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Overdue CERB decision smells like politics | StCatharinesStandard.ca – StCatharinesStandard.ca

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The federal government is doing the right thing by agreeing not to demand repayment from people who wrongly received Canada Emergency Response Benefits after getting faulty information from government agents.

But don’t kid yourselves about the motivation. On one level it may look like a political win for the Trudeau Liberals, now happy to be seen as compassionate and empathetic on the issue. But the entire truth is a little more crass.

The government has already taken a hit in polls, at a time when it is (or was) flirting with an election in the next several months.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval ratings have been hit even harder. Given the realities around worldwide vaccine shortages (even in Israel, a world leader on vaccinating its population) that political condemnation isn’t entirely fair, but it is what it is.

Try to imagine the fallout had the government insisted on recovering CERB benefits paid to people who were wrongly advised they qualified. Especially when many of those recipients continue to struggle during the pandemic’s second wave. The idea of workers barely getting by being hit with repayment notices for thousands of dollars has all the features of a Scrooge-like political disaster for the government.

You may think that is a cynical interpretation, and you may be right. But the timing supports it.

It was back in December when 441,000 letters were sent to self-employed Canadians who received CERB recipients. It warned that the Canada Revenue Agency could not confirm they properly qualified based on their net income. Understandably, many of recipients panicked.

Shortly thereafter, the CRA acknowledged their agents had given out wrong information to many potential applicants, incorrectly telling them they were eligible based on their gross self-employed income when in fact it was net income that mattered in terms of eligibility. The union representing CRA agents later confirmed that call centre staff had received and given out incorrect information.

It’s not entirely clear who is to blame for the bad information. Some experts have pointed the finger at the CRA but others argue the lack of clarity is a result of the legislation itself. It doesn’t matter now. Everyone knew, or should have known, that in the frantic rush to get money out the door and into the hands of struggling Canadians, there would almost certainly be problems. This is one and that doesn’t mean CERB wasn’t needed.

But given that the government knew CRA agents had given out confusing and flat-out incorrect information in December, why did it take until nearly the middle of February to confirm repayment would be forgiven to qualifying recipients?

Why has Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough, until recently, said outright forgiveness was not on the table? Now, quite suddenly, she and other officials including the prime minister have changed their tune. It is true that Trudeau said in a year-end interview with CBC that CERB recipients who received the warning letter “shouldn’t lose sleep” over having to repay, in some cases up to $14,000. But why not just come out and say recipients who applied and received benefits based on having received incorrect information would be off the hook?

No doubt, there are mitigating factors. Such as the real risk that some people who claimed fraudulently might get off the hook along with recipients who are genuine victims. But that goes with the territory. The government can claim the moral high ground here, but there is also a sense of political expediency that should not be overlooked.

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Week In Politics: House Approves $1.9 Trillion Pandemic Relief Package – NPR

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The Saudi crown prince may escape punishment for his order to kill a columnist. A pandemic relief package is moving through Congress. Donald Trump remains popular with conservative activists.



SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A few acronyms to chew over this morning – hope it doesn’t make breakfast taste flat – MBS, CPAC, OMB, if we have the time. Joining us now to spell it all out, NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning. Hope things are A-OK with you, Scott.

SIMON: (Laughter) Oh, I walked into that, didn’t I? Of course, MBS is what they call Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince. U.S. officials say that he approved the grisly murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – approved it, lied about it afterwards. Not clear if President Biden will do anything in response to this finding.

ELVING: You know, the role of MBS in this murder has been widely known, both inside and outside the intel community, for roughly two years. But the Trump administration was pursuing an ever-closer relationship with the Saudis, and especially and particularly MBS. And that had a lot to do with arms sales and Israel. So the report was not released, and there was a general refusal to acknowledge the known facts.

Now, the new administration is making more of the reports public but still not doing much about it, at least not yet. The White House says we should stay tuned but suggesting only that the Saudis are on some sort of probation now. And that seems to be the best judgment within Biden’s security team. It’s not good enough for a lot of Biden’s own voters who were expecting much more severe consequences for MBS and for the Saudi regime.

SIMON: It’s irresistible to point out – first military action of the Biden administration launched this week, an airstrike against Syria because Iranian-backed militias there had attacked American assets in the region. That gets an airstrike. Saudi Arabia gets a summary.

ELVING: Yes, President Biden said that strike was a message to Iran to, quote, “be careful. You can’t act with impunity,” unquote. And in substance, it was a far more consequential response than Biden made to the Saudis, a contrast that, as you suggest, made the slap on the wrist for MBS all the more troubling.

SIMON: Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, this weekend in Orlando, the largest gathering of conservative activists. Apparently, it includes an inflatable golden bust of Donald Trump. Any room for Republicans like Liz Cheney of Wyoming or Adam Kinzinger of Illinois?

ELVING: Well, what’s the opposite of a welcome mat, Scott? Maybe skull and crossbones on the door? The obvious question is how big a tent the Republicans want. Will it be Reagan’s or Bush’s or Trump’s tent? And will those people who were not welcome at CPAC be part of the party’s campaigns in 2022 and 2024? We’ll stay tuned.

SIMON: A $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package has passed the House, and President Biden spoke about that today at the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. We are one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who were shortly going to lose them. We are one step closer to helping millions of Americans feed their families and keep a roof over their head. We are one step closer to getting our kids safely back in school.

SIMON: But, Ron, Senate rules won’t allow another thing that the president wanted, which is a hike in the minimum wage.

ELVING: The good news for the White House is that the rest of this relief bill seems remarkably popular, even with some Trump voters. So with the minimum wage issue set aside to be dealt with separately later this year possibly, the overall bill seems increasingly likely to be law.

