“In Particular With Regard to Dietary Matters”

In today’s Post, Chris Selley wonders whether Quebec’s proposed values charter will turn out to be a paper tiger, qualified as it is with all sorts of conditions and loopholes.

“When an accommodation is requested,” Bill 60 explains, “the public body must refuse to grant it if, in the context, the refusal is warranted for security or identification reasons or because of the level of communication required.” …  Private companies doing government work, for example, might have to adhere to the new rules regarding religious symbols “if such a requirement is warranted in the circumstances, in particular because of the duration, nature or place of performance of the contract or agreement.”  That’s not what you’d call specific.

Selley may well be right.  But his third example of a seemingly qualified or conditional restriction caught my eye:

A repeated activity or practice stemming from a religious precept, in particular with regard to dietary matters, must not be authorized if its aim, through words or actions, is to teach children that precept.

To Selley, this framing seems almost designed to allow for lax enforcement: “Is young Mordecai becoming more Jewish as he eats his kosher lunch, or is he just eating his lunch? … [G]ood luck to the inspectors[] trying to figure that one out.”

But here’s the thing: Jewish laws (the “mitzvot” or commandments) are, by tradition, divided into two main categories.  The first, “mishpatim,” are commandments “whose benefits in this world are evident, such as the prohibitions of stealing and murder,” as Maimonides explained nearly a thousand years ago.  The second category of laws are called “chukim,” often translated as “decrees”; they are the commandments “whose reasons are not evident.”

Jewish tradition teaches that both categories of commandments are of equal stature, and that all commandments must be fulfilled.  But tradition recognizes that the motivation involved in fulfilling each category differs.  We follow the mishpatim because we recognize the divine wisdom reflected in the order they establish.  We follow the chukim because God said so.

Guess which category the kosher laws are in?

“The chukim are those mitzvot,” Maimonides explained, “whose reasons are not evident … such as the prohibition of pig’s meat, [or] meat and milk.”  As a kid I remember being told that pigs were inherently (and literally) filthy – that they lived in their own filth and muck.  That may or may not be true, but it’s certainly not why they’re not kosher.  They’re not kosher because God said they’re not kosher.  And we don’t eat them because He said not to.

So maybe young Mordecai isn’t “becoming more Jewish” when he eats his kosher lunch in class.  But as a matter of Jewish tradition – and by tradition here I mean Jewish understanding and interpretation of Jewish law – Mordecai is certainly participating in a “repeated activity or practice stemming from a religious precept … [whose] aim, through words or actions, is to teach … that precept.”  That’s a pretty good, rough and ready definition of what the chukim are – practices based on precepts whose purpose is to teach the precepts.

Curiously, the relevant section of Bill 60 makes explicit reference to “dietary matters” as an example of such a precept-teaching practice.

Or perhaps it’s not so curious.

So Here’s the Thing

I get the desire for vigilante justice for the boys who allegedly raped Rehtaeh Parsons.  Her story is so sad, her life so short, her death so unnecessary that we desperately seek some sort of response – and we’re outraged that there’s been none.  So we fantasize about naming and shaming the boys, shaming and hounding the police, making heads roll, knowing that we can’t right the wrongs done to Rehtaeh but wanting to make damned sure the wrongdoers suffer even a fraction of the pain she suffered for months and years before it became too much.

I get it.  But it misses the point.

Rehtaeh went to a party when she was fifteen.  What happened at the party is, according to press reports, a matter of he-said/she-said: she said she was raped; he – or they, four unnamed “boys” – apparently said she consented to sex.  That there was sex is undisputed: one of the boys took a picture, and sent that picture around, and the people who got it forwarded it on, and soon enough it seemed that everyone had seen it.  And they shamed Rehtaeh, and called her a slut; they texted her, even if they didn’t know her, and asked for sex; they harassed her on Facebook; they wouldn’t leave her alone, wouldn’t let up about it, even when she moved away.  They tormented her for years – maybe not constantly, but enough.  Whether or not Rehtaeh had other troubles; whether or not she suffered mental illness – the shaming, the tormenting, the harassment was enough.

