In 2007 Inroads published a retrospective issue, revisiting noteworthy articles from its first 15 years of publication. In his reflection on the 20 issues published during that period, co-publisher John Richards expressed scepticism that Inroads would be around for another 20 issues. Well, 15 years and 30 issues later, we’re still here. The one undeniable fact about Inroads is that we’ve survived.

That said, we’ve survived in a form that was only on the horizon in 2007. Inroads is now wholly a creature of the internet. John foresaw that “few people will be buying ‘hard copies,’” but he wondered how electronic publication would work economically. A viable business model for a small online publication like Inroads, not supported by advertising, is still a work in progress. For the moment, like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, we depend on the kindness of strangers.

Cultural accommodation

We live in a different world from the one of 2007, with different concerns, and many of these concerns have been reflected in Inroads in the intervening years. One such concern was heralded in the issue (Winter/Spring 2008) that immediately followed the retrospective. On its cover, this issue featured a young soccer player wearing a hijab. Asmahan Mansour, from Ottawa, was told to take off her hijab during a tournament in Quebec and, when she would not, was required to leave the field. This was one of the incidents that provoked Quebec’s “reasonable accommodation” controversy and the appointment of two prominent intellectuals, Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, to examine it and make recommendations. Analysis of the questions facing the Bouchard-Taylor Commission occupied a major section in the Winter/Spring 2008 issue.

From Jean Charest’s Liberals in 2010 to François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec in 2019, successive Quebec governments tried, with varying degrees of success, to legislate restrictions on the wearing of religious garb, primarily by government employees. All of these legislative proposals were controversial and most of them promoted extensive debate in Inroads, either in the journal itself or on the listserv.

Perhaps the most far-reaching of these proposals was the short-lived Parti Québécois government’s Charter of Quebec Values, which was not passed before the 2014 election sent the PQ back to the opposition benches.

With the PQ still in power and the Charter before the National Assembly, Inroads columnists Reg Whitaker and Arthur Milner took opposing views of the legislation (Winter/Spring 2014). Reg saw in the Charter a retreat by the PQ from liberal, territorial nationalism to the narrow ethnic variety. Arthur found seven reasons to support (something like) the Charter, including “If we want Canada to accept more immigrants, and especially refugees, we should be willing to make a tradeoff” and “We want to build a liberal, tolerant society, with a clear separation between religion and state.”

Though the Charter was interred with the PQ government, Inroads resumed the discussion in its next, postelection, issue, confident that the questions underlying the Charter debate would live on. And sure enough, a veiled Muslim woman again appeared on the cover of Inroads in Winter/Spring 2016, this time in the context of the recent federal election that brought Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to power. During the campaign, a court decision that upheld the right of Zunera Ishaq, an immigrant from Pakistan, to take the oath of Canadian citizenship while wearing her niqab generated a heated debate among the party leaders (Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair supported the court decision, while Stephen Harper of the Conservatives and Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Québécois opposed it). But did it affect the election outcome, and in particular did it lead to a loss in support for the NDP? There was no direct “niqab effect,” Inroads concluded, but perhaps an indirect one.

The Quebec Liberal government’s Bill 62 was the subject of a lively debate on the listserv in 2017, and there have been several rounds on its successor, the CAQ government’s Bill 21 – most recently in October 2021. In introducing a selection from one of those rounds in the Winter/Spring 2020 issue of the journal, I noted that “each side remains as convinced of the rightness of its position as it was at the beginning.” That is still true two years later. The ongoing debate has raised profound questions of cultural accommodation, majority-minority relations, religion and the state, women’s rights and more. To pronounce on these questions through legislation is one thing. To reach a consensus, in society as a whole or even in as small a segment of society as that represented by Inroads, is quite another.

Populism and the threat to democracy

Another topic that crept into Inroads soon after our last retrospective and grew in significance in subsequent years was populism. Ironically, its first appearance, in Winter/Spring 2011, came in an article that chronicled an instance of populism’s decline. The Conservative Party of Canada was born of a 2003 merger of two predecessor parties, the Progressive Conservatives and Reform / Canadian Alliance. Reform, by far the stronger of the two components, had been founded as a populist western-based party. In Inroads, Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Stephen Harper, contrasted the populist elements in Reform’s party structure with the centralized control that characterized the Conservative Party.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, the decision by Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government to follow the lead of several other provinces and merge the provincial sales tax and the federal Goods and Services Tax into a Harmonized Sales Tax provoked a populist revolt. The British Columbia HST went into effect in July 2010, and a coalition led by former Premier Bill Vander Zalm – described by John Richards in Inroads as “a populist in the American Tea Party tradition” – gathered enough signatures to force a referendum on the tax. Voting in August 2011, British Columbians defeated the HST by 54 to 46 per cent. In the Winter/Spring 2013 issue of Inroads, John reviewed the whole affair and questioned the wisdom of deciding tax policy by referendum. His article was followed by responses in the following issue from Doug McArthur, who maintained that the referendum was a valid democratic instrument and voters acted rationally in rejecting the HST, and Tom Syer, who took a more nuanced position.

Looking at referendums more broadly, Jason Lacharite argued in the Summer/Fall 2015 issue that they could damage minority rights and tended to produce simplistic answers to complex questions. But it was in 2016, the year of Trump and Brexit, that populism moved from the background to the forefront of political concerns.

The cover line on the Summer/Fall 2016 issue of Inroads was “THE POPULISTS,” over a composite image of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, then both candidates for the U.S. presidency, along with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Marine Le Pen of France. In his lead article, Patrick Webber characterized the cover subjects as part of a new breed of “parochial populists” who tended to favour protectionism and isolationism in foreign policy and be deeply suspicious of immigration. Parochial populism, he wrote, “explicitly rejects the classical liberalism of the centre-right and centre-left and the basis of the post-1945, and especially post–Cold War, consensus. In the process it has become potentially very dangerous.” In a follow-up article in the next issue, Patrick elaborated on the threat to liberalism coming from the extremes of both left and right, and urged the centre-right and centre-left to cooperate in defence of such classical liberal values as free speech, open debate and open inquiry.

