Showing posts with label Canadian elections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Canadian elections. Show all posts

Friday 11 October 2019

There's Hypocrisy, and Then There's Scheer Hypocrisy

Andrew Scheer has dual citizenship.  So what?

When I heard the "breaking news" that Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party, and potentially Canada's next Prime Minister in a couple of weeks from now, held dual citizenship, I thought, "big deal; so what?"  We're not like those Americans obsessed with national homogeneity:  obsessed with President Trump's (aka Drumpf) being German, or obsessed with President Obama's birth certificate and Kenyan father, or obsessed with presidential-hopeful Senator Ted Cruz being born in Canada.  We believe in the Canadian multicultural mosaic in contrast to the assimilation of the American melting pot.

Dual citizenship versus hypocrisy

I disagree with Andrew Coyne who finds dual citizenship--not the blatant hypocrisy--to be the essence of the problem.  I would go so far as to claim that dual citizens are a net gain for Canada, making us a hub of international networks beneficial to our national interests in an increasingly interlinked, globalized planet.  However, it does give me pause to think that a man who could, in two weeks from now, be the Prime Minister of Canada is an American citizen.  The greatest leadership challenge of our next Prime Minister will be walking the fine line between the USA and China in our trade and diplomatic relations.  It is hard not to laugh at Scheer's ludicrous, hollow bravado claiming that Canada needs to "get tough with China."  The Chinese already have reason to believe that Canada only exists as a lackey branch-plant kowtowing to American interests.  Electing an American citizen as Prime Minister will make it that much harder to convince them otherwise.

There's hypocrisy then there's Scheer hypocrisy 

In my previous post, on blackface, I wrote that "I have never found politicians calling one another hypocrites very convincing or meaningful."  There are degrees of hypocrisy.  Andrew Scheer seems out to prove himself the hypocrite of hypocrites, the stone-throwing king of glasshouses. The Scheer unmitigated hypocrisy of criticizing the dual citizenship of Governor General Michaëlle Jean, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair--all the while holding dual citizenship himself--has been laid out in the mainstream media.

Dual American versus French citizenship

What has been less explicitly spelt out are the differences between Scheer's American citizenship and the French citizenship of Jean, Dion and Mulcair.  In the first place, as many of my dual-citizenship friends have pointed out, renouncing your American citizenship is much more difficult to do than you might imagine.  The USA is one of only two countries in the world which levy personal income tax on non-resident citizens.  This translates to the fact that Scheer would have had to file an American income tax statement every year.  Unlike most dual citizenships, where it is possible to be a dual citizen and rarely think about it, Scheer would have been reminded of his dual citizenship and decided to maintain it every year of his adult life.

Jean, Dion and Mulcair each explained clearly how and why they became dual citizens (always related to family issues) but Scheer has left the explanation murky by simply claiming his father was an American.  However, the fact that his father was an American living in Canada does not in itself explain how Scheer became an American.  Another step and process were necessary, and Scheer had to undertake the process and annually decided to maintain his American citizenship.  As we are stopping to consider how Scheer would do in negotiating with our US neighbours, while maintaining a Canadian identity and culture distinct from the American monolith, we might wonder at the fact that both his sisters are registered Republicans living in the USA.

Sarcasm is the lowest form of irony

Snippets of Scheer's 2005 blog criticizing Michaëlle Jean's dual French/Canadian citizenship have littered the media, but it is worthwhile to consider his entire text (6, 13 Aug. 2005) in context.  What dominates and characterizes Scheer's writing is sarcasm.  Sarcasm, as I've pointed out elsewhere, is the lowest form of irony.  Sarcasm transmits an attitude, usually of disdain, without any clear, explicit content.  It tends to be a dissembling, cowardly form of communication--pretending that you will be understood, but without taking responsibility for what you are saying.  It demands interpretation but escapes interpretation because with sarcasm the dissembler never explicitly says what he means and can always deny whatever interpretation is given to his words.

Scheer in his own words

In the blog, Scheer rhetorically questions Michaëlle Jean's dual citizenship (though Jean, unlike Scheer, renounced her dual citizenship before taking office), then goes on to mock her claim, that "Having a person like me as governor-general will mean a lot not only to Canadians. I think it will mean a lot for humanity."  Scheer replies snidely:
Right, all of humanity is very excited that you've become Governor-General. I can just hear a collective gasp of amazment and happiness from hundreds of millions of people all over the globe who are now inspired because you are the new GG.
All that, and she's modest too.
How can a man who would have us believe that "blackface" is an important issue in this election be self-satisfied mocking a black woman who quite rightly acknowledges that a  woman of colour being named Canada's Governor General is a gesture that will be celebrated around the world?  Didn't most Canadians relish the brilliance of  Michaëlle Jean as our GG and the sea change happening in the world as she greeted President Barack Obama on the tarmac at the Ottawa Airport?