SIMON: Finally, Neera Tanden is President Biden’s pick to lead OMB, the Office of Management and Budget. As a partisan political figure, she made some colorful observations about some U.S. senators whose votes she may not get now.

ELVING: One lesson here is that a 50-50 Senate truly empowers the individual senator. So losing one or two can cost you your power to act. And that’s a lesson we’re likely to learn over and over. And another lesson is that even in the age of Trump Twitter, what others say on social media can still come back to haunt them.

SIMON: NPR’s senior Washington editor Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Equal Voice delegate in B.C. says gender equality in politics should be considered the norm, not a revolution – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote , has often been told she’s too loud and that she shouldn’t share her opinions quite so much.

As a student at a Christian secondary school in Abbotsford, she was even grilled on her dreams of becoming a lawyer. “A classmate asked me how I was going to take care of the children when I had a family?” said Louw.

The consequence is that Louw, now a 20-year-old political science student at Trinity Western University, says she is even more committed to speaking her mind. “I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind because if you don’t stand up for yourself there might not be anyone to stand up for you,” said Louw.

Louw said she’s interested in the power the younger generation has to make the world a better place and that’s exactly what she hopes to do.

Although Louw doesn’t plan on pursuing a political career, she said she is hoping the online summit, which brings together gender-diverse women and youth from across Canada, will give her the opportunity to learn from others, and perhaps even “challenge some of the MPs on the Hill currently.”  Delegates who represent their ridings in the March 8 virtual mock Parliament will meet with MPs and other officials in virtual sessions to learn more about Canada’s political processes.

“It would be great to see a time where having an equal amount of women in politics wouldn’t be seen as record-breaking, or revolutionary ideal,” said Louw.

Barbara Szymczyk, 28, who will be representing Vancouver Centre, said a highlight of the process before the summit was the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her MP, Hedy Fry.

Szymczyk doesn’t take the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process for granted. “I grew up with my mom always reinforcing how fortunate I was to live in a country with a well-established democratic system like Canada,” said Szymczyk, whose mother grew up in Poland. “I hold a deep gratitude for the right to vote.”

“It needs to be acknowledged that not all women got the right to vote 100 years ago,” Szymczyk said.  “Black, Asian and Indigenous identifying women got the right much later.”

She’s fascinated with decision-making processes, served three terms as a senator in student government at SFU, and doesn’t rule out a possible future in politics.

“Taking part in Daughters of the Vote will help me in that journey of discovering in how I can best support Canada’s democratic system,” she said.

So what, exactly, did she learn in that conversation with Fry, Canada’s longest serving female member of Parliament?

“She shared a piece of advice she got from (former prime minister Jean Chretien) about needing a thick skin: When you are in politics 15 per cent of people will support you all the time and 15 per cent of people that will have more of a negative attitude and there will be lots of people in between — your job is to serve all of them.”

Daughters of the Vote is a meeting of 338 delegates representing every federal riding in Canada, dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political arena by connecting them to those already serving in office, and will take place online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Equal Voice delegate says gender equality in politics should be considered the norm, not a revolution – Vancouver Sun

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Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote hopes to increase opportunities for women in political leadership as part of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote

Article content

Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote, has often been told she’s too loud and that she shouldn’t share her opinions quite so much.

As a student at a Christian secondary school in Abbotsford, she was even grilled on her dreams of becoming a lawyer. “A classmate asked me how I was going to take care of the children when I had a family?” said Louw.

The consequence is that Louw, now a 20-year-old political science student at Trinity Western University, says she is even more committed to speaking her mind. “I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind because if you don’t stand up for yourself there might not be anyone to stand up for you,” said Louw.

Louw said she’s interested in the power the younger generation has to make the world a better place and that’s exactly what she hopes to do.

Although Louw doesn’t plan on pursuing a political career, she said she is hoping the online summit, which brings together gender-diverse women and youth from across Canada, will give her the opportunity to learn from others, and perhaps even “challenge some of the MPs on the Hill currently.”  Delegates who represent their ridings in the March 8 virtual mock Parliament will meet with MPs and other officials in virtual sessions to learn more about Canada’s political processes.

Article content

Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote.
Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote. Photo by Handout /PNG

“It would be great to see a time where having an equal amount of women in politics wouldn’t be seen as record-breaking, or revolutionary ideal,” said Louw.

Barbara Szymczyk, 28, who will be representing Vancouver Centre, said a highlight of the process before the summit was the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her MP, Hedy Fry.

Szymczyk doesn’t take the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process for granted. “I grew up with my mom always reinforcing how fortunate I was to live in a country with a well-established democratic system like Canada,” said Szymczyk, whose mother grew up in Poland. “I hold a deep gratitude for the right to vote.”

“It needs to be acknowledged that not all women got the right to vote 100 years ago,” Szymczyk said.  “Black, Asian and Indigenous identifying women got the right much later.”

She’s fascinated with decision-making processes, served three terms as a senator in student government at SFU, and doesn’t rule out a possible future in politics.

“Taking part in Daughters of the Vote will help me in that journey of discovering in how I can best support Canada’s democratic system,” she said.

So what, exactly, did she learn in that conversation with Fry, Canada’s longest serving female member of Parliament?

“She shared a piece of advice she got from (former prime minister Jean Chretien) about needing a thick skin: When you are in politics 15 per cent of people will support you all the time and 15 per cent of people that will have more of a negative attitude and there will be lots of people in between — your job is to serve all of them.”

Daughters of the Vote is a meeting of 338 delegates representing every federal riding in Canada, dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political arena by connecting them to those already serving in office, and will take place online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

dryan@postmedia.com

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