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Cambridge University rescinds offer of fellowship for Jordan Peterson

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A controversial Toronto psychology professor is lambasting a prestigious British university after it opted to rescind a visiting fellowship on the basis of his work.

Jordan Peterson published a blog post in the wake of the move from Cambridge University, criticizing the school for its decision to withdraw the opportunity for a two-month scholarly visit to the elite campus.

Peterson, an outspoken critic of political correctness and many campus movements broadly affiliated with the political left, accused the school of bowing to pressure from students and failing to notify him directly of the decision to retract the fellowship.

Cambridge spokeswoman Tamsin Starr denied both allegations laid out in the blog post, saying Cambridge emailed the professor prior to sending out a tweet announcing the withdrawal of the offer and asserting the decision was made as a result of an academic review rather than student backlash.

“It was rescinded after a further review,” Starr said. She did not respond to a detailed list of questions, including whether such reviews are standard procedure and what specific findings triggered the withdrawal.

Peterson’s blog post let loose scathing words for the school’s Faculty of Divinity, which arranged for the fellowship and where the University of Toronto professor said he hoped to gain further material for a planned set of lectures on stories from the Bible.

“I think the Faculty of Divinity made a serious error of judgment in rescinding their offer to me,” he wrote in his post. “I think they handled publicizing the rescindment in a manner that could hardly have been more narcissistic, self-congratulatory and devious…I wish them the continued decline in relevance over the next few decades that they deeply and profoundly and diligently work toward and deserve.”

Peterson said the idea for a visiting fellowship came about after he lectured at the school and met with divinity faculty members last year.

In a brief tweet announcing the retraction, Cambridge indicated that Peterson requested the fellowship that was due to get underway in October. Peterson’s post referred to this assertion as a “half-truth,” saying it had been discussed with faculty members before he submitted his formal request.

Word that Peterson’s offer had been rescinded was greeted with relief by the Cambridge University students’ union, who began tweeting about his invitation in the days before it was withdrawn.

“His work and views are not representative of the student body and as such we do not see his visit as a valuable contribution to the university, but one that works in opposition to the principles of the university,” the union said in a Facebook post, later clarifying that they take exception to what they describe as his “history of actively espousing discriminatory views towards minority groups” rather than his positions on “academic freedom.”

Peterson has been a vocal critic of, among other things, the use of gender-neutral pronouns among those identifying as transgender. His notorious refusal to use them helped catapult him to global fame.

Peterson’s blog post took shots at the union’s response, finding fault with its literary style as well as its substance. He said the response received during his 2018 visit to the campus suggested there were people at the university interested in his perspectives.

“It seems to me that the packed Cambridge Union auditorium, the intelligent questioning associated with the lecture, and the overwhelming number of views the subsequently posted video accrued, indicates that there (sic) a number of Cambridge students are very interested in what I have to say, and might well regard my visit “as a valuable contribution to the university,” he said.

 

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

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Trudeau to push trade pact in EU leaders’ summit as France moves ahead on CETA

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MONTREAL — Lawmakers in France begin their ratification of the comprehensive trade agreement between the European Union and Canada as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes the leaders of the 28-country bloc to Montreal today.

Trudeau has been pushing hard for a win on trade and foreign policy after two difficult years marked by a rough renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the Trump administration and the deterioration of political and trade relations with China.

Trudeau will talk up the merits of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a series of events in Montreal over the next two days.

But Wednesday’s legal development when the French National Assembly begins its consideration of France’s ratification bill is also a prime focus for Canada’s Liberal prime minister, who will be fighting a federal election this fall.

Sources in France and Canada, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, say Trudeau lobbied French President Emmanuel Macron for more than a year to introduce the bill, and that those efforts finally paid off last month in Paris during their most recent face-to-face meeting.

Almost all of CETA — in excess of 90 per cent — went into force in September 2017 under what is known as provisional application, but individual ratifications by EU member countries will bring it fully into effect.

That would mean a win for the international trading order that has been under assault by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“It’s an essential step. We’re very pleased with our co-operation with the French government,” International Trade Minister Jim Carr said in an interview.

Carr will be meeting his EU counterpart Cecilia Malmstrom in Montreal. He said the French move towards ratification is a significant step in Canada’s broader goal of diversifying Canada’s export markets.

