Roundup: Jagmeet Singh’s past catches up with him

Yesterday was a bit of a day for NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. After the Globe and Mail published a piece that showed him at a 2015 rally of Sikh separatists in San Francisco under a banner featuring the armed extremists leader of the group that prompted the raid on the Golden Temple in Punjab, Singh put out a statement saying that he was there as a “human rights activist” and that he condemns terrorism – but was vague in just whom he was denouncing, which raised yet more questions.

Since then, more information came to light by the National Post which showed Singh at a 2016 panel devoted to Sikh sovereignty along with a particular leader who advocated violence, and another organizer later said that he appreciated Singh not denouncing the architect of the Air India bombing when he was on Power & Politics, essentially feeding the conspiracy theories that said architect was set up. And since even then, Ujjal Dosanjh has come out with video where Singh has denounced him as an opponent of Khalistani separatists. So, it looks like Singh could be in for a difficult time ahead as more questions get asked, and we’ll see if his comms team remains as cagey as they have been so far.

Paul Wells notes that Singh’s half-answers and the lengths to which he’ll go to give clear answers demonstrates that he is, after all, a lawyer. Martin Patriquin notes that Singh will have a hard time saying that he can support Sikh separatists with regard to Khalistan while opposing Quebec separatists in Canada.

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Roundup: Reading the constitution and a map

The constitutional lunacy taking place in Alberta shows no signs of abating, especially now that Jason Kenney has taken his seat in the legislature. Already they have debated a motion to back the province’s fight for pipeline access in BC, but the demands they’re making that Justin Trudeau invoke Section 92(10)(c) of the Constitution are wrong and bogus. Why? That section applies to projects that are of the national interest but are only within a single province’s boundaries – which this pipeline is not. So here’s Andrew Leach to pour some necessary scorn onto the whole thing, while Carissima Mathen, a constitutional law professor, backs him up.

Meanwhile, Kenney is playing an utterly disingenuous game of semantics with his objection to the province’s carbon tax, insisting that it didn’t give them the “social licence” to get their pipelines approved. But to suggest that was the only value of such a tax is to be deliberately misleading. The real purpose of a carbon price is to provide a market signal for industry to reduce their emissions, by providing them a financial incentive for them to do so. It’s proven the most efficient way to reduce emissions in the most cost-effective manner possible, and while correlation may not be causation, it has bene pointed out that those jurisdictions in the country that have implemented carbon pricing have roaring economies, while those resisting one (such as Saskatchewan) don’t. Whether there is a correlation or not, provinces like BC have shown that the carbon tax allows them to lower other taxes which are generally less efficient taxes regardless. As for social licence, it’s part of the overall balancing act to show that there is a sufficient plan to achieve reductions as part of transitioning to a low-carbon future, but I’m not sure that anyone suggested that it would magically end all protests (and if they did, they were fools for doing so). But for Kenney to claim that this was the promise is utter nonsense.

Like the bogus calls to invoke Section 92(10)(c), it’s all about putting forward a plausible-sounding argument in the hopes that the public doesn’t bother to actually read it to see that it’s actually bullshit. But that is apparently how political debate works these days – disingenuous points that don’t actually resemble reality, or lies constructed to look plausible and hoping that nobody calls you on it, and if they do, well, they’re just apologists or carrying water for your opponents. This isn’t constructive or helpful, and it just feeds the politics of anger and resentment, which in turn poisons the discourse. They all know better, but keep doing it because it’s so addictive, but never mind that the house is burning down around them.

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Roundup: Trudeau’s concern trolls

Thursday night, Canadian journalists and pundits started making a big deal out of the fact that the Daily Mail, the most widely-read newspaper in the UK, posted a hit-job on Justin Trudeau. What they didn’t bother to post was that the Mail is a tabloid rag that literally makes stuff up all the time, and lo and behold, it turns out that not only did they get a number of facts wrong in their piece, but they even posted photos that were not of Trudeau, but someone else entirely. And while those same pundits seemed to think that this was an honest mistake rather than the kind of trash “journalism” that is their stock in trade.

