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My latest: to vaccinate or not?

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate?

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With all apologies due to Shakespeare and Hamlet, that isn’t the question. Or it shouldn’t be.

Getting vaccinated — so, you know, you don’t get really sick or die, and/or so you don’t leave someone else sick or dying — shouldn’t be complicated. It should be easy.

But, for many, it isn’t.

Why?

The New York Times fronted a story about what it called “the unvaccinated” in Sunday’s paper. Above the fold, colour graphics, across three columns. Four bylines. Big story.

According to the Times, some 93 million Americans are unvaccinated. Given the fact that the satanic delta variant is rampaging across the U.S., sickening and killing those 93 million holdouts, the Times set out to answer the question: Why?

The 93 million aren’t a monolith. They are actually two groups in one.

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One group, unsurprisingly, are unrelenting in their opposition to vaccines. They are, the Times wrote, “disproportionately white, rural, evangelical Christian and politically conservative.”

Their opposition to vaccines isn’t about the vaccines per se. This constituency are against pretty much anything that is authored by government: Fluoridation, the metric system, bilingualism, seat belts, speed limits, you name it.

But there’s another group who are not so easily dismissed by the elites as backward, backwoods mouth-breathers. This second group, surprise surprise, “tend to be a more diverse and urban group, including many younger people, Black and Latino Americans, and Democrats.”

Democrats!

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This “diverse and urban” group aren’t as hardcore in their opposition. They aren’t saying “never” as much as “not yet.”

They have put off getting vaccinated or are waiting for more information. But therein lies a problem: The information they are getting is often bad.

Up here in the Great White North, too, government pandemic communications have ranged from incoherent to incomprehensible.

Remember our erstwhile federal minister of health demanding that we don’t wear masks? And then flip-flopping and insisting that we do? Or her insinuation that anyone who wanted to close our borders was a crypto-racist, and then reversing herself on that, too?

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Or the politicians and the alleged public health experts saying AstraZeneca was safe, then withdrawing it, then saying it was safe again, then withdrawing it yet again? All in a period of a few weeks?

With our leaders and experts so often publicly contradicting each other — and themselves — it should surprise no one that enthusiasm for getting a potentially life-saving jab would drop precipitously. Millions lack confidence in vaccines simply because they have lost confidence in the very governments who are pushing vaccines.

So, governments have tried all manner of tricks to encourage vaccination: Advertising, lotteries and tickets to special events. But millions of holdouts remain unconvinced and are still holding out.

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Plenty of other factors have contributed to our collective failure to achieve the elusive herd immunity. Geography, education, fear of deportation and lack of access to regular health care are all in the mix, too.

But conspiracy theories — as dark and despicable and dishonest as they are — have had an enormous impact on the attitudes of the unvaccinated. They’re everywhere, oozing up through dark corners on the Internet, persuading millions to take the risk of getting sick — or worse.

The conspiracy theories are myriad: That governments can track those who get a shot. That enough metal is being injected to make magnets stick to you. That they will make you infertile. That the U.S. government created COVID-19 as a “bio-weapon” to reduce their own population and defeat Donald Trump (seriously).

In Canada, we are finally doing better than the States in getting people fully vaccinated. But nearly 20% of Canadians still refuse to get a shot.

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? For millions, that remains a question, sure. But the answer is equally clear.

Get vaccinated. Please.

— Warren Kinsella was the Chief of Staff to a federal Liberal Minister of Health


My latest: ten reasons Trudeau wants to go now

Justin Trudeau wants an election sooner than later.

Why?

Because, you know, he could win it. Big. 

But, but, but: a fourth wave is coming. Jagmeet Singh’s NDP is surging. Canadians don’t like Summertime elections. The don’t-go-early examples provided by David Peterson and Jim Prentice. 

And, most of all, it may make voters really mad at Trudeau. The polling agency Nanos says nearly 40 per cent of Canadians are “upset” at the prospect of voting anytime soon. 

So, given all that, why is Trudeau jonesing for a vote now? Ten reasons. 

1. His opponents. Trudeau thinks he’s a better campaigner than his opponents, and he’s not wrong. He’s beaten two Tory leaders (one a majority Prime Minister), and he’s convinced himself Erin O’Toole will make it a hat trick.

2. The polls. He’s ahead in them, across the board. In some cases, way ahead. The Conservatives, in fact, may be as much as 12 points behind the Trudeau Liberals – which would see O’Toole resigning on election night, among other things.

3. WE forget. He made vaccine acquisition a fiasco, sure, and the WE scandal cemented the perception that he is corrupt. But voters generally have a memory span of minutes: they’ve forgotten much of that stuff. Besides, it’s a pandemic: most of us can’t recall what day it is, let alone what Trudeau did last year.

4. Dishonesty abounds. The good news for Trudeau haters: Canadians tend to agree that Trudeau is dishonest. The bad news: they think everybody involved in politics is a liar. Hollering that Trudeau is corrupt gets the Opposition nowhere, because voters believe none of them would be any better.

