Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Outside The Box

Heather Scoffield writes that some people are beginning to think outside the box:

B.C. is paying the provocative Mariana Mazzucato and her institute at University College London about $350,000 to advise the provincial government over the next year on how to shake things up so that their comeback is all at once inclusive, innovative and sustainable.

It’s just one manifestation of the new-found political conviction that plain old economic growth is just not enough — that the pandemic has exposed deep problems of inequality and our vulnerabilities to crisis, and clearly something needs to change. Policy-makers and government critics alike are eyeing the blossoming comeback, determined to take full advantage of it to solve a whole range of problems.

From federal minister Catherine McKenna quitting politics to push hard at climate change from outside government to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland making child care the centre of her pandemic budget, they’re talking about tossing away the shackles of convention to confront the problems of our generation.

Noted economist Don Drummond has the nub of an idea on that front. In a new paper, the chair of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards establishes the case for confronting inequalities in the name of widespread prosperity. And he proposes a new institute whose purpose is to shift government policy toward enhancing growth, crushing inequality and protecting the environment all at the same time.

Before readers roll their eyes at another layer of bureaucracy, Drummond explains that this institute would draw in federal and provincial governments, researchers and thought-leaders, but also operate outside the electoral cycle in a permanent way that ad hoc advisory groups have not been able to in the past.

“Canada can and must do better on growth and its distribution,” Drummond writes. “The economic future will likely be so dynamic, with the adjustment to a lower-carbon future just one of many fundamental shifts likely to happen, that it seems unlikely a temporary body can recommend a one-time reset that will put the Canadian economy on a promising path for years.”

There are loud voices calling for a return to the past. They call it "normal." We must not follow their counsel.

Image: Toronto Reality Blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

McKenna Retires

Catherine McKenna won't be running in the next federal election. Susan Delacourt writes that after the abuse she has endured, her decision is not surprising:

The woman who made her name as Justin Trudeau’s environment minister spoke in front of a pedestrian bridge built across the Rideau Canal during her tenure as MP for Ottawa Centre — an accomplishment of some local-riding pride, she said.

It’s called the “Flora Footbridge,” named after legendary Conservative politician Flora MacDonald, a trailblazer in politics for women such as McKenna.

The symbolism for this surprise announcement, then, couldn’t have been more perfect, with all the allusions to bridges built, between political parties and generations of women in elected office, right in the heart of the national capital.

As we know, though, real life in politics is rarely as lovely as the photo ops. So McKenna had to field a lot of questions on Monday that revolved around the price she paid for being a prominent feminist and climate-change advocate in Trudeau’s government.

Online abuse; disgusting graffiti defacing her constituency office; threats that resulted in the need for extra RCMP protection — all these punctuated her public life. As McKenna spoke, an RCMP officer hovered nearby, eyes surveying the small crowd taking in the open-air news conference.

McKenna was also unusual because of the way she balanced politics and family:

McKenna, in many ways, had more going for her as a woman in politics than Flora MacDonald did. She kicked off her career in cabinet with a declaration that she would go home every night to have dinner with her three children — a family-friendly policy that would not have been open to MacDonald or other women of her era. (MacDonald had no children, as was so often the case when women had to choose between career and family.)

McKenna also enjoyed more latitude to call out misogyny where she saw it. Long before she was sworn into a gender-balanced cabinet in 2015, previous women ministers were often told to keep their mouths shut, lest they be accused of “whining” or lacking the fortitude to compete in the rough-and-tumble world of politics.

But a person can only endure so much. It's never been easy to be a woman in politics. It still isn't easy.

Image: The Toronto Star

Monday, June 28, 2021

The Deadline

Today is the day. The Washington Post reports that:

Prosecutors in New York have given former president Donald Trump’s attorneys a deadline of Monday afternoon to make any final arguments as to why the Trump Organization should not face criminal charges over its financial dealings, according to two people familiar with the matter.

That deadline is a strong signal that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — now working together, after each has spent more than two years investigating Trump’s business — are considering criminal charges against the company as an entity.

The two people familiar with the deadline set for Trump’s attorneys spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations. Under New York law, prosecutors may file charges against corporations in addition to individuals.

That's why Trump was in Ohio over the weekend, claiming yet again that he is a victim. But the walls are closing in:

People familiar with the probe confirmed to The Washington Post that prosecutors were looking at charging the Trump Organization as an entity, as well as Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, following Weisselberg’s refusal to assist in the investigation.

In recent months, according to people familiar with the investigation, prosecutors began investigating Weisselberg’s personal finances, in the hopes that Weisselberg might be persuaded to offer testimony against his boss. But prosecutors have grown frustrated with what they see as a lack of cooperation from Weisselberg, according to a person familiar with the case. This month, Post reporters observed Weisselberg driving into work at Trump Tower — home to both Trump’s Manhattan apartment and his company’s headquarters office — on a day when Trump was staying at the tower.

Weisselberg apparently believes he can beat the wrap -- as does Trump. I suspect both men have been misinformed.

