Cohen: Here are the winners and losers in Canadian and world politics for 2019 - Ottawa Citizen - Canada News Media
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Cohen: Here are the winners and losers in Canadian and world politics for 2019 – Ottawa Citizen



Trudeau follows his father into the purgatory of minority government. Yet his achievement this autumn should not go unheralded.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson serves Christmas lunch to British troops stationed in Estonia. He’s a 2019 winner –– who could soon become a loser.


The last year of the second decade has had its winners and losers. Some are obvious, some not.

In Canada, the federal election clarified things. Justin Trudeau won and lost. Jagmeet Singh lost and lost. Andrew Scheer lost and won and lost.

Trudeau follows his father into the purgatory of minority government; he will either see a way back to a majority in three years or resign. Yet his achievement this autumn should not go unheralded. In a country where the provinces have defeated one progressive government after another since 2015, in a western world turning conservative, the Liberals were re-elected.

Singh acted like a winner on election night; he danced into his election headquarters and gave an endless campaign speech, ignoring his party’s stunning reversals. His performance was brazen and shameless, but this is the way for politicians today.

Singh acted like a winner on election night; he danced into his election headquarters and gave an endless campaign speech, ignoring his party’s stunning reversals.

He was outdone by Scheer, who debased himself in the leaders’ debate with a performance laced with malice. It was breathtaking to see our politics descend into character assassination.

Poor Scheer had so little sense of himself that he didn’t seem to know what job he held before politics, why he had U.S. citizenship and, most critically, how he felt on homosexuality. Had he had any self-knowledge, he could have addressed all of these points with a little honesty. Now’s he’s gone, a historical footnote, who will be seen as the party’s placeholder between Stephen Harper and Rona Ambrose.

Other politicians fared well. Chrystia Freeland (Deputy prime minister) becomes the Minister of Everything. François-Philippe Champagne (foreign affairs) becomes chief diplomat. Catherine McKenna (infrastructure) gets big money to build things that the country needs – and she will.

Mélanie Joly (economic development) returns from exile to a senior portfolio. Johnathan Wilkinson (environment) and Marco Mendicino (immigration) get a seat at the head table. Mona Fortier (minister of middle class prosperity) has no earthly reason to be in cabinet, which may explain why she was given an Orwellian portfolio, presumably named by a naïf in the Prime Minister’s Office who had just read 1984.

In Parliament, the big loser is Jody Wilson-Raybould. She won her seat, sadly for her, and now endures the exquisite punishment of being a defrocked senior minister with no suite, staff or ministry. Her soul-mate, Jane Philpott, wisely made her point and lost her seat.

In the provinces, Doug Ford goes from weakness to weakness. His triumph was appointing (then firing the next day) Tyler Albrecht, a 20-something lacrosse player, as Ontario agent-general in New York City. It showed a premier who was all ignorance and impulse.

Ford’s soul mate, Jason Kenney, was a winner in Alberta until he turned whiner. Now he talks up western alienation to distract Albertans from draconian budget cuts in a province without a sales tax.

In the United States, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed several important bills (albeit dead on arrival in the Senate) and impeached a president. She united her fractious caucus and proceeded masterfully. She is a heroine.

She is joined, as winners, by those Democrats (and a former Republican) who put their seats on the line to protect the integrity of the House, and, as they did in the articles of impeachment, the security of the union. Other heroes include the former and serving diplomats who testified before the House committee at risk to their careers.

Abroad, Boris Johnson emerges a winner. If Brexit goes badly and the United Kingdom goes into recession, though, he will wear it. If Scotland leaves, he will preside over the end of the U.K.

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu comes out a loser, under indictment for corruption and trying to hold power in another election. It’s unlikely. In France, Emmanuel Macron is in trouble, which may have less to do with his well-intentioned reforms than his country, which like Spain, may be ungovernable.

