How to be controversial in Canada and not lose your job

Prominent pundits across Canada are writing all sorts of stern, thoughtful pieces about Dr. Andrew Potter of the University of McGill at the moment. On March 20, Potter wrote an article for Maclean’s magazine that criticized Quebec society. It generated a backlash from Quebecers, including the premier of the province, and Potter immediately groveled and apologized. His employer publicly denounced him, and then eventually fired him (well, formally “accepted his resignation”) from one of his university jobs.

People are writing about this episode for a number of reasons. Potter seems to be a well-liked guy within the Canadian media establishment, and other media people seem honestly upset that he’s been cajoled out of his “dream job.” The idea of a professor being disciplined by his administration for expressing controversial opinions raises serious questions about academic freedom. But more than anything else, his plight has offered opportunity to take particular issue with Quebecers, and the degree to which they seem prone to extravagant demonstrations of offense in response to rather mild criticism. They say it takes three examples to prove a trend, and Potter’s name is often mentioned alongside Jan Wong and Martin Patriquin — two journalists who were officially denounced by the Canadian parliament for writing things that offended Quebec.

I’m in a unique position to comment on this, because last month I myself was denounced by a unanimous vote of the Quebec legislature for the crime of writing something that offended the province. The Bloc Quebecois almost got a motion denouncing me to sail unanimously through the House of Commons as well, but the Conservatives denied support.

My episode received very little media attention. As far as I’m aware, no one in English Canada wrote a single editorial in my defense (there were several pieces written denouncing me in the Quebec press, however, and I was given a sympathetic interview by the U.S.-based Daily Caller).

On some level, this was predictable. I am not as famous or as well-liked as Dr. Potter, and a conservative writer like me getting in trouble for being offensive is a bit of a dog-bites-man story. On the other hand, I will take some credit for engaging in deliberate tactics that specifically helped minimize the drama of my situation. I didn’t suffer nearly as much for my actions as did Dr. Potter, despite the fact that my article received a much harsher official rebuke.

Why? For starters, I wrote my piece for the Washington Post, an American publication. Americans have the First Amendment, and they value freedom of speech and freedom of the press as fundamental, inalienable rights. The notion that a calmly-argued editorial column deserves any sort of official reprimand is bizarre to American sensibilities. My editors at the Post stood by me 100%, and I am still writing for them to this day. My professional advice to Canadian journalists is that if you want to write something provocative or controversial, consider doing it for someone in the States. Canada simply has a lot fewer people willing to defend free speech as a principle unto itself.

Second, Dr. Potter made the fundamental mistake of apologizing. Any phonebook lawyer will tell you, the absolute worst thing you can do when accused of any serious offense is concede the validity of the accusations. Potter’s first instinct was to not defend the free speech rights he had exercised, it was to admit he went too far in criticizing Quebec and would do things differently in retrospect.

I thought about defending myself when the backlash to my piece began, perhaps clarifying some of the points that I believed were being misunderstood by my critics, but ultimately chose not to. I didn’t say anything about the piece. I didn’t write any follow ups or clarifications. I certainly didn’t concede that I did anything wrong. I won’t concede that now. I wanted the issue to be as clear of distraction as possible, with the issue being I had written an opinion column and a government was denouncing me for it. Defending that big picture will always be a much easier argument than getting into the nitty-gritty about whatever specific thesis you were pushing. That’s for comments threads.

Lastly, Dr. Potter clearly didn’t have the courage of his convictions. As the National Post’s Jen Gerson put it on Canadaland, his piece read like the rant of a man who got caught in a Quebec traffic jam and tried to form a thesis around it, rather than any deeper motive. Potter’s subsequent expressions of regret and remorse revealed a man who worries very much about Quebec’s approval and was genuinely troubled by their rejection. He has some personal history with the province and held a high-profile job at “a Montreal institution that more than most reflects Canada’s language duality” — in the words of Chantal Hebert — which put him in a uniquely defensive place.

I, meanwhile, don’t really care what Quebec thinks of me. Being denounced was weird, and being barraged with swear-filled emails from strangers (which I continue to receive to this day) certainly could be disturbing, but it wasn’t existentially threatening to any part of my identity or lifestyle.

The old saying is true — they can’t take away what you never had.

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Fun Quiz! Match the Andrew Coyne Spluttering With the Budget

The following are quotes Andrew Coyne has used to describe the eight federal budgets released between 2010 and 2017. Can you match the splutter with the year?

  1. “the budget is bloated, cynical, dirigiste and incoherent”
  2. “so innocuous, so inoffensive, so utterly inconsequential”
  3. “almost universally bad ideas.”
  4. “a budget that commits the government to do everything it had ever done, only at fractionally less cost. And I do mean fractionally.”
  5. “ the budget’s whole premise is a fraud.”
  6. “It was to be expected the budget would be inadequate; nothing suggested it would be quite so trivial as this.”
  7. “I cannot recall ever reading one quite as mind-bendingly empty as this one.”
  8. “It’s not a bad budget, overall.”

