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B.C. Election 2020: Leaders square off in high-stakes debate

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Furstenau, who has only led the Greens for a month, was fighting to introduce herself to British Columbians and not let the two more-established politicians dominate the stage. She succeeded as a confident, well-informed, well-spoken debater on the stage.

During a testy exchange over health care, Horgan held Wilkinson accountable for a decision made by the former Liberal government to cut care aid jobs.

“You fired 10,000 people, largely women, to give a tax break to wealthy people in B.C.,” Horgan said.

Wilkinson fired back: “Calling names and talking about things that happened 17 years ago will not help us in the future.” He said the Liberals built hospitals during their time in power, and accused the NDP of failing to build one.

“You sold the land, man,” an outraged Horgan responded, in reference to a Liberal program that sold government land, including a plot that was meant for a Surrey hospital.

Wilkinson also accused Horgan of not acting quickly enough to help struggling businesses, such as tourism operators, facing bankruptcies during the pandemic, and of having an affordable housing plan that is “a complete fiasco.”

“That’s not leadership, John,” he said.

Wilkinson was asked by moderator Shachi Kurl about the controversy over one of his incumbent MLA candidates making sexist remarks towards a NDP MLA, and the leader repeated again that the incident should not have happened. The other two leaders didn’t make hay of the scandal, but Horgan referenced it after Wilkinson accused the NDP leader of dividing people, rather than pulling them together.

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Trump or Biden: What the U.S. election means for Europe

On one level, this reflects a genuine yearning for a Biden presidency after four years of Trumpian volatility. A liberal White House in 2021 would be expected to revitalize the transatlantic alliance, return the United States to the Paris climate accord, scrap most of the tariffs Trump slapped on U.S. allies and, at the very least, avoid coddling factions and forces that seek to undermine European unity. For officials in Brussels, it would mark something of a restoration.

But on a deeper level, Europe’s view of America is also changing. “European attitudes to Americans are shifting from envy to compassion,” wrote Simon Kuper of the Financial Times. He added that “there’s more chance of becoming a billionaire, if that’s your thing, in Scandinavia than in the U.S.,” pointing to widening inequity in the United States and the withering of romantic notions of the “American Dream.”

Trump and Europe

The current occupant of the White House entered office stoking grievance against both of the continent’s defining institutions, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Trump believes the former was organized as a bloc to “take advantage” of the United States and even invoked a number of European countries as national security threats to justify protectionist tariffs on E.U. goods. It’s a disposition that runs counter to the many years successive Democratic and Republican administrations spent encouraging deeper European integration.

Trump sees NATO almost as a kind of protection racket for Europe, which shelters under the U.S. security umbrella on the American dime. He hectored European countries to spend more on defense and questioned the usefulness of belonging to the military alliance at all. (Never mind that many European governments had already begun raising their military spending during the Obama administration.) Trump’s curious personal relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his embrace of far-right, illiberal nationalist and Euroskeptic figures on the margins of Europe’s politics only added to the impression of a U.S. leader hostile to the liberal European project.

Trump has been at odds with close European allies in international forums like the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the United Nations, wrecking key agreements including the Iran nuclear deal. Although he shied away from endorsing any particular U.S. candidate when asked about the November election, French President Emmanuel Macron made clear he hoped for a future where the United States changed course.

“What is very important in the international context is that the U.S. can play their role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, of a fully engaged member in multilateral issues,” Macron told reporters in August. “We need the United Nations’ engagement in resolving conflicts and to have a U.S. that is a partner of collective security of a sovereign Europe.”

If Trump gets reelected, “he will feel totally unleashed and he will have no limitation,” Gérard Araud, who until last year was France’s ambassador in Washington, told Today’s WorldView. That may have significant consequences for Europe, including, Araud suggested, the possibility of the United States withdrawing from NATO altogether.

Europe’s concerns are hardly uniform, though, and Araud and other experts acknowledge that the Trump era has only further exposed the continent’s own divisions. Some countries in the east have warmed to Trump’s approach, while France and Germany remain at odds on the role of Europe on the world stage and whether the E.U. can or should emerge as a third pole of global politics alongside the United States and China.

“In my conversations with French diplomats, they often portray Trump as the final nail in the coffin of the transatlantic alliance — given that he has questioned American security guarantees for Europe and supposedly driven NATO to ‘brain death,’ ” wrote Jana Puglierin of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Security experts from Poland or the Baltic states, however, emphasise how much more secure they feel since his election, and how credibly the Americans reassure their allies and partners on NATO’s eastern flank. … Germans, for their part, see the threat that Trump presents to the alliance, but have been trying to manage it.”

Biden and Europe

In Biden, many Europeans see the return of a more traditional internationalist who appreciates the E.U.’s historic relationship with the United States and its liberal values. Closer and friendlier cooperation will come naturally on a host of fronts, including trade and action on climate change.

