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Obama endorsement of his 'friend' Trudeau might not prove helpful, politics professor say – National Post

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The endorsement from the past president might help with ‘buzz’ but it’s hard to say how many votes it will deliver: expert

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Former U.S. president Barack Obama endorsed Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau Thursday, calling him an “effective leader and a strong voice for democratic values.”

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Obama said in a Twitter post Thursday that he wishes his friend Trudeau “the best in Canada’s upcoming election,” and that he is “proud of the work we did together.”

The high-profile tweet comes as the Liberals remain locked in a neck-and-neck battle with the Conservatives in the polls, just days away from the vote, on Monday.

The former Democratic president’s endorsement could help sway some progressive voters to cast their ballots for the Liberals instead of the NDP, given that Obama is a “progressive icon” who remains popular across Canada, said Daniel Béland, a professor of political science at McGill University.

“The NDP is a threat to the Liberals and the Liberals want the NDP to stay where it is or even decline in the polls, so they will want to frame this as a major endorsement that could sway progressives,” Béland said.

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But it’s unclear whether it will actually make a difference.

“Will this actually generate any significant shifts in the polls? You know, I’m a bit skeptical. I will have to look over the next few days,” he said, adding it “can’t hurt” the Liberal chances.

“I think it favours the Liberals, probably to the annoyance of the NDP,” said University of Ottawa professor Errol Mendes. To what extent depends on the amount of attention the endorsement gets in the news media, he said, adding “it will have an impact if it’s played up a lot.”

Obama, for many Canadians, is still a major world figure, Mendes noted.

Obama voiced his support for Trudeau in the 2019 election. The endorsement from the first Black president of the U.S. came at a critical time for Trudeau, who was facing a scandal after old photos of him in blackface and brownface emerged during the campaign. A campaign staffer told the National Post at the time that Obama’s tweet “recharged the base” after the embarrassment of the blackface photos, providing reassurance that Trudeau was “not a racist.”

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Because the context isn’t the same in 2021, and because we’re now further away from Obama’s presidency, the endorsement this time around may have less impact, said Béland.

It could also have a negative effect, according to Mendes. “On one level, it could backfire where people would say, we should not have a foreign person intervening in our election,” he said.

It could also have the side effect of boosting the People’s Party of Canada, the conservative party started by former MP Maxime Bernier. Obama is the “antithesis of what they believe in. They seem to be very much following the Trump type of politics,” Mendes said.

Melissa Haussman, a professor of political science at Carleton University, pointed out the endorsement can only reach individuals who haven’t yet voted. Elections Canada said Wednesday an estimated 5.8 million Canadians have already cast their ballot in advanced polling. That’s nearly a third of the total number of Canadians who voted in 2019.

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She said that Obama’s support is the “next best thing” to getting an endorsement from current U.S. president Joe Biden. “It’s sort of Biden by proxy,” given that Biden served as Obama’s vice-president, Haussman noted.

While she agreed the endorsement “absolutely” helps the Liberals with buzz and momentum, Haussman said it’s hard to say how many votes it will actually deliver.

Mendes pointed out the Obama tweet is part of a pattern for the former president, who has publicly mused about other countries where the progressive vote was divided, allowing right-wing parties to gain a footing.

“Because he has this global perspective, I think he’s probably seeing that is happening here in Canada, where if the progressive vote between the Liberals and the NDP is divided it will allow not only the Conservatives to come through, but potentially even increase the voting for Maxime Bernier’s party. So I think that’s one of the reasons why I think he’s intervened.”

The Obama endorsement comes the same week Trudeau held an event with former prime minister Jean Chretien, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole received an endorsement from former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

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Canada's elections: How the climate crisis is reshaping politics – Open Democracy

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Singh’s NDP has one of the boldest climate policies of the major parties. The party platform includes reducing carbon emissions by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stresses that it “will put workers front and centre of their climate action plan”, and phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Avi Lewis, the longtime documentary filmmaker and climate activist running as the NDP candidate for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country district, told openDemocracy that “there is no party on Earth that is currently addressing the climate movement in the way it needs to be”. For Lewis, the climate emergency isn’t just a climate emergency, “it’s also a housing emergency, transit emergency, inequality emergency”.

However, Lewis decided to run as an NDP nominee because he “sees a sense of urgency in the platform”. “All these emergencies are linked,” he says, “but so are the solutions.”

According to Maggie Chao, campaign director at Leadnow, an independent progressive campaigning organisation, the parties are “moving in the right direction” and recognise that “climate change is a pressing issue”. However, Chao insisted that “we’re nowhere on the scale and pace we need to be”.

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China and France denounce U.S. nuclear sub pact with Britain and Australia.

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China on Thursday denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.

Under the arrangement, dubbed AUKUS, the United States and Britain will provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

France, which loses its own submarine deal with Australia, called the plans brutal and unpredictable.

The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not mention China by name in the joint announcement and senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters ahead of time, said the partnership was not aimed at countering Beijing.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the three countries were “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”.

“China always believes that any regional mechanism should conform to the trend of peace and development of the times and help enhance mutual trust and cooperation… It should not target any third party or undermine its interests,” he told a regular briefing in Beijing.

Johnson said the pact was not meant to be adversarial and said it would reduce the costs of Britain’s next generation of nuclear submarines.

“Now that we have created AUKUS we expect to accelerate the development of other advanced defence systems including in cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and undersea capabilities,” Johnson told parliament.

The partnership ends Australia’s 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines, a spokesperson for Morrison told Reuters.

France accused Biden of stabbing them in the back and acting like his predecessor Donald Trump.

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” Le Drian told France-info radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”

The three leaders stressed Australia would not be fielding nuclear weapons but using nuclear propulsion systems for the vessels to guard against threats.