Answer key coming soon!

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How to Write About Populism in Canada

Greetings Canadian journalists!

As you know, there’s currently a thing called “populism” happening all around the world. This is a fad in which poor people elect little Hitlers to power. I mean, it’s so far only actually happened in the context of Donald Trump (boo!) getting elected in the U.S., but there’s also that Brexit vote thing in the U.K., and that counts too for some reason. I know the iron rule of journalism is that you need three examples before you can claim a trend, so in a pinch just refer vaguely to “recent events in Europe” and that should cover it.

So anyway, having established that the world is in the midst of a populist tidal wave, the important question to ask is why it hasn’t hit Canada. The obvious answer, of course, is that Canada is just better than everywhere else, but you’re not allowed to say that openly if you’re a serious journalist. That’s for columnists like Doug Saunders or John Ibbitson or John Ivision (those are two different guys, right?).

Writing a good populism story in Canada is thus all about reaching the Canada Is Just Better conclusion without making it overtly obvious that’s where you’re heading. Or at least not obvious in the first paragraph. The way you do this is by noting that while Canada has some populist-like things happening, they are all really stupid and dumb and unpopular and meaningless and should be ignored. Because Canada Is Just Better.

What follows is a checklist of points you’ll want to hit:

☐ Find some polling data that suggests Canadians are racist, with “racist” defined as “expressing any reservations about immigration in any way.” Since no one you know has opinions like these, be sure to describe the polls as “surprising.” This will have the added benefit of informing common people that their very common opinions shock people better than them (i.e., journalists), which might help shame them into not thinking that way anymore.

☐ Mention Kellie Leitch. This is absolutely vital. She should be framed as the villain of the piece, which you can do by liberally sprinkling the adjective “Trump-like” around any mention of her name. DO mention how her immigrant “values test” has introduced a “populist element” to the Tory leadership race, but DO NOT mention how her lukewarm reception as a candidate could possibly have anything to do with her perceived inauthenticity on the issue or general dislikability. Kellie Leitch is the beginning and end of populism’s political manifestation in Canada. It will sink or swim on her and her alone.

☐ Mention Kevin O’Leary only to note how despite his own “Trump-like” shtick, he actually loves immigration and is thus not worth cramming into this narrative.

☐ Note that Jason Kenney caused the Conservatives to win the 2011 election with his non-racist magic. Everyone knows that in 2011 all the ethnics voted Conservative. Don’t worry about citing any hard evidence to support this, this is just one of those things everyone knows.

☐ Follow up by noting that in 2015, the Conservatives lost because racism. Again, everyone knows this happened, so don’t kill yourself trying to scrape up an exit poll or something. Just talk airily about “niqabs” and insert a line like “alienated their former base” somewhere.

☐ Find some non-threatening Conservative elder statesman to go on the record agreeing with you. Tom Flanagan always answers his phone, so he’s a good bet. So is Preston Manning. Conservative people hang on his every word, right? How the hell should I know? I don’t have conservative friends. Get off my case!

With all that rock-solid evidence out of the way, feel free to spend the rest of your word count making various freeform assertions about what a great multicultural utopia Canada is, and how much Justin Trudeau warmed the heart of the world with all his Syrian refugees. Take it for granted that because Canada has been getting more diverse in recent decades this means Canadians explicitly wanted that to happen. This is called “circular reasoning” and is considered a very strong style of argument.

Close with a line that sounds kinda cautious, but also kinda not. Maybe like, “and though it would be naive to think Canada is immune to the global populist wave, never forget that Canada is also just way better than other places.”

Bon appétit! It should taste familiar.

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You heard them here first! Conservative leader narratives

These days, being a good reporter/columnist/pundit is all about creating a narrative first, with facts and reality yadda yadda a distant second. With that in mind, I’m excited to announce that I’ve discovered the narratives the press will soon be using to frame the next leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, whoever it may be.

If Kellie Leitch wins…

Conservatives have abandoned their principles, and very likely their souls, in embracing Trump-style populism and xenophobia. Since Canadians are a fundamentally inclusive, welcoming people, the Tory Party has signed its suicide note, made itself irrelevant, and the only question remaining is how gigantic Justin Trudeau’s re-election victory will be.

Future headlines:

  • “In response to Leitch, Red Tories eyeing Trudeau”
  • “Is Leitch becoming an alt-right hero?”

If Kevin O’Leary wins…

Conservatives have chosen to embrace a Trump-style cult of celebrity rather than a party guided by clear or coherent principles. O’Leary’s ignorance of Canada and Canadian things makes Michael Ignatieff look like John A. Macdonald. That said, O’Leary’s many important differences from Trump — namely his openness to multiculturalism and hostility to social conservatism — shows just how admirably distinct Canada’s political culture is from America’s.

Future headlines:

  • “O’Leary said he looks forward to meeting ‘fellow heads of state;’ we got thirty constitutional experts to explain why he’s wrong.”
  • “Is O’Leary actually the anti-Trump?”

