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Cov-idiots of the North West

Here we are, 14 months into this pandemic and yeah, nerves are frayed. While some people are doing their part to fight this disease despite that frustration, others continue to simply hurt the cause and do their level best to be the proverbial stick in the front wheel of our collective bicycle. I have empathy for people who have lost their businesses or jobs and believe that government should be doing everything within their power to help them.

But when it comes to those who spew lies, conspiracy theories or other junk, I have zero time for them. They are doing real harm to society and actually making things worse. They are creating more super spreader events that create new COVID spikes, more cases, leading to more deaths and force us to be in COVID measures even longer. So it was with that in mind that I noted something I hadn’t heard much about during this pandemic, a Cov-idiot protest back home in Kenora and folks, it’s worth noting:

Where to begin with this stupidity? First off, I’ll just note that one of the upsides to a protest like this in a smaller community is that you can easily identify the idiots taking part and shun the living hell out of them for years to come. And folks, there is some serious shunning merited from some of the quotes on the record here. Start with those who were yelling from the roadside “don’t get vaccinated.” That’s just dangerous crap, especially when to comes to vaccines that have been proved to be highly effective and safe.

But let’s continue the shunning to people like James Pencoff, who was quoted in the piece with a couple especially disgusting gems. Firstly he complained that the media “has been “parroting” what health experts and government officials have said about the COVID-19 pandemic.” Yeah, they’ve been reporting the facts. The facts and science speak loudly, and the experts follow that. So what exactly is he bitching about? That the media isn’t actively ignoring facts and science and isn’t trying to mislead people.

Yeah, that’s a priceless take but he didn’t stop there. He admitted on the record that he had the virus recently, which is disturbing given that he was out in public protesting. He actually said that “COVID-19 wasn’t that bad” and even went onto say that “people shouldn’t be scared of it.” To be perfectly honest, it was that last quote that sent me over the edge and pushed me to write this piece. It’s that kind of ignorance that is not only dangerous, it’s downright anti-social behaviour. And while I was reading this story earlier, I couldn’t help but note the following tweets come through my Twitter feed which really speak to why a quote like that upset me so much:

After more than a year of this, and thousands of Canadians dead from COVID, you’d think I shouldn’t need to say this now but clearly the likes of James Pencoff, the “give COVID a chance” idiot from back home, needs to hear this a bit more for it to sink in. Colleen and Kim were two health care professionals, risking their lives every day in this fight against COVID. You know, the disease that James Pencoff says “people shouldn’t be scared of”. That disease took both of their lives, a disease that they caught while trying to protect others from it. Kim was only 26 years old and according to media reports, was found dead in her apartment. Shee had no symptoms, but it killed her none the less.

It’s comments like those ignorant ones that really pisses me off something awful, especially when you see stories on a daily basis of people losing their damn lives trying to fight something idiots like that guy says is nothing to worry about. You know, someone like him could just as easily stayed home and said to himself “few, I got lucky” that COVID didn’t kill him or do any worse damage to him yet. But instead of that, he decides to go to the streets on a warm Saturday afternoon and tries to tell people to that “shouldn’t be scared” of COVID. He joins people who are trying to tell people not to get vaccinated, actively putting the lives of other innocent people at risk. He joined people peddling conspiracy theories, threatening a journalist and then posed for photos for said journalist that will go in the weekly paper and tell the whole community what a Cov-idiot he is.

So where am I going with this? Why write this piece? Well it’s simple really. When we finally get out of this pandemic and people are safe, I firmly believe that we must remember those who were actively fighting against public health measures in such irresponsible ways, who were actively spreading conspiracy theories and were actively putting the lives of their fellow citizens at risk. We must remember their names, their faces, ensure that they are shunned and made to wear their anti-social and dangerous behaviour going forward. In this moment of danger, we need to remember those who rose to the moment and did their part to help us all. But we also need to remember those cowardly idiots who decided to act selfishly and put the lives of other innocent people at risk.

We need to remember those people whose actions helped to spread COVID further, put more lives at risk, made these public health measures more necessary and caused more pain. It’s those people who are hurting small businesses and people who are struggling economically through this pandemic, because they are the ones, through their selfish acts, that are helping the disease spread. That’s on them, and while I believe in forgiveness, these cov-idiots cannot be allowed to escape the natural consequences that they should face. Because right now you’re either with fellow citizens or you’re with the disease. That handful of Cov-idiots who protested in Kenora yesterday are clearly not with their fellow citizens and we cannot forget them once we are out of this. Let them escape those consequences would be a terrible insult to brave people like Colleen and Kim, who lost their lives fighting a disease, that these cov-idiots continue to deny.

Coming Apart at the Seams in Alberta?

Last night when writing about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s latest issues at Queen’s Park, I made a quip about his only saving grace being was that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was in an even worse position. Given the way things have gone with COVID in Alberta, the worst case counts per capita in North America and Kenney’s lacking response, it’s understandable. And that’s before you added in the caucus upheaval he’s been facing, this threats to call a snap election to quiet them and finally his own quips about wanting a new base.

