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Subtle arguments rarely work in politics

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There is one truth when it comes to politics – there’s only one winner.

That fact makes the game especially brutal. Politicians determined to gain power will sometimes say or do things they never dreamed necessary back when they were first considering a run for office.

In their early days, they are a bit like one member of O. J. Simpson’s legal team when the football player was facing two counts of murder.

A law professor, the lawyer looked dispassionately at the case and thought, “What a wonderful teaching opportunity this will be.”

That naive outlook didn’t last long in the hideous battle that followed, with racism, sex, money and fame all cast into the witch’s brew that produced a not guilty verdict, setting Simpson free.

Winning such a high-stakes game is not about teaching, it’s only about learning – as in learning what it takes to be first, because finishing second is losing.

In a year when so many bitter lessons have been handed out, P.E.I.’s Green party leader has had to acknowledge one he has learned — subtlety is rarely a winner in politics.

Peter Bevan-Baker has been a winner of late, but it didn’t come easily. He finally won an election in 2015 – on his 10th try. Then four years later he took his party to the edge of real power in 2019, winning eight seats and nearly 31 per cent of the popular vote.

So close. Now comes the hard part, and the hard lessons with it.

The Greens are the official opposition, shoving the Liberals out of their natural second home by just 946 votes, barely over one per cent of the votes cast.

It’s a heady place to be, but it’s unforgiving.

Now, Bevan-Baker must show he truly understands the “strategic and political mistake” he acknowledges he made when he abstained – refused to vote – when it came time to be counted.

At issue was the provincial government’s capital budget, the plan on where to spend on long-term investments.

Bevan-Baker joined three other Greens in refusing to cast a yea or nay on the $195-million government plan.

Why? There was a risk of forcing a provincial election in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the middle of the winter.

“I chose to abstain so I would not add to that burden,” Bevan-Baker said. “I just didn’t feel enthusiastic about the budget to, with good conscience, endorse it.”

Or oppose it, as did three other MLAs, including a member of his own party.

“I can tell you that hours and hours and hours of debate and thought and careful consideration went into each and every vote,” he added.

A thoughtful and honest reason, but it didn’t sell well, not for the man who would be premier.

And he knows it now.

“I now understand that people want a yes or a no,” said Bevan-Baker in a recent interview. “They don’t want something in the middle, even though I think that was a more accurate reflection of how I felt.”

A thoughtful man by instinct, he must now find a way to be a premier-in-waiting, someone who has the answers for the problems people face. Or, at least, is confident enough to think he has the answers.

That may not feel natural to a man like Bevan-Baker. It may not be comfortable. But politics – and especially elections – are a poor place to make nuanced, subtle arguments.

Simplifying his message, tailoring it for the realities of politics, is the final hurdle facing the Green’s leader. The test of how well he learns that lesson awaits him, the next time Islanders go to the polls.

Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

Source:- TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Putin Thrusts Global Food Markets Into Russian Politics – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Dmitry Bravkov is the kind of farmer that makes Vladimir Putin proud. The Russian president regularly touts his country’s rise to the top of the world’s agricultural exporters as another sign of its global power.

But after 14 years of running a dairy and grain farm 300 miles southwest of Moscow, Bravkov has suddenly found himself on the wrong end of Kremlin policy. In three weeks, he’ll get less for his wheat because of new tariffs and quotas designed to curb exports and drive domestic prices lower.

With Putin’s popularity barely back from record lows, the policy is an attempt to mollify a public battered by falling incomes and rising food costs. Protests at the weekend demanding the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny now give Putin another reason to try to shore up support.

Russia’s position as the world’s biggest wheat exporter means the move is already reverberating through global markets, and a short-term domestic advantage could lead to longer-term damage to faith in the country as a reliable supplier.

“The introduction of the duty is an attempt to cash in on the farmers,” said Bravkov, 47, who employs 60 people in a village in the Bryansk region. “There’s plenty of wheat in the world. If Russia doesn’t supply it, someone else will.”

World grain prices have soared to the highest level in six years after poor weather hampered harvests in some key producers and China embarked on an agricultural buying spree. The knock-on effect is particularly acute for developing nations because food is a bigger share of household spending. 

Uncertainty over Russia’s restrictions has already hurt some buyers, with top wheat importer Egypt canceling a tender on Jan. 12—a rare occurrence—after supply offers dried up. 

