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Election-cycle politics will not solve Canada’s economic crisis of a generation

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Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole arrives on Parliament Hill Aug. 25, 2020 in Ottawa.

DAVE CHAN/AFP/Getty Images

On his first day as Conservative Leader, Erin O’Toole had what his office described as a “cordial” telephone conversation with Justin Trudeau.

Based on the way Ottawa’s political culture normally works, their perfunctory pleasantries last week – in which the Prime Minister and the new Official Opposition Leader chatted about their families and broadly exchanged some policy concerns – may be just about their last civil conversation until one of them loses his job.

That’s potentially a big problem, when it comes to charting a path out of the biggest economic crisis of our time. Because some semblance of collaboration, between the people currently running this country and those waiting in the wings to do so, could be needed to steer Canada into a strong position in the postpandemic world.

It’s not just that politics as usual should ideally be set aside in immediate response to the current emergency. On that front, there was some mildly encouraging news coming out of their chat, when the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr. Trudeau had offered briefings with Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam to help the Conservative Leader keep abreast of COVID-19 developments.

The greater undertaking, and the one partisans are likelier to roll their eyes at, would be for the leaders and their parties to try to find some common ground in plotting the economic rebuild to come.

Coming out of this unprecedented economic disruption, Canada’s government will join others around the world in launching policies aimed at reviving devastated sectors and igniting new ones to replace those that never recover.

It will be responding not only to direct effects of the pandemic itself, but to weaknesses it has highlighted (such as work-force supports, particularly for women) and global shifts it has potentially accelerated. Those range from decarbonization and digitalization, to mounting protectionism and a reordering of trade relationships driven partly by mounting hostilities between the United States and China.

The implementation of policy responses, and any impact they have, is going to play out over many years. And that means their effectiveness will be badly hindered if the strategy resets every time there’s a change in government or even if that looms as a possibility.

Consider industrial policy, especially. There are all kinds of things that Ottawa could do, as part of its recovery strategy, to try to attract investment – subsidies for specific sectors, tax breaks, infrastructure upgrades, skills training. But investors will be hesitant to make long-term commitments based on any of those, if they know the incentives could be abruptly yanked away whenever there is an election.

In a functioning democracy, rival parties obviously need to offer varying options to voters. And when it comes to economic policy, the two leading Canadian ones have genuine differences of opinion. Mr. O’Toole has signalled, for instance, a more skeptical approach toward dealings with China than the one Mr. Trudeau has taken. His Conservatives will in almost any scenario be somewhat more concerned by the scale of deficits than will Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals, more inclined toward tax cuts, more unreservedly supportive of fossil fuel industries.

But the parties also agree on more than they like to let on. Based on some of Mr. O’Toole’s leadership-campaign messaging around the pandemic’s lesson that Canada needs to be more “self-reliant,” and on recent conversations with Conservative policy experts, that may include some shift away from the relatively laissez-faire economic approach that has been in vogue since the 1980s. And to some extent it could involve an embrace of more interventionist approaches to building competitive advantages.

They also may not be that far apart on the need to modernize supports to promote what the Liberals call “inclusive growth,” which is to say reducing pre-existing economic inequalities rather than having more Canadians left out of the recovery. The Tories’ criticism of the Liberals’ early steps toward employment-insurance reform has been fairly muted, for instance, and there has been less reflexive Conservative dismissal of calls for a national daycare program than when the Liberals implemented one 15 years ago, only to have it swiftly scrapped when Stephen Harper took office.

But even in areas where parties may broadly agree, there is always a risk of a new government reinventing the wheel, to avoid their predecessors getting any credit, and in the process slowing the path to whatever the intended outcome.

Ideally, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. O’Toole may respond to the stakes of this pivotal moment in history by establishing a continuing dialogue with each other. Along with leaders of the other parties, they could find agreement on certain policy priorities and some of the means to pursue them, then make those publicly known to help build public and investor confidence.

That wouldn’t necessitate glossing over differences, necessarily. If they agreed that clean-economy transition is a worthy goal, for example, they could still continue to have differing takes on the merits of a carbon tax. But they could also conceivably agree on specific green sectors that they want to support, particular forms of research and development funding or loan programs and tax mechanisms that they agreed would help clean-tech companies scale up.

If lack of mutual trust makes that level of co-operation unrealistic, there’s another way that Mr. Trudeau could take some initiative – during this period when his government still has only a fairly vague idea of what its new economic agenda will look like – to try to avoid a recovery-planning reset whenever the Liberals lose office.

