‘A culture of fear and a politics of division is taking over’


Alice Funke talks to Allan Gregg about his thoughts on Orwell and the Harper government.

Q. You didn’t mince words really last night. You were pretty hard on the Canadian government, and some other politicians like Jean Charest, Mitt Romney, and even Barack Obama. And it seems you’re gravely concerned about what you’re calling this “blatant attempt to obliterate the use of research and science in policy-making” and also to eliminate any evidence-based opposition to the government, and so …
A. It gets in the way of ideology, doesn’t it? Because as I said in the remarks, invariably, the evidence either supports or refutes the ideology, so at the end of the day, evidence and reason should rule. And people who want to advance an agenda irrespective of that, know that, so they have to kind of remove it. This has gone on for all of history.

Q. So, you says it’s gone on for all of history, so are things getting markedly worse, or is this only in Canada, or …
A. No, no, I think they got markedly better for a long, long time, especially since the period of the Enlightenment in the 16th century. And I think there is a remarkable progress that is undeniable. So I think you’re just seeing it in the last three decades, where you’re starting to see a culture of fear and a politics of division taking over, and I think it is reflective of a trend in the western world. Arguably the rest of the world arguably never got to the same point we did.


‘A culture of fear and a politics of division is taking over’

  1. Actually the whole interview was wonderful, Alice Funke never ceases to amaze me. And I feel like my reason was somewhat assaulted by Gregg.

  2. hmmm, 30 years eh…so does that mean Brian is to blame for that too? Seriously he pretty much puts this down to Chretien and Harper in this country. Although there’s worrying signs of it all over the place…Mcguinty, Charest[who should know better] Maois, Clark, Redford…who have i missed?

    • What else happened 30 years ago?

      wiki ~ The Constitution Act, 1982 (Schedule B of the Canada Act 1982 (UK)) is a part of the Constitution of Canada. The act was introduced as part of Canada’s process of patriating the constitution, introducing several amendments to the British North America Act, 1867, and changing the latter’s name in Canada to the Constitution Act, 1867. Elizabeth II, as Queen of Canada, brought the act into effect with a proclamation she signed in Ottawa on April 17, 1982.

      • Yeah yeah i get it already. Trudeau as uber fascist. Do you read it to your kids at night to scare them?

    • Brad Wall in SK.

  3. Believing that one group of people, most likely Libs, follow science and reason while everyone else is deluded is an ideology. Every human ever born believes they are clear eyed, guided only by logic and/or science, while everyone else is barking mad. Libs are ideology of self-centred who think they have all the answers to everyone’s problems.

    Science hasn’t proven all that much, not 100% conclusively. I would be delighted if governments could only do things proven to be effective by science because The State would mostly disappear. Humanity knows very little about human body, earth and cosmos. I think Gregg is confusing scientists and social scientists.

    Enlightenment was late 17th century and entire 18th century, Gregg is talking about Renaissance maybe when he says 16th century? I do agree with Gregg that American Founding Fathers knew their onions and Canada has been moving away from proper liberal values ever since Trudeau and his totalitarian beliefs.

    • You are correct in saying that everyone believes in their own ideology and thinks everyone else is deluded. A wise person questions his/her own beliefs, however, and is open to changing them when presented with sufficient evidence.

      A truly wise government supports the collection of evidence and weighs that evidence in making decisions. Yes, those decisions will inevitably be coloured by ideology, but should still be supportable by the available evidence.

      It becomes easier to make that claim if there is less evidence available. It becomes essential to suppress evidence and/or bury it under reams of pseudo “evidence” if it conflicts with ideology and you are unwilling to change your beliefs.

      It seems to me, given recent moves by the CPC and others, that my last paragraph represents where we are in Canada at this present time. And that’s a sad, sad place to be.

    • Half the US founding fathers thought slavery was hunky dory. People can be wholly wrong about one thing and right about another. Trudeau had his faults and got a lot of things wrong in hindsight, but one thing he didn’t get wrong was enshrining individual rights in a people’scharter that opportunistic pols couldn’t easily get their hands on. Nor did he personally write the document – hundreds if not thousands of Canadians of all stripes were involved. Get over it.

    • We’ve never had a government that dared to mess with the facts or the fact-collectors. Till now. To suggest that we have is just ignorance of the kind the Conservatives are working hard to promote.

  4. Turning our backs on the Enlightenment….what the hell is wrong with people?

  5. My thesis is the number of political parties is correlated with revolution, at least in a PD. With only two parties it is very easy for the USA’s Parties to be to the right of the people on issues like healthcare and Iraq. Here with 5 parties, that is very difficult. At the very least, having many parties leads to governing by the intelligence of the people. Have to be careful as multiparty gridlock can lead to Hitler (one of 4 actors in Germany around 1929-30) just to avoid more gridlock. If you are going to choose a dictator must be the platform with a high level of human rights to compensate, at least.

  6. I strongly recommend both extended Twitter rants Colby Cosh has gone on about this.

    • Thanks for the warning. It’s good to know what to avoid.

  7. ….the life cycle emissions papers I’m reading are coming out of the UK and their corporate taxes. Polymers can even from the electrolyte in PEM fuel cells. It seems useless to worry about bulk plastics applications (transport costs). Turning gasoline and diesel fractions into plastics to replace lumber and concrete seems minor, what you really want are the higher performance apps…maybe lab-on-a-chips, maybe computer chips, certainly electricity generation and low footprint aerospace….it is all life cycle math.

  8. “evidence and reason should rule.” — That would be nice, but in the age of “reality” TV is it even remotely realistic –?

