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Alberta premier to learn fate Wednesday in party review of his job performance

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EDMONTON — Albertans are to learn Wednesday whether Premier Jason Kenney has enough support from his party to keep his job — but political observers say whatever the outcome, it won’t end the rancorous political melodrama.

“It’s going to be chaotic no matter what the result is,” political scientist Duane Bratt said in an interview Tuesday.

“(Kenney) has drawn a line in the sand that says as long as he wins (dissenters) get in line. Well, that’s going to lead to a purge in the party, either voluntarily walking, or him forcing people out.”

The United Conservative Party said in a statement it was going to count mail-in ballots Wednesday and announce results sometime in the late afternoon in a live feed on its website.

“We’ve taken extraordinary steps to ensure the security and integrity of this vote,” UCP president Cynthia Moore said.

Kenney’s office said that the premier was planning to speak about the results at the Spruce Meadows entertainment and equestrian facility in south Calgary.

The leadership review consisted of month-long mail-in balloting by as many as 59,000 party members on whether Kenney should remain leader.

If he does not get a 50 per cent, plus one, majority, he must step down and a leadership race called. Kenney has said if he gets any majority, even a slim one, he’ll stay on.

Normally, leaders set the bar of confidence much higher, at least three-quarters or more.

Former premier Ralph Klein left after getting a 55 per cent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford stepped down from the top job due to party pushback after each receiving 77 per cent.

Kenney has said this vote is different, that a lower number is OK, because the voting pool has been toxically diluted by two-minute members casting ballots to destabilize his government.

Bratt and fellow political scientist Lori Williams said Kenney and the party are battling not only disaffected members but trust in the review itself.

The party is still being investigated by the RCMP for allegations of criminal voter identity fraud in the contest that elected Kenney leader in 2017.

Documentation leaked to The Canadian Press indicates Elections Alberta is investigating the current leadership review over allegations of illegal bulk buying of memberships.

The vote itself was drastically altered at the last minute from an in-person, one-day vote of 15,000 members to a mail-in ballot open to all members. Critics say Kenney’s team forced the changes because he was going to lose the in-person vote. The party denies that.

Bratt and Williams said a low review number in the 50s would leave Kenney with a questionable mandate, while anything around 60 per cent or higher would prompt speculation the vote was rigged in his favour.

“I don’t see that this vote is going to settle anything,” said Williams.

“The divisions in the party and the province are profound.”

Kenney has been dealing with open dissent from party and government members for over a year over his COVID-19 health restrictions, a perceived failure to stand up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a top-down management style.

Todd Loewen, a UCP caucus member kicked out a year ago for openly demanding Kenney resign, said the UCP needs renewal and it can’t be done with Kenney in charge. The issue boils down to trust and Kenney no longer has that, he said.

“There’s no way he can win a fair, open, honest transparent leadership review,” said Loewen.

“If he gets over 50 per cent and stays, the party continues to splinter.”

Former UCP president Erika Barootes said she expects Kenney will get a majority, and said once that is done, it’s incumbent on the dissenters to decide once and for all if they are in or out.

Kenney, she said, has the experience and political skill to win a second term, adding that the party hasn’t a moment to lose given it’s facing an election in a year against a tough opponent in NDP leader, and former premier, Rachel Notley.

“(The dissenters) have got to respect that he won, and he needs to recognize that he’s not getting 95 per cent (support). So there’s work to be done,” she said.

Calgary-based pollster Janet Brown said, win or lose, Kenney is dealing with a sobering numerical reality.

“In 2019, Jason Kenney won the election with 55 per cent support from the general public,” said Brown.

“Three years later, and we’re speculating whether he can even get 55 per cent with his own base.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

 

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Funding and politics hit N.Ireland abortion services – FRANCE 24 English

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Issued on: 04/07/2022 – 07:36Modified: 04/07/2022 – 07:35

London (AFP) – Campaigners in Northern Ireland are closely watching US moves to restrict abortion, particularly concerns that women will now have to travel across states for terminations.

Abortion was only decriminalised in the British province in 2019 — 42 years after terminations were made legal up to 24 weeks in most circumstances in the rest of the UK.

But despite legislation, lack of government funding and political wrangling have meant women are still having to travel to the British mainland for abortions.

Currently, there are still no surgical abortion services available in Northern Ireland and no options for abortion after 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Last year, 161 women crossed the Irish Sea to England and Wales for an abortion, according to UK government statistics published last month.