I’m choosing my words carefully here because I have an important point to make and I want to make it as clearly as I can without being misunderstood, so bear with me, and if you can’t believe I’m saying what I’m saying, please ask me if that’s what I’m really saying.  Here’s what I want to say:

It matters a great deal whether or not Rehtaeh consented to have sex with anyone at that party when she was fifteen.  It matters because we each have an unassailable right to control our bodies, to decide whether, when, with whom and how to have sex.  It matters because each of those decisions is immeasurably more fraught when faced by a kid, a teen, especially (I think) a teen girl, especially at a party, especially when there’s booze, especially when there are cliques and judgment and pressure and hormones and confusion.  It matters because sex with an unconsenting partner is not cool, or masculine, or expected, or just one of those things – it’s rape.  So when I say what I’m about to say, I don’t mean to suggest that it doesn’t matter whether or not Rehtaeh was raped.  For the reasons I’ve just given, and a thousand reasons besides, it matters a great deal.

But it also doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter, because the manner in which she was treated is unacceptable and unforgivable regardless of whether she consented to sex that night.  Assume, just for a moment, just for the purposes of illustration, that she consented to have sex at that party.  Assume that she knew, and in a moment of madness and indiscretion did not object, when someone in the room took the picture.  How – how in the world – how would that possibly make it okay to share the story, and the picture, with everyone at school?  And once the picture went around – a picture that we’re assuming, just for the moment, was taken with knowledge and consent, showing consensual sex – once that picture went around, how would the circumstances possibly justify shaming her, calling her a slut, harassing her on the phone and on Facebook?

Assume everything that the boys said was true, and you’re still left with a fundamental human failure – a failure of empathy, of humility, of respect.  Now add the barest suggestion that things weren’t consensual, and that failure – a failure entirely separate from the failures of the law and law enforcement – is compounded a hundred- and thousand-fold.

By all means, let’s figure out how the system failed Rehtaeh Parsons.  Let’s find out whether the police dropped the ball in their investigation, failed to act quickly, failed to make every effort to develop a case against the boys.  Let’s figure out whether our laws are too lax, whether they could be revised, or new ones written, to prevent, or at least punish, the undisputed conduct here.  Let’s treat this as a failure of the system, and let’s address that.

But let’s not pretend that legal reform, or disciplining police or prosecutors, or meting vigilante justice on the accused will fix the failures that drove Rehtaeh Parsons to suicide.  Those were human failures, and it’s not up to the police, or the courts, or the law to fix those.  It’s up to us.



We Get E-Mail

From: David Mader
To: Canadian Consulate, New York
Re: Question Regarding Authorization to Acquire a Firearm


I’m a Canadian citizen residing in New Jersey, currently on a non-immigrant NAFTA (TN) permit.  Pursuant to United States law, non-immigrants in my situation are prohibited from acquiring firearms; however, a non-immigrant may obtain a waiver of this prohibition by petitioning the Attorney General of the United States and submitting, inter alia, “a written statement from the embassy or consulate of the petitioner, authorizing the petitioner to acquire a firearm or ammunition.”  18 U.S.C. §922(y)(3)(B)(ii).

I haven’t been able to locate any published criteria by which the consulate would issue such an authorization.  Would you please tell me whether the consulate (or the Department more generally) has a policy regarding such authorizations, and if so, would you please forward me a copy of any such policy?

Thank you very much,

David Mader

From: Canadian Consulate, New York
To: David Mader

Dear Mr. Mader:

After lengthy inquiries regarding your request, we believe that the first step would be for you to contact the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to find out what they specifically require from both an applicant and their foreign government in order for them to consider such an application and whether an individual in your particular visa situation would be eligible to petition for a waiver.


Consular Section

Amazing Spam/Phishing

Just received the below. B+ for effort. Pasted verbatim:

From: Tim Johnson
To: David Mader
Date: January 18, 2013, 9:46 PM

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So i will be here for couples of weeks, till i get back this position will be a part-time and home-based job because my new office in your local area will not be set up till i get back to the state.

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The Daily Mader – May 9, 2011

Every person who is a Canadian citizen and is 18 years of age or older…

THIS IS MY SON: Such angst there’s been over the election of a handful of youngsters to Canada’s 41st Parliament. Well, I say “young”; the youngest is nineteen, which is older, as many have pointed out, than Queen Victoria was when she assumed the throne. It’s also two years older than he’d have to be to join the Canadian Forces. So there’s certainly a strong argument that youth-qua-youth should not be a disqualifying characteristic.

