Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold (artist, activist, FTB contributor and online makeup instructor) discuss the Legault Government’s seemingly arbitrary holiday rules for COVID-19 Red Zones. Are they following the health data or just playing to the CAQ base by singling out Christmas?
Joe Biden has won the 2020 US Presidential Election and will be the 46th President of the United States. After the former Vice-President secured Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College Votes, pushing him over the 270 mark required to win, major networks like The Associated Press and CNN made the call.
Some outlets like Decision Desk HQ and The Young Turks had already made the call yesterday morning. Given the contentious nature of this election and the fact that sitting President Donald Trump had already declared victory on Tuesday (Election Night), the major networks waited until they could be absolutely certain that Biden would take Pennsylvania.
Former Senator (and ex-Montrealer) Kamala Harris will be the first female, first African-American and first South Asian-American Vice-President in American history.
There are still recounts pending and the Trump team has several lawsuits in the works. No one can be sure of a smooth transition, but President-Elect Biden is now scheduled to take office January 20, 2021.
In the premier of the FTB Fridays video series, Jason C. McLean speaks with spoken-word artist, writer and seasoned political observer Der Kosmonaut about the fallout from the 2020 US Presidential Election and what might happen in the courts and the streets if Joe Biden wins but Donald Trump refuses to leave.
Now that the second COVID-19 lockdown has taken effect here in Montreal and people are upset with the Legault Government for its seemingly haphazard approach (no gatherings but schools are still open), I think it’s a good time to take a trip back to last week. Way back when our Federal politicians were responding to the pandemic by doing exactly what a Minority Parliament should do — or at least some of them were.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh not only knows how to do his job effectively, he excels at it. He currently has the job of both opposition leader in a Minority Parliament and the head of a party that, at its core, looks out for the average working-class Canadian.
Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s governing Liberal Party delivered their Throne Speech, complete with tons of unnecessary pomp and circumstance. I’m talking about a five minute minivan ride from the Senate Building to the House of Commons and back to pick up the MPs who had already agreed to attend, all carried on live TV.
The speech itself was full of platitudes and vague promises. That didn’t stop the Conservative Party, our Official Opposition, from saying that they would vote against it because there was nothing specifically for the West. The Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, indicated that they would vote against it unless there were extra transfers to the provinces (to Quebec, really) without conditions on how the money was to be spent, so a no-go.
Since the Liberals are a Minority Government and the Throne Speech is one of those things that needs to pass if they are to hold power, all eyes shifted to the NDP. Singh’s New Democrats are the only remaining party that holds enough seats to avoid a fall election by voting with the Libs in favour of the speech.
Turning Words Into Action
In his press conference following the speech, Singh said that the Throne Speech was just “words on paper” with no real-world effect. He made it clear that if the Libs wanted the NDP to vote Yea on it, they needed to turn some of that flowery language into legislation before the vote.
In particular, Singh outlined that the NDP wanted two things:
- When the government transitions the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the Canadian Recovery Benefit (CRB), they won’t claw back $400 a month and turn $2000 a month into $400 a week every two weeks. The bi-weekly approach is fine for the NDP, but they want it kept at $500 a week.
- Federal paid sick leave for Canadian workers.
This set off a predictable series of questions from reporters trying to get Singh to make a firm commitment on the Throne Speech vote, casting what he was asking for as amendments. Singh held his ground and even corrected one journalist who erroneously claimed that no other legislation was possible before the Throne Speech vote.
Turns out Singh was right. Bill C-2 is currently being tabled in Parliament with the changes the NDP asked for.
This legislation dealing with the transition from CERB to CRB will no longer cut $400 a month from benefits. Singh announced this negotiation victory in a Facebook post last Thursday:
Then, last Friday evening, we got word that C-2 would also include a massive extension of access to paid sick leave. And with that, news that the NDP would vote for the Throne Speech, provided, of course, C-2, when tabled, includes the negotiated changes, which it does.
That, my friends, is how you do it. You don’t focus on electoral politics or that weird little cult the PM was part of (We Charity), you recognize that a political opponent needs your support to survive and you use this as an opportunity to get some concrete policy that will actually help people enacted in exchange for it.
This isn’t a time for political glory, but rather one of policy success. Sure, it’s Justin Trudeau who will be proverbially signing the cheques, but everyone knows Jagmeet Singh raised the amount on them.
You don’t ask for the moon, either. Instead, ask for a couple of things that are major, but that you also have a real chance of getting.
