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What's ON: The week ahead in Ontario politics (October 18-22) – TVO

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Every Monday, TVO.org provides a primer on what to look for in the coming week in Ontario politics, and features some stories making news now.

Here’s what we’ve got our eye on:

Queen’s Park Keywords

They’re back – again: MPPs return to the legislature today after a one-week break.

Gag on grassroots(?): Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark has been accused of using Ontario’s election finance laws to silence three grassroots organizations. The Toronto Star says Clark filed complaints with Elections Ontario, alleging the groups were “conducting unregistered third-party political advertising.” Two of the groups are protesting a proposed prison in Clark’s riding. The other is the Peaceful Parks Coalition, which describes itself as a volunteer group trying to ensure Ontario’s wildlife and wild spaces are protected. A spokesperson for Clark said the minister has received complaints from constituents about third-party political activities in his riding. The Star reports that Elections Ontario did find the Peaceful Parks Coalition were violating election finance laws, while the complaint against the two groups protesting the prison was found to be without merit.

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Four-day work week: Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca has pledged that if his party wins power in the next provincial election, his government will explore the idea of implementing a four-day work week in Ontario. Under such a system, employees would work the same number of hours, but over four days instead of five. “I want us to understand if it has merit here,” Del Duca said during a speech at the party’s annual general meeting on Sunday. “We’re a party that believes in science, expertise and evidence-based decision-making and so I want us to gather the facts in an open and transparent way.” Del Duca also promised to replace Ontario’s first-past-the-post voting system with ranked ballots.

Winning the lottery: An internal government audit has found salaries and spending are out of whack at Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. For example, from 2015 to 2018, some OLG executives received raises of between 16 to 46 per cent, compared to raises of three to 10 per cent at other government-owned corporations. Also, the audit looked at a sample of items charged to corporate credit cards. It found 29 per cent of them did not comply with OLG’s corporate credit card policy, and the purchases should have been made by other means. In a statement to the Toronto Star, OLG said the credit card charges “were found to be legitimate work-related expenses,” and that a third-party review determined the salary increases fell within market rates for the broader public sector.

Order of business

Here is some of what the legislature is scheduled to discuss this week:

  • Monday: It is the first opposition day of the fall session, where the opposition parties get to set that day’s agenda. The NDP plans to put forward a motion calling on the government “to place an indefinite moratorium on the issuing of new licences and the renewal of licences of for-profit long-term care providers and prioritize the development of not-for-profit long-term care in Ontario.” There will also be debate on Bill 5, The York Region Wastewater Act. (TVO.org’s John Michael McGrath actually wrote an article about this bill and why it matters).
  • Tuesday: The speech from the throne, delivered on Oct. 4, will be debated in the morning. In the afternoon, debate on the throne speech will continue, and NDP MPP Suze Morrison (Toronto Centre) intends to submit a private member’s bill. What that bill will be about was still to be determined when the legislature last sat on Oct. 7.
  • Wednesday: Debate on the throne speech will continue, and Liberal MPP John Fraser (Ottawa South) will introduce a private member’s bill. “I’m not sure which one it will be,” Government House Leader Paul Calandra told the legislature on Oct. 7. “I know he might have more than one, but I’m sure he’ll give us notice.”
  • Thursday: There will be debate on government notice of motion number 3, which proposes a tweak to the legislature’s debate schedule. There will also be a private member’s bill from NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo (Kitchener Centre). “Of course, that one still is yet to be determined as well,” Calandra said.

Beyond the Pink Palace

Lower case counts: Ontario logged fewer than 500 new COVID-19 cases for the seventh straight day on Sunday. The province’s seven-day average of new daily COVID-19 cases is about 428, compared to an average of 524 a week earlier.

Pandemic supports: While several federal programs to help people and businesses through the pandemic are scheduled to end later this week, there is talk they could be temporarily extended. Federal finance minister Chrystia Freeland said in an interview aired on Saturday by the CBC that she is currently consulting with economists, business and labour groups, her department and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on what should become of the programs.

Upcoming coverage on TVO

This week’s episodes of The Agenda include a discussion on Monday about what tenants can expect when the temporary province-wide rent freeze designed to help renters during the pandemic ends on December 31st. And on Tuesday, the program will offer insights into how the provincial parties are gearing up for the 2022 Ontario election. The Agenda airs weeknights on TVO at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Some of what you can expect on TVO.org this week includes a rebuttal column to an opinion piece we ran earlier that argued the province should consider putting on hold plans to expand Toronto’s subway system. Also watch for new articles by our regular columnists, John Michael McGrath and Matt Gurney, and of course the #onpoli podcast, which publishes Tuesday.  

