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Legault rejects electoral reform after Quebec opposition decries ‘distortion’ in vote

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Quebec Premier François Legault is rejecting calls for electoral reform from opposition parties whose share of the popular vote in Monday’s election failed to translate into a corresponding number of seats.

Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec cruised to re-election, winning 90 of the 125 seats in the province’s legislature — 72 per cent of the total — with 41 per cent of the popular vote. The Liberals retained official Opposition status and won 21 ridings with 14.4 per cent of the vote.

Third-place Québec solidaire, meanwhile, captured 15.4 per cent of the vote but won just 11 seats, and the Parti Québécois ended up with three seats after getting 14.6 per cent of the votes.

“The disproportion between the popular vote and the number of seats is historic and it is very problematic for democracy in Quebec,” PQ Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon told reporters Tuesday in Boucherville, Que.

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At the Quebec legislature, parties receive funding based on the number of seats they win. But St-Pierre Plamondon said Legault and Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade should agree to fund his party based on its share of the popular vote rather than on the “distortion” created by the first-past-the-post electoral system.

“I appeal to them to see this injustice and not make it worse,” he said.

Parties that have more than 12 members elected or receive at least 20 per cent of the vote automatically receive official party status in Quebec, which gives them more speaking time in the legislature and additional funding.

Legault said Tuesday he is open to giving official party status to parties that failed to meet the threshold, but he will not consider electoral reform.

“There is no electoral system that is perfect. There are advantages and disadvantages to each electoral system,” he told reporters in St-François-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, northeast of Quebec City.

Legault, who promised to reform Quebec’s voting system in 2018 but later said Quebecers were not interested in the change, said the fact that his party received 41 per cent of the vote, while the nearest opposition party received 15 per cent, is a sign of the legitimacy of his mandate.

“I said many times during the election campaign that I’m not open to discussion about our electoral system. I said that I will not open this subject, so I will respect my commitment,” Legault said.

During his concession speech Monday, Québec solidaire spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois also called for electoral reform.

“Our political system is broken, our democracy is sick and the electoral map tonight does not reflect the political will of Quebecers,” Nadeau-Dubois said. “François Legault has to recognize the problem.”

Anglade told reporters in Montreal Tuesday that she recognizes there is a distortion in the voting system and she’s open to having a discussion on electoral reform.

The Conservative Party of Quebec received 12.9 per cent of the vote but won no seats. During his speech to supporters on Monday, party leader Éric Duhaime also described the results as a “distortion.”

Legault said he plans to meet with the other party leaders to hear both their policy suggestions and their wishes for a role in the legislature, adding that there is a greater spirit of co-operation at the beginning of a government’s mandate. “After the campaign, the next (election) will be only in four years, so we’ll have time at the end of the mandate to restart fighting. Now we have, all of us, to work for all Quebecers.”

In the Halifax area on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked whether he thought Monday’s results in Quebec reflected the will of the people. Trudeau, who like Legault backtracked on a promise to reform the electoral system, responded that Canada’s democracy is strong compared to many places around the world.

“There are always discussions that we can have about how we can increase the participation rate and reduce the cynicism that people have toward politics, but we see as well that millions of people contributed and want to have their say on the future of their province, their country, and it’s a good thing,” he told reporters.

Elections Quebec reported that voter turnout Monday was 66.1 per cent.

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

 

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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B.C. Premier David Eby unveils his new cabinet

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B.C. Premier David Eby to reveal new cabinet with health, safety, housing priorities

Here is a list of British Columbia Premier David Eby‘s ministers following his first major cabinet shuffle since taking over as leader:

Agriculture and Food — Pam Alexis (new to cabinet)

Attorney General — Niki Sharma (new to cabinet)

Children and Family Development — Mitzi Dean (unchanged)

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Citizens’ Services — Lisa Beare

Education and Child Care — Rachna Singh (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for child care — Grace Lore (new to cabinet)

Emergency Management and Climate Readiness — Bowinn Ma

Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation — Josie Osborne

Environment and Climate Change Strategy — George Heyman (unchanged)

Finance (includes Columbia River Treaty) — Katrine Conroy

Forests and minister responsible for consular corps. — Bruce Ralston

Health and minister responsible for Francophone affairs — Adrian Dix (unchanged)

Housing and government house leader — Ravi Kahlon

Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — Murray Rankin

Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation — Brenda Bailey (new to cabinet)

Minister of state for trade — Jagrup Brar (new to cabinet)

Labour — Harry Bains (unchanged)

Mental Health and Addictions — Jennifer Whiteside

Municipal Affairs — Anne Kang

Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills (includes immigration/foreign credentials) — Selina Robinson

Minister of state for workforce development — Andrew Mercier (new to cabinet)

Public Safety and Solicitor General (ICBC) — Mike Farnworth (unchanged)

Social Development and Poverty Reduction — Sheila Malcolmson

Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport — Lana Popham

Transportation and Infrastructure (BC Transit and Translink) — Rob Fleming (unchanged)

Minister of state for infrastructure and transit — Dan Coulter (new to cabinet)

Water, Land and Resource Stewardship — Nathan Cullen

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022

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Bob Rae heads to Haiti in attempt at political consensus, amid possible intervention

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OTTAWA — Canada is trying to dislodge a political impasse in Haiti by sending one of its top diplomats to Port-au-Prince.

Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, started an in-person push for negotiations Wednesday.

Haiti is facing a series of crises as armed gangs block access to fuel and essentials, leading to water and power outages that are worsening a cholera outbreak.

