The western alliance has moved quicker and implemented more sanctions than anyone would have predicted just a week ago. Yachts are being seized, flights are cancelled, central bank reserves are frozen, and markets have crashed. Pretty much every possible sanction be it legal, economic, or political has now been applied to Russia. It is true that in many cases the world could go further, but not by much.
And, unfortunately, this historically harsh set of sanctions has failed to move Putin. In fact, judging by the most recent phone call between the Russian President and his French counterpart Emmanuelle Macron, Putin may even be digging in deeper. With no more obvious sticks, short of entering the war directly, the world must turn to the idea of carrots, but there are few obvious options.
This is partly because Russia has violated so many international norms—including now the intentional bombing of civilian populations—that it’s hard to imagine a politically viable way western leaders could offer Moscow any reward for even an immediate and complete withdrawal.
Furthermore, it is increasingly apparent that Putin would not be tempted by even the largest carrots. He has staked his empire on this war, and anything less than the complete occupation of Ukraine could mean his political, and possibly even personal, demise.
Perhaps, then, the west should consider an alliance wide-strategy of offering a million little carrots aimed not at Russia, but at Russians.
For example, the Ukrainian government is now promising Russian deserters 5 million rubles (approximately US$47,000), which is 450 times more than what the Kremlin pays the families of soldiers killed in action. NATO and the EU could match that and add an offer of asylum for them and their families. In fact, some legal scholars believe that under international law, western nations would be obligated to treat deserters as refugees.
Even if each deserting Russian soldier was offered a huge bounty, say $100,000, it would still be incredibly cost effective when you weigh it against the price of supporting a protracted war, or the cost in men and material to remove that soldier from the battlefield in the traditional fashion.
This strategy could be applied more widely. For example, some of these million little carrots could be offered to Russian diplomats. We have already seen at least one resign in protest, but there could be hundreds more if the western alliance also dangled in front of them a path to citizenship and a stipend to cover living costs. This may seem unfair, but the world needs to be pragmatic about this and realize that bigger fish will require larger bait.
For senior military staff or Kremlin officials in Moscow, maybe even notable journalists or celebrities, we could also offer a path to citizenship and an even larger stipend. And while it is harder to defect to the west from within Russia itself, it would still only require a short walk to the nearest Embassy. (Where, I grant you, they may end up waiting awhile, so best to pick a mission with a good chef.)
And for the biggest fish, the oligarchs, the carrots could be very large—the west could offer the return of half of their seized assets (the other half being given to Ukraine as reparations).
But for them and all the rest, there would be one very important catch. All of these little carrots would require a recorded video statement explaining their opposition to the war and urging others to join them.
If thousands of these testimonials were shared in the media and online, coming from powerful Russians and lowly conscripts both, it would be almost impossible for the Kremlin to control the narrative domestically. It would be a body blow to morale, and it would handicap further attempts at disinformation and propaganda.
But, most importantly, a million little carrots strategy would remove Russian boots on the ground. If you consider the slow progress of the Russian military after (according to Pentagon estimates) 90 per cent of the troops assigned to this invasion have already been deployed, it is clear that even a small number of deserters will have a disproportionately large impact on Moscow’s ability to fight this war. (And the west shouldn’t discount the disruption caused by removing bureaucratic butts from desks, either.)
In previous wars, bounties for defectors were communicated by dropping leaflets behind enemy lines. Luckily, in the 21st century, dangling a million little carrots in front of Russians could be done much more easily. Our intelligence agencies have the cell phone numbers of every senior official in Moscow, every diplomat abroad, and every officer on the ground—and for them a simple text message or even a call would suffice. (Interestingly, the Ukrainian government is now sending automated calls to Russian numbers.) For the rest, social media, broadcast radio, and billboards on the road to Kyiv would work fine.
There has never been an opportunity in the past for one side of an armed conflict to reach out so immediately and directly to the populace of the other side, and to offer each of those citizens a very personal bounty for helping to end the war. And there has rarely been the unity we now see among the western allies, which would allow for such a sweeping strategy, and the requisite costs and absorption of asylum seekers.
Implementing a million little carrots strategy would require alliance-wide coordination. But, over the course of the first week of this war we have learned our leaders, our parliaments, and our governments are capable of moving extremely fast and moving together when the stakes are this high.
In 2021, amid report after report of presumed grave sites being found on the former grounds of residential schools, non-Indigenous Canadians experienced what’s been generously described as an awakening. Everyone from random citizens doing TV street interviews to the Prime Minister himself voiced horror and dismay, as if blindsided by the fact that the assimilationist project this country ran for the better part of a century had claimed the lives of children. Many, many children.
We were not, of course. The deaths of young Indigenous kids at residential schools were described widely in the accounts of former students, who shared the knowledge with their children and grandchildren; they were meticulously reported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015.
No wonder, then, that as the news sank in, a strikingly different theme emerged in the remarks of Indigenous leaders. If Canada had indeed awakened, they asked, would it now act? Or would it leave First Nations people to keep curating this dreadful history, passing it between generations in the hope that someday, at long last, it would move their non-Indigenous neighbours to repair a broken relationship?
Cadmus Delorme, the chief of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, put it best: “We have one of two options right now,” he told Global News in November. “To address the truth, accept the truth, then move to reconciliation; or be ignorant to the reality and make our children figure it out. I am one to not wait for our children to figure it out.”
Write it in the sky. Again and again, Indigenous children have borne the brunt of tragically misguided government policy. Over successive generations, they were abused in the schools and exposed to disease, plucked from their loved ones to be raised by white families and traumatized by intergenerational fallout. For decades, they’ve been voiceless and forgotten. Surely this moment of self-realization is our chance to change that.
Here, in brief, is the thinking behind our decision to place the unknown victims of residential schools at the top of our annual Power List (page 30). The children who rest in graves at Tk’emlúps, Cowessess, Williams Lake, B.C., and elsewhere are lost to their communities. But the shared knowledge of their existence, of their fates, has its own compelling power. We failed to hear them when they lived. Without question, we are obliged to hear them now.
