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Immigration could be source of conflict between Ottawa and Quebec’s re-elected CAQ

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QUEBEC — Control over immigration and Quebec’s religious symbols ban could be sources of conflict between Ottawa and the province as Premier François Legault begins his second mandate.

Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec was re-elected Monday with a resounding majority, elected or leading in 89 of the province’s 125 ridings as of 11:30 p.m.

Martin Papillon, a political science professor at the Université de Montréal, said the balance of power between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Legault may have shifted in the Quebec premier’s favour.

A stronger mandate could embolden Legault, Papillon said in a recent interview. He said Trudeau will need to be careful in his handling of Quebec — and of the premier who has claimed to represent all Quebecers to Ottawa — with polls showing rising support for Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives

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Tension with the federal government “doesn’t serve the interests of the federal government, but it certainly serves the interests of Legault’s Quebec government,” Papillon said. “It strengthens his position a bit and the vision he wants to put forward, his autonomist, nationalist vision, that doesn’t want to reopen the Constitution question.”

On the campaign trail, Legault spoke frequently about immigration, often claiming that too many immigrants would put the survival of the French language in the province at risk. He has said he wants Ottawa to give Quebec — which already chooses its own economic immigrants — control over family reunification and temporary foreign workers.

“I think this is going to be a major sticking point with the federal government in the coming months,” Papillon said.

Legault said in May that a stronger mandate would help him obtain additional powers over immigration, but André Lecours, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s school of political studies, said he thinks it’s unlikely that the federal government would bend to Quebec’s demands.

At its core, Lecours said, the conflict between the Legault and Trudeau governments over immigration stems from different ideas about diversity. While the federal government promotes multiculturalism, Legault has advocated integration centred on the French language and shared values, including secularism.

“It’s really this different vision about identity and diversity that causes the clash with the federal government,” he said.

Those differing ideas could also lead to conflict over Quebec’s Bill 21, which prohibits public sector workers in positions of authority, including teachers, police officers and judges, from wearing religious symbols on the job.

In May, federal Justice Minister David Lametti said that if a court challenge of the law reaches the Supreme Court, the federal government would get involved.

Legault’s government invoked the notwithstanding clause to shield the law from court challenges, arguing use of the constitutional provision was justified because a majority of Quebecers support the legislation. The premier has condemned the criticism of the law from English Canada.

Papillon said that any federal involvement before the courts would play in Legault’s favour, because he has emphasized the division between English-speaking Canada and Quebec on the issue.

One of the big questions of Legault’s new mandate will be what happens if the federal Liberals change leaders or if the Conservatives take power in the next federal election. Ideologically and in terms of political style, Legault is closer to the federal Conservatives than any other party.

And while Papillon said he hesitates to compare Legault and Poilievre, because they are “two different political animals,” he adds that like Poilievre, Legault has shown during the campaign that he is not afraid to stir controversy. At one point, he apologized after drawing a link between immigration and violence and extremism.

But for one of Legault’s former colleagues, his controversial comments, and the apologies that sometimes follow, are familiar.

Louise Harel said the Legault she sees in the premier’s office is the same man she knew when they were both PQ cabinet ministers in the 1990s and early 2000s. His habit of speaking impulsively often forces him to backpedal, she said in a recent interview, but that plays well with many Quebecers, who see themselves as underdogs.

Harel said Legault has always seen time spent debating in the legislature as something of a waste and has adopted a top-down style of government, with power centralized in his office and those of a few key ministers.

“It’s really like a private business, so he’s the CEO and there’s an executive committee, like in very large companies,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022.

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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Jason Kenney quits Alberta politics with critical letter on state of democracy

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Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney stepped down as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calgary-Lougheed late Tuesday afternoon.

“Thank you to my constituents for the honour of representing them in Parliament and the Legislature over the past 25 years,” Kenney said in a tweet also containing a statement.

The resignation came two hours after the throne speech for the Fall session was read inside the legislature, which Kenney was not present for.

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Kenney said he is proud of the work done while he was the leader but with a new government in place under Premier Danielle Smith — who replaced him as leader of the UCP in October — and a provincial election coming in May 2023, now is the best time for him to step aside as MLA.

“This decision brings to an end over 25 years of elected service to Albertans and Canadians,” he said.

“I would like to thank especially the people of south Calgary for their support over nine elections to Parliament and the legislature, beginning in 1997. Thank you as well to the countless volunteers, staff members and public servants who have supported me throughout the past two and a half decades of public service.”

Kenney said in the future he hopes to continue contributing to democratic life but chose to close his resignation letter with a scathing reflection of the state of politics.

“Whatever our flaws or imperfections, Canada and I believe Alberta are in many ways the envy of the world. This is not an accident of history.”

