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The Curious Case of the Magna Carta and the Covidiot Footballer

This has been a hard week mentally and emotionally for a lot of us, and I have to admit that it’s wearing on me. If you’ve heard some of my radio appearances this week, maybe you’ve been able to pick that up in my voice or words. Sometimes when things wear like this, I need to either disconnect from social media or find something lighter to take in or talk about. And honestly, during this year of COVID that’s been all the more needed.

It was with that in mind that I came across an article from the United Kingdom that brought a smirking smile to my poli-nerd face, probably when I needed it the most. And what’s best is that it brought in one of my other loves in life; Football:

Yeah, just that headline alone forced you to read this story. Come on, admit it!  World, meet Bradley Orr, a retired professional football player from England (and tangentially for the old “local connection”, one time member of Toronto FC). Turns out that in his post-football life, he owns and operates a “soft play centre” in Merseyside. When COVID restrictions came into place, he decided to ignore them and came up with a different excuse for trying to tell government officials to leave him alone. His excuse? He claimed the Magna Carta allowed him to do it!

Yeah, the Magna Carta folks. He said that COVID public health rules didn’t apply to him because of it, and he refused to pay the more than £4,500 that he had been fined for ignoring the rules. But if you thought this story was crazy enough, just wait until you get to some of the written statements in the case. According to the statement from PC Alex Broadbent , when he informed Orr that he was breaking the rules, Orr told him that he was ” not entering into a contract with you” and that he refuses “to stand under” Broadbent. His written statement then went onto state that “Orr pointed out that he had an extract from the Magna Carta on the front door of his property which he asked me to read.”

On the door? Okay folks, let me just take a little detour here for a second to point out something that might normally need to be unsaid, but seems to be necessary here. If the indoor gym centre that you take your kids to has extracts from the Magna Carta plastered on the front door when you get there, maybe you should find another indoor gym centre to give your business to. But hey, that might just be me.

Anywho, this story reads like so many of the nutty stories you read about rank amateur self-professed lawyers during this pandemic who are trying to quote legal documents erroneously to defend whatever anti-social crap they wish. In this case, Orr falsely claimed that Clause 61 of the Magna Carta meant he could ignore laws that he deems “unjust”. Of course, on the face of it that is just crap, and we know that because you just don’t get to ignore laws that you don’t like. That’s not how a democratic society works. And even if that did, and this crock of an excuse was legal and correct, do you think that somehow 800 years after the document came to be no one else thought to do it? Seriously, over eight centuries have gone by and this retired mediocre footballer is the first genius to think this one up? Come on man, come on!

Anyway, like so many of these stories involving these wanna-be amateur Matlock’s, the answer to Orr’s false assertions came with just a bit more reading or research. As the BBC points out even though the Magna Carta is “one of the foundational documents of English law, only four parts of the Magna Carta remain valid.” And of course “none of those clauses allows citizens to decide which laws should apply to them.”

Of course, given how that bit of amateur legal genius turned out, the footnote to this story shouldn’t come as a shock. In another statement, PC Matthew Edwards pointed out on a later visit that Orr had acted “in a childish manner” and claimed coronavirus was “make-believe”. He went out to point out that “Orr began to quote that the Health Regulations 2020 were only legislations and not law and that he only listened to common law.” They were only “legislations and not law”?!?!?! Okay, that’s just a cherry of stupidity on top of this crap sundae of insanity.

Needless to say that the example of this Covidiot is ridiculous to the point of having to wonder if it’s actually satire and not real. The fact that it brings together a washed-out footballer who clearly took too many pops to the head, “soft gyms” and the Magna Carta in the same story is just goofy. It’s an insane Mad Lib that only COVID or this past year could create. Anyway, as we continue to fight COVID and get out of this pandemic, add Bradley Orr to the list of COVID-denying, anti-social goofs who have hurt society during this time of need that we must not forget. And yeah, don’t take your kids to gyms with the Magna Carta on the door too. Better to be safe than sorry.

Talking Ontario’s New Chief Medical Officer of Health with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Tim Powers for “Political Heat” panel. We talked the Ford Governments naming of a new Chief Medical Officer of Health, why this is welcomed news (if a bit late in the game), what this might mean for Ontario’s COVID response going forward, Ontario allowing 500 vaccinated health care workers to attend Game 7 of the Habs/Leafs and the value of the carrot of such events in getting people to get vaccinated. You can listen below starting at the 17:00 minute mark.

Talking Kamloops Residential School Discovery on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Lisa Kirbie. We discussed the news of the discovery of remains of children found at the Kamloops residential school site, the pain of this moment, how this moment speaks to the fact that there cannot be true reconciliation without closure, the need for actual actions and not just more thoughts and prayers, the continued vaccination against COVID-19, the continued mixed messaging around it and more. You can listen to it all below.

What You Need to Know: A #CdnPolicast – Energy and C-12

On Friday I was happy to record the latest episode of Bluesky Strategy Group’s “What You Need to Know: A #CdnPolicast” with my colleagues Neil Brodie and Alyson Fair. We talked about energy and the Liberal governments Bill C-12, the strategy of the bill and what you need to know to help Canada become net-zero by 2050. You can check it all out below:

Tempest in a Coffee Cup

This week in Ottawa has been a very busy one by just about any standard, let alone for a short 4-day week. There is so much that political Ottawa could all be talking about this morning because there is so much going on. Our political cup runneth over with a somewhat cryptic statement via Tweet from last night has confused, bemused and grabbed the attention of #cdnpoli observers:

When I saw this last night, I really tried by best not to make a joke about this despite the fact that there was enough here to do so. The fact that this isn’t the first live camera incident for MP Will Amos wasn’t lost on anyone, and given the embarrassment of the first incident and the questionable sharing of the photograph of it, I was inclined to stay quiet. To have another camera-related incident happen again was surely going to add to the embarrassment, so I was inclined to leave it there.

But then that statement was attached to it, which raised some questions for me that I couldn’t quite get out of my mind. First was the actual admission that he had accidentally relieved himself on camera during this house session. Knowing the buildings of the Hill, my first thought was that maybe he has a personal washroom in his office, and he did something as innocent as forgetting to close the door and being seen. Yet that possibility is quickly removed when you see pictures from Amos’ office shared on his Instagram that media outlets have shared, like this one:

Source: william_amos_pontiac | Instagram

From that photo of that office, I can tell that his office is in one of the buildings across the street from the Hill recently renovated as a part of the updates to Parliament Hill. That’s notable to me because those offices do not have personal washrooms in them, as some of the older offices on the Hill do. So that removed the “simple oopsie” explanation for this incident.

But there was also another part of statement that really had me scratching my head. He noted that he was stepping aside from his Parliamentary Secretary and committee roles so that he could “seek assistance”. Assistance? What assistance would he be seeking here, beyond some help from tech support about how to use a webcam? It puzzled me because it seemed like a real case of “too much information”. While it may be normal for someone to seek help if they were having mental or general health issues that caused an incident to happen, what issue is there in this case? Well it seems that I wasn’t the only one wondering what more there was to this story, and it was former Quebec politician -turned-radio host Bernard Drainville who went to Twitter with this bit of info that might help answer the question:

In a coffee cup, at his desk, while in the House virtually and on his office phone having a conversation that he apparently didn’t want to end. Yep, that’s what Drainville is reporting. There are a lot of things that I didn’t have on my 2021 bingo card, but the Liberals having their own Jerry Bance incident clearly wasn’t on it. I’ll leave it to everyone else to insert their own jokes on that strange happening.

But if this is the case, this might actually help answer the “assistance” question. Working on the Hill I’ve seen many cases of MPs who are hard working to the point of losing any sense of work/life balance. I’ve seen MPs who get so wrapped up in their work that they start to put their own mental health (and that of their staff) at risk. One can work hard without running themselves into the ground, but I’ve seen too many cases of MPs who put their own health and well being at risk to get more done in a day. And when one rises to the role of Parliamentary Secretary, that’s all the more likely to happen.

So when you put together the two camera incidents together, that’s what I started to see. Most people don’t change clothes like that in their offices instead of at the gym facilities that MPs normally have access to on the Hill. Most people put down the phone and go to the washroom instead of using the nearest coffee cup. But when people are trying to maximize every minute of their day and are trying to squeeze in so much, these are the kinds of things they end up doing. That doesn’t make the actions any more rational, but when you look at it through that lens, it makes a bit more sense.

And if you look at it through that lens, that can help to explain the “seeking assistance” comment in his statement. Maybe the assistance he needs to seek is improving his work/life balance, learning how to better balance his time and forcing himself to take more time in his day for simple things and to better take care of himself. When it comes to Amos himself, I have no inside knowledge to know that’s the case. But as someone who spent a decade on the Hill, I saw enough examples of this kind of MP burning themselves out to see some signs when it’s happening. That’s what my Spidey-senses are telling me may very well be the case here and if that’s the case, I truly hope that Mr. Amos has success in getting that assistance that he needs.

In the meantime, we can add this episode to the long list of craziness that this silly season of Parliament can bring us. We can look at this for a moment, form our opinions and hopefully move onto the long list of important issues that we have before us. The House only has 18 sitting days left before the summer comes and with an increasingly likely Fall election in the offing, there is a lot of work to get done. So while this tempest in a coffee cup will grab some of our attention today, we’ve got a lot of business to get onto. The people who elected these MPs are counting on them getting that done.

Talking Ontario’s COVID Re-Opening Plan with Kristy Cameron

On Friday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Lucas Meyer for a rare Friday “Political Heat” panel. We talked the release of Ontario’s COVID Re-Opening Plan, where this plan shows some growth from the Ford Conservatives, where the plan falls short and more. You can listen below starting at the beginning.

Talking the Federal Political Horse Race with Rob Snow

Today I joined Rob Snow on CityNews Ottawa radio’s “The Rob Snow Show” along with Tim Powers for the “Political Fix” panel. We talked the current state of the horse race in Federal politics, what does the recent polling say about the current state of things, Quebec’s newest language law, Doug Ford’s mojo (or lack there of) and what the current trend of progressive voters fleeing the Big City for smaller communities might mean for our politics going forward. You can listen to the audio by clicking below.

Talking Latest Sexual Assault Allegations Involving Canadian Forces with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Semhar Tekeste for the “Political Heat” panel. We talked the reports of allegations of sexual assault against Major General Dany Fortin, how much transparency the Prime Ministers Office owes Canadians in this case about what they knew and when, the increased roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations, the current state of the vaccination campaign, the talk of re-opening and how things seem to generally be improving finally. You can listen starting at the 13:30 mark.

Nothing or Everything

I have to admit to a curiosity of mine during COVID, something that I’ve found myself doing from time to time. That curiosity has been to watch how some things have continued to operate in a COVID environment, things that have nothing to do with the response to COVID but are still parts of our democratic society. The functioning of political parties has been a big part of that curiosity for me, particularly when it comes to preparing for the next Federal election.

Being that we are in a minority government, the parties still need to be ready for the eventuality when it comes. But because of COVID, that obviously can’t happen in a normal way. While it’s easier to adapt some things, like fundraising methods, others aren’t as straightforward. Candidate nominations are a good example of that, where you can’t pack a hall full of people for a nomination meeting. But those nomination meetings have gone virtual and are continuing, as candidates continue to put their names forward for the various parties. And it was in watching this whole process play out that an interesting piece of news came out from CTV’s Evan Solomon late Sunday night, a bit of nomination news that will surely grab attention:

Oh Avi Lewis, what to make of this? I’ve never hidden my views on this Mr. Lewis, his activism around the Leap Manifesto and how it caused so many problems for the NDP. It was a grenade that he and his group threw into the 2015 federal election, the first that had a serious chance to elect an NDP government and contributed to how things went. It also contributed to the convention defeat of Tom Mulcair, despite Lewis’ pleas in the media that he didn’t mean to “blow up” said convention. While I always respected his journalistic work, I can’t say I’ve felt the same for his political work like that. And this is where things get a bit complicated.

What always rankled me about Avi Lewis was that he threw such policy grenades at the NDP, then stood on the sideline and tried to tell others to make it happen. He got to keep his purity intact and forced others to try to do the hard work of squaring some of these policy circles. That always bothered me and at the time I would say that “if he thinks the NDP should run on these things, he should run and be a candidate himself”. The bigger point being, he should finally put up. So in a sense, I guess I tip my hat to him for finally doing that.

For what it means though for the NDP going forward, it could be nothing or it could be everything. The fact that he is choosing to run in West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country is the first clue about how this all might end. The fact is that this riding is pretty Conservative in many ways. The Liberals currently hold it, but the NDP are nowhere in the picture, having finished fourth here in 2019. The Greens actually finished 3rd here with 22% of the vote in that election, making it one of their better showings in the country. And during the last BC provincial election, where the NDP romped to a large majority, the Greens nearly won a part of this seat while the NDP finished a distant third. The Green presence makes sense here, especially when you consider that this is the former seat of one of the first Green transplants from the May years, when former Liberal MP Blair Wilson flipped to the Greens right before the 2008 election and ended up finishing 4th.

Running in this riding for someone like Lewis is more than a tall order, as it would appear to be unwinnable for even a “star” NDP candidate. Even when the NDP had its best ever electoral result in 2011, the party only gained 24% of the vote and finished well behind the Conservatives. So while it’s true that 2021 is not 2011, things haven’t changed that much in the NDP’s favour. Lewis will have to basically build a riding organization from scratch and raise big money in a riding where the last NDP candidate only spent $5,500 on her entire campaign. Those are all very big challenges to overcome and while I expect that Lewis will be able to raise a fair bit more money than the last candidate, that alone won’t overcome those challenges. So in the “nothing” category, this could just be a quixotic run by a big name that comes to nothing.

But on the other “everything” hand, this could be a big problem for Jagmeet Singh. First off, guaranteed the NDP will face a whole new barrage of “Leap Manifesto” attacks from here to eternity just by the virtue of Lewis being a candidate in such an unwinnable riding. It seems like a lot of potential pain to go through for little (if any) political payoff. Also, the presence of Lewis running in the next election could have the potential to undo the hard work of rebuilding bridges between the central party and the Alberta NDP of Rachael Notley. When Notley spoke at the NDP convention last month, we saw the result of that careful work to bring those two sides back together and if Avi Lewis acts like Avi Lewis has in the past, that could easily threaten to blow all of that up. That would also go for Saskatchewan as well. And come election time, the central party will depend on the support and volunteers of those provincial sections to win much needed seats in both provinces. If Lewis acts as he has in the past, he could single-handedly put all of that in jeopardy.

And when I say “if Lewis acts as he has in the past”, to me that’s the real wildcard here. He hasn’t shown himself to be a team player when it comes to his political activism and given some of his past comments around Leap, he is going to have to prove differently to many people. That whole episode left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, and it will be on him to show if he’s learned anything from that experience.

Of course, the extent to which any of that will matter will come down to if he can win a seat in the House of Commons. If he’s just a candidate who loses, any problems that might come with his candidacy might very well be limited to that campaign (although one can do a lot of damage in a campaign). The only way that this becomes an “everything” situation for the NDP is if he actually wins that seat. The would put him in that caucus and would put all of this to the test. If he was able to be a team player, work within a caucus structure and be a constructive MP then it could be a boon for the NDP. But it’s just as likely that if he won, he could become the ultimate “enfant terrible” in that caucus, which would be bad news for not just the party, but for Jagmeet Singh.

The one big question that makes me wonder why he’s taking this step now is “Why?”. The fact is that Avi has made it clear for the longest time that he had no interest in seeking office, even going as far as to say only five years ago that “I know what we do to these people and I wouldn’t relish being on the other side.” He of all people does know that firsthand, having witnessed it in his own family. So I am very curious as to why he’s doing this now and what’s changed his perspective on it. Yes, I admit that it always got under my skin that he would make such grand pronouncements of policy from the sidelines and refused to get in the fray, but I also respected why he wouldn’t.

So the answer to that question of “why now?” should go a long way to answering a lot of what we think might happen. Where Avi’s mind is at and what his motivations are will tell us what this is all about, and that will go a long way to telling us if this is everything or nothing. I’m more inclined to lean towards the “nothing” side because in order to make it more, you need to win. And while I’ve witnessed first-hand and come to deeply respect the campaign savvy and abilities of the Lewis family as a whole, this is a big, uphill challenge, even for them. We’ll see what comes of it but like many things to come so far in 2021, this isn’t one that many folks had on their bingo card.

Talking Communications Around COVID Vaccinations on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Lisa Kirbie. We discussed the latest discussions around COVID, the unneeded confusion around government communications on COVID vaccinations, why governments need to ensure that AstraZeneca don’t go to waste, the good move by the Premier of Nova Scotia to stop pro-COVID protests in their tracks, the latest case of sexual assault allegations in the Canadian Forces and more. You can listen to it all below.