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LILLEY: Trudeau's mandatory vaccination plan all about politics, not health – Toronto Sun

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The announcement on Friday that the federal government will make vaccinations mandatory for federal workers was nothing but political theatre and election posturing.

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Facing criticism for planning an election during the COVID-19 pandemic and at the start of what the chief medical officer called a fourth wave, the Trudeau Liberals had to do something.

Mandatory vaccinations to the rescue!

“This is the best way to end the pandemic and allow the economy to safely remain open,” cabinet minister Dominic LeBlanc said.

Here’s the thing: Canada is a world leader in vaccinations right now, with a higher percentage of people fully vaccinated than any other country. While we started as a laggard with problems in the rollout at both the federal and provincial levels, Canada now leads much of the world.

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Also consider that Ottawa, home to more civil servants than any other community in the country, has one of the highest vaccination rates with 85% of those over the age of 18 having their first shot. When you look at those over 40, the age group for most civil servants, the rate is even higher. For those between 40-49, 87% have their first shot, while 90% of people aged 50-59 have their first shot.

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When asked, LeBlanc couldn’t provide data on what percentage of civil servants were fully or partly vaccinated, but I’ll guarantee you it’s higher than the city-wide average.

Now consider that most of these civil servants are still working from home and will be for the foreseeable future. CTV Ottawa reported last week that 200 employees, out of more than 127,000 in the national capital region, had been selected for a program to get workers back into the office.

So, federal workers are already vaccinated at a very high rate and most are working from home, but this plan to have mandatory vaccinations by the end of October will somehow make the workplace and all of Canada safer?

Of course it won’t, but it will make the Liberal election prospects safer.

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  1. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam puts on a mask at a news conference held to discuss COVID-19 in Ottawa, Nov. 6, 2020.

    LILLEY: Trudeau looks to call election as Dr. Tam plays politics

  2. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference on the airline industry in Montreal, July 15, 2021.

    BONOKOSKI: Only Trudeau Liberals seem to want federal election

  3. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to members of the media as Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King watches at the daycare inside Carrefour de l'Isle-Saint-Jean school in Charlottetown, P.E.I., July 27, 2021.

    EDITORIAL: Trudeau out to buy the election

Trudeau spent months saying he wouldn’t bring in any kind of mandatory vaccination program or vaccine passports, calling them “extreme measures that could have real divisive impacts on community and country.”

Now he supports these measures because polling tells him it’s popular and he and his party are being slammed for warning about a fourth wave and planning an election at the same time.

So they announce that federal workers — and anyone who wants to travel within the country by air or rail or board a cruise ship in Canada — needs to be vaccinated, but the requirement won’t take effect until the end of October. By that point, there’s a very good chance we will be at or near 90% vaccination across Canada, a level that could produce herd immunity against COVID-19.

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Like so many arguments around COVID, this one has become about emotions rather than facts. Encouraging people who are hesitant to get their shot is important and takes work, the kind of work many provincial and local health authorities are engaged in.

Mobile clinics that take shots to at-risk neighbourhoods, using family doctors to reach out to people who have not come forward and enlisting community leaders to speak to ethnic and racial communities where hesitancy is high, are the kinds of programs that are working.

The heavy hand of government will make those opposed dig in their heels, spark court challenges and have little effect on vaccination rates. It will convince some voters, though, that the Liberals are taking action just in time for them to cast their ballots, which is all this exercise was ever about.

blilley@postmedia.com

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Green Party chief Annamie Paul resigns, calling it ‘worst period’ of her life

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Annamie Paul announced her resignation as head of Canada‘s Green Party on Monday after losing in her own district in last week’s parliamentary election, stepping aside just under a year after becoming the nation’s first Black leader of a mainstream national party.

Paul, 48, said she felt she was never truly allowed to lead the fractious environmentally focused party and was not interested in going through a fight to remain its chief. She called her time as party leader “the worst period in my life.”

“When I was elected and put in this role, I was breaking a glass ceiling,” Paul told reporters in Toronto. “What I didn’t realize at the time is that I was breaking a glass ceiling that was going to fall on my head.”

