By: Beatrice Britneff in Ottawa, ON
Canada’s oldest media union is renewing calls on the federal government to intervene and help the country’s struggling news media outlets, after Postmedia Network Inc. and Torstar Corp. announced today they will collectively shutter more than 30 community and daily newspapers and eliminate 291 jobs.
In response to the closures – which came about through a publication swap between the two companies – CWA Canada is urging the Liberal government to inject more money into local news coverage; to “beef up” the federal Competition Act “to prevent concentration of ownership” in the news industry; and to allow non-profit news organizations to qualify as charities so they can be supported by philanthropic funding.
In a statement, the union – which represents approximately 6,000 media workers cross Canada – called the Postmedia-Torstar deal a “deathblow to local newspaper coverage.”
“It’s a dark day for local journalism and for local democracy,” Martin O’Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, wrote in a statement. “This means fewer journalists reporting on the stories that matter to communities – and leaves almost no one to hold local politicians and powerful interests to account in many places.”
Last year, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly conducted consultations on how to revamp Canada’s cultural policies and strategies. During that time, many groups suggested a variety of lifelines the government could throw to ailing media outlets – particularly newspapers, which are struggling with steep declines in print circulation and advertising revenues.
In a major speech in September outlining Canada’s revamped cultural strategies, Joly said the government does not intend to to provide that level of assistance to the news industry. Joly said the government will not “bail out industry models that are no longer viable” but will instead support “innovation, experimentation and transition to digital.”
The minister said Monday afternoon she is “sorry” to hear about the Postmedia and Torstar closures and that the government “values the importance of journalism.” When asked whether the Postmedia-Torstar deal has caused her to rethink her largely hands-off approach to the news industry’s fate, Joly reiterated that the government is “looking to support local media while they transition to the internet.”
But Pierre Nantel, the NDP’s culture and heritage critic, argued the government is not doing that.
“It’s absolutely terrible… (Minister Joly) has been asked by so many stakeholders, so many interveners… she didn’t pay attention at all, and this is what you get,” Nantel said. “You get job losses and you get a voice diversity situation that’s going to be lacking.”
Conservative MP Peter Van Loan, who serves as the Tories’ Canadian heritage critic, called the Postmedia-Torstar deal “disappointing” but contrary to Nantel, argued that the government has no place in giving newspapers a leg up. He said he also does not support philanthropic financing of journalism because he believes “journalism has to be truly independent.”
The closures announced today – many of which are effective immediately – will largely affect communities in eastern and southern Ontario.
Through the deal, Postmedia acquired 22 local newspapers and two Metro dailies from two Torstar subsidiaries. Postmedia said in a press release it plans to close all of those publications, except the Exeter Times-Advocate and the Exeter Weekender, by mid-January. The local papers that Postmedia will fold include Metro Ottawa, Metro Winnipeg, Belleville News, Kingston Heritage, St. Mary’s Journal-Argus as well as a number of Ottawa-area publications.
Meanwhile, Torstar acquired a total of 17 publications from Postmedia: seven daily Ontario newspapers, eight community newspapers and free dailies 24Hours Toronto and 24Hours Vancouver. The two dailies and the eight community papers are being shut down immediately, as well as three of the daily newspapers – the Barrie Examiner, Orillia Packet & Times andNorthumberland Today.
Torstar will continue to operate and publish the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review, Welland Tribune and Peterborough Examiner.
Four free dailies and 32 daily and community papers are being shuttered in total. The Postmedia closures will result in 244 layoffs, while Torstar’s will eliminate 47 full-time and part-time employees.
Postmedia and Torstar both claim the papers they are folding are located in communities that are served by other publications.
“We were not creating any news deserts,” Bob Hepburn, the Toronto Star’s director of community relations and communications, said of Torstar’s 13 closures. “(The communities affected) will continue to be served by Metroland publications.”
In a company statement, Torstar’s President and CEO John Boynton said the deal will allow the company to “operate more efficiently through increased geographic synergies in a number of our primary regions.”
Postmedia CEO Paul Godfrey acknowledged in his company’s press release that closures involve letting go of “many dedicated newspaper people.”
“However, the continuing costs of producing dozens of small community newspapers in these regions in the face of significantly declining advertising revenues means that most of these operations no longer have viable business models,” Godfrey wrote.
Postmedia and Torstar said their deal is “effectively a non-cash transaction” as the publications exchanged have “approximately similar fair values.” Their statements also noted the exchange is “not subject to the merger notification provisions of the Competition Act” and no regulatory clearance from the Competition Bureau was required.
In an email to iPolitics Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Competition Bureau said the Bureau is aware of the Postmedia-Torstar transaction and will be “undertaking a review” of the deal.
