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Parliament resumes amid heightened political pressure on pandemic, vaccines

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 9, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government is expected to be pressed by opposition parties when Parliament resumes Monday on the availability of vaccines for COVID-19, the recession caused by the virus and when Ottawa intends to put forward a detailed account of federal spending in a budget.

The pandemic, which has dominated Justin Trudeau’s second mandate, has kept the government in crisis-response mode since last March. As of Sunday, the Public Health Agency said there have been 742,531 cases of COVID-19 to date in Canada and 18,974 deaths. There were 146 fatalities reported on Sunday.

With Parliament coming back after the holiday break, Mr. Trudeau’s government is expected to face questions about its handling of the crisis and the pace at which the country is receiving vaccines.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said the government is letting down Canadians on the vaccine file and that the country cannot secure its economic future without access to the shots.

NDP House leader and finance critic Peter Julian said Sunday the government must ensure that vaccines make their way into peoples’ arms. He said this issue is “particularly disturbing” during a very dangerous and deadly second wave of the pandemic.

Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine logistics, said Thursday the delivery of vaccines from Pfizer for the week of Feb. 1 will be cut to 79,000 doses, amounting to a 79-per-cent drop. On Tuesday, he said Canada will get none of the 208,650 doses originally expected this week.

Maj.-Gen. Fortin also said the company has not disclosed what Canada’s shipment will be the week of Feb. 8.

Mr. Julian said there is a “profound concern with the government seeming to rely on statements rather than actually mobilizing the resources they have to make sure that vaccines are actually administered to Canadians.

“What is vitally important and the only thing that Canadians will be satisfied with is that there’s a major step up in administering of vaccines across the country, particularly the Canadians who are the most vulnerable,” he said.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said Canada remains on track to receive vaccines for all Canadians who wish to be vaccinated by the end of September.

Mr. Trudeau’s government is also facing political pressure to re-establish a viceregal appointments committee following the resignation of Governor-General Julie Payette on Thursday.

Ms. Payette’s departure, along with that of her second-in-command Assunta Di Lorenzo, followed the completion of an external review that was requested after media reports detailed allegations of bullying and harassment at Rideau Hall.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told the CBC on Sunday that he doesn’t think the government can pretend the vetting process for Ms. Payette was adequate. The process must be more robust for every senior government appointment, he said.

The Prime Minister hasn’t made any decisions on the specific process to be followed in the coming weeks to replace Ms. Payette, Mr. LeBlanc said, but added that the Privy Council Office will be offering advice to Mr. Trudeau this week.

“It’s not a circumstance we want to drag on for weeks and weeks and weeks,” Mr. LeBlanc said.

Peter Donolo, the vice-chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada and a prime ministerial director of communications to Jean Chrétien, said it is not an optimal situation to have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Richard Wagner, serving in the viceregal role in the interim.

“That’s why they need to move sooner than later to replace the Governor-General,” he said. “Hopefully it will just be a matter of a couple of weeks at most.”

With a report from Marieke Walsh

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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The empty, performative politics of Marjorie Taylor Greene – CNN

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She tweeted this along with the video: “Our neighbor, @RepMarieNewman, wants to pass the so-called ‘Equality’ Act to destroy women’s rights and religious freedoms,” she tweeted. “Thought we’d put up ours so she can look at it every time she opens her door.” Greene added a winking face emoji and an American flag.
Greene’s move was prompted by Newman, a Democratic member of Congress from Illinois whose office is across from Greene’s, putting up a transgender flag outside her office and tweeting this: “Our neighbor, @RepMTG tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is ‘disgusting, immoral, and evil.’ Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.”
Newman put a winky face emoji and a transgender flag emoji with her tweet.
Newman, whose daughter is transgender, was supporting the Equality Act that aims to ban discrimination based on sex, gender identity and sexual preference. In an emotional speech on the House floor earlier in the day Tuesday, Newman said this of the act: “The right time to pass this act was decades ago. The second best time is right now. I’m voting yes on the Equality Act for Evie Newman, my daughter and the strongest, bravest person I know.”
The back-and-forth between Newman and Greene is a reminder of an increasingly common strain in the Republican Party in the Trump age: Performative politics as an end in and of itself.
See, Greene isn’t putting that sign up because she thinks it might have some sort of actual effect on the debate over the Equality Act. The bill has support among the Democratic House majority and is likely to pass. Greene knows that. All she is doing is rallying her political base by putting on a performance with zero actual effect on how or whether this bill will become a law or not.
And of course, it worked. Greene’s video had 4.3 million views on Twitter as of Thursday morning, double the number that Newman’s video had gathered. It will further cement her status as a Trumpian cultural warrior, battling the forces of “woke” culture and standing up for traditional values.
“Rep. Newmans daughter is transgender, and this video and tweet represents the hate and fame driven politics of self-promotion at all evil costs,” tweeted Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger. “This garbage must end, in order to #RestoreOurGOP.”
That’s exactly right. For Greene, the performance and the controversy is the point. She has zero interest in actually legislating or even trying to build relationships with colleagues with whom she may not agree. Her sole interest is in building her Twitter followers, her small-dollar donor base and her profile on Fox News. That’s success for Greene. That’s how she views the job of representing the people of the 14th district of Georgia.
And she might be the most extreme example but she won’t be the only one. Donald Trump’s presidency (and his post-presidency) tilled the soil for candidates just like Greene to succeed. No longer is going to Washington to do something considered of value to the Republican base. Now the goal is to troll Democrats (and the media) with outlandish — and, in this case, intolerant — behavior. And of course to document and share it as widely as possible, because if a tree falls in the forest and all that.
Greene will view the back-and-forth with Newman as a major success. Her video will continue to accumulate views. More people will know her name. She’ll raise more money off it. Win, win, win for her.
And a loss for anyone who believes that politics is about relationships and actually trying to find common ground to get things done for the American people.

