Saturday, August 21, 2021

#Elxn44 Roundup

Links, notes and comments up to and including the first week of Canada's federal election.

- Shannon Proudfoot reports on Innovative Research's polling into how voters perceive the federal parties - with the noteworthy findings including the fact that the NDP is the only national parties seen as likely on balance to make life better for voters. And Darrell Bricker takes note of the reality that the Libs are seen as the party with a hidden agenda.

- tcnorris offers a reminder that minority governments' gambles on being promoted to majority status may not be as safe as they appear. Christo Aivalis discusses both the opportunity and the need for the NDP to play a key role in keeping the Trudeau Libs from an undeserved false majority. And Dru Oja Jay examines how the NDP has used the balance of power for the benefit of Canadians in the past.

- Luke Savage examines the prospect of an NDP surge (which seems to be playing out at least through the campaign's early stages). And Andrew Perez looks at a few of the factors in Canada and around the globe which were feeding into the party's momentum even before the campaign began, while Lisa Van Dusen discusses the authenticity which provides Jagmeet Singh with an important contrast against the other federal leaders. 

- Meanwhile, Jen Gerson discusses the importance of giving leaders more than one election to grow into the role, rather than throwing them away in the hope that someone newer and shinier will avoid the work of actually building a party and movement. 

- Finally, Maria Della Mattia offers suggestions as to how to make a party's values and ideas stick with the voters who stand to benefit from them.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board discusses the need for far more Canadians to be vaccinated as part of any realistic plan to stop a calamitous fourth wave of COVID. And Marcus Gee writes that we're at the point where vaccine mandates are an entirely reasonable option, while Moira Wyton notes that it would be far more practical to set new baseline requirements before the start of the school year than after it's begun. But Kendall Latimer reports on the choice of Scott Moe - and everybody else responsible for keeping Saskatchewan healthy - to run and hide when action to protect the public is most needed. 

- Meanwhile, Andrew Kurjata and Shelley Joyce report on the health care workers fleeing their work as they face increasingly preposterous demands. 

- Christian Duttmann et al. study the reallocative effects of the introduction of a national minimum wage in Germany, and find a litany of positive outcomes: no loss of employment, increased wages, and the redeployment of workers to higher-paying and more-productive work.

- Finally, Chen Zhou asks when Canada's actions and policy choices will come within shouting distance of its rhetoric when it comes to fighting climate change. And Kate Yoder discusses the long-overdue transition toward media coverage which treats the climate breakdown as the undisputed problem it is, rather than going out of its way to bothsides an existential crisis for humanity.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Musical interlude

Tove Lo - Sweettalk My Heart

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Kai Kupferschmidt discusses how the Delta variant has caused responsible governments to radically change their response to the COVID in the face of increased risks - and how we can expect future variants to complicate the picture further. And Smitri Mallapaty notes that the Delta variant in particular has been spread primarily by pre-symptomatic carriers, making individual self-isolation insufficient to stop any spread. 

- PressProgress highlights how Doug Ford is trying to use the surgical backlog created by his own negligent response to COVID as an excuse to privatize essential health services. 

- Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists question why world leaders (and other adults) appear determined to leave a damaged planet behind for their generation. And George Monbiot asks why life on Earth is still being treated as a less important consideration than fossil fuel profits. 

- But Sean Holman points out how Canada's media has fallen even below the standards of the U.S. in responding to ground-breaking news about the climate crisis. And Christian Favreau exposes the emergence of a "deep oil state" as fossil fuel corporations have engaged in even more lobbying under the Trudeau government than they did when the Harper Cons were in power as part of their push for massive subsidies and weak climate policy. 

- Finally, David Shields reports on how the Saskatchewan Party's policy on homelessness is to create more of it by ramming through changes to insufficient social benefits which will likely push people out on the streets. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

On time-shifting

There's been some discussion about parts of Canada's federal election campaign which are surfacing somewhat earlier than usual - ranging from party platforms (with the notable exception of the Libs'), to typical late-campaign scare tactics. But it's worth noting that there's obvious reason to make closing arguments from almost the beginning of the campaign - as well as a need for parties to consider what the means as the campaign progresses. 

The provincial elections held in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic have generally seen both a continuation of the trend toward increased advance voting, and a substantial increase in the use of mail-in ballots. But by the time the votes have been counted, the overall turnout hasn't been all that strong.  

And that combination of increased early voting and decreased election-day turnout raises important considerations for campaign. 

First, it means that persuasion in the opening days of the campaign will actually serve to lock in votes early - or conversely, that a failure to reach people by that stage could put them out of reach for the duration of the campaign. And so even to the extent a party might otherwise be tempted to hold off on messages or platforms to reduce the time in which they can be picked apart, the balance tilts strongly in favour of ensuring that early voters have a chance to see what's on offer. 

