Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Conversion Therapy and Affirmative Therapy

Now that the LPC government has tabled Bill C-4, it's probably a good time to examine the two terms that are inevitably going to be argued about the most with this legislation.  Specifically, I want to talk about the terms "Conversion Therapy" and "Affirmative Therapy".  

I will be doing this primarily through the lens of mental health therapy, although in the coming debate over Bill C-4, you can expect that to get conflated with medical interventions such as surgeries or hormone therapies.  The relationship between mental health and medical interventions is a separate matter that will be addressed in another article. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

There Is No Such Thing As A "True Conservative"

In his column for yesterday's National Post, John Robson opines that the problems that Jason Kenney and Erin O'Toole are having with the electorate are because they aren't being "Real Conservatives" (or "Conservative Enough").  

No, Mr. Robson, that isn't it at all. Perhaps it's escaped your notice in the last couple of decades, but conservatism has changed, and the evidence of that change exists in many places. The selection of leaders like Kenney, Scheer, and O'Toole are evidence of that change. The change started decades ago, and it solidified when Harper engineered his take-over of the PCs and Canadian Alliance parties to form the current CPC.

Yet, every time a conservative runs headlong into the reality that they aren't winning, writers like Mr. Robson start opining that it's really because the politician isn't "a true conservative".  I don't know what this "true conservative" looks like, and frankly I suspect that such an animal doesn't really exist. 

Why do I say this? Because the claim itself rests upon a 'No True Scotsman' fallacy. Writers who make this claim are blinding themselves to the reality that is unfolding around them. Today's Conservatism is no longer some semi-idealized version of a politics that was opined into existence in the 19th century. It has changed.

Conservatives chose to rally around Harper, Kenney, Ford, and more recently O'Toole ... and frankly voters are turning their backs on this brand of populist, deceitful conservatism for good reason.  

Kenney has been sliding in the polls for at least the last year. Why? Because once in power he showed us who he really is with arrogance, condescension, and lies. He has earned the ire of voters in Alberta for a bunch of reasons - but he is very much the face of today's populist conservatism. 

O'Toole came out swinging in the election, and in some ways did far better than expected.  But - and it's a big but - he lost ground in the key province of Ontario. Since losing to Trudeau in 2015, the CPC has all but undone the gains made in Ontario that helped the party win in 2006. What was it that caused them to lose in 2015? Harper dropping the veil and showing us the ugly side of the CPC - whether that was an elitist view of citizenship, or the overt racism of the campaign (Old Stock Canadians, Barbaric Cultural Practices Hotline, etc.).  

You see, these, are the values that conservatism has come to hold in Canada. Language like "Traditional Social Values" no longer means what guys like Robson seem to think it does.  It has become code-speak for a miserable combination of elitism and bigotry drawn from the worst elements of the 19th century British Empire. Fiscal probity, something conservatives have long claimed to be the natural proponents of, has become coded language for letting the wealthy off from paying their fair share towards the nation, and throws in a side helping of corporate greed.  

Conservatism today isn't what Robson thinks it is, and the fix isn't for "Kenney and O'Toole to act more like conservatives" - they are what conservatism has become. 

Figure out what conservatism should be, and find a way to that place. Don't insult Canadians' intelligence by telling us that the worst leaders of the movement "just need to act better".  The movement needs to change. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Prognostications On The War In The UCP

 The UCP in Alberta is at war with itself, and the war has broken into the open just before their Annual General Meeting (AGM).  

What’s the fight over? No less than Jason Kenney himself. 

Make no mistake about it, the UCP was formed to be a vehicle for Kenney to ride to power and control the province with. For that party to now be looking seriously at kicking Kenney to the curb is somewhat astonishing, but here we are. As of yesterday, some 22 Riding Associations (RA) had signed on to a letter demanding a leadership review ASAP, and more are expected to follow suit, a number which meets the threshold in the Party Constitution to force the matter.  

What are Kenney’s options? 

I see a handful of scenarios for Kenney: 

Scenario 1:  He Tries To Hang On

Kenney sees himself as an invincible campaigner.  It’s possible that he thinks he holds enough cards that he can persuade the bulk of the active party membership to endorse his leadership.  This would, in some ways, be the best possible path for Kenney’s public image - if he can survive a leadership review at this time, he comes out looking like a much more dangerous foe to his opponents both within the party and outside of it.   

Scenario 2:  The Leadership Review Happens, Kenney Is Booted

More likely, given what we’ve seen so far, is that enough of the party is either pissed off about “COVID Restrictions” (rural ridings), or are panicking about the upcoming 2023 election (urban ridings), that Kenney comes to be seen as a liability.  

 With Brian Jean once again stalking around the leadership discussion, one might imagine that this is a far more likely outcome for a governing party whose polling numbers are at all-time lows, and whose leader is increasingly seen as a small, petulant man unwilling to do the right things by anyone except his own interests. 

Scenario 3:  An Agreement With Party Brass

Kenney might make an agreement with party brass to hang on until just before the planned spring leadership review. If he doesn’t think he can win that with a sufficient fraction of the party support, then he “goes for a walk in the snow” and announces his retirement from Alberta politics. 

