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.
“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.
“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.
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.
Japan won the bid for the Games eight years ago, at a time when Shinzo Abe led the government.
“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.”
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.
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.
Politics Briefing: Trudeau, Kenney clash on appointment of Alberta senator – The Globe and Mail
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
Add senate appointments to the current points of conflict between the federal and Alberta governments.
On Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office was defending the announcement, this week, that a senator from Alberta is being appointed despite elections this fall to give voters in the province a say on prospects.
“We introduced and are committed to an independent Senate appointment process which is designed to move towards a less partisan and more independent Senate,” the PMO said in a statement, responding to the criticism from Alberta.
The PMO added that, since 2016, the selection process for senators has been open to all Canadians with candidate submissions reviewed by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, which provides recommendations to the Prime Minister.
Canada’s new Governor-General Mary Simon, this week, appointed five new senators on advice from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Three are from Quebec, one from Saskatchewan, and one from Alberta. Details of the appointments are here.
Mr. Trudeau’s team was reacting Friday to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney accusing the Prime Minister of showing “contempt for democracy in Alberta” by engineering the appointment of Karen Sorensen, who has been the mayor of Banff, as the province’s new senator.
“Sadly, the Prime Minister’s decision to snub his nose at Alberta’s democratic tradition is part of a pattern of flippantly disregarding our province’s demands for a fair deal in the Canadian federation and the desire of Albertans for democratic accountability,” Mr. Kenney said in a statement.
Mr. Kenney noted that, earlier this month, he told Mr. Trudeau at a meeting in Calgary to hold off filling two Senate vacancies, and await the outcome of a vote as part of municipal elections on Oct 18. The Legislative Assembly of Alberta has also passed a motion urging the Prime Minister to not appoint the senators until after the elections.
Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole took note of the Senate dispute. “Once again the Prime Minister shows his lack of respect for the West. Albertans deserve better,” Mr. O’Toole said in a tweet.
Mr. Kenney noted that Alberta has had four Senate elections in the past, and five nominees went on to be appointed.
Columnist’s Comment Kelly Cryderman of the Globe and Mail’s Alberta Bureau: “Senate elections might be a head-scratcher in many other parts of the country but they have been part of Alberta’s political landscape since 1989. Designed to send a signal to Ottawa about provincial autonomy, western alienation, and the need for Senate reform, they have no official status and are seen as illegitimate by critics. Mr. Kenney is continuing in a line of conservative premiers who have asked (all they can do is ask) Ottawa to respect the outcome of the Senate elections. However, with Alberta voters preoccupied by the pandemic, economic concerns – or just the summer – the Premier’s beating of the drum on this issue has failed to garner any major public interest to now.”
PROBLEMS IN AFGHAN AID EFFORT – Afghans trying to come to Canada through the government’s new resettlement program have been frustrated by a difficult application process, which is creating serious challenges for those urgently trying to escape the Taliban.
PROF. DEFENDS CHINA HUMAN-RIGHTS RECORD – A professor at one of Canada’s major universities has written a column for a state-run newspaper in China in which she defends Beijing’s record on ethnic minorities such as the Uyghurs and argues Canadians are being thoughtless and self-righteous in accusing the Chinese government of genocide in Xinjiang.
NEW CONSULTATIONS ON CURBING ONLINE HATE – The federal government has launched a new consultation that it says will lead to combatting online hate shared on social media sites – a move that has prompted advocates to say real change isn’t coming fast enough.
EX-SAUDI SPY RAISES COURT CONCERNS – A former Saudi spy chief living in exile in Toronto is asking a Canadian court to throw out an embezzlement lawsuit against him, arguing not only are the allegations unfounded but that the evidence on which they rely was gleaned from human-rights abuses and, likely, torture.
PANDEMIC-AID PROGRAM EXTENDED – Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is extending pandemic aid programs by an extra month beyond the previously planned end date. The decision means that wage and rent subsidies for businesses, and income support for workers out of a job or who need to take time off to care for family or stay home sick, will last until Oct. 23. Story here.
PAYETTE ORDER-OF-CANADA APPOINTMENT UNDER REVIEW – The Advisory Council for the Order of Canada, is thinking of terminating former governor-general Julie Payette’s appointment to the Order of Canada, CBC reports. Story here.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings in Ottawa.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet – No schedule provided by Mr. Blanchet’s office.
Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole makes an announcement in Fredericton.
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul – No schedule provided by Ms. Paul’s office.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh holds a media availability in Penticton, B.C., and visits the Regional District Emergency Operations Centre.