By the same token, the events which would normally be seen as shaping the outcome of an election - from debates to gaffes to movements behind a particular leader - are all likely to have comparatively less effect than in previous elections due to the votes which have already been banked by the time they would take place. 

At the same time, while those most motivated to vote need to be reached with persuasive messages early in the campaign, the voters left to be accessed on election day are then likely to be those who have put relatively little thought into how to vote as a matter of both partisan support and process. (This factor looms particularly large given the prospect of a COVID wave increasing the risk of attending any remotely busy polling station.)

That doesn't reduce the need to be perceived building momentum in the course of the campaign, or eliminate altogether the prospect of a late-campaign shift. But it does mean that the message for election-day voters may need to focus more than usual on making the case for people to vote at all - while at the same time taking into account the risk that relatively unmotivated voters may be tired of the campaign by then. 

We'll find out in time whether the federal campaign follows the pattern set at the provincial level. And it may be that a national-level air war leads to somewhat different results. But we shouldn't be surprised to see an "always be closing" principle applied in a campaign where potentially decisive votes may be cast long before election day. 

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Scott Larson reports on the continually rising number of active COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan. Lauren Pelley discusses the likelihood that even fully-vaccinated people will be exposed to COVID infection - particularly if public health measures aren't maintained or put back in place. And Alexander Wong and Carla Holinaty comment on the importance of health protections in schools in particular. 

- Agence France-Presse reports on the WHO's justified condemnation of the promotion of "booster" vaccine shots while much of the world waits for its first access to vaccines. And Geoffrey York reports that even Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced in Africa have been secretly diverted to Europe to chase profits rather than supporting public health. 

- Andrew Nikiforuk points out the connection between wildfires and the ongoing pandemic, as increased air pollution exacerbates the effects of the coronavirus while increased indoor activity promotes its spread. 

- Cameron Fenton makes the case for Canada's federal election to be all about climate change, while Danielle Groen outlines a few environmental issues which demand our attention. And David Roberts looks at new research showing how climate tipping points affect the social cost of carbon - and finds that we may be valuing the cost of carbon pollution at half (or less) of its actual economic impact. 

- Meanwhile, Jorge Barrera exposes how Trans Mountain is engaged in surveillance and monitoring of environmental activists. 

- Finally, Jennifer Scott discusses the need for gig workers to be heard in consultations on the future of work - based on both the struggles they're facing now, and the likelihood that new types of employers will try to impose precarity on their own workforces. And Greg Jericho highlights how poor wage performance in Australia (like elsewhere) is the result of structural forces, including governments' refusals to bargain fairly with public servants. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mickey Djuric reports on Saskatchewan's alarmingly high rate of positive COVID-19 tests as students prepare to return to school. And Heidi Atter reports on the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation's call for mandatory vaccination to minimize the all-too-predictable spread in the school environment. 

- PressProgress notes that Justin Trudeau's campaign message about COVID benefits is based primarily on the CERB and other supports which he had to be pressured to provide in the first place, and which are gone or disappearing even as a fourth wave hits. But while any temporary gains for many workers have been reversed, David Macdonald and Alicia Massie document how the CEO class took advantage of the pandemic to rewrite bonus formulas in their favour. 

- Meanwhile, Joe Ryle makes the case as to how a four-day work week (without loss of pay) could lead to both a reduction in carbon emissions and a healthier environment for workers. 

- The Economist highlights new research showing a strong correlation between resource extraction and political corruption. Paul Krugman highlights the faulty economic assumptions of fossil fuel defenders. And Fitsum Areguy exposes how Canada enabled mining companies profiting from extraction linked to war and human rights abuses in Ethopia.  

- Finally, Jeremy Appel writes about the surveillance and psychological manipulation techniques used by the Canadian military in Afghanistan which are now being turned against the public domestically. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Sun-lounging cats.

COVID Zero, NDP Majority

Since it doesn't seem to have received the attention it deserves, I'll take the opportunity to highlight what may be the most important suggestion of Canada's election campaign so far:

With occasional exceptions, Canadian politicians have fallen far behind the public in their willingness to prioritize health and well-being over "business as usual". And people now facing a fourth wave resulting largely from the false declaration that the pandemic was over should be particularly receptive to the message that the national interest in an emergency should far outweigh the whims of irresponsible premiers. 

Of course, it's well and good to have the strongest message when it comes to the measures which are already under discussion by other parties. But we should expect the NDP's opponents to continue to lie through their teeth about its position in order to generate confusion - and that's fairly easy to do when the only question is who deserves the most credit for relatively similar positions. 

As a result, the best option for the NDP - both to set itself apart from a political standpoint, and to set the most positive possible direction from a public health standpoint - is to highlight how far that discussion lies from what can be accomplished by a government truly dedicated to the health of its population. And the end result could be to take the Libs' choice of ballot questions, and turn it into a winning issue for both the NDP and the country. 

