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Kamala Harris inspiring young Black Canadians toward politics: MPs – Victoria News



The election of Kamala Harris as vice-president of the United States will inspire more young Black women in Canada to engage in politics and run for office, says Velma Morgan, a Black Canadian activist based in Toronto.

Harris’s father was born in Jamaica, her mother in India. She is the first woman and the first Black or South Asian person elected to the vice-presidency.

Through Morgan’s work as the chair of Operation Black Vote, a not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government, she supported Annamie Paul in her bid for the Green party leadership.

“The combination of those two (Harris and Paul), young girls are seeing themselves,” Morgan said in an interview.

“Representation does matter,” she said. “You can’t be what you don’t see.”

After the next election, those girls might also see a Black woman on the Conservatives’ front benches in Leslyn Lewis, who showed strongly in the last Tory leadership race and is the party’s nominated candidate in a solidly Conservative riding in southern Ontario.

(Neither Lewis nor other Conservatives approached by The Canadian Press would weigh in on whether they think Harris’s prominence in the U.S. will make a difference in Canada.)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who became the first person of colour in Canada’s history to run for prime minister during the 2019 election, said Harris’s election will encourage a future generation of Canadian women to get involved and run in elections.

“Each person who breaks a barrier inspires more people,” he said in an interview.

“We’re only here today because of the people who broke barriers before us.”

Singh said he was happy about — and proud of — the positive impact he had on young people of colour in Canada during the election campaign last year.

“Young kids would come up to me and literally tell me, ‘Thank you. Seeing you running for prime minister makes me feel like I could do anything,’” he said.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus, who is chair of the parliamentary Black caucus, said there is a need to elect more Black people to the House of Commons.

“I remember when there was only one Black MP in the House. And then we went to two, and then we stayed for a number of years, and then we went to five,” he said.

Fergus said there has been some progress, but the number of Black MPs do not yet represent the “democratic weight” of the Black population in Canada. According to the 2016 census, there were just under 1.2 million Black people in Canada, making up 3.5 per cent of the country’s population.

Morgan said Canada needs more Black policy-makers. Her organization facilitates training sessions and fellowships programs for young Black Canadians to encourage more of them to run in elections.

“We’re giving them the tools to participate, whatever way they want to participate, whether it’s to run, or to volunteer or to just help out,” she said. “We’ve been trying to get the word out to say, ‘You know what, we’re here, there’s not a lot of us, but we can change that by bringing a lot more people on.’ “

NDP MP Matthew Green, a Black person representing the riding of Hamilton Centre, remembers in 2008 when he gathered with his community to celebrate the election of Barack Obama as the first Black president of the United States.

But he said the goal shouldn’t only be to achieve representation and reflect the diversity of the population. It should also be to achieve inclusion and equity.

“Having diverse people, women elected, for me personally, is only important if their legacy is dismantling the barriers that they faced to get there,” he said.

He said people have traditionally been privileged in Canada by race, gender and economics.

“(The system is) disproportionately, advantaging white men … that still remains a fact,” he said.

“As a city councillor, the first elected person of African-Canadian descent in my city’s history, I was still racially profiled by police in my own community.”

He said Harris — a former district attorney in San Francisco and then attorney general of California — was part of a system that also incarcerated and disenfranchised Black and Latino communities and low-income people throughout her career. What really matters, he added, is whether she will be able to help marginalized people break barriers.

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who left the Liberal caucus several months before the 2019 election to sit as an Independent, said that claiming “diversity is our strength,” as the Liberals often do, is misleading.

“Having people of different colours and different races or ideas within your systems or organizations does not mean that you’re going to build strength if those people feel excluded,” Caesar-Chavannes said in an interview Friday.

She said collective strength comes when Canadians make spaces inclusive, so racialized people can voice their ideas and feel like they belong.

“That for sure creates a system that is more fair and more just,” she said.

VIDEO: Harris pays tribute to Black women in 1st speech as VP-elect

Caesar-Chavannes, expected to detail her disillusionment with the Liberal brand of politics in her upcoming book, “Can You Hear Me Now?” to be published in February, said she’s not optimistic.

“If we never address the root cause, and we keep putting Band-Aids on a situation, it’s not going to get better,” she said.

Singh said it’s sometimes hard to understand that Canada has systems that are designed to exclude people.

“We look at the way the criminal justice system works, we look at the way policing works, and realize that there are systems in place that have to be changed because, right now, they’re designed to discriminate,” he said.