“While I cannot speak to the specifics of a Bureau review for reasons of confidentiality, under the Competition Act transactions of all sizes and in all sectors of the economy are subject to review by the Commissioner of Competition to determine whether they will likely result in a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in any market in Canada,” Jayme Albert, senior communications advisor, wrote in an email – adding that the commissioner has up to one year after a transaction has taken place to challenge it in the Competition Tribunal.
Here is a list of the publications Postmedia acquired from Torstar and has decided to close:
Here is a list of the publications Torstar acquired from Postmedia and has decided to close:
Republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
Commentary by: Paul Adams in Ottawa
Jagmeet Singh does not yet have a seat in the House of Commons. So when the new NDP leader comes to visit, he’ll have to sit up in the Leader of the Opposition’s Gallery and gaze down on the body he wishes someday to join.
If all the MPs are there that day, Singh may notice that there are already five turbaned Sikh men with seats. In 2015, 47 so-called “visible minority” MPs were elected along with 10 Indigenous people, very nearly mirroring their relative shares of the Canadian population.
If Singh then swings his eyes to the north end of the Commons chamber to the gallery above the Speaker’s Chair — to the Press Gallery, that is — he may notice something different. So far as I am aware, there has never been a turbaned man working as a reporter for a major news organization, so he won’t see any of those.
No one keeps racial statistics on the Press Gallery the way they do for the House of Commons, but when I looked through the membership list the other day, I was able to identify only one visible minority reporter working for one of the big legacy media outlets – a reporter at CTV. None at the Globe, none at the Star, none at CBC-TV. And no Indigenous people either.
This may overstate the case a little bit. Since I was a reporter on the Hill in the 1990s, there has been an influx of young reporters of colour. They tend to be concentrated in online and specialist publications such as HuffPost Canada, the Hill Times, the Aboriginal Peoples’ Television Network (APTN) and some ethnic and foreign news outlets. The so-called Mainstream Media — not so much.
The House of Commons is today much more representative of the face of modern Canada than is the Press Gallery. Most of us can name a few visible minority and Indigenous politicians. Try coming up with more than one or two political journalists of colour.
When Singh was chosen as NDP leader, there were two streams of news coverage, both echoing (in a small way) the reaction to Barack Obama’s breakthrough in 2008. The first was a self-congratulatory celebration of the nation’s inclusivity. The second involved an obsessive concern with the man’s race and ethnicity.
One interview that got a lot of attention was Terry Milewski’s welcome-to-Ottawa interview with Singh on CBC’s Power and Politics. Milewski has never suffered fools gladly and operates on the premise that all politicians are fools until proven otherwise. (Stephen Harper was never able to establish this to Milewski’s satisfaction, so far as I could see.)
Apparently Singh, or his office, had — with stunning naiveté — asked to see the questions in advance. Milewski delightedly tweeted out that fact before Singh backed down. Advantage: Milewski.
A lot of the reaction to Milewski’s interview turned around a “gotcha” section at the end of the interview in which Milewski doggedly asked Singh to denounce posters of Talwinder Singh Parmar, which appear in some Sikh-Canadian institutions. Parmar was a Sikh nationalist who was — it has been well-established — the mastermind behind the Air India bombing in which 329 people were killed, most of them Canadian, many of them of Indian extraction.
For many viewers not steeped in the issue, it must have been a baffling exchange. But few reporters in Canada have covered the Air India bombing and its aftermath more thoroughly than Milewski — and Jagmeet Singh has been deeply engaged in Sikh politics. It may have been a ‘gotcha’ question, but it got Singh, who dodged and weaved but would not be caught denouncing Canada’s worst-ever mass murderer.
Singh is really going to have to do better than this if he wants to lead a national party with any success.
What concerned me about the Milewski interview was not this exchange, but what came before it. Except for the first question — which was about how Singh would manage without a Commons seat — every single query directly or indirectly invoked race, religion or ethnicity.
There were questions about refugees, religious symbols, Singh’s “acceptability” in Quebec — all coming before the Parmar exchange. Nothing on Singh’s interesting views on addressing precarious work among the young. Nothing on his controversial views on decriminalizing possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin. No “open-ended” questions that would allow Singh to lay out his own agenda.
Earlier that same day, another CBC journalist had posted a tweet that appeared to confuse Singh with another turbaned Sikh — federal economic development minister Navdeep Bains. If I were among the one-in-five people living in Canada who are visible minority, I might be tempted to wonder whether journalists who see a politician of colour see anything but the colour.
When we look south of the border — or across the Atlantic — it’s easy for Canadians to think of racism as a foreign problem. And I agree that we seem (for the moment) unusually blessed.
But take a look at some of the just-released data from Canadian Press’s important “Populism Project” – a survey from EKOS research. According to EKOS’ massive survey, 37 per cent of Canadians think too many immigrants are visible minority. Among respondents who are themselves visible minority, 43 per cent said they had “personally seen or experienced a clear incident of racism” over the past month. Remarkably, 26 per cent of other Canadians said the same.
