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Politics Briefing: Conservatives lead national poll – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Between the plane crash in Iran, the coronavirus and protests that are increasingly crippling rail lines around the country, it would be a trying time for any government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have been lauded for his handling of the aftermath of the plane crash last month, but Canadians are apparently souring on his leadership as the problems pile up.

The latest Nanos Research survey, released this morning, puts the Conservatives in the lead nationally at 36 per cent support among respondents. Nanos has the Liberals at 33 per cent, the NDP at 15 per cent, and the Bloc and Greens with 7 per cent each.

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“Although the Liberals have enjoyed a marginal advantage over the Conservatives since mid-November there has been an decline in support over the last few weeks in the Nanos tracking,” founder Nik Nanos said. He noted the decline has happened at the same time as the controversies in the news.

The hybrid phone-online survey talked to 1,000 Canadian adults over four weeks. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The latest survey pegs support for the parties pretty close to what they were on the Oct. 21 election night. The Conservatives won the popular vote thanks to huge margins of victory in Western provinces, while the Liberals won a number of close contests in Central Canada that put them over the top in seat count. But with a minority government, technically the Liberal government could fall at any time.

Since the election, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer resigned. The party is due to pick a new leader on June 27.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Teck chose to back out of the Frontier oil sands mine when it became clear that being at the centre of a national debate about energy and environmental policy was not going to be a boon to the company, sources tell The Globe and Mail. The business case for the major project was also troubled because of low oil prices. Teck said earlier this month it would be net-zero on emissions by 2050, and sources say it also wasn’t clear how the resources company would achieve that.

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Protests in solidarity with some of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs continue to target rail lines, a day after Ontario Provincial Police closed the main blockade at Tyendinaga. A new blockade was set up in Hamilton, at an important nexus for freight and commuter lines.

As if there wasn’t enough energy news, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled the federal carbon price was unconstitutional. That ruling followed those of the Ontario and Saskatchewan courts, which found the carbon price was constitutional. It’ll be up to the Supreme Court to sort it out when it hears the case next month.

The New Democrats have tabled a bill to establish universal pharmacare. The Liberals have not said if they will support the bill, though they are promising to move somewhat in that direction.

The Liberals did table a bill to slightly open up access to physician-assisted deaths, by allowing for advance waivers and removing the need for the deaths to be “reasonably foreseeable.”

The government’s long-delayed plan to buy new fighter jets is being delayed more.

And the Public Sector Pension Investment Board is getting into real estate. However, it’s not clear if the Toronto development that the pension plan envisions will get the rezoning required to actually build housing.

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Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on the Teck oil sands mine’s sudden rise to national prominence: “It can’t be said often enough: Hardly anybody was talking about the Liberals’ looming decision on whether to approve the Frontier mine a few months ago, even in Alberta. It wasn’t a big topic last summer when the project received a rather tentative approval recommendation from a federal-provincial panel, nor in the fall election campaign.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the politics of the decision: “A big chunk of Canada’s population will cheer at the prospect that future oil sands projects will be stymied. Another big chunk will feel climate-change policies must be set aside to let projects go ahead. Those are now political forces beyond the full control of politicians.”

Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on the need for federal and provincial governments to work together: “Yes, the United Conservative Party campaigned on scrapping the carbon tax and protecting provincial jurisdiction. But even Jason Kenney has to know there is value to a consumption tax, and there are much bigger fish to fry – including incentivizing its emissions-heavy oil sands industry to innovate itself greener.”

Jason Markusoff (Maclean’s) on Teck’s thinking in withdrawing the Frontier mine: “The company, as it saved face, also saw this as a good opportunity to demand governments have actual big-picture oil sands development policies, and not just leave each project, one by one, to the whims of the varying beliefs of cabinet ministers who think one more straw will break Canada’s carbon back, or that this one is climate-affordable and economically necessary.”

Doug Cuthand (Saskatoon StarPhoenix) on fair dealing: “Canada is a nation that is built on the rule of law and common sense. Before a railway could be built across the new nation, the government had to make treaty with the First Nations of the plains. This process stopped in the mountains because the American settlers in British Columbia refused to see the need to deal fairly with the First Nations. Today Canada is paying the price and the politicians and those in power know it.”

