been confined to the private sphere; they argued against the futile counter-arguments of the one Jew on the committee.

Unfortunately or fortunately, it is just not true that religion has been successfully put under house arrest, though that effort has been part of the trajectory of modernism. The concept of individual responsibility and rights begins in Christianity. The concept of a community to which one is responsible and for which one is responsible and accountable remains part of modern discourse. Only it has been emptied of its meaning. Instead, we have replaced it with the idolatry of the people, an amorphous polity to which unscrupulous politicians can appeal when they want to escape responsibility for their own actions and cite a higher source without any connection to God. It is called populism.

In Manent’s analysis, democracy is only possible when it is rooted in the nation. Liberals who forget this create a vacuum that leaves a wide gap for an appeal to populist manipulation, sentiment and gut responses. Liberalism forgot its roots in nationalism and set out on a pursuit as mad as the attempt to build the Tower of Babel. The worship of cosmopolitanism abstracted from the state became its mission. (See Howard Adelman, “The Doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect: A Failed Expression of Cosmopolitanism,” in W. Kymlicka (2013) Rooted Cosmopolitanism: Canada and the World, UBC Press)

Democracy requires liberty. Democracy requires equality, not just an equality of rights but a quest for greater equality of outcomes, particularly in areas where the management of risk is crucial to preventing individuals suffering in ways unrelated to their talents and efforts. And democracy needs roots. It must be based in the history of a nation, not because those national roots are found to have been rooted in values beyond question, but precisely because, mixed up with individualism and equality, were other values that sabotaged individualism and equality. Each nation must know and understand the roots of its own national calculations, sentiments and driving forces both for evil and for good and celebrate the process of national overcoming and transformation rather than presuming that new inputs pose a danger or that subsequent developments – such as the vision of the state as the neutral adjudicator and administrator divorced from those roots – can offer a standard divorced from those roots. The whole of modern history and the efforts to effect such divorces yields, not democracy, but anti-democratic propensities and, in the extreme, authoritarianism.

The reality is that equality and liberty and fairness and justice in the management of risk require roots and require a sovereign state connected to those roots to defend and uphold those values. Neither the neo-liberal or neo-conservative tendencies, which are neither liberal nor conservative, to deprecate the state and minimize its role, nor the neo-Marxist and neo socialist efforts to exalt the bureaucracy of the state and turn that bureaucracy into arbiters of core values, recognizes the character of responsible government and the fundamental successful core values of a liberal democratic state rooted in its sense of the nation without idolizing either the nation or the state. These trends have forgotten the religious injunctions against idolatry 

We need institutions that protect liberty, equality, justice and the management of risk. We need a mandarin class employed by the state dedicated to those principles. We need to have that state supported by a respect for, indeed love of, common values which unite us as a nation. But these common values are not threatened by modes of dress or adornment whether associated with religion or with the Hells Angels. They are threatened when those values, because of the particular history of a nation, are viewed as antithetical to the religious roots of liberty, equality and social justice and the principle of fairness in managing risk. All religions are made to suffer in failing to recognize that the anti-movements – whether against the sovereign state (the neo-cons), against the nation (the cosmopolitan liberals) or against the very religious roots from which these values emerged – separatist opportunistic nationalists.

Hegel in The Phenomenology of Spirit in the section on Reason exposed reason as an irrational force when divorced from its spiritual roots and when reason became obsessed with appearances as the explanation for underlying tensions and problems instead of noting the way common sense deals with those problems. The focus on appearances and symbolic politics blinds us to those problems. Small “l” liberals who engage in this battle form the high ground of cosmopolitanism lose their foothold in dealing with the wave of passions and zealotry released by these idolotrous appeals and are in no position to combat them for they refuse to root their beliefs in the real trajectory of that nation, to understand and appreciate that trajectory and to recognize that without those roots and that pattern, the values which we esteem would and could not have been sustained.

