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La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre retires from politics – Saskatoon StarPhoenix



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I knew what I was getting into, minus COVID-19. I’ve had some personal impacts when it comes to tragedies. Strong support from council and the community’s belief in my leadership helped us get through those moments. Without those supports, and of course the support of my family, it’s very challenging.

When I proceeded to become the mayor of La Loche, I thought I’d be able to step up to the plate and do what I needed to do. I think I was successful considering all the challenges that came my way during that time. Having good staff is (also) key to any successful leadership.

Healing, as individuals and as a community, was a common theme during your term. How is La Loche doing in that process?

We’re still struggling with a lot. There’s a lot of mental health capacity we need to work with and individuals and families that were directly impacted by that incident, and the community as a whole.

But with COVID-19 coming into the community, isolated people weren’t allowed to visit. (It was a challenge) putting on those measures and restrictions in the community, especially when we hit the pandemic and the numbers started to soar.

All those have an impact on an individual’s psyche. Getting those measures put in place, and getting some of these mental health positions filled to support individuals is going to be paramount in the years to come.

What went into La Loche’s COVID-19 response and how it affected residents there?

A lot of work, a lot of effort and a lot of time. I was on the phone from 8 a.m. to 10 or 11 p.m. each day. … Everything has to be clear to point where we can relay those messages to the community.

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Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante releases graphic novel detailing political journey – Nanaimo News NOW



“For me the graphic novel format was always what I wanted,” she said in a recent interview at her publisher’s offices.

“I think it’s accessible, it can be fun, and I love graphic novels myself.”

The book is based on Plante’s own sketches and anecdotes she began jotting down in 2013, during her first run for a seat on city council. Four years later, she became the first woman elected mayor of Montreal after her surprise defeat of experienced incumbent Denis Coderre.

While the writing and drawings were initially a form of self-care to help her “stay balanced,” she said she eventually came to see that her story might inspire others, especially young girls.

“I wanted to show, and maybe tell, people it’s OK not to have all the keys and codes to do something you think would be a good thing to do or you believe in,” she said.

“Just go for it.”

She began working with Cote-Lacroix on evenings and weekends, taking about two years to finalize the story and illustrations.

Plante said that, much like her character in the book, she had been looking for a new challenge before her entry into politics. Then she received a phone call from left-wing municipal party Projet Montreal, which was looking to diversify its slate of candidates.

In the book, Plante doesn’t shy away from the challenges faced by women who put themselves in the public eye. At one point, one of her character’s posters is defaced by sexist graffiti. In another, her character’s husband gets effusive praise for helping to care for the couple’s children — something the book points out is a given for female political spouses. 

While the book “won’t change sexism,” Plante said she hopes it will help highlight the double standards women face.

Three years into her mandate, Plante has had a bumpy year, marked by a global pandemic that has devastated the city’s economy and criticism over her administration’s failure to implement its big visions for affordable housing and transportation. She has also faced anger over what some have described as an anti-car agenda, which includes building bike lanes, eliminating parking spots and temporarily closing some streets to vehicle traffic to create “sanitary corridors.” 

At times, that criticism has escalated to the level of death threats.

While some criticism is to be expected, Plante attributes much of the public anger directed her way to the anxiety wrought by the pandemic.

“Not to minimize their actions of being very aggressive, violent or doing death threats, but I like to hope in the future, when people are less stressed and in a better position, things will calm down,” she said.

She also faced criticism earlier this year over her novel itself, with some high-profile commentators questioning her decision to “draw cartoons” as the city was embroiled in the COVID-19 crisis.

Plante dismissed this as unfounded, especially since she says the writing process wrapped up in late 2019.

“People were just kind of trashing the book (without) even reading it, which I thought was sad, because it wasn’t about the content, it was about criticizing the author,” she said. However, she did push back the book’s publication for a few months when the pandemic’s second wave began.

Plante said she would still recommend politics to young people who want to make a difference, even as she acknowledges it’s a “tough” career that comes with unusual levels of public exposure. 

“But hopefully people see in the book, the love that you get from your volunteers, it’s a community, it’s people working together,” she said.

“It’s worth it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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Rascals, rogues and colourful speakers: We seem to have fewer characters in our politics these days –



Danny Williams, seen during election night in 2007, was rarely quiet during his two terms in office — and knew how to push political buttons. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

There’s a certain kind of litmus test for politicians from Newfoundland and Labrador: would Mark Critch want to play you in a sketch on 22 Minutes?

That notion came to mind after a conversation I had with a younger colleague last week about a story with long roots, and we wound up talking about a particular cabinet minister from an earlier age. His name didn’t ring a bell with her, so I mentioned a few yarns from decades back, including a mini-scandal or two.

“He was quite the character,” I said. Her response boiled down to this: do we have fewer characters now in politics, or what?

I thought about it, and came to this conclusion: yes, we do.