HE WORKS HIS WORK, I MINE: Of course Pierre-Luc Dusseault isn’t Queen Victoria. Nor is Ruth Ellen Brosseau; nor are any of the McGill Five. Quite unlike Queen Victoria, who was born to be regent, these young MPs have not spent their youth awaiting their ascension to power. They spent their youth the way many middle-class Canadians spend their youth: going to school, going to college, never in a million years expecting to be elected to Parliament. So while youth-qua-youth isn’t a disqualifying factor, nor is it some badge of merit. It’s a dynamic variable: it can be a positive, or a negative, depending on the youth in question.

YET ALL EXPERIENCE IS AN ARCH: For instance, while it’s true that our new young MPs could have joined the Canadian Forces some years ago, it’s also true that none of them did. Which means none is bringing the experience of a veteran to the great council of the nation. (How many MPs are vets? How many are veterans of Afghanistan?) If there’s a knock against the young MPs, then, I don’t think it’s simply on account of their youth; it’s on account of the youths they’ve had. At our best, we are each more than the sum of our experiences; but we are at the very least that: the product of the places we’ve been, the people we’ve known, the things we’ve done. And the sum of the experiences of these new MPs, though impressive in general terms, isn’t perhaps as impressive as we might wish for in the three hundred and eight Canadians who govern the rest of us.

DECENT NOT TO FAIL: University is an important experience (though perhaps not as important as it was once thought). I can certainly say that I matured and developed in important ways during my time at McGill. And lord knows that, while I was at McGill, I thought I had all the answers, and could do just as good a job as the MPs who shuffled the halls in Ottawa. And as compared to some of our current crop of yes-men and empty suits, that was probably true – and if so, it’s even more true of the new youngsters, who are more impressive than I was at that age. And maybe that’s enough to put an end to our criticism.

MUCH HAVE I SEEN AND KNOWN: But even the most impressive and accomplished university student is still a university student: armed with the confidence and surety of education, but yet untested in the currents of daily life. I spent most of my university years with my nose in the books, and I think I can say with confidence that what I’ve learned since graduation dwarfs what I learned in my four years at McGill. That’s almost necessarily true, for all of us. In a way, it’s necessarily true of each additional stage in life. For instance, while I’ve always been interested in public office, I first made a conscious decision to seek office, at some point in my life, when I was twenty-four. At that time I was sure I was qualified to sit in the House — even though I didn’t have a job, or a wife, or a house. By the end of this summer, God willing, I’ll have all three. (I already have the job.) And the experiences that lead up to these great life-events — and the experiences that flow from them — have changed my perspective on all manner of issues in a deep and profound way. All of a sudden, abstract principles of right and liberty and fairness and equality are brought sharply into focus next to the suddenly more pressing concerns of family and stability and future. In fact you could argue that Ruth Ellen Brosseau, who’s taken the most criticism among the new MPs, is in fact the most qualified — being a single mother, as she reportedly is, and a working woman.

THOUGH MUCH IS TAKEN, MUCH ABIDES: Or maybe that’s all hokum. After all, for my own part, while my perspective has changed, my convictions and my conclusions haven’t. I’d probably cast the same votes now as I’d have casted ten years ago, with a few exceptions. That’ll be true of our new, young MPs: they’ll do things in the coming months and years that they’ll later look back on with regret. Isn’t that true of all of us? And while their decisions have more public resonance than yours or mine, still none are in a position to do lasting harm — not to our country, and not to themselves. Already they’ve grown from an experience that has set them apart from their peers, and they’ll only continue to grow as they struggle with the pressures of public office — and the private life of their early twenties. At the end of the day, if we don’t want nineteen-year-olds and university students sitting in Commons, we should change the law to make sure it doesn’t happen. Unless and until we decide to do that — and I hope we don’t — the least we owe these young MPs is our best hopes and wishes as they face this new challenge. They’re going to need it.