As for the Liberals, this was a real no-brainer. On one hand, they could accept a couple of changes that would only endear them to the left and the recipients of the benefits while, at the same time, not lose any corporate donors because they “had to do it” to get the NDP on board. On the other hand, they avoid an election during a pandemic that they very well may be blamed for.
Minority Parliament FTW
Minority Parliaments in recent years (recent decades, to be honest) have been treated by the public, the media and the Members of Parliament themselves as placeholder governments. The party in power just wants to turn it into a Majority, while the opposition parties are looking for the right moment to bring the government down without being tagged with it going into a new election.
That’s unfortunate, considering what Minority Parliaments have achieved in the past. In 1966, for example, a Minority Parliament passed our first National Universal Healthcare law.
That was also a Liberal Minority Government being supported/propped up and pushed further left by a strong NDP.
Who knows what we’ll get if the Trudeau-Singh show keeps going? Some are even speculating Universal Basic Income (UBI).
Sure, UBI may be a pipe dream, but we currently have the right plumbers for it. Even if it doesn’t happen, though, our current Minority Parliament may achieve more than any Liberal or Conservative Majority has in the past half-century.
At the very least, though, we can be happy that, for the first time in a long time, a Minority Parliament is behaving the way it should.
Featured image by Makaristos via Wikimedia Commons
Quebec Premier François Legault announced today “with a heavy heart” (as he put it), that the provincial government is placing the Greater Montreal Region (including Laval and the South Shore), the Quebec City region and the Chaudière-Appalaches region on Code Red due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. This takes effect midnight on Wednesday (early morning Thursday) and means:
- A ban on home gatherings (with a few exceptions)
- Bars and casinos must close
- Restaurants must be takeout or delivery only
- Movie theatres, libraries and museums must close
- Houses of worship and funeral homes will have a 25 person limit
- Being less than two meters apart will be prohibited
- Masks must be worn at demonstrations
It’s interesting to note that schools will remain open. According to Legault, this is so parents can still go to work. As such, businesses like hair salons and hotels will remain open.
By CHRIS DODD
A good many years before John A. Macdonald’s statue was pulled down from its perch in Montreal’s Dominion Square, my high school history class had a debate on the case of Louis Riel. In real life, Riel stood accused of high treason by the government of John A. Macdonald for the ‘crime’ of resisting the transfer of a Métis settlement to the Canadian government. Our class assignment was called: Riel. Hero or villain?
Riel, as you might remember, went onto become the villain in the real story. He was ordered executed by Macdonald and hung in effigy by my history class, which is regretful, since it was my part of class project to defend him. But what chance would a 15-year-old student have as the defender of minority rights when the only knowledge on the topic was gained from books written by English setters?
As an adult armed with knowledge obtained outside of the education system, it is now tempting to weigh Riel’s ‘crime’ against that of some of North America’s colonizers, whose actions are rarely put to such ‘hero or villain’ scrutiny. Take Christopher Columbus for example, accused of genocide, slavery and torture of the indigenous people of the Caribbean. He is celebrated as a hero in the United States, whose shores he never reached.
George Washington made it to Mount Rushmore despite owning slaves, who some history books prefer to call ‘domestics.’
Canada’s own John A. stands accused of supporting the starvation of First Nations people, instituting the residential school system, and condemning Riel to his death. Hero or villain? Well, when you see his face on your money, and his name on schools, highways, a mountain, and an airport, you know the verdict has been reached.
But there was no ‘hero or villain’ debate in my high school history class about Macdonald, although our teacher did throw in a few ‘fun facts’ about him just to make sure that Canadian history didn’t seem too boring. “Oh sure Macdonald was a drunk,” the teacher joked, and “Macdonald married his cousin too, but both of those things were fairly common in those days.”
“Even our heroes have warts,” our teacher said, a familiar refrain that is still heard today “but Canada needs heroes, and Macdonald built our nation,” so that was the end of the story. If only I could go back in time to ask some very uncomfortable questions about those ‘warts’ and the nation that Macdonald was trying to build. Somehow it was never mentioned in my class that Macdonald was the architect of policies so disturbing and inescapably racist that greater knowledge of this history would undermine Canada’s reputation as a tolerant society.
Macdonald recently joined a growing list of bronzed ‘national heroes’ felled by protesters around the world, from Confederate American leaders like Robert E. Lee to the British slave trade profiteer Edward Coulson.
British PM Boris Johnson accused demonstrators in his country of trying to “…censor our past,” and “impoverish the education of generations to come.” Donald Trump, being the American President who, when asked during a TV interview, was unable to recall the name of a single book he had read, somehow felt privileged to provide lectures on history, saying “We should learn from the history,’ to his partisans on Fox News, “and if you don’t understand your history, you will go back to it again.”
