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OPINION | 'You ain't seen nothing yet': A look at what's ahead in Alberta politics – CBC.ca

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Psychics, astrologers and other impeccable internet sources tell us 2020 promises to be an interesting year in which, “animals tell us what they think,” the world “becomes one country,” and Trump speaks “only nonsense.”

I suppose only two of those are actually predictions while the other one is a sad statement of fact.

Making predictions is always a mug’s game. And considering how much politics has changed in Alberta the past year, only a fool would attempt to predict what’s going to happen in 2020.

So, let me try.

The year 2020 might look like a new year on paper but in many ways it’s going to feel mighty old mighty quick. At least when it comes to Alberta politics.

Many of the big issues from the past year will continue to dominate the new.

Let’s look at a few.

Economy and jobs

Yes, it didn’t take a crystal ball to figure this one out. Jason Kenney and the United Conservatives won the election on a promise of a strong economy and more jobs. It didn’t work out that way and the NDP has been gleefully rubbing it in Kenney’s face every chance they get.

And they’ll keep it up in 2020 as the UCP government tries to kick-start the economy and create jobs. Economists predict “modest growth” in the province’s economy for the new year. Kenney will need to do better than that if he hopes to mute the critics — and claim “promise made, promise kept” in 2020.

Pipelines

If there’s one issue that has defined Alberta politics, this is it. Getting a new energy pipeline to tidewater has become an overwrought symbol of Alberta’s dreams and frustrations — the dream of another energy boom and the frustration at failing to get a new pipeline built.

In fact, a new pipeline will not solve our fiscal problems that are actually caused by a depressed price of oil and a world moving away from fossil fuels. And delays in getting a new pipeline built are not the fault of the federal Liberal government, as Premier Jason Kenney likes to suggest, but the courts. And the courts have delayed projects because of genuine complaints from First Nations.

Work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is underway in Parkland County outside Edmonton. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Work has started on twinning the Trans Mountain Pipeline and that work will continue through 2020 (and for two years after that) but the project will still face opposition from some First Nations and environmental groups.

This will be a win-win for Kenney. If construction continues on TMX, he can point to it as a “victory” for his government; if it doesn’t, he can blame the federal Liberals and “foreign-funded” environmental organizations for continuing to undermine Alberta’s struggling economy.

Fight back strategy

Speaking of blaming others for Alberta’s ills, 2020 will see the UCP government maintain its pugilistic approach to issues via its Fight Back Strategy that includes the “war room” — officially, the Canadian Energy Centre — the public inquiry into the government’s foreign-funded conspiracy theory, and the “fair deal” panel that is looking into whether Alberta should have, for example, its own police force and pension plan.

These are all tactics designed to keep Alberta on a war footing and keep Albertans angry, frustrated and easily manipulated by a government that equates legitimate opposition with sedition.

Labour unrest

The past year ended with some frustrated public sector workers musing about a general strike. That strike never happened and perhaps it never will. But we might see strikes by individual public sector unions in 2020. They are upset by a government that has removed joint governance of public sector pensions and is pressing workers to take wage cuts. The government has made it clear if the unions win wage hikes, they can expect job cuts.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, speaks to a crowd gathered for an information picket outside the South Health Campus in Calgary on Nov. 5. (Julie Prejet/CBC)

Perhaps the government was peering into its own crystal ball this fall when it passed a piece of legislation giving it the right to hire replacement workers in the event of a public sector strike.

Panels, panels, panels

In 2019, the UCP government commissioned a long list of panels and committees to review everything from the $20-billion Alberta Health Services, to car insurance rates, to safe consumption sites. The granddaddy of them all was the blue ribbon panel that issued a report that formed the basis for the government’s cost-cutting budget that rolled out in October.

Those panels — with members and mandates carefully chosen by the government — will continue to influence government policy throughout 2020.

That includes Budget 2020 coming in late February, which will actually be the first true UCP budget. The 2019 budget, introduced in an election year, was an amalgam of UCP policies and leftovers from the previous NDP budget.

The never-ending campaign

There won’t be an election in 2020 but you’re going to feel like you’re trapped in a nasty election campaign anyway.

The animosity between the UCP government and NDP opposition isn’t just political, it’s personal. Kenney has gone to great lengths to dismantle the former NDP government’s legacy and the NDP sees Kenney as a right-wing bully. The mutual antagonism will continue as Kenney has already promised even more sweeping legislation in the spring session.

Kenney’s popularity took a substantial hit late in 2019, according to several public opinion polls, because of a sputtering economy and cuts to government services.

But it appears he doesn’t plan to stop or change direction.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” he told cheering UCP members at their convention a few weeks ago. “We’re just getting started.”

In one of the few times NDP leader Rachel Notley agreed with Kenney in 2019, she told a year-end interview she doesn’t think Kenney is about to ease up on the gas pedal in 2020: “There’s nothing that makes me believe that they’re going to change course and I think they’re going to push harder.”

Happy New Year.

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

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US VP warns Dems against playing politics over vaccine – Anadolu Agency

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ANKARA 

US Vice President Mike Pence has warned Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris against playing politics with COVID-19 issues. 

Biden, Harris, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, need to “stop playing politics with people’s lives by undermining confidence in a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine,” Pence told Fox News on Sunday.

“The president has speeded up the process through Operation Warp Speed, but we cut no corners on safety, and we are not going to distribute a coronavirus vaccine until the FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] and independent evaluation say it is safe and effective for the American people,” he added.

The FDA approved Thursday Gilead Sciences’ Remdesivir, a drug touted by President Donald Trump who received it earlier this month after contracting COVID-19.

On Friday, the FDA also gave the green light to Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca to continue their vaccine trials after both companies earlier paused their trials as some participants in trials became ill.

Some Democrats have claimed Trump was acting reckless in coronavirus treatment options, arguing the president has been expediting trials to have a vaccine ready before the election on Nov. 3.

“I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said last month.

The US administration implemented Operation Warp Speed, which offers to pay Pfizer and BioNTech $1.95 billion for 100 million doses if their vaccine proves “safe and effective”, and a $1.6 billion deal with Novavax to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses by next January.

The US has more than 8.63 million cases and over 225,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to latest data from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, figures show over 43 million infections and more than 1.15 million deaths.



Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – The Battlefords News-Optimist

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OTTAWA — Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

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“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2020.

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Vote to review Liberals response to COVID-19 highlights showdown between politics and science – National Post

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Article content continued

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

And nothing could be further from the truth

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

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