Dispatch from the Front Line: Not now, Alberta!

Also: We had a retired supreme edit this. And then another one.

We at The Line make a point of keeping ourselves honest. It's important. We have set a standard for ourselves here. We owe it to you to live up to it. That's why, when we finished writing this latest dispatch, we asked a former Supreme Court justice to read it over for us. She did so, and sent us some really detailed feedback and offered some really good suggestions about how we could improve it. 

We read her feedback, carefully. We agreed with a lot of it. And then we immediately asked a different former Supreme Court justice to do the exact same thing. And once we get her feedback, hey. Maybe we'll make some edits to the dispatch.

We kid, of course, but this is basically how the federal government is responding to the sexual misconduct scandal that has bubbled out of the Canadian Armed Forces and spread to the Prime Minister's Office. This week saw a mealy mouthed political non-apology for the record books from Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan, who wants any women in the military who feel like they were let down to know that the government is very, very sorry. Gee, thanks, Minister. What a profile in courage that is. How reassuring to the women — and some men! — in the military either living with the reality or memory of sexual misconduct in the ranks. 

And then there was the double-double approach to Supreme Court justices. Marie Deschamps wrote a detailed report on sexual misconduct in the military in 2015 (this report was discussed in depth here at The Line previously). Some of the action items in that report have been enacted, and things are therefore slightly better. But there is a lot more that could be done, that was already spelled out by Deschamps, and the report is just sitting there, neglected by all comers like those weird bagels with raisins in them. Now that the Minister has gotten the non-apology monkey off his back, maybe he'd like to grab the goddamn report he already has and, like, you know, do something with it?!

No. No, dear readers, he does not. What he'd like to do is appoint another former Supreme Court justice to write another report. 

LOL! Just kidding. What he wants to do is buy time. The minister is hoping — and he will probably be proven right! — that Canadians won't care about some lady soldiers getting harassed or outright raped in the military, not if his government can stick the vaccine landing, as seems increasingly likely. Sajjan has had literally years to take on the well-known issues inside the Canadian Forces, and he's nibbled around the edges a bit, and no more. Only now that his ass is hanging out in the wind, along with a bunch of PMO staffer asses, and perhaps the prime minister's, has the party rediscovered the urgency of the issue.

Pointing out the many ways that Trudeau and his government fail to live up to their own branding is almost a joke these days. Like, gosh, what more can we say? But if you have any capacity for shock and outrage left, and yeah, we know that's a big if, this should set you off. The facts are plain. There's no longer any dispute. The PMO was told that Canada's top soldier was accused of sexual misconduct, and they ignored it. It just didn't move their give-a-shit needle. That needle didn't quiver for three years, until some great reporters at Global News dug this up and put the PM in danger of yet again being revealed to be a hypocritical fraud on women's issues.

And we can't have that! So let's call in a retired Supreme to get to the bottom of all this. A few years from now.

Sorry, ladies of the armed forces. Better is always possible for you. But under Trudeau and Sajjan, it’s possible only in theory, and only when they get nervous about their own fates.

Thanks for your service, though.

As daily COVID-19 case numbers appear to have peaked in Ontario, the great eye of Sauron has shifted westward and settled on the fine province of Alberta — which just yesterday broke a grim new record. More than 2,000 COVID-19 tests came up positive in this province of only 4 million, giving it a per capita case rate higher than anywhere else in the country at the moment and on par with India.

Personally, we at The Line think this comparison is overwrought. Alberta is testing way more people, per capita; India, tragically, is likely not confirming many positive cases. Alberta’s ICU’s are not yet at capacity, oxygen is still in supply, and we have not run out of wood to burn the bodies of the dead. Further, we here tend to think that this wave will likely parallel what we have already seen in other provinces, including Ontario, albeit a few days behind; that is, we expect daily cases to reach their peak, and soon.

That said, things are not swimming along out west. Three weeks ago, the government put the province back to Step 1, with restrictions almost as strong as those implemented at the beginning of the pandemic. Cases continued to spike. And so yesterday, Premier Jason Kenney announced more restrictions; junior and high school classes are moving online, gyms will close, and there is even the possibility of curfews. Still no paid sick leave, though, and the curfews are almost certainly pandemic theatre. We might also note the late hour, however, these are measures that appear to be rationally connected to the conditions in which COVID-19 spreads. What we are not seeing at the moment is the kind of irrational, panic-driven and borderline authoritarian restrictions that have marked Doug Ford’s last two weeks.

And yet … Alberta’s case rates are alarming, and although we at The Line have only anecdata to show for it, we highly suspect that this can be attributed to mass non-compliance. As the weather warmed, we noticed not just an over-abundance of walkers, but the tell-tale signs of indoor gatherings in our bucolic little suburbs; too many cars on residential streets, the smell of fire pits, crowded laughter, muffled music. This makes us suspect that further, stricter lockdown measures without the enforcement to back it up will likely be useless, if not counterproductive. Every couple on outdoor patio on a sunny day represents a much lower risk than a house party. Harm reduction appears to be the name of this game.

