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Surprise Senate wins give Democrats once-in-a-decade power to shape U.S. politics –



Democrats now have their best opportunity in a decade to shape the American political agenda, having achieved the coveted trifecta of political power in Washington — first the House of Representatives, then the White House and now the U.S. Senate.

A surprise double victory in two Georgia run-off races on Tuesday has allowed them to claw their way to the narrowest possible Senate advantage.

While Raphael Warnock, a pastor at Martin Luther King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, was declared the winner of his seat early Wednesday, the other race — won by fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff — wasn’t called until the late afternoon just as the nation’s attention was on the violent protests at the U.S. Capitol.

The chamber will soon be tied 50-50, which is an imperceptible margin but one that offers incalculable advantages to Joe Biden’s presidency.

WATCH | How the protests at the Capitol unfolded:

CBC News’ David Common breaks down what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and how U.S. President Donald Trump stoked discontent among his supporters before he lost the election. 3:44

‘A brand new day’

What it means, for starters, is that Kamala Harris, in her next job as vice-president, will frequently roll down Pennsylvania Avenue in motorcade trips to her former workplace, the U.S. Senate, to cast critical tie-breaking votes.

That gives Democrats more control than at any time since they lost congressional seats early in the Obama administration.

“A brand new day,” is how Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, described the effect in a celebratory statement Wednesday morning.

While the races were both close and the Republican candidates have not yet conceded, Schumer treated the result as a fait accompli and promised bold change.

Democrats won two Georgia seats they had lost by margins of 14 and eight per cent the last time they were up for grabs. 

Raphael Warnock, left, and Jon Ossoff won their run-off races in Georgia Tuesday, giving Democrats a thin advantage in the upper chamber. (Megan Varner/Getty Images, Brian Snyder/Reuters)

It is the first time Democrats have unseated a Republican Senate incumbent in Georgia in decades, helped by sky-high participation among African-American voters in Atlanta and more modest turnout in whiter, more conservative rural areas.

Winning the Senate launches Biden into the presidency on Jan. 20 with freer rein in various areas. Passing bills will be simpler — though considerably short of a slam dunk. 

Appointing judges will be easier, as will naming cabinet members, top officials and diplomats, with little fear they’d be blocked.

Biden can also live without fear of hostile congressional committees. Republicans who had been investigating his son Hunter’s business dealings will no longer control investigative bodies on Capitol Hill, which will now be run by Democrats and presumably used to advance the party’s own goals. 

WATCH | Raphael Warnock makes history in winning Georgia Senate seat:

Raphael Warnock won one of Georgia’s two Senate run-offs, becoming the first Black senator in his state’s history and putting the Senate majority within the party’s reach. Fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff claimed victory in the other race, which some news organizations say is too close to call. 7:43

Republican recriminations ahead?

Republicans, meanwhile, are spiralling into the early innings of what could be a protracted intra-partisan feud.

At the centre of that tussle lies President Donald Trump.

Before the results even emerged in those two tight Senate races, several Republicans — including one of Georgia’s top Republican election officials — blamed the president for the defeat.

Although he campaigned on behalf of the Republican candidates in the Georgia Senate run-offs, U.S. President Donald Trump cast doubt on the legitimacy of voting and likely depressed Republican turnout, said one Georgia election official. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Gabe Sterling said Trump depressed turnout by complaining incessantly about his fellow Republicans, by insisting the presidential vote was fraudulent and bemoaning their refusal to help him overturn it.

“President Donald J. Trump,” Sterling said Wednesday, when asked why Republicans lost.

“When you say, ‘Your vote doesn’t count,’ then you have [allies] who … say, ‘Don’t come and vote.’ Then you spark a civil war within the GOP that needed to be united to get through a tough fight like this.… It irritates me.”

More recriminations will likely follow. 

Trump has fired back by blaming the party establishment. He suggests the races may have been lost because Senate Republicans refused to send people $2,000 stimulus cheques, as demanded by Trump and by Democrats.

“Your leadership has led you down the tubes,” Trump said in a grievance-filled speech Wednesday to a large crowd of supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest the election certification.

“I said, ‘Give [people] $2,000. … Give ’em a couple of bucks. Let ’em live.'”

Trump can fairly point out that he did attend two rallies to help the state’s Republican candidates, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. 