Image: CNN

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Building Back Better

In the middle of the Second World War, the British government -- with an eye to the future -- decided to review all of the programs it administered. Robin Sears writes:

At the time, the U.K. had seven government departments overlapping on a multitude of often conflicting pension and social benefits policies. Sound familiar? Beveridge took little more than a year to analyze and study the holes in a threadbare safety net. He produced a report that literally changed the face of health and pensions around the world. Working with a series of fellow bureaucrats, they together consulted dozens of experts and citizens and produced a final report to ecstatic reviews. It sold 600,000 copies in weeks.
Beveridge pushed his study boundaries far beyond a tidy-up, recommending the creation of the National Health Service and an entirely new social safety net. His recommendations helped form the basis of our own systems, and many others around the world. It was his vision of rebuilding back better after the war. Its impact took decades to unfold, but the Beveridge Report is still regarded as one of the foundational documents for our social infrastructure in the advanced democracies.

Sears suggests that, as the pandemic recedes, we do the same:

Royal commissions are often sneered at as expensive, time-wasting political delay devices. But we have had several great commissions in the recent past, ones whose impact were felt for decades. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, widely pilloried at the time, is now seen as a catalyst to unlocking Canadians’ new focus on Indigenous reconciliation.
We have learned many cruel lessons from the pandemic about preparation, education, co-ordination and adequate funding. But we have also made our support systems more complex and overlapping, with no obvious strategic vision to guide them. Add the challenges of a federal state, and we stand on the verge of losing the pandemic peace. New thinking on housing, education, health and innovation exists in unfinished pieces in many places, but again we have no strategic plan on what would make a unified social infrastructure for Canada’s 21st century.

We need to ask -- and answer -- several questions:

Should it include a guaranteed monthly income? Can we find alternatives to surging hospital costs? How do we replace the 19th-century straight jacket that traps each level of education? How do we ensure that each of the social determinants of health and prosperity are addressed in a coherent whole, and not a tangled plate of policy spaghetti?

The worst thing we could do would be to enter the next pandemic -- and there will be one -- without a plan to deal with it and the social strains it will impose.

Image: ET Canada

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Experience Counts For Something

It's remarkable. Lawrence Martin writes that, when it comes to choosing presidents and prime ministers, we have preferred men who have had little experience in government.

Mr. Obama, who served in the Illinois legislature, hadn’t even completed one Senate term in Washington before running for president.

Donald Trump was the first president who had no political experience or public service whatsoever.

George W. Bush, who served a few years as governor of Texas after being a baseball-club owner, had nowhere near the experience of his father, who was president from 1989 to 1993. Among other missteps stemming in part from his callow, cocksure ways was his blundering into the Iraq war.

Finding three other presidents serving in succession with such modest qualifications is no small task.

It's been the same story here:

In Canada, Justin Trudeau had served a few years on the opposition benches and as Liberal leader, but had no governing experience before becoming Prime Minister. He brought in a cohort of younger-generation types like himself who offered some fresh perspectives and fresh policies. But his team often excluded older pros who could have prevented embarrassing sophomoric lapses, which did not afflict Pierre Trudeau’s more veteran crew.

Likewise, Stephen Harper only had experience as an opposition member of Parliament before becoming PM. Calling himself an economist, as the brainy ideologue did, was a stretch. He was parochial, having rarely set foot outside the country before becoming leader of a G7 country.

His reign importantly addressed Western Canadian discontent. But his grounding was too narrow for him to take on statesman-like qualities. He governed with a chip on his shoulder, instead of doing so with goodwill.

Joe Biden is a refreshing change from the recent past:

Biden, the oldest and most experienced president in the history of his country, marks a sharp break with recent history. He is in a position to re-establish the importance of pedigree, the idea that if you’re set on occupying the most important position in the land, maybe you should have suitable credentials.

We too have had prime ministers who spent a long time on the lower decks before they came to the helm:

The closest thing to a Joe Biden that Canada has had in terms of experience is Jean Chrétien, who served in 11 cabinet portfolios before becoming prime minister. After barely surviving a Quebec referendum vote in 1995, the Shawinigan fox, as Bob Plamondon called him in his book of that name, governed effectively. He knew the country; he had it in his bones.

Another elder statesman, Louis St. Laurent, who became PM at age 66, didn’t fare too badly either. Nor did his contemporary in the Oval Office, Dwight Eisenhower, who became president at 62 with the experience of having led the Allied forces in the Second World War. The Republican presidency deemed the most successful in modern times is that of Ronald Reagan, who didn’t take office until age 69.

There were exceptions. President Kennedy was young and inexperienced. And Martin thinks that Brian Mulroney's inexperience was not an impediment. Mulroney's character was another matter.

There is, it seems to me, a lesson here. Experience counts for something. Human resources professionals operate on the principle that the best predictor of future performance is past performance.

Image: Package Car Union

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Law Is Catching Up With Rudy

Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law in New York was suspended. Ruth Marcus writes:

Attorneys are supposed to — they are ethically bound to — zealously represent their clients, however unpopular. As a general matter, we should salute this zealousness, not punish it, for fear of chilling representation of those who need it most. The quintessential example of this principle is John Adams, who as a young lawyer famously defended British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre.

But advocacy has its limits, and Rudy Giuliani, it is safe to say, is no John Adams. One man defended the defenseless in the greater service of the rule of law; the other asserted the indefensible in the service of overturning the results of an election. 

