Saturday, June 19, 2021

It's Not Easy Being Green

Things are not going well inside The Green Party of Canada. Michael Harris writes:

In a tense meeting of the Green Party of Canada’s national council on Tuesday, it was decided that the leadership of Annamie Paul will be put to a formal review vote on July 20, if the leader does not publicly repudiate statements by a former senior advisor, Noah Zatzman, and “explicitly support” the Green party caucus. As of this morning, no statement has come from the Green leader.

In the wake of last night’s meeting, two members of the national council resigned, both from the Maritime region. In practical terms, that will make it more difficult to get the necessary three-quarters vote majority on July 20 to recommend ousting the leader under the party’s constitution. Such a vote would be a huge blow to Paul, though the national council cannot unilaterally remove the leader via a vote of no confidence.

Last night’s meeting was preceded by an hour and 45 minute meeting between the leader Paul and former leader Elizabeth May, that did not go well. May was reportedly told that unless she supported the leader 100 per cent at national council, there would be consequences.

May attended only part of the national council meeting and left before the vote was taken.

The debate within the party is consuming it:

Sources close to the situation worry that if Paul is removed, it could mire the party in accusations of racism and anti-semitism based on her experiences as leader. That kind of caustic debate on highly-sensitive matters could easily sink any hope the party might have of gaining more seats at the next election, which could come as early as fall.

When any group decides to form a circular firing squad, they are writing their own obituary.

Image: Alan Zeichick

Friday, June 18, 2021

The People With Deep Pockets

When a judge recently declared Bill 254 -- Doug Ford's election law -- unconstitutional, Ford invoked the notwithstanding clause. Andrew Coyne writes:

Let’s leave the clause to one side. What about the bill itself? Is it good law? Does it respect freedom of speech? Was the judge wrong to overturn it? In brief: No, no and no. It’s a terrible piece of legislation, far beyond its brazen attempt to muzzle the government’s critics. The judge was right to toss it out, but in truth it should never have passed.

Recall that the particular section before the court, limiting pre-election advertising by “third-party” groups – unions, corporations, activists of all kinds – is but one of several troubling provisions in the bill. Passed earlier this year, it raised the limits on individual contributions to nearly three times the level set by the previous Liberal government. In addition, it enriched the public subsidy to which the parties are entitled, another Liberal-era reform, which Mr. Ford had promised to abolish.

So while the Ford government defends the limits on third parties in terms of the need to keep “big money” out of Ontario elections, in fact it is content that Ontario elections should be awash in big money – as long as it’s the right kind.

It's been obvious for decades that big money calls the tune in politics. Ford opens the door to more big money:

Rather than rein in the influence of money on all sides equally, the province has taken a distinctly one-sided approach to the issue. While whatever modest restraints the parties briefly endured are rapidly being unwound, third parties find themselves subject to an increasingly repressive gag law.

Rather than regulate third parties on a level plane with the parties, the Liberals subjected them to limits that were both tighter ($600,000 apiece, a pittance beside the millions parties are permitted to spend), and significantly longer in duration: applying not just for the length of the campaign, but for six months before.

Moreover, rather than define the spending subject to regulation in the usual way, as that which directly promotes or opposes a “registered party or its leader or … candidates,” the Liberals expanded it to include taking any “position on an issue that can reasonably be regarded as closely associated with” a party, leader or candidate. It is difficult to think of an issue that would not fit that description.

It was not surprising, then, to see these restrictions come under legal challenge, well before the Conservatives came to power. But what did the Ford government do in Bill 254, even as the case was before the courts? It doubled the blackout period, from six months to a year.

The idea that a group of citizens who care deeply about an issue should be prevented from bringing these concerns to public attention is disturbing enough, even during an election campaign. But that they would be similarly proscribed for six months, or a whole year, is frankly incredible.

Ford claims he's a man of the people. The problem is that he's a man for certain people. And those are the people with deep pockets.

Image: The Toronto Star

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Clouds Are Still There

Europe's leaders were happy to see Joe Biden. Compared to the former guy, he's a breath of fresh air. Nonetheless, they're worried. Glen Pearson writes:

The claim that “America is Back” seems to have some merit.  Various global leaders, including PM Justin Trudeau, spoke of a renewed hope that in a time of great challenge internationally, the United States has moved back into the pole position to direct diplomacy, partnerships, and the more complex work of confronting democracy’s deniers.

