Why aren’t the NDP climate and environmental champions?

It is generally held that the existence of this socialist tradition allows governments in Canada to play a larger role than in the United States. As noted above, however, pollution regulation in this country has imposed costs on industry that are only one-third of those imposed by American governments. Despite their much more vocal commitment to the virtues of free enterprise, Americans have been much more willing to see governments intervene to protect the environment than have Canadians.

Perhaps of more significance is the fact that this socialist tradition led to creation of the CCF in 1932 and the New Democratic Party in 1961. Environmentalism has always been seen as part of the progressive agenda and therefore it might be assumed that environmentalists form a natural constituency for the NDP.

In fact, however, the NDP has been no more successful than either of the other two parties in articulating environmental policy and NDP governments have not been particularly noted for action on the issue. It would be difficult to argue that British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, in which NDP governments have held power, have introduced more stringent pollution control measures than Ontario, where, until 1990, the NDP had not formed a government. A 1985 review of the record of NDP governments in Manitoba since it assumed power in 1982 reached this conclusion: “Changes in [environmental] legal arrangements and institutions have also been minimal; not one change seems to strike environmentalists as having great significance.”

The question is not whether the socialist foundations of the NDP will lead that party automatically to environmentalism, since they will not, but whether environmentalists can draw on that party’s concern for fairness and social justice as they work to put in place policies based on fairness and justice for the natural world.

Macdonald, Doug. The Politics of Pollution. McClelland & Steward; Toronto. 1991. p. 50–1


Eton’s Pop society

We knew that Gibson and Longden planned to put me up for Pop. The suspense grew heavy, our voices languished. Pop elections took hours, for the same boy could be put up and blackballed seven or eight times, a caucus of voters keeping out everybody till their favourite got in. Only the necessity of lunch ended these ordeals. Suddenly there was a noise of footsteps thudding up the wooden staircase of the tower. The door burst open, and about twenty Pops, many of whom had never spoken to me before, with bright coloured waistcoats, rolled umbrellas, buttonholes, braid, and “spongebag” trousers, came reeling in, like the college of cardinals arriving to congratulate some pious old freak whom fate had elevated to the throne of St. Peter. They made a great noise, shouting and slapping me on the back in the elation of their gesture, and Charles drifted away. I had got in on the first round, being put up by Knebworth, but after they had left only the small of Balkan Sobranie and Honey and Flowers remained to prove it was not a dream.

At that time Pop were the rulers of Eton, fawned on by masters, and the helpless Sixth Form. Such was their prestige that some boys who failed to get in never recovered; one was rumoured to have procured his sister for the influential members. Besides privilege—for they could beat anyone, fag any lower boy, walk arm-in-arm, wear pretty clothes, sit in their own club, and get away with minor breaches of discipline, they also possessed executive power, which their members tasted, often for the only time in their lives. To elect a boy without a colour, and a Colleger too, was a departure for them; it made them feel that they appreciated intellectual worth, and could not be accused of athleticism; they felt like the Viceroy after entertaining Gandhi. The rest of the school could not understand that a boy could be elected because he was amusing; if I got in without a colour it must be because I was a “bitch”; yet by Eton standards I was too unattractive to be a “bitch”—unless my very ugliness provided, for the jaded appetites of the Eton Society, the final attraction!

When I went to chapel I was conscious of eyes being upon me; some were masters, cold and censorious, they believed the worst; others were friendly and admiring. Those of the older boys were incredulous, but the younger ones stared hardest, for they could be beaten for not knowing all the Pops by sight, and mine was a mug they must learn by heart. Everybody congratulated me. The only person not to was Denis. He himself had been co-opted in as future Captain of the School, and could not believe that my election to such an anti-intellectual and reactionary body could give me pleasure. I thought that it was because he was envious, since he had been elected ex officio. My intravenous injection of success had begun to take.

Connolly, Cyril. Enemies of Promise. London; Routledge. 1938. p. 302–3

Massey College murder game drama

Every year, many participated in organized sports (volleyball, basketball, hockey) and got involved in squash ladders and ping-pong tournaments. There were laser tag evenings. But the sport that engaged most of the college for the better part of a week each year was, of course, the Murder Game. As [Michael] McGillion observed, it was “always a huge stirring up of your life. If you take it very seriously at Massey, your life stops, really. Your studies are halted. People are in rooms with maps and positioning systems. We had alarms set up. It was ridiculous how seriously we took it.” In the course of one game he recalls an episode “involving the master and Matthew Sullivan, who was in law, a Buddhist, an interesting character, and very quirky. I was his victim and the master was my victim. I saw the master as he bolted and went after him. Matthew went after me. And we had this chase, which must have gone on for half an hour, up and down the stairs of all the houses. The master can move. He’s very quick. He’s hard to catch.” [John] Fraser himself recounted another memorable moment that concerned Daniel Bader (JF, 1998–2000, 2004–5), theology student and successful killer. A devout Catholic who regularly spent time in the Newman Chapel, he was indignant to find himself “killed from behind” while “on his knees” there. Afterwards, he and another junior fellow (a fundamentalist Protestant) expressed their concern to Fraser about this “outrage to religion.” The master probably did not help matters when he responded: “Well, there is precedent. There was an archbishop killed in the Church of England.”