Reaching for the low bar with a more conciliatory tone than Trump, Quebec Premier Francois Legault called the Macdonald toppling unacceptable, but added “Of course we need to fight against racism, but that is not the way to do it…we have to respect the history.”
But this is the same Legault who insisted that systemic racism does not exist in Quebec, although it’s difficult to tell, since one sure symptom of systemic racism is the steadfast refusal to acknowledge it. But the ability to express such surefooted opinions on racism from those unlikely to experience it is a Canada-wide phenomenon, starting with education systems that entrench ideas about the British and French ‘founding’ of Canada at the expense of other perspectives. That is what makes Macdonald a hero and Riel the villain. It is also what makes these men lecturing about the need to respect history absurdly hypercritical.
Behind much of the ‘history’ of Canada is the uncomfortable truth that the original plan for Canada was as the North American version of 19th century Britain, designated one of the ‘White Dominions,’ a not so subtle way to distinguish Canadians from others in their global Empire that needed to be ‘colonised’ and ‘civilized.’ Canada’s First Nations stood in the way of that vision, especially since they held valuable land and incompatible cultural values.
The problem with not learning much of this in school and having to find it out for yourself (along with topics such as the existence of slavery in Canada, the wartime internment of Japanese Canadians, the segregation of racial groups on undesirable land such as Halifax’s Africville, the imposition Chinese head tax, and so much more) is that a large part of the population will never know much about them. The sad part about erasing parts of the past that don’t suit the dominant narrative is that it contributes to the ongoing marginalisation of non-White people in the country — in the present.
Still, it is an open question whether dismantling statues is the best way to reclaim history by those left out of it, or as an effective way to protest against racial inequality. Well, actually no, that question is already settled. Macdonald’s downfall has been universally denounced by the press and has provided red meat for the culture war. Such acts are referred to as ‘thuggery’ by some right-wing commentators. The latest example of ‘cancel culture,’ others cry. “An angry mob out to steal ‘your’ history and culture to impose their own,” shout many social media posts.
But how is it not also considered ‘cancel culture’ when the lack of diverse voices in Canada’s mainstream media means that popular opinion is often reflective of that same narrow range of views? Meanwhile, the history, struggles and accomplishments of minorities are minimalised, or even ignored.
These commentators should consider it a privilege not to have been subjected to the ‘cultural genocide’ of the residential schools system. The victims of that system might walk past a statue that reminds them that the country that ignores their history also honours a man who called their people ‘savages’ who ‘must be removed from their parental influence to acquire the habits and modes of White men.’ Is that not also part of the history we have to respect, M. Legault?
We can also question Prime Minister Trudeau’s reaction, saying that such acts of ‘vandalism’ are “…not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country.” But how many concrete achievements toward these goals have been ticked off by the Trudeau government in its five years in office, to match all the talk about the strength of Canada’s diversity and reconciliation with its First Nations?
Action is what happens when people get tired of such talk. Marginalised groups turn to desperation only after they talk about their experiences and notice few people listening.
History has not been changed by pulling down statues of racists. But doing so opens a window for dialogue about history that would otherwise not take place. Such drastic action is often ‘plan B,’ as it is often said. Many other ways of raising awareness about issues of social injustice have been tried. But how has that been working out?
Featured Image: Still from CBC News Video
Last Saturday, Defund the Police protesters, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter marched through the rainy streets of Downtown Montreal. When they arrived in Dominion Square, a group unrelated to the demonstration organization (no one knows who) pulled off something some have tried to do before: they took down the statue of Sir John A. MacDonald:
It was really beautiful how it played out. While it was the activists that pulled Sir John from his pedestal (not an easy feat), the statue was decapitated by the laws of physics themselves.
This statue needed to come down. MacDonald may have been Canada’s first Prime Minister, but he also laid the groundwork, both rhetorically and practically, for the institutionalized subjugation of the original inhabitants of this land and the cultural (and also very real) genocide that made it possible.
I could spend the rest of this piece talking about the details, but I won’t. We’re publishing an article about just that this weekend, and there are plenty of sources already available online with that info.
Also, no one will forget John A. MacDonald without the statue, we just won’t be celebrating him in Downtown Montreal — he is on our money after all!
Instead of the moral reasons for why the statue needed to come down, I’m going to put on my political hat, my very cynical political hat, and offer some free advice to our current politicians in power. I’m being practical here.
