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Japan political 'village mentality' pierced as Tokyo Olympics Mori set to resign –



By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) – In just a week, the metamorphosis was complete: former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori went from being a political asset seen as vital to the Tokyo Olympics’ success to a liability threatening the already cloudy outlook for the Summer Games.

Mori, 83, is set to resign on Friday as head of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee after an apology for sexist comments failed to quell domestic and overseas outrage.

The groundswell of criticism from athletes, sponsors, volunteers, diplomats, media and ordinary Japanese pierced what one newspaper described as the “village mentality” of Mori’s allies, including Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who had hoped an apology would put the controversy to rest.

“His colleagues sought to protect him, and if the criticism had only been in Japan, an apology might have worked,” said independent political analyst Atsuo Ito. “But the reaction was global.”

The resignation of such a powerful figure signals Japanese leaders’ determination to do whatever it takes to stage the Games, despite persistent concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The hope is that Japan gets it, that the powers that be are not rigid and tone deaf and that yes, Japan will do what it takes,” for a successful Games, said Jesper Koll, senior adviser to asset manager WisdomTree Investments.

But Suga’s handling of the affair could further dent his already battered public support, as was Mori’s attempt to pick outspoken former Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi, 84, to succeed him.

At a Japanese Olympic Committee meeting on Feb. 3, Mori commented that women talk too much, causing discussions to drag on. He first apologised, but initially declined to resign and said he “didn’t listen to women that much lately.”


Mori’s tenure as prime minister in 2000-2001 ended after a series of gaffes slashed his ratings to single digits. Still, the onetime head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) biggest faction retained considerable clout.

Despite the outrage over his remarks, Olympic and ruling party officials initially told Reuters that few were willing to oust Mori, whose network of politicians and Olympic officials was thought key to pulling off a successful Games.

Suga has dubbed Mori’s comments unacceptable and said they were not desirable for Japan’s national interests, but did not call for his resignation.

“I don’t think they (ruling politicians) really get the issue about gender, its significance. Gender equality is very important but they take the issue lightly and just focus on internal politics,” said Machiko Osawa, a professor at Tokyo Women’s University.

Overseas media kept up prominent coverage of the controversy and foreign diplomats posted support for gender equality on social media.

Twitter was alight with domestic and foreign criticism – tennis star Naomi Osaka called his remarks “ignorant” – and an online petition calling for action against Mori garnered more than 140,000 signatures.

On Wednesday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she would not join a meeting of organisers with Mori because it would not send a “positive message”, and a day earlier the International Olympic Committee issued a statement condemning Mori’s remarks.

Mori’s handpicked successor, Kawabuchi – already derided as “another grandpa” by some on social media – decided to decline the post, the Asahi newspaper reported on Friday.

His selection had threatened to keep alive the controversy as Japan’s deeply entrenched gender bias clashes with changing attitudes. Japan ranked 121st out of 153 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2020 gender gap report.

“They share the same values, I think that’s why he was chosen,” Osawa said of Kawabuchi and Mori. “It’s not just what he says, it’s the decision process. Women’s opinions should be more highly regarded.”

(Reporting by Linda Sieg. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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Too much, too soon? The politics of pandemic spending –



Chrystia Freeland seemed only too happy on Wednesday to mention some recent grumbling about the Liberal government’s pandemic spending over last year.

For most of 2020, the government was faced with questions about whether it was delivering financial supports fast enough and broadly enough. Now, some are wondering aloud whether the government spent too much.

“I’ve been surprised to read some commentary suggesting that Canadians may be doing too well for their own good,” the finance minister said. “Some have pointed to rising household disposable income in the first nine months of last year as evidence that our government acted too swiftly and too effectively to support Canadians.”

It will not surprise you to learn that Freeland disagrees with that take.

And if Freeland is eager to note that criticism, surely it’s because she and the government know how difficult it might be for any of their political opponents to campaign against any of the specific measures the Liberals took to support Canadian households over the past 12 months.

But it remains to be seen how all that spending — and the historic deficit that resulted from it — will frame the political debate going forward.

On Monday, Statistics Canada released estimates that suggest Canadian households ended up with more disposable income through the third quarter of 2020 because of the unprecedented sums the federal government transferred to individuals through various support programs.

“Although households did experience notable declines both in wages and salaries and in self-employment income in the second quarter, the value of COVID-19 support measures provided by governments more than compensated for those losses,” StatsCan said.

The gains were highest in the second quarter and proportionally larger for those with the lowest amount of disposable income in 2019.

Before April 2020 and June 2020, StatsCan estimates, the households that had less than $26,500 in disposable income for 2019 saw their disposable income increase by 33.6 per cent. For those households with more than $64,900 in disposable income in 2019, the increase in disposable income in the second quarter of 2020 is estimated at 7.1 per cent.