For Marcus, the universe is unfolding as it should:

This is a welcome and entirely justified development. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Giuliani wasn’t the only Trump lawyer to make unsupportable claims about voter fraud, but he was the most prominent. Both in and out of court, Giuliani made repeated false statements: That Pennsylvania received more absentee ballots than it had sent out before the election. That Trump was pursuing a claim of voter fraud in the Pennsylvania courts when in fact he was not. That dead people — sometimes 8,021, at another point as many as 30,000 — voted in Philadelphia, including heavyweight boxer Joe Frazier.

Giuliani also accused the manufacturers of voting machines and others of cheating:

That Dominion Voting Systems machines manipulated the final tallies in Georgia. That thousands of underage voters, variously 65,000 or 66,000 or 165,000, cast ballots in Georgia, along with numerous felons and dead people. That security cameras showed Georgia election officials illegally counting mail-in ballots. That “illegal aliens” voted in Arizona.

A disciplinary panel of judges found that:

“These false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client. We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest.”

The suspension of Giulian's license occurred thirty-five years to the day that another of Trump's lawyers -- and Joe McCarthy's lawyer -- Roy Cohn was disbarred. During the proceedings against Cohn, Trump appeared as a character witness for Cohn.

As Leo Tolstoy noted, character is destiny.

Image: Vanity Fair

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Time Is Now

David Olive writes that it's time to establish a Universal Basic Income in Canada:

A UBI is a government payment that tops up family income so that it modestly exceeds the poverty line, or low-income threshold. As households are able to generate more income on their own, UBI payments are scaled back and eventually discontinued.

A UBI holds promise as our most powerful tool in eradicating poverty and solving the crisis of income inequality.

The pandemic has caused a great deal of suffering. But it has also proved that a Universal Basic Income program works:

Canada is emerging from a successful experiment with a UBI, in the form of the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB). In keeping seven million Canadians financially whole after they’d lost their jobs due to COVID-19, the CERB prepared the country to embark on the powerful economic recovery on the horizon.

Grassroots Liberals endorsed a UBI program at their latest policy convention earlier this year. The government of Prince Edward Island has asked Ottawa to launch a UBI pilot project in the province.

And last week, for the first time in Parliamentary history, there was a debate on proposed UBI legislation. Bill C-273, the National Strategy for a Guaranteed Basic Income Act, was sponsored by Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz, who represents the Toronto riding of Davenport.

In this country, there have been two brief experiments with UBI:

Canada has twice experimented with UBI, in Manitoba in the 1970s and Ontario in the late 2010s.

The results were encouraging. The health and employment skills of UBI recipients improved, as financial anxiety was lifted, and the additional funds were used to cover daycare expenses of parents who returned to school or sought better jobs.

But those two experiments were of insufficient duration to provide conclusive evidence of benefits and drawbacks. That’s why the Canadian Chamber of Commerce last year asked Ottawa to revive the Ontario UBI pilot projects.

The previous year, another group of business CEOs tried in vain to dissuade Ontario from cancelling the UBI program a year ahead of schedule.

Business is about measuring results. But the flow of data that business thrives on suddenly dried up with the premature death of the Ontario UBI program.

We now have the data. Business likes the idea. But Conservatives don't:

In opposing a UBI, Conservative MPs cite the estimate earlier this year by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) that a UBI would cost upward of $93 billion a year by 2025. The PBO calculated that a UBI program would boost the income of about 6.4 million Canadians by an average of $4,500.

That figure of 6.4 million Canadians is arresting, especially when set beside the fact that even before the pandemic almost half of Canadians reported that they were just $200 away from failing to monthly cover their bills.

The PBO’s eye-popping cost estimate assumes a more widespread UBI program than would emerge from Ottawa and doesn’t account for the economic upside of a healthier and larger, better-paid workforce.

Conservatives worry that a universal basic income will encourage laziness:

There is, in fact, little evidence of laziness in the many UBI experiments worldwide over the past two decades. And last summer, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco issued a detailed report on how extended unemployment benefits and other U.S. income supports during the pandemic had not discouraged work.

In short, the time is now. Canada needs a Universal Basic Income.


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Critical Race Theory? Right!

Republicans have been railing about Critical Race Theory for some time now. But you saw Critical Race Theory in action yesterday. Dana Milbank writes:

Critical race theory (at its core, the belief that racism in America is systemic) had been around for decades in academic circles without attracting much attention — until Fox News took it up last summer. As The Post’s Laura Meckler and Josh Dawsey report, a Fox News guest, Christopher Rufo, declared that critical race theory had “pervaded every institution in the federal government” — and Trump and his allies took it from there. They’ve redefined the obscure theory to include, as Rufo put it, “all of the various cultural insanities” and they’ve made it their latest front in the culture wars.

When it comes to "cultural insanities" no one can outdo the members of the modern Republican Party. Consider what Josh Hawley said recently on the floor of the Senate:

“President Biden is nominating for federal office individuals who do not share a view of America as a good and decent place,” Hawley announced. His nominees instead “believe that this is a country founded in racism and shot through with corruption.”

Hawley offered zero evidence for his claims, beyond Biden reinstating racial sensitivity training and his nomination of an Indian American woman, Kiran Ahuja, to run the Office of Personnel Management. Hawley alleged that critical race theory “appears to be her fundamental ideology.” This wild claim is based on a Boston University professor’s lecture on “antiracism” at the charity she ran, and her linking to an article of his claiming Trump’s election was an example of white supremacy. 

And they voted in lockstep yesterday to not even debate election law reform. They proved that Critical Race Theory got it right.

