Tag Archives: politics

Muskrat Falls hydroelectric – Who buried the risk assessment report?

Muskrat Falls, Labrador. Site of a proposed hydro electric project by the governments of Newfoundland and Quebec. This is downriver from the Churchill Falls Hydro project in Labrador. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017 DCS Files

Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River, Labrador in 2006 before construction of an ill-conceived hydro-electric project by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Photo by Greg Locke ©2017

ROGER BILL
November 25, 2017

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — The man in charge of finishing the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on the Churchill River in remote central Labrador calls the venture a “boondoggle”. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has established a commission of inquiry to determine why the project is wildly over budget and years behind schedule. A good place for the Commissioner, Judge Richard D. LeBlanc, to start is to find out who buried the warning that there was a “very high risk” of a multi-billion dollar cost overrun barely four months after the massive project was green-lighted in December, 2012.

 

The warning came in the form of a risk assessment undertaken by SNC-Lavalin, the engineering company retained by the Nalcor Energy, the provincial government agency managing the project. SNC-Lavalin officials, who were responsible for construction management and procurement on the project, conducted the risk assessment when initial prices for some major construction elements came in well above the original estimates in the $6.2 billion December, 2012 budget. The experts at SNC-Lavalin warned their Newfoundland client the project could go over-budget by an additional $2.4 billion. The warning was buried for four years.

 

Some critics of the Muskrat Falls project argue that warnings were ignored long before 2013but when the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment finally surfaced in June of this year it was too much to ignore and according to Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier Dwight Ball too late to put the brakes on the project

 

 According to Nalcor Energy’s CEO, Stan Marshall, the Province is now staring at a total cost of $12+ billion to bring the megaproject in two years behind schedule and the Province wants Judge LeBlanc to inquire into “any risk assessments, financial or otherwise” and whether “Nalcor took possession of the reports” and “made the government aware of the reports and assessments”

 

Judge LeBlanc will find that, yes, there was a risk assessment done by SNC-Lavalin in April, 2013 and maybe Nalcor Energy took possession of it or maybe not, and according to the provincial Minister of Natural Resources in April, 2013, no, the provincial government was not made aware of the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment.

 

Ed Martin, former president and CEO of Nalcor Energy. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017

Ed Martin, former president and CEO of Nalcor Energy. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017

What is a matter of public record is the following: Ed Martin, Nalcor Energy’s CEO, parted company with the provincial government in 2016. Whether he was dismissed or resigned is still a bit of a puzzle, but he was succeeded by Stan Marshall, a very successful executive with the private energy company, Fortis Inc. Stan Marshall says he heard about the 2013 SNC-Lavalin risk assessment from a former SNC-Lavalin engineer, but could not find a copy of it in Nalcor Energy’s files. Finally, Stan Marshall says he asked SNC-Lavalin for a copy of the risk assessment, received it, gave it to the provincial government, and it was released by the Premier and Minister of Natural Resources on June 23, 2017 (External Link to CBC story)

 

A spokesperson for SNC-Lavalin told The Telegram newspaper and www.allnewfoundlandlabrador.com that they “attempted” to hand over the risk assessment to Nalcor. Ed Martin, the former Nalcor CEO told the media the risk assessment was never “presented” to him. Premier Dwight Ball told the media that he had been advised that the risk assessment results were presented by SNC-Lavalin at a meeting attended by Nalcor officials including Ed Martin. Obviously, either Premier Dwight Ball has been poorly advised or Ed Martin is not telling the truth or the word “presented” has a very narrow and specific meaning in the world of engineers and consultants that outsiders fail to understand.

 

The expression “attempted to hand it over” makes one wonder if an official of SNC-Lavalin held the nine-page risk assessment document in their hand and reached out to give it to a Nalcor Energy official who refused to accept it. Or, maybe there was a meeting where the SNC-Lavalin, motivated by what is described in the risk assessment as a sense of “urgency” to convey their findings verbally briefed Nalcor Energy officials on the results of the risk assessment, but did not have the report in hand. When engineers are under oath and lawyers from Judge LeBlanc rather than journalists are asking questions about who told who what and who gave what to who then the people who will ultimately pay for the “boondoggle” will know who buried what.

 

What does not take any clarifying are the words of Tom Marshall, the provincial Minister of Natural Resources in 2013. When the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment surfaced in June, 2017. I asked Tom Marshall if he saw the risk assessment in 2013. He said, “I never saw that report.” Asked if he had been advised of the risk assessment findings Mr. Marshall said, “No.” Did he think Ed Martin, the Nalcor CEO who he met with regularly at the time, held back the risk assessment’s findings Mr. Marshall said, “That would be terrible. I can’t fathom if that is the case.” Would it have made a difference if he had known? “It would have rung all kinds of alarm bells”

 

Eleven months after the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment warning Tom Marshall’s successor as Minister of Natural Resources, Derrick Dalley addressed the House of Assembly to reassure members that the government’s oversight of the Muskrat Falls project was “robust.” Mr. Dalley said, “senior staff with the Department of Natural Resources and Finance have met regularly with Nalcor’s CEO and their staff. As well, the provincial cabinet has had regular meetings and ongoing reports from the CEO of Nalcor”

 

For those who gamble on political affairs the question Mr. Dalley’s assurances in 2014 raise is this; what are the odds that Judge LeBlanc will hear testimony from one single senior staff or cabinet member who met regularly with the CEO of Nalcor who will recall hearing the words, “SNC-Lavalin risk assessment” or “serious concerns” or “very high risk of cost overruns” in any of those meetings?

 

Two days later the Minister again sought to reassure the members of the House of Assembly that there was no very high risk of cost overruns, “Nobody is putting my signature on a paper that costs my children $6 billion and $7 billion into the future. I can tell you the work is done. The oversight is there” he said.

 

When the Muskrat Falls Inquiry releases its schedule of witnesses make a note of the date of Mr. Dalley’s appearance.

 

Copyright Roger Bill 2017

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Will 2017 bring surprises for European integration?

 

By Lionel Page
February, 2017

Marcel Aymé character "Dutilleul," the Walker Through Walls/Le Passe-Muraille Photo Deborah Jones © 2015

The elections of 2017 in France and Germany could bring surprises, argues Lionel Page. Above, a sculpture of writer Marcel Aymé character’s “Dutilleul,” the Walker Through Walls/Le Passe-Muraille, in Paris, France.  Photo by Deborah Jones © 2015

There can be little doubt that this year’s elections in Germany and France may determine the future of the European Union.

For nearly a decade now, the EU has been facing unprecedented challenges, from the euro crisis and the influx of migrants to Brexit and the rise of nationalism. On their own, any one of these crises could threaten the cohesion of the union; together they represent an existential threat.

But the tide could yet turn. Depending on the outcomes of the French and German elections, 2017 could actually be the start a more integrated and unified Europe.

The rise of Emmanuel Macron

France is facing one of its most fascinating election in recent history. Former prime minister François Fillon, a traditional conservative, looked likely to win power. But an embarrassing corruption scandal involving the employment of his wife Penelope has significantly dented his chances.

The Socialist candidate, Benoît Hamon, is highly unlikely to make it far. Having won the socialist primary on a very left-wing platform, it will be difficult for him to reach beyond his core group of supporters.

