Most of us probably regard the word “narrative” either as an creaky cliché thrown around mostly by posers or, if we unwittingly fall into the latter group, as a handy instant signal that we’re culturally au courant (to use another aging cliché). There’s far more to the concept of narrative – unfortunately. Would that it were harmless trivia. Instead it has shown not only indestructible staying power but a viral cunning, mutating and replicating and insinuating itself into every cultural nook and cranny. And that’s profoundly dangerous, writes David Solway, who provides the intellectual heavy lifting in this thorough analysis of the concept’s nature, seductive allure, political misuse and potentially civilization-wrecking power.
Erin O’Toole became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada on the strength of his Big Tent vision for the party. But how big should that tent be? Recently O’Toole surprised commentators by extolling the benefits of the union movement and repeating many of its claims as Conservative policy. Matthew Lau charts the origin of this unorthodox political strategy, and its worrisome economic implications. If the Conservatives want to attract workers’ votes, he argues, they should start by recognizing the damage done by unions to growth and job creation.
Left versus right. Urban versus rural. Baby boomer versus millennial. Us versus them. There’s no shortage of division in society these days. As we all retreat into our separate corners, Brian Lee Crowley, head of the Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute, offers up a brand new pair of opposing, society-defining categories: gardeners versus designers. In his review of Crowley’s latest book, veteran journalist Paul Stanway points out what works and what doesn’t with this novel take on the eternal political struggle of ideas. And how it just might decide the next federal election.
Hunter Biden, the crack-smoking son of U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden, has a penchant for partying and leaving things behind. Yet even in his dissipated state, he can negotiate self-enriching deals with Ukrainian oligarchs and Chinese Communist Party apparatchiks. Such superpowers are given to few. Cockburn, writing in Spectator U.S., is envious.
Musicians rely on live performances to earn a living in the age of digital streaming. This revenue source has disappeared and the British state has told musicians to find something else. Writing in Unherd, Ian Birrel thinks this a short-sighted response, noting Britain’s music sector annually generates £5.2bn (Cdn$9 billion) and sustains – or sustained – 210,000 jobs.
Fairness and disinterestedness were ideals of American journalism. Yet in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, the liberal media abjured these principles – openly and gleefully. Victor Davis Hanson, writing in American Greatness, argues that the wokester left is utterly disdainful of American democratic norms.
We are living in an “unprecedented reality” according to the recent Speech from the Throne. Certainly the effects of Covid-19 have been serious and far-reaching. But unprecedented? Hardly. As difficult as our current situation may seem, it doesn’t hold a candle to the situation 100 years ago when a vastly more terrifying global epidemic struck a far less prepared world. With a second wave of Covid-19 on the horizon, Lynne Cohen takes a close look at the Spanish flu of 1918-20 and finds many stark and revealing differences – as well as some unsettling echoes that suggest while times may change, our fundamental fears do not.
Talk, as they say, is cheap. But the right kind of talk can be priceless. Higher education began as a conversation between a tutor and a single student or a small group. It has been this way from the time of Plato onwards. Only in our era has higher education become a mass-market phenomenon. And while some regard online or remote learning as education’s apotheosis − bringing access to advanced degrees within anyone’s reach − others worry it’s accelerating the decline of thoughtful pedagogy. Drawing on his own professional background, deep love of the Western Canon and cheerful optimism, Patrick Keeney reflects on the timeless value of a real, in-depth conversation.
How do you make new laws and policies or reform old ones in a democracy? You talk openly about every aspect, carefully consider the pros and cons and the long-term implications, and strive to come up with solutions that are fair to everyone. That has been the ideal, anyway, in Canada since Confederation. So what happens when vast areas of law and policy cannot even be discussed any longer? Bruce Pardy lists the things that have become perilous to say regarding Indigenous issues – but that need to be said if Canada is to maintain a legal system that is fair to all Canadians.
Supporting or working to bring about “democratic” socialism has become an alluring option for ever-more voters across North America. It is ascending on clouds of virtuous intentions, high hopes and utopian goals, backed by elaborate theories, with good doses of anger and envy adding punch. Yet it has all been tried before – and failed calamitously, an unmitigated horror ending in ruination. Luckily, people who have personally lived through it are still around to tell the tale. Through the eyes of one survivor of Eastern European communism, Doug Firby issues a stark reminder of what real oppression looks like and a plea to younger Canadians to resist the seductive call of socialism.
It will remain forever unknowable how Canada would have fared had our country not largely aped the “lockdown” model adopted by most of the advanced countries. But there is meaningful evidence for those who care and dare to look – and the implications aren’t pretty for our public health officials and their political acolytes. Brian Giesbrecht examined an obscure, far-off country run by an eccentric old man who decided to do the pandemic his own way – and may well have saved not only his nation’s economy but hundreds of his compatriots as well.