Maintaining his narrow-minded, short-sighted view, in his blog, Scheer goes on to mock the choice of Adrienne Clarkson, only the second woman, the first member of a visible minority and the first Chinese-Canadian ever to be named Governor General.  Scheer continues his mockery of  "Another CBC broadcaster."  Adding:  "If the Liberals aren't hiring journalists in the PMO or appointing them to the Senate, they're making them Governor-General."  (The Conservative Government in which Scheer was an MP would later appoint two journalists to the Senate:  Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy--both of whom had worked for the CBC and became embroiled in the Canadian Senate expenses scandal.)

When does hypocrisy become outright deceit?

There is a point at which hypocrisy becomes outright deceit.  Scheer has certainly played on that point with his campaign mantra that "Justin Trudeau cannot be trusted."  Whenever Scheer has been questioned about why he has failed to reveal his dual citizenship, his response has been "No one has ever asked me."  Scheer became a Conservative Member of Parliament in 2004.  In 2006, when the Conservative Party was provoking a scandal over Stephane Dion's dual citizenship, the CBC launched an inquiry to determine how many Canadian MPs held dual citizenship. reported that

Dion was criticized this week because of his reluctance to give up his French citizenship. He was born in Canada but holds dual citizenship because his mother was born in France. 
The Parliament of Canada website shows that 41 of the 308 MPs sitting in the House of Commons were born in 28 countries other than Canada, ranging from Uganda and Malta to China and the United Kingdom. 
Many of these MPs qualify for dual citizenship. That puts them in the ranks of the 691,300 people living in Canada who hold dual citizenships, according to the 2001 census. called their offices to check on their current status and found that the following MPs hold dual citizenships:
  • Omar Alghabra (Ontario Liberal), with Syria.
  • Raymond Chan (British Columbia Liberal), with the United Kingdom.
  • Libby Davies (British Columbia NDP), with the United Kingdom.
  • Jim Karygiannis (Ontario Liberal), with Greece.
  • Wajid Khan (Ontario Liberal), with Pakistan.
  • Maka Kotto (Quebec Bloc Québécois), with France.
  • Pablo Rodriguez (Quebec Liberal), with Argentina.
  • Michael Savage (Nova Scotia Liberal), with the United Kingdom.
  • Mario Silva (Ontario Liberal), with Portugal.
  • Lui Temelkovski (Ontario Liberal), with Macedonia.
  • Myron Thompson (Alberta Conservative), with the United States.

Why isn't Andrew Scheer's name on this list?  Did the CBC only contact MPs born outside Canada?  Such a procedure wouldn't make much sense since Stephane Dion, whose case spurred the inquiry, was born in Canada and his dual citizenship would not be discovered if only MPs born outside Canada were questioned.  Could the CBC research have been this shoddy?  Should we believe Andrew Scheer's claim that he has never been asked about his dual citizenship?  Certainly, he had to be aware that the question was being asked about MPs with dual citizenship, and he decided not to come forward, and to maintain his dual citizenship.  Ultimately, the question is "Can Andrew Scheer be trusted?"

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Liberal Entropy: The Challenge of Doing Nothing

Conservative, Liberal, Socialist:  The Basics

I used to baseline the three dominant political positions this way:  a conservative wants the country to stay more or less the way it is or has been, a socialist wants society to change and a liberal believes that everything will turn out fine if we do nothing.  Logically, the Conservative Party tends to attract the well-to-do who are enjoying the status quo.   A left-leaning party like the NDP (the only party I've ever been a member of) will find its numbers in the working and lower middle class.  The Liberal Party enjoys the advantage of the middle-class, middle ground while appearing socialist in public and being conservative in private.  The problem of the Liberal Party isn't so much hypocrisy (though some might rightly call it such) as coherence.  (See Truth and Coherence.)

Me a Liberal?!!  Okay, Maybe Sometimes.

My lefty friends have occasionally accused me of being a liberal.  My conservative friends think I'm a lefty liberal.  I have to admit that, in politics, I often think "nothing" is the right thing to do.  I'm rarely disturbed by what goes on (or doesn't go on) in Parliament, because I understand that "doing something" in politics means forming a committee, or writing a letter, making a phone call, or, in most cases, publicly expressing disagreement, disappointment, and even outrage to the point that a phone call, or a letter or a new committee might be required.  It is easy to forget that the principal reason we elect our parliamentarians is for them to vote, and most of the time their votes have absolutely no effect on outcomes because the issues are always decided in advance of a parliamentary vote.

Doing Nothing Isn't Easy

When the Liberal Party wins 39.5% of the popular vote and therefore 100% of the power in our lopsided democracy (see Are Canadian Elections Democratic?), as they did in our last election, we might imagine we can all relax because nothing is going to happen for the next four years.  However, "nothing" isn't as easy to do as you might imagine.  To begin with, there are those nagging little promises made during the election campaign in 2015.

