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We need our politics to be much, much better than this –



This column is an opinion from journalist and political commentator Jen Gerson.

Over the course of the Federal Election campaign, CBC Calgary will be offering a variety of opinion pieces from different individuals with a wide spectrum of views. Links to these various opinion pieces will be put in each article.

It’s rare that I snap so early into an election. 


But on the night before the writ was written up, I saw the tweet: a one-time payment of $500 to be delivered to seniors over the age of 75 this week.

We’ve spent the last 18 months shutting down our entire society to prevent the spread of a virus that is overwhelmingly a danger to the elderly population — that is, we imposed an extraordinary financial and psychological burden on young adults and children, those least at risk of harm from that virus. But sure, yeah. Let’s give the wealthiest demographic in the country, and the one most likely to vote, a one-time cheque in the first week of an election. 

Look, no party is above greasing a desirable voting demographic — and here, I can mention the Conservatives’ love of boutique tax credits for balance — but actual cheques in the mail on week one of the writ period? 

I realize that back in the halcyon days of 2015, Canada’s Twilight fans were within their rights to vote for the “hot one” for prime minister, but it’s time to start waking the hell up. We are in a pivotal moment. 

Look around. 

The pandemic has traumatized a sizeable chunk of the population, and left us with an uncertain fiscal situation. Half the west is literally on fire, or choking on smoke, or facing an historic drought. No one can be confident that the cost of basic goods will remain sustainably low. An entire generation is priced out of the “good house and good job in return for hard work” social contract. 

Meanwhile, our much self-proclaimed moral authority on the world stage is collapsing. 

And yet this utterly cynical election is already feeling like the ones before it; with petty, micro-targeted incentives to high value, persuadable voters, focus-grouped one-liners. It’s politics deployed as Twitter and TikTok meme warfare. 

A game of, whose leader can look “hotter” on the policy brochure?

Points are awarded to the NDP and the CPC especially for putting forward a real and detailed set of policy prescriptions in their platforms, and doing it right off the mark. 

The CPC’s platform, in particular, is real and substantive — although God help you if you think the billions we are incurring in deficit might, eventually, become a problem. No party seems to agree. 

None of these parties are convincing me that they have a grasp of the depth of the problems we’re facing, both as a nation and a broader international bloc. 

Let’s start abroad. 

Global reputation in tatters

No one can pull their eyes away from Afghanistan, nor ignore the scenes of desperate Afghans clinging to U.S. military aircraft as the hegemon pulls out, leaving the people to their fate. 

Afghans chase U.S. air force plane in desperate attempt to escape country

2 days ago

Thousands of people are trying to flee Afghanistan as the Taliban strengthens its grip on the country. Some people chased a U.S. air force plane down the tarmac, while others tried to force their way onto planes at the Kabul airport. 0:38

In Canada, it was recently announced that we had airlifted 34 embassy staff and CAF officers and 800 Afghans. Meanwhile, thousands of locals who worked with us during the 20-year war on terror may be massacred by the invading Taliban because we couldn’t be bothered to move faster with a more rational paperwork process in a country collapsing in real time. 

Then there is the residential school tragedy, which played to horror headlines around the world and has pummeled our self-advertised international reputation as a bastion of respect, diversity and compassion.

And that’s before we delve into our domestic problems — which, if we’re honest, is all the electorate cares about.

Domestic distress

It’s not like we have a long-term plan that I’m aware of for COVID, for either the economic or social consequences. 

It’s like we are making it up as we go along, and hoping it all works out. What happens when all that government money stops flowing to businesses and individuals who have been pummeled by economic gut punches?

Our federal government failed to secure the border in the midst of a global pandemic, its useless quarantine hotels failed to prevent variants into the country and the auditor general has already condemned this government’s performance on early detection. 

I will grant Trudeau all due credit for acquiring vaccines in time to salvage summer, but in parts of the country, our kids are facing the possibility of a second year without school. And no one seems to be coming up with a plausible plan to mitigate the damage we’re doing to an entire generation of children to placate our terror of COVID-19, justified or otherwise. 

And then there are the fires, when I wake up to orange skies and falling ash, again. 

Fires burn in B.C.’s interior on Aug. 13, 2021. (B.C. Wildfire Service/Twitter)

For much of the west, what’s not on fire is blowing over the rest of us. And what’s not burned is baked by the heat. 

Most of this country’s breadbasket is facing a drought that looks set to be among the country’s worst in history. Farmers are already warning about a spike in food prices.

And on the idea of buying: is anyone prepared for food prices to spike? Or can we just add the grocery bill to the credit card debt of a generation that can’t afford to buy a house and can barely manage childcare?

