Why Has Canada's Tin-Eared Establishment Avoided The Fate of The U.S. And Europe?
Conservative Party leadership candidate Kellie Leitch made news when she called for a values test on all newcomers to Canada. As opposed to Donald Trump, Leitch didn’t specify which immigrants she thought might not adhere to the fairly liberal value set that defines Canada at the present moment. But it wasn’t hard to unlock the riddle.
Predictably, the professional fainting class in Canada began to swoon like Hillary Clinton heading to her limo. The knees of the virtuous buckled in horror that Leitch had perhaps suggested some immigrants to Canada might` not be enamoured of same-sex washrooms, gay marriage or unrestricted abortion. Is this not the land of the Justin Trudeau Charm Offensive?
Their pals in the media echo chamber immediately took up the theme that Leitch was just a Trump in women’s clothing, a recidivist determined to keep Canada white and Christian. There was tut-tutting about lowering the tone of the discourse to American levels and a return to the gloomy days of Bad King Stephen, the grouchy PM for almost a decade.
Then something funny happened. Polling in the Toronto Star— the liberal house organ and one of the outlets mortified by Leitch’s suggestions— revealed that there is, in fact, majority support in the country for verifying that the folks admitted from Syria, Sudan or Switzerland share the values that Leitch described.
Even the captives of Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Indoctrination Farm seemed to feel that maybe Leitch was on to something. Leitch’s polling numbers (aided by Peter McKay’s withdrawal from the PC leadership race) suddenly thrust her into the lead to succeed Harper the Horrible.
This disconnect was yet another example of Canada’s governing elites being out of touch with the broad spectrum of Canadian opinion (see: climate change). The imperial declarations from on high about immigration have been framed by Trudeau’s blanket outreach to “Come on in, the water’s warml”. But many in the country are extremely concerned that an open immigration policy could mean, in a couple of generations, the loss of Canada as they know it. And they don’t much like being lectured about it by the Geek Squad.
This tin ear exhibited by the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto Family Compact is hardly unusual in western democracies at the moment. The Trump phenomenon in America is based almost entirely on the notion that the D.C. Beltway value system created by the Clintons is fixed. He still has a reasonable chance at beating Mrs. Clinton in November if he can keep the iron of resentment hot.
In Britain, PM David Cameron gambled his leadership and Britain’s place in the European Union on the idea that things as they stood in the UK were swell under the EU banner. Bad idea. He was soundly rebuked by the same sentiment of resentment from Nigel Farage’s everyday Britons and lost his job. Britain now faces fracture while Cameron catches up to reality.
In Germany, premier Angela Merkel was acting under the same notion of noblesse oblige when she opened the spigot for a flood of immigrants from across the middle east and as far east as Afghanistan. Declaring that Germany’s values obliged them to allow the disastrous gambit, Merkel saw the visitors soil the carpet. She now is being soundly trounced in state elections, with many predicting a major upheaval in federal elections coming up.
In Canada, however, the fires of resentment exposed by the Leitch episode have barely warmed the political surface. In Ontario, where Wynne’s popularity has declined in inverse proportion to the soaring energy bills she’s saddled on Ontarians, the Liberals have prorogued the Ontario Legislature in an attempt to re-start their bonzo agenda for the province.
Despite a Venezuelan economic performance by the Liberals, Ontarians seem willing to give her another chance to jumble the carbon tax/ sex ed instruction/ increase taxes formula that landed her in trouble. If there’s a storm of protest, it hasn’t been torching the walls of the Leg. In the face of a world that’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, Canadians are still placated by the Spotless Sunshine of Justin Trudeau’s Mind.
There are the same reasons for concern in Canada as are being seen in the U.S. and Europe. The governing class has not replaced the energy bucks lost in Alberta, almost all the new jobs are in the public sector or part-time, and a swath of Canadians stand to lose everything if interest rates creep up again from the near-zero stagnation of the present.
But it’s What, Me Worry? in the land, even as neighbouring countries roil in turmoil with Donald Trump as the antidote. Maybe the great hope is that a Trump presidency will drive Americans and their dollars northward to spur the sluggish economy (although most Trump exiles will bring the Bernie Sanders economy with them).
How did we get here? It’s been suggested that, for modern Canadians, values stem not from the church, the community or the economy but from government. Appeals to reform government inevitably devolve into arguments about the sanctity of the healthcare system or the humanism of bilingualism. If that doesn’t satisfy the anger, government has now added protector of the environment to its perceived values.
Leitch tacitly acknowledged the futility of fighting the goodness of government in her immigrationpolicy. Even as she espoused a conservative value, she was careful to couch it in terms of a bureaucratic, not philosophical, agenda. Because in the Land of Trudeau, you don’t fight city hall. You can only take a selfie in front of it.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).