Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz have announced that they have forged a deal to form an emergency coalition government, aimed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes after months of political paralysis in the country.
“I promised the state of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu tweeted.
Under the three-year deal, both leaders will switch positions, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister for the first half, and Gantz taking the job for the second half. Gantz’s Blue and White party will take control of a number of senior government ministries, including foreign affairs and defence, while Netanyahu’s Likud party will gain influence over judicial appointments.
“We have prevented a fourth election. We will protect democracy. We will fight coronavirus and care for all Israel’s citizens”, Gantz said.
The deal comes after Gantz and Netanyahu missed the deadline to form a government, and president Reuven Rivlin asked the parliament to choose a new prime minister, giving it three weeks to agree upon a leader or push the country into a fourth election in about a year.
According to the deal, no laws are to be introduced that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. However, Netanyahu will be allowed to annex Jewish settlements and other land in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Palestinians condemned the formation of an “Israeli “annexation” government, saying the agreement would wreck hopes of peace.
“The Day After” for the European Union, the so-called “bloc”, will either have to stay as is and sooner, rather later, dissolve. Or it will have to change in an attempt to survive. This will be difficult as huge organisations like the EU do not historically adapt, but disappear. And yet, the instinct for survival is very strong, and the bloc may radically adapt to the “new norm” because if it doesn’t, its servants will not lose a little, but all.
Maintaining the “status quo ante”
The bloc may stay as-is – an apolitical power structure, ruling half a billion people by a self-reproduced, non-accountable administrative machine, without any democratic legitimisation.
This is the same bloc from which the United Kingdom withdrew and is the EU which ordinary citizens left behind when they entered into house isolation last month. If this will be the bloc that re-surfaces once Europe’s residents are released, it will continue living in its own world, further distancing itself from its own citizens and soon will collapse.
After returning to society, ordinary people will be different. If the Brussels nomenklatura remains the same, it will face a problem, a big problem. Most people after the long home detention will be different. Most, at least for a while, will be better people because they would have spent time with themselves and their families and would have discovered that moderation is a virtue, while forced minimalism, once they are used to it, gives a different dimension to life.
As for the European Union, the inmates who spent day and night in front of a screen sensed that the EU had no political role in the crisis. The bloc has been judged by its citizens as having been “in absentia”.
Indeed, Viktor Orban dissolved the Hungarian Parliament in an unprecedented “coup d’état” and Brussels ignored it, displaying no political capacity to handle the situation.
Dad, is America far away? Shoot-up and swim…
Leaders emerge from confrontations, and the virus crisis is the world biggest confrontation since the Second World War. Whether it’s a confrontation between China and the Western World or between humankind and nature, makes no difference. In any instance, new leaders will emerge. This is typical after large events. Think of what great leaders Europe had after World War II and during the Cold War – Francoise Mitterrand, Helmut Kohl, Aldo Moro, Margaret Thatcher and many others who were followed by mediocracies in the years of peace.
The emergence of new leaders is now in the making. In this process, the bloc does not participate as the Brussels bureaucracy although it is the most sophisticated administrative machine of the world. It is politically sterile. It is composed of civil servants and only civil servants who, in the absence of political leaders, began making political decisions. That is what undermined the European project.
In the emerging post-crisis new world, the European Union is needed more than ever, ironically, for the same reasons it was established seven decades ago – to unite Europeans and contain Germany. At that time it was to guarantee that Berlin didn’t dominate Europe again with its Panzers, and today it’s to be sure Germany doesn’t attempt to dominate Europe again with its Deutsche Mark, which masquerades as the euro.
Maintaining and strengthening the European Union, turning it into a united nation that is citizen useful and friendly, is the only way to keep alive the best European achievement of all time.
This will be a difficult task. The European Commission, the presumed government of Europe, must attempt it. It is hard to do so as it must give up all privileges its employees have accumulated and turn them into ordinary civil servants.
Once the bloc’s civil servants realise that if the union disintegrates, their pensions will be paid (if they will be paid) by their own countries of origin and will be at the level of national pensions, they will certainly behave.
The change we need
There are some ideas about the changes the bloc needs to make in order to survive. The most important change is the “presumed government of Europe” must become “the government of Europe” and must become political.
