Political Communication in Canada

Political Communication in Canada

by

Howard Adelman

Brand Command: Canadian Politics and Democracy in the Age of Message Control [Brand] (Alex Marland) – continued:

Brand won the $50,000 2017 Canadian Donner Book Prize.

Any communications strategy will vary according to the material or information at hand, the approach to using that information, the media available for employing the data, and the logic and structures specifically correlated with that media. Thus, before we even do anything on a communications strategy, the content, approach, media available and its forms, must all be grasped. Taken together, the above will almost but not quite dictate the techniques available to be employed in a communications strategy, techniques which also must be identified, analyzed and understood. Once we understand the material and the media, our approach and techniques available, the utilization for its most efficacious impact must be assessed and then translated into strategies and tactics.

Our communications age is identifiable by a unique set of materials previously unavailable: mass data bases, public opinion research and market intelligence.  However, in politics only a small range of mass data is relevant. We have no use for mass spectral databases available through spectrometry that help astronomers identify planets which might support life. Nor are communication junkies interested in the mass collection of DNA material used to identify sources for organ transplants or to trace one’s ancestry. Nor, on a more human scale, and surprisingly, is there much interest in the mass data used to assess performance, a data base popularized in the baseball movie, Moneyball, which perhaps best made the pollster, Nathan Silver, a household name. In the field of electoral politics and governance, the focus is on human predispositions, preferences and priorities; the collection of mass data allows pollsters to mine this platinum.

It was rather surprising, then, when I could not find one reference to Nathan Silver in Brand or to Nathan’s own famous brand, Five Thirty Eight or 538. There are many discussions of public opinion research, the sampling of a cross section of the population to measure the public’s views of issues, policies, parties and leaders. However, if you look up the long list of references used, there is no citation of The Signal and the Noise, Silver’s account of the techniques he developed and used, including mathematical algorithms, to very accurately predict the outcome of the American election in 2012, an election that was purportedly too close to call.

To adumbrate, there is no discussion of mathematical modelling as a technique for more accurately assessing how preferences and priorities of voters can be assessed to interpret their voting preferences. Silver proved that opinion surveys and focus groups were inadequate. If you do not seek out certain types of data in the mass data bases, or even try to develop those much deeper data bases, if you do not employ the more sophisticated techniques of mathematical analysis, then you may not be able to comprehend how Stephen Harper attempted to manipulate the public. Marland’s nostalgic approach will not likely reveal the shortcomings and superficiality of both his and Harper’s approach and their inherent limitations as well questionable results.

The market research, the quantitative and qualitative data, can include, in addition to polls, opinion surveys and focus groups, a wider spectrum from role playing to census data analysis. However, if a political party simply maps its political program onto this market intelligence to prioritize issues, the results may be shallow and misdirected. One of the shortcomings of Marland’s book is his failure to adopt a much more critical model that could also help explain Harper’s failures.

I think there is an explanation for this shortcoming. Alex Marland, like Stephen Harper, was never really interested in the role data has played and continues to play in the daily lives of citizens that allow those citizens to better understand, grasp and operate in the world. He, like Harper, was preoccupied with advertising, with a market and sales orientation, that is with manipulating the public to buy a specific brand in a crowded field. Advertising, as Marland acknowledges, is the effort to influence the opinion, choices and behaviour of the voting public. It is not an effort to understand those choices and help guide them for purposes of self-realization. Hence, the focus on market intelligence and the willingness and determination to use that market intelligence for sales purposes to stimulate emotional reactions rather than an effort to understand and identify public anxieties.

Marland in his book clearly understands the difference between a sales and market orientation (see p. 33), but as much as he wants to have the latter supersede the former, as long as the concerns of citizens are tabulated within a market frame, that is, where mass data is used to sell one’s party as best able to address issues of concern, then the goal will simply be developing pain relief and then advertising why Aleve is better than Tylenol. There will be no real effort to understand the underlying sources of that pain and the various available ways to address that pain. Responding to pain (or desire) is not the same as understanding its roots.

For Marland, the message is the media – the mass and new social media available to engage in marketing a political party. Mass media refers to traditional forms, such as newspapers, magazines, radio and TV, whereas social media refers to the digital media and internet-based applications where users as much as professionals create the content, as in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Wikipedia. Marland subscribes to the Canadian school of communication analysis of Harold Innis, Donald Creighton and Marshall McLuhan who held that, “communications technology is more influential than its content.” (p. 51) Whether the issue was the fur trade, the St. Lawrence River (versus the Erie Canal) or modern mass print and then electronic followed by digital media, the nature of that media will shape not only how we communicate, but what is communicated.

Media in the digital age emphasizes speed, unlimited expansion, almost instant access, as well as an ephemeral quality. It is decentralized and purportedly lacks an authentic source of authority to adjudicate between and among contending interpretations. Hence, it is easily subject to manipulation and facilitates wide swings in voter response. However, when Marland quotes my friend Peter Russell, who pointed to the “emergence of political parties whose leaders employ the techniques of mass advertising to win and retain power,” (p. 52) he was really reciting what had been the case before the prominence of social media. The new social media allows communication to be far more targeted, to eschew advertising in favour of the development of images, scenes and actions that try to evade the sense of advertising as manipulation.

While Marland seems to grasp the critical differences between social and historic mass media, it is in terms of the latter that he frames his approach to the former.  Manipulation of voters rather than a dialogue among citizens of different political stripes is the emphasis when discussing narrowcasting and microtargeting, sound and image bites, and spin. Media logic is defined as the view that institutional actors change their behaviour in response to how journalists gather and report news, but Donald Trump, the master tweeter and traditional rabble-rouser in public rallies, seems to totally belie this presumption.

If we shift to the analysis of technique rather than material content, then branding and framing are perhaps the two most important. Marland, while not ignoring framing, emphasizes branding. “Framing,” he claims, “is narrow whereas branding is all-encompassing.” A brand is the result of the entirety of all framing. “Branding is addictive, it is circular and it is a seemingly unstoppable force.” Further, Marland argues that, “A branding lens is a good theoretical tool because it offers predictive power and an explanatory mechanism beyond left/right ideology.”  

However, I will start with framing and I trust it will become self-evident why I do so. Thus, building infrastructure can be framed in terms of higher taxes or critical long term investments. Marihuana use can be framed as a law and order or as a health and consumer enjoyment issue. The Conservative government initiated bills to increase penalties for drug distribution whereas the Liberals initiated steps to decriminalize the smoking of pot and regulate its growth and distribution.

In their attack ads, Conservatives accused Liberals of encouraging the sale of marihuana to children, whereas the Liberals denounced giving criminal records to individuals who were no danger to the public, especially when scientific evidence demonstrated that pot had health benefits, particularly in pain relief, and did not cause nearly the amount of harm of alcohol and tobacco, two legalized forms of drug sales for pleasure purposes. The Conservatives used public funds from Health Canada to advance their agenda while ignoring and even suppressing scientific input, much to the chagrin of Marland who deplores the use of public funds for partisan gain.

Moralizing, however much one might agree with it, is no substitute for in-depth analysis. Again, it is a surprise when reading Marland’s discussion of framing that there is no reference to the Berkeley linguist, the high priest of understanding political framing, George Lakoff, and his bestseller, Don’t Think of an Elephant. (His previous volume, Moral Politics, is a broader and more in-depth study.) It is noteworthy that, whereas Marland subordinated framing to branding as the overarching mode of synthesis, Lakoff insists that politicians, to be successful, must integrate their daily discussions on policy issues into an overall philosophy of governance in terms of fundamental principles that frame the debate. It is also noteworthy that Marland defends the priority of branding because of its predictive power, but it is George Lakoff who has the stellar reputation of predicting outcomes of presidential elections accurately.

Lakoff traced the rhetorical edge Republican presidential candidates take with respect to the underlying philosophical debate between paternalism and maternalism, between strict discipline versus nurturing in raising children. The former is associated with limited government and an emphasis on individual responsibility with priority given to defence, law and order and the responsibility of the head of a household for bringing an income into the family and ensuring prosperity. Poverty results from lack of initiative. Social welfare is counterproductive as it undermines self-reliance and fosters dependence. It was easy for Stephen Harper to marry this frame to a branding strategy based on discipline, control and micromanagement.

In contrast, a nurturing government aims at helping individuals maximize their potential while providing a safety blanket when life deals a damaging blow. Therefore, the stress is on providing equality of opportunity as well as a cushion. Since poll after poll indicates that the majority of Canadians favour the latter frame, that the latter serves their self-interest, why do electorates put paternalistic governments in power?

As Lakoff explains, it is because voters decide based more on framing an issue in terms of moral identity rather than self-interest. The Liberals (and the New Democrats) base their party platforms on serving the interests of the citizens of Canada. The Conservatives fight on a foundation of moral self-identity, really three contradictory identities, two of which are dominant: the tough, aggressive free enterpriser and the community conservative. There is also a peripheral moral superego stemming from a doctrine of moral virtues, which is where I suspect Marland is rooted.

The frame, the timing and the communication of that frame, not the discipline and control of delivering a message (the brand), helps determine outcomes. When Liberals or New Democrats or Democrats in the U.S. push only the issue of self-interest, they undermine a larger frame for liberalism. Success depends on enhancing that larger frame. Bernie Sanders understood that; Hilary Clinton and her campaign did not. Trudeau and his campaign understood that; Mulcair did not.

