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Live politics updates: Senators call for '1/6' commission report; Graham says McConnell speech will haunt GOP – USA TODAY

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Christal Hayes

Nicholas Wu

Bart Jansen

William Cummings
 
| USA TODAY

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Trump impeachment trial vote is in, Trump is acquitted once again

The Trump impeachment trial vote acquitted him for a second time, in a vote of 57-43 with seven Republicans crossing the aisle and judging him guilty.

USA TODAY

A day after former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate on an impeachment charge of inciting the Capitol riots of Jan. 6, Republican and Democratic senators called for a bipartisan commission to investigate and issue a report on the riot, similar to the one drafted in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

During an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Sunday that while the House impeachment managers had laid out “an incredibly compelling and powerful case” against Trump, “there’s still more evidence that the American people need and deserve to hear and a 9/11 Commission is a way to make sure that we secure the Capitol going forward.”

Coons said it was important to “lay bare the record of just how responsible and how abjectly violating of his constitutional oath President Trump really was.” 

“I think there should be a complete investigation about what happened on 1/6,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said on “This Week.” 

Cassidy – one of seven Senate Republicans to vote for Trump’s conviction – said it was important to learn “why was there not more law enforcement,” why the National Guard was not already mobilized, as well as “what was known, who knew it, and when they knew it.” 

“Because that builds the basis so this never happens again in the future,” Cassidy said. 

“We need a 9/11 commission to find out what happened and make sure it never happens again,” agreed Sen. Lindsey Graham. He told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace he wanted “to make sure that the Capitol footprint can be better defended next time.” 

The senators’ calls for a bipartisan probe into the Capitol riot come after the heads of the 9/11 Commission – former Republican New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana – sent a letter to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders recommending a new independent commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6. 

When asked if he favored such a commission, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he thought it was important to “make sure that the Soviet-style revisionists on the Republican side” who tried to blame the Jan. 6 attack on leftist antifa provocateurs were clearly refuted. But he thought that task had already been effectively accomplished by the House impeachment managers led by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., during the Senate impeachment trial. 

“Raskin and the House managers made that record with clarity,” Durbin said. “Even Mitch McConnell acknowledged that last night in his speech, so we have that record. And that’s the important historic record to show this generation of doubters, and any future generation.” 

– William Cummings

Biden to engage G7 leaders in virtual meeting

President Joe Biden is set to join a virtual meeting of the Group of Seven, commonly known as the G7, on Friday. The group of major industrialized democracies coordinates on issues of economics, national security and geopolitics.

“President Biden will focus on a global response to the COVID pandemic, including coordination on vaccine production, distribution, and supplies, as well as continued efforts to mobilize and cooperate against the threat of emerging infectious diseases by building country capacity and establishing health security financing,” read a statement from the White House released Sunday. 

In addition to the United States, members include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. Biden’s appearance will be his first with the G7 world leaders since taking office.

The statement said Biden would also discuss the “need to make investments to strengthen our collective competitiveness and the importance of updating global rules to tackle economic challenges such as those posed by China.” 

The administration has taken steps to assure its allies in the G7 that it is recommitting to global cooperation after the more unilateral approach followed under President Donald Trump. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a meeting of G7 leaders that “the time to go big is now,” signaling the administration is committed to major fiscal stimulus to counter the economic fallout of the pandemic.

– Matthew Brown

House mangers defend decision not to call witnesses

Impeachment managers in the Senate trial of former President Donald Trump on Sunday defended their decision not to call witnesses.

Del. Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands, confirmed on CNN’s “State of the Unions” that the managers were told calling witnesses, a move that could have dragged the trial on for weeks or months, could have cost them the support of one or more of the seven Republicans who ended up voting to convict. 

Host Jake Tapper said a Democratic senator told him that if the trial was not concluded quickly, they would lose GOP senators, such as Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. 

“We heard that,” Plaskett said, adding she agreed it was “possible” the time required to gather witness testimony would have weakened the little GOP support they had. 

But Plaskett denied that concern factored into their decision to reach a compromise that allowed the addition of a statement from Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., into the trial record without having to depose her. 

When Tapper asserted that witnesses “might have made the case more compelling,” Plaskett quickly interjected to ask him if he thought they would have convinced any more senators to convict. When Tapper acknowledged he didn’t know, Plaskett flashed a dubious expression. 

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., agreed the impeachment managers “might have lost votes if they had moved forward with a week or two or three weeks of argument over witnesses.” 

“They weren’t going to get any more Republican votes than they had,” Murphy told CNN. “I think they made the right decision to move to closing arguments.” 