Before making this choice, Maclean’s consulted privately with Indigenous, Métis and Inuit leaders, who unanimously approved of, and in some cases applauded, the idea. The grave finds, they agreed, changed the tone and substance of debate over Indigenous rights. Whether that change yields action, they’re waiting to see. But it has already proved pivotal in forcing Ottawa to negotiate its landmark $40-billion settlement on Indigenous child welfare.
To be heard is to have influence, so this year’s ranking also features a number of prominent First Nations people to whom the country has turned its ear—RoseAnne Archibald, the first woman to lead the Assembly of First Nations; Niigaan Sinclair, a writer, political commentator and community activist; and Autumn Peltier, the water defender, among them.
As in 2021, our ranking hews toward good-faith actors in the service of positive change, even if their approaches, or their notions of positive, are not universally shared. Pierre Poilievre is not every Canadian’s first choice as a seatmate on a long flight. But the Tory MP excels in his role as an opposition critic, holding the government’s feet to the fire.
And again, we’ve looked beyond mere status. The nabobs of banking, lobbying, telecom and other arms of the establishment must do more than occupy corner offices to merit berths on our ranking. Simply making noise in the town square isn’t enough, either. Dog-whistlers, conspiracy theorists and censorious pedants are ineligible.
The result, we believe, is a ranking that reflects the pressing issues facing the country, and the opportunities ahead. Attentive readers will notice that Canadians who guided us through the first years of the pandemic—public health leaders, epidemiologists—have given way in this year’s ranking to those who will guide us out of it.
It’s our version of cautious optimism. With luck and good sense, we’ll emerge from Omicron into a world where COVID-19 is a managed risk, refocused on the challenges that define Canada and its place in the world. As ever, our ability to navigate these challenges will rest heavily on our brightest, most dauntless and most accomplished. Remember their names, and lend them your ears.
Ever since a column of trucks, campers, and cars set off for Ottawa in January with a song in their hearts and a plan to remove our democratically-elected government, the members of the now-leaderless Conservative Party have been trying to find a way to greet them as liberators.
No matter how many photos of Nazi and Confederate flags have flown in the crowd, or how often the protesters have called for Justin Trudeau to be tried for treason, the Tories have tripped over themselves to find common cause with the occupiers.
Pierre Poilievre, a likely next leader of the party, has taken every opportunity to ingratiate himself with the occupiers, glad-handing with the crowd that wants our government removed from office: “I’m showing up here to support freedom and an end to unnecessary mandates that have no support, no backing by science,” he told some of the protesters Tuesday.
Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer came out and took some photos with organizers Pat King and Chris Barber. One-time leadership contender Leslyn Lewis was ambling through the crowd on Sunday, and was effusive: “It’s been great to see Canadians come together,” she told me. Marilyn Gladu and Candice Bergen, now interim leader, enjoyed some pizza with two of the protesters. Michael Cooper wandered into the crowd on Parliament Hill to express his solidarity with those fighting against having to be vaccinated.
With everybody joining the convoy party, embattled Erin O’Toole couldn’t help but catch the current: “The trucker convoy is a symbol of fatigue in our country,” he insisted. (His caucus’ vocal support for the convoy may have been a symbol of fatigue with their leader, as O’Toole was ousted on Wednesday.)
But every foray into the occupied territories of Centretown meant grappling with the fact that a key organizers of the convoy have identified with QAnon and made various disparaging and odious remarks.
Once the video of the Patzer-King meeting emerged, the Saskatchewan MP insisted: “I fully condemn any violent rhetoric on the part of Mr. King or any other participant of the convoy.”
Lewis was positive that “the majority” of the crowd was in Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates, despite having walked past a man wearing a PUREBLOOD sweater. (“Unmasked, unvaxxed, unafraid,” it read) and just as a speaker screamed into the blaring sound system that vaccines were “medical experiments,” to great applause. Nevertheless, Lewis told me, “I am seeing more signs about the mandates.”
Cooper, too, had to explain that he didn’t support the protester who stood behind him proudly displaying an upside-down Canadian flag emblazoned with a swastika. The Conservative MPs kept insisting that no true trucker would endorse such odious things.
O’Toole himself tried to launder the reputation of the mob: “The convoy is being used by others. So I condemn all those groups,” he said during a press conference last Friday. When I pointed out that it was the organizers, not shadowy agitators, who had endorsed such unpalatable things, O’Toole insisted the organizers didn’t represent the protesters they had convened.
“I’m meeting with truckers that are part of the convoy,” he retorted. “I am not meeting with the organizers of the convoy.”
This has been the furious game of Frogger the Conservatives have played all week, desperately trying to cross from one end of the convoy to the other without standing next to a sign marked “vaccines=genocide,” or “Trudeau 4 Gitmo,” appearing underneath one of the many Confederate flags.
This isn’t just injurious to these politicians’ own credibility—an asset in short supply these days—but it’s emboldening this movement.
When powerful people lend these movements credibility, it only entrenches these paranoid delusions. In the closed information environments of the convoy’s Facebook and Telegram channels, there is a whole alternate reality: Where the vaccines don’t work; where COVID-19 is a bioweapon; where Trudeau is set to impose a Chinese-style social credit system. We need to reject that worldview, not explain around it.
Take the contentious question of how big the crowd is: Ex-MP Derek Sloan told the crowd that they numbered in the hundreds of thousands, insisting that it was “the largest gathering ever on Parliament Hill.” The fact that the crowd was almost certainly in the 10,000 range, a modest showing for a demonstration on the Hill, is impossible to get across to this lot.
There is a baseless fallacy that no true protester would fly a Confederate flag. That belief was only endorsed when MP Cathy Waganthall shared a tweet accusing the Prime Minister’s official photographer of being planted in the crowd to photograph a Confederate banner: Proof that it was a real false flag operation. She later deleted the post, because it was nonsense.
