Saturday, June 18, 2022


The final official debate of the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership campaign was the first I had the opportunity to see, and I'd hoped that it would result in some meaningful and constructive contrast. But instead, the debate and its aftermath looked largely to push both candidates toward the key traps for their respective campaigns.

For Carla Beck, that trap was the tendency to retreat constantly into tiresome talking points and vague generalities. 

Beck was obviously comfortable with the debate stage, and appears to have stuck with the plan she brought to the debate. But the nature of that plan resulted in a frustrating experience for anybody hoping to find out much about what Beck would be interested in pursuing as leader. 

On the few occasions when she chose to address issues with any substance (normally only where that meant critiquing specific government policies), observers could see a hint of her capacity to challenge Scott Moe. 

But the bulk of the time, no matter how obvious the opportunity or need to offer some meaningful content, her responses led back to the "meet people where they're at" catchphrase which offers zero useful information - other than that she's more interested in being everything to everyone than putting forward a vision. That might seem like sound strategy as the favourite in a leadership campaign, but it stands to set Beck off on exactly the wrong course as the spotlight grows brighter and both party members and the general public get to know her better.

Unfortunately, Kaitlyn Harvey didn't match Beck's comfort with the format, struggling to fit answers into time limits and structure her answers even on friendly issues. (Of course, it didn't help that a few of the questions themselves were framed in ways that played far more to Beck's positioning than to Harvey's.)

That need for more focus was then exacerbated by Harvey's comments portraying herself as a target and linking the campaign back to the party's treatment of Ryan Meili. Which isn't to say those can't be fair areas of concern - but for a candidate trying desperately to get party members to focus on substantive issues, they serve primarily as distractions which make it hard for her policy message to get through. 

The end result was thus likely to strengthen Beck's position for all the wrong reasons. Voters open to considering both candidates may have seen enough inexperience to rule out Harvey, even as Beck did little to earn their confidence.

Once again, what happens from this point forward may well be academic: many votes have already been cast, and nothing has changed the basic dynamics of the campaign. But it is still worth watching and hoping the candidates will be able to extricate themselves from where they've ended up so far in the informal forums and convention to come.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Dianna Chang et al. examine the correlation between social and political factors and COVID-19 spread and mortality. And Crawford Kilian discusses how Canadian society has failed the basic test of looking out for each other's well-being, while Teresa Wright reports on the imminent prospect of a summer wave even as provinces continue to abandon what few public health protections were still in place.

- Yasmine Ghania reports on a new survey showing the precarious financial situations of Saskatchewan residents (even as the establishment shifts into austerity mode to make matters even worse). And Andrew Elrod discusses how the solution to any labour shortage needs to be giving people more control over their work, not starving them into putting up with employer abuses.

- And in case there was any doubt that there's plenty of room for overall good to come of limiting the arbitrary power of property owners, Jen St. Denis reports on a review showing that British Columbia's real estate speculation tax worked even better than expected in putting housing units back into service.

- Finally, Catherine Shoichet reports on the UNHCR's latest report showing that over 100 million people around the world are displaced by war, violence and human rights abuses - even as far too many countries are primarily focused on avoiding providing a place to go.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Musical interlude

JJ Wilde - Mercy

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Mary Ward and Lucy Carroll report on New South Wales' warning of the potential for COVID-19 reinfection as the newer Omicron variants become dominant. Zoe Swank et al. find that people with long COVID may have viral reservoirs in their bodies for a year or more after first being diagnosed, while David Holdsworth et al. discover cognitive deterioration comparable to that expected from 10 years of aging after only six months of long COVID. And Jennifer Couzin-Frankel discusses the main theories as to the causes of long COVID symptoms.  

- David Macdonald writes that any recovery from the 2020 recession is unprecedented in its combination of massive increases in corporate profits and declines in compensation for workers. Matt Trinder discusses how real wages are falling off a cliff in the UK, while Russell Napier calls out central banks for putting a thumb on the scale to push even more money into the hands of capital rather than labour. And Aditya Chakrabortty writes that an important part of the pushback will involve identifying corporate vulnerability to public and union pressure, rather than relying on legislative action alone. 