With files from John Michael McGrath.

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A new reason to move: politics – Yahoo Canada Finance

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Blue states will get bluer, and red redder, in coming years, as more Americans factor political issues into their relocation decisions and head for places with like-minded tribes.

That’s the forecast from real-estate brokerage Redfin, which included “more migration for political reasons” in its outlook for the housing market in 2022. The deepening political polarization of the country includes new city- and statewide laws likely to attract adherents and repel detractors, driving political issues deeper into community life. Texas this year passed the nation’s strictest anti-abortion law, for instance. A Mississippi anti-abortion law could lead the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal everywhere. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, states will once again be free to set their own abortion statutes, creating a drastic dividing line between permissive and restrictive states.

Another Supreme Court case, involving gun rights, could make it easier to carry concealed weapons in New York and 7 other states, eroding gun-control efforts propagated largely by Democratic governors and mayors. On the other hand, marijuana is now legal in 19 mostly blue and purple states. Cities such as Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York are experimenting with police reform meant to cut down on lower-level arrests. Public-school curricula is a new flash point between parents who want racial and social justice taught in schools, and traditionalists who feel threatened by “wokeness.”

A U.S. Supreme Court police officer walks past its building as rulings are expected in Washington, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A U.S. Supreme Court police officer walks past its building as rulings are expected in Washington, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Covid pandemic led to sharp disparities in masking rules, school opening policies and business restrictions among states and cities. That’s on top of longstanding differences in regulation and taxation between traditionally Democratic and Republican states. While there’s nothing new about regional differences in governing styles, policy polarization is making it easier for Americans to live in areas they find ideologically compatible. It’s also getting harder for liberals to find a comfortable enclave in conservative states, and vice versa.

[Click here to get Rick Newman’s stories by email.]

Moving patterns reflect politics

Americans seem increasingly likely to sort themselves into ideological groups by geography. “We know people are leaving blue counties and moving to red counties,” says Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin. “I think this will start to happen at the state level and at the neighborhood level. After next year’s midterm elections, we’ll be able to see if neighborhoods become more polarized.”

Up till now, the migration from blue states to red states has largely been driven by affordability. Blue states along the coasts typically have higher living costs and taxation levels than, say southern red states such as Texas and Florida. More and more, however, moving patterns reflect overt political choices.

An October Redfin survey of people who recently moved, for instance, found that 40% said they would prefer or insist on living in a place where abortion is fully legal. The portion taking the opposite view—saying they would prefer or refuse to live in an area where abortion is fully legal—was 32%. It’s not unusual for survey respondents to express strong opinions on abortion, but it may be new for people to factor such views into moving decisions. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe and more states ban or severely restrict abortion, it could become a bigger factor in relocation.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 12: A newly sold home is shown on August 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Home prices have climbed during the pandemic as low interest rates and working from home has become more abundant. Home prices around the country continue to surge in the second quarter as strong demand continues to overwhelm the supply of homes for sale. Nationwide, the median single-family existing-home sales price increased by 22.9% in the second quarter. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 12: A newly sold home is shown on August 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Home prices have climbed during the pandemic as low interest rates and working from home has become more abundant. Home prices around the country continue to surge in the second quarter as strong demand continues to overwhelm the supply of homes for sale. Nationwide, the median single-family existing-home sales price increased by 22.9% in the second quarter. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

A newly sold home is shown on August 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The Redfin survey of movers also gauged attitudes toward other touchy political topics. Larger percentages favored living in areas with liberal policies such as strong voter protections, gender anti-discrimination laws and legal weed. But 23% said they don’t want to live in places with strong anti-discrimination laws, 22% don’t want to live in a state with legal weed, and 16% don’t want to live where there are strong voter protections.

Americans consider many factors when deciding where to live, and some of those factors have political overtones. Many parents base home-buying decisions on the quality of schools, which drives up home prices in the best school districts and creates de facto segregation. The white-flight phenomenon has a similar effect, with whites who can afford to leaving urban areas for places where they consider quality of life better.