Rather than relying mostly on ideas and advice offered behind closed doors by ideologically like-minded policy advisers, he could establish a more public and more cross-partisan process. If, say, an appointed panel included some of the best and brightest from Conservative (and New Democratic) policy circles alongside those from Liberal ones, it could result in a consensus recovery roadmap that compelled future governments – whatever their stripe – to adopt at least some recommendations.

There would be echoes of the way Mr. Trudeau’s government approached the NAFTA renegotiations during its first term, when it enlisted high-profile Conservatives such as former interim leader Rona Ambrose and former minister James Moore to serve alongside labour leaders and others on an advisory council. But there would have to be a more ambitious emphasis on policy development and less of a pre-established preferred outcome.

Even that may be too much to expect, particularly when a minority Parliament has the next election perpetually looming. The Liberals prefer to campaign by suggesting that any popular initiative on their part will be reversed by the Conservatives. The Tories want to be able to pounce on any Liberal policy rollouts going awry. Neither often sees political benefit in shared ownership.

If those considerations prevail, perhaps it would be best for Ottawa’s inevitable late-summer election speculation to culminate in an actual federal campaign this fall. Possibly one of the parties would emerge with a majority government and some runway.

But even a four-year term would be over before the project of navigating the postpandemic future was complete. And it’s just as likely that an election would result in another minority Parliament and no more stability than currently exists.

A better bet, for politicians seeking to build legacies out of this dark moment, would be to seize opportunities to untether the coming rebuild from election cycles.

Source:- The Globe and Mail

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Coincidence and condolence: Dying together in politics – National Post

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Article content continued

Others are schoolkid legends or viral factoids that are not quite true, like Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, who did technically both die on April 23, 1616, but in different countries, Spain and England, which were using different calendars, so in fact they died 10 days apart.

Some simultaneous exits are curious coincidences, like Signe Anderson and Paul Kantner who both died on Jan. 28, 2016, 50 years after she left the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, which they co-founded.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause

Others seem not to be coincidences at all, but somehow causally related as expressions of intense emotional intimacy, as in the occasional married couple who make headlines for dying sweetly together in ripe old age, or the parents of former star CFL quarterback Doug Flutie, Dick and Joan, who had heart attacks in short sequence on Nov. 18, 2015.

Some just seem ominous. On the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Nov. 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis died of ill health in Oxford, and Aldous Huxley died of cancer in Los Angeles, tripping on LSD.

Few such death partnerships carry the political heft of the latest one between Bader Ginsburg and Turner.

The main contrast is how differently they matter to the wider public. Turner’s death casts the mind back to the past. Bader Ginsburg’s death does the same, but it also inspires urgent thoughts of the future.

Turner’s death has been treated in Canada as an opportunity to reflect on history, on the Liberal Party’s changing fortunes. Former prime ministers are under a newly critical eye. No one gets the saintly treatment any more, even in death. But Turner is someone who can be mourned at ease. He was not prime minister very long, less than three months in 1984. He had not been in the news lately, and had seemed frail in public appearances.

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Washington Politics Could Be About To Enter A 'Post-Apocalyptic' Phase – NPR

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Protesters rally in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home in Louisville, Ky., on Sunday. Soon after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, McConnell said President Trump’s court nominee will receive a vote in the Senate.

Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Jon Cherry/Getty Images

As if 2020 couldn’t get any more politically contentious, a fight is underway over a Supreme Court vacancy — just 43 days until Election Day, and as Americans are already voting in some places during this election season.

Raising the stakes even more, this is not just any seat. It’s the chair formerly held by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal and feminist cultural icon.

While in the minority on the court, Ginsburg became known for her dissents, and, in many ways, she embodied the spirit and strength of the resistance to President Trump. She stood against the social and cultural shifts conservatives have started to implement with Trump’s two picks making the high court majority conservative.

As NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported, Ginsburg dictated a statement to her granddaughter days before her death that read: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

A majority of Americans seem to agree with Ginsburg. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken over the weekend found that 62% of American adults felt the vacancy should be filled by whoever wins the 2020 presidential election.

That, of course, is of little concern to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Just over an hour after news of Ginsburg’s death broke, the Kentucky Republican vowed to press forward on a Trump replacement.

“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a statement.

