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From autism to public health, a year of backtracks in Ontario politics – National Post

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TORONTO — Doug Ford’s government has backtracked on about a dozen policies and promises this year — an unprecedented amount symptomatic of an on-the-fly style of governing that marked his early days in power, critics and observers say.

From a wildly unpopular Ontario autism program to cuts to municipal public health and childcare funding to a promise to upload Toronto’s subway, the year has seen many significant plans yanked back, often after outcry reached a fever pitch.

“I think the bottom line is their cut-first-and-think-later approach to governing simply isn’t working,” said Green party Leader Mike Schreiner. “They’re essentially admitting it’s not working either, given how many things they’ve backtracked on.”

Early this year, the backtracks began when the government scrapped an element of a then-proposed law that could have opened up the province’s protected Greenbelt to development. The Tories had faced criticism over it, but nowhere near the level that was still to come over a new autism program announced the following month.

Then-social services minister Lisa MacLeod announced that the government would clear 23,000 children from the waiting list by giving everyone up to either $20,000 or $5,000, depending on age and family income — far short of the amounts needed for intensive therapy. Condemnation was swift and furious, with parents staging sustained protests over a program they said would ensure children couldn’t access the amount of treatment they need.

After initially standing firm, by the next month the plan had essentially been scrapped, and in June so was the minister, demoted in a cabinet shuffle.

That shuffle, which saw many top ministers moved around and many new faces promoted into cabinet, marked a reset of sorts, said Jamie Ellerton, principal at Conaptus public relations and a former Tory staffer.

“I think if you look at the combative defiance that defined the early tenure of this government it was clear it wasn’t resonating with the province,” he said. “There was a lot of on-the-fly, learn-as-you’re-going processes in this government and I think they kind of changed out of necessity.”

The day after the cabinet shuffle also saw the departure of the premier’s controversial chief of staff, Dean French. The new chief of staff, Jamie Wallace, has been credited for ushering in a more constructive and professional environment.

“They just kind of came out guns blazing in those early days,” Ellerton said. “They didn’t do the homework to kind of line up and listen to where people were at. One of the things they’ve gotten a lot better at doing in recent months is listening.”

That sentiment is echoed by the premier’s office.

“After moving at an unprecedented pace in our first year, we have demonstrated that we are a government that listens,” spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said in a statement.

The government also initially stood firm on municipal funding cuts to public health and child care, but after weeks of backlash from mayors including through news conferences, petitions, and a public campaign, the province reversed course — partially.

It cancelled the in-year, retroactive cuts that were the focal point of mayors’ anger, and later announced that most of the rest would go ahead, just on a longer timeline.

Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser said that was one example in which the Tories “softened the edges.”

“Some of the reversals, I describe it as they’ve taken three steps backward and one step forward,” he said.

Cuts to legal aid funding caused a huge uproar eariler this year, and recently the new attorney general announced that while this year’s $133 million — or 30 per cent — cut would go ahead, further cuts of $31 million planned for the next two years would be cancelled.

Teachers were upset by the government announcing plans to increase high school class sizes from an average of 22 to 28 and require students to take four e-learning courses to graduate. The new education minister has since partially walked that back to a class size increase to 25 and two e-learning courses.

“They’ve taken things from bad to much, much worse and now they’re walking it back a tiny bit, but it’s still gone from bad to worse,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

Genevieve Tellier, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa, said next year may see more reversals.

“My guess is that people will still fight because those who have been opposing the government kind of won,” she said. “So others will try the same tactic, I believe, because there are potential gains to be made…Will the government do it again? That’s where I’m not too sure.”

Other notable backtracks include deciding not to upload Toronto’s subway system, as promised during the election, un-cancelling plans for a French-language university, and swiftly revoking two lucrative foreign appointments after reports emerged they had personal ties to Ford’s then-chief of staff, Dean French.

In a more unusual scenario for this government, a backtrack just this month caused outrage, rather than the other way around.

Municipal politicians and transit advocates in Hamilton were incensed after learning the government was backing away from a promise to support a light-rail transit line there, citing rising cost estimates. The critics showed up to a scheduled press conference by Caroline Mulroney, which was soon cancelled, with staff blaming security concerns.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2019.

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Opinion: What started in Kansas upends American politics – CNN

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Sign up to get this weekly column as a newsletter. We’re looking back at the strongest, smartest opinion takes of the week from CNN and other outlets.