Some of these systems have to be changed and some have to be dismantled, he said. But he said he believes there’s enough appetite in Canada for a person of colour to be elected prime minister.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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Live politics updates: Biden plans to campaign in Georgia for Senate candidates – USA TODAY



Sean Rossman

Bart Jansen

Nicholas Wu

Savannah Behrmann

Michael Collins

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Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks and other roles in his administration

The President-elect says he wants a government as diverse as America when he enters the White House. Here are some of his Executive Branch picks.

USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out his picks for top jobs in his administration and states continue to certify their vote counts. 

President Donald Trump has cleared the way for Biden’s team to use federal resources and get briefings during the transition, although Trump has yet to formally concede the race.

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.

Pence tells Georgia voters presidential election not over

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday said the presidential election is still undecided as he urged Georgia Republicans to put aside shared “doubts” about how fairly that race was conducted and show up for the state’s Senate runoff elections.

“We’re on ‘em this time,” Pence said. “We’re watching. We’re gonna secure our polls. We’re gonna secure our drop boxes. So get an absentee ballot and vote and vote today.”

Pence has not gone as far as President Donald Trump in falsely claiming the presidential race was rigged.

But he continues to assert that the winner hasn’t been determined.

Read the full story.

– Maureen Groppe

Attorney General William Barr’s chief of staff has resigned as the transition to the Biden administration progresses. Will Levi’s last day is Friday, the Justice Department said. 

“Will is a rarity: a brilliant lawyer with common sense, humility, and integrity. For the past two years, he has unstintingly given himself in service to the Department. As both Counselor and Chief of Staff, he handled challenges with remarkable resiliency and humor. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work closely with him, and I know he has a bright future ahead,” Barr said in a statement.

Political appointees typically leave at the end of every administration. But departures in the waning weeks of President Donald Trump’s presidency have caught more attention recently because of the president’s refusal to concede or acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. 

Levi’s departure comes a day after White House communications director Alyssa Farrah announced she is resigning after a 3 ½-year stint in the Trump administration.

Barr appointed Levi as his chief of staff last spring. His grandfather, Edward Levi, served as attorney general under President Gerald Ford, taking over a Justice Department recovering from the Watergate scandal. 

– Kristine Phillips

President-elect Joe Biden said Friday he would campaign in Georgia, where two Senate runoff races could determine whether Republicans retain control of the chamber.

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are each in separate runoff races to hold onto their seats, with voting ending Jan. 5. Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in the state Friday and President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Saturday. “I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election. And I actually hear some people saying, `Just don’t vote,’ ” Pence said. “If you don’t vote, they win.”

Biden, a former vice president who served 36 years in the Senate, would need Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to win both seats to achieve a Senate with 50 members in each party caucus. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could then cast tie-breaking votes in favor of Democratic priorities.

Georgia has been reliably Republican statewide for decades. But Biden beat Trump in Georgia after he made two campaign stops in the state during the final week of the campaign, and had former President Barack Obama visit.

“Yes,” Biden replied Friday to a reporter’s question about whether he would visit during the runoffs. But he didn’t break stride after a news conference to say when the appearance might happen or where.

– Michael Collins and Bart Jansen

WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden said Friday that plans for his Jan. 20 inauguration will be scaled back from traditional celebrations and look more like the Democratic National Convention that was held largely online.

Biden said plans are still being developed in consultation with House and Senate leaders who control 200,000 seats for the potential event. But he said decisions would be based on science, to avoid spreading COVID-19.

“It is highly unlikely there will be 1 million people on the mall,” Biden told reporters at The Queen theater, in response to a question from USA TODAY. “I think you’ll see something closer to what the convention was like than a typical inauguration.”

Biden said he expects there will still be a ceremony on a platform on the west front of the Capitol. But he suggested more of the celebrations will be held remotely across the country, rather than in downtown Washington.

“My guess is there will probably not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Biden said. “I don’t know exactly how it’s all going to work out.”

– Michael Collins and Bart Jansen

WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden said more must be done to plan the distribution of vaccines for COVID-19 after they are approved, but that his health advisers are developing plans.

“There’s a lot more that has to be done,” Biden told reporters at The Queen theater. “There is no detailed plan, that we’ve seen anyway, about how you get the vaccine out of a container into an injection syringe and into an arm.”

He called the anticipated distribution “difficult and expensive.” He also said it must be equitable, to ensure that communities of color receive vaccinations beyond those distributed through major drugstore chains that might not have offices in all neighborhoods.

