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‘Retail politics’ dominate ‘slow’ N.B. election at campaign midpoint

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The New Brunswick provincial election campaign has reached the halfway point with a lack of big-ticket promises. There’s been more of a focus on promising to commit to action items or policy changes.

“It’s been slow,” says University of New Brunswick political scientist Donald Wright. “Not a lot of excitement.”

University of New Brunswick political scientist Donald Wright says the provincial election campaign has been slow so far with more of a focus on ‘retail politics’

University of New Brunswick political scientist Donald Wright says the provincial election campaign has been slow so far with more of a focus on ‘retail politics’.


Source: University of New Brunswick Facebook page

“It’s a lot of retail politics,” he explains in an interview with Global News. “Attract more nurses, extend the vehicle registration. That’s kind of small-scale retail politics.”

 

Week 2 commitments

This past week, affordable housing and health care were two topics of discussion on the campaign trail.

If re-elected, Blaine Higgs, the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, announced his party would continue with its already-budgeted financial commitment and hire more extra-mural liaison nurses.

“In the budget our government passed earlier this spring, our government increased spending in health care … We allocated more than 2.9 billion for health care overall.”

The PC leader also focused on an RCMP drug task force, land conservation and affordable housing.

During a stop in Moncton, Kevin Vickers, the Liberal leader, focused on people living without a home.

“We will move immediately to build badly needed affordable housing in our province,” he said.

The Liberals also discussed improvements to cybersecurity, a promise to renegotiate a contract with nurses, and population growth.

Kris Austin, the leader of the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick, focused on affordable housing Saturday.

Among other issues this past week, Austin discussed virtual care, job creation, and the New Brunswick Home Energy Assistance Program.

 

“The People’s Alliance is committing in this election campaign to increase that home energy assistance from $100 to $250,” he said Thursday.

Meanwhile among the subjects on David Coon and the Green Party’s mind were senior care, health care, and relationships with First Nations communities.

Coon also focused on heavy industry and taxes.

“As a Green government, we would amend the New Brunswick Assessment Act to eliminate that loophole that allows heavy industry to be treated in this fashion while everyone else does not have this sweet deal,” he told reporters.

And on Wednesday, the NDP unveiled its candidates and part of the party’s platform under interim leader Mackenzie Thomason.

“The NDP will pursue with all of our collective strength an inquiry into the recent deaths of two First Nations community members,” he said.

Thomason also discussed tuition fees, a proposed $15 an hour minimum wage, and tax increases for some of the highest earners.

Voter turnout

Wright says he’s concerned about voter participation for several reasons.

“We’ve seen that number decline precipitously over the years and decades,” he says. “I really hope that people do exercise their democratic right, do their homework, learn who the candidates are in their respective ridings, and go out and vote.”

Aside from a slow campaign so far, the snap election call during COVID-19 could be a disengaging factor, along with students preparing to return to the classroom.

But Wright says parties should’ve been better prepared for the election due to the minority government New Brunswick had before dissolution.

“Parties have pretty bad websites, pretty bad social media presence, pretty weak Facebook presence, Twitter presence,” he says. “And the question is, why?”

But, he says COVID-19 has created a unique opportunity to re-think the basics of the role of a provincial government.

“How are we going to govern ourselves? What are our transportation systems going to look like? What are our food systems going to look like? What’s our higher-education system going to look like?” he asks. “The parties have to begin to think about that and get out of retail politics.”

‘Vote early and vote safely’

Elections New Brunswick is asking voters to help “flatten the election curve.”

Officials are asking people to take advantage of advanced polls on Sept. 5 and Sept. 8, or casting ballots by mail.

“By voting earlier, electors can do their part to reduce the number of people who show up during traditional peak voting times,” chief electoral officer Kim Poffenroth said in a news release Thursday.

On election day Sept. 14, polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Source: – Global News

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Politics Chat: President Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett For Supreme Court – NPR

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We look at the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court and how the Democrats can respond. We’ll also look at how President Trump is gaming out not being a clear winner on election night.

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The realities of politics and the judiciary – Financial Times

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The writer is an FT contributing editor

The unattractive politics of Donald Trump quickly nominating Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court has prompted some self-congratulation in the UK. Things are done differently here, is the comforting thought, for the appointment of judges is not politicised.

The truth is, however, that in England and Wales at least (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems) there has always been a substantial overlap of law and politics: it is just that the British are rather good at pretending otherwise.

Take the historical appointment of judges. Until the previous century, it was practice that the senior office of the lord chief justice, who presided over the most serious criminal trials, followed political service. Similarly, attorneys-general retiring from parliament were often made High Court judges. There was much fluidity between the political and judicial establishments. 

At the apex of the constitution, the ancient office of lord chancellor entitled its holder to sit both in the cabinet and as a judge in the most senior court of the land. Remarkably, this carried on until Tony Blair’s first Labour government of 1997 to 2001. The notion that there has always been some total structural divide between politicians and judges in England betrays a lack of knowledge of the country’s legal history.