The Daily Mader – May 5, 2011

Debating the future of the party of the center. Errr…. centre. Middle.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING?: All the cool kids are talking about the future of the Liberal Party. The catchphrase appears to be “party of the center.” That’s what Michael Ignatieff called it in his farewell address, and that’s what Rob Silver says it has to be going forward. In a much-discussed blog post, Silver says the Grits need to “[r]eform everything about the Liberal Party[:] Top-to-bottom. New blood, new voting coalition – there’s not much that stays the same in this new Liberal Party.” In the follow-up, Silver suggests the creation of a left-wing Manning Institute, a think tank operating outside of the party apparatus that could develop fresh new ideas. It all sounds very promising. Just one thing.

CLOWNS TO THE LEFT OF ME; JOKERS TO THE RIGHT: It’s just that I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the whole notion of “centrist” political ideas. What’s a centrist policy? Running a deficit — but a small one? Going to war in Afghanistan — but not Iraq? (Come to think of it…) When you think about it, “centrism” as a political ideology is defined precisely by its lack of ideology. Ignatieff and Silver and others make scary faces about the coming “polarization” of our politics between the right-wing Tories and the left-wing NDP. What they propose as an alternative is a party that stands for… nothing. Everything. Anything. Depends on the season.

THE MEANS ARE JUSTIFIED BY THE END: When a party purports to be conservative — fiscally conservative, say, we know how to judge its success: has it made government smaller, or slowed the pace of its growth? Are taxes lower? Debt under control? We judge a progressive government similarly: is the social safety net secured? Expanded? Are economic extremes tempered? But that’s not how you judge the success of a centrist party. The only metric of success for a centrist party is… success. A centrist party exercises power for the purpose of… exercising power. I mean, that’s what Silver’s talking about, right? He wants to scrap the whole thing, start from scratch, rebuild from the ground up. New faces, new ideas, new policies. To what end? Centrism! Um… to what end? Power! What else?

THAT’S NOT A FEATURE; THAT’S A BUG: But isn’t that precisely the Grits’ problem? For years we’ve been told that Canadians aren’t ideological. Stephane Dion used to use “ideological” as a slur against Stephen Harper — and the man was an academic, for goodness’ sake. But since the Western rebellion and the rise of Reform twenty-five years ago, there has been increasing interest among the voting public in parties that actually stand for something. At the same time, there has been increasing impatience with parties who stand for nothing except power, and who seem willing to stop at nothing to retain it. Surely that’s at least part of the lesson of the Sponsorship Scandal. Is that really the model the Liberals want to adopt?

A LITTLE TO THE LEFT… PERFECT: The “centrists” invoke Liberals such as John Manley as standard-bearers of centrist ideology. But although Manley was often seen as the “right-wing” of the Liberal Party, his brand of Rooseveltian liberalism is a distinctly left-wing approach to government. It certainly differs from the NDP’s labour-leftism — but by in large it differs in degree, not kind. So if centrism as an ideology means something other than a raw pursuit of power, surely it simply means tempered ideology — that is, government guided by a basic philosophy, but tempered in its approach by other (philosophical and/or practical) considerations.

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG, IN TWO COMPETING GROUPS?: But if that’s the case — if the niche that the Liberal rump seeks to fill is the niche on the center-left of the traditional ideological spectrum — then surely the place to do that is within a unified left-wing political party or movement, no? That’s what the Tories have done. Contrary to the accusations of its detractors, the Conservative Party is not a social conservative party — or a Christian conservative party, or a libertarian party, or a monarchist party, or a party of big business. At least, it’s not just any one of those things. It’s a big tent. (A tent that now seem to include the ‘centrist’ voters of the 905.) Not all the constituencies within the tent are going to be happy at any one time. But the tent is held together by the common understanding that what is shared is more important than what is not shared, and that the pursuit of any one group’s unique interests at the expense of the interests of the group would spoil the party (ha!) for everyone. If the Liberals are uncomfortable with the unreconstructed leftism of the NDP, they should roll up their sleeves and reconstruct it — or at least join the party and raise a voice for a more tempered social-democratic experiment. For their part, the NDP should recognize that they’re still seen by many Canadians much as the Reform Party was seen a decade and a half ago — as committed ideologues unfit to hold serious office. If the NDP and Grits can get past their superficial, partisan mistrust — and if Liberals like Silver can surrender the fanciful notion that “[t]he Liberal Party is not a ‘left-wing party’” — they’ll be able to start finding the broad common ground that would allow the emergence of a broad, stable, big-tent left-wing counter-party to the Conservatives.