Utah officials suggested they could distribute a vaccine easily, Biden said. But the process is “not that easy” in populous states such as California, Texas and Florida, he said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Biden said.

Biden said he would take the vaccine – along with former presidents – as part of the effort to persuade residents of Black and Latino communities the vaccine is safe.

Coronavirus vaccine: Biden says he will join former presidents in publicly getting COVID vaccine

“I think that my taking the vaccine and people seeing me take the vaccine is going to give some confidence,” Biden said. “It’s going to take some effort to rebuild confidence in science because it’s been so diminished in this administration.”

– Michael Collins and Bart Jansen

WILMINGTON, Del. – President-elect Joe Biden on Friday called a federal report about job growth in November “grim” and said it reflected the economy is “stalling” amid a surge of COVID-19 infections.

“It was grim. It shows an economy that is stalling,” Biden told reporters at The Queen theater. “We remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history.”

U.S. employers added a disappointing 245,000 jobs in November, the Labor Department announced. The figure was about half the 486,000 jobs that economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected were added last month.

The lackluster report came as Biden said 12 million Americans face the loss of jobless benefits by the end of December. A moratorium on evictions also is scheduled to expire.

“This is a dire jobs report,” Biden said. “We need Congress and the president to act now.”

States are adding restrictions that will hinder economic growth. The number of coronavirus cases surged beyond 277,000 dead and 14 million having been infected. An additional 2,800 deaths daily and 100,000 hospitalizations have been reported this week.

The economy has regained about 11 million jobs lost early in the pandemic in the spring, but economists warn it could take years to restore 9.8 million jobs shed during the crisis.

Congress is considering a $900 billion stimulus, including loans for small businesses and a resumption of federal unemployment benefits, but without direct payments to individuals as happened over the summer. Lawmakers are also negotiating a spending bill to fund the federal government beyond Dec. 11. Both measures could potentially be combined.

But passage of stimulus spending for the pandemic is uncertain because the Democratic-controlled House seeks a larger package than the Republican-led Senate.

“We must get it done before we leave,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Friday. “We cannot leave without it.”

Biden has said any money Congress approves this month would be a “down payment” and he would seek more when he takes office Jan. 20. 

“This situation is urgent,” Biden said. “If we don’t act now, the future will be very bleak.”

– Michael Collins and Bart Jansen

Kellyanne Conway, former adviser and White House counselor to President Donald Trump, acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election during an interview with The 19th on Friday.

Conway explained it is Trump’s “right” to exhaust “all of his legal avenues” but “if you look at the vote totals in the Electoral College tally, it looks like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will prevail. I assume the electors will certify that and it will be official. We, as a nation, will move forward, because we always do.”

She added, “You always need a peaceful transfer of democracy, no matter whose administration goes into whose administration.”

Conway, who also served as Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, has been a staunch defender of the president and his administration. She left her position in the White House in August to focus on family, but still remains a prominent member of the president’s inner circle. 

Her admission of Biden’s victory is noteworthy, as many of Trump’s allies and those in the White House have not publicly acknowledged his victory as Trump and his legal team continue to challenge election results.

Most of the lawsuits brought forth to challenge the results have been dismissed or rejected due to the lack of evidence to back up the baseless. Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has not found evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Biden said Thursday night that many Republicans have been calling him privately to congratulate him.

– Savannah Behrmann

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was backing down from months-long demands for trillions in new coronavirus relief to support a $900 billion bipartisan deal because of two things: Joe Biden was elected president and a COVID-19 vaccine is on the way.

“That is a total game changer. A new president and a vaccine,” Pelosi said, adding that some of her objections to the bill are OK because another batch of relief will come once Biden takes office. “We have a new president, a president who recognizes that we need to depend on science to stop the virus.”

The California Democrat has been the lead negotiator for Democrats on another coronavirus stimulus bill and has been firm in demanding a large package of about $2 trillion. She and other Democrats repeatedly rejected smaller bills to replenish some of the most popular programs, such as more funds for a small business loan program and unemployment assistance. Top Democrats even cast aside proposals from within the party to quickly get more aid to Americans. But this week, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., backed a $908 billion proposal offered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate and House, saying it offered a good framework for bipartisan discussions.

Pelosi, asked about the sudden change after months of demands, cut off a reporter’s question and sternly said, “Don’t characterize what we did before as a mistake,” she said. “That was not a mistake. It was a decision. And it has taken us to a place where we can do the right thing without other, shall we say, considerations in the legislation that we don’t want.”