That’s despite not even allowing a hearing for former President Barack Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia in 2016. That nominee, Merrick Garland, is the chief judge of the second-highest court in the country, the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Trump is vowing a replacement very soon.

“I will be putting forth a nominee next week,” Trump said at a campaign event in Fayetteville, N.C., on Saturday after taking the stage to chants of “fill that seat.” “It will be a woman. I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men.”

High on Trump’s list are Judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing, NPR’s Carrie Johnson and Tamara Keith reported this weekend.

Barrett, who has been a federal judge in Chicago for three years, is seen by NPR’s sources as a front-runner. The 48-year-old University of Notre Dame law professor and staunch Catholic was a finalist for the seat Brett Kavanaugh ultimately filled.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, a former longtime senator and Judiciary Committee chair, called on Republicans in the Senate “who know deep down what is right for the country — not just for their party” to vote against a Trump nominee.

“Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Sen. McConnell have created,” Biden said in a speech Sunday. “Don’t go there. Hold your constitutional duty, your conscience. Let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country.”

He added, “If I win this election, President Trump’s nominee should be withdrawn.”

“Hold the tape”

There are plenty of statements Democrats will point to on how Republicans are operating with a double standard.

“If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said in 2018 at a panel hosted by The Atlantic.

“Hold the tape,” Graham assured.

The tape has been held, but Graham has changed reels.

The South Carolina senator and current Judiciary Committee chair, who’s in a tough fight for reelection and who led the charge to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is unapologetically vowing to bring forward Trump’s nominee.

“Harry Reid & Chuck Schumer changed Senate rules to try and stack the courts for Obama,” Graham tweeted Saturday. “Now it’s coming back to haunt them as I predicted. I’m dead set on confirming.”

There has certainly been very little consistency among Republicans on this. They are arguing that 2016 was different because different parties controlled the White House and Senate. This time, Republicans control both.

All about power

As a candidate, Trump cut through all that and was blunt about his calculation.

“If I were president now, I would certainly want to try and nominate a justice,” Trump said during a February 2016 presidential primary debate after Scalia’s death. “I’m absolutely sure that President Obama will try and do it. I hope that our Senate is going to be able — Mitch, and the entire group, is going to be able to do something about it.”

He added, “I think it’s up to Mitch McConnell and everybody else to stop it. It’s called delay, delay, delay.”

Translation: It’s not OK for Obama to do it, because it’s bad for my side. But it’s OK for me to do it, because it is good for my side.

This is all about political power.

Remember, there’s no filibuster anymore for Supreme Court nominations. McConnell blew that up to get Trump nominees Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh onto the court. So Republicans need a simple majority to get another Trump nominee through.

If Democrats stick together, Republicans can lose just three votes and still confirm a justice with Vice President Pence coming in to break a tie.

Two Republicans have already said they would hold firm and vote against a nominee because of the 2016 precedent of not allowing a vote on Garland — Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a tough reelection fight, as well as Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

Democrats are hoping to persuade Utah’s Mitt Romney, who has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s, to do the same. But that leaves them one vote short.

Their hopes for a fourth got a little dimmer on Sunday when retiring Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander sided with McConnell. He said he would have no problem voting for a Trump nominee as long as he or she is intelligent and of good “character” and “temperament.”

“We have arrows in our quiver”

There isn’t a lot Democrats can do procedurally to stop this, but they’re going to try. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told his caucus in a Saturday night call that no options are off the table.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on ABC’s This Week did not rule out the possibility of going so far as impeaching Trump again or Attorney General William Barr. (Impeachment takes precedence in Congress, and an impeachment resolution would force the Senate to take up a trial and could, in theory, delay a nomination.)

“We have our options,” Pelosi said. “We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now.”

Asked to clarify that she wasn’t ruling anything out, she said, “Good morning. Sunday morning.” She added, “When we weigh the equities, defending our democracy requires us to use every arrow in our quiver.

Some on the left want Democrats to threaten that if Biden wins the White House and they take over the Senate, they will play hardball. That includes eliminating the filibuster for legislation; passing statehood for Washington, D.C., to likely give Democrats two more senators; and passing legislation to expand the number of justices who can sit on the Supreme Court. (One bit of evidence for how fired up Democrats are: ActBlue says it raised more than $91 million in the 28 hours after Ginsburg’s death.)

It’s just the latest chapter in the Washington political arms race. McConnell justified ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees because former Democratic leader Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster for federal judges after record obstruction from the McConnell-led Republican minority.