Trump did attend rallies for Republican candidates Kelly Loeffler, left, and David Perdue, right, but his own grievances over the presidential election result overshadowed the events. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Yet both events were overshadowed by Trump’s personal grievances. The most memorable moments of his Georgia rally speech this week included Trump demanding that his vice-president, Mike Pence, overturn the presidential result, and threatening to support a primary challenge in 2022 to unseat the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp.

Some Trump supporters made clear in interviews that, like the president, their minds were more focused on re-fighting the Nov. 3 election than the ones on Jan. 5.

What a majority can accomplish

While the vast majority of Republican voters did, in the end, turn out for Tuesday’s races, they did so in fewer numbers than Democrats.

Democrats benefited from huge participation from African-American voters, who helped elect Warnock and Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker and political staffer who at age 33 will become the youngest Democratic senator elected since Biden himself first won in 1972. 

The result is that Democrats have a chance to implement their agenda. Or at least to try. 

New York Democrat Chuck Schumer will be the new majority leader of the U.S. Senate. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Biden’s party now has an ability it previously lacked — it can actually hold votes on its chosen issues, like pandemic stimulus cheques, expanded health coverage, green infrastructure, immigration, gun control and political reform. 

One great power held by the Senate’s majority party is the ability to control the floor agenda and decide what gets voted on. That’s why some Democrats grudgingly referred to Republican Mitch McConnell as the gatekeeper blocking debates.

Now, the role of majority leader will belong to Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who, while often criticized by progressives, holds considerably more liberal views than McConnell. (Schumer is also a frequent critic of Canadian dairy.)

“Joe Biden has a reasonably good shot of getting changes he wants to see enacted,” said Charles Bullock, an expert on legislative politics at the University of Georgia, before the vote, of the implications of a Democratic sweep.

“[Many of their goals] depend on having a Democratic majority.”

A 1-seat majority has its limitations

Here comes the caveat. And it’s a significant one.

Passing bills won’t be easy. Most types of bills in the U.S. Senate require 60 votes for adoption.

Many Democrats want to water down that rule as part of a sweeping institution-modernization agenda — one that includes adding liberal judges to the Supreme Court and making Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico new U.S. states, with voting rights in Congress. 

That type of institutional reform stands a slim chance of success. Some Democrats, like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, have already expressed clear opposition to these ideas, and given the wafer-thin margin in the Senate, losing even one vote would likely bury these measures. 

Yet Democrats now have other, narrower paths to passing bills. For starters, they can bring votes to the floor and hope to win a few Republican backers.  

If that fails, there are budget bills. 

It’s possible to pass certain spending legislation in the Senate with a one-vote majority. It involves a complicated process known as reconciliation — and has been applied dozens of times since 1980, including on key provisions of the so-called Obamacare health reform and Trump’s tax cuts.

“You can do a lot of things through reconciliation,” said Tony Madonna, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. 

The tactic does have limitations. It can only be used once a year, and only on budget bills, and the measures usually expire after 10 years.

But a pair of surprising wins in Georgia at least give Biden’s party a chance to try it.

The news that Democrats had sealed both run-off races was largely drowned out by the day of violent protests at the U.S. Capitol. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

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Crosbie vows to clean up ‘Liberal corruption’ in Newfoundland and Labrador politics –



While campaigning in Marystown on Thursday, Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie berated the Liberals over their governance of the province, saying he would put an end to “Liberal corruption.”

Though technical issues interrupted the livestream of Crosbie’s speech, a transcript was sent to reporters, and Crosbie took questions by phone.

Crosbie again said the most critical issue in the province is jobs, “but Liberal corruption, scandal and cronyism are barriers to job growth.”

Crosbie says after filing a freedom-of-information request for the draft of a report commissioned by the Liberal government and done by consulting firm Goss Gilroy, a discrepancy between the final report and the draft was discovered.

The $22,000 report asked people who had left the province why they left and what it would take for them to return.

“They tried to bury the finding that … a leading reason for not working in Newfoundland and Labrador is the perception that it was who you know that would get you a job,” Crosbie said.

Crosbie said the PCs would hire people based on merit, and the government has a role in setting an example for everyone, including the private sector.