Leading the polls is Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, who is running on a populist, eurosceptic, anti-immigrant platform. Le Pen is projected to win the first round of voting on April 23, but she is most likely to be knocked out in the second round, where 50% of voters are required to win.

The man who defeats Le Pen in the May 7 second round may not come from either of France’s main parties. Emmanuel Macron is now one of the favourites to win the elections.

Macron’s political success has come incredibly fast. An unknown three years ago, he is now on track of possibly becoming the youngest president of the Fifth Republic, at age 39.

As a minister, Macron was vocally pro-business, in conflict with the classical tenets of the French left: he defended Uber, the opening of shops on Sunday and the reduction of the costs to terminate labour contracts. He became very popular with the French public while finding himself at loggerheads with many figures of the ruling Socialist party.

In August 2016 he quit the government and launched a presidential bid as an independent. Half a year later, he has transformed his initial political start-up into a political movement, En Marche (Forward), with political rallies that attract thousands.

His strength comes from the match between his discourse and French voters’ desire for change. His left-liberal political position would not be unusual in many Northern European countries, but in France it is a novelty. Nearly 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the French left has not adapted to economic modernity. Facing the competition of a strong Communist Party in postwar France, the Socialist Party maintained a traditionally anti-capitalist position. This ideological position has often been disconnected from social-liberal policies adopted once in government.

By seizing on these contradictions and crossing the left-right divide, Macron has thrived. His novel political platform is characterised by an economic liberalism blended with concern for social justice and political and cultural liberalism.

Young, charismatic and intellectual, Macron has attracted people from both the left and the right, and drawn a lot of newcomers to politics. At the same time, political space has opened for him. Both Fillon and Hamon are hard-line candidates, leaving an spot in the centre for Macron.

A Macron victory would have important consequences for the EU. Unlike most French politicians, who are either shy integrationists or vocal eurosceptics, he is strongly pro-EU; his supporters cheer for Europe in political meetings.

In January, he wrote in the Financial Times that it was time for Europeans to become sovereign. This stance could end French opposition to deeper political integration.

The election of Marine Le Pen would lead to the unravelling of the EU, but if France chooses Macron, the union will get a significant boost from one of its core members.

Germany: a new hope for the SPD

The other key country in holding the EU together is of course Germany, which goes to the polls on September 24. Angela Merkel, of the Christian Democratic Union, is running for her fourth term as chancellor.

Hoping to dislodge Merkel from the Bundestag is Martin Schulz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In January, the none-too-popular Sigmar Gabriel made way for Schulz to become the part’s lead candidate.

Schulz is a rarity in European politics, having made his career in the EU before vying for a top national position. A member of the European Parliament since 1994, Schulz was its president from 2012 to January 2017.

There, he helped stage a political coup that dramatically shifted the balance of EU institutions, transferring power from the Head of States (Council) to the Parliament, and through it to European voters.

In 2010, the Party of European Socialists decided to name a leading candidate to become the president of the European Commission in case of victory at the 2014 European elections, and chose Schulz. But the European elections in May 2014 did not deliver a clear majority.

Schulz could have tried to form a majority on the left, but he instead supported a cross-bench motion from the European Parliament stating that conservative candidate Jean-Claude Juncker was the winner of the election and that he had to be nominated.

Schulz understood the political game he was facing. The Council wanted to keep nominating the president, and the lack of a clear majority gave it the opportunity to propose another candidate. Schulz’s decision to withdraw gave the Parliament the upper hand instead.

At the time, Merkel seemed to indicate that she would not support Juncker. She faced a storm of criticism in the German media and was accused of betraying the democratic promise of the election. Soon after, she caved and endorsed Juncker.

Martin Schulz’s key role in this manoeuvre indicates that as chancellor he would probably leverage Germany’s power to further EU integration. It would mark a substantial change compared to Merkel, whose approach has been to take as few steps as necessary and to protect German finances before all.

Deeper integration

Could Macron or Schulz have an impact on European integration? Most likely.

Many factors in the current context are pushing in that direction. Politically, the lack of accountability and transparency of decisions at the European level is feeding a rise of nationalism; that threatens many European governments.

Geopolitically, we are witnessing both a resurgence of Russian military threat and a withdrawal and unpredictability of the US ally under Trump. Economically, crises are clearly calling for better coordination.

But the hurdles to further integration are lower than we think. Brexit will remove from the EU the country most opposed to closer political union. Among the remaining countries, Europeans are often said to be against further integration. But this statement confuses a criticism of current institutions with a criticism of integration.

Eurobameter studies show year after year that EU citizens support more integration in matters where nations cannot be the solution, such as defence. They also support more democracy at the European level, such as the election of the president of the European Commission.

A deeper political union may actually be closer than it seems. Without any treaty change required, the European Commission presidential nomination process has the potential to radically change the nature of European politics by creating a pan-European debate about European policies.

The only thing needed for a leap towards further political integration is for the French and German heads of state to support it. This year may just deliver that.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Lionel Page is a Professor in Economics at Queensland University of Technology. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Desperate in Davos — policymakers struggle for answers

(L-R) Martin Wolf, Associate Editor at the Financial Times, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF), George Osborne, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance of India, Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan and Tidjane Thiam, Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse attend the session "The Global Economic Outlook" during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

(L-R) Martin Wolf, Associate Editor at the Financial Times, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF), George Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance of India, Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan and Tidjane Thiam, Chief Executive Officer of Credit Suisse attend the session “The Global Economic Outlook” during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

By Noah Barkin
January 23, 2016

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Angela Merkel was missing from Davos this year, but the German leader’s optimistic mantra “we can do this” echoed through the snowy resort in the Swiss Alps.

China’s economic slowdown? Manageable. Plunging financial markets? Temporary. And Europe’s refugee crisis? A big challenge, but one which will ultimately push the bloc’s members closer together, audiences were told over and over again.

Beneath the veneer of can-do optimism at the World Economic Forum, however, was a creeping concern that the politicians, diplomats and central bankers who flock each year to this gathering of the global elite are at the mercy of geopolitical and economic forces beyond their control.

At the top of the lengthy list of worries was Europe, whose policymakers remain deeply divided in their approach to the refugee crisis at a time when the bloc faces a host of other threats, from Islamic extremism and the rise of far-right populists, to a possible British exit from the European Union.

“You’ve had deadly crises in Europe from day one and we’ve overcome them. However we always had one crisis at a time. Today we have about five, from Brexit to ISIS and everything in between,” said Josef Joffe, the publisher-editor of German weekly Die Zeit.

“In the past we had leadership. Today we are facing overwhelming demands on leadership and we are delivering less of it,” he added.

Amid the reassuring messages on the refugee crisis, came stark warnings from people like IMF chief Christine Lagarde that Europe faced a “make or break” moment. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Swedish counterpart Stefan Lofven gave the bloc 6-8 weeks to get its act together.

And frustration boiled over after Austria became the latest country in Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel zone to unveil unilateral steps at the border to stem the tide.

“There is no way you can cope with such a massive flow of people just by closing the borders,” said the EU’s top diplomat Frederica Mogherini. “What do you do? You close the border and it’s your neighbour’s problem, who closes the border, and it’s the other neighbour’s problem?”