Copernicus disproved Ptolemy. Galileo disproved Aristotle. Einstein took physics beyond Newton. Human understanding moves forward as existing beliefs and doctrine fall to bold new theories and ideas. Recognizing that enforced dogma is the enemy of progress, UBC professor Andrew David Irvine offers a lament for the rigid political monoculture currently found in Canadian universities. Amid today’s statements of political solidarity and demands for conformity, it is becoming harder and harder for independent minds to follow the evidence wherever it might lead them.
While it remains too soon to tell whether the WE Charity scandal will finally be the one that truly sticks to the Liberals and their leader, it has entirely consumed Justin Trudeau’s Covid-crisis bounce. Opposition parties are attempting to delve deeper, and even the mainstream media have shown more than a passing interest. It could get nasty indeed for the Liberals. Yet as Grant A. Brown points out, there’s so much more! As bad as WE may be, Brown urges us hold on a second and keep most of our outrage in reserve, for there’s a lot more Liberal wrongdoing where that came from.
“You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” was penned long ago as an environmentalist, anti-establishment lament. These days, the environmentalists are the establishment, industry is the underdog, and the federal Liberals have come close to destroying the nation’s foremost generator of wealth and tax revenues. Some recent pronouncements by certain federal ministers, however, have Gwyn Morgan seeing glimmerings of reason, or at least pragmatism. If they do suspend their scorched-earth campaign against oil and gas, though, it won’t be for any love of the resource sector, let alone of Alberta. It will simply be because they need the money desperately. If that’s what it takes, writes Morgan, so be it.
As you take that satisfying summertime pull of the frothy, feel crisp cool wine on your lips or perk up to the sound of ice cubes rattling, you might pause to consider just how much your adult beverage has endured to find its way into your possession. Provincial liquor control monopolies, in particular, limit the acquisition and jack up the prices of “imported” beverages – even those produced in the next province. Hopes ran high that the most recent round of legal jousting and political fine-tuning would throw things wide open. Constitutional law expert and connoisseur of fermentation and distillation Rainer Knopff explains why, sadly, killing the IILA didn’t free the beer.
What’s in a colour? Quite a lot, if we’re talking about politics, societal conflict and what the future might bring. “Reds” and “Blues” on both sides of the border are locked in an increasingly stubborn, bitter and already at times violent struggle over their respective country’s character, future and very existence. How much worse might it get? Might there be a simple solution that could forestall the slide, one that few have thought of and none has dared moot in our country? Brian Giesbrecht thinks he has one and, in this imaginative essay, lays out his case.
Despite ample criticism of late, markets still work. Anyone who allows real-world evidence to inform their opinions knows that issues of supply and demand are best sorted out through the interactions of many disparate actors rather than a single bureaucratic declaration. So why not use the labour market to determine the optimal level of immigration? In the conclusion of his two-part series on immigration, Herbert Grubel lays out the economist’s case for why employers, rather than bureaucrats or politicians, should be the ones deciding on the people and skills Canada’s economy actually needs, and thus collectively shaping the flow of immigration to Canada.
It was the left that dragged things long considered personal into the political realm. Not even the basic acts of breaking bread and pouring wine are exempt – not when there are hard-done-by serving wretches to be shielded from the rich or callous. And that certainly covers the once-subtle art of deciding whether to leave a little (or a lot) extra. Aaron Nava navigates the surprisingly treacherous shoals of tipping – its social, moral, transactional and political features. Relying on his good heart and sunny optimism, Nava steers his way to the sincerely personal and soundly conservative bases for tipping, reasoning that preserves the free choice of the customer and protects the dignity of the recipient.
It seems as if a new taboo is foisted upon Canadians by the week. Immigration is already among our established taboos – while the limits on its remaining areas of policy discussion grow ever-tighter. Canadians as a whole want less of it, while our elites are convinced that only good can come from more of it – and that increasing our diversity of origin is so important that it shall require uniformity of thought. Academic economist and former Parliamentarian Herbert Grubel says nuts to that, offering his take on key elements of immigration policy, plus the facts to support it. Part I of a two-part analysis.
Would beloved comic actor John Candy have lived longer if government forced him to eat less? What about Orson Welles? Or Luciano Pavarotti? Perhaps. Would they have been happier or more successful? We’ll never know the answer to the first, and as to the second, almost certainly not. Candy built his career around a lovable portliness, Welles often played menacing fat men and Pavarotti’s girth helped him belt out arias. A few extra pounds, in other words, offers both advantages and disadvantages − and it should be up to the individual to decide how to balance the scales. As governments ramp up policies designed to put their citizenry on a diet, Matthew Lau sallies forth in defence of eating what you want, and exercising only when you feel the need.
When do the words “transparency” and “accountability” mean the opposite of what an untutored citizen might think? Why, when they’re passing the lips of a Canadian civil servant. The federal bureaucracy also seems the one place where the digital revolution made everyone less productive. And while this sounds amusing (if pathetic), the federal bureaucracy’s power and intrusiveness just grow and grow while the freedoms of individuals and voluntary associations shrink and shrink. Former citizenship judge Joe Woodard takes a wry look at these trends and with good humour tracks the deadly serious slide of Canada from a free society in which everything that isn’t specifically forbidden is allowed, into something sadder, darker and more constrained.