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How to make African politics less costly – The Economist

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AYISHA OSORI, a Nigerian lawyer and author, has vividly described running for political office in her country. She twists the arms of party elders, flatters their wives and hands over wads of banknotes—the cleaner the better. “Without money”, she concludes, “most aspirations would evaporate like steam.”

Politics costs money everywhere, but the link between cash and power is especially corrosive in Nigeria and across much of Africa. In rich democracies parties choose candidates and subsidise their campaigns. In many African ones aspiring politicians pay vast sums to run on a party ticket and then shell out even more to cover their own costs. They give voters handouts, which serve both as bribes and as hints of future generosity. Once in office, they keep spending: on constituents’ school fees, medical bills, funeral costs and construction projects (see article). Individual politicians, in effect, act as mini welfare states. Some 40% of ambulances in Uganda are owned by MPs. Their spending often dwarfs their official salaries.

This is bad for Africa. When a life in politics costs so much, the impecunious and honest will be excluded. Many MPs will either be rich to begin with, or feel the need to abuse power to recoup their expenses, or both. Even if they are not corrupt, MPs are a poor substitute for a genuine welfare state. Their largesse may go to those who ask loudest, or to a favoured ethnic group.

So long as states are weak, it makes sense for voters to ask their MPs for handouts, rather than for better laws or help to navigate the bureaucracy. It is also rational for MPs to neglect legislative work in favour of gifts and pork, if this is what voters say they want. But as Africa develops, this should change. As voters grow richer, they will be harder to buy. As governments grow more effective, MPs will have fewer gaps to fill. Alas, these shifts could take decades.

Africans need something better, sooner. Outsiders often suggest tougher campaign-finance laws, but these seldom work. They are often ignored. And laws copied from the West tend to miss the point, by regulating spending by parties before elections, rather than by sitting MPs.

Better would be to take a different approach. One aim would be to strengthen institutions that expose and punish corruption. Last year Malawians booted out the graft-ridden regime of Peter Mutharika thanks, in large part, to independent judges. Politicians who see graft punished are more likely to stay clean.

Another aim would be to encourage parties to run on policies, rather than ethnicity or patronage. African NGOs, trade unions and business groups should nudge them in this direction—or help set up alternatives. New parties, such as Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform in Uganda, are gaining popularity partly because they oppose the old rot. Philanthropists could give them money—and ask nothing in return.

The essential thing is to curb MPs’ informal role as sources of welfare. The long-term fix would be to make local governments work properly. A stopgap is to improve Constituency Development Funds. These are pots of public money to be spent largely at the discretion of MPs. More than a dozen African countries have them. They are not as grubby as they sound. Research from Kenya finds that voters judge MPs on how they use these funds, so they offer some accountability. With greater transparency, they would offer more.

Africa has grown more democratic in the past 30 years. Multi-party elections are common, albeit often flawed. Opposition parties are gaining ground. Most leaders leave office peacefully, rather than in coups. Politics is becoming more competitive. The next step is to make it less costly.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “Fixing Africa’s pricey politics”

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ICRC Humanitarian Law & Policy blog: The grand scheme: power and politics in the climate crisis – World – ReliefWeb

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Even in the midst of a pandemic, during a seemingly endless cascade of events, climate change remains a defining issue. Its effects are even more severe for people affected by conflict and violence, who find themselves navigating the collision of war and environmental crises. How can the humanitarian community work with affected people to design policies and practices that have an impact?

In this post, Malvika Verma, a project development officer for ACTED Sri Lanka and India, argues that to strengthen climate action in conflict settings, a solid understanding of people’s vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities must be informed by the bigger picture – an analysis of pre-existing circuits of power and political relationships.

Read the full blog post here

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