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SIMPSON: If pettiness of politics around Surrey feels familiar, there's a good reason why – Surrey Now-Leader

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If you had to describe Surrey’s political climate in one word, which would you choose?

Divisive? Too easy.

Defective? Depends on whose side you’re on.

Dysfunctional? You can’t argue with that, can you?

Anybody who follows municipal politics in our area knows that for a journalist, the city council beat can be a particularly juicy one, especially when presented with the right mix of contentious issues and strong personalities.

Stories about certain council members’ inability to deal with disagreements like grown ups are nothing new. Just say the word ‘pencil’ down near White Rock’s City Hall and see what reaction you get.

And over the years, our newsroom has been privy to many tips and tidbits about our elected officials. Some were worthy of publication, while others were… well… definitely not.

Somebody’s sleeping with someone’s husband.

These two are dating.

Somebody’s a home-wrecker.

These two were photographed coming out of a hotel together.

These two were caught making out in the back of a car.

But the gossip isn’t always sexual (although it’s disturbingly common) – so-and-so hit ‘like’ on a Facebook post that made fun of a fellow slate member.

Wait. We actually did that story and I got yelled at for it.

Anyway, you get the point.

OUR VIEW: We expect integrity from leaders

The politics surrounding Surrey has gotten too nasty and too personal – and it can make it difficult to stick to the issues.

In the past few months, we’ve told you about attack ads featuring doctored photos of councillors. We’ve shared full exchanges from chambers that would tell you all you need to know about the pettiness on council.

Name-calling.

Finger-pointing.

Mic-muting.

Fake photos.

Bullying.

Threats.

Enough, already!

OUR VIEW: No time for childish spats, Surrey council

Consider the response we received after we asked a councillor if it’s fair to publish an attack ad if it uses doctored photos and inaccurate quotes.

“I can’t answer that,” was the terrible answer he gave.

Does any of this feel familiar to you? If it does, there’s a good reason why.

Let former U.S. President Barack Obama explain.

“More than anything, I wanted this book to be a way in which people could better understand the world of politics and foreign policy, worlds that feel opaque and inaccessible,” he said in an interview with The Atlantic about his recently released book.

“It’s interesting. You’re in high school and you see all the cliques and bullying and unfairness and superficiality, and you think, Once I’m grown up I won’t have to deal with that anymore. And then you get to the state legislature and you see all the nonsense and stupidity and pettiness.

“And then you get to Congress and then you get to the G20, and at each level you have this expectation that things are going to be more refined, more sophisticated, more thoughtful, rigorous, selfless, and it turns out it’s all still like high school.”

That it does. That it does.

Beau Simpson is editor of the Now-Leader and can be reached at beau.simpson@surreynowleader.com



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Politics and insurance: An end of an era or a new chapter? – Insurance Business

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Meanwhile, other insurance companies have taken action by firing employees who were identified as participants in the storming of the US Capitol, or making statements condemning the actions of those involved.

In potentially the biggest move away from political activities seen during this time, global broker Aon said that it was ending its relationship with the Trump Organization, after a tumultuous series of events that began when it received a subpoena in 2019 from New York’s insurance regulator about dealings with Trump’s family business.

Read more: Aon ends relationship with Trump Organization

These moves seem to reflect a broader trend in the insurance industry, as insurers take stock of the global political stage and re-evaluate their priorities. This development has probably been a long time coming, considering that key issues impacting insurers, like the environment and the coronavirus pandemic, have become politically tinged as global leaders decide on different directions to take when it comes to climate change and the handling of the virus – approaches that sometimes exist in contrast to what insurers have identified as the right moves forward, given the clear risks associated with such perils.

Perhaps nowhere is this trend clearer than in insurers taking a clear stance on insuring projects that harm the environment. In recent weeks, the list of insurance companies revealing new climate policies and strategies have included Lloyd’s of London, which will be ending investment in thermal coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines, oil sands, and new Arctic energy exploration activities as part of its sustainability targets; AXIS Capital, which will not provide insurance coverage or investment support to projects related to exploration, drilling, or the production of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Marsh & McLennan, which aims to be carbon-neutral this year by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its own operations and purchasing verifiable offsets; and Allianz, which revealed concrete interim targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its investment portfolio of policyholder funds – marking the first time that the global insurer has done so.

Read more: Allianz sets climate aim for investments

While taking a clear side in the climate change ‘debate’ may in itself seem political, the reality is that insurers are now aligning themselves with the majority of the scientific community on the significant risks that climate change-related risks pose to their insureds, which are reflected in insurers’ own risk models (though notably, some critics say that insurers should still be doing more).