Paul came in fourth in her own Toronto constituency – won by the Liberals – and the Greens dropped 4 percentage points nationally in the Sept. 20 election compared with 2019. They won only two seats in the 338-seat House of Commons compared with three two years ago.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a third term, albeit with a minority of seats in parliament.

Paul, a Toronto lawyer, beat out seven other contenders to win the leadership of the party last October. But she has for months been in a battle with the party’s federal council, which tried to oust her before the election. The party did not provide funding for Paul to hire a campaign staff or a national campaign manager.

“I just don’t have the heart for it,” Paul said, referring to going through a leadership review invoked by the party immediately after the election.

Of the discord within the party, Paul said she had never been given the opportunity to lead and “I will not be given that opportunity.”

Jenica Atwin, one of the three Green parliamentarians, left the party in June and joined the Liberals. Atwin was elected as a Liberal last week.

Atwin has said her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Paul is Jewish. Atwin on Twitter criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. A senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament were anti-Semitic.

The Greens had appeared to be well-positioned going into this year’s election, as most Canadians indicated that fighting climate change was one of their priority issues. But Liberals and the left-leaning New Democrats promoted their own climate plans and capitalized on the sense of chaos within the party.

Paul said during the campaign that she had thought several times about quitting, but wanted to stay and fight for important causes. Paul was the second person of color to head a federal party in Canada after Jagmeet Singh took over the left-leaning New Democrats in 2017.

 

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Caesar-Chavannes offers a 'breathtakingly candid' look at life in politics – The Hill Times

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In her memoir Can You Hear Me Now?: How I Found My Voice and Learned to Live with Passion and Purpose, which was one of this year’s finalists for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for the best political book of the year, former Liberal-turned-Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes details, among other aspects of rawly examined life, her time in Parliament and her less-than-rewarding experience as the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary. Ms. Caesar-Chavannes left the Liberal caucus in 2019 to sit as an Independent after a falling-out with the prime minister and disillusionment with the Ottawa status quo. The book, described as “breathtakingly candid” by the Writers’ Trust jury, was published by Random House Canada.

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Debt Limit Fight as Much About 2022 Politics as Fiscal Policy – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — The U.S. is heading to the precipice of a debt default as much for the sake of campaign ads and political branding as fiscal philosophy.

While agreeing that the statutory limit on U.S. borrowing must be raised before it’s breached sometime next month, Republicans and Democrats are completely at odds over who should act. 

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell argues that Democrats alone are responsible since they are pursuing a partisan multi-trillion dollar tax and spending plan. The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, accuses Republicans of trying to “dine and dash” on the cost of their 2017 tax cuts and wants their fingerprints on the vote to raise the debt ceiling.

The debt limit fight has become part of an ongoing struggle between the parties to shape public perceptions of President Joe Biden’s agenda heading into next years congressional election.

For Republicans, it puts the focus on the overall cost of Biden’s economic plan, rather than popular components like paid family leave and an expanded child tax credit. And it ties Biden to the rising national debt, never mind the ballooning deficits under former President Donald Trump.

That prepares ground for the kind of traditional Republican campaign against tax-and-spend liberalism that McConnell is trying to steer his party toward instead of centering the midterm election on cultural issues and Trump’s false charges about election fraud.

At its most basic level, McConnell’s bid to force a Democrats-only vote to raise the limit gives the GOP ready ammunition for campaigning.

“It’s another line in the attack ad,” said Michael Steel, who was then-Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s press secretary during the 2011 fight over raising the debt limit. “Increasing the debt limit is a terribly unpopular vote.”

Many lawmakers make little effort to cloak their political motives. Republican Senator Rick Scott, who heads the Senate GOP’s campaign committee, said he expects Democrats’ votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling will feature prominently in the 2022 election.

“Oh yeah, you’re going to hear about it a lot,” Scott said.

Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, said the party-line debt limit vote will “absolutely” help crystalize the case that Democrats’ spending is out of control. “It will be very effective in Iowa.”

