The Globe and Mail - 19.09.2019

(Axel Boer) #1




he first week of the federal
election campaign saw five
nominated candidates re-
sign, compared with two in the
first week of the 2015 contest. A
sixth candidate resigned just
days before the election was
called. This wasn’t a fluke but the
result of how people engage with
each other on social media,
changing attitudes toward past
statements and fundamental ad-
vances in internet search tech-
A growing intolerance for in-
tolerance is ending the “statute
of limitations,” where a single

off-colour joke from an aspiring
politician, told long ago and out-
side of a pattern of such beha-
viour, was not a disqualifying
factor. How did we end up here?
A Cornell University study re-
ported people’s emotions mim-
icked their emotional content of
their Facebook feed, while an-
other academic found “partisan
media may drive online informa-
tion sharing by generating anger
in its audience.” Combine these
emotional contagions with so-
cial-media platforms that allow
one to transmit an idea before it
is even fully formed, and you see
how easy it is for an aspiring pol-
itician to make angry statements
on unsavoury topics not in keep-
ing with their character.
Additionally, the social-media
monitoring software – that com-
panies use to measure consumer
sentiment – are widely available
and easily accessible by media,
rival parties or interest groups.
These tools don’t just search but
constantly catalogue and index
years of social-media posts, in-
cluding the offhand comments
of an aspiring politician’s Face-
book, Twitter and LinkedIn ac-
counts, even ones that were re-

cently deleted.
To cope, most parties adopted
some form of green-light process
where an internal committee
vets candidates for electability.
Recruiting and vetting 338 candi-
dates is a herculean task with
trade-offs: Too tight of a leash on
local riding association decision-
making invites procedural criti-
cism and alienates local volun-
teers or voters, while a hands-off
approach results in nominated
candidates with past vulnerabil-
Having a fully “clean” set of
candidates with no vulnerabili-
ties is impossible. The Liberals
gained the most traction in the
first week of the campaign high-
lighting a series of Conservatives
candidates’ socially conservative
statements, seeking to paint the
CPC as outside mainstream val-
ues. The Liberals are also the
most insulated against candidate
problems with 160 prevetted in-
cumbents running again, and a
centrist ideological position that
tends to attract fewer people
with views outside the political
But all political parties have
faced challenges: A Green re-

signed for comments regarding
Muslims, a Liberal for anti-Semi-
tic remarks, a New Democrat for
“problematic” posts and a Peo-
ple’s Party candidate for calling
on Maxime Bernier to denounce
“human garbage” in their party.
All the political parties were
seeking to put their opponents’
campaigns on the wrong footing
right out of the gate. Yet, the
chaos of candidate attacks and
resignations in the first week
risks a “pox on all your houses”
response from voters that in-
creases cynicism about politic-
ians generally, and lowers voter
engagement and turnout in this
election specifically. The latest
public opinion polling shows it
hasn’t resulted in any movement
in public support. Both the Con-
servatives and Liberals are essen-
tially tied in the mid-30-per-cent
We haven’t seen the end of
this. The parties may keep their
best attacks until after the candi-
date deadline on Sep. 30. In Oc-
tober, parties can no longer re-
place a nominee on the ballot
with Elections Canada. A resigna-
tion means conceding the riding,
so expect parties to mount a vig-

orous defence of outrageous
statements if they are made by
candidates in winnable ridings.
Political parties need to take
care that very minor misstate-
ments made years before don’t
result in laying the bar for public
office so high, only those who
failed to engage in any contro-
versial discourse need apply.
This also can’t mean carte
blanche defence of odious char-
acters that should not hold pub-
lic office. It is a careful balancing
act with no simple answers.
The biggest burden lies with
candidates and normal citizens.
We were quite naive about social
media, particularly in its early
years. If someone is aspiring to
run for public office one day, do
yourself a favour and delete your
Facebook and Twitter accounts
today, your footprint will be-
come much more faint after a
year or two. Unless you only
used your accounts to like cat
photos, a disqualifying remark
could be lurking even in the
most gentle soul’s long-forgotten
feed. Your Facebook feed is not a
private journal, it is a public re-
cord that can be used against