If Maxime Bernier wins…

Conservatives have rejected radicalism — or have they? The distractions of the Leitch and O’Leary campaigns caused many to overlook the fact that the new Tory leader will be running in the next federal election on the most hard-right platform in Canadian history, pushing a cold-hearted agenda of deregulation and privatization topped off by enormous, unaffordable tax cuts for the wealthy.

  • “Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek — meet the extremist philosophers influencing the new Conservative leader”
  • “Could the Conservatives’ first Quebec leader do worse than Harper in Quebec?”

If Andrew Scheer wins…

Conservatives have shown themselves to be deeply cautious and risk-adverse in selecting a young leader offering little ideological distance from the failed Stephen Harper orthodoxy rejected decisively by voters in 2015. Most worryingly, the openly pro-life Scheer possesses none of Harper’s instinctive caution towards the Christian fundamentalist wing of the party, who are now firmly in the driver’s seat at a time when Canada’s debates over social issues have never been more settled.

  • “After years in the wilderness, Canada’s religious right eyes new levels of influence”
  • “Is this Stockwell Day all over again?”

If Lisa Raitt or one of that set wins

Conservatives have rejected the global wave of populism in selecting a calm and moderate leader who stands as a living testament to the fundamentally cautious, centrist instincts of the Canadian people. This new leader is a principled, pragmatic Red Tory in the best tradition of Robert Stanfield or Joe Clark, with an attractive personality and sympathetic backstory that is likely to give Trudeau a run for his money in 2019.

  • “Despite new leader’s moderate appearance, many fear Conservative ‘hidden agenda.'”
  • “Joe Clark offers lessons on how to lose to a Trudeau with dignity.”
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Recent Works

Here’s a piece of writing I have been working on for a while: Why did the Conservatives lose the 2015 election? (Or: is the “Racist Tory Thesis” correct?).

I’ve also written several pieces for the Washington Post recently you may find interesting:

U.S. media saw the Trump-Trudeau summit as a bust. The Canadian press loved it, Feb. 15

Why does ‘progressive’ Quebec have so many massacres?, Feb. 1

Justin Trudeau isn’t the liberal hero the world makes him out to be, Jan. 11

Why the global populist wave hasn’t hit Canada, Dec. 11

I got a fair bit of backslash for that Quebec-themed one, which is quite ironic if you read the piece itself. The Quebec legislature denounced me in a unanimous motion, and the federal parliament in Ottawa nearly did as well, but luckily the Conservative Party denied consent (thanks Conservative Party!). The Daily Caller did a nice interview with me about it.


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On the Trump Inaugural

I have drawn a cartoon about the Trump inauguration as well. Check it out on CNN.


It was, first and foremost, a very ideological speech. The ideology was not one that’s been heard in Washington in some time, which makes it easy to dismiss as vacuous or irrelevant. Yet his will remain an inaugural of unique dogmatism, an embrace of a particular principle at the expense of convention and cliche.

President Trump laid out the animating philosophy of his government in terms succinct and blunt. “From this moment on, it’s going to be America First,” he said, later fleshing that out into “two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.”

Globalization, outsourcing, open borders, and even trade were framed as enemies. A portrait was painted of a world where nations struggle for spoils, and America had forgotten how to play. He said “it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first,” and vowed that was all he would do.

Like all unapologetically ideological speeches, Trump’s clarity of thought came at the expense of broader appeal. By definition, a democratic politician will be elected by a relatively homogenous community of voters, shared interest and identity being what inspires block voting in the first place. The challenge of a leader is to honor this mandate while recognizing the moral validity of experiences outside it.

Trump’s base of disillusioned white laborers feels economically depressed, politically ignored, and culturally despised. No doubt many of the communities they inhabit resemble the landscape the President described in vivid, gothic terms, with its “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones,” and so on. The villains of this world were the villains of the speech.

Since November, Trump’s electorate has been the subject of studious sociological sympathy, yet their perception of suffering can only exist in the context of another America comparatively better off. The United States is still the best-performing G7 economy, and America remains a global fount of innovation, ideas, and culture the rest of the planet envies and follows.  The country’s rapid clip of technological advancement, social change, and global interconnectedness bring challenges, but also joy and inspiration. No one lives a life entirely on the dark half of an era. Historians will find it curious to read a speech written in the early days of 2017 that focuses exclusively on the anxieties of what is, by any objective standard, still a tremendously exciting and interesting time to be alive.

From a purely political perspective, Trump’s inaugural was also rather high-risk, in the sense the President encouraged the American people to use high, subjective standards to judge his rule. While other presidents lay out specific policy goals, implying their success should be judged by an ability to implement, Trump’s promises were vaguer assurances that Americans would simply experience life differently, and perceive the realities of their country less cynically. “The people” will be in charge of Washington’s agenda. Those who feel forgotten “will be forgotten no longer” and “never be ignored again.” And yes, “every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.” Every single one.

