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The True Nature of Leadership

The English language leaders’ debate in the 2021 Canadian election was disappointing on a number of levels. Among other things, the questions were almost all based on left-wing, liberal, and “progressive” assumptions and therefore received left-wing, liberal, and “progressive” answers. They were generally concerned with how the federal government was going to help or fund various groups, not whether these groups really need help, whether the federal government should help them, or whether the government is able to help them. For instance, one question assumed that seniors need more money. The reality is that some seniors need help and many do not. (I live on a modest income and am one of those who do not.)

But the primary question I would like to discuss here was posed to Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. He was asked whether he was able to control his caucus (on abortion, vaccines, climate change, etc.). O’Toole responded using the same assumption that the questioner had. He said that he controlled his caucus, that he was “driving the bus.” It should be noted that the question was asked of O’Toole because it was assumed that the other leaders control their caucuses better than he does.

No one seemed to even consider whether a party leader or a prime minister should “control” his caucus. We elect members of Parliament with the understanding that each of them is to represent the wishes of a little over 100,000 Canadians. They are paid a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year to do this work. It is a very important and responsible job, and parties and voters take care to select skilled and experienced people to these positions. Three dozen or so of the best of these MPs are then chosen by the prime minister to run various government departments and form the cabinet and make joint decisions in the best interests of the country. For this, they are paid considerably more than the other MPs.

So, why would we think that a prime minister or party leader should “control” these representatives of the people, who are reputed to be among the best and brightest in the nation? Why would we expect these people to be a bunch of mindless twits who do not think for themselves but believe and do whatever the party leader says? Why would a minister be placed in charge of a government department spending billions of dollars a year but be too stupid or incompetent to do his job unless the prime minister tells him or her how to do it?

This is the kind of prime minister Justin Trudeau is. He makes up policies on a whim and expects his cabinet ministers to implement them. This is why so many of them do nothing until the prime minister tells them to act and why so little gets done. And when he tells one of his ministers to break the law and she has the audacity to think for herself and refuse, he fires her. Justin Trudeau acts as if he has the only brain in his party and his cabinet, and sadly it has proven to be a very inferior brain.

This is not leadership. It is dictatorship. Dictators do not attract competent people. They attract yes men and sycophants and people who have no integrity or morals or ethics but will blindly obey orders.

Real leaders have a vision and a character that other competent people admire and are willing to follow—not because they will receive some personal benefit but because they believe in the leader’s vision and character. These are not blind followers but people who have minds of their own, who are capable of developing ideas and policies of their own, who are competent enough to fulfill their responsibilities on their own without supervision. They will have skills and expertise and knowledge separate from their leaders. They may disagree with their leaders at times, but the collective wisdom of such people will produce better decisions than any single leader, no matter how great, could ever produce.

Whether a party leader can control his caucus was the wrong question and received the wrong answer. The proper question is whether a party leader can attract competent people who will work with him to provide good government.

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The Future with Zero-Emission Vehicles

On June 29, 2021, the Canadian government decreed that all cars and light trucks sold in Canada must be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. This massive change in Canadian life has not been brought about by a law passed by Parliament but simply by a “regulation” issued by the minority government of Justin Trudeau. We are increasingly a nation governed by a prime minister rather than by Parliament. Shouldn’t a change such as this at least have been discussed and debated?

This decree raises a number of important questions.

1. Where will the money come from?

Electric-powered vehicles are more expensive to manufacture than gasoline-powered vehicles. Although this varies greatly, an electric car may cost about 50 percent more than an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle. The government knows this, so it subsidizes the cost at every stage. In 2020, the Canadian and Ontario governments invested $590 million (about a third of the total cost) so Ford could upgrade its assembly plant in Oakville, Ontario, to start making electric vehicles. Governments also subsidize the installation of charging stations. The cost ranges from over a thousand dollars for a slow-speed charging station in a private home to several thousand dollars for a high-speed charging station. In addition, the Canadian government offers a $5,000 grant toward the purchase of each electric vehicle, and the British Columbia government offers an additional $3,000. Altogether, government subsidies can be as high as $10,000 per vehicle, and even this does not cover all of the additional costs involved, which is one reason Canadians have been reluctant to buy these vehicles.

