It was not a great week for politics. The Team Canada concept — which maintained a concerted COVID-19 strategy last spring — has now evolved into Blame Canada, as opposition politicians take aim at the federal government for the lack of a vaccine delivery date. Simultaneously, Erin O’Toole, who is so anxious for the date, did not disavow a caucus member’s e-petition which questions the safety of future vaccines.
Even worse, provincial politicians took shots at each other. Christine Elliott, Ontario’s minister of health, said it is Alberta rather than Ontario that is in crisis, because “they are doubling up patients in intensive care units.”
This sniping really has to stop. Now is not the time to come apart, but to come together. A laserlike resolve is needed for the perilous winter months.
Elected officials are not exempt from feeling pandemic fatigue themselves. They too have families, and their jobs have also evolved. Most politicians use human interaction as their political oxygen. But large crowds with cheering supporters are taboo. Politicians who are generally surrounded by a team, whether it is their own caucus or staff, now stand alone, as the prime minister does in front of Rideau Cottage when he answers media questions.
If leaders are accompanied by colleagues, they are separated from each other. Doug Ford, for example, looks like he is auditioning for a role in the popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit.” He appears to be standing on a chess board, while his ministers move in and out of invisible squares as they respond to journalists.
Yielding the stage to expert public health officials has also become a new norm. Health officials are non-political, therefore their trust level with the public is generally high, but as time has passed, their recommendations have not always been followed.
Elected people want to deliver good news — not grim news. They know that business owners do not want to hear of hot zones or red zones or lockdowns. They know that ageism, discrimination, poor safety measures, shoddy infrastructure and low wages have all contributed to deaths of many loved ones in long-term care homes. And they all know that mental health issues are mounting along with COVID infection rates. The future is tough.
As COVID-19 wound its ugly path throughout the country, politicians faced choices. The majority adhered to medical counselling, exhorting people to socially distance, wear masks, halt gatherings and religiously wash hands.
Others, like Jason Kenney, chose to believe that personal responsibility would be enough to thwart the scourge. In spite of the rising COVID cases in Alberta and his own plummeting poll numbers, Kenney still refuses to order mandatory masking, even as reports state that field hospitals are being planned for contingency purposes.
So, where do politicians go from here? Given the changing information about COVID, any government could be forgiven for a certain amount of incoherent communication over the past few months.
However, as winter approaches, mistakes on vaccine timing, distribution and logistics must be kept to an absolute minimum. Governments will depend on the military for the crucial task of safely and securely delivering the vaccines. 2021 will require precise execution supported by clear messaging about the process, which must be accessible in different languages and to all cultural groups.
It is not only logistics that will prove daunting. Ethical challenges will preoccupy us, as prioritization of vaccines must be triaged. What if one province has too much or one has not enough? How do we handle those who refuse to take the vaccine? How will governments and social media giants manage deliberate misinformation?
Next week as premiers and territorial leaders gather to discuss long-term health funding, they must put aside their differences to demonstrate that the eradication of COVID is their number one priority.
Even with the bright rays of hope from successful vaccine trials, we still have months to go and years to recover. Managing tough information is the new norm of political leadership. It will require a steely resolve and firm decision making.
Politics is no longer about delivering good times. It’s now about inspiring us to get through bad times.
Doctor, NDP say politics guide Saskatchewan government’s COVID-19 response – Global News
Both spoke a day after Premier Scott Moe announced the province is transferring six COVID patients to Ontario to help ease the burden on the overcrowded ICUs.
Both said the province must to do more to protect residents from the disease.
Dr. Alex Wong, in Regina, stated he believes the government uses “some reasoning, that is political in nature, that keeps our elected officials, specifically our minister of health and our premier, from implementing clear public health… interventions.”
NDP health critic Vicki Mowat said the government is ignoring advice from the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.
“We’re asking that, moving forward, all of Dr. Shahab’s recommendations be made publicly available,” she told reporters.
“Enough of the behind-the-scene politics,” Mowat said, saying health minister Paul Merriman should be as forthright as possible.
During a press conference with the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) leadership team on Monday, Dr. Shahab said he recommended strongly that people limit themselves to two or three households for private gatherings.
Shahab’s advice remains just that — a recommendation. Saskatchewan is the sole province or territory without any form of government restrictions or guidance on gathering size restrictions.