A distinct sense emerged that a renewed energy was infusing the G7, prompting them to speak of upgrading a united COVID response, of cooperating on the ever-present climate change challenge, and recommitting to opposing pro-hate movements.

But the clouds are still there -- because there are two Americas. There's Biden's America and Donald Trump's America:

Though a collective sigh of relief emerged from the numerous meetings in Europe, the reality remains that Donald Trump is far from gone.  That was apparent this week as Biden worked hard to overcome the damage of the past four years with America’s friends.  While repeatedly stressing his “America is Back” mantra, it’s also true that Donald Trump is alive and present.  Republicans have failed to move on from the Trump era, making him a continuing player on the global stage.

As outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it in her final statement of the G7 sessions: “Look, the election of Joe Biden as U.S. president doesn’t mean that the world no longer has problems.” Some of those problems have to do with the fact that with the past President still active, there remains a troubling uncertainty that the America of Trump still exists, a kind of mischievous interloper.  Should the American mid-term elections next year swing away from the government, as is typical, both the Senate and the House could once again be dominated by Republicans, making delivering on Biden’s plans a great uncertainty.

So much depends on the mid-term elections. If Trumpism emerges victorious from them, the world will be back in the swamp.

Image: CNN

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Constitutional Skirmishes Again

For the last thirty years, Canadian politicians have been pretty quiet about the constitution. But, recently, it has been pushed front and centre by three of the provinces. Susan Delacourt writes:

Three provinces — Ontario, Quebec and Alberta — have taken some runs at the law of the land in the past weeks.

First it was Quebec, declaring it would be unilaterally amending the Constitution to declare itself a French-speaking nation — an idea that saw some spirited, welcome discussion in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Quebec’s bold move immediately got the endorsement of Alberta’s Jason Kenney, who has his own plans for a constitutional broadside — a referendum planned for this October in a bid to have the equalization program hauled out of the Constitution. (Campaign workers are going to need that lead time just to fit the slogans on banners for rallies.)

Meanwhile, in Ontario, Doug Ford has turned the province into a constitutional dissenter for the first time in its history, invoking the notwithstanding clause to crack down on election spending by third parties.

It's interesting that this storm is brewing at the end of the pandemic. In the case of Ford and Kenney, one suspects their actions are an attempt to create a diversion away from their failures during the pandemic. In Quebec, the constitution is never far away from any political discussion.

So far, Justin Trudeau has kept his powder dry. But one Liberal MP from Quebec -- Anthony Housefather -- stood in the House of Commons last week and brought the constitution into the spotlight:

In a heartfelt, well-researched address to the Commons on Tuesday, Housefather said that what Quebec was proposing was a serious matter for all of Canada.

“They are not documents or concepts to be taken lightly, but to be approached thoroughly, transparently and with the best interest of the federation at heart,” Housefather said, citing legal opinion that Quebec needs more than a rubber stamp from the rest of the country. “These are not conversations that happen in one day, but rather require time, reflection and public debate. Our Constitution and Canadians deserve nothing less.”

Canadians have never thought of their constitution as a sacred document. Unlike Americans, our constitution does not purport to guarantee "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We'll settle for "peace, order and good government."

But that doesn't mean that we won't fight about those things.

Image: SlideShare

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Just What The World Needs

Benjamin Netanyahu has been shown his way to the exit. His leaving was very Trumpian. Max Boot writes:
You would think other democratic leaders would recoil from Trump’s odious example. Not former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In leaving office, Bibi, as he is known, is showing himself to be as graceless and selfish as the Master of Mar-a-Lago. Like Trump, he refused to attend the inauguration of his successor — the new right-wing prime minister, Naftali Bennett, who leads a coalition government with the centrist Yair Lapid.
Shortly before the vote in the Knesset that confirmed his downfall, Netanyahu delivered an angry, vituperative, scorched-earth speech full of Trumpian invective. It truly has to be read for its awfulness and pettiness to be believed.
Netanyahu began with lots of self-praise before segueing into attacks on the “dangerous” new government. Although Bennett is also a critic of the nuclear deal with Iran, Bibi claimed that his former protege won’t stand up to the Biden administration like he would. He even attacked President Franklin D. Roosevelt for not bombing German concentration camps and the railways leading to them in 1944. This was by way of suggesting that the United States is again doing nothing to save the Jewish people from “extermination,” while Bibi alone protects the Jews. He claimed that Bennett “doesn’t have the international standing” to oppose a nuclear agreement — and won’t do what Netanyahu did when he spoke to Congress in 2015 against the nuclear deal.