Image: NBC News Washington

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Inflation Panic

Canada's inflation rate -- at the moment -- is 3.6% Some people are freaking out. They suggest we're headed for a re-run of the 1970s. Paul Krugman writes that what matters is core inflation:

Since the 1970s, and especially since a seminal 1975 paper by Robert Gordon, many economists have tried to distinguish between transitory fluctuations in the inflation rate driven by temporary factors and an underlying “core” inflation rate that is much more stable — but also hard to bring down if it gets uncomfortably high. The idea is that policy should largely ignore transitory inflation, which is easy come, easy go, and worry only if core inflation looks as if it’s getting too high (or too low).

Since 2004 the Fed has routinely published an estimate of core inflation that it derives by excluding changes in food and energy prices, which are notoriously volatile, and has used that measure to fend off demands that it tighten monetary policy in the face of inflation it considers temporary — notably in 2010-11, when prices of oil and other commodities were rising and Republicans were accusing the Fed of risking “currency debasement.”

The Fed was, of course, right: Inflation soon subsided. And the distinction between transitory and underlying inflation — a distinction that, judging from my inbox, generates an extraordinary amount of hatred from some Wall Street types — has, in fact, been a huge practical success, helping the Fed to keep calm and carry on in the face of both inflation and deflation scares.

During recent weeks, some prices have skyrocketed -- like lumber and copper and used cars. However, those prices are receding:

Lumber prices have plunged in recent weeks. Prices of industrial metals like copper are coming down. Prices of used cars are still very high, but their surge has stalled and they may have peaked. Core inflation wins again.

So, instead of panicking, keep your eye on core inflation.

Image: Encyclopedia Of Mental Disorders

Monday, June 21, 2021

Republican Corruption

The latest numbers on vaccinations in the United States are gobsmacking. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The latest numbers on vaccination rates are telling: Mississippi has the lowest percentage of vaccinated residents, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee. All except Louisiana have both Republican governors and legislatures, as do the next seven on the list. Among the 14 U.S. senators representing the bottom seven, only two (both in Georgia) are Democrats. The Post reports, “Ten states, concentrated in the Deep South and rural West, report fewer than 35 percent of residents are fully immunized.”

And, when it comes to healthcare in general, it's the same story:

Health care in these deep-red states is generally dreadful. Among the 12 states that have neither expanded nor voted to expand Medicaid, all but three have GOP governors and in those three (North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin), a Democratic governor faces a GOP legislature.

By these or just about any other measures, Republican states are failing to meet the basic needs of their residents. Among unvaccinated Americans, infection rates are climbing. More will get sick in those places, and some will die. Republicans are unwilling or incapable of meeting the challenge.

The simple question is why?

As Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman wrote recently for the New York Times, the GOP “no longer has a cognizable theory of government.” They claim to be economic populists but oppose raising any taxes on the rich and corporations, decry union organizing and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Freedom” used to be a central theme, but they are on a crusade to criminalize abortion and compel unwilling women to endure nine months of pregnancy — even in cases of rape or incest. They are also in favor of ordering teachers not to teach unfavorable facts about America.

One might wonder from time to time why Republicans even bother running for election. Because they have so little interest in governing (other than in protecting tax cuts for the rich, shielding the gun lobby from reasonable regulation and dictating women’s reproductive choices), they might as well take on the role of social media trolls and right-wing media guests full-time.

There is one simple reason why they run:

In truth, a great many Republicans simply like to be “important people” with the perks of holding office. It seems the notion of finding other work causes them to break out in a cold sweat, so they adopt insane MAGA positions so as not to offend the mob they helped rile up. Certainly, there are true believers who believe Trumpian rubbish and take right-wing TV hosts’ conspiracies as gospel, but they are a distinct minority. Time and again, we hear from Republican dissenters that most of their colleagues do not really believe the MAGA party lies; what they believe in is the necessity of their own reelection.

They are the incarnation of Lord Acton's axiom: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Image: twitter

Sunday, June 20, 2021


The United States Justice Department has been booby-trapped. Joyce Vance writes that it is full of ticking time bombs:

Attorney General Merrick Garland knew he’d inherit some ticking time bombs when he took charge of the Justice Department. What he didn’t know, apparently, until the New York Times reported it this month, was that one of them was this: Under the Trump administration, the department subpoenaed Apple for information that included accounts belonging to Democratic members of Congress and their staff and families, and concealed that fact from them for almost four years.

Like Richard Nixon, Trump had a long enemies list. But Trump went further than Nixon when it came to his attempts to destroy those people. His justice department sought information from Apple on two congressmen and gagged Apple from reporting the subpoenas:

The subpoenas just happened to home in on two opponents of President Donald Trump, Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), and these or others also retrieved information about James B. Comey, the FBI director Trump fired, and Trump’s own White House Counsel Donald McGahn, rumored around that time to have been cooperating with the Mueller investigation. It’s also odd that a prosecutor from New Jersey, without much experience in leak investigations, was brought in by Attorney General William P. Barr in 2020 to resuscitate the probe, which hadn’t produced enough evidence to charge a crime in the three years since it began under Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions.

Both Barr and Sessions claim to know nothing about the subpoenas. Garland has asked the department's Inspector General to investigate. You can bet that what he finds will stink -- as my mother used to say -- "to high heaven."