“The E.U. is the largest market in the world. We need to improve our economic relations,” said senior Biden adviser Tony Blinken, in recent remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “And we need to bring to an end an artificial trade war that the Trump administration has started … that has been poisoning economic relations, costing jobs, increasing costs for consumers.”

“If Biden is elected,” said Araud, he would sound “the sentimental platitudes toward Europeans that Europeans love. He will pat their shoulders. It will be orgasmic in Brussels.”

But, the former French ambassador warned, “it won’t be business as usual.” That’s in part because the security guarantees of the 20th century Pax Americana no longer hold, and the Obama administration, where Biden served, perhaps showed as much ambivalence about projecting U.S. power abroad as Trump has subsequently.

As crises flare on the E.U.’s borders and the United States largely looks away, policymakers in Paris, Berlin and Brussels increasingly are coming to terms with having to confront them on their own. “We are living in a world of carnivores and the Europeans are the last herbivores,” said Araud. “The Europeans have to change their diet and that for them is very difficult to face.”

“All Western democracies have been watching very closely what happens inside this one,” said Cathryn Cluver Ashbrook, executive director of the Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship at the Harvard Kennedy School, in a recent webinar on the impact of the U.S. election across the Atlantic. She said that Europeans are “wary” of the deeper trends fueling U.S. politics and what that may mean for their own societies.

“Who is the passing phenomenon here?” said Ashbrook. “Is it Joe Biden or Trump?”

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Biden Slammed Facebook Over Trump Election Posts

The Biden campaign has demanded that Facebook ramp up enforcement of misleading and inaccurate posts by President Donald Trump, accusing the social media giant of failing to live up to its recent promises to clamp down on election-related falsehoods.

In a strongly worded three-page letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg obtained by Axios, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon called Facebook “the nation’s foremost propagator of disinformation about the voting process.” She pointed to the company’s pledge in early September to “protect our democracy” by “clearing up confusion about how this election will work” and by “fight[ing] misinformation.”

“Three weeks have now passed,” Dillon wrote. “Rather than seeing progress, we have seen regression. Facebook’s continued promise of future action is serving as nothing more than an excuse for inaction.”

In response to Dillon’s letter, a Facebook spokesperson said the company hears vigorous complaints from both sides of the partisan divide. “We’ve faced criticism from Republicans for being biased against conservatives and Democrats for not taking more steps to restrict the exact same content,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We have rules in place to protect the integrity of the election and free expression, and we will continue to apply them impartially.”

On Sept. 3, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would remove lies and misleading claims about the voting process that could cause somebody to lose the chance to cast a ballot. He also declared that Facebook would not allow political advertisements during the week before the election.

“We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy,” Zuckerberg wrote at the time. “That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.”

The very same day that Zuckerberg made the announcement, Trump wrote a Facebook post that encouraged some people voting by mail to vote a second time in person. Facebook added a label at the bottom of the post saying, “Voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the US.”

Trump has made a number of false and misleading claims on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in the weeks since.

On Monday, for example, he claimed on both platforms that “Ballots being returned to States cannot be accurately counted.”

Twitter put a label on Trump’s tweet that urged people to click through to “learn how voting by mail is safe and secure.” Facebook initially put a label on its post that linked to the company’s Voting Information Center “for election resources and official updates.” After an online backlash, Facebook changed the label to make it more clear that the post was misleading.

In her letter to Zuckerberg, Dillon argued that Facebook should go further: “remove Mr. Trump’s posts, which violate your policies.”

“[B]y now,” Dillon added, “Mr. Trump clearly understands that Facebook will not hold him to their clearly stated policies.”

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‘Troll factory’: Facebook, Twitter suspend Russian network ahead of U.S. election – National

Facebook said Tuesday that it removed a small network of accounts and pages linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the “troll factory” that has used social media accounts to sow political discord in the U.S. since the 2016 presidential election.

Twitter also suspended five related accounts. The company said the tweets from these Russia-linked accounts“were low quality and spammy” and that most received few, if any, likes or retweets.

The people behind the accounts recruited “unwitting” freelance journalists to post in English and Arabic, mainly targeting left-leaning audiences. Facebook said Tuesday the network’s activity focused on the U.S., U.K., Algeria and Egypt and other English-speaking countries and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Read more:
Facebook threatens to cut off news to Australia after years of spreading ‘misinformation’

The company said it started investigating the network based on information from the FBI about its off-Facebook activities. The network was in the early stages of development, Facebook added, and saw “nearly no engagement” on Facebook before it was removed. The network consisted of 13 Facebook accounts and two pages. About 14,000 accounts followed one or more of the pages, though the English-language page had a little over 200 followers, Facebook said.

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Still, its presence points to ongoing Russian efforts to disrupt the U.S. election and sow political discord in an already divided country. To evade detection, the people behind the network recruited Americans to do their bidding, likely unknowingly, both as journalists and as people authorized to purchase political advertisements in the U.S.

Facebook said the people behind the network posted about global events ranging from racial justice in the U.S. and the U.K., NATO, the QAnon conspiracy, President Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. The network spent about $480 on advertising on Facebook, primarily in U.S. dollars. However, Facebook said less than $2 worth of those ads targeted the U.S.