It is one thing to inverse the tension between framing and branding, between the general structure and the image or core message left with a citizen. It is another not to indicate that he is doing this in the face of the dominant lexicon. But the inversion does offer a clue to his position that stresses advertising, media management and manipulation versus a position that insists on the priority of establishing the basic principles upon which you stand. The brand should reflect principles instead of allowing the principles to exist as a by-product of an effort at branding.

Look at what Marland stresses: brand ambassadors rather than self-critical reflection, marketing, as if a political agenda was simply a shopping list in which political goods and services substituted for consumer ones. Very few consumer advertisers engage in distraction, defamation and attempts to de-brand the opposition or competition. Is consumer motivation an equivalent to voter mobilization? Why do we not call advertising partisan and why do we not label it as propaganda? Politics and a consumer culture occupy two different realms. We distinguish branding from framing, the consumer world from the political one, rather than melding them. When we make political reporting a form of infotainment and turn it into a realm of alt-facts and scandal mongering, often tied to pseudo-events, we pervert the field of politics.

While Marland is clearly aware of how branding works as well as how it was reflected in the Harper government, he seems to endorse sound and image bites as necessary outcomes of the need to retain mastery of the process through centralized control and the avoidance of tumult. The consequence of a politician who is great at simplifying and communicating his brand but lacks the discipline and the control elements in place to manage tumult, as can be seen if one compares the effort executed by the dry-as-dust Stephen Harper and the flamboyant mendacious narcissist, Donald Trump.

One cannot imagine Donald adopting a “Whole of Government” (WOG) approach to both governance and communicating a message, but, unlike Harper, Trump really runs a permanent political campaign. Marland seems to believe that permanent campaigning and control to ensure the communication stays on point are both outcomes as a result of prioritizing, but the Harper regime indicated that discipline and control could be one outcome and turning the project of governance into a permanent campaign could be another.

Top down centralized control may be necessary if you are going to turn politics into branding, but if politics is to be based on principles arrived at through reflection and debate, principles reflected in a common frame for a variety of approaches and outcomes that share only a family resemblance, then it may be preferable to work for a politics of dialogue and persuasion rather than a politics of top down messaging. With all of Marland’s proposals for fixing the system by, for example, separating government versus party branding (repaint the Liberal colours) and other distinctly side issues, his efforts of analysis of the communication strategies of the Harper government may be industrious and enormously detailed and documented, but given his own intellectual frame, he only delivers laboratory mice rather than significant policies for the political process.

Marland fails to show why the Harper style of governing is a necessary output of prioritizing branding, even if it is one possible outcome of the effort. Marland also cannot demonstrate how the analysis of the new media and new modes of communication necessitates a position prioritizing top-down versus bottom-up governance as was used in the Bernie Saunders campaign.

A volume which appears on the surface to be a critique of the Harper regime in defence of democratic principles turns out to be an apologia arguing for tweaks to the inconsequential, such as getting the government to publish the costs of photo-ops or changing the political colours of the Liberal Party. It is not inevitable that message consistency will be interpreted in the same monochromatic manner as was offered by Harper, or that, in politics, control will always emerge supreme as distinct from consent to pursue common purposes. If Marland wants to congratulate himself for seeing past and through personalities to uncover the structure and nature of contemporary communications beneath it, then he will have to be far more self-critical in understanding the connection between his conclusions and the intellectual frame he adopted in approaching the subject matter. Like Paul Rand in the United States, he is a principled nineteenth century liberal, one who imposes an ideology on contemporary communications, just as Harper imposed “tight communications discipline to ensure conformity.”

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Refugee Policy: Indochinese versus Syrian Refugees

Secularist Religions – continued.

  1. Refugee Policy: Indochinese versus Syrian Refugees

How we treat and incorporate the stranger into the we that we want to become? This emerged as a central issue in the recent Canadian election. Language was used to convey the very opposite message than it appeared to have on the surface. Generosity stood for stinginess or miserly behaviour. Compassion stood for relative indifference. Balance came to stand for a very deformed policy. A speedy and sensitive response came to mean tardiness, delay and interference from the very top.

Stephen Harper asserted in debates and talks that the Conservative Party had been very generous but also very balanced in welcoming the stranger. But his government’s actions and behaviour demonstrated miserliness of the most extreme sort. Generosity came to mean the government sponsoring the intake of at most 2,000 out of over 4 million Syrian refugees in 2016, that is, .00005% of the refugee population. And the balance between ensuring security for the self and generosity by the self was the assurance that the process could be accomplished without spending any more money. Balancing the books took precedence.

In 2013, the government pledged to take 1,300 Syrian refugees over the next 12 months. It did admit 1,300, but over 20 months, or 780 over twelve months. Most of these were sponsored by the private sector, meaning the government merely had to financially support the intake. The government of Canada then announced that it would take 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years, or 3,300 per year with 60% allocated to the private sector, or almost 2,000. About 1,300 were planned to be government sponsored. The pressure on the government built, some of it from Tory party members. The government then upped the planned intake by 10,000 more, but now over four years. Further, they were to be a mixture of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, or 5,000 additional Syrian refugees over four years or 1,250 additional Syrian refugees per year, only 500 of them to be government-sponsored refugees.

It is one thing to announce miserliness dressed up as generosity. It is another to actually sabotage the process put in place. The Globe and Mail in a scoop revealed the Office of the Prime Minister had ordered a “temporary” halt to the processing of Syrian refugee applications. Conservative Leader Stephen Harped then acknowledged that his government had ordered an audit of Syrian refugees admitted to Canada. Why? To ensure security concerns were being adequately addressed. But that did not mean, the government insisted, that members of the PMO were processing files. Presumably, they were just vetoing some, but that was not processing. According to CTV News, quoting Citizenship and Immigration insiders, the PMO went through Syrian refugee applications to ensure that religious minorities, such as Christians, were being accepted over applications from Shia and Sunni Muslims. But the Prime Minister insisted the audit was warranted to ensure security issues were being taken care of properly. Security for the refugees themselves was barely a consideration.

Refugee issues had never heretofore been a significant factor in a federal election in Canada. But in 2015, the pressure on the government grew further. Bowing to pressure, the government announced on 19 September 2015 that it would take the initial 10,000 in 2015 instead of over three years. Further, applicants would be processed faster for they would not have to be cleared first by UNHCR and designated as Convention refugees. Canada would take them as prima facie refugees. This was the key step that would allow the government to take in the 10,000 refugees in one year rather than three.

The government then did take some important steps to help speed up the process.

  1. Even before the next steps, it waived the requirement of prior UNHCR approval for refugees to be considered for resettlement by Canada.
  2. Two top quality civil servants were appointed to coordinate an expedited Syrian refugee program, one for managing external relations with sponsorship groups  and settlement agencies, and the other for governmental coordination of Citizenship Immigration Canada (CIC) with provincial and municipal governments, UNHCR, the IOM, and overseas agencies which might perform specific functions for CIC; the two appointees were, respectively, Deborah Tunis and Bruce Scofield, two very seasoned and accomplished officers of CIC.
  3. In the last few weeks, the number of personnel at the Centralized Intake Office (CIO) in Winnipeg has doubled.
  4. The number of visa officers assigned to Lebanon has been increased to 15.
  5. As long as applications for sponsorship have been substantially complete, acceptance will not be delayed until corrections have been made; instead, acceptance will be issued and time given to make corrections.

Late, but nonetheless steps that will allow Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to get off to a running start on the Syrian refugee issue. However, by the time the writ was dropped and the election held:

  • No monies had been allocated to help private sector organizations complete the 64-page application (it was 6 pages at the time of the Indochinese refugee crisis);
  • Monies were not allocated to settlement agencies to assist with the additional responsibilities in settlement.

It has been a slow running start.

When stinginess is dressed up as humanitarian generosity, when selection of the most vulnerable comes to mean selection of Yazidis, Chaldeans and Assyrians (Christians all) from the urban wastelands of the Middle East rather than a broad selection of refugees from the camps, when processing times become so lengthy because of a shortage of personnel and political interference from the PMO, when we enter into the discourse of extreme contradiction, then we have to recognize that we are in the strongest expression of the post-modern ethos. In the name of the old values, in the name of “old-stock” Canadians as well as newcomers, in the name of us, we define who we are. And instead of a reputation for generosity towards refugees that had been built up after WWII culminating in the Indochinese refugee movement, Canada had become a terrible laggard.

Any quick examination of who we have been will tell you that it was only for a very short period, a half century at most, that we exemplified a Canada that welcomed the stranger and opened its doors to the oppressed. Perhaps since 9/11, the new issue behind the scenes was security and perhaps, Islamophobia. However, when I was in Calgary both before and as the election results were rolling in, I conducted interviews. Only one of my interviewees expressed outright anti-Muslim sentiments. “There were already too many in Calgary.” But security was mentioned by all those who said they were voting for the Conservatives.