(CNN)In “The Wizard of Oz,” a tornado sends Dorothy and her Kansas home spinning into the “Merry Old Land of Oz.” Last week it was what Politico called a “political earthquake” in Kansas that sent the national debate over abortion into a new phase with many unknowns.

For decades, the anti-abortion movement worked to overturn the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a national right to abortion. But their long-sought goal, finally achieved in June, may turn out to be a case of “be careful what you wish for.” By a vote of 59% to 41%, the people of Kansas rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have eliminated the right to an abortion.
“It’s a huge victory for abortion rights,” wrote Jill Filipovic. “The result in Kansas confirms that Americans simply do not want an extreme anti-abortion movement regulating women’s bodies. Kansans have said what most Americans believe: abortion is an issue best left to women and their doctors.”
But she added that this was a vote which should never have happened. “Fundamental rights — and it doesn’t get more fundamental than sovereignty over one’s own body — should not be up for a vote, even if the righteous side is likely to win,” Filipovic argued.
Writing for Politico, John F. Harris suggested that the vote in Kansas, along with others that may follow, could scramble the legacy of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion overturning Roe. He may go down in history as the “the justice who facilitated a national consensus on behalf of abortion rights. Quite unintentionally, today’s hero of the ‘pro-life’ movement could end up being a giant of the ‘pro-choice’ movement.”
Tuesday’s vote in Kansas, which “mirrors polling showing solid majorities of people supported leaving Roe v. Wade intact, suggests that opponents of legal abortion do better when the prospect of an abortion ban is hypothetical, while abortion-rights supporters do better when the issue is tangibly real,” wrote Harris.
A moderate Republican, former Rep. Charlie Dent, noted that “the overturning of Roe v. Wade has energized a previously demoralized Democratic base and could galvanize college educated suburban women in particular … If the GOP can’t win an abortion fight in Kansas, imagine the difficulty it will face in swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”
“Coupled with Trump’s stolen election obsession, mass shootings and a growing number of extreme GOP candidates in competitive races, the unpopularity of the Roe decision may mitigate Democratic losses in November, despite vulnerabilities on a number of other fronts (namely, the economy).”
Dent also faulted Democrats for running ads that backed extreme, election-denying candidates in the GOP primaries in the hope that Democratic candidates could more easily defeat them in the general election. In Michigan, “the courageous freshman Congressman Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump just days after being sworn into Congress, fell to an election-denying candidate, John Gibbs, a former Trump administration official who was backed by the former President,” Dent wrote.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $300,000 on ads touting Gibbs’ “conservatism and fidelity to Trump,” wrote Dent. “I’m sure plenty of Democratic operatives are cackling over their success meddling in the GOP primary, but any smugness may turn into deep regret if Gibbs ends up prevailing in November. Those who play with fire often get burned.

For more:
Mary Ziegler and Elizabeth Sepper: The coming state-federal showdown over abortion

Nancy Pelosi drops in

China fired off missiles, flew jets into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone and called off talks with the US on issues such as climate change and military relations. The reason: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, which China sees as part of its territory.
While Pelosi’s visit sparked apocalyptic warnings and fevered headlines, Taiwanese-American journalist Clarissa Wei wrote that the people of Taiwan are mostly unfazed. “What’s most frustrating about the reaction to Pelosi’s visit is not the prophetic declaration of imminent doom, but the expectation of fear and the surprise that follows when people realize that we aren’t all panicking in Taiwan — as if the calm we exude in light of unprecedented threats is a symptom of our ignorance of the facts before us.”
Threats from China are nothing new. They have been a part of my life, my parents’ lives and their parents’ lives for as long as almost anyone in my family can remember. In fact, Taiwan has been under threat by the People’s Republic of China for nearly 70 years. The three Taiwan Strait crises are proof of that.”

Alex Jones

A Texas jury ordered incendiary radio host Alex Jones to pay a combined $49.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting 10 years ago. Jones’ legal troubles aren’t over by any means: he faces two more such trials.
One of the parents, Scarlett Lewis, even had to testify that her son “Jesse was real. I’m a real mom.”
“It’s an unthinkable statement for a grief-stricken parent to have to make,” wrote Nicole Hemmer, “testifying that her 6-year-old son, murdered while he sat in school, had actually lived, and that she was the woman who had given birth to him and raised him for the too-few years he was alive. But that was the testimony Scarlett Lewis gave this week at a hearing to determine damages against Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist and media personality.”