n India, neither restaurateurs
nor drivers are happy with
app-based food delivery. Spe-
cifically, they’re unhappy with
the local app Zomato. Delivery
workers are currently striking
because of a pay cut. Business
owners are dropping the service
altogether, as between high com-
missions and constant requests
for discounts to entice custom-
ers, they feel that app-based de-
liveries are usually a net loss, not
a gain.
They aren’t alone. Canadian
restaurateurs have also com-
plained about app fees – as
much as $500 to sign up, and up
to 30-per-cent commission – cut-
ting into already thin margins.
And from here to Spain to Aus-
tralia, there’s been an emergence
of “ghost kitchens,” where food
is made specifically to be deliver-
ed, bearing the name of a restau-
rant that might not actually ex-
Those include one run by Bay
Area pizzamaker Paul Geffner,
who saw a US$40,000 loss at his
small chain when customers
switched to ordering from apps
instead of directly from the res-
taurant, forcing him to pay com-
missions. He closed two loca-
tions, then opened a ghost kitch-
en to churn out the volume
needed to profit from delivery.
An explosion in delivery isn’t
just hurting restaurateurs. The
expectation that just about any-
thing can be brought right to our
doors, right now, has also creat-
ed a class of exploited workers,

including time-crunched drivers
whose stress can lead to fatal col-
lisions. Add in the resulting gar-
bage pile – which cities, not com-
panies, end up dealing with –
and the convenience of cheap
delivery turns out to have some
pricey, inconvenient drawbacks.
Delivery for both food and
stuff has grown in recent years,
and continues to do so. Ipsos
projects that “digital ordering”
will increase from 6.1 per cent of
restaurant sales in 2018 to more
than 10 per cent by 2023, “con-
siderably outpacing forecasted
restaurant sales growth.” A Cana-
da Post survey found that online
purchases went up 58 per cent

between 2016 and 2018.
And while the early days of e-
commerce meant waiting a week

  • or two! – for things to show up,
    it’s now all about instant gratifi-
    cation. Delivery behemoth Ama-
    zon offers Prime customers in 19
    Canadian cities free one-day de-
    livery, or same-day delivery for
    those in Toronto, Vancouver and
    Calgary. Bad news: Rush deliver-
    ies increase emissions, as tight
    timing means sending out more
    trucks, or taking inefficient driv-
    ing routes.
    The pressure on drivers can be
    intense: According to BuzzFeed,
    Amazon drivers in the U.S. are
    paid flat rates of about US$160 to

deliver as many as 250 packages
a day, and are often told to skip
meals and bathroom breaks in
order to hit their targets. Now,
they aren’t told that by Amazon
directly. The company usually
outsources the last steps of its
delivery process, leaving small-
business owners to impose these
impossible demands by proxy.
That’s the case in Ontario, and
led to a human-rights complaint
against the company last January
alleging that Amazon froze out a
dispatching service after drivers
began to organize a union.
Both Buzzfeed and The New
York Times have detailed the
traffic chaos this stress unleashes

  • and how using third-party
    companies helps Amazon avoid
    responsibility when the result is
    collisions, some of them fatal.
    This arm’s length approach isn’t
    working for the 45 plaintiffs that
    have named Amazon in recent
    suits related to accidents, includ-
    ing the parents of a nine-month-
    old baby killed in a crash with a
    rushing driver.
    So-called “autonomous” deliv-
    ery robots aren’t clean, either: At
    the University of California Ber-
    keley, food-delivery “Kiwibots”
    are piloted by real people in Col-
    ombia, where workers make less
    than $2 an hour. It starts to seem
    almost benign that food app
    DoorDash was merely folding
    tips into its U.S. workers’ base
    salaries, until a flood of media
    And oh, the plastic. Canadians
    can’t innocently toss takeout
    containers in the blue bin, as our
    recycling industry is in crisis, un-
    able to deal with mountains of
    waste. That’s partly because Chi-
    na has drastically scaled back its
    purchases of international waste,
    as it needs to deal with home-
    grown garbage. One study esti-
    mated that food delivery in Chi-
    na created 1.6 million tons of
    packaging waste in 2017. That
    same year, a Chinese environ-
    mental organization sued three
    popular food delivery apps for
    the garbage created by the deliv-
    ery of almost 34 million meals a
    Exploited workers, collision
    deaths and a mountain of plastic

  • and for what, exactly? Just ad-
    mit it: The fries were cold by the
    time they showed up, and the
    pants you bought while eating
    them looked better on a tiny
    phone screen.






