Brown Contra Mundum

Last week I wrote about the Canadian Supreme Court's deciding that the carbon tax is constitutional, with particular focus on the majority decision, authored by Chief Justice Wagner. Today I would like to briefly point out the strong dissent by Justice Russell Brown.

In a notable contrast with the majority opinion, which is full of pearl clutching about the "existential threat" of climate change, Justice Brown focuses chiefly on the law itself.

[N]either the Attorney General nor the majority fairly or completely describes what the Act does.... they downplay significantly what [it] actually authorizes the [Federal government] to do, and ignore the detailed regulatory intrusion into matters of provincial jurisdiction [it] authorize[s]... The result is a permanent and significant expansion of federal power at the expense of provincial legislative authority ⸺ unsanctioned by our Constitution , and indeed, as I will explain, expressly precluded by it.

The majority, he avers, misapplies the Peace, Order and Good Government clause of the Constitution, which was intended to govern instances where provincial governments couldn't act because they lacked the jurisdiction. This law, however, "is premised on provincial legislatures having authority" to act, as it sets a minimum carbon pricing standard to which they must conform, or else be subject to a federal tax. This is not at all how Canadian government is supposed to work, and Brown describes it as a “new... supervisory model of Canadian federalism" which "rejects the Constitution and rewrites the rules of Confederation.”

Now, it could be argued that this doesn't matter. Trudeau got his carbon tax, the fight is over. But Brown's dissent is garnering some attention as a rare challenge to Canada's legal monoculture. Sean Speer says that Brown's dissents are becoming "an intellectual beachhead for a nascent conservative legal movement," similar to that which began in America in the 1980s, but which has never migrated north.

One criticism I received about Friday's blog post was that my shot at Stephen Harper's not reorienting Canada's judiciary was unfair, since there simply weren't enough conservative lawyers for him to appoint. Well, to his credit, Harper did appoint Brown, and if Speer is correct, his work is gaining recognition among young lawyers who recognize how shallow their country's constitutional jurisprudence generally is. Rome wasn't built in a day, and countercultural revolutions can take time.

In the meantime, here's hoping that Brown can help nurture the kind of a constitutional revival which Antonin Scalia did in the States. If so, maybe the next carbon tax case will go the other way.

In Canada, Nowhere to Run from Carbon Tax

In a 6-3 split decision issued this week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Trudeau government's carbon tax constitutional. The majority decision, written by Chief Justice Richard Wagner, held that Ottawa could legally impose the tax on all provinces because of the Peace, Order and Good Government clause of Canada's constitution, which allows the federal government to legislate on matters of national concern on which provincial governments are unable to act. Justice Wagner assumes that "unable" can also mean "unwilling," and then leans heavily on the "concern." He writes,

This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life in Canada and around the world.... [Climate change] is a threat of the highest order to the country, and indeed to the world... The undisputed existence of a threat to the future of humanity cannot be ignored.

Faced with this histrionic language, it is worth noting that Wagner was first appointed to the court by Conservative PM Stephen Harper, before he was made chief by Justin Trudeau. Just another example of Harper's failure to tilt the Canadian judiciary in a broadly conservative direction during his nine years in office. Trudeau's government isn't making the same mistake.

The National Post tries to put the majority's thinking in context, explaining that, for the carbon tax to achieve its declared goal of rescuing humanity from anthropogenic climate change, no province may be able to opt out, because of the danger "of carbon leakage, where an industry in a province with carbon pricing might just locate to a neighbouring province without it."

That is, if the tax is imposed only on provinces which support the Liberal government in Ottawa, then businesses hoping to avoid the tax might just move to places like Alberta and Saskatchewan, which don't. But couldn't that reasoning be extended further? Why wouldn't businesses look to relocate out of Canada altogether?

CPC leader Erin O'Toole made just this point, warning of the "same risk of leakage of jobs and investment” to the United States, the great boogie man of Canadian political discourse. But I am thinking of countries like China, which will happily accept the jobs that western virtue signalers no longer want in their own country. Of course, China doesn't have the same concerns about carbon emissions that are so common in the west, but for our environmentalists, "out of sight, out of mind" is a key principle.