In normal times that would be enough to sink a government or a leadership, but when you add the urgency of COVID, it’s just not that simple. While it’s true that some governments are struggling under the weight of the pressure of COVID, the need to keep a government functional during COVID has had a strange inverse effect, keeping a government propped up. Look at Ottawa as a prime example of that in the minority context. In the majority context, the idea of bringing down your own government during a global pandemic seems especially irresponsible and crazy, and that seems to have kept most such talk at bay. Well, that was until last night when Jason Kenney’s really bad, terrible, crappy 2021 got that much worse:

Losing your caucus chair at any time is not good for a leader or a government, but having it happen now, in this way, is particularly bad. But that being said, this wasn’t that shocking. Todd Loewen was one of the 18 or so UCP MLA’s who were already mad at the government for doing too much to fight COVID, so if anything it says a lot about Kenney’s weak leadership that he didn’t toss Loewen as caucus chair back then. Also Loewen is not a new name to Alberta politics. He’s a longtime former Wildrose member and has been running for office since 2008.

What makes this shocking is that Loewen is going so far as to call for Kenney to resign as leader and Premier, in the middle of a pandemic. Reading the letter in full is quite the yarn because basically he tries to blame Kenney for everything, including the “dysfunction in caucus” that Loewen himself helped to create with that group of 18. He tries to suggest that this UCP government hasn’t brought “balance and reason” to their decisions, which came across as quite the passive aggressive attack against Alberta’s COVID measures.

It was quite ironic to me that in his letter, Loewen makes zero direct references to the global pandemic that’s swept over us for the past 14 months. There are illusions to it, but they are phrased in a way that could easily be talking about the other issues this government has had, which Loewen doesn’t stray away from. In the end, Loewen lays everything at Kenney’s feet and gives him all the blame.

I have to admit having a very strange reaction while reading this letter from Loewen. In normal times, this would be a relatively reasoned letter for such a situation. Sure, I totally disagree with Loewen’s positions and such, but in normal times this would totally make sense. A lot of the things that Loewen laid out as problems were done by the Kenney government prior to COVID. But Loewen and those other 17 UCP MLAs were relatively quiet about them back then, when the party was riding high in the polls and their positions were secure.

What changed all of that was COVID, which brought this government back down to Earth and then suddenly all of those things that Loewen and others supported became firing offenses. That’s where the strange reaction comes for me. For all the attempts to make this sound like some kind of high-minded principle on his part, it falls flat because the historical record shows that he was more than fine with all of those things until, well, he wasn’t.

The irony is that while Loewen’s letter might be totally self-serving, the premise that Jason Kenney shouldn’t be Premier isn’t a bad one. It’s possible to arrive at the right conclusion for completely the wrong reasons, and that’s what we have here. Loewen is basically upset that Kenney has done too much to try to save lives when he has done so little compared to the rest of the country. In the name of “freedom”, Loewen is apparently willing to let people die needlessly and is now calling for the resignation of a Premier who he apparently believes isn’t trying hard enough to make that happen.

In short folks, this is a total clusterf*ck, a terrible clusterf*ck that comes when peoples’ lives are literally in the balance. In normal times, this would be the kind of thing that would trigger the fall of a Premier. But in these times, when probably Alberta would be better served to have a better Premier, this just creates more heat and fire achieving nothing. This is just the likes of Loewen casting about trying to save their own political hides, ones that they were fine to put in the hands of Jason Kenney’s leadership when everything was going great. This is a true case of “a pox on all their houses” if there ever has been one, because this is the mess that the UCP has created all by themselves. They have no one else to blame but themselves for their actions and inactions, and if tearing themselves apart from the inside is where this all leads, well then, I guess that was meant to be. Maybe if they could put that other crap aside and actually deal with COVID properly, they wouldn’t have an approval rating in the mid-teens. But apparently that’s a bridge too far for Loewen, Kenney and co. It’s all a mess and they own it, no matter how much Loewen and others try to divorce themselves from it.

UPDATE: 10:55 am EST – Well, looks like we’re seeing some more ripples coming from Todd Loewen’s resignation from the UCP backbenches:

Wow, have to wonder how many more of these kinds of statements are still to come. Stay tuned!

UPDATE #2 – 2:22 pm EST – Speaking of ripples, here comes another backer of Loewen, one that might have other ambitions on mind in doing so:

Well, well, well, this seems all too much to be a coincidence. Quite the development indeed, especially given continued speculation about Mr. Jean’s future political ambitions. Stay Tuned!

Saving Premier Ford

Recently I haven’t been very sparing in my criticism of the Ford Conservative government in Ontario, and for good reason. Between their refusal to accept responsibility for their part of the botch COVID-19 response in Ontario and their tendency to attack everyone else under the sun in an attempt to deflect blame, it’s been near impossible to not criticize such behaviour. Living in this province, it’s been deeply frustrating to watch, especially when you consider that about a year ago Doug Ford seemed to have finally gotten the plot and was doing a decent job in dealing with the crisis.

