Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cracking the Code Behind Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “Old Stock Canadians” Debate Comment

Stephen Harper and George W. Bush
David Frum and “Lizard of Oz” Right-wing Strategists Likely Inspired Harper's 'Old Stock' Slant - and it Was Intentional

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday September 22, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

Last month's Muslim rioting in France, this month's clashes between old-stock Australians and Muslim immigrants on the beaches of Sydney -- these may well be portents of a troubled future."

- Right-wing Republican strategist David Frum, December 2005

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made no mistake last week referring to "old stock Canadians" versus "immigrants and refugees" -- it was deliberate and calculated.

It is coded language also used by the Republican strategist who helped come up with U.S. President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" phrase to describe Iraq, Iran and North Korea in 2002.

Hard-right conservative and former Bush speechwriter David Frum has repeatedly used the term "old stock" to refer to non-immigrant citizens in Australia, Germany and the United States -- and to controversially contrast primarily white voters with Muslim immigrants.

Harper's intent in using the term is clear: it appeals to a right-wing base frightened of immigrants and refugees.

The question remains as to whether the Harper Conservatives' new Australian political consultant Lynton Crosby -- critics call him the "Lizard of Oz" -- put "old stock Canadians" into Harper's talking points for The Globe and Mail debate.

Certainly Crosby is known for injecting anti-immigrant language into former Australian Liberal prime minister John Howard's campaigns and those of British Conservatives.

"During the 2005 election, he approved Conservative campaign slogans -- 'It's Not Racist to Impose Limits on Immigration,'" the Guardian newspaper reported in March.

Crosby was a key player in Prime Minister David Cameron majority win in this year's United Kingdom election, another reason Harper hired him.

Origins of 'old-stock'

But Frum -- a Harper fan and Canadian whose sister Linda is a Conservative senator appointed by the prime minister -- has been publicly using "old stock" to describe non-immigrant voters for some time.

Beyond his 2005 comments on "old-stock Australians" and Muslim immigrants, in 2010 Frum wrote: "Because of very low birth rates among old-stock Germans, the proportion of foreign-born is highest among those younger than 20s."

It's unlikely that Harper is not well acquainted with Frum's writing, since he regularly fawns over Harper, as in a 2013 CNN column:

"U.S. conservatives deeply admire Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper... Well they might. Harper has achieved more from a weaker position than any conservative leader of recent times," Frum wrote.

And Frum defended Harper vigorously when he was criticized in a New York Times article in August: "How precisely did the Canadian prime minister silence debate, suppress information, and squelch democracy?" Frum wrote, suggesting the column on Harper lacked facts when they abound, from scientists to Supreme Court justices.

So it's almost inconceivable that Harper -- a well-read, former head of the right-wing National Citizens Coalition -- would not understand the coded meaning of "old stock Canadians."

Frum is also blatant about bashing non-European Union immigrants and refugees.

"Europe is learning that today's refugees are at high risk of becoming tomorrow's high-school dropouts, tomorrow's unemployed, and tomorrow's criminals," Frum, executive editor of the Atlantic magazine, wrote in a July column ominously titled:
"Closing Europe's Harbors -- The urgent case for stopping the flow of illegal migrants across the Mediterranean."

Frum has been beating the same drum for years, writing in 2010: "This immigrant population is disproportionately connected to almost all of the social problems of modern Germany."

And in a series of tweets this month, Frum said:

"Wherever stat is calculated - e.g. UK, Germany - non-EU immigrants draw more in benefits than they pay in taxes."

"Non-EU migrants and their children hugely disproportionate in prison populations - sometimes an outright majority."

"Immigrants from outside the EU twice as likely to be unemployed as natives."
"Immigrants from non-EU countries are twice as likely as natives to drop out of secondary school."

Harper's debate comments were nowhere near as inflammatory, but seem rooted in the same basic argument -- that immigrants and refugees are trouble.

Motivating the base

Harper used the phrase "old stock Canadians" in response to a question about changes to health care available to immigrants and refugees.

"The fact of the matter is we have not taken away health care from immigrants and refugees. On the contrary, the only time we've removed it is when we have clearly bogus refugee claimants who have been refused and turned down.

"We do not offer them a better health care plan than the ordinary Canadian receives. I think that's something that new and existing and old stock Canadians agree with," Harper concluded.

When asked the next day what he meant, Harper carefully avoided repeating the phrase -- and was less-than-clear in explaining why he used it or what it meant.

