As politics have become divisive over the years, sometimes voters will ask municipal politicians what party they are with or encourage their friends to only vote for candidates who are progressive or conservative. Historically, across Canada, though, municipal politics has tended to be non-partisan.
Cold Lake city council has to work with all levels of government and, over the years, that has meant working with conservative and NDP governments at the provincial level, as well as a Conservative and Liberal governments federally.
Sometimes it may seem, however, council is responsive to the ideological complexion of the city, which by majority is conservative, in their decisions, when it comes to, for example, voting down a mandatory mask mandate before the province implemented its own rules, or when council votes to write a letter to the federal government supporting the rights of gun owners. Occasionally, in the heat of a council discussion, a council member, in chamber, has publicly insulted government leaders of the day.
Outside the city council chambers, in the past, some on city council have publicly endorsed political parties; and partisan politicians at the provincial or federal level will endorse city councillor candidates in municipal elections. Some running for council have attended partisan events and posted partisan ideas on social media, which has sometimes run them into trouble when some people felt those views are too extreme, being either too far to the left or to the right.
The Cold Lake Sun asked candidates running for city council this year if they felt partisan politics belonged in the council chamber.
Council decisions should be based solely on what is good for the residents of the city.
While every person has the right to join provincial and federal political parties, I feel that it is best that civic politicians make decisions that will benefit everyone in the city. This can often mean putting aside political bias and looking at making a decision that is contrary to your political leaning. To me a good idea is a good idea, regardless of party politics.
Bob Buckle (Incumbent)
For most of us our belief system and values are likely aligned with some political party. All is likely unavoidable at any level. What is important is the decisions being made are in the best interest of Cold Lake and its residents. To date much of our success on council has been the fact that despite holding different political viewpoints at the table, we have never allowed those differences to prevent us from working together and making decisions in the best interest of our city. This is proven by the diverse political views on council and how far together we have brought this city during my time on council over the past 14 years.
It’s better for us to be neutral.
There needs to be a middle ground between partisan politics and remaining neutral in public when it comes to making council decisions. Being fully neutral can leave lack of reasoning when pursuing city projects based off of public needs therefore translating into lack of motivation. And, partisan politics can lead to extreme proceedings without consideration of all pubic needs in balance with reasoning. Therefore, neither completely neutral or partisan I believe is the desire in politics, but rather somewhere in the middle. You need both passion and an open mind when advocating for our city.
I believe that political beliefs do not belong in city council chambers. Since we are all one team, our personal views do not belong, as we are the voices of the tax payers and the population of Cold Lake.
As a municipally elected official I think you have to remain non-partisan, however, anyone who gets elected to public office is going to have different views and values that are important to them. Oftentimes these values and viewpoints will put them in a certain area on the political spectrum. I am open to all perspectives and understand that issues are often complicated, multi-sided, require discussion and thoughtfulness to form an educated opinion.
Vicky Lefebvre (Incumbent)
I don’t think a person’s personal politics should make a difference on council. You are required to make a decision on the behalf of the citizens. That decision is made with the information at hand and what you feel is best for Cold Lake. You need to be aware of who is in power and work with different political stripes. We have had Conservatives, NDP, and UCP governments. Whether you agree with their platform or not, they have been voted in by the people and you need to work with them. Everyone deserves the respect of the position and as a council we should be respectful. Trashing the government or publicly shaming someone or a group will not get you anywhere when applying for grants, etcetera, and pushing for improvements such as roads, healthcare, etcetera. To me it makes you look bad, as well as the council. It is okayto disagree, just be respectful about it.
I don’t think partisan politics have a place. It’s council’s job to work as a group, provide input based on the available information, offer strong leadership and do what’s best for the public.
Partisan politics at the municipal level is not preferable. I believe municipal politics is best practiced from a neutral position. I will approach each vote issue by issue. I will bring my life experience and perspective while recognizing everyone has biases one way or another. At the end of the day, as a councillor I am not voting my own opinion, but what is in the best interest for the community as a whole.