My real hope is that the statue doesn’t go back up. Ideally, something celebrating either our diversity or (even better) the First Nations replaces it and that there are no negative repercussions for the people who pulled it down (if they are ever identified). If I have to appeal to baser political instincts to make that happen, so be it.
So Far, Not So Good
For her part, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante responded the same day of the incident with a strong condemnation of “acts of vandalism,” followed by saying that she understands and shares “the motivation of citizens who want to live in a more just and inclusive society” but that this is not the way, followed by a statement that the SPVM (Montreal Police) are gonna do what they gonna do:
Now I am, for the most part, a Plante supporter, but this was the wrong way, politically, to respond. Of course she can’t be in favour of vandalism, but she could have said just that without the strong condemnation, and not even mentioned the SPVM (and behind the scenes told them to not bother investigating).
Instead she irritated her own base. The people who love Sir John and care about this above all else aren’t generally those who support Projet Montréal.
Meanwhile, Quebec Premier François Legault said that the statue will be “dusted off, restored and put back” where it was, presumably with the head re-attached. While I get that Legault’s base is right-leaning, last time I checked, Sir John A. MacDonald wasn’t one of their heroes.
While I believe Quebec Nationalism is just as colonial as the Canadian variety, this is one case where I kinda wished Legault’s latent sovereignist aspirations had reared their ugly head. Instead we found out that the CAQ is more interested in right-wing values of “law and order” than in Quebec values.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, sounded just like you would expect him to. He kept things in the conceptual: vandalism is not the way (appeal to the right), we need to examine the legacy of former Prime Ministers (appeal to the left) including his own father’s (make it personal). End scene!
Of course Trudeau won’t decide if the statue goes back up or not. And neither will Legault. It’s a municipal decision.
So the ball’s in Plante’s corner, and I strongly encourage her to drop it and then kick it back to the wall. She should only pick this particular ball back up when we are ready to move on to a different statue.
That is unless she wants to truly own the moment and either look for or propose other people to honour. But if she doesn’t, then inaction for the moment, in this case, is fine.
The Statue Will Go
Getting rid of paint is one thing. Fixing then replacing a statue that has already been toppled and decapitated is a whole other ballgame.
It would be akin to being the administration that decided to spend money on commemorating Sir John A. MacDonald in the first place. In 2020.
This statue will be down for good eventually. If it gets replaced and the official process to remove it doesn’t work, you’d better believe protesters will take it down again…they clearly know how to do it.
Don’t let the unsanctioned way the statue came down justify putting it back up. The protestors did you a favour by accomplishing what the bureaucracy could not.
Sure, don’t support what they did officially, but don’t go after them either. Be a politician.
Recognize that your base wants the statue down, those who want it back up probably won’t vote for you anyways, and most people just don’t care enough for it to matter.
Do the smart political thing. It just so happens that it’s also the right thing to do.
Featured Image: Still from CBC News Video
Joe Biden officially named Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 US Election on August 11th. Since then, all eyes have understandably been on the California Senator and former Presidential candidate.
Biden was leading in the polls prior to the Democratic National Convention, and performed better than expected at the DNC. The former Vice President has already said that he will rely quite a bit on his VP if elected. Also, to put it as delicately as possible, if Biden wins, there is a chance that his VP pick might secure the nomination for President or the Presidency itself sooner than eight years from now.
So who Biden’s running mate is carries a weight both in terms of winning and governing that VP picks don’t usually have to deal with.
The Right and the Establishment React
Right-wing pundits have dusted off the whole “radical left agenda” chestnut, proving that they will level those claims at truly anyone the Dems put up. Also proving that actually having a radical left agenda is no more dangerous for a candidate than not, as Fox News and speakers at the Republican National Convention (RNC) will say you do regardless. But I digress…
As expected, so-called centrist Dems, or the Democratic Establishment (basically the MSNBC crowd), are all very excited and supportive of the VP choice. So are the Liberal-supporting centrists here in Canada.
They are joined, though, by more than a handful of Canadian progressives. I’m talking “I vote NDP but wish they went more left, Trudeau’s just Harper with good hair and slightly better social policies” progressives.
Not sure if it’s because, when it comes to US politics, the bar is in a much different place, or the fact that Harris is an ex-Montrealer who went to Westmount High School. I didn’t go to Westmount High myself, though quite a few friends did, and it isn’t a private school, but a public one with a bit of a rough reputation — at least it had one in the late 70s and early 80s when she attended.
