Is Poilievre irresponsible for tapping into the public fear? Or would it be irresponsible for leaders to ignore it?
With Poilievre there is no "meta-text," or meta narrative to use Horgan's usage. The entire time Horgan's piece was in fact referring to subtext, what isn't being said literally but can be inferred. A meta narrative is a "grand recit," an overarching set of values contain in a larger work. The Bible is an immense work, but it can be distilled down to a few "lessons," or a meta narrative. It's what the deconstructionists have been aiming at for the past 30 years.
Polievre doesn't have a subtext. As Shannon Proudfoot keeps saying - and everyone keeps ignoring - Poilievre has been the same guy saying the same things for 20 odd years. She is the only journalist who has spent enough time with him to provide decent insights. She was on The Current on Monday. Give her a listen.
Decline is a huge, multifaceted topic. It would take reams of digital paper to give it space to breath. And I'm not up to it.
But I will say this: Academics are the biggest catastrophists around. You want to find people who think Steven Pinker is full of shit? Go to the Social Sciences departments in any Canadian university. Every time I turn around some adjunct sociology professor is telling me how much worse racism is, how much worse misogyny is, how much greates inequality is, etc., etc., etc. They are decline-aholics.
And who has picked up on this grievance studies ethos? Our present Prime Minister. If there is a feeling of social decline in this country he is the motivator. And we all know what he's been saying. And if there is a feeling of economic decline we know how the Present Prime Minister has confessed he doesn't give it much thought.
By any comparison Poilivre is the guy now saying "sunny ways." He is the most positive public figure in the country right now.
This return to the "hidden agenda" subtext/meta narrative - that is trotted out each and every time a Conservative makes progressives wet their nappies - is so fucking tired. Can someone somewhere please find something new to say?
Good article, but I think you are neglecting an even more fundamental point: are we even able in practice to have serious and rational discussions about our actual problems and what to do about them?
When anyone who presents any kind of alternative view on an important issue is immediately censored or hounded from the public square AND the "mainstream" view ignores the laws of logic, arithmetic, or physics, we are in deep deep trouble.
That is exactly where we are now.
I think a big issue is accountability. When was the last time anyone in a position of leadership was fired? (Your coverage of RCMP's Lucki for example). If we tolerate mediocrity we'll get more of it, and this lays the groundwork for a populist backlash. At some point the people at the very top will get fired.
Btw, A+ for not mentioning a certain American politician.
For being an optimist, Matt always makes me a lot more pessimistic about things. But perhaps that's needed. I want to believe as Matt does that we can be optimistic long term and there are solutions to our problems. My pessimism comes from the now status quo of our political system where nobody seems to have the willingness to think past their current mandates and opposition parties for the most part oppose everything by default. This hasn't come about in a vacuum. We as an electorate allow ourselves to be bribed with our own money and punish those who dare deviate from the Sunny days are ahead mantra. Every file feels that way. We've been warned for years that the interest rates and housing markets are unsustainable yet we didn't dare do anything. The Romanow report is decades old yet we never really acted on it. We've known for a generation that we were doing harm to our planet and we fiddle and make excuses even to do some of the bare minimum while the time of opportunity in becoming a leader in the next generation of energy innovations has passed us by. We've perhaps come out of the worst of a public health crisis and instead of it spurring us to a national conversation on how we deal with the next similar crisis we are having partisan spats on what amounts to the low hanging fruit.
Our municipal politics are not much better. In an attempt to keep municipal taxes now cities are carrying generational infrastructure deficits that are going to potentially be catastrophic down the line. It is only a matter of time when one of our cities has a crisis similar to what is happening in Mississippi or Flint. Yet the stump speeches in my Muni are about efficiencies and keeping taxes low.
I think its time we look at ourselves in the mirror and blame ourselves. The answer to this issue isn't The Liberals spending more as inflation rises, it isn't defunding the CBC, firing the Bank of Canada governor or getting into bed with Cryto Currencies and it certainly isn't whatever the heck the NDP are spinning. Rather it's about ripping off the bandaid and making active choices that will turn the ship. Something we're not willing or able to do.
Are we in decline? I cannot say, but I can say is that the present government does not address the real problems in our country, the one about affordability. Tax and Spend does not put milk on the table when milk is more expensive than gas, yet nobody reacts. The one thing we have seen lately is young people all over flocking to Poilievre in who they see a real desire to help them. He is young, a self-made man who does not scare easy. You will never see him closing government or governing five steps down from his bedroom. His has the energy and the drive of a young man. Of course he has a lot to prove compare to Trudeau who has reneged to all his promises to us and to the whole world. The campaign against Poilievre will get vicious, Wokes are very scared and so they should.