Like Trump, Netanyahu not only ignores history, he re-writes it:

This is several orders of crazy historical revisionism. First, historians doubt that U.S. bombing could have stopped or even significantly slowed the Holocaust. Second, Netanyahu’s speech to Congress did not stop the nuclear accord — it only alienated then-President Barack Obama and other Democrats, while aligning Netanyahu with the Republicans. That partisanship has done long-term damage to the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Third, and most importantly, the Iranian threat against Israel has actually grown since Trump, at Netanyahu’s urging, pulled out of the nuclear accord in 2018. Since then, Iran has ramped up its nuclear program, while stepping up the production of missiles and drones and its support for regional allies such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Yet Netanyahu claimed that Iran is “celebrating” his downfall.

And, like Trump, Netanyahu claims that the election was stolen:

Bibi then delivered his own version of Trump’s phony claims about a “rigged” election. “The vote counting was kosher,” Netanyahu admitted, “but the winning of the votes was done fraudulently. Bennett led astray hundreds of thousands of right-wing voters and transferred their votes from the right to the left.” As if Israeli voters did not realize that in casting ballots for the parties led by Bennett and his allies, they were voting to remove Netanyahu from office. Because the new coalition government is backed by an Israeli-Arab party, Bibi accused it of being the handmaiden of “extreme Islam.“

Finally, like Trump, Bibi claimed he was a victim:

“My family and I have been through hunting, prosecution and denigration, the likes of which has never been seen,” he said. “All so that I will bow down and surrender to the left.” Just as Trump claims to be fighting for “forgotten Americans,” so Bibi insisted, “I did not surrender because I am operating in the name of a large public of millions of citizens, as the servant of a millennia old ancient people, wishing to sit in peace and security in its own land.”

Just what the world needs -- a Trumpian twin.

Image: The Guardian

Monday, June 14, 2021

Howling At The Moon

It's hard to make predictions about Canadian federal elections. Consider what happened in the last three elections. Chantal Hebert writes:

The last three federal elections all featured wild cards that changed the outcome of the game.

Few among Canada’s strategists and pundits saw the NDP’s 2011 orange wave in Quebec, Trudeau’s come-from-behind majority victory in 2015 or the Bloc Québécois’ resurgence in the last campaign in their pre-election cards.

And, going into the next election, there are several "known-unknowns:"

Two polls this week pegged NDP support about half a dozen points above its score in the last federal election.

While Quebec remains problematic, both Angus Reid and Léger found signs of vigorous NDP life in Ontario and B.C.

In Ontario, the Angus Reid poll found the NDP running neck and neck with Premier Doug Ford’s Tories.

In Manitoba, the New Democrats enjoy a small lead on Brian Pallister’s ruling Conservatives.

A party's provincial fortunes don't necessarily translate to the federal level. But, on the federal level, the Conservatives are having a hard time:

Nationally, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s current failure to launch could make it harder to use fear of the Conservatives as an incentive for soft NDP and Green sympathizers to move over to the Liberal side.

In Quebec, a weak Conservative showing is at least as likely to benefit the Bloc Québécois as to translate into Liberal gains.

So who knows what will happen? Anyone making predictions at this point is howling at the moon.

Image: Time And Date

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Green Troubles

The Green Party is in trouble. Party leader Annamie Paul is not Elizabeth May. And the first elected member from the Maritimes, Janet Atwin, has joined the Liberal Party. Janet Silver writes:

Atwin left the Greens on Thursday because of disagreements within the party about the situation in the Middle East.

“Annamie and I had a communication breakdown,” Atwin told iPolitics on Friday. “To be openly attacked and not supported (was) unbearable.”

Atwin was referring to the May 14 Facebook post by Noah Zatzman, Paul’s then-senior adviser. In that post, Zatzman went after Green MPs Paul Manly and Atwin for their tweets about the Israel-Gaza conflict. In one tweet, Atwin said she condemned the air strikes in Gaza and called the situation there “apartheid.”

When Paul was asked by reporters on Thursday if she would take a stand by either condemning or condoning Zatzman’s Facebook post, Paul refused to answer.

Atwin says she’s been struggling since mid-May.

“(I) was harassed, and there were many sleepless nights, and many tears were shed,” Atwin said Friday.

Instead of three members in the House, the party is down to two members --  which does not bode well for the future.

Image: Facebook