Farmers are already warning about a spike in food prices because of a drought that looks set to be among the country’s worst in history. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Let’s see, what else? Oh, how about the $100 billion deficit, and the spending rate that the PBO last year stated was unsustainable. I guess we’ll just print more money to pay that off and hope we don’t head into an inflation spiral or go bankrupt. 

There is a generation born in the dawn of Sept. 11, now coming of age. Many will be eligible to vote for the first time this election. 

What future can this country — a self-described genocidal nation state — offer them? Can they be confident that in, say, 2025, Canada will be more prosperous and more free than it was in 2019?  

The need to do better

Fear and anger are like the silent ocean currents that drive up land temperatures and trap dry air on land. If you miss these feelings, you’ll mistake calm waters on the surface for the deep climate below. 

The future feels uncertain and unstable, and it’s hard to avoid the sense that we’re all managing decline — reading the will and settling the final accounts of a golden age. 

And I can’t help but avoid the sense that none of our politicians is taking the future seriously. I’m not looking for some fantasy narrative of the greatness of Canada, but rather some confidence that any of these leaders understand the severity of our moment.

The emergencies aren’t going to stop coming, guys. There will be another wave of the pandemic in a population already traumatized and exhausted. And we’re going to get into geopolitical movements that the great powers would not have dared to contemplate if the west were stronger. (I’m looking at you, Taiwan.) 

Crises are going to compound on one another. There will be no slowing down, no period of rest between catastrophes. And as each problem hits, we are losing material and moral capacity to deal with it as we stumble, punch-drunk, into whatever the next phase of history is going to be. 

I don’t bet against liberal democracy in the long run. But the “long run” can be very long indeed, and we’re going to need our politics to be much, much better than this. 

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NDP calls Russian sanctions ‘political theatre’ as data shows little action on assets – Global News



The NDP is accusing the Liberals of basing their sanctions regime on “political theatre” as data suggest few funds have been frozen and none have been seized.

“This government constantly pats themselves on the back for adding individuals to the sanctions list,” NDP MP Heather McPherson said Tuesday in the House of Commons.


“The Liberals claim sanctions are a key piece of our foreign response, but there is no enforcement, there’s no investigation and there is almost no seizing of assets.”

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The federal government has been announcing sanctions almost weekly that bar people associated with authoritarian regimes from having financial dealings in Canada and from entering the country.

Yet publicly released RCMP data show barely any change in the amount of money frozen in Canadian bank accounts between June and December of last year, despite hundreds of people being added to sanctions lists.

As of June 7, Canada had ordered frozen $123 million in assets within Canada, and $289 million in transactions had been blocked, both under sanctions prohibitions related to Russia.

By late December, the RCMP said $122 million in assets were listed as seized, and $292 million in transactions had been blocked _ despite hundreds more people associated with Russia being put on the sanctions list.

Click to play video: 'Canada sending 4 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Russia renews attacks'

Canada sending 4 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, Russia renews attacks

The RCMP also noted in late December that no banks had informed them of any sanctioned Haitians or Iranians holding assets in Canada.

Meanwhile, parliamentary disclosures requested by McPherson show that Ottawa has still not used a law it passed last June that allows the government to take possession of funds from sanctioned people and divert them to victims of wrongdoing.

The government issued an order for the restraint of property in December to start the process of forfeiting US$26 million held by a firm owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, but it has yet to file an application in court.

McPherson argues that Canada is using sanctions as a symbolic tool, without taking the steps to actually disincentivize support for autocracies.

Click to play video: 'Zelenskyy calls for Olympics ban on Russian athletes amid ‘terror’ in Ukraine'

Zelenskyy calls for Olympics ban on Russian athletes amid ‘terror’ in Ukraine

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly responded to the criticism by offering to work with the NDP on using sanctions to forfeit assets and divert them.

“We’re the first country in the world doing this, and we will lead,” she told the Commons.

“We’ve imposed extremely strong sanctions against Russian oligarchs, Belarusian oligarchs, Haiti elite members as well as Iranians.”

Sanctions experts have long argued that Canada lacks the means to properly monitor its regime, such as by tracking financial transactions and following how assets are traded.

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For years, the U.S. State Department has deemed Canada to be a “major money laundering country” due to its weak enforcement of laws.

In March 2022, the department included Canada in a published list of 80 countries it considers to have inadequate tracking of financial dealings.

Canada’s new law on forfeiting assets is the first among G7 countries that attempts to seize financial holdings using sanctions law.

Analysts and lawyers have said it marks a major change in how countries use sanctions, which are normally created as temporary measures to try changing behaviour, with the idea of later unfreezing accounts.

