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Jagmeet Singh puts on a rare display of integrity in politics

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The reaction to the deal between Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh has typified the politics of our time.

While the NDP Leader wanted to focus on how his agreement with the Prime Minister would bring better dental care, health care and more affordable housing to Canadians, what most observers wanted to talk about were the political consequences. The horse race. Who won? Who lost?

By this yardstick Mr. Singh was deemed – and I tend to agree with the assessment – the big loser. Joining hands with an unpopular Liberal PM to extend his tenure is not a good look.

But as the Peggy Lee number put it, “Is that all there is?” Only the political calculation? Or could it be that Mr. Singh was doing something entirely uncommon in the context of what we see in politics today? Could it be that he was putting the interests, as he saw them, of the people and the country before those of narrow political partisanship?

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Could it be that he really meant it when he said the most important thing for his party, its raison d’être, was getting “help to people” and that this deal with Mr. Trudeau advanced that objective? In a time of mind-numbing, reflexive hyper-partisanship that creates distrust and disgust toward politicians, and that has turned American politics into a cesspool, what a refreshing and ennobling change that would be.

You get the sense that Mr. Singh is a bit different from your standard bargain-basement politician. As an opposition leader, he’s not viscerally antagonistic to everything a government does. Not scoring political points doesn’t seem to bother him as much as it does others in the cynical enterprise. He appears to realize his party does not have a reasonable chance at forming government and that his primary role, therefore, is moving those in power as close as he can to his NDP priorities.

That said, his arrangement with Mr. Trudeau is less than meets the eye. The two parties were already aligned on many of the issues in the agreement. Mr. Singh didn’t nail down Mr. Trudeau with enough specifics on dental care, pharmacare and issues such as climate change. Much of the document is aspirational. Given his big gift to Mr. Trudeau, he could have exacted bigger concessions.

In making the deal, Mr. Trudeau may well have been thinking back to 1972 when, in the wake of a minority victory over the Robert Stanfield Tories, Pierre Trudeau and NDP leader David Lewis worked out an agreement that kept the Liberals afloat. Significant legislation pleasing to the NDP was passed over the next two years. Politically, the arrangement worked out splendidly for Justin Trudeau’s father, who won back a majority in the 1974 election, but poorly for the New Democrats, who lost 15 seats.

Today’s deal comes at an even more tumultuous period than the early 1970s. With two elections creating minority parliaments in the past three years, and with the pandemic, the trucker’s rebellion and now the calamity of war in Europe, Mr. Singh and Mr. Trudeau saw a need to stabilize the political environment. In this regard, the NDP Leader might be excused for feeling as though he acted in the public interest as well.

Conservatives were understandably apoplectic. “God help us all,” said interim party Leader Candice Bergen. Pierre Poilievre tweeted that the deal amounted to a “socialist coalition power pact.”

But long-time political strategist Rick Anderson saw benefits for governance in the Singh move. “Four-year terms are essential to get anything meaningful done,” he tweeted. “Those who play full-time electioneering games do not serve the public interest.”

The Conservatives will now probably have to wait three years before having another crack at the big prize. But what’s happened may benefit them. The Liberals lumping themselves in with the NDP puts up a large “socialist” target for the right-siders to fire at.

Mr. Singh’s move has raised doubts within his own 25-member caucus, with MP Jenny Kwan noting that some of her fellow Dippers lack faith in the Liberals: “They’re worried that they won’t actually act on the agreement,” she told reporters.

But the party has a leader in Jagmeet Singh who appears to prioritize the public interest over the political one. If that is indeed the case, he need be saluted. If more politicians showed that degree of integrity, faith in the sordid business could be restored.

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Petr Pavel: Polyglot, war hero, and the new Czech president – Euronews

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Ex-general Petr Pavel has won another gritty campaign — this time at the ballot box.

The bearded 61-year-old, a decorated veteran who took part in a high-stakes peacekeeping mission in the Balkans and represented his country as a top-tier NATO general, was voted Czech president on Saturday, beating billionaire ex-prime minister Andrej Babiš.

With the ballots from 97% of almost 15,000 polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Pavel had 57.8% of the vote compared with 42.2% for Babiš.

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Though Czech presidents wield little day-to-day power, Pavel will have influence over foreign policy and government opinion, as well as the power to appoint prime ministers, constitutional judges and central bankers.

True to his military past, he has vowed to bring “order” to the Czech Republic, a 10 million-strong EU and NATO member, hammered by record inflation and economic turmoil due to the Ukraine war.

“I can’t ignore the fact that people here increasingly feel chaos, disorder and uncertainty. That the state has somehow ceased to function,” Pavel said on his campaign website.

