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Politics in the time of a pandemic – The Globe and Mail



The Liberal government has been under scrutiny since early March when concerns about community spread of the novel coronavirus escalated in Canada. Canadian officials followed flawed advice from the WHO and assurances from Chinese officials that turned out to be inaccurate and misleading.

Could Canada have done a better job managing the pandemic if we had instead followed the lead of nations like Taiwan and New Zealand? Is it time for a post-mortem on the early response to COVID-19? What future impact will the pandemic have on government policy, its priorities, and how will this ultimately shape our nation’s recovery strategy?

Andrew Coyne and Robyn Urback will analyze the performance of the federal government, premiers, and the opposition parties in the face of a pandemic.

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Alberta premier Jason Kenney steps down as UCP leader after narrow leadership win



Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has stepped down as leader of the United Conservative Party after narrowly winning the party’s leadership vote.

Kenney received 51.4 per cent support in voting results released tonight in Calgary.

He told supporters that the number is not what he hoped for and is not enough for him to continue on as leader.

If Kenney had received less than 50 per cent plus one, he would have had to quit as per party rules and a leadership contest would have been called.

Normally, leaders consider 75 to 80 per cent — or higher — the minimum credible mandate to continue leading their party.

Kenney had earlier said he would accept a slim majority, because the voting pool was skewed by last-minute members interested only in scuttling his big-tent conservative party.

“While 51 per cent of the vote passes the constitutional threshold of a majority, it clearly is not adequate support to continue on as leader,” Kenney said.

“I’ve informed the president of the party of my intention to step down as leader of the United Conservative Party,” he said to gasps in the audience.

“We need to move forward united. We need to put the past behind us. And a large number of our members have asked for an opportunity to clear the air through a leadership election.”

The leadership review took on heightened importance over the past year as Kenney was buffeted by poor polling numbers, sluggish fundraising and open dissent from some in his party and caucus.

It was also punctuated by controversy. It had already been delayed by a year when it was set for an in-person ballot on April 9 in Red Deer, Alta.

When 15,000 members signed up — five times more than expected — the party said it couldn’t handle the logistics and moved to a mail-in ballot open to all 59,000 members.

Critics said the change was made to give Kenney the edge as it appeared he was going to lose the in-person vote.

Elections Alberta is also investigating allegations of illegal bulk buying of memberships in the review. And the party remains under investigation by the RCMP over allegations of criminal identity fraud in the 2017 contest that saw Kenney elected leader.

Kenney had made it clear that the vote and open dissent had become a “soap opera” distracting the party facing a provincial election next May.

He also said that if he got the required support, he would expect dissenters in his caucus to rally behind him or face unnamed consequences.

Two backbenchers who openly criticized Kenney last year — Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes — were voted out of caucus and sit as Independents.

Backbenchers Jason Stephan, Peter Guthrie and Brian Jean — who helped Kenney found the UCP — have been the most vocal. They openly urged the premier to resign for the good of the party.

Kenney has tried to downplay the dissent by tying it directly to unhappiness over COVID-19 restrictions his government bought in to try to stop the spread of the virus.

Opponents in caucus say the dissatisfaction is also over Kenney’s policies and management style, which they deem to be top-down, dismissive and undemocratic. They say Kenney has not done enough to gain a better deal for Alberta with the federal government on shared programs.

Conservative leaders in Alberta have not fared well after middling votes in leadership reviews.

Former Progressive Conservative premier Ralph Klein left after getting 55 per cent of the vote in 2006. Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford received 77 per cent in their reviews, but stepped down from the top job when the party pushed back.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.


The Canadian Press

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau says government working to tackle overrepresentation of Indigenous women in prisons as part of justice reform – The Globe and Mail




Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is working to deal with the “appalling” overrepresentation of Indigenous women in federal prisons as part of justice reform.

Globe and Mail reporter Patrick White has reported on the situation in recent stories here and here.

Mr. Trudeau was asked about the matter Tuesday while in St. John’s at the beginning of a visit by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

He told a news conference that his government has made significant investments in reconciliation that have had an impact, but there is much more to do.

“Recent reports have just been appalling in seeing the overrepresentation, particularly of Indigenous women in our criminal system,” Mr. Trudeau said.