The Haitian government has asked for a foreign military to intervene and push out the gangs, but opponents argue that might only prolong an unpopular government in a country that has not had elections since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Canada might be part of an intervention, but only if there is a consensus across Haiti’s fractured political scene.

Rae’s three-day visit will include talks with politicians, grassroots groups and United Nations officials on how Canada could play a role in what the Liberals say would be “Haitian-led solutions.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand gave no sense of what that might look like.

“We are making sure to be prudent in this situation,” she told reporters Wednesday.

“We are studying those contributions, potential contributions, and we will have more to say on that in short order.”

This fall, Canada has sanctioned 11 prominent Haitians over alleged ties to gangs, sent military vehicles to the country, and had Trudeau’s former national security adviser conduct an assessment mission.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

 

Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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An anti-environmental group is shaping Oregon politics and policy – Oregon Capital Chronicle

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Shortly after this year’s midterm elections, an anti-government group in Oregon called Timber Unity posted a call to action on Facebook. It asked its followers to “bombard” Portland City Council members during an upcoming hearing over a proposed change to a motor vehicles fuel code.

The changes in the code would reduce dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels by “increasing the required percentage of renewable fuels blended with petroleum diesel.”

In its post, Timber Unity called this a “special eletist [sic] blend” that would raise the price of diesel, lead distributors to disinvest in Oregon and cause biodiesel and renewable diesel to “not meet specs.”

All of these claims were false, according to the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

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Timber Unity has been active in Oregon politics since its founding three years ago.

This year, it endorsed Republican Christine Drazan for governor. Even though she lost, other conservative candidates won and did so with help from Timber Unity, an increasingly active conservative organization with a decidedly anti-conservation agenda.

County commissioners backed by Timber Unity flipped several seats this year, including Ben West who won in Clackamas County, unseating an incumbent. In Lane County, Ryan Ceniga defeated Dawn Lesley, an environmental engineer who prioritized climate change.

Taking over these hyper-local positions has been central to Timber Unity’s strategy of political influence.

Timber Unity’s origins

In June 2019, truckers and loggers living mainly in logging country between the coast and Portland became fed up and angry over a proposed carbon emissions bill.

Many of them, including the trucker and movement’s founder, Jeff Leavy, viewed the bill as a means of killing jobs.

In fact, the bill would have financially benefitted rural communities, such as theirs, affected by climate change.

Known as cap-and-trade, the bill proposed that companies emitting more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide would have to buy carbon credits at auction.

But the proposal galvanized workers in the industry who mistakenly thought that China would be able to trade in the marketplace and, as Leavy put it to me, “keep polluting this earth on our dime.”

After hearing about the bill, Leavy used Facebook to organize a protest at the Capitol in Salem.

Over the course of several weeks in June, truckers and haulers staged their rigs, coordinated a convoy and held speeches in front of the Capitol.

They called themselves Timber Unity.

Soon after that protest, right-wing figures, including anti-vaxxers and secessionists, joined Timber Unity.

The protests attracted national media attention and statewide political interest.

That month, each of the 11 Republican state senators walked out of the legislative session and effectively killed the bill.

Political alignment

Now over three years later, Timber Unity is still energized, even after some initial internal splintering and leadership changes (Leavy says he resigned).

The group endorsed several winning candidates in the 2020 election, and even helped flip a House seat that hadn’t voted for a Republican in two decades.

In a September 1 Facebook post leading up to this year’s elections, the group applauded then candidate and former House minority leader Drazan for joining a 2020 Legislature walkout by Republicans over a bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The news that Timber Unity endorsed Drazan wasn’t a complete surprise despite the fact that an early Timber Unity supporter, Betsy Johnson, ran this year as an independent.

Angelita Sanchez, a co-director of the Timber Unity PAC, told me, vaguely, that Johnson was “a yes vote on a gas tax,” which Sanchez considered a “bad vote.”

And Mike Pihl, a former Timber Unity president, was already listed as an endorsement on Drazan’s website.

Anti-conservation agenda

In interviews, Timber Unity leadership distances itself from extremism and right-wing figures, but posts on Facebook and other promotional materials reveal far-right ideologies.

In October, Timber Unity screenshotted a Vox story headlined “How logging, a Nike founder, and the alt-right warped the Oregon governor’s race” and wrote, “Well, well, WELL!!! Look at what we have here!!! The FAR LEFT EXTREMIST came out with a story today, and lets just say they are running scared and they give ALL THE CREDIT TO YOU!!!”

The group also previously promoted a rally with a poster that included a QAnon banner and members of the private Facebook group in 2020 included election deniers, QAnon conspiracy theorists and at least one man calling for war ahead of the Capitol riots.

The rise of Timber Unity mimics previous anti-government movements, particularly in western states.

The “Wise Use” movement in the 1980s and ‘90s, for example, wanted the expansion of private property rights and less government oversight on federal lands. Its anti-government and anti-environmental rhetoric was similar to that used by Timber Unity, which sees environmental and government regulation as an infringement on freedom and rights.

Pihl, the former president, told me there’s already too much regulation of the timber industry.

“We already have the Forest Protection Act, which is very deep and it’s 87 pages of regulation,” he says. “I have it sitting on my desk, I read it all the time and there’s so many protected already, like the Siuslaw National Forest. You can’t do anything there.”

Timber Unity has successfully tapped into deep-seated resentments over environmental regulation, and its statewide support seems here to stay—at least for now.

This story was originally published in Columbia Insight, an independent environmental journalist news site.

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