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OPINION | Alberta premier targets Ottawa in pivot to pre-pandemic politics – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.


Pandemic? What pandemic?

Watching Alberta politics these days is like riding a time machine into the past when COVID-19 didn’t exist or into a future where it’s been conquered. Or perhaps we woke up in a parallel universe.

Because Alberta politics is beginning to act as if the pandemic suddenly disappeared.

Last week, Premier Jason Kenney called the COVID-19 virus the flu, as in, “an influenza of this nature,” even though it’s a coronavirus that’s more contagious and more deadly than the flu and has no vaccine. He also announced — without first informing Alberta’s chief medical officer — that he would let the province’s public health emergency lapse June 15.

This week, he announced he’d like to fast-track phase 2 of the business reopening (that includes movie theatres and libraries).

But, most tellingly of all, he resumed his heated attacks against the federal Liberal government.

If nothing else, this signals a return to normality for Kenney who is no longer pleading for more pandemic financial relief from Ottawa.

Kenney once again on offensive

After 10 weeks of biting his tongue and smiling through gritted teeth whenever he talked kindly about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals, Kenney is once more on the offensive.

And there was no better target for him than the recent federal ban on 1,500 “assault-style” firearms.

On Wednesday, Kenney held a news conference with Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer where they wrapped themselves in the Alberta flag while taking shots not only at the federal government but at Central Canadians.

“While some people in faraway places like Toronto may not understand the reality, hundreds of thousands of Albertans simply use firearms as a part of everyday life,” said Kenney, who explained he was “defending law-abiding Albertans against a federal attack against their rights as law-abiding firearms owners.”

Not to be outdone in the outrage department, Schweitzer promised to stand up for “an Alberta-made justice system.”

“(Albertans) don’t want policy developed in downtown Toronto, they want policy developed right here in Alberta,” said Schweitzer, who added: “We’re going to have more Alberta and less Ottawa in our justice system.”

Picking fights with Ottawa

We haven’t heard the “more Alberta, less Ottawa” trope much the past 10 weeks as the Kenney government took what might be called a “less Alberta, more Ottawa” approach to emergency financial help.

But now the Alberta government is pivoting with all the subtlety of a dog running on linoleum suddenly trying to change direction. 

It’s clumsy but for Kenney it means he’s getting back on track. He’s picking fights with Ottawa, taking potshots at “faraway places like Toronto,” focusing on his rural base of support, and once again pushing an Alberta-first agenda that could include setting up an Alberta provincial police force and Alberta pension plan.

“Stay tuned for the Fair Deal panel (report),” Kenney said this week when asked if he’s in favour of cutting ties with the RCMP. Kenney has said the Fair Deal report will be coming out when the pandemic is over. You have to wonder if in Kenney’s mind this means “tomorrow.”

Kenney also said he is “seriously considering” launching a legal challenge against the federal government’s gun ban.

Never mind that firearms fall under federal jurisdiction.

Time machine to Klein days

Here’s where the time machine seems to have taken us back to the days of former premier Ralph Klein. Klein made something of a career launching lawsuits, or threatening legal action, against the federal government on a host of issues including the GST, social transfer payments and, coincidentally, the gun registry.

Klein’s legal fights were the political equivalent of tilting at windmills but he knew that for a populist politician winning was not crucial; it’s the donning of the armour and the spurring of the steed.

This is political theatre and Kenney is such a master at it he should have his own show at the Edmonton Fringe Festival (if only the festival hadn’t been cancelled because of the pandemic).

Kenney would also like to put the pandemic behind him because it hasn’t given him a popularity boost, unlike just about every other political leader in the country.

An Angus Reid poll about premiers released last week ranked Kenney as second last, with a 48-per-cent approval rating, whereas Ontario’s controversial Doug Ford, for example, enjoyed 69 per cent approval.

This week, a poll by Research Co. indicated that 56 per cent of Albertans said their province would be better off with a different premier in charge, the highest level of disapproval in the country.

Consequently, Kenney has dusted off his Captain Alberta cape that had sat forgotten the past 10 weeks, perhaps under a mound of applications for federal aid. He is proudly wearing it into battle once more against the Trudeau Liberals.

The pandemic might not be over medically, but in Kenney’s mind it seems to be over politically.

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Emma Sanders, Southern Civil Rights and Political Activist, Dies at 91 – The New York Times

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Emma Sanders, one of the few surviving members of a group whose impassioned challenge to an all-white delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention brought an end to segregated delegations, died on June 24 in Brandon, Miss. She was 91.

Her death was confirmed by her son Everett Sanders.