  9. Gregg’s logical argument is lacking precisely because he does not manage to reason properly. The entire essay is based on ideology – his.

    For instance: by reason, would it be logical to have two sets of rules for farmers within one country? Or would the western Canadian wheat grower feel equal to the eastern Canadian wheat grower when one could sell his own wheat freely but the other one could not? By reason, would the Ontario wheat farmer be convinced to have a wheatboard in place to sell his wheat and if so, why is the Ontario wheat farmer not crying out to have such a wheatboard created for him?

    Furthermore, Gregg misses the mark on Orwell’s overriding theme in the book 1984 namely that of Historical Revisionism. It seems to me that Gregg is trying very hard to do some revising of his own. Should we buy into his revisionism? Lots of his listeners will buy into it. Scary stuff.

    • I think the bigger problem with his Wheat Board argument is he’s acting as though a legitimate political disagreement of the sort that happens all the time in every democracy is a harbinger of the next Auschwitz.

      • Indeed. But when Gregg tries to convince people ( and students!!)that his argument sides with the truth and all others are rooted in double talk, then he himself practices what he accused others of doing, namely the wrong thingSo interesting to see that Gregg doesn’t notice so himself. That is the most interesting part of it all.

        • The problem is with the pattern of decision-making, not the individual decisions. The long-form census: why? The cuts to research? Why?

          Obviously, if there’s no information, there’s no way to argue against policy. So let’s not collect the facts.

          But there’s more.

          I have an aquaintance at the National Research Council. What NRC staff call “the Alberta Mafia” has been appointed to take over. Everything. My aquaintance heads a fully-self-financing division. It accumulated a surplus of forty million dollars over three years of operation. The surplus was magically appropriated by the government. Gone. Poof! The division is now being starved of funds, the equipment they use (keeping airplanes from falling out of the sky) is falling apart- and no one else does this work- there’s no private sector company that can do it- and the researchers employed there are being retired.

          I suspect that full story will not come out until an airliner crashes.

          This is government by a government that doesn’t believe in government.

          So you can attack the messenger all you want: the message doesn’t lose it’s validity. Stay ignorant, my friends. Gregg is right; we’re in a lot of trouble with this government.

    • By reason, is it logical to have the same rules apply to people across a huge range of geography, where some are in land-locked prairies, and the others have access to the great lakes for transporting their goods? Do those different people even want the same things?

      • Are you really that naive? Ever heard of trains? It does not matter that western farmers are landlocked. Trains deliver goods fast enough. Trains are there for a reason. Why can’t you use reason? Why always resort to empty chatter in reply? Add something constructive by using reason.

        • Thwim is just desperately trying to convince himself that the Wheat Board was anything other than a scheme in which lefties like himself were extorting money from farmers by force.

          He’ll do anything to prevent himself from seeing the truth, because it conflicts with his worldview of rube rednecks being evil and ignorant and government bureaucrats being selfless philosopher kings.

          • Sorry Yanni, I don’t need to convince myself of anything. I look at the opinions of the people who were using it. The actual farmers — who voted multiple times not to scrap it, and who kept electing board members that worked to keep it running rather than shutting it down.

          • I don’t follow your train of thought, as it relates to the Wheat Board taking money from farmers and giving it to Thwim and his/her lefty cohorts. Can you fill in the blanks there?

            At worst the Wheat Board took money from farmers who farm large tracts of land or are close to buyers or some combination of both and gave it to other farmers, typically those who have smaller operations or are further from end users.

            Not saying that was right, but not sure how Thwim benefited financially from that arrangement. It seems more likely that Thwim actually paid more for his bread and so on than without the Wheat Board.

        • Are you that ignorant?

          You do realize that rains run differently, with different fee schedules, different taxes, different schedules, and unless they’ve come up with some really whiz-bang technology, no train can take grain overseas on its own.

          Do try again though.

  10. Why is Colby Cosh going after Mr. Gregg via Twitter for comments by Mr. Gregg about Bin Laden? I don’t find any comments about Bin Laden in Mr. Gregg’s speech at Carleton. If Bin Laden is not in the Carleton speech, why all the comments by Colby Cosh about Bin Laden?
    Is Colby Cosh trying to deflect away from what Mr. Gregg said in his speech? I doubt I will be able to find where Mr. Gregg said anything attacking the US for its ‘unlawful assassination’ of Bin Laden. And dear, Mr. Cosh did send numerous Tweets about that speech…..
    We are already getting scant media coverage of Mr. Gregg’s speech. Maybe that is the most telling point in defence of what he said in that speech.

    • It’s even worse than you think. From the interview linked above:
      “that is the most egregious example of the assault on reason; that we have actually got to the point as long as we disagree with the individuals, if we don’t like them, if we fear them, that killing them – just on a whim … What if Barack Obama decided that he didn’t like my speech last night, and just sent a drone over here …?”
      Osama bin Laden – martyr for the Age of Reason.

    • Gulp, I didn’t read the full interview……Am disqualified….nevertheless…..Bin Laden is not in the speech……an interview is not a speech….

    • Also, for someone who clearly hasn’t bothered to read the one follow-up interview there was, why are you complaining that the media is ignoring this (as if every unfocused screed written by anyone has to appear on the front page of the Globe)? It’s been referenced twice here at Macleans, re-published at iPolitics, where it also got a rebuttal from another writer (and Don Lenihan’s piece is incredibly charitable, cutting through the idiocy and paranoia to find a serious point, and treating it seriously), plus this interview with a fairly prominent blogger.