WHO ARE YOU CALLING BI-POLAR: It’s been very de rigeure this week to decry the “polarization” of Canadian politics. Humbug. Unlike a multi-party system, which encourages fracturing and the pursuit of narrow interests, a two-party system encourages the development of broad-based coalitions of the sort described above. And while two-party systems are certainly more “conservative” in the sense of tempering political fads in favor of a sort of political inertia, such systems are perfectly able to adapt to new developments and sentiments, whether through the eclipse of old partes by new (e.g., the Liberals by Labour in the UK and the Whigs by the Republicans in the US) or through the influence of third-party and popular movements (e.g., the Populist and later New Left influence on the Democrats and the Progressive and later Tea Party influence on the Republicans).

STEPHEN HARPER, CHAMPION OF DEMOCRACY: In fact the worst tendencies of two-party systems are often the product of other mischief. The greatest obstacle to the emergence of alternatives in the US is not the two-party system per se, but the fact that those two parties have effectively co-opted the machinery of the state and made the creation of alternative parties a practical legal impossibility. It’s grossly undemocratic. There’s a risk of the same thing happening here of course, since, under current laws, parties receive public financing in proportion to their share of the popular vote — a similarly undemocratic arrangement that acts to entrench incumbent parties at the expense of potential alternatives. But fear not, friends of democracy — the Harper Government has vowed to scrap the per-vote subsidy. Be sure to send him your thanks!

POINT-COUNTERPOINT: More on centrism and polarization from Dan Gardner, who is Wrong, and Tom Flanagan, who is Right. Says me.

DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS: So it turns out the Bin Laden raid didn’t happen quite the way we were told. He didn’t use his wife as a human shield; he didn’t shoot first, or at all; and in fact of the four people killed, only one was armed. Inaccuracies in the initial account make wholly contrary narratives — like his (twelve-year-old) daughter’s claim that he was taken alive and then executed — all the more plausible. I’m not saying that’s what happened; I’m saying that it gets harder to convince people it didn’t happen if you don’t have a clear and consistent account of what did. I’d wager, though, that most folks — at least most American folks — will have heard the original accounts, but not the subsequent corrections. Isn’t that always the way? So most folks will be left with the abiding sense that the Seals did a bang-up job, busting in and killing the baddies before they could be killed; the possibility that the Seals took the compound and then executed its male occupants won’t ever be considered. That’s probably better for the national psyche — and the administration — than the hand-wringing that would have occurred had the whole truth been known from the start. Am I saying that the administration purposefully disseminated an inaccurate but more pleasing narrative in the first instance? No. I’m tempted, but… no. I think this was all fog-of-war stuff. But it’s a point worth considering.

The Daily Mader – May 4, 2011

Pundits and pollsters and nerds — oh my!

TALKING ABOUT TALKING ABOUT POLITICS: You know who didn’t see these election results coming? Everyone. You know who that includes? The Parliamentary Press Gallery – you know, that stable of cracker-jack reporters who spend all their time covering federal politics. In a way it’s hard to blame them – as noted, nobody saw this coming. But if anybody were to spot the warning signs, wouldn’t they?

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW: Part of the problem, as Rick Mercer rather pointedly noted, is that gallery reporters aren’t assigned to cover the campaign, really; they’re assigned to cover leader’s tours. And nothing really happens on leader’s tours. And so a reporter touring with a leader won’t — can’t — really be expected to report on how the election is playing among the… what’s the word… electorate. To my knowledge, the only national political reporter or columnist to give an inkling of the coming Tory wave was John Ivison, who noted, on April 22:

There is anger in the herbivore community about Stephen Harper’s failings — some of it is even justified. But the evidence on the doorsteps suggests it does not extend beyond the politically engaged into the suburbs, where people have to get up in the morning.

So maybe reporters should have spent a little more time on suburban doorsteps, and a little less time on leaders’ tours? (But then Ivison himself has defended the leader’s tour.)