There are close to 30 million cars and light trucks in Canada, less than 1 percent of them are electric, and electric vehicles still make up considerably less than 5 percent of new vehicle sales. To complete the transition to electric vehicles by 2035, government subsidies, at $10,000 per vehicle, could therefore well exceed $300 billion. Since the life expectancy of most vehicles is about twelve years, the subsidies would have to continue perpetually at a rate of over $25 billion every year.

The Canadian government is already running massive deficits, so it is questionable whether it can continue to subsidize electric vehicles at that rate, and the costs could increasingly fall on consumers. In the larger picture, it does not matter because consumers are the same people as taxpayers. Since there are about 38 million Canadians and the cost of the transition to electric vehicles is considerably over $300 billion (the real additional cost exceeding the government subsidies by a considerable margin), then we can calculate that the change will cost each Canadian about $10,000. Assuming that a vehicle lasts 10-12 years, that means that the change will still cost Canadians close to $1,000 a year. That would be about $4,000 a year for a family of four and would certainly price some families out of vehicle ownership.

2. Where will the electricity come from?

Last summer’s heat waved stretched the capacity of electric grids in some parts of North America. Electric generation will have to increase significantly to charge 25 million electric vehicles in Canada. So where will that increased capacity come from?

From the beginning, the prime source of electricity in Canada has been hydroelectric dams. These can only be built on large rivers flowing rapidly downhill, and there are a limited number of such rivers in Canada even though our nation is better situated in this regard than many other countries. The construction of hydroelectric dams (such as Site C in British Columbia) is becoming more difficult because environmental activists oppose their construction. Apparently, they flood land, disrupt the natural flow of rivers, and are bad for the ecology.

Particularly in the Prairie provinces, there is a shortage of suitable rivers, so a considerable amount of Canadian electricity is still generated by burning coal and natural gas, which undermines the whole purpose in switching to electric vehicles.

Therefore, provinces are turning to nuclear generating stations. These also can have negative environmental impacts. We have no good way of disposing of nuclear waste, not even considering the risks of disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

This leaves the favourites of environmentalists: solar and wind power. The main problems with these forms of electrical generation are that they are more expensive and that they produce intermittent, inconsistent power (only when the sun shines and the wind blows). As well, solar panels and wind turbines wear out after 25-30 years, creating a recycling issue. So far, the fiberglass blades of wind turbines usually end up in landfills.

3. Where will the land come from?

This is not just about having large tracts of land covered with solar panels and wind turbines. There is also the question of refuelling stations. It takes about five minutes to fill up a car with gasoline. It takes at least six times as long to charge an electric car, even with a fast charging station. Many charging stations can be added to homes and existing parking lots. However, dedicated charging stations will be needed alongside some major highways. Instead of a gas station, imagine a massive parking lot filled with refuelling cars. Gas stations will still be necessary for trucks and other large vehicles.

4. Where will the lithium come from?

Most electric vehicles run on lithium or lithium ion batteries. An electric car battery requires about 10 kilograms of lithium. Fortunately, the estimated world reserves of lithium amount to about 100 million metric tonnes, or 100 billion kilograms, although less than a quarter of that amount is currently considered economically viable. Still, there should be sufficient lithium in the world to provide batteries for billions of vehicles. (Canada incidentally has about 530,000 tonnes of economically viable lithium and currently produces none.) Unfortunately, current annual production of lithium amounts to less than 100,000 tonnes, enough to power about 8 million cars worldwide. Moreover, a considerable amount of the current lithium production is being used for industrial applications and for batteries in cell phones and other devices. Worldwide production of lithium will need to be drastically increased to enable Canada’s conversion to electric vehicles, even without demand from other countries.

Lithium is a mineral, a soft metal, found especially in South America. The current top producers are Australia, Chile, China and Argentina. It is highly reactive and flammable and presents serious environmental concerns.  According to Wikipedia, “The manufacturing processes of lithium, including the solvent and mining waste, presents significant environmental and health hazards. Lithium extraction can be fatal to aquatic life due to water pollution. It is known to cause surface water contamination, drinking water contamination, respiratory problems, ecosystem degradation and landscape damage. It also leads to unsustainable water consumption in arid regions (1.9 million liters per ton of lithium). Massive byproduct generation of lithium extraction also presents unsolved problems, such as large amounts of magnesium and lime waste. In the United States…environmental concerns include wildlife habitat degradation, potable water pollution including arsenic and antimony contamination, unsustainable water table reduction, and massive mining waste, including radioactive uranium byproduct and sulfuric acid discharge.” Of course, since Canada produces no lithium, there is no environmental concern here.

