Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday July 25, 2020
Announcement coming next week for plan to reopen Ontario schools
January 31, 2020
Education Minister Stephen Lecce says that the government is “finalizing the health protocols” for the resumption of school in September and that an announcement could be coming as soon as next week on what it will look like.
Back in June the Ford government asked school boards to prepare three separate plans for the resumption of classes – online learning only, a hybrid model with children attending classes in-person on alternating days or weeks and the fulltime resumption of in-person instruction.
The boards still have until Aug. 4 to submit those plans but Lecce revealed on Thursday that an announcement could be coming before then on the various regulations and rules that schools will have to follow.
April 30, 2020
A spokesperson for the education minister later clarified to CP24 that the announcement will pertain to “consistent standards” that will be put in place at schools across Ontario on things like seating arrangements and the wearing of masks.
The decision as to which model a particular board follows will still be left with local public health officials, the spokesperson said.
“We are finalizing the health protocols and working very closely with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and some of the best pediatric minds in the nation that are informing the plan,” Lecce said during a press conference in Brampton. “We believe we will be able to unveil it next week. That will include additional supports and resources to enable our boards to succeed.”
May 26, 2020
Lecce initially said that individual school boards would be able to choose which plan they want to follow based on the risk posed by COVID-19 to their communities.
Premier Doug Ford has since said that he wants students to return to school fulltime in September provided it is safe to do so.
Yesterday, Ford said the public should be open to unorthodox ideas to keep kids safe, such as holding class outdoors.
Life in a Pandemic
“The premier and the government continue to be focused on a safe, conventional, day-to-day return to school,” Lecce said Thursday. “Maybe a new conventional where kids still can go to school five days a week.” (CTV)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday July 24, 2020
Is the WE Charity affair Justin Trudeau’s sponsorship scandal?
With each new revelation in the rapidly snowballing scandal surrounding Ottawa’s aborted plan to contract out a multimillion-dollar student volunteer program to WE Charity, it gets harder to know whether to be more outraged, disgusted or flabbergasted – or some measure of all three.
July 9, 2020
Outraged that, in the middle of a pandemic that has left millions of Canadians out of work and Ottawa digging a deficit hole for the ages, our federal government somehow thought it urgent and appropriate to spend nearly $1-billion on a program that appeared to serve no one’s interest more than its own and those of the organization chosen to run it.
Disgusted that, as average Canadians struggle to set aside a few dollars every month to donate to their local church or food bank, the federal government would reward a charity that defiles the notion of do-gooding by offering “complimentary” trips across the globe to their rich donor friends in high places, absorbing funds that might otherwise have gone to actually doing good rather than just generating good PR.
December 14, 2016
Flabbergasted that, after already twice being entangled in ethics investigations due to his own disregard for the basic rules of conduct, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds himself at the centre of yet another such inquiry owing to what can only be described as his own hubris and gall for having the nerve to think that no one would notice.
We knew before this scandal erupted that Mr. Trudeau and WE Charity had for years formed a sort of mutual-admiration society. No other major political leader has appeared at more WE Day events or been greeted with more ebullient praise by the organization’s co-founders, Craig and Marc Kielburger. It had become hard to distinguish between WE Charity’s stated goal of “inspiring a generation of leaders and change-makers” and the blatant politics and campaign-style atmosphere that such forums provided Mr. Trudeau.
July 11, 2020
We learned a bit more about the incestuousness of this relationship when Mr. Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after participating in a WE Day event in London alongside Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton and actor Idris Elba. A picture posted on her Instagram account shows the trio with their arms around each other, along with Ms. Grégoire Trudeau’s mother-in-law, Margaret Trudeau, and sister-in-law Alicia Kemper. WE Days had become a family affair for the Trudeau clan.
September 22, 2017
We have since learned that Margaret Trudeau was paid more than $300,000 to speak at several WE Day events, which, no matter how much you admire her, should strike you as unsettling. Ms. Trudeau may be her own person, but nothing she does now can be considered separate from her son’s political career. That can be a double-edged sword for Mr. Trudeau, but not in the context of a WE Day event.
Now it appears that much of the apparatus of government jumped through hoops between April and June to drum up a program, the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), that – go figure – not a single federal department or agency or private-sector organization had the wherewithal to administer. None, that is, except for WE Charity, which just happens to have been facing financial disaster as the pandemic dragged on.
April 8, 2004
The closer you look, the more this situation resembles the sponsorship scandal of the late 1990s that tarnished the Liberal brand for more than a decade until Mr. Trudeau revived it.
The sponsorship program, concocted by then-prime minister Jean Chrétien’s government, involved doling out bogus contracts to Liberal-friendly advertising companies under the auspices of promoting federalism after the 1995 Quebec referendum. Then-auditor-general Sheila Fraser concluded that Ottawa “broke just about every rule in the book” in awarding such contracts, which lined the pockets of Liberal donors.
February 9, 2005
That scandal, which eventually spawned a public inquiry, led to criminal charges. And though there is no evidence of criminal activity in the awarding of the CSSG contract to WE Charity, there is a certain similarity in the absence of checks and balances in the procedures followed in outsourcing the grant program. The proposal appeared to sail through cabinet. If any ministers raised red flags about the appearance of conflicts of interest or lack of due diligence regarding WE Charity, we have yet to hear about it.
The sponsorship scandal started off small. The entire program did not involve large sums of money, given the overall size of the government. The program was peripheral to Ottawa’s primary missions, which made it seem kind of innocuous at first.
The WE Charity scandal is starting to look eerily similar. It’s an afterthought in the context of the current crisis Canada faces – yet it’s too rotten-smelling to ignore. (Konrad Yakabuski – The Globe & Mail)
Countries around the world need to form cyber attack agreements to avoid going down a path to “mutually assured destruction”, Tony Blair has said.