William (Bill) Charles Parker
I’m neutral in politics, but do accept that some have aspirations to further a career in politics (beyond council) and believe that this can be done effectively as it keeps council informed of what is happening in the (larger) political arenas.
I think municipal politics is the best form of politics. No councillor has to “tow the party line.” A councillor can think for themselves and can feel free to express their views and to vote on any issues. In my past city council experience, I voted with the information I had to make informed decisions about what the citizens wanted. And being elected to this new council, there will be times when not all council will agree on a decision 100 per cent and that is okay because, at the end of the day, “I work for you.” And I will always continue to work for you, the elector, by making informed decisions on your behalf.
I don’t believe there should be partisan politics at the municipal level. I believe the purpose of a municipal government is to put the community first. If you add political parties to the mix then there is room for the elected members to be torn between making the right decision for their community and deciding to follow along with their preferred political party.
Partisan, party style, politics has no place at the municipal level. Our job is to hold whatever government we are working with to account and lobby on behalf of our community.
This current provincial government however is trying to push partisan politics into our municipalities. Evidence of this can be seen in new campaign finance rules and also the inclusion of partisan referendum questions being made part of the municipal election cycle.
Despite the prolonged negotiation of Toronto Raptors vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri’s contract, the real drama behind the scenes has reportedly come to light.
The Toronto Star exclusively reported on Monday that Edward Rogers, former chairman of Rogers Communications Inc., had “actively fought plans” to re-sign Ujiri, feeling as though he was not worth the amount offered to him.
Rogers Communications Inc. owns 37.5 per cent of the Raptors organization.
On the latest episode of CBC Sports video series Bring It In, host Morgan Campbell is joined by panellists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin to discuss what Ujiri has meant to the Raptors, as well as taking a closer look into the deep-rooted issues that led to Rogers’ stance on Ujiri.
WATCH | Bring It In panel discusses Edward Rodgers saga involving Ujiri:
The Bring It In panel reacts to The Toronto Star’s report that MLSE executive Edward Rogers did not want Masai Ujiri to return as Raptors president. 10:41
Regarding the situation, Rogers had reportedly referred to Ujiri as being arrogant and not wanting to share his vision for the Raptors franchise. Campbell made note of Rogers’ admiration for Donald Trump and how he’s similar to that of the former U.S. President.
“All of these machinations seem Trumpian. You don’t really have a plan, someone rubs you the wrong way, or questions your authority, ‘fire him, fire him, fire him, fire her, hire a bunch of people who are going to be loyal to me whether or not they know how to do the job,'” Campbell said.
Zirin noted that although he should be aware of what his words mean, Rogers knew what he was doing when making that statement and also exhibited his own arrogance.
“When you have people born on third base and think they hit a triple, they tend to be arrogant themselves and say and do things that are not in the best interest of the franchise.
“If you’re willing to give Masai Ujiri the stiff-arm after all we’ve seen over the last couple of years, you really don’t belong in any position of authority of an NBA franchise.”
McPeak went on to highlight Ujiri’s foundational work that has helped elevate the franchise and league as a whole.
“I think the most obvious one, the elephant in the room if you will, is the 2019 championship run,” McPeak said, highlighting everything he’s done on and off the court, for and with the team.
“You think of all his philanthropy that he does off the court through Giants of Africa … people within MLSE and the Raptors organization are a lot of the people who help him on the Giants of Africa trips that he takes.”
Extractive economies shift burdens and risks down the world’s hierarchies.Illustration by Robert Beatty
In 1621, the Dutch East India Company—the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or V.O.C.—arrived at the Banda Islands with a formidable navy. The global spice market was fiercely competitive, and a number of European powers had already sailed to this Indonesian archipelago and tried to strong-arm the locals into accepting various treaties. The V.O.C. had recently sought a monopoly on the spice trade with the islands, home to the precious nutmeg. Nutmeg, valued for its culinary uses and its medicinal properties—rumor had it that it could cure the plague—had long been traded across vast networks that traversed the Indian Ocean and linked Africa and Eurasia. At one point, a handful of the seeds could buy a house or a ship. But the V.O.C. couldn’t secure a deal. The islands lacked a central authority; instead of kings or potentates, they merely had respected elders.