It’s fairly clear that these politicians are too concerned about their own political standing, and the upcoming leadership race, to give much of a thought about what their support for this convoy really means.
Some have, seemingly, realized that encouraging protesters to camp downtown indefinitely was a bad idea. MP Michelle Ferreri went from calling the convoy “inspiring” last week to insisting that the Trudeau government needs to develop a plan to clear the protesters: “Will the residents of Ottawa have to listen to air horns indefinitely?” she asked. Quebec MP Pierre-Paul Hus similarly seemed to grow tired of the occupiers by mid-week.
But all the credibility-lending has been a real shot in the arm for those who don’t want a shot in the arm.
Despite their animosity towards the establishment, this crew desperately wants validation that they are broadly popular. They are tired of being told they are a minority—indeed, I heard at least a dozen people muttering to themselves, incredulous at the Prime Minister’s description of their movement: “Small fringe minority, huh?”
And yet, that’s exactly what they are: Nearly 90 per cent of eligible Canadians have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. That 10 per cent who remain unvaccinated are predominantly hesitant, not hostile, to the vaccines. Which makes this anti-vaccine crowd the fringes of the minority.
Even a vaguely-worded question from Abacus Data found that only about a third of respondents said they had a lot “in common” with the protesters.
Of course the organizers have insisted they are not anti-vaccine, only anti-vaccine mandate. But that’s not very convincing. Several of the groups participating in the event are responsible for peddling junk science which claims the vaccines are deadly. One of the participating groups, Action4Canada — a group which argues that COVID-19 public health measures are “egregious crimes against the citizens of this nation” and that every politician who supported them must “pay for their crimes.”
Even if we accept that the calls of “freedom,” which have been barely audible over the honking, are about the mandates themselves, that still leaves this crowd in the margins: According to an Ipsos poll, more than 80 per cent of the country supports mandatory vaccines for a litany of jobs and upwards of 70 per cent support vaccine passports.
Wander through the crowd and it’s clear pretty quickly that the protesters are, at best, a cross-section of those who supported Maxime Bernier’s People Party.
Some signs showed Trudeau’s strings being pulled by a demonic (and anti-Semitic) caricature of George Soros. There were hundreds of anti-vaccine signs. Speakers on stage repeatedly questioned the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Masks have been eschewed by the vast majority of the protesters. Attendees were proselytizing about the, debunked, efficacy of antiparasitic drug Ivermectin. When one speaker asked the crowd to cheer if they were double-vaccinated, nary a peep was heard. (One protester gingerly raised their hand, before quickly putting it back down.)
The warnings of a slippery slope towards autocracy haven’t found much purchase in Canadians who aren’t terribly put off by showing their proof-of-vaccine before grabbing a pint or seeing a movie. And the bleating about the imposition on the unvaccinated’s civil liberties hasn’t found much sympathy in a population who see anti-vaxxers as a risk to our creaking health-care system and a main reason for the constant lockdowns and restrictions.
Certainly, it is everyone’s right to avoid the shot. But sometimes exercising your rights means accepting the consequences. And, indeed, consequences are exactly the point of these mandates, even if they are really quite mild. You may lose your job hauling goods if you refuse to get vaccinated, sure: You would also lose your job if you refused to renew your drivers’ license.
Taking responsibility for their actions isn’t something the crowd wants to do. They want the rest of us to accommodate them. Which is why it’s particularly absurd to hear Poilievre hector the media to not ascribe the racist and conspiratorial symbols on full display to the rest of the crowd — those flying the Confederate flags “should be individually responsible for the things they say and do,” he said.
This is a sort of perverse take on personal responsibility: We can’t hold them responsible for refusing to get a vaccine, nor can we hold them responsible for holding a rally where yellow Stars of David are being handed out to underline the supposed war crimes being perpetrated by these whiners.
The Conservatives know this is wrong. But the pretenders to O’Toole’s still-warm throne desperately want to sway those 850,000 voters who lined up behind Bernier last September.
While Ipsos found that two-thirds of Conservatives supported the passports, some 90 per cent of People’s Party voters opposed them. (Albeit with a small sample of Bernier supporters.)
There is certainly a way to harness the raw populist energy of groups like this — look no further to Donald Trump’s masterful, if cravenly self-interested and dangerous, wrangling of the QAnon movement. With a few well-orchestrated winks and nudges, he won the fealty of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of conspiracy theorists without too much blowback from his broader base. And, no wonder, Trump had already inoculated his supporters against any bad words from the media. Any wrongdoing, like those who stormed the capital, could be blamed on Antifa. Because no true MAGA supporter would commit acts of violence.
Conservative politicians in this country drool at the idea of commanding such a broad base of supporters who have enveloped themselves in a cocoon of misinformation. Also: The convoy has raised $10 million.
Putting aside the obvious dangers to our democracy, this is destined to blow up in their face. Canada isn’t the United States, the Conservative Party is not the GOP, and Pierre Poilievre is no Donald Trump.
Canadians have proved incredibly prickly about being recruited into the culture wars. They have shown no love to politicians who have found common cause with anti-vaxxers and white supremacists, and they have rolled their eyes at efforts to explain around the particularly odious figures.
Poilievre may well win the battle to take over the Conservative Party, and lead his party to another failure against Trudeau—who, for his many faults, still represents where most of the country is at on the pandemic.
There is another way.
There is tremendous room for some Conservative to use this ongoing honk-fest as an opportunity to stop the furtive attempt to explain that no true conservative would desecrate the National War Memorial. They could stop coddling this convoy, twisting themselves into knots to be both pro-vaccine and anti-mandate, in order to play for Bernier’s anti-government base.
Given protesters are heading to Victoria, Toronto and Quebec City in the coming days, the great honkening is only going to get worse. The Conservatives don’t even need to condemn and admonish the protesters per se: It is their right to hold a peaceful demonstration in Ottawa, even if it is annoying and inconvenient. But they should plead with these people to go home. (Unfortunately, new interim leader Candice Bergen has advocated against that, in order to own the Libs.)