Europe has serious survival problems to address, more than ever, and they are all political. They require political solutions that no administration can give no matter how good it is and how well it is paid. That is why the government of the bloc must become political, democratic, accountable, and at the service of citizens.
“The Day After” sequel of New Europe will provide food for thought to all those pretending they rule Europe from their couch but have a better sense than anybody else about the threats to their jobs and pensions when everything will return to the “new normal”.
In the next episodes, we will provide some ideas as to how the European Commission should change in an attempt to survive. How to make the bloc political; how to bring the Directors General down to earth at the service of the political personnel; how to restore accountability; how to reduce over-regulation; how to restore transparency especially in money matters; how to redefine the role of the cabinets and other unpleasant suggestions, yet essential for the survival of the Union, in the post virus era.
Hundreds of refugees and migrants are gathering on Turkey’s border with Greece after Turkey said it would no longer prevent them from crossing towards Europe.
Buses have been seen transporting people from Istanbul as Turkey attempts to put pressure on the EU to provide more support for refugees coming from Syria.
In Syria itself, tensions remain high after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed this week and fierce fighting continues as the Turkish-backed Syrian rebels try to halt the advance of Russian-backed government forces.
The U.S. will evacuate its citizens from the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Japan, according to a statement on the American embassy in Japan’s website.
The State Department will provide chartered aircraft to bring American passengers and crew back to the U.S. The ship is the largest infection cluster outside China. An additional 67 cases have been found on board, Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said in televised comments.
The plane will arrive on the evening of Feb. 16 and will transport the passengers first to Travis Air Force Base in California, and some may be moved to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. They will undergo a two-week quarantine.
Some 3,500 people are being kept in quarantine on Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess. The latest cases bring the total infections on the ship to almost 300, fueling concerns that rather than keeping passengers safe, the quarantine is allowing the virus to spread.
Rebecca Frasure and her husband Kent, from Forest Grove, Oregon, won’t be on the evacuation flight. She tested positive for coronavirus and was taken to a Tokyo hospital on Feb. 7. Even though her symptoms of a mild cough, stuffy nose and light fever are gone, recent tests show the virus is still in her system. The couple decided both would stay behind.
“They need to make some effort to evacuate the people who have been in the hospital,” said Rebecca Frasure, 35. “There’s a way to keep people separated. I’ll wear a hazmat suit, masks and gloves — whatever it takes.”
The virus has killed more than 1,500 people since emerging in China’s Hubei province in December. France’s health ministry reported the death of an 80-year-old Chinese tourist in Paris today, the first fatality outside Asia.
Japan has been preparing to allow certain passengers to start disembarking the ship, Health Minister Kato told reporters Friday. About 40 people in Japan now have the virus, with local authorities in the western prefecture of Wakayama announcing three more on Saturday.
Japan said in a statement it’s coordinating with the U.S. over the evacuation and ‘appreciates such measures’
NHK reported Saturday that eight more cases have been confirmed in Tokyo, without saying where it obtained the information.
Japan said in a statement it’s coordinating with the U.S. over the evacuation and “appreciates such measures,” which will help mitigate its burden regarding the medical response to passengers on the ship.
Dow Jones reported the evacuation earlier, citing an official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are about 380 Americans on board the cruise ship, according to the report.
“We recognize this has been a stressful experience and we remain dedicated to providing all the support we can,” the embassy said in the notice on its website.
The Frasures worry how they will ever return home. Kent Frasure said the embassy note said that Americans who decide not to evacuate may not be allowed back until the CDC decides they can enter the country.
“It was very ominous,” he said. “We need some answers on how we can get home.”
The World Health Organization is set to meet Thursday, for the third time in a week, to determine if the deadly coronavirus outbreak should be declared a global emergency.
Such a declaration would trigger tighter containment and information-sharing guidelines, but may disappoint Beijing, which had expressed confidence in defeating the “devil” virus.
Some 6,000 people are being kept on board an Italian cruise ship as tests are carried out on two Chinese passengers suspected of having caught coronavirus, a spokesman for the Costa Crociere cruise company said on Thursday.
Jump to live updates
The couple arrived in Italy on Jan. 25 and boarded the ship, the Costa Smeralda, in the port of Savona that same day. They subsequently came down with a fever and are suffering breathing difficulties
The liner has visited Marseilles in France, and the Spanish ports of Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca this week before docking on Thursday at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.