Image: MySecuritySign

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

Saturday, June 12, 2021

When Politics Become Religion

I've been gloomy of late about the prospects for the republic to the south of us. Molly Worthen -- an historian at the University of North Carolina -- offers some perspective on what can happen to political and religious divides over time:

The analogy between political sectarianism and religious faith goes only so far. I don’t mean to suggest that every crackpot political opinion deserves the status and legal protection of a religious doctrine or that all dogmatic mind-sets are morally equivalent. It should be possible to hold one party responsible for voter suppression and the Capitol riot while recognizing that pseudoreligious ideologies and purity cults have multiplied on both ends of the political spectrum. This is a commentary not just on the polarization of politics but also on the persistence of humans’ metaphysical needs, even in a secular age — and a nudge to reappraise our prophecies of apocalypse or salvation from a humbler perspective.

We live in an age where political divisions have become the equivalent of religious divisions seventy years ago:

In the late 1950s, when Gallup asked a random sample of Americans whether they wanted their daughters to marry a Democrat or a Republican, 72 percent either didn’t respond or said they didn’t care. Back then, religious divides seemed to matter far more than party lines: 19 percent of Americans who married before 1960 chose a spouse from a different religious group, according to the Pew Research Center. In recent years, the figures have shifted radically. The same Pew survey found that 39 percent of Americans who wed since 2010 were in an interfaith marriage, and a 2016 survey by Lynn Vavreck, a political scientist at U.C.L.A, found that only 45 percent of Americans didn’t care about the political affiliation of their child’s spouse. I suspect that if researchers asked that question now, after years of hatred and disinformation stoked by the Trump White House, the figure would be much lower.

History suggests that those divisions can fade with time:

When today’s hatreds seem ineradicable, it’s heartening to remember how far Americans have come since, say, 1960, when John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign prompted evangelical Protestants to organize a media blitz warning voters that a Catholic president would be a pawn of the Vatican, that fecund Catholic families were taking over the country and that patriotic Protestants shouldn’t let charges of anti-Catholic bigotry keep them from sounding the alarm. “Are we moving into an era of Roman Catholic domination in America?” Harold Ockenga, a prominent evangelical pastor, asked in a rousing speech several weeks before the election. “Will there be a denial of rights, freedom and privileges for non-Roman Catholics?”

Today, Joe Biden's Catholic faith is a non-issue because

over the decades, a complex series of socioeconomic, cultural and ideological shifts smoothed the way for Protestants and Catholics to recognize one another as fellow humans capable of cooperating in the democratic process and even merging their families. Young lay believers contributed at least as much to interfaith understanding as bishops and theologians did. Protestants and Catholics funded by the G.I. Bill sat next to each other in college classrooms after World War II; they marched side by side in the civil rights movement; they worshiped together in the charismatic renewal movement of the 1960s and 1970s, when Pentecostal-style revivals swept all Christian denominations and made a special impact on college campuses.

It’s crucial to see that young Catholics and Protestants were not merely emissaries of inevitable generational change. In the interfaith friendships they made, the spouses they chose despite their “ethnic” last names — in the innumerable small, compassionate interactions that distinguish a thriving civilization from a crumbling one — they made deliberate decisions to reject the prejudices and assumptions of older generations.

Let's hope we can do the same thing with the political dogmas of our own age.

Image: AZ Quotes

Friday, June 11, 2021

Government Can Still Work

Canada botched its response to COVID. But, when it came to vaccines, Alan Freeman writes, we did it right. Consider the difference between Canada and Australia:

Australia has long been hailed as a haven in the midst of the pandemic. Taking advantage of its geographic isolation, the Australian government instituted some of the strictest travel restrictions anywhere, and a no-nonsense approach to lockdowns when the smallest clusters of infections arose.

The result has been dramatic. While Canada has lost 25,774 lives to COVID-19, the toll in Australia has been relatively mild — just 910 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Yet the mood in Australia is anything but upbeat. Its vaccination campaign has been sluggish, to say the least. While 63.1 per cent of Canadians have received a first dose, in Australia, that number is just 18.4 per cent, according to the World in Data. (The Globe and Mail reports that 71 per cent of Canadians over the age of 12 have received a first shot, well ahead of the U.S.)

The difference came down to how each country purchased vaccines:

Between August and October of last year, Canada bought vaccines under development from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, and Medicago, later adding Novavax. It was a crap shoot, because it was unclear at the time which of the vaccines would actually work and when they would be ready. The vaccines from Sanofi-GSK, Medicago, and Novavax are still not approved. 

By last January, Canada had ordered 362 million doses, or 9.6 doses per person, more than the EU, the U.S., and even the U.K. Procurement Minister Anita Anand said that, because the government didn’t know which vaccines would work and when, it decided to keep as “many irons in the fire” as possible.

At first glance, Australia should have had an advantage over Canada. It had a promising, locally developed vaccine, developed by the University of Queensland, and AstraZeneca had domestic production capacity. Canada had no significant manufacturing capacity, and its domestic vaccines were far from ready. 

Australia was also probably lulled by its success in controlling the pandemic, just as Japan and Taiwan were. All three countries have turned out to be laggards on vaccinations. 

By putting most of its eggs in just two vaccine baskets, Australia soon found itself in big trouble. The Queensland vaccine was a dud, leaving it to depend more on AstraZeneca. Soon, news of very rare clotting events put a cloud over that vaccine, made worse by advice not to administer it to Australians under the age of 50.