The network’s posts directed people to a website called PeaceData, which claims to be a global news organization that, according to a report by research firm Graphika, “took a left-wing stance, opposing what it portrayed as Western imperialism and the excesses of capitalism.”

‘Anarchists, rioters’ on plane: Trump echoes months-old Facebook conspiracy theory

‘Anarchists, rioters’ on plane: Trump echoes months-old Facebook conspiracy theory

The FBI said in a statement Tuesday that it provided information to the platforms “to better protect against threats to the nation’s security and our democratic processes.”

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“While technology companies independently make decisions regarding the content of their platforms and the safety of their members, the FBI is actively engaged with our federal partners, election officials, and the private sector to mitigate foreign threats to our nation’s security and our elections,” the statement said.

Separately, Twitter said Tuesday it will start adding context to its trending section, which shows some of the most popular topics on the service at any given moment. Experts and even Twitter’s own employees have expressed concerns that the trending section can be gamed to spread misinformation and abuse.

Read more:
Facebook erred by failing to remove post calling for armed civilians: Zuckerberg

Twitter uses algorithms and human employees to determine what topics are trending _ it is not simply the most popular topics, but topics that are newly popular at any given time. But it’s not difficult to artificially elevate trends.

In the coming weeks, Twitter said, users in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, India and several other countries will see brief descriptions added to some trends to add context.

“To be clear, we know there is more work to do to improve trends and the context updates we’re announcing today are just a small step in the right direction,” said Liz Lee, a product trust partner and Frank Oppong, a product manager, in a blog post. “We need to make trends better and we will.”

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Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker contributed to this story from Washington, D.C.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Democrats Blast End Of In-Person Election Security Briefings : NPR

Congressional Democrats are calling the director of national intelligence’s cancellation of additional in-person election security briefings “outrageous,” after the change was announced on Friday.

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Congressional Democrats are calling the director of national intelligence’s cancellation of additional in-person election security briefings “outrageous,” after the change was announced on Friday.

Patrick Semansky/AP

Congressional Democrats are calling the director of national intelligence’s cancellation of additional in-person election security briefings “outrageous,” after the change was announced on Friday. Election Day is about nine weeks away.

Congress will still be briefed on election security by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, but through written reports instead of verbal briefings.

In a letter to congressional leaders, John Ratcliffe — a former Texas Republican congressman who was confirmed as director of national intelligence in May — wrote that he believes the change “helps ensure, to the maximum extent possible, that the information ODNI provides the Congress … is not misunderstood nor politicized.”

President Trump said Saturday that Ratcliffe was ending the briefings in order to prevent leaks.

The change comes just weeks after a top counterintelligence official warned about ongoing interference and influence efforts by Russia, China and Iran.

Democrats, including Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, say the in-person briefings allow Congress to ask necessary questions and assess the tone and urgency of any threats from the intelligence community.

“I think it’s outrageous,” Krishnamoorthi told Weekend Edition Sunday. “The fact that they would prevent further in-person briefings means that they want us not to be able to question career public servants about the intelligence that backs up this assessment of Russian interference, press for additional information about it and, quite frankly, ask how can we do more to combat it.”

Addressing the counterintelligence report that Russia is again trying to influence the upcoming presidential election, Krishnamoorthi said Russians are using lessons they learned from 2016 and using different tactics this year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, both California Democrats, released a joint statement on Saturday saying the change “is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public’s right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy.”

Schiff, appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, said there is a possibility that Congress could subpoena U.S. intelligence officials to testify about election interference.

“We will compel the intelligence community to give Congress the information that we need. We will compel the intelligence community also to speak plainly to the American people,” Schiff said. “And the American people ought to know what Russia is doing, they ought to know their president is unwilling to stand up to Vladimir Putin.”

On Face the Nation on Sunday, Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said his department does intend to continue to brief Congress on cyber threats to election infrastructure and that much of what they deal with is unclassified information. He says the change by the ODNI is “not about limiting access, this is about providing the information to Congress — they’re going to do that in a different format.”

When asked about the leaks that Trump cited as a reason for Ratcliffe’s decision, both Krishnamoorthi and Schiff said that while leaks being used for political gain is a legitimate concern, they do not consider that to be the case in this situation.

Krishnamoorthi says this change is the Trump administration “trying to create a chilling effect within the intelligence community.”

“They don’t want people to tell the truth, they want to muzzle them,” he said, adding that the announcement “just invites the suspicion that once again, they’re trying to invite that foreign interference.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who’s ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also criticized the decision on Saturday, saying in a tweet that the committee “does not and will not accept ODNI’s refusal to brief Congress in the 66 days ahead of the election.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and the acting chair of the intelligence committee, also released a statement on the changes, saying past leaks have hurt the relationship between the intelligence community and Congress. Rubio did not say he would take any action to push for in-person briefings again, but that he still expects intelligence officials to keep Congress informed.

