U.S. ambassador to Canada on midterms, Trump, and truckers
Ahead of the upcoming midterm election in the United States, David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, sat down with CTV’s Question Period to discuss the state of democracy in Canada and the United States, and what he’s watching for on Tuesday.
Cohen also delved into the prospect of former president Donald Trump running for re-election, as well as his thoughts on the trucker protest and the Canadian government’s use of the Emergencies Act.
This transcript of Cohen’s interview with Joyce Napier for Sunday’s episode of CTV’s Question Period has been edited for length and clarity.
Joyce Napier: Joe Biden has repeatedly said democracy is on the ballot this midterm, and that it’s under threat. Are you afraid?
Ambassador Cohen: I’m an eternal optimist. I’m not afraid. I mean, I believe in the enduring nature of our democracy, and frankly, of the democracy of Canada as well. That doesn’t mean that democracy isn’t under threat. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenging times. It doesn’t mean that everything is smooth and hunky dory. I do think democracy is under threat. But I do think in the end, democracy will prevail. It always has prevailed, and I think it will prevail again.
Napier: Do you think it will prevail this time? Or will those voices that you hear more and more in the United States take over?
Ambassador Cohen: This becomes a bit of a complicated question, because what does “takeover” mean? I think no matter what happens in this midterm election, and remember, we don’t we don’t have a parliamentary style of government, no matter what happens in this midterm election, Joe Biden will be president of the United States until at least 2024. He will be he will be in control of the White House and control of the executive branch of government until at least 2024. Will MAGA-style Republicans win some congressional seats? I think there’s no doubt that will happen. But the strength of our system of government, the strength of our democracy, is that no one election is going to take down a democracy in the United States. I used to do a lot of work in politics. I’m the United States ambassador to Canada now, so I don’t really want to be a political prognosticator. But the one thing I can tell you is that there is a historical trend that the party of the president loses a lot of seats in Congress in this first midterm election. There have been 22 midterm elections since 1934, and the party of the president has lost seats in 19 of those 22 elections. But the other thing I can tell you is that there’s no linkage between what happens in a midterm election and what happens in the presidential re-elect. Think about President Obama. Think about President Clinton. Both of them lost 60 or 70 seats in Congress in that first midterm election, and both of them comfortably won re-election two years later. So that’s the pattern and that is one of the reasons why I’m not concerned, and I don’t think Canadians should be concerned about the outcome of a particular of one particular election in the United States.
Napier: Aren’t you concerned that some of those candidates running for the Republicans are 2020 election deniers?
Ambassador Cohen: Well, it’s not that they’re election deniers that is the threat, it is the potential for what they might try to do as a result of their beliefs around what happened in the last election. And I think what the president is concerned about is that those individuals might try and change the election rules, might end up restricting access to the ballot, and to end the free elections.
Napier: But they’re already doing that, Ambassador, in some of these states. Isn’t it something that concerns you?
Ambassador Cohen: I’m concerned about any activities that potentially restrict the right of people to vote. I think that is a hallmark of our democracy. And it’s one of the reasons why the President decried the violence against Speaker Pelosi’s husband, because violence has just no place in a democratic system. And our elected officials are the families of our elected officials should not be subjected to the threat of violence, simply because of their relationship to an elected official. But so far, I don’t think there’s any real evidence that people are not voting because of what happened to Speaker Pelosi’s husband. I think that although there are elements in our political system that, in my opinion, have an interest in restricting the right to vote, there’s no evidence yet that that’s happening. And I think that it’s in our system of government the freedom of the ability to vote absentee, to vote by mail, is one of the great protective mechanisms, because if you’re afraid to go to a polling place, or you’re nervous about a polling place, virtually everywhere in the country, now you can vote by mail, or you can vote absentee. They’re voting, they’re exercising their right to vote and that is the fundamental hallmark of a democracy.
Napier: I want to talk about Donald Trump, because he was in Iowa last week, and this is what he said to a cheering crowd: “In order to make our country successful, and safe and glorious, I’ll very, very, very probably do it again. Get ready, that’s all I’m telling you.” Are you expecting him to run again?