While a plurality of Canadians don’t think there been much change in the level of racism in Canada, 33 per cent think racism is becoming more common, compared with 20 per cent who think it is becoming less common.
I am not suggesting for a moment that Sikh politicians should only be interviewed by Sikh journalists, or that Indigenous politicians (like the Manitoba NDP’s new leader Wab Kinew) should only be interviewed by Indigenous journalists. It’s a fundamental tenet of journalism that good reporters strive to understand the world around them, and strive particularly hard to understand those most different from them.
But a more diverse press corps would have two effects: one for journalists, the other for consumers of journalism.
For journalists, having people of various backgrounds in the newsrooms means being exposed to different sensibilities and story ideas in editorial meetings, over coffee, and in the thousands of chats that occur among colleagues in newsrooms every day as they try to figure out their angles. They also get to know individuals different from themselves in their full complexity — without reducing them to their most visible characteristics.
In the late 1980s, I did a story related to HIV/AIDS for the CBC. I had lived in New York at the height of the crisis a few years earlier and thought I was reasonably well informed. But after my story aired, a young producer — who was gay — came and spoke to me about some of the language I had used. He made me a better journalist by helping me see some things I had overlooked.
We are all limited to some degree by our backgrounds. Journalism is a lifelong process of educating ourselves away from those limitations.
For news consumers, diverse newsrooms are both a substantive and a symbolic indication that the news business is serious about exploring our world, which includes people like ourselves and people who are quite different. It’s not just about comforting visible minorities through representation. It’s also about the rest of us not just seeing them, but trying to understand them.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. This piece was republished under arrangement with iPolitics.
By: Amanda Connolly in Ottawa
Immigration lawyers in Canada are warning about risks caused by the spread of misinformation as the Trump administration rolls back a U.S. government program that shielded illegal immigrants brought to the United States as minors from deportation.
U.S. President Donald Trump formally announced on Tuesday the end of an Obama-era program that protected almost a million young people brought illegally into the country by their parents and granted them renewable two-year work permits, which will now begin to expire in early 2018.
While immigration lawyers said many clients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — widely known as “dreamers” — could be prime candidates for legal immigration to Canada, the challenge will be in making sure those looking to move are not getting faulty information about Canada’s immigration rules from unscrupulous immigration advisers or false reports. That’s what happened with thousands of Haitians earlier this summer when Trump threatened to rescind a program that lets those displaced by the earthquake in Haiti seven years ago live temporarily in the United States.
“These people are North American trained or brought up, so they have the skills to quickly adapt to the Canadian labour market or integrate into the post-secondary schooling system so there may in fact be some options for them,” said Betsy Kane, one of Canada’s top immigration lawyers and a partner at Capelle Kane.
“The only issue is if they are going to get misinformation from people trying to capitalize on their vulnerability and get sucked into a situation like the Haitians did, relying on potentially false information that would lure them into coming to make the wrong type of application to Canada.”
Roughly 7,000 asylum seekers, most of them Haitians from the U.S., have crossed into Canada since July. Some critics have accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of not doing enough to prevent the surge; some have even accused him of being partly to blame for it.
A January tweet in which critics said the prime minister implied that Canada would welcome just about anyone — legal migrant or not — has increasingly come under fire, prompting the government into damage control mode in recent months.
To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 28, 2017
Two weeks ago, Trudeau walked that welcome back in a series of tweets cautioning that while Canada is an open and diverse society, it also has immigration laws that must be obeyed.
Liberal MP and Whip Pablo Rodriguez also announced Wednesday he is heading to Los Angeles on Friday on a mission similar to that of MP Emmanuel Dubourg last month.
Following a surge of illegal Haitian migrants over the summer, the government sent Dubourg — who is himself of Haitian origin — to Miami to speak with Haitian community leaders and try to counter the flow of misinformation about how Canada’s immigration system works.
The government’s goal was to get a message across loud and clear: Not every refugee claim in Canada succeeds.
Now, Rodriguez is set to carry that same message to the other side of the country in a bid to stem a new wave of Mexican and Central American asylum seekers who are expected to be next to try and make the move north. Those people are in limbo now because of the possible end of temporary protected status for nearly 350,000 Salvadorans and Hondurans in the U.S. — a change that is unrelated to the rescinding of the DACA program but is similar in terms of how those affected might be influenced by misinformation.
Kane said the effort so far to counter the spread of bad information has been committed and social-media focused, which is exactly where it needs to be.
“I think it might be a more sophisticated group that’s not going to rely on WhatsApp or an internal rumours or community rumours as opposed to doing their research,” she said. “These are young people, they’re internet-savvy, and perhaps they’re going to spend a little more time getting the correct information, especially with all the social media that’s out there, because they’re all on social media. They’re young people, so that’s where they’re looking for information and CIC has been targeting social media.”
