BAGHDAD — Rival protesters took to Iraq’s streets Friday as their leaders vied for political dominance, just 10 months after a U.S.-backed election that was meant to heal the country’s fractures left many more exposed.
The aftermath of those polls has forced years-long tensions to the surface. In a country where elites rule by consensus, rival Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni politicians have been unable to agree on key government appointments. The election’s biggest winner, powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has withdrawn his parliamentarians from the process, sending his supporters instead to occupy the leafy grounds of the legislature.
He is now calling for early elections, which would be the second in less than a year.
As dusk approached Friday, Sadr’s supporters gathered in provinces across the country and outside the parliament to echo his demands. But they were not alone. Several miles away, near Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, thousands of foot soldiers for the cleric’s rivals — former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and leaders of armed groups linked to Iran — gathered too, protesting what they described as a “political coup” by Sadr.
By nightfall, a crowd of hundreds was building tents in the capital, and people said they were setting up for the long haul.
“We’ll stay as long as it takes,” said Ali Hassan, a 30-year-old government employee from Baghdad. “The people know our demands, and they know that they are legitimate.”
While the politics were complicated, the core problem was simple, analysts said. Twenty years after the U.S.-led invasion, winners from the kleptocratic political system it ultimately installed are now fighting over who reaps its spoils.
Locked out of that system are millions of ordinary Iraqis who have seen little benefit from the nation’s immense oil wealth. Hospitals are crumbling, and the education system is among the worst in the region. For three days last week, as a heat wave pushed temperatures past 125 degrees, three southern provinces failed to even keep the lights on, as the extreme heat pushed an already shaky power grid to the breaking point.
Iraq’s last elections took place several months early, as a response to mass protests that demanded the overthrow of the political system. The young and mostly Shiite demonstrators were met with brutal repression, and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was forced to step down after almost 600 people were killed.
In October, fresh polls left Sadr with the largest bloc in parliament, and Maliki with the second, as historically low voter turnout left powerful parties with large bases as the biggest winners. Many Iraqis viewed the polls as an exercise in reshuffling the political deck chairs, and said that none of the major factions represented them.
But the atmosphere was festive outside Baghdad’s parliament on Friday as men in black T-shirts streamed through the streets carrying photographs of Sadr and his father, a revered cleric killed by dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, to demand more elections, and the sidelining of all the “old faces” — apart from Sadr.
A tinny loudspeaker blasted music through the air as bands of protesters sang and swayed, others enjoyed free kebabs or large chunks of melon. “We’re here to dissolve the parliament and to stand with Sayeed Moqtada’s demands,” said Hassan al-Iraqi, a religious studies student in his 30s who said that he had made the five-hour journey from the northern city of Mosul.
Sadr derives his strength in part from millions of impoverished supporters who view him as a sacred figure of storied lineage, and as someone who has resisted occupation and injustice. For weeks, he has used his Twitter account to praise his supporters’ efforts on the streets, likening their efforts to a “revolution.”
The messages have been received with a mix of excitement and reverence, as bands of teenagers pass around cellphones to read his posts.
By nightfall Friday, politicians from the opposing bloc were tweeting statements in praise of their own supporters too.
Maliki called the rallies “massive” and peaceful.
“Today you have brought joy to the hearts of Iraqis,” wrote Qais al-Khazali, a Shiite cleric aligned with Maliki. “The martyr Muhandis is all happy when he sees his sons defending Iraq and the interest of the people and the state with courage and awareness,” he wrote, in reference to a powerful militia leader killed alongside Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a January 2020 drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump.
Experts point to that drone strike as a seminal moment in Iraq’s latest unraveling — both of the slain men were pivotal figures in maintaining unity among the country’s now divided Shiite factions.
In Baghdad’s city center, another group also gathered Friday as the heat ebbed and traffic snarled the streets. They were secular activists, and they had planned their own protest in a place etched in the annals of the American invasion: Firdoos Square, where U.S. troops once pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein.
“This whole system was built on a mistake,” said Najad al-Iraqi, an activist, who said he had not voted in a single election since Saddam’s fall. “None of these parties have ever worked for us,” he said. “They’re all corrupt, every one of them.”