Maybe it’s for the better, maybe it’s not, but it seems like we no longer have the kind of political types to which we have long been accustomed. In a saucy take on a roguish persona that was more familiar years ago, the late, great Ray Guy once described Newfoundland politicians as the sorts of people whose mothers count the silver after they’ve come over for tea.

While Ray was talking about rascals drawn to politics, his comment is also about our political culture: we love talking about politics, and — admit it — everyone loves it when they act up.

Take no prisoners

Over the years, we’ve definitely had a political stage filled with colourful players: larger-than-life personalities, bombastic speakers, quick wits, quirky souls. Think about Brian Peckford, whose career started with earnest patriotism and fishermen’s sweaters, ending with sour cucumbers and fur coats (with police protection on the campaign trail in between).

John Crosbie was unapologetic about making controversial remarks during a career that took him from St. John’s city council to the House of Assembly to the House of Commons. (CBC)

Think about John Crosbie and his townie drawl, flaying his political opponents over a decades-long career, and well into his retirement. Think about John Efford, whose unabashed partisanship was matched by his good humour. Think about Brian Tobin, whose preferred campaigning style was take no prisoners and whose rhetorical pitch could go to 11.

And there was Joseph R. Smallwood.

Ah, Joey … or, to be more precise, “Joey.” Smallwood didn’t go by the name himself — his associates called him just Joe — but crafted the “Joey” persona as a political weapon that helped keep him in power for almost 23 years. Smallwood may have formed and broke the mould for political personality for a generation. How many future politicians grew up to be influenced by that rhetoric?

Joseph R. Smallwood leaned into his ‘Joey’ persona during his lengthy political career. These items are among the memorabilia on display at the Smallwood Interpretation Centre in Gambo. (CBC )

Smallwood was frequently criticized for hogging the political stage for himself, accused of hiring cabinet ministers whose skill he most admired was nodding. He grew into the stature, that’s for sure.

Rex Murphy described being a young broadcaster at VOCM whose duties included collecting tape for a segment called Conversations with the Premier. In a speech, Murphy recollected that once, he just stuck his microphone into Smallwood’s car when he pulled into the lot, and then took it back when Smallwood was done. He didn’t get to hear the “conversation” until he got back inside. (Crosbie, who quit Smallwood’s cabinet with future premier Clyde Wells, at least once called the segment “Monologues with the Master.“)

After Smallwood came Frank Moores, who in the ’70s leaned into a devilish style while proving to Newfoundland and Labrador you could have a different party in government. I recall Donna Butt, whose Rising Tide Theatre has been mocking politicians for decades in the annual Revue shows, describing Moores as a “good time Charlie.”

Making a racket

More recently, there was Danny Williams, who was not above over-the-top quotes (“they should be shot,” he once said of Eastern Health‘s leadership), stomping out of meetings, pulling down flags and banning reporters during live interviews. Like Tobin, Williams enjoyed popular support by making a racket. It’s a card that’s been played many times over the years.

WATCH | Mark Critch talks with (and scares) Danny Williams about his heart surgery in this 2010 clip: 

Mark Critch visits Premier Danny Williams after heart surgery. 2:09

It’s all a bit of a boys’ club, huh?

I remember speaking a few times years ago with Ann Bell, the first president of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women. By all rights, Bell and quite a few other women ought to have been inside the House of Assembly, not outside advocating for ways to get women in the scene. Bell, who organized for the PCs back in the day when Tories could more easily be progressive on social issues, lamented how party brass would agree to a woman candidate — in districts where they were having trouble recruiting.

At St. John’s city hall, we had Dorothy Wyatt, whose “I don’t care what you think” attitude involved far more than her personal style (cartoonists loved her headbands and glasses as much as they loved Crosbie’s look). Wyatt called them as she saw them, a style that shook up council.

John Efford, seen during a 2019 interview, never shied from expressing his opinions, even if they put him at odds with political leaders. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

In the ’80s, we had the infamous “debates” — they were often more like comic shouting matches — between John Murphy and Andy Wells. For a while there, they had a recurring role on CBC Radio’s As It Happens, which dined out on their caustic, often hilarious exchanges. In their midst was Shannie Duff, who became mayor in the ’90s; while she felt under siege from Andy Wells, she was known for speaking her mind, as frankly as anyone else.

Where are we now?

And now … things have been a lot more quiet. On the provincial scene, after Williams, we had a string of PC premiers (Kathy Dunderdale, Tom Marshall, Paul Davis) whose style emphasized caution, even amid controversy.

Then came Dwight Ball, whose political style was (to tweak a phrase that’s been very popular in the pandemic) an over-abundance of caution. Though an image of Ball with his teeth bared gained traction as a meme, Ball took care to steer to the neutral. Ball wanted things to be calm, so much so that things backfired and he wound up with tumult both internal and external.