Trudeau was in Paris in early June after attending the 75th anniversary commemorations of D-Day in France and Britain, and he and Macron emerged with news that France would move forward with CETA’s ratification. The introduction of the bill in the National Assembly is a first step in a process that the French government hopes will lead to full ratification by the end of 2019.

Macron and Trudeau have talked about the agreement repeatedly — in Paris in April 2018, in a telephone conversation a year later, and other face-to-face meetings. Macron is a staunch Europhile and open supporter of CETA, but he has had to tread cautiously because of populist opposition to trade deals in France and across Europe.

Canada has lobbied French lawmakers, businesspeople and farmers, an effort that included more than two dozen visits to various regions of France by Isabelle Hudon, the Canadian ambassador.

Trudeau also made a direct appeal to French lawmakers in an April 2018 speech to the National Assembly, the first time a Canadian prime minister addressed that body.

“Let us ask ourselves this question: If France cannot ratify a free-trade agreement with Canada, what country can you imagine doing it with?” Trudeau asked.

CETA gives Canadian businesses preferred access to 500 million European consumers, and a $24 trillion market. In 2018, Canada’s exports to the EU increased by seven per cent to more than $44 billion.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


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Uncompetitive nomination races weaken parties and Canadian democracy, study warns

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OTTAWA — Nominations for federal elections are strikingly uncompetitive and opaque, according to a new study, which says that has profound consequences for Canadian democracy.

New research by the Toronto-based Samara Centre for Democracy shows only 17 per cent of more than 6,600 federal candidates from 2003 to 2015 faced competitive nomination races, while 2,700 candidates were directly appointed by parties.

“If you see the nomination as a moment in a chain of democratic moments” leading to the election of a member of Parliament, said Michael Morden, the director of research at Samara, “I think it’s notable that, in an overwhelming majority of cases, there’s no real decision being made by local people.”

Morden said through exit interviews with MPs Samara has found there is “broad, quiet understanding” in political circles of the deficiencies of the nomination process. 

But he said most Canadians have little access to or ability to scrutinize the “black box” of party nominations, despite the stake they have in how parties run their internal elections.

Political parties are private organizations, the Samara study says, but they’re also “public utilities” that have a profound effect on Canadian democracy.

And a lack of competition might signal a worrying disconnect with the Canadian public, the study suggests.

There are several reasons the study proposes for why races are so often uncompetitive. Snap elections account for some of it, while rules that benefit incumbents are also a factor. Then’s there’s the reality that many local party associations are just too disorganized or small to attract multiple candidates.

But the trend extends even to larger parties that are competitive across the country, Morden said.

“In our mind, that is still a stunning lack of competition,” he said.

Beyond the lack of competition, the study also found nominations rules also have significant effects on the diversity of nomination candidates and, consequently, the diversity of members elected to the House of Commons.

Morden noted parties occasionally justify appointing candidates on the basis of diversity, but this was not borne out in the data.

In particular, the study suggests appointed candidates were less likely to be from visible-minority or Indigenous backgrounds.

The issue of female representation in the nomination processes was even more stark.

In line with findings that women win elections at around the same rate as men, the study suggests female nomination candidates are just as likely to win internal races as men are.

But just 28 per cent of nomination contestants covered by the study were women.

“That shifts the focus right back to recruiting, to the general openness of the process, to the intangible factors that cause some people to find their way in and others to self-select out or to never have the option,” Morden said.

The study found that longer nomination races and races that didn’t require monetary investment were correlated with higher female participation.

Morden said parties essentially close themselves off from a majority of Canadians through rules that make it more difficult to participate in nomination processes: short races, monetary costs, lack of information and protections for incumbents.

The study recommends corresponding changes in party policies: standard opening and closing dates for races, the obligation to report the number of votes candidates receive, and holding contests even where there are incumbent MPs.

These changes are in the best interests of parties that want to stay internally strong and remain connected with the Canadian public, Morden argued.

The study also considers a potentially expanded role for Elections Canada in administering or regulating the races, something Morden acknowledges is not popular among the parties.

Parties can also be reticent to even provide information about their nomination processes, Morden said. For example, only the Green party provided information about how many candidates it screened out of its nominations in 2015.

“There’s just not a culture of openness,” Morden said. “The nomination process is still seen as a very internal one, rather than a vehicle for mass political engagement.”

The first step in a reform process is convincing Canadians to care, Morden said, because otherwise “you’re not going to convince parties to do much.

“It’s hard to regulate parties, because parties make the law.”

Christian Paas-Lang, The Canadian Press

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