WHAT’S THE POINT OF THE PPG?: I can’t help but wonder, though, if the problem is more structural. The members of the press gallery are all bright, hardworking folks who spend all of their time covering politics. Sure, that can give you unparalleled expertise. But it’s also sure to give you all sorts of strongly-held opinions about the subjects of your coverage that you’ve formed on the basis of a thousand facts and circumstances that the average voter doesn’t know about, or care. It pains me to say it, but the best example is probably Andrew Coyne’s endorsement of the Liberals. I mean talk about out of touch: not even the Star endorsed the Liberals. Heck, it’s still not clear that Michael Ignatieff endorsed the Liberals. Coyne’s piece was thoughtful, well reasoned, and — if not persuasive — certainly thought-provoking. But I think it’s fair to say that he didn’t exactly capture the mood of a nation. As I say, though, I think this sort of myopia is unavoidable given the time and attention that the PPG devotes to national politics and its participants. Maybe when the writ drops we should send the gallery on vacation and have the city beat reporters cover the campaign.

100% OF POLLSTERS ARE WRONG: That being said, when it comes to getting the election wrong, the reporters didn’t come close to the pollsters. Frank Graves of EKOS was all over twitter yesterday apologizing for his firm’s missed calls. You can guess why. A pollster can’t make his bread off of one federal election every two-to-five years; he’s got to pay the bills in the meantime. (In fact I suspect that the pollsters don’t make much, if anything, off of a campaign.) A pollster’s regular clients are corporations and nonprofits looking to do market research. Like any consumer, those folks want to make sure they’re getting good value for money; if they’re not, they’ll take their business elsewhere. And so a federal election campaign is, in a very important respect, a sort of national market-research trade show. Every pollster sets up a booth and starts giving out his wares, free to all comers, in the hope that the quality of his goods will attract (and retain) customers. Let’s put it this way: if your orthodontist had janky teeth, wouldn’t you think about switching? You and I can feel a bit sheepish for failing to predict a Tory triumph. But for pollsters it’s really no laughing matter.


The Daily Mader – May 3, 2011

The brand is at its lowest point in years. Regular supporters have abandoned it in droves. Can a format change revive this old blog? Find out right here – daily!

WELL THAT HAPPENED: Some night for the Tories. Some night for Canada! I’m trying not to read anything into the fact that all this excitement happened in the first federal election that I wasn’t allowed to vote in. So what does it all mean?

THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING: The story of the night is – well, it’s that there are so many stories of the night. Let’s start with the Grits. In an ironic way, the Liberal Party stands a better chance of rebuilding now than they would have had the Tories failed to win a majority. If NDP + Liberal > Conservative, the resulting contradictory pressures – from the left, to join with Jack and form a government; from the right, to join with Harper and stop Jack – would have torn the party apart. Those same tensions are surely to blame for the decimation the party received at the polls. Now, the rump can take time to decide whether and how to regroup. Just because they can, though, doesn’t mean they will; and depending on when and how the per-vote subsidy is scrapped, the party might not be able to rebuild even if it wants to.

THE NEW MIDDLE?: As my progressive friends pointed out endlessly last night, the Tories “only” managed 40% of the vote, which means a majority of Canadians voted for somebody else. (The same was true of Chretien, of course. And Trudeau. And… Actually, since the war, only Mulroney and Diefenbaker have won more than 50% of the popular vote.) Be that as it may, the Tories have a pretty good shot at replacing the Liberals as Canada’s natural governing party. For one thing, the West, as Andrew Coyne noted on CBC last night, is now in. Firmly in. They might choose to leave again — once a maverick, always a maverick — but for now I think we can agree that the west is pretty solidly blue. And with a Tory majority — and without a Liberal party to cater to their every whim — the central Canadian establishment’s allegiance will shift, pretty quickly, to the Tory camp. In fact you could say that’s what the past ten years of Conservative politics, and the past five years of Conservative government, have been all about: toning down the party’s western eccentricities and getting central Canadians comfortable with this whole ‘Conservative’ thing. So: solid west + amenable Ontario + new seat distributions + end to per-vote subsidy = lasting Tory majority. Well, almost. There’s one other, volatile ingredient.

