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Globe editorial: This is a story about race in Canadian politics. And it's hopeful – The Globe and Mail

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Jyoti Gondek wears her chain of office after being sworn-in as the new mayor of Calgary in Calgary, Alta., on Oct. 25. Ms. Gondek was born in England to parents of Punjabi descent and came to this country as a child.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

This is not a story about race.

But to understand how it isn’t, we have to talk about how, in another, less successful country, it could be.

In 2016, the census found that 31 per cent the residents of the City of Calgary were immigrants. Thirty-six per cent of the population were members of a visible minority, including 9.5 per cent who were South Asian. The picture is almost exactly the same in Edmonton: 30 per cent of residents are immigrants and 37 per cent are visible minorities, including 9.5 per cent who identify as South Asian.

Two weeks ago, the people of Edmonton and Calgary went to the polls and elected new mayors. Both were born outside of Canada. Jyoti Gondek, Calgary’s top magistrate, was born in England to parents of Punjabi descent and came to this country as a child; Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi was born in India and immigrated in his teens. On the census, both would be counted among the roughly one in 10 city residents of South Asian descent.

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We bring up race not because it was an issue in the elections of Ms. Gondek and Mr. Sohi, but because it was not. And let us give thanks for that.

In many other countries – less happy, less peaceful countries – the story would have been very different. There, race, religion or ethnicity are the basis for politics. Sectarian divides slice through the possibility of shared citizenship, with lives and politics organized along those lines.

That’s how much of the world is. (Ask an immigrant.) In the worst cases, it results in the failed state of Lebanon, or the violently extinguished state of Yugoslavia, or the Rwanda genocide.

But here’s what we believe can safely be said about the mayoral elections in Calgary and Edmonton: The race of the candidates, their religion (or lack thereof), and their status as first-generation Canadians appear to have been irrelevant to most voters. Maybe not all voters, whether pro or con, but surely most.

Consider: Nine out of 10 voters in Calgary and Edmonton are not of South Asian heritage. Yet Ms. Gondek and Mr. Sohi each won 45 per cent of the vote. That means that most of those who voted for them were from “another” community.

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 26. Mr. Sohi was born in India and immigrated in his teens.JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

And we put the word “another” in quotation marks because, this being Canada in 2021, most voters don’t see it that way. They weren’t marking their ballots through a prism of race. They didn’t see the winning candidates as coming from some other community, but rather as part of their shared community – Calgarian, Edmontonian, Albertan, Canadian – that transcends where you or your parents came from, where you pray or do not pray, and what colour your skin is.

Canadians are not saints, and Canada is not some magic land where racism never existed. It is not some place where no lines have ever been drawn labelling some people as “us” and others as “them.” Canada has a long history of evolving varieties of sectarian divisions.

But Canada also has a long and accelerating history of expanding the definition of “us,” and extending membership in the shared community to people who, in another place or another time, might have been excluded. For example, until 1954, the mayor of Toronto had always been a Protestant from the Orange Order. But that year, the citizens of Toronto ended all that, electing Nathan Phillips. Phillips was Jewish; nearly all of the city’s residents were not. Most were Protestants. It didn’t matter.

It was a similar story half a century later, in the three mayoral elections won by Naheed Nenshi in Calgary. The vast majority of the people of Calgary are not Ismaili Muslims; it didn’t matter. Overwhelming majorities chose Mr. Nenshi as their representative. And though three-quarters of the residents of Brampton, Ont., are visible minorities, in 2018 they elected Patrick Brown as mayor.

This ability to see beyond differences and biology and faith is something that Canada will need ever more of in its future. Canada is on the road to becoming a majority-minority nation, where no ethnic or racial group is the majority. That’s already the situation in Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto, and the other big cities are not far behind.

The voting in Calgary and Edmonton is a reminder that this future is hopeful, not ominous. If a Canadian is defined by all that we hold in common, in spite of differences, then everybody’s part of the majority.

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Meet the recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship – The Signal

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Dalhousie award created to encourage more women to enter male dominated field

Having more women at the decision-making table is important for Claire Belliveau.

“If we have male dominated rooms, we’re going to have male dominated issues, as easy as that,” said Belliveau.

Belliveau, along with Charlotte Bourke, are the first recipients of the new Women in Politics scholarship at Dalhousie.

Belliveau is in her fourth year at Dalhousie, studying political science and law, justice and society. She has been involved in politics since she was 18, working for Environment Minister Tim Halman. Belliveau is the community outreach co-ordinator at Halman’s constituency office.

Being a young woman in politics has not always been easy for Belliveau. She recalls instances where people questioned her abilities due to her age and times when male peers would take credit for her ideas.

Despite these challenges, Belliveau has found support among other women in the field. One thing she found interesting was how women in politics support each other despite party alliance.