The one thing Poilievre also has are 3 Strong women..Aliana, Genni and Melissa who make Justin shake in his feminist boots. BTW nothing to do with gender equality...just pure and simple quality.
One of the challenges in asking a question like "are we in decline" is you may get agreement that we are and *lots* of disagreement on the nature of the decline. I suspect that's what's going to happen in the comments.
So, here's the collective challenges we face that I don't see us adequately stepping up to solve:
I think climate change is already widening the band of 'expected weather' with things that used to be considered 100-year storms happening with increasing frequency. That's a much bigger deal than people seem to make it out to be. Our entire built environment is engineered around what will likely be a narrower band of weather conditions than what's coming. Agriculture and forestry rely too rely on historically accurate weather patterns. There are potentially large, costly and hard-to-predict changes coming and we don't seem to have any plan.
Plus, minimizing the scope of these changes means transitioning the world's whole energy system, which is a lot harder than it sounds! Yes, we're making changes, but the GHG reduction targets we've committed to globally are mostly voluntary and I don't think anyone is predicting that current committments are enough. We're 'doing stuff' but it doesn't seem like it will likely be enough, which makes the issue above even more challenging.
Our economy isn't making the kind of productivity improvements that are the basis of ongoing prosperity. We're arguing about issues like affordability and inequity -- both important -- but both rest on a foundation of improving productivity. We haven't cracked that nut and trying to do so during significant changes to the economy (a move towards 'intangibles' which tends to benefit countries like the US who tend to effectively write the rules around intellectual property) is very challenging.
We continue to have significant friction within Canada between regions and peoples. Finding a sustainable way to collaborate -- regionally and across French, English and Indigenous peoples -- is creating signficant tensions across the nation that aren't easily solved. We spend a lot of time and energy on this within Canada -- understandably so -- but while we do so, we're less able to actually address our shared challenges.
These are all long-term challenges I care about that don't have simple answers. I've yet to see proposed public policy on any of them in Canada that makes me confident that we have a path to resolve them. That worries me.
That said, Mr. Poliviere has not yet offered any kind of meaningful solution to any of these issues. So, why I worry we are in decline (because we don't have good answers for those challenges) his rhetoric does not speak any to my concerns. If anything, he is leveraging the regional frictions within Canada to find a (narrow) path to power, but that doesn't solve anything. It just makes a different group of people temporarily more satisfied.
Poilievre has been leader of the opposition for just a few days. He can hardly be blamed for any decline that we feel we might be in. As for him being scary, to a Liberal, any Conservative leader is branded as scary. Harper was, Scheer was, O'Toole was, Poilievre is. It's the way they operate. I fully expect the attacks against Poilievre to increase. But another thing about the current Liberal party is that they project. So we need to look closely at what they accuse others of doing because that provides insight to what the Liberal party is truly up to. The party that is supposedly not about fear and division is, in reality, all about fear and division.
Our state of decline is fuelled by a general acceptance of mediocrity, and it starts with school age children.
I hate to pile on the teaching profession, because there is lots of blame to go around, but our education outcomes have shifted from motivation for excellence to everyone getting a star for showing up. We are paying for that as the kids enter the work force, having never been confronted with demands of exceptionalism. There are ethnic groups in our society that demand better, and they will make huge sacrifices for their kids to attend private schools and EXCEL. We need more of that attitude in our society, and especially directed at political leaders and mandarins who have allowed ho-hum performance to become normalized.
A reset is needed, badly.
Last week I heard in interview with someone from the EU (Ursula von der Leyen? I can't remember who) saying they had a plan to replace the resources they used to get from Russia.
They were counting on Canada.
Yes, I had a good laugh.
A nation that encourages its citizens to feel collective shame with no chance of redemption, and/or collective victimhood with no possibility of personal agency, is a nation with no incentive to work hard to improve, and therefore a nation headed to ruin.
That's the dystopic core under this government's woke boilerplate, and it is utterly at odds with our liberal history and traditions.