Democrats are already heading into a challenging midterm campaign, particularly in the House, where the party has a slim majority, Democratic-leaning states are losing seats to Republican ones in the Census reapportionment, and the president’s party typically loses members during midterm elections. Control of the 50-50 Senate also is in play.

“It’s total political rhetoric, drama,” Michigan Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell said. “We shouldn’t be playing political games the way we are.”

Democratic leaders have primarily responded by casting the GOP as reckless with the economy in their readiness to risk a debt default as well as their actions when they controlled the White House and Congress. 

The total U.S. debt rose from $19.8 trillion, or 104% of gross domestic product, when Trump took office in 2017 to $28.1 trillion, or 128% of GDP when he left in 2021. The $8.3 trillion increase during Trump’s single term is almost as much as the $10.6 trillion rise during Barack Obama’s two terms.

Democrats claim their $3.5 trillion economic program won’t add to deficits because it will be paid for with tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, though they haven’t finished negotiating a final version and the independent Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet made a projection. A separate bipartisan infrastructure package backed by Biden would add $256 billion to the national debt over the next decade, the CBO estimated.

Democrats voted with Republicans three times during the Trump presidency to raise or suspend the debt limit to avoid default, despite opposing the 2017 Republican tax cuts that added to the debt.

This time, McConnell is insisting Democrats use a process called reconciliation to pass the debt limit increase in the Senate without Republican votes. Democrats so far have refused. They instead added the debt limit increase to stopgap legislation to avert an Oct. 1 government shutdown and fund disaster aid, daring Republicans to oppose the measure. The legislation passed the House, but Republicans have vowed to block the measure in the Senate when a procedural vote is taken as soon as Monday.

Assigning Blame

So far, Democratic efforts to blame Republicans for the stand-off haven’t worked. Asked which party would be more to blame if the U.S. defaulted, 33% of Americans said Democrats, 42% both parties, and only 16% Republicans, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll taken Sept. 18-20.

The stability of global financial markets and strength of U.S. economic growth once again are on the line in the resulting game of chicken. 

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, warned in a note to clients that even a short default would raise borrowing costs to U.S. taxpayers for decades. A prolonged default on U.S. debts would cost the country 6 million jobs, drive down U.S. stock prices by a third and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth, Moody’s predicts. 

Even without a default, brinksmanship over the debt limit between Republicans and the Obama administration in 2011 provoked the first-ever downgrade in the U.S. sovereign credit rating and contributed to a stock-market slide.

The political payoff for the risk is nebulous.

Republican pollster Whit Ayres, a 30-year campaign veteran, can’t think of a single election in which a debt limit vote played a decisive role.

“There may be some campaign out there that someone can point to,” Ayres said, “I can’t come up with one.”

Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at Third Way, a think tank aligned with the Democratic party’s moderate wing, also argues there’s “more bark than bite” in established political wisdom that votes to raise the debt limit are perilous. 

Voter Reaction

Even so, many moderate Democratic lawmakers represent closely divided constituencies and aren’t anxious to add to their political risks. Public feeling on government debt can be potent.

“American voters’ sensitivity to debt and deficits shows up episodically, but when it shows up it shows up with a vengeance,” Kessler said, citing the Tea Party movement that began in 2009 and helped provide energy for the Republican resurgence in the 2010 midterm elections.

Pete Brodnitz, a Democratic pollster who has worked for party leaders’ House Majority super-PAC in battleground races every election the past decade, said the midterm results will hinge on what the public believes about the party’s economic strategy. And that is the critical battle beneath the surface.

“An economic narrative is critical,” Brodnitz said. “If the economy gets better, Democrats won’t be helped unless there is a Democratic strategy people associate with it.” 

The debt limit fight is playing out just as Congress debates the spending packages that will enact the Biden agenda and voters are forming impressions of the plan.

“They want the narrative to be the Democrats just want to spend,” Brodnitz said. “We need the narrative to be we’re trying to invest in our future, and the Republicans are trying to stand in the way.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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