As for the coronavirus pandemic, insurers have, over the past year, been at the forefront of risk management as global leaders have determined when and how to reopen their societies and economies. Amid all of the various lockdown discussions, insurers have been providing critical advice to insureds on how to reopen their doors safely, while also keeping the risks in reopening without proper controls in place top of mind, since doing so could put employees and patrons in the path of the virus. This advice has been coming out at a steady pace from the industry, and has sometimes existed in contrast to the more lax perspectives of politicians on how to handle the virus.

Read more: Reopening the restaurant sector – a legal perspective

Of course, the insurance industry has also maintained a key role in the political world that remains critical, seen through its influence in the discussions around the availability of flood insurance, for example, or its very necessary participation in the development of private-public partnerships to offer coverage to businesses in the wake of future catastrophes. However, these are often fact-based conversations where insurers bring their knowledge from the industry and contribute to bipartisan efforts to, again, reduce risks for individuals, businesses, and the industry itself over the long-term.

As the new year begins and the global political stage evolves, insurers would do well to avoid becoming embroiled in the shifting tides that often define politics, and instead, focus on the bigger picture by doing what they do best, which is providing valuable risk management and insurance support to insureds around the world.

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Federal Politics: Liberals hold lead in vote intention as unfavourable views of CPC leader intensify – Angus Reid Institute

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Half (51%) say top priority for federal government is getting COVID-19 under control


January 27, 2021 – As the prime minister hints at the probability of a 2021 election, the leaders of both front-running parties find themselves under ever-increasing scrutiny.

Justin Trudeau finds his conduct on COVID-19 management – especially vaccine rollout – under the microscope, but Canadians are also evaluating the performance of Conservative leader Erin O’Toole.

And while the Liberal leader sees neither significant improvement nor deterioration in the way Canadians perceive him, views of his main opponent are trending in a more negative direction.

New public opinion polling data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds nearly half (47%) in this country have an unfavourable view of O’Toole – a 16-point increase since last September when fewer than one-third (31%) felt the same. One-in-five (22%) remain unsure about him.

These new data also find the incumbent Liberals holding a five-point advantage, 35 per cent to 30 per cent, over the Conservatives. The NDP receives support from one-in-five Canadians (20%).

The challenge for O’Toole and his Conservative Party is to reverse the current trend and attempt to pick up momentum in Canada’s most populous provinces. While the CPC hold vote advantages in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, the party has fallen slightly behind in British Columbia, and now trails by a notable margin in Ontario and Quebec.

More Key Findings:

  • Half of Canadians (51%) say that the COVID-19 response is the top issue for the federal government to address right now. This is the highest proportion holding this opinion since the pandemic began. Healthcare places second (38%), with economy third (29%) on the priority list.
  • If an election were called, Canadians are slightly more comfortable voting by mail (50% completely comfortable) than in person (44% completely comfortable. In each case, three-in-ten say they are not comfortable doing so.

About ARI

The Angus Reid Institute (ARI) was founded in October 2014 by pollster and sociologist, Dr. Angus Reid. ARI is a national, not-for-profit, non-partisan public opinion research foundation established to advance education by commissioning, conducting and disseminating to the public accessible and impartial statistical data, research and policy analysis on economics, political science, philanthropy, public administration, domestic and international affairs and other socio-economic issues of importance to Canada and its world.

INDEX:

Part One: Top Federal Priorities

  • COVID-19 response and health care continue to dwarf economic concerns

Part Two: Leadership

  • Half continue to approve of Trudeau

  • Unfavourable views of O’Toole rise

  • O’Toole versus Scheer at six-month mark

Part Three: Vote Intention

  • Regional picture

  • Age and gender dynamics

  • Comfortable voting during a pandemic?

 

Part One: Top Federal Priorities

COVID-19 response and health care continue to dwarf economic concerns

Canadians continue to endure a near year-long pandemic, with lockdowns and pending travel restrictions weighing on the minds of many. Indeed, when asked what their top concerns are for the country, the COVID-19 response is the clear choice for top issue, with 51 per cent choosing it among their top three. Two other interrelated issues, health care (38%) and the economy (29%), follow in second and third spot:

COVID-19 has hit the country hardest this winter, with case and death counts rising to levels far surpassing the earlier wave of the virus. For that reason, the lower concern levels of the summer have been replaced with greater anxiety, as concern reaches the majority mark nationally for the first time (see detailed tables). Worry about the economy and the nation’s budget deficit are both stable now, and will likely replace health concerns at the top of the list of priorities when the pandemic subsides:

Part Two: Leadership

Half continue to approve of Trudeau

Canadians continue to look to the federal government for guidance on health measures and procurement of urgently needed vaccines. The supply of said vaccines has been disrupted temporarily with shipments delayed and potential restrictions on further supply from Europe causing more headaches for Ottawa.

Opinions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remain unchanged from their pre-holiday mark, with half approving of his performance (50%) and half feeling the opposite (48%):

One-in-three Canadians view Trudeau with strong disapproval, while the largest group offer him moderate commendation. The latter has dropped six points since September while the former has risen by that much, as seen in the trendline graph below:

Trudeau continues to garner strong approval from his party’s 2019 voters and majority approval among past NDP and past Green voters.

