This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
As I’ve been documenting in these digital pages for over a year now, we in Canada are on a slow but inexorable path which will result in our politics becoming as ridiculous and toxic as everywhere else.
No longer will we be able to take that strange pride in being slightly more peaceful and orderly than the rest of the world. And no longer will the rest of the world occasionally look at our slightly-more-peaceful-and-orderliness, give the equivalent of a half-hearted thumbs up, and then go back to struggling with their real problems.
Everyone else appears to be running in circles trying to avert this outcome—and well they might. For my part, I’ve set myself on a course of grim acceptance. Acknowledgement of the barriers gleefully smashed along the way and warnings about what comes next for the Jewish community; that’s what you can expect from me as we proceed.
But in the past week, we broke one of the bigger and more important vessels.
We in Canada were previously protected by a strict set of social norms that effectively un-personed anyone who behaved in a rude, excessively partisan, or underhanded manner. But now there’s a cost to not behaving that way. The result? More politicians behaving in bad faith, scrambling ever harder for extremely thin partisan advantages, and—worst of all—those who follow the old rules being looked at as chumps.
Prior to the past week, Conservative MPs meeting and being photographed with Christine Anderson would’ve drawn the usual condemnations, denouncements and apologies.
While serving as a German member of the European Parliament, she’s connected all the far-right dots you’ve come to know: support for Russia, calls for reduced immigration, special animosity towards Muslims, selfies with the basically neo-Nazi group Diagolon.
Anderson’s party, the Alternative for Germany, is boycotted by Israel and trafficks in antisemitism of the downplaying-the-Holocaust variety, the Jews-control-the-banks variety, and the laws-to-limit-circumcision-and-Jewish religious practices variety. (The latter came up in a draft election manifesto of 2016.) Vile, but not unfamiliar.
What’s special about Anderson, however, is that she recognizes that Canadians whose views are adjacent to hers would go absolutely bonkers if she took time away from her favourite subjects and called out Justin Trudeau as a disgrace.
And in normal circumstances this would also go according to plan, for we had vessels to contain this controversy in the form of our cherished norms. The requisite Jewish organizations would express concern, and MPs would stay away and freeze out those who failed to stay away until they capitulated.
But these are not normal circumstances. Right around the same time, it was revealed that the Liberals had tacitly accepted support—or at the very least turned a blind eye—to interference from China in the 2019 election. Erin O’Toole subsequently raised the alarm through the proper channels during his stint as Conservative leader. The commentariat howled in protest. And from the Liberals? A shrug. Dismissal of their critics as engaging in Trump-style disputation of election results.
And so, even though current leader Pierre Poilievre issued a brief denouncement to the satisfaction of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs , he was immediately attacked from the right for doing too much—and attacked from the left for doing far too little. There was a cost to him to trying to do the usual condemn-denounce-apologize, however half-hearted it was. There was also a cost to O’Toole calling out what he saw.
And even as more revelations continue to spiral outwards about the depth of Chinese involvement, the Liberals are getting the better of the situation because they understand there is no cost to what they are doing. Because that vessel has been broken.
Next time they may not even bother trying to back away from cozying up to an antisemitic party, let alone Googling them first. At that time we might realize that the protection afforded by that vessel is gone.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.