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Belarus Challenger Flees Country After Election Chaos

KYIV — Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who first refused to accept what she called a fraudulent result in Belarus’s disputed election, told supporters on Tuesday that she had fled overnight to Lithuania.

In the latest turn of extraordinary events rocking the country, she urged Belarusians to stop protesting and hinted at the pressures that forced her to leave.

Appearing exhausted in a tearful video from Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya said the decision to leave was her own and was made for the sake of her children.

“Many will understand me, many will judge, some will hate me,” she said. “What is happening now is not worth even one life,” she added, referring to violent clashes between heavily armed riot police and demonstrators that have erupted across the country and escalated during a second night of protests on Monday.

She made it clear that after meeting with Belarusian authorities she felt she had no other options but to flee to another country. “God forbid you ever have to face the choice that I faced,” she said.

Demonstrations evolved into a nationwide strike Tuesday, with workers at several state enterprises walking off the job to protest police brutality and the official declaration of incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko as the winner in Sunday’s election. They also demanded the release of all protesters.

Riot police have attacked demonstrators with rubber bullets, stun grenades, tear gas, water cannons, and batons. Images shared on social media have shown people with bloody wounds on their heads and torsos. Videos show police using clubs to beat people curled up on the ground. One video that was circulated widely shows dozens of detainees being forced to lie facedown on the grounds of a detention center surrounded by razor wire as armed officers stand over them.

Belarusian authorities said they detained another 2,000 people on Monday and early Tuesday morning after taking more than 3,000 into custody on the first night of protests. Police reported Tuesday that one man died overnight after an explosive device detonated in his hand, while independent local media reported dozens of protesters had been badly beaten and wounded on the streets and in police custody.

Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet nation of 9.5 million people since 1994, called the opposition “sheep” being manipulated by Western governments in order to overthrow him.

He has specifically called out Poland, the UK, and the Czech Republic for alleged involvement, but he also suggested that the US may be involved after the detention of a US diplomatic passport holder. That man, Vitali Shkliarov, worked on the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders and the 2012 reelection campaign of President Barack Obama.

The United States, which has worked hard to normalize relations with Belarus over the past year or more, is keeping a close eye on the events in the country. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Minsk in February, and in April, President Donald Trump nominated Julie Fisher, currently a deputy assistant secretary of state, to be the US’s first ambassador to Belarus since the last one was expelled in 2008. Minsk has also nominated an ambassador to Washington.

On Monday, Pompeo said in a statement that the US supports the “aspirations of the Belarusian people for a democratic, prosperous future.”

He said: “To achieve these goals, the Government of Belarus must prove through action its commitment to democratic processes and respect for human rights.”

Speaking on behalf of the White House, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters, “Severe restrictions on ballot access for candidates, prohibition of local independent observers at polling stations, intimidation of opposition candidates and the detention of peaceful protesters and journalists have marred the process and we urge the Belarusian government to respect the right of people to peaceably assemble and to refrain from the use of force.”

Former vice president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden also weighed in. “I stand with those who are calling for a transparent and accurate vote count and the release of all political prisoners,” he said. “I also call on President Lukashenko to respect the rights of peaceful protestors and to refrain from further violence.”

Tikhanovskaya’s video was met with relief but also confusion from supporters who held their collective breath as they awaited news of her whereabouts after she disappeared on Monday, following a visit to the Central Election Commission (CEC).

She had gone there to file an official complaint about the election results. According to the CEC, Lukashenko won 80.08% of the vote on Sunday and Tikhanovskaya garnered just 10.09%. Independent election monitors were banned from observing the polls, but Tikhanovskaya’s camp mobilized its own observers to monitor voting precincts. They, along with journalists from independent media outlets, reported witnessing vote-rigging on a massive scale.

She remained inside the building for several hours. When she finally emerged, her campaign said she told them that she had “made a decision” before she left alone in a car.

The next time anyone heard about Tikhanovskaya was when Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevičius, tweeted on Tuesday morning that she was “safe” but had been detained by Belarusian authorities, held incommunicado for seven hours at the CEC, and then driven to Lithuania. A source with knowledge of her travels who asked for anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter told BuzzFeed News she crossed the border at 3:30 a.m. local time and was aided by Lithuanian authorities.

Three hours after Linkevičius’s tweet, Tikhanovskaya released what would be the first of two videos. In the one from Lithuania, she suggested she had been given an ultimatum by Belarusian authorities, who are currently holding her husband, the popular vlogger Sergei Tikhanovsky. He had announced his candidacy for president before he was detained and jailed in May.

In a second video, released by Belarusian state media Tuesday afternoon, a distressed Tikhanovskaya read from a piece of paper inside the CEC.

“Belarusians, I’m urging you to show common sense and respect for the law,” she said in the video, without raising her eyes to the camera. “I don’t want blood and violence. I’m asking you not to confront the police and not take to squares to put your lives in danger. Take care of yourselves and your relatives.”