The Editorial Board of The Globe and Mail on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just put the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on the tab of Canadians: “It also should be noted that a $5.2-billion handout to a province with a population of 520,000 is massive on a per capita basis. In Ontario, its equivalent would be $148-billion; in Alberta, $44-billion. None of this makes any sense, except as an election handout designed to secure Newfoundland’s seven seats in the House of Commons, six currently held by Liberals. Other than that, it’s madness. It would be one thing for Ottawa to step in and help a struggling, sparsely populated province that has a crushing debt burden of $47.3-billion and real financial problems. It’s another altogether to subsidize its citizens’ electricity bills out of the blue. Is that really the help Newfoundland needs?”
John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on playing politics with the Governor-General’s constitutional role: ”When Jagmeet Singh sent a letter to Mary Simon urging her to refuse any request from Justin Trudeau to call an election, the NDP Leader knew perfectly well she would have no choice but to grant the Prime Minister’s request. But such grandstanding is nothing new. It seems to be an unspoken role of the Governor-General to serve as a foil for opportunistic politicians who know that many Canadians don’t really understand what the Queen’s representative can or cannot do.”
Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on why It’s time to get tough with vaccine resisters: “I am tired of this gentle persuasion business. People who refuse to get vaccinated are endangering lives. They are stalling a complete return to normal. Why is it that governments have no qualms about mandating mask wearing, but won’t mandate people get the jab? We continue to pander to a group who, in many cases, are simply too lazy to sign up to get a shot. Or, they continue to embrace crackpot conspiracy theories and misinformation being spread on social media. We patiently hope that they will wake up and see the light one day, meantime their recalcitrance affects the rest of us.”
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the feds talking about abortion suggests an election must be imminent: “Just as white smoke billowing from the Sistine Chapel signals to the world that the announcement of a new Pope is forthcoming, so too does the word “abortion,” uttered from Liberal lips, tell Canadians that an election will soon be called. Unfortunately for the incumbent Liberal government, the current leader of the Official Opposition doesn’t turtle into his suit when asked about uncomfortable social issues like his predecessor did, nor does he – like the predecessor before that – tout a résumé that includes defunding abortions abroad. Indeed, until Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole provides more ammunition for the Liberals to warn about Canada’s potential descent into Gilead, the party will have to resort to old favourites to remind women of their feminist bona fides ahead of an election.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the many mistakes that have been made around the development of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project: “ Mr. Trudeau did not say which “mistakes” he was referring to. Perhaps that was because there are too many of them to enumerate during a short pre-electoral pit stop in Newfoundland, where the Liberals hold all but one of the province’s seven seats. Or perhaps because it would have raised questions about whether his government is only putting a Band-Aid solution on a systemic problem.”
Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.
Swim star's maskless display at the Olympics isn't about vaccine politics — it's about bad manners – The Globe and Mail
Among the small, manageable irritations of an Olympics during a pandemic, the most onerous is the mask.
As an Ontarian, you’ve worn one for more than a year now. But you likely haven’t worn a mask like this – for 10, 12, 14 hours in a row. Even outdoors with no one else around and the real-feel temperature cresting 40 C, our hosts expect the mask stays on.
The upside? For the first time since Grade 9, I have acne. Clearly, middle age was just a stage. Now I am going backward in time, like Dr. Who.
The downside? Near the end of the day, I feel like John Hurt in Alien. All I can think about is getting this thing off my face.
But not our country, so not our rules. Aside from a few unconscientious objectors in the press box and the occasional screaming coach caught on TV, everyone has been pretty good about that.
Then there’s Michael Andrew.
Andrew is a U.S. swimming star who’s got it all covered here except the “star” part of the equation. He began this Games as the poster boy for vaccine hesitancy.
Based on Team USA’s own figures, about 100 American competitors in Tokyo (roughly one in six) are unvaccinated. Only Andrew seemed anxious to talk about it.
“Going to the Games not only unvaccinated, but as an American, I’m representing my country in multiple ways and the freedoms we have to make a decision like that,” Andrew said in one of many, many interviews.
Yes, he’s a real Franklin D. Roosevelt. American and unvaccinated. However, not a survivor of polio, presumably because a few someones in the Andrew family got vaccinated. Oh, the humanity.
Andrew has what passes for a tolerable amount of intellectualism in American popular culture – speaks in full sentences, nice smile, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He’d make a great guest on a very special COVID edition of The Dr. Oz Show.
People overlooked Andrew’s political posturing because a) he didn’t make it obviously political and b) he wasn’t breaking any rules.
Japan made no demands about Olympic visitors being vaccinated, probably for fear that the Japanese electorate might notice that everyone in the developed world is vaxxed but them.