Mrs. Sanders, an educator who went on to pursue a business career and to be a voice in state politics, was a founding member of Mississippi’s Freedom Democratic Party. Its slate, calling itself the Freedom Democrats, showed up in Atlantic City to challenge the state’s all-white official delegation, which had been empowered by the regular party organization to help choose a presidential nominee.

The convention was held in Atlantic City in August 1964, near the end of Freedom Summer, a voting-rights effort that had also swept up Ms. Sanders, a great-granddaughter of a slave. She was one of the people who helped organize local citizens and some of the 700 or so young people from the North who flooded Mississippi to help Black citizens surmount barriers that had kept their voter registration at 7 percent of those eligible.

The Sanders family, like others, housed and fed the volunteers in their home as they went door-to-door to enlist potential voters or operated Freedom Schools for Black children. Their efforts that summer were met with racist hostility, and three of the activists in Mississippi — James E. Chaney, who was Black, and Andrew Goodman and Michael H. Schwerner, who were white — were murdered.

In Atlantic City, Democratic leaders were embarrassed by televised hearings, held by the party’s credentials committee, on the issue of segregated delegations and the subsequent standoff between the two from Mississippi.

The party refused to seat the Freedom Democrats and unseat the official delegation, but, weighing in on the matter, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. supported a compromise that, although it left neither side happy, did move the practice of segregation at party conventions closer to the discard bin.

Credit…Charles Kelly/Associated Press
Credit…United Press International

The compromise gave the Freedom Democrats two symbolic at-large slots and required white delegates to sign a pledge that the next delegation would be integrated.

At that, most of the state’s all-white delegation walked out, and the Black delegates filled their vacated seats for a time, leading to a humiliating ruckus when guards tried to remove them.

Officials later banned racial segregation in the delegate selection process; in 1968, the Freedom Democrats, reconstituted as the Loyal Democrats of Mississippi, were seated as the state’s official convention delegation. But the move, coupled with federal civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965, prompted a white backlash against Democratic candidates in the South.

The party’s refusal to seat the Freedom Democrats in 1964 had also split Black activists.

“Never again were we lulled into believing that our task was exposing injustices so that the ‘good’ people of America could eliminate them,” said Bob Moses, a founder of the Freedom Democratic Party and a leader of the civil rights organization the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. “After Atlantic City, our struggle was not for civil rights, but for liberation.”

For Mrs. Sanders’s part, the 1964 controversy made her more determined than ever to keep pushing for change.

“We came back and worked hard to get the Democratic nominee elected, so they could not say we were disloyal to the party,” she was quoted as saying in “Blue Dixie: Awakening the South’s Democratic Majority” (2008) by Mr. Moser. “But the regular Democratic Party was not ready to accept us.”

After suing to place the names of Blacks on the ballot in Mississippi in 1966, she ran for Congress as an independent against John Bell Williams, a segregationist. She lost, but, she said: “We ran strong, and that was a revelation. The year after, in 1967, we were able to elect Blacks in local elections.”

Mrs. Sanders would live to witness great progress on civil rights, but one breakthrough that she had hoped for — the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from Mississippi’s state flag — would not occur until four days after her death.

Mrs. Sanders was a full-fledged delegate to the 1972 national convention in Miami Beach and to at least five conventions after that. She was in Denver in 2008 when Barack Obama became the first Black presidential nominee from a major party, and she was in Philadelphia in 2016 when Hillary Clinton became the first female nominee (although Mrs. Sanders had supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries).

Credit…Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly, via Getty Images

“She never expected any acclaim,” said the Rev. Edwin King, another founder of the Freedom Party, who was the chaplain of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., in the 1960s. “But she would inspire people. Not like Fannie Lou Hamer, with magnificent speeches on the stump, but in the day-to-day managing of the party without ever pronouncing that ‘this is the way we have to do it.’”

Emma Ruby Lee Dunbar was born on Sept. 24, 1928, in Claiborne County, on the Mississippi River, near Vicksburg. She was the daughter of Abram Dunbar, a vocational agriculture teacher and high school principal, and Sarah Brown Miller.

She graduated from Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) in Lorman, Miss., the nation’s first Black land grant college, and studied toward a master’s degree in business at Indiana University in Bloomington.

She taught in Jefferson County, Miss., and in Jackson, and later served as the executive director of Hinds County community action programs. While working as an assistant to Representative Wayne Dowdy, a Mississippi Democrat, she played a role in the naming of the first federal building in the nation for a Black person, the Dr. A.H. McCoy Federal Building in Jackson, which honored a local dentist, insurance executive and civic leader.