The California Democrat added that she and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have had discussions and both support adding a relief package to a must-pass government spending bill, though she noted work needs to be done to come to agreements on both COVID-19 relief and certain provisions in a spending bill.

Time is of the essence, though. The government is set to shut down Dec. 11 if Congress does not pass a spending bill that President Donald Trump will sign and the House is only scheduled to be in session for one more week.

“There is momentum,” Pelosi said, adding that Congress must pass more aid. “We need to do it to save lives and livelihood with the hope that much more help is on the way.”

– Christal Hayes

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday said his administration would be “the most pro-equality administration in history” as he called for a “new era of LGBTQ rights.”

Biden’s comments to the 2020 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference came while honoring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for receiving the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s History Maker Award. He recorded his statement for a panel marking the 10-year anniversary of repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about sexual orientation for serving in the U.S. military.

Biden called it an honor for him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to have campaigned with a record number of LGBTQ candidates.

“It’s an honor to be an ally,” Biden said. “Vice President-elect Harris and I are committed to being the most pro-equality administration in history. But we can’t do it without you and we can’t do it without my dear friend Nancy Pelosi.”

Biden caused a stir as vice president when he supported same-sex marriage in May 2012 before President Barack Obama. The Supreme Court later decided in June 2015 that states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize marriages from other jurisdictions.

“I can’t wait to work together again to continue to fight for full equality and to usher in a new era of LGBTQ rights,” Biden told the group Friday.

– Bart Jansen

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a leader in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, will join President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Biden told CNN on Thursday that he asked Fauci to become his chief medical adviser and part of his COVID-19 response team.

“I asked him to stay on the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the COVID team,” Biden said.

“Oh, absolutely. I said yes right on the spot,” Fauci told NBC’s “Today” on Friday when asked if he’d taken the role.

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, praised Fauci in a tweet.

“There are few public servants in our history who have served as long and as well and with as much distinction at (sic) Dr. Tony Fauci. It will be a great honor to work with him again,” he wrote.

– Bart Jansen and Sean Rossman

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives is set to vote on marijuana legalization at the federal level Friday, the first time either chamber of Congress has voted on the matter.

The bill is likely to pass the chamber, but the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to take up the legislation in the last two weeks Congress is in session this year.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge some marijuana-related criminal records. It would still be up to states to pass their own regulations on the sale of marijuana.

Nadler told USA TODAY in September the vote on the bill would be a “historic vote” as the federal government put an end to its “40-year, very misguided crusade” against marijuana.

– Nicholas Wu

Vice President Mike Pence returns Friday to Georgia, when he’ll stump for Republicans seeking reelection in the highly watched Senate run-off races there. 

Pence will participate in a 3 p.m. EST rally in Savannah. The vice president has campaigned for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who face Democratic opponents Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff on Jan. 5. The races have national significance because if Democrats manage to flip both seats, the Senate would then be split 50-50, giving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the deciding vote in the chamber.

Pence also will visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to lead a roundtable on the COVID-19 vaccine.

– Sean Rossman

President-elect Joe Biden had a big Election Day in New York. In the final tally, his victory got even larger over President Donald Trump.

The former Democratic vice president picked up 1.5 million additional votes when all the absentee ballots were tallied and final counting was finished.

It ended with Biden getting about 5.2 million votes to 3.2 million votes for Trump, a victory of 60.4% to 37.5%, according to the certified tally approved Thursday by the state Board of Elections.

Biden’s victory in New York bested the nearly 60% of the vote that Democrat Hillary Clinton garnered four years ago against Trump, the native New Yorker, and helped Democrats down ballot in key state Senate races.

Due to a surge in absentee voting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden’s lead swelled in New York, as it had in many states. Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, according to national totals updated Thursday.

– Joseph Spector (New York State Team – USA TODAY Network)

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Vaccines End the Pandemic’s Political Harmony – The New York Times



CANADA letter

Vaccines End the Pandemic’s Political Harmony

Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader, is using the government’s vaccine plans to begin his first big political attack on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.


  • Dec. 4, 2020, 9:04 p.m. ET

This week people in Britain learned that a coronavirus vaccine will soon be on its way — at least for the first batch of people. In Canada, however, vaccines were the focus of political squabbling.