No one was being allowed off the ship while medical checks were carried out to see if the pair had the potentially deadly coronavirus, the company spokesman said.
He said it might take “a few hours” before the situation became clearer.
On Thursday countries began isolating hundreds of citizens evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed 170 people.
Follow along below for live updates on the coronavirus outbreak from around the world and Canada:
Ukraine can focus in developing the country’s renewable energy sector and improve the much-delayed energy efficiency now that the former Soviet republic has concluded the gas transit agreement with Russia, the European Union’s energy chief said on 12 January.
“Meeting with Ukraine’s Minister of Energy Oleksiy Orzhel: after the conclusion of the gas transit agreement, Ukraine can focus on the future of energy and the development of renewable and energy efficiency” European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson wrote in a tweet, adding that the EU would support Ukraine’s efforts. Simson also said that the Commissioner is looking forward to the next high-level dialogue between the EU and Ukraine.
The former Soviet republic that is reliant on fossil fuels is planning to reduce CO2 emissions by developing a green energy transition and increasing energy efficiency, especially in industry and buildings.
Simson met Orzhel on the sidelines of the 10th session of the International renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly in Abu Dhabi at the United Arab Emirates. She also held a meeting with UAE Climate Change and Environment Minister Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi on the EU Green Deal and the way to reach climate neutrality. “I am happy to see their active engagement and readiness to continue cooperation,” she said.
Tucked away among the colourful pages that detail Sith troopers, Resistance supporters and moons in a galaxy far, far away is a short paragraph, not even 100 words long, telling the story of a Jedi Master and historian named Ri-Lee Howell who collected “many of the earliest accounts of exploration and codifications of The Force.”
But read between the lines of that blurb in the new book, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary,” and the words whisper the story of Riley Howell, the 21-year-old college student who died in April after tackling a gunman who opened fire on his classroom at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Howell was hailed as a hero in the aftermath of the shooting, and he received military awards for his brave final moments.
Now, he is memorialized in the “Star Wars” canon.
The Jedi Master title appears to be an appropriate tribute for Howell, whose friends and family described him as a franchise fanatic and scholar.
“So so SO much excitement to have my sweet Ri immortalized forever in the Star Wars universe that he loves so much,” Lauren Westmoreland, Howell’s girlfriend, wrote on Instagram.
The post accompanied a photo of Howell as a child posing with a lightsaber, a picture of the book excerpt featuring him, and a screenshot of his entry in Wookieepedia, the “Star Wars” wiki.
Howell’s mother, Natalie Henry-Howell, told The Charlotte Observer that she liked “the way they actually left his last name.”
“I think he would really be appreciative of that,” she said. “Because, you know, they could have just said Ri-Lee — Jedi Ri-Lee — and we’d be guessing the whole time about whether or not” it was really her son.
They put his last name in there just to really honour him
“But they put his last name in there just to really honour him,” she said, adding that she cried when she heard the news.
Howell’s father, Thomas Howell, said the family received a letter from Lucasfilm at the end of May telling them that Riley’s name would be reimagined in a book later in the “Star Wars” realm.
The company, unbeknown to the family, had been contacted by someone who heard about Howell’s story and passion for “Star Wars,” asking if anything could be done to honor him, he said.
He said he forgot about it until the book was published and someone pointed out the Ri-Lee Howell entry to Westmoreland.
“Lucasfilms didn’t have to do any of this,” Thomas Howell said. “It’s a huge, wonderful gesture on their part.”
Released on Dec. 20, the new book dovetails the latest franchise film, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which hit movie theatres that same day.
Riley Howell’s family went on opening night to see the new movie, The Observer reported. They took Howell’s ashes with them and left an open seat, the newspaper said.
Credited with saving many lives, Howell was shot at least three times as he body-slammed the gunman, giving others time to escape, and ending the deadly rampage.
The April 30 shooting left four students wounded and another student, 19-year-old Ellis Reed Parlier, dead.
In September, the gunman, Trystan Andrew Terrell, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges, according to The Associated Press.
He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of Howell and Parlier, The Observer reported.
SEOUL — North Korea said it had successfully conducted another test at a satellite launch site, the latest in a string of developments aimed at “restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.,” state news agency KCNA reported on Saturday.
