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Money, politics and split opinion in Japan on 'grand gift' of Tokyo Olympics – CBC.ca

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An illustration shared on social media shows International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach wearing a face mask and cheerfully waving, while the accompanying text conveys the message that people in Japan don’t necessarily want to reciprocate.

“We can’t wave back — meaning we’re pretty depressed, it’s a bit of an emergency,” said Hyung-Gu Lynn, a professor in the Asian studies department at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He describes an ambivalent mood in Japan, addressed in a recent meme, ahead of the pending Olympics.

The pandemic-adjusted Tokyo Games get underway on July 23 under a state of emergency in the capital and amid opposition from those who fear the potential public health consequences of what’s to come.

Experts say the momentum to move forward is powered by the billions of dollars already spent to stage the summer spectacle — a tangled knot of politics and obligations — as well as the confidence that Japan can successfully manage any coronavirus risks while putting on an Olympic show.

That’s not to say the public feels the same urgency to go ahead with the Games, which were supposed to be held last year.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach waves to the media from a vehicle after landing in Tokyo on Thursday. He’s self-isolating at a five-star hotel. (Eugene Hoshiko/The Associated Press)

“I think the public attitude is one of irritation or resignation, I would have to say,” said Lynn, citing polls that have shown a majority of Japanese being opposed to the Games.

“There are some people who say: ‘Why not?'”

There are also those who continue to actively protest against the Games, like the 40 or so people who gathered Saturday outside the five-star hotel where the IOC president is self-isolating.

“He seems not to have thought anything about our critical situation and suffering, which makes me more angry,” protester Ayako Yoshida said.

Worth the money?

On paper, the Tokyo Games have an official cost of $15.4 billion US, though audits suggest it’s substantially higher than that.

The money has been spent and a new national stadium has been built, even though there will be a lack of sports fans filling the seats of Tokyo-area Olympic facilities — as well as those as in the prefectures of Hokkaido and Fukushima — due to COVID-19 concerns.

A security guard stands outside the National Stadium in Tokyo on Thursday. There will be a lack of spectators filling the seats of Tokyo-area Olympic facilities. (Shinji Kita/Kyodo News/The Associated Press)

“The big thing is the money,” said Hannah Holmes, an assistant economics professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“Will they ever get that money back out of it? Arguably, they’re not going to now because of the lack of fans being able to attend.”

But it’s not just the size of the investment; it’s what Japan is getting for it — or not getting for it, according to some Olympics watchers.

WATCH | Lack of fans not a problem, Team Canada’s chef de mission says: 

Team Canada’s chef de mission, Marnie McBean, says that while spectators will be missed at the Tokyo Olympics, athletes won’t let COVID-19 restrictions hold them back. 5:33

Robert Dekle, an economics professor at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, said there are many in Japan who simply “don’t see the benefit of it.”

These critics question why Japan is having the Olympics at all. Dekle said that was true for some even before COVID-19  arrived.

With less than two weeks to go before the Games, Japan is seeing a climb in COVID-19 cases, with health officials reporting 950 new infections on Saturday — the highest count in about two months and the 21st day in a row that infections were higher than the week previous.

Less than one-fifth, or 16.8 per cent, of the population is fully vaccinated. About 15,000 deaths in Japan have been attributed to COVID-19.

To limit the risk of any spread during the Games, the thousands of visiting athletes are expected to stay in their Olympic accommodations or venues, following strict guidelines contained in a rulebook

The politics

Japan won the bid for the Games eight years ago, at a time when Shinzo Abe led the government.

He stepped down last year over health concerns and was succeeded by Yoshihide Suga. Hyung-Gu Lynn of UBC said there is pressure on the current prime minister to deliver what Abe had promised.

“The Olympics are supposed to be former prime minister Abe’s departing grand gift to the country,” he said. “So Suga is simply implementing the plan … set by his predecessor.”