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(L-R) Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), George Osborne, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance of India and Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan talk after the session "The Global Economic Outlook" during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

(L-R) Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), George Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Arun Jaitley, Minister of Finance of India and Haruhiko Kuroda, Governor of the Bank of Japan talk after the session “The Global Economic Outlook” during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

VERY CLEAR LIMIT

On the economic front, there was also a growing sense of policymaker impotence.

Last January, in a bold sign of policy activism, the European Central Bank unveiled its hotly anticipated stimulus, or quantitative easing (QE), programme in a bid to kick-start growth and inflation in a euro zone still reeling from financial turmoil and breakup fears.

A year later, despite Mario Draghi’s assertion that the bank still has “plenty of instruments” at its disposal, the consensus in Davos was that it has now used up all its monetary ammunition and that politicians have failed to use the time the ECB bought them to implement economic reforms at home. Meanwhile growth remains subdued and inflation close to zero.

“We understand that there may be no limit to what the ECB is willing to do but there’s a very clear limit to what the ECB can and will achieve,” chairman of Swiss bank UBS and former Bundesbank chief Axel Weber said after Draghi signalled yet more monetary easing.

The central theme of this year’s meeting was the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — the idea that technological advances will allow ever greater levels of automation, transforming the global economy in profound ways.

But in a sobering report on the implications of these advances, UBS said they were likely to increase inequality across the globe, and the authors expressed scepticism about whether politicians could put a halt to this trend.

At a lunch entitled “The End of Political Consensus”, there was broad agreement that rising inequality, and the sense that elites were only looking out for themselves, was fuelling more and more resentment of established politicians, and giving rise to a tide of populism — in the form of politicians like Donald Trump and France’s Marine Le Pen.

However the attendees, including Harvard historian Niall Ferguson and former European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, had few answers about how to combat this trend beyond more responsible leadership.

“We are witnessing the decay of power,” Moises Naim of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told the audience. “The view is that anything is better than the people in power.”

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada and Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

OPTIMISM ON CHINA

On the positive side, there was optimism that the Chinese economy was heading for a soft rather than a hard landing, despite the struggles of policymakers there to manage the shift to lower growth rates.

And few doomsayers thought that what Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam described in the final session on Saturday as “the worst start to any year on record in financial markets ever” was a harbinger of another global financial crisis.

The optimists pointed to the climate deal struck in Paris in December as a sign of what policymakers can still do at a global level when they put their minds to it.

But building on the momentum from that deal looks tougher than ever. In her outlook for 2016, Citi’s global political analyst Tina Fordham, said geopolitical risks looked more acute than they have in decades, pointing to the refugee crisis as the challenge “where everything converges”.

“Not even Angela Merkel has the capacity to make all of this work,” she said.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Paul Taylor, Carmel Crimmins, Dmitry Zhdannikov, Martinne Geller and Sujata Rao; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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Analysis: In crisis, interests trump European values

 

By Paul Taylor
January, 2016

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe is torn between upholding its values and pursuing its interests in the multiple crises over refugees, challenges to the rule of law, relations with Russia and Turkey, and Britain’s membership that are shaking the European Union.

Political and economic interests are mostly prevailing over the EU’s declared values and governance standards, but it is not clear that the outcomes are any more effective.

Migrants queue to enter a tent that serves as a waiting room at the the Berlin Office of Health and Social Affairs (LAGESO), in Berlin, Germany, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Migrants queue to enter a tent that serves as a waiting room at the the Berlin Office of Health and Social Affairs (LAGESO), in Berlin, Germany, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

 

To critics including human rights campaigners, Europe is too willing to betray its principles. To supporters, it is “growing up” and acting less naively.

“Politics is the art of the possible, but this is very different from the conception of Europe promoted for the last half century,” said Michael Leigh, senior adviser at the German Marshall Fund think-tank on transatlantic relations and a former senior European Commission official.

After more than a million migrants flooded into Europe last year, EU governments are divided on whether the bloc should give priority to its commitment to give asylum to refugees, or whether the main aim should be to toughen border controls and pay other countries to keep potential asylum-seekers at bay.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under fire at home and in Europe for having taken the moral high ground by welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The sullen reluctance of most of the EU – not just central European states but core partners like France – to take in quotas of refugees to which they agreed months ago is driven by fear of a domestic political backlash.

Brussels faced another of those values-versus-interests dilemmas last week when the executive European Commission had to decide whether to launch disciplinary action over Polish laws shackling the constitutional court and the state media.

The EU was widely criticised for failing to act to uphold its values of democracy and the rule of law when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban launched a similar crackdown in 2010 on the judiciary, the media and civil society organisations.

The Commission did take a first step on Poland but stressed it wanted to resolve the issue in dialogue with Warsaw and there was no likelihood of moving to sanctions such as suspending the country’s EU voting rights or access to funds.

Within the EU executive, officials are reluctant to appear to be lecturing a democratically elected Polish government as it goes about implementing campaign promises.

After big demonstrations in Warsaw in defence of liberal values, many in Brussels are pinning their hopes on the self-correcting strength of Polish democracy. Others are looking for someone else to take the lead such as the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, a pan-European constitutional watchdog.

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REASONS FOR EXPEDIENCY

Major EU members Germany and Britain have mostly kept quiet about Poland on pragmatic grounds. Berlin wants to preserve as cooperative a relationship as possible with the more nationalist government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party.

London needs Polish goodwill as it renegotiates sensitive aspects of its own EU membership. Eager to curb the access of EU migrants – mostly Poles – to in-work welfare benefits to deter further mass immigration to Britain, it is the last country likely to criticise Warsaw over civil rights.

Indeed, Europe’s willingness to seek a formula to permit Britain to deny fellow EU citizens who enter its labour market the same benefits as its own nationals highlights a willingness to compromise on core values for the sake of expediency – in this case to try to ensure Britons vote to remain in the EU in a forthcoming referendum.

While the European Parliament, which sees itself as Europe’s conscience on human rights, is likely to criticise Poland in a special debate this week which itself is a form of political punishment, other EU bodies are cautious.

“With the migration crisis and … with Europe’s current fragility, it would be a big mistake to lose Poland,” a senior European Commission official said.

Similar mixed feelings guided the EU’s schizophrenic response to Russia’s 2014 seizure and annexation of Crimea and moves to destabilise eastern Ukraine.

While the bloc did agree under German leadership to impose sectoral sanctions that have pushed the Russian economy into recession and restricted its access to capital, there are charges of double standards when it comes to energy.

EU regulatory pressure forced Russia to cancel a South Stream gas pipeline it had planned to build to supply southern European countries bypassing Ukraine. But Germany is resisting pressure to desist from building a second sub-Baltic Nord Stream pipeline directly from Russia, also bypassing Kiev.

Italy, Bulgaria and others that lost out on South Stream accuse Berlin of hypocrisy, while Poland and Baltic states say doubling Nord Stream would negate EU support for Ukraine.

Germany is trying to sidestep the arguments about values and pointing to Moscow’s historic role as a reliable supplier.