August 1, 2019
In the wake of the report into Russian interference in British democratic processes, the former prime minister called for states to “push for some common form of standards”.
Without such a framework, he warned, countries would be carrying out cyber attacks the “entire time to each other”, putting global security at risk.
In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Blair, who was a leading Remain voice in the 2016 referendum, said he was “not one of those people who thinks the Brexit result came about as a result of Russian interference”.
March 21, 2018
But he said: “If they are interfering, and they will want to interfere, because obviously it is the policy of the Russian government to have a weaker West, and so you can see why they might want certain results to happen in politics.
“If they are trying to do it, then you need to take countermeasures.”
Mr Blair said that the “heightened ability to use cyber in destructive way” meant that at some point “the world is going to have to come to a set of agreements and protocols on this because otherwise you are going to be down a path of mutually assured destruction”.
“These capabilities are only going to grow, they are going to become more and more sophisticated, and governments are going to use them.
“But to be clear, that capacity has got to be developed in order to defend yourself as a country and then you’ve got to know how to both thwart interference and cyber attacks.
“And in the end you are going to have to push for some common form of standards here, otherwise countries are going to be doing it the entire time to each other and then the security of the world gets put at risk.”
Earlier this week, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) accused the Government of being slow to recognise the potential threat posed by Russia to British democratic processes and of not properly considering whether Moscow could interfere in the Brexit referendum until after the event.
Mr Blair said: “I don’t know that people turned a blind eye deliberately – but the fact is that if a foreign government is essentially engaged in trying to disrupt our democratic process, whether they are successful in it or not, of course you’ve got to act. (Newschain.uk)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday July 21, 2020
US scientists rebuke Trump over coronavirus response and other affronts
More than 1,200 members of the US National Academy of Sciences have rebuked Donald Trump’s “denigration of scientific expertise”, an unusual move for a community which has historically avoided the political sphere.
May 12, 2020
The co-organizers of an open letter seeking to “restore science-based policy in government” say they have rapidly gained signatures during the coronavirus pandemic.
Scientists have watched the Trump administration downplay the crisis and ignore expert advice, including the need to wear masks and the dangers of using unproven drugs.
In the latest affront to the scientific world, the White House is reportedly seeking to block funding for testing and tracing, which scientists widely agree is critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, Trump called the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, a “little bit of an alarmist”.
April 23, 2020
The open letter began as a response to Trump’s refusal to accept and act on warnings from climate scientists. In September 2016, 378 academy members wrote that withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement would “have negative consequences for the world’s climate system and for US leadership and credibility”.
In April 2018, more than 1,000 scientists signed a version of the letter which warned that Trump’s “dismissal of scientific evidence in policy formulation has affected wide areas of the social, biological, environmental and physical sciences”.
The three organizers have since invited members who joined NAS in 2019 and 2020 to sign on to the letter. More than 62% did, bringing the total to 1,220 out of a membership of about 2,900. Some of the signatories work in government or have federal grants but felt compelled to add their names despite professional risks.
April 7, 2020
Benjamin Santer, a climate researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a co-organizer, said the administration has changedwhat it means to be a scientist in America.
“We no longer have the luxury, in my opinion, of retreating to our offices and closing the door and hoping bad stuff will go away,” he said. “That’s a singularly poor survival strategy when you’re facing a global pandemic or global climate change. Bad stuff isn’t going to go away.”
March 26, 2020
The academy – which was formed during the civil war – exists to provide independent, objective advice to the nation. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding research contributions. About 500 current and deceased members have won Nobel Prizes.
Charles Manski, the second co-organizer, an economist at Northwestern University, acknowledged that some might view the letter as political but said the scientists do not. They just want policy to be informed by the best possible information.
“It’s one thing for the political establishment not to respond very well to a crisis that happens around the world,” Manski said. “It’s quite another thing to be actively denigrating the science and making things up routinely.”
Trump has recently attacked guidelines for school reopening from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), calling them expensive and impractical. (The Guardian)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday July 22, 2020
Ethical questions abound in politics
July 16, 2020
For the third time since he became prime minister in 2015, the behaviour of Justin Trudeau is being investigated by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. The investigation involves a proposed non-tendered contract worth $19 million to the WE Charity, which was supposed to operate a new student-volunteer program. Trudeau had participated in the cabinet meeting that approved the contract.
Because both the prime minister and his wife had a close relationship with the charity, the opposition complained to the ethics commissioner that Trudeau was guilty of violating the conflict of interest law. Days later it was revealed that Trudeau’s mother and brother had been paid nearly $300,000 for multiple speaking engagements at WE Charity events. This seems to be a classic case of confusing or intermingling private interests with the public interest, which is the essential nature of a conflict of interest.
The case caused me to reflect on why politicians appear to have such difficulty reasoning and acting ethically. Here are some random thoughts:
July 11, 2020
There is illegal and unethical behaviour in all occupations, but politics seems to involve greater temptations and risks that legal rules and ethical standards will be violated.
Politics involves contention over competing ideas and interests, together with competition to gain power, and these fundamental facts can override respect for ethical norms. Politicians and their advisers take the pragmatic view that if they do not break or bend the rules, they will lose ground to their opponents. They tell themselves that after they win, they will behave in an exemplary ethical manner, but then re-election becomes a strong motivation.
Most politicians enter public life for altruistic reasons of public service. A minority, however, become corrupted by the political process. They develop the view that politics is a game and to the winner go the spoils. Individuals from a famous political family, or long-serving politicians, may develop the view that they are, as a former Liberal cabinet minister declared, “entitled to their entitlements.” Rewarding family and “political friends” is seen as a perk of the job. (Winnipeg Free Press)