Kenney went on to provide the following statement:

“We are the inheritors of great institutions built around abiding principles which were generated by a particular historical context. Our Westminster parliamentary democracy, part of our constitutional monarchy, is the guardian of a unique tradition of ordered liberty and the rule of law, all of which is centred on a belief in the inviolable dignity of the human person and an obligation to promote the common good. How these principles are applied to any particular issue is a matter of prudent judgment.

“But I am concerned that our democratic life is veering away from ordinary prudential debate towards a polarization that undermines our bedrock institution and principles.

“From the far left we see efforts to cancel our history, delegitimize our historically grounded institutions and customs and divide society dangerously along identity lines. And from the far right we see a vengeful anger and toxic cynicism which often seeks to tear things down, rather than build up and improve our imperfect institutions.”

“As I close 25 years of public service, I do so with gratitude for those who built this magnificent land of opportunity through their wisdom and sacrifice. And I’m hopeful that we will move past this time of polarization to renew our common life together in this amazing land of limitless opportunity.”

Kenney announced his intention to step down as the leader of the United Conservative Party on May after he received 51.4 percent support in his leadership review vote.

Earlier Tuesday, Smith was sworn in as the new member for Brooks-Medicine Hat after winning a byelection for the seat earlier this month.

It was her first time back on the floor of the legislature chamber since the spring of 2015.

At that time, Smith was with the Progressive Conservatives, having led a mass floor-crossing of her Wildrose Party months earlier. She failed to win a nomination for the PCs in 2015 and returned to journalism as a radio talk show host for six years.

Kenney remained a backbencher UCP legislature member until his resignation. It’s not yet known when a byelection will be held in Calgary-Lougheed.

Kenney joins a long list of Alberta conservative leaders sidelined following middling votes in leadership reviews.

Former Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein left after getting 55 percent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford received 77 percent in their reviews but stepped down from the top job when the party pushed back.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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Murray Mandryk: Today’s partisan politics abandons all common sense

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Long abandoned is the principle in politics that politicians are there to represent everyone…even those that didn’t vote for you.

Politics: The art of abandoning all manner of common sense and principle in favour of convincing your own supporters what you’re doing is just and true while what your opponent promotes simply isn’t.

That’s probably cynical and unhelpful.

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Sadly, though, it’s neither as cynical nor as destructively divisive as much of what we see every day from politicians themselves whose only interest is in catering to their respective bases.

Long abandoned is the principle in politics that politicians are there to represent everyone…even those that didn’t vote for you.

Today’s politics is tribalism and, sadly, this cuts across party lines…although that observation is, evidently, now considered offensive to members themselves.

We’re not like that — they are.

Let us review, beginning with the latest from the federal Liberals. By definition, liberals (small l) are supposedly respectful and accepting of behaviour and opinions different from their own, open to new ideas and, promote individual rights, civil liberties, democracy and free enterprise.

Unless, of course, there are political points to be scored with your large urban base.

Consider the last-minute amendments to the latest federal gun-control bill that stands to criminalize millions of firearms now used by Canadian hunters.

The amendment would ban “a firearm that is a rifle or shotgun, that is capable of discharging centrefire ammunition in a semi-automatic manner and that is designed to accept a detachable cartridge magazine with a capacity greater than five cartridges of the type for which the firearm was originally designed.”

For those unfamiliar, that’s pretty much all hunting rifles and shotguns that aren’t pump, bolt or lever-action.

Essentially, this would ban all forms of semi-automatic firearms except for tube-style duck hunting shotguns — far in excess of the how Bill C-21 was pitched as a targeting of the sale of Canadian handguns (no mention of long guns was even in the initial draft bill).

This goes much further than the Liberals’ failed gun registry of 30 years ago, angering hunters, target shooters and of course, conservatives. It’s almost as if irritating the latter was the point.

The changes drew the expected angry response from Western Conservative politicians including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe — which only seems to fortify the Liberal notion that somehow what they are doing is right.

But what happens when they are not?

The ongoing problem with illegal guns crossing the U.S. border, 3D printers capable of producing all manner of weaponry and light sentences for violent crimes would seem far bigger threats than a hunting rifle locked up for 364 days a year.

But in today’s tribal political world, it’s not about common-sense solutions. It’s about the virtues you are signalling to your base, which takes us to today’s conservatives defined by preserving traditions, institutions and following rules of law.

Or at least until it’s their ox being gored as we are seeing at the Emergencies Act inquiry. Then it becomes about justifying all behaviour and lawlessness … as long as it was aimed at the Liberal government.

It was bad enough that we saw in January elected politicians like Moe writing letters of support to Freedom Convoy organizers — some of whom were subsequently criminally charged.

But the same Conservative politicians who cavorted and emboldened protester organizers are now eagerly engaging in political revisionism. To hell with what the people of Ottawa endured. Senator Denise Batters claims she “personally never felt safer.”