Unfavourable views of O’Toole rise

Trudeau’s main opponent, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole, in in a less favourable place with Canadians. Asked for their views, favourable or unfavourable, of the other major federal party leaders, Jagmeet Singh leads at 48 per cent, while just 32 per cent view O’Toole positively. Worse for the CPC leader is that nearly half of Canadians view him unfavourably (47%):

Looking at this with a net favourability rating, O’Toole scores a negative 15, while Singh boasts a plus eight. Green Party leader Annamie Paul continues to be an unknown to half of the country:

O’Toole has defended against accusations that he has modeled himself as Canada’s version of Donald Trump, after his party utilized Trump-style language at various points in 2020. The CPC leader released a statement recently pushing back against this narrative, condemning white supremacy and outlining his views for a “moderate, pragmatic, mainstream” Conservative Party.

Unfortunately for O’Toole, Canadians this message has not yet begun to resonate or gain traction among Canadians. Nearly half (47%) now view him unfavourably, up from 31 per cent in September, shortly after the leadership race:

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of 2019 Conservative Party voters view O’Toole favourably. For NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, favourability sits at 89 per cent among its 2019 base, while 83 per cent of past Bloc Quebecois voters view Yves-Francois Blanchet positively:

*Please note small sample size should be interpreted with caution

O’Toole versus Scheer at six-month mark

When Canadians were asked how they viewed then-leader Andrew Scheer just six months into his leadership run, they were evenly divided. Just over one-in-three approved (35%) of him and the same proportion disapproved (36%) at that point. Negative views of Erin O’Toole are 11 points higher at a similar mark in his term, at 47 per cent:

*Note respondents were asked to indicate their approval of Scheer, not favourability (see full report here)

Part Three: Vote Intention

Asked at the time of fielding if an election were held now, 35 per cent of Canadians say they would support the Liberal Party, compared to 30 per cent for the CPC and 20 per cent for the NDP:

This five-point margin represents one of the Liberal’s largest leads in data going back to the beginning of 2019. The SNC-Lavalin scandal and WE Charity affair both hindered the Liberals at various points, but the government’s management of the pandemic has evidently led to an increase in support at this time:

Regional picture

The key to the Liberal advantage currently lies in its strong performance in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, the nation’s most populous provinces, all of which show a strong preference for the incumbent party. The CPC is strong in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, whose smaller populations contribute to poor returns nationally. Notably, the NDP is now a preferred choice for at least one-in-five residents in every region other than Quebec:

Age and gender dynamics

The Liberal Party is bolstered by strong support from women. Trudeau’s party holds a 20-point advantage over the CPC among women ages 18 to 34, a 28-point advantage among women 35 to 54 and a 15-point lead among women 55 and older. The Conservative Party holds a corresponding advantage among men of all ages, but it is far smaller in each case. Notably, the NDP is in second place among both young men and young women:

Comfortable voting during a pandemic?

With election speculation never quite disappearing completely from political discussions during a minority government, it is worth considering how comfortable Canadians would be voting in a pandemic. If an election were held soon, 70 per cent of Canadians say they would be comfortable voting in person, while the same number would be comfortable voting by mail. In each case, approximately three-in-ten say they would not be comfortable doing so. Thus far, Prime Minister Trudeau has not committed publicly to holding an election this year, but sources have indicated that the topic has been discussed internally among the party:

For detailed results by age, gender, region, education, and other demographics, click here.

To read the full report, including detailed tables and methodologyclick here.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Shachi Kurl, President: 604.908.1693 shachi.kurl@angusreid.org @shachikurl

Dave Korzinski, Research Director: 250.899.0821 dave.korzinski@angusreid.org

Image credit – Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press


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Blair says evidence — not politics — will decide whether the Proud Boys are named as a terrorist group – CBC.ca

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Shortly after the House of Commons voted unanimously to call on the Trudeau government to identify the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he’ll listen to the intelligence collected by the country’s security agencies before deciding on next steps.

“To be clear: the decision to list any organization as a terrorist entity is based on intelligence and evidence collected by our national security agencies,” said the minister in a statement sent to CBC News last night.

“Terrorist designations are not a political exercise.”

Canadian authorities have been collecting information about the far-right Proud Boys group as part of a possible terrorist designation following reports about the organization’s role in this month’s deadly U.S. Capitol attack.

Multiple media reports have linked Proud Boys members to those who stormed Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., after a speech by then-U.S. president Donald Trump on Jan. 6. Last week, a self-described organizer for the Proud Boys was arrested for taking part in the siege.