And then comes the concern trolling, lumping this kind of thing in with Pierce Morgan’s railing about Trudeau’s “peoplekind” joke (also in the Daily Mail), and other negative press from the India trip. Apparently, this is the fault of Trudeau’s senior staff, who should have given him firmer advice to “rein in his worst impulses,” but reading the analysis seems a bit…facile, and frankly blinkered. One would think that the pundit class in Canada would have the ability to try and see context around the press that Trudeau receives, but apparently not. For example, Piers Morgan is a Donald Trump ass-kisser who has a history of misogynistic comments, for whom Trudeau’s avowed feminism would rankle his sensibilities. And the Daily Mail is a rabidly homophobic publication for whom Trudeau’s tendency to do things like show emotion in public is anathema to their worldview of alpha males. They were never going to praise Trudeau, and he certainly hasn’t “lost them,” so I’m puzzled as to why our pundits are acting like he did. Likewise, many of the Indian publications that criticized Trudeau on his trip were of a stratified slice of society who have a particular agenda when it comes to foreigners. But there is also something particularly white male about this kind of concern trolling as well, which doesn’t look to why Trudeau makes some of the choices he does because those choices aren’t speaking to them as an audience. The traditional garb in India, for example (which was apparently five events in eight days), was showcasing Indo-Canadian designers and targeted both the Indo-Canadian community, but also the classes in India who weren’t the rarified elites in the media (and in India, these are actual elites rather than the just populists referring to us as such in Canada), and those rarified elites have particular denigrating views of their own diasporic communities. Not that a white male pundit who doesn’t look outside his own circle will pick up on these things.

This isn’t to say that Trudeau’s senior staff don’t still have problems on their hands, because clearly they do. Their ability to manage crises is still shambolic, and we’ve seen time and again where they let their opponents come up with a narrative and box them into it before they start fighting back, and they’ve done it again with this India trip. And yeah, Trudeau keeps making bad jokes that he finds funny but not everyone else does (and the Canadian press gallery are notoriously humourless). But there is a hell of a lot of myopia going on in the criticism and concern trolling, and we need to recognize it and call it out for what it is.

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Roundup: Unserious about peacekeeping promises

News came out yesterday that Canada had lined up 19 Spanish-speaking soldiers for a UN peacekeeping mission to Colombia, only for National Defence to drag their feet until the opportunity closed. With more tales like these, and others about Canada being offered leadership positions in peacekeeping operations and then turning them down repeatedly, is causing a lot of questions to be asked about just how serious we are about the promises the government made during the last election about returning to peacekeeping operations. The Chief of Defence Staff has said that there were questions about operational security, but those claims are being questioned in light of other evidence being presented. There was a very good interview on Power & Politics with Peggy Mason, president of the Rideau Institute and the former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, who challenged many of the points that the government and the military has made, and points to the current culture in DND, which has been out of peacekeeping game for long enough that it’s looking down on those kinds of missions. It’s worth watching if you’ve got five minutes to spare.

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Roundup: Chickpea politics

One never thought that pulses – and chickpeas in particular – would be the cause of a supposed major political crisis in this country, and yet here we are. The problem is that the supposed problem is almost entirely fictional. News that India raised their tariffs on chickpea imports to some sixty percent was treated by the Conservatives as a direct response to the Jaspel Atwal incident and the supposition by certain senior officials in Canada that some rogue Indian factions arranged for him to be there in order to embarrass Trudeau as a way of demonstrating that the Canadian government is soft on Khalistani extremists. Except that’s not it at all – India raised their tariffs on all of their imports, and Canada barely exports any of those particular chickpeas to India. Australia is taking a bigger hit that Canada is on these tariffs, so if that’s somehow Trudeau’s fault, I’m open to hearing it.

Of course, there is a broader discussion that is being completely ignored with by most of the Canadian media, who are joining the Conservatives in trying to wedge this news into the pre-determined narrative. Indeed, Canadian Press wire copy went out that uncritically repeated that the Conservatives linked the tariff hike to the India visit without any actual fact-checking, or checking the situation on the ground in India. That situation being that there is a worldwide glut of pulse crops that has depressed prices, and the Indian government, in advance of an election, is trying to shore up their support by bringing in these tariffs to protect farmers. At the same time, there is a rash of suicides by Indian farmers in the country, which is no doubt causing India’s government some distress. “But Trudeau said he’d raise the tariff problem and he failed,” cry the critics. Sure, he raised it with Modi, but their discussions were apparently more about an ongoing fumigation issue than tariffs. And while the tariff issue may have come up, I’m not sure that Trudeau has the magical ability to solve the expansion of supply over demand or to fix India’s domestic agricultural issues, but tell me again how this is all about the Canadian pundits’ perceptions of that India trip.

Speaking of Atwal, MP Randeep Sarai spoke to his local newspaper to say that he didn’t know who Atwal was when his name was forwarded to him along with several others who were in the country and asked for an invitation – but he still takes responsibility for it, and volunteered to resign as the party’s Pacific caucus chair. He also says that he doesn’t know who Atwal is because he was a child at the time that Atwal committed his crimes, and his staffers are all younger than he is, which is a reflection of the generational change happening in Canadian politics.

