When our Inside Politics Q&A webcast set off on its tour of Northern Ireland’s 18 constituencies by dropping in on Upper Bann back in April the notion that I would be presenting a programme from the study at the back of my garage seemed ridiculous.
The concept of using Zoom (whatever that was) to put viewers’ questions to our locked-down politicians appeared equally outlandish.
But soon this weird new reality became the norm, and we no longer had to give our MLAs and MPs a tutorial when they appeared on how to connect their audio and frame a usable shot.
Like the assembly, Inside Politics Q&A took a break over the summer.
But with our MLAs returning for their autumn term we are back – picking up with a panel representing South Down.
During the spring we touched on issues particular to certain constituencies, whether it was fracking in Fermanagh or the future of the York Street interchange in North Belfast.
We also provided a voice for groups who felt especially hard done-by such as supply teachers without shifts, taxi drivers without fares or partners keen to accompany expectant mothers into maternity suites.
We heard tales of community groups going the extra mile to help the isolated and vulnerable in their areas, and surveyed the response from Stormont as the first wave of Covid-19 held us all in trepidation.
Debates raged over the lack of PPE for our health workers and the plight of those living and working in our care homes.
Confusion over guidelines
Now with our schools reopened and the jobs furlough scheme due to close, some of the issues under debate have changed.
But as I noted in a previous column, the virus isn’t interested in our news cycle. It has only one aim – to survive and propagate among us.
Some hope the second coronavirus wave which is washing across many countries might prove less lethal – perhaps due to the relative youth and strength of many of those recently infected.
However, those optimists have been given pause for thought by the tragic outbreak at Craigavon hospital reminding us all what Covid-19 will do if it is able to spread to those already battling ill health.
The on-again off-again loosening of the Covid restrictions has prompted a lot of confusion and some downright opposition.
The science has evolved – and so have the arguments – over face coverings, social distancing and what kind of balance to strike between health and wealth.
Send us your questions
So, as our second phase of Inside Politics Q&A begins, please let us know your perspective.
Whether it’s a matter related to South Down or a wider point about Stormont’s handling of the pandemic or even a completely non-Covid related point, we are keen to get your (hopefully succinct) questions.
We will then put them to our panel of former DUP health minister Jim Wells, SDLP executive committee chair Colin McGrath and Sinn Féin’s Sinead Ennis who topped the poll in South Down back in 2017.
You can email your questions to Inside.Politics@bbc.co.uk or tweet them using our hashtag #bbcip
Inside Politics Q&A will be available as a webcast on this site on Monday, then will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster at 06:00 BST on Tuesday morning and you can also listen to it via BBC Sounds.
Politics Podcast: How A Supreme Court Vacancy Will Shape The Election – FiveThirtyEight
In this emergency installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing and how the political fight around the new vacancy on the court might unfold.
You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
John Turner, PM and Liberal leader who battled free trade with U.S., dead at 91 – CBC.ca
John Turner, Canada’s 17th prime minister who spent decades in federal politics as a cabinet minister and Liberal Party leader during some of the most turbulent moments in modern Canadian history, has died at 91.
Turner led Canada for 79 days in the summer of 1984 — the second-shortest time in office of any prime minister.
Dubbed “Canada’s Kennedy” as a stylish, up-and-coming young MP in the early 1960s, Turner was Pierre Trudeau’s chief anglophone lieutenant in cabinet for years. Turner served as justice minister when the government decriminalized homosexuality and suspended civil liberties during the October Crisis in 1970, and was the finance minister as Ottawa struggled to control deficit spending and inflation during the oil crisis.
After a shock resignation from Trudeau’s government and a period of self-imposed exile on Bay Street, Turner eventually completed his climb to the Liberal leadership in the mid-1980s. But he inherited a party suffering from years of accumulated scandals and an electorate ready for change after more than two decades of nearly unbroken Liberal rule.
In the end, Turner’s most enduring moments in federal politics came once his short stint at 24 Sussex was over — namely, years of bitter battles waged with Brian Mulroney over free trade with the United States. They were fierce fights that Turner eventually lost, but the legacy of those debates continues to shape Canadian politics today.
Turner was born in the English town of Richmond upon Thames on June 7, 1929. When his father died just three years later, his Canadian-born mother moved the family to Canada, where they eventually settled in Ottawa’s posh Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood, surrounded by members of the country’s ruling political class.
