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Joe Oliver: Irrational ‘progressive’ policies are driving dystopian results

Posted By April 12, 2024 No Comments

From street names to gender, criminology and climate, our institutions are in thrall to crazy wokeness. We need to get our culture back

Nathan Philips Square in Toronto. The city has raised taxes 9.5 per cent for this fiscal year but is planning costly net-zero projects. PHOTO BY TYLER ANDERSON/NATIONAL POS

(Written by Joe Oliver. Originally published here in the Financial Post, republished with permission.)

Society is in the grip of irrational ideas that defy common sense and drive dystopian policies. Some inane beliefs and trends are made up out of whole cloth; others derive from ideas that have resurfaced, Zombie-like, from the crypt of historic failures. They are advanced by “progressive” activists in thrall to a post-modern woke-ism steeped in Marxist-Leninism. What makes the phenomenon so threatening is its pervasive influence in politics, academia, media, not-for-profits and big business.

Two Finnish surveys published in March found that being woke was linked to anxiety, depression and a lack of happiness. We can only speculate why their ideas make them unhappier than the people they impose them on. Or are depressed people simply prone to socially damaging notions?

A decade or two ago people would have rejected these bizarre ideas for the nonsense they are, and their proponents as emperors with no clothes. But today they are conventional wisdom and skeptics are know-nothing deviants who must be de-platformed and punished for their heresy.

A centrepiece of postmodern ideology is DEI which, by dividing us all into oppressor or oppressed, is neither diverse, nor equitable nor inclusive but conformist, unfair and exclusionary. It undermines excellence, productivity and competitiveness and is largely responsible for the assault on truth and inquiry at schools and universities, which have become left-wing breeding grounds for Gen Z.

As for climate catastrophism, there are innumerable examples of the zany policies it has led to. Toronto’s fiscal situation is so dire it has just increased property taxes by 9.5 per cent. Yet its TransformTO 2022 Annual Report says that reaching net-zero goals by 2050 will require a $145-billion investment — though Toronto’s GHG emissions amount to 0.114 per cent of the global total. The U.S. government says that since 1850 the Earth’s temperature has risen 0.06C degrees per decade. That means Toronto contributes less than 0.00001 of a degree annually to global warming. This is the same Toronto that is re-naming Dundas Street, which honoured a British abolitionist, after an African tribe prominent in the slave trade. Virtue-signalling trumping common sense is clearly rampant.

The cost for Canada to reach net zero by 2050 will be at least $2 trillion — about $180,000 for a family of four. The prime minister’s claim we must act now to avoid extreme weather is simply misinformation. Canada’s contribution to the annual increase in the globe’s temperature is less than a thousandth of a degree. And the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change tells us that in fact extreme weather events have not increased in severity or frequency. Despite incessant warnings from governments and media about a climate crisis, most people are unwilling to pay much to alleviate it. The climate consensus currently unravelling in Europe never caught on in the developing world.

An overarching concern for many Canadians is that their income has not kept up with inflation, yet the feds double down on profligate spending and ignore stalled productivity growth. They are also exacerbating a severe housing crisis by promoting the largest immigration levels since 1957 and one of the highest immigration rates in the world.

But the grand prize for cognitive dissonance goes to “Gays for Palestine,” who would be at high risk of arrest or defenestration in Gaza or the West Bank, though not in Tel Aviv, one of the world’s best places to celebrate pride. It is tragically ironic that students obsessed about micro-aggressions protest on behalf of a terrorist organization that advocates genocide. The double standard Israel faces has many rationalizations, but antisemitism has been a constant for millennia. Canada’s recent parliamentary vote calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza rewarded Hamas for its murderous rampage, which broke what was already a ceasefire.

On the criminal justice front, moving serial killer Paul Bernardo to a medium-security prison outraged most Canadians, but is hardly an anomaly: fewer than 14 per cent of “dangerous offenders” are confined in maximum security prisons.

More generally, catch-and-release and lenient parole defy logic, put the public at risk and fuel the growing problem of urban crime.

Males who identify as women and use women’s washrooms and compete against women in sports are hailed as avatars of progress while anyone who points out that this could put women at risk or female athletes at a disadvantage can have their career destroyed. Get ready for complaints brought under the deeply flawed “Online Harms Bill,” C-63, which could impose sentences of up to life imprisonment for speech crimes.

Irrational, illiberal ideas are now entrenched in our most important institutions and the public is becoming habituated to them. It will require a determined effort to take the culture back and root out dysfunctional policies that undermine the economy, personal agency and our core rights and freedoms. But do we have any choice?

Joe Oliver was minister first of natural resources and then of finance in the Harper government.