Cartoons are posted below but the most recent one is at least one week late.
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday February 15, 2020
Sidewalk snow clearing debate demands action
Hamilton’s sidewalk snow removal controversy isn’t going away any time soon. In part, that’s because of an aging population who understand at a visceral level that mobility isn’t something to take for granted.
Being able to move around freely outside your home isn’t a frill. Whether for people who have age-related mobility issues, need wheelchairs or have babies in strollers, it’s a critical part of living a healthy and independent life. And that lifestyle can make the difference between remaining independent or falling into a cycle of increasing infirmity, which ultimately leads to losing that precious independence.
And this isn’t a only “soft” issue about quality of life. It’s also a bottom line issue. People who lose the ability to live independently require intervention and sometimes supported housing. And we have a huge problem with long-term care capacity.
In short, there is value on many levels in support of investing in measures to help people remain independent. Year round, not just in spring, summer and fall.
But how should that manifest itself? This week city council directed staff to investigate the matter of sidewalk snow removal. We don’t know what they’ll come back with, but from our perspective there are three potential areas worth consideration.
One is the idea of the city taking on snow clearing on all public sidewalks — all 2,445 kilometres of them. The estimated cost of that could reach $5.36 million. It is clearly the most socially progressive option. But is it practical, and would it be effective? City staff say it would cost $15 per household based on the average property value assessment. The average Hamilton homeowner can afford $15 annually. But put that together with an estimated 3.5 per cent tax increase and user fees increasing across the board plus increased taxes driven by property value reassessment, and it’s clear many taxpayers would not support that option. They’d say it’s just another straw on the camel’s back. And many residents of neighbourhoods that don’t even have sidewalks would certainly balk.
What about a partial solution where main thoroughfare sidewalks and those in designated high traffic areas were cleared? More affordable for sure, but there remains the question of how quickly the city (or contractors) could get certain or all sidewalks cleared. If it’s not very quick either of these two scenarios could prove ineffective. In Burlington, sidewalks are cleared within 24 hours, but when there’s significant snow it can take up to 72 hours. In Toronto, main downtown sidewalks get cleared but not neighbourhood sidewalks.
Another partial solution is less complex. Hamilton should toughen up its existing bylaw that penalizes scofflaw homeowners who don’t clear their sidewalks. The current reporting system results in slow and inconsistent service. Beef it up. Ensure there are enough bylaw staff to respond in 24 hours. If snow and ice are not cleared, have contractors do the work and bill the homeowners, and build in a little markup which the city could use to fund other sidewalk snow clearing measures.
Most homeowners and tenants are responsible and do the right thing. We should not hesitate to come down hard on those who do not. They’re jeopardizing public safety and showing disrespect for their neighbours, most of whom look out over clear sidewalks.
Whatever else happens, the city should toughen up on those who refuse to do the right thing. It’s likely that the only people who would not support that are the ones who are part of the problem. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday February 14, 2020
The Conservative Party’s moderate-centres have disappeared
Alone among the senior party elephants who in the past few days have fled the high veldt of the federal Conservative leadership campaign, former Quebec premier Jean Charest left behind disquieting words as he took the exit road. The party, he observed, has changed a lot since he was last active in it in 1998.
You wonder why Conservative strategists and the media have not made more of what he said.
They’ve stated that the party is confused; it has lost its identity, needs to find itself—when, for the most part, the party knows exactly where it is and how it got there. It’s the strategists and media who are living in something that looks a lot like a state of denial.
They’re engaging in a surreal debate about what the party needs to do to fix itself and grow its political message—make symbolic or mild policy nods toward the political centre, have its leaders walk in a pride parade, declare it won’t be re-opening the abortion debate, do something to hobble the party’s “extremist wing.”
Yet the Conservative moderate-centre has all but disappeared. Largely, the so-called Red Tories have left the party and gone elsewhere. There is no “extremist wing”—that’s imaginary. Fundamental changes have shaped the base of the party that reflect differences in outlook, preferences and values from the great majority of Canadians and have little to do with what someone thinks about gay pride parades. As in the U.K. and the U.S., authoritarian or ordered populism has polarized Canada into two incommensurable camps.
