Where was the adult in the room when the federal cabinet approved the sole-source contract to WE Charity to administer Ottawa’s $900-million student volunteer program?
Of course, this being a pandemic, there was probably nobody in the room. It was likely a secure Zoom-like call. But clearly, the adult in the room wasn’t our 48-year-old prime minister, who’s in his fifth year as leader of a G7 country.
For a long time, I’ve been willing to give Justin Trudeau a bit more slack than many others. Yes, he was the heir to his father’s name and had the good looks and charisma that gave him a huge advantage in today’s image-obsessed world of politics.
Yet these assets can also end up being a liability and from the start, Trudeau has been tarred with being out of his league, a lightweight with nothing but his inherited traits to power his political brand. That seemed to me to be a tad unfair. While no intellectual like his cerebral father, Justin is no dummy, and the Conservatives learned in two consecutive elections that they were foolish to underestimate his considerable political talents.
As prime minister, Trudeau was a breath of fresh air after the controlling, partisan nastiness of the Harper years. From the start, he seemed to sense the country’s desire for a more open, empathetic style of politics. When he strode to Rideau Hall with his gender-equal cabinet, it seemed more than just a photo op.
His cabinets, though not stellar, have been competent, and he has learned how to delegate responsibility to his able Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland. And overall, his government’s policies have been reasonable. Cannabis was legalized and the world didn’t end. After years of oilsands-induced denial under the Harperites, Trudeau at least recognized the dangers of climate change and the need to act. Donald Trump’s insistence on scrapping and renegotiating NAFTA could have ended in catastrophe but Trudeau’s deft handling of the subsequent talks and the US narcissist-in-chief has left Canada in a relatively good position.
And in these awful past several months, Trudeau’s leadership during the pandemic has been solid. Not stellar, but nevertheless impressive compared to the mess south of the border. No ugly squabbles with the provinces, although that’s been at the price of a really national approach to the pandemic. The health response has really been dictated by the provinces.
Where Ottawa has done better is in the economic response, putting together the Canada Emergency Response Benefit quickly and coming to the aid of a myriad of other sectors of the economy.
Yet despite these skills, Trudeau remains a flawed leader, a master of the own goal who manages to miraculously score on himself and emerge surprised that anybody would notice. Three investigations by the ethics commissioner since 2015 and each case was the result of remarkably poor judgment and the kind of governance we thought had ended with the sponsorship scandal.
Yes, the Aga Khan is a philanthropist and spiritual leader, but he’s also one of the wealthiest men in the world whose foundation lobbied the federal government. If you’re trying to demonstrate your humility by eschewing a costly reno of 24 Sussex Drive in favour of moving into the more modest Rideau Cottage, why then take an expense-paid holiday on the Aga Khan’s private Caribbean island?
Although the story was less personal, the SNC-Lavalin affair showed an equally flawed approach, as Trudeau opted to favour a big company with a questionable ethical history over the vital protection of our independent judicial system. And it’s only because of the courage of Jody Wilson-Raybould that we ever discovered the nastiness of what went on.
This latest caper is probably the most disturbing of all. Who in the world could think it was a good idea to give a sole-source contract worth an estimated $19-million to a charitable organization with a history of providing a stream of speakers’ fees and travel expenses to members of the Trudeau family?
If the prime minister was again blind to this conflict of interest, what of the phalanxes of political aides and public servants working for the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office? Did anybody there do their job? What about members of the Trudeau cabinet? Were they so afraid of Justin’s wrath that nobody could actually say, “Do you realize how awful this will look to the public?”
As for Trudeau himself, I reluctantly come to the conclusion that he has no ability to see himself as others see him, that he has internalized this idea that he is above suspicion because he is working so hard to make the world a better place alongside his wife, his mother and his brother. And if the fabulous Kielburger twins see the world in the same way to the wonderful Trudeau clan, who could possibly object to their being asked to helped out with another laudable goal—helping students during a pandemic?
Perhaps with the abrupt end to the WE Charity contract, Trudeau can staunch the bleeding and survive. But his prime minister-ship remains forever tarnished. And it was all so unnecessary.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.
Virus spread, not politics should guide schools, doctors say – WDIV ClickOnDetroit
As the Trump administration pushes full steam ahead to force schools to resume in-person education, public health experts warn that a one-size-fits-all reopening could drive infection and death rates even higher.
They’re urging a more cautious approach, which many local governments and school districts are already pursuing.
There are too many uncertainties and variables, they say, for back-to-school to be back-to-normal.