Having been given some rope, Andrew started tugging at it on Friday.
After they’re done, the swimmers zig-zag through a media maze stretched over two rooms, stopping for reporters who want to talk. Some come through masked and stay that way. A few start off masked and remove them when they are speaking. Some don’t wear a mask and just blow through.
On Friday, Andrew showed up without a mask anywhere in sight, then made himself comfortable while he held court. That is not usual.
Andrew had just placed fifth in the 200-metre individual medley. Some thought he might break the world record here. Earlier this week, he blew a medal chance at the 200-m breaststroke, his signature swim. So much like the Land of Unimpeded Freedoms he hails from, things are not trending upward in AndrewWorld.
Maybe this explains his what-are-you-gonna-do-tell-my-mom? attitude toward the rules when they were pointed out to him.
“For me, it’s pretty hard to breathe in after kind of sacrificing my body in the water,” he told reporters. “So I feel like my health is a little more tied to being able to breathe than protecting what’s coming out of my mouth.”
The key words here are “feel like.” If “feel like” is an acceptable basis for non-compliance with the rules, then we’re going to have to take murder off the books. Because I feel like doing that every once in a while.
Japan and Tokyo both hit historic highs for daily COVID-19 infections on Friday, almost precisely smack in the middle of the Games’ 16-day run. It’s not a great look. Andrew’s contribution to the Olympics’ Japanese community outreach is whining about his sacrifices.
Andrew isn’t an ugly American. That trope is a relic of a better time for the red, white and blue. Things aren’t going well enough in the U.S. for its citizens to overconfidently float around the globe any more.
The new cliché is the resentful American. As U.S. influence wanes, the resentful American is increasingly ill at ease in the wider world. He doesn’t like leaving home.
When forced to do so, he no longer thinks of it as an opportunity to spread the gospel of democracy and the Constitution. Instead, he brings America along with him.
Regardless of where he happens to be, it’s still the sort of place you can straight-facedly equate non-vaccination with actual essential freedoms, and sincerely believe people will nod along as if you are a regular Thomas Aquinas.
No country has a monopoly on common sense. But God bless them, certain Americans do have a tendency to corner the market on its opposite.
This isn’t about Andrew’s vaccine politics (though he confuses principle with self-interest, a particularly American misreading of moral philosophy common at both ends of their right-left spectrum).
This is about bad manners. It’s about coming to someone else’s country and lecturing them about how you feel like doing things.
One of the many sadnesses about the past two years is how our meta-family has grown distant from one another. The era of unhindered travel – of waking up on a Friday and, savings account permitting, deciding to fly to Stockholm or Hong Kong or Sydney on a Sunday – may be over. We may be entering a new period of inward-looking parochialism.
This Olympics was a reminder that it is still possible to go to new places, see new people and experience new things. It’s not as easy, fun or “free” as it once was. But if a few, small courtesies are maintained, it will be possible. Unless you are a jerk about it.
The Olympics doesn’t need to have a broader conversation about the pandemic as it applies to individual freedoms. This Olympics is turning into nothing but broader conversations about all sorts of things.
What it needs is fewer jerks.
Sign up for The Globe’s Olympic newsletter and follow all of the news, features and opinion in the leadup to the Summer Games in Tokyo.
Examining the role of cross-Strait relations in Taiwan’s politics – Brookings Institution
Lev Nachman recently returned to the United States after living in Taipei for more than two years, where he was a Fulbright scholar and studied social movements and political parties in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Nachman who also previously lived in Taiwan, is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. In a conversation with Brookings Senior Fellow and Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies Ryan Hass, Nachman provides insights on the relationship between Taiwanese identity and support for Taiwan independence, factors that motivate Taiwan voters, and prospects for Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election.
You have studied Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement and Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement. What do the results of these two social movements tell us about the political direction of developments in Hong Kong and Taiwan? And how — if at all — do you see developments in Hong Kong influencing political trends in Taiwan going forward?
In 2014, both the Sunflower and Umbrella movements mobilized over fears of systemic changes that would give the PRC [People’s Republic of China] dangerous amounts of agency over their political systems. Both had lasting impacts on each other’s political systems. Both were important antecedents to Hong Kong’s 2019 anti-extradition protests. The most obvious impact Hong Kong activism had on Taiwan recently was during Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election. [President] Tsai Ing-wen made the Hong Kong protests a central frame of reference for her reelection campaign, and every political party (even the KMT [Kuomintang]) at least offered rhetorical support for the Hong Kong protesters.