Ambassador Cohen: So you’re trying to make me be a political commentator, which is your job, but I’m going to resist that, particularly with that question, because I don’t know what Donald Trump is going to do, and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think a lot about what Donald Trump is going to do. I don’t think it would be good for the Republican Party for Donald Trump to run again. I don’t think it will be good for the country. I think he’s a very divisive force in politics. But I’m actually not panicked by the notion that he might run again. I don’t think he’ll win. I think enough of the country is tired of Donald Trump that I don’t think he’ll end up getting a majority of the vote. I think Joe Biden is likely to run again, he’s said he’s going to run again, and I like Joe Biden’s chances against Donald Trump in round two.
Napier: You know we’re having an inquiry into the Prime Minister’s invocation the Emergencies Act. We’re hearing from testimony that some of these people wanted to overthrow the government. There has been such a push in the United States. Does that worry you?
Ambassador Cohen: The issue of a radicalized right-wing populist movement that doesn’t like large institutions, including government, is not just a United States and not just a Canada problem. Most democracies in the world are experiencing the same type of movements. Do I like it? No, I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it’s productive. But the test can’t be whether those movements exist, the test has to be are they successful. They’re not successful in the United States. They’re not successful in Canada. I haven’t seen any government overthrown. I haven’t seen any local government overthrown, any provincial or state government overthrown, and I certainly haven’t seen any national government overthrown. They may be successful at making noise, but they’re not successful in their objective of overthrowing the government, and that is because of the underlying strength of democracy.
Napier: So Tuesday is the big day in your country. What are you going to focus on?
Ambassador Cohen: I’m probably less focused on Tuesday as an election day than a lot of people in Canada are, because I don’t ascribe as much significance to midterm elections, as a lot of people seem to be ascribing to them. Again, you have these you have these decades-long trends of the president’s party losing a lot of seats in Congress. I don’t know what’s going to happen on Election Day, but it’s not going to panic me if the Democrats lose seats in Congress. It’ll be just like 19 of the last 22 midterm elections. I’m interested in looking at a few elections, to see how they turn out, because that’s likely to say whether the Senate is going to be Democratic or Republican: I’m interested in my home state of Pennsylvania, that’s a very contested Senate race, I’ll be interested in Nevada, which is a very contested Senate race. Any close race, and I think there are four or five of them, which could end up deciding the control of the Senate, those will be races that I’m watching, but not for any mega trend.
Napier: There are a lot of us here in Canada who are very interested …
Ambassador Cohen: I have to say this: I talk to a lot of people in Canada. I really like doing that, the media, government officials, but just regular people on the street, people involved in the community and non-profit organizations, and there’s tremendous knowledge and concern about what’s going on with American politics. I have to say when I talk to my friends at home, and don’t take this the wrong way, nobody’s talking about Canadian politics. The event that has received, for my whole 10 months in Canada, the most attention from my friends at home, was the trucker convoy.
Napier: Why is that?
Ambassador Cohen: Well, I think you got a lot of media in the United States. And I frankly I think most of the media in the United States came from the significant disruption to commerce. We talked about shutting down $300 million a day and trade going across the border. That attracted some real attention to it.
Napier: Did that particular issue concern you?
Ambassador Cohen: It concerned me because of its impact on commerce. I’m a big believer in the First Amendment, the right to express yourself. I’m a lawyer by training, I can’t get out of my law school training, but when you learn the First Amendment in law school, one of the things you learn is that it is not a First Amendment right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater. Because if you yell “fire” in a crowded theater, people may run, they might get hurt, and your First Amendment rights have to be balanced against the public safety rights of all the rest of the people in that theater. So I’m a fierce defender of the First Amendment rights of the truckers and the people participating in that convoy, I am not a fierce defender of the truckers’ rights to disrupt $300 million of trade a day, to threaten the jobs and the livelihood of thousands of Canadians and U.S. citizens working in automobile plants, on both sides of the border, and that’s where the balance comes. So I’m fully in favor of their right to demonstrate, fully in favor of their right to protest, but at the end of the day, I’m not fully in favor of them blocking the busiest border crossing between Canada and the United States. And I don’t want to inject myself into this, but I think that’s the motivation of the prime minister invoking the Emergencies Act, to make sure that the powers existed, and the coordination existed at the end of the day to end the blockade and to open the Ambassador Bridge and the other border crossings back up to trade. Notice in breaking up the blockade nobody was saying they couldn’t continue to demonstrate, protest, carry signs, and express their rights of free expression. It’s just an exercising those rights they can’t block commerce.