Now we have Andrew Furey, whose early premiership is being tested by an ongoing pandemic and a series of economic crises. We’ll see in time what his personal style is like.

It seems like local politics has been strongly influenced by a contemporary playbook used far and wide: say little, be cautious. Politicians often now eschew interviews and off-the-cuff constituent meetings for written (and often very brief) statements and bland, manicured speeches that emphasize positive but vague phrases. In the end, those comments don’t reveal much — which is exactly the point.

Which is a shame. Many of the politicians I mentioned above had their lovers and haters, but — like many, many others over the years — they were genuine. They told you what they thought. (Sometimes they yelled it.) They were, truly, characters.

Joey and Danny, Dottie and Shannie, the Brians … we’ve had so many characters over the years. I hope we’ll see a great many more for years to come.

Read more from CBC Newfoundand and Labrador

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Jagmeet Singh and AOC crew up to find impostors in hit game Among Us –



Jagmeet Singh committed a grisly slaying in front of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday night. Fortunately, the victim was a video game character, not a human being.

The NDP leader squared off against the firebrand member of the U.S. Congress in Among Us, a popular online multiplayer game, as a way to reach young people where they hang.

Between galactic missions carried out by stubby, spacesuit-clad avatars, Singh and Ocasio-Cortez extolled the importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage and rehabilitation over punishment.

“Another world is not only possible, but it exists. And in so many places in the U.S. it exists, like, a three-hour drive away from people who are saying it’s impossible,” said Ocasio-Cortez, referring to affordable health care and more generous employment insurance north of the border.

Legislators have an obligation to connect with younger Canadians struggling to cope with the pandemic, said Singh, who had challenged the U.S. representative over Twitter on Thursday.

Message to young people

“I think it’s a great way to reach out to young people who have been really hard-hit by COVID-19, who often get blamed. But they’re the ones that are working in the jobs that expose them — in service jobs, in retail jobs, in restaurants and bars,” Singh said in a phone interview.

“Also they’re the ones who lost their jobs because these are the sectors that have been impacted by the shutdown,” he added.

“It’s really hard to physically distance when you don’t have a career settled and you’re still going to school or you haven’t found a partner.”

Singh said he and AOC, as the congresswoman from New York is known, share progressive values on health care, economic equality and climate change, views that align with a growing slice of younger voters.

Ocasio-Cortez live streamed her debut on Among Us last month in an effort to lure young adults to the polls for the Nov. 3 election in the U.S., attracting a staggering 439,000 viewers.

Friday’s matchup, which streamed on the online gaming site Twitch, started at 7 p.m. ET and continued past 10 p.m.

Singh calls session an ‘epic’ crossover in politics

“It’s going to be one of the most epic crossovers in Canadian politics,” Singh, 41, said hours earlier, despite drawing a more modest 26,000 attendees.

A controversial standard-bearer for left-wing progressive politics, Ocasio-Cortez, 31, was first elected to represent her New York City district in the House of Representatives in 2018.

Since then, she has become one of the most familiar faces on Capitol Hill, part of a progressive wing of the Democratic party that includes former presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Among Us pits a team of tiny astronauts trying to return to Earth against one of their own, a sneaky saboteur or “impostor” whose objective is to kill off other crew members before they can repair their ship and identify the impostor.

The Friday showdown — “talking together, and figuring out who’s sus and who’s not” — was Singh’s first interaction with Ocasio-Cortez outside of posts and direct messages on Twitter, he said.

‘Impostors’ not paying fair share, Singh says

“If you think about the impostors as the ones that are at the very top exploiting the system or the ultra-wealthy who aren’t paying their fair share … that’s a pretty cool metaphor.”

His teammate also found symbolic significance in the mission.

“Canadian members of Parliament and U.S. members of Congress venting each other into space. What could go wrong?” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Thursday in response to Singh’s invitation.

The match wasn’t all fun and games.

Banter with viewer input

“Are you for real? Jagmeet, you just killed her right in front of me,” AOC said during gameplay. “He’s so good at this, it’s scary.”

“Are you trying to call me out?” Singh asked. “Thought there was solidarity here.”

The congresswoman conceded she was “impressed” with his deceptive plea of innocence after he denied perpetrating the grisly act.

“Damn, they’re doin ’em dirty,” she added.

Periodically, Singh asked viewers to chime in with typed chants of “YES” to show their enthusiasm for policies such as a wealth tax or “more youth supports,” while Ocasio-Cortez lamented “scaremongering around socialism” in the U.S. and “out-there” Fox News coverage.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Oct. 20 live stream, which included fellow progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, was one of the most-viewed events in the nine-year history of Twitch, which has become a popular way for politicians to attract young supporters.

The record still belongs to a professional gamer who played the popular game Fortnite with Canadian superstar Drake, rapper Travis Scott and NFL wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, with 628,000 viewers watching at the same time.

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