The Conservative Party that most Canadians have known—the political centre that previously had the ability to find centre terrain on the most divisive issues of the day—has disappeared. What contemporary Conservative strategists and the media seem to have significant difficulty recognizing is that Canadian politics has become much more like American politics—it’s become tribal. And just as two Americas have taken root and blossomed, two Canadas are appearing on this side of the border.
EKOS Research found that four years ago, there was a 10-percentage-point gap between Liberals and Conservatives who selected climate change as the top issue of political concern. That gap is now 46 percentage points.
More than 90 per cent of Canadians who identify with the political centre-left, which is 65 per cent of adult citizens, think that Canada now has a climate emergency (they don’t believe that it’s coming, but that it’s here now.) For people who identify as Conservative or People’s Party supporters, the figure is less than 30 per cent. Four years ago, there was a 20-percentage-point gap between Liberals and Conservatives on trust in science. That exploded to a 40 per cent gap following the last election.
Since 2012, the incidence of Conservative voters who think Canada is admitting “too many” visible minorities as immigrants has swollen from 47 per cent to 70 per cent . Meanwhile, the corresponding incidence of Liberals agreeing there are too many has dropped from 35 to 15 per cent. A modest 12 per cent gap has also expanded to a massive 55 per cent gap. (MacLean’s)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday February 13, 2020
Rule of law must prevail in gas pipeline dispute
A common misconception about the blockades and protests disrupting business and travel across Canada this week is that they are taking place with the support of the majority of Indigenous people. Obviously, some people — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — support Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their efforts to stop the construction of the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline.
But to suggest that the chiefs, or their supporters across the country, speak on behalf of Indigenous people in general is misguided.
Consider the situation among members of the Witset First Nation in the area of the pipeline.
All 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route have signed benefit agreements with Coastal GasLink and support the pipeline. Some of the communities held referendums that showed majority support. But, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the pipeline say those councils were established by the Indian Act and only have authority over reserve lands.
CBC’s “As It Happens” interviewed Wet’suwet’en resident Bonnie George who said, in part: “There’s quite a bit of support for this project. But people are afraid to speak up because, in the past few years, people that (have) spoken up were either ostracized … ridiculed, bullied, harassed, threatened, and being called a traitor — a sellout … People are afraid to speak up.”
Another resident, Philip Tait, told Global News: “Right now, this is probably got to be one of the biggest job creations in the province here, and we want to be part of it,” he said. “The hereditary chiefs’ office, they don’t speak for the whole clan.”
And yet, here we are. The chiefs’ protest has become a cause celebre across the country, with supporters blockading roads and railways, disrupting service. Some of the consequences are merely inconveniences, but others have serious economic impact. The lack of propane delivery, for example, threatens agricultural businesses that rely on it to heat barns during winter.
The pipeline project has met all environmental requirements. It has all the requisite approvals. It has the official support of Indigenous communities along the route.
And it has the potential to serve an important purpose, aside from the obvious one that it moves liquid natural gas from point A (Dawson Creek) to Point B (Kitimat).
The natural gas moved through the pipeline will end up at a huge complex in Kitimat. From there, LNG will be moved by ship to markets around the world. Some of those markets will include large nations like China and India that still produce a great deal of their needed energy by burning coal. LNG, while not perfect, is much less harmful to the environment as coal energy. So the LNG that comes from the $6-billion, 670-kilometre Coastal GasLink pipeline has the potential to make a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.
But for that to work, the gas has to get from its source to market. And the best, safest, way to do that is by pipeline.
Given that construction has all official approvals to proceed, governments were left with little choice but to issue injunctions demanding protesters leave the area. When they refused, RCMP removed and arrested some. RCMP were operating under the rule of law, just as police in other jurisdictions, including Ontario, are doing by following legal direction to remove blockades on rail lines, ports and roadways.