Napier: So the Emergencies Act as a good idea?
Ambassador Cohen: I’m not sure I know enough about all the intricacies of it. What was a good idea was the federal government, the provincial government, the local governments getting together coordinating and organizing themselves to break up the blockade. And I think the Emergencies Act seems to have been part of that calculation, and therefore its invocation had the desired objective.
Napier: Interesting. David Cohen, thank you so much for being here and taking the time to talk to us.
Ambassador Cohen: Thank you for having me, and no matter what the results of the election are, America’s democracy will be alive and vibrant, and the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Canada will continue to exist, and benefit millions of Canadians and Americans on both sides of the border.
Napier: Spoken like a true diplomat. Thank you.
Ambassador Cohen: Thank you.
Manufacturers Blues: Staffing Not a Problem, But their Inadequate.
We have been experiencing staffing problems for some time. Finding skilled workers within the manufacturing sector has been challenging but these past 2 years most difficult, not because there are no workers being interviewed, but because there are many showing up for their interviews and testing. The interviews go well, with their enthusiasm showing. We appreciate that a lot. But when they do their actual testing it’s another story.
Initial Interview usually goes without a hitch.
Testing shows us their capabilities and possible potential should we be willing to train them further.
We test these individuals as welders, sheet metal workers, press brake operators, plastics, and millwork specialists.
The problem we face is threefold. 1st off they have no real experience like they just graduated from welding school. We ask them to weld their name onto a plate, which is easily done if you have the experience. Many burn through the heavy plates or handle the equipment not very well. The secondary problem is their extensive demands from private washrooms, when they are willing to work(not our scheduled period), excessive wages far beyond the average wage. Over time employment is haphazard at best, nonexistent as they refuse. They even want schooling in the trade, while letting it be known that the wage they receive will always limit their loyalty to the firm. A buck or two elsewhere and bye, bye. The third problem is that most want to unionize, and have been told to demand the most up front even though they have not proven themselves worthy of advanced pay. For most private firms unionizing will kill the firm, with excessive costs dragging down any form of profitability. We have 15-25 laborers at a time with the option of doubling that when business gets busy usually in spring-summer-fall.
Strange things that happen are the employees showing up with a six-pack of beer, taking 1-2 hour lunches, and often going to management asking for wage advances even when they have not been with us but for a few weeks. The provincial and federal government agencies who have these individuals trained seem to be the people indoctrinating the workers with unrealistic expectations and demand formulas.
There are many choice employee’s out there, but their wage/salary demands remain extremely high for an industry that is just surviving in North America. The pandemic and people leaving their jobs to become self-employed or simply home bodies until they find that perfect job with a perfect wage have driven up our costs drastically, and all the while we are trying to compete with foreign exporters.
Our Provincial and Federal Governments seem unwilling to assist us in finding excellent experienced employees, instead having people trained in the basics, and relying upon private industry to train these people, who will in a short matter of time leave us and go to someone else who will pay them more. The expense, time, and effort of our firm run at a loss when we train someone, but this gamble pays off occasionally. Our governments are staffed by unionized personnel, who will push unionization onto anyone they come in contact with. Not neutral, or objective, but actual union recruiters and propagandists.
Our firm has looked at moving to friendlier regions down south, but the nationalist within us persists in our Canadian Financial Adventure in Ontario.
The FDA says people are confusing poppers with energy shots, and dying. Experts want proof
It’s not unusual for the packaging of one product to resemble that of another, potentially leading to mix-ups. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned people who drink energy shots to make sure they’re not accidentally chugging a bottle of poppers — or they might end up sick or dead.
“Don’t be fooled. These poppers, often purchased online or in novelty stores, are unapproved products and should not be inhaled or ingested, regardless of how they are packaged, labelled or displayed,” the FDA notes in its online warning shared in recent social media posts.