[Edit: fixed typo.]

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Janet French reports on Alberta's appalling move toward a see-no-COVID, speak-no-COVID policy as a substitute for basic precautions in schools. Gabriella Fourie highlights why a rush toward a social "normal" would pose problems for many people even if it wasn't linked to and impending new wave arising out of the spread of dangerous new variants. And Katharine Smart writes about the need for us to act like grown-ups in order to protect our children. 

- Jonathan Watts reports on polling showing a supermajority of people in the G20 recognizing the severity of our impending climate breakdown and wanting to see survival and well-being prioritized over oil profits. Lauren Fuge examines the mortality cost of carbon as an alternative and compelling measure of the harm we inflict on ourselves by insisting on the opposite. Andrew Freedman makes the case for a realistic view of what we can still do, rather than throwing up our hands as avoidable damage continues. Rebecca Solnit writes that we know perfectly well what we need to do to rein in the climate crisis, while Matt Simon emphasizes the importance of limiting methane emissions in particular. And Merran Smith and Trevor Melanson remind us that Western Canadians - including fossil fuel industry workers - are more than ready for a transition to a sustainable economy. 

- John Last reports on the extreme concentration of housing in Canada's North in the hands of one exploitative private operator. 

- Finally, Zak Vescera reports on Saskatchewan's continuing lack of psychiatric care - and the lives being lost as a result. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Guy Quenneville discusses takeaways from the latest COVID town hall for physicians - including how Saskatchewan health care workers are burning out even before a fourth wave hits with full force. Joshua Freeman reports on the Ontario Medical Association's call for mandatory vaccination of education workers. And in case there was any question that it's possible to do far more to prevent future waves from developing, Juliana Kaplan discusses a new Oxfam report showing how a one-time tax on windfall pandemic profits could fund the vaccination of every person on the planet while also providing large supports to every unemployed person on Earth. 

- Ryan Mulcahy interviews Peter Huybers about the latest IPCC report - including the significance of irreversible effects on our environment, and a brief look at how to respond. And Rick Smith offers an optimistic take on what we can still do to decarbonize and avoid the worst of the anticipated climate crisis. 

- Michael Mann writes that while everybody has reason to be concerned about the future being defined by a climate breakdown, fossil fuel executives should be petrified due to their existing responsibility for it. And the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that fossil fuel culture needs to end now.

- Finally, Terry Slavin reports on the massive gap between reported methane emissions and the actual carbon pollution spewed by the fossil fuel sector. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Doug Cuthand calls out the Kenney and Moe governments for prematurely and irresponsibly declaring victory over COVID rather than paying any attention to how they've put their citizens at risk. And Nesrine Malik highlights how decades of anti-government rhetoric have laid the groundwork for vaccine hesitancy in the midst of a pandemic.

- Darren Shore reviews Jonathan Gauvin and Angella MacEwen's Share the Wealth as an important read in understanding both the reality of wealth inequality, and the policy choices which can address it. Kim Siever discusses the overwhelming popular support for the principle that the wealthy should pay their fair share. And Katherine Scott examines the NDP's pre-campaign policy commitments in addressing social and economic inequality. 

- Sask Dispatch comments on the need to start talking about - and planning for - the failure of the climate system we've relied up to support us. And Jeremy Corbyn discusses how climate change is a class issue - both in its disproportionate impact on vulnerable people, and the need for class struggle to combat it.

- Finally, Jason Vermes reports on the reality that the growth of global temperatures is only accelerating even as the base temperature reaches higher levels than any seen in recorded history. And Bonnie Allen and Theresa Kliem report on what's becoming one of the worst droughts in Canadian history - even as farmers are forced to brace for the prospect of it turning into the new normal.


The Libs' choice of themes to start off a needless federal election campaign is telling mostly in the contast it presents between their self-image, and the obvious realities facing people living under their government.

After all, there are plenty of issues which have been properly described as "relentless".

For example, there's the climate crisis which is approaching worst-case scenarios, even as the Libs' plans fall short of meeting the targets they once (rightly) slammed as far insufficient.

There's the ongoing - and indeed escalating - pandemic which the Libs have chosen to gloss over in their pursuit of unfettered power.

There's an escalating affordability crisis, including a lack of access to housing exacerbated by the Libs' choice to fund returns for developers rather than homes for people who need them.

And there's the massive concentration of wealth in the hands of billionaires, even as an outright majority of Canada's population teeters on the brink of insolvency.

In the face of those problems which actually pose constant threats to our health and well-being, the Libs' consistent response has do as little as they can get away with, while focusing on what matters more to them. And if Trudeau manages to grab another majority, we can look forward to four more years of his relentlessly shirking his responsibility to look out for the well-being of Canadians.