Inside the Current IssueIn recent months, the loudest political voices in Europe and the United States have been those of populists, both left and right. In Inroads 39, Patrick Webber analyzes the growth of “parochial populism” and its challenge to the cosmopolitan consensus that had prevailed since the end of the Cold War. Against the background of the “Brexit” referendum, Eric Shaw looks at the destabilizing impact of the issue of immigration in Britain. Two other articles offer authoritative, thoroughly researched but accessible analyses of important issues: Josh Gordon examines the role of foreign and especially Chinese investment in inflating Vancouver’s housing bubble, and John Graham proposes a strategy to allow First Nations to benefit from the opportunities presented by major natural resource projects.
The centre cannot hold
Brexit, immigration and the fate of the European Union
An introduction by John Richards
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
In 1919, as Irish rebels combated the British army and Unionists, William Butler Yeats wrote one of his most famous poems, “The Second Coming.” The poem has drawn new readers since the financial collapse of 2008, as a spare, lucid evocation of the spirit of the times. More prosaically, the three contributors to this section analyze “things fall[ing] apart” a century later.
Eric Shaw dissects the complex divisions within the British Labour Party occasioned by the issue of immigration. When Labour was in office Read more
Heroes of the new Gilded Age: Good, Bad or Ugly?
by Reg Whitaker
We live in a new Gilded Age. Inequality is accelerating; the 1 per cent of the superrich grows ever more dominant in its control over the proceeds of the capitalist economy. Meanwhile the middle class is hollowing out, literally disappearing even as the politicians offer snake-oil remedies to make it magically reappear.
Long ago, the journalist B.K. Sandwell said that “Toronto has no social classes / Only the Masseys and the masses.” The Masseys have faded, but who are today’s titans of the commanding 1 per cent heights, the heroes of the new Gilded Age? How do they propose to dispose of their vast wealth, to what effect on the rest of us?
Every once in a while a head pops up over the high parapets, and something is Read more
Syria and liberal interventionism
First of two parts
by Dominic Cardy
Should the Western democracies, including Canada, intervene in Syria to defend the revolution that began in March 2011? I propose to answer that question with the story of liberal interventionism: what it is and is not, where it has worked and where it has failed.
When making the case for intervention in Syria it’s important to start with the facts. More than 470,000 Syrians, of a 2011 population of 22 million, have been killed.1 More than 6.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced. A further 4.6 million have fled, prompting a refugee crisis that threatens to overwhelm the borders and politics of the European Union and Syria’s neighbours. Of the civilian deaths in Syria, Read more
The politics of the raised drawbridge
The rising tide of parochial populism confounds categories of left and right
by Patrick Webber
Populism is growing across the West. Established political parties are atrophying. Political norms are changing, fast. Traditional parties in Europe and the United States are petrified. The future of the European Union (EU) is in jeopardy. The rise of the nationalist Fidesz in Hungary and the Law and Justice government in Poland have echoes beyond the less established democracies of the former Soviet bloc. The French National Front and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) are now major players. Anti-immigrant populists disrupt the traditionally placid politics of the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Germany. Ultraleft parties, equally disdainful of the EU and liberal capitalism, are rising as well, most notably Syriza in Greece, but also Jeremy Read more
British Labour’s immigration problem
by Eric Shaw
The issue of immigration (and related matters of race and ethnicity)1 has been a contentious and highly emotive one in British politics for half a century. For the Labour Party, it has always been an Achilles heel. Labour has lagged well behind in voter ratings of its ability to tackle immigration, with research showing that its liberal approach was a major factor in its loss of working-class voters.
In recent years, the accelerating pace of immigration, combined with waves of asylum-seekers seeking succour in the West, has propelled the issue to the forefront of political debate. Sensing an opportunity to exploit Labour’s weakness, the Conservatives pledged in their 2010 election manifesto to make drastic cuts in immigration levels – with some effect. Lack of confidence in Labour’s capacity Read more
A century after the Rising, Ireland is deadlocked
by Garth Stevenson
For Ireland, 2016 is an important year, the centennial of the Easter Rising that led to a war for independence, the partition of the country, a civil war and, eventually, a new independent state comprising 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties. The Rising also inspired one of the greatest poems by the 20th century’s greatest poet, William Butler Yeats. On February 26 this year, two months before the anniversary, the 26-county state conducted a general election that may mark the end, or at least the beginning of the end, for a two-party system that has lasted through most of the intervening century.
The philosophical differences between Ireland’s two main parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, are subtle and not easily perceived Read more
Why do the poor support Ford and Trump?
by Arthur Milner
Years ago – maybe 40 years ago – I attended an all-candidates meeting for the leadership of the federal New Democratic Party. I happened to be sitting next to a visiting Swede and after the debate I asked his reaction. As I remember, he was surprised at how “middle-class” the party was. I asked him to elaborate. He said the party seemed geared toward the middle class and not toward the poor.
