Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brian Pallister and the Art of Dog Whistle Politics

When I saw the headline, "Bill 18: Anatomy of a Controversy," in yesterday's Free Press I thought, finally, someone is going to look beneath the surface of the great Bill 18 debate to help Manitobans understand the politics that are driving it. Alas, I was disappointed by a usually very astute political reporter.

The analysis turns on two key assertions:
 
"Bill 18 in some quarters became more a debate over whether the Bible condemns homosexuality than on its merits in protecting kids from bullying."

"Allan, Opposition Leader Brian Pallister and his education critic, Steinbach's Kelvin Goertzen, have in the past week attempted to calm the waters and steer the debate more to bullying itself."

Both assertions play into Brian Pallister's suggestion that targeted measures to deal with the bullying of gay students are a distraction that somehow diminishes our ability to deal with ‘real’ bullying, the kind that can victimize the majority of kids. Pallister put this most clearly with this careful comment to Canadian Press: “We're concerned that the bill work for all children, not specifically concerned with a sub-set of the students of our province, but rather that it work to protect all children against bullying." For those without a Brian Pallister de-coder ring, the “sub-set of the students” to which he was referring are gay students.

Why is Pallister trying to play down the bullying of gay students? He is desperate to steer the debate away from this type of bullying because a vocal element of his political base, conservative Christians, is vehemently opposed to dealing with it. If Pallister stands with them, he risks alienating mainstream Manitoba in general, and Winnipeg swing voters in particular. The extreme conservative fundamentalism of Bill 18 opponents turns off the very voters he needs to win over to form a government. This is Pallister's conundrum and he is trying to deal with it by asserting a phoney distinction between bullying of gay students and ‘real’ bullying. 

Pallister is particularly desperate to make this gambit work because his image has yet to be defined as PC leader. Bill 18 is not a vote determining issue for many voters, but it is precisely the kind of issue that defines the character of a party leader. Does he risk defining himself as a mouthpiece for the conservative extremists that have been the political albatross of conservative parties everywhere in recent years? Or does he define himself as a principled leader willing to stand up to the conservative extremists? 

By playing down the importance of gay bullying and proclaiming his concern with 'real’ bullying, Pallister is trying to avoid this difficult choice. If he succeeds, he can he can position himself as sharing middle class parents' concerns about bullying while continuing to practice "dog whistle" politics with his base. Proclaiming his lack of concern for the gay "sub-set" of students sends a "dog whistle"message to conservative Christians that he sympathizes with their views on gays, but sends it in a way that isn't quite loud or brazen enough that mainstream Manitoba hears him as a loony conservative extremist. His political strategy does all this by using cynical “dog whistle” tactics more usually associated with American Republicans.

Unfortunately, Pallister's strategy is based on a very offensive distinction between 'real' bullying and bullying of gay students. It throws bullied gay students, many of whom have courageously formed or joined gay-straight alliance groups, under the bus. It provides no hope for bullied gay students in even less welcoming schools. These students need to know that the province will have their back even if their own schools would rather not. 

The proposition that targeted measures to address the bullying of gay students are needed has been made abundantly clear by the backlash against Bill 18. With every attack, the extremist leaders leading the charge against Bill 18 make it clear that 'their' schools are not at all interested in creating a safe and welcoming environment for gay students. On the contrary, they are creating an environment that only encourages those who would tease and bully gay students.  With each utterance they strengthen the case for Bill 18 and make the government's job in this debate easier. This is another reason why Pallister wants to steer the debate away from gay-straight alliance groups.

Pallister's political strategy suggests that he very much understands the anatomy of the Bill 18 controversy in a way that the Free Press analysis missed. Hopefully Manitobans will see through his cynicism. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bullying of gay youth caught on camera as debate about Bill 18 rages

I haven't posted for a long time, but there has been so much nonsense spewed in the great Bill 18 debate that I just have to weigh in.

We have seen conservative Christian leaders try portraying Bill 18 as some kind of breach of religious freedom. This is silly of course. Bill 18 does not require schools to teach homosexuality. It just requires them to take reasonable steps to protect gay youths from bullying.

And the more these Bill 18 critics speak, the more they make the case that Bill 18 is needed. They are making it pretty obvious that their schools are not willing to create a safe environment for gay students.

But nothing makes the case for Bill 18 better than this Global TV news story (below) in which a gay Steinbach youth is taunted by homophobes while he speaks about Bill 18 on camera. Chilling stuff.

I don't understand how anyone who sees this could still argue that measures like Bill 18 are not needed to protect gay students.

And I don't understand how Conservative "Leader" Brian Pallister can stand with the extremists on Bill 18.

The bullying happens around the 1:55 mark, but the whole video is worth watching.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Anointment of New PC Leader Imminent?

Manitobans strolling down Broadway this morning may have noticed the puffs of smoke wafting from the Manitoba Club. Apparently a new PC Manitoba Leader will soon be anointed.
The suspense is killing me.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Manitoba in the LA Times

There are good reasons why Manitobans should care about the East Side.

But the outside world is also paying attention to how Manitoba handles the largest remaining stand of boreal forest on the planet.

