Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings wrapped up on Thursday, and all indications point to Jackson being confirmed, largely along partisan lines. She would be the first Black woman and first public defender to serve on the court. Since her confirmation is expected, the hearings — similar to past ones — were more about politics. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Galen Druke and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux discuss the messages that senators sent and whether we were able to glean anything about what kind of justice Jackson would be.
The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.
The cost of living will be top of mind for Liberal members of Parliament as they prepare to head back to the House of Commons next week, but for their Indigenous caucus, affordability is a long-standing issue.
The Indigenous caucus met on Thursday, kicking off the federal Liberal’s three-day winter retreat during which they are strategizing about their priorities for the upcoming sitting.
As Canadians continue to deal with decades-high inflation along with rising food and fuel costs, Liberal caucus chair Brenda Shanahan said her party’s No. 1 priority is affordability.
But affordability is not often discussed at the Indigenous caucus table, said Jaime Battiste, a Mi’kmaw MP and member of the Indigenous caucus. Instead, they focus on closing the gap between living on and off reserve.
“If you look at (the) situation on reserves, we’ve been dealing with prices around affordability and large areas of poverty for decades, not just years,” said Battiste.
“(We’re) usually talking about things everyday Canadians take for granted. Essential services like having health care in their communities. Essential services like having a policeman in their communities. Essential services like having clean water and infrastructure.”
He said the group is focused on addressing the harms caused by colonization and creating economic prosperity within First Nations communities.
Battiste said the Indigenous caucus will also discuss his party’s proposed gun buyback program to ensure Indigenous hunters are protected under firearms legislation.
The debate over the government’s firearms bill will resume this year amid concerns that it will ban some common hunting rifles.
“Indigenous people have the constitutional right to hunt, and that’s something we’re looking at,” Battiste said.
Other Liberal priorities include building a green economy, addressing climate change and expanding dental-care coverage, as highlighted in the confidence-and-supply agreement with the NDP, Shanahan said.
She said the retreat is critical because the 158 Liberal MPs haven’t got together since before the holidays and it’s time for them to put forward fresh ideas.
“You cannot underestimate what it means to morale and team-building to have people together,” Shanahan said.
The event coincides with the one-year anniversary of the “Freedom Convoy” protests on Saturday. That weeks-long protest began with the arrival of hundreds of vehicles on Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill on Jan. 28 and 29, 2022.
Caucus members attended last year’s winter retreat virtually due to COVID-19, but Shanahan was in Ottawa. While speaking to reporters Thursday she quipped that there is no honking ringing through Parliament this time.
“We started hearing some horns honking and I walked out on Wellington Street later that day to a lot of unexpected company,” she said.
She said she is not concerned the retreat will be disrupted by protesters this year.
Liberal ministers met for a cabinet retreat in Hamilton earlier this week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will deliver a speech to caucus on Friday in Ottawa.
Canada will send four of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “in the coming weeks” to help the country counter the Russian invasion.
Defense Minister Anita Anand announced the commitment on Thursday.
“These heavily armoured and highly protected vehicles provide soldiers with a tactical advantage on the battlefield thanks to their excellent mobility, their firepower and their survivability,” Ms. Anand told a news conference on Parliament Hill.
The Leopards are the main battle tank of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Ms. Anand said the tanks are combat ready, and will be deployed in coming weeks with a number of Canadian Armed Forces members also deployed to train Ukrainian soldiers with the skills they need to operate the equipment in co-ordination with allies. Canada is also providing spare parts and ammunition.
Ms. Anand, who left open the possibility of sending more Leopards in the future, said the number of Leopards that Canada is donating has been considered to ensure the Canadian military has the tanks needed to maintain its own readiness, train and meet NATO commitments.
Ukraine has implored Western allies to send such weapons for weeks as its forces struggle to make gains against Russia.
But Canada was unable to respond until Germany agreed on Wednesday that countries could re-export their Leopards. Germany will organize the shipment of 62 Leopard 2s, some of which will be provided by Berlin directly and some from other European countries. The United States also said it will buy 31 M1 Abrams tanks for Ukraine.
The Leopards that Canada is donating are among the 112 currently owned by the Canadian Army, which includes 82 designed specifically for combat.
Alexandra Chyczij, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, praised the Canadian announcement.
“The tanks that Canada and allies are providing will be a game changer in the fight for the liberation of Ukrainian territories from brutal Russian occupation,” she said in a statement.