Then in Summer/Fall 2017, Marine Le Pen made a return appearance on an Inroads cover, this time shown in conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and under a cover line that read “LIBERAL DEMOCRACY UNDER SIEGE.” While Inroads’ political columnists had varying assessments of how grave a danger the recently elected President Donald Trump posed to the American republic and Ronald Beiner provided a profile of Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief adviser in the early days of his administration, the main focus of the issue was on Europe. In addition to France, where Le Pen had just won more than a third of the vote in losing the second round of the presidential election to Emmanuel Macron, Inroads reported on the emergence of populist parties in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. The issue also highlighted efforts by Russia, operating largely through internet-based disinformation campaigns, to encourage populist insurgencies and destabilize existing regimes, especially in central and eastern Europe.

The focus on populism and the authoritarian threat to democracy, with particular attention to Europe, has continued. In Winter/Spring 2018, Filip Kostelka analyzed the rise of the Czech Republic’s superrich populist Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš. Sweden and Hungary were featured in Winter/Spring 2019. The tragicomedy of the Trump presidency and the twists and turns of the Brexit saga made frequent appearances as well. In Summer/Fall 2020, Henry Milner analyzed the role of “politically motivated ignorance” in promoting “the Trumpite cult.” The word Weimar, evoking the last days of democracy in Germany before the Nazis took over in 1933, has appeared in several Inroads headlines.

Immigration

Controversies over cultural accommodation and the rise of populism have both taken some of their steam from immigration, another ongoing focus of Inroads’ attention and the subject of two covers, in Winter/Spring 2014 and Winter/Spring 2021. In 2014, we featured contrasting articles from Canada and Sweden. In Canada, the priority in immigration policy was the needs of the Canadian economy. Herbert Grubel proposed in Inroads that policy should move further in that direction: instead of the points system under which economic immigrants are admitted, the requirement for admission should be a prearranged job with a Canadian employer. In Sweden, as Elin Naurin and Patrik Öhberg described, policy was based on the needs of the immigrants themselves, although that policy was coming under pressure from a populist, anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats.

Three years later, much had changed. Between 2013 and 2016 some 320,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden – a country with a population of under 10 million at the time – and overwhelmed the country’s welcoming refugee policy. In the 2014 election the Sweden Democrats became the third largest party in parliament, and in 2015 Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced restrictions on refugee intake. Returning to the subject in the Winter/Spring 2017 issue of Inroads, Elin Naurin and Patrik Öhberg wrote that “differences between the elite and the public are not rare in democracies. But in Sweden the political elite has largely ignored it, and the divergence persists.”

In more recent issues, Anne Michèle Meggs has analyzed the fine points of Canada’s immigration policy – or lack of it. In Winter/Spring 2020, she took apart the myth that Quebec has an adequate level of control over immigration within its borders. And in a series of two articles in Winter/Spring and Summer/Fall 2021 (the first of which was the occasion for Inroads’ second immigration cover), she described how, because of the back doors to immigration represented by the international student and temporary worker programs, Canada’s real immigration policy bears little resemblance to its stated one. Anne Michèle found that there was more improvisation than strategy in how Canada handled immigration, and warned that “Canada needs to be prepared” as increasing numbers of people see it as an attractive destination.

Indigenous issues

Indigenous and environmental issues had already come to Inroads’ attention at the time of our 2007 retrospective, but only to a point. The two were lumped together in a section that occupied just 15 per cent of the space devoted to the retrospective. Jean Allard’s landmark essay “Big Bear’s Treaty” accounted for half the section. But that relatively low-key presence was about to change.

Three Inroads covers in four and a half years dealt with Indigenous subjects. In Summer/Fall 2010, Gordon Gibson described the radical approach to treaty-making put forward by the Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs in northern British Columbia, which “would totally end the sway of the Indian Act over the Gitxsan people, … making them ordinary Canadians in every way” while allowing them “to retain their culture and internal relationships.” In the same issue, John Richards reported on a major study of urban Indigenous people – fully half of Canada’s Indigenous population.

In Summer/Fall 2012, John Graham addressed the question of First Nation governance, which he found manifested “a degree of dysfunction … that is unmatched in any other jurisdiction in Canada.” He identified 11 specific areas of failure, involving the federal government as well as individual First Nations. Joseph Quesnel looked at the Nisga’a of northwestern B.C., who had achieved self-government a decade earlier. He found that “self-government alone is not a panacea,” but public services and the perception of good governance had improved.

The controversy over Indigenous education that led to Shawn Atleo’s resignation as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations was the occasion for Inroads’ third Indigenous cover, in Winter/Spring 2015. Proposed federal legislation to create structures that would lead to higher-quality on-reserve schools, drafted with the support of the AFN leadership, encountered strong opposition from many chiefs. John Richards brought Inroads readers up to date on what was at stake and how the controversy had played out. Meanwhile, Ken Coates and Gordon Gibson debated the implications of the Supreme Court’s 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, an important affirmation of Indigenous land rights.

John Richards has continued to examine Indigenous issues in depth. In Winter/Spring 2021, drawing from the work of Anne Case and Angus Deaton on White working-class communities in the United States, he presented evidence on “deaths of despair” in First Nations (suicide, alcohol and homicide) and maintained that lack of employment opportunities was the primary cause of these deaths. In an accompanying article, Harold Johnson suggested another approach to the ills facing First Nation communities: land-based healing.

The environment and climate change

It took a little longer for environmental issues, and especially climate change, to come to the centre of Inroads’ consciousness, although there were some warning signals early on. In the wake of the 2008 federal election, in which the Liberals under Stéphane Dion proposed a carbon tax and lost badly to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, several economists examined different approaches to carbon pricing in the Winter/Spring 2009 issue. In Winter/Spring 2010 Marvin Shaffer reviewed Lord Nicholas Stern’s “stern” warning of the coming effects of climate change. And in Winter/Spring 2013, Steven Lightfoot called for an “adult conversation” that acknowledged the difficulties of transitioning away from carbon-based fuels. He maintained that nuclear power would be an essential component of any realistic solution.