“After 20 children and six adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Jones began to spin lurid conspiracies that the shootings never happened and that the shattered families were simply actors. The conspiracy triggered years of harassment as conspiracists targeted the mourning parents, who have had to hire security to protect themselves.”
But as Hemmer noted, Jones is not a lone fringe player in the media world. He is “part of the right-wing power structure, from his interviews with soon-to-be president Donald Trump to his alleged role as an organizer at the January 6 insurrection.”
“More than that, many in the Republican Party and conservative movement increasingly sound like Jones, with talk of false flags, crisis actors and pedophile rings now a mainstay of right-wing rhetoric. And while the Trump presidency opened the door for the mainstreaming of Jones, it’s important to understand how ripe the GOP was for Alex Jonesification.
In Dallas, the Conservative Political Action Conference gave a warm welcome to Hungary’s autocratic Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“The audience cheered him on during his blistering attacks on abortion, immigration, LGBTQ rights and more,” Julian Zelizer observed.
“The illiberal and anti-democratic elements of Republican politics, which flared during the Trump presidency, are alive and well. As Orban’s popularity indicates, the profoundly anti-democratic strains that have been shaping the GOP keep getting stronger, not weaker…”
“The talk comes on the same week that several election deniers, as well as participants in the January 6 insurrection, won in the primaries. The assault on the 2020 election continues to be a unifying theme in Republican circles. Even if some Republican voters are tiring of Trump, his rallying cry animates much of the electorate.

Terrorist leader killed

Eleven years after then-President Barack Obama announced the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden in a US raid, President Joe Biden described the tracking down and elimination of bin Laden’s former associate, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
“The airstrike that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri over the weekend in Afghanistan is part of the long and justified campaign by the United States to bring all the heads of the terror group to justice,” wrote Peter Bergen.
Still, some of the claims about al-Zawahiri’s impact were overblown. “While Zawahiri was influential in the very early years of al Qaeda in turning bin Laden against the regimes in the Middle East, he wasn’t involved in bin Laden’s most important strategic decisions — that is, turning him against the US and planning 9/11. And Zawahiri proved to be an incompetent leader of al Qaeda when he took over the group more than a decade ago.”
Bergen added, “Zawahiri was not a charismatic leader of al Qaeda in the mold of Osama bin Laden. Instead, he had all the charisma of a boring uncle given to long, arcane monologues, someone that you would best avoid sitting next to at Thanksgiving dinner.”

Families in turmoil

Guy Reffitt was sentenced to more than seven years in prison, the longest penalty meted out so far to insurrectionists who took part in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. His son Jackson Reffitt had reported his father to the FBI on Christmas Eve 2020.
“The Reffitts’ story is tragic, but hardly unique,” observed SE Cupp. “Chances are, you probably do know someone who’s been sucked into the cult of Trumpism, as Guy was.
“Maybe it’s an aunt or uncle posting about rigged elections on Facebook, spreading Trump’s lie that the election was stolen…
“Maybe it’s a father, or a mother, or a brother, who’s gone down a QAnon rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, and is no longer attached to reality.”
“The carnage from Trump’s divisive rhetoric, lies, and conspiracy theories is incalculable. Trumpism is a powerful drug, one that can even cause a father to threaten his own child.
This was, incidentally, all by design. Trump stoked the fears and grievances of his base, turned Americans against each other, spread lies and conspiracy theories, undermined our faith in democratic institutions — all so that he could keep his supporters rabid, angry, willing to do whatever he asked. And sadly, many of them did.”
For more:

Bill Russell and Nichelle Nichols

On and off the field, Bill Russell was a leader. On and off the screen, Nichelle Nichols was an inspirational role model. Both died last weekend.
Peniel Joseph recalled Russell’s contributions as an athlete and a crusader against racism. “Russell was a 6-foot-10 center whose defensive prowess, rebounding skills and all-around leadership propelled the Celtics to 11 titles in 13 years,” Joseph wrote. “As if appearing in a news reel of the most significant events of the civil rights era, he was present, time and again, at key moments for the movement, from the March on Washington in 1963 to his visit to Mississippi that same year following the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers…”
Over the years, he never lost his willingness to call out racism, or a perceived indifference to it. In recent years, he chided White Americans for their incredulity — in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the racial and political reckoning that followed — about the existence of systemic racism.”
When “Star Trek” premiered in 1966, one of the cast members “was the cool, sultry, supremely self-possessed Lt. Nyota Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, still a relative newcomer to television,” Gene Seymour recalled. In an era when the civil rights movement achieved its biggest successes, Nichols’ role had a symbolic significance. Yet “she was discouraged by her lines being cut from some of the episodes and was ready to move on to the Broadway stage. And she would have left if she hadn’t met a die-hard ‘Trek’ fan at an NAACP fundraiser in Hollywood: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.”
King “told her that he and his family enjoyed watching ‘Trek’ and rooted for her playing a non-stereotypical Black character. She thanked him but said she was on her way out,” Seymour wrote.
“‘You cannot and must not!'” Nichols recalled King saying in her autobiography. “‘Don’t you realize how important your presence, your character is? Don’t you see? This is not a Black role, and this is not a female role… You have broken ground. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people — as we should be.'”
Nichols stayed with the show for its remaining two seasons and later would embrace “her importance as an inspiration and role model for young Black people whose dreams of space science and travel were emboldened by her character’s futuristic adventures.”

Don’t miss

AND…

Lizzo and Beyoncé heard her

It’s no easy task — getting the attention of two of the world’s biggest music superstars. And even more impressive, getting them to make changes in their work.
Yet Hannah Diviney, a disability activist in Australia, accomplished just that.
She called out Lizzo and Beyoncé on Twitter for including an offensive term referring to her disability in recent albums. Both artists soon responded and revised their songs’ lyrics.
“Words matter,” Diviney wrote. “They always have and they always will. Language is one of the few tools in the world most people can wield with ease and on social media even more so. That’s why it’s worth paying attention to how we use it. That’s why my mom always taught me the pen was mightier than the sword. If anything, this week has taught me that thanks to social media and the power of a well-crafted tweet, we have access to the mightiest pens of all. And that’s why I hope we can use this global attention to have bigger conversations about the inequalities disabled people face. From little things, big things grow.”

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Tory leadership hopefuls say it’s time for unity. Here’s what some say that means

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OTTAWA — When three Conservative leadership hopefuls met this past week for a debate, the same word kept getting repeated.

Unity. Or more precisely, the need for it.

In a contest largely seen as a battle for the party’s soul, which has put decades-old fissures on display between groups that make up its very coalition, what might it take to achieve unity after results are revealed Sept. 10?

As that question lingers, many in the party and beyond are preparing for a scenario in which Pierre Poilievre takes victory.

Much of that thinking is based on the longtime MP’s popularity with the existing grassroots, coupled with his ability to draw big crowds and sell what his campaign claims to have been more than 300,000 memberships.

But after winning comes the challenge of leading.

“Somebody has to give some thought to the morning after,” said Garry Keller, former chief of staff to Rona Ambrose, who served as the party’s interim leader after it lost government in 2015.

Of the 118 other members in caucus, a whopping 62 endorsed Poilievre. That’s compared to the party’s 2020 leadership race when the caucus was more evenly split between Peter MacKay and the eventual winner, Erin O’Toole.

O’Toole’s inability to manage caucus after losing the 2021 election to the Liberals ultimately led to his downfall. He was forced out by a vote from his MPs under provisions in the Reform Act, measures which will remain in place for the next leader.

Poilievre has said his campaign message of “freedom” serves as a great unifier among Conservatives. However, Keller said if some in caucus are taking that to mean they will be able to say whatever they want on social media, they shouldn’t.

“I think people will be solely disabused of that notion.”

Poilievre and his supporters have throughout the race been accused of sowing disunity in the party by instigating personal attacks against rivals, namely ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest. 

Most recently, MPs endorsing Poilievre — along with Scott Aitchison, a rural Ontario representative and fellow leadership competitor — have called into question whether Charest, who has spent the past 20 years out of federal politics, plans to stick around the party after the race is over.

Longtime British Columbia MP Ed Fast, a co-chair on Charest’s campaign, tweeted “the purity tests must stop” and cautioned party members that when Conservatives are divided, Liberals win.

Fast himself resigned from his role as finance critic after criticizing Poilievre’s vow to fire the Bank of Canada governor, which ruffled some feathers inside caucus.

“It’s a sad situation that Jean Charest, a patriot and champion of Canadian unity, continues to have his loyalty questioned by party members looking to stoke division,” said Michelle Coates Mather, a spokeswoman for his campaign.