With Turkey, the EU is drawing a veil over its criticism of deteriorating civil liberties, media freedom and judicial independence in a candidate country for the sake of its vital interest in stemming the refugee flow to Europe.

The European Commission delayed a critical report on Turkish compliance with EU standards until after parliamentary elections in November to avoid upsetting President Tayyip Erdogan.

EU officials acknowledge they have muted criticism of Ankara because they are desperate for Turkish help on the refugees.

Across north Africa, the EU is downplaying the human rights and good governance elements of its policy towards neighbours such as Egypt, Morocco and Algeria – a stumbling block to dealing with authoritarian rulers – due to Europe’s need for security cooperation against Islamist militants.

“We are not abandoning our values but we are perhaps being more pragmatic,” said an EU official involved in managing those relationships, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Editing by Mark Potter)

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 ~~~

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Why Bernie Sanders won’t win the Democratic nomination

Sanders

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
January, 2016

Let me say first, I don’t care who wins the Democratic nomination for president.

If Bernie Sanders wins, I will vote for Bernie Sanders. If Hillary Clinton wins, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. If Martin O’Malley wins (basically, if hell freezes over) I will vote for Martin O’Malley. To put it in more specific terms, if the Democratic Party nominated a yellow dog (as the saying goes), I would vote for the yellow dog.

Which brings us to Hillary and Bernie. For several months now Hillary Clinton has been the anointed front runner, just as she was in 2008. And just as she did in 2008, she may be about to blow the whole thing. While the circumstances that are leading to Hillary’s current stumbles are different than in 2008, the outcome is eerily familiar.

Recent polls have shown Bernie Sanders picking up steam in Iowa and New Hampshire, leading numerous Beltway pundits to predict Sanders’ victories in both states.

So with all this momentum favoring Bernie Sanders, why is it that I am predicting that ultimately Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016? It boils down to a simple factor: Bernie Sanders is too white. And so are Iowa and New Hampshire.

There are a lot of good reasons why Bernie Sanders is a very attractive candidate. He’s never been beholden to large corporations for funding, he has always walked his own path and, by and large, he says exactly what he thinks. But what he thinks has a lot more appeal to young, urban, and slightly older middle-class and upper-class whites. Bernie Sanders’ core message does not play as well among African-Americans and Latinos.

The Monmouth poll, taken mid-January, showed Sanders gaining a lot of traction on Clinton in almost every demographic group: whites, moderates, liberals, etc. But among African-American and Latinos, Hillary Clinton has increased her lead.

Clinton has three key factors in her favor: she has the support of Barack Obama, which will help her among African-Americans. In 2008 she outpolled Obama among Latinos, and there is little reason to doubt she won’t show the same kind of strengths this time around. And, she has a very important ally, namely her husband, former Pres. Bill Clinton, who is extremely popular among both minority groups.

Bill Clinton’s appeal to black voters especially cannot be underestimated. While talking heads on morning cable TV argue about the relevancy of his past sins, black voters remember a presidency that did a lot for them. Nobel Prize winning writer Toni Morrison once famously called him “our first black president.” It can be argued that Hillary, who is not from the south originally, may not have the same kind of lasting appeal, but having Bill campaign for her will absolutely help.

This is why Sanders’ popularity in Iowa and New Hampshire is a bit of a mirage. These two states are over 90% composed of older whites. In Iowa, 3.5% of the population is African-American, while about 5.6% is Latino. African-Americans are 1.5% of the population in New Hampshire., while Latinos are 3.3% (all according to the most recent US Census).

But take a look at South Carolina. According to fivethirtyeight.com (a site that I consider the absolute best at analysing polls and how they affect the American political landscape) Clinton has an enormous lead. In South Carolina, Clinton leads by almost 30 percentage points. In this southern state, 29% of the population is black, and one can pretty safely assume almost all of them vote Democrat.

In Nevada, a state with a very large Latino population (which actually holds its caucuses before the South Carolina primary) Clinton has a 22 point lead. The same is true of almost every other state across the South and Southwest.

One reason that Sanders is seen as doing better than he may actually be doing, is because of American media coverage of political campaigns. American media almost never takes the longer view. It is almost entirely wrapped up in the moment, and so coverage on American cable news networks now focuses on how Sanders may win both New Hampshire and Iowa. Little effort, if any, is made to show how these small pieces fit into the overall puzzle.

There is, of course, still time for Sanders to do more to attract minority votes. Media reports indicate that the Sanders people are very aware that this is a serious problem for them. But ham-handed attempts in Nevada to attract Latino votes, and a recent ad released in Iowa and New Hampshire that struck people as being very “white,” are not helping.

It just may be that minority voters don’t see a 74-year-old white man from Vermont as the best person to represent their concerns – even if he might be that person. And that means that Hillary Clinton will probably overcome her current problems and win the Democratic nomination.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com.  Address queries about syndication/republishing this column to Tom Regan: motnager@gmail.com

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References and further reading:

Why Blacks love Bill Clinton, Salon: http://www.salon.com/2002/02/21/clinton_88/

Fivethirtyeight.com’s primary forecast: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/primary-forecast/new-hampshire-republican/

“It’s very white”: Las Vegas audience exposes Bernie Sanders Latino problem, the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/09/bernie-sanders-latino-voters-hillary-clinton-vegas

New Poll Shows ‘Surging’ Sanders Losing Ground With the Voter Group He Needs Most, NY Magazine: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/01/poll-sanders-gains-stop-short-of-minorities.html

 

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and relies on the honour system: try one story at no charge and, if you value our no-spam, no-ads work, please chip in at least .27 per story, or a sustaining donation, below. Details here. 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based in Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

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Trudeau topples Harper in stunning Canadian election

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau gives his victory speech after Canada's federal election in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau gives his victory speech after Canada’s federal election in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

By Randall Palmer and Rod Nickel
October 19, 2015

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau waves while accompanied by his wife Sophie Gregoire as he gives his victory speech after Canada's federal election in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau waves while accompanied by his wife Sophie Gregoire as he gives his victory speech after Canada’s federal election in Montreal, Quebec, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

MONTREAL/CALGARY (Reuters) – Canada’s Liberal leader Justin Trudeau rode a late campaign surge to a stunning election victory on Monday, toppling Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives with a promise of change and returning a touch of glamour, youth and charisma to Ottawa.

The Liberals seized a Parliamentary majority, an unprecedented turn in political fortunes that smashed the record for the number of seats gained from one election to the next. The Liberals had been a distant third place party in Parliament before this election.

Harper conceded defeat, ending his government’s nine-year run in power and the 56-year-old’s brand of fiscal and cultural conservatism.

Trudeau, 43, the photogenic son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, pledged to run a C$10 billion annual budget deficit for three years to invest in infrastructure and help stimulate Canada’s anaemic economic growth.

This rattled financial markets ahead of the vote and the Canadian dollar weakened on news of his victory.

Trudeau has said he will repair Canada’s cool relations with the Obama administration, withdraw Canada from the combat mission against Islamic State militants in favour of humanitarian aid and training, and tackle climate change.

Trudeau vaulted from third place to lead the polls in the final days of the campaign, overcoming Conservative attacks that he is too inexperienced to govern to return to the Prime Minister’s residence in Ottawa where he grew up as a child.