A Tikhanovskaya campaign staffer told BuzzFeed News that the candidate had been pressured by the government to make the video and to leave the country in exchange for the release of her campaign manager, Maria Moroz, who had been held by police since Saturday. Moroz is now also in Lithuania, according to the staffer.

Later on Tuesday, the campaign released a statement to local media walking back Tikhanovskaya’s words. “We support all who peacefully protest against election fraud. We are against violence and ask authorities not to use violence against civilians. … We propose a dialogue about the peaceful transfer of power to the people.”

Meanwhile, on the streets of Minsk and other cities across the country after a violent night that saw riot police once again use rubber bullets and stun grenades against demonstrators, and some protesters shoot fireworks and hurl Molotov cocktails toward police ranks, many thousands of protesters continued to assemble and to express their anger over what they decry as a stolen election.

Peaceful walkouts were underway at state enterprises across the city in an attempt to shut down the economy and pressure the government. Solo pickets were also reported, with one man even jumping in front of a train in the Minsk metro to raise a sign adorned with a demand for police to “stop maiming and killing people!”

Veronika Tsepkalo, who along with Tikhanovskaya was part of the all-women trio campaigning to oust Lukashenko, told BuzzFeed News from Moscow that she had also fled Belarus late on Monday evening after she “received info that I was going to be detained, as well.” She had returned to Belarus on Sunday from Russia, where her husband, a former presidential candidate, had also fled last month with the couple’s two children.

Asked what will happen to the opposition movement she inspired alongside Tikhanovskaya and Maria Kolesnikova, the third and only member of the trio who remains in Minsk, Tsepkalo said, “People should fight for their rights.”

On Tuesday evening, many Belarusians seemed to be doing just that. As dusk descended on Minsk, thousands of them once again poured into the streets.

Following close behind were hundreds of heavily armed riot police, special forces, and military vehicles.

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NDP support for spending bill assures no election in midst of pandemic

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a confidence vote today but there’s little chance his minority Liberal government will fall in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau assured the support of New Democrat MPs by announcing Tuesday that his government is extending the $2,000-a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit for another eight weeks.

In return for extending the CERB, a spokeswoman for the NDP, Melanie Richer, said New Democrat MPs will vote in favour this evening of the supplementary spending estimates — some $87 billion in planned, primarily pandemic-related, government spending.

Only about $6 billion actually involves new spending; the other $81 billion has already been approved by Parliament.

Because the Liberals hold only a minority of seats in the House of Commons, they need the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to pass legislation and avoid defeat on confidence votes.

Any bill involving government spending is typically considered a confidence matter. A government that fails to win a vote of confidence in the Commons is deemed defeated, which would plunge the country into an election.

The NDP’s support for the supplementary estimates precludes that scenario for today at least.

“The prime minister says he has heard us and is extending support through CERB through the summer,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement.

“This is what we were calling for in the short term. We’ll keep working to make sure help is there for Canadians who need it in the long term.”

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet also sounded Tuesday like his party would not vote against the spending estimates, although the Bloc has recently joined the Conservatives in demanding a full resumption of the Commons, among other demands, before supporting any government initiative.

“No one wants to send 20 million Canadians to line up to vote while we are still in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Trudeau announced Tuesday that the CERB will be extended to a maximum of 24 weeks instead of 16 weeks for people who lost their jobs or saw their hours slashed due to the pandemic.

The extension means the first cohort of applicants who signed up in April and were set to max out their payment periods in early July, won’t have to worry if they have no jobs to go back to over the summer or are unable to work because their health is precarious.

While the supplementary estimates seem poised to pass, there is still no resolution to an emergency aid bill that stalled last week without sufficient opposition support.

That bill included measures to deliver a one-time, tax-free benefit of up to $600 to Canadians with disabilities. It would also expand the wage subsidy program to include more seasonal workers and businesses and would impose fines or jail time on Canadians who deliberately defraud the CERB program.

The government needed unanimous consent to quickly pass the bill in a matter of hours last Wednesday but none of the opposition parties would support it. It then offered to deal with the disability benefit separately, which was supported by the NDP and the Bloc but the Conservatives blocked that idea.

The bill is still on the order paper and the government could theoretically try again today but officials say that isn’t in the cards.

Instead, the government is now trying to work out other ways to deliver the disability benefit and other measures without needing legislation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2020.

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Labour leadership: Clive Lewis warns party only has ‘very slim’ chance of winning next general election without alliances

Labour leadership hopeful Clive Lewis has warned his party only has a “very slim” chance of winning the next general election unless it embraces alliances with other parties at Westminster.

As he battles to secure the required number of nominations from colleagues in the parliamentary party to remain in the contest, the left-wing candidate will today also launch his “transform to win” manifesto. 

The document focuses on radical democratic reform, including proposals for abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected chamber, introducing proportional representation at national elections, and a vow not to block a second Scottish independence referendum. 