But Australia had only signed up to buy Pfizer doses last November, and began receiving small deliveries this February. It has since doubled its order to 40 million doses, but it’s in the back of the queue. Australia has also ordered 25 million Moderna doses, but won’t get the first 10 million until later this year, with the rest arriving in 2022. 

It’s not just Ottawa that deserves kudos for its vaccine-procurement strategy. The provinces, despite computer glitches and inconsistent messaging, have proven that, once doses were available, they were able to deliver them to millions of willing arms quickly and efficiently through mass vaccination clinics, pharmacies, and pop-up clinics. 

Despite the inevitable grumbling, the health-care system has delivered.

This is no reason to crow. As the recent furor over residential schools proves yet again, we have  "problems by the number, troubles by the score."

But it's nice to know that government can still work.

Image: USA Today

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Lie Goes Marching On

Barbara Comstock is an old-school Republican. In yesterday's New York Times, she wrote that it's time for her party to abandon Donald Trump, whom she called a "dangerous and diminished man:"

When Donald Trump, the patron saint of sore losers, appeared at a Republican event on Saturday night and compared the 2020 election to a “third-world-country election like we’ve never seen before,” it wasn’t just another false rant from the former president. His words also described his attempted subversion of democracy in the run-up to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Trump keeps repeating the trope that the election was stolen from him -- something that has repeatedly been proven false. Nonetheless, huge swaths of Americans keep believing the lie:

Mr. Trump’s lies are red meat to those in the conspiracy world who have already demonstrated what they are prepared to do. The danger also extends to states, as Mr. Trump tells people that election outcomes in Georgia and Arizona will be overturned, and he could be reinstated as president in August. How will QAnon followers or Oath Keepers respond when that does not happen?

Many Republicans rationalize ignoring his rhetoric: His speech on Saturday wasn’t even aired live on Fox or CNN, and he may end up being indicted in New York and occupied with legal and financial problems. So, this thinking goes, what’s the harm in humoring the guy a little longer?

The harm is that the lies have metastasized and could threaten public safety again. The U.S. Capitol Police report that threats against members of Congress have increased 107 percent this year. Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, has noted, “There’s no reason to believe that anybody organically is going to come to the truth.” Representative Liz Cheney, another Republican, said, “It’s an ongoing threat, so silence is not an option.”

Unfortunately, Kinzinger and Cheney are crying in the wilderness. And the lie goes marching on.

Image: twitter

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

A Rising Tide of Hate

Canadians have been rocked by what happened in London, Ontario. But what happened there was not new. During the pandemic, however, our focus was elsewhere. Glen Pearson writes:

While the world has been preoccupied with a pandemic that seems to have affected everything, most have forgotten that the rise in hate crimes against Muslims has been on the upswing.  Around the world, Muslim populations are feeling under assault.

Statistics Canada had already warned us that hate crimes against Muslims in this country grew 253 percent between 2012 and 2015 – just in three years.  The number of hate crimes generally skyrocketed by 50 percent in 2017.  The prime targets have been Muslim, Jewish and black populations, and the increases have been mainly in Ontario and Quebec.

What do we do with surveys like the 2017 Radio Canada poll that discovered that 74 percent of respondents called for a values test given to Muslim immigrants?  And what of the 23 percent who favoured a total ban on Muslim immigration?

As with America, there was a tendency to believe that nationalism would diminish following Donald Trump’s loss in the recent election.  That is turning out not to be the case.  Anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant hatred travels quickly across the Internet, finding ready support for calls to action.  This too is a political nightmare. Governments on both sides of the border have yet to effectively counter the social networks that refuse to take responsibility for their lack of monitoring or censure. Their defence of free speech is turning out to be a mandate for hate speech.

Across Europe, America, and Asia, hate crimes have been increasing, and remedial measures have mainly proved ineffective.  As Canadians, we watch the dramas unfold across the globe and occasionally comfort ourselves that our country is beyond the reach of such evils.  Then comes the Quebec City and London attacks, and we chalk them up as terrible but not everyday occurrences.  We read the inconvenient statistics and police reports, and we realize that Canada is heading in the wrong direction for all our peaceful assurances regarding hate crimes and bigotry.  Only then do we admit that we have a severe problem whose solution must transcend political bromides.

Our darker angels are always with us -- just under the surface. We must remember that love and hate are two sides of the same coin. What motivates our generosity and tolerance can quickly become the source of our anger and broken dreams.

And keeping a sense of balance is increasingly becoming difficult.

Image: campaign

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

It's About Time

Major industrialized countries are experiencing labour shortages. John Harris writes:

The US Chamber of Commerce is warning of a crisis affecting businesses “across every industry, in every state”. Angst is spreading about a lack of workers in Germany’s hospitality sector, and there are comparable issues in other countries such as Norway, Australia and Singapore. 

Meanwhile, despite unemployment at 1.6 million, the UK is experiencing its own labour problems, partly caused by the fact that 1.3 million foreign nationals have left the country in the last year. As consumer demand surges, hospitality businesses don’t have the staff to keep pace, and shortages are also mounting in construction, road haulage, food processing and fruit and vegetable picking.