It’s not impossible for a politician to win re-election on the giddy tides of a changed national spirit, but it is difficult, and could be uniquely difficult for Trump, considering the ills he vowed to undo — greedy corporations, out-of-touch politicians, etc. — are some of the most entrenched tropes of American culture. There’s already been much grumbling over whether Trump’s rather conventional cabinet reflects an appropriately “drained swamp” administration, and should he govern as a boringly conventional Republican, or a figurehead to Congress, it will be easy for a Democrat in 2020 to ask voters, in Reagan-like fashion, if they feel as good as Trump promised they would. My sense is the public can be convinced they feel bad with greater ease than they can be convinced various policy victories didn’t occur. Yet these are the terms Trump has set for his fight.

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My favorite articles from 2016

In case you missed them the first time around, here are five things I wrote in 2016 that I am particularly proud of:

Why the global populist wave hasn’t hit Canada, Dec. 11, Washington Post

Our new homophobia, Jun. 13,

It will take more than money and politics to heal aboriginal communities, Apr. 22, Loonie Politics

Progressive Belgium offers a terror lesson for Trudeau, Mar. 24, Loonie Politics

When Justin Met Barack: A brief history of belligerence and bromance between Canadian prime ministers and U.S. presidents, Mar. 10, Foreign Policy

2016 was also a year in which I started to do a bit more social media activism, some of which achieved some modest results, particularly #quantumgate and #trudeaueulogies.

Remember that you can always check out my complete archive of recent writing on Loonie Politics. And be sure to follow me on Facebook, where I always post my latest content updates of any sort.

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No one is getting electoral reform because no one really wants it

You are going to read very little accurate commentary on the final report from the House Special Committee on Electoral Reform simply because so many powerful and influential people are deeply vested in denial. We saw a preview of this in the House of Commons the other day with Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef getting piled on from all sides for observing a simple fact: the electoral reform committee was a dumb thing that produced a dumb report.

Conservatives are instinctively hesitant to believe anything a hacky partisan like Monsef says. NDPers and Elizabeth May, who have the most to gain from a new electoral system, take her criticism personally. Pundits across the land — nearly all of whom believe deeply in the cause of electoral reform — need a scapegoat to blame for a dream that’s fast slipping away.

Yet changing Canada’s electoral system in time for the next election was always a wildly implausible promise that was only attractive in the abstract. Preserving the idea’s popularity thus required keeping it abstract as long as humanly possible, which is what the electoral reform committee did quite successfully during their six months of opaque proceedings, and clearly hoped to keep doing in releasing this utterly useless report.

Would you like to know what electoral system the report recommends? Here’s the summary, in total: “a proportional electoral system.” This is less than useless, because as the report’s endless pages of exposition and thinking-out-loud make clear, a “proportional system” doesn’t actually mean anything, it’s merely an aspirational standard in which seats in the legislature are elected in greater sync with the popular vote than they are at present. People like the sound of that, but as Mackenzie King once said of taxes, everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.

If the report offers little formal instruction regarding how government should make the “proportional” dream a reality, it certainly knows what it doesn’t want. The new system must have “a Gallagher Index score of 5 or less,” it demands, referring to a fairness standard too technical to get into here (Canada’s last election got a score of 12, for reference). But so too must this new system not use “pure party lists,” as are common in Europe, “as such systems sever the connection between voters and their MP.” Also: it’s important that “no change to the electoral system must be made that would have the effect of diminishing Quebecer’s [sic] voice in the Canadian political discourse” or “the needs, interests and aspirations of Canada’s two official language minority communities.” They also concede there are a lot of constitutional ambiguities that still need to be sorted out, so get cracking on that too, government.

Thankfully, the report does explicitly acknowledge one piece of reality establishment boosters of electoral reform have been most loathe to admit: swapping Canada’s electoral system will inescapably compromise other aspects of Canadian democracy as currently practiced. My own personal anxiety has long been that adopting an electoral system disposed to yield narrow minority governments, or coalition governments, brings enormous risk of severing voter control over who gets to be prime minister — which is really the only important voter concern in a political system as constitutionally top-heavy as ours. Thus, government must undertake a “comprehensive study of the effects [of a new electoral system] on other aspects of Canada’s ‘governance ecosystem’” before they offer voters any hard proposals, the report concludes.

In sum, the committee’s findings can be reduced to “status quo bad, let’s change it,” which marks no meaningful advancement from the slogans spouted by Justin Trudeau on last year’s campaign trail. The committee should have had the courage to recommend a specific alternative system, but that would have invited the public to immediately begin deconstructing its flaws. A de facto “Vote No” campaign would instantly spring to life, and the uphill battle for the pro-change folks would become more obvious than it was already.

So poor Minister Monsef, already so long suffering, is forced to take the fall for an incompetent government determined to bluff and deny its way through life. Much fire is being disingenuously spat for her completely accurate comment that the electoral committee “did not complete the hard work we had expected,” as if her words were intended as a literal dig at the amount of man-hours its members invested, and not how useless those hours ultimately proved. The only real criticism she deserves is for pretending to anticipate anything different.

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Trump wins cartoon

The CNN people kindly asked me to draw something for their “cartoonists of the world react to Trump winning” special feature. You can check out what I drew here.