That said, it cannot be denied that a slice of the population just doesn’t want the government telling it what to do. And it does seem that Alberta hosts a higher proportion of said folks than other provinces; there is a reason why 15 members of Kenney’s own caucus signed an open letter calling for the government to ease restrictions in recent weeks. Meanwhile, whispers abound about an internal coup among UCP members furious that Kenney has caved to the doctatorship. Not that the left has noticed; to them, Kenney is a COVID-19 ghoul who continually fails to crack down hard enough, fast enough. The everyone-hates-Kenney valley — soon to be christened in K-country — has ensured that Alberta now boasts the least popular premier in the Confederation; once again, taking the job of Alberta premier is proving itself to be the sip from the poisoned chalice.

But we digress. The point is that Alberta is home to a sizeable rump of government-skeptical grumps. We at The Line would normally applaud the existence of even the kookier among them because we think that housing a collection of easily agitated quasi-libertarian types is generally good for a polity. Uniformity of opinion and perspective is bad for democracy. Governments behave better when they know a section of the population will not tolerate overreach. Skepticism forces officials to show their work. Dissent fosters debate, and hosting a diversity of viewpoints usually leads to better decision making. We know this.

However, there are times when these healthy, skeptical instincts are also counter-productive; for example, during the peak of the third wave of a global pandemic. So, Alberta, while we salute your fuck-government impulses in principle, we have to ask: can it not wait a few more weeks? This last round of restrictions is really just an attempt to buy a little more time to get vaccines into arms. As we’re seeing in countries like the U.K. and Israel, once vaccinations reach a particular threshold of the population, the exponential growth curve of case rate growth rapidly downshifts into exponential decay. Even as those countries eased restrictions and opened, their case rates fell dramatically. This is promising. It suggests that the pandemic is nearing the end. So hold off on the Molotov cocktails for just a little bit longer. There will be other more useful things we can be angry at the government for very soon.


Speaking of burning governments, our Friday column was devoted to immolating Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault. Here, we will pre-emptively rebut that column with a piece in Maclean’s translated from the French language newspaper, L’actualité. It’s a perfect example of of a piece of journalism that is useful despite being uncritical. Read it to get a very different, very Quebec perspective on Guilbeault’s crusade against Big Tech. It also gives us some insight into Guilbeault’s own self conception and mandate of the kind that would only be relayed to a sympathetic writer.

Round Up:

  • Fraser McDonald got us started this week, taking issue with a lot of the dumber vaccine talking points we’ve seen floating around of late. “The fact that we’ve ordered nearly 400 million doses for a population of about 38 million seems like enormous overkill to me,” he wrote. “But for a government to brag about having bought at least five times the doses it needs while ignoring the ‘when do we get them?’ part is quite rich. We have more than enough ‘rights to acquire vaccines’ but not enough vaccines in arms. Execution matters. Deliveries matter. More of those please.”

  • Meaghie Champion was up next, talking about how long we can just make more money before we run into some lousy consequences. “One of the nastiest things about inflation is that those who have worked hard, saved money, and parked it in things that are considered safe like cash, chequing accounts, savings accounts and government bonds will be financially destroyed,” she warns. “Meanwhile, those who ran up debts and have no savings will be rewarded as their debts evaporate.” We at The Line are suddenly worried about our under-the-mattress banking strategy. But sshhh. Don’t tell anyone we said that.

  • Matt Gurney moseyed on in next, commenting on the passing this week, aged 90, of Michael Collins, the U.S. astronaut who flew Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to their famous jaunt on the moon. “Advances in technology are allowing major strides in manned space flight,” Gurney said with tears running down his face. “As launches get cheaper and more reliable, which, thanks to SpaceX, they are, the barriers to entry get lower. There are realistic plans to return to the moon in the next few years, hopefully this time to stay. Mars is the next stop, and though that's still at the very edge of our capabilities, it's at least on the cusp of being possible. … It's just barely possible that the next milestones in what seems to be a new space age are close enough at hand that we'll still have a few veterans of the first alive to see them. It’s a shame Michael Collins won’t be one of them.”

  • Jen Gerson closed out the week for us, aiming well-deserved skepticism at the federal government’s plan to regulate free speech online. “If you're YouTube, how are you going to respond to a regulatory environment that demands more Canadian content,” she asked, “or requires equal time for partisan viewpoints, as the Broadcasting Act does? Are [individual YouTube creators] going to risk a $15 million fine on a channel that a newly emboldened CRTC decides is a risk to undermining Canada's ‘social cohesion,’ as defined by chuckles and his crew? 

On that note, please contribute to Canadian social cohesion by signing up and/or subscribing to The Line: the publication that routinely fantasizes about Molotov cocktails.

The Line is Canada’s last, best hope for irreverent commentary. We reject bullshit. We love lively writing. Please consider supporting us by subscribing. Follow us on Twitter @the_lineca. Fight with us on Facebook. Pitch us something: lineeditor@protonmail.com