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The politics of pandemics is grim news for Conservatives – The Globe and Mail



Everything is political, even – especially – national emergencies. This is true of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left the federal Conservatives in desperate straits.

This could change with time if the Liberals fail to deliver on their promise to protect Canadians from what could be a savage economic downturn.

But it won’t be lost on any politician in Ottawa that if an election were held tomorrow, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals would be headed for a third term.

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The coronavirus pandemic is turning into the worst crisis Canada has faced since the Second World War. Voters are anxious; many are frightened. They are counting on their federal and provincial governments to protect them from both the virus and the economic fallout. The partisan stripe of any government is irrelevant right now.

Because they have acted decisively and co-operatively, John Horgan’s NDP in British Columbia, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives in Ontario, François Legault’s CAQ in Quebec, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in Ottawa and other governments have all benefited.

Politically, all incumbent governments are advantaged, and all opposition parties disadvantaged.

The fact that Parliament has been suspended makes things even harder for the federal opposition parties. And when a shrunken Parliament returns briefly to pass emergency legislation, Canadians will expect the Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and NDP to offer the Liberals their full support. In times like this, the opposition doesn’t get to play the role of opposition.

The situation for the federal Conservatives is particularly dire because the party is in the midst of a leadership race. For the front-running candidates, Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole, the political universe consists of about 100,000 card-carrying Conservatives who will choose the leader. (There is, I am told, little selling of memberships going on, and many e-mails sent to those on the list of existing party members have bounced back, leaving a relatively small pool of actual voters.)

Mr. O’Toole and Mr. MacKay must tool their messages to these Conservative partisans, which is why both candidates have been complaining loudly about asylum-seekers who continue to enter Canada at irregular border crossings.

This is a fair concern: Whatever international conventions may dictate, Canadians will have little patience with asylum-seekers who are allowed to cross the border when most American citizens no longer can. But this is hardly topic No. 1 right now for most people. The Tory rhetoric on this issue is harsh and inappropriate.

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The dynamic will shift after March 25, which is the deadline for candidates raising $300,000 and acquiring 3,000 signatures in order to stay in the race. (Besides Mr. O’Toole and Mr. MacKay, Toronto lawyer Leslyn Lewis is expected to clear the bar, and perhaps one or two others.)

Once the leadership is decided on June 27, the new leader will be able to shift to a more statesmanlike tone. But for now, the Tories sound tone-deaf in the midst of this crisis.

Any passage of time is a long time in politics. Whatever the candidates say during the leadership race will be forgotten once it’s over.

And crass as this may sound, the Conservatives’ best hope is that the Trudeau government will fail in its efforts to contain the economic damage from COVID-19.

Millions of Canadians are going to be sequestered for weeks, perhaps even months. The economy is almost certainly already in recession, one that could get much, much worse. The Liberals are going to rack up deficits unlike anything seen outside of wartime, and even that may not be enough to prevent waves of bankruptcies and job losses.

If things get bad enough, voters might turn on their governments in anger. In that case, incumbents of any stripe could be tossed. That could help the Conservatives federally, just as it helps opposition parties provincially.

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There is also another factor: Whatever is happening in the larger economy, the oil and gas sector is in particularly dire shape, which could once again harm Liberal prospects in Western Canada.

Conservative supporters are in the uncomfortable situation of knowing that their prospects for power depend on things going badly. That’s generally the rule for opposition parties under normal circumstances, and even more so now. For voters on the right, no matter how you look at things, they’re grim.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

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A massive repudiation of Trump’s racist politics is building – The Washington Post



Those words seem prescient today, after four years of President Trump’s racism, from the “very fine people” marching with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville to, in just the past week, a “white power” retweet and a threat to veto defense spending to protect the names of Confederate generals; after a pandemic disproportionately ravaged African American communities while an indifferent president tried to move on; after Trump-allied demonstrators, some carrying firearms and Confederate flags, tried to “liberate” themselves from public health restrictions; after the video of George Floyd’s killing showed the world blatant police brutality; after Trump used federal firepower against peaceful civil rights demonstrators of all colors.