Quebec election: Minister could remain in cabinet despite comments about immigrants
MONTREAL — Despite his widely denounced comments about immigrants, Quebec Immigration Minister Jean Boulet could keep a seat in cabinet if the Coalition Avenir Québec is re-elected Monday, leader François Legault said Thursday.
Boulet, who is also the province’s labour minister, said last week at a candidates debate that most immigrants to Quebec “don’t work, don’t speak French or don’t adhere to the values of Quebec society.”
While Legault has said that Boulet’s comments disqualify him from remaining immigration minister after the provincial election, he wouldn’t rule out moving Boulet to a different portfolio.
“I spoke to Mr. Boulet yesterday and he’s so sad about what he said,” Legault told reporters in Rouyn-Noranda, Que. “Like I said, he won’t be able to be minister of immigration, but still, the guy is a bright guy and he did a good job for the last four years.”
While Legault described Boulet’s comments as unacceptable, he said Boulet knows what he said isn’t true.
“All the people who know Jean Boulet know that it’s not him, what he said,” Legault said.
Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said Thursday that Boulet should be immediately removed as a cabinet minister, but she didn’t go as far as Conservative Leader Éric Duhaime, who called for Boulet to withdraw his candidacy altogether.
Anglade said Boulet’s comments are a reflection of the tone set by Legault — who has made controversial comments of his own about immigrants.
“He’s the one creating this environment, he’s the one saying that immigration should be compared to violence, he used the word ‘suicidal’ when he talked about an increase in immigration,” Anglade told reporters in the Montreal suburb of Brossard.
On Wednesday, the CAQ leader said it would be “suicidal” for the Quebec nation to accept more than 50,000 immigrants per year, and previously he has apologized for comments that were seen as linking immigration with violence.
During a campaign stop in St-Marc-des-Carrières, near Quebec City, Duhaime said he doesn’t understand how Legault can describe Boulet as being disqualified while allowing him to continue running in the riding of Trois-Rivières.
“When someone is disqualified, they don’t get to keep running in the race …. Is he trying to say that (Boulet’s) comments are unacceptable for a minister but are acceptable for a CAQ candidate or the member for Trois-Rivières?” he said.
Asked about the comments, federal Justice Minister David Lametti, who represents a Montreal riding, said he is the son of immigrants who came to Canada in search of a better life, worked hard and made sacrifices. “That’s the case of my parents and it’s the case for a large portion of immigrants,” he told reporters in Ottawa.
Bloc Québécois Yves-François Blanchet told reporters in Ottawa he was shocked by Boulet’s comments.
While he has concerns about integrating immigrants into Quebec society — and the large proportion of immigrants who settle in the Montreal region — he said “stigmatization by a clumsy and inaccurate number is a serious error by the minister.”
Meanwhile, the Parti Québécois has raised more money since the beginning of Quebec’s election campaign than any other party.
Élections Québec said the sovereigntist party raised $354,175 from 3,852 donors between the start of the campaign on Aug. 28 and Sept. 21.
Polls in late August put the PQ in fifth place, with support below 10 per cent.
But the PQ is now polling in the mid-teens and is in a statistical tie with the three other main opposition parties — all far behind the incumbent Coalition Avenir Québec.
Québec solidaire was in second place in fundraising since the beginning of the campaign, having raised $180,305, while the CAQ is in third with $170,548 in donations.
The CAQ has collected the most money since the beginning of 2022, however, having raised almost $1.15 million, almost $200,000 more than the PQ.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.
— With files from Michel Saba in Ottawa
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Electoral reform can save Canada from Pierre Poilievre's politics – Canada's National Observer
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. When it comes to electoral reform, that ought to be the attitude of both Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and Jagmeet Singh’s NDP. After failing to reach an agreement on the best way to replace Canada’s first-past-the-post system, both sides have since moved on to other priorities. But with Pierre Poilievre’s rise and the ongoing spread of Trumpist politics in Canada, they ought to revisit the issue — and soon.