Given Kenney’s ego, this scenario seems unlikely, but it might occur if Party Brass initiates it and manages to convince Kenney to do something that will allow the party to continue on afterwards. 

Scenario 4:  Nuclear Option

Kenney’s last option is basically “nuclear”.  He walks to the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, and asks for the dissolution of the legislature, triggering an immediate election. 

He has already threatened to do this to keep an increasingly unruly caucus in line, and doing it right now would likely blow the party apart. He knows he would lose the election, but this would be an act of political revenge on those who dared oppose him. Remember, this party was built around Kenney in the first place, and I suspect he sees it very much as “his party”.  That makes it quite likely that he’ll be willing to play the “if I can’t have it, nobody can” card.  

The consequences would be grim for the party, because Kenney would likely as not refuse to sign the nomination papers for anyone who has dared challenge him, forcing them to run as independents or not run at all. 

It would put the party itself in a “come from behind” situation, and one that given current polling would practically hand the election to the NDP.  

Either way, the next few days will be very interesting, as Kenney will be fighting for his political life, and frankly may well see it as “I’ve got nothing to lose”. 


The first 3 scenarios don’t trigger anything immediate for Albertans.  At most we get a sideshow spectacle as the UCP attempts to hold itself together during a leadership race.  Now, I don’t think the UCP is truly “united” - mostly because it is made up of the same constituencies as the Federal CPC, and unlike Harper, Kenney lacks the leadership skills and character needed to “bring them together” and foster cooperation.  Part of that arises from being so clearly a member of the SoCon faction - anything he does there is subject to accusations within the party that he’s favouring that faction over others. That means a snap leadership race is probably going to inflame divisions, not heal them.  

The last scenario is by far the “bloodiest” politically.  It will blow the conservative movement in Alberta apart and set it back for at least a decade electorally.  The UCP is unlikely to survive a snap election call.  Even if Kenney believes he can win the vote, the party won’t survive. Voters would rightly look at this as a cynical political maneuver by Kenney, and likely as not would punish him at the ballot box.  New candidates that are unknowns because he refused to sign nomination papers for incumbents won’t be easily elected, no matter how “amazing” a campaign Kenney executes - especially in urban Alberta, where the level of disaffection has clearly hit party support the hardest. 

The UCP would likely fracture into 3 major subgroups:  urban conservatives (mostly fiscal hawks, I suspect), rural conservatives (predominantly libertarian), and social conservatives. If Kenney thinks that he’s got a problem “herding cats” now, it’s nothing on what will happen when those 3 groups start squabbling over control of the UCP corpse.  

What Happens To Kenney? 

Quite frankly, I think Kenney’s days as an elected politician are over.  He won’t return to elected politics for at least 2 full election cycles - his brand is tarnished by a series of avoidable, unnecessary mistakes - ranging from simply being petulant and petty with the Federal government to being seen as unlikeable and arrogant.  He might be a “tireless campaigner”, but his ability to portray himself as “oh so reasonable” has been badly damaged in voters’ minds both provincially and federally. 

Expect to see a defeated Jason Kenney join Harper and Associates, becoming an “advisor” to whoever replaces Erin O’Toole in Ottawa.  

Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Few Thoughts On The Rittenhouse Trial

 The Kyle Rittenhouse trial is a farce.  A travesty, and potentially will end up being one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in history (and not just US history, either).  

From the get-go, it’s clear that the judge has an agenda:  to get Rittenhouse acquitted.  That shows up time and again, whether it is a ruling on the language that can be used in the courtroom to describe the people that Rittenhouse shot, or clearly trying to hamstring the prosecutor’s line of questioning, the judge is playing games because he knows this trial is being watched closely by other Trumpists.  My guess is that this judge is playing electoral politics - but he’s also playing with fire - and the fire is outside his courtroom. 

I’ve mused repeatedly on this blog about how toxic partisanship has become in our politics. Remember that in the US, county level judges are elected, and therefore are intrinsically political to begin with. Schroeder’s actions during the Rittenhouse trial strongly suggest bias in the case, and call into question how objectively he can oversee the trial. 

My expectation at this point is that Rittenhouse will be acquitted - even though there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate not just intent, but a violent intent tinged with an unpleasant side of racism. But, when the judge overseeing the trial does things like rule that you cannot call the victims of a shooting ‘victims’, it’s pretty clear that the trial is already prejudiced. 

… and then there’s the point in the trial where the judge’s cell phone starts ringing, and it happens to play the song that Trump uses when he walks on stage.  That’s where partisanship walks into the room and drops its pants. 

The results of this trial will go down in history as the moment that it became abundantly clear that the American judiciary has become a purely partisan entity, and it will then come to matter in the courts whether the accused is known to belong to “the other party”, or if the accused is being tried for something that the judge’s party approves of.  

Even if an acquittal is eventually overturned on appeal because of various legal errors made by the presiding judge, the fact of the matter will still be that the trial process - especially at the local levels - is now subject to partisan considerations.  If you thought the riots after George Floyd was killed were something, just wait until marginalized people figure that out.  

The Cass Review and the WPATH SOC

The Cass Review draws some astonishing conclusions about the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) . More or less, the basic upshot of the Cass Rev...