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Erin O’Toole’s Conservative party is stuck in a political wasteland

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On his way to winning the Conservative leadership, Erin O’Toole decisively beat his rivals in Quebec. But their battle was fought in a field of ruins.

In the big picture, the campaign in Quebec to succeed Andrew Scheer took place in closed circuit, at a potentially unbridgeable distance from the province’s political mainstream.

Year in and year out, more than 90 per cent of Quebecers tells pollsters that fluency in French and English is an essential requirement for anyone seeking a position of national leadership.

The consensus on the need for a division between church and state is stronger in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada.

Against that backdrop, the combined first-ballot showing in Quebec of 20 per cent support for Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan, both unilingual and both backed by the anti-abortion lobby, speaks volumes about the disconnect between the flagging Quebec wing that O’Toole has inherited and the province’s electorate.

The singularity of the results did not prevent veteran MP Pierre Poilievre from suggesting that a blue wave could be in the making in Quebec.

If only because his Ottawa seat is geographically close to the action in the province next door, he should know better. One can only hope Poilievre — in his current role as finance critic — brings more rigour to his analysis of Canada’s fiscal outlook.

Of more than 170,000 Conservative party members who cast a ballot in last week’s election, fewer than 8,000 were from Quebec. And while the party added thousands of members in the rest of the country over the course of the race, the opposite happened in Canada’s second-largest province.

 

The number of Quebec members who cast a ballot shrank by 21 per cent between the vote for a successor to Stephen Harper in 2017 and the latest leadership tally.

There is more at play here than the absence of a native son candidate from the 2020 lineup.

Between the last two Conservative leadership campaigns, the Bloc Québécois has risen from the ashes. By all appearances, its return to relative strength last fall was not a one-election wonder.

In a federal election this fall, polls show that the Quebec battle would be a two-way fight between the Liberals and the BQ. In the last Léger sounding earlier this week, the Conservatives had 16 per cent support, lagging 16 points behind their sovereigntist rivals and less than a handful of points ahead of the New Democrats.

When the Bloc does well, the Liberals tend to do better in Quebec than the Conservatives and the New Democrats. That dynamic has been in evidence for much of the sovereigntist party’s 30-year existence.

It’s particularly true in the case of the Conservatives, whose modest zones of influence in Quebec are all located outside Montreal, in Bloc-friendly francophone territory,

As often as not, the BQ helps keep the Liberals’ rivals for federal power at bay. And that is just fine in the eye of the many Bloc supporters, who deserted the party for the NDP and the Liberals in 2011 and 2015 primarily in an attempt to oust Harper’s Conservatives from power.

In a federal election that could take place as early as this year, the path to power for O’Toole is unlikely to run through Quebec.

At the same time, national polls and the leadership vote results suggest there is not an easily available alternative route through Ontario, or at least not absent a stronger NDP.

In the past, Conservative victories have often come hand-in-hand with a healthy showing for the New Democrats, at Liberals’ expense. It is not a coincidence that Quebec’s orange wave in 2011 came in tandem with a Conservative majority government.

As O’Toole takes command of the official opposition, the stars are far from aligned in favour of his party. And the challenging arithmetic involved in achieving a Conservative victory, let alone a majority, has consequences that go beyond the vote count on election night.

 

For instance, more than a few Conservatives believe O’Toole needs to reach beyond the confines of his caucus for star economic candidates. Some argue that would make it easier to exploit incoming finance minister Chrystia Freeland’s lack of corporate credentials.

 

Others simply feel no one in the current Conservative caucus inspires the level of confidence that would bolster the party’s case that it is best placed to navigate the troubled fiscal waters of the post-pandemic era.

 

But here’s the rub: the men and women who could make up a high-profile Conservative economic dream team to attract voters in Ontario and Quebec are more likely to be found in the Conservative electoral wasteland of Toronto and Montreal, where they risk being unelectable, than in the party’s heartland.

