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Who has faith in politics? In 2019, some Toronto areas saw nearly half their electorate skip out – Toronto Star

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The first and only time Charmaine Weir voted in an election, a single conversation spurred her to the polls. A candidate was canvassing in her neighbourhood, and took time to hear out the issues Weir faced on a day-to-day basis, including the challenges she experienced living in public housing. But the vote came and went — and Weir’s world felt just the same.

She found herself disenchanted, feeling her vote hadn’t made a difference. “You see (political parties), they come around and solicit at the door to try to get your vote, and then you never see them again. Nothing has ever changed in this neighbourhood,” she said. This fall, she’s tuned out of federal election talk. “I didn’t listen because honestly, you get really let down.”

Come Monday, she told the Star she doesn’t intend to cast a vote.

Weir’s situation illustrates a broad issue in Toronto. In an election cycle, candidates look to charge up the masses — promising policy changes and funding injections. But faith in the democratic process, or simply the ability to get to the polls, is unevenly distributed across the city.

A Star analysis of poll data from the 2019 election, in several central Toronto ridings, shows that while some areas turn out to vote in droves — like Runnymede-Bloor West Village, where 78.3 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots — other areas, like Weir’s North St. James Town, had far lower rates.

Voter turnout in 2019 federal election

52.1%

North St. James Town

68.5%

Cabbagetown-South St. James Town

Source: Elections Canada/Star analysis

The high-density, lower-income piece of Toronto Centre, where several other residents recently told the Star their faith in federal leaders ran low, saw a voter turnout of 52.1 per cent in the fall of 2019. In nearby Regent Park, another lower-income area, turnout for that federal vote was 58.5 per cent. By comparison, the neighbouring Cabbagetown-South St. James Town area saw turnout of 68.5 per cent. Across the country, voter turnout for the last federal election was 67 per cent.

And while North St. James Town had more eligible voters — 11,989 versus 9,831 — the polling stations set up in Cabbagetown-South St. James Town saw more ballots cast than its neighbour.

“It’s always the rich people and the rich neighbourhoods that are being taken care of,” Weir told the Star. “You really want (a politician) here who’s going to follow through, and support this neighbourhood, but they tend to just move a little bit south from here and you’re left there, like, ‘what about us?’”

The reasons why someone doesn’t vote can vary widely, but a Statistics Canada survey found the top reason that Canadians gave for skipping the 2019 federal vote was disinterest in national politics — which experts say can stem from a feeling of being left out of political discussions and policies.

“They don’t perceive that the stakes are very high — that it doesn’t matter who wins, so why bother?” said Richard Johnston, a University of British Columbia professor emeritus who, until his retirement last year, held the position of Canada Research Chair in public opinions, elections and representation.

“To some extent, the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” said Daniel Rubenson, a principal investigator for the Canadian Election Study, cautioning that the problem could become cyclical. If politicians saw a neighbourhood as plagued by voter apathy, they might pay less attention to its needs, leading to fewer policies aimed at addressing its local problems. That, in turn, could compound the apathy issue.

“If that’s how you feel, then it’s perfectly reasonable that you don’t participate in that process.”

When the Star spoke with numerous North St. James Town residents midway through this fall’s federal campaign, many lamented the focus placed on home ownership in numerous parties’ election platforms, as a neighbourhood where 90 per cent of residents rented their homes according to the 2016 federal census.

Beyond the disenchanted, some prospective voters simply didn’t have the time to invest in political issues, Rubenson added.

Voter turnout in 2019 federal election

75.3%

Roncesvalles

56.4%

South Parkdale

Source: Elections Canada/Star analysis

He, Johnston and Elisabeth Gidengil, a professor with McGill University’s Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship, all noted that residents of lower income communities were statistically less likely to participate in the democratic process.

Voters’ age and level of education were also determining factors, the experts said. Nationally, 18-to-24 year olds had the lowest voter turnout among age groups through the 2011, 2015 and 2019 election races, Statistics Canada found. Voter turnout increased continually with age, until it dipped down slightly after the age of 75.

“It’s partly to do with resources, like just having time and the luxury of being able to inform yourself better about politics,” Rubenson said, noting that “socialization and mobilization” also played a role. While it was “somewhat difficult” to say precisely how low turnout affected vote outcomes, he said, he believes the onus is on politicians to “pay more attention to these people who aren’t voting.”