Conclusion

Sound technological solutions to many of these questions may eventually be found, although there is no guarantee. But shouldn’t we at least try to answer some of them before committing to such a massive disruption of the Canadian economy and social fabric?

Environmental activists often give the impression that life in the green economy will be much like our current life except for a much smaller carbon footprint and a cleaner environment. The reality is that in the green economy envisioned for only a couple of decades from now, many of us will have to get about on foot, on bicycles, and on public transit. Extensive travel, both international travel and road trips within Canada, will likely be reserved for the very wealthy. The rest of us will travel as we have been doing during the pandemic, virtually, on electronic devices powered by lithium batteries.   

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Global Connections

I had never met Teus and Maria Kappers—until they asked me to help them publish their joint autobiography. And yet their lives have intersected major connecting points in the global evangelical world. Teus grew up in the Netherlands and Maria in Germany. That they could find each other in the bitter aftermath of the Second World War is testimony to the healing power of the gospel. Teus came to a personal faith in Jesus through Euro 70, a monumental Billy Graham evangelistic effort broadcast all over Europe. He was discipled by the Open Doors ministry started by fellow Dutchman Brother Andrew, known as “God’s smuggler.” (Brother Andrew inspired many to smuggle Bibles into communist countries.) Maria grew up in Freudenstadt (“Town of joy”), which had centuries earlier been a refuge for the Huguenots, persecuted French Protestant followers of John Calvin. Teus and Maria met at the Bible College of Wales, which had been founded in the aftermath of the Welsh Revival. Then they served in various ministries together, including London City Mission, which was one of the many evangelistic and social outreach movements spawned by the evangelical revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries. They immigrated to Canada in 1982, where they played a leading role in the founding of Lighthouse Harbour Ministries, a ministry to seamen in the port of Vancouver, British Columbia, which has had rippled impacts around the world.  They have played a significant role in the global mission of Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations. 

When We Walk With The Lord (ISBN 978-1-7771926-2-4) is published by my own Mill Lake Books and is available from online retailers and bookstores around the world.

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Government, Science, and Anti Vaxxers

One of the conundrums of our time is how so many seemingly ordinary people could refuse to accept vaccines and follow government-mandated precautions against the deadly plague of COVID 19. What lies behind this outbreak of collective insanity? Why would so many people refuse public health orders put in place for their own good? Why would so many people put more trust in Internet drivel and quack remedies than they do in medical science?

There are answers. In our current world, public trust in governments and in experts is strained—and for good reason.

For one thing, politicians have been known to have lied. Justin Trudeau stated clearly that his office had not illegally interfered in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution. He promised to balance the budget in four years. And on and on. He has lied on many occasions, on major issues and minor ones. At other times, he simply seems to have been misinformed. So why would anyone believe him when he says that vaccines are safe and effective? 

For another thing, politicians and university-trained experts have been spouting so much outright foolishness that they have discredited education. Justin Trudeau has spoken so often about “shecessions” and “peoplekind” that people have begun to collect these malapropisms in the same way that people used to collect spoonerisms. So why would people take him seriously when he makes solemn pronouncements about the pandemic? Think also about the claptrap that flows out of universities these days. That there are multiple fluid genders when every kindergarten kid knows there is a difference between boys and girls? That Egerton Ryerson and John A. Macdonald were evil sociopaths far inferior to modern statesmen like Trudeau. That the latest feminist novel is superior literature to what Shakespeare wrote. Think also of the statements that the medical experts made in the early stages of this pandemic—that COVID 19 could not be transmitted from one human being to another, that masks are not effective in reducing the spread of this disease, and so on. And these are the people who now tell us that we should trust them and follow them blindly.

People have been feeling tremendous pressure over the last year and a half. They are worried about getting sick, knowing that every chance encounter in a grocery store could kill them. They are worried about their finances, whether they will be able to keep their jobs or afford groceries or a house. They are struggling with empty shelves and high prices in stores. They suffer from isolation. They miss their families, culture and sports activities, churches and social clubs, and a lot more. 