The test was conducted on Friday at the Sohae satellite launch site, KCNA said, citing a spokesman for North Korea’s Academy of Defence Science, without specifying what sort of testing occurred.
In a later statement carried by KCNA, Chief of the General Staff Pak Jong Chon said the tests were designed to bolster North Korea’s defenses by developing new weapons.
“The priceless data, experience and new technologies gained in the recent tests of defense science research will be fully applied to the development of another strategic weapon of the DPRK for definitely and reliably restraining and overpowering the nuclear threat of the U.S.,” he said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It was the second test at the Sohae facility in the space of a week.
KCNA on Sunday said that North Korea had carried out a “very important” test on Dec. 7 at the satellite launch site, a rocket-testing facility that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.
That KCNA report called the Dec. 7 event a “successful test of great significance.” South Korea’s defense minister Jeong Keong-doo said it was an engine test.
The reported tests come ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea has put forth for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearisation by Pyongyang.
U.S. President Donald Trump has invested considerable time trying to persuade North Korea to give up a nuclear weapons program that has grown to threaten the United States, but progress has been scant in spite of his three meetings with Kim Jong Un.
North Korea would be ready to respond to all political and military provocations by hostile forces while being “familiar with both dialog and confrontation,” Pak said.
“Genuine peace can be safeguarded and our development and future be guaranteed only when the balance of power is completely ensured,” he said.
Pak warned that the United States and others should avoid provoking North Korea if they wanted a peaceful end-of-year period.
“Our army is fully ready to thoroughly carry out any decision of the Supreme Leader with action,” he said.
Pyongyang has warned it could take a “new path” amid the stalled talks with the United States.
The top U.S envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, is due in Seoul on Sunday for meetings with South Korean officials.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday said the United States would be “tested soon” on bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table.
“They (North Korea) are still doing training, they do short range ballistic missile tests that we are also concerned about.
“We watch closely as do South Korea and Japan … the State Department is trying to get them to the table, because the only way forward is through a diplomatic and political agreement,” Esper said at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.
The State Department is trying to get them to the table, because the only way forward is through a diplomatic and political agreement
Analysts said such tests could help North Korea build more reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
“The point seems to be to remind the United States that North Korea still has space to qualitatively advance its program,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Federation of American Scientists.
“We had a good hint that whatever they were doing at Sohae was military in nature when the Academy of Defence Science took charge of the announcement, as opposed to NADA, their space agency,” Panda added.
Tension has been rising in recent weeks as Pyongyang has conducted weapons tests and waged a war of words with U.S. President Donald Trump, stoking fears that tensions between the two countries could return.
“Considering the fact that North Korea said the 7-minute test conducted last night was to bolster the strategic nuclear deterrence, the test would likely be related to ICBMs, which North Korea considers a strategic weapon to defend itself from adversaries including the United States,” Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, told Reuters.
“North Korea is close to issuing an ultimatum towards the United States to come to the negotiating table with new calculations or to return to developing nuclear weapons,” Koh added.
MERRITT — When most Canadians come across “No Trespassing” signs, they stop in their tracks and turn around, often in disappointment.
But not everyone gives up.
A few enter into decades-long battles, like the one against B.C.’s giant Douglas Lake Cattle Company, owned by one of America’s richest people, Stan Kroenke. And the lesson these diehards have been able to pass on is that “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs in Canada, despite being posted almost everywhere, are often not worth the plastic, wood or metal they’re printed on.
“Most of the no-trespassing signs you see in B.C. are illegal,” says Rick McGowan, as we travel over a gnarled, grassy track on the magnificent Douglas Lake ranch. This is not just any path, however. McGowan and his allies in the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club have shown in court it is a public right-of-way, even though it crosses the billionaire’s property.
The track leads to peaceful Stoney Lake, one of dozens of public bodies of water in the Cariboo-Chilcotin that locals, including Indigenous people, were able to fish on not long ago, but which have since been blockaded off by landowners.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves has ruled, however, that the American billionaire and his hired hands can no longer keep Stoney or nearby Minnie Lake, which are Crown property, behind locks, gates and no-trespassing signs.
The Nicola Valley club’s case against the Douglas Lake Cattle Company is a boon to Canadians who love the outdoors and seek rightful access to wild places.