In any event, it seems that the only hope that foes of the carbon tax have going forward is for the Conservatives to win an election and repeal the law. And they might soon get their shot. Hopefully they don't screw it up.

Murphy Rex

I have long felt that Rex Murphy is not only Canada’s premier columnist but in many ways the soul of this country—at least before it began its plunge into political correctness and neo-Marxist conformity. Now he is one of the few waging valiant battle against its slide into the political doldrums.

I recall how many years ago I would listen to his open-line radio show Cross Country Checkup, which took the pulse of Canadian culture and sentiment. I admired his astuteness and hospitable accessibility, as well as his deep but lightly-held erudition. I never thought I would ever get to know him, but now I am honoured to call him a friend.

As is evidenced by the interviews he's been doing on his excellent YouTube channel, Rex TV, in all those years Rex hasn't lost a beat. Take a gander at my own recent appearance on RexTV below.

We are fortunate to have him continuing what has become an uphill fight to restore pride of country and a degree of public sanity. The U.S. has Tucker Carlson. We have Rex Murphy. Long may he prosper.

The Wearin' of the Green

The Conservative Party of Canada are having their (virtual) policy convention this weekend, and one potential inclusion in their new platform is causing quite a stir in that country's monolithically left-wing media. This CBC headline tells the tale: "Conservatives debate whether to declare that 'climate change is real' at policy convention."

The language recognizing the reality of climate change was put forward by the Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier riding association, which added that, "[w]e believe that Canadian businesses classified as highly polluting need to take more responsibility in implementing measures that will reduce their GHG emissions and need to be accountable for the results."

The CBC's report is hysterically transparent, spending some time gawking at delegates who would dare to oppose this change in the platform -- one attendee said "she couldn't support any green policies until the health and safety concerns of 'industrial wind turbines' are better understood," although the writer assures us that this isn't a real issue.

The story then pivots to a discussion of Conservative leader, Erin O'Toole, who is famous for taking every position on every issue and saying whatever he needs to say to get good press:

O'Toole has promised the party's election platform will contain a climate change plan that could cut greenhouse-gas emissions. To attract new supporters — especially millennials — O'Toole has said he wants a made-in-Canada net zero approach that sees government partnering with and pushing companies to bring their emissions down, and carbon pricing that targets only industries, not individuals. "You're going to see a very detailed plan... that will, I think, make our commitments probably faster than Mr. Trudeau without a running-out-of-control federal carbon tax that he's already promising."

Sounds like witchcraft to me.

It's likely that some kind of green language will ultimately end up in the CPC platform, and it will probably get O'Toole a nice pat on the head for not being as backward as his party's voters. But in the end that will just be used as a pretext for the Liberal's positioning getting even more radical, and it won't help him, or his party, come election time.

Meanwhile, Canadian businesses and Canadian workers will be the ones who suffer.

From Canada, the Return of Rex Murphy

Now that we've all done our bit during Two Weeks to Flatten the Curve/Fifteen Days to Slow Spread -- and that only took a year, so well done, all! -- the ice is finally breaking and the productive members of society are emerging from their unconstitutional house arrest to resume activity. Here's Rex Murphy, Canada's beloved curmudgeon and commentator, announcing his return to the streaming airwaves:

Whither Alberta—and the Rest of Canada?

It was a good deal all around. The Keystone XL pipeline, which “adds a branch connecting terminals in Hardisty, Alberta, and Steele City, Nebraska, through a shorter route using a larger diameter pipe,” was the safest and most efficient way to ship crude oil in measures of scale—some 830,000 barrels a day—to the United States. Its cancellation was Joe Biden’s first official act. At least 10,000 American jobs will be lost and another nail has been hammered into that territorial coffin called Alberta. A good deal for the time has become a bad prospect for the future.