But it is high time that an adult vies to lead the Conservative Party by refusing to make common cause with the rump of the country that has become deranged in their opposition to Trudeau and the vaccines. A politician who can simultaneously oppose the ham-fisted lockdowns, travel restrictions, and curfews while simultaneously offering a clear message on vaccines and masks as effective tools to get us out of this mess.
Freedom, yes, but for everyone: Not just the unvaccinated.
Well, it looks like the Conservative caucus has decided to do the stupid thing.
Shortly after the election, I wrote here at Maclean’s that dumping leader Erin O’Toole would be short-sighted—regardless of how angry anyone was over the disappointing results or their leader’s performance. Very few nail it on their first time out, and there were plenty of indicators suggesting O’Toole’s moderate conservatism did, in fact, make inroads on the crucial 905 region.
Alas, after the trucker convoy pulled into Ottawa, drawing support from Conservative MPs and a meeting with O’Toole himself, a substantive majority of the Conservative caucus decided that my argument wasn’t compelling enough to warrant giving O’Toole another shot at becoming Prime Minister. And so they decided to oust him at the moment of maximum chaos, when a manifestation of inchoate anger at long-running—and sometimes illogical—COVID restrictions has descended on the capital, along with a handful of Confederate-flag and swastika waving extremists. Great timing, everyone.
I’m sure that this is all going to be very reassuring to the Canadian swing voters who are sick of the Liberals but were too concerned with the wingnuts in the Conservative caucus to pull the switch. I wrote during the election that there was something about the Conservatives that didn’t feel ready for prime time; and real concerns that O’Toole didn’t have a handle on his caucus. Those who stuck with the Liberals on these grounds have been justified.
Very well, then. The Conservative Party is now confronted with a full-blown crisis of identity, and none of the incentives bend toward moderation. Now that they’ve booted the last leader for flip-flopping and failing to be Conservative enough, any future leader will be required to placate the most extreme elements in the caucus room. It’s possible that this will not lead to a bad outcome.
It’s possible that I have misdiagnosed the electorate, and that the more conservative Conservatives are correct; that swing voters are not looking for a skim-milk Conservative Party, and that they are instead eagerly seeking a robust right-wing alternative. After all, why throw your lot for the unknowns when all they’re offering you is a slightly modified version of the Liberal Devil They Already Know?
I find at least one aspect of this argument compelling.
Conservative voices have already pointed out that the party’s failure to articulate sensible opposition to the more nonsensical COVID restrictions has pushed otherwise sensible people to the fringes of politics. We are seeing this in the rise of the People’s Party of Canada, and in the trucker convoy itself.
It would have been awfully nice to have a true opposition party in Parliament in recent months; one that was willing to point out that our dependence on lockdowns is predicated on the fragility of our health-care system compared to peer nations. Our drive to make our universal health-care system more efficient in recent decades left it ill-equipped to manage the historic demands of a once-in a generation pandemic. Our lack of surge capacity is a systemic problem we’re going to need to confront. That process is going to challenge old pieties about the status quo about how health care is funded and delivered.
Many would have welcomed an opposition that felt much more empowered to point out that the vaccine mandate on truckers actually won’t do much to staunch the spread of Omicron while needlessly placing fragile supply chains at risk. Or maybe the CPC could have been more vocal in pointing out that requiring PCR testing for vaccinated travellers presents a ridiculously expensive and onerous restriction on free movement—and unnecessary one when rapid antigen tests are widely available.
And two years into this pandemic, what is the real value of vaccine passports when Omicron is clearly blowing through vaccine-acquired immunity? By the way, those cloth masks aren’t doing much good for you anymore, either.
At this point, it’s pretty hard to ignore some uncomfortable truths; some COVID restrictions still make sense. Others do not. And some are guided more by politics, optics and tribalism than by science. An opposition party really shouldn’t be afraid to make that point.
Perhaps if the sizeable and growing minority of anti-lockdown protestors felt that they had a voice in Parliament, they wouldn’t be descending on major cities and border crossings en masse. The wobbly-eyed chickens are coming home to roost, and they’re driving very large trucks that the Ottawa police department has admitted it is helpless to manage.
Anyway, it’s quite possible that after several years of increasingly nonsensical COVID restrictions, and however many years of a Liberal government, a plurality of Canadians really won’t be looking for Liberals painted blue. It’s possible that the charm of performative politics that papers over our crumbling institutions, declining capacity, and a self-flagellating political culture will have very much worn off. It’s possible people are going to be looking for something very different.
Perhaps there will be room for a Conservative Party to articulate rational and sensible opposition on the host of problems that face this country—from economic woes and institutional capacity challenges to fear-and-panic driven COVID restrictions.
But can we trust a party of sh–posters to stay rational and sensible in the face of an exhausted, angry and increasingly polarized electorate? Nothing about how this party has behaved in recent days gives me hope that this caucus is as clever or politically savvy as it imagines itself to be.
I would like to express my appreciation for Katie Underwood’s article on Céline Dion (“Coming back to us now,” Torch Song, December 2021). It was beautifully written, funny and touching. Underwood mounts a compelling defence of Dion, and of the role singers play in sustaining our emotional lives. Musicians, poets and performers have always been the ones to get us through a crisis. Remember poet Anna Akhmatova and the siege of Stalingrad! While artists are often treated as trivial in our society, they are, in fact, vital to our survival.
–Gillian McCann, North Bay, Ont.
Your contributor writes that Canada has never needed Céline Dion more. I’m reasonably sure I need less Céline and more Stompin’ Tom—unless, of course, she knows all the words to Sudbury Saturday Night.