He said that’s one of the reasons the government has moved forward on such files as eliminating mandatory minimums, which he noted lead to an overrepresentation of marginalized and vulnerable people in the criminal system.

“This is one thing we’re doing but we know there is much more to do and we will because tackling systemic injustice, systemic discrimination which is real is long hard work that we are committed to.”

On another note, Mr. Trudeau says it was not “a very good idea” for Soccer Canada to invite the Iranian men’s soccer team to Canada for a friendly soccer game given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down on in 2020 after taking off from Tehran, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. Story here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. 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.


KENNEY IN WASHINGTON FOR SENATE COMMITTEE HEARING – Alberta Premier Jason Kenney appeared Tuesday before a U.S. Senate committee on energy and natural resources in Washington and to make a pitch: Help get another pipeline built to further fortify North American energy security. He was there on the same day that federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was to make a virtual appearance before the gathering. Story here.

GOOGLE ESCALATES ONLINE NEWS ACT OPPOSITION – Google is ramping up its opposition to the federal government’s Online News Act, warning the proposed new law would “break” its popular search engine. Story here.

ROYAL VISIT BEGINS – The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are in Newfoundland and Labrador at the beginning of a three-day tour that will also include stops later this week in Ottawa and the Northwest Territories. Story here. There’s a Globe and Mail explainer here on the visit. Meanwhile, monarchists in Canada say they’re disappointed with what they call the federal government’s “lacklustre” plans to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, an event that honours the sovereign’s remarkable seven-decade reign. Story here from CBC.

CHINA-CANADA COMMITTEE RELAUNCHED – MPs have voted to re-establish a special committee on Canada-China relations. Story here from CTV.

PLANS FOR $789-MILLION MUSEUM IN B.C. CAUSE A STIR – British Columbia’s new Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said that, if he becomes premier‚ he would halt plans by Premier John Horgan’s NDP government to build a new Royal B.C. Museum, expected to cost about $800-million, calling it a “billion-dollar vanity project.” Story here.

N.B. LIEUTENANT.-GOVERNOR SPEAKS OUT ON APPOINTMENT RULING – New Brunswick Lt.-Gov. Brenda Murphy has broken her silence on a recent Court of Queen’s Bench ruling that said her appointment to the role as a non-French speaker violated the Charter or Rights and Freedoms. Story here from CBC.

ONTARIO ELECTION – Ontario’s opposition leaders took aim at Doug Ford’s handling of the pandemic and his $10-billion proposed Highway 413, among other subjects, at the province’s televised debate Monday, with some of the tensest clashes over COVID-19 and climate change. Story here. Meanwhile, Queen’s Park reporter Dustin Cook reports here on five highlights from the debate.


CAMPAIGN TRAIL – Scott Aitchison is in Vancouver where he released a foreign policy and national defence platform that includes Canada spending 2 per cent of its GDP on defence, per NATO’s benchmark. Patrick Brown is campaigning in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. From Montreal, Jean Charest released a “safer communities” platform that includes stronger sentences for crimes motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, language, or other forms of hate. No events are listed for Tuesday on the websites of Roman Baber, Leslyn Lewis or Pierre Poilievre.

POILIEVRE ON `WHITE REPLACEMENT THEORY’ – Leadership contender Pierre Poilievre has denounced the “white replacement theory,” which was believed to be a motive for the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., as “ugly and disgusting hate-mongering.” Story here. Meanwhile, former Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie is supporting Mr. Poilievre’s leadership bid. Story here from CBC.


TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, May.17, accessible here.

POLITICAL BOOK COMPETITION – The winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Price for Political Writing will be handed out Tuesday night at the first in-person Politics and the Pen gala in Ottawa in two years. The prize, named for the late Windsor-area MP, Elizabeth Shaughnessy Cohen, honours a book of literary nonfiction on a political subject relevant to Canadian readers that can influence thinking on Canadian political life.

This year’s finalist books, and their authors, are:

China Unbound: A New World Disorder by Joanna Chiu.

Flora! A Woman in a Man’s World by Flora MacDonald and Geoffrey Stevens.

Indian in the Cabinet: Speaking Truth to Power by Jody Wilson-Raybould.