The consensus is that Biden, following in the footsteps of Obama, is catering to his woke-progressivist base and its environmental extremism by deep-sixing America’s energy industries in favor of expensive and unreliable Green technology. Donald Trump Jr. has a different or collateral explanation for Biden’s precipitous action. It is a gift to Warren Buffet and other Democratic Party donors.

Expanding on the younger Trump's take, Lorie Wimble explains,

Their methods of transportation, from rail lines to semi-trucks, benefit from the diminished effectiveness of the pipeline. The oil will still come, but now it will have to be transported less efficiently and at higher cost to consumers… Blocking Keystone XL has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with leftist megadonors.

Interestingly, climate change activists have tended to grow comparatively silent now that their president has promoted an energy alternative which is clearly more harmful to the environment than any conceivable state-of-the-art pipeline.

As NOQ notes,

Proponents championed [sic] that Keystone XL was going to be the cleanest pipeline project ever constructed while creating thousands of high-paying jobs. TC Energy partnered with four labor unions that would have generated $2 billion in earnings for U.S. workers. Plus, the company worked with five First Nations groups regarding equity.

But that still wasn't enough. The report goes on to point out that beyond a "black eye to the Trudeau government," this is "significant blow" to Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party. Kenney's government "invested $1.5 billion of taxpayer dollars in the project, plus about $6 billion in loan guarantees, to ensure KXL would be completed." Saskatchewan is also in the pickle jar, but Alberta is far deeper in the brine.

Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau has expressed pro forma “disappointment” with the cancellation, but Rex Murphy, Canada’s premier conservative columnist, does not see the debacle as a  “black eye” for Trudeau. Far from it. He suggests that the "honour' of Trudeau receiving Biden's first phone call as president is a "diplomatic quid pro quo perhaps for not making any noise over the slashing of Alberta’s prime industry.” Murphy poses the question of the hour to the rest of Canada:

Justin, it's for you.

If you allow the savaging of our economy, if you ignore what we in Alberta have contributed to you during the good times, if you side with rabid environmentalism, pour on carbon taxes and fuel emission standards, if you bar every effort to build even one damn pipeline: Why are we in this thing?”

He concludes: “And you know what ‘this thing’ refers to.”

This thing, of course, is Confederation, and although Murphy does not use the word, the only option, in the absence of a complete “re-imagining” of the country along fair and rational lines, is secession. For the situation in which Alberta now find itself cannot go on indefinitely. If a reasonable accommodation with the federal government is not forthcoming, a tectonic shift in political and national alignments will become necessary. 

There will be many problems, of course. As I’ve written before, there are too many Canadians and not enough Albertans in the province; the ratio will have to change and a Wexit party will have to replace the current, pro-federalist Conservative administration. Perhaps a third of the population is puckered for divorce, which is a promising start. But if Alberta follows the Quebec model, secession will take 50 percent plus 1. Time is running out.

Another major issue is the fact, as Murphy points out, that Alberta is landlocked. It would need to run an “independent” pipeline to tidewater, clearly through the adjoining province of British Columbia, for which approval may not be readily forthcoming. But Alberta wields a powerful bargaining chip. It is the land bridge from Eastern Canada to the Pacific Ocean which, if blockaded, would lead to economic tribulation for the country as a whole. A trade-off with British Columbia is far from inconceivable. In fact, it seems more than likely.

There is yet another significant political development to consider, one which has international ramifications. I refer not only to the perennial struggle between the radical Left and the conservative Right, which is embedded in history and is a function of the human psyche, but to its current instantiation. The seismic conflict we are now witnessing involves two great socioeconomic forces arrayed against one another for political dominance across the planet. These may be described as the movement for one-world hegemony, as per the Great Reset and UN Agenda 2030 on the one hand, and the rise of national movements on the other, in other words, Globalism against Populism. 