When it comes to American progressives, the VP nod has split opinion into three camps:
Kamala the Cop
Some have brought back the “Kamala is a Cop” narrative, to remind people of her significantly less-than-stellar criminal justice record as both a District Attorney and the California Attorney General. Given that she once referred to herself as the “top cop” in the state, you can’t really say the charge is unfair.
Harris’ time as a prosecutor has been both decried as regressive and even hailed as progressive. Democracy Now recently had two guests on that outlined their points.
Given the current climate, Harris’ record, when combined with Biden’s co-authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill, puts up a couple of red flags progressives find hard to ignore. And many aren’t.
Apparently the answer to a movement for black lives is someone who helped perpetuate a lock em up regime while letting the powerful in Silicon Valley and Wall Streeters like Steve Mnuchin loot with impunity. Happy 2020. #BidenVP https://t.co/EQNKglP0gM— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) August 11, 2020
It’s also what might help deflect any last-ditch attacks from the Trump camp. With the current President’s COVID-19 response failing across the board, the Law and Order card is the last one he has to play, and it may backfire if he tries to play it against former prosecutor Harris.
Kamala the Progressive Senator and Paradigm Breaker
Harris is both the first black woman and the first Asian-American to be a major party nominee for the Executive Branch. So this would be a paradigm-breaking administration, which is needed, especially given the rise of white nationalism under Trump.
That, along with the argument that her Senate record on Criminal Justice Reform, which many argue is significantly more progressive than her prosecutorial one, has some on the left genuinely excited by her candidacy. This includes some you wouldn’t expect.
In 2018, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King said that the two candidates he would not support with 99% certainty were Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Good thing he didn’t say 100% because last week he tweeted this:
That’s it for me.— Shaun King (@shaunking) August 11, 2020
I am incredibly proud to see a brilliant Black woman, and HBCU grad, chosen as a Vice Presidential nominee.
I’ve done political work my whole life. It’s rarely things dreams are made of.
Kamala Harris is the most progressive VP nominee in American history.
Kamala the Better Opponent
There’s another line of thinking espoused by some progressives, including hosts on The Young Turks and by me, at least in solidarity. I can’t vote in the US Election, but if I could, this would be my stance.
Put simply, it poses the question: Who would you rather fight for four years?
Joe Biden is clearly not in the progressive camp of the Democratic Party, far from it. But he is someone who listens to people in the room.
Kamala Harris may have a few more progressive bona fides than her running mate, but she is also far from an ideal lefty choice. She is, however, also someone who knows how to read the room and who acts accordingly.
Harris was originally for Medicare-for-All…before she was against it. While that may be something a typical shifty politician would do, it also means there is an opportunity to get her to switch her position back to the left.
Of course that is unlikely, but at least there is room to try. And if her and Biden don’t deliver, they can be primaried in 2024.
Come to think of it, if Biden serves out his full first term but declines to run again, Harris will most likely face multiple primary challengers, even from the center and right of the Democratic Party. These challenges would not even be motivated by ideological ideals, but by old-fashioned greed.
Even if that doesn’t happen, fighting against people who will listen and who need your votes to stay in power is a helluva lot better than the alternative.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence won’t listen in political circles. And if the RNC’s actions this week are any indication, they will make fighting back in the streets very difficult.
Oh yeah, there’s the whole inevitable dive into unchecked fascism that a second Trump term will bring. But I digress again.
It’s clear who the better opponents are.
Last night, a gunman shot and killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin and injured a third. This was on the third consecutive night of protests sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, and unarmed black man, was shot in the back seven times in front of his three young sons, paralyzing him.
Today, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he will be sending federal law enforcement to Wisconsin after getting Governor Tony Evans to agree to the deployment:
It’s clear to anyone who has been following Trump’s response to protests these past few months that the “violence” he hopes to quell is the protests themselves. In reality, though, the most devastating violence in Wisconsin these past few days was at the hands of the police and the young gunman.
What We Know
Speaking of the gunman, there are reports from witnesses that he passed a line of police before the shooting, carrying a large weapon, and they thanked him for being there. Multiple people on the scene claim that he is part of one of the “self-styled militias” that have been present at the protests.
He was arrested in Antioch, Illinois and while authorities initially refused to give his name as he is a minor, various social media posts and now CNN confirm that he is 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse of Antioch. I generally shy away from repeating the names of murderers who crave notoriety, but in this case, it may not be an open-and-shut case legally, plus his influences are relevant, so making him famous could be a necessary step towards getting justice.
So what do we know about him? At this point, not much for sure.