A protester holds a sign urging a stop to the pending Summer Games outside a venue in Tokyo on Friday. Just 16.8 per cent of the population in Japan is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Naoki Ogura/Reuters)

Beyond that, Lynn said that Suga has an opportunity to build support within his party for his continued leadership, if the Games are a success.

Of course, the International Olympic Committee has a clear interest in seeing the Games through.

Broadcast rights and sponsorships are key to the IOC’s operations, with some estimates suggesting a cancelled Olympics could cost billions in lost revenues.

“You can’t neglect the push from the IOC to persevere,” Holmes of McMaster University said, noting that broadcast rights are “pretty much their only revenue” given the lack of spectators in the stands this year.

The potential payoff

Dekle of USC believes Japan is well equipped to deliver the Olympics despite the challenges.

“My sense is that it’ll turn out more positive than the people of Japan think,” said Dekle, who expects Japan will reap a PR boost by pulling off a successful Games.

A couple pose in front of the Olympic rings in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district on Saturday. The official cost of the Summer Games is $15.4 billion US, though audits suggest it’s substantially higher than that. (Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Images)

Vijay Setlur, a marketing instructor at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto, said it will be a win for Japan if there are no major problems at the Games.

“If they’re able to maintain a healthy Olympics where no athletes contract the virus and … no volunteers or workers do the same, then I think that would be considered a success,” he said.

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How much influence should politicians have over police? – CBC.ca

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Controversy erupted this week when allegations came to light that the Liberal government may have tried to interfere in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting where 17 people were killed.

According to RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell’s notes, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a phone call that she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and then-Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair that the RCMP would publicly release information about the weapons the gunman used. Lucki was reportedly angry when the RCMP did not do so.

The Liberal government is alleged to have wanted the information made public to further their gun control agenda. Critics and opposition politicians have accused the government of attempting to use the tragedy for political gain. Lucki, Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have denied that there was interference in the investigation.

But how and when — if ever — should those who make laws be able to boss around those who enforce them? When has police interference taken place, and to what consequences did it lead?

CBC News spoke to some experts in an attempt to explain the tense, legally fuzzy and often controversial relationship between police and policymakers in Canada.

Why is policing supposed to be separate from politics?

The Supreme Court of Canada cites the Rule of Law as the founding principle of Canada’s democracy. It’s considered important to our constitutional order that no one, even the most powerful politicians in the country, can think of themselves as above the law.

But there’s another reason for police independence — in our democracy the government is supposed to be accountable to the people, which means people aren’t suppose to fear police going after them on the orders of the government.

“I think what we want to do is avoid a ‘police state,'” Kent Roach, a professor in the University of Toronto’s faculty of law, said. “And by that, I mean we want to avoid politicians telling the police who to investigate and who not to investigate.”

In states where the government can tell police what to do, experts say a pattern quickly emerges of government critics and opponents ending up in jail.

For those reasons, police autonomy in enforcing the law and protecting the public is a key ingredient in most well-functioning liberal democracies.

“Political leaders are not supposed to micromanage police services, that is antithetical to the very idea of democracy,” Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Alberta, said.

What does the law say?

While those principles seem like part of a basic civics lesson they’re ones Roach says many people, including police officers and politicians, often don’t understand well.

But there may be a reasonable excuse — the law itself isn’t clear.

“I think part of the problem here is that the lines of legitimate government direction to the police and illegitimate government direction are very vague.” he said.

While police independence from government is important in our democracy, Roach says it’s a principle that’s not always reflected in our laws.

“For example, the police cannot lay hate propaganda charges without prior approval of the attorney general,” he said.

“So there’s kind of no absolutes.”

Kent Roach, law professor at the University of Toronto, said Canadian law is very vague when it comes to inappropriate government direction of law enforcement. (Oliver Salathiel)

In Lucki’s case, the RCMP Act states the Commissioner “has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force” but “under the direction of the minister.”

Roach said the law is confusing because it doesn’t go into details about what direction means, including what type of direction is appropriate for a minister to give to an RCMP Commissioner. It also doesn’t say whether a direction has to be in writing or can be given orally.

“It’s utterly vague, right?” Roach said. 

