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Emile Scheffel

From Machetes to Mobs: What Happened at Carleton

When I left my hometown in the B.C. Interior to attend university in Ottawa, I expected to be immersed in an exciting intellectual environment, where well-informed debate would be a staple and a safe, inclusive environment the foundation. This has often been the case at Carleton, where I’m a couple of months away from finishing my political science degree. Unfortunately, there are some on our campuses who flout these ideals of Canadian democracy and academic life – as became clear during the February 17 council meeting of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA).The Ottawa Citizen and Maclean’s have already reported much of what happened, but I’ll briefly recap. Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) had submitted a motion that would have endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, in the context of urging a socially responsible investment policy for Carleton’s faculty and staff pension fund. The meeting was attended by SAIA and their supporters, as well as a sizeable group of students opposed to the singling out of the world’s only Jewish state, and the Middle East’s only real democracy, for demonization and delegitimization. I was in the latter group, and we were joined by other students who simply felt that this student council was not the proper forum for deciding complex questions of right and wrong in one of the world’s most fraught and controversial regions.Many of us – including Canadian politicians, across party lines, at the federal and provincial levels – have long felt that groups like SAIA and their anti-Israel campaigns foster a toxic atmosphere on our campuses that contribute to the insecurity of Jewish students, and make informed, reasonable discussions of Middle East issues very difficult to have. Past incidents of bullying and even violence at Concordia, York, and other institutions have made this… Read More

Adrian Dix struggles to consolidate BC NDP caucus

Adrian Dix must stay awake some nights wondering why BC New Democrats bothered electing him as their leader. It is, I concede, a time-honoured principle that leaders exercise less-than-full control over their caucus members and supporters. Such is democracy, and it is a good thing. But the BC NDP has been decidedly unruly in the past couple of weeks – to a point where it is not Dix's hold on party discipline alone that is in question, but rather his moral leadership. Take the incident earlier this month in which high-profile NDP strategist, pundit, and former legislator David Schreck tweeted his view that Premier Christy Clark was showing too much cleavage in the Legislature. Schreck was widely condemned, though outrage would undoubtedly have been far greater if a prominent male BC Liberal had made a comparably sexist remark about a female New Democrat. After some delay, Adrian Dix admitted that the remark had been inappropriate, and asked Schreck to apologize. Schreck refused, leaving Dix looking ineffectual, even helpless. To be fair, there is little Dix can do about Schreck – an unpaid partisan who holds no official position in the BC NDP. But it is worth noting that none of Dix's caucus took the trouble to back their leader up. Indeed, there is nothing to indicate that any among of the BC NDP caucus consider that Schreckosaurus – as this retrograde is now known – really did anything wrong. What's more, while Dix did the right thing in calling on Schreck to apologize, his position is undermined by his own unsubtle attempts to turn Christy Clark's manner and appearance into liabilities. Faced with an exceptionally charming and likeable opponent, Dix has shown an escalating propensity to portray her as insubstantial – most notably in a recent speech to the Union… Read More

BC conservatives fend off BC Conservatives

These are historic times. With the come-from-behind victory of Alison Redford in the Alberta PC leadership race, not only are three Canadian provinces now led by women premiers, two of these are our westernmost provinces, Alberta and BC. Both Redford and BC Liberal premier Christy Clark are centre-right premiers facing challenges from the further-right. Much has been made of Alberta’s upstart Wildrose Alliance party under Danielle Smith, who has set her sights on bringing down a decades-old PC dynasty and taking the province in a new, libertarian direction. Meanwhile the BC Conservatives under John Cummins, a former Reform-turned-Conservative MP, have given new life to a husk of a party that eked out 2% of the vote in the 2009 election. The Wildrose and the BC Conservatives, one must emphasize, have much more separating them than a provincial border. Under Danielle Smith, the former has snatched some of the Alberta PCs' best and brightest – including numerous activists and operatives with close ties to Stephen Harper's federal Conservatives – and has a credible shot at government when Albertans go to the polls. Cummins's party, meanwhile, has been disavowed by the leader's own former colleagues – high-profile federal Tories like Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl, and Jay Hill. They are firmly on side with Christy Clark and the BC Liberals – a made-in-BC, free-enterprise coalition that embraces federal Liberals and Conservatives alike. The most Cummins can hope for in the 2013 election is to play spoiler – sapping right-of-centre votes from the BC Liberals, possibly delivering an NDP government. To do even that, the BC Conservatives will need credible candidates, serious money, and local organizations that can get out the vote at ground level on election day – none of which are presently evident. This brings me to a recent column by Michael Smyth in The Province,… Read More