When asked why Newfoundland and Labrador voters should trust this wouldn’t happen if he is elected, Crosbie said voters can look to his decades-long career as a lawyer.

“My practice has consistently been all about holding corporations and governments to account,” he said.

Crosbie said, “(Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew) Parsons is still in cabinet … despite being investigated by police. This is banana republic stuff. You can quote me on that.”

RNC officer Joe Smyth alleges political interference by Parsons, who was formally the justice minister, regarding a previous charge of obstruction of justice against Smyth that was dropped. The allegations are currently being investigated by the Nova Scotia RCMP.

Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons. - Telegram File Photo
Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parsons. – Telegram File Photo

Parsons responded to Crosbie’s corruption comments on behalf of the Liberals Thursday.

“Well, It’s the same old song and dance from Ches and the same Conservative line. Normally, I don’t care too much about what he says, but I do get frustrated when he impugns my character wrongly and he knows this,” Parsons said in a phone interview from his district on the west coast.

“If he wants to talk about ethics, I don’t need a lecture from him. Let’s me and him have a little contest and go back and talk about personal ethics. … If he wants to talk about the PCs, the biggest corruption job on the people of this province ever committed was the billion-dollar

Muskrat debacle that was committed on the backs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that he supports.”

Parsons said the PCs have former cabinet minister Nick McGrath running in Labrador, despite the Humber Valley Paving controversy.

And he slammed Crosbie for slinging mud when politicians should be moving away from personal attacks to policy discussions.

“Ches talks a big game and it’s too bad — he’s not putting forward any semblance of a plan why people should trust him,” Parsons said.

“His goal is to smear everybody and hope it makes him looks good in comparison.”

Meanwhile, Crosbie said people have the right to know who’s donating money to political parties and how much.

“Right now, we have a system where there’s no limit on donations and there’s nothing to prevent corporations, or unions for that matter, making donations,” he said. “There’s no better disinfectant than sunlight.”

He says they will look into the code of conduct for MHAs and introduce recall legislation so, “voters have recourse when their elected representatives are not doing their jobs.”

On Wednesday, Crosbie called for the immediate release of the interim report of the Dame Moya Greene-led Economic Recovery Team.

Premier Andrew Furey said there is no report, but a group of individuals tasked with coming up with ideas.

Crosbie said he laughed when he heard Furey’s comments.

“Either it’s not a report yet, because it hasn’t been written yet, or he’s appointed a bunch of people to sit around and shoot the breeze and have good ideas and none of us are ever going to know what those ideas are because they’re not going to be written down,” Crosbie said. “That last explanation would be absurd.”

At a media event Thursday morning, Furey said he doesn’t want to rush Greene and her team, as that’s how the government has made mistakes and economic flops in the past. An interim report is due later in February, and a final report at the end of April.

“I’m trying to shift decision-making more to a more rational, logical approach, and this is one I think will work,” Furey said.

“I think this is a solid decision-making process. We’re going to gather evidence, and broadly consult with all stakeholders. Every person in Newfoundland and Labrador will have an opportunity to have a say should they choose. Then we are going to table that to the House of Assembly as a very open and transparent process.”

Fixing the province’s financial troubles will require short-, medium- and long-term solutions and lots of collaboration, Furey said.

“There is no simple solution to this. There’s not going to be like an incredibly blunt and frightful budget that shocks everybody into their basements,” he said.


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Should Politics Play A Role In Our Investments? – Forbes



With yesterday’s inauguration of Joe Biden, it seems the perfect time to consider the role that politics may play in our investments. Over the past weeks and months, politics has been a hot topic. Undoubtedly, we can expect the economy to change and the markets to react as policies and priorities shift. Many are worried about the outcome of the election—and many others are excited. So, with all of the different emotions at play, how do we think about politics as we make our investment decisions?

The Choice Facing Financial Advisors

As Commonwealth’s chief investment officer, I serve a wide range of advisors and clients. They all have political opinions, and I may fundamentally disagree with many of them (half?) on very important issues. How can I handle this disconnect?

As I see it, I have a choice. I can take public positions that might feel good but will both alienate and ill serve a substantial portion of my community, while convincing no one. Or, I can focus on communicating what I both know about and have been tasked to do, in order to help people, as investors, navigate the current turmoil.