Before Saturday, the impeachment managers had indicated they did not intend to call witnesses, arguing they had made their case without them. But after Herrera Beutler issued a statement Friday saying that Trump had rebuffed a plea from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to urge the rioters to stop, Raskin made an unexpected request to depose her. 

– William Cummings

Graham: McConnell’s speech blasting Trump will haunt GOP in 2022

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday he thought Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech blasting former President Donald Trump would be used against Republicans in campaign ads next year when the party fights to reclaim the Senate.

“He got a load off his chest, obviously, but unfortunately he put a load on the back of Republicans,” Graham, a staunch Trump defender, told Fox News Sunday. “That speech you will see in 2022 campaigns.”

Although McConnell, R-Ky., voted for acquittal, he said Trump’s “crescendo of conspiracy theories” and false claims of a stolen election led to the riots in which his supporters rampaged through Capitol, bloodied police, tried to hunt down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chanted about murdering Vice President Mike Pence.

“They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry he had lost an election,” McConnell said. “Former President Trump’s actions preceded the riot for a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

Graham said he viewed McConnell’s speech as “an outlier regarding how Republicans feel about all this.”

– Bart Jansen

Democrats, GOP look to move on after Trump acquittal

The impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is over and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they hope to move forward, concentrating on the plethora of competing crises in the country.

Trump was acquitted in a 57-43 vote Saturday of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last month. The Senate trial was historic, marking the first time a president had been impeached and tried twice, and the vote marked the most bipartisan push for conviction of a president in U.S. history, with seven Republicans joining all Democrats to convict.

Democrats had argued that before the country and members of Congress could heal and move forward, Trump needed to be held accountable through the impeachment process. Now, they say, the country can move forward. And there’s a lot to focus on, including the still raging COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who led the House impeachment prosecution team, said his focus would now be on the future. “From here,” he said, “it’s time for us to get back to real democracy.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House would be moving “forward to make sure that this never happens again” and would “investigate and evaluate what caused this” in terms of the motivation of the rioters who stormed the building and of the security at the Capitol.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said in a statement now that impeachment was done, “it’s time to get back to work.” Fellow Republican Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas agreed, saying he hoped the end of this process would “allow temperatures to finally settle and for us to work in a bipartisan fashion moving forward.”

“It’s true, we face many challenges ahead as a nation. But, I remain confident there are brighter days ahead,” he added. “It’s time for Congress to get back to the work of the American people.”

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., agreed and argued that even while Congress and the country was officially turning the page on the Trump presidency with Saturday’s acquittal vote, Congress still had to do its oversight work of his four years in office.

“As much as I’d like to turn the page from the disgraceful Trump era, Congress still must perform its investigative and oversight responsibilities to determine all the facts and uncover evidence that has been concealed,” he said.

What’s next after Trump acquittal?

WASHINGTON – The question on everyone’s lips after the Senate voted Saturday to acquit former President Donald Trump was: What now?

The riot Jan. 6 at the Capitol revealed festering, violent anger over national politics. The House charged Trump with inciting the insurrection that left five dead. But while a majority of the Senate voted to convict, it fell short of the two-thirds majority required to convict, which would have allowed the Senate to bar him from future office.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of seven Republicans who joined Democrats in voting against Trump, worried about the hatred over politics.

“The country is divided,” said Murkowski, who won a write-in campaign after losing in the Republican primary. “And the country has chosen sides in a way that, as we can see, can be very aggressive and can lead to violence.”

More: McConnell says Trump’s ‘crescendo of conspiracy theories’ caused Capitol riot

An open question is how much Trump will loom over the Republican Party while out of office. He thanked his supporters shortly after the Senate verdict and vowed to continue in politics.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted to acquit Trump. But then he assailed the former president in a Senate speech as “practically and morally responsible” for the violence of Jan. 6.

“They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth because he was angry he had lost an election,” McConnell said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called McConnell “pathetic” for not holding a trial sooner and helping convict Trump. The dispute signals continued division as the House and Senate negotiate President Joe Biden’s proposal to spend $1.9 trillion in relief for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Tragically, Senate Republicans who voted not to convict chose to abandon the Constitution, the country and the American people with this vote,” Pelosi said.

Murkowski still has the riot gear at her office in the Capitol, which was near windows where the mob burst through on Jan. 6. The hall was strewn with trash after the attack. She heard a police officer retching in the bathroom after getting sprayed with pepper spray. She finds herself discouraged with the current state of politics.