Many of those living in the U.S. under the DACA program are highly-educated and have skills that would make them prime applicants for the Express Entry system, Canada’s immigration scheme for skilled workers.
The question is whether those who want to use that route, or other legal options like applying for international student visas, will even be able to do so given the system overload caused by the influx of Haitians.
“The system is now overwhelmed,” said Julie Taub, an Ottawa immigration lawyer and former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. “It’s having an impact on the other applications and it’s creating a lot of resentment for those who are immigrating to Canada legitimately through the proper channels and for those who are legitimate refugee claimants.”
For now, Taub said, those Americans who may face deportation without DACA will be looking for the best way to wait for a reinstatement of the protection — and she expects Trump’s move to rescind the program eventually will be overturned.
“It’s beyond reason that he has taken this measure,” she said. “It’s ludicrous and I think it will be overturned.”
By arrangement with ipolitics.ca.
Jagmeet Singh raised more money than the rest of the NDP leadership field combined in the second quarter of 2017.
According to fundraising data published by Elections Canada late Monday afternoon, the deputy leader of the Ontario NDP raked in $356,784 from 1,681 contributors for the period that ended June 30.
That was well above Charlie Angus, who finished second with $123,577 from 1,285.
Niki Ashton raised $70,156 from 1,006 contributors, while Guy Caron brought in $46,970 from 568.
Peter Julian, who dropped out of the race in June citing fundraising troubles, still raised $28,673 from 296 donors.
In a press release, Singh cited the fact that he only officially joined the race on May 15, 2017 and that he therefore raised the impressive amount in only 47 days.
“Jagmeet Singh, candidate in the federal NDP leadership race, has raised more in the first 47 days than Justin Trudeau or Andrew Scheer at the same point in their leadership campaigns,” the press release said.
It added that the median donation was $40 and that two-thirds of the donations received were under $100.
The Liberals took issue with the $40 median donation being portrayed as evidence of a grassroots groundswell, pointing out that 87 per cent of all their donations in the second quarter were under $100 and that the median donation was just $11.
They also disputed the comparison to Trudeau’s leadership fundraising. A party spokesperson told iPolitics that — though Trudeau announced his intention to run on October 2, 2012, the race wasn’t officially underway until November 14, when the party began providing administrative support to the candidates.
In the first 47 days from November 14, the spokesperson said, Trudeau raised over $700,000.
All the same, with the NDP’s fundraising hitting a seven-year low in the quarter, Singh’s success is indisputably good news for the party, which takes a 25 per cent cut of all donations to leadership campaigns.
“Singh’s fundraising numbers also revealed how his message is resonating with new supporters for the NDP. A cross reference of address, name, and postal code with Elections Canada donor records, demonstrate that roughly 75% of the donors to Singh’s campaign have never before given to Canada’s NDP,” the Singh release said.
Singh himself argued his fundraising numbers show the party can take on the Liberals and Conservatives in 2019.
“I am very proud of what our team was able to accomplish in our first six weeks of the campaign,” he said.
By arrangement with ipolitics.ca.
By: Janice Dickson in Ottawa
Liberal MP Chandra Arya says he welcomes Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s suggestion to debate the Liberal government’s settlement with Omar Khadr.
Arya acknowledged that “it’s not just the Conservatives” who are against the reported $10.5 million payout to Khadr.
“Most Canadians … they’re uncomfortable, as the prime minister said.”
The Nepean MP was in the Centre Block Monday morning, delivering introductory remarks to summer school students who were touring Parliament. He spoke with iPolitics between tours.
“Most Canadians are a bit concerned,” he repeated, adding that sometimes the government has to make decisions that are unpopular.
Repeating what Justin Trudeau has said, it’s better than spending $30-$40 million down the road, Arya noted, admitting he too “is a bit concerned.”
He thinks it’s good that Scheer wants to bring forward the debate because the House of Commons is the right place for it and he’d rather debate the issue with his colleagues across the aisle than read their comments in a newspaper.
Arya’s passion for Parliament was evident in his brief talks to the tours.
“This is the most important institution in Canada. What happens here affects us all. This is what Canada is about,” he told the Nepean high school students.
“When I sit in the House of Commons and I look at all 338 members of Parliament I realize that I don’t have to go to every nook and corner of Canada because (the people) here, they represent Canada,” he said.
“I love (being an MP), I love every morning. Honestly I get up and feel I’m blessed.”
The former business executive, who moved to Ottawa from India about 14 years ago with his wife and son, said the highlight of his two-year political career has been seeing his private members bill C-305 pass unanimously in the Commons. Arya’s bill would expand the scope of hate-based mischief relating to places of worship to also include schools, universities, community centres, sports centres, senior residences, or any building or place used for educational, cultural, social or sporting events.