The province also had the highest death rate per capita in the past two weeks, with 5.7 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the federal government.
“There’s a reason why (gathering size restrictions have) literally been implemented every single place in the country, except us,” Wong said from his office in Regina, stating that even vaccinated people can transmit the virus.
The situation in the province’s ICUs, he said, was dire.
“We know informal triage is happening at the bedside, (doctors are) having to make hard decisions again about who gets access to resources and who does not.”
And things could still get worse.
The University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Safety, which tracks COVID-19 virus load in the water for several cities, recorded a 109-per cent increase in Saskatoon from Oct. 7-13 over the prior week.
Toxicologist John Giesy, a member of the team and a former Canada research chair holder, said Thanksgiving celebrations helped spread the virus.
Giesy said the fact the virus load doubled doesn’t mean new cases will double, but told Global News the figure can offer a hint about what the city will soon experience.
“Hospitalizations lag a week to two weeks behind our numbers,” he said.
“So by the time people get sick, end up sick enough to be in the hospital and get diagnosed, (it) takes some time.”
“What we don’t know now,” he went on to say, “is what’s going to happen when the weather turns cold. That’s the next big unknown.”
Global News reached out to Moe’s and Merriman’s offices to ask what health measures Shahab had recommended since July 11 and which of them the government had enacted.
Global News also asked the premier and health minister if they would implement gathering size restrictions in light of the post-Thanksgiving doubling of the virus load.
The Saskatoon Public Safety Agency, which coordinates the PEOC, responded.
A statement said the PEOC, “is taking a strategic approach when it comes to resource requests, to ensure that requests meet the needs of the province at any given time.”
“There doesn’t appear to be any clear end in sight at this point,” Wong said, referring to the pandemic, saying he and other front-line workers will struggle in the next few weeks.
“If there’s no further action, then we’re just kind of going to see how it goes. We’re going to be on our own.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Opinion: Politics has become a thankless, dangerous job – The Globe and Mail
When Catherine McKenna announced she was leaving politics, she experienced an instant sense of relief.
It wasn’t the insane workload and hours – she was never afraid of hard work. Or the travel and the back-to-back meetings and the corrosive effect of snide partisanship. No, what she felt immediate respite from was fear – the fear that accompanies today’s politicians, especially ones with high-profile roles overseeing controversial files.
“I think the biggest thing was as a cabinet minister I constantly felt on edge,” the former environment minister told me in an interview. “It was the constant threats, people verbally accosting my staff and defacing my constituency office and sending me smashed up Barbie dolls.
“You realize people know where you live. You do think a lot about the safety of your children. It’s like this horrible cloud that follows you everywhere, and you have to try and pretend it’s not there but you can’t. You have to take threats seriously.”
Ms. McKenna is precisely the type of person we hope to attract to politics: smart, articulate, passionate about important issues, a fierce advocate for women and girls. Her absence leaves a hole. But who can blame her for wanting to leave given the constant harassment she faced? Why would anyone want to go into politics these days?
One never knows when deranged, malicious utterances on some social media platform might lead to something more serious. The recent killing of British MP David Amess, stabbed to death while meeting constituents in a church hall, is a tragic reminder of the increasing threat politicians all around the world face.
While the risk of violence has been something legislators have always had to live with, there is a sense it’s much worse now, amplified by social media and the ecosystem of the aggrieved.
“If you hate Catherine McKenna, Facebook will go find you other people who hate me too.”
It seems we have a few choices.
One option is finally getting serious with the social media platforms that are creating a dangerous work environment for politicians. Facebook and Twitter, among others, have said they will deal with the issue but have demonstrated little will to do so. This is no longer a freedom of speech issue. This is a public safety issue, and we shouldn’t fear trampling on certain rights in the name of a safer world.
The second option is massively increasing the security budgets for our elected officials. In Canada this would cost billions. Think about the home security systems that would be needed, the bodyguards. The fortress you would have to turn the House of Commons into. I doubt this would be very appealing to the public.
The third option is doing nothing and accepting that increasingly fewer of our best people are going to want to have anything to do with civic life because of the risk it poses to their personal safety and that of their families. I would argue this is already happening.