“When the time for change strikes, it’s lethal,” former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said in a television interview. “I ran and was successful because I wasn’t Pierre Trudeau. Justin is successful because he isn’t Stephen Harper.”

The Conservatives were projected to become the official opposition in Parliament, with the left-leaning New Democratic Party in third.

Liberal supporters at the party’s campaign headquarters broke into cheers and whistles when television projected that Trudeau would be the next prime minister.

Top Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts tweeted “Amazing work #TeamTrudeau. Breathtaking really”.

The Conservatives weren’t the only party that appeared headed for a crushing defeat. The third place left-leaning New Democratic Party’s fall was highlighted in Quebec, where it had the majority of its seats.

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks off the stage after giving his concession speech following Canada's federal election in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks off the stage after giving his concession speech following Canada’s federal election in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Radio Canada projected it would end up with just seven seats, down from 54 in the last Parliament.

The Liberals’ win marks a swing toward a more multilateral approach in global politics by the Canadian government, which has distanced itself from the United Nations in recent years.

The former teacher took charge of the party just two years ago and guided it out of the political wilderness with a pledge of economic stimulus and stirring appeals for a return to social liberalism.

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TRUDEAUMANIA AGAIN?

Justin Trudeau poses before he spars at the Paul Brown Boxfit boxing gym in Toronto, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Justin Trudeau poses before he spars at the Paul Brown Boxfit boxing gym in Toronto, August 6, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Born to a sitting prime minister who came to power in 1968 on a wave of popular support dubbed “Trudeaumania,” Trudeau will become the second-youngest prime minister in Canadian history and brings an appeal more common in movie stars than statesmen.

Pierre once jumped from a trampoline into the crowd. With boyish good looks, Justin thrusts himself into throngs and puts his hand to his heart when listening to someone.

Selfie requests are so common he happily takes the camera and snaps the photo himself, often cheek to cheek. He is the married father of three young children.

Criticized for being more style than substance, Trudeau has used attacks on his good looks and privileged upbringing to win over voters, who recalled his father’s rock-star presence and an era when Canada had some sizzle on the world stage.

Pierre Trudeau, who died in 2000, was in power for 15 years – with a brief interruption – and remains one of the few Canadian leaders to be known abroad.

Single when he took power, the elder Trudeau dated movie stars and models before marrying. He had three boys while prime minister, the eldest of whom now succeeds him in the nation’s top office.

Financial market players had praised the Conservative government for its steady hand in economic management, which had spared Canada the worst of the global financial malaise. Trudeau has also promised to raise taxes on high-income Canadians and reduce them for the middle class.

Political pundits have already began to speculate on the makeup of a Trudeau government while pondering what caused the downfall of Harper, 56, who has been criticized for his aloof personality but won credit for economic management in a decade of global fiscal uncertainty.

 Copyright Reuters 2015

(Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Amran Abocar and Alan Crosby)

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is accompanied by his mother, wife and children as he watches results at his election night headquarters in MontrealCanada's New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair sits with family members as he watches election results at a hotel in MontrealLiberal Party supporters kiss as they celebrate while watching results during Canada's federal election in MontrealConservative Party supporters react as they watch results of Canada's federal election in CalgaryFile photo of Justin Trudeau, son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, rests his head on his father's casket during a state funeral in MontrealFile photo of Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau greeting his sons Justin, Sacha and Michel after returning home from a foreign trip in OttawaLeader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Trudeau poses before he spars at the Paul Brown Boxfit boxing gym in TorontoLiberal leader Justin Trudeau is embraced by his Wife Sophie Gregoire as he watches results at his election night headquarters in MontrealLiberal leader Trudeau attends a rally with former Prime Minister Chretien in HamiltonLiberal leader Trudeau carries his son Hadrien as he enters the polling station to cast his vote in MontrealLiberal leader Trudeau waves during a campaign rally in North VancouverCanada's PM and Conservative leader Harper casts his ballot at a polling station in CalgaryLiberal Party leader Justin Trudeau gives his victory speech after Canada's federal election in MontrealLiberal Party leader Justin Trudeau gives his victory speech after Canada's federal election in MontrealCanada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks off the stage after giving his concession speech following Canada's federal election in CalgaryLiberal Party leader Justin Trudeau waves while accompanied by his wife Sophie Gregoire as he gives his victory speech after Canada's federal election in MontrealA Conservative Party supporter reacts as she watches results of Canada's federal election in CalgaryConservative Party supporters react as they watch results of Canada's federal election in Calgary

Underestimating Trudeau fatal for Conservatives

By Randall Palmer

Canada's Prime Minister and Conservative leader Stephen Harper casts his ballot at a polling station in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2015. Canadians go to the polls for a federal election on Monday. REUTERS/Jonathan Hayward/Pool

Canada’s Prime Minister and Conservative leader Stephen Harper casts his ballot at a polling station in Calgary, Alberta, October 19, 2015. Canadians go to the polls for a federal election on Monday. REUTERS/Jonathan Hayward/Pool

MONTREAL (Reuters) – The long Canadian election campaign was supposed to highlight just how inexperienced Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was and give the ruling Conservatives an ample supply of gaffes to use in attack ads.

The gambit underestimated Trudeau, the 43-year-old son of charismatic former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and, by setting expectations so low, may have helped him instead.

Trudeau’s Liberals will form Canada’s next government after defeating Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday.

“I think the Conservative advertising ultimately has backfired,” said Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux. “He’s more than met the expectations that people had of him.”

The seeds of the Liberal victory were sown in July, when the party ran third in polls behind the left-leaning New Democratic Party and the Conservatives.

Before the campaign began on Aug. 2, Liberal strategists said Trudeau was being advised to go negative to counter the bruising Conservative ads that he was “just not ready.”

But his inner circle, including campaign co-chairs Katie Telford and Dan Gagnier, principal adviser Gerald Butts, and chief of staff Cyrus Reporter, backed Trudeau’s position that they should focus on the positive, as they see it.

“We were not surprised by the negative ads. It wasn’t a new thing. But Justin Trudeau’s optimistic high-road approach struck a chord,” said Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal member of parliament.

The strategy was to portray a sunny personality through ads, speeches and personal contact with ordinary people.

Trudeau, who considers himself “a learned extrovert,” spent half his time at campaign stops milling through crowds and posing for selfies. Most of those pictures made their way onto Facebook, Instagram and other social media where they were reposted or retweeted for a multiplier effect.

By August, the Liberals were largely indistinguishable from the NDP in their appeal to centre-left voters and the three main parties were running neck-and-neck.

A dearth of major economic policies had helped NDP leader Thomas Mulcair eat into Liberal support as he laid out policies on cheap daycare and a C$15 ($11.60) minimum wage for federally regulated workers.

At a meeting in June, the party realized its plan to balance the budget and spend on infrastructure, while enriching the overall tax package for the middle class, was no longer viable as the fiscal picture worsened on weaker oil prices, two senior Liberals familiar with the discussion said.

They would probably have to go into deficit or scale back their promises. A final decision was not made until August, the two Liberal sources said.