A person walks through an almost deserted Yorkdale Shopping Centre as Toronto enters the first day of a renewed coronavirus lockdown on Nov. 23, 2020. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

As of October 3, 2020, the federal government had paid out $81.6 billion through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provided $2,000 per month to those who lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. Beyond the CERB, the federal government also moved forward with a number of other supports, including a new student benefit (estimated to cost $3 billion) and a series of measures aimed at “vulnerable Canadians” (at an estimated cost of $14.9 billion).

More analysis is needed to fully understand the distribution and impact of government spending last year, but the basic finding — that support exceeded income losses — has been put forward before.

Tammy Schirle, a professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, notes that some of those in the bottom quintile would not have been making money before the pandemic began — and so wouldn’t have lost any income — but they still would have benefited from increases in the Canada Child Benefit and the GST credit, which could have helped with extra expenses.

An ‘acceptable compromise’

Research conducted by Schirle and three co-authors also estimated that nearly half of the job losses that occurred between February and April 2020 were suffered by those in the lowest quarter of earners.

“Generally, there was criticism at the time that some workers with the lowest earnings would have received more income than was lost,” Schirle said in an email this week, referring to the CERB.

“However, in the context that Canadians needed something rolled out quickly, and our current infrastructure for [employment insurance] would not suffice, this was an acceptable compromise in my view.”

In a global emergency, too much help is likely better than too little. But the federal government may have faced a choice between moving fast and moving with precision — between making sure that people who would need money got it quickly and making sure that people only got as much money as they absolutely needed.

Social policy in a hurry

“CERB payments were flat amounts because the government did not have the capacity [in information and technology] to income-test the benefit,” said Jennifer Robson, a professor of political management at Carleton who has been consulted by the government on EI reform (full disclosure: Robson is a friend).

“The choice was ‘automatic’ or ‘income-tested.’ But until and unless we build serious back-of-house capacity in our social programs, you can’t have both for a crisis of this scale.”

Robson also suggested that if the CERB did end up overcompensating people, the question could be flipped around to ask whether that proves too many people in this country were being paid unreasonably low wages in the first place.

The Liberal government has since transitioned away from the CERB and StatsCan’s estimates show that the disposable income increases dropped off significantly in the third quarter.

John Lester, a fellow at the University of Calgary’s school of public policy and a former analyst at the Department of Finance, argued in December that the government should have been quicker to deal with the issue of “overcompensation.”

The threat of inflation

In her fall economic statement, Freeland suggested that increased disposable income and savings could act as “preloaded stimulus” to spur economic growth once the Canadian economy reopens.

Mikal Skuterud, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo, said the risk is that excessive stimulus could trigger inflation, though he argues that the actual severity of that risk is a “million-dollar question that nobody knows the answer to.”

For now, the political criticism is muted.

The Conservative Party has criticized the size of the deficit and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has noted that the Trudeau government spent more per capita than comparable countries. The Conservatives also have argued that the government should have moved faster to deliver a wage subsidy and have criticized the fact that some large, profitable companies were able to access the wage subsidy.

But they do not seem eager to make the case that Canadians got more money than they deserved or truly needed — presumably because they know how well that would go over with those Canadians who received federal support.

Ahead of a federal budget — and possibly a federal election — the larger question is how the spectre of a significant deficit will affect both fiscal policy and the political debate going forward.

Canadians might be thankful for all the support that the federal government has provided, but will they come out of this pandemic with new worries about government debt? And if so, are Conservatives interested in trying to connect with that anxiety to build support for a much more fiscally restrained approach?

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Opinion | Peterborough letter: Women treated differently in local politics –



Much has been written in the last few days and weeks about the tone of our local, provincial and federal politics in Peterborough and the surrounding Kawartha Area.

If you have missed it, recently Mayor Diane Therrien and MPP Dave Smith got into a war of words over housing. The mayor pointed out that Mr. Smith was missing from the housing conversation in Peterborough, which then spiralled into a war of words on twitter.

However, while Smith’s statements are misleading, and the mayor’s frustration with Smith’s response (seen in her response on twitter) obvious, I am instead writing to address a consistent issue related to the way we frame political discourse in this community.

Simply put — there is a double standard when it comes to tone policing in our local politics.

Smith has repeatedly targeted the mayor, MP Maryam Monsef, and even Dr. Rosana Salvaterra in local media and on Twitter. In relation to the recent incident, after the mayor made a legitimate criticism of Mr. Smith, many called her comments unacceptable, but viewed Smith’s response as a “defence.”

However, when the mayor or Monsef defend themselves publicly, or criticize colleagues on policy, they are called out in articles, letters to the editor and on social media.