All three parties had pledged that all Syrian refugees would be carefully monitored to minimize any security concerns. However, when I interviewed a Syrian mother and her three sons aged 18, 22 and 26 and they described the process they had been through, they were never interviewed by any security officer. Further, in reviewing the questions they were asked, no obvious security issues seemed to have been raised directly or indirectly, except to ask whether they were or ever had been members of ISIS. Again, there appeared to be an apparent discrepancy between rhetoric and what seemed to be happening on the ground, especially since, if individuals come to Canada on a student visa, on a vacation or as a tourist, it is far easier to avoid notice and suspicion of being a terrorist. The refugee route is the worst path for a camouflaged terrorist to come to Canada. Previous scholarship indicated that the refugee process into Canada was the route least likely to be taken by an undercover terrorist since it was a process through which would allow Canada to develop an extensive file on them. Coming as a student or preferably a tourist offered far better chances of avoiding detection.

But we now lived in the post-modern world of doublespeak. In the modern era, solidarity had substituted for unity in order to have a foundation for democratic thinking and practices. Religious tolerance and cooperation in a multi-ethnic world were celebrated. Even in the ancient world, the dictum was welcome the stranger. It meant expressing hospitality to him or her. It did not mean admitting the other into membership. Even Aristotle, by far the best of Plato’s pupils, but a Macedonian, was not allowed to inherit Plato’s academy.

The apogee of modernity in Canada was the acceptance of the Indochinese refugees into this country in what is known as the Boat People Movement. In that effort, there was a partnership of government and civil society, of political leaders and civil servants trained to serve that society as well as their political bosses, and, most interesting of all, a partnership of religious and secular communities in that civil society.  (Cf. Dionne and Dilulio 2001) In fact, the lead organizations in that effort were neither Operation Lifeline nor Project 4000 in Ottawa, but the Mennonite Central Committee and the Christian Reformed Church. They were on the scene both first and last and they contributed the most per member.

This was the great irony – the apogee of accepting the Other as oneself, of recognizing the rights of the Other as a human being, a right that necessitated making provision for those denied rights in their own state – was a movement that was lead, in terms of both order and priority, by religious organizations. The Mennonite Central Committee based in Winnipeg was the first organization of any kind to sign an umbrella agreement with the Government of Canada, to effectively partner with the government in the intake and resettlement of refugees. The Christian Reformed Church was both an advocacy organization on behalf of refugees, in spite of strictures that religious organizations, to retain their charitable status, could not engage in advocacy. More importantly, the church was deeply engaged in the process of sponsoring and resettling refugees. But it was all within a Christian religious context. They wrote that, “We remember that just like the child Jesus and his parents, millions of men, women and children around the world must flee because of violence, racial tension, religious bigotry and natural disasters. And we remember that God has much to say about welcoming the stranger.”

This seemed quite contrary to the traditional view of the separation of church and state, a separation that required a degree of distance between the two, “a wall of separation” in Jefferson’s phrase, and not a humanitarian partnership.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.

But the partnership went further. In the Indochinese refugee movement, in Canada, the state had a politically contractual obligation to follow the lead of the civil society because of its guarantee to sponsor a refugee for every refugee sponsored by civil society over and above the number to which it was already committed. So, in the name of one strand of traditional religion and the new strand of the secular human rights and humanitarianism religion, both streams partnered with the government to bring into Canada 60,000 refugees in a period of eighteen months.

But the movement was not without an opposition. After the Canadian government announced its program to welcome the entry of 50,000 Indochinese refugees into Canada, the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) published two full-page ads opposing the new policy. NCC is a Canadian conservative lobby group that campaigns against public services, trade unions, and favours smaller government; Canada’s recently defeated Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was once president. It is not a membership organization. It was founded in 1967 by Colin Brown, backed by a small group of economic conservatives. However, in 1979 it ventured into opposing Canadian refugee policy.

The first full-page ad[1] declared that for every one refugee allowed entry, 16 more would follow sponsored by those already here. Thus, the 50,000 figure would mean 800,000 Indochinese immigrants would be moving to Canada within a few short years. The projections were a gross exaggeration stemming, in part, from using outdated and inapplicable immigration rules about family sponsorship in force after WWII. However, behind the ad were racist beliefs that an influx of a large group of Asians was unwanted based on the fear of “The Yellow Peril,” an interpretation reinforced when Colin Brown and a few others with whom he was associated were interviewed in the media and appeared on TV and radio shows to debate Ron Atkey, the Minister of Immigration.

Operation Lifeline and a large swath of the public, especially the segment involved in private sponsorship, saw nothing wrong with a significant increase in Canadians who could trace their origins to Asia. Nevertheless, this initiative of the National Citizens Coalition, stoked by further falsehoods rooted in racial fears in Canada, could be bad for the movement and would discomfort the refugees after they arrived. The ad was disturbing both in its challenge to refugee policy and in undercutting a positive integration for newcomers. The opposition to the new Canadian Indochinese refugee policy had its first organized leadership.

At the end of the summer of 1979, the NCC sponsored a second full page ad[2] in a number of Canadian newspapers. Based on a survey it had conducted and which it published, the NCC claimed that a majority of Canadians were opposed to the policy permitting the entry of 50,000 Indochinese refugees. The survey questions were both leading and misleading and did not follow scientific protocols for objective opinion surveys. The leadership of the private sponsorship movement viewed this initiative as a real threat to the successful sponsorship and integration of the Indochinese refugees. As it turned out, although the questions were misleading and significantly exaggerated the results, the totals opposed to the policy were not so far off the mark. A fairer secret survey, to which Operation Lifeline did not have access at the time, did indicate that a majority of Canadians opposed the Indochinese refugee program, in good part because of a latent racism in Canada.

Yet the leading sectors in Canada – professional organizations, business associations, municipal leaders, political parties without exception, most Tory cabinet members – all strongly favoured the policy, not just as policy, but as active participants in making the sponsorship program a success. Nevertheless, the private sponsorship movement saw an enormous potential for causing significant damage. Racism and anti-immigration are always potent dangers for a democracy. They stir passions and fears and do not enhance rational debate. They are also very hard to combat, for entering the fray in public just exacerbates the fears and enhances the credibility of those stirring up those fears, though this runs counter to the belief that the public sphere should be founded on rational and civil discourse and respect others.

Dr. Joseph Wong, a leading figure in the private sponsorship program, who would go on to become chair of Operation Lifeline, chair of the United Way in Toronto, leader of a number of important social causes and a recipient of the Order of Canada, met with the founder of Operation Lifeline to discuss this new challenge.[3] The two decided that they could not just fight the NCC by appearing in debates as opponents of the NCC position on the Indochinese refugee program. Nor would quiet diplomacy work behind the scenes. They needed leverage to cut off NCC support given their conviction that the financial sector, though opposed to big government, was not generally racist. In fact, given the amount of support Operation Lifeline had received from that sector, they were convinced that generally economic conservatives would be opposed to the NCC challenge to the policy. Hence, they launched what was then called “Operation Intellectual Kneecapping” to cut off NCC financial support. (Why it was called “intellectual kneecapping” was neither explained nor now recalled; it presumably had something to do with sending a message that the effort was non-violent.)

As it turned out, Joseph Wong knew a prominent supporter and contributor to the NCC. He also knew that this individual was not a racist, but did not know whether he supported the intake of Indochinese refugees. Joseph phoned him and he agreed to meet the two from Operation Lifeline for breakfast at a downtown Toronto hotel at 7:00 a.m. the next day. At that breakfast, the twosome outlined the problem. The businessman indicated that he actively supported the private sponsorship of Indochinese refugees and was appalled that an organization that he supported financially would engage in such racist-baiting. He asked for a bit of time and he promised Joseph that he would get back to him. The breakfast ended before 8:00 a.m.

At noon he phoned Joseph and informed him that he had taken care of the problem. He had called a number of his friends who helped finance the NCC and asked for permission to speak on their behalf to Colin Brown who then headed the NCC. They unanimously agreed. He then phoned Colin to say that he was calling, not only in a personal capacity, but representing the group that he had called. He told Colin that if he or the NCC published or said another thing on behalf of the NCC opposing the sponsorship of Indochinese refugees, he and his friends would not only withdraw their financial support, but he would personally phone additional financial contributors of the NCC to urge them to withdraw their support. The NCC would be destroyed.

He assured us that we would hear nothing further from the NCC on the subject. He was true to his word. Operation Intellectual Kneecapping had been a success with relatively little effort on the part of the refugee activists. The credit belongs to the enlightened leadership within the business community. However, it was an example of the new reliance on networking to get things done, a method developed by activists in the sixties. Further, it reinforced a belief that public discourse would best serve a humanitarian cause and conflicted with the values espoused by the secular religion of rights and humanitarianism.

Contrast these events where there was strong government leadership, a solidarity amongst all the political parties and with the leading sectors in Canadian society with the role of government in the current Syrian refugee crisis. A strong letter had been sent to the government by leading figures in support of refugees which argued for a much larger intake.[4] At the beginning of 2015, the Minister of Immigration, Chris Alexander, finally announced a relatively modest but what appeared at first to be at least a significant program for 4,000,000 Syrian refugees, the largest single group of refugees under UNHCR responsibility on the planet. That figure excludes those who are internally displaced estimated to be over seven million. The announcement was widely communicated by the media that Canada had pledged to resettle 10,000 additional Syrian and 3,000 Iraqi refugees. UNHCR, in light of past performance, had set a very modest target of 100,000. Canada had pledged to take its normal allotment of 10%, or 10,000 refugees. But not in one year. The initial announcement spread the intake over three years, only subsequently modified under pressure to one year. Modest indeed!