Starting in 2016, our attention was focused on climate change in a more sustained way. The words climate change appeared on the cover of Inroads four times between Winter/Spring 2016 and Winter/Spring 2020. In Winter/Spring 2016, it was one of the issues we looked at in the context of the 2015 federal election. In Winter/Spring 2017, Chris Green questioned whether the two most prominent approaches to mitigating climate change – pricing carbon and promoting renewable energy – were really doing the job. In his view, only the development of breakthrough technologies would make a low-carbon future possible.

Former NDP leader Tom Mulcair wrote in Summer/Fall 2019 that if the climate crisis is an emergency we need to start treating it like one, and governments have an obligation to produce results. The Winter/Spring 2020 cover showed the young climate prophet Greta Thunberg sitting down to talk with Justin Trudeau, and climate change was once again one of the subjects we examined in light of a recent federal elections. We noted that no party except the Greens had a plan that would effectively meet Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction target.

During the same period, Inroads also featured another environmental cover: British Columbia’s controversial Site C dam in Winter/Spring 2018. While the controversy centred on whether Site C was the best way of meeting B.C.’s energy needs, Marvin Shaffer suggested taking a broader view. If intertie capacity between the two westernmost provinces were strengthened, Site C could play a major role in helping Alberta phase out coal-fired electricity generation, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

… And more

The foregoing is, of course, only a small part of what has appeared in Inroads in the last 15 years, and an even smaller part of what has happened in the world. I haven’t mentioned our coverage of Asia, Africa and Latin America, or cancel culture, or even the COVID-19 pandemic and Philip Resnick’s invaluable poetic diary of this period.

And that’s only a start.

Technological developments have loomed large – sometimes to Inroads’ chagrin. At one point early on our designer, Nadene Rehnby, saved us from a major embarrassment when she pointed out that our use of the phrase the social media in a piece on how new political movements were organizing through Facebook and Twitter would signal that this was alien territory to us (which, to be honest, it was). The definite article was never used: it was always just social media. The change was made on page proofs. A few years later, one of the younger and more technologically savvy members of the Inroads editorial board admitted in an editorial meeting, “I have a handle on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m baffled by Instagram.”

As for myself, in compiling this look back at the last 15 years, I have especially enjoyed going to the Inroads shelf in my bookcase, pulling out old print issues and leafing through them. I don’t deny the advantages of online publishing. I know we are reaching many more readers on the Web than we ever could in print. There were times when I could have found what I was looking for more easily on the Inroads website than in the print issue.
Still, I kept being drawn to that Inroads shelf. It felt like a guilty pleasure. And yes, I freely acknowledge that, had I lived in Gutenberg’s time, I would no doubt have said, “This printing thing is all well and good, but it will never replace an elegant hand-copied book.”

Books revisited

In marking Inroads’ 50th issue and 30th anniversary, one of the initiatives we undertook was to ask writers who had reviewed books since our last retrospective in 2007 to have another look at their reviews. Was there more to say now about the book they reviewed? Was it still relevant? Would they change their assessment? As you will see in this issue, many reviewers were happy to respond.

Not all the articles here follow the exact pattern we envisioned. One writer decided to highlight a different book from the one he initially reviewed (an alternative we offered). Two of the articles refer to reviews that appeared before our last retrospective (2001 and 2005). One writer had not written a previous review (although he has written other articles) but wanted to highlight a book he felt was important.

From China to small-town America to Quebec, from Indigenous issues to immigration to climate change, these articles provide a sampling from the perspective of today of some of the most important topics Inroads has engaged in the recent past.

This is the 50th issue of Inroads, and 2022 is our 30th year of publication – noteworthy milestones for a small independent publication with no government funding or corporate support.

Elsewhere in this issue, I look back at the period since our last retrospective in 2007 and revisit some of the major developments and controversies that Inroads writers have engaged in that period, in Inroads 50: A Look Back at the Last 15 Years. We also asked writers who had reviewed books since 2007 to have another look at their reviews and reflect on whether there was more to say now about the book they reviewed and whether they would change their assessment. Many reviewers were happy to respond, and we received some interesting contributions.

While our anniversary has provided an occasion to revisit the recent past, Inroads 50 does not neglect the present. Canada’s federal election was widely decried as unnecessary when it was called and left the political landscape virtually unchanged when it was held. Nevertheless, there were some developments that may portend larger changes in the future. Reg Whitaker looks at the increase in support for Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, and asks whether Canada can maintain its relative immunity to far-right populist politics in In Mad Max and the Election in Which Everyone Lost. Patrick Webber examines changes in the Atlantic region which, while modest, were nevertheless disproportionate to the region’s small size in The East is (Still Mostly) Red.

In contrast to Canada’s political inertia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Japan all acquired new leaders this fall. In elections in both Germany and Norway, centre-right parties lost ground to their centre-left rivals, and new coalition governments headed by social democratic parties have taken office. The importance of environmental issues is noted in both elections, in Philipp Harfst’s An Unexpected Change in Germany and John Erik Fossum’s Norway’s Shift to the Left. While Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, as expected, was returned to power in that country’s October election, this took place after the LDP had chosen a new leader for the second time in a little over a year. Mark Crawford explains why the new Prime Minister is unlikely to introduce major policy changes, in Political Change, Japanese Style. Nor is Sweden’s new leader, Magdalena Andersson, expected to take her Social Democratic Party in a radical new direction. Nicholas Aylott examines the impact of the closed selection process that brought Andersson to power as Sweden’s first female Prime Minister, in Sweden Has a New Leader, but What Does She Stand for?

In early November, COP26 in Glasgow was billed as the most important international meeting on climate change since COP21 in Paris in 2015. However, the concrete results of the meeting are widely regarded as inadequate to hold global warming to the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius recommended at Paris. Two articles propose initiatives that could contribute to achieving the Paris goal. Taking his cue from a 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, John Richards proposes building 100 small modular nuclear reactors to replace almost all fossil fuel–generated electricity in Canada, in Getting Serious About Climate Change. Marvin Shaffer suggests an accelerating schedule of carbon tax increases, with the revenue earmarked to offset the rising costs of extreme climate event damage, in A Carbon Tax that Pays the Cost of Climate Change. Not coincidentally, he is writing from Vancouver in the wake of damage created by monsoon-level rainfall in November.

