Save “The Resistance” as a title for those who are actually resisting

Photo illustration by Stephen Gregory / Maclean's

Written by: Gabrielle McLaren, Features Editor

I am such a specific brand of nerd that one of my most bumpin’ group chats is solely dedicated to Canadian history and political trivia. Boy, were we excited when the Maclean’s December cover was revealed, showcasing old white male conservatives banding together with an edgy, controversial title.

In case you missed it, the Maclean’s cover features a group of five middle-aged white men wearing suits and ties in various shades of blue. If you’re familiar with Canadian politics, you’ll recognize them as a variety of Conservative party leaders: Saskatchewan’s premier Scott Moe, Alberta’s United Conservative Party’s leader Jason Kenney, national Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, and Ontarian Premier Doug Ford.

Emblazoned over their chests in blue are the words: ”The resistance: A powerful new alliance of conservative leaders is taking a stand against the Liberals’ carbon tax plan. Welcome to Justin Trudeau’s worst nightmare — Yes, that last part is literally bolded.  

Since its publication, the cover has led to quite a bit of entertainment. Vice ran a list of alternative cover-text ideas — such as “When you think Swiss Chalet is ‘ethnic food’” and “So who here is going to fuck my wife?” — a group of feminist Ontarian MPPs parodied it by recreating the photo with themselves, and parliamentarians were joking in the House of Commons about being called “the resistance.”

But in the midst of all of this, I think it’s important to consider that the Maclean’s cover, laughable as it is, is actually co-opting minority language to legitimize political privilege. The idea of “resistance” in today’s politics evokes Pride, Black Lives Matter, or the March for Our Lives movement. In other words: people whom our current system oppresses and silences, not people who happened to lose an election.

The piece itself is not as bad as this ridiculous cover made it sound. Its actual title (“A carbon tax? Just try them”) is far more representative of the writing, and the piece overall is a lot more balanced than I anticipated.

But the thing about covers is that they’re supposed to give your readers insight on the piece. This cover does quite the opposite: it acts more as deception and praises these men more than they deserve, in the piece and in general.

Scott Moe made the point in an interview with CTV Regina that if this story ran a year ago, the Maclean’s cover would’ve featured fewer voices. He’s not wrong: Doug Ford, for example, only just came to power in Ontario over the summer and has since pulled the province from the cap and trade market, a regulation deal that limited how much pollution companies could generate.

This movement to oppose a carbon tax plan is certainly worth covering because it’s absolutely making waves in politics and our planet’s health. But is it worth calling “the resistance”? I’m sorry, but these people aren’t out here stealing Death Star plans. This has been a long-running discussion, not a looming threat that needs to be “resisted.” Liberals have been talking about instating a national carbon pricing plan since 2015, and at the time, 56% of Canadians supported a federal carbon taxing program.

Plus, the public opinion regarding the carbon tax is becoming much more nuanced over the years, as stances currently vary from province to province. Liberals compensated for this back in 2017 by being clear that this tax plan wouldn’t apply to provinces who already had their own similar policies in place, such as British Columbia. This isn’t a battle of good and evil in a way that would garner a “resistance”; it’s a greatly different issue depending who you talk to, and where they’re from.

While relationships between provincial and federal governments are complicated, the fact that the 2019 deadline is coming up doesn’t give opponents of carbon pricing the right to play victim and embolden themselves with titles like “the resistance” because they played deaf. “Resistance” speaks to digging your feet into the ground against injustice: not against what a democratically elected government is doing as per its electoral promises.