The somewhat superficial depiction of the “obsession” of Pat Bouchard’s cataloguing of beetle species belies the seriousness of his work (“Beetlemania,” Obsessions, December 2021). Insects are the movers and shakers of terrestrial ecosystems—without them, nature as we know it would collapse. In Canada, we have about 39,000 species of insects with names and at least 20,000 without them. Although concerns about biodiversity generally centre around fish, caribou and other large vertebrates, the real crisis lies with these small creatures. “Ecologically based” forest practices and the like do not consider this biodiversity. There have been huge declines in virtually all insect populations throughout the globe over the past decades, with high extinction rates. We desperately need more information on all the species we have if we are to make sound decisions regarding how best to live with the nature we’re blessed with.
The Olympics are athletic events and should be free of political interference (“Why are we playing games in China?” January 2022). Choosing the site for any Olympic Games does involve political and many other concerns, but Beijing was chosen for this Olympic Games. Governments should be assisting athletes of all levels, genders and abilities. This requires a financial commitment, providing facilities and equipment and making available well-qualified coaches. People who have had the opportunity to be involved in sports and athletics always gain in physical health, mental focus and goal setting, and improved social attitudes. Tragically, peoples and cultures continue to be attacked. Those now opposed to the Beijing Olympics are focusing on the plight of the Uighurs, even calling this a form of genocide. Canada is still reconciling itself to the “treatment” of Indigenous people, who for centuries were isolated and deprived of their cultures. Call it assimilation or genocide or a softer reference, the impact was the same. Canada needs to clean its house first. Canadian athletes make us proud and bring our nation together. Go Canada Go.
The picture on pages 28 and 29 of the army of cabinet ministers (37) says a lot (“The life of the party,” January 2022). Our main G7 partners have the following number of cabinet posts, including prime minister and cabinet, or president and cabinet: U.K., 26; U.S., 24; Japan, 20; France, 17; and Germany, 16. All those nations have much larger populations than ours, especially the U.S., with 10 times as many citizens. Surely we do not need this many positions for an efficient government, and with all the staff and salaries, the cost must be enormous. A good trimming would go down well with Canadian taxpayers.
In my 30 years serving with the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Military Engineers from Victoria to Goose Bay, N.L., and as far north as Alert, Nunavut, I have been an environmentalist as well as a consumer of hydrocarbons (“The last gasp,” January 2022). A world without carbon is beyond the dreams of even the most fervent environmentalists, who continue to use asphalt shingles, cellphones and fossil fuels. We would sooner buy cheap products produced in China or India and fuelled by coal-powered electrical plants than transmit by pipeline natural gas or other oil products from Canada. Let’s have a walk-to-work day in sub-zero temperatures and deep snow, or better still a swim-to-work day when we cannot use diesel-fuelled generators to pump out flood water. My question to Canadians and politicians is this: individually or collectively, what are you willing to give up forever in your life? Be honest and do it, or continue to lie to yourselves.
–Claude R. Lalonde, Edmonton
In December, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Agnes Macphail’s landmark election to the House of Commons by republishing our 1933 profile of her. Macphail was the first woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament.
Loved the archival profile about Agnes Macphail (“Miss Macphail,” From the Archive, December 2021)! It made me go to Google to find out more about her. Such an interesting woman—she founded the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada and championed pensions for seniors and workers’ rights, etc. Plus, she was a single working woman at a time when that was rare.
After reading Jason Markusoff’s article about Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s atrocious handling of COVID-19, it has become even clearer to me that conservative provincial governments have not fared at all well (“The incredible sinking man,” December 2021). Right-wing thinking simply does not jibe with the available science and fails at the logic that’s needed for decision-making during this kind of crisis. Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford have proven beyond a doubt that they are the wrong leaders during this pandemic. And unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet.
Your article about Whistler Blackcomb’s reopening this fall/winter is misleading (“Openings,” Bearings, November 2021). It suggests that only the vaccinated are being welcomed back. Not so! Indoor restaurants, patios and bars will require proof of vaccination, but there is no such requirement to purchase ski tickets or, most irresponsibly, to board the closed gondolas. Despite its claim to the contrary, Whistler Blackcomb couldn’t care less about public safety unless it is mandated by the provincial health authorities.
I enjoyed Paul Wells’s piece on the Liberal election victory (“The triumph of Justin Trudeau,” November 2021). Why do we allow our political parties to write platforms that are all pie in the sky, so to speak? The NDP’s national pharmacare program? Great idea, but how? Meeting carbon emissions targets before the planet is unlivable? Awesome! How? Solving systemic racism that goes back to the birth of our Canada? Another superb idea! How? We cannot just leave it up to the politicians. We, as the citizens of this country, need to make some tough choices and do some difficult work in order to progress as a country and as a civilized society.
–Ben Perrier, Belleville, Ont.
These letters appear in print in the February 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine.
The war hawks are screeching for a more muscular response to Russian provocations at the Ukrainian border. The American president, trying to bolster his tough guy credentials, has threatened his Russian counterpart with an insurgency if he mounts an invasion.
He’s being egged on by the usual suspects in the American media. Washington Post commentator Max Boot has called for the U.S. and NATO to set up clandestine groups in Ukraine capable of launching a punishing guerilla war in case the Russians invade and occupy the country. He even suggests modeling the forces on the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA), a World War II and Cold War-era guerrilla force that not only fought the Soviets but also participated in the ethnic cleansing of Ukraine’s Polish population and ultimately hoped to set up an ethnically-pure Ukrainian nation along the lines of Nazi Germany.
Clandestine far-right militias to fight Russians in case of an invasion? We’ve done that before, and it didn’t end well.
Of course, nothing should surprise us about this kind of unhinged view of the world. These are the same voices who loudly beat the drums for the invasion of Iraq. “Once we have deposed Saddam we can impose an American-led, international regency in Baghdad, to go along with the one in Kabul,” said Boot at the time.
For so many people like me, who lived through the last two decades of the Cold War and the two decades of the disastrous War on Terror, rhetoric like Boot’s is unsettling.
Ukraine is a particularly dangerous place to be playing with that kind of fire: Evidence is mounting that the far-right has infiltrated the Ukrainian military. Indeed, according to an October report published by George Washington University, members of Ukraine’s Centuria group boasted on social media that they had received training from the Canadian Armed Forces. Centuria fashions itself as a protector of European “ethnic identity” and has ties to Ukraine’s far-right Azov movement.
