Pandemic Comparison
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.
Student and Teacher
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.
Race-Based Law
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.
Lessons of history
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.
Lockdown vs. Living Life
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.
Stories
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.
Liberal Wrongdoing
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.
Post-Covid Economy
“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.
Monopolies vs. Markets
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.
The Political Divide
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.
Making Immigration Work
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.
Politics of Pleasure
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.
Stories
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.
Food and Freedom
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.
Vanishing Freedoms
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.
Content vs. Clickbait
Judging by the sheer volume of information coming our way, the Canadian news media are the very picture of health. But quantity isn’t indicative of quality, and the age of clickbait could put the final nail in the coffin of the nation’s legacy media. So who cares? Well, as online upstarts fill only a tiny proportion of the resulting void, the size, influence and market share of the taxpayer-subsidized CBC continue to grow – and some want it to grow further still. Could that possibly be good for diversity of news and views? Lydia Miljan lays out what ails the Canadian media business model, charts the deterioration of journalistic quality, points to the bright spots and makes the case for two practical and achievable federal policies that could allow our media sector to save itself.
Crisis in Air Transport
The debt-fuelled buildout of Canada’s airports, predicated on the dubious though common premise of unending growth in air travel, has stalled badly. While there’s been virtually zero news media attention, it seems the entire Canadian airport operating model could be about to crash and burn – at a time when governments are themselves wildly over-committed through their own borrowing binges. In this thoroughly reported original, Peter Shawn Taylor dissects Canada’s uniquely strange and problematic approach to owning and running airports, explains how we got into this mess and, looking to Europe and Australia for guidance, charts a way back out.
Liberal Corruption
We are now onto Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s third official ethics imbroglio. Mr. “blind spot”, as a previous ethics commissioner termed him, is back at it, once more trailing cabinet ministers and political flunkies. The blind leading the blind, as it were. This time around it’s a close to billion-dollar sweetheart deal offered to WE Charity – an organization with close ties to Trudeau and cabinet ministers. As the Opposition and media focus on the mechanics and legalities of the growing scandal, Gwyn Morgan probes the deeper question of why anyone would think shovelling vast sums into yet another summer jobs program for students was a good idea. The possible answer is downright diabolical.
Preserving Personal Autonomy
Most of us have heard it said that a lot of science and engineering went into bringing you the automobile gleaming beneath your gaze in the showroom. A lot goes into the act of driving as well. And while many people no doubt find driving banal or worse, Patrick Keeney believes there’s also a lot at stake. To drive, he writes, is to exercise our skill at being free, to display our competence, to accelerate for the sheer joy of it, and to negate the technocrats who strive to make our lives idiot-proof and safe. To steer our very lives, as it were. To Keeney and the author of the book he reviews in this essay, few places are better than behind the wheel, breathing the heady air of freedom.
Cents and Sensibility
Whatever we might think of marriage and divorce, few of us would claim they are unimportant. The topic has occupied not only the hearts of billions but the minds of great thinkers through the ages. Why, John Milton wrote a whole book on divorce way back in the 1600s. So why have the great thinkers at Canada’s top statistical agency – who spend their days ferreting out the most trivial of trends – closed their minds to the entire subject? Might the numbers point in some politically incorrect directions? Peter Shawn Taylor dives into the subject with gusto and reports on the modern-day benefits of one of humankind’s oldest institutions.
Exploitation, Profit and Pleasure
To suggest something ought to be done about unrestricted online pornography is likely to be thought of as out-of-touch, heavy-handed, hopelessly idealistic or, paradoxically, sexist. Yet the damage wrought upon innocent young lives by ruthless elements in the porn sector is all-too real; the academic and legal evidence about the phenomenon’s global toll is there for anyone who cares to look. While recognizing that simply banning all porn will never happen in today’s cultural and legal environment, Devin Drover lays out a carefully researched and soberly argued case that protecting the innocent against the industry’s vilest excesses lies well within the reach of our politicians.
Art vs. Schmaltz
Care for some “snuggling”? Such appears to be among the deepest thoughts and most memorable expressions of our current generation of poets. The best-known, “instant” kind, anyway. The real kind still exist, poet David Solway notes in this essay, although they’ve been pushed to the cultural margins. And while understanding and appreciating real poetry – a learned and often challenging practise – has fallen into disfavour, it remains vital to our civilization, if there is to be one. That millions of people are buying Instagram poetry, Solway argues, does not change the fact that it is self-indulgent rubbish.