Pierre Manent was correct in stressing the nation as the only viable form of a political community and its critical importance in remaining married to the institution of the modern sovereign state.  Pierre Manent has been correct to warn us that the efforts of Krojeve to build a post-Maastrcht Europe based on a neo-Marxist cosmopolitan mis-reading of Hegel and the efforts of the neo-cons to create a new Rome based in America that can be the imperial leader of the new world. These are mad delusions and a betrayal of the democratic roots of both regions. Canada with its head in France and the worship of laicité as well as possessing a contradictory love for a Kojeviam cosmopolitanism on an international scale and a belief that mandarins can be the state instead of servants of the nation through the state, has a propensity to forget where its feet are – in the ground and territory of Canada with a unique history and its own complex set of demands. When efforts are made to displace and replace – note the stress on displace and replace – democratic governments rooted in the nation and the sovereign state with governing structures abstracted from those roots in regional bodies – most successfully in Europe – or international bodies as with the efforts of Canadian pre-Harper Liberal and Tory governments – then we get rhetorical gestures and empty abstractions without political calculation, emotional attachments or the guts to put one’s body on the line to sacrifice for those values.

To accept religion as the roots of the modern nation-state does not mean jettisoning the state and the nation in service to a mediaeval religious vision as in Iran or in the vision of Al Qaeda. Rather, it means remembering and keeping in touch with those religious roots even as the nation and the state become the main outlets and expression of those religious origins. Fundamentalism, whether Islamic, Christian or Jewish – or its mirror opposite, secularism turned into a religious quest without roots – are the twin notorious dangers to the nation and the state and their marriage as the foundation stones for the democratic values of liberty, equality and fairness as social justice dealing with the management of risk. We require a passionate attachment to our histories. We require political structures to ensure that liberty, equality and social justice are pursued with vigour and with enterprise. And we require a recognition that populism is not democratic but is a multi-faceted threat to what democracy is and can truly be.

Democracies must recognize that power comes from the people. Democracies must recognize that that power has been vested in governmental institutions and representatives who have the responsibility to interpret what the nation needs and how the state can serve those aspirations. But democracy does not mean appealing to that power as if the state is not there and as if those institutions as forged over time do not matter. They are there to protect us from the very power that is the source of our strength but also the source of destructive behaviour. Democracy is both the demos, the people, and kratos, the strength and power that comes from the people. But modern democracy is built on the notion that the sovereign nation through the representatives of the people acting through a constituted legislative assembly enacts the laws on behalf of and for the people. Modern democracy is representative not populist.

Harper’s Cerebral Populism

One form of populism is cerebral. Stephen Harper was a Reformer dedicated to bringing a “purer” sense of democracy to Parliament Hill. Beware of politicians who stand on the mount of purity. The mantra was referenda and plebiscites, recall rather than responsible representation, a Tripe-E Senate – elected, equal and effective – that became more than ever a receptacle for patronage appointments to strengthen the neo-con ideology, limited government. But most of all, government was about the exercise of power, not to enhance liberty, equality and social justice as was the goals of the Red Tories, but to enhance discipline and control. The Conservatives alienated the separatists because of the underling contradiction between the neo-con ideology and that of the sovereigntists. The Harper government is in the process of alienating the 905 Tories because the belief in traditional values have proven to be a shill game sacrificed to preserve control as the state became more and more dedicated to preserving Harper in power rather than serving the nation. That government is even on the brink of alienating the Alberta nation rooted in the wealth produced by the Tar Sands because their champion is unable to engineer the pipelines needed to ship that bitumen to ports in BC for destination in Asia, or across the border to the United States still eager to consume fossil fuels. The government may be successful in getting that dirty oil to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick.

The worst part is not the failures but the betrayal as the government spends millions flouting its successful championing of free enterprise as it fails to deliver a major free trade pact or an oil pipeline dedicated to international trade and as it was forced to retreat to the battlefield of cowards as it began to defend ordinary people with their own money against the predations of communication companies, airlines and banks. Even the defence of neo-con free enterprise core values would be sacrificed to championing populism if that was the calculation that staying in power required. In this case, the power vested in the state by the nation was not being used to distribute risk and enshrine fairness and foster equality, but for a misguided ideological definition of entrepreneurial enterprise.

Marois’ Sentimental Populism

Then there is the sentimental populism of Pauline Marois with its war on “ostentatious’ religious symbols that emerges as an assault on religious rights and freedoms. Its selective application to include “small” crosses hung around the neck or the big cross hanging in the national assembly since the time of Maurice Duplessis is revealing.  The exceptions betray the bias of that secularism. Secularism as a truly visionary enterprise allows everyone to practice their own faith while defending liberty and equality of opportunity. The Bouchard-Taylor Report concluded that this was indeed the overwhelming practice of Quebecers and the so-called clash of cultures that occurred were mostly stirred up by the media and political agitators.

