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Politics and relationships – Newsroom

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Podcast: The Detail

Can you date, marry, or even just be friends with someone who holds the opposite political views to you? In the US that’s generally a hard ‘no’ – here, it’s a bit different

An Auckland political psychologist says New Zealand’s become more polarised in the Covid-19 era.

We’re not quite as divided along blue-red lines as the pro and anti-Trump brigades in the US but Danny Osborne says the tone of the debate has definitely intensified.

Osborne was born into a poor, Republican-voting family in a right wing city in California.

But when he discovered punk music as a teenager he switched politics.

It’s made for some awkward meals.

“You’re basically born into a party in the US,” says Osborne, associate professor at the University of Auckland’s school of psychology. “I’m a black sheep.”

He’s been in New Zealand for nine years, teaches political psychology, and is part of the team working on the 20-year-old Attitudes and Values study of 60,000 New Zealanders.

“Politics are all about identities,” he says. “So people are National supporters, they’re Labour supporters, they’re Green supporters. Same thing with the US which is an exponentially more polarised environment.”

Osborne talks to The Detail‘s Sharon Brettkelly about the growing polarisation of politics, what happens to families and friends when politics becomes more divisive, and the impact of the pandemic on attitudes.

The latest Attitudes and Values research, looking at political segmentation in the last 10 years shows that until 2018 there was very little polarisation, says Osborne.

But there are signs of Covid’s impact on peoples’ attitudes.

“Everything from managed isolation, to how we’re dealing with debt etc, it has really taken on a partisan flavour that I haven’t seen since I’ve been in New Zealand,” Osborne says.

“I think what the Trump election in 2016 shows us is that democracy is incredibly fragile and you know within the period of four years you can just completely change your way of thinking.

“We used to view the US as this paragon of democracy and in one administration that’s all changed. So I think the same thing can happen in New Zealand, we can very much see these issues start to polarise.”

Studies show that families tend to stick with the same party, says Osborne, though he fits with the small percentage who break the mould. His own close family members are Trump voters and Osborne says he was “a bit of an outcast” growing up in right wing towns in California. Any visits home to the family avoid political discussion.

Osborne cites a study published after the 2016 election which looked at cell phone data from people over the Thanksgiving holiday. It showed that people who had voted for Hilary Clinton, who were returning home to see family in Trump-voting counties, spent on average an hour less at the family home before they headed back to the “blue” counties.

He says as a general trend people are uncomfortable with cross-party conversations but he urges voters to keep having them to keep the debate alive.

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

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Misogyny in politics is not an all or nothing problem: Ioannoni – NiagaraFallsReview.ca

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Just because some women feel they haven’t faced misogyny in politics doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist, says Niagara Falls city Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni.

The veteran politician said she’s “very glad” four former female councillors who wrote an Oct. 20 letter to council saying they were not treated any different because of their gender by their male counterparts feel that way.

“I am very glad that that was the experiences for these four women. We would never want any other woman to face the issues that many of us in politics feel we’re facing today,” said Ioannoni.

“I don’t have any right to talk about or criticize their opinion or what they believe their lived experiences would be. I thought they would have had the same courtesy for those of us who participated in that article and shown the same kind of respect, maybe a little bit of compassion.”

Former councillors Shirley Fisher, Joyce Morocco, Paisley Janvary-Pool and Selina Volpatti signed a letter sent to Niagara Falls city council about their experiences sitting around the table over the years.

The women said they “did not feel unsafe, disrespected or alienated by gender” by their male counterparts during the several decades they spent in politics.

The letter was in response to recent comments made in a local newspaper by the two current female city councillors in Niagara Falls — Ioannoni and Lori Lococo. The seven other members, including the mayor, are male.

Ioannoni and Lococo were quoted in a Sept. 3 story in Niagara This Week titled “#HerSay: Cracking the ‘old boys club’ at Niagara Falls council.” It was part of a series on gender and politics in Niagara.

In the story, Ioannoni commented on her 23 years on council and her numerous run-ins with male councillors and mayors.

“Misogyny is alive and well in Niagara politics,” she is quoted, adding “it’s hard being on an old boys’ club council in Niagara Falls.”

Lococo, elected in 2018, said in the story “some lines have been crossed regarding respect and decorum because I’m a woman.”

At the Oct. 6 meeting, council approved a motion by Coun. Victor Pietrangelo for an “outside opinion” on whether council’s code of conduct was violated.

Ioannoni said the series opened a discussion that was “long overdue,” adding several women were quoted about their experiences in politics.

Ioannoni said she has received “many” letters of support from the community since being quoted in the story, and against council’s decision to look into whether comments broke the code of conduct.

Lococo said it’s important for everyone to “share their experiences and we should value them and learn from them.”

“I think that cultures, timing, situations can change, so I can only comment on my experiences,” she said.

Volpatti said she wrote the letter, adding the initiative was driven by the women, not any outside pressure, with Morocco adding the women felt it was important to share their lived experiences in politics.

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“We had a lot of arguments while I was on council … with all of them, but they were never personalized, they were always about the issue,” said Volpatti.

Morocco said accusations about misogyny doesn’t just call into question a councillor’s political integrity, but also their personal and professional standing.

“I know it is in a lot of areas that women are experiencing inappropriate behaviour by men, and I’m not going to discredit that at all. But in this situation, c’mon, let’s look at the writing on the wall,” she said, pointing to Ioannoni’s involvement in seven of nine integrity commissioner investigations since 2015, costing taxpayers $273,741.

“Now, all of a sudden after how many years has this seasoned, female councillor been there with those men and now it’s OK to start saying, ‘Oh, I’ve been mistreated horribly?’”

Janvary-Pool said she was asked if she would read and sign the letter, adding “I certainly felt the same way.”

“We all worked together. We worked for the good of the city,” she said of her experience as a councillor.

“If (Ioannoni) is in trouble, it’s her own making. That’s her own interpretation, that’s not the rest of us. We never had any problems.”

Fisher said she received a phone call from Morocco, and also had a discussion about the issue with Janvary-Pool.

“When I was on council, we didn’t have this type of issue that they’re having, so-called, now,” said Fisher.

“I had no difficulties with anyone on council — man or woman. The years I was there, there’s always someone you don’t agree with, but that does not mean we get into any kind of a (personal) issue. We just moved on and did our work.”

— With files from John Law

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Campbell River Mirror

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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.

“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.

READ MORE: Companies warn Tory motion could deter domestic production of PPE

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.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Chilliwack Progress – Chilliwack Progress

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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.

“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.

READ MORE: Companies warn Tory motion could deter domestic production of PPE

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.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


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