Several things account for these shortages. In Britain, Brexit and COVID are very much to blame:

Restrictions on travel within Britain due to Covid are part of the explanation – but Brexit and the ever-more hostile approach to immigration by Priti Patel’s Home Office are also factors, as suggested by what Rogers has heard in south Devon. In that context, the recent spectacle of the Brexiter founder of the Wetherspoons pub chain, Tim Martin, moaning about his sector’s recruitment headaches and demanding “some sort of preferential visa system for EU workers” was grimly hilarious – – though as I know from bitter experience, time spent in his pubs rarely assists one’s powers of coherence and consistency.

But, at the heart of everything, is right-wing government policy:

We all know how western economies have been run for the last couple of decades. Wages have stagnated, as exploitation and precarity have increased. This has been partly enabled by the transfer of manufacturing to countries where wages are low, such as China, keeping the price of consumer goods down; and the use of workers from overseas has also played some part in keeping a lid on costs in sectors such as retail, distribution, hospitality and construction.

These are messy, difficult elements of recent history, which have mixed up questions of diversity and openness with raw economics. Woven through them are changes that coverage of the labour market too often ignores: the weakening of trade unions, and welfare states remodelled to relentlessly push people into poorly paid work. In addition, the ultra-low interest rates that have been in place since the 2008 crash have widened access to cheap credit, and made many people’s mortgage payments manageable, thus further reducing pressure for pay rises.

Like the crash of 2008, the pandemic has proved that economies characterised by these features are full of weaknesses. Worse still, in the period between these two events, these defects created seething tensions that fed into the growth of a new rightwing politics, whose figureheads are now attempting to slam the door on globalisation and the movement of people, with apparently blithe disregard for both the human and economic consequences.

However, change is in the air:

Whatever the toxic actions of modern populists, the big, long-term picture suggests that 2021’s labour problems may be an early sign of inevitable economic readjustments. The size of China’s workforce began to decline nearly 10 years ago, and wages there have increased accordingly. Across the west, working-age populations are also declining. And Covid has introduced another set of changes to economies and societies, pausing globalisation, apparently squashing birthrates and planting big questions in people’s minds about life and work. All these things may yet begin to restore at least some of the bargaining power that most employees have lacked for years.

Capitalism being capitalism, in the labour shortage’s mixture of startling numbers and fascinating human detail, it is difficult to distinguish between progress and turmoil. But amid Covid’s endless fallout, a new economic era may be messily starting, and what that will mean for our lives is something we are only just starting to understand.

It's about time.

Image: Global News

Monday, June 07, 2021

Far From Noble

John A. Macdonald never deserved to be put on a pedestal. In his day, Canadians knew that he was deeply flawed. In fact, none of our leaders have worn halos. Andrew Coyne writes:

If Macdonald is to be banished from the public square for policies we now regard as abhorrent, he asked, what of others: Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who brought in steep hikes in the “head tax” and other restrictions on immigration from China and South Asia, or Mackenzie King, who barred European Jews from seeking refuge in Canada during the Holocaust, or Pierre Trudeau, who imposed martial law in Quebec?

Or what about Tommy Douglas, father of medicare, winner of the CBC’s “Greatest Canadian” competition, but also an enthusiastic proponent of eugenics, that is to say, sterilization of “mental defectives”? Should his name, too, be stricken from the honour rolls?

We make a mistake if we try to turn politicians into saints. In their own time, they are seen as far from paradigms of virtue. The wonder is that most of them have a pretty fair record of accomplishment. And some of them are downright despicable.

It's time that we recognize our leaders for the complicated -- and far from noble -- creatures we would like them to be.

Image: SoundCloud

Sunday, June 06, 2021

Ontario's Next Election

Ontario is a year away from an election. COVID has been a game-changer. And each of the three major party leaders has significant deficits. But, Bob Hepburn writes, the contours of the race are beginning to form:

Since the Conservatives won the 2018 election, Ford has undergone more resets than Kathleen Wynne did when she was Liberal premier. At this stage, though, his campaign strategy is clear: lower his personal profile, shuffle his cabinet yet again to give his beleaguered government a “fresher” look, and try to shift the blame for the pandemic response by attacking the federal Liberals over Ottawa’s handling of the pandemic.
It’s all designed to take the spotlight off Ford, whose mere appearance on television turns off many voters. Don’t expect any major new campaign promises leading up to election day. Instead, expect to see lots of ads about how Ford “cares about the little guy” and how, depending on the state of the pandemic, he led the province through the COVID crisis.

The Dippers think they're in the catbird seat:

For the NDP, strategists claim the party “has never been in a better position” heading into an election than it is now. It has more money and more volunteers than ever. It has already unveiled three major platform policies. They also believe this will be a “leader-driven” election, which is why they will make Horwath the focal point of their campaign, believing she proved in 2018 to be the best campaigner. They will portray her in ads as upbeat, positive and inspirational, which they say worked for her in 2018.

The problem for the Liberals is that their new leader, Steven Del Luca, doesn't generate any excitement:

Inside Liberal campaign headquarters it’s a given that Del Duca is not a charismatic leader. Given that, they will portray him as a motivator, a guy who will put in the work, who has political experience at a high level from his days as a minister and who has a road map on issues such as health care, long-term care and education.

So much depends on vaccinations and a rebooted economy. And, if things pan out positively, it's not clear who can take the best advantage of that.

Stay tuned.