Frustrated, the Dutch turned to a military tactic of extortion they called brandschattingen—threatening an enemy with arson—and swiftly delivered on the threat, torching the villagers’ houses, food stores, and boats. Dutch forces captured and enslaved as many of the Bandanese as they could, and murdered the rest. Soon after the massacre, the V.O.C. became, by some measures, the largest company in human history, worth more than ExxonMobil, Apple, and Amazon combined.
“Like a planet, the nutmeg is encased within a series of expanding spheres,” Amitav Ghosh writes in his illuminating new book, “The Nutmeg’s Curse” (Chicago), which begins with this grisly episode. Surrounding the nutmeg core are other layers, notably a lacy red mantle called mace, which is itself traded as a precious commodity, while the exterior of the dried seed is grooved with ridges that evoke geological structures. Ghosh carves through the historical layers of the global exploitation of nutmeg and the genocide and domination that made it possible. “No trade without war, and no war without trade,” Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the fourth governor-general of the Dutch East Indies, declared.
Ghosh has a larger point. Extraction, violence, empire: all these perennials of human history tend to march together. The global marketplace, created and shaped by forays like the V.O.C.’s in Indonesia, is fixated on growth in ways that have led to an era of depredation, depletion, and, ultimately, disruptive climate change. Ghosh wonders whether our planet, after four centuries of vigorous terraforming, has begun to turn against its settlers, unleashing wildfires, storms, and droughts. It sounds like nature’s own version of brandschattingen.
Given that the heedlessness of the global marketplace got us into the climate crisis, you might be skeptical that more of the same will get us out of it. But many governments have adopted a hair-of-the-dog approach, embracing market-based solutions such as emissions trading and carbon taxes. The results have been discouraging: global emissions have been rising quickly, and we’ve fallen short on nearly every indicator of climate progress. (The aim has been to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 or two degrees Celsius, in the hope of avoiding the most catastrophic scenarios of climate change.) Although market-based approaches can yield incremental improvement, there’s little evidence that they can produce the “transformational” change that U.N. scientists say is necessary.
If the market is still treated as a default source of solutions, Ghosh suggests, it’s because, in a world created by corporations such as the V.O.C. and colonial sponsors such as the imperial Dutch, everything, including the planet, is considered a resource to be exchanged or exploited, and progress and “rationality” are measured in impersonal dollars and cents. Profit and security are reserved for those at the top of the world’s hierarchies, and are achieved by shifting the risks and the burdens toward those at the bottom. Some people get a storm-surge barrier—a specialty of certain Dutch multinationals—and exquisitely climate-controlled interiors; others watch their villages be swallowed by the sea.
If you’re wedded to market solutions, you’ll insist that our failure to act arises simply from suboptimal legal rules and market conditions. Maybe all we need are a few technical adjustments in pricing or institutional design. But our paralysis didn’t arise from happenstance. Every decade that we delay comprehensive climate action is another decade that certain companies can profit from their stake in the world’s energy system. Activists and reporters have exposed well-funded and elaborate misinformation campaigns sponsored by these companies. The revelations haven’t made much difference.
What Kate Aronoff shows, in her timely book “Overheated” (Bold Type), is that the “old-school” approach to corporate climate denial has given way to new, subtler strategies. Yesterday’s denialists insisted that climate change was a hoax, funding dodgy science and blitzing coöperative media outlets such as Fox News with industry “experts.” But under mounting public pressure many companies have withdrawn their support from denialist think tanks like the Heartland Institute; those companies are now funding academic research at big-name universities that shy away from overt climate-change denial.