But those types of location decisions are based more on family-first attitudes than the liberal-conservative divide that’s taking root now. Americans choose a political tribe when they vote, donate money to political causes and decide which cable-news station to watch. Perhaps it’s only natural that Americans want to live among their political comrades, as well. Like much of America, real-estate listings are trending toward liberal or conservative.  

Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. You can also send confidential tips.

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A new republic is born: Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth

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Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, forging a new republic on Tuesday with its first-ever president and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island.

At the strike of midnight, the new republic was born to the cheers of hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown. A 21 gun salute fired as the national anthem of Barbados was played over a crowded Heroes Square.

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood somberly as Queen Elizabeth’s royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared, a step which republicans hope will spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.

Barbados casts the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still queen of 15 other realms including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history.

After a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, complete with speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Sandra Mason was sworn in as Barbados’s first president in the shadow of Barbados’s parliament.

“Full stop this colonial page,” Winston Farrell, a Barbadian poet told the ceremony. “Some have grown up stupid under the Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin.”

“It is about us, rising out of the cane fields, reclaiming our history,” he said. “End all that she mean, put a Bajan there instead.”

The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, unclasps almost all the colonial bonds that have kept the tiny island tied to England since an English ship claimed it for King James I in 1625.

It may also be a harbinger of a broader attempt by other former colonies to cut ties to the British monarchy as it braces for the end of Elizabeth’s nearly 70-year reign and the future accession of Charles.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, helped lead the ceremony. Mottley has won global attention by denouncing the effects of climate change on small Caribbean nations.

“Tonight’s the night!” read the front-page headline of Barbados’ Daily Nation newspaper.

“I’m overjoyed,” Ras Binghi, a Bridgetown cobbler, told Reuters ahead of the ceremony. Binghi said he would be saluting the new republic with a drink and a smoke.

SLAVE HISTORY

Prince Charles will give a speech highlighting the continuing friendship of the two nations despite England’s central role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

While Britain casts slavery as a sin of the past, some Barbadians are calling for compensation from Britain.

Activist David Denny celebrated the creation of the republic but said he opposes the visit by Prince Charles, noting the royal family for centuries benefited from the slave trade.

“Our movement would also like the royal family to pay a reparation,” Denny said in an interview in Bridgetown.

The English initially used white British indentured servants to toil on the plantations of tobacco, cotton, indigo and sugar, but Barbados in just a few decades would become England’s first truly profitable slave society.

Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.

More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the often brutal voyage, ended up toiling on plantations.

Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Outside the lavish official ceremony, some Barbadians said they were uncertain what the transition to a republic even meant or why it matter https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/barbados-heads-toward-republic-some-wonder-why-it-matters-2021-11-28ed.

“They should leave Queen Elizabeth be – leave her as the boss. I don’t understand why we need to be a republic,” said Sean Williams, 45, standing in the shadow of an independence monument.

The last time the queen was removed as head of state was in 1992 when the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius proclaimed itself a republic.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge in Bridgetown and Brian Ellsworth in Washington; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Lisa Shumaker and Lincoln Feast.)

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Why we should all pay attention to China's influence on Italian politics | TheHill – The Hill

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Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda and political influence organs have deeply penetrated Italian politics, according to “Hijacking the Mainstream,” a report published this month by the Global Committee for the Rule of Law (GCRL), an Italian-based organization that works in defense of human rights worldwide, and Prague-based Sinopsis, a project implemented by the nonprofit association AcaMedia, in collaboration with the Department of Sinology at Charles University in Prague.

The report documents how, as the result of an orchestrated, “united front” effort involving coordinated CCP-linked strategies, an “idea of submission” to China “percolates into officialese” in the Italian political and public sphere. The normalization of the CCP agenda has become a widely held, even commonsense assumption, while critics of China’s totalitarian regime and egregious human rights violations have been ostracized as “extreme.” This now broadly-based assumption, it appears, could be strong enough to resist the influence of this shocking report, unless public figures have the political will to follow recommendations that are crucial to the integrity and security not only of Italy, but of other European and liberal democratic countries seen by Chinese authorities as obstacles to their global ambitions.  

While Italy’s responses to China’s influence operations have unique aspects, they show how a key U.S. ally and power in the European Union can be infected by CCP propaganda — and in revealing the basic architecture of those operations, the report thus should be a jeremiad and guide for other Western societies.   