Some had advocated running big deficits – as much as C$40 billion or C$50 billion, similar to the levels the Conservative government ran in response to the 2007-09 financial crisis – but they settled for a deficit of up to C$10 billion a year for three years, a third senior Liberal said.

They nervously eyed the NDP, lest they pip the Liberals to the post.

It was a risk, the Liberal insiders said, but in the end it gave the party a clear distinctive policy and positioned them left of the NDP, which had pledged a balanced budget.

“As of that moment, I think it became clear that we were the party of real change and that Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair were two peas in a pod on the economy,” said veteran Liberal legislator John McCallum, a former bank chief economist.

NIQAB EFFECT

The Liberals also got a lift from a controversial government attempt to ban the veil worn by Muslim women, the niqab, during citizenship ceremonies. Both Mulcair and Trudeau opposed the ban, but anti-niqab sentiment was heavy in the francophone regions of Quebec, where the NDP is strongest.

NDP support in Quebec began to plummet, dragging down its national numbers, and then NDP voters elsewhere started to migrate to the Liberals.

“We had the same position (as the NDP). The difference was that when it came up, we had something else to talk about,” another Liberal insider said, referring to the party platform.

The NDP, on the other hand, were offering cheap daycare, which Quebec already had, and balanced budgets, which were unpopular in a province tired of austerity.

And while the Conservatives gained in Quebec, Harper’s niqab stance and other positions seen as anti-immigrant did not go down well in other parts of Canada.

Good fortune also played a part.

The famed wall of ads the Conservatives were expected to mount at the end of the campaign fizzled. While the Tories bought front page newspaper ads in the campaign’s final Saturday and had their share of broadcast ads, there was no evidence of a tsunami that swamped the Liberals.

Instead, the Liberals benefited in the final week after taking a punt in August to buy ad time for October’s baseball playoffs.

The price then was C$12,000 for a thirty-second spot in Canada. When the Toronto Blue Jays made the playoffs, drawing massive Canadian television audiences, the cost zoomed up to C$140,000 apiece. By then, the Liberals had their exposure locked in at the end of an expensive, 11-week campaign.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once warned rivals not to underestimate the younger Trudeau: “(His father) was a very tough, able guy and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

On Monday, some Conservatives grudgingly conceded just that.

“You have to hand it to the Liberals: they’ve run a really good campaign,” said a Conservative member of Parliament.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Additional reporting by Josephine Mason in Toronto and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Amran Abocar, Lisa Shumaker and Alan Crosby)

Related stories on F&O:

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Facts, and Opinions, this week

In the first of two Frontlines posts this weekend, F&O offers our weekly lineup of eclectic reads and stunning images for your weekend pleasure. Watch for our Focus on Canadian politics, prior to the federal election Monday Oct. 19.

© Michael AW, courtesy of Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum, London.

A whale of a mouthful, by Michael Aw, Australia: a Bryde’s whale rips through a swirling ball of sardines, gulping a huge mouthful in a single pass. As it expels hundreds of litres of seawater from its mouth, the fish are retained by plates of baleen hanging down from its palate; they are then pushed into its stomach to be digested alive. © Click here for more information and our full Photo-essay of winners of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Natural History Museum, London.

© Don Gutoski

© Don Gutoski 2015

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015, Natural History Museum, London

Canadian photographer Don Gutoski won Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 in the annual competition by London’s Natural History Museum.  His image, Tale of two foxes in subarctic Cape Churchill, Canada, portrays a red fox devouring a white Arctic fox, which it has just killed.

China faces crippling water shortages and pollution, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

China’s drive for wealth and power is stumbling and could collapse over the country’s lack of water and its gross mismanagement of the resources it does have.

"Factory in China at Yangtze River" by High Contrast - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 de via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Factory_in_China_at_Yangtze_River.JPG#/media/File:Factory_in_China_at_Yangtze_River.JPG

Your Smart Home Knows a Lot About You. By Lauren Kirchner, Reports

As the trend toward networked “smart homes” and “connected cars” continues, security precautions are more important than ever. But customers may not always be aware of just how much information their devices are collecting about them in the first place.

 

Sister Rachel Denton views the sunset from a vantage point near St Cuthbert's Hermitage in Lincolnshire, north east Britain September 25, 2015. Denton, a Catholic hermit, rises early to tend to her vegetable garden, feed her cats and pray. But the former Carmelite nun, who in 2006 pledged to live the rest of her life in solitude, has another chore - to update her Twitter account and check Facebook. "The myth you often face as a hermit is that you should have a beard and live in a cave. None of which is me," says the ex-teacher. For the modern-day hermit, she says social media is vital: "tweets are rare, but precious," she writes on her Twitter profile. The internet also allows Denton to shop online and communicate with friends. "I am a hermit but I am also human." A diagnosis of cancer earlier this year reaffirmed Denton's wish to carry on a life of solitude, prayer and contemplation. REUTERS/Neil Hall

REUTERS/Neil Hall

SISTER RACHEL DENTON: Out of the Cave and Onto Facebook. By Neil Hall and Angus Berwick

MARKET RASEN, England — Like any good hermit Rachel Denton rises early in the morning to tend to her vegetable garden, feed her chickens, and pray. But the former British nun, who has pledged to live the rest of her life in solitude, has another routine that sets her apart from her society-shunning brethren – she has to update her Twitter account and check Facebook.

Adios, Buena Vista Social Club. By Rod Mickleburgh, Arts

It was a magical night, mixed with a heavy dose of poignancy, as the vaunted Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club made its final appearance win Vancouver, Canada. There will be no more tours. Many of the aging Cuban music stars we got to know and love from Ry Cooder’s venture to Havana in the 1990’s are no longer with us.

Getting Back to his Country Roots: Kenny Rogers, a Brief Encounter column by Brian Brennan (*subscription required)

Kenny Rogers was having a musical-identity crisis at age 39 when I spoke with him in 1977 before a club gig in Calgary. At that point his beard was already turning salt-and-pepper and the wrinkles were starting to show around his eyes. He was still wearing the Beatles suit of his rock years, not the cowboy clothes that later defined his look as a country-pop superstar.

Last but not least, F&O is pleased to announce that author Brian Brennan, one of our regular contributors to Arts, has published his 11th book. An introduction:

Rogues and Rebels: Unforgettable Characters from Canada’s West, documents the life stories of 32 larger-than-life Westerners – some infamous, some obscure – who threw away the rulebook, thumbed their noses at convention and let their detractors howl. They include such political leaders as Ralph Klein and Tommy Douglas, the suffragette Nellie McClung, who fought successfully to have women recognized as “persons” for the purpose of Canadian Senate appointments, and the mysterious cult leader Brother XII, who convinced thousands of wealthy Britons and Americans to follow him to a small island off the West Coast of Canada to await the coming Age of Aquarius.
For more details, visit Brennan’s website at www.brianbrennan.ca

Published by University of Regina Press, Rogues and Rebels is now available in bookstores throughout Canada and the United States, and  online from international retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations.  Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Marg!, Princess Warrior joins the fray

Newfoundland writer, actress and comedian, Mary Walsh, finally chimed in on the Canadian election with her character, Marg! Princess Warrior, this week with her Marg Brings Change campaign. Made famous on This Hour has 22 Minutes, Marg has been smiting politicians with her foam sword for many years and her love for Stephen Harper is legendary.