McGowan, an easygoing but tough-talking man, is making a point of taking me over some of the long-obstructed public rights of way that lead to Stoney Lake on Kroenke’s ranch. The property is bigger than Metro Vancouver. It’s not only Canada’s largest ranch, it’s the biggest privately owned chunk of property anywhere in B.C.
“Pretty well all the no-trespassing signs around here are shot to s — t,” says McGowan, 67, who spent much of his career with the B.C. Highways Ministry mapping every metre of every road and right-of-way running through the stunning rolling hills southeast of Merritt.
“I’ve surveyed every road in the district. And I knew they were being locked illegally,” says McGowan, whose unique expertise is part of the reason Justice Grove called him an “impressive witness” and took him so seriously as an impartial “public-interest” litigant.
To put it another way, McGowan and his comrades are not in this for the money. Yet McGowan has been arrested three times by the local RCMP though never convicted. The judge criticized the police for their insidious collaboration with Kroenke’s ranch staff. B.C. government bureaucrats and politicians were also bitten by the judge’s rebukes.
Even though the Douglas Lake ranch conflict has huge implications in its own right for access to wilderness, the Nicola Valley club’s concerted response to the reclusive billionaire’s efforts to lock out the people of B.C. is part of a much bigger movement.
That movement has been called “the freedom to roam” or “the right of public access to the wilderness.” It’s a centuries-old campaign by walkers, fishers, recreational users and other ordinary people to gain justified access to lakes, streams, mountains and wilderness, while showing respect for private property.
Sometimes campaigners try to gain access to government-owned lakes and rivers that end up surrounded by private land, which is the situation in the Nicola Valley case. Other times they battle to forge designated trails through “uncultivated” private property itself.
The freedom to roam is well advanced in Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland and other nations, where it’s possible to walk pastoral routes that wend their way through a blend of public and private land for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres.
Will Canadians follow the European path?
‘Everything you can see … is owned by Stan Kroenke’
“Everything you can see for 30 miles is owned by Stan Kroenke,” McGowan says, standing at the top of a hill that surveys vast grasslands dotted with horses, cattle, rocks, birds and lakes.
The Douglas Lake Cattle Company is one of many B.C. ranches bought since 2003 by Kroenke, a Colorado-based real-estate baron who owns the Los Angeles Rams, the Denver Nuggets basketball team, the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, London’s Arsenal soccer club and other major-league sports franchises. He is married to Ann Walton, a scion of the family that owns Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue.
The Douglas Lake ranch — together with Kroenke’s recent acquisitions of nearby Alkali Lake, Riske Creek, Dog Creek and Quilchena ranches — encompasses roughly 5,000 square kilometres of deeded and Crown grazing land. Metro Vancouver, by comparison, covers 2,700 square kilometres.
The Douglas ranch has its own airstrip and fishing lodges. It also surrounds Stoney Lake and Minnie Lake, which McGowan and friends used to fish in before they were blocked by Kroenke, the man often known as “Silent Sam” since he never talks to the media. Forbes Magazine estimates Kroenke is worth $8.5 billion.
Since he owns more gigantic ranches in the U.S., Kroenke put a Canadian, Joe Gardner, in charge of the Douglas ranch and the extremely costly court case against the Nicola Valley club, which has had to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the non-resident magnate.
But Gardner, after 40 years at the ranch, stepped down as general manager in July, just six months after Justice Groves decided against the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, saying two of the Crown-owned lakes on the ranch must be reopened for catch-and-release fishing to the public, even if the lakes are stocked by the ranch. Gardner, who still works for Kroenke, was not available for comment.
The judge’s hard-hitting decision — which criticized Gardner for acting above the law and RCMP members for colluding with him — is a huge affirmation that the Canadian public has a right to cherished water bodies, at a time when many believe governments are failing to stand up to private interests.
Groves accused the B.C. government of failing to respond to Douglas Lake ranch’s unlawfulness. “Over 20 years, a privately held corporation, owning a large swath of land, prohibited the public from driving on the public road, and the province did nothing,” he said.
The judge also rebuked Victoria in a scorching epilogue: “It makes no sense to me that the Crown would retain ownership of the lakes, only for there to be no access.” He urged B.C. politicians to re-examine trespassing laws and “guarantee access to this precious public resource.”
The Douglas Lake ranch is appealing the judge’s decision.