Also in early November, the CEO of Air Canada – ironically named Rousseau – delivered a speech in English only to the Chamber of Commerce in Montreal, where his company is based, and proclaimed that he had more pressing things to do than learn French. The predictable reaction was a sign that the status of French is far from a settled question in Quebec. Of longer-term significance was the debate going on in Quebec’s National Assembly, which was considering Bill 96, the CAQ government’s language legislation. Anne Michèle Meggs brings us up to date on all these developments in Quebec’s Language Debate, 2021–22 Edition.

Afghanistan was a major focus of the world’s attention as the last U.S. troops withdrew, the Western-backed Afghan government quickly collapsed and Kabul fell to the Taliban. Reviewing the disastrous outcome of Western intervention in Afghanistan and other countries, Andy Hira maintains that the lesson to be drawn is not isolationism but more constructive involvement based on a deeper appreciation and study of local history and dynamics, in To Intervene or Not to Intervene, That is Not the Question. And in Can Afghanistan’s Neighbours Tame the Taliban, Sergei Plekhanov sets Afghanistan in its regional context and highlights the role of Afghanistan’s neighbours – which include such major powers as China, Russia, India and Pakistan – in building a viable political order in the country.

Also in this issue:

  • Henry Milner examines the role of “woke” politics on the left in helping to elect a Republican governor of Virginia and – possibly – returning Donald Trump to the presidency in 2024, in The Political Price of Cancel Culture.
  • Joyce Wayne draws on personal experience to make the case that Quebec’s restrictions on wearing religious clothing can propel positive changes in the lives of girls and women, in Quebec’s Bill 21 Brings Positive Change to the Lives of Girls and Women.
  • Arthur Milner reflects on the death of F. W. de Klerk, who helped bring apartheid to an end in South Africa, and wonders where an Israeli equivalent might be found, in Rest in Peace, Frederik Willem de Klerk
  • Philip Resnick, while not ignoring the pandemic, also turns to other subjects in his poems, in As the Earth Turns.

Image from the 2021 film Ghosts of Afghanistan, by Graeme Smith and Julian Sher.

Squeezed between the cascade of extreme weather events that signal a more active phase of climate change and the parade of new variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15 nevertheless stands as one of the landmark events of 2021. It brought to an end the 20-year war that began with the American invasion of Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack.

While the deficiencies and corruption of the Western-backed government that surrendered without resistance were widely acknowledged, the Taliban’s return to power also swept away what hope remained for something better, and especially for increased freedom for women – an ambivalence captured in Graeme Smith and Julian Sher’s documentary Ghosts of Afghanistan, filmed before the Taliban takeover but released afterward.¹

This issue of Inroads features two articles by knowledgeable observers on the ramifications of the Taliban takeover. While unsparing in his account of “two decades wasted on ineffective nation-building,” Andy Hira warns against concluding from this experience that the West should retreat from the world. Instead, in his article To Intervene or Not to Intervene, That is Not the Question, he recommends a Western role based on “a deeper appreciation and study of local history and dynamics” and on “build(ing) from what exists and deeply set patterns instead of attempting to impose new patterns from scratch.”

For Sergei Plekhanov, the involvement of Afghanistan’s neighbours in building a “viable political order” in the country will be crucial. In his article Can Afghanistan’s Neighbours Tame the Taliban, he especially highlights the position of Pakistan, with its close geographical, historical and ethnic ties to Afghanistan, but also points to the importance in the country’s future of major powers such as China, India and Russia, which either border on Afghanistan or are not far away.

Continue reading “Endgame in Afghanistan”

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr, who once wrote  “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” Photography by Marion S. Trikosko, 1964, via Library of Congress. Edited by Inroads Journal.

The idea of a basic income available to all who need it is a perennial subject of debate, which in the last year or so has taken on a new urgency. One of the federal government’s major programs dealing with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), later followed by the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). Through both of these programs, the government provided direct payments to Canadians who met certain criteria. In some people’s minds, the CERB and CRB raised the question of whether these programs, conceived in an emergency, could lay the foundations for a permanent basic income.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, a three-person Expert Panel commissioned by the provincial government extensively studied the question of a basic income and issued its report in December 2020. It concluded that a basic income was not the best way to tackle poverty and instead recommended a panoply of incremental reforms to the current system.

Elaine Power and Jamie Swift have been active participants in the debate on the pro–basic income side, as members of the Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee and co-authors of the new book The Case for Basic Income: Freedom, Security, Justice. John Richards is co-publisher of Inroads, an economist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and a close and sympathetic observer of the B.C. Expert Panel’s work. In what follows, Power and Swift argue in favour of basic income while Richards argues against, and each side then offers a short rebuttal of the other’s arguments.

Click to read Work, Idleness and Basic income by Elaine Power and Jamie Swift, and Basic Income Provides Dubious Benefit at a High Cost by John Richards. And for the rebuttal to these arguments, click to read Elaine Power and Jamie Swift Respond, and John Richards Responds.

Finally, Inroads editorial board member Dominic Cardy rounds out the section with a plea for more evidence in An Enormous Risk, a Fearsome Opportunity.

Reviewing The Case for Basic Income  for British Columbia’s online newsmagazine The Tyee, Paloma Pacheco wrote that the book “is about winning hearts and minds, not convincing sceptical economists.” In her view, in the matter of winning hearts and minds, the book is a success. At the same time, as the following pages demonstrate, there is at least one sceptical economist who is not convinced.

In 2018, British Columbia’s NDP government established an Expert Panel to explore the idea of a basic income guarantee in the province. One of the experts on the panel was Jonathan Rhys Kesselman, who four years earlier had written a major article critical of basic income in Inroads. The panel issued its report in late 2020, finding that poverty could be reduced more effectively through a series of reforms to existing programs.

