Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday December 16, 2020
More Senate Republicans warily accept Trump’s loss after Electoral College vote.
Support for President Trump’s attempt to overturn his election loss began to collapse in the Senate on Monday after the Electoral College certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, with many of the chamber’s top Republicans saying the time had come to recognize results that have been evident for weeks.
While they insisted that Mr. Trump could still challenge the results in court should he wish, the senators said the certification should be considered the effective conclusion of an election that has fiercely divided the country. And after weeks of silence as Mr. Trump and others in their party sought to overturn the results in increasingly extreme ways, they urged their colleagues to move on.
“I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election, but in the end, at some point, you have to face the music,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, Republicans’ No. 2, told reporters in the Capitol. “And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”
Even Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who initially fanned Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud in key battleground states, said he now saw only “a very, very narrow path for the president” and had spoken with Mr. Biden and some of his likely cabinet nominees.
“I don’t see how it gets there from here, given what the Supreme Court did,” he added, referring to the justices’ decision on Friday to reject a long-shot suit by Texas seeking to overturn the results in a handful of states Mr. Biden won.
The comments amounted to a notable and swift sea change in a body that for weeks has essentially refused to acknowledge the inevitable, although the shift was far from unanimous.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, stayed conspicuously silent on Monday, declining to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory. He dedicated his only public remarks to stimulus negotiations and ignored a question about the Electoral College proceeding shouted by a reporter in the Capitol.
It was unclear on Monday if those who relented were a harbinger of a larger shift by elected Republicans to accept Mr. Trump’s defeat, or a sign of a growing rift within the party between those willing to accept reality and those — a loyal core in the Senate and the vast majority in the House — who appear ready to follow him wherever he leads.
Mr. McConnell’s allies said that he would honor the election outcome come January, but did not want to pick a fight with Mr. Trump now, for fear of damaging Republicans’ chances in a pair of January Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will decide control of the chamber.
He is also concerned, they said, that doing so could jeopardize a string of year-end legislative priorities that will require the president’s signature, including a catchall spending measure and the stimulus package to address the continuing toll of the pandemic. (New York Times)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday December 10, 2020
Doug Ford takes an axe to greenbelt protections
First, Doug Ford big-footed environmental protections and local authority. Then he went home early, adjourning the legislature until February. Not a bad day’s work for Ford and friends.
Under the cover of COVID-19, the government is hacking and slashing the network of regulations and oversight that for years helped balance the preservation of Ontario’s environment with the interests of voracious development.
Think back to before Ford became leader of the not-progressive conservative party. He was recorded telling a roomful of his development industry friends that he would ensure Ontario’s cherished greenbelt would be opened to allow development.
In case you’ve forgotten, the outcry was immediate and very loud. So much so that Ford had to publicly retract his pledge, and reassure Ontarians that he would respect their will on the greenbelt.
But Ford never said he wouldn’t use a back door to accomplish the same objectives. This week, he demonstrated that he has done exactly that.
Schedule 6 may sound innocuous, but it is anything but. Passed this week as part of the government’s Bill 229 — a pandemic recovery bill for heaven’s sake — it neuters all of Ontario’s conservation authorities. Their mandate is now dramatically narrower, and a government minister will have the power to veto conservation authority decisions.
Ontarians have been able to rely on conservation authorities for years to effectively manage and protect rivers, tributaries, wetlands, forests and local drinking water. CAs are not perfect, but they generally work, and they represent local and regional interests. No longer.
In another alarming change, the Conservation Authorities Act has been amended to allow the provincial minister complete control over issuing permits, with or without input from CAs. And there is no appealing the decisions.
Not satisfied with hobbling conservation authorities, the government is also making increased use of Ministerial Zoning Orders. MZOs allow the provincial minister to override planning and zoning decisions, regardless of local government or public input. Again, the decisions cannot be appealed.
This destruction of local control has not gone unnoticed. Conservation authorities, mayors, the Association of Ontario Municipalities, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the World Wildlife Fund (Canada), Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence of Ontario have all spoken out strongly against the government’s centralization of control. Countless letters to the editor, columns and editorials have condemned the changes.
The government’s response was to double down and push the changes through, hidden deep in pandemic recovery omnibus legislation.