“The fact that 161 people travelled last year is totally unacceptable, even one should be a scandal,” Dani Anderson from the Abortion Support Network told AFP.

The recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling which enshrined the right to abortion prompted some states to introduce a ban.

That has raised fears women from low-income, rural and black and minority ethnic backgrounds will be hit hardest if they have to travel.

Barriers

In Northern Ireland, campaigners say this is already a reality.

Grainne Teggart, deputy programme director for Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said travelling for an abortion had not been “safe or viable” for many during the pandemic.

From a healthcare perspective, “later trimester abortions are more complex, so it is the women who should be travelling the least who are being made to travel”, added Naomi Connor, co-convener at the grassroots campaign group Alliance for Choice.

She said they have seen cases where women facing domestic violence or in coercive relationships were reluctant to make long journeys because they were “really anxious about anyone finding out”.

As in neighbouring Ireland, where an abortion ban was overturned in a 2018 referendum, religious conservatism is strong in Northern Ireland, both among Catholics and Protestants. This also led to a delay in legalising same-sex marriage.

In rural communities particularly, women have been hesitant to explicitly seek terminations because of stigma.

One refugee in Belfast, who fled her home country after a forced marriage, was told she would have to travel to receive an abortion.

But with limited knowledge of English and other restrictions, she was unable to make the journey, said Connor.

Abortion was only decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 2019 Niklas HALLE’N AFP

She was eventually helped, but there have been times when case workers have had to say nothing can be done.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Connor.

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Healthcare is a devolved issue for the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast.

But the main pro-UK party is currently refusing to join the power-sharing executive between unionists and nationalists in a row over post-Brexit trade.

Northern Ireland’s health minister Robin Swann claims he is unable to commission full abortion services without a functioning executive.

Individual health trusts that have stepped in are struggling due to limited funding.

“Since April 2020, when services were supposed to be commissioned, different individual health trusts have had to withdraw services due to a lack of resources,” said Connor.

The recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling

The recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling Samuel Corum AFP

Last year, one trust had to temporarily suspend its early medical abortion services for a year, redirecting patients elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

Campaigners also complain of a lack of public information about options for women before they are past their first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

Still, there is renewed hope that abortion services may finally be commissioned, despite the current political paralysis.

MPs in the UK parliament in London recently voted to implement access to services in Northern Ireland, passing the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022.

They allow the UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to step in, controversially overriding the authority of the devolved administration in Belfast.

Teggart welcomed the regulations as a “very necessary move”.

“For the health minister (Swann) it is a damning indictment on his failure to prioritise the health of women and girls,” she said.

Lewis wants services to be “delivered and available to all across Northern Ireland as soon as possible”.

Swann was “currently awaiting legal advice” on the implications of the new regulations, his department said.

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ROTHENBURGER: Council proves absurdity of politics on parking, code of conduct – CFJC Today Kamloops

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Why? Because, claimed Mayor Ken Christian, Coun. Dieter Dudy and others, it’s just fine that it’s flawed. If it’s not any good, it can be changed later. It’s the good intention that counts.

As Singh and Walsh challenged clause after clause in the proposed Code, the answer from corporate officer Natalie Garbay to most of their questions was that the wording came from a provincial working group template, or from other cities. Not exactly an explanation.

So, the Code went through as presented, almost unscathed. Not so with Singh’s parking proposal. According to Singh, reducing parking-space requirements would help both affordable housing and the fight against climate change.

This time, though, Christian, Dudy and others supported sending it to a committee because it’s vague and needs further discussion. According to Dudy, there was too much “ambiguity” in Singh’s motion. Christian noted that the idea hasn’t gotten much traction in the community and isn’t a priority.

Singh’s motion does, indeed, require further discussion, and I suspect Singh and the rest of council will back off of it entirely as public opposition grows.

But the Code of Conduct also needed further examination because it’s very poorly written and, in some respects, too restrictive. Yet that one, according to the majority, needed to get passed right now.

Sometimes, politics is simply absurd.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece reflects the views of its author, and does not necessarily represent the views of CFJC Today or Pattison Media.