That story has come to mind several times recently – as I was writing a column for the Winter/Spring 2015 issue of Inroads (“The left’s greatest gift to the political right”); as I’ve watched the militant and growing support for Donald Trump; during the celebration of Rob Ford’s Read more
Untangling the relationship between religion and violence
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. New York: Schocken, 2015. 305 pages.
by Bob Chodos
Does religion cause violence? On one level, the answer would appear to be obvious, as we witness sustained religious war in the Middle East on a scale that has led some to evoke Europe’s Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century. And for some observers, the question does not need to be pursued much further. Thus the neuroscientist Sam Harris, whose 2004 book The End of Faith launched his career as an antireligious polemicist, sees a direct and inextricable link between the holy book of Islam and the violence that has been such a prominent feature of the early years of the 21st century: Read more
A deep and enduring split within liberalism
Does the main threat to freedom and equality come from traditionalist communities or from the state?
Jacob T. Levy, Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2015. 322 pages.
by Gareth Morley
In Rationalism, Pluralism, and Freedom, McGill Professor Jacob Levy has made a major contribution to political theory by identifying and elaborating on a deep and enduring split within liberalism that unlocks much that is otherwise mysterious about its past disputes and future prospects. All liberals want to protect freedom and equality but, from the beginning, they have disagreed about the main source of threat.
For some liberals (whom Levy dubs “rationalists”), the main dangers are from traditionalist communities, whether local, sectarian or familial. For rationalist liberals, these traditional loyalties are the Read more
Almost perfect people or uncool nerds?
Michael Booth tears down the Scandinavians – but doesn’t really mean it
Michael Booth, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia. London: Jonathan Cape, 2014. 416 pages.
by Henry Milner
Michael Booth’s wide-ranging and often amusing exploration of the Nordic world was spurred on by yet another survey describing his wife’s fellow Danes as the happiest people on earth. Not having encountered so many happy Danes, he decided that this was something he had to try to explain, to get a handle on their Scandinavian psyche. Dedicating a section to each of the five Nordic countries, he has much to say about Denmark, his adopted home, but his favourite target is Sweden. Like many people in his adopted country, he Read more
Robert Putnam’s tale of two Americas
Robert Putnam, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. 386 pages.
by Mark Pancer
As an idea, the American Dream – the belief that everyone has the opportunity to be successful and even the poorest of Americans can improve their lot through hard work – is still a potent force. It has been a factor in the 2016 presidential marathon, most strikingly in the campaigns of Marco Rubio, who maintained that his own rise from humble origins as the son of a bartender and a maid showed that the Dream was very much alive, and Bernie Sanders, also the son of immigrants, who argued that growing inequality has closed off the Dream for most Americans.
It has been Read more
The Liberal Party: Five lives and counting
What do the first four eras of Liberal dominance tell us about the new government’s prospects?
Greg Donaghy, Grit: The Life and Politics of Paul Martin Sr. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015. 456 pages.
- Kenneth Carty, Big Tent Politics: The Liberal Party’s Long Mastery of Canada’s Public Life. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015. 160 pages.
by Reg Whitaker
It’s back! The Liberal Party that once bestrode the Canadian political system like a colossus, then suffered rapid and humiliating decline into mere third-party status in the last Parliament, once again forms a majority government. That this is under a Prime Minister who happens to be the son of a previous successful Liberal Prime Minister who governed Canada for close to 16 years makes it seem like Read more
Terrorism and civil liberties, by the numbers
Jack Jedwab, Counterterrorism and Identities: Canadian Viewpoints. Montreal: Linda Leith Publishing, 2015. 195 pages.
by Eric Hamovitch
At the launch last fall of Counterterrorism and Identities: Canadian Viewpoints, Jack Jedwab made the unremarkable confession that he has a lifelong love of numbers. Readers who share his fondness for numbers will more fully appreciate this book, centred around an extensive set of polling data on topics that include Canadians’ understanding of terrorism, their competing identities and sense of security, religion and counterterrorism, and civil liberties.
The launch occurred at a very opportune time, just days after the November 13 atrocities in Paris and only a few weeks after the October 19 federal election that ended a decade of Conservative rule in Canada. National security had Read more
An idea whose time has come – again
The problems identified by the Carter Commission half a century ago still plague Canada’s tax system
by Ian Peach
Anyone who has been exposed to the present taxation statutes of Canada will realize the difficulty in trying to understand the complications involved.
— Arthur Smith MP, 1962
The existing Canadian [tax] system is a hodgepodge.
— Jack Mintz, Financial Post Magazine, 2014
In 1962, the government of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker established a Royal Commission on Taxation, chaired by Kenneth Carter. Arthur Smith, the Progressive Conservative MP for Calgary South, explained the reasons for establishing the Carter Commission in the February 20, 1962, statement in the House of Commons from which the first quote above is drawn. More than 50 years later, in the article from which the second quote is drawn, Jack Mintz, the Palmer Chair in Public Policy at the University of Calgary, Read more