“It’s so nice to see how much these women want to see other women succeed, in a male dominated field,” she said.

Belliveau would like to pursue a career in government as an analyst, contributing to policy development in education and the environment.

Bourke is also a fourth-year political science student with an interest in environmental politics. Her main research interests are social and environmental policies and she is studying ways to create fairer climate adaptation plans.

Bourke is unsure about her plans after graduation, but she knows it will involve politics, social issues and the environment.

Charlotte Bourke walks up the steps to the Henry Hicks Building, where the political science department is located, on Nov. 13, 2021.   Gabrielle Brunette

The scholarship serves to encourage, support and inspire young women in their political aspirations. It was established by Grace Evans and Sarah Dobson, co-authors of On Their Shoulders: The Women who Paved the Way in Nova Scotia Politics.

The book addresses the gender gap by showcasing the first and only 50 women at the time, to have served as MLAs in the province. The book highlights the importance of female representation in municipal politics and all proceeds go towards funding the new scholarship.

In 2021, women and gender-diverse people make up only 36 per cent of the legislative assembly in Nova Scotia.

Of 55 MLAs, 19 are women, one is gender-diverse and 35 are men.

“People often don’t want to enter a realm where they can’t see themselves reflected. I think it’s hard for young women to become interested in politics if they don’t see their peers there,” Evans said.

The scholarship will run for as long as there is funding. Every year, two students will be awarded $1,000 each.

“There’s not a lot of scholarships, to my knowledge, geared specifically towards poli sci students, let alone women in poli sci,” Bourke said.

Evans said they are looking to expand the scholarship beyond funding to create a network of people. She and Dobson have been working in politics for a few years and have made many connections they would like to share with the recipients.

Receiving the scholarship was rewarding for Bourke, who felt like all her hard work was being acknowledged.

“It’s kind of just like a relief and a push forward to be like, oh wow I am being recognized, this is really cool, people actually think that I’m good enough, or they actually want me here. It feels sort of welcoming,” she said.

Charlotte Bourke is a fourth-year political science student, minoring in environmental studies.   Gabrielle Brunette

Belliveau was honoured to receive a scholarship designed to encourage women, like herself, who want a career in politics.

“It was just really motivating, especially from Sarah and Grace, knowing how much they care about young women in politics, knowing how much they care about the history and seeing more young women join the field,” she said.

“They’re acknowledging how important it is to have those voices at the table.”

For both women, winning the scholarship has given them a boost of confidence.

Belliveau said it has pushed her to apply for other opportunities, something she hopes other young women in politics will be encouraged to do as well.

“Apply for every scholarship, apply for fellowships, apply for the jobs you don’t think you qualify for because … men are doing it and they get them all the time, so why shouldn’t you?” she said.

“So, take advantage of everything you can and just enjoy the ride, stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up.”

Gabrielle Brunette

Gabrielle is a journalist for the Signal at the University of King’s College. She completed her BAH in political studies at Queen’s University.

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Playing Politics With Democracy? – Forbes

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On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy to “set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today.” How do Americans see the threat to democracy in the US now? And do partisans see the health of our democracy differently?

In October, Grinnell College asked them this directly. Fifty-two percent said American democracy was under a very serious threat and 29% under a minor threat. Only 14% perceived no threat. Other polls with differently worded questions produce similar impressions of a democracy in need of serious rehabilitation. In a November poll, Monmouth University pollsters found that 8% thought the US system of government was basically sound and needed no improvement, 35% basically sound but needing some improvement, 26% not too sound and needing many improvements, and 30% not too sound and in need of significant changes. And a late October–early November poll of 18–29 year olds from Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP) finds that 7% of them describe US democracy as healthy, 27% somewhat functioning, 39% as in trouble, and 13% as failed.

In 2018, 2019, and again in 2021, Public Agenda, as part of the Daniel Yankelovich Democracy Initiative, asked people identical questions about democracy’s health. In the May 2021 poll, 14% said American democracy was doing well, 50% facing serious challenges but not in crisis, and 36% in crisis. The results were similar to their 2018 and 2019 polls.  

In all of these new polls, Democrats were more positive about democracy’s health than were Republicans. In the 2021 Public Agenda survey, Democrats were less likely to see a crisis than Republicans, 25% to 48%. However, in their 2018 and 2019 polls taken during the Trump years, far more Democrats than Republicans said the system was in crisis. In the October 2021 Grinnell poll, 71% of Republicans compared to 35% of Democrats saw the threat as major. In the Monmouth poll, partisans in both parties thought improvements were necessary, but twice as many Republicans as Democrats (38% to 15%) said the system was not sound at all and needed significant changes. In the Harvard IOP poll, 18–29 year old Democrats were more optimistic about democracy, too. There is a clear disconnect between Democratic elites in the media and academia who regularly opine about a US democracy’s decline and the views of rank-and-file Democrats.