On top of this, people are becoming increasingly aware that the modern state is an intrusive and oppressive monolith that seeks to regulate every aspect of their lives. The resistance to COVID vaccines and COVID safety measures should not be looked at in isolation. Rather, these government-mandated measures can be seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back, the final imposition that pushed some people to stand up and scream, “No! I can’t take it anymore.” It can be said to be an emotional reaction more than a rational reaction. And yet there are deeply troubling realities underlying it. The anti vaxxer movement is a symptom of much larger social problems.           

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Justin Trudeau the Humanist

One of Justin Trudeau’s problems is that he is a humanist. He believes in the inherent goodness of human beings.

He believes that the Taliban are brothers who can be persuaded through negotiations to treat people humanely, not exact revenge, refrain from oppressing and killing people, accept Western values, and allow people to leave Afghanistan if they want to.

He believes the communist government of China can be trusted to observe the rule of law, tell the truth about COVID, protect human rights, and not use its 5G internet technology to spy on other nations.

He believes that if he outlaws “assault rifles,” criminals can be trusted to stop importing illegal weapons.

He believes that if street drugs are legalized, drug dealers and drug addicts will start acting responsibly and will obey all other laws.

He believes that if his government offers the unemployed more money to stay home than they were making when working, they will do the responsible thing and return to work as soon as work is available.

Most significantly, even though he has lied repeatedly to Canadians, even though he has mocked racial minorities, even though he has subverted the justice system to protect a corrupt company from prosecution, even though he has been found guilty of multiple ethical violations, even though his government has been found to have discriminated against groups who hold different views than his own, even though he has tried to subvert the democratic system and has plans to censor free speech, Justin Trudeau believes that he himself is a good human being.        

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Greed and the Canadian Election

US President John F. Kennedy famously said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Winston Churchill became prime minister of the United Kingdom promising, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

I have been thinking about this as Canada heads into another federal election. Canadian political parties, especially but not exclusively “progressive” parties, campaign on what the country under their leadership will do for “you” (the voter). Or for specific groups of voters that “you” belong to. And this will all be paid for by “somebody else.” Voters are not asked to consider which party’s policies will be best for the country as a whole but which party’s policies will be best for themselves. Party policies are designed to appeal to self-interest, selfishness, and greed.

The problem with this is that a nation cannot be built on greed. A society cannot function if everyone is looking only after themselves. Politics is a great teacher. Politicians have convinced people that the government will meet their every need and they will not have to pay for it. It won’t cost them anything. This attitude spills over into marriages, where two selfish people enter into a marriage seeking only what they will get and not what they will give. Such marriages are doomed to end in divorce. The same attitude pervades the education system. Students are told to “Follow your dream. You can be anything you want. You can do anything you want. You can have anything you want.” Then they go out into the real world and find out that they can’t. They can’t get something for nothing. They can’t have everything they want, especially without working for it. So they vote for political parties that promise to give it to them.  

It is worth saying now more than ever: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Or your spouse. Or your children.

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The Freedom of Dependency

For a number of years, my wife and I belonged to the same church as Patricia Mussolum and her husband Barry. But it was a large church and we never met. I did hear about them though. I cannot recall now what their official position was in the church. I do know that they were widely respected as spiritual leaders, which to my mind was more important.

Pat contacted me out of the blue last year for help in getting a book published. (Besides my own writing, I operate a small imprint called Mill Lake Books.) The result was a book called The Freedom of Dependency, which is now available in the usual bookstores and online retail sites. The back cover summarizes the content: “In this small book, Patricia Mussolum explores a big idea—that the Creator of the universe invites human beings to enter into a loving relationship with Him. In the same way that a branch can produce grapes only if it is connected to the vine, she argues that human beings can only have life, freedom, and fruitfulness if they are connected to Jesus. The intent of this book is to encourage readers to discover the freedom that comes in a life of dependence on Jesus.”

Pat is a retired school teacher and piano teacher and an avid water color artist (good enough to roduce the artwork for her own book covers). Her abiding passion is to share God’s truth with others. She is the author of two other books, Wilted Bouquets and Dancing in the Reflections.