Chantal Hébert is an Ottawa-based freelance contributing columnist covering politics for the Star. Reach her via email: chantalh28@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter: @ChantalHbert

Source:- Toronto Star

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AGAR: SCOTUS debate's bitter politics makes its way up to Canada – Toronto Sun

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Article content continued

Anything else is opinion, and that opinion is shrill and self-centred.

There is nothing that says a president has to give up the responsibility even a day before being replaced.

Precedent is that 14 presidents have appointed judges in their last year and it has happened that a president has made an appointment after losing an election but before leaving office.

The issue should not be based on what one thinks of Trump. The issue is bigger than that.

So many Canadians weighed in on this in a partisan fashion that it is alarming how much the supposedly “American style” of bitter partisan politics has taken stronghold here.

That some politicians have a different position and a supposedly whole new set of principles (this is from both the left and the right) that they expressed when Obama was president is no reason to give up on what is right.

Because Senator Mitch McConnell argues that Obama shouldn’t and Trump should appoint in similar circumstances is an opportunity for us all to point out what a hypocrite he is, not to try to use him to frame our own partisanship.

Politicians are what they are and by nature they are partisan. Shouldn’t the rest of us at least try to be better than that?

The point of law is that it has to be as clear and unequivocal as it can be.

There is a process to change law. We can lobby our elected representatives. We can vote.

But it seems that the more we in the public insist that politics is a team sport outside political parties, the more the “us and them” mentality is free territory for our leaders to act in the interest of themselves and their supporters even more than they always have.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is guilty of various ethical breaches but to his supporters that is just noise from complaining conservatives because Justin is their guy.

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Who cares about character when your team is winning?

It is the sort of thinking that leads people to believe that because they have a strong moral sense – a subjective thing – that they are right, that burning and looting and general law-breaking is not only justified but called for.

Perhaps we are not so much increasingly partisan as we are narcissistic. Sounds a lot like Donald Trump.

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Some facts on B.C. politics as the provincial election campaign begins – Prince George Citizen

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VICTORIA — Voters in British Columbia go to the polls on Oct. 24. Here’s some of what you need to know about B.C. politics:

— The NDP formed a minority government in 2017 with support from the Green party after finishing on election night with two fewer seats than the B.C. Liberals, while the Greens had an election breakthrough, winning three seats and holding the balance of power.

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— The last time B.C. had a minority government before that was in 1952 and the NDP’s rise to power in 2017 ended a 16-year span outside government.

— The B.C. Liberals were in power from 2001 to 2017.

— Andrew Wilkinson became leader of the Liberal party in February 2018, replacing Christy Clark.

— John Horgan was acclaimed NDP leader in 2014 and first won a seat in the legislature in 2005.

— Sonia Furstenau has been on the job for about a week, being elected to lead the Greens on Sept. 14.

— This election has 87 seats up for grabs. At dissolution, the NDP and Liberals were tied with 41 seats. The Greens held two seats, there were two Independents and one seat was vacant.

— The Liberal Party of British Columbia is not affiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada and describes itself as “a made-in-B.C. free enterprise coalition.”

— The NDP was in power from 1991 to 2001 with four different party leaders during its time in office.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 21, 2020.

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“Politics as a chronic stressor”: News about politics bums you out and can make you feel ill — but it also makes you take action – Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard

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Who would buy a product that reliably makes them sad, or anxious, or worried, or overwhelmed?

You wouldn’t go to a restaurant you knew made you feel ill, or listen to music that drove you up a wall, or go to a gym where the equipment gives you a new muscle tear every visit. You might do it once or twice, maaaaybe three times — but it’s unlikely you’d keep signing up for more pain, day after day.

And yet for many people, that’s exactly what they experience reading the news — especially news about politics. The act of consuming political news is, for them, just misery — a daily reminder of terrible things over which they have essentially no control. That’s particularly true for people who don’t have a strong attachment to a party or candidate; committed partisans at least get the occasional joy of seeing their side win the news cycle — for everybody else, it’s just a lot of noise.

We’ve written before about the phenomenon of news avoidance and the evidence that it’s on the rise in many places, thanks to some mix of the coronavirus, Donald Trump, and the general sense that politics has gotten uglier. And some new research out of Canada shows some of the ways political news leaves people down in the dumps.