She married William Sanders, and they lived in Jackson, running a restaurant together as well as a business school. He died earlier. In addition to their son Everett, she is survived by their sons William, Antonio and Johnathan; a daughter, Sarita Sanders Donaldson; her brother, Abram Dunbar; her sister, Carrie Parrot; 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

It was Everett who drew Mr. and Mrs. Sanders to activism in the early 1960s. As a student, he had joined a campaign demanding that Blacks be served in all-white restaurants and be allowed to worship in any church they chose. His parents jumped in to support the cause and took the lead.

“Most Black parents were telling their kids, ‘You can’t do this, it’s too dangerous,’” the Rev. Edwin King recalled in a phone interview. “She decided as a mother that some adults needed to be involved.”

Or, as Everett said of his parents, “They came along and they moved to the head of the class.”

Credit…David Swanson/The Philadelphia Inquirer

Mrs. Sanders’s grandson Keelan Sanders said, “She didn’t want her own children to become involved in something that she didn’t have a very strong understanding of.”

In 2004, he became the first Black executive director of the state Democratic Party.

“She lived a long, giving and unselfish life on behalf of Mississippi and lit a fire for her children to carry the torch for her,” Mr. Sanders told The Jackson Free Press.

Everett Sanders said his mother was “proud of what she had accomplished, but concerned that there was so much that needed to be done.”

Even though she had officially retired from politics, she kept campaigning among her family. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Mrs. Sanders told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson: “They know that when they get to 18, they have to register, and I want them to vote. I check.”

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US Maryland GOP governor releasing book on his tenure

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Hogan, wrote that he will begin hosting a number of virtual events and conversations with some prominent Republicans later this month. They include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and former Govs. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As NGA chairman, Hogan has led the group of governors amid tensions with the Trump administration in response to the pandemic. In March, for example, he criticized the administration for confusing messaging. Hogan said at the time that the president’s timeframe for a national reopening appeared to be running on a schedule made of some “imaginary clock,” as states struggled to manage hot spots of the outbreak.

Hogan also clashed with the White House in April when the governor announced a $9 million purchase of 500,000 virus test kits from South Korea. Hogan said the Trump administration had made it clear that states had to “take the lead” on testing and “do it ourselves.” Trump criticized Hogan at a White House press briefing, saying Hogan didn’t need to go to South Korea and “needed to get a little knowledge.”

In 2018, Hogan, who is term-limited, became only the second GOP governor in Maryland to be re-elected in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

Hogan’s book will include material about his challenging first year in office, which included riots in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who suffered a spinal injury in a police van.

Later that year, Hogan was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in June 2015 and underwent chemotherapy. Last month, the 64-year-old governor announced he had his final, five-year anniversary PET scan, which confirmed he was still 100% cancer free.

Brian Witte, The Associated Press

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Andrew Scheer spotted without a mask at Toronto's Pearson Airport – CBC.ca

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was seen at a departure gate at Toronto’s Pearson Airport today without a mask on — an apparent contravention of the rules that apply to all travellers passing through the terminal.

The airport’s website stipulates that “all passengers and airport employees” must wear a mask or a face covering “at all times.” The mandatory mask rule has been in place since June 1 to stop the spread of COVID-19 among the travelling public.

“This includes the pre- and post-security screening areas of the terminals, parking facilities, people mover train, sidewalks/curbs outside the terminals and other outdoor public areas,” the airport rules say.

There are exceptions for people under the age of two, travellers who are unable to remove a face covering without assistance and for people who have trouble breathing. Masks are not required for travellers dining at food and beverage locations.

A number of pictures surfaced on social media Tuesday of Scheer speaking to Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and others while waiting to board a flight. Pallister also appears to have his mask off while speaking to Scheer in the terminal.

Social media users posted pictures of Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer at Toronto’s Pearson Airport Tuesday. (@canadiandollaz/Twitter)

A spokesperson for Scheer confirmed to CBC News that the pictures of Scheer were taken today.

“Mr. Scheer wore a face mask while travelling to Ottawa today. He removed it to make a phone call. This picture must have been taken before he put it back on,” said Kelsie Chiasson, acting director of communications for Scheer.

The pictures do not appear to show Scheer talking on the phone.

Premier Pallister told CBC News his maskless moment was a lapse in judgment.

“I lifted my mask to join some friends in conversation at the Toronto airport this afternoon,” he said in an email statement. “It was an error on my part, it won’t happen again.”

Social media users asked Pearson’s Twitter account if masks were still required after the Scheer pictures surfaced.

“They are! All travelers and employees inside the terminal must wear a mask or face covering,” the airport’s account said in response.

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