"I know that that is a position supported widely through the Canadian population, it's supported by Canadians who are themselves immigrants and also supported by the rest of us, by Canadians who have been the descendants of immigrants for one or more generations," he said.

Not convincing -- nor is it likely someone using coded language would then explain what the code actually meant.

Harper's comments are a pale version of Frum's foaming invective, but the intent of his "old stock Canadians" is clear -- to appeal to a right-wing base frightened of immigrants and refugees, to motivate them to vote in this election.

And it's an approach that's reason enough for voters to reject Conservative politics of fear.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Liberals' History of Broken Progressive Promises Shows They Can't Be Trusted

Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau
If elected, Justin Trudeau's pledge to amend C-51 may be the latest of many party reversals by pretend progressives.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday September 15, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"When the Liberal party shifts to the right that we lose elections. The Liberal party wins when it is most liberal."

There are actually three -- not two -- things you can always count on: death, taxes and Liberals breaking progressive promises after an election campaign.

That's a long political tradition for the federal Liberal Party over many decades -- just like Lucy pulling away the football just before Charlie Brown can kick it in the classic Peanuts comic strip.

Former Liberal prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien were masters of punting their progressive pledges as soon as safely elected to government.

They both followed a classic Liberal dictum often attributed to veteran operative Davey: campaign from the left -- but govern from the right.

So certainly there's reason to doubt current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau will keep his word on key planks in his platform -- like amending the repressive Bill C-51 security legislation -- after Oct. 19 should he be in a position of power. Because it's just not the Liberal way.

Pierre Trudeau ridiculed Conservative plans to implement wage and price controls during the 1974 election -- but then imposed them himself afterwards.

And Chretien solemnly promised before the 1993 election that on the hated GST: "I say we will replace the tax. This is a commitment."

But the Liberals did nothing.

It was actually Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper who reduced the regressive tax by two per cent years later.

Empty C-51 pledge

So will Justin Trudeau really "move as quickly as possible" to amend the Conservatives' draconian "anti-terrorism" Bill C-51 if he is prime minister?

After all, Trudeau claimed he didn't like C-51 but then the Liberals voted for it in Parliament along with the Conservatives and against the New Democrats, who strongly opposed it.

The bill was also condemned by Amnesty International, Canada's independent privacy commissioner, Human Rights Watch and even the National Firearms Association.

Why support it then? Speaking to University of British Columbia students in March, Trudeau actually said Liberal MPs voted for the legislation because:

"I do not want this government making political hay out of an issue... or trying to, out of an issue as important as security for Canadians. This conversation might be different if we weren't months from an election campaign, but we are," Trudeau said.

So in summary: Trudeau and the Liberals voted for bad legislation they disagreed with just so the Conservatives couldn't criticize them -- but don't worry -- they'll fix it after the election's safely over?

As far from a principled decision as you can get -- and it gives no reason to be convinced that post-election Liberals could be trusted to do anything on C-51.

More Trudeau reversals

And Trudeau may have even perfected the Liberal pledge breaking practice even further -- by flip-flopping on multiple important issues before the election is even over.

Trudeau repeatedly said as late as July that Liberals support balanced budgets.

"I've committed to continuing to run balanced budgets. In fact, it is Conservatives who run deficits; Liberals balance budgets. That's what history has shown," Trudeau said in Markham, Ontario.

But in late August Trudeau changed his tune, promising to run deficits of up to $10 billion a year for three budgets and finally balance it in 2019.

And while Trudeau is campaigning now on a promise to legalize marijuana, he voted along with the Conservatives in 2009 to actually impose mandatory sentences for marijuana possession -- a position that earned him the wrath of pot activist Marc Emery.

Fortunately that legislation died on the order paper before being implemented but Trudeau's vote in favour is clearly on the record.

He went along with the Conservatives on marijuana in 2009 for the same reasons he supported Stephen Harper in 2015 -- because it was seen as politically convenient at the time.

And that raises a bigger concern -- if the Trudeau Liberals will take positions based solely on political advantage instead of using a moral compass, like on C-51, what other promises will they abandon after the election?

For progressive voters troubled by Trudeau's opportunistic support for repressive legislation, what else he might do may be the biggest challenge of all for the Liberals in this election.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Be Mercenary, Green Party, but Be Upfront about It - Not Total Hypocrites / With Green Candidate Jo-Ann Roberts Response

Green Party leader Elizabeth May 
Power over principle on display as party aims to beat NDP's very environmental Murray Rankin rather than crush a Tory elsewhere.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday September 8, 2015

By Bill Tieleman

"I hope that we will be able to set aside partisanship for the good of the country."               