But as the months have gone on, the old Doug Ford, the one who was tanking in the polls before COVID, returned with a fury and we’ve seen what we’ve seen. As a result, we’ve seen this happen to Ford’s approval ratings, highlighted by EKOS Research’s Frank Graves:

Yep folks, Doug Ford’s approval rating is just high enough to drink legally in Toronto, but can’t buy a beer in Buffalo or Detroit (whenever the border re-opens). And I guess that Ford’s only saving grace is that Jason Kenney’s approval rating is current in the throws of, but I doubt that’s helping their cause at all. It’s understandable why that rating would be so low, given everything we’ve seen over the past month.

Ontarians aren’t blind and they can easily tell that while Ottawa has botched some things, Ontario is in far worse shape than most other provinces. Given that every province has the same federal government botching the same things, the different factor is provincial governments and their performance. Ford and Co. can’t escape that fact, no matter how hard they try to spin out of it. And yet, we’ve gotten some insightful reporting from Colin D’Mello of CTV Toronto that tells us what the Ford Conservatives are focused on right now and folks, it’s sad:

Yep, it’s not shocking to see that the Ford Conservative government seems to be more focused on “protecting the king” than protecting Ontarians, but it’s aggravating to have that impression confirmed so thoroughly. This piece from D’Mello includes some damning quotes, any which alone would be bad enough, but when put together just makes me want to scream. Where to begin?

  • They’re trying to “change the channel on Ford’s pandemic faults by allowing ministers and public health officials to “wear” the decisions that they make or recommend.”
  • Complaints that “nobody has taken any accountability, Doug Ford has worn it all.”
  • The quote that “that every day the premier is out of the public eye, his poll numbers move in a favourable direction.”

Oof, I would laugh if the results of this weren’t so serious and downright dire. All three of those quotes disturbed me for really good reasons. Firstly, while trying to throw public health officials or ministers under the bus is a tried-and-true strategy of many flailing governments, it doesn’t work when your cabinet has made those decisions and openly ignored the advice of said minister or public health officials. They can’t “wear” any decision that you didn’t advise or make. The evidence is clear that the experts haven’t been making these decisions for a long time, and heck, here is what Ford himself just said a few weeks ago when he was trying to apologize without taking responsibility:

“The buck stops with me”. Seriously, those were his own words, words that he has said publicly so many times before, and yeah, they felt hollow. But the fact is that in a responsible government, the buck does stop with the leader of the government, which in this case is him. It’s not just enough to state it, you actually have to follow through on that. And yes, ministers bear responsibility for botching their portfolios. But when they do, it falls to the Premier to hold them accountable and in many cases, that means removing them. The only cabinet minister that’s lost their job during COVID has been Rod Phillips because of his holiday vacation. His “crime” was embarrassing the Premier. Has any other minister that’s botched a response during this crisis paid the same price? Nope, the Premier has protected them and not held them to account.

So maybe, just maybe, that’s why “Doug Ford has worn it all”. The fact that some anonymous people said that on the record blows my mind, especially when it comes to a Premier who keeps telling us the buck stops with him. If it does stop with him, who the Hell else would wear it? Heavy is the head that wears the Crown, but that’s part of what comes with being the leader of a bloody government. To hear this complaint, as if it were some kind of shock that people actually expected their government to actually take responsibility, is a maddening insight into where this government sits. When you make all the decisions, ignore expert medical advice again and again, and then tell everyone that the buck stops with you, of course you are going to wear it all. And you know what? He should wear it all. He’s the bloody Premier of Ontario, not some random low level civil servant answering phone calls in a call centre.

And that brings me to the last quote, which felt more like it was intended as a punchline than anything else. When your leader’s notable absence during a global health crisis actually improves the publics perception of your government, you’ve got serious bloody problems. I would laugh at this statement of facts (but I can easily picture this being true) but again, the stakes are too high, and the moment is too serious. Premiers and government leaders are expected to be front and centre during moments of crisis. This is a big part of the job, not just doing the work behind the scenes but being out there. Some don’t like that part of the job and if that were it, I could probably shrug my shoulders and deal with that. But that’s not what’s happening here. Reading this reporting, it looks more and more like the Premier is laying low not to save lives or help the COVID effort, but instead is an attempt to save his own political life.

That is just all kinds of wrong. I’ve been saying for the longest time that any government needs to be thinking about the public health problem before them, and not think about the political ones. Yes, being historically unpopular in record time is quite the political problem, but solving that problem won’t come from thinking politically. The solution has always laid in actually tackling the public health crisis and taking it seriously. If they did that effectively and consistently, their approval numbers wouldn’t be in the teens. How do I know that? Because you have Conservative Premiers in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, PEI and Quebec who all have far better approval numbers while dealing with the same problems with Ottawa.

What probably bothers me the most about this story tonight is that it just gives another proof point of where the Ford governments collective heads are at. Instead of their focus being on tackling COVID to the ground and doing what we must to save lives and end this pandemic, they are spending way too much precious time and energy on trying to save Premier Ford’s political future. In short, they’re more worried about the election coming a year from now instead of the global pandemic they’re in right now. Not only is that disturbing, its worrying about how we’ll actually get out of this pandemic. This government needs to get their act together because none of us gain anything by seeing any government fail in a pandemic. Yet the longer that the Premier spends more time worrying about his political standing, the worse off we’ll all be.