“Russia wants to have it both ways,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization in Rome. “It wants to have a big chunk of the export market, and at the same time, not be exposed to problems within the global food sector. Usually such plans aren’t successful in the long-run.”

While Putin was boasting of a record harvest last year, ordinary Russians had to shell out 20% more for bread and 65% more for sugar than in 2019. Memories of food shortages in the Soviet Union and soaring inflation after its collapse have made prices a politically sensitive issue in Russia.

Russia’s history wasn’t lost on Putin as he scolded ministers on national television last month for not doing enough to stop rising prices, even as he boasted about huge grain exports. Russia’s wheat output has nearly doubled in the past two decades.

“Back then, they said that everything is available in the Soviet Union, just not enough for everyone, but there wasn’t enough because there were shortages,” he said. “Now there might not be enough because people don’t have enough money to buy certain products at the prices we see on the market.”

One day after the comments were aired—and three days before Putin was due to address the nation in his annual televised press conference—the government proposed a levy on wheat from mid-February though the end of June. The duty will start at 25 euros ($30.40) a ton before doubling from March 1. Wheat-export prices in Russia have climbed 43% in the past six months to $297 as of Jan. 20, data from consultancy IKAR show.

The government is also pressing ahead with a previously announced grain-export quota for the same period. Price curbs may be implemented on other food products such as pasta, eggs and potatoes.

Russia has a history of disrupting the wheat market with restrictions and duties. The country imposed an export tax in 2007 to combat rising food costs, helping push global wheat prices to a record, and some researchers see an export ban in 2010 as an indirect contributor to the Arab Spring uprisings. 

Indeed, few other exporters have dared to go down the protectionist route because the results can be counterproductive. The strategy is particularly risky because the Kremlin has worked so hard to overtake the U.S. and European Union and become the dominant global supplier of wheat.

The measures will cost wheat farmers as much as 135 billion rubles ($1.8 billion) in potential revenue losses, and more if export duties are extended to other foodstuffs, according to Andrey Sizov Jr., managing director at consultant SovEcon in Moscow.

Importers are already turning toward other suppliers such as Australia and even India, according to Evgeniya Dudinova, a member of the International Association of Operative Millers Eurasia leadership council. In the United Arab Emirates, where she’s based, purchases from Russia have totaled about 330,000 tons so far this season, a third of last year’s volume. 

Key importers will try to avoid Russian wheat when the taxes kick in, said Muzzammil R. Chappal, chairman of the Cereal Association of Pakistan. The country is the fifth-largest importer of Russian wheat this season.

At his farm, Bravkov said he hasn’t received any help from the government in the past. He’s in the process of switching from dairy to grain farming after milk prices stagnated, which will force him to lay off workers to stay profitable. “With such measures our government just helps protect our European competitors,” Bravkov said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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Parliament resumes amid heightened political pressure on pandemic, vaccines – The Globe and Mail

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 9, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government is expected to be pressed by opposition parties when Parliament resumes Monday on the availability of vaccines for COVID-19, the recession caused by the virus and when Ottawa intends to put forward a detailed account of federal spending in a budget.

The pandemic, which has dominated Justin Trudeau’s second mandate, has kept the government in crisis-response mode since last March. As of Sunday, the Public Health Agency said there have been 742,531 cases of COVID-19 to date in Canada and 18,974 deaths. There were 146 fatalities reported on Sunday.

With Parliament coming back after the holiday break, Mr. Trudeau’s government is expected to face questions about its handling of the crisis and the pace at which the country is receiving vaccines.

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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said the government is letting down Canadians on the vaccine file and that the country cannot secure its economic future without access to the shots.

NDP House leader and finance critic Peter Julian said Sunday the government must ensure that vaccines make their way into peoples’ arms. He said this issue is “particularly disturbing” during a very dangerous and deadly second wave of the pandemic.

Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine logistics, said Thursday the delivery of vaccines from Pfizer for the week of Feb. 1 will be cut to 79,000 doses, amounting to a 79-per-cent drop. On Tuesday, he said Canada will get none of the 208,650 doses originally expected this week.

Maj.-Gen. Fortin also said the company has not disclosed what Canada’s shipment will be the week of Feb. 8.

Mr. Julian said there is a “profound concern with the government seeming to rely on statements rather than actually mobilizing the resources they have to make sure that vaccines are actually administered to Canadians.