“Don’t waste time turning in your neighbours on the barbaric Harper hotline; send some real ‘cents’ to Ottawa instead,” advises Princess Warrior Marg Delahunty.

“Prime Minister Harper didn’t want to save Syrian refugees, our right to privacy or democracy, but he did want to save the penny. Unfortunately, like the cent, Harper will take a while to get out of our system so let’s send a load of cents to Ottawa now — and on October 19.”

Joining the ever-increasing crowd of prominent Canadian musicians, writers, artists, scientists, social activists, unions, environmentalists and the millions of Canadians who want change this election, Marg urges Canadians to help her bring change to Harper.

“I’ll give Mr. Harper our two cents,” Marg promises Canadians. In a campaign launched today entitled, Marg Brings Change, the Princess Warrior has created a video calling for Canadians to click on the virtual cent on her website www.margbringschange.ca ; she vows to match every click and every share with a real cent. Later this month Marg will personally deliver everybody’s two cents to Mr. Harper.**

“And vote!” the Princess Warrior commands. “Vote anything but Conservative! Don’t make me come back and smite you!”

**All money will go to aiding Syrian refugees in Canada.

Watch the Video, Click the cent, Share widely and Help Marg bring your two cents to Ottawa!

Visit www.margbringschange.ca

or the Facebook page: Marg Brings Change
https://www.facebook.com/Marg-Brings-Change-1474903259506286/timeline/

Posted in All, Canadian Journalist, Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , , , , , , , , |

As religions grow, so will world’s problems

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TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA  
August, 2015 

Many years ago, a friend liked to preach to me the ‘gospel’ of demographics.

“History,” he would say to me, “is really all about the movement of people, and what causes them to move.”

War, natural disasters, famine, technological innovation, fertility rates and poverty play a far greater role in the shape of the world than any kind of immigration or economic policy ever could.

I thought about my friend this week as I read the recent report on future religious trends published by the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” It’s an amazing look at the future of the world’s religious and non-religious alike. (You can find a link to it below.)

And I have to tell you I’m a bit worried about what I read.

I’m an atheist, so on one hand, how religion fares in the future really doesn’t matter all that much to me. But on the other hand, I’ve long argued that atheists need to understand that religion isn’t going away any time soon and that we need to find a way to work with religiously opened minded people to make the world a better place.

I have no grudge against any particular religion. They’re all patriarchal baloney if you ask me. But religions have a lot of grudges against each other. Grudges that are often manipulated by unscrupulous religious and political leaders, who are interested in accumulating power and wealth, and see using religion as a cudgel as the way to achieve those goals.

And unless the world’s religious learn to get along a little better – which is not so much the case at the current moment – it’s only going to be worse 35 years from now.

So let me quickly review a few of the more important results from the study.

By 2050, if current trends continue, Christianity will remain the world’s largest religion, but not by much. Islam will be a close second, only a few percentage points behind. In fact all the world’s religions will grow, but some not as fast as others (fertility rates). For instance in 2050, although the number of Jews in the world will increase, their rate of growth is much slower that Muslims. The result is that by 2050, there will be more Muslims in the US than Jews – both small numbers (2.1% of the US population for Muslims and 1.4% for Jews), but important communities.

Think about how that might change many aspects of US foreign policy. Politicians pay attentions to votes. And Muslims vote in large numbers.

In Europe, Muslims will make up about 10% of the population in 2050, nowhere near a majority but certainly with a stronger political voice than they have now. And in India, while Hindus will grow at an increased rate, so will the Muslims population, leading to India having the largest Muslim population in the world, surpassing Indonesia, and dwarfing nearby Pakistan, a Muslim nation.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the growth of the Muslim population is not an issue. It’s just plain arithmetic. Muslims have the highest fertility rate 3.1 – well above replacement level of 2.1. Christians are 2.7, Hindus 2.4. If current trends continue, as they say, by 2070 there will be more Muslims in the world than any other religion. Islam also has the largest number of young people in its group.

Most of this growth, for both Muslims and Christians, will happen in sub-Saharan Africa.

It’s not hard, however, to look at the world today and see the potential for problems. The friction between all three of the major religions, Christian, Muslim and Hindu is obvious, not to mention the frictions between the sub-groups of each faith. The need to find an ecumenical outlook will only grow with each passing year.

Which brings me to people like me – atheists, agnostics and the religiously ‘unaffiliated’. Although the number of people in this group will grow, overall it will represent a small percentage of the overall puzzle, dropping from 16% to 13%.

But this group will actually grow dramatically in several important places, most particularly the United States and Europe. By 2050, the unaffiliated will be over 26% of the US population. Most of this growth will come from Christians who will leave their faith behind them – as I did. Tired of the misogyny, bigotry, homophobia and racism of so much of Christianity in the US today, millions will ‘switch out,’ as the report says.

Think of how this will affect US politics. No politicians can afford to neglect a quarter of the population, and this group votes A LOT, and usually Democratic. In the last election, the ‘unaffiliated’ voted 70% for Obama – and that was actually a drop of 5% from 2008. Also, this group represented 9% of those who voted in 2000, and that was up to 12% by 2012. By 2050, it will be much higher.

When you connect his group with the growing population of Hispanics in the US, which votes heavily Democratic, the GOP has a real reason to be worried about its electoral chances in the future – considering its utter failure to reach out to the unaffiliated and minorities and instead cling to its declining base of, well, mostly old white male religious conservatives.

But there are other reasons I worry about the growth of religion.

Religions are anti-women in their dogma and practices. (Seen a woman cardinal lately?) Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, all have Orthodox/fundamentalist communities that are severely misogynistic. (I think of the Orthodox Jewish newspapers that will not print pictures of women. What will they do if Hillary Clinton is elected president? I long to see.)

And if you combine the tensions that often exist between religions in regions with limited resources, with the threat of something like climate change, it’s a dangerous mix.

Think of the tensions that exist between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria or Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in India. Resources are scare as they are. Combine much larger populations with even more limited resources and it’s like waiting to light a fuse on a keg of dynamite. In fact, the US military has already named climate change as one of the main security concerns of the 21st century. It’s very easy to see religion as the spark that ignites that fuse.

There is a famous painting by the late Canadian artist Alex Colville that shows a horse running along a railroad track headlong towards an oncoming train. The train isn’t stopping. And neither, it seems, is the horse.

 

Copyright Tom Regan 2015 

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

References

How the faithful voted in 2012

How the Faithful Voted: 2012 Preliminary Analysis

“The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050,” http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/

Can there be an ‘atheist vote’? Nonreligious set sights on 2016: http://www.religionnews.com/2015/05/28/can-atheist-vote-nonreligious-set-sights-2016/

Related on F&O:

When religious liberty undermines freedom, July 2015

My atheist fan letter to Pope Francis, December, 2014

Time to end religious holidays in public schools, November, 2014

Clarification: This column was updated Aug. 22 to include references and expand several points.

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Support us with a subscription (click here for our subscribe page) or a donation:

 

 

 

“The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.”