The former conceives itself as universal, the latter as revanchist. The former is proposed and backed by a coalition of billionaires, technocrats and political elites, the latter by ordinary people and patriotic citizens who feel disenfranchised and coerced. The Global orientation envisions the elimination of private property, the curtailment of private transportation, surveillance of entire populations, and top-down dirigiste control of subservient nations. The populist revolution, in contrast, envisages local autonomy for peoples that recognize a common heritage and tradition, that defend the principles of free speech, religious belief, and assembly, and that demand political and economic control of their own affairs. The Global initiative advances the belief in “climate change” and the necessity of expunging the fossil-fuel energy industry at whatever cost. Populism believes it can balance economic benefits with environmental concerns.

The conflict is heating up as we speak. At the same time that the Globalist phenomenon is being enacted by a pluto-techno cabal with its headquarters in Davos, populist sentiment is erupting in many different locales around the world—Scotland, Spain/Catalonia, the U.K. (Brexit), the U.S. (Texit), and elsewhere. According to the Institute for Global Change, “Between 1990 and 2018, the number of populists in power around the world has increased a remarkable fivefold, from four to 20. This includes countries not only in Latin America and in Eastern and Central Europe—where populism has traditionally been most prevalent—but also in Asia and in Western Europe.

Within the present Canadian context, the federal perspective under Justin Trudeau is Globalist, heavily influenced by the Great Reset and what its main proponent Klaus Schwab calls the “fourth industrial revolution.” The Wexit movement in Alberta is plainly populist, consisting, in the words of the Institute for Global Change, of “hard-working victims of a state run by special interests and outsiders as political elites [who are seen] as the primary enemy of the people.”

Alberta for the Albrtans.

In the war between these two world-historical forces, global hegemony and local sovereignty, the Great Reset and nationalist populism—assuming nothing changes—Alberta will have to choose. If it goes the route of separation, it stands to reason that the rest of the country may begin to break up into several states, comprising the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario/Manitoba, British Columbia, and the three northern territories, Nunavut, Yukon and Northwest Territories, combining as a single federation.

In my estimation, Canada was never a coherent, overarching polity; the fault lines were always evident, incised by competing regional visions and needs, power imbalances, economic disparities and profound linguistic strife. Its eventual disintegration was probably foreordained. The break between the Eastern elites and the Western heartland is likely irremediable. There is certainly little sympathy in the rest of the country for Alberta’s plight. A recent Angus Reid poll shows that Alberta (and Saskatchewan) “will be fighting the battle to save the Keystone XL pipeline project on their own as the rest of Canada says it’s time to move on.”

Without the energy resources and capital generated by Alberta (and Saskatchewan), one wonders where the rest of the country can move on to? A Fraser Institute study finds that transfer payments make up over 27 percent of Atlantic Canada’s GDP, and that Alberta, with a diminishing tax base and a growing deficit, has financed most of the funds going to the Atlantic provinces and to Quebec. A myopic Canada does not understand that you can’t squeeze money from a dry well or that money does not drop from turbine blades.

In any event, given a Liberal-Marxist administration, a Leftist and parasitic New Democratic Party, a fantasy-driven Green Party, and a feckless Conservative Party that has sold its birthright as an electoral strategy, the choice would seem to me inevitable.

Enbridge Line 5 Lives! (For Now)

Some unexpected good news: Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has approved construction of an underground tunnel to house a replacement for Enbridge Line 5 which transports roughly 540,000 barrels of petroleum products per day from Superior, Wis., to refineries in Sarnia, Ont.

This is surprising because the general expectation was that Joe Biden's decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline extension is just an opening salvo in the new administration's war on energy. After all, there is no obvious limiting principle to Biden's rationale for killing Keystone. The pipeline had failed no environmental review, and TC Energy, which owns the pipeline, has satisfactorily responded to every legitimate concern of governments and environmentalist groups on both sides of the border.

What Keystone XL would do is facilitate the safe transport of fossil fuels, and that is what made it a target. This was clearly articulated in Biden's executive order, which offered no justification for revoking Keystone's construction permit beyond the necessity to "prioritize the development of a clean energy economy." If that's the governing logic, no pipelines are safe.