The paper’s by Matthew Feinberg, Brett Q. Ford, Sabrina Thai, Arasteh Gatchpazian, and Bethany Lassetter. (All but Thai are at the University of Toronto; Thai is at Brock University.) It’s a preprint, meaning it hasn’t yet faced peer review, but here’s the abstract, emphases mine:

Politics and its controversies have permeated everyday life, but the daily impact of politics is largely unknown. Here, we conceptualize politics as a chronic stressor with important consequences for people’s daily lives.

We used longitudinal, daily-diary methods to track U.S. participants as they experienced daily political events across two weeks (Study 1: N=198, observations=2,167) and, separately, across three weeks (Study 2: N=811, observations=12,790) to explore how daily political events permeate people’s lives and how they cope with this influence of politics.

In both studies, daily political events consistently evoked negative emotions, which corresponded to worse psychological and physical well-being, but also increased motivation to take political action (e.g., volunteer, protest) aimed at changing the political system that evoked these emotions in the first place.

Understandably, people frequently tried to regulate their politics-induced emotions; and successfully regulating these emotions using cognitive strategies (reappraisal and distraction) predicted greater well-being, but also weaker motivation to take action.

Although people can protect themselves from the emotional impact of politics, frequently-used regulation strategies appear to come with a trade-off between well-being and action. To examine whether an alternative approach to one’s emotions could avoid this trade-off, we measured emotional acceptance in Study 2 (i.e., accepting one’s emotions without trying to change them) and found that successful acceptance predicted greater daily well-being but no impairment to political action.

Overall, this research highlights how politics can be a chronic stressor in people’s daily lives, underscoring the far-reaching influence politicians have beyond the formal powers endowed unto them.

In the two studies, Feinberg et al. asked more than 1,000 Americans to keep a daily diary for either 14 or 21 days. At the end of each day, they were to record the political story they’d thought about most that day and their emotional responses to it. They were also asked to report other more general details about their psychological and physical well-being and their motivation to take any political action.

Here’s an example of one person’s 14-day diary. The blue line marks how negative their emotional response to politics was that day — here, high means more negative, low means more positive. The red dashed line is a general measure of the person’s psychological well-being. You can see that the two lines seem to move in similar ways. On days 4 and 8, when they didn’t think about politics, they were feeling pretty good, all things considered. On the days with big political news — a government shutdown, a Dreamer being deported, a major protest — not so much.

The diaries were kept in two waves, one in late 2017/early 2018 and one in late 2018 (during debates over Donald Trump’s impeachment). What did the researchers find in that first wave?

Results indicate that day-to-day political events commonly evoke negative emotional reactions.

When thinking about the most salient political event of the day — even though our prompt was designed to be neutral and did not specifically ask about negative events — people felt at least some degree of any negative emotion (i.e., above the lowest scale point) on 81% of the days and felt stronger levels of any negative emotion (i.e., at or above the scale midpoint) on 45% of the days.

And those negative emotions were indeed associated with feeling worse, psychologically and physically. “Similarly, within-person effects indicated that when participants felt more negative emotion on a given day than they typically felt in response to a political event, they experienced worse psychological well-being and worse physical well-being.” And the results remained robust even after controlling for variables like age, gender, income, and ethnicity.

Politics can really ruin your day, in other words. In this study, Democrats and liberals had more negative emotional reactions to politics than did Republicans and conservatives — but it’s hard to discern how much of that is about partisanship and how much is just about the specific content of political news on the days being measured.

With those surveys in the books, researchers went back for a larger and more diverse group of people a few months later. The first study was specifically of people who said they think about politics on a daily basis; the second one didn’t have that requirement. Again, it found that politics tends to bum people out:

People felt at least some degree of any negative emotion (i.e., above the lowest scale point) on 75% of the days and felt stronger levels of any negative emotion (i.e., at or above the scale midpoint) on 53% of the days.

Do negative emotions about politics predict worse well-being? Replicating Study 1, stronger negative emotional responses to politics, in turn, were associated with worse psychological and physical well-being at the between-person and within-person level.

Many of the subjects reported using some sort of strategy to deal with their negative emotions, like “cognitive reappraisal; e.g., reminding oneself that a situation is not as bad as it seems, or that even bad situations can have silver linings,” “distraction; e.g., tuning out of distressing conversations, or changing the channel from upsetting news stories,” or choosing to “hide their emotions from others in daily life (expressive suppression).”

For those of us in the news media, distraction is the most germane technique, being tied to news avoidance. In the first study, subjects reported trying to distract themselves from politics on 80 percent of days. Those who did felt better, reporting lower levels of negative emotion, but crunching the numbers found successful distraction wasn’t a “significant predictor of negative emotions.”

In the second study, subjects reported trying to distract themselves on 56 percent of days, down from the first one. (Seems logical, given that the second study included people who think about politics less often.)

But…successfully distracting one’s self from politics also, predictably, reduced subjects’ interest in taking any form of political action — attending a protest, volunteering for a campaign, donating to a candidate, calling their senators, and so on. In other words, political news might make you feel miserable, but that misery can be very useful in prompting you to do something about it. That finding proved consistent among Democrats, Republicans, and independents.

I should note that this paper looks at the impact of thinking about day-to-day political happenings — not, explicitly, the day-to-day consumption of political journalism. But the two are so tightly intertwined that it’s hard to put much analytical space between them; media reporting is overwhelmingly the conduit that brings these political happenings to their attention.

Although most day-to-day political events occur far away in state and national capitals, politics and its controversies have become a salient part of everyday life for many in the general public. The day’s political events are a common, if not central, topic of conversation in both online and offline contexts. Political discord and scandal headline the news cycle, are joked about on late-night TV programs, and are debated at the dinner table and around the office water cooler. Yet as central as politics is to people’s everyday experience, its impact on people’s daily life is largely unknown.

[…]

In line with the conceptualization of politics as a chronic stressor, we found that daily political events consistently evoked negative emotions in participants. These negative emotions predicted worse day-to-day psychological and physical health, but also greater motivation to take action aimed at changing the political system that evoked the negative emotions in the first place at both the between-person (interpersonal difference) and within-person (intrapersonal difference) levels.

Furthermore, we found that people commonly employed emotion regulation strategies to cope with this chronic stressor. Particularly when successfully using reappraisal, people experienced greater well-being, but less motivation to take political action, pointing to a fundamental trade-off between protecting oneself and taking action that arises when people regulate their politics-related emotions.

In Study 2, we found a potential means for overcoming this trade-off: Participants who used emotional acceptance — a coping strategy that involves accepting emotions rather than trying to change them — experienced higher levels of well-being, but showed no signs of decreased motivation to take action. In all, our results highlight the broad impact daily political events have on the average person, revealing the political is quite personal.

[…]

Our research shows that using certain commonly used forms of emotion regulation to protect well-being can come at a fundamental cost to taking action — an important trade-off that can occur when individuals successfully down-regulate their negative emotional responses to daily politics…

For instance, feeling outrage toward an injustice might initially compel people to join a street protest, but if they use reappraisal to convince themselves the justice system will prosecute the perpetrators, their outrage may diminish along with the likelihood of actually joining the protest.

Similarly, if they employ distraction, possibly because they find their outrage too intense to reappraise, they may divert their attention from the injustice, thereby minimizing their likelihood of taking to the street.

Such insights are important for activists seeking to mobilize widespread collective action. To effectively harness people’s negative emotions, activists need people to not reduce those emotions. Finding strategies that achieve this end should help activists facilitate greater action. Yet, it may come at the expense of people’s well-being, suggesting a complicated ethical trade-off between mobilizing people for a cause and impairing the well-being of those taking action.

Journalists who write about politics or who program cable news shows face a similar trade-off: Making people mad at the “other side” can be an effective way to harvest their attention — but it can come at the cost of making them miserable.

Some people are news junkies, and they’ll keep coming back for more. But others are happy to go watch Netflix instead.

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