VIA EMBRACING RESPONSIBILITIES AFTER HOLIDAY CHAOS – The CEO of Via Rail says the Crown corporation “will not shy away from our responsibilities” after passengers found themselves stranded on trains for hours over the holidays. Story here.
MANDATORY MINIMUM SENTENCES IN COURT SPOTLIGHT – The use of imaginary people committing made-up crimes will be at the heart of a Supreme Court ruling this week on the constitutionality of mandatory minimum sentences in certain gun crimes. Story here.
WHAT THE CONVOYS LEFT BEHIND – In the winter of 2022, Ottawa’s downtown core was a noisy scene of angry protest. Now it’s quiet, but the silence speaks volumes about the issues unresolved. Ottawa reporter Shannon Proudfoot explains here. Meanwhile, a year after the so-called Freedom Convoy protest shut down Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill, a City of Ottawa committee has voted to reopen it to cars for now. Story here from CTV.
FORMER LIBERAL CABINET MINISTER FINDS TRUDEAU COMMENTS `DISAPPOINTING’ – Veteran Ontario Liberal MP Judy Sgro says Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s recently announced health care changes involving more of a role for profit health-care providers are “terrible” and she finds it “disappointing” that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has described these changes as “innovation.” Story here from The Hill Times.
OTTAWA MAKING THE CASE FOR HAITI SANCTIONS: RAE – Ottawa is sharing confidential dossiers in a bid to convince countries like France to join its efforts to sanction Haiti’s elites, says Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations. Story here.
DON’T BILL TAXPAYERS FOR HOME INTERNET, MPs TOLD – Both the Conservatives and the Liberals have told their MPs to stop charging taxpayers for internet at their homes, after the National Post reported earlier this week that many MPs were doing so. Story here from The National Post.
LONG WAIT LIKELY FOR PROSECUTION OF RUSSIANS IN UKRAINE ATROCITIES: BIDEN ENVOY – President Joe Biden’s envoy for the prevention and prosecution of war crimes says it’s likely going to take years before key Russian politicians and military leaders are brought to justice for atrocities committed against Ukraine. Story here.
FIRST NATIONS ARTIFACTS TO BE RETURNED – Thousands of artifacts are to be returned to First Nations after years boxed away in an Ottawa building. Archaeologists and Indigenous youth are carefully cataloguing about 300,000 pots, tools and other items so the descendants of their ancient Algonquin owners can decide what to do with them. Story here.
LIMIT TO MESSAGES CAUGHT IN ALBERTA REVIEW – The internal review into whether one of Premier Danielle Smith’s staff members e-mailed the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service challenging its approach to cases related to COVID-19 protests would not have captured messages deleted more than 30 days prior. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
HOUSE ON A BREAK – The House of Commons is on a break until Jan. 30.
LIBERAL RETREAT – Members of the federal Liberal caucus are holding a retreat in Ottawa, on Parliament Hill, starting Thursday and running through to Saturday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the retreat on Friday. Story here.
REPRESENTATIVE ON COMBATTING ISLAMOPHOBIA APPOINTED – Amira Elghawaby has been appointed Canada’s first Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia. Ms. Elghawaby, currently the director of strategic communications and campaigns at the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, is, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office, to serve as a champion, adviser, expert, and representative to support and enhance the federal government’s efforts in the fight against Islamophobia, systemic racism, racial discrimination, and religious intolerance. The statement is here. Ms. Elghawaby comments on her appointment here.
DUNCAN ON LEAVE – Etobicoke North MP Kirsty Duncan, a former federal cabinet minister, says here that she is, on the advice of her doctors, taking an immediate medical leave to deal with a health challenge.
FINANCE MINISTERS MEETING NEXT MONTH – Chrystia Freeland, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, will host a meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers in Toronto on Feb. 3.
MINISTERS ON THE ROAD – Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault as well as Families Minister Karina Gould, in Toronto, announced more than $8-million to protect and enhance three critical natural spaces in Ontario. Housing and Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Toronto, make an announcement on combatting Islamophobia.
GOVERNOR-GENERAL – Governor-General Mary Simon, in Ottawa, holds the Academic All-Canadian Commendation for the 2021-2022 season, recognizing university students who achieve high grades, give back to their communities and are impressive athletes.