Negotiations with the chiefs are continuing, as they should. But the rule of law must be observed, across Canada. That’s of paramount national importance. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday February 12, 2020
‘We don’t play games when people are sick’: China won’t release ‘two Michaels’ despite coronavirus help: experts
Ottawa shouldn’t expect Beijing to do it any favours and free the “two Michaels” in return for medical co-operation fighting the new coronavirus, experts say.
China’s ambassador to Canada hinted at that last week and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says he’s used every medical discussion with China to raise the plight of the two men.
Champagne told reporters in Ethiopia on Sunday that he’s had more access to his Chinese counterparts in recent weeks and he uses the occasions to push for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been in Chinese prisons without charge since December 2018.
They were arrested in what is widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s decision to arrest Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the United States.
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, says that while it is good for Champagne to keep pushing, Canada’s assistance on the coronavirus simply isn’t contingent on what China can do for Canada.
“Anything that opens up the channels of communication is a good thing, and we should use the conversation to raise all of our priorities,” he said.
“We don’t play games when people are sick, and we shouldn’t allow China to play games with us. Freeing the Michaels isn’t a favour or quid pro quo; it is what we expect of law-abiding states.”
Bessma Momani, an international-affairs expert at the University of Waterloo, says China wants only one thing — Meng released — and so-called health diplomacy will not change that.
“I hope I’m wrong,” she said.
“Why would Champagne say that? It’s kind of raising hope. So, it makes you wonder,” she said. “But at the same time, what would the Chinese get out of doing this? To them, Meng is a really important person … They don’t want to be seen as giving in.”
Meng is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei.
Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat who has served in Beijing, said the Canadian efforts on the coronavirus might bear fruit.
“China is a gift giving culture. Any gift accepted creates reciprocal obligation in the recipient. So, I judge that China requesting medical aid from Canada could well lead to concessions in the negotiations over the release of Kovrig and Spavor,” said Burton, of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute think-tank in Ottawa. (National Post)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday February 11, 2020
Addressing a conference of African-American church congregations in this vote-rich city, Pete Buttigieg quoted scripture on Sunday morning and extolled his “Douglass Plan” to combat racial inequities in America, one of several attempts this weekend to confront his strikingly low support among black voters.
But Mr. Buttigieg also undertook a delicate task before the African Methodist Episcopal worshipers. As a gay, married man addressing a denomination that does not allow same-sex marriage rites, he tried to seek common ground over being members of minority groups whose civil rights have come under attack. It was a nod to his sexuality, following the disclosure last week that the Buttigieg campaign held focus groups that found some black voters in South Carolina were uncomfortable with a gay man as president.
“All of us in different ways have been led to question whether we belong,” Mr. Buttigieg told the pews of black worshipers. “And I know what it is to look on the news and see your rights up for debate. All of us must extend a hand to one another. Because I also know what it is to find acceptance where you least expect it.”
As Mr. Buttigieg increasingly presents himself to Democrats as a younger, moderate alternative to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., he is struggling badly to compete against one of Mr. Biden’s strengths: deep connections to black voters. Nowhere is that problem greater than in South Carolina, which votes fourth in the Democratic nomination fight in February and is the first state where black voters are decisive — a critical test that could be a prologue for primaries in March where African-Americans will also be influential.
A Monmouth University poll of Democratic likely primary voters in South Carolina released last week found Mr. Buttigieg at 3 percent overall, with just 1 percent support from African Americans.
There are many reasons for Mr. Buttigieg’s low standing among black voters, the foremost being that he is little-known to many of them. He is the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., who still has a relatively low national profile — including on civil rights and issues of race — and focused much of this year building support among liberals, Democratic donors and voters in the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire. (NYTimes)
Meanwhile, ahead of the New Hampshire Primary day, Joe Biden Slashes Into Buttigieg: ‘This Guy’s Not a Barack Obama!’. (NYTimes)
Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders fight for the number one position. (The Guardian)