All financial advisors face the same decision. For all of us, no matter what our opinions, stating them can make us less effective for a substantial portion of our clients. And we can’t sidestep the issue by saying we have no opinions, because of course we do. What to do?

The way I have tried to deal with it is by explicitly separating the two roles I have: as a citizen (where I have very strong opinions) and as an economist and investment advisor (where all that matters is the data). By decoupling the two, I acknowledge I have my own opinions, but I try to make them less relevant to the discussions we are having.

I might say something like this. “As a citizen, I certainly have my own opinions, which may (or may not) be the same as yours. As your advisor, however, they don’t matter. My job here is to help you navigate the uncertainty around these events in your investments, not in the rest of your life. Because of that, we can look at the economic and market facts, which is what I am here to do, and make a decision that is best for you. My only concern, sitting in this chair, is your financial future.” I have used something like this with multiple client groups, on both sides, and it has been effective.

A Focus on Long-Term Outcomes

Another way to approach this is to demonstrate how it works in practice. In the last two elections, for example, I had people—on different sides—who wanted to sell out when Obama was elected and when Trump was elected. In both cases, it would have been a mistake. This example is a good follow-up, as you can directly look at emotional decisions, tie them back to the factual results, and make the point that as an investor, data is what is needed most. And that is the job of an advisor. However good or bad things are now, investors need to be focused on the long-term outcomes, not the short-term headlines. Taking the politics out can and does yield better long-term results.

Bumps in the Middle of the Road

This approach doesn’t always work, of course. I typically get feedback, some of it ferocious, whenever I write a piece that touches on politics, with my recent blog post on Washington turning a light shade of blue a good example. Several people felt very strongly, based on that post, that I must be a hard-core Republican. Others thought that the piece showed a clear Democratic basis and needed to be rewritten.

What I tried to do, though, was write something straight down the middle, presenting the facts and reasonable conclusions in a nonpartisan way. With this one, more than some of the others, I clearly failed in the eyes of some readers. That is inevitable, and the feedback helps me get better, so I appreciate it. I will try to do better. But I also draw comfort from the fact that I got fire from both sides. The middle of the road can be an uncomfortable place as well.

Recognize the Disconnect

What if you are not an advisor but just concerned about your own investments? The advice is the same. Look at the data. Don’t make emotional decisions. Realize the U.S. economy and markets are largely disconnected from politics. And keep an eye on the long term. No matter how you feel about either administration, investing is a game of decades during which we will have a wide range of politics.

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Nova Scotia finance minister says she will leave politics when next election called – Toronto Star



HALIFAX – A key member of outgoing Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil’s cabinet says she too will leave politics once the next provincial election is called.

Finance Minister Karen Casey, who is also deputy premier, made the announcement following a cabinet meeting Thursday, saying that after 15 years representing the riding of Colchester North, she is ready to retire and wants to spend more time with her four grandchildren.

Casey said while she had been pondering her future for some time, she only made a final decision over the last week.

“Fifteen years, I think, is a good amount of public service to give to my constituents,” Casey told reporters. “I’m happy with the work that we (government) have achieved, and it’s time to let somebody else represent Colchester North.”

Casey, a former teacher, also served in the education and health portfolios and was named deputy premier in 2017.

Over her time in the education portfolio, she was instrumental in the Liberal government’s move to rein in contract demands by the province’s teachers — a battle that ultimately saw the imposition of a contract that ended a two-month work-to-rule campaign by public school teachers in February 2017.

As finance minister, Casey also played a part in helping the government table five consecutive balanced budgets.

“I learned a lot personally in the finance portfolio, but there were challenges there, and I quite like a challenge,” she said.

McNeil, who is leaving politics next month, said he counts Casey as a personal friend and believes she played an “integral role” in helping return the province to fiscal health.

“We have really run a duo operation here in lots of ways,” McNeil said. “She is one person that I have always sought counsel of in my most difficult days.”

Casey was a former interim leader of the Progressive Conservatives and defected to the Liberals in January, 2011 at McNeil’s invitation.

“That allowed me to join a caucus and a leader … whose values I thought I shared,” said Casey. “What motivated me? It would be knowing that my ideas and those of my constituents and me as a person would be respected.”



Casey confirmed she would stay on until the next election, which must be called by the spring of 2022.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

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