Enbridge Line 5 seemed the next theater of conflict because, as Joan Sammon discussed in a recent piece, there's already an ongoing crusade against it, spearheaded by Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. Here's the background, as described by Sammon:

Whitmer, a Democrat, took legal action against Canadian pipeline operator, Enbridge, revoking a 67-year old-easement to extend an approximately four mile underwater section of the pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

Whitmer's argument is that the section of pipeline which runs underwater between Michigan and Ontario would endanger the Great Lakes should it leak, and thus she must act. The pipeline, which has been in operation since 1953, has never had a significant leak; indeed, Enbridge had already preemptively addressed this problem, planning a new section of pipe to be laid beneath the riverbed with the object of safeguarding the straits.

Construction approval has been slow, in part because of the change in administration in Michigan -- initial approval for the project had been granted by former governor Rick Snyder, a Republican. But following the 2018 election subsequent permits have to be granted by Whitmer appointees.

The Canadian position regarding Line 5 is that a shutdown would be disastrous. According to the National Post,

[It] would cut off nearly half of the crude oil it needs to make petroleum products such as gasoline. All of the jet fuel used at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is made in Sarnia, and distributed through Line 5. It also carries propane used to heat homes in northern Michigan and Ontario, and supports thousands of jobs on both sides of the border.

Enbridge has refused to comply with Whitmer's order, arguing that the governor has no jurisdiction to shutdown a pipeline approved by the federal government.

The approval of Michigan's energy department -- which determined "the project would have 'minimal impact' on water quality and wetlands" -- is significant, but Line 5 isn't in the clear yet. The project still requires the approval of the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Michigan Public Service Commission, whose members have all been appointed by Whitmer, must grant approval for the pipeline to actually be put into the new tunnel.

Still, in the current hostile environment Enbridge will take any good news it can get.

A Wake-Up Call for Canada's Energy Sector

At the outset of the pandemic I was inclined to think that the tough economic realities of our post-prosperity world would diminish the environmentalist movement, as people increasingly recognized the importance of pro-work policies over and above green utopianism. Well, that hasn't happened, in part because the economic disaster hasn't been as catastrophic as it initially seemed it might be, and in part because massive increases in debt financed government spending -- most particularly on unemployment benefit top-ups and direct-to-taxpayer stimulus checks -- have obscured the rough shape the economy is actually in.

Consequently, environmentalist fantasies have continued unabated, with their most recent victory being Joe Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project via executive order on day one of his presidency, a move which has already eliminated one thousand Canadian jobs and will shortly do the same to tens of thousands stateside. I've spent this past week hammering both Biden's decision and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's supine indolence in standing against it on behalf of Canadian workers.

Along those same lines, Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, has written a sobering blogpost which really is Must Read. McTeague, a longtime Canadian M. P. (he was elected as a Liberal, but don't hold that against him), knows more than anyone about Canada's resource industry and the effects burdensome regulations on it has on regular people.

After pointing out that Keystone XL was "one of the most sophisticated, innovative, job-creating, economy-stimulating, aboriginal-engaging, infrastructure projects in North America," McTeague rakes the Trudeau government over the coals for its totally inadequate management of the issue:

The response from Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, to Biden’s decision was appalling. Minister Wilkinson said that he wasn’t going to dwell on this particular decision about a pipeline, but instead would focus on the new climate ally we have. Incredibly, he took the view that the new U.S. administration “offered a welcome dose of climate optimism.”

Climate optimism? Think about this, fellow Canadians. Climate optimism for Jonathan Wilkinson means having someone in charge of the biggest economy in the world ranting about a “climate crisis” just like Justin Trudeau does, while ignoring the real crisis. And what is the real crisis? It is the disaster of ideologically-driven environmental policy that raises the cost of living and kills jobs.

He goes on to warn Canada's oil and gas companies that they had better wake up.

Your customers are watching you trip over yourselves to show your green credentials and as you boast about your commitment to meet globally-imposed emission reduction targets such as the Paris Accord’s 30% reductions by 2030 target, or Canada’s “net-zero emissions by 2050” commitment.