Currently, hate-based mischief against churches, mosques, synagogues and temples can result in a sentence of up to 10 years – whereas sentences for general mischief to other properties are up to two years.
Arya’s “quite happy” about the bill – which is currently stuck at third reading in the Senate – and expects it to pass and become law in the fall.
Given that only five per cent of private members bills become law, he picked this area to champion because he said it’s close to his heart.
“I’m from India, I’m a Hindu. We know the clashes between the religions and the discrimination that’s there … in other parts in the world, but this is Canada. Here we don’t tolerate that.”
After the Quebec mosque attack in February, Arya rose in the Commons and said the attack was a direct result of Conservative and PQ policies.
“The recent killings of Muslims praying in the mosque in Quebec City is not an accident,” he said. “This is the direct result of dog-whistle politics — the politics of fear and division.”
On Monday, Arya said Conservative MP Michael Chong has been more specific than he was on the issue and consequence of rhetoric.
“Words they are important and they can really hurt,” he said.
While all of the political leaders have “really good intentions,” what he was suggesting in February was that the rhetoric had to be toned down. Members of political parties may misconstrue rhetoric and some have extreme views, but he doesn’t think any current MPs have extreme views. Not even Kellie Leitch.
“She wants much more scrutiny of the Canadians coming in, but I don’t think she’s a racist.”
Arya used to publish a newspaper called The Ottawa Star before running for office. Initially it was weekly and then bi-weekly, but he started the paper for new Canadians because he found that the mainstream media was not covering new Canadians’ events well.
When he became the candidate for Nepean, he shut it down because as he put it, “You know, I was funding it from my pocket.”
Now, in the dog days of summer, the Nepean MP spends most of his time in his constituency office or at events.
He said he’s fortunate to represent the riding because the income is above average, unemployment is quite low and there are not many major issues, apart from public service employees who have had issues with the Phoenix payroll system.
“Ottawa-wide issues also affect us of course.”
When asked if he considers the summer a break at all, he laughed.
“No. No way. Last week there were four days I left at 8:15 a.m and was back home at 9:30 p.m.”
That said, for him it’s not a job where he puts on a suit and stares at the clock.
“This is life and I love it.”
By arrangement with ipolitics.ca.
by Ainslie Cruickshank in Ottawa
Social conservatives are hoping two anti-sex education candidates will split the vote in the upcoming Ottawa-Vanier byelection, leaving Progressive Conservative Andre Marin out in the cold.
“I don’t think it’s realistic that they will win without a large party machine behind them but they can certainly get enough votes to cause the pro-radical sex-ed PC candidate to lose if it’s a close race,” said Jack Fonseca, a senior political strategist with Campaign Life Coalition.
The coalition is a national anti-abortion organization and a vocal opponent of Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. It’s putting its support behind both Elizabeth de Viel Castel, a candidate running for the new single-issue political party Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda, and Stephanie McEvoy, who is running for the Canadian Constituents’ Party and also opposes the sex-education programming the Wynne government introduced last year — the first update to the sex-ed curriculum since 1998.
The new curriculum includes updates on healthy relationships, same-sex relationships, consent, mental health, online safety and the risks of “sexting”.
Marin has expressed support for the new sex-education curriculum, telling the Toronto Star that PC leader Patrick Brown “fell on the right side of the issue” after the party flip-flopped on it in the run-up to the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection. Requests for comment from Brown and Marin were declined Friday.
“The goal is to send a message to the PC establishment that you can’t win by alienating social conservatives. The social conservative wing of the party is very important and this is an issue you can win on,” Fonseca said.
The new curriculum is “age-inappropriate” and will put children in “harm’s way,” he said.
“Candidates owe it to the public to be open and honest and forthright on their position on such issues,” said Liberal campaign co-chair and Advanced Education Minister Deb Matthews.
While Matthews said she disagrees with their position, she added she gives members of the new anti-sex ed party credit for making their views on the issue clearer than Brown has.
“Parents want their kids to learn how to protect themselves from sexual predators, from online predators. We want kids to understand what healthy relationships are. And I think the public is with us on that,” she said.
In Ottawa-Vanier, Fonseca said Campaign Life Coalition will encourage its supporters to not only vote for either de Viel Castel or McEvoy, but also to volunteer and donate to their campaigns.
Queenie Yu, the force behind the new Stop the New Sex Ed Agenda party, is running under its banner in Niagara West-Glanbrook. She previously ran as an independent on an anti-sex ed platform in the Scarborough-Rouge River byelection, coming in fourth with 575 votes.
While some parents do support the new curriculum, many have concerns, Yu said.
“Each child is unique. Just because a child reaches a certain age doesn’t mean they’re ready to learn about certain subjects. Parents know their kids best. Parents – not the government – should be deciding when, what and how much their children should be learning about sex,” she said.
