Roundup: The “good parts” of populism?

I will confess that the eleventy different appearances on every conceivable political show over the past week by Preston Manning to coincide with his eponymous institute’s networking conference over the weekend has had me a bit preoccupied. Everyone is eager to talk about the rise in populism, and whether Trumpism will make its way to Canada in a more visible form (not that we haven’t seen in here before already, with Rob Ford as the most obvious example), but what gets me is when Manning starts waxing about harnessing the “good parts” of populism rather than the ugly side that has led to things like Brexit and the Trumpocalypse, and he goes on at length about history of prairie populism and how he perceives that to be a positive thing. Granted, his particular perspective on that is more than a little biased, considering that his father’s brand of prairie populism made him premier of Alberta for a number of years, and Manning’s crafting that into the Reform Party got him to Ottawa for several more years. But reading some of the accounts of some of that prairie populism years later – in particular this account of the rise of the CCF in Saskatchewan and how they became another craven political party by the time of Tommy Douglas’ provincial demise – makes me think of growing up gay in Alberta, where that “prairie populism” left its mark in a province that was far less socially progressive and with parties that were less willing to be so, being dragged kicking and screaming to the Supreme Court of Canada. I didn’t grow up seeing the “good” side of prairie populism, which is why I struggle to reconcile with Manning trying to find the good parts of populist sentiment to embrace. I am having a hard time trying to find the “good parts” of breeding cynical distrust in institutions, and this narrative of “pure” people versus “corrupt elites,” and in waging wars against the media that follows that narrative’s lead. You wouldn’t think that politicians would want to play with the fire that is distrust, and yet they keep reaching for the lighter. I think Manning may be playing things a bit too optimistically, and may be a bit too naively, for my comfort level.

Chris Selley looks at the Manning Conference and some Conservative behaviour in recent weeks, and wonders if the party no longer stands for anything other than a series of shared grievances as opposed to some actual policy or ideology. (One could argue that they ditched ideology a while ago and have simply become right-flavoured populists, made most especially manifest when they went ahead with the GST cut that every single economist told them not to do). Kady O’Malley leaves us with a warning about drawing too many conclusions based on the Manning Conference’s schedule alone rather than the discussions that people were having on the floor of the event, which not only saw some of its biggest draw ever, but also seemed to be very much more about the leadership race than it was about those panels about “radical Islamic terrorism” and so on.

Good reads:

  • Kady O’Malley’s recap of day two of the Manning Conference is here, along with recaps of the panels on media “bias” and what to do about the CBC.
  • While Ralph Goodale plans to raise the illegal border crossings with his US counterparts, and said that the border has enough resources at present.
  • Goodale also says that most of those asylum seekers planned to end up in Canada regardless, and Ahmed Hussen says he’s not convinced it’s a growing trend.
  • Jason Kenney says that he tried to renegotiate the Safe Third Country agreement to remove any exemptions – making it harder to get in – and the Americans said no.
  • Marc Garneau wants tougher – and nationally consistent – penalties for distracted drivers, but not necessarily new criminal penalties for those caught texting.
  • Here is how the two asylum seekers who lost their fingers crossing into Canada on Christmas Eve are faring as they try to get on with life.
  • We have a few more hints about what happened with VADM Mark Norman being relieved of his vice-chief of defence staff duties.
  • Former religious freedom ambassador Andrew Bennett warns against the “values” debate as it creates more problems than it solves.
  • Charlie Angus is now officially an NDP leadership candidate, without any French. Oh, and good luck to his attempt to “bring back a little bit of class” to politics.
  • Announced NDP leadership debate dates show there won’t be any scheduled for Alberta, the only province the party is in power.
  • Here’s a look at how Kevin O’Leary really isn’t like the mini-Trump that he’s portrayed as being, celebrity factor aside.
  • Scott Reid looks at the notion that wealthy politicians like Trump and O’Leary are “incorruptible” by virtue of their wealth.

Odds and ends:

Maryam Monsef got upset that Speaker Regan referred to the south public gallery by its archaic name of the “Ladies Gallery.”