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Justin Trudeau Is an Idiot

Justin Trudeau’s Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has presented a proposal to create a Digital Safety Commission of Canada to address “harmful content online.” Specifically, it would remove five categories of harmful content from social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Pornhub. The five categories are:

• terrorist content

• content that incites violence

• hate speech

• non-consensual sharing of intimate images

• child sexual exploitation content

According to the proposal, anyone could raise a complaint about any content on any of these platforms, and the platform would have to examine the complaint and make a decision to remove harmful content within 24 hours. The platforms would be required to have “robust flagging, notice, and appeal systems for both authors of content and those who flag content.” In other words, they would have to set up a massive and expensive bureaucracy to handle and decide on complaints and appeals to decisions they have made regarding complaints.

If either party was dissatisfied with the result, that party could appeal to the Digital Recourse Council of Canada, a branch of the Digital Safety Commission. In other words, the government would set up its own massive and expensive bureaucracy to hear and decide on appeals of complaints. The Council would make “binding decisions.” The platform would have to comply with the decision or face a fine of up to 10 million dollars or 3% of the platform’s gross global revenue, whichever is higher. (In some cases, the fine could be up to $25 million or 5% of an entity’s gross global revenue, whichever is higher.) In addition, the Council could issue an order to “make the website inaccessible to Canadians.” That is, it could shut down the whole platform in Canada.

It all sounds wonderful. Who wouldn’t want to stop terrorism and child pornography? But that is not what this proposal all about.

Criminals don’t usually try to spread child pornography on social media because 1. they are free public forums and therefore the criminals wouldn’t make any money; and  2. they are public forums and the child pornographers would soon be arrested. Child pornography is already a criminal offense, and those who spread it can go to prison. That is a bigger deterrent to criminals than their fear that Facebook might be fined.

Similarly, terrorists don’t regularly use public social media to plan terrorist attacks.

To be fair, the proposal does contain some useful aspects. There are some provisions that would make it easier for the police and other agencies to investigate and prosecute child pornography and terrorism and the sharing of intimate pictures.

But that is window dressing. That is not what this proposal is about. The real focus of the proposal is “hate speech.” The danger is that there is no clear definition of hate speech except that something is hate speech if someone else thinks it is hate speech and makes a complaint. What this proposal does is give an extremely powerful legal tool to the cancel culture.

Here’s how this will work.

Phase 1

I post “Justin Trudeau is an idiot” on Facebook.

One of Trudeau’s flunkies complains to Facebook that this is hate speech.

Facebook does not want the hassle and expense of investigating the millions of complaints it will receive, and it is frightened by the prospect of paying gazillions of dollars in fines. So, Facebook immediately removes my post, well before the 24-hour deadline. It is simpler and easier and cheaper to just remove any post that anyone has complained about.

I appeal to Facebook’s “robust appeal process.” But, because of the reasons outlined above and because Justin Trudeau is far more powerful than I am, Facebook rules against me.

I make an appeal to the Digital Recourse Council of Canada, where my appeal joins millions of others in the appeal process.

Eventually, after several months or years, a hearing is held, a judicial process like a mini-trial. Trudeau’s minions argue my post was hate speech. I argue it was not hate speech but fair political comment. A decision is reached, but by then it no longer matters. My post is lost in the distant past. Of course, in reality, I have zero chance of winning in the appeal process anyway—because guess who appointed the bureaucrats ruling on my appeal? Justin Trudeau. And the rulings of the tribunal are final and binding, so I can’t appeal to the regular court systen

Phase 2

I post “Justin Trudeau is an idiot” on Facebook.

To avoid any more hassles, Facebook immediately removes my post. The result of any appeal on my part is a foregone conclusion.

Phase 3

I stop posting on Facebook. In fact, I stop using Facebook altogether because that forum is no longer relevant.

Phase 4

Justin Trudeau is still an idiot, but no one dares say so. Trudeau has absolute control over social media, and he is the totalitarian dictator he has always wanted to be.

*****

The point is not whether Justin Trudeau or any other politician is or is not an idiot. What is at stake is our freedom to say so. What is at stake is democracy itself.

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Does the NHL Discriminate against Canadian Teams?