Image: Th Toronto Star

Saturday, June 05, 2021

On the Brink Of Tyranny

There was a time when what is happening would have made for astonishing fiction. Lawrence Martin Martin writes:

It is astonishing enough that these Republicans refused to accept the results of the Nov. 6 election and, through disinformation campaigns that prey on the gullible, are still propagating former president Donald Trump’s mythical claim that it was stolen.

It is astonishing enough that many Republican states are now taking steps to significantly limit participation in elections through measures against early voting, absentee voting and automatic voter-registration laws. Given demographic trends, the Grand Old Party seems to feel that in order to win, it must effectively disenfranchise voting blocs. It is proceeding to do just that.

It is astonishing enough that Senate Republicans blocked an independent inquiry into the Jan. 6 mob attack by supporters of Mr. Trump on Capitol Hill. There’s no need, the contemporary version of Abraham Lincoln’s party says, to probe a rebellion against the state the likes of which have not been witnessed since the Civil War.

But this isn't fiction. The story is an old one. It's called The Road to Tyranny. It has been traveled many times in the past. And it's not a wild theory:

If it sounds far-fetched, one need only think of the lengths the Trump Party and its supporters have been prepared to go. One need only think of Jan. 6.

At the policy level, Mr. Biden is on course to reverse much of Mr. Trump’s unhandiwork. It is in the political domain where the Trump legacy could be lasting and ruinous. If the designs of his party of white nationalists are carried out, that legacy could be the establishment of a democracy that’s more Putinesque than Lincolnesque.

It should be clear to anyone who can think -- just a little bit. The United States is on the brink of tyranny. 

Image: Quotefancy

Friday, June 04, 2021

A Great Humanitarian?

Bill Gates has spent his later years helping the world's poor. But Linda McQuaig writes that, when COVID hit, he didn't focus on the poor:

Hard to believe now, but in the first few months of the pandemic it looked like the world was going to act together to develop a "people's vaccine."

Given the scope and urgency of the looming crisis in February 2020, hundreds of global health experts and researchers converged for two intense days at the Geneva headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) where they drew up extensive plans for pooling global scientific knowledge in order to expedite the quest for a vaccine.

Their plan amounted to a bold rejection of the usual pharmaceutical model where drug companies carry out research behind proprietary walls, jealously guarding their "intellectual property" as they race to get a patent, which will give them a monopoly on their new product.

Enter Bill Gates:

The multibillionaire, often described as the "global health czar," has achieved an exulted, almost revered status for giving away tens of billions of his fortune in a seemingly selfless effort to help the world.

Gates almost single-handedly derailed the plan that could have led to a "people's vaccine."

That's because, for all his philanthropy, Gates is deeply committed to protecting the rights of patent holders. He made his own mega-fortune through patents on his computer innovations and has long supported the pharmaceutical industry's claim that patents are necessary to encourage investment.

So, even before the scientific community had a chance to launch its co-operative public initiative in May 2020, Gates had put forward his own COVID initiative based on protecting drug patents and encouraging vaccine philanthropy.

Of course, the Gates-big pharma model has been a disaster, with pharmaceutical companies making astronomical profits as they dole out scarce supplies of their patented COVID vaccines to the highest bidders, leaving poor countries with little chance of vaccinating their people before 2024.

This abject failure prompted an alliance of developing nations, led by South Africa and India, to demand that patents be waived for COVID vaccines and drugs until the end of the pandemic.

For months, rich countries rejected the patent-waiver demand. But a surprise recent endorsement by the Biden administration has changed the dynamics somewhat, pushing even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support the poor countries' initiative, although Gates himself has not changed his tune.

Among other things, the vaccine tragedy highlights the danger posed by the extreme concentration of wealth and power that Bill Gates represents.

The lesson is as old as the human race itself: You can get rich by exploiting the poor. But you can't get rich by helping them.

Image: CNN

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Ugly History

In Canada, we are trying to come to terms with one of the ugliest parts of our history. In the United States, the problem was slavery. Joe Biden went to Tulsa this week and dealt with the problem head-on. Max Boot writes:

With his speech in Tulsa on Tuesday — on the 100th anniversary of a pogrom that killed as many as 300 African Americans and left 10,000 “destitute and homeless” — President Biden offered a highly effective rebuke to the “love it or leave it” school of conservative historiography. In the process he delivered what is probably the most thoughtful presidential statement on race since President Barack Obama spoke in Charleston, S.C., in 2015 after the murder of nine African Americans by a white supremacist. Every American — and, in particular, every Republican — should listen to Biden’s entire speech, but, to my mind, this was the most important part:

“For much too long the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness. But just because history is silent, it doesn’t mean that it did not take place. And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing, it erases nothing. Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous they can’t be buried no matter how hard people try …. Only with truth can come healing, and justice, and repair, only with truth, facing it. … We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know. We should know the good, the bad, everything. That’s what great nations do. They come to terms with their dark sides. 

That is what we must do. In our town, there is a statue of John A. Macdonald on Main Street. Last week, a vigil was held in front of it. Many pairs of shoes were left in front of it -- in memory of the children who were buried in Kamloops. And, once again, there was a cry to take down the statue. Macdonald's role in building residential schools is an indelible stain on the man. He has blood on his hands. But without him, there would be no nation.

We must come to terms with everything -- everything -- he did.

Image: Quinte News