This was on top of the 1,300 Syrian refugees Canada had pledged to take the previous year but somehow seemed unable to take even that number. Given the scope of the crisis, the pledge at the same time of $90 million in humanitarian aid was at least responsible, but it also communicated that Canada was far more interested in warehousing rather than resettling refugees.

Refugee sponsorship organizations[i] had advocated the entry of 10,000 Syrian refugees, but in a rapid resettlement program, not one spread over three years. The government seemed to have capitulated under pressure. But not in actual performance. Further, the refugee support community had advocated special expedited measures for those with family members already in Canada. The government subsequently backed off the ratio assigning 40% of the 10,000 to be sponsored by the government while 60% were left for private sponsorships, moved to expedite processing, the initiatives always came late and under pressure in contrast to the leadership role of the new Tory government in 1979. Harper had not provided a form of leadership designed to galvanize a nation. In contrast, Sweden, a smaller country in geographical and population terms, had already accepted 40,000 Syrian refugees and expected 80,000 asylum seekers in 2014 alone. Germany had pledged to take in 800,000 and settle 500,000. Canada had totally abandoned its leadership role in refugee resettlement.

In does not help that the UNHCR greeted Canada’s initial announcement with diplomatic obsequious pussyfooting. The original pledge was dubbed “substantial” and a “generous commitment” when it was neither. It was not in keeping with Canada’s strong humanitarian tradition to offer resettlement to refugees worldwide.” It might be rationalized as a result of the weak response to UNHCR’s previous appeals. After all, it took an enormous effort to get the 30,000 in the last round, just over 1% of the Syrian refugee population. UNHCR had upped its target to 2.5% of the Syrian refugee population. Even with pledges not spread over several years, it would take 40 years to resettle all the refugees. Of course, this is somewhat of a distortion since most of the refugees will have settled in countries of first asylum like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. But the Canadian targets and pledges were so miniscule as to be embarrassing.

It does not help that the Canadian performance on the ground had been even worse. By the end of 2014, 1,285 of the year’s pledge of 1,300 had been approved for entry into Canada and Alexander insisted that 1,100 were already here. However, only 360 of that 1,300 had been government-sponsored refugees – 160 above Canada’s initial pledge of 200 – and the rest were privately-sponsored refugees. The refugee sponsors were constantly complaining about the slow and dragged out process of fulfilling those private sponsorships. Alexander’s contention that 1,100 had arrived hardly seemed credible. Further, when one recalls that in the Indochinese refugee movement, the government with only 16 employees in the field was transferring similar numbers of 1,300 per week rather than per year, one realizes how atrocious the Canadian performance has been and was likely to continue to be under a Conservative government. Doubling the total by another ten thousand intake, a number that included both Iraqi and Syrian refugees, yielded only an additional 1,250 Syrian refugees per year, only 500 to be sponsored by the government.

Generous indeed!

There was one ray of light in the announcement. “Canada is focusing on vulnerable individuals and those facing persecution. We make no apologies for putting focus on people in need, some of whom are being persecuted based on their religious beliefs,” said Alexander. In a message sent to the media, a government spokesperson, Kevin Ménard, said that, “Our priority is and will continue to be on those who are at risk because they are a religious minority, a sexual minority, or victims of rape.”[5]

Why is this a ray of light? Isn’t sponsoring Christians ahead of Muslims discrimination? The LGBT community who have been one group of sponsors for Syrian refugees at risk because of sexual orientation should have been delighted. But Professor Nicole LaViolette of the University of Ottawa, who passed away at the end of May 2015, disagreed. She denounced the discrimination. LaViolette, a research pioneering scholar on the persecution of LGBT members overseas who flee as refugees, had advised the LGBT community about the use of private sponsorship to help their cohort in Syria. She deplored the discrimination favouring using sexual orientation as a preference guide. As she wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on 11 February 2015, “Canadian LGBT communities must insist that the Conservative government respect its international obligations to provide refugee protection without discrimination. Sexual minorities know only too well the harm caused by discrimination. Queer Canadians should not support doing unto others what has long been done to us.”[6] So, in the name of the universal secular religion of human rights and humanitarianism, acceptance of the most vulnerable was rejected.

It is truly a strange world in which we live.

[1] The Globe and Mail, 24 August 1979.

[2] The Globe and Mail, 12 September 1979.

[3] This information is based on interviews and recollections of Joseph Wong and Howard Adelman.

[4] The signatories on the open letter included Dr. Muhammad Shrayyef and Fayaz Karim of the Canadians in Support of Refugees in Dire Need (CSRDN), Chris Friesen, Chair, Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance (CISSA-ACSEI), Brian Dyck, Chair, Canadian Refugee Sponsorship Agreement Holder Association (SAH Association), Professor Jennifer Hyndman, Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Dr. Aliya Khan and Dr. Irene Turpie, Doctors For Humanity (DFH), Dr. Anas Al Kassem, Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations (UOSSM) and Loly Rico, President, Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR).

[5] CBC News, 7 January 2015. www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-to-resettle-10-000-more-syrian

[6] See Nicole LaViolette, “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and the Refugee Determination Process in Canada,” Journal of Research in Gender Studies 68:123, 2014. See also two chapters of hers: “Overcoming Problems with Sexual Minority Refugee Claims: is LGBT Cultural Competency Training the Solution?” in Thomas Spijkerboer (ed.) Fleeing Homophobia, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Asylum (Oxford: Taylor & Francis Books, 2013); and “Sexual Minorities, Migration, and the Remaining Boundaries of Canadian Immigration and Refugee Law,” in Soheila Pashang (ed.) Unsettled Settlers: Barriers to Immigration (Whitby, Ontario: Sitter Publications, 2012).

The Niqab

An earlier version of this section of this series was published separately. It has now been rewritten in some parts.

  1. A Case Study of the Niqab

The jihab and the niqab become symbols as metaphors in our own self-transformation and definition.  The niqab is the veil worn by a small minority of Muslim women in this country. The following picture shows Zunera Ishaq with her niqab where the slit is very wide and the forehead and upper cheekbones can be seen. Many of us have seen Saudi women at airports where the slit is extremely narrow and some where even the eyes are covered by a netting as in wearing a burka.

The political issue arose over whether, when a person applies to become a Canadian citizen, they will be permitted to wear the veil in the public part of the ceremony. Of course, this is not how the issue was raised as part of electoral politics. The situation is made out as if it was about women being “forced” to hide their faces when they wish to become Canadian citizens. Or, at least, this is how our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and his partners in the Conservative Party in Canada, framed the issue.

The following are the “facts”:

  1. Two women in Canada since 2011 have refused to take off their niqabs in the public ceremony, not in private, as a condition of becoming citizens.
  2. There is no law requiring them to take off their niqabs in such ceremonies.
  3. The government of Canada issued regulations banning the wearing of face veils when taking the oath of citizenship in the public ceremony.
  4. Zunera Ishaq, clearly no wilting rose, took the Government of Canada to court over the issue.
  5. She won her court case and, just recently, in the Federal Court of Appeal, won again.
  6. The courts have ruled that the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Zunera Ishaq from being forced to remove her veil during the public part of the ceremony and that she should be given the right to wear and veil in the public ceremony, become a citizen and be allowed to vote in the forthcoming election on 19 October.
  7. The latest ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal was on 18 September.
  8. The Government of Canada even lost the subsequent court case asking for a stay in allowing Zunera Ishaq her rights.
  9. This is but one of a long series of cases where the current Government of Canada has sought through regulations to get around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the government has been thwarted at every turn by the Canadian courts.
  10. Note that, before participating in the public ceremony where the oath is taken, any applicant for citizenship must go through a number of steps to prove the applicant’s identity.
  11. Those steps include, in the name of the principle of political accommodation, that Zunera Ishaq remove her veil in private before a female official to establish her identity.
  12. The public ceremony is the formal part of the occasion, one that, if you ever attend, is very moving for almost all participants.
  13.  The Conservatives, as part of the election campaign, promised to “rectify” the matter by introducing legislation within 100 days of taking office that will require those applying for citizenship to take off face coverings during the formal ceremony confirming citizenship.
  14. They promised to do this without first hearing from the Supreme Court of Canada whether such legislation would be legal under the Canadian Constitution.
  15. The Conservative Party also signalled that it even plans to introduce legislation banning any federal employee from wearing a niqab when serving the public.
  16. Further, Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for the Conservative Party, stated that the niqab issue was part of the Conservative “agenda” as a well-established principle of the party, and that the party has simply benefited from a “coincidence.”
  17. The real issue is that Stephen Harper is the one really wearing a metaphorical niqab behind which he has been hiding to distract Canadians from really examining closely his mismanagement of the economy, his destruction of the “civil” dimension of the Canadian civil service and the myriad of other issues on which he has a deplorable record.
  18. The previous Quebec government tried to pass a Charter on Quebec values, in the tradition of France and in the name of religious secularism – in France, girls at school are banned from wearing a hijab, that is a headscarf. The previous provincial government introduced laws banning the wearing of any ostentatious religious symbols by Quebec officials and others in particular situations.
  19. The opposition parties came out strongly against the Government position based, not on whether they liked or disliked women wearing the niqab, but on the basis of human rights and upholding Canadian law and the constitution.
  20. One result, as established by polls, is that support for the New Democratic Party in Quebec, from which the party had most of their members of parliament and the vast majority of Quebec seats, fell precipitously at a cost of most of their seats, though there were other factors at work in that decline.