When You Negotiate the Non-Negotiable

Have you ever had something that you’ve had to get done but not wanted to face it? You know, something that’s extremely difficult to deal with, with no straightforward solution that wouldn’t come without pain. And the only straightforward solution is one that you clearly don’t want to use because of potential fallout from it. Well welcome to May 12th, 2021 in the life of the Trudeau Liberal government, and the situation that we as a country now face with the Line 5 pipeline:

Well folks, what to say about this? For starters, Line 5 is a major piece of energy infrastructure for Canada and the US. Line 5 supplies nearly half of the supply of light crude oil, light synthetic crude oil and natural gas liquids in Ontario and Quebec. It feeds refineries in Sarnia and Montreal. It’s the source of all jet fuel used at Pearson International and Detroit International Airports. This is no small matter, especially at the time when gas prices are already spiking, and supply issues are being raised thanks to the cyber attack against an American pipeline.

There is a lot to go after here, so let’s take this chunk by chunk. Let’s start in Michigan, with Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s attempt to force the closure of the Line 5 pipeline. She is being as firm as can be on this, and appears to have no willingness to compromise on anything here. She wants the pipeline shut down, period. Her office has called it a “ticking timebomb” (it’s not) and is now threatening to attempt to seize any profits that Enbridge makes from operating the pipeline after today (hello more court cases). To say that their reaction to a pipeline that has never leaked or had a problem is over the top would be to under sell it. It also can be quite dangerous to real action to fight climate change (which I’ll come back to).

For the part of the Trudeau Liberal government, there has been a lot of talk about working behind the scenes and trying to convince the Biden Administration to step in here, but that hasn’t gotten us anywhere. The Biden Administration made it clear yesterday that they’re staying the heck out of this, as Wittmer is a close Biden ally and Michigan is a crucial state that Biden flipped from Trump. That should have been clear long before today, but yet the Trudeau team kept going down this road and insisting on it. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of their efforts, I do doubt the effectiveness of it, especially when you consider they waited until yesterday to move a brief in the legal case on this in Michigan.

The line from the Trudeau government has been that they will act “at the precise moment” when needed, which has sounded more like “at the last possible moment”. Nothing was stopping Ottawa from getting in on the Michigan court case long before this and waiting has appeared to gotten us nowhere. I believe in the value of negotiation, but it should have been clear long before yesterday that Wittmer wasn’t going to budget. And what’s maybe most worrisome for me is the fact that Ottawa apparently has a trump card in their back pocket that should make this all mute.

Canada signed a treaty with the United States in 1977 on pipelines, specifically to prevent this whole kind of fiasco from happening. Given that Michigan, as a state, is subordinate to such a treaty, the solution here should be pretty straight forward; invoke the Treaty, tell Michigan to go fly a kite. The fact is that American states, like Canadian provinces, don’t have the right to violate treaties that their countries sign with others. We’ve seen the Americans not be afraid to go after Canadian provinces when they have done this. Remember when Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams tried to expropriate property from an American lumber company that was pulling out of the province? That resulted with Canada getting smacked around and having to pay back the company in question for damages. Yet in this case, with so much at risk, we’re still getting this being put out there by Trudeau’s cabinet:

Folks, this bothers me. We know what the impacts of this will be, we know the chaos it would unleash, and we know how bad it could be if it were to pass. But why in the Hell won’t this government just say, “if all else fails, we will invoke that treaty”? We’ve constantly heard them say that “Line 5 is non-negotiable”, yet they have continued to act as if it was because, well, they’ve kept negotiating. And unlike what our Ambassador to Washington said to CBC last week, this is not just some commercial dispute. This is a big problem that could hurt Canadian families all over in the pocketbooks and worse, during a bloody global pandemic of all things. So why won’t this government take that firm stand long ago? Lord only knows but this positioning of theirs hasn’t help.

What this whole situation hasn’t helped as well is with the serious discussion around our energy future and the transition to clean energy. The approach by Michigan on Line 5 is extremely dangerous to any consensus that’s being built around achieving those goals we must meet, mostly because this is so unreasonable. The fact remains that Line 5 has never leaked, period. If this pipeline is a “ticking time bomb”, then so is every other bloody pipeline in existence. And, of course, that’s not the case. To have that discussion about pipelines that haven’t been built yet is on thing, but to try to impose this kind of ideological insanity to perfectly functioning pipelines with no issues is quite another. As an NDP colleague of mine put it, “my idea of a just energy transition isn’t for a foreign nation to inflict a sudden energy crisis on some Canadians.” And he is exactly right.

What Governor Wittmer and her colleagues in Michigan are doing right now is not only futile, but it’s doing serious damage to the fight against climate change. Because of that 1977 Treaty, Michigan can’t do what they’re doing and whenever Ottawa finally drops the hammer on that, as much as they clearly don’t want to, that discussion is over. In the meantime, if Wittmer actual is able to follow through on any of this all she will accomplish is to inflict severe amounts of pain on people who are already struggling through a pandemic, and will likely harden their willingness to do their part to fight climate change. She will only succeed in making enemies out of potential allies, and will set back the fight against climate change even further.