After the Second World War, his mother remarried — to industrialist and future B.C. lieutenant governor Frank Ross — and the family moved west, where Turner attended the University of British Columbia. He became a track star, setting a national record for the 100-yard dash in 1947, and narrowly missed his chance to compete at the 1948 Olympics after smashing his knee in a car accident.
“Chick,” as the popular athlete became known, graduated from UBC in 1949 and received a Rhodes scholarship to study law at Oxford. He was called to the bar in London and started a doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris, but he returned to Canada in 1953 before it was completed, joining the Montreal law firm Stikeman Elliott shortly thereafter.
Turner’s first taste of national politics came when C.D. Howe, the storied “Minister of Everything” under Mackenzie King, recruited him in 1957 to help organize a Liberal re-election campaign.
The young lawyer’s profile swelled within the Liberal ranks as he started speaking at policy conventions, but it truly took off after he made headlines worldwide for dancing with Princess Margaret during a 1958 royal tour of British Columbia. Letters from the princess published in 2015 revealed she “nearly married him,” and it was reported the pair only broke up after Buckingham Palace ordered an end to the relationship.
In 1961, with the Liberals languishing in opposition and eager to recruit young talent, Turner was wooed into running for the party in the 1962 federal election.
The 32-year-old lawyer accepted, winning his Montreal riding and joining a cohort of rookie lawmakers — including Herb Gray and Gerald Regan — that Maclean’s magazine called “probably the brightest group of MPs ever to appear simultaneously in a Canadian Parliament.”
Turner married his wife, Geills McCrae Kilgour, in 1963, at a time when he was quickly rising within the Liberal caucus. By 1965, he had joined Lester Pearson’s cabinet as minister without portfolio, and by 1967 he was minister of consumer and corporate affairs.
When Pearson stepped down as prime minister in 1967, Turner eagerly entered the race to replace him on an anti-establishment platform that pledged to lower the voting age and improve skills training for young Canadians.
“My time is now and now is no time for mellow men,” Turner told delegates at the 1968 Liberal leadership convention.
Trudeau emerged the victor at that convention, but Turner hung on until the final ballot. The 195 delegates who stuck with him until the bitter end were rumoured to have subsequently formed the “195 Club,” a secretive cadre of well-placed political organizers quietly waiting for his next leadership campaign.
Trudeau heir apparent
The promising Liberal would soon be considered Trudeau’s heir apparent and the natural choice to continue the Liberals’ traditional anglophone-francophone leadership rotation.
Appointed justice minister in 1968, Turner championed key reforms to Canada’s Criminal Code that opened the door to LGBTQ rights and legal abortions. He also implemented, defended and eventually dismantled the controversial War Measures Act during the FLQ crisis and appointed Canada’s first Jewish Supreme Court justice, Bora Laskin.
Shuffled into the finance portfolio in 1972, Turner faced mounting economic pressures due to the global oil crisis. He also became the government’s main economic interlocutor with the White House, playing tennis with Treasury Secretary George Schultz and frequently ironing out bilateral issues over dinner with President Richard Nixon.
Successive Turner budgets prioritized low unemployment levels, but at the cost of double-digit inflation and soaring deficits. Still, some Liberals would later defend Turner as a voice of fiscal prudence at the Trudeau cabinet table, implementing the government’s policy in public but privately advocating restraint while other ministers clamoured for ever-bigger budgets.
In time, Turner and Trudeau developed a notorious rivalry, and after 10 years as a senior minister in the Trudeau government, Turner resigned from cabinet in 1975 with a terse, enigmatic letter.
Waiting in the wings
Turner formally vacated his seat in Parliament in 1976 and decamped with his wife and four children to Toronto. On Bay Street, he became a high-paid lawyer at McMillan Binch and joined the boards of some of Canada’s most powerful companies, including Canadian Pacific, Seagram’s and Holt Renfrew.
He remained in Toronto for the ensuing eight years, refusing to give interviews but maintaining a public profile as the Liberal Party’s leader-in-waiting.
Turner would also prove a thorn in the side for many former cabinet colleagues, pumping out corporate newsletters to clients that lambasted the Liberals’ economic policies. While Jean Chrétien, another of Turner’s bitter rivals, dismissed the newsletters as a “gossip column,” opposition MPs eagerly weaponized the missives in Question Period.
WATCH | Turner returns to public life:
After Trudeau’s second resignation in 1984, Turner finally won the top Liberal job, becoming leader and prime minister at a convention many saw as a coronation.
