MARYSTOWN, N.L. — Sam Synard chaired the last Marystown council meeting of the town’s current group of councillors earlier this month.
And, when he dropped the gavel to conclude the meeting it marked the end of an era for both the town and Synard.
That is because the 61-year-old is retiring from politics at the end of this term. It was a decision he made a couple of years ago.
“I have had a great run and now I wanted to take some downtime,” said Synard.
Synard first entered politics by winning a seat on the Marystown council in the 1989 municipal election. He was 29 years old at the time.
He was always interested in politics and, at age 19, graduated from Memorial University with a degree in political science.
When it came to that first election, he said thought he would give municipal politics a go and he’s been there for over three decades.
“I’ve had an interesting tenure as mayor … I’ve enjoyed it,” said Synard.
Since that first election, he has been elected in eight municipal elections and has served as a councillor, deputy mayor and has spent the last 21 years as the mayor.
During that time, he’s also served as president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
“Being mayor is a part of who I am,” said Synard.
In the last provincial election, he ran as the Liberal candidate in the district of Placentia West-Bellevue but lost to Jeff Dwyer of the Progressive Conservatives.
Synard said he’s seen things change immensely in municipal politics over his career.
He said that since he was first elected serving on council has gone from a part-time duty to something you should be prepared to do full-time.
Part of that is because of cellphones and the other part is because of social media. Both have made councillors and mayors always available to their constituents.
“Municipalities are way more mature than they were 32 years ago when I got involved,” said Synard. “Staff are much better trained, much more formally trained. The work people do is much more advanced. Municipal councils have come a long way.”
Marystown’s Keith Keating spent 30 years on the council with Synard. Keating was already on council when Synard was elected in 1989 and stayed until 2013.
He was elected again in 2017 and spent the last four years alongside Synard.
“Municipalities are way more mature than they were 32 years ago when I got involved, Staff are much better trained, much more formally trained. The work people do is much more advanced. Municipal councils have come a long way.” — Sam Synard
Keating said he had a lot of respect for Synard and they always worked well together.
“Sam was a great mayor and he did a lot for Marystown,” he said.
Looking back over his three-plus decades Synard said he’s proud of the work the town has accomplished during his tenure.
He pointed at the town’s state-of-the-art recreation centre, the town’s strong retail base and its progressive attitude as positives from his experiences as mayor of Marystown.
Synard said Marystown has also been an environmental leader in the province during his time.
“I’ve been so fortunate to be mayor here,” said Synard.
Still, that’s not to say there weren’t challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a challenging year for all municipalities, Marystown included. Changes in the fishery and the struggles of the shipyard have all presented problems that the town has had to overcome.
Synard said he feels his town has persevered and is poised to keep moving forward.
“Marystown is back in the game,” he said.
With the municipal election on Tuesday, Sept. 28, Synard is pleased to see 13 people running for the six council positions and another two putting their names forward to run for mayor.
“Marystown is in good hands,” he said.
ACWS release report on dynamics of violence against women in politics – Sherwood Park News
The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) has released a new research report exploring the dynamics of violence against women in politics.
“On the eve of the Alberta municipal elections, this report about violence against women in politics is timely,” explained Olivia Street, Coordinator of Communications and Social Advocacy for the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.
The municipal election this week yielded encouraging results for gender parity.
As of Tuesday, Fort Saskatchewan unofficially has a gender-balanced council, with three of the six council seats filled by women.
The recent election saw two women run for the role of mayor, with incumbent Gale Katchur set to add to her ten-year tenure as mayor of Fort Saskatchewan.
For the first time ever, there are more female Edmonton city councillors than male ones, with eight female candidates having been elected in the nearby city.
The ‘Lift Her Up’ initiative, a campaign launched by ACWS in 2016 to counter the negative rhetoric being directed at women in political office, seeks to encourage understanding of the links between violence against women in the public sphere and domestic violence.
Considering the current Alberta municipal elections, ACWS’ members collectively saw an opportunity to encourage a “more welcoming and supportive political discourse.” The second iteration of the #LiftHerUp campaign is in full swing, and many candidates across Alberta committed to participating in non-violent discourse throughout the campaign.