I actually drew that cartoon the day before the election. Like everyone in the world, I suspected Hillary would win, but I was not very confident. I expected a long night, and thought she would win very narrowly, barely crossing the 270 threshold, or that Donald would stage a narrow upset. So I drew the Donald-wins cartoon along with a Hillary-wins cartoon, which you can see here, if you are interested in such paralell-universe things.


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Election 2016 fun times


It’s election day, and thus I must honor my over-decade-long tradition of providing a coloring sheet for election night. You can download the higher-res version here, in case you want to print one out and do something creative.

If you’ll be as glued to your computer as me today, may I suggest once again taking a look at my predictor page? I will be updating it throughout the day with all the various websites’ final predictions as they drift in, just so we can see which source was the most spectacularly wrong (so far, the LA Times seems to be in an early lead).

I’ll have a real cartoon done tomorrow to honor the victory of the next president.

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Another election cartoon

Probably the last thing I will draw about this election (not that I’ve drawn a lot).

Here’s a cartoon about the intersection between this election and McDonald’s I did for The Nib.

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Prediction time

Another four years, another occasion to update my site about presidential election predictors.

More updates coming as more news happens, but for now, the page above at least has a handy link to other predictor sites, so you can always check back to see what all the bigshot predictors are predicting over the next two months.

What’s your prediction?

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New cartoon!

Every election cycle, a publication called the Ladies Home Journal does this thing where they get the two would-be first ladies to submit dueling cookie recipes. They both get published, and readers vote on which one they like better. It’s occasionally accurate in predicting the winner.

The tradition began in 1992 and was probably a bit retrograde even then, but given 2016’s dueling “first ladies” this year might be the most cringe-inducing yet.

I drew a cartoon about it for The Nib.

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Just how much anti-Semitism is acceptable, Elizabeth May?

Elizabeth May and Monika Schaefer

Last month, Elizabeth May was ensnared in another one of those embarrassing brouhahas for which her Green Party has become well-known. One of her perennial candidates in Alberta, a woman named Monika Schaefer, was revealed to be quite an ugly anti-semite and Holocaust denier. May described Schaefer’s views as “shocking” but news to her, and moved swiftly to eject her from the party. In an attempt at damage control, it was noted that Schaefer had been “disallowed” to run for the party in the previous two elections, though this proved a less than impressive defense after Elizabeth May admitted Schaefer’s anti-Semitism was “not the reason” for previous vetos of her candidacy.

Thanks to the help of Ben Shachar, a reader of mine and student at York University, I have come across information that proves Elizabeth May was lying in her characterization of Ms. Schaefer’s history with the Green Party, and May’s personal knowledge of Ms. Schaefer’s anti-Semitic views.

Contrary to her claim that Schaefer’s views took her by surprise, Elizabeth May was directly exposed to Schaefer’s anti-Semitism as early as 2014 and was actually involved in negotiations with Schaefer in the run up to a 2014 by-election in which May attempted to get Schaefer to tone down her anti-Semitism to a level that would be publicly palatable. Only when Schaefer refused did May veto her candidacy — which, again, contradicts May’s claim that Schaefer’s anti-Semitism was “not the reason” for her doing so.

Timeline of Events

Much of the information contained in this post comes from a January 4, 2015 article on the anti-Semitic website Radical Press that contains multiple quotes from Monika Schaefer, including portions of emails Ms. Schaefer sent to Elizabeth May in the past.

According to the article, on August 5, 2014 Schaefer sent Elizabeth May an email complaining about the controversy surrounding then-Green Party president Paul Estrin’s conservative views on Israel. Schaefer called Estrin, who is Jewish, “a Zionist shill” who “will destroy the Green Party of Canada from within” and accused him of trying to hijack the Greens “on behalf of a supremacist cult.” She demanded May fire him, saying “it is time to free ourselves of the shackles of Zionism. In the teachings of the Talmud, we the goyim are lower than cattle, and we are quickly becoming enslaved.” (Estrin resigned as party president that same day and has since complained that “many in the Jewish community” are disturbed by the “abuse and unbalance” that animates the Green Party’s attitude towards Israel).

On September 17, 2014 Conservative Yellowhead MP Rob Merrifield announced his resignation from the House of Commons to accept a job working as an Alberta diplomat in Washington DC, forcing a by-election, which was held on Monday, November 17. Schaefer wanted to run for the Greens, as she had run in the riding three times prior, including two times under Elizabeth May’s leadership, in 2008 and 2011 (May became Green Party leader in August of 2006). In the Radical Press article, Schaefer offers this description of what happened:

“Lo-and-behold a by-election was called in my riding of Yellowhead, Alberta in October of 2014 but because of the letter regarding Paul Estrin I was rejected by the GPC as a candidate. Elizabeth May told me I could apologize to Paul for the letter, thereby making it ‘go away’. I refused, because that would have been the beginning of the road to compromise on truth.”

Accordingly, Schaefer did not run for the Greens. It appears that she continued to remain an active figure in the party.