Meanwhile, Ontario’s Liberal government established a Basic Income Pilot in 2017; it was cancelled after Doug Ford’s Conservatives won the 2018 provincial election. The newly published book The Case for Basic Income by Kingston writers Elaine Power and Jamie Swift is largely based on the experience of the Ontario pilot (full disclosure: I was one of the book’s copy editors). The cash transfers to individuals that have been a significant part of Ottawa’s efforts to relieve pandemic-related economic hardship have also stimulated interest in a basic income.

Click to read Is Basic Income an Idea Whose Time has Come? by Bob Chodos.

The time was ripe for a debate on basic income in Inroads. Power and Swift agreed to present some of the material in their book in an article supporting the idea, in Work, Idleness and Basic Income. Inroads co-publisher John Richards, a colleague of Kesselman’s at Simon Fraser University and a close and sympathetic observer of the B.C. Expert Panel’s work, took up the case against in Basic Income Provides Dubious Benefit at a High Cost. Each supplemented their initial presentation with a brief rebuttal. Inroads editorial board member Dominic Cardy, whose day job as New Brunswick’s Minister of Education gives him the perspective of a practical politician, rounds out the section with a plea for more evidence in An Enormous Risk, a Fearsome Opportunity.

This issue also contains follow-up articles to two major essays that appeared in Inroads 48. Anne Michèle Meggs continues her deep dive into Canadian immigration policy. Focusing on temporary workers who make the transition to permanent residence, she finds that Canada’s programs are characterized by improvisation, jurisdictional mismatch and absence of a coherent strategy. We are pleased to welcome Anne to the Inroads editorial board, where she is already making a valuable contribution.

Click to read How Immigration Really Works in Canada by Anne Michèle Meggs.

Derek Shearer, who in the last issue offered a sweeping account of race and politics in the United States from the 1950s to the election of Donald Trump, now brings the story up to date with an assessment of where things stand in the early days of the Biden Administration. He finds much evidence of progress, from athletic playing fields to corporate executive offices and the Biden cabinet. But inequality persists in policing, environmental conditions, the impact of the pandemic and other areas. In the Biden Administration’s efforts to promote change in the face of intransigent Republican opposition, Shearer concludes, “the soul of the nation is truly at stake.”

Click to read Race and Politics in a Diverse Nation by Derek Shearer.

Henry Milner and Reg Whitaker also address aspects of the American political scene, and both see the return of Trumpism as a distinct danger. Whitaker is concerned that Weimar Germany in the years leading up to Hitler’s takeover may represent a relevant precedent to what is currently happening in Washington, while in his editorial, Milner suggests that “counterinoculation” against political extremism, along with institutional reform, may avert the danger.

Click to read Good Policies Are Not Enough by Henry Milner, and Weimar in Washington by Reg Whitaker.

Meanwhile in Resistance Versus Terrorism, Arthur Milner argues that in the struggle for Palestinian justice, Hamas’s tactic of launching rockets from Gaza is counterproductive.

At the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic drags on in most of Canada, but the Atlantic provinces have fared comparatively well. Patrick Webber examines why in Splendid Isolation. Public health–related restrictions on gatherings have led to clashes between public authorities and religious groups, and two articles address the thorny questions these conflicts raise. A number of such conflicts have ended up in court, and Gareth Morley explores these cases in Canada and the United States, in Rights and Religion. In Israel, the pandemic has exacerbated tensions between ultra-Orthodox Jews and the rest of society, as Martin Lockshin explains in Holy or Irresponsible.

And we offer a third selection of Philip Resnick’s pandemic poetry in Pandemic Poems – Year II.

Four articles take us on a quick tour of Europe and Asia:

In the UK, Eric Shaw looks at why the Labour Party’s new leader, Keir Starmer, has had such a hard time making a dent in Boris Johnson’s popularity in Keir Starmer’s Labour Seeks a Way Ahead.

In Sweden, Richard Murray offers a personal reflection on the career of his late mentor, the noted economist Assar Lindbeck. Click to read The Public Intellectual who Helped Shape Sweden’s Welfare State, and Assar Lindbeck 1930–2020: A Personal Reflection.

In Japan, as Mark Crawford explains, the post–Shinzo Abe government faces looming problems for which “Womenomics” may be the answer. Click to read Covid Lays Bare Japan’s Vulnerabilities.

In Pakistan, Sumbal Naveed asks why reading for pleasure has become a lost art among young Pakistanis in Why Young Pakistanis Don’t Read. A photo essay on Pakistani schoolchildren accompanies her article, in In School, But Are They Learning?

Click to read In South Asia, Literacy is Crucial by John Richards.

In the books section, Arthur Milner sympathetically reviews Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay’s critical account of the rise of postmodern social justice Theory. Click to read You’re Privileged, so Shut Up.

And in The Convenient Assumptions Lurking in Ronald Beiner’s Review, Benjamin R. Teitelbaum takes issue with Ronald Beiner’s review of his book in Inroads 48. Beiner responds.

It may seem odd to be highlighting immigration when borders are largely closed here in Canada and around the world. And yet, there are good reasons for doing so. First of all, finding the right balance on immigration is bound to be a major challenge for Western governments after the pandemic, as it was before. Second, at least in Canada as Anne Michèle Meggs and Mark Stobbe explain from different perspectives, immigration is not only, or even primarily, about crossing borders – it’s about people who are already here.

Click to read by How Immigration Really Works in Canada by Anne Michèle Meggs, and The Postsecondary Education Extortion Racket for International Students by Mark Stobbe.

Meggs meticulously examines all the various routes that people take to attain permanent resident status in Canada, and finds that the points system, supposedly the pillar of our immigration policy, plays a much smaller part in the process than is generally believed. A large proportion of Canada’s immigrants enter the country under various temporary work and education programs and then transition to permanent resident status. In her article in this issue, the first in a two-part series, she focuses on international students. Stobbe draws on his own experience teaching college classes with significant numbers of international students to question a system in which postsecondary institutions become a back door to immigration.