All of this makes the real winners of 2019 Canadians. Our quarrelling and complaining notwithstanding, we managed to get the national government we wanted, and some new faces, too. In an unsettled world, we muddled through – again.

Andrew Cohen is a journalist, professor and author of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.

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The Week In Politics – NPR



House Democrats finished their opening statements in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump. Here’s what to expect as Trump’s lawyers begin their arguments on Saturday.


This morning, President Trump’s legal team began their arguments against removing him from office. This, of course, follows three days of arguments made by Democrats to do so in the Senate impeachment trial. Here’s Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s lawyers, laying out the case that the president was a marked man before he even entered office.


JAY SEKULOW: Let’s, for a moment, put ourselves in the shoes of the president of the United States right now. Before he was sworn into office, he was subjected to an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

SIMON: And White House counsel – forgive me – White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued that removing the president was a strike against democracy.


PAT CIPOLLONE: They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots across this country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people. And I don’t think they spent one minute of their 24 hours talking to you about the consequences of that for our country – not one minute.

SIMON: And deputy White House counsel Michael Purpura argued that President Trump did not condition military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into Joe Biden and his son.


MICHAEL PURPURA: The transcript shows that the president did not condition either security assistance or a meeting on anything. The paused security assistance funds aren’t even mentioned on the call. Second, President Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said that there was no quid pro quo and no pressure on them to review anything.

SIMON: We have NPR senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving with us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: The session, I gather, has just wrapped. We heard from a number of people already. What seems to be the main arguments?

ELVING: The main argument is that the president did absolutely nothing wrong. At one point, one of his lawyers said the overwhelming evidence is that the president did nothing wrong. Now, this might be a little surprising to some people because there are probably easier ways to defend a president from an impeachment proceeding than by saying there was absolutely nothing wrong. But it is what the president has been saying about himself, and this defense seems very much to have been designed to please the president as opposed to looking for the sweet spot of perhaps where public opinion or the feelings of senators might be.

SIMON: A major part of the case that they’re developing, at least based on arguments presented today and maybe some press interviews, is that Ukrainians didn’t even find out that aid was being held up until they read about it in Politico.

ELVING: The evidence for that is that right after that Politico article on August 29, many Ukrainian officials started calling Americans and saying let’s talk about this. So one could assume at that juncture that they had either just found out about it or they had just seen that it was now public. And being public is a very different situation from just not getting the aid. It does, however, strain credulity to think that at that late date, after months of waiting for this aid that had already been approved by Congress back last winter, the Ukrainians would not have noticed that it was not flowing.

SIMON: The president’s defenders seem to get back to the transcript of what the president once called a perfect call. And they point out – and I wonder about your assessment of it – that the president never explicitly says unless you come across with information for us, I’m going to withhold aid. Isn’t that correct?

ELVING: That is correct. And there is a great deal to be said for the distinction between explicit and implicit. And again and again, we are going to hear the president’s defenders say nothing was made explicit. We did not have a clear statement of a quid pro quo, and all these witnesses that the House managers keep referring to are talking about what they presume or what they assume, and we heard a waterfall of video tape clips of people saying those two words. And that is going to be a particularly strong part of the president’s defense.

But I think we should also say one other thing about this word, transcript. We hear frequent references to the transcript as though it were a total and actual transcript. But actually, what we got back last summer, and the only thing we’ve ever gotten, was a summary.

SIMON: That’s right. NPR’s senior editor and correspondent Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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‘It’s entirely about politics’: experts weigh in on Trump’s Middle East peace plan – Global News



A blueprint the White House is rolling out to resolve the decades-long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is as much about politics as it is about peace.

President Donald Trump said he would likely release his long-awaited Mideast peace plan a little before separate meetings this coming week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.

The Washington get-togethers offer political bonuses for Trump and the prime minister, but Trump’s opponents are doubting the viability of any plan since there’s been little-to-no input from the Palestinians, who have rejected it before its release.