“It’s certainly not a good outcome if there are groups in society, or areas in society, where people aren’t being listened to and policies aren’t being developed to take their concerns into account,” he said.

While political disinterest was found by Statistics Canada to be the most common reason for skipping the polls in 2019 for most age groups — having been cited by 35 per cent of non-voters — that shifts for people over 75, at which point the most common reason reported was an illness or disability.

Across all age groups, illness or disability were cited by 13 per cent of responding non-voters. Another 22 per cent said they were too busy to vote, and 11 per cent said they were out of town. Just five per cent reported having problems with the voting process itself, like being unable to prove their identity.

Asked about the turnout data, Elections Canada spokesperson Nathalie de Montigny said turnout wasn’t part of its mandate — which focused on making the vote accessible to eligible electors. That job included outreach to different communities to make sure they had information about voting, like delivering it in different languages.

To combat voter apathy, both Johnston and Gidengil said candidates going door-to-door can make a difference. But Johnston cautioned that effort could be complicated in lower-income neighbourhoods, where many residents may work long hours or do shift work and not be home to answer the door, and where that means traversing an apartment versus ground-level homes.

In Toronto’s waterfront and island neighbourhood, where the median household income is higher than the citywide rate but the resident population also skews younger than other neighbourhoods, around 20,000 eligible voters didn’t cast ballots in the 2019 race. The area — which is divided between two federal ridings — had a 64.1 per cent turnout rate. In nearby South Parkdale, the rate was nearly as low as North St. James Town, at 56.4 per cent.

Cole Webber, a housing advocate who works for a South Parkdale-based legal clinic, cautioned that residents of the area were still actively involved, with local groups forming to push back against things like rent increases, or to organize community food programs.

But casting a vote didn’t always garner the same vigour or faith.

“For many working-class people in Parkdale, sustained, independent organizing is a more substantial and meaningful form of activity than voting in elections,” Webber said.

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Hundreds of political prisoners freed in Myanmar after amnesty – Al Jazeera English

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Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed from Myanmar’s Insein prison, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s party spokesman and a famous comedian, according to local media.

The prisoners walked free after state television announced an amnesty in conjunction with the Thadingyut festival for more than 5,600 people on Monday night.

The announcement came shortly after a televised address by Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief who seized power in a coup in February plunging the country into political turmoil and prompted many people to rush to the jail in Yangon in the hope that their loved ones would be among those released.

Factory worker Kyi Kyi was one of the dozens of people waiting outside the prison early on Tuesday, hoping to see her husband, who was arrested in February.

“I also came here yesterday,” she told the AFP news agency. “He was not released. Hopefully, he will be today.”

Nwet Nwet San, said he was hoping his son, a soldier who had run away from the army, would be freed.

“He’s been in prison for eight months,” he said.

“I heard mostly protesters will be released. I also heard other criminals will be released as well. That’s why I’m waiting.”

The first prisoners were released on Monday night hours after the amnesty was announced on state television [Stinger/Reuters]

The amnesty followed an announcement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that Min Aung Hlaing would not be invited to their summit later this month because the military had made “insufficient progress” in complying with a five-point consensus that was agreed jointly in April.

Under the plan, the military was supposed to end violence against those opposed to its coup and allow a special ASEAN envoy to visit the country and meet all parties. Myanmar has been a member of ASEAN since 1997.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a rights group that has been tracking the military’s response to the protests that broke out as a result of the coup, says more than 9,000 people have been jailed and more than 1,000 killed.

It was sceptical about the prisoner release which it described as a “form of distraction”. The military held previous amnesties in April and June.

“The junta will continue to refuse being transparent about the individual persons released, and who remains detained,” the group said in a statement.

Monywa Aung Shin, a spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was among those released.

“They came to me today and said they will take me home, that’s all,” he told the Democratic Voice of Burma late on Monday on his way home from prison.

Monywa Aung Shin was arrested on February 1 and had been in prison for eight months.

‘Not a change of heart’

More political prisoners including parliamentarians and journalists were freed on Monday in other towns including Mandalay, Lashio, Meiktila and Myeik.