In Niagara West-Glanbrook, Fonseca said Yu is a “supportable” candidate but Campaign Life Coalition would be happy to see Sam Oosterhoff, the PC candidate, win the seat given the support he showed for parental rights during his nomination campaign.
While Yu said she hasn’t spoke with Oosterhoff, she said she has been assured by mutual friends that the 19-year old candidate shares her values.
“I’d vote for him if I lived in the riding,” she said, noting her goal for the anti-sex ed party isn’t necessarily to win seats but rather to keep the issue in the public eye.
Charles McVety, the president of the Canada Christian College, warned a split with social conservativescould cost the PCs the 2018 election after Oosterhoff won the nomination over party president and former Conservative MP Rick Dykstra and Niagara regional Councillor Tony Quirk.
That’s a message Fonseca repeated Friday.
Pursuing a more liberal approach to social issues risks alienating the conservative base and invites the creation a new, “formidable” conservative party in the province, he said, adding that could result in Liberal governments for years to come.
By arrangement with ipolitics.ca
by L. Ian MacDonald in Montreal, Quebec
A referendum question usually calls for a simple binary response: yes or no. In Britain on Thursday, voters will decide whether to “remain” in or “leave” the European Union.
The first draft of the referendum question required a yes/no response to a pretty straightforward question: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” But the British electoral commission argued for something more nuanced: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union?” The commission persuaded the House, and the question was adopted by Parliament Sept. 7.
The first draft of the question was only 11 words; the final version runs to 16. But the distinction between “remain” and “leave” has become not only the ballot question but the basis of the Brexit campaigns’ duelling slogans: Europe, in or out.
There’s a lot riding on this — the stability of the EU, the unity of the U.K. itself. If the Leave forces win, there will be an unravelling of both. And in the final days of the campaign, most polls put the two options within the margin of error — too close to call.
So how did British Prime Minister David Cameron get himself into this predicament? He ran on it. Seriously.
In the May 2015 election, Cameron promised to hold a referendum on the EU if he won. He was trying to placate the Conservative base in England while pushing back against an anti-EU insurgency by the United Kingdom Independence Party on the right.
“It is for the British people to have their say,” Cameron declared at the time. “It is time to settle this European question in British politics.”
Be careful what you wish for. Having sown the wind, Cameron could be about to reap the whirlwind. Should the Leave forces prevail, he almost certainly would be be packing his bags at Downing Street the next day.
It shouldn’t come to that. It shouldn’t be this close, either. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times on the weekend had the Remain side leading 44-43, having been down seven points — 46-39 — a week earlier. The pollster was in the field mostly before the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, a 41-year-old mother of two who was shot and stabbed in her riding last Thursday by an apparently deranged Leave supporter.
In the shock of the aftermath, the campaign was immediately suspended on both sides. It’s not clear whether Cox’s death will bring some wavering voters to their senses, but the tragedy certainly became a dominant media frame in the closing days of the campaign.
Usually in referendums, undecided voters gravitate to the status quo, normally by margins of about two to one. That was the case in the Scottish independence referendum of 2014, and the Quebec plebiscites of 1980 and 1995. (In the Scottish referendum, the No side’s 55-45 win was helped by the clarity of the six-word question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”)
If that pattern holds for the Brexit vote, the Remain side should win by about four or five points, something like 52-48. But you never know.
There’s no doubt that a Brexit vote would be a devastating blow to a united Europe. The European project has been a work in progress since the 1950s, when it was founded as the six-nation European Economic Community, including France and West Germany, in 1957. The U.K. joined in 1973. Today the EU has 28 member countries, 19 of them using the euro as their common currency — a continent without borders, an economy of 500 million people.
The EU has weathered several serious recent crises, from the financial collapse of 2008-09 to the great refugee migration still in progress. The economic crisis underlined the fundamental weakness of the euro — the fact that no one seems to know how to sustain a common monetary policy across economies as strong as Germany and as weak as Greece. Britain never adopted the euro, Margaret Thatcher having carried the argument that relinquishing control of monetary sovereignty would be a surrender of political sovereignty.
The refugee crisis has prompted different responses across Europe; Germany and Sweden are leading by generous example in receiving migrants, while countries such as Hungary have erected barbed wire fences. Across the continent, extremist and xenophobic right-wing movements have flourished in the last year. Donald Trump would feel right at home.
Comparatively few refugees have landed in the U.K., but that hasn’t prevented the Leave forces from making immigration their main grievance. The New York Times notes that half of Britain’s 330,000 immigrants in 2015 came from Europe, and in southern England many residents complain about them taking their jobs. That’s one sentiment driving the “Take Back Control” slogan employed by the Leave side. Another is bungling bureaucrats in Brussels — foreigners meddling in their local economy.