McGowan, who acknowledges he’s “a bit of a pot stirrer,” has long found it both provoking and laughable that RCMP officers have arrested him and many others for fighting for the freedom to fish on public lakes. He’s supported by countless people in the Nicola Valley, Kamloops, Metro Vancouver, Victoria and farther afield.
Their donations arrive by many routes, including at Nicola Valley club picnics, where hunting rifles are raffled. “I’ve been fighting this for over 30 years,” including with Douglas ranch’s previous owners, says McGowan, adding how rewarding it is that he’s been joined in the past decade by the Nicola Valley club and people like his lifelong neighbour, retired school teacher Harry Little.
Little, a soft-spoken 73-year-old, has come along with us for the ride onto the Douglas ranch, where he describes how McGowan and he have frequently cut off illicit gate locks and explains that the overgrown road to Stoney Lake — which bizarrely remains under a highways maintenance contract — now dives under the surface of the lake, since Kroenke’s people have flooded it.
McGowan, leaning his big frame against his white Dodge Ram three-quarter-ton pickup truck, says people often ask him how he can keep going, since they worry the long conflict must be stressful.
But he laughs at the idea, saying: “This is therapy.”
Surveying the near endless hills of the Douglas Lake ranch, he says, “This was all locked for 30 years.” And now some routes are slowly being reopened.
Not that it is mission accomplished. McGowan says there are at least 30 more lakes in the Nicola Valley that landowners are illegally blockading behind gates, boulders and logs.
That includes the former access route to nearby Quilchena Falls, a spectacular waterfall south of the Kelowna Connector highway, which locals decades ago used to love to visit for swimming and picnics. But Quilchena Falls is now also blocked by Kroenke’s vast land holdings.
What, McGowan muses, does one of the world’s richest land barons want? “At the end of the day, I guess the true capitalist wants to own everything.”
The right to public jewels
I have had the pleasure of walking for days on end on trails through Scotland, Denmark, Italy and Wales, which at certain points traverse private land.
The remarkable European hiking and pilgrimage routes, many of which were in use for a millennium, have been reopened in many cases only because citizens fought complex battles for the right to enjoy them. Now they are considered public jewels.
One of the first crusades for the right to cross private land occurred in Manchester, England, in the 1930s. That’s when a rebellious group of young factory workers who called themselves “ramblers” showed just how determined they were to walk in a beautiful, privately owned area known as the Peak District.
The ramblers did so en masse and many, like in the Nicola Valley, were arrested. But over the long run they prevailed. And Britain is not alone in offering the public access to rights of way, including around the edges of farms. Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and many other countries make a point of offering ordinary people the freedom to roam.
Taking into account local context, each country has carefully worked out viable ways to protect landowners from irresponsible users, who owners fear might venture off designated trails, leave behind garbage, camp without permission, start a fire, damage the environment or sue for an injury.
In Canada, by contrast, private-property signs blocking access to public land abound, thoroughly intimidating the uninformed populace. The Nicola Valley club lawyer, Chris Harvey, says Canadians appear to expect governments to protect their access to the wild. But most governments are doing the opposite.
When it comes to property rights, Harvey says, Canadians are somewhere in between more open-minded European landowners and hypervigilant Americans, many of whom behave as if the right to protect private property, often with guns, is their nation’s most sacred value.
The right-to-roam movement in Canada is slowly gaining legs, however, including in B.C., where even city dwellers feel defined by wild places.
Two years ago, inspired by the Douglas ranch case, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver launched private members Bill M223: The Right to Roam Act. Even though it died on the order paper, Green representative Claire Hume says it “remains an issue we think is incredibly important and one we would love to see government take on.”
Recognizing the right-to-roam discussion raises “some delicate decision points around traditional (Indigenous) territory and private property-trespass law,” Hume said Weaver didn’t expect his bill — which was intended to make nature “open to all, not just the privileged few” — to pass the way he had drafted it. But he does hope it will spark more discussion in the legislature.
Right-to-roam advocates have never sought unfettered access
The head of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, Calvin Sandborn, is one of many leaders of a loose-knit coalition determined to make it possible for citizens to experience nature by venturing onto private land.
Sandborn and law students Graham Litman and Matt Hulse have created a seminal report titled Enhancing Public Access to Privately Owned Wild Lands, which looks at some of B.C.’s most lively action fronts.