Replacing Canada’s first-past-the-post system and the artificial majorities it often creates with a more proportional one would pour political cement on the Liberal government’s signature policies, from its carbon tax and climate plan to the child-care agreements it has struck with the provinces. It would protect the new dental care and pharmacare deals that are currently being fleshed out, both popular with most Canadians. And it would prevent Poilievre or other populist leaders from further undermining key Canadian institutions like the Bank of Canada and the CBC.
Why? Because only a government that served the will and interests of a majority of Canadians could reliably command the confidence of Parliament under a more proportional system. That would probably mean the end of majority governments in Canada, but that’s only a bad thing for the partisan staffers and elected officials who work in them. When it comes to better serving voters’ needs, a proportional system and the sometimes messy coalitions they tend to produce seem like a far better option.
A proportional system would also address the divisiveness and polarization that’s out there right now. Conservatives like to blame the prime minister and his approach to anti-vaccine holdouts for the current political strife, while progressives fault conservatives and the alt-right information ecosystem they’ve built. Either way, it’s clearly a problem standing in the way of level-headed policy and public leadership. While parties once worked across the partisan aisle, the battle lines are now clearly drawn and heavily fortified.
Embracing a more proportional electoral system would fix that. It would foster collaboration and force parties to talk more, fight less and find common ground. It would also encourage more diversity in local representation, whether that’s Liberals and New Democrats getting elected on the Prairies or Conservatives winning seats in Toronto and Montreal.
Electoral reform didn’t happen back in 2016 because the governing Liberals and Opposition New Democrats had different preferred electoral systems in mind and couldn’t bridge that gap. But the imperatives for electoral reform are far stronger today than they were then, and there’s a system out there that can help both sides meet in the middle: single transferable vote, or STV.
This system was proposed by British Columbia’s Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform in October 2004 and earned the support of 57.7 per cent of voters in a 2005 referendum (the threshold for victory was set at 60 per cent). Its greatest weakness (other than its name sounding perilously close to STD) is its complexity, which delighted political science professors and pundits but frustrated and confused the general public. Under an STV system, multiple representatives are elected in expanded constituencies, with voters asked to rank them as they see fit.
As the final report from the Citizens’ Assembly noted, “because each district is likely to elect members from different parties in proportion to the votes cast, voters may well be able to go to an MLA who shares their political views. This will help provide more effective local representation.”
Better still, the very nature of the system forces candidates to be more collegial and less combative. “Recognizing that they may not be ‘first preference’ on enough ballots to win a seat, candidates will need to encourage supporters of other candidates to mark them as their second or third preference,” the Citizens’ Assembly’s report said. “This need to appeal to a greater number of voters should lower the adversarial tone of election contests: voters are unlikely to respond positively to someone who aggressively insults their first choice.”
By combining the best aspects of a proportional system (the NDP’s stated preference) with a ranked ballot (the preferred option for Liberals), STV should serve as an acceptable compromise for both sides. Yes, Conservatives would surely howl about the unfairness of it all, but given they already use a ranked ballot for their own leadership race, that would be a tough political sale for them to make. They might also benefit from the change, given they won the popular vote in the last two elections but finished well behind in seats due to the efficiency of the Liberal vote. And when they’ve been loudly complaining about polarization and divisiveness, how could they reasonably object to an electoral system that reduces both?
With the rise of Pierre Poilievre and ongoing spread of Trumpist politics in Canada, Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh ought to revisit proportional representation, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #cdnpoli #ElectoralReform
It’s not like they’re above tilting the political table in their own direction, either. Doug Ford’s government invoked the notwithstanding clause to override a court decision that struck down parts of his government’s bill limiting third-party election advertising, while Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party in Alberta passed legislation last December that seemed designed to help him survive his leadership challenge and smooth the road to re-election in 2023.
The supply-and-confidence agreement between the Liberals and NDP has already produced some modest victories, including the recently announced dental care plan. But if Trudeau and Singh want to deliver a truly lasting win for Canadians, they should revisit their positions on electoral reform and find a way to deliver on the promises made in the 2015 election campaign. There is still time to heal our politics and create a system that rewards our better angels rather than empowering our worst.