But 11 out of 38 people released from Meiktila prison in central Myanmar were arrested again according to DVB.

Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, stressed that many people were detained simply for exercising their legitimate rights. He said some had been tortured and sexually assaulted, while others had contracted COVID-19 and died.

“Their release is clearly not because the junta has had a change of heart,” he said in a statement, saying the move instead reflected the pressure being brought to bear on the generals.

“The junta seeks three things from the international community: money, weapons and legitimacy. Sustained pressure on all three fronts is the best way the international community can support the people of Myanmar to protect their human rights and save their country. The junta’s actions demonstrate that, despite their statements to the contrary, they are not impervious to pressure.”

Crowds gathered at Insein in the hope that their family members would be among those released. It is the third amnesty since the military seized power in a coup on February 1 [Stringer/AFP]

Aung San Suu Kyi and key civilian leaders have been in detention since the February 1 coup, She is on trial in a closed court where she faces a raft of charges that could put her behind bars for years if she is found guilty.

The military has claimed without evidence that the November elections, in which the NLD won a landslide victory, were fraudulent.

The generals’ power grab brought to an end a slow transition to democracy that had been taking place for about 10 years.

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A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics | TheHill – The Hill

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The U.S. public is irreconcilably divided along partisan lines on virtually every issue across the political spectrum. Even a pandemic that has killed more Americans than died in every war and conflict this nation has fought since the beginning of the last century has divided us. Why?

In part, dating back to the Vietnam War, government and many institutions have become delegitimized. A large majority of Americans have become highly distrustful and dissatisfied with Washington and the failure of repeated administrations to govern wisely and inclusively. The volte face of  President BidenJoe BidenManchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Abrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Pentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability MORE, who promised to unite the country and pursue a moderate line and now seems to be embracing a highly progressive agenda, is the latest example of hypocritical leaders abandoning campaign commitments, adding to the distrust.

Hypocrisy is as old as politics. But a dangerous outgrowth has been the creation of a condition of hyper-hypocrisy in American politics that, left to fester, can be more dangerous than perhaps any terrorist wishing the nation ill. The reason is that many politicians believe the only way to overcome these intractable divisions is to seize political power by virtually any means. Biden’s lurch to the left is one mild example. Former President Trump’s “big lie” about winning what was not a stolen election is far more damaging.

To underscore the extent of hyper-hypocrisy, consider this thought experiment. Suppose Donald Trump had won the 2016 presidential election as a Democrat. How would both political parties have behaved? Of course, many would say this scenario is nonsense. But Trump identified “more as a Democrat” not all that long ago.

First, the inversion of reactions to Democrat Trump would have been mind-blowing. Republicans who knew Trump, his character and business practices would have been appalled. Evangelical Christians who have spent the last five years dismissing Trump’s moral failings would have instead portrayed them as repugnant and disqualifying, as they had with Bill Clinton.

That was apparent during the 2016 Republican primary debates in which all of Trump’s opponents were highly critical and disbelieving that Trump could win the nomination or the election.   

In 2009 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHoyer signals House vote on bill to ‘remove’ debt limit threat Biden signs bill to raise debt ceiling On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan MORE (R-Ky.) declared that his priority was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. In 2017, he would have similarly sought to wreck Democrat Trump’s presidency. 

Trump loyalists, such as Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government The CDC’s Title 42 order fuels racism and undermines public health Ocasio-Cortez goes indoor skydiving for her birthday MORE (R-Texas) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans’ mantra should have been ‘Stop the Spread’ Senators preview bill to stop tech giants from prioritizing their own products Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention MORE (R-S.C.), would have instead been relentlessly attacking him. Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic ‘gridlock’ on reconciliation package Republicans’ mantra should have been ‘Stop the Spread’ Ron Johnson slams DOJ’s investigation of schools, saying it unfairly targets parents MORE (R-Wis.) would have had a field day manufacturing conspiracies with which to pummel Trump. And it’s a sure bet that the infamous Steele dossier on Trump’s alleged wrongdoings in St. Petersburg and his Russian connections would have gotten far more attention by Republicans.

Meanwhile, Democrats would have had a difficult time embracing Trump, but they would have. House Democrats who became the face of the impeachment committees surely would have had radically different opinions of the new Democratic president.