Pfizer’s plant in Belgium that will be supplying vaccine to Britain.
Credit…Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

After several months of the pandemic not being a partisan issue in Canada, the prospect of effective vaccines has finally politicized it. While the political dissent in no way resembles the polarization that surrounds the pandemic in the United States, Erin O’Toole has made the government’s vaccine plans the subject of his first major attack as Conservative leader on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Joining Mr. O’Toole have been several of the premiers. Ontario’s premier Doug Ford, who as recently as August said, “I absolutely love Chrystia Freeland,” Mr. Trudeau’s deputy prime minister, now grumbles about being denied information by the Liberal government.

Although no vaccine is currently approved for use in Canada, or in the United States or Europe, Mr. O’Toole introduced a motion in Parliament on Thursday to, among other things, require the government to post specific dates for when Canadians will start receiving each of the various vaccines it has ordered; offer details on how the vaccines will be shipped and stored; and state who the government will recommend be first inoculated by provincial health care systems.

“Canadians deserve to know when they can expect each vaccine type to be available in Canada and how many vaccines will be available per month,” Mr. O’Toole said. “In the middle of a historic health crisis, this government should not be operating behind closed doors.”

The motion followed earlier claims by Mr. O’Toole that the government had excessively focused efforts on a joint vaccine venture between CanSino, a Chinese vaccine maker, the National Research Council and Dalhousie University that ultimately fell apart because of lack of cooperation from China. He also said Canada was at the back of the line for the millions of doses of vaccines it has ordered.

The government rejects Mr. Toole’s accusations that it has somehow dropped the ball on vaccines and will leave Canadians waiting for the shots.

When confirming this week that the first doses will arrive in early 2021, Anita Anand, the minister responsible for buying them, emphasized that everything now hinges on Health Canada determining that the vaccines are both safe and effective.

Credit…Blair Gable/Reuters

“While there is pressure to move at the speed of politics, we will not rush the science,” she told a news conference. “It is not possible to circle a single date on the calendar but I can assure you that as soon as Health Canada approval occurs, our delivery process will kick in.”

But that does open up the question of why Britain is going ahead now with the vaccine from Pfizer, the American company that will also be Canada’s first supplier. Benjamin Mueller, my colleague based in London, recently explained that, unlike Canada and the United States, Britain’s regulator is willing to rely more on reports by drug makers that their vaccines are safe and work as promised, rather than analyze the raw data.

[Read: Why the U.K. Approved a Coronavirus Vaccine First]

Not everyone accepts the wisdom of Britain’s accelerated approach.

Scott Matthews, a professor of political science at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, told me that it was inevitable that the political harmony in Canada around the pandemic would erode.

Credit…Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

“The prime minister has been benefiting from the absence of criticism,” he said.

But he said there was no danger that the current focus on vaccine delivery would harm the overall message of the importance of following public health guidelines to reduce infection.

“The Conservatives’ approach isn’t putting anyone’s life in danger and it’s natural they’d be criticizing the government — that’s what the opposition does,” he said. But Professor Matthews wondered what would be gained if specific dates are pinned down. “Is the motion they’re talking about really that important?” he asked.

Credit…Devin Olsen
  • On Nov. 7, before British Columbia imposed new pandemic restrictions and after the end of the pro hockey season, several N.H.L. players and Patrick Chan, an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, climbed aboard two helicopters. Their destination was a makeshift rink about 100 kilometers north of Vancouver at a mountaintop altitude of 1,800 meters. Gerald Narciso tells the story of that day, which was captured in stunning photos by Devin Olsen and Zachary Moxley.

  • In Opinion, Nicholas Kristof has examined the harm inflicted by Pornhub and its Montreal-based parent company, Mindgeek, and asks: “Why does Canada host a company that inflicts rape videos on the world?” (A note of caution: His powerful report includes descriptions of sexual assaults.)

  • Suzanne Simard of the University of British Columbia is foremost among scientists who have changed how we understand forests. She has demonstrated that they are not a collection of solitary trees fighting each other for resources but rather vast and intricate societies exchanging carbon, water and nutrients through underground networks of fungus. Set aside some time for Ferris Jabr’s article for The New York Times Magazine, which is beautifully illustrated by Brendan George Ko, a photographer from Toronto.

  • Elliot Page, the Halifax-born and raised actor and Oscar-nominated star of “Juno,” announced on Tuesday that he is transgender.

  • A clutch of tiny eggs arrived at the Montreal Insectarium in 2018. They would solve a century-old mystery about an elusive leaf insect.

