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Collin May: Is the cancel culture that cancelled me on its way out?


A demonstrator uses a megaphone during a protest, Saturday, June 6, 2020, in Simi Valley, Calif. Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo.

When I was the target of a cancellation attack as chief of the Alberta Human Rights Commission in 2022, losing my livelihood as a result, cancel culture had already been going strong for a decade.

My cancellation followed what has now become a familiar pattern. A coterie of politically motivated activists (in my case the Alberta NDP and their minions in the blogosphere) scour the internet for the slightest infraction by a public figure. Then the cancellers, virtue signal to their “in-group,” call out the target for an alleged offence against woke morality (I had written an academic book review 13 years ago on historic Islamic imperialism where a single line was plucked, in which I said it was an overly and inherently militaristic religion).

This is followed by more in-group lackeys engaging in a pile-on while practising social vigilantism (I faced the wrath of a small cabal of NDP-affiliated academics and the National Council of Canadian Muslims).

Finally, the third-party witnesses bring the cancellation event to its culmination using their power to terminate or de-platform the target (the Jason Kenney government capitulated and booted me from office only two months after taking up the post. I was fired the same day a complaint was received and learned I had lost my job on the news. I was never told by my employer fully why I was terminated).

From the perspective of the target, this pattern is personally devastating. In my case, I lost my income and the reputation I had worked so long to build. I had wound up my law practice before taking on the job with the commission, so I had no clients to return to. In order to salvage something from the experience, my only option was expensive and prolonged litigation. I am still working my way through a lawsuit with the Alberta government, flush with money and as much time as they need to drag it out.

Debt, depression, and physical illness are common. Shortly after I was terminated, my partner and I lost our home, and each developed health issues. That my partner had worked for former NDP Premier Rachel Notley for four years and that I personally knew many of the Alberta NDP MLAs who were now calling me racist and a purveyor of hate speech, made the betrayal all the more bitter.

Added to this was the sheer injustice of the experience.

Malcolm Jolley: Niagara’s new charm


A sunset is shown on Lake Ontario in Niagara County in this 2007 photo. Larry Price/AP Photo.

Graham Rennie was a happy man on the phone this week from Vineland, Ontario. The veteran Bay Street wheeler and dealer just got on the sweet side of a big deal that’s gone down in Niagara’s wine county. Château des Charmes, an original Ontario wine gangster, has been bought by a group of Canadian investors. Rennie is not one of the group, who prefer to remain anonymous for now, but he is a benefactor.

Hub readers might remember Rennie from my post on the Niagara Custom Crush Studio in February. He’s the CEO of Crush Studio, and until last week its COO was Marco Piccoli, who before that was the director of winemaking and operations in Ontario for Arterra, Canada’s largest wine producer. Now Piccoli is the CEO of Château des Charmes.

So why is Rennie happy, if Piccoli has gone to CdC? Well, for one thing, Piccoli hasn’t left The Crush, he’s a partner in the business and retains a director role as chief strategic officer. But since his schedule just got a lot busier, Rennie and The Crush have hired old-hand alt-winemaker Kevin Panagapka of the cult virtual winery 2027 Cellars as head of winemaking at the studio. I think in business they call that “adding value.”

But wait, there’s more.

The closest I’ve gotten to a job on Bay Street is the hotdog stand outside of First Canadian Place, but I’m pretty sure the people who have done well there don’t buy businesses if they don’t think there’s potential for growth. The way one grows a wine business is to sell more wine, and to do that you have to make more wine. But expanding production facilities costs a lot of time and money.

Mr. Rennie and the Crush team already have already spent the time and money building a state-of-the-art facility, under the supervision of Mr. Piccoli. Now, they’re ready to take on the new production from any revamped wine operation for a lot less than it costs to build or renovate. This is why Château des Charmes’ new owners were keen to go into partnership with The Crush as part of the deal.

Aside from new business in the tanks at The Crush, Rennie is also happy about and looking forward to working with and at Château des Charmes with the eclectic mix of wines his existing clients are already making. These include (of course) his own label, Rennie Estate Vineyards. He is planning tasting events at the iconic CdC estate, which is close to Niagara-on-the-Lake and its tourist-friendly amenities.

Château des Charmes was founded in 1978 by French emigre and fifth-generation winemaker Paul Bosc. When Bosc died late last year he was universally eulogized as a Canadian wine pioneer and industry leader. The man was as respected as could be. The Bosc family will continue to own and operate the Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard, planted in 1982, and sell the grapes exclusively to the new owners at CdC. This legacy of rare old Niagara vines will be kept intact.

Finally, Rennie is happy about what he calls the “energization of the industry.” He points to the new investment and winery at Arterra’s Le Clos Jordanne (see my column from June 14), and the upcoming expansion at Hidden Bench as encouraging signs of revitalization in Niagara Wine Country.

He may be right. It seems like a smart move to marry The Crush, where new winemakers are incubated, with Château des Charmes, which is guided by legacy and tradition. And it’s good to see at least one area where Canadians are investing in Canadian enterprise.

In the end, I am just happy there will be more wine.

Bonus: Is an LCBO strike looming?

For Ontario readers of The Hub:

There are many writers at The Hub more qualified to comment on how things will work out between Doug Ford’s government and the chapter of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union that works at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The latter are threatening to strike next week. In my experience no Ontario government wants an LCBO strike, and these disputes are often magically resolved before the deadline. On the other hand, maybe this government would like to use the opportunity of a strike to continue its thrust towards liberalizing the sale of alcohol? A strike might focus consumers’ attention on the idea that the industrial conditions of government employee booze stockists might not be all that bad.

In any event, the strike, should it be struck, will not affect warehousing, which is the LCBO’s core monopoly. This means that importing agents will still be able to sell wine “directly” to consumers by the case. A list of Ontario agents can be found at their lobbying group, Drinks Ontario. I encourage direct sales from agents if you are willing to assume the risk of buying wine by the case. Often the most interesting wines can only be found this way, and most agencies offer some kind of mixed case as a sampler.

Or buy local. Ontario wineries, of course, are not bound by the LCBO and can sell directly to consumers from their premises. Visit one if you can, or order a bottle, a case, or whatever number you like directly from their websites, which are listed on their marketing website, Wine Country Ontario.

Or buy nationally. After a series of recent bad events, B.C. wineries could use some business from the other side of the Rockies. Buying directly from the wineries that will do it might make you a bootlegger, but this will have the advantage of annoying both the Ontario government and the Liquor Control Board, and strike a blow for inter-provincial free trade. Find a B.C. winery at Wines of British Columbia. Sir John A. would approve.