Is he a member of an organised militia? Probably.
Is he a white supremacist? No evidence of that, but it honestly wouldn’t surprise me.
One thing we can tell through his social media posts is that he is very much pro-police. I’m talking cosplay fetish-level pro-cop.
So it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he viewed the protests as a threat. Of course, the fact that he crossed state lines to march around them with a large weapon pretty much confirms that.
Mirroring Trump’s RNC Message
This is all happening while the Republican National Convention is in full swing. One of the recurring themes of the RNC this year is that America is under attack from “dangerous leftist radicals” in groups like Black Lives Matter and Antifa (which isn’t even an organized group, but whatever).
Forget the heady days of “good people on all sides” as a way to normalize white supremacists by drawing a false equivalency with anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters. Now, Trump and his GOP cronies are full-throated police state advocates.
Their messaging is clear: People protesting police violence are a threat! Their messaging to protesters is equally unambiguous: Stay off the streets! If some vigilante influenced by us murders some of you, rest assured that we’re still coming for you, not them!
Whether Rittenhouse was actually inspired directly by what’s being said currently at the RNC or not is irrelevant. The narrative that leftists are dangerous that started with them has now sunk through to other levels of society, including armed 17-year-olds.
Donald Trump’s messaging has casualties in Wisconsin.
Featured Image via Democracy Now!
Some Montreal transit fares will be going up as of October 1st.
After a few months of record low ridership on the Metro and bus travel in Montreal essentially being free, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is now gradually returning to front-end boarding (requiring payment) on all bus routes. Transit users will, in some cases, be paying a bit more to ride on the STM’s network this fall.
The biggest price hike will be the monthly pass, going from $86.50 to $88.50. The ten ticket combo, the three day pass and the weekly pass will each go up by 50 cents, or $29.00 to $29.50, $19.50 to $20.00 and $26.75 to $27.25 respectively.
The Unlimited Evening Pass (6pm to 5am) will remain at $5.50 and the Unlimited Week-End Pass (Friday 4pm to Monday 5am) will go from $14.00 to $14.25. For the first time, though, both will cover not only the Island of Montreal, but the entire Montreal Metropolitan Region (including Laval and the South Shore).
The price of a single ticket ($3.50), two tickets bought together ($6.50) and the Trudeau Airport Shuttle ($10) will remain the same.
Sure, I had “Donald Trump Attempts to Cancel US Democracy Itself” on my 2020 Bingo Card. I even had the excuses he would use (mail-in voting/Coronavirus) and the method of notification (tweet). But, let’s be honest, so did pretty much everyone else.
It is, at the same time, an unprecedented and frightening attack on the fundamentals of American Democracy, plunging the US one giant step closer to dictatorship, and a move so predictable I could have written most of this post a few months ago and just filled in the blanks with details today.
This morning, US President Donald Trump tweeted:
With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 30, 2020
No, He Can’t Just Do That
In case you were wondering, no, he can’t, on his own, postpone a Presidential Election, or any election, for that matter. Unlike parliamentary democracies such as Canada, where Minority Governments are a thing, US election dates are fixed.
The Presidency is a four-year term, no more, no less, period. That’s why, when a president is impeached, steps down, or passes away before the four years are up, the office and all of its powers transfer to the next one in line instead of holding an election when it’s not the appropriate time.
The only way to move the voting day, even slightly, is with a law passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President. Changing the date a new president takes office or an incumbent president starts their second term, on the other hand, would take a constitutional amendment. (As a Canadian, thanks to Cenk Uygur of TYT for this info, which apparently most Americans learn in high school civics.)
Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi and her sometimes lackluster legislative opposition to Trump, there’s no way she lets him get away with this one in the House. Meanwhile constitutional amendments take years, not the weeks, and the election is fewer than 100 days away, so also a no-go.
So Why Worry?
So, if Trump can’t legally pull off what he suggested in his tweet, why worry? Putting aside the fact that legality doesn’t seem to be that much of an obstacle for him, the real concern is the tweet itself.
While it’s structured like a typical Trump toilet tweet, there are some noticeable differences:
- He only uses all caps twice to highlight specific words.
- He says there is a difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting (there isn’t) in an attempt to preempt a common argument that his opposition to mail-in voting is hypocritical because he votes absentee himself and wrong because US troops stationed overseas have been doing it for years.
- There are no glaring grammatical errors.
- It was posted at 8:46am, a good time to be in the morning news cycle, and not at 3am like other tweets.