Every day it seems there is another report of a politician being screamed at or threatened in a public place. It happened to Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner when she and her husband were out for dinner during the election campaign. A man came up and started yelling at her. The same thing happened recently to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. He and his wife were at a downtown liquor store when a man in his 50s approached the mayor and started screaming at him, daring him to step outside and fight. He then started in on the mayor’s wife. Police were called, and the matter remains under investigation.
I thought about this when I interviewed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in downtown Vancouver in July. After the interview, he plunged into a waiting crowd to take selfies. How easy it would have been, I thought, for some lunatic to do serious harm to the PM. Scenes like that are likely soon coming to an end.
It needs to be said that not all politicians are blameless here. Some are responsible for the kind of incendiary language that stokes division and hatred. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is a prime example of that. Some of the statements by People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier during the recent election were highly inflammatory.
We need to take this issue far more seriously than we do now. The future of our country literally depends on it.
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U.S. House committee backs contempt charge against Trump aide Bannon
A US Congressional Committee probing the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of contempt-of-Congress charges against Steve Bannon, a longtime aide to former President Donald Trump.
The seven Democratic and two Republican members of the House of Representatives Select Committee approved a report recommending the criminal charge by a 9-0 vote, calling it “shocking” that Bannon refused to comply with subpoenas seeking documents and testimony.
Approval of the report paved the way for the entire House to vote on whether to recommend contempt charges https://www.reuters.com/world/us/whats-stake-trump-allies-facing-contempt-congress-2021-10-14. That vote is set for Thursday, when the full, Democratic-controlled chamber is expected to approve the report.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said prosecutors there would “evaluate the matter based on the facts and the law” if the full House approves the recommendation.
“It’s a shame that Mr. Bannon has put us in this position. But we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Representative Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairman, said in his opening remarks.
Bannon’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening.
Before leaving office in January, Trump pardoned Bannon https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-pardons/trump-pardons-ex-aide-bannon-but-not-himself-or-family-idUSKBN29P0BE of charges he had swindled the Republican president’s supporters. Trump has urged former aides subpoenaed by the panel to reject its requests, claiming executive privilege.
Bannon, through his lawyer, has said he will not cooperate with the committee until Trump’s executive privilege claim is resolved by a court or through a settlement agreement.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Republican Representative Liz Cheney, the select committee’s vice chair, said: “Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of Jan. 6th. And we will get to the bottom of that.”
Thompson said Bannon “stands alone” among those subpoenaed in his refusal to cooperate.
More than 670 people have been charged with taking part in the riot, the worst attack on the U.S. government since the War of 1812. The select committee has issued 19 subpoenas.
“It’s shocking to me that anyone would not do everything in their power to assist our investigation,” Thompson said.
‘ALL HELL IS GOING TO BREAK LOOSE’
In its report, the committee argued that Bannon made statements suggesting he knew ahead of time about “extreme events” on Jan. 6, when Congress was scheduled to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
Bannon said on a Jan. 5 podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The next day, thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol.
Four people died on the day of the assault, and one Capitol police officer died the next day of injuries sustained in defense of the seat of Congress. Hundreds of police officers were injured and four have since taken their own lives.
Trump filed suit https://www.reuters.com/world/us/trump-sues-us-house-panel-investigating-jan-6-attack-court-document-2021-10-18 on Monday, alleging the committee made an illegal, unfounded and overly broad request for his White House records, which committee leaders rejected..
The U.S. Supreme Court said in 1821 that Congress has “inherent authority” to arrest and detain recalcitrant witnesses on its own, without the Justice Department’s help. But it has not used that authority in nearly a century.
In 1927, the high court said the Senate acted lawfully in sending its deputy sergeant at arms to Ohio to arrest and detain the brother of the then-attorney general, who had refused to testify about a bribery scheme known as the Teapot Dome scandal.
It was not immediately clear how the Justice Department would respond to a House recommendation – there have been few accusations of contempt of Congress – but some House members have argued that letting Bannon ignore subpoenas would weaken congressional oversight of the executive branch.
“No one in the United States of America has the right to blow off a subpoena by a court or by the U.S. Congress,” panel member Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, told reporters after the meeting.
The select committee was created by House Democrats against the wishes of most Republicans. Two of the committee’s nine members – Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger – are Republicans who joined House Democrats in voting to impeach Trump in January on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack in a fiery speech to supporters earlier that day.
Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s own administration have rejected Trump’s claims that Biden won because of election fraud.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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