And those criminally charged with obstruction? The plethora of other actions meritorious of criminal charges and the very real threats at border crossings? A figment of Liberal and/or RCMP imaginations?

Of course, that has now been superseded by the battiness of convoy protest lawyer Brendan Miller being sued for accusing someone of being al Liberal provocateur who waved a Nazi flag just to make the protesters look bad.

But this, too, is easily justifiable when you can view everything through a lens of extreme partisanship rather than common sense that’s seemingly no longer required in politics.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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The School Politics Paradox – Forbes

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Recent news coverage of the relationship between politics and public schools has become downright martial. Schools have become “the focal point for culture war fights.” Stories have headlines like “Your Kid’s School is a Midterm Battleground” and “ School Board Elections have Become the New Battleground.” Battles and fights and skirmishes, oh my.

Schools are political entities governed by elected school boards that allot hundreds of billions of tax dollars. Politics are part and parcel of that.

That is why it is rich to see Randi Weingarten, leader of the American Federation of Teachers, quoted in one of the above-linked stories saying, “Normally, our kids have been off-limits. Now, they are the battlefield.” That’s news to me! In fact, there are few less-connected political operators in America than Randi Weingarten and she has routinely used students as pawns in her efforts to maximize benefits for the members of her union.

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But when people talk about politics now, they seem to be moving beyond the normal interest group conflicts that have shaped the debate around spending and teacher evaluation and work rules to a more ideological assertion. They are saying that schools are either becoming too liberal or too conservative and that is what people are fighting over.

But is it true? The answer to that reveals one of the great paradoxes of the politics of public education in America. Let’s start with the data.

In September, we asked a nationally representative sample of school parents “To what extent do you feel your youngest/oldest child’s school shares your political views?” (We randomize whether we ask them for the youngest or oldest to make sure not to introduce bias into the survey.) Parents had five potential answers: “My child’s school shares my political views,” “My child’s school is too conservative,” “My child’s school is too liberal,” “I don’t feel that my child’s school is political,” and “Don’t know/no opinion.”

Taken together, those who think that their child’s school is too political is less than 1 in 5 and balanced between those that think it is too liberal and those that think it is too conservative.

In descending order of popularity, public school parents said that they don’t feel that their youngest child’s school is political (39% of respondents), that they don’t know (27%), that the school shares their political views (17%), that their school is too liberal (11%), and that their school is too conservative (7%). The order was the same when the question asked for their oldest child, with the numbers only slightly different (37%/28%/14%/13%/8%).

There were some interesting differences between racial groups in respondents. For example, 41% of white respondents said that they thought their child’s school was not political while only 29% of Black parents thought so. But 25% of Black respondents said that their child’s school shared their politics while only 14% of white parents did.

In October, we asked a nationally representative sample of teachers a similar question, “To what extent do you feel your school shares your political views?” Teachers had five potential answers: “My school shares my political views,” “My school is too conservative,” “my school is too liberal,” “I don’t feel that my school is political,” and “Don’t know/no opinion.”

Taken together, those teachers who think that their school is too political is just under 1 in 4 and balanced between those that think it is too liberal and those that think it is too conservative.

In descending order of popularity, public school teachers said that they don’t feel that their school is political (37% of respondents), that the school shares their political views (20%), that they don’t know (19%), that their school is too liberal (13%), and that their school is too conservative (10%).

There were not large differences across party lines. Fifty-seven percent of teachers who identify as Republicans said that their schools were either not political or shared their views. It was 63% for teachers who identify as Democrats. Yes, Democratic teachers were more likely to say that their school was too conservative than too liberal (14% to 9%) and Republican teachers were more likely to say that their school was too liberal than too conservative (20% to 6%), but these were both minority positions.

These 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 numbers reminded me of a poll question we asked back in the spring. In March, we asked both the general American population and school parents if there had been a protest or major disruption at a school board meeting in their local district. Sixteen percent of Americans (1 in 6) and 21% of parents (1 in 5) said that there had been one. For context, the most popular reason given was masking, the second vaccinations, and the third general COVID-19-related decisions/policies.

Therein lies the paradox. Those who think schools are too political or are seeing demonstrations in their schools are a distinct minority. But, in a huge country like the United States, distinct minorities can still be quite large. One in six of the nation’s 13,350 school districts is 2,225 districts. That is a lot of disruptions. One in four of the nation’s 3.6 million teachers is 900,000 teachers. That is a lot of teachers that think their school is too liberal or too conservative. There are 49 million public school students. Even assuming just one parent per child would fill Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium more than 130 times. That is a lot of people who believe that their child’s school is too political.

Ultimately, whether or not political ideology is running rampant in schools is in the eye of the beholder. If you hear someone tell you that a lot of people are upset with how political schools have gotten, they’re right. If you hear someone say that only a minority of American parents are upset with how political schools have gotten, they’re right too. How we live with and reconcile this paradox will shape the politics of education moving forward.

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