Instead, those companies have to accept the fact that "the Trudeau government and their friends simply do not want your sector to exist," adding "Stop pretending that you do not know this!"

So, assuming that Canada's oil and gas industry takes McTeague's advice, what should they do in practice? He has several concrete proposals, including doing a better job of promoting the good work they do, both with the public and with politicians; and refusing to adopt the environmentalist language of the left, which has the effect of conceding their points (which are wrong).

Most important, he advises them to stand up for their customers, and "be a voice for their interests instead of the interests of environmental activists, their government friends, and the investment community sharks who feast off the green largesse of the taxpayer."

This should be a wake up call to all Canadians, McTeague says, demonstrating as it does "that Canada doesn’t matter to the U.S., and Justin Trudeau and his minions like Jonathan Wilkinson aren’t capable of changing that current reality." Canadians should respond accordingly.

Trudeau's Pipeline 'Weak Sauce'

Well, it looks like the Trudeau Government is throwing in the towel on the Keystone pipeline. On Wednesday evening the Prime Minister released a statement saying “We are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL.” Ben Woodfinden is exactly right:

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Trudeau's initial approach was to argue that Biden's anti-climate change instincts were admirable but misguided, since the project had addressed the issues which most troubled environmentalists at the outset. It seemed as though Trudeau was attempting to employ his own green bona fides to give Biden cover to back down on Keystone, but to no avail. So, as in the case of Pfizer's failing to deliver Canada's contracted vaccine doses, Justin has decided to just put up his well-manicured hands and say, in essence, 'We're a small country, what can I do?'

Never mind that Canada's unemployment and labor participation rates are down, and the jobs Keystone XL generates for the resource sector are desperately needed.

Source: Statistics Canada

Trudeau would do well to remember the old saying, '[W]hen America sneezes, Canada gets a cold.' Both countries have weathered the lockdowns better than one would have thought back in March. That's why they are still going on (even if some of their most ardent apologists have started to back away from them).

But they've only done so well by taking on enormous amounts of new debt, the bill for which will begin to come due sooner than anyone thinks. This will no doubt cause serious problems for the U. S., but America's sheer size and its extremely diverse economy will provide a cushion that the smaller and resource-dependent Canada just won't have.

So what should Trudeau do? Well, some of the aggressiveness he showed when America's last president put a ten percent tariff on Canadian aluminum (part of a push which led Trump to drop the duty a month later) would be welcome. Of course, Trump was not a CBC-approved American the way Joe Biden is, and consequently Trudeau would have to expend real political capital -- perhaps more than he has -- to similarly fight for his nation's interests.

A more realistic hope might be for his making a sustained case for Keystone XL as beneficial for both of our countries at a time of real economic distress. The Heartland Institute's Steven Milloy has a good brief against Biden's Keystone cancellation which lays out many of the points that Trudeau could make. After establishing that the environmental effects of Keystone XL would be negligible, Milloy explains that,

According to the U. S . Chamber of Commerce, the Keystone XL will:

Consequently, for Milloy, "the revocation of the Keystone XL permit will be the exaltation of imaginary global climate benefits over real ones to U. S. workers and communities." Needless to say, the same could be said on the Canadian side.

Unfortunately, it seems as though Trudeau has officially folded. TC Energy -- which owns the pipeline -- have already announced a halt on construction and thousands of layoffs. More's the pity.

The Mask of the Red (Covid) Death

Just this morning I was looking out my window at the esplanade that borders the Fraser River when a couple strolled by and paused for a moment beside the guardrail. They were, of course, fully masked, though as a couple they were exempt from the Covid distancing rules. As they turned to leave, they embraced and exchanged a long kiss, mask to mask, which would have made a charming scene were it not so grotesque, two masks glued together in surreal intimacy.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam would have felt vindicated. “Like other activities during Covid-19 that involve physical closeness,” she advised, “there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus.” The safest strategy is to “skip kissing, avoid face-to-face closeness, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose.”