“Politics is rough and tumble and we understand that. And I’d love to think that we can argue back and forth about the merits of whether or not we need to increase the minimum wage or what we need to do on trade policy.” Murkowski said. “Let’s argue it, let’s debate it. Let’s have wins, let’s have losses. But let’s stop this hatred. Let’s stop trying to denigrate the other side so that we can gain the advantage. Let’s just talk about our good ideas.”

– Bart Jansen

Democratic impeachment managers defend decision not to call more witnesses

WASHINGTON – House Democratic lawmakers leading the impeachment case against former President Donald Trump defended their decision not to call more witnesses despite the Senate’s vote earlier Saturday to allow witness testimony.

In a press conference following the Senate’s vote to acquit Trump, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., one of the lead lawmakers presenting the case, said more witness testimony would not have convinced Republicans.

More: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler would have ‘testified under oath,’ spokesman says

“We could have 500 witnesses and it would not have overcome the kinds of arguments being made by Mitch McConnell and other Republicans,” he said.

“I made the call,” he said. “So if you want to blame somebody (it would be me).”

– Nicholas Wu

Biden says all Americans must ‘defend the truth’

President Joe Biden is responding to the acquittal of Donald Trump by stating that all Americans, especially the nation’s leaders, have a duty and responsibility “to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”

Biden says that in doing so, “that is how we end this uncivil war and heal the very soul of our nation. That is the task ahead. And it’s a task we must undertake together.”

The new president also says “that violence and extremism has no place in America.”

The White House issued Biden’s statement late Saturday night, several hours after the Senate failed to muster the two-thirds vote needed to convict Trump of incitement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The 57-43 vote included seven members of Trump’s own Republican Party.

In looking back on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and Trump’s role in it, Biden says “this sad chapter” in American history is a reminder that democracy is fragile and must always be defended. He also says that the nation “must be ever vigilant.”

– Associated Press

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COMMENTARY: Gas-price politics, from British Columbia and beyond – Globalnews.ca

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If you’re fed up with high Canadian gas prices, you can at least be grateful that you don’t live in British Columbia.

Unless you do live in B.C. In that case, then go ahead and be mad as hell.

British Columbians are once again experiencing particular pain at the pumps as rising oil prices drive up the cost of gasoline.

It’s an extra-nasty case of gas-fuelled road rage in B.C., home to North America’s highest gasoline taxes.

Read more:
Is Canada’s carbon tax working? Experts, advocacy groups weigh in

How does the taxman sock it to B.C. drivers? Let us count the ways.

There’s the B.C. carbon tax, once fiercely opposed by NDP Premier John Horgan.

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When he was on the opposition benches, Horgan used to rail against the burden of the provincial carbon tax on B.C. families. Now the tax has risen steadily on his watch, with further increases set to kick in.

There’s also the B.C. Motor Fuel Tax. And the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority fuel tax. And Metro Vancouver’s TransLink fuel tax.

Ottawa takes a cut, of course, courtesy of the federal fuel excise tax.

Don’t forget the sour cherry on top: the federal GST, charged on the entire gas purchase, including all the other taxes.

Add it all up and Metro Vancouver drivers are getting hosed at the gas pump, creating a recurring political problem for Horgan and his B.C. government.

Read more:
U.S. deep freeze boosts Canadian oil and gas producer profits and prospects

Now that he’s a convert to the carbon tax, you might think Horgan would be pleased that high gas prices would discourage the use of polluting vehicles.

But Horgan has walked a political tight rope, jacking up the punitive carbon tax while griping about high gas prices at the same time.

His theme: Don’t blame me, blame greedy oil companies.

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“This is not a tax question, it’s a gouging question,” he said. “This is not about taxation.”

To drive the point home, the Horgan government recently passed a law forcing oil companies to reveal secret price-setting data.

Stopping short of government regulation to cap B.C. gas prices, the Horgan government instead said it would shame the oil companies into lowering prices themselves.

But the oil companies are fighting the forced disclosure of their corporate secrets. Now the dispute is snaking its way through the courts, while British Columbians are left paying sky-high gas prices.

Gas-price analyst Dan McTeague said B.C.’s strict low-carbon fuel standard — mandating cleaner-burning gas — also drives up B.C. fuel prices.

“All told, adding up all the government regulations and taxes, you’re looking at about 62 to 63 cents a litre in B.C.,” he said.

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McTeague has had a fascinating career as a one-time MP who transformed into a fierce critic of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government’s energy policies.

“I’m a former Liberal MP, with the emphasis on ‘former,’” he understated, revealing that the federal Conservatives unsuccessfully courted him to run in the last election.