One cannot but admire how Tom Mulcair as leader of the New Democratic Party has handled the issue as a matter of principle in spite of the political backlash against his and his party’s views. However, while praising his principles, one can also be disappointed in the way he handled the spin. He based his objections on two issues – first on the rights of these Muslim women and the rule of law in Canada. Second, he attacked Harper for using such a politically miniscule issue to arouse ethnic and religious fears in Canada and a degree of hostility to Muslims in Canada that is beneath the surface. His principles may be admired and his diagnosis correct, but his ability at political counter-attack may not be.

Naheed Nenshi, the Muslim mayor of Calgary, and perhaps the most popular politician in Canada, offered a very spirited attack on the Conservative position. He did so, not because he is a member of any other political party to the best of my knowledge. He was just absolutely appalled by the position of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, Harper’s leading cabinet minister. Nenshi made the following points;

  1. He personally does not like the niqab and wishes people would not wear it.
  2. The wearing of the niqab may not be, for the women who wear it, a symbol of oppression and of masculine misogyny.
  3. The government’s position was contradictory for, in the name of supposedly protecting women against the oppression of their husbands, their families and their tradition, the government adopted the position of oppression to tell women what they can wear in certain circumstances even when they knew that Zunera Ishaq had not been pressured by her family to wear the niqab, but, to the contrary, had discouraged her from adopting the practice.
  4. The government has far more important issues to debate at an election that what two women in the last four years have chosen to wear at a public ceremony in which the oath of citizenship is sworn together with a larger group of applicants.
  5. Those issues include the disappearance of large numbers of aboriginal women; the Harper Government of Canada refused to set up a Commission of Inquiry.

In spite of Nenshi’s intervention, and that of many others, including very articulate Muslim women who would never wear a niqab, polls initially indicated that a majority of Canadians, not just in Quebec, supported the Conservative Party position. Léger Marketing found 82 per cent were in support of the policy nationally, and 93 per cent in favour in Quebec.

I am not a political spin doctor. But I would have advised a slightly different approach than that of either Tom Mulcair or even Naheed Neshi or Justin Trudeau for that matter. First, as Nenshi did, I would have indicated that I do not particularly like women wearing a niqab – but because I enjoy seeing the beauty in a woman’s face. Secondly, even though tattooing has grown in popularity, I have a very much stronger distaste for people who adorn themselves with tattoos and have been an oppressive father who banned my children, while supported by me, from ever getting a tattoo. Nevertheless, I would never think of passing a law or regulation banning this form of ostentatious personal identification by a civil servant, a student or an individual seeking to become a citizen.

But a tattoo does not hide a person’s identity. In fact, it establishes it more clearly – ask the number of criminals who have been caught because they were identified by the specific tattoo they wore. True enough, but the criterion espoused by Harper was his personal distaste for the behaviour of women wearing a niqab, since objective evidence and fact establish unequivocally that it is not an identity issue. I once had a woman who wore a niqab to my class and never had any difficulty whatsoever in identifying her, in fact even less difficulty than identifying most of my students – I was very bad at that very important skill.

The basic point is that my personal distaste, whatever it is and however much anyone agrees or disagrees with it, should not be the basis for making Canadian law or regulations. Further, it is not only I who say so. The Courts of Canada have ruled on this issue over and over again. My position on tattoos may be very appealing, especially to a number of older people who are appalled at the increasing propensity of young people to wear tattoos. But when it comes to public space and civil discourse, it is none of my business.

Mulcair and Nenshi attacked Stephen Harper for introducing such a trivial issue in an election because it was being used as a wedge issue for those who feared the influx of Muslims into Canada. That may be the case, but a vast majority of Canadians support Harper’s position. I do not believe they are anti-Muslim. They are against the practice of women wearing niqabs. The political issue, as opposed to constitutional one, is to focus the debate, not on the personal taste of the proponents of a ban, but on principles, the laws of Canada and the rights of women. But one can best, I believe, shift the focus of debate only once establishing an identity with those Canadians who are opposed to women wearing a niqab period.

The courts can decide what is lawful and not lawful with respect to dictates of the government re requirements of dress or tattoos. My personal distaste is irrelevant. Rights are. Respect is critical. Next to these principles, your or my distaste is irrelevant. What is most relevant is Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party’s effort on tramping on what I believe are prime Canadian values – tolerance, respect – not just acceptance – of others, and recognition that I should never make my personal tastes, whether for vanilla ice cream, diet colas or niqabs, a basis for making public policy.

I am clearly a partialist who belongs to the secular religion of human rights while, at the same time, I deny that this secular religion has any transcendental base or role. I also belong to the secular religion of humanitarianism, or what I have called the HRH secular religion, again without any claim that such a foundation has a universal transcendent status. On this, credit must be given where credit is due, The MRM religious secularists do not claim a transcendent status for their religious convictions. In interviews with them, I found them to be immune to falsification even when presented with contradictory evidence, immune to considerations of contradictions in their position, and stubbornly intent on repeating over and over again the party line. But they were quite proud to insist it was their party line and made no claims to the universal status of their position. In contrast, members of the HRH secular religion were much more open to falsification, much more willing to critique and examine their claims, much more protean in the defence of their positions, but stubbornly insistent that the foundations of their belief were unassailable and universal.

The Niqab and the Canadian Election

The Niqab and the Canadian Election

by

Howard Adelman

Forgive me for jumping out of my series on the Iran nuclear issue. But the issue of the niqab on which the results of the Canadian election may turn, is too important, precisely because it is so unimportant. For non-Canadian readers let me provide the context.

The niqab is the veil worn by a very small minority of Muslim women in Canada. Zunera Ishaq became the unsought for central player when the Stephen Harper refused to admit her into Canadian citizenship unless she removed her veil or niqab in the public ceremonial swearing of allegiance. Zunera’s niqab has a very wide slit; the forehead and upper cheekbones can be seen. Many of us have seen Saudi women at airports where the slit is extremely narrow and some where even the eyes are covered by a netting as in wearing a burka.

The political issue arose over whether, when a person applies to become a Canadian citizen, they will be permitted to wear the veil in the public part of the ceremony. Of course, this is not how the issue was raised as part of electoral politics. The situation was made out as if it is about women being “forced” to hide their faces when they wish to become Canadian citizens and whether a person who hid her identity in public could swear an oath of allegiance. Or, at least, this is how our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and his partners in the Conservative Party in Canada framed the issue.

The following are the facts:

  1. Two women in Canada since 2011 have refused to take off their niqabs in the public ceremony, not in private, as a condition of becoming citizens.
  2. There is no law in Canada prohibiting the wearing of a niqab at the public ceremony where the citizenship oath is taken.
  3. The government of Canada issued regulations banning the wearing of face veils when taking the oath of citizenship in the public ceremony.
  4. Zunera Ishaq, clearly no wilting rose, took the Government of Canada to court over the issue.
  5. She won her court case and, just recently, in the Federal Court of Appeal, won again.
  6. The courts have ruled that the Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Zunera Ishaq from being forced to remove her veil during the public part of the ceremony and that she should be given the right to wear the veil in the public ceremony, become a citizen and be allowed to vote in the forthcoming election on 19 October.
  7. The latest ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal was on 18 September.
  8. The Government of Canada even lost the subsequent court case asking for a stay in allowing Zunera Ishaq her rights.
  9. Last Friday she exercised her rights, became a citizen and can vote in the elections on 19 October or in the advance poll.
  10. This is but one of a long series of cases where the current Government of Canada has sought through regulations to get around the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the government has been thwarted at every turn by the Canadian courts.
  11. Note that, before participating in the public ceremony where the oath is taken, any applicant for citizenship must go through a number of steps to prove the applicant’s identity.
  12. Those steps include, in the name of the principle of political accommodation, that Zunera Ishaq remove her veil in private before a female official to establish her identity.
  13. The public ceremony is part of the ceremonial part of the occasion, one that if you ever attend is very moving for almost all participants.
  14.  The Conservatives, as part of the election campaign, promised to “rectify” the matter by introducing legislation within 100 days of taking office that will require those applying for citizenship to take off face coverings during the formal ceremony confirming citizenship.
  15. They promise to do this without first hearing from the Supreme Court of Canada whether such legislation would be legal under the Canadian Constitution and even though the party, if it wins the largest plurality of seats, will only be a minority government.
  16. The Conservative Party has also signalled that it even plans to introduce legislation banning any federal employee from wearing a niqab when serving the public.
  17. Further, Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for the Conservative Party, stated that the niqab issue was part of the Conservative “agenda” as a well-established principle of the party, and that the party has simply benefited from a “coincidence.”
  18. It appears that this may even be part of a future plan to allow a Conservative minority government to be defeated on such an issue and call an election to get a majority vote for the Conservative Party.
  19. The real issue is that Stephen Harper is the one really wearing a metaphorical niqab behind which he has been hiding to distract Canadians from really examining closely his mismanagement of the economy, his destruction of the “civil” dimension of the Canadian civil service and the myriad of other issues on which he has a deplorable record.
  20. In Canada, and in Quebec particularly the issue of wearing religiously identifying garments, particularly by civil servants serving the public, has become a contentious issue.
  21. In France, girls at school are banned from wearing a hijab, that is a headscarf, let alone a niqab. The Quebec Marois government which introduced the Charter on Quebec values and laws against the wearing of “ostentatious” religious symbols or garments introduced laws banning the wearing of any ostentatious religious symbols by Quebec officials and others in particular situations; this was in the French tradition of religious secularism, laicité.
  22. The opposition parties came out strongly against the Government position based, not on whether they liked or disliked women wearing the niqab, but on the basis of human rights and upholding Canadian law and the constitution.
  23. One possible result, as established by polls, is that support for the New Democratic Party in Quebec, where the party has most of their members of parliament and the vast majority of Quebec seats, has fallen precipitously; polls initially indicated that much of that shift favoured the Conservatives given the politics of fear and blanketing the airwaves with pictures of ominous happenings as a woman dawns a veil. More recent polls suggest a more significant shift to the Liberals. Since Justin Trudeau holds the same position on the niqab issue – namely that it is being used as a distraction and wearing it anywhere is a human right as interpreted by Canadian courts,
  24. The biggest irony of all is that a very feisty Zunera Ishaq donned the veil, not in the name of tradition, but in the name of her rights as a private person, in the name of the secular religion of Canada and against the advice and even pleas of family members.