‘Great’ Middle East peace plan likely rolling out soon, says President Trump

“It’s entirely about politics,” Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, said about Tuesday’s meeting. “You simply can’t have a serious discussion about an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and only invite one side to come talk about it. This is more about the politics inside Israel and inside the U.S. than it is about any real efforts to get these two sides to an agreement.”

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Jared Kushner, a Trump adviser and the president’s son-in-law, has been the architect for the plan for nearly three years. He’s tried to persuade academics, lawmakers, former Mideast negotiators, Arab governments and special interest groups not to reject his fresh approach outright.

People familiar with the administration’s thinking believe the release will have benefits even if it never gets Palestinian buy-in and ultimately fails. According to these people, the peace team believes that if Israeli officials are open to the plan and Arab nations do not outright reject it, the proposal could help improve broader Israeli-Arab relations.

For years, the prospect of improved ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours had been conditioned on a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the administration believes that a change in regional dynamics — due mainly to rising antipathy to Iran — will boost Israel’s standing with not only Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace deals with the Jewish state, but also Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf nations, these people say.

Netanyahu accepts invitation to discuss Mideast peace plan in Washington: Pence

Netanyahu accepts invitation to discuss Mideast peace plan in Washington: Pence

There have been signs of warming between Israel and the Gulf states, including both public displays and secret contacts, and the administration sees an opening for even greater co-operation after the plan is released, according to these people.

Trump, for his part, told reporters on Air Force One this week that “It’s a plan that really would work.” He said he spoke to the Palestinians “briefly,” without elaborating.

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Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for the Western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, says that’s not true.

“There were no talks with the U.S. administration — neither briefly nor in detail,” he said. “The Palestinian position is clear and consistent in its rejection of Trump’s decisions regarding Jerusalem and other issues, and everything related to the rejected deal.”

Netanyahu rival Gantz accepts invitation to meet Trump on peace plan

Abbas ended contacts with the administration after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital two years ago. The Palestinians’ anger mounted as Trump repeatedly broken with the international consensus around solving the conflict and took actions seen as biased toward Israel’s right-wing government.

The White House has cut off nearly all U.S. aid to the Palestinians and closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington. In November, the Trump administration said it no longer views Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy. The Palestinians view the settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to peace, a position shared by most of the international community.

Tuesday’s meeting offers benefits to both leaders while they are under fire at home.

The meeting allows Trump to address a high-profile foreign policy issue during his impeachment trial, while Democrats are arguing for his ouster. Moreover, if the plan is pro-Israel as expected, Trump hopes it will be popular with his large base of evangelicals and maybe sway a few anti-Trump Jewish voters his way.

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U.S. launches Mideast plan for peace amid skepticism

U.S. launches Mideast plan for peace amid skepticism

According to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of the American electorate, 79 per cent of white evangelical voters in the 2018 midterms approved of the job Trump was doing as president, while 74 per cent of Jewish voters disapproved.

Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of the eight million-member Christians United for Israel, said in a statement that Trump “has shown himself to be the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history, and I fully expect his peace proposal will be in line with that tradition.”

For Netanyahu, the meeting allows him to shift press coverage Tuesday when Israel’s parliament convenes a committee that is expected to reject his request for legal immunity from charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.

“The `Trump peace plan’ is a blatant attempt to hijack Israel’s March 2 election in Netanyahu’s favour,” tweeted Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper and the author of a biography of Netanyahu.

Netanyahu defends U.S. decision to launch airstrike that killed Iranian general

Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival ahead of the election. The decision to bring Gantz along is likely aimed at forestalling any criticism that the U.S. administration is meddling in the election. But in Israel, the meeting and the unveiling of the plan will be widely seen as a gift to the prime minister. Netanyahu has noted that it was his idea to invite Gantz.

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But Gantz said Saturday that he plans to meet privately with Trump on Monday and then return to Israel immediately to lead the parliamentary hearing seeking to reject Netanyahu’s plea for immunity.