But he inherited a party sagging and scarred from too many years in power. Turner’s decision to move ahead with over 200 appointments proposed by Trudeau in his final days as prime minister cemented the party’s image as out of touch and too comfortable in power.
During the ’84 televised election debate, Mulroney eviscerated Turner when the Liberal leader unconvincingly argued he had “no option” but to follow through with the appointments. In one of the most iconic exchanges in modern Canadian politics, Mulroney replied: “You could have said: ‘I am not going to do it. This is wrong for Canada, and I am not going to ask Canadians to pay the price.'”
WATCH | Behind the scenes at the 1984 Liberal leadership convention:
In the end, the Liberals suffered a resounding defeat at the hands of the Progressive Conservatives, receiving just 40 of 282 seats — at the time, the party’s worst-ever showing.
Turner had been prime minister for little more than 11 weeks. Only Charles Tupper held the country’s top job for less time — 68 days in 1896.
Turner hung on as Liberal leader, however, rebuilding the party and duelling with Mulroney over the Meech Lake Accord and, most memorably, Canada’s trading relationship with the U.S. — a battle he called “the fight of my life.”
He also weathered the firestorm created by Reign of Error, a searing biography by journalist Greg Weston that portrayed Turner as a heavy-drinking, hypocritical loose cannon. One CBC reporter said it was “written with acid.”
Free trade fight
Fearing the impact Mulroney’s Free Trade Agreement would have on Canadian sovereignty, Turner made the controversial move in 1988 to instruct Liberal senators to block legislation that would have ratified the deal.
Turner was accused of misusing the powers of the unelected Senate, but told CBC’s Bill Cameron at the time, “I believe if Canadians are given a choice to vote on this trade deal, people will reject it.”
WATCH | Mulroney battles Turner on free trade in 1988:
The decision triggered an election dominated by Canada’s trading relationship with the U.S., during which Turner, with the support of Canada’s labour unions and arts community, fiercely fought the future agreement. In another iconic live TV election debate, Turner told Mulroney “You’ve sold us out” with “one signature of a pen,” and argued the deal would “turn us into a colony of the United States.”
In the end, although the Liberals increased their share of the House of Commons to 83 seats, Canadians returned the PCs to power with a second majority. The FTA was successfully ratified in Parliament, and after surviving an attempted caucus putsch, Turner eventually retired as Liberal leader in 1990.
Retreat from public life
In an exit interview with CBC Radio’s Dale Goldhawk in 1990, Turner said the trade agreement was “a bad contract for Canada,” adding “history will prove me right.”
He also said that he wished he’d done more to create opportunities for education, protect the environment, promote gender equality and “[bring] Aboriginal people back into the mainstream.”
Turner retained his seat in the House until 1993, but largely retreated from public life after stepping down as Liberal leader.
In 1994, he was named a companion of the Order of Canada and, in 2004, led the Canadian delegation of election monitors in Ukraine.
After leaving full-time politics, he returned to practising law in Toronto, but remained an outspoken advocate against the centralization of power in Ottawa, the manipulation of House of Commons debates and bills and the diminishing role of parliamentary committees in the legislative process. He also showed a particular interest in speaking about politics with young people.
“Democracy doesn’t happen by accident, you’ve got to work at it,” he told the Globe and Mail in 2009. “At the moment, Canadians are getting a little lazy about it, a little inattentive, and we’ve got to revive it.”
Turner is survived by his wife and four children.
RBG's Death Is About To Upend Politics Again : Death Of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – NPR
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a major cultural moment and has potential implications for the next generation of American society.
Just look at the images of people who crowded the Supreme Court’s steps Friday night after news of her death broke.
The Supreme Court hasn’t been this conservative in three-quarters of a century, and if President Trump nominates a replacement for her seat, and he or she is confirmed, it would move the court even further to the right and be difficult for liberals to take control of for a very long time.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is vowing to bring a Trump nominee to the Senate floor for a vote — despite his denial of even a hearing for then-President Barack Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee, with far more time to go until the election.
It’s unclear when that vote would take place — either before the election or during a lame-duck session. And it’s not clear if Republicans would have the votes to pass a nominee. It would almost certainly be close.
It’s also not clear how — or if — this reshapes the calculus in any way for the 2020 election. It could fire up the GOP base, which cares a great deal about the court. And it could fire up Democrats, especially women, to go to the polls for Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
But little has moved the needle in this election one way or the other, and those groups were already enthusiastic about voting.
So no one really knows how any of this is going to play out except to say that there is going to be some kind of fight over this seat.
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