- Ed Burmilla writes that what should be the end of the neoliberal era has been delayed for want of an alternative. And the continued entrenchment of a failed economic system can largely be traced to Sandor Demetor's observations about political and regulatory capture, as the people with the power to act on the recognition of the dangers of serving corporations have financial incentives not to. 

- Finally, Claire Parker highlights the devastating effect of air pollution on public health. Oliver Milman points out the staggeringly large number of lives at stake as the U.S. hems and haws on any climate action. And Stephanie Hogan notes that even Canada's housing stock is far from equipped to deal with the warming and extreme weather that's already locked in (to say nothing of what we're continuing to cause with prolonged fossil fuel use). 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Wency Leung talks to public health experts about what still needs to be done to rein in the COVID pandemic, while Aisha Dow discusses the importance of continuing to mask even when it's not required. And Justin Fox reports on the impact long COVID is now having on employment data - once again resulting in public health neglect having harmful economic consequences. 

- Meanwhile, Armine Yalnizyan writes about the burnout being experienced by Canadian health care workers - and the temptation of seeking out temporary assignments rather than public service roles in order to escape it. And Patrick Rail reports on Katharine Smart's warning that our health care system is collapsing even as governments operate in denial. 

- Jen Christensen discusses the dangerous effects of extreme heat on people's health and well-being. And Damian Carrington reports on particularly large warming effects in the Arctic. 

- Eric Gardner examines the price of diapers as another apparent example of profiteering by a few oligopolistic corporations. And Catherine Porter, Vjosa Isai and Tracy Sherlock report on the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C. 

- Finally, Jack Monroe offers her account as to how poverty leaves scars which last even after one's financial circumstances improve. 

[Edit: added link.]

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Devi Sridhar writes that a responsible plan for the impending COVID wave would involve masking, improved ventilation, booster shots and a plan for the growing scourge of long COVID - even as most Canadian provinces range from uninterested to hostile toward anything of the sort. And Nicola Davis reports on new research showing that prior infection isn't providing any meaningful boost immunity to the new variants.  

- Andrew MacLeod discusses the systematic underreporting of workplace injuries in B.C. (and the callous employers pushing workers to miss out on income and medical care in order to dodge responsibility). And Shannon Devine points out the lack of any systematic support for 1.5 million Canadians living with a brain injury.

- Mark Zacharias and Merran Smith write that Canada is once again failing to plan for the aftermath of an unsustainable oil boom. Megan Milliken Biven, Virginia Palacios and Ted Boettner rightly argue that the fossil fuel sector should be paying for its own cleanup out of massive windfall profits, rather than sticking the public with the bill. And Anders Bjorn, H. Damon Matthews, Matthew Brander and Shannon Lloyd point out how the renewable energy credits developed as a substitute for actual decarbonization have predictably become a scheme to be manipulated rather than actually reflecting emission reductions. 

- Meanwhile, Kim van Daalen examines how extreme weather and climate events contribute to gender-based violence among other social harms. 

- Finally, Phoebe Stephens weighs in on how the soaring prices of groceries and other necessities are the result of corporate greed rather than the operation of fair markets. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Feline oversight. 


Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Belen Fernandez discusses how the reckless normalization of masklessness even in particularly dangerous portions of a pandemic is leading to avoidable suffering and death. And Solarina Ho reports on new research showing the effects of prenatal COVID on babies, while Tzvi Joffre reports on the connection between long COVID and childhood hepatitis. 

- Meanwhile, Andre Picard writes that we should be outraged over the health care wait times that are endangering our most vulnerable neighbours, rather than accepting the right-wing focus on airport convenience. 

- Robert Reich examines the prospect that interest rate hikes may cause a recession while doing nothing to rein in the corporate profiteering which is actually driving prices higher. And Derek Thompson points out that one additional source of increasing expenses is the end of subsidies for apps which were previously underpriced in order to attract users. 

- Antonio Guterres discusses the need to transition immediately away from reliance on fossil fuels. Marieke Walsh reports on the federal government's analysis showing that its own 2030 emission targets  are completely non-viable based on the policies currently on the table. And Sahan Habib Ghazi writes about life in Jacobobad, where heat and humidity have risen above the levels the human body is equipped to survive. 