Secularism is simply an ideological construct built on the lie that it is dedicated to preserving core values when it is, in fact, a betrayal of those core values which built democracy on the back of religion even as it rejected religion’s authoritarian propensities. Democracy is the respect for differences not the abolition of differences as the face of the state.

The key question of modernity is how to preserve the classical republican respect for public speech and mutual regard—what Hegel called “recognition” – in contemporary institutional forms that are also sensitive to the communal roots of a particular society.  In the Scottish liberal tradition, Adam Ferguson envisioned the adjudication of conflicts through political state institutions that set a primary value on social and political pluralism. (Cf. Andreas Kalynos and Ira Katznelson (2008) Liberal Beginnings: Making a Republic for the Moderns, Cambridge University Press where they tried to show how civic republicans set the stage for the development of representative democracy that put a positive value of pluralism.) In the modern period, republic traditions espousing a common good required state institutional mechanisms, an educated and informed civil service that could defend liberalism and the emphasis on liberty, equality and fairness in dealing with differences while remaining sensitive to a particular history and social context. Representative and responsible government, not populist and ideological appeals, are the answer. The liberal idea of rights and the conservative idea of the importance of the rule of law, respect for the mandarin tradition but suspicious of the unboundaried growth of bureaucracy, genuinely suspicious of interest politics but also recognizing that the bashing of the state undermined the whole enterprise, aspiring towards service of the public good but also rooted in context and history – these are the benchmarks of representative and responsible government.

Science, Information and Democracy

Science, Information and Democracy 

An empirical case analysis as background for my talk: “A Philosopher Reflects on Governance in Canada: Is Democracy in Decline?” to be presented to the noon hour series for Senior Fellows at Massey College on September 23rd.

by

Howard Adelman

 

Abstract

Following interviews with the science journalist, Véronique Morin, the Webster McConnell Fellow in Journalism at Massey College this year, this blog surveys the various efforts of the Harper government to limit the output of scientific data, particularly that related to environmental issues, and access to data. The government redacts much of the data given out after delay, delay and delay. The article concludes that this is part of an even larger operation to undermine the professionalism of the civil service and its critical role in ensuring a strong and responsive democracy. 

Introduction 

Véronique Morin is the Webster McConnell Fellow in Journalism at Massey College this year who works the science beat, with an emphasis on research, for a science magazine program, Le Code Chastenay, on Télé-Québec. She had the idea and undertook the research for the documentary, Time Bombs, which exposed the horrific use by government officials of 40 ordinary soldiers in order to study the effects of the use of atomic bombs on the military in combat. The bombs were sometimes as much as four times more powerful than the bomb used on Hiroshima and at times the soldiers were only half a mile from the explosion. The soldiers were not told that they were being used as guinea pigs. They obeyed because they were members of the Queen’s Own Rifles and saw themselves as serving Queen and Country in following orders. Of course, the soldiers later developed cancer in extraordinary proportions and this fact was kept a secret from them initially and from the Canadian public. Even worse, some of their children were born with deformities or handicaps. Time Bombs follows the Atomic Veterans in their quest for recognition from the Government. The documentary won a Gold Ribbon award from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and a Best Documentary award from the New York International Independent Film and Video festival. Excerpts can be seen on http://productionsdelaruelle.com/PDLRweb/en/our-productions/trailers-and-excerpts/.

“Why did we go there?” the veterans ask. Why won’t the government acknowledge what was done to these veterans in Operation Plumbbob when Jim Huntley, the only veteran still in good health, confronts the politicians as the quest for justice is juxtaposed with never-before-screened film records of American nuclear tests involving soldiers. I asked Véronique why the officials in 1957 sent them since they knew by then the effects of atomic radiation. She thought they were driven by a combination of scientific curiousity and a desire to be part of the Big Boys Club with America and Great Britain.

Linked with my last topic on indigenous peoples, Véronique organized a panel of science journalists on “Science coverage of indigenous people” who are confronted with very high rates of diabetes, obesity and exceptional rates of suicide, particularly among the youth. How should science reporters deal with these issues when indigenous people may not share the epistemological assumptions of modern scientific inquiry? How does one reconcile journalistic integrity with scientific objectivity and cultural sensitivity? Véronique, a former President of the Canadian Science Writers Association, was also a key catalyst behind moves to investigate the Canadian government muzzling of government scientists. 