The report pointed out that none of the countries training Ukraine’s military, including Canada, screens for extremist ideology. Canadian authorities responded by promising to investigate how it screens those it trains. The results of that investigation are still pending.
Whatever the investigation comes up with, it would be naïve to think that the training and weapons Canada is now providing to the Ukrainian military will not filter down to extremist militias, especially if Ukraine descends into an insurgency. Even now, the war in its eastern Donbas region is riddled with far-right groups, which have also attracted volunteers from as far away as the U.S. and Canada. If we are genuinely worried about the rise of far-right movements at home, we should be wary of aiding far-right movements abroad.
I have no doubt that Putin is well-aware of the risks NATO countries are taking with their military response to his provocations. He loved the Cold War precisely because Cold War competition was not rooted in the values of democratic governance; it was based on militarism, and militarism is the one thing Putin excels at. He wants nothing more than to see the Cold War rekindled.
But there are alternatives to letting him have his way. Germany has indicated that it is willing to cancel the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine. Of any economic sanctions, that would prove most painful to Russia, though it would also hurt Germany.
The effects, of course, wouldn’t be felt immediately. But over the medium to long term, meaningful sanctions would chip away at Putin’s popularity. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in early 2014 is a good example: Putin experienced an initial spike in popularity, but it didn’t last. Over subsequent years, economic sanctions ground away those gains.
Today, Putin faces the same level of unpopularity he faced in 2013, which may partly explain why he chose to turn up the heat on Ukraine now. At the same time, he’s up against a public mood in Russia which has soured on military adventurism.
In other words, the cards are stacked against Putin any way you look at it, except militarily. He could, of course, go full-on dictator, clamp down even harder on public dissent, and do whatever he wants. But that risks a further breakdown of the social contract with everyday Russians. Russia’s economy is already in tatters because of sanctions imposed after his 2014 annexation of Crimea, with a GDP now smaller than Canada’s. More sanctions would hurt, and likely mean massive public unrest and instability in Russia.
Facing such a grim future, a war footing is exactly what Putin wants. For bullies like him, there are far more effective ways the world can push back than piling troops along the border, or arming extremist paramilitaries who would someday have to be disarmed. What that would take is strategic unity to counter Putin’s divisive tactics. NATO members need to prove they can act as one, and support each other, even if that means economic and political costs in the short term.
Putin needs to learn that western democracies can mount a united front against him. Otherwise he will never stop.
Cindy Blackstock, a member of the Gitxsan First Nation, is the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and a professor at McGill University.
I really don’t like inquiries. They often amount to a lot of political show and not much action. But today I am making an exception—mostly out of profound desperation. We need a public inquiry into the departments of Justice and Indigenous Services Canada to stop their repeated abuses against First Nations children. In the wake of residential schools and tearful apologies from federal politicians and officials, Canada continues to treat First Nations people as if they are not worth the money by providing deficient public services on reserves and choosing to not implement solutions. The ongoing choices made by these two departments—and collateral departments, to ignore solutions to properly fix its inequitable First Nations public services and other injustices is literally costing the Canadian public tens of billions of dollars and costing First Nations children their childhoods and, in some cases, their lives.
Just earlier this month, three First Nations children died in a house fire at Sandy Lake First Nation. Community officials connect the deaths to woefully insufficient fire and emergency services, saying that “a lack of adequate water lines and infrastructure prevented the use of fire hydrants” to put out the fire. The lack of adequate resources and infrastructure on First Nations reserves is not news to Canada; the federal government has known about this problem for years and chose not to fix it. When stories of the injustices hit the media, Canada does sometimes act, but often in just a perfunctory way to defuse public pressure. Consider a recent Department of Justice’s news conference announcing $332,270 to support the families of over 4,000 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. That is about 83 cents per victim.
The cost of this chronic negligence came into stark relief this past month when the government finally admitted that its ongoing discrimination towards First Nations children required $40 billion to compensate victims and fix inequalities in federally funded First Nations child welfare services. This federal announcement was not voluntary. It came after 15 years of litigation by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations, over 30 government losses in Canadian courts and significant public pressure. All of this was necessary to fix a problem that would have only cost hundreds of millions to fix back in 2000 when the federal government agreed its under-funding of First Nations child welfare was driving more First Nations children into child welfare than during residential schools. Instead of fixing the problem then, even though it had a surplus budget, the government chose to kick the problem downstream, and now the receipts have come due, and Canada has to pay. But First Nations children have already paid with their childhoods.
Half of the $40 billion will compensate First Nations children and families victimized by Canada’s apartheid public services; many of them are still children. Nearly 60,000 First Nations children (that is more than the populations of New Westminster, B.C., or Fredericton, N.B.) were removed from their homes since 2006 because Canada’s deficient public services denied families the chance to recover from the multi-generational harms of residential schools. Other children were denied public services because they were First Nations. Undisputed evidence shows that the government denied a four-year-old girl in palliative care respiratory equipment, capped the number of catheters and feeding tubes, and denied basic educational and respite supports for special needs children.
Even after Canada was ordered to cease its discriminatory conduct in 2016, it continued its wrongdoing. Over 20 non-compliance and procedural orders were required to get to the $40-billion announcement. During this time, First Nations children continued to go into foster care at record rates because service providers did not have the funding needed to keep families together, and at least three children died because Ottawa defied legal orders and failed to provide mental health supports.
This whole matter of the government’s choice to not do better for First Nations children when it knows better needs to be “ventilated” in a public inquiry. That is what Peter Henderson Bryce, Canada’s health inspector for the Indian Department, called for in his 1922 booklet called A National Crime. It was part of his repeated attempts to save the lives of “Indian” children in residential schools who were dying at a rate of 25 per cent per year from tuberculosis fuelled by Ottawa’s unequal health care funding for “Indians” and terrible health practices in the institutions, which he first reported on in 1907. Canadian media covering the story in 1907 characterized the government’s behaviour as “Absolute Inattention to the Bare Necessities of Health” and reported that “Indians are dying like flies.” In 1908, lawyer Samuel Hume Blake famously noted that, “[i]n doing nothing to obviate the preventable causes of death,” the Indian Department brings itself “within unpleasant nearness to the charge of manslaughter.”