A few months later, on December 30, 2014 Schaefer sent Elizabeth May an email complimenting her for a decision she made earlier that month to present a “truther” petition to the House of Commons and encouraged her to double down. The rambling letter contains several anti-Semitic flourishes, including mention of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and reference to Israeli “foreknowledge” of the 9/11 attacks. May took a lot of flack for the 9/11 petition and eventually more or less disavowed it, defending herself with the factually incorrect claim that MPs “have to” present to the House any petitions their constituents give them. This backdown offended Schaefer, who on July 30, 2015 sent an email to Elizabeth May quitting the Green Party “effective immediately,” citing May’s lack of dedication to the cause of 9/11 Trutherism. It appears this is the reason why Schaefer did not run in the October 19, 2015 general election.

Schaefer’s anti-Semitic video was not published on YouTube until nearly a year later, on June 17, 2016. After the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed outrage and the CBC reported on it on July 15, 2016 Elizabeth May issued an official statement claiming to be “shocked” by Schaefer and her “terribly misguided and untrue statements.”

Later that same day, I, J.J. McCullough, and a guy named Daly de Gagné asked Elizabeth May some questions on Twitter. Our exchange went like this:

Note that while I was incorrect about Schaefer running “three times” under May, Elizabeth May’s response that “1st time she ran I was not leader” is a red herring. While it’s true that Schaefer ran in the 2006 general election before May was appointed head of the party, Schaefer did, as noted above, run under May’s leadership in 2008 and 2011. She did not run in a 2011 by-election or the 2015 general.

New questions for Elizabeth May:

1) When did Monika Schaefer first begin sending you anti-Semitic emails?

2) Monika Schaefer’s 2014 email to you about Paul Estrin was clearly anti-Semitic. Why did you not initiate efforts to expel her from the party at that time?

3) According to Schaefer, you offered her an opportunity to remain a candidate in the 2014 Yellowhead by-election if she apologized to Estrin. This seems preposterous given anti-Semitism is a worldview and not something that can be cleared with a mere apology. Why were you interested in allowing Schaefer to continue to represent the Green Party? Will you release your email exchange with her so we can see the exact terms of any “deal” you offered her?

4) What was Schaefer’s role in the Green party between August 2014 and July 2015?

5) Why did you lie about being “shocked” by Schaefer’s anti-Semitism, given you clearly had been exposed to it multiple times prior to her video?

6) Why did you tell Mr. Gagné that Monika Schaefer was going to be “expelled” from the Green Party when she had already quit? Did she rejoin the party at some point?

7) Why did you say Schaefer’s anti-Semitism was “not the reason” for her candidacy being disallowed in 2014? Did you consider her anti-Semitic criticism of Paul Estrin to be an offense distinct from general anti-Semitism? How anti-Semitic is a Green Party candidate allowed to be?

UPDATE: At an August 22, 2016 press conference in which she stated she would not, contrary to popular opinion, be stepping down as Green leader, Elizabeth May wandered into the topic of anti-Semitism within her party, insisting “I don’t think there are anti-Semitic people within the Green Party” and claiming the party was actually hyper-vigilant on this front. She claimed that the “only” time people have been disallowed to run for the Green Party was over what she called “this issue,” adding “I’m not going to say those people were anti-Semitic, but there was concern.” It again begs the question as to what Elizabeth May considers anti-Semitic.

UPDATE 2: On October 24, 2016 VICE reporter Mack Lamoureux reported that Ms. Schaefer was scheduled to speak at a Canadian neo-Nazi convention known as “Blood and Honour.”

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New archive and final week of Kickstarter!

Here’s some new updates for you.

I wrote a long piece about everyone’s favorite right-wing subculture, the “alt-right” for C2C Journal, a conservative Canadian opinion outlet run by the Manning Centre.

Check it here: All the angry young white men.

I’ve also written a couple new Loonie Politics columns since my last update, but good news! There is finally a Loonie Politics J.J. archive. You can check that out here.

And lastly, this is the final week of my Canada Guide redesign fundraiser at Kickstarter. If you haven’t made a donation yet, please consider it. Every small bit helps and it really means a lot to me.

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You know my Canada Guide, right? It’s actually the most successful thing I’ve ever made, but I’m looking to make it even more successful with the help of a professional redesign.

Could I bother you for a humble donation to the Kickstarter page?

Here’s my full video pitch:


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Our new homophobia

President Obama’s second inaugural was the first to cite the gay rights movement as an essential chapter of the American story. That “most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal,” he said, “is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”

The reference was to the Stonewall Inn riots, a multi-day spectacle of street violence that followed a 1969 police raid of a Manhattan gay bar. The conventional retelling describes police brutality so vile New York’s long-suffering gays could not help but respond in kind, and in doing so initiate a fresh era in the struggle for sexual equality. But as is often the case with sanctified anecdotes, reality was more ambiguous. Stonewall was certainly notorious, but as much for its mafia ties and role in the city’s sex trade as its homosexual clientele. Nuances like these provide consistent headaches to anyone attempting to retell Stonewall’s story — consider the contentious reception that greeted  Roland Emmerich’s recent effort to commemorate it in film.