5. Midstream horses. There’s an old cliché about changing horses midstream. And it particularly applies to pandemic politics. Canadians may not be enthusiastic about Justin Trudeau‘s performance – and slightly more than half aren’t – but they’re even less enthusiastic about big political changes in the middle of a global public health crisis.

6. The aforementioned fourth wave. The experts say it’s not a question of if, but when. So when the fourth wave happens, Justin Trudeau would prefer it happens after his unnecessary, half-a-billion-dollar election. Not during or before.

7. The Liberal war room. Trudeau Liberals may be terrible at governing, but they’re pretty darn good at campaigning. They are prepared to say and do anything to win. Anything. If they have an ideology, in fact, it’s winning elections. Their opponents, meanwhile, I think losing is principled.

8. The media. We ink-stained wretches know that Trudeau is corrupt and dishonest leader. But, when Conservative partisans continually call us in the media similarly corrupt and dishonest, we have a tendency not to write nice things about them. All evidence to the contrary, reporters are human too.

9. Incumbency. With the notable exception of Donald Trump, incumbent governments have greatly benefited from the pandemic. Challengers haven’t. In government, Trudeau controls announcements, spending and decision-making. Power and the pandemic are his friends.

10. His ego. That’s what this election is all about. Justin Trudeau wants another majority because he wants another majority. He’s obsessed with his size, you might say, like adolescent males tend to be. And that’s why he wants an election now. Period.

Could he change course? Could he put off a trip to the residence of the newly-installed Governor General? Sure. Of course.

But my money is on an election now. 

Not later.

[Kinsella was special assistant to Jean Chretien.]


My latest: at it ain’t no, Joe

Dear Joe:

You don’t mind if I call you Joe, do you? I mean, I know you’re president of the United States and all, but I feel like we’re close.

Joe, you seem to have forgotten that I worked for you, for months. Even though I was way up here in Trudeaustan, unable to cross the border, I volunteered for you.

I was with you when you were seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe, and everyone except me said you were going to lose. I worked for you when you defied all the nay-sayers, and won the nomination.

For months, Joe, I worked the phones for you. From my little farmhouse up here in Prince Edward County, I’d call voters all over the States for you. New Hampshire to Florida to California, and myriad points in between. I’d call, Joe. For you, big guy.

Did the voter need a ride to a polling station? Did they get the advance voting package from the town clerk’s office? Did they double-envelope it, and sign it, and mail it back? Were there any questions I could answer?

Hundreds and hundreds of calls, Joe. I did that for you. Because I have believed in you way back to 2008, when that young senator from Chicago picked you to be his running mate.

I have never doubted you, Joe — partly because you so reminded me of my former boss, Jean Chretien. But that’s a column for another day.

Anyway, Joe, since you became president, I’ve been good. I didn’t complain too much when you killed the Keystone pipeline, even though your country and mine both need it.

I didn’t gripe when you wouldn’t let COVID vaccines be shipped from America to Canada (we got a lot of ours from Europe and India).

But the border thing, Joe. I can’t let that one go.

This week, our toy prime minister announced that Canada would be welcoming fully vaccinated Americans starting Aug. 9. You? You sent out your press secretary to sniff that you wouldn’t do likewise. Said she: “I wouldn’t look at it through reciprocal intention.”

Seriously, Joe? Reciprocal intention? I mean, is reciprocal even a word? (It is, Kinsella. – Ed.)

OK, it may be a word, but it’s no way to treat your best friend and ally. We’re letting your fully-vaxxed folks in: why can’t you let in ours?

It’s not fair. It’s not scientific. Most problematic of all: it’s put me in a situation where I have to say something nice about Justin Trudeau and something critical about Joe Biden! (Told you, Kinsella. — Ed.)

Joe, your fellow Democrats in Congress want you to let us Trudeaupians in. So do Democratic governors and state legislators. So do chambers of commerce. So does everyone down there, with the possible exception of the GOP, which is as good a reason as any to let us in.

Look, Joe, we know you have a political problem. The Mexicans want the border reopened, too. But your predecessor, the Mango Mussolini, made the U.S.-Mexico border a hot topic. We get it.

So open it just to us, Joe. You have nothing to fear from Canadians. Even our hockey teams can’t beat yours.

I worked for you, Joe. I shed blood, sweat and tears for you. I believe in you, Joe.

But I need you to open up the border to us, big guy. If not for Justin, then for me.

I’ve got a Red Sox game at Fenway to get to, Joe, and I’m counting on you. Don’t let me down.

Yours faithfully, your humble volunteer,

Warren


My latest: never again

The High Aryan Warrior Priest of Canada stirred.

“Jesus wasn’t a Jew,” he said, without blinking.

It’s a sunny, warm spring 1986. I’m a reporter for the Calgary Herald, now a Postmedia newspaper. Along with award-winning Herald photographer Larry MacDougal, I’m in the Caroline, Alberta kitchen of Terry Long, the then-recently-anointed leader of the neo-Nazi group called the Aryan Nations.