In Congress, Trump’s announced release of his Mideast plan has caused hardly a ripple against the backdrop of the impeachment drama.

Kushner: U.S. peace plan addresses borders issue

Kushner: U.S. peace plan addresses borders issue

Asked on Friday what he thought about the expected rollout, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said: “I’m on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we’ve not heard anything about it.”

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the committee chairman, defended the administration’s work on a plan.

“I think the people who are working on this are working on this in good faith,” Risch said in the halls of Congress, shortly before Trump’s impeachment trial resumed.

“I think the people who are trying to do it really are acting in good faith, hoping they can come up with a solution.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Why Canadian politicians need to put politics aside and ratify CUSMA



Despite the distraction of the upcoming Conservative leadership race, interim party leader Andrew Scheer is vowing that the Liberals will not get a free ride when Parliament resumes sitting.

This was clearly a dilemma for the Conservatives in deciding upon the proper length for a leadership campaign — as long as the party has not yet selected a new leader, there is zero desire to bring down the government or contribute to its fall.

Therefore, despite Scheer’s insistence to the contrary, there will likely be something approaching a free ride for the government between now and June.

When it comes to the new NAFTA — or CUSMA as we’re calling it, USMCA as the Americans are calling it, and T-MEC as the Mexicans are calling it — that might turn out to be a good thing. While it’s certainly reasonable that the opposition parties hold government to account, even in a minority government situation, it’s hard to see what is to be gained from delaying or blocking this trade deal.

It’s not just the Conservatives, obviously, that will play a role in whether and how quickly this deal gets ratified, but Conservative plus Liberal support would be enough to render the NDP and Bloc Quebecois moot.

Let’s be clear: the new NAFTA is far from perfect. All things considered, the new NAFTA is probably somewhat worse than the old NAFTA. So it might seem counterintuitive to argue that rapid ratification is the proper response.

The reality, though, is that Canada has made the best of a bad situation, and the fact that we have a reasonable deal before us to ratify at all should be seen as a win. Trade between Canada and the U.S. is of vital importance, and a less-than-perfect trade deal is much better than no trade deal at all.

We were dealing with a rather volatile U.S. president who was hell-bent on tearing up the old NAFTA. Yes, it’s absurd to claim, as Trump has, that the old NAFTA was the worst trade deal ever and a slightly tweaked NAFTA is the greatest trade deal ever, but that’s who we’re dealing with.

The Liberals have made it clear that ratification is their top priority and that process will begin in the coming days. A procedural motion will be introduced on Monday followed by the actual ratification bill on Wednesday.

Mexico was the first to ratify the new deal, and ratification finally passed a vote in the U.S. Senate earlier this month. It would be rather disastrous for Canada to suddenly decide we’re not on board at this point. Re-opening this deal is also a complete non-starter.

The NDP has indicated a willingness to drag out this process, calling for an exhaustive review of the deal. The Bloc Quebecois, meanwhile, has been pushing for full debate and committee hearings.

The Conservatives have been coy on their intentions, but have warned that the Liberals shouldn’t expect a “rubber stamp.”

As the Conservatives point out, though, they are “the party of free trade.” They have certainly won the day on this broader issue. We went from an election in 1988 fought over whether we should even have a trade deal with the U.S. to a broad political consensus that free trade is in Canada’s best interests.

The Liberals deserve credit for getting the NAFTA deal done, as well as closing the Trans Pacific Partnership and the trade deal with the European Union. The Conservatives also deserve credit for doing much of the heavy lifting on the latter two. That we’re down to parsing small details about these agreements instead of debating whether they should exist at all is a major victory for sensible economic policy.

I understand there’s a reluctance in politics to ever giving the other side a “win,” but getting this deal ratified and putting this trade uncertainty behind us is a win for Canada.

BY Rob Breakenridge

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