On a related note, Supriya Dwivedi calls out the Canadian media’s amnesia when it comes to the history of Indian relations with Canada, especially as it relates to Sikh separatists, and for their complete lack of awareness of some of the Hindu nationalist politics being practiced in India by Modi’s government.

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Roundup: Brown out…again

After all of that drama, Patrick Brown is out of the leadership race…again. But the speculation around it took over the news cycle for the day. Not that there wasn’t some other news on that front – it was confirmed that the province’s integrity commissioner was investigating Brown for allegedly failing to disclose all of his income sources, and further stories came out about his attempts to bigfoot two particular nomination races, at least one of which is currently being investigated by police.

But in the end, Brown did withdraw, penning a four-page letter citing his reasons.

In the aftermath of it all, Jen Gerson examines Brown’s weakness of character and lack of ability to maintain the confidence of his caucus, which doomed him in the end. And along the way, she also came to the conclusion that Andrew Coyne and I are right about the fact that the way we choose our leaders is broken, and it’s time to get back to caucus selection. David Reevely, meanwhile, recaps all of the various revelations about Brown over the past weeks, and notes the things he’s not disputing that are just as alarming as the things he is.

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Roundup: Beyak’s website battle

Unaffiliated Senator Lynn Beyak is preparing to go to war over her website on Monday. A motion had been moved in the Senate by Independent Senator Kim Pate to have Beyak’s website removed from Senate servers because of the letters that she posted on there, some of which have been deemed racist. Beyak is going to argue that if the motion passes, her privileges will be violated as it will impede her ability to do her job because she can’t inform her constituents about her work or to “address the concerns and opinions of all Canadians.”

For starters, I think Pate’s attempt to remove Beyak’s site is a bit of a stretch, given that Beyak isn’t posting anything that rises to the level of criminal hate speech (despite what her critics may say). The Senate places a great deal of value on free speech, most especially for its members, so it will be very difficult for them to make the case that Beyak should be denied it because she holds some objectionable views. Gods know that there have been plenty of abhorrent views expressed by other senators in the past about other minorities (thinking in particular about one senator’s views about the LGBT community), and she was not censured by the Chamber in any way. While there are different players in the Senate currently and this is the “era of reconciliation,” I still think that there is an uphill battle to take down Beyak’s site.

The other thing is that it would take very little effort for Beyak to port her website onto a different server, and just have a link from her Senate bio page, as many other senators have done, where there is simply a disclaimer next to it saying that it’s not an official Senate site. In other words, Pate’s measures are pretty much symbolic only, which may be fine on the surface, but won’t actually addess the real issues with Beyak’s views, or her promotion of views that are objectionable. Is this a battle worth having? I guess we’ll see.

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Roundup: Getting a second opinion on the dominant narrative

It was a day full of Canadian pundits pontificating about Indian politics around Justin Trudeau’s trip, whether it’s around his use of traditional garb, the “snubs” by Indian politicians, and then the issue with Jaspal Atwal being invited to that reception. While MP Randeep Sarai has taken responsibility for Atwal’s invitation, the dominant narrative was that someone in PMO had to have known who he was, or that they somehow overrode the kinds of screening that the RCMP or CSIS would have put in place for an event like this. That, of course, got blown out of the water when media actually talked to security sources who said that they had no capacity to vet the 700 or so people invited to this event, so there went that theory. And yes, the Atwal thing is bad, and according to an Indo-American journalist that I spoke to about this, that probably set back Indo-Canadian relations by years, so well done MP Sarai. “Senior government officials” are also now pushing the theory that “rogue elements” in India’s government facilitated this, possibly to embarrass Canada for being “soft” on Sikh separatist extremists, so we’ll see if that compounds any damage.