All this leads me to believe that someone else read it and edited it before he sent it. Maybe someone else even wrote it. This is Trump on-prompter written to sound like Trump off-the-cuff.
It’s not the unhinged ramblings of a troll. It’s a political test balloon.
They’re seeing how many people will go along with subversion of democracy either before or after the election and laying the groundwork for a challenge to the election results if Trump loses. And it looks like he might very well lose.
Sure, the polls in 2016 were saying that Hillary Clinton would win, but not by as much as they are saying Joe Biden will win this time. Also not in the same places – Trump’s poised to lose the suburbs hard.
Biden’s strategy of staying at home, poking his head out occasionally and letting Trump destroy himself in the spotlight seems to be working. Subverting American Democracy itself may be the current president’s last option.
We all knew it would come to this, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.
Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold
We are in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 is ravaging the United States and the European Union and other countries are slowly easing their lockdown restrictions as doctors, epidemiologists, paramedics, and other essential workers scramble to get it under control.
As a member of the immune-compromised I have been extremely careful. I haven’t been to a store, restaurant, or bar in months, and I don’t let anyone in my home unless they wash their hands, remove their shoes, and keep two meters apart during their visit. When I go out, it’s always straight to a car and to a private home where I am extra careful to minimize physical contact and wash my hands regularly. When I’m in any public space, however briefly, I always wear a mask.
That said, while it is highly unlikely that I have COVID-19, it’s not impossible. I am having flu-like symptoms that started with a mild sore throat and a little chest congestion.
After mulling it over, I decided to bite the bullet and get myself tested yesterday. If you’re having any cold or flu-like symptoms, have been to a bar recently, or come in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should get tested too.
Not sure how? I’m here to help.
This article is about how to get tested for COVID-19 in Quebec and what to expect. I hope you’ll be encouraged to at the very least get assessed to see if being tested is necessary. We’re all in this together, so let’s keep each other safe and informed.
First step is to call one of the Quebec government’s COVID-19 information lines, depending on your region. Not sure if you should get tested? Tell the phone operator and they will transfer you to a nurse who will assess you.
If she thinks you need to get tested for COVID-19, she will ask you for your postal code, find the nearest test center, and book you an appointment that best fits your schedule. You will also need to provide your phone number, Medicare number, and email address.
You should get an appointment confirmation by email almost immediately. You can also expect to get multiple reminders by text message in the day or two before the appointment. They will give you the option of cancelling your appointment online.
While it’s not my place to tell anyone what to do, I will say that it is better to know one way or the other than to not know if you have COVID-19, so keep that appointment.
Bring a mask with you and be prepared to wait in line outside the test centre. The one closest to me was at 5800 Cote des Neiges in Montreal, in a sort of construction trailer in the parking lot of the Jewish General Hospital. Every once in a while someone in full mask and protection gear will come out and ask if anyone has an appointment. If you do, they will call you in.
Once inside, you are immediately required to put on a fresh mask and sanitize your hands. Then you are sent to a waiting area with chairs divided by walls to ensure social distancing.
You’ll feel a bit like a sideshow display, but it’s comfortable. The ambiance of the test centre feels like the pop up lab the government set up in the movie ET and you will be required to sanitize your hands nearly every step of the way.
After a few minutes, the worker who called you in will sanitize the phone allowing you to speak to the administrator who is protected by a wall with a window, not unlike the setup in some prisons. You are required to press your Medicare card to the window for the admin worker who will register you, which includes confirming your email address and emergency contacts. They will ask if you’re ok getting a negative result by email as well.
You are then sent back to the waiting area. I cannot vouch for wait times, as I know they vary, but I was called in less than thirty minutes.
A nurse in full protective gear will then bring you to a room near the exit. Another nurse similarly dressed will be seated at a computer and will ask you questions about travel, who you have been in contact with, and what your symptoms are. They will then give you a sheet with a number you can call if you don’t get your results in two to five days and your file number.
If the results are negative you will get an email. If they’re positive, expect a phone call.
Then the dreaded moment comes: the nurse asks you to lower your mask below your nose, holds out a giant flexible swab, and tells you to tilt your head back.
You know that expression “Mind if I pick your brain”? That’s exactly what the test itself feels like. You think that swab can’t possibly go further up your nose, that there simply isn’t room, and yet it does.
However, the test is quick, and the nurses are as gentle with administering such an uncomfortable test as can be. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the swab is out and you’re free to go with your information sheet and instructions to self-isolate for five days.
You are warned that the phone call when and if it comes will say “Private Number” in your caller ID and won’t leave a message. A healthcare worker will then instruct you to sanitize your hands immediately before you go out the exit. You are then free to go home to self-isolation.