Whether Democrats under Trump would have won control of the House in 2018 or the Senate in 2020 is unknowable. Would, at some stage, the Republican House have begun impeachment proceedings against Trump? Would Jan. 6 have occurred if Democrat Trump had lost in 2020? Would Trump have won a second term if he were a Democrat?

The more perplexing question is whether Democrats would have succumbed to Trump as Republicans have. Who would have been the Democratic equivalents of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVirginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden’s agenda  Sinema’s no Manchin, no McCain and no maverick Progressives say go big and make life hard for GOP MORE (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyBennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump Anti-Trump Republicans endorsing vulnerable Democrats to prevent GOP takeover Thiel backing Trump-supported challenger to Cheney: report MORE (R-Wyo.)? Under these circumstances, would Republicans have created a resistance movement to oppose Trump? 

A loyal opposition is vital to a functioning democracy. Hypocrisy is always present. Despite promising to tell the truth, presidents dissemble and many lie. Politicians promise one thing and act on others. Yet, today, hyper-hypocrisy appears to be infecting the entire political spectrum. Many blame Trump, whose record of distortions, untruths and outright lies is unmatched in American history. Yet, Trump is more a symptom than a cause of a failing political system.

The only sure cure is a combination of transparency and the triumph of truth and fact. But on the current path, social media wielded by the ultra-cynical or those out to win power regardless of consequence makes hyper-hypocrisy a more serious threat to democracy than perhaps anything our most trenchant adversaries may intend for us.

Harlan Ullman, Ph.D, is senior adviser at Washington, D.C.’s Atlantic Council and the prime author of “shock and awe.” His latest book, due out in the fall, is, “The Fifth Horseman and the New MAD: How Massive Attacks of Disruption Became the Looming Existential Danger to a Divided Nation and that World at Large.”

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Politics Briefing: Trudeau visits Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation after Tofino blunder – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting a First Nations community in British Columbia today after not responding to earlier invitations as residents there dealt with the discovery of unmarked burial sites of former residential school students.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops had previously invited Mr. Trudeau to attend a ceremony in the community marking the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Instead, Mr. Trudeau went on vacation in the Vancouver Island community of Tofino. He subsequently apologized.

Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup provides a Reporter’s Comment on what’s at stake today – “All eyes will be on Justin Trudeau today for his visit to the B.C. First Nation. Since coming to power in 2015, the Liberals have repeatedly said its relationship with Indigenous people is the most important relationship. Mr. Trudeau has also stressed this thinking comes from him personally. But his decision to travel to Tofino on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was met by condemnation from Indigenous leaders, who said they were hurt by his decision and noted the Prime Minister will have to work to rebuild relationships. I will be watching to see how he goes about trying to achieve that today. The event will include other speakers, including new Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who has stressed the need for concrete action. How does Mr. Trudeau convey that at today’s ceremony? And how long will it take him to repair lost trust?”

The agenda for today’s three-hour event includes remarks by Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Archibald and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir as well as a media availability. Also scheduled are comments from Indian residential school survivors and community youth.

Ms. Kirkup and B.C. politics reporter Justine Hunter report on today’s events here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

LIBERALS DODGING SCRUTINY, OPPOSITION SAYS – The Liberal government’s move to limit House of Commons sitting days this year and delay the return of Parliament until late November is part of an effort to avoid scrutiny, opposition MPs say, amid a needed debate over pandemic economic supports.

FEDS DENOUNCE END TO YEMEN WAR PROBE – The federal government is speaking out after the United Nations Human Rights Council, which includes such countries as Russia, China and Venezuela, shut down the only independent international probe into Yemen’s long and deadly civil war. Story here.

ALBERTA EQUALIZATION REFERENDUM TODAY – Albertans will cast ballots Monday in a referendum that is technically about rejecting equalization, but has morphed into more of a Prairie Festivus airing of grievances.

NDP SEEK SOCIAL MEDIA WATCHDOG – New Democrats are demanding the federal government crack down on social media giants following recent revelations by a Facebook executive.