The reckoning Parker foresaw is now upon us. White women, disgusted by Trump’s cruelty, are abandoning him in large number. White liberals, stunned by the brazen racism, have taken to the streets. And signs point to African American turnout in November that will rival the record level of 2012, when Obama was on the ballot. This, by itself, would flip Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Democrats, an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress shows.

Surprisingly high Democratic turnout in recent contests in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Colorado points to the possibility of a building wave. The various measures of Democratic enthusiasm suggest “turnout beyond anything we’ve seen since 1960,” University of North Carolina political scientist Marc Hetherington predicts. If so, that would mean a historic repudiation of Trump, who knows his hope of reelection depends on low turnout. He has warned that mail-in ballots and other attempts to encourage more voting would mean “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

That may not be wrong. Trump has accelerated a decades-old trend toward parties redefining themselves by race and racial attitudes. Racial resentment is now the single most important factor driving Republicans and Republican-leaning movers, according to extensive research, most recently by Nicholas Valentino and Kirill Zhirkov at the University of Michigan — more than religion, culture, class or ideology. An ongoing study by University of North Carolina researchers finds that racial resentment even drives hostility toward mask-wearing and social distancing. Conversely, racial liberalism now drives Democrats of all colors more than any other factor.

Consider just one yardstick, a standard question of racial attitudes in which people are asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.”

In 2012, 56 percent of white Republicans agreed with that statement, according to the American National Election Studies. The number grew in 2016 with Trump’s rise, to 59 percent. Last month, an astonishing 71 percent of white Republicans agreed, according to a YouGov poll written by Parker and conducted by GQR (where my wife is a partner).

The opposite movement among white Democrats is even more striking. In 2012, 38 percent agreed that African Americans didn’t try hard enough. In 2016, that dropped to 27 percent. And now? Just 13 percent.

To the extent Trump’s racist provocation is a strategy (rather than simply an instinct), it is a miscalculation. The electorate was more than 90 percent white when Richard Nixon deployed his Southern strategy; the proportion is now 70 percent white and shrinking. But more than that, Trump’s racism has alienated a large number of white people.

“For many white Americans, the things Trump is saying and getting away with, they just didn’t think they lived in a world where that could happen,” says Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist specializing in public opinion at the University of Michigan. Racist appeals in particular alienate white, college-educated women, and even some women without college degrees, he has found: “One of the best ways to exacerbate the gender gap isn’t to talk about gender but to talk about race.”

Trump’s racism has also emboldened white Democrats, who have often been on the losing end of racial politics since George H.W. Bush deployed Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988. “They’re embracing the racial issues they used to cower on in decades past,” Hetherington says.

This is what Parker had in mind when he wrote in 2016 that Trump could be “good for the United States.” The backlash Trump provoked among whites and nonwhites alike “could kick off a second Reconstruction,” Parker now thinks. “I know it sounds crazy, especially coming from a black man,” he says, but “I think Trump actually is one of the best things that’s happened in this country.”

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Politics, pandemics and Russian aluminum: why Canada faces fresh U.S. tariffs – Powell River Peak



WASHINGTON — The United States is once again threatening to spark a fresh tariff war with Canada over aluminum exports, despite the debut of a North American trade agreement that was supposed to usher in stability in the midst of an international economic crisis.

Precisely why remains a mystery to trade and industry insiders, although it’s likely the result of a convergence of disparate factors: COVID-19, international metals arbitrage, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and $16.3-billion worth of Russian aluminum.

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“It doesn’t make sense,” said Jean Simard, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association of Canada, coming as it does with the coming into force of USMCA — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which formally replaced NAFTA this week.

“It’s like an oxymoron. It’s so contradictory to the spirit of USMCA.”

There’s little doubt the aluminum industry, and in particular Canadian suppliers, stand to benefit over the long term from the USMCA’s requirements for regionally sourced metals, said Doug Hilderhoff, a Pittsburgh-based principal analyst at commodities research firm CRU Group.

“Looking over the past decade, we’ve seen aluminum consumption by the auto sector grow pretty strongly due to all the lightweighting initiatives. And this should just keep things moving in the right direction.”