Read more:
Price of gas jumps again in B.C.’s Southern Interior (Feb. 20)

Now, McTeague is closely watching the fortunes of the Conservatives under new party leader Erin O’Toole.

O’Toole is under pressure to steer his party toward the middle of the political spectrum by adopting more environmentally friendly energy policies.

That includes the astonishing possibility that O’Toole might endorse a federal carbon tax, after years of slamming Trudeau’s federal tax.

If O’Toole does back a national carbon tax — especially with gas prices already spiking — McTeague thinks it would be a political disaster for the Conservatives.

“Trying to mimic the federal Liberals in the next election will get him zero votes — it will cost him votes instead,” McTeague said.

“I think it would be a fatal mistake for Mr. O’Toole. If he does that (promise a federal carbon tax), his time as leader of that party would be nasty, brutish and, of course, short.”

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Mike Smyth is host of ‘The Mike Smyth Show’ on Global News Radio 980 CKNW in Vancouver and a commentator for Global News. You can reach him at mike@cknw.com and follow him on Twitter at @MikeSmythNews​.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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On a frozen Minnesota lake, political antagonisms melt away – CNN

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In my years wandering the upper heartland, I’ve found that when you want to hear what people think, there are few more target-rich environments than an ice-fishing lake. Ninety-five percent of the sport involves sitting, drinking and talking. On a good day, you catch more new friends than fish.
Residents head out for some ice-fishing and conviviality.
But these have not been good days. In the 30 years since I covered sturgeon spearing for a tiny TV station in Minnesota, the United States has become is a lot less united. Covering the presidential election and inauguration in neighboring Wisconsin included more ply-wooded windows, body armor and “no comments” than I ever thought possible in my home state.
Walking out on Lake Minnetonka, I was worried. But it wasn’t 25 paces before a friendly couple walking huge dogs walked over and melted the worry with Midwestern warmth.
Kevin and Leah Beamish want people to get along, and sometimes that may mean avoiding talking about politics.Kevin and Leah Beamish want people to get along, and sometimes that may mean avoiding talking about politics.
“Everybody should be loving each other,” Leah Beamish told me as she played tug-o-war with Huxley. “There doesn’t need to be this …” she shook her head at the ice. “So divided. So divided.”
But as I walked from hole to hole, Northern pike to bluegill, Democrat to Republican, they all seemed united against disunity. “There’s no common ground anymore,” Tim Delaney said. “And everyone’s so angry about it. I think we’re just tired.”

‘People are a lot more optimistic’

Minnesota is understandably tense these days. Up north, they are bracing for a Standing Rock-sized standoff over the controversial Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline. Down in the Twin Cities, concertina wire winds around civic buildings as they brace for the start of the George Floyd murder trial. And in every town in between, the Covid-19 pandemic is met with varying degrees of fear, loathing and pent-up frustration.
In this blue suburb of Minneapolis however, where families perched on buckets fish in front of the frozen front yards of million-dollar homes, there is some cautious relief. “I’m really happy with our new President,” said Cindy Garin, a 63-year-old health care worker, said as she described her first vaccination and plans for a Florida escape. “I think things are getting better … and I think people are a lot more optimistic.”
Ben Calvert sees Democrats delaying fulfilling their promises.Ben Calvert sees Democrats delaying fulfilling their promises.
But Ben Calvert, 27 and at college to become a wrestling coach, is fast losing faith with Democrats given that they are in charge in the White House, the Senate and the House. “A lot of my friends are really frustrated because they were like, ‘We’ve got to elect these two senators in Georgia! We’ve got to get Joe Biden in office and then everything’s going to be better! It’s not a $1,400 dollar check, it’s $2,000 checks,'” Ben said, making gloved air quotes.
“But now, they’re putting that stimulus check and minimum wage hike on the back burner while they’re dropping bombs in Syria. And those bombs are kind of expensive for a dude who owes me $2,000.”