All of which has left Britain divided and on the brink. Until the last week, England had been leaning to the Leave. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all clearly favour the Remain side. For Scotland in particular, the EU is a check and balance against the power of Westminster. A vote to leave it could well trigger another referendum on Scottish independence. In Northern Ireland, it could result in the end of a borderless relationship with the Irish Republic.
And Great Britain could become Little England — no longer a leader in Europe and much diminished in the world, including the world of financial services in which the City of London is a global leader.
As a fellow member of the G7 and G20, as a NATO ally and leader of the Commonwealth, as an important trading and investment partner, Canada’s preference should be obvious — for a United Kingdom in a united Europe, with no unravelling of either.
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca
It defies belief that voters in a country still recovering from decades of cruel dictatorship would elect as their president a man closely associated with death squads — a man who has said (only half in jest) that when there are beautiful nuns to be gang-raped, he wants to be first in line.
But that’s what voters in the Philippines just did. This nation of 98 million on Monday elected as president Rodrigo Duterte, the mayor of Davao City and a man for whom the description “bombastic demagogue” seems a massive understatement. Next to Duterte, Donald Trump comes off like a meek, self-effacing wallflower.
Yet both men represent the leading edge of a political phenomenon springing from the public’s disdain for traditional politicians — a sense that, somehow, democracy has derailed. In too many countries — not just the Philippines and the United States — far too many people feel that democracy no longer serves the people, or responds to their aspirations.
This — as George Orwell, Edmund Burke and many other political commentators and philosophers have noted — is the fertile soil in which demagogues take root. And demagogues can swiftly degenerate into tyrants.
That said, Trump and Duterte spring from fundamentally different problems with 21st century democracy. Trump was spawned by a dysfunctional, deadlocked federal system rusting at the joints. Duterte, on the other hand, embodies the frustrated hopes of a people who began the transition into democracy 30 years ago with the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
That revolution has been unable to tackle the Philippines’ core problem. It remains a semi-feudal society where a score of families own vast estates and controlling seats in both houses of the National Assembly. Over 70 of the 80 provinces are ruled by old landed families. Over 20 of the 24 seats in the Senate are controlled by the aristocratic clans, and so are 80 per cent of the 250 seats in the House of Representatives.
Once before, Filipinos voted in a president they thought was a man of the people — someone who would break the aristocracy’s absolute control of political life. That was Joseph Estrada, who before becoming mayor of Manila was an actor who specialized in playing a Robin Hood-type street criminal who always looked after his own people.
Once Estrada got into the president’s Malacañang Palace in 1998, however, he proved to be just as venal as the previous occupants. He was deposed in 2001 by his vice-president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, an offspring of one of the landed families.
Now, with Duterte, Filipinos are hoping again they’ve found someone who will break the hold of the landed gentry on the system.
Duterte certainly has accumulated a lot of street cred during his 22 years as mayor of Davao. Even though his family are the political dons of Davao (his daughter is succeeding him as mayor), Duterte has managed to convince voters that he’s an outsider, someone contemptuous of traditional politicians and their half-hearted way of doing things.
Take, for example, his approach to crime in Davao. Duterte has been cited by Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations and Amnesty International for, at the very least, tolerating death squads and the extra-judicial killing of hundreds of suspected criminals.
He has promised to bring the same uncompromising approach to crime to the national level. “(It’s) going to be bloody,” he said in a television interview last year. “People will die.” Duterte said he would oversee the killing of 100,000 criminals within six months of becoming president.
The new president is an enthusiastic womanizer, but his attitude towards women is indelibly marked by what he said about an Australian missionary nun, who was raped and killed during a prison riot in Davao in 1989. Speaking to an election rally in a sports stadium in April, he said:
“When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste.”
Following an outraged complaint by the Australian embassy, Duterte apologized for his “gutter language,” but that’s all he did.
Filipino voters beguiled by Duterte’s brash populism seem destined for disappointment. Like Trump, he has no coherent policy platform and — more important — no supporting major political party in Congress and no national political network. The currency — the peso — and the stock market took sharp tumbles as Duterte’s election looked more and more likely.
The major mystery here is why Filipinos are so drawn to Duterte — a phenomenon every bit as baffling as Trump’s wild popularity among grassroots Republicans. There does not appear to be all that much to be angry about in the Philippines these days.
The current president, Benigno Aquino, has been the most positive and accomplished leader the Philippines has had for several generations — much like Barack Obama. Aquino has overseen the Philippines’ rise from “sick man of Asia” status to enjoying one of the strongest and fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia.
He has faced down Beijing over China’s attempts to grab islands and maritime resources within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. He has quietly and efficiently addressed many of the structural problems that held the Philippines back. Poverty remains a major problem, but the future looks brighter than it has at any time since the end of the Marcos dictatorship 30 years ago.