It includes a number of measures aimed at tackling the climate crisis, with a net-zero emissions by 2030 target, the opposition of any future airport expansions, and introducing duties for individuals taking multiple flights per year.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Lewis warned, however, that Labour must put aside tribal differences and be open to forming pacts with progressive parties, or risk a fifth defeat in a row at the ballot box. 

Asked about the probability of Labour securing victory at the next general election, he replied: “On the current trajectory that we’re on with the current policies, the current strategy we’re using of not collaborating with other political parties – not embracing progressive alliance, not embracing working with others, I think it is very slim.

“And I don’t think it’s necessarily that just my opinion – I think the historical context shows that for Labour in the post-1945 period. The only time that Labour has convincingly come from opposition to win has been in 1997 in the post-war period. And to do that we had to tack quite substantially to the right.” 

Mr Lewis’s manifesto – to be released on Sunday – states that Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) should be given the option to decide if “they will stand down in favour of a better-placed candidates with the same values”. 

It adds: “We must be open to creating alliances of progressive and socialist organisations on a local level, particularly given the undemocratic electoral system face”. 

It is a significant break with Jeremy Corbyn, who repeatedly dismissed attempts throughout his leadership to form so-called “progressive alliances” with Liberal Democrat and Green candidates in order to thwart Conservative candidates’ chances of success at the ballot box. 

Pressed on what his leadership manifesto would concentrate on, Mr Lewis added: “Democracy. Democracy within the party, democracy in the country. The fact that we have a crisis of democracy, a crisis of social democracy that unless we accept this a longer term malaise, unless we understand that people need to have a sense of power, and agency in their lives.

“That this is in part what has seen the collapse… or a big part of the problem for Labour Party over the last century and in particular the last 40 years, then that is going to have be at the heart of what we do.” 

“From that you begin to see the possibilities – the whole thing about the climate crisis or about any policy we implement is making sure it’s not from the top down, what I’m saying is the reason that democracy runs through everything I’m doing is because I actually want to give people a say to feel empowered and I actually think we’ll get better policies coming from that.” ​

The left-winger urged the party to put aside ‘tribal differences’

As it stands, however, Mr Lewis, a former BBC journalist and army reservist, is struggling to convince his colleagues he has what it takes to be Labour’s next leader, with nominations so far from just three MPs. In order to reach the second stage of the contest, leadership hopefuls must secure the backing of at least 22 MPs or MEPs. 

Asked who he would back if didn’t make the second round of the contest to succeed Mr Corbyn, he said:  “What I would do is I will have to look and see who says what. I have heard so little from the other candidates. 

“I haven’t heard anything of significance yet. From my mind I want to hear who is going to have a radical programme of democratising not just our party – so we can transform to win – but also who is going to deal with the climate issue, who is going to deal with democracy crisis.” 

But while he said he would want to “hear what Jess Phillips is saying” in the contest, he added it was “highly unlikely” he would back her leadership “and the wing of the party that she comes from”.

For the deputy leadership position, Mr Lewis said he would nominate Dawn Butler, the shadow women and equalities minister, if she has not managed to secure sufficient support before the first round of the contest ends on Monday. “I want to see,” he added. “If she gets over the line then I can look around because there are other Bame candidates. There’s Rosena Allin-Khan.” 

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Brexit Endgame: The 2019 UK Election

After nearly four years of wailing and gnashing of teeth, Britain has made up its mind. We’re leaving the EU. At 22.00 on Wednesday 12th December 2019, the BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll opened the final chapter in Britain’s Brexit saga. A crushing majority for Boris Johnson’s Conservative and Unionist Party has redrawn the political map. Constituencies which have been Labour for decades have turned Conservative. The Brexit Party failed to gain a single seat but upset the voting balance. In my home city of Sunderland, had the Brexit Party not stood then a constituency which has been Labour since the First World War would have turned Tory. The Liberal Democrats not only failed to rally the remains of Remain, they actually lost a seat – awkwardly, the seat of their leader Jo Swinson. Following John Bercow to the House of Commons exit are high-profile Remainers Anna Soubry, Chuka Umunna, and Dennis Skinner – who lost his Labour constituency of 49 years to a Tory. Despite climate concerns being a big campaign issue the Greens have failed to achieve anything resembling a breakthrough. Meanwhile in Scotland, a huge surge for the SNP means that 2020 will be dominated by an existential struggle not over the future of Britain in the European Union, but the future of the 350-year old British union itself. British politics used to be boring. Not any more.

The immediate question is, “why?” There isn’t a single answer, and at the headquarters of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and even the Conservatives, heated debates on this question are now taking place. But one answer is that this wasn’t so much a vote of confidence in Boris Johnson, it was a vote of no confidence against Jeremy Corbyn.

The signs have long been there. In 2015 Corbyn faced a vote of no confidence by his own party, and lost. His response was to do nothing. In 2017 Corbyn entered a general election, and lost to the robotic Theresa May. His response was to do nothing. In 2019 Corbyn faced a national vote in the European elections, and lost (even losing his own constituency’s seat in the European Parliament, and on his birthday as well). He responded by doing nothing. Two by-elections showed a collapse of support for the Labour Party, and his response was to do nothing. Now, Jeremy Corbyn has led the Labour Party to its worst defeat since 1935. His response, for now, is to do nothing. Not even resign. This, coupled with Brexit, explains last night’s election result.