               - Green Party leader Elizabeth May, October 2013

The Green party likes to say it is different from other parties -- more principled, more positive and more policy-oriented -- and it promised to work with other parties to beat the Stephen Harper Conservatives.

But the Green party in action in British Columbia has shown itself to be "more" in a big way: more partisan, more mercenary and more hypocritical in political maneuvering -- to defeat opposition Members of Parliament instead of Conservatives.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in Victoria, where New Democrat MP Murray Rankin's riding has become the Green party's number one target in Canada.

Most observers would find that a bizarre choice of priorities, since Rankin is an internationally recognized environmental lawyer with a track record of achievements.

But for the Greens, it's apparently become power over principle -- because they are determined to remove Rankin rather than crush a Conservative elsewhere.

"There are going to be ridings like Victoria, where we are in a position to win, that we will be going after... with everything we got," Green party president Dave Bagler said in April.

"Obviously we're going to be putting more dollars into areas where we know that we have a significant shot," Bagler added, making it clear Rankin is public enemy number one electorally.

Once upon a time -- actually it was just in October 2013 -- Green leader Elizabeth May claimed: "Greens favour a cooperative strategy in the next federal election."

But that was then and this is now -- the Greens are going all in to defeat New Democrats like Rankin and incumbent Liberals as well.

Green credentials ignored

Who cares that Rankin was an early board member of the Wilderness Committee, former president of West Coast Environmental Law, former chair of the Land Conservancy of BC, started teaching environmental law in 1977 at the University of Victoria, and has acted for several First Nations as legal counsel on environmental issues over decades?

Who cares that Rankin's environmental credentials might even exceed those of May, whoworked for the environment minister under Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney at one point?

Not May or Victoria Green candidate Jo-Ann Roberts, a former CBC Radio host who said she was quitting her job to fight cuts to the Crown corporation but later announced she was running for the Greens.

And not the Green party, whose communications director Julian Morelli said on Monday that candidate Roberts is "not to take away from Murray Rankin -- it's to give voters a choice. There's no malicious intent -- you have to earn your vote."

Roberts is a "high quality candidate who knows the issues," he said. "I don't think this gives the Conservatives a chance [in Victoria]."

There are potentially some ridings where the Greens might work out an arrangement, Morelli said. "In this case, it's not about going after someone; it's giving a choice to voters. I'm not taking away from Murray Rankin.

"There are differences between parties. One other significant difference between the parties -- there are no whipped votes in the Green party," he said.

Morelli added he was not referring to any votes taken by Rankin in Parliament.

Roberts has admitted that she personally "likes and respects" Rankin and that she also considered running for the Liberals. But what's the bottom line on taking out a leading environmentalist MP?

"Murray's running as a New Democrat, and I wish he was running as a Green," Roberts toldThe Tyee earlier this year.

And that's okay because I actually admire hardball, take-no-prisoners politics -- when everyone is clear that's the game being played.

The Greens have every right to run candidates, every right to defeat NDP and Liberal candidates as a priority over Conservatives because it's easier, and every right to do anything to win.

But the Green party has no right to continue its sanctimonious self-serving talk about "setting aside partisanship for the good of the country" when it is slitting the throat of MPs from other parties who share many of their values and a deep desire to defeat the Harper Conservatives.

Be Green mercenaries -- just don't be total hypocrites about it. 

* * * * * 

Bill Tieleman note: Green Party Victoria candidate Jo-Ann Roberts contacted me when this was published last week in 24 Hours Vancouver and The Tyee and I am please to include her full, unedited response to my column here: 

RE: Be Mercenary, Greens, but be upfront about it, 

Submitted by Jo-Ann Roberts, September 9, 2015

Jo-Ann Roberts

If there is one thing I have learned in my 37 years as a journalist, it is that one’s point of view is often a direct result of personal investment in an issue. Now that I’m a political candidate, this is more obvious than ever.

Still, I was taken aback by the recent opinion piece by former NDP strategist Bill Tieleman, which dramatically condemns the Green Party as “more partisan, more mercenary and more hypocritical” than other parties. 

He accuses my party, my campaign, and by extension, myself, of putting power over principle, claiming “they are determined to remove [Murray] Rankin rather than crush a Conservative elsewhere.” Tieleman’s connection to the NDP colours his analysis in a distinctly orange light.