Even now, barristers (the lawyers who tend to present cases in court) are encouraged to provide regular legal services to ministers and officials at a substantial discount so as to obtain promotion to the judiciary by joining a prestigious panel. The best of them are given income streams as “Treasury counsel”, charged with helping the government out of awkward or sensitive political-legal situations; in return they are often appointed as a High Court judge. In this way judicial preferment is formally based in part on assisting ministers and officials.

And when appointed, judges are often in effect lawmakers and policymakers, though they cloak it as “developing” existing law. Over the past 20 years, they have introduced an entirely new privacy law, with no explicit statutory basis. The most senior UK Supreme Court judges now also frequently make and publish extrajudicial speeches on general public policy issues, which are often a better guide for understanding the direction of the law than anything said in parliament.

Once retired, English judges use their status freely to contribute to public debate, as with the notable examples of Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court justice, and Brenda Hale, former president of the Supreme Court. Indeed, the wisest current writer on the relationships between law and policy in the UK is the former Court of Appeal judge Stephen Sedley.

Even in their judgments, rather than their statements outside court, one can see the policies and politics of the judiciary. In the 1970s, the legal academic JAG Griffiths provided a detailed compendium of political judgments; 50 years later one can look online at the reasoning in “public law” cases where the practical boundaries of the state are determined, when of course these boundaries are the most political issues of all.

None of the above is necessarily wrong; much of it is a normal fact of political and legal life. Judges with political worldliness are not a bad thing. And it is good that ministers and officials have ready access to high quality legal advice. The most important question is how to manage the overlap, not to contend that it should not exist.

The problem is with the simplistic and misleading notion that law and politics are completely separate public realms. There is and always will be substantial common ground. The same set of facts can easily be both a matter of political controversy and a question for a court. What needs to be struck is the right balance.

An extreme example of imbalance, of course, is when the executive seeks to extinguish the independence of the judiciary — as in Poland. Since coming to power in 2015, the deliberate policy of the Law and Justice party has been to limit or remove the structural separation of powers, including to change how the Supreme Court head is appointed.

But it is equally an error to insist naively on politics and the judiciary as being absolutely distinct. There may be obvious faults with the US system of appointing Supreme Court judges and federal judges generally, but the main difference between that and the English approach to the politics of the judiciary is that the Americans are open about the relationship, and the English are not.

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Fortnight: The must-read political magazine making a comeback – BBC News

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Fortnight magazine was once such a must-read for Northern Ireland’s political classes that Gerry Adams apparently said “a month without Fortnight would be twice as long”.

In that case the past nine years must have seemed like an eternity for the former Sinn Féin president.

That’s how long its been since the monthly cultural and political magazine was on sale.

But now it’s back to mark what would have been its 50th anniversary and there are plans for more editions in both printed and digital format.

It’s just like old times – though it’s different world since that first edition in September 1970.

The Troubles were in their infancy – there were articles on direct rule, the then Ulster Unionist Stormont minister John Taylor (now Lord Kilclooney) and a new party called the SDLP.

But the big issue of the constitutional question still remains, hence the front page headline: “What Future for Northern Ireland?”

Even the editor is the same: Lawyer Tom Hadden retains his passion for Northern Ireland, even thought he lives in England.

“John Hume, Gerry Adams, the leading unionist David Trimble, everybody in those days wrote for Fortnight when asked,” he told BBC News NI’s The View programme.

“The main articles in this issue are about how to retain the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, in the event of possible unification or possible joint authority, or just getting things as they are.

“We think it’s important for people to think about these things in advance, rather than rush into a yes-no referendum.”

‘Too slow to go digital’

The relaunched magazine’s literary editor is the daughter of the well-known civil rights activist and politician Paddy Devlin.

Anne Devlin lived most of her earlier life outside Northern Ireland and Fortnight provided a link with home.

“It kept a diary of the events of the past month,” she said.

“So every single detail of the past month, every day, every significant political thing that happened, violent and nonviolent was logged.”

She has recruited several younger writers for the new Fortnight, including sociologist Claire Mitchell.

“The piece for the magazine takes our decision to send our kids to Catholic school as a jumping off point,” said Ms Mitchell.

“That felt culturally adventurous to us because we’re from a Protestant background. We’ve made loads of great friends and have had new experiences but what it really underlined for me is how mixed most people’s everyday lives are.

“People are organising their lives around their kids activities, going into Slimming World, online dating. It’s a world really far removed from big ‘P’ politics and the rot of green and orange.

“I do think there’s a disconnect between the binary structure of our party system in the assembly and how most people are just getting on with their everyday lives.”

Mr Hadden said one of the reasons Fortnight folded was because it was too slow to go digital.

So can it nose its way back into a crowded market place filled with the likes of the political website Slugger O’Toole?

“I don’t think it can necessarily do what it did back in its heyday,” said Slugger’s deputy editor David McCann.

“It’s going to need something a bit more than that because, for one, people’s views and attention span for longer analysis pieces have shortened since then.

“The other key factor is that I think people, with the advent of social media – and we’ve had to change this on Slugger – want their news, they want immediacy and they want to be able to interact with the news content that’s in front of them.”

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