In the current context, no explanation is needed for paying close attention to events in the United States, and especially the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the killing of George Floyd in May and the election campaign that culminated in the defeat of Donald Trump in November. Derek Shearer, who has observed his society as scholar, political activist and government official, provides a personal account of what it has meant to be White in America from the 1950s to the present. Over the summer, the Inroads listserv kept coming back to a web of interrelated topics including policing methods, high homicide rates in U.S. cities and the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. We offer a selection from late August. In his postelection editorial, Henry Milner sees institutional reform as key to stopping the next populist wave.

Click to read Growing Up White by Derek Shearer, Hobbes, Lee Kuan Yew and Black Lives Matter from the Inroads listserv, and Picking Up the Pieces After the U.S. Election by Henry Milner.

In another section, John Richards and Harold Johnson present analyses of social pathologies in First Nation communities and ask “What’s to be done?” For Richards, addressing these pathologies – as manifested in the disproportionate number of “deaths of despair” – requires addressing high unemployment first and foremost. Johnson sees a different way forward: land-based healing.

Click to read First Nations, Employment, and Deaths of Despair by John Richards, and Land-Based Healing by Harold Johnson.

Also in this issue:

Gareth Morley asks whether the “new intolerance” reflected in “cancel culture” is really either new or intolerant in Is Cancel Culture a Thing?

In an interview, Craig Jones advocates legalizing and regulating all drugs and dealing with substance use through a lens of harm reduction, in Finding Better Solutions to the Opioid Crisis.

Jon G. Bradley and Sam Allison find that Canada’s electoral map, far from promoting equal representation, maintains old strongholds and denies new realities. Click to read Canada’s Unreasonable Electoral Districts.

While acknowledging that the West has flaws, Kamel Daoud maintains that it needs to be perfected, not destroyed. Click to read Don’t Destroy the West.

In their columns, Reg Whitaker writes about how current policy, partisan and regional divides play out in federal politics; Arthur Milner draws lessons from speeches by three prominent figures on Canada’s right – Andrew Scheer, Scott Moe and Erin O’Toole; and Julia Smith maintains that if we want to promote equality, we need to do a better job of teaching children to read.

Click to read The Changing Ottawa Dance Card by Reg Whitaker, Candy Before Supper by Arthur Milner, and Without Literacy there is No Equality by Julia Smith.

In Life Among the Far-Right Rasputins, Ronald Beiner wonders whether Benjamin Teitelbaum got too close to his subjects in writing a book about former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and his ideological soulmates in other countries. Meanwhile in his review of Eric Kaufmann’s Whiteshift, Andy Hira finds that Kaufmann pays too little attention to economic factors in accounting for populism. And Henry Milner takes us to the world of Russia’s “illegals” program in his review of Gordon Corera’s Russians Among Us in Russian Spies and the Spymaster-in-Chief.

Philip Resnick continues his poetic diary of this year of COVID-19 with Pandemic Poems: The Second Wave.

And I review Philip’s recent memoir, Itineraries in The Political Scientist and the Poet.

Philip Resnick, Itineraries: An Intellectual Odyssey. Vancouver: Ronsdale, 2020. 148 pages.

A friend of mine once said (in relation to Rupert Brooke, the early-20th-century British poet, and his Letters from America) that poets are the only political scientists who should be allowed to practise. I think of that remark often when I’m reading the work of Philip Resnick. As attentive readers of Inroads well know, his poems express the well-honed insights of the astute political scientist, with the discipline, focus and precision that are the mark of the poet.

We learn in Itineraries, Resnick’s memoir of his “intellectual odyssey,” that when he was in Grade 10 he stomped on a Bible and was told to leave Herzliah High School, the Hebrew day school in Montreal he was then attending. I also did my secondary studies in a Hebrew day school in Montreal (a different one) so it’s not hard for me to picture the consternation this gesture must have caused.

Resnick’s departure from Herzliah marked his abandonment of organized religion, but he notes a number of ways in which he has been marked by his Jewish upbringing. Perhaps the most significant is his consistently serious engagement with ideas, strongly suggested in his list of Jewish “cultural heroes,” from Spinoza to Einstein, Freud, Kafka and Arthur Koestler – none of them conventionally religious. At Herzliah he also would have had his love of language nurtured by his English teacher, Irving Layton, one of the leading Canadian poets of his time and mentor to Leonard Cohen.

Resnick would travel widely, both geographically and intellectually. His Jewish influences blended with many others. Itineraries contains vignettes from Belgium, Spain, the Soviet Union (as it was then), Australia and Japan, among other places, along with a more extended engagement with France. But the place that affected him most deeply and became his “second home” was Greece – an adopted homeland through his wife Andromache, to whom he was married for 45 years until her untimely death in 2016. Greece, of course, is home to one of the world’s great intellectual traditions, and the frequency of Greek references in Resnick’s poems testifies to how thoroughly that tradition became part of his thought.

Much of Itineraries is taken up with reflections on the issues and concerns that have engaged Resnick as a political scientist, including socialism, democracy and academic freedom. Questions of Canadian identity and Canada-Quebec relations figure prominently. Coming of age in Quebec at the time of the Quiet Revolution of the early 1960s, he carried a sympathetic view of progressive Quebec nationalism with him to his new home in Vancouver, and favoured the Yes side in Quebec’s first sovereignty referendum in 1980. That sympathy was severely strained by the widespread support among Quebec nationalists for the Canada-U.S. free trade deal in 1988 – a deal he and most other people in English Canada who shared his political leanings strongly opposed. During the Meech-Charlottetown imbroglio of the late 1980s and early 1990s, he became a leading commentator in English Canada on what was at stake and the possible future of the country. His observations on all these matters in Itineraries are lucid and judicious, if short of groundbreaking.

But it was the more personal chapters, the ones (even if written in prose) where Resnick the poet is allowed to come to the fore, that I found most compelling. A memoir such as this is at its best when it presents to the reader not just a mind confronting a series of problems but a sensibility – what Resnick’s teachers at Herzliah might have called a soul. Itineraries comes close enough for it to be a satisfying journey.

A book-length collection of Resnick’s “pandemic poems,” of which Inroads has published a substantial selection in the last two issues, is due out in the spring.