Bureaucratic overreach
Over the past four months Canadians have been taught to heed and obey their public health officials. And we have dutifully complied, often hailing them as celebrities for their efforts. But as the lockdowns are lifted, what might happen to this habit of control? Peter Shawn Taylor charts the evolution of public health from its early origins to the modern, activist version that eagerly promotes soda taxes and demands an end to income inequality. With public health having become a political movement, are its practitioners prepared to give up their newly-acquired powers of command once the crisis ends?
Race and the Individual
While Canada has been spared the violence, looting and anarchy that overwhelmed sincere protests over racial issues in multiple American cities, the question of racial prejudice and the accusation of systemic racism have been pushed to the fore in our country as well. In a sensitive discussion informed by a personal and family history that led to many years of study and introspection, Roland Mascarenhas shares a vision based on his belief in individual agency, one opening an alternative path towards well-being for individuals scarred by racism.
Covid by numbers
Few experiences are as emotionally wrought as seeing a loved one succumb to a deadly infection. Yet setting emotion aside is precisely what must be done in order to rationally evaluate the efficacy of Canada’s response to Covid-19. A rigorous review of our performance to date will be crucial in dealing with future crises, including a possible second wave of the coronavirus. Two weeks ago, Gwyn Morgan made the moral case against damaging economic lockdowns. In a new and original academic analysis, economist Herbert Grubel provides the hard numbers to back up Morgan’s plea for a more rational approach to saving lives.
Paying for the Pandemic
Government deficits are soaring, the economy is reeling and the restart is slow and halting. Nobody knows what lies ahead. How the federal Liberals plan to handle Canada’s tectonic shift in public debt is anybody’s guess. In Part I of this two-part report, Matthew Lau described the challenge our country faces and evaluated two of the most destructive options for dealing with the Covid-debt. In Part II, Lau sets out what would happen if Ottawa decides to engineer a return of high inflation, and then explores more practical options for addressing our enormous post-pandemic indebtedness – including the one method that has worked decisively at the federal and provincial levels.
Paying for the Pandemic
In many ways these are magical times. Governments seemingly exist to protect us from all harm and negative consequences. When a pandemic hits, the existing gusher of public spending becomes an unchecked torrent, interest rates are lowered to effectively zero, yet inflation remains caged. Almost any item large or small can be purchased with instant credit on easy terms. Individuals, organizations and groups in trouble are showered with financial beneficence. But where is the money actually coming from? Who, if anyone, is to pay for it all? Can nothing bad come of the unprecedented profligacy? Matthew Lau reminds us that reality will reassert itself and when the spell is broken at last, potentially ruinous consequences lie in wait. Lau evaluates the options available to debt-burdened governments – most of them bad. Part I of a two-part analysis.
Saving Our Economy
The days are at their longest, everything’s blooming, summer is nigh and Canadians are increasingly going about their regular lives. Spirits are lifting. And serious questions are being asked. Like Plato’s cave-dwellers emerging out of the darkness, we are blinking in the dazzling light of our 5 am northern dawns. What just happened? Do the claimed but unprovable benefits of the pandemic response stack up against the staggering quantifiable damage? Could we have done better? Gwyn Morgan takes a clear-headed look at these questions and prescribes some principles to dig our way out and avoid a needless repeat.
Disease and Elder Care
The infirm and chronically ill seniors who live in long-term care facilities are among Canada’s most vulnerable populations. So too, it seems, are the executives and investors who own and operate many of those nursing homes. The first group is vulnerable to disease and neglect. The second is suffering from aggressive ideological attacks by unions, left-wing academics and politicians who casually accuse them of being greedy “dehumanizing” villains, and are now plotting the expropriation of their entire business. Peter Shawn Taylor seeks to clear the air in this thoroughly reported account of how Canada’s long-term care sector really works.
The Conservative Sensibility
Canadian conservatives have most of the summer to ruminate on what they want their federal party to become – as embodied by their soon-to-be elected leader, anyway. Acceptability, likability and winnability will be key criteria. Above all, however, should be crafting and advancing a compelling policy alternative to today’s managerial liberalism, which has been inflated by the pandemic almost beyond recognition. Mark Milke offers a forceful rebuttal against the Conservative “alternative” comprising little more than a massaged form of top-down management.

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