The Harper Government and Access to Scientific Information

I was out of touch with the media when scientists demonstrated last summer on Parliament Hill decrying the “Death of Evidence” and asserting “no science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy”. I had also missed the early April news that The University of Victoria Environmental Law Center and non-partisan Democracy Watch had requested that Canada’s Information Commissioner conduct a probe into “systematic efforts by the government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media — and through them, the Canadian public — to timely access to government scientists.” Calvin Sandborn, the legal director from the University of Victoria’s Law Centre noted that, “the topics that require the highest level of ministerial control are topics related to the tar sands, climate change, polar bears, caribou and the oil and gas industry.”(http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2013/04/02/Canada-to-probe-muzzling-of-scientists/UPI-87461364941159/#ixzz2f828QlBs (Science News “Canada to probe ‘muzzling’ of scientists,” 2 April 2013)

A press release said that Canada’s Information Minister, Suzanne Legualt, announced an investigation into six government departments over the so-called muzzling of government scientists. In actuality, Madame Legault simply confirmed that the decision to investigate fell within the mandate of Canada’s information commissioner for the federal Access to Information Act requires the Office of the Information Commissioner to investigate “any matter related to obtaining or requesting access to records” from federal institutions. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, boasted that, “Environment Canada participated in more than 1,300 media interviews, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada issued nearly 1,000 scientific publications, and Natural Resources Canada published nearly 500 studies.” This, of course, said nothing about whether scientists were or were not muzzled. 

The Canadian Commission for UNESCO has also taken up the issue. It is ironic that in the same year those 40 soldiers were sent on a mission to be exposed to deadly radiation in 1957, both the Canada Council and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO within the Canada Council were founded following a petition of 16 national cultural organizations in Toronto in December 1945 and the inclusion of that proposal in the mandate of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts co-chaired by Vincent Massey. This explains the irony of a Commission within the Canada Council investigating the issue of access to government scientists.

Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly protects freedom of expression. According to rulings of Canadian courts, governments can restrict a person’s freedom of opinion and expression only for important overriding purposes. There are three tests of such seriousness: 1) is the override rationally connected to the purpose it is intended to achieve; 2) is the impairment as little as possible? 3) do the beneficial effects of any restriction outweigh the deleterious effects? The pattern of muzzling government scientists passes none of these tests and seriously undermines the three underlying values of freedom of expression: participation in social and democratic decision-making, attainment of truth, and individual self-fulfillment.

The initial probe is restricted to the following departments:

·                 Environment Canada

·                 Department of Fisheries and Oceans

·                 Natural Resources Canada

·                 National Research Council of Canada

·                 Canadian Food Inspection Agency

·                 Department of National Defence

·                 The Treasury Board Secretariat

 

The evidence of muzzling contained in the over one hundred pages of appendices to the 26-page joint petition and complaint filed on February 20th seems overwhelming. For a summary see Carol Linnit’s May 2013 article, “Harper attack on science: No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy,” in Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education. Not only have government scientists been muzzled, but important research programs and mechanisms for collecting information, such as the Long Form Census, have been cancelled. Sometimes, as Linnit wrote, the suppression is ludicrous as when Mark Tushingham was prohibited from attending the launch of his own novel exploring a future world destroyed by global warming. Federal scientists in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are required to obtain high level permission to meet with the media to discuss peer-reviewed research.

 

The greatest repression is connected with environmental research:

  • The Harper government new rules on media contact led to an 80% reduction in department engagement on issues of climate change
  • In 2008, the position of National Science Adviser was eliminated
  • Scott Dallimore of Natural Resources Canada required the permission of Natural Resources Minister, Christian Paradis, to comment on his research on a northern Canadian flood 13,000 years ago
  • Postmedia journalist Margaret Munro was denied access to information or government personnel regarding Canada’s radiation detectors (She subsequently won an honourable mention from the World Press Freedom Award for her story on muzzling scientists; the Canadian Science Writers Association as a collective won the 14th annual Press Freedom Award for their work on exposing government restrictions on federal scientists and deliberate delaying tactics.)
  • Scientists in Environmental Canada were not permitted to discuss their paper published in Geophysical Research on the projected estimate of a 2 degree celcius rise in global temperatures
  • David Tarasick of Environmental Canada was not permitted to discuss his research on the ozone layer over the Arctic
  • Environmental Canada research scientists were not permitted to discuss the petroleum-based pollutants in snowfall near the Alberta tar sands except if their comments were restricted to scripted statements provided to them
  • Media liaison personnel had to accompany all government scientists at the International Polar Year Conference in Montreal
  • The Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2013 announced a policy that all scientific research undertaken by the department was confidential unless released by high level officials in the department
  • In August 2011, 700 Environmental Canada positions were eliminated in the name of fiscal restraint
  • By February 2012, the number of light detection and ranging stations to monitor ozone loss and fossil fuel pollution had been reduced from ten to five
  • Funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmosphere Studies was not renewed in 2012 forcing the closure in Nunavut of PEARL, the Polar Environment Aerospace Research Laboratory
  • Funding for the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy was cut in 2013 and it was restricted from making its information publicly available
  • Peter Ross, Canada’s only marine animal toxicologist, along with 1,074 other Department of Fisheries and Ocean employees, lost his job
  • The Harper government cut $3 million from the Experimental Lakes Area in an effort to shut down this natural laboratory for studying the effects of industrial and chemical pollutants on waterways and aquatic life

Year after year, the Harper government has received a failing grade from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression for policies which deliberately delay and prevent access to information. Canada was ranked 40th out of 89 countries in last year’s Global Right to Information Rating. Further, as Véronique made clear, the attack on evidence and on access to information goes far beyond environmental or even natural science issues. In my own areas of expertise, library resources and policy units have been closed down in departments like immigration and foreign affairs. The effort is not merely to protect and defend policies promoting resource development in the face of environmental criticism, but to make policy independent of any science-based foundation whether applied to incarceration of more people or with respect to immigration and refugee policy. Stephen Harper may have been the smartest kid in his high school class, but he has led a government dead set again evidence-based policies and in favour of policies which have a populist appeal.

Populism is not democracy. Democracy is not equivalent to politicians claiming to express the will of the people. Democracy depends on the protection of minorities (in contrast to the policies of the minority government in Quebec). Democracy depends on free expression and access to and dissemination of accurate information so that civil society can be as well-informed as possible. Importantly, good governance depends on incorporating those values in developing an independent mandarin professional class of civil servants who can advise government on various options based on the best knowledge available to them. A mandarin class is not the antithesis of democracy but a requisite condition of its highest democratic aspirations.  The public interest is not and cannot be equated with private interests even as the worthy goal is pursued of preventing ostensible efforts at protecting the public interest from being used to squelch and restrict entrepreneurial efforts needlessly. When civil servants to keep their positions or rise in the hierarchy simply become toadies to the party in power and lose their independence, then the professionalism of a mandarin class is undermined and democracy is weakened.

Civil servants with impressive reservoirs of technical expertise are prerequisites for both formulating and implementing policies decided by government. That does not mean that the delegation going downwards can be badly executed or that the civil servants may not overreach and undermine the government’s ability to make decisions or that governments often will ignore sound advice and the knowledge based on experience and studies at their peril even when a quality mandarin class is available to them. However, the basic premise in a quality democracy is that mandarins propose but do not decide and mandarins execute but do not simply obey blindly. This premise has stood the test of time. Regimes which ignore this lesson out of conspiracy theories that the mandarin class is simply an ideological tool of an opposition party or the simplistic mantra that elected officials and not unelected civil servants must make policy in a democracy simply misrepresent how representative democracies work. They do not work by converting mandarins into lackeys trotted out for elected representatives to hide behind when convenient or kept behind the curtain when it is politically expedient.

Mandarins have the following responsibilities with respect to a democratically elected government:

·         To prepare professional quality options to facilitate rational decisions

·         To facilitate access to government from a wide variety of competing interest groups

·         To especially accommodate disadvantaged groups in the process thereby strengthening goals of social justice and equality

·         To insulate as much as possible the process of decision-making by those with exploitive, manipulative and/or repressive agendas by fostering broad participation and dialogue.

Accurate information and acute analyses that are widely disseminated are crucial to the process of fostering evidence-based discourse, the very foundation of the democratic cause and the foundations for an informed public.