- Finally, Mitchell Thompson reports on participation of Con MPs and other well-connected conservatives in a Civitas conference promoting residential school denialism and other regressive subjects of choice.

Monday, June 13, 2022


Saskatchewan's NDP leadership race continues toward convention day on the 26th. And it's starting to get somewhat more attention outside of core party circles - though it's unfortunately too late for newly-interested people to sign up and vote. So let's take a quick look at the latest. 

- Tonight is the final leadership forum, with options to view in person or online. And for those concerned about ensuring there are events covering a range of prospective voters, there will be another Saskatoon forum on the 15th (the second organized by the Saskatoon Metro group), followed by one from the Southwest Region on the 20th. 

- Found in an earlier report on the campaign are these membership numbers from the party's president Sheila Whelan:

Since the launch of the leadership race, Whelan said the party signed up about 2,400 new members over the past two months for a total of 7,295.

During the contest between Meili and Trent Wotherspoon in 2018, the NDP had 13,414 members eligible to vote.

Note that the membership totals had similarly been in the 11,000-13,000 range for the party's other leadership campaigns since 2009. But it will be worth watching whether the lower number also reflects a more committed core of voters - which could lead to a countervailing increase in the percentage of people who end up casting a ballot (which has normally been around 80%). 

- Kaitlin Harvey has updated her platform with additional issues (presumably based at least in part on the policy survey which is no longer open), 

- Finally, Murray Mandryk has offered profiles of each of Carla Beck and Kaitlyn Harvey. And Global News interviewed Beck about her run. 

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Allison Jones reports that Ontario is working on a new round of COVID booster shots for the fall (while so many other jurisdictions have given up on any additional vaccinations). Laurie McGinley reports on the FDA's findings that vaccines for children under 5 are safe and effective. And Joseph Stiglitz and Lori Wallace offer a reminder that intellectual property barriers imposed at the behest of big pharma are still acting as barriers to vaccines and treatments for many of the people who need them the most. 

- Piya Chatto talks to Armine Yalnizyan about the challenges for central banks in dealing with inflation (as well as the people who stand to be harmed by overly severe responses). Richard Burgon makes the case for a one-time wealth tax to create a social emergency fund which would ensure nobody is left behind. And James Wilt points out how the cruel war against unhoused people is being used as an excuse to undermine transit for everybody.  

- Aishwarya Dudha reports on the need for the Regina Food Bank to respond to food insecurity among children. And Zak Vescera reports on the glaring shortfall Saskatoon's public school division is facing in trying to support high-needs students with inadequate funding.   

- Kunuk Inutiq discusses how Nunavut is seeing its resources (and the associated profits) flow south while its population remains in poverty and precarity. 

- Finally, Dean Blundell and Marie Snyder each take a look at the growing awareness of the Klondike Papers and the diversion of public money toward Plymouth Brethren-associated businesses. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- The Globe and Mail's editorial board reminds us of the continued choice between taking reasonable precautions to minimize the damage from continued waves of COVID-19, or letting wishful thinking lead us until avoidable harm to people's health. And Shalini Saksena writes about the emergence of long COVID as a parallel pandemic, while Elizabeth Payne highlights how Canada's public health care system is woefully unprepared to respond to it.

- Joshua Chung reports on the disappearance of some of the breaks lower-income Canadians were able to seek out at discount grocers, while noting the need for more secure incomes. And Jaele Bernstien reports on some of the changes Canadians are making in response to higher prices in both lower-income and middle-class households.

- Robin Sears reminds us that decriminalization along is far from enough to step the carnage of drug poisoning deaths.

- Amanda Follett Hosgood discusses the sudden loss of phone and Internet services in northwest British Columbia as another example of how we're setting ourselves up to face dangerous and avoidable risks. And Michael Lee reports on new research showing the emergency of "plastitar" as a new threat to marine life.

- Finally, Abacus Data has released polling showing the large number of Canadians expressing their agreement with dangerous and racist conspiracy theories.