Larry and I have spent hours with Long, listening to him describe Jews as “the spawn of Satan,” non-whites as “mud people,” and Adolf Hitler as “Elijah the Prophet.” Seriously. With a straight face.

When the interview was done, and Long’s words were safely preserved in my tape recorder, I decided to challenge him.

“Mr. Long, Jesus was always Jewish and a rabbi,” I said to him, as Larry looked at me, wide-eyed. “And the Holocaust is a notorious historical fact.”

Long didn’t haul out one of his many firearms and shoot us, as Larry later told me he expected. Instead, Long almost seemed bemused by what I was saying.

He went into his family’s cluttered living room and returned with a “bible,” one published by the Aryan Nations. In it, he patiently explained, Jesus Christ was in no way Jewish. And the Holocaust did not happen, in any way, shape or form, he added.

“There’s proof,” he said. In other words, if historical facts don’t conform to your prejudices, then simply conjure up new proofs. Write your own bible, create your own history.

That’s what Terry Long did — and Jim Keegstra, and Ernst Zundel, and every other Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi leader I ever interviewed, too. They denied, dismissed and debated the Holocaust, to whitewash the crimes of Hitler and his regime.

And they created a Jesus Christ who wasn’t ever a Jew. Because the Messiah couldn’t be the “spawn of Satan,” then.

That’s what the experts blandly call historical revisionism. And it is underway in this country, right now. But not about Christ or the Holocaust.

It’s about what really happened inside those so-called residential schools. And what is buried in unmarked graves behind them.

Denying Indigenous children and babies are found in those graves — or, if they are in those graves, that they all died of natural causes. No crimes were committed, in other words.

That’s historical revisionism — in the current context, it’s denial of what is almost certainly cultural or literal genocide. It’s a disturbing trend, and this writer has seen it growing in recent days.

On social media, in comments underneath columns like this one, alongside articles about the increasing number of unmarked graves being discovered: The deniers are out there, patiently denying history. They’re relentless.

Is it to whitewash the sins of Sir John A. Macdonald? To excuse the Liberals, whose party was in power for most of the years in which residential schools operated? To subtly (and not so subtly) express contempt for the pain of the Indigenous community?

The reasons vary. The methodologies, too. But the effect is the same: To deny history. To sanitize the misdeeds and the crimes of the past.

It needs to stop. The residential schools existed. More than 100,000 Indigenous children were forced into them. Thousands died. And some — hundreds? thousands? — did not die of natural causes. (Why bury them in unmarked graves, then, if not to hide wrongdoing?)

Debate is good. Dissent is good. But denying terrible misdeeds — when there is proof of those misdeeds — is a terrible, terrible thing to do.

To both the living and the dead.

— Warren Kinsella was a Special Ministerial Representative for the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs


My latest: Trudeau will win – because of us

Is Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party going to win the coming election?

Yes, probably. But not because of him, really. He’s likely going to win because of us.

Yes, us. Ten reasons.

1. Midstream horses. The pandemic has been the most disruptive event of our lifetimes — politically, economically, culturally, personally. During a crisis of this magnitude, nobody likes to change horses midstream.

2. Incumbency matters. When you have power, you have the edge: The media pay more attention to you; you have money to spend; you make consequential decisions. Your challengers have none of that. Incumbents always have the upper hand. That’s particularly the case since COVID hit.

3. Scandals are irrelevant. Justin Trudeau has had more scandals than any prime minister in more than a generation. But it doesn’t matter. The media and political people squawk about scandals too often, so the public tune it out. Until you are led away in an orange pants suit and handcuffs, they just don’t care.

4. Editorials are irrelevant. We in the media can write editorial endorsements until the cows come home. But what we want voters to do doesn’t matter — plenty of studies show that voters are not swayed by editorials. At all.

5. Voters are their own editors.People receive most of their political information from social media. That gives them the ability to choose what and when they want to see and read. And they tend to only follow sources who correspond to their own biases and opinions.

6. Low information. We live in an era of low-information voters: They are too busy with trying to make a living, raise their kids, and pay the bills. They don’t have time to worry about what the media and politicians worry about. They just need to know the basics. Trudeau gives them that.

7. Hope trumps fear. After the pandemic, after what we’ve gone through, people don’t want to hear any more bad news. They only want to hear good news. Trudeau is exceptionally good about focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative.

8. Ideas count. Voters don’t want to hear why the other guy is bad. They want to hear what you will do, and when you will do it. During the pandemic, Trudeau has been using the public service to come up with ideas. His Conservative opponents have come up with none.

9. Optics matter. Did you know that Erin O’Toole is actually younger than Justin Trudeau? I’ll bet you didn’t know that. How you look and sound on a voter’s TV or computer screen matters more than what you say. That’s depressing, but it’s reality.

10. People are happier than they were. The flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, people are increasingly getting their second dose of vaccine. They feel pretty good. And Justin Trudeau knows it.

As depressing as it may be, Trudeau is likely to win again.

And we are the reason. Not him.

— Warren Kinsella was special assistant to Jean Chretien