NEW JOB FOR FORMER VICTORIA MAYOR – Lisa Helps, the former mayor of Victoria has been appointed a housing solutions adviser to B.C. Premier David Eby. Ms. Helps, mayor of the B.C. capital from 2014 to 2022, is to work with Ravi Kahlon, the province’s Housing Minister, stakeholders and partners to develop the NDP government’s BC Builds program to build housing for middle-income families, individuals and seniors.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the Ottawa region, held private meetings, attended a retreat of the federal Liberal caucus, and hosted a dinner for visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Alistair MacGregor, the NDP MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford hosted a roundtable discussion on health care in Duncan, B.C., then took media questions, and visited Belmont Secondary School. They then met with the city council in Langford, B.C., and, in the evening, Mr. Singh was to host a meet-and-greet in Victoria with the city’s MP, LaurelCollins.
No schedules released for other party leaders.
Thursday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast looks at how, to cope with rising interest rates and higher-than-normal inflation in the economy, many tech companies are changing how they do business, focusing on turning a profit over growing revenue or market share. Technology reporter Sean Silcoff explains why for many years, forgoing profit was a good bet for startups, why that focus has led to masslayoffs in today’s shakier economic reality, and how some companies are thriving in these tough times. The Decibel is here.
DAVID ONLEY FUNERAL – The Ontario government has announced that a funeral for former provincial lieutenant-governor David Onley will be held at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto at 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 30. The ceremony will also be livestreamed at Government of Ontario YouTube. Ahead of the funeral, Mr. Onley will lie in state, for public visitation, at the Ontario Legislature from Jan. 28 to Jan. 29. Mr. Onley, the first person with a visible disability to hold the lieutenant-governor’s post, died on Jan. 14. He was 72. Story here.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Boardon how B.C. can win the war on drug addiction: “B.C. is entering territory that few have explored. Two decades ago, Portugal decriminalized drugs. Results there showed a decline in deaths and more people in treatment. But in Oregon, which made the change in 2021, an audit this month found ‘scant evidence’ on the goal of improved access to treatment in the state. Decriminalization is a necessary, but not sufficient, policy to save lives. It’s necessary because the scale of the problem demands all useful policies be deployed. But the change in the law plays only a supporting role in helping people to the goal of seeking treatment and succeeding in recovery. That’s the real finish line: more people in an expanded system of addiction treatment and recovery, with more beds and better services. Decriminalization will fail if it is not paired with a push to create more treatment spaces.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail)on how a health deal is close and what follows matters more: “If the premiers and the PM make a deal, it doesn’t just mean that the feds will transfer billions more to fund health care. It means that Canadians will have an opportunity to move beyond the funding squabble and demand their governments deal with the real question – what are you going to do about health care? And that is the important part. The history of federal-provincial health care agreements shows that they tend to improve things a little bit for a little while, but don’t actually spark the big, lasting transformations that were advertised.”
Kelly Cryderman (The Globe and Mail) on how there are children’s medicines on shelves, but a shortage persists: “What is like out there now? It’s still not plentiful. At the Safeway in the Beltline in Calgary, there are 10 bottles of children’s Advil on display, with a note that the purchase limit is one per household. Several suburban pharmacists tell me over the phone they have some in stock. At Lukes Drug Mart – the city’s oldest pharmacy, still family-owned – a 100-millilitre bottle is $10, cheaper than many of the chains, or Amazon. And even with the federal government’s importation of two million units two months ago, the potential for new waves of illness and the medication crunch south of the border means Canadian parents can’t exhale yet.”
Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail)on how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s toughness could make him stay:“I don’t think Canadians want to see us plunge back into an election,” Justin Trudeau said at his cabinet’s retreat in Hamilton last weekend. We should believe him on that. There’s not much sense in another election, which would make it three in the course of four years. It’s not like there is some matter of monumental importance confronting the nation. Or, check that. For multitudes of Canadians, there is one. It’s getting rid of Justin Trudeau. An urgent priority. But from what I’m hearing from the Prime Minister’s cohort, he’s not all that troubled by the torrents of abuse and derision. He’s been around long enough to know it comes with the territory.”
Naomi Buck (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why Canada’s corporal punishment law misses the mark: “My teenage sons still remember the day when their elementary school was put into lockdown because a fellow student was rampaging through the halls. No adult in the building dared to stop him, and so the police were called. Hundreds of students crouched under their desks until their peer had been apprehended. It seemed like such an excessive response. Surely, a responsible adult should be allowed to physically restrain a child experiencing a meltdown. And by the letter of the law, they can: Section 43 of Canada’s Criminal Code condones the use of force against children by teachers, parents and guardians. But in today’s world, the kinds of adults who should be exercising that right don’t dare to – and those who are using it are often dishonouring the spirit of the law. Section 43 is a throwback to a time when children were considered inferior, wayward creatures, in need of physical chastisement.”