In early March, the contents of this issue of Inroads were taking definitive shape. There was much to write about.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ resistance to construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline across their traditional territory in northern British Columbia, and the cross-Canada protests supporting the chiefs, raised complex issues on which editorial board member Gareth Morley could cast light ( The Perils of Postcolonialism ). We were also exploring aspects of the regional divide between the Prairie provinces and the rest of Canada, starkly revealed in the 2019 federal election.1 Co-publisher Henry Milner, in his ongoing study of Donald Trump supporters in the United States, had concluded that insufficient attention was being paid to the crucial distinction between uninformed and misinformed voters ( The Uninformed, the Misinformed and the Disinformed ). Co-publisher John Richards was heartened by the results of a little-noticed election in the Indian state of Delhi, which could provide a much-needed shock to the lamentable state of public education, and public services more broadly, in South Asia. The reform party that won the election trounced both major national parties: the currently governing BJP and Congress, in power until 2014 ( Something is Rotten in the State of India ). Two Quebec opposition parties were seeking new leaders.There were some notable books to review.3

Then, with dramatic suddenness, we were required to learn a new vocabulary – quarantine, self-isolation, social distancing, flatten the curve, PPE, N95 – and a new way of life. And to adopt a new agenda for Inroads.

The biggest change is not in the content of Inroads but in the medium itself. Unlike the 46 previous issues, this one is not available in ink-and-paper format. This change has been under discussion for some time, as the proportion of Inroads readers who access our content online has steadily increased, but it was not scheduled to take effect with this issue. However, we determined that, in a context of pandemic restrictions, it was best not to endeavour to move from the design and production stage (in Vancouver) to printing (in Brampton, Ontario) and then to mailing and newsstand distribution. So you may be reading this in the usual web format or in a PDF that looks like the old print edition, but either way it has reached you electronically.

In terms of content, we compare the impact of the pandemic in Scandinavia to that in Canada. In Canada, deaths from COVID-19 have been especially high in Quebec: with less than 23 per cent of Canada’s population, as of the end of May it had recorded more than 60 per cent of the deaths. In Scandinavia, Sweden has almost 80 per cent of the deaths with 38 per cent of Scandinavia’s population. A major factor contributing to Quebec’s high rate is the proportion of the elderly living in long-term care residences, CHSLDs, with 70 per cent of Quebec’s deaths. Sweden has also seen a substantial number of deaths in long-term care homes, around 50 per cent. But what has drawn most attention is that unlike its Nordic neighbours and most other countries, Sweden did not impose a strict lockdown. We have four reports from Scandinavia about why Sweden acted differently and how it has played out: from Thomas Lundén and Donald Lavery in Stockholm, John Erik Fossum in Oslo and Jan Otto Andersson in Turku, Finland.

Click to read The Swedish exception.

Our columnists also look at the COVID-19 crisis from various angles. Julia Smith examines the reasons why, despite a verbal commitment to “evidence-based policy,” it so rarely happens in practice, in Evidence and Policy: Why the Twain Rarely Meet. Arthur Milner asks why so little information was available and so few pointed questions were asked about how governments responded to the pandemic, in We Did Okay, but Where Was the Information? Reg Whitaker traces the journey from Canada’s being declared broken in the midst of the countrywide pipeline protests in February to our being “stronger together” in the face of the pandemic in April, and has some suggestions about where we go from here in Through the Looking Glass – and Back?

Also in this issue:

The activities of two Inroads editorial board members merit special mention. Philip Resnick, an eminent political scientist, has been represented in recent issues of Inroads primarily in his other guise as a poet. In an evocative chapter of his new memoir Itineraries,4 Philip writes about his “muse” – the “unseen voice” behind his poetic writing. During the pandemic, Philip’s muse has been especially insistent, and he has responded with some of his best work, casting light on dimensions of this time that go beyond the policy implications. It is fitting that there be an expanded selection of Philip’s poems in this issue.

Click to read Pandemic Poems, by Philip Resnick.

Dominic Cardy was elected to the New Brunswick legislature as a Progressive Conservative in September 2018. When the Liberal government fell later that fall, Dominic was appointed Education Minister. Until this issue, Dominic still managed to find some time for Inroads. But not this time, and we could not, at first, quite figure out what had changed. It turned out that Dominic, before virtually anyone else in the political realm, had realized that the novel coronavirus emerging in Asia, a part of the world he knows well, would pose a serious threat to public health in Canada. At a caucus retreat on February 24, he roused his colleagues to action with a detailed white paper. Largely as a result of his efforts, New Brunswick acted quickly and effectively. As of the end of May, not a single New Brunswicker had died of COVID-19. Dominic’s prescience and persistence earned him recognition by the National Post as a “hero of the pandemic.”5 We will, just this once, forgive Dominic his absence from the Inroads editorial process.

Continue reading “Introducing Inroads 47”

A prominent feature of the outcome of last October’s federal election was regional polarization. In Saskatchewan and Alberta, two thirds of voters supported the Conservatives, giving them 98 per cent (47 out of 48) seats in those two provinces, while in the rest of the country the Conservatives won barely a quarter of the seats. In this issue, Inroads takes a deeper look at some of the aspects of this
regional difference.

Geoff Salomons and Daniel Béland explore one of the most striking aspects of Alberta’s distinct political culture: its ongoing rejection of a sales tax, which every other province and the federal government have implemented. Click to read Is the Alberta Advantage really an advantage?

Stephen Bird draws on survey data collected by the Positive Energy Project at the University of Ottawa, with which he is affiliated, to determine the extent of regional polarization on issues of energy and the environment. In his piece Energy and Canada’s Polarized Regions, he concludes that different regional attitudes, based as they are in differences of geography and infrastructure, are likely to persist – as, indeed, is Alberta’s unique attitude toward a sales tax, despite strong economic arguments in favour of such a tax.

Yael Tamir, Why Nationalism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019. 205 pages.

It is unlikely that Yael (Yuli) Tamir – former Israeli cabinet minister and founding member of Peace Now, former student of Sir Isaiah Berlin, Oxford academic – read Gareth Morley’s major essay in the last issue of Inroads, in which he argued for the separation of nation and state.1 Nevertheless, Tamir’s book Why Nationalism can be read as an answer to Morley, for she argues precisely the opposite: that the state needs the nation, and the two should be brought closer together.