“We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” Biden said.

“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” he said.

Morrison said Australia would meet all its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

‘STRONG ROLE’

One U.S. official said the partnership was the result of months of engagements by military and political leaders during which Britain – which recently sent an aircraft carrier to Asia – had indicated it wanted to do more in the region.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern welcomed the focus on the Indo-Pacific but said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would not be allowed in its territorial waters.

Singapore said it had long had relations with Australia, Britain and the United States and hoped their grouping would contribute to peace and stability.

Japan said the three countries’ strengthening of security and defence cooperation was important for peace and security.

A U.S. official briefing before the announcement said Biden had not mentioned the plans “in any specific terms” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a call last Thursday but did “underscore our determination to play a strong role in the Indo-Pacific”.

U.S. officials said nuclear propulsion would allow the Australian navy to operate more quietly, for longer periods, and provide deterrence across the Indo-Pacific.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the new partnership, on which the EU was not consulted, showed the need for a more assertive European foreign policy.

“We must survive on our own, as others do,” Borrell said as he presented a new EU strategy for the Indo-Pacific region. “I understand the extent to which the French government must be disappointed.”

Biden said the three governments would launch an 18-month consultation period “to determine every element of this programme, from the workforce to training requirements, to production timelines” and to ensure full compliance with non-proliferation commitments.

Among the U.S. firms that could benefit are General Dynamics Corp and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.

General Dynamics Electric Boat business does much of the design work for U.S. submarines, but critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc

U.S. officials did not give a time frame for when Australia would deploy a nuclear-powered submarine, or how many would be built.

A U.S. official said Washington had shared nuclear propulsion technology only once before – with Britain in 1958.

“This is frankly an exception to our policy in many respects… We view this as a one-off.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Nandita Bose, David Brunnstrom, Mike Stone, Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington and Colin Packham in Canberra; Additional reporting by John Irish and Matthieu Protard in Paris and Gabriel Crossley and Judy Hua in Beijing; Editing by Alistair Bell, Richard Pullin, Jon Boyle and Nick Macfie)

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Canada’s Trudeau hammers main election rival’s COVID-19 approach

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, seeking to carve out a lead ahead of a Sept. 20 election. On Thursday he accused his main rival of showing weak leadership in the fight against COVID-19.

Opinion polls show Trudeau’s center-left Liberals are tied with the right-of-center Conservatives led by Erin O’Toole and appear set to fail in their bid to win a parliamentary majority in Monday’s vote.

Trudeau, 49, noted that O’Toole, 48, had praised Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s decision earlier this year to quickly lift public health restrictions in the Western Canadian province.

Kenney, who was a minister in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government before the Liberals took power in 2015, backtracked this week after a surge in COVID-19 cases threatened to overload the provincial healthcare system. Kenney apologized and said he would introduce vaccine passports.

“The choices that leaders make in a crisis matter … just a few days ago Mr. O’Toole was still applauding Mr. Kenney for his management of the pandemic,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.

“That’s not the leadership we need in Ottawa to end this pandemic for good,” added Trudeau, who backs mandatory vaccine mandates. The Liberal leader heads a minority government that depends on the opposition to pass legislation.

A central element of Trudeau’s campaign pitch is that Canada needs a leader who is clear on the need for vaccinations to get through the pandemic.

O’Toole has repeatedly sidestepped questions about his earlier support for Kenney’s approach to COVID-19.

“As prime minister, I will work with all premiers, regardless of stripe, to fight against the pandemic,” he told reporters in Saint John, New Brunswick, saying Trudeau should not have triggered an election during a pandemic.

A fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, is continuing to surge mainly among the unvaccinated, Theresa Tam, the country’s chief public health officer, said in a briefing in Ottawa.

“Hospitalizations could exceed healthcare capacities in impacted areas,” she said.

Alberta and neighboring Saskatchewan have among the worst rates of COVID-19 cases per capita in Canada.

Trudeau said his government would send ventilators to Alberta. Liberal campaign organizers, citing unhappiness with Kenney, say their party could pick up three of Alberta’s 34 federal seats after being shut out in the traditionally right-leaning province.

With Saskatchewan hospitals nearing capacity, Premier Scott Moe imposed a mask requirement for indoor public spaces starting on Friday. By Oct. 1, provincial government employees must be vaccinated or submit to regular testing, and people must be inoculated or test negative to dine in restaurants.

OBAMA WEIGHS IN

How to handle COVID-19 has become a challenge for O’Toole. He supports inoculations, but says he prefers rapid testing to detect the virus rather than vaccination mandates.

The Conservatives are at risk of seeing some support leak to the right-wing People’s Party of Canada (PPC), which is feeding into public anger https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/canadas-mad-max-stokes-anti-vax-rage-could-help-trudeau-2021-09-14 over vaccinations and lockdowns.

PPC leader Maxime Bernier, who also was a minister in Harper’s government, attacked Kenney over his vaccine passport announcement. Bernier tweeted that he would go to the province “to join Albertans in their fight against this despot.”

A rolling Nanos Research telephone survey of 1,200 Canadians for CTV on Thursday put public support for the Liberals at 31.9%, the Conservatives at 30.3% and the left-leaning New Democrats at 22.4%.

Such a result could produce deadlock in which no party is able to form even a stable minority government. Trudeau triggered the election two years early, seeking to benefit from his handling of the pandemic, but the Liberals have not so far been able to shrug off voter fatigue.

Trudeau, however, got a big endorsement on Thursday from former U.S. President Barack Obama, who wished his “friend” all the best in the election.

“Justin has been an effective leader and strong voice for democratic values, and I’m proud of the work we did together,” Obama wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Writing by David Ljunggren; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)

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