“What is vitally important and the only thing that Canadians will be satisfied with is that there’s a major step up in administering of vaccines across the country, particularly the Canadians who are the most vulnerable,” he said.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said Canada remains on track to receive vaccines for all Canadians who wish to be vaccinated by the end of September.

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Mr. Trudeau’s government is also facing political pressure to re-establish a viceregal appointments committee following the resignation of Governor-General Julie Payette on Thursday.

Ms. Payette’s departure, along with that of her second-in-command Assunta Di Lorenzo, followed the completion of an external review that was requested after media reports detailed allegations of bullying and harassment at Rideau Hall.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told the CBC on Sunday that he doesn’t think the government can pretend the vetting process for Ms. Payette was adequate. The process must be more robust for every senior government appointment, he said.

The Prime Minister hasn’t made any decisions on the specific process to be followed in the coming weeks to replace Ms. Payette, Mr. LeBlanc said, but added that the Privy Council Office will be offering advice to Mr. Trudeau this week.

“It’s not a circumstance we want to drag on for weeks and weeks and weeks,” Mr. LeBlanc said.

Peter Donolo, the vice-chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada and a prime ministerial director of communications to Jean Chrétien, said it is not an optimal situation to have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Richard Wagner, serving in the viceregal role in the interim.

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“That’s why they need to move sooner than later to replace the Governor-General,” he said. “Hopefully it will just be a matter of a couple of weeks at most.”

With a report from Marieke Walsh

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

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Parliament resumes amid heightened political pressure on pandemic, vaccines

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 9, 2020.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Liberal government is expected to be pressed by opposition parties when Parliament resumes Monday on the availability of vaccines for COVID-19, the recession caused by the virus and when Ottawa intends to put forward a detailed account of federal spending in a budget.

The pandemic, which has dominated Justin Trudeau’s second mandate, has kept the government in crisis-response mode since last March. As of Sunday, the Public Health Agency said there have been 742,531 cases of COVID-19 to date in Canada and 18,974 deaths. There were 146 fatalities reported on Sunday.

With Parliament coming back after the holiday break, Mr. Trudeau’s government is expected to face questions about its handling of the crisis and the pace at which the country is receiving vaccines.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has said the government is letting down Canadians on the vaccine file and that the country cannot secure its economic future without access to the shots.

NDP House leader and finance critic Peter Julian said Sunday the government must ensure that vaccines make their way into peoples’ arms. He said this issue is “particularly disturbing” during a very dangerous and deadly second wave of the pandemic.

Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s vaccine logistics, said Thursday the delivery of vaccines from Pfizer for the week of Feb. 1 will be cut to 79,000 doses, amounting to a 79-per-cent drop. On Tuesday, he said Canada will get none of the 208,650 doses originally expected this week.

Maj.-Gen. Fortin also said the company has not disclosed what Canada’s shipment will be the week of Feb. 8.

Mr. Julian said there is a “profound concern with the government seeming to rely on statements rather than actually mobilizing the resources they have to make sure that vaccines are actually administered to Canadians.

“What is vitally important and the only thing that Canadians will be satisfied with is that there’s a major step up in administering of vaccines across the country, particularly the Canadians who are the most vulnerable,” he said.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said Canada remains on track to receive vaccines for all Canadians who wish to be vaccinated by the end of September.

Mr. Trudeau’s government is also facing political pressure to re-establish a viceregal appointments committee following the resignation of Governor-General Julie Payette on Thursday.

Ms. Payette’s departure, along with that of her second-in-command Assunta Di Lorenzo, followed the completion of an external review that was requested after media reports detailed allegations of bullying and harassment at Rideau Hall.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told the CBC on Sunday that he doesn’t think the government can pretend the vetting process for Ms. Payette was adequate. The process must be more robust for every senior government appointment, he said.

The Prime Minister hasn’t made any decisions on the specific process to be followed in the coming weeks to replace Ms. Payette, Mr. LeBlanc said, but added that the Privy Council Office will be offering advice to Mr. Trudeau this week.

“It’s not a circumstance we want to drag on for weeks and weeks and weeks,” Mr. LeBlanc said.

Peter Donolo, the vice-chairman of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Canada and a prime ministerial director of communications to Jean Chrétien, said it is not an optimal situation to have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Richard Wagner, serving in the viceregal role in the interim.

“That’s why they need to move sooner than later to replace the Governor-General,” he said. “Hopefully it will just be a matter of a couple of weeks at most.”

With a report from Marieke Walsh

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Source: – The Globe and Mail

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