Much has been said about the December 2019 election being a Brexit election. And undeniably, Brexit was a major factor. But despite a great deal of discussion and tentative polls about Remainers now having a bigger majority than Leavers (and the former head of YouGov’s disturbing rhetoric in January 2019 about “Crossover Day”, whereupon enough Leave voters had died that a second referendum should be held to return a Remain result), there was not a surge in support for Remain options. The answer to this is Brexhaustion and the clarity (or lack thereof) of party leaders’ positions on the biggest peacetime political issue the British have faced since the stirrings of revolution in 1832.

Under Boris Johnson, the Conservatives advocated an “Oven-Ready Brexit”; not so much a gourmet a la carte Brexit option but a lukewarm, reheated version of what Theresa May had offered four times before. This was not a Remain option, but neither was it a crash-out Hard Brexit option. Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats evolved from calling for a second referendum to simply offering to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit. Nigel Farage’s position of immediately leaving the EU under WTO rules was, at best, vaguely phrased. Jeremy Corbyn’s position has long confused people, until entering the election campaign with a promise of negotiating a magical, perfect deal with an irritated and impatient European Union in record time, holding a Leave/Remain second referendum, but not actually taking a side himself and leaving open the bizarre possibility of him negotiating a deal and then campaigning against his own deal. Anna Soubry’s Independent Group for Change, which was stillborn to begin with, has become as politically relevant as UKIP or the novelty candidates Lord Buckethead, Count Binface, or Mr Fish Finger. Nigel Farage, now turning into the British equivalent of one of the USA’s “perennial candidates” who won’t go away, became an irrelevance as Boris took the limelight as the lead figure for Leave, gifting the Brexit Party a net total of zero seats in Parliament despite their success in the European Parliament earlier this year.

Forced to choose between the Conservative, LibDem, Brexit Party, and Labour options (the SNP’s proposal being irrelevant for most British voters incapable of voting SNP), Johnson’s seems to have been the least unpleasant option on the menu. Swinson’s proposal to ignore more than half of the electorate and cancel the whole process has failed spectacularly, reflecting widespread concern in Britain over the last few months that this Liberal Democrat proposal was neither liberal, nor democratic. The Lib Dems failed to rally the remains of Remain, possibly because the British people are simply exhausted by Brexit and want it to end – one way or the other. And Corbyn’s plan to be an “honest broker” favouring neither Remain nor Leave has backfired worse than anyone anticipated.

The nation has been glued to opinion polls throughout the campaign, anxiously and excitedly watching as the Lib Dem and Brexit Party vote share collapsed, while the Conservatives and Labour raced upwards. But hopes or fears of Corbyn achieving the same as in 2017 – of eating into the Conservative majority just enough to cause a hung parliament – failed to materialise. 2019 is not 2017. The Conservatives are no longer led by a reluctant Remainer and mediocre politician, but by an admittedly charismatic leader and enthusiastic Leaver. The Brexit Party became irrelevant once their far bigger rival came under Leave leadership. The Lib Dems’ policy was clearly unpopular with many Remainers uncomfortable at the idea of just cancelling the biggest democratic decision in British history, regardless of their own views. But while the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Brexit Party all clearly stated their Brexit positions and evolved them, Labour did not. The Brexit option offered by Jeremy Corbyn remained more or less the same as his position during the 2016 EU Membership Referendum campaign itself – vague and unclear to everyone.

Labour’s mistake was to frame the December 2019 election around domestic issues. Twelve years after the Global Financial Crisis and ten years after the start of state austerity, Britain is in a shockingly poor condition. Unemployment, growing child poverty, the spread of zero-hours contracts, public services from hospitals to bus routes to police stations being financially eviscerated, intense housing pressure, skyrocketing levels of personal debt – all of these are real, and urgent, and Labour was right to draw attention to them. But Labour was wrong to believe that these were more important to the British people than Brexit.

For the last three (now, nearly four) years, Brexit has colonised British consciousness to the point of complete saturation. Since the beginning of David Cameron’s referendum campaign in 2016, “Brexit” has been a word which the British people have been unable to avoid on a daily basis. Love them or loathe them, Swinson, Farage, Johnson, and Sturgeon at least had a clear position on an issue which has not simply dominated British politics, but has been the entirety of British politics, since 2016. Corbyn’s attempt to focus on domestic issues while treating Brexit as a footnote, was misguided. He wasn’t helped by the poisonous atmosphere of British politics and the polarisation of the British population into warring camps who see the other as not merely different, but evil. He wasn’t helped by his unclear promises on a second Scottish independence referendum, nor by his commitment to scrapping Britain’s nuclear deterrent, nor by his past associations with groups whose commitment to peace and cooperation is, to say the least, highly questionable. He wasn’t helped by a manifesto which promised too much and which was offered by a man whose complete inability to deal with the foul anti-Semitism scandal in Labour gave a widespread impression that if Corbyn can’t manage his own party, he can’t manage an entire country. And he certainly wasn’t helped by a broad perception that the Labour Party (even before he took control) has come to represent the London middle class, rather than the British working class. But as 2017 demonstrated, Corbyn at least had the ability to muddle through these issues, and in the 2019 campaign his past associations with terrorist groups, or his position on Trident nuclear submarines, was barely mentioned compared to 2017. What felled him in December 2019 was a public lack of trust in him and his Brexit position, and a public desperation for Brexit to end, one way or the other.