I believe in a just transition to clean energy, but that transition must be just. What Governor Wittmer is proposing to do here is nothing close to being just, by taking out her agenda on a piece of infrastructure that functioning just fine, and hurting everyday people in the process. Those everyday people are a part of the solution to climate change. Those refinery works, those people commuting to work every day, they are all a part of the solution. And if she actually succeeds with this, those will be the ones she will hurt the most, during a time of global crisis. That’s beyond short sighted, that’s just plain dumb. And the fact that the Trudeau government has allowed things to devolve to this point before putting their foot down firmly seriously makes me wonder how much pain we could have avoided had they simply acted like this was actually non-negotiable from the start. What a bloody mess, one that we can easily do without and one that could have been avoided with some firmness.

Those Who Refuse to Learn from History

Politics and our political lives aren’t things that are always straightforward. While our beliefs in certain matters may be very clear and strong, that doesn’t mean that they don’t run up against complications out there in the real world. As someone who was raised Roman Catholic, whose political leanings have been affect by the teachings of the church and who is Progressive, this is something I have experienced from time to time. That tends to happen when you see some ultra-conservative members of the clergy try to use their institutions as a cudgel against those who disagree with them. We’re seeing that play out stateside right now and I have to admit that it really caught my eye:

As the Associated Press points out, it’s possible that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops might move to ban pro-choice Catholic politicians from receiving communion. For practicing Catholics, this is one of the worst things that the church can do to its congregants and is extremely heavy handed. Such a move is one that practicing Catholics would not receive lightly and if those suggesting it were trying to pressure people to change their views on Abortion this way, they are likely to fail miserably. Actually I would suggest that if history has taught us anything, it will most surely fail in their end goal, as the experience here in Canada taught us:

As a Catholic and a New Democrat, this is an episode I remember all too well. Local parish priests tried to “punish” NDP MPs Charlie Angus, Tony Martin and Joe Comartin for voting in favour of same-sex marriage in 2005. When you look back on it now 16 years later, the action taken by these parish priests looks all the move over the top, heavy-handed and ineffective a move it was. Angus, Comartin and Martin went on to be re-elected in the next two elections (for Angus, he’s never lost), they continued to have wide support from catholic congregants in those very same churches and same-sex marriage is widely accepted in society as a whole. In summary, these priests tried to impose their ultra-conservative interpretations of doctrine onto them to make an example of them, and instead made them more respected in Canadian political society.

So when the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops considers doing this to President Joe Biden and other elected pro-choice Catholics, they are putting themselves in the same position to fail miserably. When you read between the lines of the letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the American Bishop’s he’s basically saying just that. Beyond the divisive and heavy-handed tactics of this proposal, Cardinal Ladaria laid out some very specific issues with this idea:

  • He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.
  • He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”
  • He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”
  • He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

A couple of those points really hit home for me. Firstly the last point, about how any other bishop could basically tell the conference to go fly a kite and do whatever they want. Just as those parish priests in Ontario decided to take their own actions against those two MPs, other American bishops or priests can decide to ignore this claptrap, especially if they know that their congregations would be revolved by them obeying this dictate. So that right there makes it ineffectual as a move.

But for me the big point that hit me is one that strikes at the very core of the struggle between some peoples attempt to force the church to fit one ultra-conservative view, despite how it runs counter to not only the teachings of the church, but of Jesus Christ himself. By trying to say that abortion is the “preeminent moral issue”, Cardinal Ladaria is right to point out that this would be misleading as it would give the impression that church teachings focus solely on this and don’t care about other moral and social issues. This position by these bishops ignores the churches teachings on charity, giving back to one’s community or maybe the simplest of all, “doing onto others as you would have them do onto you”. When you read the Bible, you read stories about how Jesus Christ preached against greed, gluttony, and excess. He didn’t spend his time hanging with the rich and famous, nor did he preach about a single issue to the exclusion of all others. He spent his time with the poor, the infirmed, those who needed help and those who were shunted aside. So to try to use such a cudgel, to use one of the sacraments of the Catholic faith as a weapon against people who disagree on one issue, is beyond the pale and quite un-Christlike.

But I’ll also close on this observation about these US Bishops and their obsession here. As I just mentioned above, Christ preached about so many issues of social justice and fairness in society, yet I’ve never heard of any of them looking to ban Catholics who steal from their neighbours, who cheat their employees, who hoard obscene amounts of money or anything like that from receiving Communion. Those are all against the teachings of the Catholic church as well, and yet they propose nothing of the sort to make a statement like this against those Catholics, or call into question the very nature of their devotion to their faith. Maybe that’s because that would involve condemning a lot of conservative and Republican officials instead, people who these bishops clearly identify with more than anything else. It’s for that reason that this just reeks of cheap politics from the pulpit, which is why I appreciate Cardinal Ladaria’s letter pointing out the hypocrisy in what they are suggesting.

To be part of a faith is not a 100% proposition. Just like with politics and political parties, there are things that we agree with and others we don’t. I am a pro-choice, pro-equal rights Catholic New Democrat, in the tradition of so many “social gospel” progressives that we’ve seen make great impacts in the politics of this country. That doesn’t many me any more or less Catholic than the next guy and I don’t claim it does. But I vehemently reject the idea that my support for a woman’s right to choose makes me less Catholic than the anti-abortion churchgoer who cheats his employees or mocks the poor. As Angus, Comartin and Martin showed us 16 years ago, this will fail and will blow up in the faces of the American bishops and in doing so, they will put themselves on the wrong side of history.