With the introduction of Hong Kong’s National Security Law, Hong Kongers look to Taiwan as their ideal choice for a new home, which has created a new domestic political issue in Taiwan about how to address the large number of Hong Kongers looking to permanently emigrate to Taiwan. Ultimately, Hong Kong is a “canary in the coal mine” for Taiwanese people. The worse Hong Kong’s system becomes, the more it will push Taiwanese from the PRC.
Taiwan will hold a series of referenda this year. Why have referenda become such a popular governance mechanism in Taiwan? What social forces do you anticipate will influence the outcome of these referenda?
Referendums and recalls have become a popular political tool in Taiwan, but not necessarily in the most productive way. It started in 2017 when Taiwan pushed changes to laws that were championed by “pan-green” parties, including both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and New Power Party. Their goal was to create a mechanism that would allow for civil society to push politicians to pass more progressively pro-Taiwan policy. The act significantly lowered the necessary signatures needed to put an issue to vote via a referendum.
But ironically, those who have taken advantage of such rule changes have been largely opposition “pan-blue” forces such as the Kuomintang (KMT) Party, who use referendums to attack or disrupt the DPP’s agenda. The specifics of the referendums this year are particularly complicated and are fraught with the DPP and KMT switching stances. For example, ractopamine meat imports and building an energy pipeline on an algal reef are both opposed by the KMT and supported by the DPP. But 10 years ago, the DPP was against the same policies and the KMT was for them. The ractopamine vote is particularly fraught because allowing the import of ractopamine-treated pork was considered necessary for Taiwan to begin bilateral trade talks with the United States, so if it passes, it will be a bad look for future trade talks.
What does public opinion survey data actually tell us about Taiwan’s preferences on managing cross-Strait relations and on evolving views of Taiwanese identity?
There is reliable polling data that demonstrate the number of Taiwanese identifying as exclusively Taiwanese, not Chinese, is rising, while the number of people identifying as exclusively Chinese, not Taiwanese, remains at a negligible number. But this does not translate into the number of Taiwanese voters supporting immediate independence increasing at the same rate.
One longitudinal study at National Chengchi University shows that the vast majority of Taiwanese support some version of the status quo, not immediate independence. “Status quo” like independence or unification is of course a spectrum — for example, one can be status quo and independence later, or status quo and unification later. This at the very least tells us that Taiwanese voters are far more pragmatic than we typically assume in light of an increasing number of “Taiwanese only” identifiers. Taiwanese live in a context in which any immediate independence path will likely lead to deadly conflict with the PRC, so it is unlikely that a push for formal independence will happen any time soon — precisely because Taiwanese voters value living in a conflict-free status quo.
Looking ahead to presidential elections in 2024, what issues do you predict will drive the political debate? Do you have any expectations of which politicians might be best positioned to speak to the moment?
We know from extensive political science research that the dominant political factor in every Taiwanese election is the China factor. All other issues are secondary or filtered through the China factor lens. It’s no secret the two front runners in the DPP are current Vice President William Lai and Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan. From the KMT, Hou You-yi is in a strong position as the New Taipei mayor, but given the KMT’s current internal strife over its next party chair, we are still a year off of knowing who their real frontrunner will be. We also have the unknown variables of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je and businessman Terry Gou, who may run again in 2024.
Richard Bush and Maggie Lewis have each written and spoken of the need for Taiwan to nurture and strengthen its vitality, including by forging political consensus to address internal challenges like job creation, energy, etc. How optimistic are you that Taiwan’s leaders will be able to overcome partisan divisions to address these internal challenges?
This remains the biggest challenge for a contested state like Taiwan whose political spectrum is defined by its relationship with China — how to mobilize voters and politicians to take action on critical political issues that may not win them votes or matter during election times. It is difficult to convince the KMT and DPP to work together (as it is with most two-party dominant political systems) but increasingly so on contemporary social issues that have little to do with the PRC.
One recent example is the treatment of Southeast Asian migrant workers during the COVID-19 spike, who were banned from leaving their factory dorms. Some DPP politicians spoke out against such treatment, but ultimately little was done to fix any of the repressive rules governing Southeast Asian migrant workers. There is little incentive to do so — only politicians who recognize the moral obligation to improve the livelihoods of Taiwan’s growing workforce will push for policy changes.
Until China becomes less important for Taiwan’s domestic politics, which unfortunately will not happen any time soon, I struggle to see voters calling for major social reform on these kinds of issues.
This does not mean Taiwanese do not care about social reform. But, when it comes to national elections, voters vote on China, not domestic performance.
Maple Leafs sign Nick Ritchie to toughen roster – Toronto Sun
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