Roach would like to see the RCMP Act amended to clarify what types of orders the government can legally give RCMP leadership. 

He said there is a clear divide between directions that set rules for police generally, which are acceptable in a democracy, and directions for police to act in a particular way in a specific case, or to take action against a particular person, which are not.

He says a legitimate government directive to police might be guidelines on what information the police are allowed make public, or ordering the police to stop using a particular technique or practice.

But a directive that would not be acceptable would be directing police to charge someone with a crime.

During the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, the government was found to have interfered with RCMP operations by directing how the Mounties protected then Indonesian president Suharto. In a public inquiry report on the summit, Justice Ted Hughes concluded that the government twice tried to interfere with police operations by attempting to get police to keep protestors away from Suharto.

Hughes recommended the government amend the RCMP Act to legally clarify police independence from government. To date, no government has taken up the recommendation.

Roach says there may be a reason for the lack of action and clarity.

 “I suspect that in some ways both the police and the politicians like to kind of keep the status quo, which is quite vague and murky,” he said. “I think that is unfortunate.”

What happens when politicians try to be police?

Politicians aren’t supposed to tell police what to do, but sometimes they can’t resist. While some politicians do come from a law enforcement background, most don’t — and it can show when they try to interfere with police work.

“They don’t have the the skill, the knowledge, the expertise, the lived experience, to make operational decisions,” Laura Huey, a professor of sociology at Western University, said.

She cited the 1997 APEC Suharto controversy as an example, but there are more recent ones too.

Huey says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s attempt to negotiate with the freedom convoy protestors earlier this year comes to mind — a move critical incident command experts told her made a bad situation worse.

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson attempted to negotiate with Freedom Convoy protestors during the occupation of Ottawa earlier this year. Western University professor Laura Suey says the incident is a good example of why it’s a bad idea for politicians to take over law enforcement’s responsibilities. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

“Most police services that deal with public order have people that are highly experienced, highly trained professionals that specialize in negotiating in situations like that,” she said.

“So do we want the mayor going down and mucking around on something of which he knows absolutely nothing and had zero effect anyway?”

Roach says his favourite example involves former RCMP Commissioner Leonard Nicholson, the most decorated Mountie in history whose name the RCMP headquarters bears.

In 1959, the John Diefenbaker government told Nicholson to send more officers to police a labour dispute in Newfoundland. Nicholson chose to resign instead of comply with the order.

“So that kind of shows that this idea that the RCMP doesn’t like political direction … is built into the RCMP’s DNA,” Roach said.

Is there a better way?

If too much political interference in policing is an issue, there are also perils in too little.

Voters don’t elect police officers but do elect politicians, so they have a role acting as a check on police.

“Society also cannot afford to have a police service that is not accountable to anybody,” Oriola said.

A section of the Liberal’s 2021 campaign platform is dedicated to changes to the RCMP, in particular making the Mounties more accountable.

Oriola calls the government-police relationship a “delicate” one that requires “a fine balance” and one where intentions should be considered.

“Are you giving directions to the police service to punish political opponents, or are you giving direction … in order that we might have a better society, and improved society based on the policy priorities that you campaigned on?” he said.

Huey says more training for police services boards, who hire police chiefs, may allow them to make better hiring decisions, which in turn could inspire more confidence in police leadership and result in less political interference.

“I think that if we hire highly competent people, we need to give them the space to make the decisions,” she said. 

Roach says a potential solution, on top of more legal clarity on interference, is a law requiring any government ministers who direct police to do so in writing — including a requirement that the direction be public.

He thinks the RCMP Act could be amended with this requirement, and to permit it only outside of individual cases.

“It seems to me, in a democracy, citizens have a right to know what the minister is doing,” Roach said. “I think that that directive system could not only promote transparency, but could avoid all of these controversies.”

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Politicians should admit their dumb mistakes | TheSpec.com – Hamilton Spectator

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I can finally admit it: during my 20 years as a political staffer and elected politician I was involved in many political coverups.