One cannot but admire how Tom Mulcair as leader of the New Democratic Party has handled the issue as a matter of principle in spite of the political backlash against his and his party’s views. However, while praising his principles, one can also be disappointed in the way he handled the spin on the issue. He based his objections on two foundations – first on the rights of these Muslim women and the rule of law in Canada. Second, he attacked Harper for using such a politically miniscule issue to arouse ethnic and religious fears in Canada and a degree of hostility to Muslims that is beneath the surface. His principles may be admired, but his ability at political counter-attack, at counter-spin, may not be. In any case, he may have lost support in Quebec for a myriad of other reasons.

Naheed Nenshi, the Muslim mayor of Calgary and perhaps the most popular politician in Canada, offered a very spirited attack on the Conservative position. He did so, not because he is a member of any other political party to the best of my knowledge. He was just absolutely appalled by the position of Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney, Harper’s leading cabinet minister. Nenshi made the following points;

  1. He personally does not like the niqab and wishes people would not wear it.
  2. The wearing of the niqab may not be, for the women who wear it, a symbol of oppression and of masculine misogyny.
  3. The government’s position is contradictory for, in the name of supposedly protecting women against the oppression of their husbands, their families and their tradition, the government would adopt the position of oppression to tell women what they can wear in certain circumstances.
  4. The government has far more important issues to debate in an election than what two women in the last four years have chosen to wear at a public ceremony in which the oath of citizenship is sworn together with a larger group of applicants.
  5. Those issues include the disappearance of large numbers of aboriginal women, an issue on which the Government of Canada refuses to set up a Commission of Inquiry.

In spite of Nenshi’s intervention, and that of many others, including very articulate Muslim women who would never wear a niqab, polls initially indicated that a majority of Canadians, not just in Quebec, supported the Conservative Party position. Léger Marketing found 82 per cent were in support of the policy nationally, and 93 per cent in favour in Quebec.

I am not a political spin doctor. But I would have advised a slightly different approach than that of either Tom Mulcair or Naheed Neshi or Justin Trudeau for that matter. First, as Nenshi did, I would have indicated that I do not particularly like women wearing a niqab  – but because I enjoy seeing the beauty in a woman’s face. Secondly, even though tattooing has grown in popularity, I have a very much stronger distaste for people who adorn themselves with tattoos and have been an oppressive father who banned my children, while supported by me, from ever getting a tattoo. Nevertheless, I would never think of passing a law or regulation banning this form of ostentatious personal identification by a civil servant, a student or an individual seeking to become a citizen.

But a tattoo does not hide a person’s identity. In fact, it establishes it more clearly – ask the number of criminals who have been caught because they were identified by the specific tattoo they wore. True enough, but the criterion espoused by Harper was his personal distaste for the behaviour of women wearing a niqab, since objective evidence and fact establish unequivocally that it is not an identity issue. I once had a woman who wore a niqab to my class and never had any difficulty whatsoever in identifying her, in fact even less difficulty than identifying most of my students – I was very bad at that very important skill.

The basic point is that my personal distaste, whatever it is and however much anyone agrees or disagrees with it, should not be the basis for making Canadian law or regulations. Further, it is not only I who say so. The Courts of Canada have ruled on this issue over and over again. My position on tattoos may be very appealing, especially to a number of older people who are appalled at the increasing propensity of young people to wear tattoos. But when it comes to public space and civil discourse, it is none of my business.

Mulcair and Nenshi attacked Stephen Harper for introducing such a trivial issue in an election because it was being used as a wedge issue for those who feared the influx of Muslims into Canada. That may be the case, but a vast majority of Canadians support Harper’s position and I do not believe they are anti-Muslim. They are against the practice of women wearing niqabs. The political issue, as opposed to constitutional one, is to focus the debate, not on their personal taste, but on principles, the laws of Canada and the rights of women. But one can best, I believe, shift the focus of debate only once establishing an identity with those Canadians who are opposed to women wearing a niqab.

The courts can decide what is lawful and not lawful with respect to dictates of the government re requirements of dress or tattoos. My personal distaste is irrelevant. Rights are. Respect for differences is critical. What is most relevant is Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party’s effort on tramping on what I believe are prime Canadian values – tolerance, respect, not just acceptance, of others – and recognition that I should never make my personal tastes, whether for vanilla ice cream, diet colas or niqabs, a basis for making public policy.

Why did Harper adopt this position? He certainly used it to sew fear and division, but the incident really fell into his lap. It had long been Conservative public policy. Therefore, it is doubtful whether the debate over the wearing of niqabs at public rituals when swearing an Oath to the Queen was intended as a wedge issue, though it was certainly played up for that use.

The explanation however lies deeper. Stephen Harper is a classical small “l” liberal when it comes to the separation of religion from the public political sphere and from civil society. His prime enemy is not socialism or the nanny state, though these are lined up for extinction. His main enemy is the secular liberal religion of human rights. He is a traditional Conservative or classical liberal who believe that religious affiliation, beliefs and commitments belong to the private sphere. Harper is not a member of the secular religion of rights or humanitarianism. He deeply and sincerely believes in Machiavellianism as the guide to practice in the public sphere. Faith is a private matter. The public believes, especially Quebecers, that religion must be excluded from public life. Harper adds to that belief a conviction that the public realm is the sphere governed by power, not by faith, by manipulation rather than tolerance and inclusion. Harper practices the politics of exclusion and works hard to divide the public polity to gain enough support, even if it is minority support, to defeat those who have faith in the liberal secular religion of rights.

The public sphere and especially political elections offer the arena where these secular religious wars are fought. Hopefully, Harper will lose this battle.

The Harper Government as Poor Economic Managers

The Harper Government as Poor Economic Managers

by

Howard Adelman

In Part II of this morning’s blog I want to continue the focus on Harper’s economic policies, but less from the perspective of macro-economics and more with a focus on specific economic policies. A reputation for good economic management is Harper’s strongest suit. That reputation is undeserved. This morning I will make my case by reference to his specific economic policies.

I already mentioned the issue of pensions. Harper has been a vocal critic of the Ontario government’s new pension plan, one that imitates in many ways the Quebec plan. He calls it a new tax, as if a tax were a disease. Yet in any economic measure, pension contributions are not a tax. They are forced savings, savings which can be invested in stocks and in bonds. Instead, Harper has proposed or delivered a series of induced savings.

One example was the increase in the tax free saving allowance (TFSA) to $10,000 from $5,500, even though there is a majority consensus among economists that this will only benefit the upper income group because the members of that group will be the only ones with enough discretionary income to put into savings accounts of this type. At the same time, the Canada Revenue Agency has demonstrated that one-fifth of Canadian taxpayers have already maxed out their TFSA. Upping the limit may have been justified; the increase in the annual contribution was not. The cost to the treasury will be enormous, but only the rich few will benefit. Increasing the annual amount of tax free savings not only benefits a small percentage of Canadians who are rich, but in the long run, according to the parliamentary budget office, the doubling of the TFSA will cut out $40 billion in revenue for both federal and provincial governments by the year 2080. Talk about taking benefits for the present generation and imposing a burden on future generations!

There is another whopper of an error – the introduction of income splitting. The Conservative Party allowed couples with minor children to split incomes up to $50,000 of income. Income splitting does both benefit and encourage spouses (overwhelmingly women) to stay home rather than go out to work while raising a family. So those who espouse traditional family values with the female member of the household staying home, benefit. Only 15% of the population, all upper income earners, show a gain. Two-earner families end up paying relatively more tax than one-earner families. Permitting income splitting encourages an increase in one-income families – certainly the better off where only one parent with a significant income will benefit. In fact, as the conservative think tank, the C.D. Howe Institute has shown, “The gains would be highly concentrated among high-income one-earner couples: 40 percent of total benefits would go to families with incomes above $125,000.” Since gains could reach $6,500 in federal tax savings and almost $6,000 in provincial tax revenues, the cost to the Treasury is huge, $2.7 billion in lost revenue at the federal level and $1.7 billion at the provincial level. The marginal effective tax rate for most lower-earning spouses would be raised significantly. In effect, the measure is a tax subsidy to those who leave the labour market, largely an educated and trained group that are needed in the economy.