But those who work in LGBTQ sexual health say the FDA’s warning that people are confusing poppers with energy shots, with sometimes dire consequences, may actually be doing more of a disservice.
Such messaging “borders on inflammatory” and may contribute to the “the stigmatization of the product [and] the stigmatization of the person who’s using poppers,” said Rod Knight, an associate professor at the at Université de Montréal’s School of Public Health, who has also conducted research on poppers.
Poppers are a chemical substance that belongs to a class of drugs known as alkyl nitrates. When they’re inhaled as vapour, from a small liquid-filled bottle wrapped in a colourful plastic label, the user can almost instantly get the short-lasting, light-headed sensation of a head rush, Knight explained.
He explained they also relax the sphincter muscle of the anus, making receptive anal sex more comfortable for some people. Poppers have been popular among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men for decades.
A single mistake can prove fatal. We continue to receive reports of people dying or being severely injured after consuming poppers that resemble, and often mistaken for, popular energy shots. Drinking or inhaling poppers seriously jeopardizes your health. <a href=”https://t.co/fojEcP7J9z”>https://t.co/fojEcP7J9z</a> <a href=”https://t.co/LJlPAnbfOY”>pic.twitter.com/LJlPAnbfOY</a>
Knight acknowledges that there are sometimes side effects, which may include nausea, headaches, reduced blood pressure — alkyl nitrates are vasodilators, meaning they open blood vessels — and even vision issues. But he suggested such side effects “can be remedied through change of usage patterns.”
According to the FDA’s website, they are usually purchased in sex shops or online — often labelled as other products such as leather cleaner or deodorizers — even though the agency recommends against using them. Alkyl nitrates as poppers are unauthorized in Canada and Health Canada has cracked down on the sale of them since 2013, though they’re not necessarily illegal to purchase, possess or consume.
Does the FDA claim pass the sniff test?
Energy shots are flavoured beverages containing some amount of caffeine, and vitamins or other natural substances that purportedly boost your energy, like ginseng or ginkgo biloba. They’re sold in small bottles with colourful plastic labels. They’re commonly found at convenience stores, supermarkets or bought online.
If by some chance you had both products side-by-side and didn’t realize your mistake by the time you peeled off the plastic and cracked open the bottle, the distinct smell of poppers should be a red flag, explained Adam Awad, the communications manager for the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance in Toronto.
“If you’re about to drink a 5-Hour Energy drink [a popular energy shot brand] and it smells like nail polish remover, you know, maybe you should ask yourself some questions before touching it to your lips,” he said.
Awad said he isn’t aware of any cases of people dying from a poppers-related mishap like the FDA described — a claim the agency previously made in 2021 — but he said he “would be very keen to see any evidence that they’ve got or reports on the actual number of cases.”
CBC News reached out to the FDA for data on injuries or death related to the accidental oral ingestion of poppers and an explanation for the social media warning, but did not receive a response.
In 2012, however, the agency stated that it was investigating 13 deaths and 33 hospitalizations related to the consumption of 5-Hour Energy drinks.
But if serious or fatal mix-ups with poppers and energy shots are happening, it would certainly be a dangerous situation, said Knight. He said he’s curious to know in what context such a serious mistake might have happened and whether there were other contributing factors to these incidents.
There is also a flip side to poppers, Knight said, that health agencies like the FDA and Health Canada do not mention in their cautionary messaging.
“This drug is being used by gay and queer men for very therapeutic reasons,” Knight said. “[Poppers] can prevent muscle spasm and injury during receptive anal intercourse.”
The Early Edition7:57We discuss what ‘poppers’ are, and the ban of them in Canada
Should Canada ease its restrictions on poppers?
Health Canada states alkyl nitrites can only be used when prescribed by a doctor, but there are currently no approved products sold as poppers. In a statement to CBC News, the agency said “there have been no submissions filed by any company [or] manufacturers for authorization of a popper product.”
Knight said it would be difficult and unlikely for many producers to go through the clinical trials and regulatory processes needed to get approval for prescription use and, even if that did happen, it would only create other barriers to accessing the drug.