Brenda Cossman (The Globe and Mail) on the Weinstein verdict: “Measuring the relative success of #MeToo through the Weinstein trial might be a little too myopic, even in terms of the law. Law has already had a big role to play. Men such as Mr. Weinstein and broadcasters Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose were fired, and none of these once-powerful men brought successful wrongful dismissal suits. Nor did any of them bring successful defamation suits against the media who reported on their sexual misconduct. Well before the criminal law got involved, there were many #MeToo consequences meted out through the law.”

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How Chinese Americans Are Living Through a Second Pandemic: Politics Daily – The Atlantic

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It’s Friday, April 3. In today’s newsletter: How many Chinese Americans are now living through their second pandemic. Plus: An unhealthy military, struggling to fight COVID-19.

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« TODAY IN POLITICS »

In January, Mei Mei, a real-estate agent in California, shipped N95 masks to her parents in China. When the outbreak started getting worse in the U.S., they considered sending the same masks back to her. (ERIN BRETHAUER)

As coronavirus cases fall in China and soar in the U.S., many Chinese Americans are experiencing a disconcerting case of déjà vu. The social isolation, overwhelmed hospitals, equipment shortages and deaths all feel eerily familiar, after what those with loved ones in China experienced as the disease first peaked in Wuhan.

First-generation immigrants in particular recognized the virus as a serious threat before much of the rest of America. Many other Chinese Americans still have close ties to China, and went from sending N95 masks to their loved ones in China to receiving them from the same family and friends they once considered at a higher risk.

Mei Mei, a real-estate agent in California, has been coordinating donations of masks, face shields, goggles, and other PPE to send to local hospitals. “A lot of the donations I received, they were all still in the original package shipping by their family [from China],” she told my colleague Sarah Zhang.

“You tell people around you, but they didn’t really want to believe that,” Yahua Yu, a Seattle neurologist who attended medical school in Wuhan, told Sarah. “Then you start saying, ‘You will see. You will see.’”

—Kaila Philo

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« THE CORONAVIRUS READER »

(HISTORICAL / GETTY)

+ The U.S. armed forces are devoted to keeping the American public safe. But the pandemic has military personnel questioning whether they can promise as much for themselves, Kathy Gilsinan reports.

+ Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has used the pandemic to seize absolute power in Hungary indefinitely. Now is the time for widespread scrutiny of the powers that be, Anne Applebaum argues.

+ Americans with disabilities fear that life-saving treatment could be withheld from them should they fall ill with COVID-19, Elaine Godfrey reports.

+ As unemployment skyrockets, President Trump’s reelection chances plummet, Annie Lowrey argues.

You can keep up with The Atlantic’s most crucial coronavirus coverage here.


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Today’s newsletter was written by Kaila Philo, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

You can reply directly to this newsletter with questions or comments, or send a note to politicsdaily@theatlantic.com.

Your support makes our journalism possible. Subscribe here.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Kaila Philo is an editorial fellow at The Atlantic.

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The Coronavirus Is Transforming Politics and Economics – The New Yorker

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Just like in wartime, people are frightened, public attitudes are changing, and the circumstances necessitate an expanded role for the government, including the Department of the Treasury.Photographer by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty

In early March, when health experts warned that the United States risked running short of vital medical supplies, such as masks and ventilators, Donald Trump resisted calls to invoke the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that gives the President broad powers to prioritize the production of certain items when they become important for national security. As recently as last week, he said, “We don’t need it.” Finally, on Thursday, Trump dropped the pretense and invoked the act to order the suppliers of ventilator manufacturers to give them the components they need to speed up production.

Every day, in ways small and large, the spread of the coronavirus is reshaping American politics. As the death toll rises and the economic fallout spreads, measures once considered unthinkable are being adopted, and not just in the public-health sphere. The $2.2 trillion emergency spending bill that Congress passed last week is worth about ten per cent of G.D.P., and in the coming months we are likely to see another stimulus. This dramatic ramp-up in federal spending is comparable to what happened in 1942, the year after Pearl Harbor, when federal spending as a share of G.D.P. rose by more than ten percentage points.

Trump is no F.D.R., of course, and the virus, unlike the Axis Powers, is an invisible enemy. But the record shows that lethal pandemics and major wars can both have enormous political and economic consequences. In his 2017 opus “The Great Leveler,” Walter Scheidel, a Stanford historian, described them as two of the “four horsemen” that have flattened economic inequality throughout human history. (The other two levelling forces that Scheidel identified were revolutions and state failures.) By decimating the population of medieval Europe, the Black Death made labor scarce, which raised wages and undermined the feudal system. The Civil War abolished slavery and gave rise to the Homestead Act of 1862. The First World War changed the role of women in the economy and paved the way for their political emancipation. The Second World War elevated the role of labor unions and led to the explicit adoption of Keynesian full-employment policies, through the 1946 Employment Act. In Europe, it facilitated the creation of a postwar welfare state, including the National Health Service in Britain.

These violent ruptures lasted years. We can hope that this horrible public-health crisis will also be temporary. And yet, the “wartime” metaphor is in many ways apt. Daily life has been transformed; in just two weeks, almost ten million Americans have filed unemployment claims; and earlier this week a White House task force said the death toll could eventually reach two hundred and forty thousand. Just like in wartime, people are frightened, public attitudes are changing, and the circumstances are necessitating a big expansion of the government’s role.

As of today, tens of millions of small and medium-sized firms will be able to take out bank loans to cover all of their running costs, including wages and rent, for the next eight weeks. If they keep their workers on the books, or rehire the ones they have laid off in the past couple of weeks, the Treasury Department will automatically repay the loans in their entirety. (I wrote about the scheme earlier this week.) The involvement of banks disguises the fact that this is essentially a huge, federal grant program, in which Uncle Sam will be paying the wages of tens of millions of Americans who are nominally private-sector employees. For a conservative Republican Administration, this is a strikingly interventionist move. But it doesn’t cover large corporations, and there are doubts about how quickly and widely the loans will be taken up. (The initial reports aren’t encouraging.) If the jobless count keeps rising, pressure will grow for the Administration to go further and copy the emergency job-protection programs that many European countries have adopted, which encompass businesses of all sizes and involve the government paying them directly.

In other policy areas, too, the Overton window—the range of political options considered acceptable—is expanding. The rapid passage of such a big stimulus, with more to come probably, has punctured the idea, assiduously promoted by deficit hawks, that we “can’t afford” more government programs. Despite all the additional spending, the U.S. Treasury is still able to borrow on remarkably favorable terms: on Thursday, the yield on ten-year Treasury bonds was just 0.63 per cent. And as a backstop, there is the Federal Reserve, with its electronic printing press at the ready.

You don’t have to be a convert to Modern Monetary Theory to have noted the alacrity with which the Fed, over the past month, has purchased and placed on its balance sheet about $1.5 trillion worth of Treasury bonds, commercial paper and bonds issued by large corporations, mortgage-backed securities, auto loans, and credit-card loans. In the coming days, it may well start lending directly to big corporations. As the Fed constructs a comprehensive safety net for Wall Street and corporate America, how can anyone argue against an equally comprehensive approach to safeguarding the welfare of medical workers, delivery-truck drivers, grocery-store employees, and other ordinary Americans on the front line of the battle to contain COVID-19?

The public at large may not grasp some of the financial intricacies, but it surely sees the urgent need for universal health care. According to a poll published by Morning Consult earlier this week, net support for Medicare for All—those who support it minus those who oppose it—has risen by nine points. The virus isn’t just raising support for socialized medicine; it is also undermining the finances of the private-insurance model. Caring for COVID-19 patients can be very costly. If the insurers have to recoup these costs next year, they could raise their 2021 premiums by more than forty per cent, according to an analysis by Covered California, the Golden State’s official health-insurance marketplace. Though Elizabeth Warren is out of the Democratic primary and it would be a huge surprise for Bernie Sanders to secure the Party’s nomination, they could well end up winning the debate over health-care policy.

In another important development, the mass layoffs that have resulted from the virus have also laid bare the iniquities of the gig economy, in which Uber drivers and other online-platform workers, temp-agency workers, and a whole variety of freelancers didn’t have access to health insurance, sick leave, or unemployment insurance. During an appearance on CNBC on Thursday, the investor James Chanos said he was selling short the stocks of gig-economy companies because their business model, which is based on classifying workers as self-employed to avoid giving them costly benefits, is likely to be challenged. “I think both political parties are going to be looking at that pretty hard,” Chanos said.

Much depends on the duration of the pandemic, of course. If the associated shutdowns prove to be reasonably short-lived—two or three months—the economy and the markets could rebound fairly rapidly. Congress and the Fed could wind down their emergency programs, and public attitudes could flip back. But the longer the pandemic goes on, and the deadlier it becomes, the greater the pressure will be for more government activism of various forms.

It would be reassuring to think that this pressure will always lead to necessary actions and progressive policies, but that might be kidding ourselves. A new study of the impact of the 1918 flu pandemic on the U.S. and European countries shows that it led to a decline in social trust. The spread of the virus, the confinement measures taken to counter it, and “rumours about enemy spies spreading the infection beyond the lines as a kind of biological weapon created a climate of suspicion and mistrust,” the authors noted.

With some people already calling for residents of COVID-19 hotspots to be confined to their own areas, and Trump referring to “the China virus,” we are already seeing some echoes of this phenomenon. As the pandemic intensifies, it could lead to rising xenophobia, a further accentuation of regional divides, and even demands for authoritarian remedies, which Trump, having settled into the idea of himself as a wartime leader, might be all too eager to exploit.

That is worst-case speculation. But COVID-19 is shifting the tectonic plates that undergird American politics, and, as with the progress of the virus itself, the range of possible outcomes is wide. It is in such circumstances that history is made, for good or ill.


A Guide to the Coronavirus

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Coronavirus: Playing party politics in a pandemic? – BBC News

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“United front.” “Unity of purpose.” “Common ground.”

Take your pick from the bank of phrases used by our politicians when they talk about the need to work together to tackle this deadly pandemic.

Two weeks ago when the executive’s 10 ministers held a joint press conference in Stormont’s grounds, it seemed like they might just be capable of doing it.

But that didn’t last long.

Sinn Féin has been pulling in the opposite direction from its power-sharing partner, the DUP, on many aspects of the response to this crisis.

The first and deputy first ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, may have been standing side-by-side at regular press conferences, but their messages – on everything from school closures and testing to what counts as an essential business – have been entirely contradictory and confusing.

Flawed strategy?

Ms O’Neill’s latest comments, accusing Health Minister Robin Swann of being too slow to act, are significant because she is swiping at her very own government.

In the space of one interview, the concept of collective responsibility practically vanished.

Critics say she’s acting more like an opposition leader playing politics, than the joint head of an administration speaking up on principle.

But Sinn Féin says there is no point presenting a united front on a flawed strategy, and that if the party tried to resolve differences behind the scenes – rather than airing legitimate concerns with strategy in public – it would get slated for that.

Ms O’Neill says she’ll continue to “call out” problems within government, and that argument will hold weight with some, but it will further upset relations with the other four parties, in an already tense executive.

Arlene Foster tried to put out the flames, sounding a calm note when she appeared on Friday’s airwaves, although some within the DUP may have wanted her to take a tougher line.

Fragile relationships

For days now, Stormont sources have been briefing journalists that all is not well on the hill, as ministers and their respective teams go on the defensive.

Around the executive table, the atmosphere’s been repeatedly described as “toxic”, with decisions being taken in silos and even some policy announcements being put on social media before governmental colleagues have been informed.

It’s true the parties are facing challenges they never envisaged, made harder by the fact devolution was only restored in January after a three-year hiatus – relationships were already fragile.

The crisis has also highlighted the shortcomings in the limited powers afforded to the Stormont executive.

Whether it’s relying on Westminster for extra funding, or looking to Dublin for help in securing additional equipment, given the bidding war going on across the world, Northern Ireland only has so many levers to pull and no doubt that is also exacerbating internal strains.

Failure is not an option as lives are depending on the executive and time is short. The peak of the virus is due to arrive in Northern Ireland during the next two weeks.

Over the years the clarion call here has been for politics to be taken out of health. But if the parties couldn’t do that in the past how can anyone expect them to take the politics out of a pandemic?

The DUP-Sinn Féin partnership has always been one of reluctant necessity, due to Northern Ireland’s system of mandatory power sharing.

It’s hard to present a united front if someone doesn’t fully believe in it. Will the executive soon reach a point where the differences in approach to tackling this virus become too much to bear?

For the sake of everyone in Northern Ireland, let’s hope not.

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