That's what I hear Poilievre attacking on behalf of a broad coalition that includes the centre left and right: I hear "the gatekeepers" as the condescending elite that makes rules for everyone but itself; that appropriates to itself the right to define acceptable views (defined as its own); that has chosen to trash our pride in our country, a pride gave us the energy to make this the most inclusive and diverse nation of earth; that has adopted Kendi's Manichean oppressor/oppressed definition of "anti-racism", dividing us into intersectional resentments; that is redefining language and law by swapping gender for sex without consultation, making us feel bullied about how we define as basic a noun like 'woman'; that has us walking on eggshells, double thinking our every word and opinion; and that insists we commit to "decolonization", which effectively means eliminating Western epistemology and the structures that have served us well, rather than the fix problems within them.
I'm an optimist, because I think we Canadians have gotten sick of hating ourselves, and angry at feeling silenced and ignored by an unaccountable government that serves its friends (see WE) and sees transparency and plain language as its enemy. Therefore, that this government's destructive and extreme ideology will be reversed.
Yes our Canadian life style has been eroded. We’ve lost income. Inflation is high, our governments have been tyrants and don’t seem to want to stop. What to do we do? We spend less we develop our own incomes and we refuse to comply to heavy handed agendas. Are we still comfortable. Some of us yes and alot of us no. I’m a 57 year old woman that’s lived with freedom, been able to express myself without judgement and no how to create an income. I have faith Canadians can right the issues we have and get back to respecting fellow humans. But we need to stop being complacent and get our asses moving. Work together and stop buying into the divisive agendas out there. And if this makes me, using this commonly used catch phrase “ Fringe”. Then that explains me and most of the people I know, and am very comfortable with that.
The Liberals support the decline narrative only when they can position more government as the solution, for example all of the initiatives to redistribute wealth to allegedly address the problem of income inequality.
Decline? Likely. From a purely Govt perspective the issue is having qualified people in Cabinet. This is not really the case now — with some exceptions. The same is true of the senior civil service members who have been jollied along through their careers by not making waves and not (really) informing their political masters what is right or wrong with the economy or the society. Again there are exceptions to this. This is key as Govt in most of these trials facing us must take the lead — as business simply will not rise to the occasion for all sorts of reasons. My faith in Govt (at all levels) to make the necessary changes without destroying the economy or society is not as strong as it used to be. However, I am also not a believer in conspiracies by govts. In most cases, what appears to be a conspiracy from either the left or right of the spectrum’s critical crowds, is usually just incompetence, sometimes of eye-watering proportions.
I don’t believe Poilievre is irresponsible in courting public fear, I think it is a reality for many. I do however wish for solutions to said fears and he offers none. Yes, the other parties should acknowledge the fears and be willing to have a discussion, as I said, real or not many citizens are very afraid of what the future will bring.
Personally the day I remember Reagan speaking of trickle down economics was when I knew the economy was no longer going to be for the benefit of the working class. His actions on air traffic controllers enabled the crushing of union movements though out the western world. It became a paradise for the investor class as most governments followed his lead in cutting taxes and cutting the social safety net.
I guess that means I do believe that society is in decline but I don’t think it’s a recent phenomenon, it’s been happening slowly for the past 40 years. I do have regrets that my generation opted for greed rather than the general betterment of society but that’s history now.
I'm not sure I buy the notion of a society in decline, but we're certainly seeing the effects of an *aging* society and a relative decline in wealth and power vs. other societies. Baby Boomers have dominated politics since at least the early '90s at this point, and continue to do so as a disproportionately large demographic. Like any cohort, they've become more conservative in their disposition as they age. That isn't to say that they've drifted to right, simply that they've become more resistant to change. I think that's a big source of the governmental paralysis we've seen, as their preferences conflict with younger cohorts. It ends up sapping the confidence of our society when people don't want to change things, and then start reacting in fear of losing what they've got.
The relative sense of decline comes from the fact that we're seeing diminishing absolute gains from our progress. A recent book called "Superabundance" illustrates why this is the case. They look at the cost of goods and services in terms of time/labor. Currencies don't really capture changes in wealth over time as well as looking at how long an average person had to work to buy something. In the 1960s, an Indian laborer would work about 10 hours to earn enough money to pay for their daily meal. In contrast, an American laborer of the '60s would work about an hour. Today, that Indian laborer only has to work an hour to earn enough to buy their meal. For an American laborer, it's down to about 10 minutes. Think about the absolute difference, though - the Indian laborer has *9 hours* more per day than 50 years ago. The American worker has gained less than an hour. The amount of progress seems exhilarating to the Indian, and unimpressive to the American. They're about the same relative gain in terms of wealth, though.