I am running to give voters in Victoria a choice of a party that may align more closely with their values and their hope for Canada. In a healthy democracy, giving voters a choice between two or more quality candidates is a good thing.

The argument that a party should abstain from running a candidate in a riding that features a strong incumbent candidate borders on suppression of democracy. If we applied this rule equally across the country, the NDP would not run Alicia Cormier against Elizabeth May, or former CBC journalist Anne Lagace Dowson against Justin Trudeau. But our democracy would be nothing more than a shell if we did that.

Democracy means people have a choice of parties and candidates on their ballots, and it sounds like Anne Lagace Dowson agrees with me. When asked why she would run against Trudeau, she replied, “I think people want something different… I think that this riding is eminently winnable.” For Tieleman, it seems the same doesn’t apply when a Green runs in a riding with an NDP incumbent.

In the 2012 Victoria by-election, 34.3% of electors voted for the Green Party, just 2.9% fewer than those who voted for the NDP. We are strong contenders here and it makes sense that we would work to elect a new MP in this riding. 

We are a political party after all, so by definition, partisan. But it is hyper-partisanship that is discouraging voters and hurting our democracy. Greens fighting to have our views represented in the House of Commons, where we see the lack of those critical views at a critical time in our history, is what democracy is all about. Running strong candidates in ridings where the party can succeed is entirely logical.

We are trying to give voters something to vote for, rather than scaring them into thinking they can’t vote for what they believe in. We are working to elevate this election above fear-mongering, and to expand the national discussion beyond “Stop Harper.” 

We are urging politicians and pundits alike to address major issues facing Canadians, such as climate change, healthcare, poverty, post-secondary education and the very integrity of our democracy. We are trying to engage Canadians that have given up on voting. That is why we are running candidates in all 338 ridings across Canada.

When Donald Galloway ran as the Green Party candidate in 2012, no one questioned his right to run against Rankin. Many voters wanted Galloway as their Green representative – only 2.9% less than those who voted for Rankin. 

I will give those voters a strong Green candidate to vote for in this election, as well. To do otherwise is to allow the slim margin of victory in 2012 to allow for an uncontested second term in office.

Rankin is well known for his work in environmental law, but he and his party are not without their shortcomings. He has served as National Revenue Critic and Health Critic, but has had no portfolio with the environment, despite his environmental expertise. 

While he certainly has strong environmental credentials, his impact is limited when his votes and talking points are determined and enforced by his party. He has not been able to persuade his party to oppose the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, expansion of the oil sands or fracking. These environmental issues are critically important to Victoria voters, and their local MP should be able to represent them.

Good government is only as good as its opposition. Should a governing Tom Mulcair decide that the economy is at odds with the need for deep reductions in carbon emissions, as a member of a party with strict top-down control, an NDP MP won’t be free to disagree with his leader and represent his constituents’ environmental priorities. 

I believe Victoria voters want an MP who can and will fight for immediate climate action, and who will work hard to ensure there is no increase in supertankers, pipelines and fracking in BC.

With an extended campaign, voters have even more time to consider our individual merits. Rankin will put forward his record as an MP, his credentials and the clients he has served as a lawyer; I will present my qualifications, my experience as a journalist, small business owner, labour leader and respected voice for this community. I have analyzed and raised important issues in this community and our country for decades as a journalist, and will continue to do that in Parliament.

While Rankin and I appear to be the frontrunners at the moment, I hope voters will give the other candidates their due consideration, as well. Then, they will make a choice. That is the very essence of democracy.

For those concerned that electing a Green will spoil the NDP’s chance of forming government, it is important to remember that in the end, it is not the number of seats one party has which will allow it to form government. Rather, it is the number of votes they have in the House of Commons on confidence motions.

Green MPs are willing to support a minority NDP or Liberal government to replace Harper’s Conservative government. A similar arrangement was successful in the 1960s in the minority governments led by Lester B. Pearson. This government worked with other parties to achieve medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, the no-interest student loan program and our flag.

Greens will work toward less hyper-partisanship in Parliament, and collaborate across party lines to introduce and pass legislation that serves the common good of all Canadians. 

And we will bring Green priorities to Ottawa on behalf of the millions of Canadians who share that vision. That’s a critical step forward for democracy in Canada. 

But in order for any of this to happen, we need Green MPs in Ottawa.