One of the new strategies is to acknowledge climate change but to put polluters in charge of remedying it. Aronoff describes a 2018 proposal by Royal Dutch Shell, billed as a pathway to two degrees Celsius, that would have maintained similar levels of fossil-fuel production for decades. The scenario depended on carbon removal deployed on an immense scale—orders of magnitude above our current capabilities, and with potentially dangerous implications for food, energy, and water security. Earlier this year, Shell was rebuked by a Dutch court, which ordered the company to reduce its carbon emissions by forty-five per cent by 2030.
Despite such setbacks, oil and gas corporations have largely succeeded in slowing the energy transition that threatens their bottom line. Even from a technocratic perspective, though, our inaction on climate is irrational. Any serious long-term financial projection should take note of the fact that mass death, disease, and destruction are likely to make everybody worse off. One recent study estimates that as many as a billion people could be displaced during the next fifty years for every additional degree of warming, implying a level of social upheaval that might involve pitchforks. Even the International Energy Agency, an organization started by Henry Kissinger, now calls for a halt to all new oil and gas fields. Giant corporations such as Chevron and Exxon have been attacked for their inaction on the climate crisis not just by Greenpeace supporters but by their own shareholders, who insist that the safety of their investments depends on cutting emissions.
Why haven’t governments and political institutions forced a course correction? That’s a question taken up in “White Skin, Black Fuel” (Verso), by Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective, of Scandinavia. The book shows how, in the political arena, arguments about economic rationality get woven together with hierarchical structures and the pursuit of domination, portending what it calls fossil fascism. In particular, its authors are struck by how the European far right has used the “funnel issue” of hostility toward immigration to promote hostility toward renewable energy.
“Migrants are like wind turbines,” France’s Marine Le Pen has remarked. “Everyone agrees to have them, but no one wants them in their back yard.” To the north, the far-right Finns Party (formerly known as the True Finns) led a national campaign against wind turbines, featuring a press conference in which a man wept over the damage he believed the structures had inflicted on him and his family via infrasonic waves. The Party even published a cartoon—detailed in “White Skin, Black Fuel”—in which a Black man dressed only in a grass skirt makes hysterical climate predictions, flanked by a diminutive woman, evidently a Finnish regulator, who insists that “we have to spend more on wind turbines.” Oil companies have learned subtlety, but these far-right parties have other priorities.
“Even after fulfilling their ambitions in the region, the officials of the V.O.C. were never satisfied with their spice monopoly,” Ghosh writes. He attributes this reaction to a framework he terms the “world-as-resource,” in which landscapes are considered to be factories, and nature, like a native population, is viewed as a proper object of conquest. In Indonesia, the V.O.C. eventually followed up the massacre of a people with an effort to extirpate a botanical species. When the price of nutmeg fell, the company tried to limit the global supply of the spice by eradicating every nutmeg tree outside the Dutch plantations on the Banda Islands.
Spectacles of destruction like these would seem to reflect the often maligned workings of the profit motive, as people such as Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes have stressed. But Ghosh, mulling over why the world has been so slow to decarbonize, thinks that this explanation is incomplete. He wants us to reckon with broader structures of power, involving “the physical subjugation of people and territory,” and, crucially, the “idea of conquest, as a process of extraction.” The world-as-resource perspective not only depletes our environment of the raw materials we seek; it ultimately depletes it of meaning.
The authors of “The Nutmeg’s Curse,” “Overheated,” and “White Skin, Black Fuel” have different stories to tell about our bafflingly self-destructive climate politics. But they mesh into a broader narrative about hierarchy, commerce, and exploitation. An account of why climate politics is broken, needless to say, won’t tell us how to fix it. Still, these authors do venture some ideas. The second half of “Overheated” sketches out the contours of a “postcarbon democracy”; we learn about ongoing political efforts to redistribute the ownership of utilities from investors to communities, and about the promising 2018 struggles of public employees against the governments of fossil-fuel-reliant states such as West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. “The Nutmeg’s Curse” sees potential in what it calls a “vitalist” politics, and in an associated ethic of protection that would extend to “rivers, mountains, animals, and the spirits of the land.” Ghosh identifies this ethos, in contrast to the world-as-resource view, with peasants and farmworkers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America—places and people long seen as peripheral to history. He also draws our attention to legal victories by indigenous peoples, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, in 2012, that the rights of the Sarayaku people, in Ecuador, had been violated when an oil company dug wells on their lands without consulting them; and court rulings that side with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
These victories aren’t on the scale of the challenges we face, and the political proposals may feel airily idealistic—more of a wish list than a to-do list. Still, getting serious about climate change, as these micro and macro histories make clear, means aiming higher than defeatist “realism.” Climate catastrophe isn’t going to be averted simply by our changing the way we think about the planet and its peoples—but it’s likely to arrive sooner if we don’t. ♦
Facebook has known for years about a major source of political vitriol and violent content on its platform and done little about it: individual people who use small collections of accounts to broadcast reams of incendiary posts.