Seven of the 31 current National Hockey League teams are Canadian. That is, Canadian teams make up about 30% of the teams, and so, on average, they should make up about 30% of the Stanley Cup winners. Stated another way, a Canadian team should win the Stanley Cup about once every three or four years. So how do we explain the fact that no Canadian team has won the Cup for the last 27 years, since Montreal in 1993? In the intervening years, 14 US teams have won the Cup, and only 10 US teams have failed to do so. The chances of reaching the Stanley Cup final series should be twice that of actually winning the Cup (since there are two teams in the final), so a Canadian team should reach the final series about every other year. But only 6 Canadian teams have reached the final series in the 27 years since 1993, and none of them has won.

The NHL headquarters are in New York. Gary Bettman is an American and has been NHL Commissioner since 1993, the last year a Canadian team won the Cup. His goal is to position the NHL alongside the big three American sports monoliths, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and major league baseball (the National and American leagues). When he hears “National Hockey League,” Canada is not the “nation” Bettman is thinking of. This is why Bettman tried so hard to prevent Winnipeg from getting an NHL team. It is why, while the NHL has granted franchises to eight American cities during his tenure, it has denied franchises to Quebec City, Saskatoon, Hamilton, and Toronto from getting franchises. (I am not slamming the Maple Leafs here, but referring to the proposal that Toronto get a second team, which admittedly would have improved Toronto’s chances.) This is also why Bettman insists on keeping struggling teams in US cities such as Phoenix, Arizona. Bettman would not be terribly upset if Toronto or Montreal won the Stanley Cup occasionally, but his worst nightmare would be for two Canadian cities that most Americans have never heard of to be competing for the “national” championship. Think Ottawa-Winnipeg or Quebec-Saskatoon. How would Bettman sell that to American TV networks? How would he sell that to American TV audiences?

So, is there a conspiracy to keep Canadian teams from winning the Stanley Cup? How would that work? What power does the league have that could determine who wins?

Could the draft lottery be fixed? That might explain why the Vancouver Canucks have never drafted first in their entire 51-year history. But it wouldn’t explain why the Edmonton Oilers drafted first 4 times in 6 years. Besides, the draft lottery only affects a handful of teams at the bottom of the standings. Most of the draft order is determined by how well teams played the previous year.

Then there is scheduling. Most years, the Vancouver Canucks have racked up the most travel mileage of any team in the league. But that is a product of geography. Other Canadian teams, especially in the east, don’t have that problem. Teams have also complained about the uneven number of back-to-backs teams have to play (the number of times a team has to play two games in two days, sometimes with the second game being against a team that has not played the night before). Game timing can also be a problem, with the a west coast team playing “afternoon” games in the east, which can mean games as early as 10:00 a.m. for a west coast team. Playoff games are often scheduled in eastern time slots (for television) even when they are played in the west. But again, that affects only some Canadian teams, as well as some US teams that have won the Cup.

Then there is refereeing, including player suspensions. While the refereeing was considered consistently inconsistent in this year’s playoffs, it does not appear that this incompetence was directed at Canadian teams. The difference between Tampa Bay and Montreal in this year’s final was much greater than a couple of bad calls. Vancouver Canucks fans might have a better argument that refereeing tipped the balance in their close 2011 final series loss to Boston. But that is Vancouver, which has had a history of feuding with referees and the league officials who determine suspensions. And none of the Canucks’ four losses in that series were close games. Refereeing cannot explain why no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup in 27 years.

Are there other factors? Free agency gives players some say in where they play. Some American-born players have refused to play in Canada, as have some star Russian players seeking better opportunities for fame and endorsement deals in the biggest American cities. But some Canadian players (and perhaps some Swedish players) have preferred to play in Canada.

There are financial considerations. Players are paid in US dollars, and a few decades ago, when the Canadian dollar was trading for just over 60 cents US, this was a problem for Canadian teams. US tax rates on players’ salaries are also generally lower than Canadian ones. But the salary cap implemented a few years ago has levelled the playing field, and most Canadian franchises are among the most financially solvent in the league, largely due to their rabid fan bases.

So, how do we explain why Canadian teams are not winning the Stanley Cup more frequently? The best explanation is small sample size. If you flip a coin 10,000 times, heads will come up about half the time. But if you flip it only 10 times, the result could be drastically skewed one way or the other. Twenty-seven years is not a very large sample size. And winning is affected by more than statistical averages. Winning is determined by millions of decisions by players, coaches, referees, scouts, general managers, and others, not to mention injuries, illnesses, bad bounces, broken sticks, and other factors. It is impossible to control all of those variables. This is why the NHL could not be preventing Canadian teams from winning the Stanley Cup. And why it is so difficult for a team, any team, to guarantee it will win.          