Enabling China’s successful Italian influence operation is what the report’s authors call “knowledge asymmetry.” Three in-depth case studies show how numerous naïve but nationally influential Italian politicians apparently have come under the sway of propaganda through the application of techniques that lie within the Leninist tradition of “friendly contacts.” The process has been orchestrated by the CCP’s International Liaison Department (ILD), “the main party organ in charge of exchanges with foreign elites outside of state-to-state diplomacy,” posing as a “legitimate partner of democratic political life” and with the main goal of “brainwashing away” anticommunist views.   

Working within the framework of the ILD are other programs responsible for various dimensions of its task — for example, the China NGO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE), which aims for “the installation of the CCP’s concept of human rights in the Human Rights Council.”  Judging by the adulation showered upon China following its last human rights review by the council, where a solid majority of state delegations praised China’s economic achievements as human rights victories, and tacitly accepted China’s description of Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang as “vocational skills education and training institutions,” CNIE is on a roll.

Some Italian organizations partner with the ILD, giving it public legitimacy while promoting transparently ideological pro-CCP and anti-American positions, yet appearing as politically neutral institutions devoted to peace and international understanding. The head of the Centro Studi sulla Cina Contemporanea, former Italian Ambassador to China Alberto Bradanini, for example, praised China for “favoring peace and balance in the world” instead of “submission to the U.S.,” and referred to “Uyghur terrorism.” 

Another affiliate of the ILD is the Chinese Association for International Understanding (CAFIU), which organizes events with European institutions — for example, Germany’s Social Democratic Party Foundation the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which collaborated with CAFIU in a United Nations side event. The China Foundation for Human Rights Development, which answers to the State Council Information Office, was recently awarded consultative status in the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a coveted accreditation allowing nongovernmental organizations access to and the capacity to intervene in Human Rights Council meetings. But CAFIU is hardly a civil society organization.

In the Italian Parliament, the Friends of China association is a main partner of the ILD. The group has defended China’s policies in the “New Tibet.” But the report documents how another center, the Instituto per la Cultura Cinese (ICC), established in 2016, has been most influential in promoting CCP political narratives, such as China’s “great human rights achievements,” under the guise of a nominally cultural organization. Its members are from among Italy’s most influential political leaders. But the ICC also includes critics of China’s policies, giving it “an aura of neutrality that obscures its nature as a partner of key CCP influence agencies,” according to the report. Even critics of China in the group thus associate themselves with CCP propaganda organs.

The way out of this dangerous infiltration and subversion of Italian politics lies in seemingly simple steps that, no doubt, would not be simple to undertake. The authors of “Hijacking the Mainstream” recommend avoiding alliances, participation or contact with CCP-affiliated organizations and rejecting exchanges with China. Italian politicians and officials must cleanse themselves by disengaging from entanglements that have made them victims to China’s influence operations that, in turn, have turned Italy toward a posture of accommodation. 

But what would be the consequences of such moves? Italy’s Libero was the only newspaper to extensively cover the report. The media silence is eloquent.

Laura Harth, of GCRL and one of the report’s three authors, says that “the main objective of ‘Hijacking the Mainstream’ is to shed light on the who, what and why of the CCP influence agencies.” Some of Italy’s more overt actions catering to the CCP have drawn attention in recent years — for example, the continuing adhesion of Rome to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the CCP’s attempt to Sinicize globalization. But other actions have been superficial. 

It is important to provide the necessary background and knowledge to international institutions and the general public so that a real debate and investigation can take place — which is what the report’s authors apparently want. This could lead to much-needed reforms to counter operations taking place mainly in the shadows. 

While Italy is definitely not the only country facing such exposure, Harth says it is evident “that its status as a G7 country and one of the founding members of the [European Union] makes it a very ‘big catch’ for the CCP. And Italy’s ambiguity towards the PRC has consistently continued.”  

Is this the reason that — while the United States and United Kingdom are discussing a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympics — Rome remains formally engaged in co-promoting the event? A formal parliamentary inquiry on the findings of the report has been announced, and those named in it may fire back. For sure, this is only the first round.

Aaron Rhodes is senior fellow in the Common Sense Society and president of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Rhodesaaron.

Marco Respinti is director-in-charge of Bitter Winter: A Magazine on Religious Freedom and Human Rights. Follow him on Twitter @MarcoRespinti.

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