Along the same line, the Conservatives have increased what used to be called the baby bonus and is now called the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) just in time for the election instead of increasing the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). This, along with income splitting meant a $3 billion cost to the Canadian budget. Yet the CCTB has proven to be the better route to assist families with children.

What about the reduction of business taxes for small businesses from 11% to 9% gradually over the next four years in response to the lobbying of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB)? Harper had already reduced those taxes to 11% in 2008.  Canada has already one of the lowest business tax rates in the world with a large business tax of 15%. The incentive to decrease corporate taxes arose with globalization and the race to keep large businesses in one’s own country. Harper has provided $60 billion dollars in tax relief to corporate Canada. Yet there is little evidence that job creation increased in proportion to tax decreases. In fact, the rate of job creation has slowed. What was needed was tax incentives for companies that created new jobs.

Admittedly, most economic challenges – the drastic drop in oil prices in particular – have not been in control of the government. But the glut in oil was foreseeable as shale techniques expanded and the USA became self-sufficient in oil production, and as new sources of fossil fuels were discovered. Betting on the oil patch at this time was clearly a mistake.

Job growth has been the weakest under Harper compared to previous governments. Harper fumbled the negotiations for Canada to enter the Pacific free trade agreement. One way to increase jobs is to increase exports, particularly exports of professional services which constitute 70% of the economy and the source of 80% of the new jobs. Where are the incentives to encourage our architects and engineers, our accountants and statisticians, our graphic artists and our medical specialists to export their skills? Instead, the government crippled Statistics Canada which did sell its services abroad and used to be recognized as the best set of statistical services in the world.

The biggest effort the Harper made was to lower the sales tax from 15% to 13%, a very popular measure which the Liberals and NDP have promised not to touch even though shifting taxes from income to consumption is generally seen as beneficial provided lower income groups are protected so that their proportion in paying taxes is not harmed.  No one likes to raise such a visible tax, but since it was reduced, this can be viewed as the major reason the country has been in deficit since 2008.

The largest problem, however, has not been the relative harm versus good of all these individual measures. It is the absence of an economic vision and plan for Canada. If the accumulation of policies to tweak the economy, but really attract more votes, has failed to:

  • increase the rate of new job creation
  • benefit the underemployed young who no longer have the prospect of earning a middle class income and purchasing their own home
  • help the largest section of our growing youth population consisting of aboriginal youth but, instead, increases their disadvantages
  • even invest, or encourage investment, in the environment, one of the fastest sectors for growing the economy, if only for the economic benefits and in spite of the government’s continuing mindblindness to the issue of climate change;

then where are the hopes and dreams of young Canadians?

There are alternatives, admittedly none of them terribly inspiring. The Green Party’s is the weakest. Their advocacy of free higher education runs against the studies that show that the best investment in education is at the pre-school level and not the upper end. The NDP does have some interesting and less discriminatory programs to boost the safety social net and particularly child care programs. The Liberals are the only ones planning to increase taxes – on the rich – and its plan to build new infrastructure with a low deficit/GDP ratio is attractive. All the Tories offer is slow growth and poor prospects for creating new jobs.

The Harper Conservatives as good stewards of the economy! It is a joke.

Why the Tories are winning the Jewish vote

Why the Tories are winning the Jewish vote

by

Howard Adelman

According to exit polls, a plurality of Canadian Jews – 52% – voted Conservative in the 2011 federal election. Will Jewish Canadians continue to support Harper in the 2015 elections in even increased numbers, even when polls indicate that his national support has been hovering around 30%?

In post-Word War Two Canada, Jews were very divided in their political loyalties. Gradually, voting patterns coalesced mostly behind the Liberals. Joe Clark’s stumbling initiative to move the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem in 1979 and Brian Mulroney’s strong support for Israel never affected voting patterns significantly.

In October 2000, cracks in the Jewish community’s traditional support for the Liberals appeared after Canada voted for UN Human Right Council Resolution 1322, which condemned Israel’s “excessive use of force” against the Palestinians. This was but one of ten resolutions that Canada supported critical of Israel. Irwin Cotler openly chastised members of his own government.

If Liberal stands left the door ajar for losing Jewish votes, politicians on the right began to push it wide open. Stockwell Day, as head of the Canadian Alliance Party, began to make inroads among Jewish voters. Stephen Harper continued the trend. Just before the Alliance and Conservative parties merged in 2004, Harper gave a speech to Civitas, an organization dedicated to promoting individualism and social order; Harper emphasized family, crime, self-defence and a principled stand in foreign policy to attract support from ethnic groups and religious denominations. He has been unstinting in his appeal to Jews and in his support of Israel.

Ahead of the 2006 federal election, the Harper government adopted a number of very prominent positions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that favoured the Israeli government. Canada became the first Western country to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority. Harper unequivocally defended Israel’s reprisals in Lebanon after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, even though Israel’s massive 34-day attack killed more than a thousand Lebanese and displaced a million more. Canada evacuated 50,000 of its citizens in Lebanon at the time. When eight members of a Montreal Canadian-Lebanese family were among the casualties, Harper defended Israeli military actions as “measured.”

After that, prominent Jewish Liberals began to join the Conservatives, including Robert Lantos, Heather Reisman, Gerald Schwartz, and other Jewish Liberal plutocrats. While Michael Ignatieff, then leader of the Liberal Party, accused Israel of war crimes, under Harper, Canada was the first country to withdraw from Durban II in January of 2008. At the beginning of 2009, Harper’s government was the lone dissenter on the UN Human Rights Committee’s criticisms of Israel. As a result, Canada lost its bid for a seat on the Security Council.

In June of this year, I had dinner with Irwin Cotler. He had originally been elected in Mount Royal with 92% of the vote. In the 2011 election, he told me that a majority of Jews in the riding voted for his Tory opponent. He only managed to be re-elected with overwhelming support from the non-Jewish community. He was not running again. If he had chosen to do so, he predicted he would have been defeated. However, he strongly believed that the Liberal candidate, Anthony Housefather, would win. Current polls seem to support that belief.

In 2015, Mount Royal is awash in Robert Libman-Stephen Harper signs. Libman may possibly be on the verge of overturning 75 years of support for the Liberal Party in that riding but that now seems unlikely since Anthony Housefather is such a popular candidate running for the Liberals. .Jews in Canada live in a country much more dedicated to hyphenated integration than melting pot assimilation. Seventy-four percent of Jewish Canadians have visited Israel — twice the ratio of Americans. For most Jews in Canada, Israel is the wedge issue, far more important than it is for Jews in the U.S. The strong and sincere rhetorical support for Israel by Stephen Harper, even when there are no deliverables, has resulted in a tectonic shift in Jewish Canadian voting patterns likely to increase in 2015 even as much of the rest of the Canadian population is moving in the opposite direction.

Are Canadian Jews Lemmings?

by

Howard Adelman

Though most responses to my last screed against Harper were positive, one of my favourite readers replied simply, “I am not a lemming!”

Below, is my answer.

You are not small. You are not thick-tailed and you certainly are not a rodent. There is, however, the possibility that you are a lemming who joins a movement unthinkingly, but that choice would not result in a headlong rush to destruction without a proper consideration of the consequences.  There is also the possibility that you may claim the choice is a result of careful thought and deliberation. Again, as a further alternative, you may believe that your conclusion results, not because of ignoring the evidence or from faulty logic, but from using a different moral scale.

The Jewish shift to Harper may have had some rationale before he achieved a majority because of the performances and commitment of the opposition with respect to Israel. When combined with the absence of sufficient evidence of the consequences when Harper led a minority government, his tremendous rhetorical support for Israel may have so tipped the moral scales of evaluation, especially when the world generally appeared to have isolated Israel. But after the last four years?

As I see it, there are actually six logical possibilities to account for the continuing shift in Jewish support for Harper even after the evidence for forsaking any other alternative to Harper is taken into consideration.

Process of Decision Positive Consequences Negative Consequences
Careful thought Not a rush to destruction

A

A headlong rush to destruction

D

Moral imbalance Not a rush to destruction

B

A headlong rush to destruction

E

Unthinking Not a rush to destruction

C

A headlong rush to destruction

F

Support for Harper may be a result of deliberative thought in the belief that, whatever the evidence urging non-support, the consequences will not be destruction and those consequences are not as bad as the consequences of supporting any alternative, especially when the matter of Israel is given disproportionate weight. This is alternative A above. Alternative D is an empty category because careful thought and a headlong rush to destruction are incompatible.

A second and third possibility: a different scale is being used to weigh various alternatives. In this option, enormous weight is given to support for Israel. (Options B&E) On this issue, there is a real debate over whether unstinting support for the current government in Israel contributes or subtracts from the possibility of Israel’s destruction. My own view is that it contributes to the possibility of that destruction, but the weighting is difficult and inconclusive at this time. However, the host of measures leading to the diminishing of Canadian future prospects is so overwhelming. On any reasonable moral scale, it is very difficult to see how Harper’s unqualified support for Israel, especially when there are absolutely no deliverables, could possibly outweigh the array of other negative considerations.