To answer your question Matt, I agree, only history and historians will determine if today, Canada is in, as you describe, a decline.
Being in my mid 70’s (and being one of the lucky ones - as Jen previously and so accurately described us baby-boomers), I have only my own life experiences from which to offer my opinion.
As one of the lucky ones, I was able to purchase my first home – a brand new 1200 sq.ft. bungalow – in 1974 for $27,500. My income at the time was $15,700 – that was annual, not monthly. So, I was able to buy my house at a cost of roughly twice my income. Today, when I look around at the new housing market where I live (BC) any new construction is well north of $500K. Incomes have not kept pace with housing costs. Most, if not all young people today simply can’t get into the housing market, but they may have a chance if the Bank of Mom & Dad is available. Has our society declined on the basis of the lack of availability of an affordable family home?
Which brings me to homelessness. How many towns and cities across this country suffer a relatively new experience – the tent city. Community parks taken over by the homeless. I suspect many have seen on TV the tragedy that is Hastings Street in Vancouver. Has our society declined on the basis of it being unable to take care of those who are unable to care for themselves?
The profligacy of societal violence today was unknown to me as a youngster growing up and even well into my adulthood. The mass shooting in Nova Scotia, the mass stabbing in Saskatchewan, the gang violence, the random assaults on the street, all reflect a society that I could never have predicted as a younger man. Has our society declined on the basis of safety in the streets?
Much, but by no means all, of this violence and criminal behaviour is caused by repeat offenders. What kind of a justice systems allows a violent offender with 20, 30, 40 or more than 50 criminal offences on his docket to be allowed to walk amongst us? I was raised with the belief that everybody makes mistakes and everybody deserves a second chance. As that saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”. Rehabilitation ends with the repeat offender – who is deserving only of punishment. Has our society declined in terms of our judicial system’s inability/unwillingness to keep criminals off our streets?
Many of these criminals are very active in the distribution of illegal drugs. In BC, we have a “medical” crisis due to drug overdose. This one I simply don’t understand – why would any right-thinking person take a drug that might very well kill them? Addiction is a powerful affliction, but never having been addicted, what do I know? Has our society declined in terms of its acceptance of death due to drug abuse? And its inability to combat it? Educating people on drug abuse should help but doesn’t seem to be of much help thus far.
Speaking of education, my, how times have changed from my day. From time to time, I take a peek at my grandchildren’s Report Cards. Oops, my bad, no more Report Cards – today students receive evaluations. “Learning is a continuum”, no more grades – neither alphabetical nor percentage – now the student is Emerging or Developing or Proficient or Extending. Huh? Against what standard? Cursive writing is no longer taught but gender diversity is. Apparently the old “reading, writing and arithmetic” has taken a back burner to Critical Race Theory. I am too far removed from today’s education of our young people to know what is really going on, but when I read about young people entering university and not being able to construct a grammatically correct sentence, let alone a thoughtful essay – I have to say that I’m not surprised. Has our society declined in terms of its failure to provide a fundamental and foundational education for our young people? The optics from where I sit don’t look good.
As to the state of universities, the optics from my perspective are not very encouraging there either. Universities are a place of higher learning, and a place where debate and exchange of ideas should flow freely. Today, this environment appears to have been infested with politically correct, cancel culture, anti-white privilege, virtue-signalling activists whose reaction to free and open debate is public shaming and demands for removal and/or termination. Professors Jordan Peterson and Frances Widdowson are just two well-known victims of the toxic environment that prevails in most universities today. Has our society declined in terms of providing our young people a university environment free from harassment and free to express their own thoughts and beliefs?
I was just advised last week that for the first time in my lifetime, I will no longer have a family doctor. I have joined the many hundreds of thousands of Canadians who also cannot find a family doctor. The tens of billions of tax dollars cannot provide the basic health care that so many of us have taken for granted. Pretty hard not to conclude that this represents not only a decline in our health care but is just steps away from a complete failure.
There are so many more observations that I could make, for instance the profligate spending and debt by both government and individuals, but no point in beating a dead horse. It has been observed that over a period of two hundred years or so, all great empires rise and then eventually decline and/or end: the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, and more recently the British Empire. Canada is far from being an empire, but it is 155 years old; I suspect that it won’t be too much longer before historians will look back on our history and answer your question more definitively than you or I may deduce today, despite, or hopefully in spite of, what appears to me to be the case today.