What happened in Orlando, in contrast, was entirely bereft of nuance. As the bloodiest instance of anti-gay violence in American history, Orlando does not simply overshadow Stonewall, it makes pathetic mockery of it and all previous conceptions of what homophobia is.

Like Stonewall, the history of American attitudes towards homosexuality form a complex tale that many are uninterested in acknowledging. Far from a consistent crusade, it’s been a fickle, performative concern, ebbing and flowing over time. Walt Whitman was the most celebrated poet of the 19th century and wrote openly about gay sex — which he claimed to enjoy. President Buchanan may have been gay, but it’s hard to know since his contemporaries didn’t care. Sterilizing “perverts” was proposed during the eugenics craze of the progressive era but vetoed by the courts. Anti-sodomy laws were mocked in their own time as an entrapment tool for lazy cops rather than a useful way to curb crime. Many American gays saw their families destroyed and careers ruined once their homosexuality became known, while others reached the pinnacle of success flaunting it openly.

What even a cursory glance of the nation’s LGBT history suggests, in short, is that the style of homophobic violence perpetuated in Orlando is something horrifyingly exotic to the American experience. It is not consistent with some preexisting tradition of “hate.” It does not remind us  “how far we have yet to go,” the need for “solidarity,” or any other hoary cliche of the gay rights establishment. What it illustrates, in the blood of 100 victims, is the degree western gays have endangered themselves by supporting politicians and activists who welcome foreign proponents of the world’s most radically homicidal strain of gay-hate into our communities.

While American gays seek acknowledgment and approval, gays in the Muslim world fight a war for survival. In nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death — a duty executioners have been more than happy to perform before the cameras. In territory controlled by the Islamic State, which considers the regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia insufficiently dogmatic, gay men are thrown from the tops of buildings and have their skulls smashed with stones, as prescribed by the Hadith.

The life of killer Omar Saddiqui Mateen is a case study of radical Islam’s exploitation of American multiculturalism. His immigrant father, who supports the Taliban in his native Afghanistan, clearly felt little pressure to abandon his old world obsessions, constantly leaving America to remain politically engaged in the Middle East. He had his own chat show about Afghan politics and fantasized about becoming president. The kid furthered the faith of his father by soaking up hate at a Florida mosque frequented by at least one suicide bomber and taking online courses from a local imam who once served as bodyguard to the notorious “Blind Sheik.”

In the name of celebrating diversity, western liberals have outlawed the only tools we once used to get a handle on this sort of thing: immigration quotas, assimilation initiatives, and a shared understanding that the foreign should conform to the expectations of the host nation, not vice versa. They have exaggerated the benefits of Islam’s presence — Muslims have assisted in “building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy” in the words of the President — while inventing, then endlessly charging, a new crime of “Islamophobia” to silence anyone who speaks honestly of the challenges.

Today, progressives insist homophobia is a global sickness, not an Islamic one. Today we mourn the dangers of failing to acknowledge bigotry’s spectrum.

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This week’s updates

Here’s some of what I got up to this week.

I did the Indie News Hour solo with host Martin Strong this week. Over the course of our 45 minute chat we touched on a vast number of disparate topics, including Muslims pretending to be Tories, Donald Trump’s views on climate change, Jason Kenney’s sex life, ticket scalping robots, and more. Give it a listen.

I wrote a column for Loonie Politics, as usual. The headline is “Conservatives shouldn’t abandon marriage,” in I reflect on what it means to be the pro-marriage party in the aftermath of same-sex marriage.

Lastly, in the aftermath of Muhammad Ali’s passing, I thought I might call your attention to my short bio of him on my site, Americans That Matter. I made the site to offer condensed summaries of important historic people to assist those looking for a quick education but unclear where to start. Occasions like this test the merits of the thing.

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That Muslim woman who tried to shame the Tories is no Conservative

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 3.17.15 PMUPDATE DEC. 9, 2016: According to her Twitter feed, Ms. Heer is now running to be a provincial Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Mississauga Centre. There are rumours the riding association did not want her, but an attempted veto of her candidacy has been overridden by leader Patrick Brown, but nothing has been substantiated. iPolitics has more.

MAY 30, 2016 — This weekend’s Conservative Party convention in Vancouver had the vibe of a Maoist “struggle session” about it — or at least that’s how the press is choosing to portray it. The party is grappling with its future and reflecting on its past, with heavy, heavy pressure being exerted to admit the past in question was just one long, dark slog of homophobia, racism, climate-change denial, and Muslim-bashing.

Two incidents gave reason to suspect the Conservatives are interested in playing along. The first was the party’s much-covered decision to scrap its formal commitment to defend the one-man-one-woman definition of marriage (a voluntary gesture of zero practical consequence but considerable symbolic significance which I’ll write more about another day); the other, the party’s public dressing-down at the hands of a Muslim woman named Urz Heer who gave a vigorous scolding on the convention floor.

