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Critics may scoff at Pierre Poilievre, but any politician opposing him should be concerned

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Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre rises to question the government during Question Period on Nov.17, in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Pierre Poilievre is conducting politics in a way never seen before in this country, using remarkably effective videos to talk to people on their smartphones about the things that worry them.

He has figured out and matched the public mood at a time when that mood is dark. Critics may scoff, but any politician opposing him should be very concerned.

The Conservative Leader’s latest message takes on homelessness, deteriorating cities and the opioid crisis.

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“Do you ever feel like everything is broken in Canada?” he asks the viewer, speaking before a collection of tents in downtown Vancouver.

“In that tent city are people hopelessly addicted to drugs,” he says. These homeless addicts, he adds, “are the result of a failed experiment … a deliberate policy by woke Liberal and NDP governments to provide taxpayer-funded drugs, to flood our streets with easy access to these poisons.”

A Conservative government would cut funding for the safe supply of drugs, he promises, and would focus instead on tighter border controls, tougher sentences for drug dealers, and expanded recovery and treatment programs.

“This has failed,” he says, pointing to the tents. “But there is hope that we can turn these cities around, and save the lives of our fellow citizens.”

Carolyn Bennett, the federal Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, swiftly condemned the Conservative video. “The evidence is clear on this,” she tweeted. “Safe supply saves lives. We cannot afford to return to damaging, unscientific ideology at the expense of people’s lives.”

The minister is right. Safe supply does save the lives of those at risk from overdoses or contaminated drugs. And tough-on-crime policies have never deterred drug use.

Former Harper adviser denounces Poilievre drug policy unveiled in video

But policies to combat addiction don’t necessarily address the concerns of urban and suburban dwellers who wonder why crime is rising, and why there are tents in parks and homeless people on the streets.

“Everything is broken,” is a line Mr. Poilievre has used a lot recently, including in a speech to the House of Commons that he posted Monday on Youtube, where he cited rising inflation, increased mortgage costs, increasingly unaffordable food, rising debt.

He spoke of failing hospitals, millions of Canadians without family doctors, unavailable children’s medicine, immigration backlogs, deteriorating infrastructure, endless rules and regulations that make it feel like nothing is getting done.

It is fair to state that the Liberal government in Ottawa weathered the trauma of the pandemic reasonably well, and that all governments are struggling to cope with its aftermath.

But that’s not where people’s heads are at. Some are terrified of what’s going to happen when their mortgages come up for renewal. Some can’t afford lettuce. If they own small businesses they can’t find anyone who will work at what they can afford to pay. Emergency rooms are failing everywhere.

Mr. Poilievre is exploiting a growing sense of impatience at perceived social and economic dysfunction. And he’s doing it in a uniquely successful way: the short video, shot on the street, or in the airport, or at the diner, with the verbal glitches left in to increase the sense of honest communication.

There are few politicians who communicate as effectively as Pierre Poilievre today. Justin Trudeau in 2015 comes to mind. Then, the public was impatient after 10 years of dour Conservative government from Stephen Harper. They embraced the Liberal message of hope for a better, more equal, more inclusive, more environmentally responsible Canada.

Today, people are just trying to dodge everything that’s coming at them. Mr. Poilievre gets that.

He also gets that, in these times, the best way to communicate policy is not through a speech to the Empire Club, but on the street through YouTube.

Some of his policies are flawed. Shutting down safe supply sites will increase deaths from overdoses. Mr. Poilievre’s approach to the drug crisis will harm, not help, the most vulnerable.

But the most vulnerable don’t vote. Middle-class people living in suburbs – who may have a child who needs cold medicine or a mother who needs a new hip – do vote. And if they feel that nothing is working and government is to blame, then that is not good news for those governing.

Don’t be surprised if you hear Pierre Poilievre saying “everything is broken” a lot.

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B.C. Premier David Eby unveils his new cabinet

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B.C. Premier David Eby to reveal new cabinet with health, safety, housing priorities

Here is a list of British Columbia Premier David Eby‘s ministers following his first major cabinet shuffle since taking over as leader:

Agriculture and Food — Pam Alexis (new to cabinet)

Attorney General — Niki Sharma (new to cabinet)

Children and Family Development — Mitzi Dean (unchanged)

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Citizens’ Services — Lisa Beare

Education and Child Care — Rachna Singh (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for child care — Grace Lore (new to cabinet)

Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — Bowinn Ma

Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation — Josie Osborne

Environment and Climate Change Strategy — George Heyman (unchanged)

Finance (includes Columbia River Treaty) — Katrine Conroy

Forests and minister responsible for consular corps. — Bruce Ralston

Health and minister responsible for Francophone affairs — Adrian Dix (unchanged)

Housing and government house leader — Ravi Kahlon

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — Murray Rankin

Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — Brenda Bailey (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for trade — Jagrup Brar (new to cabinet)

Labour — Harry Bains (unchanged)

Mental Health and Addictions — Jennifer Whiteside

Municipal Affairs — Anne Kang

Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (includes immigration/foreign credentials) — Selina Robinson

Minister of state for workforce development — Andrew Mercier (new to cabinet)

Public Safety and Solicitor General (ICBC) — Mike Farnworth (unchanged)

Social Development and Poverty Reduction — Sheila Malcolmson

Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport — Lana Popham

Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) — Rob Fleming (unchanged)

Minister of state for infrastructure and transit — Dan Coulter (new to cabinet)

Water, Land and Resource Stewardship — Nathan Cullen

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022

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Bob Rae heads to Haiti in attempt at political consensus, amid possible intervention

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OTTAWA — Canada is trying to dislodge a political impasse in Haiti by sending one of its top diplomats to Port-au-Prince.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, started an in-person push for negotiations Wednesday.

