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Kelden Formosa: The rise of Canada’s gay conservatives

Commentary

Conservative Deputy Leader Melissa Lantsman during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 2, 2024. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.

“People don’t have to like rainbow crosswalks,” replied Elenore Sturko, the member of the B.C. Legislative Assembly for Surrey South, “and I find it troubling that we’re not able to have these conversations.” The Global News interviewer seemed surprised by her blunt response. This was the trap he would catch her in. Sturko, the most prominent lesbian legislator on B.C.’s opposition benches, had just crossed the floor to join the Conservatives, who have surged in the polls to form the primary opposition to the governing NDP. But those Conservatives were “homophobic” and “far-Right,” in the words of their opponent, Premier David Eby.

As the interviewer noted, some of their members had even tweeted that they opposed repainting a small town’s dock in rainbow colours—it was obvious, odious, outrageous homophobia. Or was it? “I don’t actually feel more accepted or less in a community because their dock is rainbow,” continued Sturko, “and if you just box me in as the lesbian of British Columbia, then you’re really doing me an injustice.”

This vignette illustrates a striking yet under-remarked upon trend within Canada’s conservative movement: from its highest echelons to its grassroots, it’s increasingly filled with gay men and women who are changing the conversation around how sexual minorities interact with the broader culture. Our quiet presence within the conservative movement serves as a foil to the more radical queer movement, the priorities of which have extended well beyond same-sex marriage and social acceptance, prompting the beginnings of a backlash from some parents and cultural minority communities.

In this post-2020, post-pandemic, return-to-normalcy moment, where politics and culture seem to be shifting back to the right, gay conservatives have much to contribute. We can help our culture arrive at a more peaceful settlement on core issues of family and culture, averting a destructive swing of the pendulum and allowing gay people and their families to integrate into rather than overturn core traditional institutions.

But first, who are Canada’s gay conservatives?

Alicia Planincic: Be warned, Canada—this recession indicator is blinking bright red

Commentary

A “Now Hiring” sign is displayed on the wall of a business Tuesday, May 30, 2023 in Montreal. Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press.

In each EconMinute, Business Council of Alberta economist Alicia Planincic seeks to better understand the economic issues that matter to Canadians: from business competitiveness to housing affordability to living standards and our country’s lack of productivity growth. She strives to answer burning questions, tackle misconceptions, and uncover what’s really going on in the Canadian economy.

The labour market is an important sign of the health of Canada’s economy. Recently, it has been described as cooling off, as the unemployment rate increased slightly in May. But, because most experts see this as a good sign, giving the Bank of Canada permission to continue to lower interest rates, hardly anyone has raised alarm bells. In fact, talk of a recession, and angsty Google searches, have all but fallen away.

But should we be worried?

U.S. economist Claudia Sahm created a rule of thumb—called the Sahm Rule—for when an increase in unemployment is more than just a minor adjustment but instead signals an economic downturn. The rule goes that if the current unemployment rate is significantly higher than the lowest rate seen over the past year, it means we’re in the early stages of a recession. In Canada, this trigger point is around 0.6, and using the rule retroactively has only ever incorrectly signaled a recession one time.

Unfortunately for Canada, the Sahm Rule suggests that, at 0.97, the recession warning light is blinking red.

And, though there are some regional differences, this warning sign is largely flashing across provinces. Specifically, provincial estimates show:

  • Seven provinces are signaling the early stages of a recession.
  • The signal is most alarming in Ontario, where the number sits at 1.4.
  • Interestingly, Alberta—with the fastest population growth and the highest expected economic growth this year—comes in second at 1.13.
  • Meanwhile, a few provinces have seen an increase in unemployment but are still below the trigger point: B.C., Nova Scotia, and P.E.I.

Graphic credit: Janice Nelson.

Month to month, it can be easy to overlook just how much the labour market has weakened. But as the Sahm Rule makes clear, today’s labour market is not the same place of plentiful job opportunity it once was, and in most provinces the scale of the turnaround is concerning. While a recession would certainly give the Bank of Canada permission to further lower rates, cheaper debt hardly beats having a job.

That said, Sahm herself has emphasized that the rule can be broken and, in fact, already has. So, while it’s important not to dismiss the current turnaround in the labour market as simply expected or necessary, we’d also be wise to consider if or why this rule no longer holds.

 This post was originally published by the Business Council of Alberta at businesscouncilab.com