avid Johnston’s nearly
3,000-word justification
for why he decided to in-
vite People’s Party of Canada
Leader Maxime Bernier up on
the debate stage next month de-
serves an A for effort.
But Mr. Johnston, as the for-
mer principal of McGill Universi-
ty, when Liberal Leader Justin
Trudeau and his alter ego Gerald
Butts were undergraduates
there, and now head of the Lead-
ers’ Debates Commission, knows
that, in the real world, you get
don’t extra marks for trying
Hence, as much as Mr. John-
ston, who served with distinc-
tion as Canada’s28th governor-

general until 2017, tries to ratio-
nalize why he ultimately decided
that Mr. Bernier should be on
stage, his explanation fails to
make the grade.
As a result, he has brought dis-
credit to a process many hoped
would bring clear rules and order
to our federal election debates,
which have suffered from ad hoc
regulations, petty partisanship
and amateurism in recent years.
Let’s be clear. The People’s
Party is a fringe movement cre-
ated barely a year ago as a vehi-
cle for Mr. Bernier (who lost the
2017 Conservative leadership
race to Andrew Scheer) to rescue
a political career that was other-
wise headed for oblivion. The
Quebec MP has torn a page from
populist politicians in other
countries, especially European
ones, by being provocative. He
has undermined the unwritten
rules of decorum in Canadian
politics. But just because that
gets him media attention does
not make him or his party a con-
tender in this election.
To be sure, the debates com-
mission must not impose artifi-
cial barriers to entry that stifle
democratic debate. Newly creat-
ed parties in other countries

have gone from nowhere to pow-
er in less time than it has taken
Mr. Bernier to find a nearly full
slate of candidates to run under
the PPC banner. French Presi-
dent Emmanuel Macron’s Répu-
blique en Marche won a majority
in the National Assembly in 2017
barely a year after its creation.
But Mr. Macron’s party emerged
as a mass – and more important-
ly, mainstream – movement
from the get-go.
The People’s Party has re-
mained on the fringes of Cana-
dian politics from Day 1. Nothing
suggests it is about to make a
breakthrough in the Oct. 21 fed-
eral election. Yet, Mr. Johnston
insists there is a “reasonable
chance” that more than one PPC
candidate will be elected on Oct.
The order-in-council (OIC)
adopted by the Trudeau cabinet
that created the debates com-
mission stipulates that more
than one candidate of any given
party must have “a legitimate
chance to be elected” in order for
its leader to earn a place on
stage. The French text of the OIC
is even more exacting, using the
phraseveritable possibilité d’être
éluor a “real possibility” of elect-

ing more than one candidate. Mr.
Johnston decided to adopt his
own definition.
“Ultimately, I have interpreted
the OIC’s ‘legitimate chance’ to
mean a ‘reasonable chance,’ ” he
wrote this week in extending an
invitation to Mr. Bernier to par-
ticipate in the English-language
debate on Oct. 7 and the French-
language encounter on Oct. 10.
That is problematic in itself.
But opinion polls commissioned
by the debates commission in
the four ridings other than
Beauce, Que., which Mr. Bernier
has held since 2006, do not show
a PPC surge in any of them. The
EKOS polling firm asked electors
in Etobicoke North, Nipissing-
Timiskaming and Pickering-Ux-
bridge in Ontario, and Charles-
ingley in Manitoba whether they
were likely to support the PPC
candidate. At best, the surveys
established a ceiling of support
for the PPC, but the question was
far too vague to suggest the PPC
candidate in any of those ridings
has a “legitimate chance” of win-
ning on Oct. 21.
Indeed, the Canada 338 web-
site, which aggregates all recent
polls, rates Etobicoke North and

Nipissing-Temiskaming as “safe”
Liberal seats; Pickering-Uxbridge
is “likely” to go Liberal; only
Charleswood is considered a
“toss-up,” but more because PPC
candidate Steven Fletcher stands
to play spoiler in a tight Conser-
vative-Liberal race than to win
the seat himself. By the criterion
set by the Trudeau cabinet’s OIC,
it is a stretch to conclude any
PPC candidate other than Mr.
Bernier has a “legitimate
chance” of winning his or her
riding on Oct. 21.
A theoretical chance, perhaps.
But not, in the world of polling
and statistics, a legitimate one.
Of course, anything can hap-
pen between now and election
day. But it’s not Mr. Johnston’s
mandate to deal in hypotheti-
cals. He was given relatively clear
criteria to apply. He decided in-
stead to create his own rules, for
reasons that only he knows, but
which have subjected him to
charges of favouritism, given
that Mr. Bernier’s presence
stands to help Mr. Trudeau.
All we can hope now is that
Mr. Bernier’s presence, which
will serve more as a distraction
than anything else, doesn’t en-
tirely ruin the main events.









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