“What’s the endgame here exactly? Lose the next federal election by alienating Conservative members who support Charest? Seems a poor strategy for a party looking to expand their base and win a federal election.”

While Poilievre enjoys the majority support of the party’s caucus, most of the party’s 10 Quebec MPs are backing Charest, opening the question of what happens next if he is not successful.

Asked recently about that possibility, MP Alain Rayes, who is organizing on Charest’s campaign, expressed confidence in the former Quebec premier’s chances, saying the party doesn’t need “American-style divisive politics.”

“I’m deeply convinced that our members will make the right choice,” he said in a statement.

The group Centre Ice Conservatives, a centre-right advocacy group formed during the leadership race, contends the party has room to grow if it leaves the fringes and concentrates on issues that matter in the mainstream.

Director Michael Stuart says both Charest and Poilievre have policies that speak to the centrists, and what they’re hearing from supporters of their group is a desire for more focus on “dinner table issues,” such as economic growth and jobs.

“There’s a lot of distraction with noise around vaccines and the convoy and those sorts of things.”

Not only did Poilievre support the “Freedom Convoy,” he used his message of “freedom” to campaign on the anger and frustration people felt because of government-imposed COVID-19 rules, like vaccine and mask mandates.

How he will handle social conservatives also remains an open question.

Poilievre has pledged no government led by him would introduce or pass legislation restricting abortion access.

Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for the anti-abortion group Campaign Life Coalition, said many of those who strongly oppose vaccine mandates also share values with social conservatives.

“They are largely pro-freedom, pro-family, and yes, even pro-life and pro-faith,” he said.

Social conservatives have traditionally been a well-mobilized part of the party’s base during leadership contests and helped deliver wins for O’Toole and former leader Andrew Scheer, who is now helping Poilievre in the race.

While Fonseca and other anti-abortion groups are encouraging members to pick social conservative candidate Leslyn Lewis as their first choice, he said the “freedom conservatives” Poilievre recruited will expect results.

That includes giving Lewis a critic role, he said.

“He will be forced to face that reality and to deliver policy commitments to the freedom conservatives and social conservatives that are his base.”

“If it doesn’t, the peril is you become a flip-flopper like Erin O’Toole,” he said, referring to walk-backs the former leader made on promises after winning the leadership.

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

 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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Former B.C. solicitor-general Rich Coleman is returning to politics – Terrace Standard

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Two years after he retired, former B.C. Solicitor-General Rich Coleman is returning to politics, this time at the municipal level, with the “Elevate Langley Voters Association” civic party in the Township of Langley, according to an Elections B.C. register of elector organizations.

The register lists former Langley East MLA Coleman as the “authorized principal official” for the party.

While he has registered a civic party, whether Coleman will be running in the Oct. 15 election himself remains to be seen.

In a response to a Langley Advance Times query on Saturday, Aug. 6, Coleman confirmed he has been approached about running for mayor, but hasn’t decided yet.

“A lot of people have been on me to run for mayor,” Coleman told the Langley Advance Times.

“I’m seriously considering it.”

Coleman said he registered the Elevate Langley party when he did, because the Election B.C. deadline to register elector organizations for the pending municipal elections was Aug. 2, and he wanted to provide a vehicle for some potential Township candidates he has been mentoring.

“I’ve got some young folks who want to run,” Coleman said.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: B.C. Liberal MLA Rich Coleman announced retirement after six terms

In the Elections B.C. register entry, Elevate Langley listed a contact phone number that turned out to be the office number for current Langley East MLA Megan Dykeman, who said she has no involvement with the party, calling it “absolutely an error.”

Coleman said he would check into it.

In 2018, Coleman was considering a run for Surrey mayor, but decided against it.

Coleman spent 24 years in provincial politics before he retired in 2020, including four years as provincial Solicitor-General.

Langley Township councillors Eric Woodward and Blair Whitmarsh have also announced mayoralty bids. So has former councillor Michelle Sparrow.

Elections B.C.’s register of civic parties listed Woodward as the principal official for the “Contract with Langley Association” party, which, the filing indicates, will be fielding candidates for council and school board.

READ ALSO: Woodward announces run for mayor of Langley Township

READ ALSO: Whitmarsh announces run for Langley Township mayor’s seat

READ ALSO: Sparrow joins race for Langley Township mayor’s seat


Have a story tip? Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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