Don’t get too excited, they weren’t the type of coverups that you see in movies or read about in political thrillers — no Canadian versions of Watergate, Irangate or any other gate.

No, over the years I have had to cover up the fact that politics is made up of human beings who make dumb mistakes. You see, those who work in politics and government are no different from the rest of the world. They send emails to the wrong people, miss important meetings because they forgot to write down the room number, and give the wrong drafts of speeches, briefing notes and other important documents to their bosses.

Spend a day in government and you will realize that it is nothing short of organized chaos — much more like Veep than House of Cards.

Unfortunately, as far as the public is concerned, the truth often doesn’t cut it. Can you imagine a politician admitting that the origin of their current quandary is that they couldn’t open a password protected document on their iPad or that they didn’t pay attention at a briefing because they had just learned that their son failed his math test?

Hence the coverup. People would be shocked to know how much time in government is spent trying to come up with any excuse except for the fact that mistakes happen.

I thought of this phenomenon recently when I read all the reporting about a Canadian official attending a national day event at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and the media and opposition firestorm that followed.

With tensions running high between Canada and Russia, the presence of the official was probably not the wisest move, and it is legitimate to ask whether the Minister approved her attendance. I had to chuckle when sources came forward to tell the Globe and Mail that Departmental officials had checked with the Minister of Foreign Affair’s office, but her staff had been too busy to read the email because they were all involved in supporting the minister at an international conference.

Too busy to read an email?

It may sound like a dumb excuse, but I defy anyone to tell me that they have never been too busy to check their emails or phone messages or the ton of paper piling up in their in-basket.

It’s called being human. Even important people get overwhelmed, tired, and fed up with a constant barrage of information and requests. Even those at the top may find juggling all the demands on their time too much.

Yes, the stakes can be high in government and there needs to be extra checks in place. But in this case, we are talking about a reception. Although embarrassing, I don’t think any of our allies believe that Canada is growing soft on Russia or doesn’t take the war in Ukraine seriously.

The public seems unable to make up their minds. On the one hand they are contemptuous of politicians while on the other hand they seem unwilling to tolerate anything less than perfection from them and their officials.

Maybe if politicians were more willing to admit their dumb mistakes and the public showed a bit more understanding, less time would be spent trying to cover up the fact that governments are run by human beings.

John Milloy, a former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, is the director of the Centre for Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College

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Abortion ruling pushes businesses to confront divisive politics – PBS NewsHour

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The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics.

Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The Walt Disney Company, which said it will reimburse employees who must travel out of state to get an abortion.

Facebook parent Meta, American Express, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs also said they would cover employee travel costs while others like Apple, Starbucks, Lyft and Yelp reiterated previous announcements taking similar action. Outdoor clothing maker Patagonia went so far as to post on LinkedIn Friday that it would provide “training and bail for those who peacefully protest for reproductive justice” and time off to vote.

But of the dozens of big businesses that The Associated Press reached out to Friday, many like McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Tyson and Marriott did not respond. Arkansas-based Walmart — the nation’s largest employer with a good portion of its stores in states that will immediately trigger abortion bans following the Friday’s Supreme Court ruling — also kept quiet.

Meanwhile, the Business Roundtable, an organization that represents some of the nation’s most powerful companies, said it “does not have a position on the merits of the case.”

READ MORE: The ‘air is thick with disbelief and grief’ at a Louisiana clinic as abortion ends

A lot is at stake for companies, many of which have publicly pledged to promote women’s equality and advancement in the workplace. For those in states with restrictive abortion laws, they could now face big challenges in attracting college-educated workers who can easily move around.

Luis von Ahn, the CEO of the language app Duolingo, sent a tweet Friday aimed at lawmakers in Pennsylvania, where the company is headquartered: “If PA makes abortion illegal, we won’t be able to attract talent and we’ll have to grow our offices elsewhere.”

