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These Election Results Offer Clues about What’s Next for Climate Politics

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The midterm elections ushered in a new era of climate politics in Washington. It’s going to be messy.

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Republicans were favored to win the House in Tuesday’s elections — but early results signaled a drastic underperformance. House control was still undetermined as of 5 a.m., and any Republican majority would be slim. Democrats also flipped a Senate seat, giving them a greater chance of retaining the upper chamber.

But the election results, which will take weeks to finalize, already have clear consequences for President Joe Biden: Months after passing the biggest climate bill in U.S. history, Congress will become more hostile to climate action.

That reality threatens Biden’s goal of halving U.S. emissions by 2030 — the rate of action scientists say is needed to avoid catastrophic warming. Republicans have vowed to use their new power to undermine the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as climate programs that have passed in bipartisan bills such as the infrastructure deal.

Even so, the lackluster GOP results could limit their options. House Republicans are on track to win a majority of fewer than 20 members, and possibly much less. That’s far from the shellacking President Barack Obama experienced in 2010, when his party lost 63 seats, or President Donald Trump’s 2018 midterm loss of 40 seats. And retaining the Senate would mean Democrats could continue to confirm judges and administration officials.

Perhaps even more consequential were the Democratic gubernatorial victories. Those officials will be in charge of steering hundreds of billions of dollars from Congress — the bulk of Biden’s climate agenda — into real-world pollution cuts.

Republicans bet on inflation, and especially high gasoline prices, to win over voters. But so far, election returns show Democrats overcame the GOP’s energy attacks to win dozens of competitive campaigns.

Even in the oil patch, Democrats showed strength. Key races in New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas saw Republicans fizzle against both moderate and progressive opponents. Democrats were poised to sweep all of the Keystone State’s competitive races after Biden and Trump both campaigned heavily there.

“Definitely not a Republican wave, that’s for darn sure,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on NBC News. He said Republicans would be forced to find some common ground with Biden.

“Maybe we can do something with energy,” said Graham, who has flirted with climate legislation in the past.

But the midterm results point to a chaotic Congress.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is widely expected to take the speaker’s gavel in January, has said a top priority would be to roll back the Inflation Reduction Act, which included $370 billion for climate programs.

How much room McCarthy has to negotiate climate policy with Democrats — and Senate Republicans — would depend on the size of his majority. The smaller the GOP majority, the more McCarthy will rely on far-right lawmakers, which gives them leverage to demand a hard line against climate policy.

House Republicans already have discussed using the debt limit to extract concessions on government spending. They’ll also have more power to force a confrontation over government funding bills. But those tactics have backfired before — including in 2011 and 2013, when Republican majorities saw their poll numbers plunge after forcing a confrontation.

GOP-led congressional investigations will pose a major threat to Biden’s climate agenda. A decade after Republicans used the bankruptcy of Solyndra to tar federal renewable energy subsidies, conservatives are eager to once again portray climate programs as wasteful or harmful.

At the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, top Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington has vowed to probe the Energy Department’s loans and spending, calling it “Solyndra on steroids.” She also said she would investigate how Biden “shut down American energy.”

The same is expected from the House Natural Resources Committee, where top Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas has previewed wide-ranging inquiries into the Interior Department, NOAA, the Forest Service and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality.

Citing this year’s Supreme Court decision curtailing executive authority, West Virginia v. EPA, Westerman has warned Cabinet officials that Republicans would closely scrutinize Biden’s climate regulations.

It’s also likely that a Republican-controlled House will disband or drastically change the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Though Tuesday’s election won’t be resolved for some time, a number of elections showed how climate and energy played into races.

New Mexico governor

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham defeated Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist.

This race mattered to climate politics because the Land of Enchantment is one of the top oil and gas states in the country. In spite of that, Grisham has enacted pioneering regulations against flaring and venting methane, and she’s cracked down on methane leaks from drilling operations.

Democrats have viewed her approach as a national model. Ronchetti had campaigned on cutting regulations and boosting oil production.

Grisham’s victory enables New Mexico to continue its climate policy, while also demonstrating to other Democratic governors that the issue can be a political winner.

Pennsylvania Senate

Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated Republican candidate Mehmet Oz.

The race mattered to climate politics because Pennsylvania is the country’s second-largest natural gas producer, and it is key to determining Senate control. Both candidates ran as fracking supporters, though both have criticized hydraulic fracturing in the past.

Fetterman, however, has said he wants to push his party further on climate change policy while Oz wanted to boost oil and gas production. Biden, Trump and former President Barack Obama all spent the final days of the campaign in Pennsylvania, rallying voters on gas prices, energy production and climate.

Oregon governor

This was a three-way race between Democrat Tina Kotek, Republican Christine Drazan and independent candidate Betsy Johnson.

The election matters to climate politics because after Republicans derailed cap-and-trade bills in 2019 and 2020 by fleeing the state’s Capitol, term-limited Gov. Kate Brown (D) enacted emissions-cutting policies through executive action. That means if Democrats lose this race, the Beaver State’s climate regime could be undone quickly.

Johnson, a former Democratic state senator with a hefty campaign account, has attracted enough moderate voters that both parties see a chance for Republicans to win the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1982. Last month, Democrats even dispatched Biden to campaign in this normally progressive stronghold.

Kotek was a driving force behind the failed cap-and-trade bill, and she’s promised to pursue more climate policy. Drazan helped lead the GOP walkout that stalled the climate bill, and she has vowed to dismantle the state’s climate programs.

Oregon votes by universal mail ballots, and ballots postmarked by Election Day are accepted up to seven days later. As of 5 a.m., Kotek and Drazen were running neck-and-neck.

Pennsylvania’s 8th District

Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright faced Jim Bognet, a political operative and former Trump appointee at the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

This race matters to climate politics because northeastern Pennsylvania is a major area for fracking. Cartwright, who has represented the area since 2013, has tried to strike a balance on the issue. He supports it, but he has advocated for some environmental and public health restrictions on fracking — a potentially risky move in his Republican-leaning district.

Bognet, who also ran for the seat in 2020, campaigned on expanding fossil fuel production. And he got major support from Trump and national Republicans who were eager to flip the district that contains Scranton, the hometown of Biden.

As of 5 a.m., Cartwright had a 2.4 percent lead with most of the votes counted.

Colorado’s 8th District

Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer, a state senator, faced Democrat Yadira Caraveo, a state representative.

This race matters to climate politics because it was a new district that covers Colorado’s biggest oil and gas region, and it was drawn to have an even partisan split of voters. Kirkmeyer has made defending fossil fuel jobs a cornerstone of her campaign.

Caraveo, a pediatrician, has sponsored legislation to restrict drilling — which featured prominently in Republican attack ads. Caraveo has doubled down on her stance, framing it as a public health issue. But she’s more often emphasized abortion and other social issues.

As of 5 a.m., Caraveo was leading Kirkmeyer by less than 2 percentage points with about two-thirds of the vote counted.

California’s 47th District

Democratic Rep. Katie Porter faced Republican Scott Baugh, the former minority leader of the California Assembly.

This race matters to climate politics because Porter is a rising star in the Democratic Party who has become an increasingly prominent voice on climate. As chair of the investigations subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee, she has grilled oil company executives.

She’s also a major fundraiser who could potentially seek the Senate seat held by 89-year-old Dianne Feinstein (D), who’s facing pressure to retire. A victory by Baugh could derail that.

As of 5 a.m., Porter led Baugh by less than a percentage point with about half the votes counted.

Texas’ 28th District

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar defeated Republican Cassy Garcia, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz.

This race mattered to climate politics because Cuellar is the House Democrat most closely aligned with the oil sector. He’s twice survived primaries by Jessica Cisneros, who campaigned on the Green New Deal. Republicans saw a chance to flip the seat after an FBI raid of Cuellar’s home, which did not result in charges.

Now, Cuellar’s victory returns him to the House, where he serves in leadership, and bolsters his argument that sticking close to the oil industry is the way for Democrats to win tough races.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.

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Canada politics: NDP to talk health care with Trudeau – CTV News

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OTTAWA –

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that he would sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday to discuss private health care ahead of next week’s summit with premiers.

Trudeau is expected to meet with provincial and territorial leaders in Ottawa next Tuesday to discuss a new health-care funding deal.

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“The deal will be a failure if it doesn’t include major commitments to hire more health-care workers,” Singh said Monday, adding that the funding should be kept within the public system.

The last time Trudeau and Singh met one-on-one, as outlined in the confidence-and-supply agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, was in December.

Singh said now is the time for the Liberal government to make clear that funding private health-care facilities will not improve the shortage of health-care workers Canada is facing.

On Monday, legislators’ first day back at the House of Commons after a winter break, the NDP requested an emergency debate on the privatization of health care. The request was denied.

During the first question period of the year, Trudeau said his government will continue to ensure the provinces and territories abide by the Canada Health Act.

“We know that even as we negotiate with the provinces to ensure that we’re delivering more family doctors, better mental-health supports, moving forward on backlogs, supporting Canadians who need emergency care, we will ensure the Canada Health Act is fully respected,” Trudeau said.

“In the past, this government has pulled back money from provinces that haven’t respected it. We will continue to do that.”

Singh said that while health care falls under provincial jurisdiction, he believes the federal government could be using the Canada Health Act more aggressively to challenge for-profit care.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this month that it’s moving some procedures to publicly funded, private facilities to address a growing surgery wait-list, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan have already made similar moves.

“We think the federal government should be making it very clear that the solution to the current health-care crisis will not come from a privatization, for-profit delivery of care. It’ll only come by making sure we hire, recruit, retain and respect health care,” Singh said.

“Health care is already dramatically understaffed, and for-profit facilities will poach doctors and nurses — cannibalizing hospitals, forcing people to wait longer in pain and racked with anxiety.”

The New Democrats say they’re also concerned that private facilities will upsell patients for brands and services not covered by the province, and tack on extra fees and services.

Singh spent some of Parliament’s winter break holding roundtable discussions on health care in British Columbia to discuss emergency room overcrowding and worker shortages.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.  

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Prime Minister stands behind newly appointed special representative on combatting Islamophobia – The Globe and Mail

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Amira Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence from a 2019 article co-authored that has raised ire – that Quebeckers appeared to be swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment – was not her opinion, but rather, a description of a poll’s findings.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood by his newly appointed special representative on combatting Islamophobia as the country marked the sixth anniversary of the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting, while the Quebec government and federal Conservatives called for Amira Elghawaby to step aside.

Outcry over her appointment dominated headlines in Quebec. The backlash stemmed from a 2019 article co-authored by Ms. Elghawaby – a particular line of which was perceived as showing anti-Quebec sentiment. The piece opposed Bill 21, the Quebec law that bans some public servants from wearing religious symbols, such as hijabs.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence that has raised ire – that Quebeckers appeared to be swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment – was not her opinion, but rather, a description of a poll’s findings.

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After criticism was raised last week, Mr. Trudeau said he expected Ms. Elghawaby to clarify her remarks, which she did, saying she does not believe Quebeckers are Islamophobic. Mr. Trudeau said Monday he is satisfied and wants to move forward.

Ms. Elghawaby’s mandate – to support the federal government in rooting out Islamophobia and highlight the diverse experiences of Canadian Muslims – has grown increasingly urgent. In recent years, hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed. And, over the past five years, Canada has taken the dark title of the Group of Seven nation with the highest number of Islamophobic killings, advocates note.

“There are anti-Muslim sentiments across Canada,” Ms. Elghawaby said. “This is not a Quebec issue. This is a Canadian issue.”

Amid the fracas, Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment is being celebrated by Muslim and non-Muslim advocates alike.

Stephen Brown, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, or NCCM, said they are very happy to see Ms. Elghawaby’s appointment, noting she has a long history of advocating for Muslims, is bilingual and very dedicated.

He said the recommendation for the role came out of the National Summit on Islamophobia, in 2021, after the killing of four members of one Muslim family – the Afzaals – in London, Ont., which police said was motivated by anti-Muslim hate. Six Muslim men were killed and another 19 injured in the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017.

Born in Egypt, Ms. Elghawaby was a baby when her family immigrated to Canada, where her father worked for decades as an engineer with the federal government and her mother raised her and her siblings in an east-end Ottawa suburb.

When Ms. Elghawaby decided to start wearing a head scarf – while studying journalism at Carleton University in the early 2000s – she recalled her father warning her against it. He worried about the barriers that a visible marker of faith could pose, she said.

“I remember telling him, ‘I really believe that Canada is a place where I can put on the head scarf and I can still contribute and I can still succeed,’” she said.

Despite the realities of Islamophobia – ones that cause her to be on guard while at mosque – Ms. Elghawaby said she has always had immense hope for Canada.

Over a career spanning two decades, Ms. Elghawaby has written for CBC News and held forth as a contributing columnist for the Toronto Star; been a founding board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network; and worked with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and, most recently, for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

In interviews, several people said Ms. Elghawaby is known for her work building connections across communities.

Debbie Douglas, the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, described Ms. Elghawaby as very concerned with how Islamophobia ties into women’s rights and to anti-Black racism, as well as issues of antisemitism.

She pays attention to “the need for real bridge-building and conversations,” Ms. Douglas noted. “You often found her where there’s lots of cross-cultural communications happening.”

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, called Ms. Elghawaby the “perfect appointment.”

“We are living in very dark times,” he said. “Most people allow the darkness to envelop us. Amira is quite the opposite. She insists that there is light.”

He said Ms. Elghawaby has been instrumental in bringing Jewish and Muslim leadership together for difficult conversations. He also described doing trainings – he on antisemitism and she on Islamophobia – for police agencies.

And together, the pair authored the 2019 column that elicited criticism from some.

The pair wrote: “Unfortunately, the majority of Quebeckers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment. A poll conducted by Léger Marketing earlier this year found that 88 per cent of Quebeckers who held negative views of Islam supported the ban.”

Ms. Elghawaby said the pair had seen Montreal Gazette reporting on the poll, which stated that “anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be the main motivation for those who support a ban on religious symbols,” and that the poll found most Quebeckers supported Bill 21.

Mr. Brown, of the NCCM, said no one felt that Léger was “Quebec bashing” when it put those numbers out.

Sarah Mushtaq, a community advocate in Windsor, Ont., who writes columns for the Windsor Star, said Ms. Elghawaby’s kindness and wisdom – and ability to navigate tense issues – have made an impact on her.

Part of being a Muslim in the public sphere means that, sometimes, “no one is ever happy with what you said,” she said.

“You never know how certain comments are going to get dug up and misconstrued,” she added.

She said the role of a federal representative dedicated to combatting Islamophobia is “long overdue” and it’s important that a visibly Muslim woman is filling it.

“Despite the naysayers, there’s a lot of people who are grateful that this role exists,” she said. “We are behind her.”

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Parliamentarians kick off return to House of Commons with debate on child care

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Parliamentarians kick off return

The economy was top of mind for members of Parliament as they returned to the House of Commons Monday, with the Liberal government kicking off the new sitting with a debate on child care.

Families Minister Karina Gould tabled Bill C-35 last December, which seeks to enshrine the Liberals’ national daycare plan into law — and commit Ottawa to maintaining long-term funding.

The federal government has inked deals with provinces and territories in an effort to cut fees down to an average of $10 per day by 2026.

During a debate today, Gould said all parties should support the bill, and the national plan has begun saving families money.

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But Conservative MP Michelle Ferreri said the plan is “subsidizing the wealthy” while failing to reduce wait times for child-care spaces and address labour shortages in the sector.

Ferreri told MPs that the Conservatives would be presenting “strong amendments” to the legislation.

The debate comes amid concerns about a possible recession this year, with both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre saying their focus will be on the cost of living.

But Poilievre’s Tories may have little room to manoeuvre in the legislature.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters upon his return to the House of Commons that he does not believe there is any room to work with the Conservatives during the upcoming sitting.

Instead, the NDP says it plans to push the Liberals to fulfil the terms of the parties’ confidence-and-supply agreement, such as the planned expansion of federal dental care.

Under the deal signed last March, the NDP agreed to support the minority government on key House of Commons votes in exchange for the Liberals moving ahead on New Democrat policy priorities.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.

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