This pattern is reversed when we look at questions about the events of January 6 and subsequent investigations as the new edition of the AEI Polling Report shows. Democrats profess much more concern than Republicans about what happened that day and are more eager to see the work of the January 6 congressional committee continue. In a mid-October online Morning Consult/Politico poll, 81% of Democrats compared to 18% of Republicans approved of the special congressional committee to investigate the events that occurred at the US Capitol on January 6. And in a mid-October Quinnipiac University poll, 40% wanted to hear more, but 56% said enough was already known about what led to the storming of the Capitol. Fifty-nine percent of Democrats wanted to hear more compared to 22% of Republicans and 38% of independents. Still, it is significant that nearly four in 10 (38%) Democrats said enough is known already, indicating some fatigue with the investigation.

There are some obvious reasons Democrats would feel better about our democracy than Republicans. They control both chambers of Congress, there’s a Democrat in the White House, and expressing confidence in American democracy is a way of showing support for the party and the president as the polls above suggest. And Democrats will continue to hammer away at anything to do with Donald Trump.

The polls suggest that concerns about democracy have not diminished people’s willingness to participate in the system — at least in terms of voting. Eighty percent in the Grinnell poll said they would definitely vote in the 2024 election for president and other offices and only 7% said they probably would not. What’s more, 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans in the survey said that it was very important for the United States to remain a democracy. Five percent nationally said it was fairly important, 4% just somewhat, and 3% not important. When you care deeply about something as Americans do about democracy, you worry at its erosion. But today, this concern has a deep partisan overlay.

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U.S. Senate passes bill to avert government shutdown, sends to Biden for signature

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The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate on Thursday passed a bill to fund the government through mid-February, averting the risk of a shutdown after overcoming a bid by some Republicans to delay the vote in a protest against vaccine mandates.

The 69-28 vote leaves government funding at current levels through Feb. 18, and gives Democratic President Joe Biden plenty of time to sign the measure before funding was set to run out at midnight on Friday.

The Senate acted just hours after the House of Representatives approved the measure, by a vote of 221-212, with the support of only one Republican.

Congress faces another urgent deadline right on the heels of this one. The federal government is approaching its $28.9 trillion borrowing limit, which the Treasury Department has estimated it could reach by Dec. 15. Failure to extend or lift the limit in time could trigger an economically catastrophic default.

“I am glad that in the end, cooler heads prevailed. The government will stay open and I thank the members of this chamber for walking us back from the brink from an avoidable, needless and costly shutdown,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on nailing down a deal with Republicans to clear the way for passing the bill.

The vote ended weeks of suspense over whether Washington might be plunged into a government shutdown at a time when officials worry that the potentially dangerous Omicron variant of COVID-19 could take hold in the United States after being discovered in South Africa.

Such a shutdown could have forced layoffs of some U.S. government medical and research personnel.

Senate Democrats defeated an attempt by a handful of conservative Republicans to attach an amendment that would have prevented enforcement of Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for many U.S. workers.

Republican Senators Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Roger Marshall had earlier raised the possibility that the government could partially shut down over the weekend while the Senate moves slowly toward eventual passage.

“It’s not government’s job, it’s not within government’s authority to tell people that they must be vaccinated and if they don’t get vaccinated, they get fired. It’s wrong. It’s immoral,” Lee said before the defeat of the amendment.

Over the past few days, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted there would be no government shutdown from congressional inaction. But he had to work through the day on Thursday to get his Republican lawmakers in line on a deal allowing quick passage of the funding bill.

The emergency legislation is needed because Congress has not yet passed the 12 annual appropriations bills funding government activities for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.

A partial government shutdown https://www.reuters.com/world/us/what-happens-when-us-federal-government-shuts-down-2021-09-27 would have created a political embarrassment for both parties, but especially for Biden’s Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers of Congress.

LONGER TIMELINE

The fact the temporary spending bill extends funding into February suggested a victory for Republicans in closed-door negotiations. Democrats had pushed for a measure that would run into late January, while Republicans demanded a longer timeline leaving spending at levels agreed to when Republican Donald Trump was president.

“While I wish it were earlier, this agreement allows the appropriations process to move forward toward a final funding agreement which addresses the needs of the American people,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro said in a statement announcing the agreement.

But she said Democrats prevailed in including a $7 billion provision for Afghanistan evacuees.

Once enacted, the stopgap funding measure would give Democrats and Republicans nearly 12 weeks to resolve their differences over the annual appropriations bills totaling around $1.5 trillion that fund “discretionary” federal programs for this fiscal year. Those bills do not include mandatory funding for programs such as the Social Security retirement plan that are renewed automatically.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton, Doina Chiacu, David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)

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