Where is the virus spreading rapidly? Do students live with aged grandparents? Do teachers have high-risk health conditions that would make online teaching safest? Do infected children easily spread COVID-19 to each other and to adults?
Regarding the latter, some evidence suggests they don’t, but a big government study aims to find better proof. Results won’t be available before the fall, and some schools are slated to reopen in just a few weeks.
“These are complicated issues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during an online briefing.
Children infected with coronavirus are more likely than adults to have mild illnesses, but their risk for severe disease and death isn’t zero. While a virus-linked inflammatory condition is uncommon, most children who develop it require intensive care, and a few have died. Doctors don’t know which children are at risk.
“The single most important thing we can do to keep our schools safe has nothing to do with what happens in school. It’s how well we control COVID-19 in the community,” Frieden said. “Right now there are places around the country where the virus is spreading explosively and it would be difficult if not impossible to operate schools safely until the virus is under better control.”
Zahrah Wattier teaches high school in Galveston, Texas, where cases and deaths have been spiking. Until the state recently said schools must reopen to in-person classes, her district had been weighing options many others are considering, including full-time online teaching or a hybrid mix.
Wattier’s school has mostly Hispanic and Black students, many from low-income families; almost 70% qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches and many have parents who work in “essential” jobs that increase potential exposure to the virus. Online education was hard for many with limited internet access, and Wattier knows in-person classes can help even the playing field.
But she’s worried.
“My school has over 2,000 students. That’s over 2,000 exposures in a day,” she said. “It’s a lot to think about. It’s my job. It’s something I choose to do, it’s something I love. Now it comes at a really high risk.’’
She also worries about her 2-year-old twins in day care and a 4-year-old who has asthma and is starting preschool. Her parents live with the family and they’re both high-risk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, whose guidance the Trump administration has cited to support its demands, says the goal is for all students to be physically present in school. But it says school districts need to be flexible, consult with public health authorities and be ready to pivot as virus activity waxes and wanes.
“It is not that the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks this is a done deal because we have put out guidance,” said Dr. Nicholas Beers, a member of the academy’s school health council. “But what we do know is that we need to have a more realistic dialogue about the implications of virtual learning on the future of children. We have left whole swaths of society behind, whether it’s because they have limited access to a computer, or broadband internet,” or because of other challenges that online education can’t address.
Following academy guidelines would mean big changes for most schools. Mask-wearing would be strongly encouraged for adult staff and students except the youngest. Desks would be distanced at least 3 feet apart; the CDC recommends 6 feet. Both the academy and the CDC suggest limiting adults allowed in schools, including parents, and canceling group activities like choir and assemblies. Staggered arrival and dismissal times, outdoor classes, and keeping kids in the same classroom all day are other options.
President Donald Trump has threatened federal funding cuts for districts that don’t fully reopen. While most funding typically comes from state and local sources, experts say schools will need more federal funding, not less, to reopen safely. Masks, extra cleaning supplies or janitors, additional classroom space, mental health support for students and staff traumatized by the pandemic are among potential costs. And with more parents out of work, more children will qualify for federally funded school lunches.
Lynn Morales, 49, teaches 8th grade English at a high-poverty public school in Bloomington, Minnesota. Her district is considering several options including in-person classes; a final decision is expected Aug. 1.
Some colleagues are considering not returning to the classroom because their children’s day care centers aren’t reopening. Some say they won’t come back until there’s a vaccine.
“I am concerned and it’s because of the age group,” Morales said. ‘’Middle school students … are lovely and I love them, but they touch, they get close, they roughhouse. It is their nature. They’re 13 years old. They are defiant.”
“If masks are required and a kid isn’t wearing a mask, is my job description going to be to chase down this kid and insist they wear a mask? And what if they don’t?’’
She’s heard outrage from parents angry at the prospect of some schools not reopening or incredulous about sending kids back into classrooms.
‘’There is no win-win,’’ she said. ‘’Teachers are used to being scapegoats. This is just a whole new level of anger.’’
Dr. Emily Landon, a University of Chicago infectious disease specialist, is helping the university and a campus preK-12 school decide how to reopen safely.
“Things are evolving from, ‘We can’t do it unless it’s perfectly safe’ to more of a harm reduction model, with the caveat that you can always step back” if virus activity flares, Landon said.
Single-occupancy dorms, outdoor classes, socially distanced classrooms and mask-wearing by students and faculty are on tap for the university. Face coverings will be required at the school too. Policies may change depending on virus activity.