The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050

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Alberta once again the New Jerusalem

Photo Dave Cournoyer via Flickr, Creative Commons

Rachel Notley’s father advised: “Don’t talk about it, just do it.” On May 5 she did, leading Alberta’s NDP to power. Photo by Dave Cournoyer/Flickr, Creative Commons

By Brian Brennan 
May 6, 2015 

In 1971, the year the now irrelevant Progressive Conservative party first rose to power in Alberta, a Canadian folk-pop group from Montreal called The Bells had a million-selling hit titled “Stay Awhile.” It stayed in the American Top 50 for 11 weeks. The last line of the chorus went, “guess I’m gonna stay with you awhile.” That could have been a mantra for the PCs of that era. They remained at the helm for the next 44 years. 

Alberta, the home province of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been viewed for 80 years – ever since the right-wing Social Credit Party was elected in 1935 – as Canada’s bastion of rock-ribbed conservatism. Or, as Alberta author Aritha van Herk put it, Alberta has been stereotyped as a province defined by such terms as “redneck, intolerant, racist, conservative, neo-Christian, suspicious of anything new, home of white supremacists, gun lovers, and not a few book-banning school boards.”

On Tuesday, Albertans went to the polls to elect a new provincial government and change that image. A month ago, when Premier Jim Prentice called the election, it was widely expected that his Progressive Conservatives would cakewalk to another victory. Their only serious opposition in the previous, 2012 election had been the Wildrose Party, running to their right. But the Wildrosers had been reduced to a five-seat rump after one member left to sit as an independent and 11 more, including party leader Danielle Smith, crossed the floor to join the PCs. That gave the Tories 70 seats in the 87-seat legislature.

The other parties didn’t seem to pose much of a threat. The third-place Liberals also held five seats at dissolution. The left-leaning New Democratic Party came in fourth and last with four seats. Neither was expected to figure prominently in the 2015 vote, mainly because the Liberals hadn’t formed a government since the United Farmers of Alberta dispatched them in 1921, and the NDP had never come anywhere close to forming a government.

But the Alberta of 2015 is not the Alberta of 1921. Nor is it the province that put Social Credit in power in 1935. Nor is it the one that handed the reins to the Tories in 1971. The province’s two biggest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, are both led by progressive mayors: Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson. The Alberta of the 21st century is increasingly cosmopolitan, forward-thinking, diverse and inclusive. Collapsing oil prices have taken away some of the province’s financial robustness. But they haven’t taken away its spirit or its optimism.

From the start of the campaign, it became clear – if it hadn’t been so before – that the Progressive Conservatives represented a party run by and for the business elite of the province. Premier Prentice announced that the election would be tantamount to a vote on his first budget; an austerity document that imposed 59 new taxes or levies on individuals, but none on corporations. This provided great ammunition for NDP leader Rachel Notley who told her supporters that if the affluent and the well-connected were to contribute just a little bit more – specifically, a two percent increase in the current corporate tax rate of 10 percent – hospital wait times would be reduced, health care would improve, and 12,000 children would have teachers when they showed up for school next fall. From that point on, Prentice stopped talking about his budget, and began to talk about the dangers of electing a socialist government in Alberta that would lead the province to financial ruin.

Notley, one of the finest platform speakers in Alberta politics, struck an immediate and resonant chord with voters. Speaking without notes and dappling her speeches with good-humoured digs at what she called “this never-ending circus instead of a government,” she drew loud cheers every time she told her listeners they didn’t have to keep repeating history in this province; they could make history by voting for progressive change. 

Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice, Incumbent premier. Photo: premier's office

Jim Prentice resigned both his seat and his leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party, immediately after the election. Photo: premier’s office

Notley’s message undoubtedly got through. On Tuesday night, Albertans voted for the first social-democratic government in the province’s history, giving 53 seats to the NDP, 21 seats to the revitalized Wildrose, and relegating the Tories to third place with 10 seats. Premier Prentice immediately resigned as party leader and his newly recaptured seat as MLA. A former federal politician, he had not re-entered public life to lead the third party in the provincial legislature. The Liberals were left with one seat and the new left-leaning Alberta Party also took one seat.

Notley was born to play the role of NDP leader. Her father, a self-styled “middle-of-the-road socialist” named Grant Notley, was a pioneering politician who scored the NDP’s first seat in the Alberta legislature in 1971, the same year the Tories began their 44-year reign. Grant Notley served as a one-man caucus for much of the next 13 years. When he died in 1984, in a light plane crash at age 45, his daughter was a 20-year-old law school undergraduate. She then worked as a labour lawyer and honed her skills as a backroom political operative for close to two decades before entering Alberta politics as a 43-year-old MLA in 2008. The best bit of political advice her father had ever given her: “Don’t talk about it, just do it.”

On Tuesday night she did it. Against all odds, Notley won a majority government with a party of mostly untried political rookies who have never sat in a legislature before. In that respect, Notley’s NDPers of 2015 are no different than William Aberhart’s Social Crediters of 1935 or Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservatives of 1971. Most of them were political neophytes too. For progressive-minded voters, Alberta – as the evangelical preacher Aberhart liked to say – has once again become the New Jerusalem.

Notley’s first challenge will be to convince the Alberta business community that she’s not the scary monster portrayed by her desperate opponents during the final days of the campaign, when all the polls were pointing to an NDP victory. With a $7-billion crater in the province’s finances, she has her work cut out for her. But Albertans clearly trust her and feel she’s up to the task. Her father would have been proud.

One of the other million-selling hits of 1971 was a song by country singer Jerry Reed titled “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” It too stayed in the American charts for 11 weeks. The second line of the chorus went, “and when you’re not, you’re not.” That could have become the new mantra for Alberta’s routed Progressive Conservatives on Tuesday night.

Copyright Brian Brennan 2015

Clarification: This story has been changed for clarity, to note that Albertans voted in a social-democratic (instead of a “socialist”) government.

References:

Alberta Elections, results: http://results.elections.ab.ca/wtResultsPGE.htm

Related on F&O:

NOTEBOOK: a bellwether election for Alberta? Sean Holman on Alberta’s lack of transparency, and Penney Kome on Alberta politics

Canada’s Mayor: Naheed Nenshi. By Brian Brennan, Facts and Opinions magazine feature (paywall)

Video:

Rachel Notley’s victory speech (click here for text transcript on NDP site): 

Jim Prentice’s concession speech:

 

 

Brian Brennan

Brian Brennan, an Irish journalist living in Canada, is a founding feature writer with Facts and Opinions, author of the Brief Encounters arts column, and a contributor to Arts dispatches and the Loose Leaf salon. His profile of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the first original feature in the journal’s inaugural issue, won Runner-up, Best Feature Article, in the 2014 Professional Writers Association of Canada Awards. Brennan was educated at University College Dublin, Vancouver’s Langara College, the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the National Critics Institute in Waterford, Connecticut. 

Visit him at his website, www.brianbrennan.ca

Brian Brennan also plays jazz piano, for fun and profit.  

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Facts and Opinions is an online journal of select and first-rate reporting and analysis, in words and images: a boutique for select journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Help sustain us with a donation, by clicking below; by telling others about us; or purchasing a $1 day pass or subscription, from $2.95/month to $19.95/year. To receive F&O’s free blog emails fill in the form on the FRONTLINES page.

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