As the formerly genteel modern Senate goes, that was considered “going nuclear.”

If blowing up the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees was “going nuclear,” we might be about to enter a phase of “post-apocalyptic” governance in Washington.

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Coincidence and condolence: Dying together in politics – Fort McMurray Today

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Bader Ginsburg, therefore, is the Kennedy to Turner’s Lewis and Huxley. She is the Diana to his Mother Teresa

Late U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Former Prime Minister of Canada John Turner are pictured here.

Postmedia Network

John Turner, a former Prime Minister of Canada, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifetime Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, both died on Friday night.

Dying accidentally together like this has created many historical odd couples, such as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third American Presidents, who both died with a poignant flourish for the calendar on July 4, Independence Day, 1826.

Sometimes one death eclipses the other in the public’s capacity for mourning, as when Mother Teresa passed almost unnoticed a few days after Princess Diana in 1997. Likewise, Farrah Fawcett died of cancer on the morning of June 25, 2009, and was the big celebrity news of the day until TMZ reported in the afternoon that Michael Jackson also died that day.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause. The civil rights leader, statesman and “conscience of Congress” John Lewis died on July 17 this year, the same day as the preacher C.T. Vivian, who was also a civil rights leader going back to the inner circle of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Others are schoolkid legends or viral factoids that are not quite true, like Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, who did technically both die on April 23, 1616, but in different countries, Spain and England, which were using different calendars, so in fact they died 10 days apart.

Some simultaneous exits are curious coincidences, like Signe Anderson and Paul Kantner who both died on Jan. 28, 2016, 50 years after she left the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, which they co-founded.

Some death partnerships seem to elevate each other in solidarity with a common cause

Others seem not to be coincidences at all, but somehow causally related as expressions of intense emotional intimacy, as in the occasional married couple who make headlines for dying sweetly together in ripe old age, or the parents of former star CFL quarterback Doug Flutie, Dick and Joan, who had heart attacks in short sequence on Nov. 18, 2015.

Some just seem ominous. On the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Nov. 22, 1963, C.S. Lewis died of ill health in Oxford, and Aldous Huxley died of cancer in Los Angeles, tripping on LSD.

Few such death partnerships carry the political heft of the latest one between Bader Ginsburg and Turner.

The main contrast is how differently they matter to the wider public. Turner’s death casts the mind back to the past. Bader Ginsburg’s death does the same, but it also inspires urgent thoughts of the future.

Turner’s death has been treated in Canada as an opportunity to reflect on history, on the Liberal Party’s changing fortunes. Former prime ministers are under a newly critical eye. No one gets the saintly treatment any more, even in death. But Turner is someone who can be mourned at ease. He was not prime minister very long, less than three months in 1984. He had not been in the news lately, and had seemed frail in public appearances.

His death is an opportunity to appreciate a unique life of leadership, but it will not disrupt Canadian politics.

Bader Ginsburg, on the other hand, has set off a tumult by dying because her vacant seat on the top court hands an opportunity to President Donald Trump to replace her.

They have become footnotes to each other’s obituaries

“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” she dictated to her granddaughter Clara Spera a few days before she died.

Trump and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell indicated over the weekend they intend to ensure that wish does not come true — Trump by nominating a replacement judge in the next month, and McConnell by speeding a confirmation vote.

Mourning Bader Ginsburg, therefore, has a sense of political urgency that mourning Turner does not.

Her death is not merely an opportunity to reflect on her role as the liberal grandee of the court, famous for her consensus building with conservatives like her friend the late Antonin Scalia, and credited by progressives with securing important votes on deeply divisive issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Rather, it is bound up in a presidential election both sides describe as the all-or-nothing struggle for America’s soul.

This sense of historical import came through in the impromptu singing of Amazing Grace by mourners on the steps of the Supreme Court, a Christian hymn for a Jewish judge in a distinctively American irony. Moments like this illustrate how different America can be from Canada, where judicial appointments are not unto death, let alone so nakedly politicized.

Bader Ginsburg, therefore, is the Kennedy to Turner’s Lewis and Huxley. She is the Diana to his Mother Teresa, coming chronologically first and to far greater hoopla. They have become — like the filmmaker Orson Welles and the actor Yul Brynner who both died on Oct. 10, 1985 — footnotes to each other’s obituaries.

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