Haiti is facing a series of crises as armed gangs block access to fuel and essentials, leading to water and power outages that are worsening a cholera outbreak.

The Haitian government has asked for a foreign military to intervene and push out the gangs, but opponents argue that might only prolong an unpopular government in a country that has not had elections since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada might be part of an intervention, but only if there is a consensus across Haiti’s fractured political scene.

Rae’s three-day visit will include talks with politicians, grassroots groups and United Nations officials on how Canada could play a role in what the Liberals say would be “Haitian-led solutions.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand gave no sense of what that might look like.

“We are making sure to be prudent in this situation,” she told reporters Wednesday.

“We are studying those contributions, potential contributions, and we will have more to say on that in short order.”

This fall, Canada has sanctioned 11 prominent Haitians over alleged ties to gangs, sent military vehicles to the country, and had Trudeau’s former national security adviser conduct an assessment mission.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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An anti-environmental group is shaping Oregon politics and policy – Oregon Capital Chronicle

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Shortly after this year’s midterm elections, an anti-government group in Oregon called Timber Unity posted a call to action on Facebook. It asked its followers to “bombard” Portland City Council members during an upcoming hearing over a proposed change to a motor vehicles fuel code.

The changes in the code would reduce dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels by “increasing the required percentage of renewable fuels blended with petroleum diesel.”

In its post, Timber Unity called this a “special eletist [sic] blend” that would raise the price of diesel, lead distributors to disinvest in Oregon and cause biodiesel and renewable diesel to “not meet specs.”

All of these claims were false, according to the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

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Timber Unity has been active in Oregon politics since its founding three years ago.

This year, it endorsed Republican Christine Drazan for governor. Even though she lost, other conservative candidates won and did so with help from Timber Unity, an increasingly active conservative organization with a decidedly anti-conservation agenda.

County commissioners backed by Timber Unity flipped several seats this year, including Ben West who won in Clackamas County, unseating an incumbent. In Lane County, Ryan Ceniga defeated Dawn Lesley, an environmental engineer who prioritized climate change.

Taking over these hyper-local positions has been central to Timber Unity’s strategy of political influence.

Timber Unity’s origins

In June 2019, truckers and loggers living mainly in logging country between the coast and Portland became fed up and angry over a proposed carbon emissions bill.

Many of them, including the trucker and movement’s founder, Jeff Leavy, viewed the bill as a means of killing jobs.

In fact, the bill would have financially benefitted rural communities, such as theirs, affected by climate change.

Known as cap-and-trade, the bill proposed that companies emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide would have to buy carbon credits at auction.

But the proposal galvanized workers in the industry who mistakenly thought that China would be able to trade in the marketplace and, as Leavy put it to me, “keep polluting this earth on our dime.”

After hearing about the bill, Leavy used Facebook to organize a protest at the Capitol in Salem.

Over the course of several weeks in June, truckers and haulers staged their rigs, coordinated a convoy and held speeches in front of the Capitol.

They called themselves Timber Unity.

Soon after that protest, right-wing figures, including anti-vaxxers and secessionists, joined Timber Unity.

The protests attracted national media attention and statewide political interest.

That month, each of the 11 Republican state senators walked out of the legislative session and effectively killed the bill.

Political alignment

Now over three years later, Timber Unity is still energized, even after some initial internal splintering and leadership changes (Leavy says he resigned).

The group endorsed several winning candidates in the 2020 election, and even helped flip a House seat that hadn’t voted for a Republican in two decades.

In a September 1 Facebook post leading up to this year’s elections, the group applauded then candidate and former House minority leader Drazan for joining a 2020 Legislature walkout by Republicans over a bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The news that Timber Unity endorsed Drazan wasn’t a complete surprise despite the fact that an early Timber Unity supporter, Betsy Johnson, ran this year as an independent.

Angelita Sanchez, a co-director of the Timber Unity PAC, told me, vaguely, that Johnson was “a yes vote on a gas tax,” which Sanchez considered a “bad vote.”

And Mike Pihl, a former Timber Unity president, was already listed as an endorsement on Drazan’s website.

Anti-conservation agenda

In interviews, Timber Unity leadership distances itself from extremism and right-wing figures, but posts on Facebook and other promotional materials reveal far-right ideologies.

In October, Timber Unity screenshotted a Vox story headlined “How logging, a Nike founder, and the alt-right warped the Oregon governor’s race” and wrote, “Well, well, WELL!!! Look at what we have here!!! The FAR LEFT EXTREMIST came out with a story today, and lets just say they are running scared and they give ALL THE CREDIT TO YOU!!!”

The group also previously promoted a rally with a poster that included a QAnon banner and members of the private Facebook group in 2020 included election deniers, QAnon conspiracy theorists and at least one man calling for war ahead of the Capitol riots.

The rise of Timber Unity mimics previous anti-government movements, particularly in western states.

The “Wise Use” movement in the 1980s and ‘90s, for example, wanted the expansion of private property rights and less government oversight on federal lands. Its anti-government and anti-environmental rhetoric was similar to that used by Timber Unity, which sees environmental and government regulation as an infringement on freedom and rights.

Pihl, the former president, told me there’s already too much regulation of the timber industry.

“We already have the Forest Protection Act, which is very deep and it’s 87 pages of regulation,” he says. “I have it sitting on my desk, I read it all the time and there’s so many protected already, like the Siuslaw National Forest. You can’t do anything there.”

Timber Unity has successfully tapped into deep-seated resentments over environmental regulation, and its statewide support seems here to stay—at least for now.

This story was originally published in Columbia Insight, an independent environmental journalist news site.

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