Britain is now approaching the Brexit endgame. Corbyn will linger on for a while longer, until he steps down in favour of another radical socialist who will lead a remnant of the Labour Party in opposition against a huge Conservative government more preoccupied with the SNP than the Labour MPs sitting across from them. The leaderless Liberal Democrats will wander in the wilderness until reforming as a party dedicated to rejoining the European Union. Nigel Farage will follow Tony Blair into the lucrative job of an after-dinner speaker. In the meantime, Boris Johnson will deliver Brexit. But potentially, a Brexit which is not as harsh as many Remainers feared.

With such a huge majority, and with his rivals and opponents trounced, Boris is not in the same position as Theresa May – trapped by hardline Eurosceptics in the ERG and held to ransom by Arlene Foster’s DUP. 2020 will be dominated by a race against the clock to negotiate a trade deal with Brussels, and the looming war of words between a significantly strengthened case for Scottish independence versus a significantly strengthened case for One Nation Conservatism. But Boris can now comfortably ignore demands for a Hard Brexit and deliver a softer version which will disappoint everyone. But perhaps everyone being disappointed is preferable to half the country being furious. In his speech on the morning of Friday 13th December, Boris acknowledged that much of his vote, like the 2016 Brexit vote, came from the vast and mysterious land beyond London, called “Britain”, whose people are tired of being ignored, tired of being left behind, and eager for remedies to a broken economy and a broken political system. Brexit is coming, and nothing can stop it now. But maybe, just maybe, a majority government aware of the need to placate four angry nations, and aware of the need to strike a good deal with the EU to prevent the further polarisation of the country after January 31st 2020, can do what the British do best, and half-heartedly muddle through.

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Jeremy Corbyn news: JezzFest celebratory event to RETURN – despite election battering | Politics | News

The last Glastonbury-style festival to celebrate the Labour Party leader, dubbed JezzFest, took place in Tottenham, North London in June 2018. Plans for a JezzFest reboot come despite Jeremy Corbyn overseeing the party’s worst general election performance since the 1930s, and admitting he will quit in a matter of weeks. A new JezzFest Twitter account has been opened for the planned event, with a GoFundMe page launched by Nathan Harmer in a desperate bid to raise money for it.

The page has more than 2,000 followers but at the time of writing, just £50 had been donated from a total of four people less than 24 hours after the GoFundMe page was opened.

A tweet on the account says: “Thank you for everyone’s support for this event.

“We’re crowd funding for the event and every penny will help lots.

“Any surplus will be donated to food banks and to homeless charities.

“#JezzFest is going to be epic!”

Twitter user @JakeLex1989, who’s Twitter bio says “#Socialism will prevail, still hoping for a #LabourGov in the future” broke the news of the planned JezzFest reboot.

He tweeted: “OK guys, we’re organising a rally in #Islington some time in early to mid Feb 2020 to show our thanks to @jeremycorbyn.

“Early stages right now but for updates you can follow @JezzFest which is the dedicated account.

READ MORE: Furious Labour MP calls on Corbyn to be replaced as soon as Monday

Another person tweeted: “I wouldn’t mind betting the ERG and the new @Conservatives MPs from former @UKLabour stronghold seats would sponsor the do in grateful thanks for all the help he gave them.”

A third Twitter user wrote: “On behalf of all Tories, I’d love to pay Jeremy our heartfelt thanks for all his hard work over the last four years in helping us stay in power.

“Now he has given us the best Christmas present – a landslide majority. He’s done more for our movement than anyone since Thatcher

Several other Twitter users were so baffled by the relaunch of JezzFest they questioned whether it was actually a joke.

One person said: “Please tell me this is a parody?”

Another Twitter user wrote: “Is this some deep level sarcasm?”

Last year’s event cost a reported £1million to stage but was dominated by dwindling crowds and struggling ticket sales.

The festival was hit by a strong of problems, fuelling fears it was just a vanity project for the Labour leader, who might have been keen on replicating his popularity when he gave a rousing speech at theGlastonbury Festival to tens of thousands of fans a year earlier.

Tickets had been priced at £35 just two days before the event but were quickly slashed to just £10.

Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union and a major donor for the Labour Party, also reportedly spent up to £35,000 buying tickets to hand out to supporters for free.

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