Politics Briefing: 20 Liberal MPs supported NDP's failed bid to lower voting age to 16 – The Globe and Mail
Twenty Liberal MPs broke with the majority of their caucus and supported an NDP bill to lower the voting age to 16 this week, but it wasn’t enough to keep the idea alive in the House of Commons.
NDP MP Taylor Bachrach’s Bill C-210 came to a vote Wednesday afternoon at second reading. A successful vote would have sent the bill to committee for further study.
However the final resultwas a 246 to 77 defeat. In addition to the NDP’s 24 votes and the 20 Liberal votes, the Bloc Québécois provided 31 votes in favour and two Green Party MPs also supported the bill. Voting against were 130 Liberal MPs, 114 Conservative MPs and two independents, Alain Rayes and Kevin Vuong.
Following the vote, Mr. Bachrach, who represents the B.C. riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley, told reporters that the Liberal government needs to explain its position to Canada’s youth.
“I think this is a change that eventually is going to pass in our country and it feels good to be on the right side of history,” he said.
Prior to the vote, Mr. Bachrach asked the government in Question Period whether it will support his bill.
“Our government has constantly taken steps to ensure that our democracy is open and inclusive for all people, particularly young people,” replied Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc. “I had a very good conversation with my colleague from Skeena-Bulkley Valley and we look forward to working with him on this important issue in the months ahead.”
Following the vote, Mr. Bachrach said he was confused by the Minister’s comment.
“It seemed like he was implying there was some kind of opportunity, but the opportunity was really just a few minutes ago when we could have voted to send this to committee and move the bill forward and hear from witnesses. So I’m certainly open to talking to the government about how we make this bill a reality in the future, but today was a big opportunity and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed to see the vote result and to see so few Liberal MPs supporting it.”
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Today’s newsletter is co-written by Bill Curry. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
SENIOR CSIS OFFICER ADVOCATED FOR SILENCE ON SERVICE ASSET – The most senior intelligence officer in charge of covert operations at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service went to Ankara in March, 2015, to persuade Turkish authorities to stay silent about the agency’s recruitment of a Syrian human smuggler who trafficked three British teenage girls to Islamic State militants, according to three sources. Globe story here.
YOUTUBE CREATOR WARNS C-11 COULD SLASH GLOBAL REACH – One of Canada’s most successful YouTubers has warned that the government’s online streaming bill could slash her company’s worldwide earnings as well as those of other Canadians making their living from posting on digital platforms. Globe story here.
SENIOR BUREAUCRATS PROBED CRYPTOCURRENCIES AFTER PIERRE POILIEVRE’S COMMENTS – Senior federal bureaucrats examined whether cryptocurrencies protect against inflation not long after Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre made the claim as a candidate in the Conservative leadership race, according to an internal government document. Canadian Press story here.
OPIOID TOXICITY DEATHS DOUBLED IN CANADA – Deaths from opioid toxicity nearly doubled in the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the two years before, according to a grim new report from the federal government that reflects a worsening of the toxic drugs epidemic. Globe story here.
MACKENZIE ARRESTED – Jeremy MacKenzie, the founder of the online group “Diagolon,” was arrested in Nova Scotia on Wednesday on charges related to an allegation of assault in Saskatchewan from last year. On Monday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked the RCMP to investigate Mr. MacKenzie after he talked about sexually assaulting Poilievre’s wife, Anaida, during a livestream on the weekend. Canadian Press story here.
LIFE OF PICKERING PLANT TO BE EXTENDED – Ontario will unveil plans on Thursday to extend the life of its nuclear power plant in Pickering for an extra year, running it until September, 2026, while launching a study on whether to spend billions refurbishing the aging facility. Globe story here.
TORY HEALTH CRITIC CALLS FOR NUANCED APPROACH ON MILITARY VACCINE MANDATE – Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is demanding an end to the vaccine mandate for military members, but his health critic suggested the situation might need a more nuanced approach. Canadian Press story here.