Talking Potential COVID Re-Opening Thresholds with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Lindsay Maskell & Jason Lietaer for the “Political Heat” panel. We talked about Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health’s comments about potential thresholds for re-opening from COVID, why they were more reasonable and comforting, what it could mean for us going forward, the state of Bill C-10, why this legislation is important, the confusion that’s out there around it and how the government has to look in the mirror for the source of that confusion. You can listen starting at the 15:00 mark.

Talking Tighten COVID-19 Restrictions and Tensions 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 Alise Mills. We discussed the latest discussions around COVID, the increasing restrictions to fight the public health crisis and the politics surrounding them, the continued miscommunication of messaging from government around COVID measures, the effects those could have, how Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was right in calling out anti-mask and anti-public health protests, why it’s important to call them out for what they are and more. You can listen to it all below.

Circular Unreasoning

It was just earlier this week that I pointed to the shenanigans being played between the Liberals and the Conservatives when it comes to Bill C-19, the governments proposed temporary changes to an election during COVID. Given that we have a minority Parliament in Ottawa, we know that it’s possible that an election could fall in this period of time and given that we honestly don’t know when COVID will pass altogether, it makes sense to assume that whenever the next election comes, COVID will still be with us. And given all the crap we saw to our South around trust around elections, there is an extra imperative to get this legislation done.

So today, finally, after a long amount of delay C-19 came back to the House of Commons for debate. Finally we were going to hear the arguments for and against and see where this all lead us. Given all of their attempts to slow this bill down, I was especially curious to hear what the Conservatives might have to say about this. I was particularly interested in hearing to what degree real legit concerns were going to be raise versus how much usual partisan BS there would be. No bill is perfect, so there is always something to legitimately point to when it comes to improving a bill.

So where would the blue team go? Well I caught a few speeches but one in particular caught my eye because it encapsulated the Conservatives manic, contradictory position on this bill. Conservative MP for Calgary-Skyview Jag Sahota is the one who delivered said speech and I’m going to break down the first few minutes of it here, because it literally had my head spinning. First, here is the start of her speech with the opening premise:

Sahota comes right out of the box with some high heat, basically saying that “by bringing forward C-19, the Liberals want to force Canadians to an election”. Yes, she’s so disappointed that the Liberals would think about an election during a pandemic because bringing forward this bill, in her opinion, automatically equates to wanting an election and trying to force one on us. She leans in on the point that this has been introduced “during a pandemic”, as if there was something nefarious behind doing this now. But I’ll come back to that later. Here’s what she followed that up with:

Next up she points to science, stating that trying to run an election during COVID presents risks. Just look at what happened in Newfoundland she points out, where COVID threw that election into chaos. And she’s right, because the province was poorly prepared for that COVID election (which had to happen within 6 months of then anyway), things did go off the rails. So you’d think that the lesson to take from that would be that “hey, maybe we should be prepared in case an election does happen during COVID?”. In that piece, she basically says that the Liberals are ignoring science…. by introducing a bill that would ensure that the next election follows the science and public health protocols. Or hey, maybe that’s just my view. Next up:

This is where my head spins picked up to the level of an elite Olympic gymnast because it was mind blowing to me. On one hand, she is going after the government for “ramming through” this legislation, as if there was no need for doing this now. But a breath later, she points out the more salient point about the need for this legislation; we’re in a minority Parliament. The average minority Parliament lasts about 18 months. This Parliament has been around for…. about 18 months. So yes, in normal times if this government fell now, it would be totally normal. And yes, COVID should push that time out, as I’ve said many times in public that we won’t likely see an election until the Fall. But even if all the stars align, and COVID is receding, and we’re getting back closer to normal come the Fall, any election held at that time will still require these measures. That’s doubly true because Elections Canada needs time to prepare for that election. They can’t just “flip a switch” and have everything in place, this actually takes some time and planning to, you know, ensure that people are confident in our electoral system. That might seem like a good reason to move quickly, right? Onto the next part:

Sahota points to the report from the House Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on this topic, where it was recommended that the PM not unliterally call an election, only doing so if they lose a confidence vote. She said that very exception herself, basically admitting that if the government fell on a confidence vote during COVID, that it would be totally reasonable to having a COVID election. And given that she and her Conservative colleagues have been doing their level best to create that potential failed confidence vote for the past months, you’d think that she would want Elections Canada to be able to ensure that election she would help to cause would be a safe one, right? Nope, she’s more concerned about calling this some kind of arrogant political mastermindery on the behalf of this Prime Minister in some selfish grasp at something. But it’s the last clip on this that was really the cherry on the sundae, the true chef’s kiss to finish off this whole thing:

Ah yes, it’s not she and her party who are being inconsistent with their inconsistent messaging, it’s the government that’s being inconsistent here. That just made me laugh out loud when I heard it because after that confusing, circular diatribe, it only seemed fitting that she accused others of being what she was just being. So at this point, we can summarize the Conservative position on C-19 as the following:

  • “By bringing forward C-19, the Liberals want to force Canadians to an election!”
  • “Minority governments are unstable and usually don’t last 4 years. We need to be ready!”
  • “Poorly prepared COVID elections are dangerous, look at what happened in Newfoundland! We don’t want that to happen again!”
  • “A once-in-a-century pandemic is not the time to change the Elections Act for an election that might take place in this once-in-a-century pandemic!”
  • “I’m not confusing, you’re the one who’s confusing!”