“We need to change this,” he added. “We need to play by the rules, which will be valid for everyone alike. We need a general sweep.”

From Communist to war hero

Following in his father’s footsteps, Pavel underwent a military education in former Czechoslovakia, which was then ruled by Moscow-backed communists.

He joined the Communist Party, like his billionaire rival Babiš, and soon rose through the army ranks, studying to become an intelligence agent for the oppressive regime.

Critics fault him for his communist past, though Pavel has defended himself by saying party membership was “normal” in his family and called it a “mistake”.

When the Iron Curtain crumbled in 1989, Pavel chucked out his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.

Amid the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Pavel — trained as an elite paratrooper and holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the time — helped evacuate French troops stuck in the midst of combat between Croats and ethnic Serb paramilitaries in Croatia, earning him the French Military Cross for bravery.

“We got into several tense situations and he always managed them with deliberation and calm,” said retired Czech general Aleš Opata, who served with Pavel.

He later studied at military training schools in Britain, gaining a master’s from King’s College London.

After his country joined NATO in 1999, Pavel soon climbed through the alliance’s ranks, becoming its top military official in 2015. 

With a chest full of decorations, he retired in 2018.

What are his political views?

Pavel ran as an independent and was the strongest of the three candidates backed by the liberal-conservative coalition SPOLU of now-former President Miloš Zeman.

He has argued for better redistribution of wealth and greater taxation of the rich while also supporting progressive policies on issues such as same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

Positioning himself as a counterweight to populism, Pavel anchors the Czech Republic in NATO and wants to align his country with the European Union.

“The main issue at stake is whether chaos and populism will continue to rein or we return to observing rules… and we will be a reliable country for our allies,” he said after narrowly winning the first election round.

A staunch supporter of Ukraine, Pavel’s political rivals have alleged he would drag the country into a war with Russia.

“I know what war is about and I certainly don’t wish it on anyone,” said Pavel. “The first thing I would do is try to keep the country as far away from war as possible.”

Often sporting jeans and a leather jacket, Pavel is a polyglot, speaking Czech, English, French and Russian, and loves motorcycling.

He holds a concealed weapon licence, allowing him to carry a firearm, and he is married to a fellow soldier, Eva Pavlová.

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Canadian and American Politics

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THIS SURVEY EXPLORES CANADIANS’ AND AMERICANS’ PERSPECTIVES ON CANADIAN AND AMERICAN POLITICS.

Our latest North American Tracker explores Canadians’ and Americans’ perspectives on Canadian and American politics.

It examines Canadians’ federal voting intentions and Americans’ approval of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Download the report for the full results.

This survey was conducted in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and published in the Canadian Press. This series of surveys is available on Leger’s website.

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CANADIAN POLITICS

  • The Conservatives and Liberals are tied: if a federal election were held today, 34% of Canadian decided voters would vote for Pierre Poilievre’s CPC and the same proportion would vote for Justin Trudeau’s LPC.

AMERICAN POLITICS

  • 42% of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president.
  • 40% of Americans approve of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice-president.

METHODOLOGY

This web survey was conducted from January 20 to 22, 2023, with 1,554 Canadians and 1,005 Americans, 18 years of age or older, randomly recruited from LEO’s online panel.

A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample in a panel survey. For comparison, a probability sample of 1,554 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.49%, 19 times out of 20, while a probability sample of 1,005 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.09%, 19 times out of 20.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS THE RESULTS FOR THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND MORE!

  • If federal elections were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?  Would it be for…?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice president?​
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Legault won’t celebrate 25 years in politics

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Premier François Legault does not intend to celebrate his 25-year political career this year.

He became Minister of Industry in Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government on Sept. 23, 1998, but was elected on Nov. 30 of the same year as the representative for L’Assomption, the riding in which he is still a member.

In a news conference on Friday at the end of a caucus meeting of his party’s elected officials in a Laval hotel, the CAQ leader said that neither he nor his party had any intention of celebrating this anniversary.

“I don’t like these things,” he said.

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He pointed out that he is still younger than the former dean of the National Assembly, François Gendron. And smiling, he alluded to the U.S. President.

“I’m quite a bit younger than Mr. Biden, apart from that!” he said.

Legault is 65 years old, while the President is 80.

However, Legault is now the dean of the House. According to recent data, he has served as an elected official for 20 years, 6 months, and 27 days so far.

The premier was quick to add, however, that he has taken a break from politics.

He resigned on June 24, 2009 as a member of the Parti Québécois (PQ), then in opposition. But he was elected as an MNA and leader of the then-new Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on Sept. 4, 2012.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 27, 2023.

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