The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future by Stephen Poloz

The Two Michaels: Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War by Mike Blanchfield and Fen Osler Hampson

Please watch the for news of the winner.

SAJJAN IN BERLIN – International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan is travelling to Berlin to attend the G7 Development Ministers’ Meeting from Wednesday to Thursday. Topics on the agenda include the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing global food security crisis.


On Tuesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Report on Business reporter and columnist Tim Kiladze explains why there is so much uncertainty as global markets falter, how inflation and interest rates are playing into it and why investors should prepare for more than a short-term market blip. The Decibel is here.


In St. John’s, the Prime Minister held private meetings, and, with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey visited a local child-care facility and held a media availability. The Prime Minister also attended the official welcome ceremony for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.


Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet holds a news conference on the protection of the French language before attending Question Period.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was scheduled to hold a news conference about his party’s plan to deal with oil and gas prices, participate in Question Period, and speak, in the House of Commons, about what his party described as the NDP’s “plan to help Canadians.”

No schedule provided for other party leaders.


Alex Bozikovic (The Globe and Mail) on how diversity is the key idea of the winning design for Ottawa’s Block 2:Architecture won a rare victory in Ottawa this week. On Monday, Public Services and Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi announced the results of an international design competition for so-called “Block 2,” a complex of two office buildings on Wellington Street that will serve Parliament. The winning design, led by David Chipperfield Architects (DCA) of London and Toronto’s Zeidler Architects, will have to work hard. With a structure of mass timber, it will provide committee rooms, support space and 150 offices for parliamentarians. But the project also promises to deliver the most interesting and thoughtful public architecture Canada has seen in a generation.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how it’s time for potential political leaders to say which conspiracy theories they reject: Last week, Conservative leadership candidates stood on a debate stage answering yes-or-no questions in a lightning round, before fielding a series of getting-to-know-you questions: What are you reading? What was the last TV show you binged? Which historical figure would you invite for dinner? But there’s a more critical getting-to-know you question anyone aspiring to lead a national party should answer right now: Which conspiracy theories do you reject? In 2022, Canadians need to know – and not just to know whether potential political leaders have gone down rabbit holes.”

John Doyle (The Globe and Mail) on how the cultural ignorance of the Conservative candidates is a revealing insult: The Canadian film and television industry generates about $9.5-billion a year in production volume. It employs about 120,000 full-time and many more part-time or in connected roles. Those are people concerned about their jobs, mortgages and inflation. They also make phenomenally successful TV. Have these candidates not heard of Letterkenny, Kim’s Convenience, Schitt’s Creek, Alias Grace, Frontier, Transplant and a dozen more? Their taste is in their mouths and their ignorance an insult to a Canadian industry and Canadians.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on the two factors that could shake up the Ontario election now that the debates are finished: And despite the rantings in much of the mainstream and social media, this Progressive Conservative government is anything but a hotbed of conservative ideology. It has invested, not only in roads, but in transit, education and health care. That only leaves Mr. Ford’s populist personality as an issue. But polls show that he is in fact the most popular of the three major party leaders. The PC Leader is not out of the woods yet – far from it. Polls also show that about half of all voters feel it’s time for a change of government in Ontario. But to these eyes, nothing happened in the debate to galvanize that discontent. All it did was make Mike Schreiner look real good.”

Hamed Esmaeilion (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Canada’s World Cup friendly match against Iran is an insult to the victims of PS752: “I recognize that Canada Soccer is striving to increase the sport’s popularity in Canada, where it lags behind other activities such as hockey. Indeed, it has been wonderful to see the successes of Canada’s national women’s team growing that popularity and attracting a large youth following over the years. My daughter Reera was among the young Canadians inspired by the women’s team, and she joined the Richmond Hill youth club, playing left defence every week in her club’s practice sessions. But that was before Reera and her mother – my wife Parisa – were killed when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a ruthless and destructive military organization, shot down their passenger plane. The incident left them and 174 other passengers dead, many of whom were Canadian.”

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John Robson: Winning ways to achieve mediocrity in sports and politics – National Post



Speaking of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ontario election …

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Among my favourite book titles is “How Not To Play Chess.” As one of my favourite author names is “Eugene A. Znosko-Borovsky.” But I digress. The point is that the world is full of advice on how to be incredibly great and it’s nice work if you can get it. However what most of us actually need, in most areas, is clear explanations of common basic blunders.

