Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Michael Byers: Nutty Professer or Nuttiest Professor?

Byers would be a disaster for Canada

Nearly two weeks ago, Michael Byers fired an ideological shot across the bow of reality.

In an op/ed article published in the Toronto Star, Byers proposed that the Liberal party and NDP combine their efforts to block a Conservative majority government -- by delivering a majority Liberal government.

(This despite the fact that the last thing the NDP wants is a Liberal majority government.)

Byers' piece was widely mocked by those who recognized how unfeasible, politically selfish, and (frankly) stupid it is. It was widely applauded by ideologues willing to overlook these shortcomings.

The Ottawa Citizen's Leonard Stern has since offered one of the better responses to Byers' article:
"Byers is an eminent political scientist in Vancouver (and an occasional contributor to the Citizen's opinion pages). He's well known as an academic-activist, who situates himself firmly on the Canadian left. No pretense of scholarly objectivity from Byers, at least not in his role as public intellectual. In the last federal election he ran — and lost — for the NDP in the riding of Vancouver Centre."
Stern chalks the vehemence of Byers' opposition to Harper up to a Derangement Syndrome:
"Many leftist intellectuals despise Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in no small part because they see him as a traitor to the educated class. Harper — who has a graduate degree in economics — has never identified with the liberal elites who traditionally dominate political life in the major urban centres of Canada. It's one thing to be a conservative if you just got off the turnip truck — liberals can tolerate and even expect that. But a clever, policy-wonkish conservative like Stephen Harper represents a serious threat to the received order. Harper's electoral success drives leftist intellectuals such as Byers dangerously close to madness.

Byers is so disoriented by the prospect of further Conservative victories that he is proposing a radical subversion of democracy. Byers wants the NDP and Liberal parties to collude, whereby they'd agree not to run candidates against each other in the next federal election. He outlined his idea in this op-ed in the Toronto Star. In every single riding across the country, either the Liberals or NDP would agree to not run a candidate, based on which party fared worse in the last election. This is necessary, he says, in order 'to prevent a Harper majority.'
When Byers' article quickly faded from the public imagination, one would expect that Byers would reconsider his ideas. But, as Stern points out, Byers is as stubborn as any ideologue:
"In a CBC interview Sunday, Byers went on about how a Conservative majority would be a tragedy for Canada. Basically apocalyptic. The end of our country as we know it, he seems to think."
The "disaster for Canada" argument was trotted out repeatedly by ideologues of Byers' ilk long before Stephen Harper ever became Prime Minister. But it's obvious that fewer and fewer Canadians share the opinion of Byers and his fellow fearmongers.

But it's even more interesting to look back at some of Byers' ideas and appraise who would really be a "disaster for Canada".

In a New Year's Day 2008 op/ed column, Byers denounced Harper for -- amongst other things -- recalling Canada's ambassador to Iran and interrupting diplomatic relations with that country.

What Byers failed to mention that Harper recalled the ambassador as a protest over Iran's handling of the Zahra Kazemi case.

Byers is often promoted as a foreign policy expert, and if the NDP were ever able to win government -- either as a majority or minority -- one would have to consider Michael Byers to be a candidate for Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The notion of a Foreign Affairs Minister who believes that foreign countries should be able to beat and rape Canadian citizens to death without so much as a diplomatic hiccup between the two countries is largely self-explanatory. It would lead to oppressive countries -- like Iran -- believing they can do absolutely anything they feel like to Canadian citizens with impunity.

Michael Byers can white and cry about the "disaster" that is Stephen Harper to his heart's content. Canadians who have familiarized themselves with Byers' ideas know who the real disaster for Canada would be.

It's the professor nutty enough to believe that the government should interact unblinkingly with countries who abuse Canadian citizens.


  1. Some in the left are coming to the realization they have lost the election and will not be able to dictate social policy for a long time.

    If they can't win through first past the post system than a more radical plan must take place to protect their agenda.

    The three stooge's coalition was just one example. MB calls for strategic voting is the not so new flavour to regain control since voters refuse to show up.

    They are terrified of the "new order" under the CPC.

  2. I think we're still far short of an outright conservative "revolution" in Canadian political culture, and Byers' panic is actually entirely uncalled for.


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