ANCIENT KNIFE FOUND IN CENTRE BLOCK RENOVATION – An ancient Indigenous knife unearthed during the renovation of Centre Block will be the first artifact found on Parliament Hill to be returned to the stewardship of the Algonquin people who live in the Ottawa region.

CUSTOMERS SUBJECT TO COST HIKES: BANK OF CANADA – Canadian businesses are grappling with labour shortages and supply-chain disruptions, with many planning to respond by raising wages and passing on cost increases to customers, according to the Bank of Canada’s quarterly survey of businesses. Story here.

ELECTORAL REFORM OR I QUIT: DEL DUCA – Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says, if elected to government, he will “resign on the spot” if he does not follow through with a commitment to enact ranked ballots in provincial elections. The next provincial election is set for June 2, 2022.

GOVERNOR-GENERAL VISITS GERMANY – Governor-General Mary May Simon has arrived in Berlin for her first international visit on behalf of Canada – a four-day state visit that will include a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Story here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister, in Kamloops, B.C., holds private meetings and visits Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc.

LEADERS

No public itineraries were issued by the other leaders.

POLITICAL BOOKS

Another former member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is writing about her experience in federal politics.

Catherine McKenna, who served as environment and infrastructure minister, told the Herle Berly podcast last week that she has written Run Like a Girl, which she said was not a tell-all, but touched on lessons in politics.

“It’s just about being a woman and being yourself,” said Ms. McKenna, who served as Ottawa Centre MP from 2015 until this year, when she announced she would not seek re-election.

As she announced her plans to leave politics last June, Ms. McKenna mentioned the phrase “running like a girl” as she encouraged more female participation in elected politics.

Ms. McKenna’s book project comes after recent books from former federal ministers, including Indian in the Cabinet by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, a memoir about she challenges she faced in Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet. Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet over the SNC-Lavalin affair. Indian in the Cabinet was recently nominated for the inaugural Writers’ Trust Balsillie Prize for Public Policy.

Contacted by The Globe and Mail, Ms. McKenna said in a social media exchange that she had worked on her book over the course of the pandemic. “It’s about politics and women in politics. More to come later.”

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the challenge Erin O’Toole faces with a handful of unvaccinated Tory MPs as the opening of Parliament looms: “Imagine a new hybrid Parliament, with 330-odd MPs sitting in the House of Commons, live and in-person, but a handful of unvaccinated Conservatives relegated to video participation because they won’t get the shots. Erin O’Toole has about a month to avoid that damaging image.”

Kevin Chan, Rachel Curran and Joelle Pineau (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on Facebook collaborating to make progress against harms associated with social media: “As three Canadians working directly on public policy and research at Facebook, we take very seriously the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to this effort, and to always strive to do better. Importantly, we hear the calls for more regulation, and we agree. Matters of hate speech, online safety and freedom of expression are some of the most challenging issues of our time, and we have been vocal in calling for a new set of public rules for all technology companies to follow. As Canadian lawmakers seek to construct new frameworks for platform governance, we stand ready to collaborate with them.”

Tzeporah Berman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the bar for climate leadership is far too low in Canada: “Canada claims to be a climate leader, but it’s time to get clear on what that means. We need a plan to stop the expansion of existing oil and gas projects and to help transition workers and communities involved in the industry into other sectors. We need to step up internationally and work with other countries as we did in the face of great challenges, such as the Second World War and ozone depletion.”

Naheed Nenshi (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the crises we are facing: “We are at a crossroads in our country. We have five future-defining crises in front of us, any one of which could bring a lesser society to its knees: a public-health crisis in the pandemic, a mental health and addictions crisis, an economic dislocation like none we’ve seen before, an environmental crisis, and a reckoning on the issue of equity. This is all playing out at political and national levels, but also in every one of our families. It all feels sometimes like too much. Is our country ungovernable? Are the voices of anger and hatred and division simply too loud? Have they won? I don’t believe that. I never have. I can’t. I won’t.”

Mike McDonald (Rosedeer) on the British Columbia election that continues to impact politics in the province 30 years after the ballots were counted: “It was the election of Premier Mike Harcourt’s NDP government and only the second time in B.C. history that the NDP had gained power. The election was hugely significant for the NDP, as they governed for a decade. But its more profound impact was the realignment of the free enterprise vote in B.C.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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