VIVE JACK LAYTON LIBRE: Federalists of all stripes were congratulating the NDP for destroying the Bloc. Some were even declaring an end to the sovereigntist movement. Wrong, and wrong. The NDP didn’t out-campaign the Bloc in Quebec. Let’s be honest: the NDP hardly campaigned in Quebec at all. Nor did they out-ground-game the Bloc. So it’s not really fair to credit the NDP, as a political organization, with the defeat of the Bloc, as a political organization – even though NDP candidates beat Bloc candidates across the province. No, the NDP won in Quebec because, by all accounts, Bloc voters voted NDP. Now I suppose it’s possible that the voting majority of an entire province went to bed one night committed soft-sovereigntists, and woke up the next morning committed federalists in search of a federal party that best represented the rest of their social-democratic views. Possible – but likely? Hardly. Isn’t it more likely that the very same people who voted Bloc last election and NDP this election are… still soft sovereigntists? Surely. And it’s just as likely that they voted NDP not simply because the NDP offered them a social-democratic federal alternative, but also because the NDP offered them… a soft sovereigntist federal alternative. In short: the NDP didn’t defeat the Bloc in Quebec. The NDP simply co-opted the Bloc vote.

TWO SOLITUDES: Without a doubt the political map has been re-drawn. But the new shades and borders make a renewed unity crisis more, not less, likely. More than half of Jack’s new NDP caucus is from Quebec; the party holds nearly 80% of Quebec seats. The governing party holds less than 1%. In the Rest Of Canada, meanwhile, the governing party holds roughly 70% of seats, compared to less than 20% for the NDP. There are a lot of dynamics that will determine how that tension plays out. The NDP has room for growth – particularly in the maritime provinces, which are the last bastion of Liberal support, and in the cities. But the NDP’s growth in the ROC may come to be inversely related with its fortunes in Quebec. As Gilles Duceppe warned last night, the NDP, having won Quebec’s votes, must now cater to Quebec’s demands. And a party institutionally required to pander to Quebec will have a tough time growing its base in the rest of a Canada growing increasingly impatient with special status. On the other hand, a Tory government firmly entrenched in Ontario and the West will have to tread carefully if it wants to avoid stoking Quebecois feelings of resentment. Fat chance. Referendum by the end of the decade.

SLOW NEWS WEEKEND: So Bin Laden is dead. Long-time readers know that I am second to none in my neo-conservative support for the war on terror, so please, please save me the machismo when I say that I won’t celebrate the death even of a piece of garbage like him. Harper’s “sober satisfaction” is the most appropriate response I’ve heard. At the same time, I think I understand the cheering throngs in Washington and New York. This is a nation desperate for good news. This is a nation desperate for anything to counter the general, creeping, inexorable feeling of decline. An apparently perfectly executed SpecOps raid deep inside Pakistani territory, like something out of Tom Clancy, allows Americans to feel like they’re still top dog. And of course it provides a nice book-end to the last Tom Clancy-esque moment in American history, ten years ago this September. But of course this isn’t the end of the war on terror, and it’s silly and irresponsible to say so. That’s not because, as a war-monger, I want an excuse to go invade other countries. It’s because this war has never been winnable by military means alone. I stand by what I wrote eight years ago: this is a struggle for human rights and democracy and against terrorism and tyranny. In such a struggle military might has its place; but ultimate victory depends on a renaissance among those who would destroy us, and an acceptance, on their part, of the principle of peaceful coexistance. On balance I think Bin Laden’s death moves us closer towards that point, just as I continue to think that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq did the same. But it’s certainly debatable, and in any case we’re a long, long way from the ultimate goal. So: sober satisfaction; quiet resolve.

HATERS GONNA HATE: Lastly, the Royal Wedding. It was marvelous. They’re a terrific couple; it was meaningful, as a renewal of vows between nation and crown; and all the naysayers are perfectly welcome to go suck an egg. God bless them both; God bless us all.

Mader’s Poll of Polls – April 29, 2011

POLL OF POLLS 35.5 21.1 29.4 5.8 6.5
Nanos Research 4/29/11 (n=1021) 36.4 22.0 31.2 4.0 5.7
Ekos 4/29/11 (n=3066) 34.5 20.0 29.7 6.3 6.9
Angus Reid 4/27/11 (n=2040) 35.0 22.0 30.0 5.0 7.0
Environics 4/25/11 (n=964) 39.0 22.0 25.0 6.0 7.0
PoP Seat Projection 145 57 65 0 39

[Mader’s Poll of Polls is a weighted average of the most recent national polling data. Tracking polls are factored into the Poll of Polls for one week or until the same firm issues another poll. Seat projections are based on the Hill and Knowlton Election Predictor.]