With the holiday season upon us, it’s time to reflect on the year that was and the year ahead. At the BROADBENT INSTITUTE, we continue to work our hearts out for progress right across this great country.
It’s been a long and wild political year in Canada. With elections from New Brunswick to British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, and in the Prairies too, change has been a theme, but not all of the change has been positive.
In Ontario, Doug Ford’s Conservatives are plummeting to new lows in rolling back modern sex ed curriculum and minimum wage, to name just two of their destructive initiatives. In Quebec, the CAQ’s anti-immigrant dog-whistle politics is discouraging. And, with Donald Trump still in the White House continuing to explore the boundaries of the extreme, our challenge here in Canada is to hold the line on the good things we’ve achieved and push for a better tomorrow.
A huge focus for us this year will be the lead up to the federal election in October 2019. Election years are always a critical time to promote progressive action and hold damaging conservatism at bay. This year, the conservatism will be more horrifying than ever, and the temptation will be – as we so often see from our current Prime Minister – to settle for just defending the status quo.
Well: I know you feel as we do, that the status quo isn’t good enough. The status quo is not preventing damaging climate change. It’s not putting a dent in the inequality that blights the lives of too many of our fellow Canadians. And the status quo is certainly not good enough for the Indigenous peoples of Canada whose life expectancy is still, on average, fifteen years less than that of the general Canadian population.
At the Broadbent Institute, we’re gearing up to defend and deepen our democracy in 2019.
It is our duty as Canadian citizens to help prevent far-right influences from swaying voters on divisive messages! You can be guaranteed the BROADBENT INSTITUTE will be at the forefront of the fight all year, promoting good policy ideas and challenging bad ideas that would hurt our country and our communities.
And we will continue to push the Liberals in Ottawa to do more. In many key areas, Justin Trudeau has not provided the “Real Change” he was elected to deliver.
Justin Trudeau promised the 2015 election would be the last under our outdated “first past the post” system. However, after receiving a majority mandate with less than 40% of the vote, he changed his mind.
He also promised that the wealthiest amongst us would pay their fair share of taxes. Those changes have not happened, and he refuses to close outrageous corporate tax loopholes. Each year Canadians lose $16 billion in revenue to tax loopholes that favour the ultra rich.
Meanwhile, inequality continues to worsen, and many Canadians feel stuck economically, leading to growing cynicism and doubt in the democratic process.
This is precisely how many voters are falling under the influence of right-wing populism. Unless we actually fix the economic system that’s rigged against so many Canadians, the superficially palatable solutions of the alt-right will continue to gain ground.
We just saw what happened in Ontario. Regardless of where you live in Canada I’m certain you’ve kept track of the ruthless tactics of Doug Ford and his Conservative government. His “my way or the highway” disdain for the opposition parties, media and anybody who gets in his way, is the new norm for Canadian conservatives.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised. The scariest people in this new extreme movement are the people behind the scenes. Many of the former senior staff for Stephen Harper now pull the strings for Doug Ford in Ontario, Jason Kenney in Alberta, Scott Moe in Saskatchewan, and Brian Pallister in Manitoba.
And these extreme political operators are working in lock-step with new online organizations like Ontario Proud and Rebel Media to drum up frustration and spread divisive messages in social media and online.
Regrettably we are seeing what has been called the TRUMP Effect here in Canada - an emboldened and increasingly dangerous far-right. The best example of this is Ezra Levant’s Rebel Media, which is working with American counterparts like Steve Bannon’s Breitbart to bring this Trump styled “Fake News” to our country. They spread misinformation to skew perspectives, and drive wedges in our society by taking advantage of people's misfortune and economic frustration. Similarly, in Ontario, the right-wing social media group Ontario Proud has been credited with helping to elect Doug Ford’s PCs by producing outrageous digital products with misleading information. We can expect more of the same for the federal election.
This new threat to our Canadian social cohesion will have a direct impact on our future elections and the types of policies and campaigns political parties put forward. It is imperative that progressive Canadians reject this trend and stand up to be counted. The BROADBENT INSTITUTE doesn’t shy away from this fight.