Grant, Judith Skelton. A Meeting of Minds: The Massey College Story. University of Toronto Press, 2015. p. 546–7


The Massey College Rule of Courtesy

One of the items discussed each September when the don and committee chairs elected the previous April explained the college’s various structures and committees to the incoming group is the Rule of Courtesy. This rule, which has governed college behaviour since Robertson Davies’s day, essentially restates the Golden Rule. Here’s how it was explained on 17 September 1998: “[We] only ask that you be courteous, to think of how your actions may affect others with whom you live. [We] get a lot of mileage out of our one rule. [It] includes: not blaring loud music from your rooms, screaming across the quad (especially at night), cleaning up after yourself in the kitchen and bathrooms, not eating others’ food or using their laundry detergent, responding promptly to invitations. [It] also comes into play tonight: listen to those who have the floor, respect the opinions of others. Also included in the rule of courtesy is respect for the diversity of our community.” Breaches of the Rule of Courtesy — particularly in regard to hot plates [meals set aside in the JF fridge for Junior Fellows who cannot attend meals because of academic or other commitments] — were frequently under discussion at house committee and JCR meetings during John Fraser’s first term.

Grant, Judith Skelton. A Meeting of Minds: The Massey College Story. University of Toronto Press, 2015. p. 536–7

Note: Aside from my explanation of hot plates, the square brackets are in Grant’s text.

DeSilva and Harvey-Sànchez divestment podcast series complete

The fifth and final episode in Amanda Harvey-Sànchez and Julia DeSilva’s series on the University of Toronto fossil fuel divestment campaign, successively organized by Toronto350.org, UofT 350.org, and then the Leap Manifesto and Divestment & Beyond groups.

The episode brings back guests from each prior era, and includes some interesting reflections on what organizers from different eras felt they learned, the value of protest as an empowerment space and venue for inter-activist networking, the origins of the Leap Manifesto group in the aftermath of the 2016 rejection, as well as how they explain President Gertler’s decision to reverse himself and divest five years after he rejected the Toronto350.org campus fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Threads on previous episodes:

History belongs to future generations

I disagree with the fundamental notion inherent to the supposed “right to be forgotten”, which is the presumption that the main and most important purpose of documenting world events is to depict your life history in an autobiographical sense. My conviction is that history belongs not to the subjects who it is about, but to the future generations who will need to use it to understand their own situations and solve their own problems. When we censor the future out of vanity or even out of compassion for errors long-atoned for, we may be denying something important to the future. We act as the benefactors of those in future generations by preserving what ordered and comprehensible information may eventually survive from our era, and we should distort it as little as possible. The world is so complex that events are impossible to understand while they are happening. The accounts and records we preserve are the clay which through careful work historians may later turn into bricks. We should not pre-judge what they should find important or what they ought to hear.

The trace we each leave on the broader world during our brief lives is important to other people, and the importance of them being well-informed to confront the unforeseeable but considerable challenges they confront outweighs our own interests as people to be remembered in as positive a light as possible, even if that requires omission and/or deception.

The soundest base for a diagnosis

So much depends on style, that factor of which we are growing more and more suspicious, that although the tendency of criticism is to explain a writer either in terms of his sexual experience or his economic background, I still believe technique remains the soundest base for a diagnosis, that it should be possible to learn as much about an author’s income and sex-life from one paragraph of his writing as from his cheque stubs and his love-letters, and one should also be able to learn how well he writes, and what are his influences. Critics who ignore style are liable to lump good and bad writers together in support of pre-conceived theories.

Connoly, Cyril. Enemies of Promise. George Routledge & Sons, Ltd. Broadway House: 68–74 Carter Lane, E.C. 1938

New podcast on the U of T divestment campaign from 2014 to 2016

Back in November, Amanda Harvey-Sánchez and Julia DaSilva released a podcast episode for Climate Justice Toronto about the first generation of fossil fuel divestment organizers at U of T. That episode covered from the inception of the campaign in 2012 until the People’s Climate March (PCM) in New York City in September 2014.

They have now released the second episode, which features Katie Krelove, Ben Donato-Woodger, Keara Lightning, and Ariel Martz-Oberlander, and which discussed the period from the PCM until president Meric Gertler’s rejection of divestment in March 2016.

Lives of spies

One genre which I enjoy reading is non-fiction about espionage and counterespionage.

Recently released Cuban spy in the USA Ana Montes is an interesting story from several perspectives, including ideological motivation, tradecraft, and the challenges in countering insider attacks against the intelligence services.