  • Several Indigenous podcasters offered their recommendations for podcasts about their people and communities.

  • As it wrote off $20 billion in natural gas investments. Exxon Mobil said it was removing gas projects in Canada, the United States and Argentina from its plans.

  • The police said two American women tampered with railway signals in Washington state, an action with the potential to cause a derailment. The tampering, which led to terrorism charges, appears to have been an act of solidarity with Indigenous Canadians opposed to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline between Alberta and British Columbia.

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.

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Will Rajinikanth's bet on 'spiritual' politics, 'change' mantra catapult him ? – Mint



Chennai: If his political package of ‘spiritual politics’ plus ‘change everything’ clicks, Rajinikanth would be the third star from the celluloid world to taste political success in Tamil Nadu after AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran and his protege J Jayalalithaa.

Whether or not his charisma and fan following would catapult him to political primacy could also be gauged, to an extent, from how he was going to explain his spiritual politics and the mantra of change to the people besides a host of other factors.

Also read | Inside the race to save Mollem

Assembly elections are due in Tamil Nadu during April-May 2021. According to the actor, spiritual politics is honesty, transparency and graft free politics transcending the barriers of caste and religion to provide good governance.

The ‘change everything’ slogan in addition to the ‘now or never’ is about a complete overhaul of the ‘system’ in governance and at the level of party structure as well to facilitate a real change for the benefit of the people.

The star, who had described himself in the past as a fanatic fan of late MGR, had invoked his legacy to assure a good administration for the benefit of poor and common man. Before he founded the AIADMK in 1972, MGR was with the DMK and had been also been active in politics. Virtually challenging Dravidian ideology, he had asked if honesty, belief in God and overcoming the barriers of caste and religion was alien to the Dravidian land.

On the poll prospects for the actor, political analyst Sumanth Raman said it was too early to predict since there were many questions to be answered by the actor. Raman wondered, “What is the meaning of change everything ? what is his policy and programmes ?”

He said the actor should explain how he would usher in the change that he has promised. Many things– like if his party would contest all the 234 seats, if it is so, who would be the candidates or whether there is a possibility of stitching an electoral alliance are not known, he said. Rajinikanth would also need a large team of credible faces to be fielded as candidates, he pointed out.

To a question on the actor saying in March that he would prefer to name a youth as Chief Minister and stay out of governance, Raman wondered if that view was still “valid.” “Rajinikanth will make an impact. But for the impact to be really huge, there should be answers for such questions. I can see that both AIADMK and DMK is rattled by his political innings.” he told PTI.

On spiritual politics, he said the DMK may try to give a spin to it, but he did not see ‘neagativity’ about it.

Dravidian ideologue V M S Subagunarajan, however, did not concur. He said the actor could not get a political foothold in Tamil Nadu since neither spirituality nor nationalistic politics have ever been successful in the state. Despite rooted in Periyar’s ideology, the state has some space for film stars but only for those who have either acknowledged or endorsed the Dravidian ideology like actors Vijayakanth (founder of DMDK) and Kamal Haasan (chief of Makkal Needhi Maiam), he said.

“Rajinikanth’s brand of spirituality is no doubt Hindu spirituality. His claim that he embraces all faiths is only hollow,” he said, adding the actor’s party, with its hues of spiritualism and nationalism may only be a clone of the BJP. “Nationalistic politics has no place in Tamil Nadu and yesteryear top star Sivaji Ganesan’s failure to take off politically is a very good example,” he said.

Renowned actor Sivaji Ganesan, who founded a political party after associating with the Congress, was defeated by DMK’s Durai Chandrasekaran in the 1989 Assembly election (Tiruvaiyaru assembly constituency) by a margin of over 10,000 votes. Ganesan could only emerge as the runner-up.

Film critic and political analyst M Bharat Kumar pointed out that the actor has said his spiritual politics treated all religions equally and that it transcended all barriers. “The AIADMK is already following soft spiritualism through several welfare measures for the benefit of all faiths including Christians and Muslims. So, we need to see how he is going to distinguish himself from the AIADMK to succeed,” he said.

The actor has promised ‘spiritual politics’ driven by the ‘change’ mantra in Tamil Nadu which is dominated by Dravidian politics of the AIADMK and DMK for over five decades.

The death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi in 2016 and 2018 respectively, provided the perfect setting for Kamal Haasan and now Rajinikanth to aspire to climb the political ladder.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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