So, where are we today? What can we do to fight back against the extreme right in 2019?
You will be happy to know that the BROADBENT INSTITUTE has been hard at work this year in preparation. We’re up for the challenge. In fact, a senior advisor to the Manning Centre called the BROADBENT INSTITUTE “the single greatest threat to conservatism in Canada.”
Here’s our 2019 Federal Election Year Plan to defend democracy:
We are increasingly shaping the country's political discourse and influencing policy-makers through solid research that promotes good ideas and challenges the conservative frame. Our research agenda is informed by a network of diverse, multi-disciplinary Policy Fellows – over 65 of Canada’s leading academic and policy experts who have agreed to contribute their knowledge and analysis to further the Institute’s agenda. As a result, you can expect regular articles this coming election year on our popular blog and in various media focusing on incisive and timely analysis and policy solutions.
The BROADBENT INSTITUTE has made training a top priority of ours from the start. We seek to build backbone for progressive organizing in Canada by supporting the development of a new generation of leaders, particularly in communities where their power is emerging, and we can contribute to wins.
We recognize that support for local organizing is needed more than ever, especially as we confront growing support for a dangerous far-right ideology in communities across Canada. We know that people need to see real, tangible material gains in their lives to build resilience against messages that seek to divide us across our differences.
The INSTITUTE’S Training and Leadership program has delivered training sessions for thousands of people in communities across the country. Partnering with labour, environmental, human rights and other organizations, these training opportunities have supported a variety of campaigns at the provincial, federal, and municipal level by building skills in organizing, campaign strategy, communications and fundraising.
In the past year the INSTITUTE has launched two brand new training initiatives designed to make a real impact on the ground in local communities:
- Online Leadership School: Making training available to everyone, we offer digital programming for activists and organizers from anywhere in the country;
- THE POWER LAB: Co-generated with the Atkinson Foundation, the Power Lab Introduces a new innovative model - one that is for and by the people, who are experimenting with different approaches to building economic and democratic power in their communities.
PressProgress.ca is a digital news service launched by the Broadbent Institute in 2013 that has quickly become Canada's most-shared source for progressive news and information through "gaining readership and credibility" (according to the Toronto Star.)
As digital media transforms Canada's news industry from top-to-bottom, PressProgress is working hard to fill in the gaps by providing timely reporting and rapid-response fact-checks on issues that matter to progressives. It also shines a bright light on right-wing politics in Canada with original, investigative reporting. PressProgress has been cited by every news outlet in Canada as well as major US news sources like the Washington Post and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.
One-in-three Canadians has now visited the PressProgress.ca website.
PressProgress's online audience is now larger than most newspapers in Canada, reaching millions of readers each year and its stories now rank among the top 10 most shared in Canada on a week-to-week basis. The stories about Doug Ford written by PressProgress accounted for four of the top five most-shared stories in the lead up to the 2018 Ontario election. During the 2017 BC election, PressProgress was the most shared news outlet every single week throughout the election period.
As Canadian newspapers pull back on covering local news and labour reporting, PressProgress is moving in the opposite direction, hiring additional journalists to expand coverage of news stories in British Columbia and Alberta.
PressProgress will be a hugely important source of news this election year to counter the work being done by the extreme right.
I think you’ll agree these three major elements of our Election Year Plan are critically important work. So, just as we do every year-end, we are reaching out to you specifically to help us put the resources in place for this effort.
Because it’s an election year, and this is the last big opportunity of the year to help, please consider a special gift to support the work of the BROADBENT INSTITUTE.
We must actually fix the economic system that’s rigged against so many Canadians.
Our 2019 Election Year Plan will yield progressive victories if we have the resources to support it - your contribution to our effort can and will make all the difference in our fight to take on the new extreme conservative threat. We’ll send you updates throughout the election year as we put our plan into action.
From all of us here at the Broadbent Institute, best wishes to you and your family this holiday season!
Ed Broadbent, Chair, Board of Directors Rick Smith, Executive Director