‘Lift Her Up’ has since evolved into a broader initiative to remove gendered violence from political participation, which led to the creation of the new report.
“Building on what we learned in the 2017 Alberta municipal elections, ACWS examined the research, combed the news, and spoke directly with women who have participated in campaigns or currently hold political office to inform the project,” Jan Reimer, Executive Director of ACWS, said of the research process. “These conversations revealed some troubling data about the violence and abuse experienced by women in politics. The women themselves always knew these things to be true, but we now have a way to visualize that experience and interpret it a part of the larger social issue of violence against women.”
Following the release of these findings, ACWS will embark on another stage of the project––developing an “equity and accountability wheel,” a positive spin, in partnership with organizations committed to supporting diversity in public office. “This balancing wheel will help us understand the key elements in creating and supporting safe(r) spaces for women in politics.”
“The ACWS is driven by the belief that the issues of violence and abuse are the responsibilities of the entire community including, legal, social and political structures, and in seeing violence against women in politics manifest explicitly in Alberta, we felt compelled to act to further our vision of a world free from violence and abuse,” Street wrote.
For more information about the Lift Her Up campaign, visit ACWS’ website at acws.ca.
Twitter's algorithm favours right-leaning politics, research finds – BBC News
Twitter amplifies tweets from right-leaning political parties and news outlets more than from the left, its own research suggests.
The social-media giant said it made the discovery while exploring how its algorithm recommends political content to users.
But it admitted it did not know why, saying that was a “more difficult question to answer”.
Twitter has previously faced claims of anti-conservative bias on its platform.
Twitter’s study examined tweets from political parties and users sharing content from news outlets in seven countries around the world: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US.
It analysed millions of tweets sent between 1 April and 15 August 2020.
Researchers then used the data to see which tweets were being amplified more on an algorithmically ordered feed compared with a reverse-chronological feed, both of which users have an option of using.
They found that mainstream parties and outlets on the political right enjoyed higher levels of “algorithmic amplification” compared with their counterparts on the left.
Rumman Chowdhury, director of Twitter’s Meta (machine-learning, ethics, transparency, and accountability) team, said the company’s next step was to find out the reason behind the phenomenon.
“In six out of seven countries, tweets posted by political-right elected officials are algorithmically amplified more than the political left. Right-leaning news outlets… see greater amplification compared to left-leaning,” she said.
“Establishing why these observed patterns occur is a significantly more difficult question to answer and something Meta will examine.”
Researchers noted that the difference in amplification could be due to the “differing strategies” used by political parties to reach audiences on the platform.
They also said the findings did not suggest that its algorithms pushed “extreme ideologies more than mainstream political voices” – another common concern expressed by Twitter’s critics.
This is not the first time Twitter has highlighted apparent bias in its algorithm.
In April, the platform revealed that it was conducting a study to determine whether its algorithms contributed to “unintentional harms”.
In May, the company revealed that its automatic cropping of images had underlying issues that favoured white individuals over black people, and women over men.
Biden says United States would come to Taiwan’s defense
The United States would come to Taiwan‘s defense and has a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island.
“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has complained of mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.
While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
In August, a Biden administration https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-position-taiwan-unchanged-despite-biden-comment-official-2021-08-19 official said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed after the president appeared to suggest the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.
A White House spokesperson said Biden at his town hall was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and “there is no change in our policy”.
“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson said.
Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,”
“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.
“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”
Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.
China says Taiwan is the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the United States and has denounced what it calls “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.
Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, China’s United Nations Ambassador Zhang Jun said they are pursuing “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and responding to “separatist attempts” by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
“We are not the troublemaker. On the contrary, some countries – the U.S. in particular – is taking dangerous actions, leading the situation in Taiwan Strait into a dangerous direction,” he said.
“I think at this moment what we should call is that the United States to stop such practice. Dragging Taiwan into a war definitely is in nobody’s interest. I don’t see that the United States will gain anything from that.”
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Stephen Coates)
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