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New York's Primaries Were Decided by Politics As Usual – New York Magazine

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Governor Kathy Hochul greets people during a campaign stop on a corner of Second Avenue and 86th Street on June 28.
Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Even with earthshaking news sweeping the nation — notably, the recent Supreme Court rulings overturning decades-long laws governing abortion, environmental protection, and the carrying of concealed firearms — New Yorkers held decidedly ordinary primaries for most state offices last week. Politics is how democracies process change, and the basic rules apply to all kinds of change, be it commonplace or cataclysmic.

Rule one: Incumbency and the support of the political Establishment is often decisive. Governor Kathy Hochul, whose ten months in office were preceded by years of crisscrossing the state by car as lieutenant governor, has been making friends, cutting ribbons, and collecting IOUs for years. Since taking office last August, she’d had an incumbent’s power to hand out tax breaks, regulatory rulings, and cash grants, and could call in favors from Montauk to her hometown of Buffalo.

“She dominated what I like to call the iron triangle of New York Democratic primaries,” Democratic consultant Bruce Gyory told me. “It’s the minority vote at the base. It’s highly educated, professional women along one side, and white ethnics along the other. And she was able to win all three.”

On the Republican side, Representative Lee Zeldin was backed by nearly all of the state’s county-level party organizations, winning 85 percent of delegate votes at the GOP state convention in March. As the only elected official in the race, he gained the visibility that comes with the power to steer federal funding to different projects on Long Island, where he racked up huge majorities that powered him to victory.

While progressive candidates didn’t fare as well as they’d hoped, it’s worth noting that parts of New York have a left-leaning Establishment — and like their more mainstream counterparts, these mini-machines dutifully turned out their supporters and performed well in the Assembly primaries. In Manhattan, where Dick Gottfried is retiring after 52 years as the longest-serving Assembly member in state history, his handpicked successor, Tony Simone, was backed by nearly every incumbent on the west side, including Representative Jerry Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and City Councilman Erik Bottcher.

In Queens, the Democratic Socialists of America claimed a decisive victory for the Assembly seat left vacant by the retirement of Cathy Nolan. Juan Ardila won over 43 percent of the vote in a crowded field, thanks in part to the support of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, State Senator Jessica Ramos, and Councilmembers Tiffany Cabán, Shekar Krishnan, and Jennifer Gutiérrez. And Brooklyn’s DSA-backed incumbent, Phara Souffrant Forrest, won re-election with over 67 percent of the vote, as did self-identified socialist Emily Gallagher with about 80 percent.

In short, this was an ordinary primary in many respects, even coming just days after the repeal of New York’s concealed-carry law and the striking down of Roe v. Wade. People did not surge to the polls — but they didn’t stay away, either. Despite a lot of hand-wringing reporting about low-voter turnout — the Daily News called it “torpid” — Gyory says it’s “a bit of an optical illusion” that some journalists have misinterpreted by not taking into account an explosion of new voter registration over the last 30 years, thanks in part to registration drives and motor-voter laws that make it easy to sign up while renewing driver’s licenses.

“Historically, it’s not a low turnout. It’s actually going to probably hit 900,000. It’s going to wind up being the third-highest gubernatorial turnout since we started having these primaries,” Gyory told me. “The highest turnout ever was just shy of 1.6 [million], four years ago. The previous high was 1.2 million, the famous Koch-Cuomo gubernatorial primary of 1982.”

The state Board of Elections website records over 864,000 votes cast in the Democratic primaries, with another 446,000 among Republicans for a total of over 1.3 million.

As we gear up for congressional primaries in August and the general election in November, it remains to be seen whether big national questions — including responses to the Supreme Court rulings, and the ongoing, explosive revelations from the investigation of the January 6 insurrection — will dominate local contests.

“I believe that come September, October, that the top two issues of this campaign will be the same as the top two issues of this campaign today, and that’s crime and public safety and the economy,” Zeldin told me. “They are as personal as it gets for a broad range of New Yorkers who are seriously thinking about fleeing.”

As an anti-abortion candidate who celebrated the repeal of Roe v. Wade and would not say publicly whether he thinks Donald Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election, Zeldin is out of step with most New Yorkers, who polls say support abortion rights and gun control. His path to victory depends on New Yorkers focusing on local issues like inflation and rising crime rates.

Zeldin has his work cut out for him — but he’s not wrong to assume that, even at a time of major upheavals, New Yorkers will focus on pocketbook issues and the need to walk the streets in safety. We should expect him and Hochul to spend the rest of the year making promises, raising money, doling out government funds, calling in favors, lining up local political clubs, and generally doing what wins elections: politics as usual.

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