Click here to see what the LA Times just reported on what Manitoba is doing to protect Manitoba's East Side Boreal Forest 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Math Quiz: Brennan vs McFadyen

An interesting exchange took place between Jennifer Howard, the Minister of Labour, and Bob Brennan,  CEO of Manitoba Hydro, at a Manitoba legislative committee meeting last night. For those of you who missed it, here's the Hansard excerpt:

Hon. Jennifer Howard (Minister of Labour and Immigration):
Thank you very much, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Schroeder, for your presentations. ...
I don't know if you've seen these pieces of mail that have been going around, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Schroeder. I've had some questions about them, people very concerned about them. I can table them for the benefit of the members of the committee. They're–they seem to purport to represent a hydro bill–it has your logo on it anyways–and that says that the people's hydro bills for the average Manitoba family are going to go up over $l1,000. I'll let you take a look at that so you can take a look at it.
Now, I see your logo on that piece of advertising and I know it's a claim that's been repeated by members of the opposition. I find it to be a very misleading claim, but I wonder if you could tell us if the use of the Manitoba Hydro logo was authorized for that document.

Mr. Brennan:
It was not authorized.

Ms. Howard:
Thank you very much for that. Now, I did a little math with that number. I did take a lot of math in school–so no electrical engineering but a fair bit of math. So when I multiply that number by the number of families that the chief statistician tell us exist in Manitoba, I get a total amount of $3.8 billion. Now, when I looked at your presentation you made, the total estimated cost for the Bipole III was $3.2 billion. So this advertising seems to suggest a total that's more than the cost–of the estimated cost that you told us today of the bipole. So is that–would that be accurate? Like does your math match up with my math on that or am I off on this?

Mr. Brennan:
I–first of all, I got tons of these things mailed to me as well, tons being–I don't know–probably approaching 50 or so and then I got quite a few phone calls on that as well.
I assumed that the amount–I had a hard time with the arithmetic myself–but I assumed it was talking about the incremental cost of going one route versus the other; that's what I assumed it was. So I went through my own calculation and I seemed to get quite a bit a different number. I took the distance in length–as a matter of fact, I made some notes somewhere–yes, I took the difference in length between the two routes and I took the total transmission cost, found out the cost per kilometre which works out to really quite an expensive amount, I think it was $940,000 a kilometre, and applied that to the incremental length and got a number of $428 million. I did not include, which Mr. McFadyen was talking about, just the increased losses that would occur; I excluded that. But that wouldn't be–it wouldn't double this number, for sure; it'd be less than that. So then I took the number of households from the escalated–up to 2017 and that number is less than our current number of customers. So I used that number and took the incremental cost per household for the difference in the two lines. That number came out to $821 per household, and then I said, well, that is over the life of the line, so I divided that by 60 and so the annual cost would then be $13.68. Then I figured, well, if we're talking households, households only use a third of the total amount of the system–power that's used on our system, so I thought that number should be divided by a third, but I didn't go that far.

Ms. Howard:
You did a lot more math than I did on that. So, by your calculation, then, we're talking about $13, and it could be lower than that. That would seem to me to be less than $11,478.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Suzuki and Axworthy on Bipole 3


Quotes from a Manitoba news release today:

“The First Nations of Manitoba east of Lake Winnipeg understand the importance of maintaining this precious ecosystem and have voluntarily committed large tracts of their traditional territory for protection. This is a priceless gift,” said Dr. David Suzuki, who is in Winnipeg today to meet with Sophia Rabliaskas and Premier Selinger. “A hydro corridor through this proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site would cause irreversible damage to the land and the people who have lived off it for thousands of years. We cannot continue to opt for short-term economic gains at the expense of long term social, ecological and economic benefits that far outweigh them.”

“The boreal forest is one of the great natural treasures that must be carefully managed and conserved. The efforts by First Nations supported by the provincial government to engage in careful planning of the region with the goal of securing an heritage designation from UNESCO deserves the full support of Manitobans. A key element in this endeavor is to limit any major intervention by way of a hydro corridor,” said University of Winnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Lloyd Axworthy.

Well said.

Click HERE to donate to the East Side UNESCO World Heritage Project.

Read HERE to see that the East Side boreal forest is one of the largest, most intact remaining forests on the planet. 

Learn more about Manitoba's East Side region HERE.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A few shout outs as we mark the Day of Mourning

Today, as we mark the international Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job, it's worth reading Kevin Rebeck's thoughts on how your vote in this federal election can affect the health and safety of more than 1 million working Canadians. Check out his blog HERE.

And while I'm at it, here's a shout out to the Canadian labour activists who started marking April 28 as the Day of Mourning back in 1984. It has since been officially recognized as the National Day of Mourning by Canada's Parliament (thanks to an NDP private members' bill in 1991), and has spread internationally to more than 80 countries in various forms.

And another shout out to Manitoba Labour Minister Jennifer Howard for her announcement today of a long term funding agreement for SAFE Workers of Tomorrow, a fantastic community organization that delivers a face-to-face message to 1 out of every 3 Manitoba high school students about their health and safety rights in the workplace. This is an important step towards reaching all high school students in Manitoba.

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