In addition to covering the Douglas Lake conflict, Sandborn’s team is monitoring an effort to create a 700-kilometre walking network on Vancouver Island, called the Island Spine Trail. They’re also tracking roaming disputes on Lasqueti Island, Galiano Island and in Comox.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation, the B.C. Federation of Fly Fishers and B.C. Outdoor Recreation Council have prepared positions on the right to roam. And they’re tracking the many ways recreational users constantly come up against landowners.
To ease landowners’ concerns, Sandborn emphasizes right-to-roam advocates have never sought unfettered access to property. “We don’t want people going through a hundred different trails on someone’s property. Access can be provided in a variety of ways.”
And not only to remote wilderness. The Gorge region of the City of Victoria is also in play. Sandborn’s students have surveyed how property owners have built carports and sheds over public rights of way to the Gorge waterway, which are legally supposed to occur every 200 metres.
Sandborn says when one Gorge neighbour who lived across the street from waterfront properties that were illicitly blocking beach access found out what the law students were doing, he remarked, “’I’ve lived here 20 years. And I didn’t realize until now I had the right to take my canoe down to the water.’”
Metro Vancouver has its own access-to-waterfront issues, says Sandborn — in White Rock and West Vancouver.
Washington state can be a model for B.C.
The University of Victoria report suggests which global jurisdictions could be models for B.C. Surprisingly, given Americans’ legendary emphasis on absolute private property rights, one of them is in B.C.’s own Cascadian backyard: Washington state.
The counties that contain Seattle and Bellingham both offer major tax breaks to owners who make portions of their land available to hikers, birdwatchers, sightseers, horseback riders and other nature lovers, all of whom are expected to follow rules for respecting private property.
Creative things have also been happening at the other end of Canada, in Nova Scotia. That province has long provided citizens the right to cross private, uncultivated land and to go on foot along the banks of rivers and lakes to fish, including with a boat.
Which is precisely the kind of freedom the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club seeks on the Douglas ranch and beyond.
McGowan is playing the long game, but he doesn’t, to put it mildly, trust politicians. He knows his comrades will need help, particularly from younger generations. He realizes his encyclopedic knowledge of roads and property bylaws in the Nicola Valley has been an incredible asset for the local cause, but he also knows most people don’t have the same background.
So, at his age, he’s worried.
As geese fly overhead, he says the access-to-land cause in the Nicola Valley needs “somebody else to pick up the cudgel.” The long-term strategy of billionaire landowners and their ilk, he believes, is to use their immense wealth to hire lawyers and others to wear people down.
“This is their dream: That guys like me will die off. And nobody will remember.”
The Douglas Lake ranch’s appeal will be heard March 30 and 31 in Vancouver.
LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a resounding election victory on Friday that will allow him to take Britain out of the European Union in matter of weeks.
For Johnson, whose 20-week tenure in power has been marked by chaotic scenes in parliament and stark division on the streets over Britain’s tortuous departure from the European Union, victory in Thursday’s contest was vindication.
Educated at the country’s most elite school and recognizable by his bombastic style, the 55-year-old must not only deliver Brexit but also convince Britons that the contentious divorce, which would lead to lengthy trade talks, is worth it.
A landslide Conservative win marks the ultimate failure of opponents of Britain’s departure from the European Union who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.
Johnson won an outright majority in the 650-seat parliament after an exit poll showed the Conservatives on course to win a landslide 368 seats, the biggest Conservative national election win since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 triumph.
“I think this will turn out to be a historic election that gives us now, in this new government, the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people,” Johnson said after winning his seat of Uxbridge.
He said the Conservatives appeared to have won “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done.”
U.S President Donald Trump said it was “looking like a big win for Boris.”
Labour were forecast to win 203 seats, the worst result for the party since 1935, after offering voters a second referendum and the most radical socialist government in generations. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would step down.
With results from across Britain indicating the exit poll was accurate, Johnson’s bet on a snap election has paid off, meaning he will swiftly ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the EU so that the United Kingdom can leave on Jan. 31 – 10 months later than initially planned.
But nearly half a century after joining what has become the world’s largest trading bloc, Johnson faces the daunting challenge of striking new international trade deals, preserving London’s position as a top global financial capital and keeping the United Kingdom together.
Sterling soared and was on course for one of its biggest one-day gains in the past two decades. The pound hit a 19-month high of $1.3516 versus the dollar and its strongest levels against the euro since shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum.