The fourth and fifth possibilities are that the choice could be unthinking, but the path may or may not lead to destruction. Here there is a point. The path may lead to further diminution of Canada’s future; characterizing the outcome as destruction may be hyperbolic. Even though using the reference to lemmings suggests a mass parade over a cliff ending in drowning, blind and unthinking following a Pied Piper may not have that catastrophic result. But the individual is still a lemming in either case.

So let us take the two alternatives of utilizing a different moral scale that gives a disproportionate weight to the effects on Israel. Set aside my argument that, in spite of and, possibly, because of Harper’s cheerleading for Israel, this has been bad not good for Israel. If that disproportionate weighting is so great that virtually all consequences for Canada are diminished, does that not risk a backlash against Jews in Canada for making Israel so important that most Canadian Jews are willing to risk Canada’s future? Does it not risk the possibility that an alternative government to Harper’s conservatives will diminish its support for Israel in response to that Jewish voting pattern?

The only other alternative is the possibility that the Jewish vote has shifted so significantly towards Harper because it is the result of deliberative thought, in spite of the myriad of Harper’s bad policies and practices, just because, rhetorically, he is the most passionate defender of Israel. I prefer to be generous and think it is the result of unthinking, both because I know that all my Jewish friends who are voting Tory are, to a person, very intelligent and considerate human beings, and, secondly, as I have argued, any reasoned consideration of the evidence and logic could not result in a vote for the Harper government. So my only conclusion must be that their behaviour is unthinking because I refuse to insult the intelligence of my closest friends. Better unthinking than stupid thinking I say. Otherwise, if you support Harper because you have thought the matter through, then I have to attribute that support to an inability to reason adequately, to bad reasoning, rather than any lack of thought altogether.

Hence, my conclusion that many of my closest friends may be behaving like lemmings.

Playing with Numbers

Playing with Numbers

by

Howard Adelman

Last night I came home and listened to the late night news. The big news: the Harper government had posted a surplus, the first in Harper’s eight years running the government. I had become used to the government playing games with refugee figures – announcing in 2013 that the government would take in 1,300 Syrian refugees in the next 12 months and then taking 20 months to do so. Further, most were privately sponsored refugees. When Canada announced it would take 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years, this really meant that Canada would take in 1,300 government-assisted refugees per year and private sponsors would be allowed to bring in just over 2,000 per year. After the election campaign started, Harper announced that Canada would take an additional 10,000 Iraqi and Syrian refugees and take them in over four years. That meant a total intake of 2,500 additional refugees per year, or 1,250 additional Syrian refugees. Of these, the number of government-assisted Syrian refugees would be about 500. Clearly a pittance. The spin is how to make 500 sound like 10,000 and almost 2,000 sound like 20,000. The basic figures are accurate; the spin given to those figures is misleading.

Was the government doing the same with the budget? According to figures released by the finance department yesterday, after seven years of running deficits, the federal government had a $1.9 billion surplus in the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Canada had produced a surplus one year ahead of Jim Flaherty’s prediction. The original prediction for 2014-2015 had been a $2 billion deficit rather than a $1.9 billion surplus. Further, the April, June and July figures reinforced the picture of the trend towards surpluses.

There is an old saying: figures don’t lie; politicians do. I think this is a misrepresentation. Spin is not lying. But to understand spin you have to unpack the figures. There are a number of ways to produce a surplus. First, you can budget less than the previous year; in effect, cut a department’s budget. Second, you can download expenditures onto the provinces. Third, you can spend less than you even projected in your budget. The options are many.

Let me offer an example. In the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the projected expenditures for 2014-2015 on primary and secondary education for aboriginal youth was $1,445 billion. In 2015-2016, the projected expenditures were set at $1,431 billion. How could the expenditures possibly go down when the rate of increase of the aboriginal population was much higher than that of the rest of Canada?

When you read the hundreds of pages of documents just in that one department, one policy stands out. There is the noble intention begun in 2014 of bringing success rates of aboriginal children up to those of the rest of the population. How is this to be done? You get bands to vote to join regional school boards so that now the province bears the burden of the costs, not the federal government, and the expenditure on aboriginal children’s education is immediately boosted by about a quarter. This “push” in this direction is helped when you recognize not only that aboriginal children receive at least 20% less support than the equivalent cohort in the provincial school system, but that over the last eight years, the educational support deficit has grown so that the differential is moving towards 30%.

The message to band leaders: you want better education for your children, vote to become part of the provincial educational system, thereby relieving the federal government from the obligation to pay for the education of aboriginal children and teens.

Look at a number of departments where the Harper government was determined to cut. In northern economic development, the main estimates were $53,442,608 in 2013-14; in 2014-15, they were $30,945,766, an enormous cut. In 2012-2013, expenditures for the chief electoral office were 119,580,193. In the 2014-15 estimates, they had dropped to $97,110,432. It is any wonder that we have increased our democratic deficit. In the department that I know best, Citizenship and Immigration, budgeted expenditures dropped from $1,655,418,818 in 2013-2014 to $1,385,441,063 in 2014-15, a 17% cut. No wonder Canada lacks the visa officers on the ground to process Syrian refugee applications to come to Canada.

Monies for the Library and Archives of Canada were reduced from $118,923,232 2013-14 to $95,864,788 in 2014-15. In the arts and research field, the National Film Board, National Museum of Science and Technology and the Natural Sciences and Research Council suffered cuts. Statistics Canada, once upon a time the pride and joy of Canada for the rest of the world – we provided a paradigm for other nations to imitate – expenditures dropped from $519,891,309 in 2012-13 to $379,555,524 in 2014-15. The cuts were so drastic, not only effecting the long form census that was made voluntary, and, therefore, useless for research, but the whole basis for economic and social research in Canada was decimated.

This is a government that is not interested in the knowledge base on which prudent planning depends. The library in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship was packed up and sent to a warehouse in Quebec. The policy unit was eliminated. Harper reduces expenditures through micro-management, requiring the smallest expenditures be approved by his office – except when it comes to his Senate appointees. This government has saved money by running the civil service into the ground in many areas.

I am not saying that some areas should not have been cut or that all expenditures have been sacrosanct. However, the Tories cannot even bring in more refugees if they wanted to; they are unwilling to spend the money even though, in the long run, such expenditures are a tremendous investment in human resources, especially when the population intake consists of skilled tradesmen and professionals who can contribute to economic growth.

When you add to these policies the practice of not even spending the money allocated, it is not that hard to produce a surplus. In 2014-15, actual expenditures were $800 million lower than projected. Some of the costs have little to do with Canadian policy, however important prudent fiscal policies are. Carrying charges on debt are at record lows so that actual expenditures on debt were $100 million lower than projected. But there are other ways to produce a surplus. Focus on the revenue side.

In June, for example, the government brought in $1.1 billion more than it spent following the May/June surplus of $3.9 billion. And this was when we were officially in a recession. One way to increase revenues is to sell off assets. So the Canadian government sold its last block of 73 million shares in General Motors in April, increasing the government coffers by $2.7 billion. So if we sell off assets to increase revenues, and since surpluses are seasonal and the surplus in June dropped from $1.6 billion in the previous year to $1.1 billion, the optimism for this year has to be muted somewhat.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a fiscal conservative. I believe, in normal circumstances, we should stay within our budget. But I also believe that some savings, such as cutting our repairs to infrastructure, is indeed penny wise and pound foolish. Cutting programs that provide valuable service is an imprudent way to balance the budget. Further, there are times, as David Dodge has said, when interest rates are low that it is imprudent not to borrow and invest in infrastructure – roads, sewers, public transit. Spending $125 billion in this area over ten years may be the height of prudence.

Pensions are a case in which taxes and investments get confused. Harper decried the Ontario pension plan for increasing taxes. But these were not tax increases. These were increases in forced savings that in turn could be invested in economic growth. Whereas the Conservatives began their term of office by cutting the sales tax by two points, the government has not reduced the taxes for the employment insurance fund. The employment insurance fund is now in surplus and normally premiums should be reduced. They have not been, providing an important source for ensuring that income exceeds expenditures. An employment insurance cut would benefit both individual workers and businesses, especially small businesses.

So has the Harper government been a prudent manager of our economy? In some ways it has. Some cuts were warranted. But so were increased expenditures in other areas – aboriginal education for example. By cutting two points from the sales tax, government funds for needed areas, such as infrastructure or aboriginal education, were unavailable.  The cuts were imprudent.  So were many of the cuts in various department budgets.

There is another area where the Harper government has been prudent. Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 40.4 per cent, including the debts of local, provincial and territorial governments, the lowest among G7 nations where the average is 86.8%. This is commendable. However, flying higher and taking a longer overview, Canada really escaped going into recession in the economic shock of 2008 because the Harper government inherited a government with financial surpluses, $13.6 billion in 2006 and $9.6 billion in 2007. It took on an enormous deficit in 2009 of $61.27 billion. Simply cutting expenditures and micro-managing the government is a way to save money, but also to cripple services that Canadians need – especially veterans.  Areas requiring investment also suffer.

I do not know why the Harper government has a reputation as a prudent manager of the economy. It has not been. It has operated the government as if tax revenues were like money dropped in a piggy bank and your job was to ensure that you not spend anymore than had been dropped through the slot. The real economic job of a government is to spend and invest money wisely and prudently and allow future generations to inherit a better and better Canada.

The Harper government has been more imprudent than prudent on this scale of measurement.