Quoth Stephanie Levitz of the Canadian Press:

Urz Heer, a turquoise scarf covering her hair, chastised her fellow Conservatives and party leadership, saying the campaign unfairly targeted her community.

“This party worked actively and aggressively against my people,” she said, to cries of “not so” from the crowd.

“It did, it did,” she said. “It didn’t differentiate who Muslims were versus the enemy.”

The election drove many Muslims who had never cast a ballot before to aggressively vote against the Tories, said Heer, who is from the Toronto-area riding of Brampton South.

“For the first time I felt like I didn’t belong here and this was my country,” she said, her voice breaking.

Her passionate statement was greeted with applause and she received hugs from some in the crowd but it left party executive director Dustin Van Vugt stumbling for words.

Ms. Heer became the celebrity of the convention and was shortly thereafter interviewed by the CBC. During the chat, she complained further about the Tories, stating that when they spoke about terrorists the Conservative government should have made it clear “that Muslims are not included in that bucket.” She also claimed that her floor speech provoked widespread apologies from other personalities at the convention, including one from Dr. Leitch, who is of course presently running for party leader.

But who is Ms. Heer, really? On the CBC, she was described as a “member of the party’s Brampton-South riding” and a Tory “delegate” to the convention. American Blogger Sierra Rayne at the American Thinker appears to have been the first journalist to actually look into Ms. Heer’ background, and found a lot of troubling stuff. As a Canadian, I can put an even finer point on it.

Urz Heer is a cable access journalist and activist with a long record of dabbling in and out of various causes, many of which involve immigrant outreach. Her politics are vague and unclear, and seem to reflect a desire to simply be on good terms with whoever has the rising stock of the moment. If she is currently self-identifying as a Conservative it is a hollow and unconvincing claim.

According to Heer’s LinkedIn profile (and a 2009 tweet), from 2009 to 2011 Heer was a director for the Liberal Party riding association of Brampton West (she appears in an outdated version of the riding association’s webpage, here). She was evidentially a good Liberal — this weekend wasn’t the first time she attended a party convention in Vancouver.

Brampton West was represented by Liberal MP Andrew Kania in those days. Heer apparently stepped down just before the 2011 election, which Kania lost to a guy named Kyle Seeback. The new Conservative MP then hired her as an “outreach co-ordinator” of some sort, but that relationship did not last.

Heer appears to have been a member of the Ontario Liberals circa 2013, and was a backer of Kathleen Wynne’s campaign to succeed Dalton McGuinty as premier. When Wynne was installed she posted a selfie from the Liberal Party convention floor “celebrating” the victory. In 2014 Heer met Wynne several times and posted multiple fawning photos of the two together, calling her “an amazing premier,” “amazing” and “my favorite premier.”

From December 2014 to October 2015 Heer claims to have worked as a “campaign manager” for a “Federal Nomination Candidate” though the riding and party are not specified on LinkedIn. Judging from photos on Facebook and Twitter it seems she backed a guy named Kuldip Gollee to get the 2015 Conservative nomination in Brampton West after MP Seeback decided to run in the new riding of Brampton South. When that fell through, a few months later she posted a Facebook photo of herself attending a “volunteer event” for the Liberal candidate Robert Oliphant in the riding of Don Valley West. She tweeted at him “hope u become the next Multiculturalism Minister!” When Prime Minister Trudeau was sworn in, Heer cheered him on to “Bring back the better, peace loving, more inclusive #Canada for everyone.” She would later tweet praise at him for “saving” Canada.

Ms. Heer seems to be a particularly vain and self-aggrandizing woman, eager to inform the world of her perceived importance and supposed closeness with politicians. Her social media accounts are all public, and brimming with opinions and endorsements. It did not take me much effort to investigate her background, and conclude that she is not a serious Conservative or a even a person with particularly serious political opinions. It would be nice if the media — and for that matter the Conservative Party itself — could be bothered to do even the slightest bit of research before crowning a mysterious stranger their new high priestess of things they wish to be true.


A person who worked with Ms. Heer during her stint at the office of the Tory MP Kyle Seeback contacted me with more information.

“Among us staff in Seeback’s office, she was known to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” the person told me.

“She pretended to be conservative for the job” the person continued, adding it was known that Heer was simultaneously attending “other party conventions and events.”


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This week’s stuff

I appeared at 4 AM on a CBC radio show this week debating whether we should impose term limits on the prime minister. I said yes. You can listen here.

I also did my now-standard weekly appearance on Roundhouse Radio’s Indie News Hour in which we chatted about Donald Trump, Facebook vs. conservatives, and Chinese influences in Vancouver. Listen to that here.

Here is my weekly Loonie Politics column, Canadian democracy could be unrecognizable once Trudeau gets through with it. You can also join the Reddit discussion on it here. The Loonie Politics people now have a columnist RSS feed. It’s not just for my stuff, but since they don’t have very many other columnists it’s not hard to find my writing when it comes up.

And lastly, here is a YouTube video I made about Canadian spelling:

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