The Liberal Waltz:  One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Having promised "that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system," the Liberals had the challenge of pretending they were interested in reforming the electoral process while insuring that nothing actually changed.  The Liberals quite rightly and righteously expressed outraged at the imprisonment and torture of Raif Badawi  in Saudi Arabia, then ratified the contract to sell that same Saudi government 15 billion in armoured military vehicles. Liberals never quite being able to pass on a photo op, Chrystia Freeland was there at the airport to welcome a young Saudi woman claiming refugee status.  (Who knew that there was only one young woman in Saudi Arabia who wanted to claim refugee status? Or was this photo op about distracting us from the Meng house arrest?)  On another front, after pledging to "phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term," it appears that the plan is to hope that no one notices that we are in the end-term and the subsidies are still in place.  Additionally, there is a semantic argument that buying the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan, the Texas oil and gas infrastructure company, for five billion dollars isn't really subsidizing "the fossil fuel industry"--it's more like a gift.

Here I Go Again

Yet, when the perfect opportunity arose to do nothing and doing nothing would serve the interests of Canada and Canadians, the Liberal Government failed to follow through with its own most basic tenant and mantra.  Imagine the scene when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was informed, three days in advance, that  Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CFO, was going to be arrested on a warrant from the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Minion:  Mr. Prime Minister the Americans have issued a warrant for the arrest of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver.

PMJT:  Uhhh. Wow.  Uhhh. Holy cow. Uhhh.

Minion:  Don't worry, Mr. Prime Minister, this extradition request is not political.  [Wink, wink].  If it was political we would have to refuse the request.  It's definitely not political so you don't have to worry about it.

PMJT:  If it's uhhh not political, why uhhh are you uhhh telling me about it?

Minion:  Well, we like to notify the PM about these things that are non-political.  When it's political we just call the cops . . . ha, ha, ha!

PMJT:  So Trump wants this Huawei executive arrested.

Minion:  God no.  Trump doesn't want her arrested, or maybe he does.  Actually we don't know what Trump wants, but the extradition request was from Richard Donoghue.

PMJT:  Who's Richard Donoghue?

Minion:  He was the Chief Litigator for CA Technologies.

PMJT:  You mean we are going to uhhh arrest one uhhh tech company exec on a warrant from another tech company exec?

Minion: Donoghue just became a US Attorney, so the warrant should be legit.

PMJT:  So uhh what did this Huawei executive do?

Minion:  That's a bit complicated, but basically she is accused of moving money in Iran.

PMJT:  Is that against the law?

Minion:  Not any more, but it was against the law in 2014 when she is accused of doing it.  The Americans are calling it "bank fraud."

PMJT:  "Bank fraud!"  Shit, Minion, why didn't you say so?  Sort of like that uhh Bernie Madoff guy, eh?

Minion:  The Americans are talking about similar sentencing guidelines.  Thirty years in prison for each count.

PMJT:  Wow wee!  Have a lot of people been doing this uhh illegal money thing in Iran?

Minion:  A ton.  A half dozen major banks have already been convicted.

PMJT:  Geez.  So all these bank execs have been sentenced to multiple thirty-year prison terms.

Minion:  Oh no, Prime Minister. [Stiffing a laugh.]  No one has ever been sent to jail for this.  The banks pay a fine.

PMJT:  So we'll extradite her to pay a fine?

Minion:  No, the Extradition Act requires that it be for at least a two-year prison sentence.

PMJT:  If uhh no-one has gone to prison for this before, why are they talking uhh about prison this time?

Minion:  Uhh, Prime Minister [wink, wink], she's Chinese.  Huawei is a Chinese company.

PMJT:  Can we arrest and extradite someone for being Chinese?

Minion:  Not since the Head Tax.  Today it would be against the law, against the Canadian Extradition Act, to extradite someone because of her ethnicity or nationality or for political or purely commercial reasons or if we thought she was going to spend less than two years in prison.

PMJT:  But we are going to arrest her because she is Chinese, from China, a Communist country, and because Huawei is stealing business from the big tech companies, and even though we know she is never going to spend two years in jail.

Minion:  Yes, but you know, the Chinese, the whole "dangerous" and "national security" thing.  Need to worry about "censorship," "backdoors" and that sort of stuff.

PMJT:  So who's in charge of extradition?

Minion:  Jody.

PMJT:  Our Jody?  Why?

Minion:  Because she's the Minister of Justice.

PMJT:  Still?

Minion:  What do you want her to do, Sir?

PMJT:  Nothing.

Minion:  That sounds like a sound policy, Mr. Prime Minister.


"Doing nothing" would have been the perfect policy in this instance if the message had been passed on to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and the RCMP.  The warrant would not have been served with ample justification for not serving the warrant in the overall circumstances and the Canadian Extradition Act.  Sabrina Meng Wanzhou would have continued her itinerary to Mexico and France.  Neither country, I'm willing to bet, would have served her with the American warrant and, most importantly, Canada would not be in the mess our Liberal government's actions have put us in, when we specifically elected them to do nothing.

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