Good Lord man that was bad. Seriously, there are things in this bill that can be improved and as I pointed out earlier in the week, the Liberals hands are not clean on this. They have screwed up by taking so long to bring this forward and they own that. But is this all the Conservatives are offering as an “opposition” to this bill? Is this seriously all they have to bring to the table? If you want an example of what really ails the Conservatives right now and why their sinking in the polls, those clips show it. Instead of putting together a coherent other position, they are leaning into crazed insinuation and inuendo. There are nefarious motives everywhere and there’s just no way that this should be done because science, just as the science calls for this.

Maybe it’s COVID but my patience for this BS is simply gone. Is it really too much to ask for this party to bring some real ideas to the table? Do they really have to lean so hard into this rhetorical crap? Because you know what, it’s extremely confusing messaging to say that “we can’t have an election because COVID, we should be ready for a COVID election but if you dare to prepare, you want an election”. You seriously can’t have it all these ways at the same time. Pick a damn lane Blue Team because if you really want to govern, this kind of crap proves that you’re not ready for it. If you can’t put aside your hate and rage at the other side to make a coherent argument, you can’t win the next election, let alone govern. We’ll see what it takes for that lesson to sink in because as this morning showed, it hasn’t sunk in yet.

Standing on Principle Against “The Big Lie”

It’s been a while since I spoke about the politics of our neighbours to the South, and there’s been a good reason for that. Let’s be real here, when Donald Trump was still President we had to pay ahead because he was capable of doing any kind of crazed depravity in the attempt to advance whatever goals he had. We paid attention not because we wanted to, but because we needed to out of caution. And folks, it was exhausting.

That’s made the past months of the Biden administration seem like a massive relief relative to what was happening before. Yeah, we still have our disagreements and policy fights, but at least with Biden we know that something crazy isn’t going to happen just off the cuff out of nowhere. We don’t need to worry about what Joe might say on Twitter. We don’t need to worry much about him because, well, he’s been quietly competent. That makes for a striking comparison to his predecessor and it’s hard to think of it being starker.

But this past week I’ve found myself tunning back into what’s happening in the United States for two big reasons. Today is the 4-month anniversary of the insurrection at the US Capitol. You know, the near-death experience that American Democracy had in which Trump supporters tried to overthrow the democratic process, aided and abetted by certain Republican politicians. I remember watching all of that unfold in horror, because it was just the kind of thing, we’d never think we’d see in the nation’s capital of the leaders of the Free World.

It was a watershed moment that made many wonder if the fever of the Trump grip on his party would finally break. In the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, it seemed that maybe it would, as many high-ranking Republicans went on the record condemning what happened, stated the fact that the election wasn’t stolen and was free and fair, and started to distance themselves from Trump. It felt like maybe things had finally hit rock bottom, that things couldn’t get any worse.

But as that date has moved further from peoples’ minds, it’s starting to appear like the fever is stronger and more pervasive than we dared to think. We’ve seen Republican governors and politicians move fast to change election laws based on “The Big Lie” about the election. We’ve seen Trump continue to spread that lie, and more Republican politicians supporting his words when they make their regular pilgrimages to Mar-a-Lago to worship at his feet and seek his approval. And while that is disturbing in and of itself, for me the more disturbing actions just started to take place in the past week, as we’ve seen disturbing acts taken against those Republicans who dare to tell the truth. Look at what happened to Senator Mitt Romney and Congresswoman Liz Cheney in the past days:

The partisan in me should probably be cheering at the sight of Republicans tearing themselves apart stem from stern, but the democrat in me cringes and worries about these stories. Having worked in politics here at home, I may have my own partisan stripe and beliefs, but I can honestly say I have friends in all parties. I learned early on that you can disagree on policy without being disagreeable and you can have policy debates with respect. That may seem very quaint and old-timey in 2021, but its my approach to things.

That’s why I worry when I see those stories play out and what is says about the health of democracy in the United States. A health democracy needs a few things to thrive. One of those is an adherence to respect for the democratic process itself and not undermining it for perceived political advantage. Right now you have a large part of the Republican Party clinging and pushing the lie that the last American election was somehow illegitimate. We’re seeing conspiracy theories and wild accusations take hold over rational facts and principles. And for the shrinking few that decide that they cannot countenance this anti-democratic and insane behaviour, all to win a vote, they are being openly attacked.