The new law instead seeks to punish the people accused of human-rights abuses. The funds can only be used to compensate victims, rebuild affected states or support peace initiatives.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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Philip Steenkamp: Food security should be next on B.C.’s political menu



Certainly not all of us — anyone who has relied on a food bank knows what it’s like to worry about where the next meal is coming from. But many British Columbians, especially those in positions of power and influence, are used to the luxury of leaving food security questions to other people.

Those days are over.

We got a taste of food insecurity early in the pandemic as grocery-store shelves emptied. The race for the last package of toilet paper or bottle of hand sanitizer got the headlines, but even the availability of household staples like flour and eggs was suddenly in doubt.

Then, just as that was settling down, the November 2021 atmospheric river swept in. Floodwaters overtook huge swaths of Fraser Valley farmland, and drowned cows, chickens, pigs and even bees by the thousands. Landslides and bridge collapses cut off trucking routes and rail lines — and once again, supermarket shelves emptied out.

On the heels of that disaster came a massive surge in inflation. COVID-19’s on-again, off-again supply-chain disruptions were supercharged by Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine. And while prices rose across the board, food prices have been the ones to keep stubbornly increasing. (Not that frustrated consumers will be willing to place the blame entirely on supply chains while grocery chains are reaping record profits and memories of the 2017 bread price-fixing scandal are still fresh in customers’ minds.) In one of the most expensive places to live on Earth, that’s having a serious impact on the ability of people with a limited income to feed themselves and their families.

Today, in the aftermath of an even more devastating atmospheric river and widespread flooding in California — the source of a lot of B.C. produce, especially in the winter and spring — questions are arising of where the next shortages will show up. Even at that, our situation pales in comparison to developing countries that until now relied on wheat from Ukraine. Russia has not only blockaded exports from that country, but is also launching relentless attacks on the energy infrastructure that helps keep food production running.

If there was any doubt before, it’s gone now: Food security is a critical issue. The assured, ready supply of a wide variety of food that we’ve been accustomed to is in jeopardy.

That may be disheartening to hear, given the many other dangers and challenges we’re facing, but then those crises have more than a little connection to a safe, reliable, affordable supply of food. Climate disruption means more extreme weather events; rising authoritarianism and nationalism threaten to unleash more wars; our global economy, built on assumptions about stability that today seem hopelessly naïve, can be expected to falter again and again.

All of these conditions erode the security of our food supply.

In turn, an insecure supply of food can undermine the stability of governments and local economies, prompt large-scale migrations and humanitarian crises, and heighten conflicts between countries.

This is life under the polycrisis — interconnected, mutually reinforcing crises that affect everything from severe rainfall warnings to the ever-rising prices at the grocery checkout.

Giving Garden Harvest Fall 2022 event at Royal Roads University near Victoria. Left to right: University president Philip Steenkamp, Jesse Willis of Upbeet Garden and Anna Maria Stone of Iyé Creative. Steenkamp and Stone hold a variety of winter squash to be donated to local community groups.
Giving Garden Harvest Fall 2022 event at Royal Roads University near Victoria. Left to right: University president Philip Steenkamp, Jesse Willis of Upbeet Garden and Anna Maria Stone of Iyé Creative. Steenkamp and Stone hold a variety of winter squash to be donated to local community groups. Photo by Trevor Henry

Addressing food security requires a broad range of co-ordinated responses at every level, from individual neighbourhoods to international co-operation. We urgently need to have long-overdue conversations about just what that response must look like.

But not all the answers will have to be planetary in scale — or even provincewide.

As you read this, the Giving Garden in the Farm at Royal Roads University is nearly ready for the first harvest of 2023. Driven by Dr. Hilary Leighton, program head in our School of Environment and Sustainability, it is both a living laboratory for Royal Roads students and a growing source of fresh produce for the Greater Victoria community, directly addressing food insecurity in the region.

The impact of the Farm at RRU is real and significant, with over 1,000 pounds of fresh vegetables distributed last year to food-insecure seniors, single parents and newcomers to Canada. That contribution will keep increasing in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Dr. Robert Newell, the new Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainability, is studying the use of systems mapping to show relationships among local farms, transportation networks, grocery stores, communities and key social and environmental issues. His program also looks at sustainability and novel food production methods, such as vertical agriculture (growing crops indoors using stacked shelves) and cellular agriculture (growing meat directly from cell cultures instead of relying on animals).

Solutions like these are being developed throughout B.C. and Canada. But we need to co-ordinate them. One obvious vehicle for that co-ordination is government: Indigenous, municipal, provincial and federal. There are many ways they can support that work — from developing up-to-date standards for measuring food insecurity to bringing a food security lens to bear on every aspect of public policy.

That can only happen if leaders at all levels start convening the public conversations needed to shape that vision.