“This drug is not really well known among a lot of clinicians, except for those who specialize in sexual health,” he said.
He said the current restriction has done little to prevent people from acquiring poppers one way or another, whether it’s ordering them online, buying them over the border in the U.S. or procuring them by some other means.
He noted a survey from the Community-Based Research Centre that showed only a slight drop in the percentage of people using poppers, after the ban on sales, and had little effect on regular use.
“If this was a drug that was being used among, for example, straight guys at a rate of 30 per cent of straight guys across Canada, there would be a very different approach to how the drug would be treated,” he said.
He believes the restriction has done more harm than good, pushing poppers into a form of “illicit market,” making it unclear what ingredients they may contain because manufacturers aren’t “incentivized” to label their products with accurate health information.
There is also the possibility poppers may be packaged in a way that resembles other products in order to “disguise them” because of the restriction, added Awad, potentially setting up that very mixup scenario.
Why are mosquitoes so bad in 2023?
They’re thirsty bloodsuckers that annoy those who cross into nature, feasting on their salty life source while leaving behind red, itchy bumps.
And this year across Canada, it seems the pesky insects are worse than ever.
Those who’ve wondered about an increase in mosquitoes may be right, according to Laura Ferguson, assistant professor of biology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia.
“It’s definitely been a trend to some extent that people are noticing anecdotally,” she told CTVNews.ca in an interview on Friday. “New Brunswick, in particular, over the last couple of years, has noticed big bursts in mosquito populations, especially in this mid- to late spring.”
Why mosquitoes may be worse than normal in some areas has more than one answer.
WHY MOSQUITOES ARE SO BAD THIS YEAR
Ferguson works with a team to study mosquitoes, understand the different species and track their abundance across North America.
“It’s for a few different reasons why we’re seeing more mosquitoes than we may have at least in the past couple of decades or so,” she said.
The first contributing reason is that there are more species of mosquitoes than in years past.
Different species travel with human goods across the world. They then breed in their new homes, creating populations of specific types of mosquitoes where they’d never existed before.
“Here in Nova Scotia for instance, we didn’t have a (species) a couple of decades ago — it came over from Japan in tire, we think — and it’s just exploded across the province and you can find it anywhere now,” Ferguson said.
Additionally, Ferguson said, warmer winters caused by climate change allow mosquitoes that would die off in the winter to survive and continue reproducing.
Along with being able to survive the milder weather, some types of mosquitoes are able to reproducer faster in warm temperatures because of the type of insect they are. Ferguson says mosquitoes are ectotherms, meaning their regulation of body temperature depends on external sources like the sun.
Precipitation also plays a factor in how well mosquitoes can survive, because they lay eggs in stagnant water.
Ferguson said if it’s a particularly dry spring there may be fewer mosquitoes around, depending on the species. Others lay eggs in the fall, so there would only be a large drop in mosquitoes if the previous year was dry.
Another theory that needs more research, Ferguson said, is the waning effects of the chemical Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), which was used in the past to control insects in crops, but was phased out in the 1970s due to its harm on other species.
Despite this, the chemical can still be found in water and is circulating in ecosystems.
“Those kinds of holdover effects from these really persistent insecticides may have also suppressed mosquito populations for a few decades,” she said. “And now we’re experiencing a bit of this rebound of these populations as these insecticides and their effects start to wear away in the environment.”
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT MOSQUITOES?
Unfortunately, all these factors lead to an increase in mosquitoes, a problem without fast solutions.
“I think for the most part, what we need to do is just figure out the ways to protect ourselves from contact with mosquitoes because they are a part of the ecosystem,” Ferguson said.
“On a regular basis it’s going to be things like hanging out in a screened porch instead of right outside, making sure that you dump standing water anywhere in your yard.”
Using repellents like DEET and some natural oils can help when out in the woods, Ferguson said.
“Wear light colours, long sleeves, those kinds of things to reduce the area of your body that’s exposed to potential bites,” Ferguson said. “That kind of thing is sort of our best bet of that trying to sort of prevent our contact with them as much as possible.”
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