So while on policy I agree with Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney on very little, I have immense respect for what they are doing right now. They are doing what true leaders do, which is saying what needs to be said, when it needs to be said and done with clarity of purpose and true to the tenants of democracy. Yes, there are still those crazies in the crowd saying their crazy things, that’s not the part that’s changed. No, what’s changed is the cowardice of elected Republicans who have put the finger up in the air and are now moving to where they believe the winds are going. Two prime examples of this are House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, shown right here:

To call Congressman McCarthy a weasel would be an insult to all mustelidae in existence on Earth. I’m not shocked to find that this guy is that craven and without principle, but it’s still shocking to see it laid out so bare, in his own bloody words. As for Congresswoman Stefanik, I continue to shake my head. Her district is right across the St. Lawrence River from where I live and I’ve seen first-hand some of her work as an elected member, and suffice it to say, I was not impressed. Yet it somehow got worse under Trump, as she didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid, she went the fully Barney Gumble and just screamed “just hook it to my veins!”. She felt that was the way to advance her political career and continues to put her own career over democracy itself.

So again I find myself watching the American political scene with a sense of dread because you can’t have a strong democracy when you have a major party who doesn’t believe in democracy if they lose. You can’t have a strong democracy when you’re guided by lies, conspiracies and crap. You surely can’t have a strong democracy if you punish those for speaking the truth and standing up for the basic principles of democracy itself. And given that we share a massive, long border with said nation with this problem, we naturally worry about not only the health of American democracy, we worry that these ideas and lies filter across it and infect our relatively healthy democratic institutions. When you’re the leading democracy in the World, some people in the worlds other democracies will take inspiration from what they see in the US. So yeah, we all have a stake in this insanity we’re seeing play out. And while we may not support the policy views of Republicans like Romney and Cheney, we should be supporting them in this moment as they tell the truth in the face of “The Big Lie”. Because if we take an equally craven approach to what Republicans like McCarthy and Stefanik are, don’t be surprised if we find ourselves in a similar fight in the future, having to pick sides as a “Big Lie” of our own tears our democracy apart.

Delivering Trees With a Side of Irony

The current Liberal government in Ottawa has made some pretty big promises during their current tenure over the past six years. Many of them have been well meaning and necessary moves, ones that have had wide support from the public. But for all the big promises from this government, actually delivering on them has been another issue. For a government that supposedly was all in on “deliverology”, they’ve had some very serious failures on delivering on their promises. And some of those failures have been spectacularly bad. Remember this one?

Aahh yes, the tree planting pledge. This is a prime example of this problem for this government. Over a year into their government, they hadn’t planted a single tree of the two billion they promised. They even re-announced the plan again later in 2020, which reminded us all of that fact. This is an example that’s pretty easy for people to grasp onto because, really, how hard is it for the government to plant a tree? This could be a real take off of the old “How many people does it take to….” trope, because planting a tree isn’t that hard. So if you’re planning on planting 2 billion of them, you’d think that you’d move on this fast and get the money out the door to do it. Yet, that didn’t happen, making it all the more laughable a failure.

The idea of planting trees to help tackle climate change is a good idea and a real, practical thing that can be done by just about anyone, which is why it was such a popular pledge to come from a government. That also makes it all the more of a failure, because if you can’t pull off these simpler things to fight climate change, how are you going to pull off the more complicated ones? It’s a fair thing to ask. But that point gets all the sharper when you see someone else pull it off. That came to my mind last night when I was watching some TV and this ad came across my screen, making me chuckle:

Yep folks, Harvey’s is gonna be planting trees now too. According to this initiative, they are going to team up with Tree Canada to plant a target of 25,000 trees in 2021, using a portion of the proceeds of their sales until mid-June to pay for it. Sure 25,000 trees aren’t 2 Billion, but this commercial made me ask a serious question; is it possible that Harvey’s will plant more trees in 2021 than the Liberal government? It’s not that outrageous a comment when you think about it. Harvey’s has a goal that’s pretty manageable, they’ve partnered with a respected charity who does great work to plant trees across Canada, and they’ve got the funding locked in to make it happen. In short, with that alone they already seem to be a few steps ahead of the federal government.

So is it possible that Harvey’s could plant more trees that the federal government this year? Maybe, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility. And the fact that you can even rationally consider that possibility just further drives home the failure of the Liberals on this one. Seriously, if a fast-food joint can pull this off with such relative ease, it makes the feds failure to do so over more than a year look even worse by comparison. And seriously, what’s the excuse for it? That’s the part of this that continues to vex me, I can’t think of what has held this up other than a lack of will to get it done. Clearly Harvey’s found that will and decided to take some of the profit from their tasty burgers and put it towards this.

I can’t help but chuckle and smile at this story. Yes, good on Harvey’s for taking this step. It’s not massive but it’s a good move and they should be applauded for that. But I also can’t help but chuckle at the fact that somehow, inadvertently I assume, this Canadian fast-food chain has managed to show up the Federal government in an area that they claim to be a world leader. It’s like I said about the Ontario Government on the radio on Monday, where their failures have managed to make the NHL look better on pandemic help than their own government. That’s just bad on a different level.

I continue to hope that this government will get its act together when it comes to worthy initiatives like the 2 billion tree planting idea, but this story doesn’t make it look that good. It’s time for them to pull up their socks to get it done. And if this story has taught us anything, if the Liberals continue to fail, maybe we can depend on the Canadian restaurant sector to get the job done when it comes to planting trees to fight climate change. What a concept, hey?