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Consider “How Not To Play Golf.” If you ever saw me try you might rush forward, book contract in hand. But the simple, vital fact is that if I understood what I was doing wrong, I might have struggled out of the slough of triple-bogey to the sunlit fairway of mediocrity. I never did.

Yes, mediocrity. In school they say you can be anything you want, along with much other nonsense and the occasional genuine nugget like SOHCAHTOA. But you can’t. So forget the rah-rah seminars. Nothing I could ever have done would have let me win a Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs. Or any other team, I hasten to add, since the Leafs present special problems. But I might not kill all the leaves in my garden.

The Leafs present special problems

Likewise, young people probably gravitate to blog posts on how to have the greatest marriage and best sex ever. But “10 Ways to Get Divorced Within 5 Years” would be more useful, along with “10 Good Ways to Get Fired.” Still, I mentioned the Leafs so let’s dry our eyes and discuss them.

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Elsewhere in Canada there’s apparently this “Battle of Alberta.” But in the centre of the universe, while we’re not exactly bitter about the dreaded Buds not winning a playoff series since 2004, never mind a cup, it is intriguing. Sure, the other guys get paid too. It’s still a remarkable achievement.

No, really. If you could explain it, I’d buy “How Not To Play Hockey” and read it. There isn’t one player left today from 2005. Management has seen massive turnover. Yet there’s this amazing continuity of predictable futility.

  1. Gas prices reached $2.229 a litre in Coquitlam, BC., on May 8, 2022.

    John Robson: Congrats to the Trudeau Liberals for making their dream of high gas prices come true

  2. Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem

    John Robson: Pay no attention to Tiff Macklem, the man behind the Bank of Canada curtain

A Google search “Why are the Yankees so good” brought 57.6 million hits in 0.51 seconds. But face it. You’re not Mickey Mantle and neither am I. Whereas if anyone could persuasively list ways an organization can sustain a culture of failure over decades, you’d arise each day clad in the armour of avoidance. Which brings me to the Ontario election.

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If you were wondering when, as a pundit, I’d say something oracular about the leaders’ debates between Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca, I flip through my well-worn “How Not To Be Oracular” and make a vulgar noise. Then I retort that “leaders’ debates between Doug Ford, Andrea Horwath and Steven Del Duca” is an oxymoron. I know we play the game “ELECTION PANEL: Who won the Ontario debate?” where a NDP strategist hails Horwath, a Liberal Del Duca and a Tory Ford. But one important reason we have such lousy politicians is we pretend otherwise. (See also “How Not To Retain Readers.”)

Aha! A key to failure hidden in plain sight. Just as a key to the Leafs’ long run of incompetence is sellout arena crowds, and to endless health-care waiting lists re-electing people who call our system world-class, so Ford coasting to victory by being so vague it stifles discussion happens because we reward it. As we reward world-beating school lockdowns and avoiding intelligent debate there too.

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A key to failure hidden in plain sight

Actually there are two keys here. Though to avoid “How Not To Use Metaphors” let’s substitute “two numbers in the combination” to unlock durable world-class inadequacy. Namely complacency and self-deception. Because it’s hard to be smug if you’re also honest with yourself about yourself. And with others.

For instance, I confess that I didn’t watch the pundit-obligatory debates because the intellectual sloth, rhetorical sludge and appalling self-satisfaction of participants and commentators alike make me physically ill. Sure, it’s “How Not To Get Along With Colleagues.” But I will not pretend I have not seen this. It’s trivial compared to the Holodomor that prompted that inspiring resolve in Malcolm Muggeridge. But one legitimate key to success is practising on easy things before tackling hard ones.

Like king and pawn endings. All I can really tell you about golf is I’m unfit for burial in a bunker. But I could show you what not to do in chess because there I’m exceptionally mediocre.

As for coaching the Leafs, possibly my hockey ignorance would produce better results than we’ve seen since Paul Martin was prime minister … or Lester Pearson. But on politics, I can state firmly that if they’re telling lies so boring you can’t get mad, and you vote for them anyway, you’re ready to write “How Not To Be A Citizen” and sell a million copies. Even if you don’t have a cool name.

National Post



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