The U.S. doesn’t have anywhere near enough smelting capacity to meet that demand by itself, he added.

Understanding how aluminum production works around the world, and how traders and marketers make money from it, can shed some light on how the U.S. is threatening Canadian aluminum anyway.

Because they traffic in white-hot liquid metal, aluminum smelters can’t simply shut down when demand for the product dries up, which is what happened to Canadian producers — who provide the bulk of the metal to U.S. markets — when the pandemic forced auto manufacturers to idle their assembly lines.

Instead, they were forced to pivot away from the specialized premium products demanded by the auto sector and produce the more generic primary aluminum known as P1020, shipping it to the only storage warehouses that are cost-effective, Simard said: facilities in the U.S., which is where the lion’s share of the North American aluminum market is located.

The ensuing “surge” in Canadian imports caught the attention of the U.S. trade representative’s office — or more specifically, the two U.S. producers that raised a red flag: Century Aluminum and Magnitude 7 Metals, which together comprise a Trump-friendly lobbying effort known as the American Primary Aluminum Association.

“The surge of Canadian metal has a caused the price to collapse and is endangering the future viability of the U.S. primary industry,” the association wrote to U.S. trade ambassador Robert Lighthizer in May.

“Action — real action, not mere monitoring, and endless discussions in multinational fora — is needed now if the United States is to save what is left of its primary aluminum industry.”

A spokesman for the APAA did not immediately respond to media queries Friday.

A separate group known as the Aluminum Association, which counts dozens of U.S. and international producers among its members, has argued against tariffs, calling Canadian suppliers an integral element of the North American supply chain and a key component of the industry’s success.

Glencore Plc, a metals trader and producer based in Switzerland, holds a 47 per cent stake in Century. Magnitude 7, founded by a former Glencore aluminum trader, operates a single plant in Missouri that won a new lease on life after Trump’s first round of tariffs in 2018, but which warned in February it was on the verge of shutting down.

Glencore also holds the exclusive rights to sell Russian-made aluminum in the U.S., and agreed in April to spend $16.3 billion over the next five years on up to 6.9 million tonnes of the metal from Rusal, the second largest aluminum producer in the world.

Glencore is also a major player in the world of metals arbitrage — buying commodities at the lowest price possible, then shipping and storing them before selling on a futures contract in hopes of a higher price. The pandemic has fuelled a global collapse in the price of aluminum, Simard said, while the threat of tariffs has had the opposite effect.

“What do the traders do? They buy the metal at a very low price because the crisis is what brought you to pivot to this position, and they warehouse it when interest rates are very low because it’s a crisis,” Simard said.

“The key player over and above everybody else is Glencore.”

Rusal, once controlled by the Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was subject to U.S. sanctions since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 — sanctions that were lifted in January 2019 as part of an extensive restructuring that saw Deripaska relinquish control of the company. Glencore was involved, too, swapping shares in Rusal for a direct stake in its parent company, En+.

The USTR and the Trump administration “cannot be unaware of the corporate structure around Rusal and Glencore. I would doubt it very much,” said Simard, who suspects the White House is picking a fight it believes will be politically helpful as the president returns to the campaign trail later this year.

A spokesman for Glencore declined to comment Friday.

The Canadian aluminum industry, the bulk of which is located in Quebec, owes its origins to soaring American demand for the metal in the months prior to the U.S. entry into the Second World War — a partnership that cemented Canada’s role in the continental military industrial base.

Is the Trump administration trying to end that relationship?

“It’s worth raising the question,” Simard said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2020.

— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle

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QAnon is now infiltrating mainstream American life and politics – CTV News



Since its origin three years ago, QAnon has festered in the darker corners of the internet. Now the group’s followers, who call themselves “believers,” have found a niche on social media and within the Republican Party.

QAnon began as a single conspiracy theory. But its followers now act more like a virtual cult, largely adoring and believing whatever disinformation the conspiracy community spins up.

Its main conspiracy theories claim dozens of politicians and A-list celebrities work in tandem with governments around the globe to engage in child sex abuse. Followers also believe there is a “deep state” effort to annihilate U.S. President Donald Trump.

But followers of the group have expanded from those beliefs and now allege baseless theories surrounding mass shootings and elections. Followers have falsely claimed that 5G cellular networks are spreading the coronavirus.

There’s no evidence that any of what QAnon claims is factual. ​

Followers make unfounded claims and then amplify them with doctored or out-of-context evidence posted on social media to support the allegations.

The anarchical group’s birth, and its continued seepage into mainstream American life, comes on the coattails of the Russian disinformation campaign that targeted U.S. elections in 2016. ​

While the Russian campaign had an apparent objective — influence voters to elect Trump — QAnon is decentralized, having no clear objective aside from its popular slogan, “Question everything.”

Anyone can create a conspiracy, offer evidence to support it and tag it with QAnon hashtags to spread it. But no one is held responsible for the trail of chaos and disinformation it leaves behind.


QAnon’s origins are emblematic of what it has evolved into: An unfounded, out-of-context claim made to support an allegation, which is easily discredited.

It all goes back to a cryptic, anonymous post on October 28, 2017 on 4chan, an online message board that frequently features extremist and bigoted content. The individual, which followers would later call “Q,” claimed that Hillary Clinton was going to be arrested.

There was no arrest.

But similar posts pushing baseless claims of arrests and “deep state” action kept appearing on 4chan. It’s unclear who was behind the posts, or if the ones that followed were posted by the same person — 4chan posts are anonymous.

Believers claim that their “Q” is so knowledgeable because of their claim to security clearance within the U.S. government.

QAnon supporters have likened the initial posts, and subsequent ones, to Hansel and Gretel-like breadcrumbs, or “drops,” as they call them now.

Since then, the group has injected itself into the mainstream by creating communities on Reddit and finding footholds on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. In a series of videos posted online in 2018, QAnon targeted Cemex, a Mexican cement company, because it reportedly owned an abandoned camp in Arizona, which conspiracy theorists erroneously believe is the location of a human trafficking site.

Earlier in 2020, Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks were both targets of QAnon conspiracies.

At the time, CNN reached out to Cemex and representatives for Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey but never received a response.

Believers claimed on several social media sites that a Boca Raton, Florida, house belonging to Oprah was seized by police in a child sex trafficking sting and roped off with red tape.

Another person on Twitter made a post, which garnered thousands of shares, falsely claiming that Tom Hanks, who tested positive for coronavirus in Australia, was actually arrested for pedophilia. The post said that other A-list celebrities would soon be arrested.

QAnon conspiracy theories have been further elevated through high-profile figures and organizations. In March 2018, before being fired from her sitcom, actress Roseanne Barr tweeted about the pedophilia conspiracy theory, alluding to a baseless claim that President Trump “has broken up trafficking rings in high places everywhere.” Barr later deleted the tweet.


QAnon nearly reached the main stage of the Republican Party at President Trump’s June 31, 2018 rally in Tampa, Florida, where signs reading “We are Q” and “Q” appeared near the front of the crowd during the President’s speech.

Four months later, Vice President Pence posted — and then deleted — a photo on Twitter with a law enforcement officer wearing a QAnon patch on his uniform.

And in July 2019 the White House invited a QAnon supporter to an event billed by the White House as a “social media summit” with conservative influencers.

Today the GOP has three candidates that have been sympathetic or supportive of the group and could see themselves in Congress in January: Jo Rae Perkins, a candidate for a US Senate seat in Oregon; Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Congressional candidate for Georgia’s 14th district seat; and Lauren Boebert, who beat a Trump-backed, five-term incumbent during primary elections to become a candidate for Colorado’s 3rd district. ​

“Everything I heard of Q — I hope that this is real because it only means America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values, and that’s what I am for,” Boebert, the front runner for the House seat, said in a May interview.

Her campaign manager, Sherronna Bishop, told CNN in a statement that despite those comments, Bishop “does not follow QAnon.”

CNN has reached out to the Republican National Committee and President Trump’s campaign for comment on QAnon and the GOP candidates’ comments on the group but has not heard back.

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