Meet SUMAs: a smattering of accounts run by a single person using their real identity, known internally at Facebook as Single User Multiple Accounts. And a significant swath of them spread so many divisivepolitical posts that they’ve mushroomed into a massive source of the platform’s toxic politics, according to internal company documents and interviews with former employees.
While plenty of SUMAs are harmless, Facebook employees for years have flagged many such accounts as purveyors of dangerous political activity. Yet, the company has failed to crack down on SUMAs in any comprehensive way,the documents show. That’s despite the fact that operating multiple accounts violates Facebook’s community guidelines.
Company research from March 2018 said accounts that could be SUMAs were reaching about 11 million viewers daily, or about 14 percent of the total U.S. political audience. During the week of March 4, 2018, 1.6 million SUMA accounts made political posts that reached U.S. users.
“A large amount of content comes from a small number of individuals,” said Katie Harbath, Facebook’s former director of public policy, in reference to the dangerous political content on the platform.
She argued that SUMAs’ proliferating posts hurt political discourse and said the company has failed to institute rules that could curb the spread of the inflammatory posts.
That’s backed up by disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by the legal counsel of whistleblower Frances Haugen. The redacted versions were reviewed by a consortium of news organizations, including POLITICO.
A Facebook spokesperson said the leaked documents don’t paint a comprehensive picture.
“It’s not a revelation that we study duplicate accounts, and this snapshot of information doesn’t tell the full story,” Facebook’s Joe Osborne said in a statement. “We enforce our community standards regardless of the kind of account that someone is using.”
Yet researchers who study misinformationin social media say the SUMA problem is a prime example of Facebook missing an opportunity to rein ininflammatory content.
About the Facebook Papers
POLITICO and 16 other American news organizations are publishing stories based on the Facebook Papers — internal documents taken by whistleblower Frances Haugen before leaving the company.
The Facebook Papers include company research, internal message board threads, emails, project memos, strategy plans and presentations that Haugen captured by snapping photos of her computer screen.
The disclosures were submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen’s legal counsel. The consortium of media outlets has reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress, documents that black out the names of many lower-level employees. The documents were previously obtained by The Wall Street Journal, but our coverage provides new revelations from the files.
The group of media outlets coordinated on an embargo date of Monday to ensure enough time for reporters to review thousands of documents. This collection does not include all the files Haugen captured, and POLITICO expects to publish further stories as more documents become available.
“Facebook has completely lost control over the ways in which its platform has sort of pushed content that is not only not credible but also outrageous and at times extremely divisive,” said Ramesh Srinivasan, director of the Center For Global Digital Cultures at UCLA.
The March 2018 research warned that SUMAs artificially promote certain political viewpoints by providing a case study of an account under the name of Daisy Nunez, a “likely SUMA” who was participating in “unsavory behavior” that the company’s policies didn’t adequately address and couldn’t contain.
The research author said Nunez posted hundreds of links a day — sometimes at the rate of one per minute — and some 1,500 each week of “sensational and highly divisive” content. She saved links and built “a bank of some of the worst, most divisive content, to reshare later,” the author wrote.
A former Facebook employee who had worked on SUMA issues, and spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity to avoid unwanted attention to their current employer, said individuals running SUMAs use their authentic identities across all of the accounts, evading Facebook’s “fake account” policy by not impersonating another individual. The fact that these accounts weren’t lying about their identities, and some had relatively benign uses, led to a reluctance from the company to crack down on them heavily.