When the images of the unmarked graves ignited a public outcry this past summer, I found myself wondering: how many of those children would have been saved had Canada listened to the people of that period? And how many children could be saved if Canada stopped fighting First Nations children in court and complied with the legal orders to stop its discriminatory conduct now?
Political claims that Canada has “done more than any other government,” is “making good first steps and is committed to reconciliation” are an affront to the suffering of First Nations children and families who continue to be treated as if they are not worth the money.
Once implemented, the $40 billion in support will help families, but it will not end all the inequalities in public services on reserves. To ensure Canada ends its repeated offences against First Nations children, we need a public inquiry into Canada’s continued failure to provide equitable infrastructure and services, and we need a public and comprehensive plan to fix the discrimination across the board. As Sandy Lake First Nations Chief Delores Kakegamic asserted after the tragedy in her community earlier this month: “We should have the same level of support as anyone else in Canada. Lives are at stake.”
The Hon. Navdeep Bains is Vice-Chair of Global Investment Banking at CIBC and was the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry in the Trudeau government from 2015 to 2021.Elder C. Marques is a partner with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP where he advises clients on litigation, public policy, risk and crisis management.
Just before Christmas, the U.S. Department of Energy launched the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations.The name may be boring, but its job is to spend US$20 billion on climate tech demonstration projects in areas like carbon capture, energy storage and small modular reactors. This is just one example of many existing programs that use U.S. tax dollars to leverage private funding to support carbon-friendly innovations.
All around the world, governments and investors are making similar bets on climate tech. Coal-dependent South Korea has announced tens of billions of dollars in its Green New Deal, to be spent before 2025, with much of it dedicated to new technologies. Europe’s climate ambitions include a series of partnerships with the private sector focused on technology, with the most recent example being a billion-dollar deal with Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Foundation.
The bets are big because they have to be.A study by Boston Consulting Group and the Global Financial Markets Association estimates that $100-150 trillion in investments are needed globally between now and 2050 to achieve Paris Agreement targets. A significant part of that money is to invent, develop and deploy new technology. The scale, speed and ingenuity of these necessary changes cannot be underestimated and there are few, if any, good historical analogies. Investors are catching on:PwC’s 2021 market tracking found that 14 cents of every venture capital dollar is now dedicated to climate tech businesses.The complexity of this change extends beyond the technology itself; if targets are to be met, we need an alignment of incentives, regulation and financing models that we are only beginning to develop and understand.
Meanwhile, in Canada, our political discourse doesn’t always encourage policy-makers to try new and experimental approaches to support clean growth.Ironically, the innovation and ambition we demand of our entrepreneurs is actively discouraged when it comes to industrial policy, where new approaches to supporting business innovation are invariably dismissed as “picking winners.”Canada needs more collaboration, not less, and even more courage and creativity when it comes to supporting partnerships that involve strange bedfellows who wouldn’t otherwise be incentivized to work together. Coming up on the fifth anniversary of the launch of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan, it is time to re-assess and be even bolder.
Canada has enormous benefits going into this challenge, including our institutional stability, our high levels of education, our ability to attract global talent and numerous Canadian start-ups with innovative solutions that could be essential to fight climate change. But our overall business investment in research and development peaked around 2001, and we continue to lag our OECD peers on several key innovation metrics.If we are going to seize the challenges of the climate tech revolution, we need to be frank about our successes and weaknesses and not shy away from ambitious, large-scale solutions that reflect the urgency and scale of the problems in front of us.
There are many encouraging signs. New approaches brought on by ESG, which weighs environmental, social and governance factors in thinking about business, have revolutionized how we conceive of risk.Advisors like bankers, accountants and lawyers now overwhelmingly recognize that they need an appreciation of what the climate crisis means for their clients.And for those that don’t, evolving rules, such as those around climate risk disclosure, will make them get there fast.Asset managers care about carbon footprints in a way that was unimaginable just a few short years ago, and we have every reason to think this focus will continue to become more intense.
But all these positive signs don’t mean that problems will take care of themselves.There are three key challenges that need thoughtful leadership from business, government and opinion leaders in Canada.
First, the challenge of decarbonization is real, urgent and expensive, and it requires large amounts of patient capital.Plenty of investors who are worried about ESG are simply abandoning sectors with imperfect metrics, when we need them to help underwrite the technological changes that are necessary to meet global climate targets. Divestment feels good, and in some cases is absolutely appropriate, but who is going to pay for the innovation needed to transform underperforming sectors, and make sure it is done in a responsible way?
Second, government needs to continue to play a role.It must, for a start, look at how to make both the development and deployment of climate tech more affordable for industry.But just as important, it is uniquely placed to create models that incentivize cross-sectoral partnerships that can unlock more climate tech innovation and commercialization.In Canada, our primary research and post-secondary sectors are strong, but often disconnected from businesses. We need to find ways to translate research into marketable innovation, and then help our dynamic young climate tech start-ups grow to match the scale of the climate crisis.
Finally, we need a cultural change that sees the climate tech revolution as inevitable, urgent and essential to Canada’s future prosperity.Canada can either lead it or passively fall into line behind others.That choice shouldn’t be a difficult one, but it means we need all hands on deck to make sure the strategy and investments match the well-meaning rhetoric.
A labour shortage. A climate crisis. A world remade by COVID-19.
Canada faces many significant challenges emerging from the pandemic, yet we haven’t figured out how to wield the full power of one of our most potent yet under-the-radar economic and societal forces.