If any good is to come from the food supply shocks of the past three years — and the more severe incidents that are sure to come — it’s that they’ve given us all an appetite for those conversations. It’s time for our leaders to get cooking.


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Trump 2024 is locked and loaded, analyst says



More than two months after his presidential announcement, Donald Trump now has the key tools he will need to make his entry into the race complete: access to social media.

Recently, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced reinstatement of Trump’s social media accounts following a two-year suspension.

The suspension was levied in the aftermath of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

This was certainly good news for the Trump campaign and his legion of loyal and dedicated supporters.


However, as the wreckage inflicted on that cold January day still lingers, political opponents, real and perceived, are bracing for the potential dangers that could lie ahead.

In 2016, Trump used social media to great effect in his bid to win the U.S. presidency. During his tenure in the White House, he often made news and kept the entire media landscape on edge with a robust social media presence. His posts ran the gambit from inflammatory to bewildering.


The unceasing and outlandish claims made by the former reality television star shattered the norms of presidential etiquette. Even accusing former president Barack Obama of spying on him! Like a maestro leading an orchestra, his cadre of henchmen and followers soon began to play along as if on cue.

Donald Trump, over the years, enlisted a powerful chorus of voices from Congress, the media, state capitals and beyond all belting out conspiracy theories, laced with violent undertones, on one note; one accord; in unison.

The twice-impeached ex-president has access to all the social media tools that not only fuelled his political rise but also served as a catalyst to the growing political violence playing out across the nation.

With 34 million followers on Facebook; 23 million on Instagram; and 87 million on Twitter; Trump has built a formidable and engaged audience that hangs on his every word.


Showing no remorse and characterizing the suspension as an injustice, the ex-president said on Truth Social, his own social media platform: Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting president, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!

Trump has continued his penchant for perceived grievances and victimization exacerbating an already fragile and unstable political landscape. Now, with the ability to enact a mob in 280 characters or less, Donald Trump wields these accounts like a loaded weapon.

Political onlookers are bracing for the onslaught as the ex-president ramps up his presidential campaign. Laura Murphy, an attorney who led a two-year audit of Facebook stated: I worry about Facebook’s capacity to understand the real world harm that Trump poses…

This “real world harm” Murphy describes is already a stark reality. Recently released video footage of the violent attack on the husband of former U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is sending a collective shiver through the political class.

The assailant, David DePape, 42, claimed: “I’m sick of the insane f——— level of lies coming out of Washington, D.C.” He is charged with attempted murder, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening a public official. Some on the right, including Donald Trump Jr., made fun of the attack, sharing an image of a Paul Pelosi Halloween costume that included a hammer, as it was a hammer that was in the assault.

In the aftermath of the recent 2022 midterm elections, the nation breathed a sigh of relief as the results came and went with no acts of violence and the results reported largely without incident. Unfortunately, that moment of euphoria was only fleeting.

Failed GOP candidate, Solomon Peña, was arrested by Albuquerque police accused of paying and conspiring to shoot candidates that won. Prior to the attacks, Peña (like Trump) alleged the election results were fraudulent. An arrest warrant affidavit obtained from police says the suspect “intended to (cause) serious injury or cause death to the occupants inside their homes.”

Trump’s proclivity for subjecting maximum cruelty on others has been a mainstay since he entered politics. His affinity for tyrannical government; fascist and dictatorial leaders; combined with an ambivalence for democratic institutions makes his return to the political arena fraught with peril.


In a recent article, columnist Charlie Sykes described Trump’s penchant for violence as: Brutality is an ideology, not just an impulse. Many of the MAGA crowd eagerly subscribe to this ideology. Close confidante and fellow MAGA conservative, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene, said recently at a Republican event in New York, if she had organized the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “we would have won” and “it would’ve been armed.”

Donald Trump’s inner circle continues to push the big lie and foment violence. Now that Trump is firmly back in control of his social media accounts, nothing stands in his way of once again eschewing political safeguards and standards in favor of amplifying sharp, abrasive, and yes, violent rhetoric aimed at perceived enemies and institutions.

Trump’s hold on rank-and-file Republicans remains just as strong today as it did the day he descended that gold-plated escalator in 2015. His loyal lieutenants continue to engage in violent and inflammatory language and some have even escalated to full-scale physical attacks on their opponents as evidenced by recent events in New Mexico and San Francisco.

Trump 2024 is locked and loaded and many would-be targets are in the crosshairs. By allowing Trump back on social media, companies such as Meta and Twitter might think they are lowering the political temperature. However, Trump’s truculence knows no bounds and could certainly end up backfiring. That fire nearly consumed the nation on January 6. Now, with a second chance, Trump gets to finish what he started.


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