Even so, Facebook staff regularly identify SUMAs by finding groups of accounts that use the same identity — same birthday, thesame or slightly different name — across multiple accounts.
SUMAs typically use the same email address and same first names across accounts, along with “other data that they recycle and that can be used to fingerprint people,” Haugen told reporters in a briefing.
The other former staffer said some SUMAs are benign, belonging to people who want to have separate personal and business profiles. Internal research from January 2018 viewed by POLITICO noted that they’re a trend with teens who want to keep at least one account more private. But SUMAs start to raise red flags when they post with great frequency.
Accounts that frequently post or comment, even if they do so manually, violate Facebook’s community standards against spamming. Yet SUMAs can easily wield their multiple accounts to avoid running afoul of the rules, simply by switching between profiles, the former Facebook staffer said.
“Duplicate accounts provide an avenue for people who are doing bad behavior just to restart immediately upon being kicked off the platform,” Haugen told reporters.
The company does move to stop people from making duplicate accounts in the first place, like redirecting them to recover their existing profiles.
Harbath and the former employee said Facebook could target SUMAs more aggressively if it chose to — particularly those posting dangerous political rhetoric. The anonymous staffer told POLITICO that the company’s existing algorithms are “pretty good” at detecting SUMAs posting political speech.
Facebook has also chosen to push back against more intensive efforts to remove SUMAs. The mere fact that an account is a SUMA usually isn’t enough to warrant a takedown. Instead the account would first need to make at least one or two clear violations of Facebook’s rules — such as posting violent, bullying or harassing content.
“When looking at a lot of these, there was a strong push from other parts of the company that actions needed to be justified and clearly explained as a violation of rules,” Harbath said, adding that they often did not have the “stomach for blunt actions” that could result in a “high number of false positives” — or accounts wrongly taken down.
Message board comments from 2018 show that staffers were torn about Facebook’s approach, with some arguing that since SUMAs represented real people they should be treated leniently despite their violation of Facebook policies on multiple accounts.
“A SUMA account represents the realistic views of a user, just under a pseudonym,” one employee commented in response to the March 2018 research that warned of the dangers of these accounts. “They generally aren’t posting as a drastically different individual or representing views that are not their own in an electorate to which they don’t belong.”
SUMAs make up a large portion of Facebook’s new sign-ups despite the company’s ban on multiple accounts. In a 2021 internal Facebook post titled, “Update on the FB unwanted SUMA problem,” one employee wrote that SUMAs comprised 40 percent to 60 percent of fresh accounts.
The same document warned that Facebook’s AI model that identifies SUMAs both undercounts them and underestimates their effects.
The problem is also evolving. Harbath noted some operators’ growing sophistication in using multiple devices for their accounts.
Facebook also could have business motives for leaving SUMAs mostly alone. Employees and academics who study social media ethics said trying to boot these accounts would likely disrupt sign-ups and use of the site, especially if people are wrongly targeted.
“You want the system to be frictionless, you want it to be easy to create an account, because that’s where the money” is, said Hany Farid, a UC Berkeley professor specializing in misinformation and digital forensics.
It’s unclear if a crackdown would have a significant effect on Facebook’s advertising revenue. The company said it has disclosed to Facebookers, advertisers and investors alike that these accounts exist.
“Nothing in this story changes the estimate of duplicate accounts we disclose in our public filings, which includes new users, or that we provide context on in our ad products, ad interfaces, in our help centers, and in other places,” Facebook’s Osborne said.
Farid was skeptical that Facebook couldn’t parse out these accounts and remove them — arguing that the company tends to downplay or tout its powers depending on whether its executives are being hauled up before Congress or recruiting advertisers.
“You can’t, on the one hand, monetize to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year phenomenal amounts of data and personal information, and then on the other side when it comes to mitigating harms, say, ‘Yeah, we don’t know how to do this,’” he said.
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