She dismisses complaints from some parents who say masks are a loss of personal freedom.
“It’s not harmful for your child,” she said. “If you see wearing masks as a loss of personal freedom, then you have to think the same of pants.”
Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University is leading a National Institutes of Health-funded study aiming to determine what role children play in transmitting COVID-19. Almost 2,000 families are enrolled and self-test every two weeks. The idea is to find infected children without symptoms and see how easily disease spreads within families. Results may come by year’s end.
“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.
She noted that in other countries where schools have reopened, evidence suggests no widespread transmission from children.
In France, public schools reopened briefly before a summer break, with no sign of widespread virus transmission. Masks were only required for upper grades, but students stayed in the same classroom all day. Frequent hand-washing was mandatory. A better test will be when the new school year starts Sept. 1.
In Norway, schools closed in March for several weeks. Nursery schools reopened first, then other grades. Children were put in smaller groups that stay together all day. Masks aren’t required. There have been only a few virus cases, said Dr. Margrethe Greve-Isdahl of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, but she noted virus activity is much lower than in the U.S.
Kati Spaniak, a realtor in Northbrook, Illinois, says her five teenage daughters have struggled to cope with pandemic fears, school closures and deficits of online learning. She strongly supports getting kids back in the classroom, and all her girls will return to some form of that in the fall.
It’s been hard for her high school senior, Kylie Ciesla. Prom, graduation and other senior rituals were canceled, and there were no good-byes. “Just to get ripped away from everything I’ve worked for 12 years, it’s really hard,” Kylie said.
At college, classes will be in person, masks mandated and a COVID-19 test required before she can move into her dorm. Kylie isn’t sure all that is needed.
“I hate that this thing has become so political. I just want the science. I want to know what we need to do to fix it,” she said.
AP reporters John Leicester and Arno Pedram in Paris contributed to this report.
Follow AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner at @LindseyTanner.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Coronavirus: 'Risk, not politics' will decide border restrictions – BBC News
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said any move to place restrictions on visitors from England to Scotland would be based on risk, not politics.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, she said quarantine for visitors from elsewhere in the UK could not be ruled out.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously called the idea “astonishing and shameful”.
Scotland has been recording a lower rate of Covid infections than England.
The first minister said the UK nations need to work together on outbreak management in a way that “mitigates against having to put any border restrictions in place”.
Ms Sturgeon told Andrew Marr: “One of our biggest risks over the next few weeks, as we have driven levels of the virus to very low levels in Scotland, is the risk of importation into the country.
“That’s why we’ve taken a very cautious decision about international quarantine.
“And – this is not a position I relish being in – it also means that we have to take a very close look at making sure that we are not seeing the virus come in from other parts of the UK.”
The first minister pointed out that in countries such as Australia and the United States, controls have been put in place to limit movement across state or regional boundaries.
The Scottish government would look at similar measures on a public health basis.
Ms Sturgeon said: “That’s not political. It’s not constitutional. It’s just taking a similar view to countries across the world in terms of protecting the population from the risk of the virus.”
“This is not about saying to people in England you are not welcome in Scotland – of course people in England are welcome in Scotland,” she added.
The topic of quarantine for visitors from England entering Scotland was raised at Prime Minister’s Questions, with Mr Johnson describing the idea as “astonishing and shameful”.
He added: “There have been no such discussions with the Scottish administration about that, but I would point out that there is no such thing as a border between England and Scotland.”
The number of new coronavirus cases in Scotland fell back to single figures on Saturday after a rise on Friday led Ms Sturgeon to warn against complacency.
No Covid-19 deaths were reported on Saturday, making it the third day in a row without any new deaths.
Lucius Barker, Expert on Race in American Politics, Dies at 92 – The New York Times
Lucius J. Barker, a revered political scientist and professor whose professional expertise in race in American politics informed his personal role as a delegate for Jesse Jackson at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, died on June 21 at his home in Menlo Park, Calif. He was 92.
His daughters, Heidi Barker and Tracey Barker-Stevens, said the cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
Professor Barker was teaching at Washington University in St. Louis when he joined Mr. Jackson’s presidential campaign. He was known as a popular, if tough, political science professor with scholarly interests in constitutional law, civil liberties and the political impact of race.
To Professor Barker, Mr. Jackson’s campaign represented an extraordinary chance for African-Americans to participate in the political process and “another opportunity to work for the objectives for which Martin Luther King and others fought and died,” he wrote in “Our Time Has Come: A Delegate’s Diary of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Presidential Campaign” (1988).