So Duterte will have a hard time matching or surpassing Aquino’s record of reforms, especially as the new president has little political backing in Congress. But Duterte has addressed that problem already, in characteristic fashion. He has said that if Congress opposes him, he will close it down.
And there is the doorway to tyranny — wide open.
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca
As the world struggles against the rapid spread of the Zika virus, the Canadian government is opening its wallet to shell out nearly $5 million for research and international aid.
Health Minister Jane Philpott announced a funding package of $4.95 million before question period Wednesday afternoon, which she called a “significant and important international response” on Canada’s part.
The virus has been linked by health officials to causing microcephaly, a rare but serious birth defect that leads to unusually small heads and hindering newborn development.
“This will fund large international projects that will address the spread of the Zika virus,” she said.
According to the minister’s office, $3 million will go toward in research, through Canada Institutes of Health Research, and the International Research Development Centre. Specifically it goes into researching the link between Zika, microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, along with developing better ways of testing for the virus, studying how it gets transmitted, and finding better ways of preventing transmission from mosquitoes.
Public Health Agency of Canada will send $950,000 to the Pan American Health Organization for responding to countries hardest hit, and Global Affairs Canada will divvy up $1 million for humanitarian funding to a number of organizations, including the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Federation of Red Cross.
In the U.S., meanwhile, the White House and health officials have been urging Congress to grant $1.9 billion in new funding to deal with the health threat Zika poses internationally and domestically, and while waiting the administration has raided funding from an Ebola fund to make due.
In Canada, the Zika threat itself has been low because the country doesn’t have the Aedes type of mosquito that spreads the virus. According to Public Health Agency Canada’s last update from last week, Canada has 67 cases identified from travel and one from sexual transmission.
Zika has been around in Africa and Asia for decades, but in the past few years it was introduced into the Americas and has been spreading rapidly.
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca
by Selina Chignall in Ottawa
As 25,000 Syrian refugees live through the process of resettlement and beginning new lives in Canada, a Statistics Canada study published today reveals that the children of refugees who arrived in Canada between 1980 and 2000 are thriving.
StatsCan’s, Educational and Labour Market Outcomes of Childhood Immigrants by Admission Class, reviewed the 2011 National Household Survey to examine the socioeconomic outcomes of immigrant children who arrived in Canada before the age of 18 during those two decades.
The study examined each class of immigrant — skilled workers, business immigrants, live-in caregivers, the family class and refugees.
The study found children of all categories of refugees (private, government and landed) had achieved better graduation outcomes than their Canadian-born peers. They had also outperformed those who settled here through the live-in caregivers and family class.
Roughly 30 per cent of refugees from all classes went to university — whereas 24 per cent of children born to two Canadian-born parents attended university and 19 per cent of those born to live-in caregivers.
The highest portion of immigrant children were those who came via business and the skilled-worker class. Of those who came through the channel, 59% obtained a university degree, while 50% of those from the skilled-worker class got their diploma.
The study also found that the average earnings of refugee children — $41,000 to $44,000 — were similar to the earnings of children with both Canadian-born parents and immigrant parents who came into the country via the business and skilled working class streams. Their annual earnings were about $46,000
Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), said she’s not surprised by the positive outcomes refugees have in their new home.
“We have the proof before our eyes how refugees and children of refugees have proved themselves in Canadian society.”
Dench said it confirms what CCR has been saying for a long time: refugees contribute enormously to Canada.
However, there are barriers some refugee children face that can prevent them from pursuing higher education, including helping their families to pay off their transportation loan. Those looking to settle in Canada have to pay their way here and undergo a medical examination. If they can’t afford to do so, the government will help pay for these services, but the families have to reimburse them for the loan.
“We hear they might not be able to go to university because they have to earn money to pay off the transportation loan,” Dench said.
For some refugees, the loan is waived. For the rest, it can cost a family $10,000. They have one to six years to pay back the loan, depending upon how much the owe the government.
An issue that also could affect the future generations of refugees pouring into the country from countries like Guatemala, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Syria is that they come from war-torn countries whose education systems have or are close to collapse, said Monica Boyd, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.
A report from World Vision said between two million and three million Syrian children are not attending school. For many of these young children who have gone months and years without formal schooling, Boyd said it’s an added challenge when they start their new life in Canada.
According to a November 2015 report by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, of those Syrians who arrived in 2014, 34 per cent were under the age of 15, and 15 per cent were 15 to 24 and 48 per cent were between 25 to 64.
Statistics Canada and Boyd both said the younger the children are when they settle in a new country, the better education outcomes they have. She said this was due in part to youngsters spending a longer period in the school system where they can improve their language skills.
It’s harder for teens to catch up on language skills and to adapt to a new education system.
“Playing catch-up is an issue many teens face, and the educational system still hasn’t figured out how to support these students,” said Dench.
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit