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Ex-Bloc Quebecois leader, longtime Quebec politician Michel Gauthier dead at 70 – National Post



Former Bloc Quebecois leader Michel Gauthier has died at age 70 after a battle with lung cancer.

“Michel died in the arms of his wife and two children, his soul at peace,” Gauthier’s family said in a statement on Saturday.

Gilles Duceppe, the long-time former Bloc leader, spoke regularly with Gauthier, who’d announced last year he was fighting cancer.

“I spoke to him last week, he knew he didn’t have a lot of time left because of his illness, we spoke about life and politics, there were moments that weren’t easy,” Duceppe told The Canadian Press.

Duceppe remembered Gauthier as a good teacher who knew how to easily explain things concretely.

“He was a go-getter, it’s sad to lose him so soon,” Duceppe said. “I had great moments by his side. Beyond the differences we could have, we wanted, both of us, that Quebec move forward.”

Gauthier was MP for 20 years, first for the riding of Roberval in Quebec’s Saguenay Lac-Saint Jean region between 1997 and 2004 and then for the new riding of Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean until 2007.

He was one of the most recognizable Bloc members, at one time serving as house leader.

During the 2019 fall federal election campaign, he briefly joined the Conservatives to help organize the party’s Quebec efforts, saying he’d renounced sovereignty but remained a Quebec nationalist.

He announced his departure due to illness in May 2019.

Current Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet offered his support to Gauthier’s family.

“On behalf of myself and Bloc Quebecois MPs, I extend my sincere condolences to the many friends and relatives of Michel Gauthier. I wish them the courage that he has shown in his fight against the disease,” Blanchet wrote on Twitter.

Gauthier, who lived in Gatineau, Que., was born Feb. 18, 1950.

He began in provincial politics and was first elected to Quebec’s national assembly as a member of the Parti Quebecois in 1981 and was re-elected in 1985 in the provincial riding of Roberval.

During his time in provincial politics, he served as parliamentary secretary to Jacques Parizeau, who was Quebec’s finance minister.

He was head of the local school board in Roberval between 1988 and 1993 before making the leap to federal politics.

When former Bloc leader Lucien Bouchard left the federal party to return to provincial politics in Quebec, Gauthier was tapped to lead the sovereigntist party from 1996 to 1997, a time when it was the official Opposition.

When Duceppe was elected Bloc leader in 1997, Gauthier was appointed house leader, returning to the job he’d held under Bouchard.

After politics, Gauthier also spent some time working in media as host of the show “Gauthier” on the now defunct French-language network TQS.

Gauthier is survived by his wife Anne Allard, their children Isabelle and Alexandre and their families, his wife’s daughters Natacha and Katia, and their grandchildren.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2020.

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Identity politics in a pandemic: why coronavirus unity disappeared and may not return for the second wave – The Conversation UK



The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic transformed the UK political scene in the blink of an eye. At the start of 2020, the national political discourse had been swerving between being dominated by Brexit, the Labour leadership election and the sudden resignation of Chancellor Sajid Javid. In an instant, this was all overturned and replaced with a sole focus on battling the virus and the disease it causes: COVID-19. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost, whole sectors of the economy frozen or crushed, entire institutions reworked to defeat it.

Any event of this scale and tragedy is going to both draw deeply on a country’s identity and reshape it in some way. Britain’s identity was already deeply fractured by the EU referendum of 2016 and it would not have been unreasonable to imagine that this divide would make its presence felt in this crisis. Given the difficulties of the years since the referendum, in which expertise was challenged at every turn, we may well have expected a large section of the UK public to distrust the initial health message of the government in March of this year.

Yet this is not what happened. Instead, people rallied together. Over 750,000 volunteered to help relieve pressure on the NHS, people volunteered to join the UK’s huge RECOVERY programme at a rate faster than any other clinical trial in history and millions came from their homes every Thursday for nine weeks to applaud key workers. These events were not unique to Britain – but the way they were related to was. The NHS became perhaps even more central to many people’s notions of Britain than it was before. The BBC also saw record TV, radio and online audiences. These two institutions formed central parts of the national response, with people orientating their reasoning for helping around them – especially the NHS.

This matters because the government was successfully able to appeal not just on the basis of an amorphous healthcare system, but on behalf of an institution with a clear and important role to play in people’s identities. It was not the reason people wanted to help; instead, it was what people wanted to help. This was reinforced by the solemn fact that the virus killed and injured without reference to politics or other signifiers that had been driving division. People saw trusted institutions that resonated with their notions of self-leading and rallied to them.

What happened to ‘all in this together’?

However, that was the first phase. The sense of unity has since weakened considerably – and the government’s approval has drifted consistently lower all summer. While this shift pre-dates the most prominent story concerning the universality of the rules – the Dominic Cummings affair – we know that this particular scandal reinforced and strengthened that shifting attitude significantly. Once people saw that top officials were breaking their own rules, the game was up. Suddenly, people weren’t being asked to cleave to a trusted institution any more – they felt they were being taken for a ride by a government more interested in itself than in their wellbeing.