Of course, Tam’s counsels were meant for casual encounters, but why stop there? Safety first—and second, third, ad infinitum, the Covid way of life. In fact, you can’t be safe enough. According to this expert, the sexual activity with the lowest risk “involves yourself alone.” Talk about self-isolation! 

Be fruitful and don't multiply.

Similarly, the provincial Center for Disease Control advises people, among the “tips and strategies [and] protective steps” sexual partners should adopt, to “wear a face covering or mask,” which cuts down on “heavy breathing,” or to “use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.”

One should also consider that “video dates, phone chats, sexting, online chat rooms and group cam rooms are ways to engage in sexual activity” without taking risks. Most important, recognize that “you are your safest partner.” Best to go it alone and avoid close contact with others. However, “If you’re feeling fine and have no symptoms of Covid-19, you can still have sex.” Permission has been granted. 

It is obscene that unelected officials in the sublimity of their wisdom can tell us how and when to perform intimacy. The idea is not only hideous, but on a human level fundamentally alienating, an antidote to the normal expression of human passion and romantic feeling—especially when the risk for younger and asymptomatic people is vanishingly low.

As the American Institute for Economic Research reliably reports, cutting through the panic and the hype, there is “a mortality rate of 0.01 percent, assuming a two-week lag between infection and death. This is one-tenth of the flu mortality rate of 0.1 percent.” Sucharit Bkakdi, a leading microbiologist at the University of Mainz and, unlike Tam, a genuine authority on the virus, gives an estimate “of 0.1 percent-0.3 percent, which is the range of moderate flu.”

No matter. When I venture out for my afternoon walk along the esplanade, I feel as if I’m entering a carnival horror arcade or a grade-C zombie flick. Nearly everyone is masked, not only the elderly who may be in the statistical danger zone, but the middle aged, families, bicyclists, joggers, younger people, children and even toddlers, who are effectively immune.

True, very few are kissing or engaging in indecorous activity, but that is no consolation. The sense of the eerie, of something morbid and freakish this way coming, is deeply distressing, no less than the abject compliance with government mandates in the absence of common sense or intelligent reflection.

A recent IPSOS Reid poll finds that 93 percent of Canadians “say they are doing their best to abide by public health recommendations regarding Covid-19.” The poll reports that more Canadians “are wearing a protective mask than was the case just a few months ago,” and that “support for safety measures remains high.” Support for critical scrutiny and independent inquiry into the facts does not.

Home sweet home.

We are living in the Age of Covid, enjoined or compelled to stay in our “bubble,” to practice “social distancing” (six feet is the officially designated distance, the same as the typical grave depth), and to wear those ghastly medical ornaments, multi-ply masks, over half our faces.

Over time, coercion has turned into willing consensus and self-enforced mutilation of the spirit; a fearful and pliable public has surrendered its autonomy of judgment to a statistical reign of terror practiced by ignorant and power-hungry politicians and their self-serving health officials. People have suffered a mental lockdown, a form of cerebral morbidity. As Stephen Kruiser writes:

The lockdowns ruined far more lives than they’ve saved—if they’ve saved any at all. The data on wearing masks has been kind of all over the place too. Those who’ve been spreading the pandemic panic porn for political purposes treat the masks as if they have super powers. We will more than likely find out that wearing them was all just so much useless theater too.

The mask has become the major symbol of a time when human relationships, what we used to call face to face contact, are relics of a receding past. Facebook was bad enough, when personal reciprocity was replaced by digital transmissions and friendship became “friending.” Now Facebook has become Facemask, eliminating the human smile, articulate speech, normal conversation and personal expressions while transforming sexual and romantic intimacy into a lurid caricature of communion, affection, affinity and warmth—the empty husk of human presence.

In a poem delightful for its insouciant humor, Canadian poet Michael Harris wished to be “among the essential kissers of all time.” The volume, New & Selected, appeared in 1998. He would have had another think coming had he written his poem today.