The ruling and the coming patchwork of abortion bans also threatens the technology boom in places like Austin, Texas as companies like Dell — which was already becoming more flexible to remote work because of the tight labor market — struggle to recruit newly minted tech graduates to their corporate hubs, said Steven Pedigo, a professor who studies economic development at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Rather than stay in Austin, do you go to New York or Seattle or the Bay Area? I think that’s a real possibility,” Pedigo said. “It becomes much more challenging, particularly when you’re looking at a young, progressive workforce, which is what technology workers tend to be.”

Emily M. Dickens, chief of staff and head of government affairs for the Society for Human Resource Management, said in a statement that nearly a quarter of organizations in a recent poll agreed that offering a health savings account to cover travel for reproductive care in another state will enhance their ability to compete for talent.

“But how these policies interact with state laws is unclear, and employers should be aware of the legal risks involved,” she said.

Dickens noted that companies that use third-party administrator to process claims on their behalf — typically big employers — are subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act rather than state law. But companies that have to buy their own health insurance for their employees — typically small businesses — are subject to state regulations and have less flexibility in designing benefits.

READ MORE: Missouri’s last abortion clinic finds itself in center of Roe fallout

Offering to cover travel expenses could also make companies a target for anti-abortion lawmakers. In March, Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain, a Republican, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Citigroup, saying he would propose legislation barring localities in the state from doing business with any company that provides travel benefits for employees seeking abortions.

In his concurring opinion released Friday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested it would be unconstitutional for a state to bar residents from traveling to another state to get an abortion.

“In my view, the answer is no based on the constitutional right to interstate travel,” Kavanaugh wrote.

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But a corporation’s right to fund what would be an illegal act in another state is still questionable, argues Teresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas.

“That’s not an interstate commerce question, per se,” she said. “So you’d need the right plaintiff.”

Meanwhile, tech companies are facing tough questions about what they’ll do if some of their millions of customers in the U.S. are prosecuted for having an abortion. Services like Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft routinely hand over digital data sought by law enforcement agencies pursuing criminal investigations. That’s raised concerns from privacy advocates about enforcers of abortion laws tapping into period apps, phone location data and other sensitive online health information.

A letter Friday from four Democrats in Congress called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the phone-tracking practices of Google and Apple, warning that location identifiers used for advertising could fall into the hands of prosecutors or bounty hunters looking “to hunt down women who have obtained or are seeking an abortion.”

The Supreme Court ruling comes at a time when companies have become increasingly reliant on women to fill jobs, and especially as they face a nationwide labor shortage. Women now account for nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce, up dramatically from 37.5% in 1970 — three years before the Supreme Court ruled abortions to be legal in Roe vs. Wade — according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Denied access to abortion could hit low-income workers the hardest because they’re typically in jobs with fewer protections and that are also demanding, from loading groceries onto store shelves to working as a health aide.

“As a direct result of this ruling, more women will be forced to choose between paying their rent or traveling long distances to receive safe abortion care,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million janitors, health care workers and teachers in the U.S. “Working women are already struggling in poverty-wage jobs without paid leave and many are also shouldering the caregiving responsibilities for their families, typically unpaid.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants told The Associated Press that the ruling was “devastating.”

“It cuts to the core of all the work that our union has done for 75 years,” she said. “This decision is not about whether or not someone supports abortion. That’s the distraction … This is about whether or not we respect the rights of women to determine their own future.”

Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said the handful of companies are taking a stand on the court’s ruling because their customers and employees are expecting them to speak out.

“We’re in this moment in time where we’re expecting corporate leaders to also be leaders in the political sphere,” he said. “A lot of employees expect to work in companies that not only pay them well, but whose values are aligned with theirs.”

But the vast majority of executives will likely avoid the thorny topic and focus on things like inflation or supply chain disruptions, he said.
That, too, comes with risks.

“They can either support travel for out-of-state care and risk lawsuits and the ire of local politicians, or they can not include this coverage and risk the ire of employees,” Schweitzer said.
___
AP business writers Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island; Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit; Barbara Ortutay in San Francisco; David Koenig in Dallas and Ken Sweet in New York contributed to the story.

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