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Belated Reflections on the London Atrocity

It has been a few weeks since 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman ran down a Muslim family in London, Ontario. It was a horrific and senseless violent act. Since then, there have been rallies against Islamophobia and racism across Canada. Canada’s House of Commons has unanimously passed a resolution calling for an emergency summit to combat Islamophobia. Ontario’s legislature has unanimously passed a motion condemning Islamophobia. The atrocity apparently has a simple explanation (Islamophobia) and a simple solution (denouncing Islamophobia).

But we know little of the 20-year-old who committed the crime. He apparently attacked the family because they were Muslim. Yet I have seen no evidence presented so far that he was part of an organized movement to attack Muslims or was influenced by online hate groups. It is possible, but not yet certain. There is also no evidence that Islamophobia is a widespread or pressing problem in Canada. One deluded 20-year-old does not indicate a nationwide social problem. So, why the nationwide reaction? More specifically, why blame the attack on a widespread social problem called Islamophobia instead of on Veltman himself?

There have also been suggestions that Veltman targeted this family because of their race, the colour of their skin (they are Pakistani). That is also possible—their race was more apparent at a distance from a moving vehicle than their religion—but not yet proven. Despite the widespread misconception, racism and Islamophobia are not the same thing. There are white Muslims and Pakistani Christians. There are white and Pakistani atheists. Faith is a matter of choice, while race is determined by birth. But a 20-year-old is unlikely to understand this. The crowds denouncing Islamophobia and racism do not seem to have understood it either. Justin Trudeau, who often seems to have less grasp of public issues than most Canadians, has also talked about “anti-Islamic racism.” There is a widespread assumption today that religion is a component of culture and culture is inextricably tied to race, but this is simply not true. From the beginning of time, cultures have been constantly changing, evolving, and interacting, as have religious beliefs. Even races have been changed by intermarriage.

There were suggestions that Nathaniel Veltman had some kind of Christian upbringing, but he seems to have left that behind.

There have also been suggestions that Veltman was suffering from mental illness and possibly drug addiction.  

We have also been informed that Veltman became lost in the midst of his parents’ bitter divorce. Could his attack on the Muslim family also have been partially motivated by his anger at his own family? Maybe instead of a campaign against Islamophobia, we should launch a campaign to encourage parents to love each other and their children. But that does not sit well with today’s self-centred ethos or the widespread desire for simplistic explanations.

Human relations are complex. Human motivations and human problems are complex, and so are their solutions. Nathaniel Veltman’s motivations are likely complex, more complex than a simple march or legislative resolution can resolve. Will these responses have any impact on preventing the next angry young man from striking out? On the other hand, the outpouring of support for the grieving family and the Muslim community in London have no doubt had some very positive and healing effects.

But there are no easy or simple answers. Television news and social media excel at whipping people into a frenzy on the basis of a one-minute news story (a sound bite) or a simplistic slogan. It is the lynch mob mentality, an emotional reaction on the basis of limited knowledge. Politicians, seeking an easy path to gaining votes, are often no better.

Court cases are decided by judges or juries after weighing weeks or months of complex evidence and testimony. Yet, when the news media (and social media) report on violent incidents and the subsequent court cases, they encourage listeners to make a snap judgement based on a brief snippet of usually one-sided information. Complex issues are often reduced to a single explanation or slogan—police brutality, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia. Often when I hear these stories, I say, “I am not sure what really happened or what the motivation was or what the exact judicial decision should be. I wasn’t there. I haven’t heard all of the evidence. I don’t have enough information.” But the news media encourage the general public to assume they have a ready answer.

Let’s be clear. Murder is wrong. Hate is wrong. Racism is wrong. But we should be wary about jumping on bandwagons and joining lynch mobs. That is how most of the atrocities we complain about began. Whether it is a white mob in the past lynching a black man accused of rape or a politically correct modern mob blaming an individual’s action on society, Western civilization, the church, the government, or the police, rushing to judgement rarely brings justice or peace. Simplistic explanations and solutions rarely solve complex problems.