GG VISITS JAMES SMITH CREE NATION – Governor-General Mary Simon placed tobacco Wednesday on the graves of some of the people who died in a stabbing rampage on the James Smith Cree Nation earlier this month. Canadian Press story here.
FRONTRUNNER IN B.C. NDP LEADERSHIP RACE PROPOSES MAJOR HOUSING PLAN – David Eby, who is viewed as the front-runner in the B.C. New Democratic Party leadership to replace Premier John Horgan, is promising sweeping changes to provincial housing policy, including measures to increase housing density in communities zoned for single family homes. Globe story here.
SINGH CALLS OUT TORIES ON DENTAL PLAN – NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says it’s “ridiculous” that Conservative MPs will vote against a proposed dental benefit for children in low-income families when they enjoy far more comprehensive dental care coverage for their own families. Story here from CTV.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Sept. 29, accessible here.
JOLY IN WASHINGTON – Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is visiting Washington on Thursday and Friday, with talks scheduled with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership and the war in Ukraine. She will also meet with several members of the U.S. Congress and participate in the Atlantic Council’s Front Page platform.
POLITICAL PODCAST WATCH – Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith takes issue with the Liberal government’s view of a private members’ bill to lower the voting age to 16 in an edition of his podcast Uncommons released this week. He calls the rationale for the government’s approach “nonsense.” The podcast edition accessible here features an interview with the author of the bill NDP MP Taylor Bachrach.
On Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Globe and Mail columnist Konrad Yakabuski unpacks the immigration debate in Quebec where the subject has been a ballot-box issue in the provincial election campaigns. The major parties are vowing to set different limits on how many permanent residents the province can let in without compromising its French identity. Meanwhile, its labour force is in decline and businesses are calling on provincial leaders to bring in more immigrants to help fill open jobs. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que., held private meetings and was scheduled to meet with local seniors, fishers and small business owners impacted by Hurricane Fiona.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was scheduled to attend Question Period, meet with clean drinking water activist Autumn Peltier, and then speak with Amanda McDougall, Mayor of Cape Breton, on the impact of Hurricane Fiona.
Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchette is scheduled to speak with reporters on Thursday afternoon before Question Period.
No schedule was distributed for the Conservative Leader.
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) writes that something is rotten at Canada’s broadcasting regulator: “These are not good times for Canada’s broadcasting regulator. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has not only managed to contradict itself in two recent decisions affecting the CBC, but it stands accused of both shirking its mandate and sticking its nose where it does not belong. The accusations are well-founded – and they speak to deeper problems at the regulator.”
John Ralston Saul (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why the world must stand with Salman Rushdie and writers like him: “Salman Rushdie, a fellow writer, remains in hospital, recovering from 10 wounds, each one of them intended to end his life. Salman would be the first to remind us that this attack was not one of a kind. It was symptomatic of our time. The pressure against free expression – sometimes subtle, sometimes violent – has been growing, everywhere, over the last two decades. For so many writers this era has been anything but free. Libel chill. The courts being used to bankrupt writers and publishers. Prison cells. Torture. Assassination attempts. Assassination itself. We in the West are quick to assert that all of this is happening somewhere else far away, in places less democratic, more autocratic, dictatorial. Yet the preaching of legal and physical violence against those who use words to free the imagination – to encourage doubt, debate, change – has been almost normalized, as if it were a sign of intellectual vibrancy.”
Amy Knight (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin could be forced out: “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise announcement to his country last week that he had authorized a conscription of reservists to fight in Ukraine suggests the Kremlin is in a panic over its military losses there. A former Russian prime minister even says Mr. Putin’s seemingly desperate decision could eventually cost him his presidency. Adding to the sense of crisis, the Kremlin has also hastily conducted sham referendums on joining the Russian Federation in four occupied regions of Ukraine. Mr. Putin is clearly facing the greatest challenge of his leadership tenure – but is he really in danger of being forced out?”
Canada matching more donations for Pakistan flood aid, will raise cap to $5M – CTV News
Google Kills Stadia, Its Cloud Gaming Service, Refunding Everyone – Kotaku
Space telescopes capture asteroid strike – CTV News
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
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