Calmer criticism

Ben’s father, Valdo, has more patience for the new President but told me, “I don’t see it smooth sailing for Biden. I see it always going to be about obstructionism, but at least it’s more calm.” And like so many others on the lake frustrated by American disunity, the retired Forest Service emergency manager wonders how to unite with true believers of conspiracy theories like QAnon.
Valdo and Ben Calvert say there are some people they can't be with any more, even with the bonhomie on the lake.Valdo and Ben Calvert say there are some people they can't be with any more, even with the bonhomie on the lake.
His son nods in agreement. “I grew up wrestling and playing sports. You get liberal people, you get conservative people, but we all got along. Now those guys aren’t my friends anymore because I know what they really think,” Ben told me. “Maybe it’s not who they are in their heart, but can you hang out with someone who’s like, ‘I think it would be a good thing to assassinate the sitting [Speaker of the House.]'”
But just a short, fragrant stroll away, barbecue smoke master Tim Delaney described his desire to replace Nancy Pelosi with Donald Trump.
Tim Delaney wants Trump back in power, even if he hesitates to say so among his friends of a different political persuasion.Tim Delaney wants Trump back in power, even if he hesitates to say so among his friends of a different political persuasion.
“What if Trump ran for Congress, right?” Tim said, waving a silver tallboy. “And then we took the House and we took the Senate and then he could impeach the President and Vice President. He would be president for the next two years plus then he would be reelected for another four. Good idea?”

Laughter overcomes politics

None of his friends thought it was a good idea. As far as I could tell, they were all Democrats who obviously believed in the peacekeeping mantra repeated to me by Leah’s husband Kevin Beamish as we walked on to the lake. “It’s the old story,” he smiled. “Don’t talk politics or religion with friends and family.”
I don’t have that luxury, and the energy shifted noticeably when I strolled over with camera and asked, “How’s everybody feeling after the election?”
His friends may not agree with the politics of Tim Delaney, left, but they're still happy to break bread with him.His friends may not agree with the politics of Tim Delaney, left, but they're still happy to break bread with him.
“We don’t go there,” Tim said before going there. And while he joked that his burst of MAGA honesty might spoil the barbecue brotherhood, the laughs proved the opposite.
I walked out onto Lake Minnetonka braced for icy suspicion and dread, but I walked off with a stomach full of barbecue and hope. I’ll take it.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the first name of Leah Beamish’s husband. His name is Kevin.

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Politics and the public good – Gazette

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The ongoing provincial election is unusual in more ways than one.

But faculty members from the Department of Political Science at Memorial are helping voters make sense of the situation through public engagement.

Dr. Kelly Blidook, an associate professor in the department, made a video explainer to help people understand Newfoundland and Labrador’s current political circumstances.

A question from anti-poverty advocate Dan Meades prompted Dr. Blidook to make the video, he says.

“There wasn’t anything out there that kind of captured the whole thing,” he said, adding that interviews with media can be piecemeal because they are usually reactionary and focused.

With the video, he hopes to provide a beginners’ overview of the situation.

“I tried to think of it as a regular lecture for an introductory level class, or even for a high school class,” Dr. Blidook said. “It was meant to bring together a lot of different ideas and try to figure out what the best path is.”

Watch the video below.

[embedded content]

Sharing expertise

The video is one of several ways that he is contributing to public discourse about the election, which moved to mail-in ballots only when the province went into another pandemic-related shutdown in mid-February.

Dr. Blidook is also a regular commentator for CBC. He also does interviews with other media outlets and contributes to conversations online via Twitter.

“Academics, in Canada at least, are significantly funded by the public,” Dr. Blidook said.

Writing books and articles is one way he and his colleagues provide a public good, he says, but most people won’t read them. Social media and media interviews are a way to share knowledge and spur conversation in real time.

Department-wide contributions

Dr. Blidook is one of several instructors and faculty members in the department who are sharing their political science expertise with the public.

Dr. Amanda Bittner also does regular media interviews and appearances, and shares insights and expertise on social media.

Dr. Amanda Bittner is a professor in the Department of Political Science.

“This election is tough to navigate — both as a “regular” citizen and an expert on elections and voting,” Dr. Bittner said.

She says she values the behind-the-scenes conversations she has with colleagues as they try to make sense of both the election and what it means for the province.

Some of those Political Science colleagues are having conversations with the public, too. Dr. Russell Williams uses social media to engage on the election and also does regular media interviews.

And along with lawyer Lyle Skinner, his colleague Dr. Alex Marland helped with Dr. Blidook’s video content.

“I’m grateful to my colleagues for sharing their expertise on social media and in traditional media interviews,” Dr. Bittner said.

A positive response

Dr. Blidook says the response to his video, which he uploaded to YouTube a week ago, has been largely positive so far.

The 22-minute video has almost 600 views and sparked discussion on Twitter. In the meantime, Political Science faculty and instructors continue to do media interviews as the election continues.

Amid the ongoing discussion, Dr. Bittner says that nobody has a crystal ball for the province’s future. But she hopes the importance of planning and preparation is one takeaway from the “pandemic” election.

“We have much to learn from this. It is my hope that on a go-forward basis, we take political processes more seriously in the province.”

Terri Coles is a communications advisor with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. She can be reached at tcoles@mun.ca.

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