In large part, Tamir’s book is a critique of globalism, to which she sees nationalism as an antidote. In this respect, her thinking parallels that of John Judis in his recent book The Nationalist Revival.2 Where people place themselves on the “global-national continuum,” she writes, is largely determined by their interests:

It is easier to be a globalist if you are likely to enjoy the benefits of the open market, or to support free immigration if you feel secure in your social status and do not fear that newcomers are going to take your job, or reduce the value of your property by renting the next-door apartment, forcing your neighborhood schools to face new challenges.

Globalism, she writes, “failed to replace nationalism because it couldn’t offer a political agenda that meets the most basic needs of modern individuals.” These include “the need to belong, the desire to be part of a creative community, to feel special, find a place in the chain of being, and to enjoy a sense (or the illusion) of stability and cross-generational continuity.” Citing Freud, she suggests that globalism entails living beyond our psychological means.

In other words, membership in a nation confers benefits in and of itself. But its benefits acquire an additional dimension when it is brought into alliance with the state: “With the help of nationalism, states turn into homelands – places one is affiliated with due to love and fate rather than due to instrumental considerations.” This “pre-political partnership,” this “political we,” is essential if states are to “turn into democratic and decent entities.”

A shared sense of national belonging, Tamir suggests, underlay the “cross-class coalition” that supported the development of the modern welfare state:

Society’s disinherited members were thus given permission to claim social benefits as well as protection from tangible risks. This was one of nationalism’s greatest gifts, allowing the less privileged to profit and to enjoy a set of social goods and social services grounded in rights rather than in generosity or benevolence.

So what went wrong? Her diagnosis, again, largely parallels Judis’s. Globalization along with an ideological opposition to regulation eroded the resources of the state. Western elites pursued a global destiny rather than a national one. Public education, once the “jewel in the national crown” (Tamir should know – she was minister of education in Ehud Olmert’s pre-Netanyahu Israeli government), lost its ability to promote integration and social mobility. The cross-class coalition buckled under these strains.

Tamir reproduces former World Bank economist Branko Milanović’s “elephant curve,” a graph of real income growth between 1988 and 2008 as a function of percentile of global income distribution. The graph begins at the bottom of both scales – the world’s poorest have been excluded from income growth – before rising rapidly, peaking at about the 55th percentile. This reflects rising incomes in China and other emerging economies. The graph then takes a sharp dip, bottoming out around the 80th percentile. Stagnating incomes of the poor and middle class in high-income countries are found here. Then comes another rapid rise – the trunk of the “elephant” – representing the enrichment of the world’s elites. “Growing social gaps,” writes Tamir, “lead to the formation of separate, hostile identities.”

Eroded and diminished though it has been, the nation-state is still, for Tamir, “the only viable option.” Hence, she welcomes the revival of nationalism and seeks to channel it toward constructive ends, to rebuild social solidarity through “committed nationalism.” She emphasizes that the elites need to be enlisted in this task: “Asking the haves to look beyond their immediate interests must be justified not only in universal utilitarian terms but also as the national (American, Israeli, French) thing to do.”

The foregoing is, in brief summary, Tamir’s program. However, there are complicating factors, many of which she fully acknowledges. First of all, she recognizes that the nation is an artificial construct; rather than being a “pre-political partnership” underlying the state, it is an entity that needs to be deliberately encouraged by the state. She quotes the mid-nineteenth-century Piedmontese leader Massimo d’Azeglio, who helped bring about a unified Italy: “We have made Italy. Now we have to make Italians.” The Italian state makes Italians. The American state makes Americans. The Israeli state makes Israelis (another portfolio Tamir held was Immigrant Absorption).

A second complicating factor takes the form of what Tamir calls “a cultural version of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle”: “One cannot create communities that are both meaningful and entirely open: the more meaningful a community is to its members the more exclusive it would be to all others.” This suggests limits on the “diversity” and “inclusion” that are currently in vogue.

She is sceptical of statements like the one by Chancellor Angela Merkel that “we are all Germany,” including Muslims, or this one by President Emmanuel Macron: “I see Armenians, Italians, Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians. I see so many people from Mali, from Senegal, from the Ivory Coast. I see so many others I haven’t mentioned. But what do I see? I see the people of Marseille! What do I see? I see the people of France!” Can the historical and cultural specificity that we associate with “Germany” or “France” be so easily set aside? If it is, what is the basis for the national solidarity that Tamir regards as the essential underpinning of a humane state? If it is not, should cultural uniformity be imposed on the new Germans and French people that Merkel and Macron are eager to embrace? Or is something other than historic “Germanness” or “Frenchness” to be the basis of national soldiarity?

As a disciple of Isaiah Berlin, Tamir is wary of carrying any idea to its extreme. Hence, she places limits on how any nationalist program should be carried out. One of these is that “the demand to put one’s country first should not be grounded in a sense of superiority but in a belief that others have the same right (and duty) to pursue their goals.” Nationalism, on this view, does not mean “exceptionalism.” Citizens should be committed to their nation not because it is uniquely virtuous, but simply because it is theirs.

A second limit is that “as no country is culturally, ethnically, or religiously homogeneous, the place of minorities must be secured. The fact that they do not share the ruling national ethos, culture, or language should not be used against them.”3 So in the end, Tamir cannot escape the circumstance that led Gareth Morley to develop his proposal for the separation of nation and state: “Modern states are as bound to be ethnically pluralistic as they are to be religiously pluralistic.”4

And while they espouse different solutions, perhaps they are not so far apart after all. For Morley, the best approach is to recognize the complex or “intersectional” nature of everyone’s identity while appealing to the resources of the liberal tradition to foster communication and common governance across the multiple identity divisions. For Tamir, it’s to promote national solidarity, but tempered as noted above: “to stop the ideological pendulum half way, offering a social contract that balances human rights and freedoms with social solidarity and group identity.” This sounds to me less like a diametric opposition than a creative tension.

Continue reading “Why the State Needs the Nation”