All this is part of a disturbing big picture. Remember the Ontario Municipal Board, which provided a flawed method of appealing local planning decisions? The government replaced it with the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) a developer-friendly organization that almost always rules on the side of unfettered development.
Then came MZOs, being used increasingly to authorize zoning and planning changes in the absence of local due process and input. Then came the gutting of conservation areas, with their crucial oversight, including of Ontario’s drinking water.
Does anyone else see a theme here? Ever since Doug Ford blew up Toronto city council to suit his personal whims, it has been clear he is not remotely interested in local decision-making authority. He wants Ontario open for business, regardless of environmental impact. And he’s getting his wish. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday December 3, 2020
Trump Has Discussed With Advisers Pardons for His 3 Eldest Children and Giuliani
President Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law and to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Mr. Trump has told others that he is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser.
Donald Trump Jr. had been under investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for contacts that the younger Mr. Trump had had with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but he was never charged. Mr. Kushner provided false information to federal authorities about his contacts with foreigners for his security clearance, but was given one anyway by the president.
The nature of Mr. Trump’s concern about any potential criminal exposure of Eric Trump or Ivanka Trump is unclear, although an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the Trump Organization has expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees by the company, some of which appear to have gone to Ms. Trump.
Presidential pardons, however, do not provide protection against state or local crimes.
Mr. Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is also unclear, although he was under investigation as recently as this summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there. The plot was at the heart of the impeachment of Mr. Trump.
The speculation about pardon activity at the White House is churning furiously, underscoring how much the Trump administration has been dominated by investigations and criminal prosecutions of people in the president’s orbit. Mr. Trump himself was singled out by federal prosecutors as “Individual 1” in a court filing in the case that sent Michael D. Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, to prison. (New York Times)
Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday November 26, 2020
‘We took our eye off the ball’: How Canada lost its vaccine production capacity
In the race to develop and produce a COVID-19 vaccine, Canada is on the sidelines despite its once notable status as a global source for life-saving injections.
Canada lost that standing long ago, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained this week, which means even if the country had developed its own novel coronavirus vaccine, there would be no means to produce it on the scale required.
“We used to have [production capacity] decades ago but we no longer have it,” Trudeau said Tuesday in Ottawa.
How did it get to this point? Canadian administrations simply took their “eye off the ball,” said Earl Brown, an infectious disease expert and a former member of the H1N1 vaccine task group in Canada. After that pandemic, a review found that vaccine production capacity was “right at the top” of the list of problems, he said. It wasn’t always that way.
“We had great vaccine producers in Canada — world leaders essentially — 50 years ago,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. There was Connaught Laboratories in Toronto, which was known for producing insulin to treat diabetes and inoculants for diphtheria and polio, and Institut Armand Frappier in Montreal that produced vaccines, including one for tuberculosis, he noted.
“The problem was they had a poor business model,” said Brown. “These were vaccine companies spun off from universities, so there was indirect funding and they had a model of not making so much profit.”
So they were eventually sold, Montreal’s Frappier lab to British multinational GlaxoSmithKline and Connaught, through a series of mergers, to French multinational Sanofi Pasteur after Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government’s program of privatization . The labs now have a “tighter production line and not so much capacity,” said Brown.
For those Canadian companies to mount production campaigns on their own will take time — and a lot of it, they have said. VIDO-InterVac said it has plans to build a facility in one year, but that it would take another still to get it in operating shape. “That’s not the time frame you like,” said Brown.
In the meantime, Canadians will have to rely on speedier countries with approved COVID-19 vaccines to provide doses, but Canadians won’t be prioritized ahead of their own people. “Countries like the United States, Germany and the U.K. do have domestic pharmaceutical facilities, which is why they’re obviously going to prioritize helping their citizens first,” Trudeau said on Tuesday in Ottawa.
The reliance on other countries and private companies is upsetting critics of Trudeau, who said Tuesday that his administration has begun funding domestic vaccine production capacity because “we never want to be caught short again.”
“This is gross incompetence that’s going to cost Canadians their lives and their jobs,” said Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner on Tuesday from Parliament Hill.
But criticism toward one government’s inaction may often easily be directed at another with hindsight, countered Brown on Your Morning. (CTV News)