As Professor Barker contemplated entering the local caucus in Missouri that led to his selection as a delegate, he thought that being part of Mr. Jackson’s campaign would be an objective academic pursuit that would help his continuing research into race and politics.
But he did not stay a neutral observer for long. He wrote that he was disappointed that February when Mr. Jackson used the term “Hymie” to refer to Jews, but accepted his apology. And, he later wrote, as the convention in San Francisco opened he morphed from a “cloistered scholar to an open activist delegate.”
In his book, Professor Barker described being upset that some Black leaders supported the party’s eventual nominee, former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, and tearful as he listened to Mr. Jackson’s stirring convention speech.
“What makes ‘Our Time Has Come’ stand out are Mr. Barker’s personal observations,” in particular “the pride he personally and Blacks generally felt in having a Black man run a serious race for his party’s presidential nomination,” David E. Rosenbaum wrote in his review in The New York Times.
Professor Barker would later work as a volunteer for Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns and attend President Obama’s first inauguration, in 2009.
Lucius Jefferson Barker was born on June 11, 1928, in Franklinton, La., about 60 miles north of New Orleans. His father, Twiley Barker Sr., was a teacher and principal at a Black high school in Franklinton. His mother, Marie (Hudson) Barker, taught elementary school there.
“There was a Black and white side of town; white schools, Black schools — everything was separate,” Heidi Barker said in an interview.
At the historically Black Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Professor Barker, inspired by a young professor, switched his major from pre-med (his family had hoped he would be a physician like the uncle he was named for) to politics.
After graduating, he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in political science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where his brother Twiley Jr. had preceded him.
During one summer while he was in graduate school, Professor Barker went to register to vote in Franklinton and was forced by the registrar to answer questions about the Constitution, including one about the 14th Amendment. Such questions were typical of the obstacles placed in front of Black people in the South to prevent them from registering. But they were easy for him to answer.
According to an account of his career he gave in 1992 to PS: Political Science & Politics, a publication of the American Political Science Association, Professor Barker was confident enough to poke intellectual fun at the white registrar.
When he was asked to explain the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, he said he could not. The registrar was apparently gleeful that he might be able to deny Professor Barker the right to vote. “You don’t know!” the registrar said.
“No, I don’t, and neither does the Supreme Court,” Professor Barker said, citing several cases in which the court had been unable to explain what the clause meant.
Professor Barker was successfully registered. He would later administer the test to his students.
He would endure other racist incidents in graduate school and beyond, like being denied the right to eat at a lunch counter and, when he was a professor, being told by security that he couldn’t park in a faculty parking lot.
Professor Barker began his teaching career as a fellow at the University of Illinois. He then went back to Southern University; moved to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; and returned to the University of Illinois in 1967 as a professor and assistant chancellor. In 1969 he joined Washington University, where he served for a time as chairman of the political science department.
In 1990 he left for Stanford University, where he was also chairman of the political science department. Michael McFaul, who was hired by Professor Barker and would be appointed United States ambassador to Russia in 2012, called him a “giant in political science” in a post on Twitter after his death, adding, “We could use his wisdom and insights right now.”
Judith Goldstein, chair of Stanford’s political science department, described Professor Barker in an interview as “an Old World gentleman” who “cared about the law and about minority interest in the law way before Black Lives Matter,” adding, “In that way he was pathbreaking.”
Among Professor Barker’s published works are two textbooks: “Civil Liberties and the Constitution” (1970), which he edited with his brother and closest friend, Twiley Jr., and “Black Americans and the Political System” (1976), written with Jesse J. McCorry. That book was later revised and republished as “African Americans and the American Political System.”
He also served as president of the American Political Science Association in the early 1990s. He was the second Black person to hold that position, nearly 40 years after the first, Ralph Bunche, the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
In addition to his daughters, Professor Barker is survived by two grandsons. His wife, Maude (Beavers) Barker, died in May.
At Stanford, Professor Barker’s students included future politicians like Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and the twin brothers Julián Castro, a secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Mr. Obama, and Joaquin Castro, a congressman from Texas.
Senator Booker recalled Professor Barker as an uncompromising and rigorous mentor.
“He showed me that there could be a convergence of activism, politics, social and racial justice and academia into a life of profound purpose and impact,” Senator Booker said in an interview. “He stoked my imagination about what I could be, and it wasn’t toward electoral politics; he wasn’t trying to get me to be a mayor or a senator but to be the best sort of an influencer, to bring my best to the world.”
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