The Cummings story is not necessarily the reason these feelings existed, but it served very clearly as an episode that crystallised existing worries or played into doubts – a shorthand for why people felt distrust of the government.

A protestor outside Dominic Cummings’ house asks the question still on everyone’s lips.
Victoria Jones/PA

Now there is divergence again. On the one hand, people still identify strongly with the institutions that led the response to the first wave – and will again in the second. They saw how well people came together, and they value that greater sense of community. It resonated well with them, and informed their self-view – it was possible to bring people together, and for them to all act in a common cause. On the other hand, they see a government that considers itself above the rules. Further policy bungling over the summer – such as on A-levels and COVID testing – will have reinforced that scepticism.

The result of this is a public who feel a desire to trust politicians again, to keep the increased community spirit of early lockdown, and to overcome the pandemic to restore normality – but who also feel that the government isn’t in a position to effectively help them do it. And this is before the expected wave of high unemployment, whole economic sectors closing down for perhaps years to come, and the full impact of the winter on the NHS.

The government’s failure to capitalise on the activated parts of people’s identities – the institutions they cleaved to, the desires they express –has already cost it dear. It is not unreasonable to be deeply concerned about the cost for all of us in the months ahead.

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How the super rich and dark money influence politics : The Indicator from Planet Money – NPR



Courtesy of Doug Deason

We all know people with lots of money can gain special political access, but we don’t typically get an up-close look. Today, The Indicator explores the world of big donors and the millions they give openly as well as behind the scenes through dark money. Dark money is a largely unregulated channel of shadowy non-profit organizations that can spend unlimited amounts on political ads, and has enormous influence over the policies and laws that get enacted in this country.

Today on the show, The Center for Public Integrity shares an excerpt from its new podcast, The Heist, which talks to one rich donor about how the system works.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Newsletter.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.

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Ukrainian Politics Again Get the Better of a Would-Be Reformer – Bloomberg



A reformer is stepping aside in Ukraine for the second time in less than five years — and with a similar feeling of unease.

Aivaras Abromavicius, who quit the previous administration complaining about corruption, is awaiting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s approval to resign as head of state-controlled arms producer Ukroboronprom. While this time his exit is planned, there are parallels — namely what he deems waning appetite to tackle graft and overhaul the economy.

Zelenskiy, 42, was elected in 2019 as an untainted newcomer who could clean up Ukraine’s murky politics, which have been dogged by corruption and influence from big business since the Soviet Union collapsed three decades ago. But after selecting a reformist government, the president dismantled it on the grounds it wasn’t delivering results, turning instead to old hands. Some were even part of the administration of disgraced former leader Viktor Yanukovych.

The reshuffle disappointed investors and voters alike, with changes at the top of the central bank and complaints by foreign directors serving on the boards of state-run enterprises adding to the gloom. Zelenskiy’s popularity is the lowest since he took office.

Read more: Ukrainian Leader Backs Calamitous Reshuffle to Deliver Results

“Progressive people are replaced with conservative ones — this is the biggest risk,” Abromavicius said in a phone interview. “This staff policy may lead to corruption, for sure.”

Lithuanian-born Abromavicius, 44, took Ukrainian citizenship to become economy minister after protesters ousted Kremlin-backed Yanukovych in 2014. But he resigned in 2016, saying he faced pressure over appointments at government-run companies and accusing a lawmaker close to then-President Petro Poroshenko of graft.

He arrived at Ukroboronprom in 2019 to oversee an audit, and boost transparency, corporate governance and efficiency. While he waived a salary, the issue of pay for foreigners working at Ukraine’s state-owned companies is concerning creditors abroad.

Foreign nationals appointed to supervisory boards to lift governance standards have seen theirmonthly wages capped at $1,660 — part of measures to mitigate the financial hit from the Covid-19 pandemic. While the limit applied to all public officials, many others have now had their full pay restored.

The International Monetary Fund urges an end to the ceiling, which risks halting further disbursements from a $5 billion aid program. Some directors have quit in protest — including Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist who’d worked at Ukraine’s state railway.

“The president and his loud MPs don’t believe in good corporate governance,” Aslund wrote last week in a column. Foreign board members “have been working hard to try to improve Ukraine’s state companies. From the president (the only Ukrainian president that I’ve never met), we only receive insults and obstacles.”

At Ukroboronprom, a comprehensive revamp is under way but politics are acting as a brake, according to Abromavicius. “Everything slows down bit by bit with every political change.”

But with Ukraine’s lowly ranking in Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index barely improving since 2015, the reformers are struggling to make headway.

“A fight is underway for which vector development of Ukraine will take, western or eastern,” Abromavicius said.

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