Reading Facebook comments on any post that mentions politics shows a disgusting slew of ad hominem attacks directed at the mayor and the MP, filled with derogatory terms. When posts are made regarding Smith, these types of attacks are largely absent.

It is clear that sexism runs rampant in relation to political leadership in our community — and even the media is guilty of this same double-standard.

Should our discourse be less vitriolic and more related to policy across the board? Absolutely, 100 per cent. But when tempers flare, we must remember that it takes two to tango, and not tone-police in one direction.

We must be cognizant of how we treat women in power in our community, lest incredibly qualified leaders that happen to be women shy away from taking up the political gauntlet in the future.

Dane Bland, Community Advocate, Peterborough-Kawartha

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Opinion | Power, Politics and Sexual Misconduct – The New York Times



Readers discuss their own experiences dealing with inappropriate behavior in the workplace and what the consequences should be for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

To the Editor:

Re “As Scandals Sap His Political Strength, Cuomo Resists Calls to Resign” (news article, March 3):

Now 79 years old, I experienced my share of minor sexual harassment through the years. When I was young, I had to tolerate it or suffer significant consequences and more “teasing.” But now women do not have to tolerate crude jokes, butt pats, breast grabs, unwelcome kisses, sly sexual remarks. Only in the last few years have women’s complaints been taken seriously.

Women my age took a lot of crap. The sexual bullies won. Gentlemen: Women are now complaining and making it stick. The rules have changed. If your behavior was “playful,” realize it was probably no fun for the woman. It’s time to clean up your act. Now.

Mary Beal

To the Editor:

I am certain many women, especially those involved with the #MeToo movement, will disagree with me, but since when did women become helpless victims? I worked for a number of elected officials, as well as other employers, when I was young.

On many occasions I experienced inappropriate gestures and comments that might in today’s world be considered inappropriate. I handled them. I would simply say “Please get your hand off me” or “I am sorry, but I find what you are saying offensive.” In all cases, the offender backed down.

If women want to be treated as equals we need to take some control over these situations, rather than just being passive. Speaking up will empower us. We should be teaching our daughters to speak up about these matters when they happen, rather than waiting and making public accusations.

Angela Reichek
Garden City, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Donald Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct — including assault and rape — by at least 25 women. Andrew Cuomo has been accused of an unwanted kiss and sexually harassing comments.

Granted, any type of harassment is intolerable. But are these accusations equivalent? Might there not be degrees of such misconduct? Should they be treated differently? Will Mr. Cuomo lose his job, while the former president bragged about predatory behavior with impunity?

Edward LaFreniere
Scottsdale, Ariz.

To the Editor:

I am a liberal Democrat and feminist. I have worked for a state legislature, for Congress, for many dozens of elected officials and candidates to elective office. I think the outpouring of condemnation against and demands for the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo are ridiculous and scary.

His misguided flirtatious behavior warrants a sincere apology and promise to cease and desist; that’s all. No one is perfect. To demand that every utterance, every action of public figures, be perfect is absurd. Asking too personal questions is not equivalent to threatening a person’s livelihood. Placing a hand on a person’s back is not equivalent to groping someone’s private parts. Asking to plant a kiss is not equivalent to raping someone.

People, what’s called for here is a sense of perspective.

Carole Lieber Glickfeld

To the Editor:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s disgusting behavior toward others is the result of his belief in the false privilege of rank held by so many politicians — that you are exempt from the rules of decent behavior and from punishment for your misbehavior. Thus, not only was it wrong for Mr. Cuomo to reportedly make the “strip poker” remark to another state employee, but wrong as well for him to believe that this did not warrant punishment.

His deeds are abuses of power and inappropriate conduct and are grounds for removal from office.

Stephen V. Gilmore
Charlotte, N.C.

To the Editor:

Re “Why Democrats Aren’t Asking Cuomo to Resign” (column, March 2):

Michelle Goldberg notes that “many Democrats are sick of holding themselves to a set of standards that Republicans feel no need to try to meet.” I completely understand this dynamic but greatly regret the result.

After all, morality that is contingent on your adversary’s expected behavior under similar circumstances is not morality at all. Rather, it is mere political gamesmanship. And that is a real shame.

Paul E. Greenberg
Brookline, Mass.

To the Editor:

I don’t want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign in the middle of a pandemic. Too many lives depend on his leadership. Yet I also want him to become aware of what he said and did to these women and understand why his behavior shouldn’t continue. How about he stays in office while working on his behavior?

Mr. Cuomo should hire the best sexual harassment prevention trainer and work with that person one-on-one or in a group setting. He should go through a journey of awareness publicly, but remain in office, leading in a crisis, to keep us from letting another talented leader fade into obscurity.

Carrie Wasser
Gardiner, N.Y.

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