As of 0510 GMT, Johnson’s Conservatives had made a net gain of 41 seats.
After nearly four years of Brexit debate that has riven the United Kingdom, deadlocked parliament and shocked allies, a majority will allow Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the club it first joined in 1973.
But Brexit is far from over.
He faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU, possibly in just 11 months, while also negotiating another trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain’s economy. After Jan. 31, Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the remaining 27 EU states.
This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.
A big majority may give him the political security to extend the trade talks beyond 2020 because he could overrule the Brexit hardliner European Research Group (ERG) faction in the party.
“The bigger the Tory majority of course the less influence over this the ERG and Eurosceptics will have,” said Brexit party leader Nigel Farage. “It will be called Brexit but it won’t really be.”
Johnson called the first Christmas election since 1923 to break what he said was the paralysis of Britain’s political system after more than three years of crisis over Brexit.
I think this will turn out to be a historic election
The face of the victorious “Leave” campaign in the 2016 referendum, Johnson fought the election under the slogan of “Get Brexit Done,” promising to end the deadlock and spend more on health, education and the police.
He was helped early in the election by Farage’s Brexit Party which stood down hundreds of candidates to prevent the pro-Brexit vote from being split. Early results showed the Brexit Party had poached a significant number of voters from Labour.
While Brexit framed the election, the slow-motion exit from the EU has variously fatigued, enthused and enraged voters while eroding loyalties to the two major parties.
Results showed Johnson’s strategy had successfully breached Labour’s so-called “Red Wall” of seats across the Brexit-supporting areas of the Midlands and northern England where he cast his political foes as the out-of-touch enemies of Brexit.
The Conservatives took Sedgefield, once held by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful leader.
A defeated Labour now faces a civil war between the socialists who control it and more moderate factions which will demand power.
“This is obviously a very disappointing night for the Labour Party with the result that we’ve got,” Corbyn said after being re-elected in his own north London electoral seat. He said he would not lead the party in any future elections.
Weary Labour candidates said his leadership had played a major role in the defeat.
Ruth Smeeth, who said she also expected to lose her seat in Stoke-on-Trent, laid the blame firmly at Corbyn’s door.
“He should have gone many, many, many months ago,” she said.
The Liberal Democrats were forecast to win 13 seats, the exit poll said. Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat party leader, lost her seat to the Scottish National Party.
The Brexit Party were not predicted to win any.
The Scottish National Party, which strongly opposes Brexit, would win 55 of the 59 seats in Scotland, the poll said, setting the scene for it to demand a second independence vote, after secession was rejected by 55% to 45% in 2014.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Johnson did not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the EU.
“We don’t want Brexit,” Sturgeon said. “Boris Johnson may have a mandate to take England out of the European Union, he emphatically does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union.”
Here is what to expect from a majority Conservative government:
BREXIT BY JAN. 31
Johnson has promised to bring back to parliament before Christmas the legislation required to ratify his exit deal with Brussels and ensure it is passed by the end of January.
All Conservative candidates have signed up to the deal, so it is expected to have a relatively smooth journey through parliament as opposition parties will not have the numbers to defeat it or make changes to it.
NO EXTENSION OF TRANSITION
After Jan. 31 Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the EU27.
This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.
If they fail to hammer out a new trade deal by the end of 2020, a deadline trade experts say is unrealistic, Britain could effectively be facing a disorderly no-deal Brexit again.
BUDGET IN FEBRUARY
The party has promised to hold a post-Brexit budget in February, boosting spending on domestic issues such as the health service, education and police.
The Conservatives plan to introduce an “Australian-style” points-based immigration system. They have promised to reduce overall immigration numbers. In particular there will be fewer low-skilled migrants.
Under the new system, which will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same, most immigrants will need a job offer to come to Britain. There will be special visa schemes for migrants who will fill shortages in public services, or who are leaders in fields such as science and technology.
Finance minister Sajid Javid has said he will rewrite the country’s fiscal rules so he can spend an extra 20 billion pounds per year over the next five years, raising borrowing for infrastructure to 3% of economic output from its current 1.8%.
Johnson’s party has said it wants to have 80 percent of UK trade covered by free trade agreements within three years. It plans to prioritize agreeing deals with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.