First of all, if you did not do so yesterday, please take the time to read Kevin Carmichael’s look at the trip, and in particular how pack journalism narratives have formed, but he makes very relevant points about the political dynamics and the regional politics of India that the Canadian media is completely ignoring. My Indo-American friend made a few other observations about the coverage that we’re seeing, which is that he’s not actually being treated poorly over there, and it’s more that certain politicians and business leaders don’t want to be associated with members of the Indian Cabinet, which is controversial in large swaths of Indian society. As for the focus on Trudeau’s wardrobe, most of it is coming from the intellectual, international elite of India, who resent outsiders exoticising India, but the fact that Trudeau is allegedly wearing Indo-Canadian designers will garner plenty of positive reaction. She also added that the inside joke is that Indians outside of India have terrible taste, and are over the top and garish, but it’s also related to their own class stratification. Even tweets coming from verified accounts means that they’re coming from the social elite of India, and that journalism and public intellectualism in India, especially in Delhi, is oriented to socialites. So what Trudeau is doing will play incredibly well with many aspects of the stratified society. As for the Atwal issue, there will likely be competing narratives in India between the bureaucratic incompetence that allowed him into the country in the first place, tempered with “gloating over how a first-world country screwed up.” Regardless, I’m glad I reached out to get a different perspective on how this trip is playing out, because I’m not confident in the image being put forward by the Canadian punditocracy.

Meanwhile, back in the Canadian media sphere, Éric Grenier notes that the trip is likely a defensive action to bolster Liberal support in Indo-Canadian-heavy ridings, especially to counter Jagmeet Singh’s arrival on the political scene. Murad Hemmadi notes that the international press seems to have gotten over its crush on Trudeau, while Paul Wells gives a not wholly underserved whacking at the Liberal government over their handling of this trip (though I do note that many of Wells’ points would handily fall into the groupthink that may not actually reflect what will play on the ground in India).

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Roundup: Promising a new framework

The big news yesterday was Justin Trudeau delivering a major policy speech in the House of Commons about creating a new legal framework for the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada that aims to fully implement the treaties that have not been properly enacted, and that will build toward self-governance by creating the capacity within individual First Nations and other Indigenous communities that will enable them to take up that governance space at their own pace. Trudeau insisted that this would not require constitutional change but would rather put some meat on the bones of Section 35 of the Constitution, and the existing treaties. And yes, criminal justice reform including how juries are selected was also part of the promise (and I’ve heard that we might see new legislation around that in March). Trudeau said that this announcement comes with a new round of consultations, but the aim was to have legislation tabled by the fall, with the framework fully implemented before the next election.

Reaction from Indigenous leaders is cautious so far, because there aren’t a lot of details – and there probably won’t be many until something gets tabled later in the year. The flipside of that, of course, is that there’s room and space for these leaders to give their input during the consultative process that is to come, seeing as Trudeau is promising to work together to develop this framework. There are other questions when it comes to lands and resources, which I’m not sure if this framework itself will cover or if the framework will guide how those issues are to be solved going forward, and that’s also likely going to depend on the cooperation of the provincial governments, but there does seem to be some momentum. That will also depend on Parliament moving this forward, and while the NDP seem to be onboard, the Conservative response to Trudeau’s speech warned about being too ambitious, which should probably be some kind of a warning signal. But it’s early days, and we’ll see how the next few months unfold.

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Roundup: Demanding Trudeau take a stand…on a press release

We’re barely a couple of days into the “trade war” between BC and Alberta, and already the rhetoric has cranked the ridiculousness up to eleven. While Trudeau has tried to calm nerves and insist that he and his officials are speaking to the premiers involved and their officials, you have Andrew Scheer going before the microphones to demand that the PM cancel his trip to the United States to deal with this escalating crisis (err, thus far a press release has been issued by BC – that’s it), and Jagmeet Singh is lamenting that Trudeau isn’t showing enough leadership. One remains curious about what kind of “leadership” Trudeau should be showing on this, given that he has declared that the pipeline will get built because it’s in the national interest (and even went so far as to deploy anonymous senior government sources to assure the media that yes, they won’t allow any province to impinge on federal jurisdiction). And you know that if Trudeau did actually cancel his US trip that the Conservatives would pillory him for not taking NAFTA renegotiations seriously enough. It was also pointed out yesterday that when Christy Clark tried to impose conditions on pipelines, the previous government pretty much let her go ahead with it with very few complaints, so their insistence that Trudeau escalate this to what one presumes to be the use of federal disallowance powers is curious in the extreme.

Meanwhile, the pundits are weighing in. Chantal Hébert notes that Trudeau lacks any kind of constitutional mechanism to force a timeout between the premiers. Andrew Leach reminds us that the only reason Alberta got the approval for the pipelines was because they did the hard work of getting a credible environmental regime in place beforehand. Jen Gerson argues that Trudeau’s job is to avoid these kinds of interprovincial disputes, and that Notley’s real goal with the wine blockade is to pressure Trudeau. Colby Cosh says that the wine blockade was a predictable turn of events given Notley’s flirting with craft beer protectionism already.

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