Isiphethu Semfundo is the only primary school for miles in the upper Mooi valley, a bucolic area in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the second-most-populous South African province. It educates the children of the rural poor—or at least tries to. For a year it has had no clean water. Nor does it have state-provided transport for its pupils. This abruptly ended after officials were threatened by the owners of private minibuses who wanted the business. A few kids now walk; some cover 20km (12 miles) in a day. But more stay at home. Taking the minibus costs 450 rand ($28) a month, more than the 350-rand welfare grant given to the destitute.
Running schools is the job of the province, which, along with the national government and eight of South Africa’s nine provinces, is controlled by the African National Congress (ANC). But that has not stopped the mayor of the local municipality, Umngeni, from visiting. Chris Pappas (pictured) listens to teachers and mothers and says he will try to help. He does this in Zulu, the ladies’ mother tongue, which he learnt while growing up on a farm. “Having somebody who can speak their language is very, very important,” says Nene Philpine, the head teacher. “It gives a better and complete understanding.”
Mr Pappas is an unusual politician. He is white in a municipality where three-quarters of residents are black. He is fluent in Zulu (it is rare to find whites who speak South African languages other than English and the Dutch-based Afrikaans). He is 31 years old, roughly half the average age of the country’s cabinet. He is gay. And he is from the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition, whose stronghold is in and around Cape Town. A year ago Mr Pappas became the first DA mayor to win an outright majority in a KZN municipality. His story is revealing—and encouraging—about the state of South African politics.
South Africans still vote largely along racial lines. The ANC usually wins a majority of the black electorate, while the DA takes most of the votes cast by the two largest minorities: whites and “coloureds”, or mixed-race South Africans. Yet when South Africans irrespective of ethnicity are asked what matters most to them, polls suggest that they care more about jobs, corruption, crime and electricity blackouts than about race relations.
Mr Pappas’s election in late 2021 shows it is possible for talented candidates to win support across the old divisions. Black voters in Umngeni, like those across the country, “feel betrayed by the ANC”, he says. The mayor deliberately ran a “localised campaign” that promised tangible improvements but not “miracles”. Though his narrow victory depended on DA voters turning out in relatively high numbers while many ex-ANC supporters stayed home, he also needed to lift his party’s share of the black vote from 8.7% to 11.7%.
The success of Mr Pappas and his (black) deputy, Sandile Mnikathi, suggests that the monstrous damage caused by the ANC is reversible. Until the DA took over, the municipality had never run a budget surplus. Like most ANC-run local governments, its financial reporting was deemed inadequate by the auditor-general, a watchdog. Over the past year Mr Pappas has got Umngeni into the black by freezing hiring and stopping vanity projects. “There will be far fewer projects where politicians can go around and cut ribbons,” Mr Pappas tells provincial officials. This is freeing up funds for new schemes.
One involves contracting out simple jobs, such as cutting the grass, to individuals. That sounds basic but it undermines the way ANC councils typically operate, awarding large tenders to politically connected cronies, often from outside the municipality, to get kickbacks. The municipality is also doing more to help the poor, for instance by making more households eligible for some free electricity.
The mayor’s brand of politics is not flashy. But he argues that the simple act of doing what you said you would do is vital in a young democracy. “South Africans have lost faith in the democratic system as a means for change,” he says. A poll in 2021 found that two-thirds of South Africans “would be willing to give up elections” if an unelected government could provide security, housing and jobs.
Mr Pappas’s optimism is welcome. South Africans have been ground down by almost 29 years of ANC misrule. Black voters have become increasingly apathetic. Some have given up voting, while many whites retreat into their affluent bubbles. “That’s the problem with South Africa,” says Mr Pappas. “Four hundred people moaning on WhatsApp and no one doing anything.” If modern South Africa’s next big transition, from ANC hegemony to coalition governments, is to work, it will need more of this can-do spirit.
South Africa could also do with more whites who can speak African languages. When he was in prison, Nelson Mandela encouraged blacks to learn Afrikaans to understand “the language of the oppressor”. Later, he saw it as an emollient gesture: when he spoke to Afrikaners in their language it went “straight to their hearts”, he said. The power of language in politics is patent when you hear Mr Pappas conversing in Zulu. “The ability to listen [in Zulu] is more important than the ability to speak,” he adds. In this age of populism, it is a valuable lesson. ■