The Canadian government has not said if the Proud Boys will be added to Canada’s formal list of terrorist groups. Such a move would come with immediate ramifications for the group; financial institutions would freeze their assets and it would become a crime to knowingly deal with the group.

“We’re very mindful of ideologically motivated violent extremists, including groups like the Proud Boys. They’re white supremacists, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynist groups. They’re all hateful, they’re all dangerous,” Blair told CTV News in an interview earlier this month.

“Our national security officials are very mindful of these individuals. They’re gathering intelligence. They bring that intelligence before me and I bring it before cabinet … We’re working very diligently to ensure that where the evidence is available, where we have the intelligence, that we’ll deal appropriately with those organizations.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh brought forward a motion Monday calling on the government “to use all available tools to address the proliferation of white supremacist and hate groups, starting with immediately designating the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity.” 

‘Pretty direct politicization of the process’

While the motion is non-binding, it has some national security experts troubled by what they see as the politicalization of the terror list.

“The issue I have is by including the call to list the Proud Boys, it is a call for the government to engage in a legal process and with a predetermined outcome,” said Leah West, a former Department of Justice lawyer and now a national security professor at Carleton University.

“I tend to have issues with parliamentarians asking for certain criminal law effects to take place on individuals in the House of Commons. I think that there should be a separation between parliamentarians and a process that, in this case, is not a typical criminal law process but is a legal process that could have a criminal effect.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair speaks in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ont., on June 16, 2020. Recommendations to add groups to the terrorist list are made to cabinet by the public safety minister, based on intelligence reports. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

West said she worries about setting a precedent. She pointed to statements by some MPs in early 2020 describing Indigenous-led rail blockades as terrorism and asking whether the groups protesting should be added to the terror list. 

“There’s nothing to stop a similar type of motion from being brought to the House floor around Indigenous or environmental protesters who arguably engage in activity that could give rise to meeting the threshold,” she said.

“I just want us to be careful [and avoid] approaching listing terrorist entities in the same way we saw with the Trump administration in the U.S., where basically [he] used terrorist listings as a way of condemning groups that were unfavourable, or his enemies, or that were critical of the government”

Jessica Davis, a former senior intelligence analyst with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service who now heads Insight Threat, called the vote “a pretty direct politicization of the process.”

“All of these MPs should know better in terms of how the process actually works. It’s been well-articulated. They have access to information about how these things happen,” she said.

“This motion is meant, I guess, to put pressure on the government to list a group, but we don’t even know yet if the group meets a technical threshold.”

A spokesperson for the NDP said the party isn’t trying to politicize the process, but argued the Proud Boys are an undeniable threat to the United States and Canada both.

“The rise of white supremacy and neo-Nazi [organizations] is an underestimated threat in Canada and people are scared. Canadians don’t want to see what happened in the U.S. happen here in Canada. We need actions and we need them, now,” said Melanie Richer.

Decision lies with minister 

According to the Department of Public Safety, the process of designating a terrorist group begins with a report from the RCMP and CSIS detailing “reasonable grounds to believe that the entity has knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity; or the entity is knowingly acting on behalf of, at the direction of or in association with, an entity involved in a terrorist activity.”

That report is reviewed by the minister of public safety. If the minister has reasonable grounds to believe that the group in question meets the threshold, the minister makes a recommendation to cabinet to place the entity on the list.

Davis said the process could use more transparency and clarity from the government about the criteria used to make a determination.

Created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the terrorist designation list includes more than 50 organizations. Many of them are Islamist terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah and ISIS.

Two far-right groups — Blood & Honour, an international neo-Nazi network, and its armed wing, Combat 18 — were added in June 2019 under the public safety minister at the time, Ralph Goodale.

Where does the government draw the line?

“The activities that the groups are engaged in range really dramatically from al-Qaeda — who we know conducted many large-scale, high-impact attacks and inspired many others — to Combat 18, who seem to have committed one politically motivated assault and a firebombing,” said Davis. “There’s a lot of daylight between those two examples.

“So where is that criteria? Because if it’s closer to the Combat 18, I think that that’s more of a problem. It really allows a very expansive definition of terrorism in this country.”

West said the process is not above political influence but it has some safeguards in place.

“So it’s not that there is no politics involved in this, in that it is a cabinet decision. But it’s not unusual in the realm of national security for ministers to be making decisions like this,” said West.

“This decision is also reviewable by a federal court to ensure that that the minister’s decision is reasonable and compliant with the statutory requirements set out in the Criminal Code.”

Davis said the process is inherently political because it’s a cabinet decision — but bringing a multi-party committee into the process could remove at least some of the political taint.

“I think there are lots of good options for reducing that political impact. So a bipartisan committee, for instance, could be struck, or you could have bureaucrats strike a committee that makes the ultimate decision,” she said.

“So there’s a number of ways to move that ministerial responsibility, but at the same time, I think that it is important that the government be responsible for this list.”

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