03.17.2015 03:23 PM

Whistle while you work


 Like a real dog whistle which produces sound at a high frequency that can be heard by canines but not by humans, dog-whistle politics refers to the use of code words that go unheard or unremarked by most people but which convey a particular — usually nasty, racially tinged — message to a target audience.

I never liked the phrase, personally, because it suggests that strategists believe voters are animals, and therefore easily trained. If that were so, no one would need strategists anymore, would they?

A cur like Larry Miller notwithstanding, my experience is that Ontario Conservatives – from Harris to Tory to Hudak – were always much more willing to engage in such politics than their federal cousins. Not sure why that is so, but all three of those guys ran campaigns where race was a key strategic imperative. 

Among other things, it certainly casts doubt on the notion that we Albertans are mouth-breathing racists, and Central Canadian folks are always fair-minded progressives, don’t it?


  1. bigcitylib says:

    Haven’t heard the tape but apropos: Carol Off tweeted retired Ont MPP Bill Murdoch (who did the Miller interview on his radio show) told CBC that he was worried about niqab wearing terrorists sneaking into citizenship ceremonies.

  2. James Smith says:

    Guess when most of the so called Common-Sense Revolutionaries moved to Ottawa with the present PM they dragged some knuckle heads along with with them…

  3. MississaugaPeter says:

    WK, the problem is that people are struggling, and when they are struggling, they start to lash out.


    “As a result, the closely watched debt-to-income ratio — which measures how much debt Canadians collectively owe versus how much income we collectively take home — reached a new high of 163.3 per cent.”

    When you and I were in Calgary in the 70’s and 80’s and the past 15 years, Alberta had/has been accepting of foreigners and Easterners because times were good. It was not always that way, I recall in between Ralph Klein and the Reform Party.

    When things are tough, people point fingers. Most of Ontario has been in a funk for a decade. Without the expansion that immigrants provide (each one needs a refrigerator, a car, a home) this province (Ontario) would be not much better that the east. Outside the cities where immigrants have fed the expansion, there has been minimal or no expansion or even regression. While unacceptable, and they would not be otherwise, people in their despair and ignorance start to lash out at others.

    Quebec has been the most progressive of all the provinces the past 50 years. But they have accepted some laws and attitudes that are not progressive and that would not be tolerated in any other province. I believe it is the result of economics.

  4. Luke says:

    “Among other things, it certainly casts doubt on the notion that we Albertans are mouth-breathing racists, and Central Canadian folks are always fair-minded progressives, don’t it?”

    Every province/city/country/town/group/discipline/religion/profession has its idiots. Bigoted idiots need representation to! Give old Larry a break.

  5. Joe says:

    The problem I have with ‘dog whistle’ politics is that while every political party has their own ‘dog whistles’ calling a view however calling sincerely held position a ‘dog whistle’ you short circuit the debate and lowering to the level of a kindergarten kid calling another a poopy head.

  6. e.a.f. says:

    All you have to do is look at who is Mayor of Calgary. He also was nominated as best mayor in the world. Now if the cons could just work as well as the Mayor of Calgary does at his job, the world would be a better place.

    Alberta is way more progressive than Ontario in a lot of ways. Yes, Ontario has a more progressive Premier, but then Calgary still has a great Mayor! Don’t think any major city in Ontario has a “Great Mayor”

  7. ottawacon says:

    What is happening now is hardly dog-whistle politics – the ‘unheard’ characteristic is hardly being met. Idiots like Miller foaming at the mouth are in their way far healthier for the body politic than the terrible genius that was Lee Atwater.

    • Barry B says:

      But don’t all the Harper haters in central Canada openly say the same thing about Harper? “Go back to where you came from?”

  8. Derek Pearce says:

    Kenny’s tweet about the ON Libs using dog-whistle politics in 2007 about Muslim schools shows he doesn’t understand Ontario voters– they are deeply secular and were alarmed by the idea of ANY religious schools, not just Muslims, including a sizeable minority who have no anti-Catholic animus but would prefer to see only one public system full stop.

    Also, what do you make of a) Harper’s “guns are needed for personal safety in rural areas” ploy and b) do you agree with Den Tandt that this shows Conservative support is weaker than polls indicate? ( http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/03/17/michael-den-tandt-the-conservatives-have-canadians-soaking-in-fear )

    • Matt says:

      I wouldn’t put too much stock into anything Michael Den Tandt has to say.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      a) Harper states the obvious, and b) Liberal Lefties have a political correctness fit.

      Soaking in fear? Good Gawd, how asinine and childish does it possibly get!

      • Al in Cranbrook says:

        Take a step back in time to when the future of the gun registry was on the line. The usual suspects of the left were predicting pretty much mass carnage in our streets wrought by a gun wielding citizenry gone wild west.

        Forget about the left’s endless doom and gloom campaign of end of the idiotic scenarios global warming will surely inflict on Canadians if they don’t step up to the plate and gleefully pay their carbon taxes like dutiful little peasants and serfs.

        The book on fear campaigns was written by the left.

        • Al in Cranbrook says:

          Sorry, that should read, “…idiotic end of the world scenarios…”

          • davie says:

            I know watcha mean by ‘idiotic…’ That stuff the past two or three days form Al Ji, CNN, Washington Post and such about the Antarctic ice is radicalizing people. With Bill C51 we will be able to put damper on this kind of radicalizing information.

            (11 foot sea rise…What’s that in metric?)

        • smelter rat says:

          Once again you’re completely out to lunch. Confusing Liberals with the “left” is only one example of this.

    • GFMD says:

      Yes, people should be focusing more on the absurdity of Kenney’s tweet.

      • Elisabeth Lindsay says:

        And the “Canadians are soaking in fear” ridiculous headline. Have you seen any of those soaking in fear Canadians? Neither have I.

  9. Dan McCarthy says:

    I’m sure many of your readers Warren would be interested in your views on where this ‘lashing out’ is coming from, whether it be guns to defend our ‘castles’, the niquab comments, Kenney’s misleading tweets, Miller’s comments, or prisoners soon to be dying of old age in their cells because ‘life now means life’. What’s going on? Is the closet no longer large enough to hold the bozos? Is this the ‘fin-de-la-regime’ (please God let it be so) as another poster suggests above? Is the Harper grip on message control slipping? It’s been a dismal and weird couple of weeks in politics.

  10. wsam says:

    Ontario Liberals are for the most part Progressives. Ontario Conservatives are not, for the most part. They should drop the Progressive from Progressive Conservative and change it to Regressive Conservative. RC.

    Jim Prentice is clearly a Red Tory and could therefore easily fit into the business wing of the Federal Liberal Party, especially as it existed under Chretien and Martin.

    In Ontario, Conservative Party tension exists between the Red Tory faction and the Tea Party faction, not that either faction homogenous and free of its own internal tensions. Miller clearly belongs to the Tea Party side of the Conservative equation.

  11. davie says:

    Yeah, but Larry’s from Ontario, so he can probably repeat what he said in an Algonquian language.

  12. wsam says:

    “The usual suspects of the left were predicting pretty much mass carnage in our streets wrought by a gun wielding citizenry gone wild west.”

    Prove your point.

  13. socks clinton says:

    Larry Miller must be the most unphotogenic MP on Parliament Hill. He makes Boss Hogg look like a Chippendale’s dancer. And for an old guy to be a backbencher for 11 years just shows how age does always bring wisdom.

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