That would be the students either staying in this country or moving here to access some of the best universities in the world. These are the people who will carry out new research to address urgent problems such as climate change and the pandemic response; who will learn new skills and develop new businesses as technological disruptions reshape entire industries; andwho will, at this pivotal juncture in the rebalancing of global economic powers, help to ensure Canada is at the leading edge of new and emerging talents and technologies.
And yet, as our students and universities navigate this moment, you could be forgiven if you aren’t familiar with the vision of political leaders at any level to ensure their success. Part of that may be a function of a world ablaze with hourly headlines highlighting the fallout of COVID-19 and the increasingly urgent effects of climate change. But part of it might be the ideas on offer from conference to conference, election to election—a perennial mix of proposals aimed, for the most part, at reducing student debt or simply increasing access opportunities.
Student debt is absolutely a priority issue worth tackling, especially as the pandemic adds another layer of complexity to post-graduation job hunts. But thetendency to reduce the debate around the future of post-secondary education to this one concern alone means we are missing the wider picture of what is at stake.
Accessibility is important, but the quality of the student experience—which includes the academic programming, extracurricular activities, facilities, and social and health supports available—iswhat should set us apart. This is particularly true at this moment: the sector is facing increased global competition from universities in Asia thathave grown tired of losing some of their brightest people. Just as the pandemic has reshaped entire industries, it has given rise to new challengers in the education space who are offering online degrees, credentials, and a faster route to citizenship—one that can sometimes come at a great cost.
It’s clear, then, that Canadian institutions need to continue to innovate and offer experiences that cannot be replicated in such environments. But for the last decade, Canada’s public spending on post-secondary education has stagnated as other countries take action to boost their sectors in the wake of COVID-19.
With that context in mind, the kinds of ideas on offer in Canada betray a short-sightedness that risks undermining one of our country’s greatest forces. Far more than making higher education more accessible to individual students, far more than leaving them with less debt from their learning, we are talking about the future of our economy, society and the kind of country we want Canada to be on the global stage.
In that respect, we are failing as a nation to have the kind of serious debate our students and universities deserve.
Public investment in higher education not only prepares us for new and emerging threats like disease and climate change, it encourages the businesses and talents of tomorrow: In the last decade, businesses incubated at the University of Waterloo have raised over $3.5 billion. These ventures have accelerated growth in our economy in critical areas such as health and education. Now, as governments reconcile massive stimulus spending with the realities of balancing a budget, the pandemic has also made it clear that cutting funding to universities cannot be the answer.
So what is? How do we ensure that the financial resources available to Canadian universities are commensurate with the positioning we seek on the global stage? That they are secure and stable and don’t rely on the politics of any one federal or provincial government? That they reflect the very real ways in which institutes of higher learning can and do connect research with solutions to the world’s most urgent problems?
Allowing more flexibility to adjust tuition rates at an institutional or provincial level, freezing interest rates on student loans, tax incentives, spending on work-integrated learning programs: these areall ideas worth considering. What is needed, though, is a more coordinated and urgent discussion on how to proceed with these ideas in a way that transcends political cycles.
Lurching from one plan or idea to another every two to four years serves neither the interests of Canada’s world-class post-secondary sector nor the students who will go on to shape our nation’s future. As other countries make moves to capitalize on their universities’ ability to create knowledge and talent, we cannot afford to wait until another conference, another election, or even another day, to figure this out.
Vivek Goel is president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo
Rick Smith is the President of the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices
There are some dramas that people actually like.
The season finale of the HBO hit “Succession”, for example, was extremely entertaining. I and millions of other viewers loved it.
Here’s the thing about drama: a little can be a lot of fun. But too much—especially the stuff we feel like we can’t control—starts to take a mental toll.
It often felt, over the past year, that we were collectively being held hostage to real-life dramas that rivalled those of our favourite TV show.
The prime culprits—of course—are the tough choices we’ve had to make through the COVID pandemic. It’s the drama that just won’t stop. It’s overwhelming. It’s unrelenting. It’s so unprecedented we’ve had to create a whole new vernacular to describe the experience.
Another ongoing drama is the existential threat of climate change. Whenever I tell people that I work on climate change for a living the first question out of their mouths is some version of “Are we screwed?” It never fails: at a dinner party, at the barbershop, you name it.
This widespread angst is backed up by public opinion research. Nearly 60 per cent of global youth say they are very worried about climate change and almost half say those concerns about climate affect their daily lives. Here in Canada, this “eco-anxiety” is exacerbated by the extreme wildfires and flooding we saw this year and the expectation that the devastating effects of climate change will only get worse.
Does it need to be this way? Do we have to suffer from the anxiety and uncertainty of a frightening, dystopic future? The short answer is no.
Of course, we’re not going to sort out all of the world’s current craziness, but here’s one thing we could do in 2022 to ease Canadians’ climate change worries: make climate change boring. Boredom means predictability. It means calm. And I think we could all use a bit of that right now.
There’s a quote attributed to Winston Churchill that goes like this: “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” That’s what we have the potential to do in the coming year in this country.
Canada now has a climate change law at the federal level, the “Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act,” which requires—by the end of March—the country’s first 2030 emissions reduction plan. For the new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, this plan needs to include mandates for electric and zero emission vehicles, cutting down on methane pollution, capping and cutting emissions from the oil and gas industry and transitioning to a net zero electricity grid.
If the government does all of this, we’ll be well on the way to taking a significant bite out of carbon emissions in this country for the first time.
Will this instantly lift the worry-burden that people are feeling with respect to climate? Of course not. But knowing that we have a plan, that we’re starting to bend the greenhouse gas emissions curve downwards, will be a significant psychological milestone in the history of the Canadian carbon conversation.
Other countries that have already made more progress on carbon reduction show us the way forward. The U.K., for instance, has halved carbon emissions since 1990. It has settled into an annual cycle of executing the national carbon reduction plan, assessing progress against the plan, updating the plan, then repeating. It’s boring. It’s predictable. It’s working.
When public policies are working well, they usually cease being hot topics of discussion. My hope for 2022 is that we need to talk about climate change less, because we’re doing more.