That said, if you are having any symptoms resembling a cold, flu, or sinus infection and/or have been anywhere or in contact with anyone that puts you at risk of catching COVID-19, get yourself tested. The comfort of knowing one way or the other far outweighs the speedy discomfort of the test itself.
We’re all in this together. Stay safe, stay sane, wear a mask, and wash your hands.
Featured image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Effective immediately, Quebec bars must stop selling alcohol at midnight and all patrons must leave by 1am instead of staying open to the normal 3am. They must also limit capacity to 50% of what is indicated on their liquor permit.
Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé made the announcement today alongside National Public Health Director Horacio Arruda. He pointed to the 130 new COVID-19 cases, an increase, as well as an outbreak that happened at a bar in Brossard on the South Shore of Montreal as reasoning.
The government is also asking bar owners to take down the names and phone numbers of customers who visit so Public Health can call them if someone who tested positive was in the same bar they were at the same time. This is a voluntary registry, and a seemingly ad-hoc one at that for the moment, but Dubé isn’t ruling out making an official version.
Police will be stationed in high traffic areas to make sure bars are following the new rules. Dubé said it will be easier than going into each establishment to ensure social distancing.
Both Dubé and Arruda said that this approach also serves as a reminder that despite the nice weather and deconfinement, the pandemic is not over.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced on social media today that the city is working on a bylaw that will require everyone to wear a mask when in enclosed indoor public spaces as of July 27th. There will be fines for businesses and individuals caught breaking the bylaw after that date.
Nous devons tout mettre en oeuvre pour nous protéger. C’est pourquoi j’annonce que la @MTL_Ville travaille sur un règlement qui rendra obligatoire le port du couvre-visage dans les lieux publics fermés. Pour plus de détails: https://t.co/xSyax1uoYx #polmtl pic.twitter.com/4zolNzbOGs— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) July 6, 2020
The Quebec Government made mask wearing mandatory on public transit last week. This latest move by Montreal builds on that and was spurred, according to Plante, by outbreaks of COVID-19 off-island and the current situation in the US.
Plante explained to Le Téléjournal that while the bylaw will apply to bars and restaurants, people will, of course, be able to remove their masks when eating and drinking. The mayor said the city consulted with bar and restaurant owners as well as other merchants before making the announcement.
The bylaw will not apply to private shared spaces like the common areas of apartment buildings or office towers. The Quebec Government is working on regulations or recommendations for those spaces.
While it will take three weeks to work out all the specifics and make sure people are properly notified before the bylaw goes into effect, Plante hopes Montrealers will start acting like it’s already a reality and wear masks when indoors in public. As the mayor told CBC, the bylaw will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis.
UPDATE: The Quebec Government has reversed its decision to only release data weekly and will instead continue to release it on a daily basis.
Yesterday, the Quebec Government announced that it will no longer be publishing daily numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths as it has been since the beginning of the pandemic. They will still be collecting data but only releasing it to the public on a weekly basis.
Today, at a press conference in Montreal, Quebec’s National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda assured reporters that the data will still be looked at on a daily basis and if there was urgent information that needs to be communicated, it will be. Also, if the numbers start rising, they will go back to daily updates.
Arruda also announced the deconfinement of most of the remaining sectors of the economy. Bars, amusement parks, casinos, spas, water parks and hotels can now re-open while festivals and other large events, overnight camps and combat-related sporting events cannot.
Arruda stressed that these businesses must impose social distancing restrictions, in particular the two-meter rule. He also encouraged wearing masks as much as possible and didn’t rule out reconfinement if COVID numbers spike.
There will undoubtedly be some changes in how some businesses operate. For example, Arruda mentioned that bar patrons will need to remain seated as much as possible and not move around, much like restaurants, so probably no dance floor either.
A few years ago, there was a push to rename Lionel-Groulx Metro after late Montreal jazz legend Oscar Peterson. Now that movement is back, currently in the form of a petition.
Of course it has returned now. With statues to racists and colonialists toppling all around the world, and in particular in the US, people are re-evaluating not only who needs to go, but who needs to be honoured instead.
Oscar Peterson was an eight-time Grammy winner praised by Duke Ellington as the “Maharaja of the keyboard” despite the keys only being his second instrument with a career that lasted over 60 years. He also grew up and honed his talents in Little Burgundy, one of the two communities directly served by the metro station.
As for the current namesake, Lionel Groulx, he was a vocal member of a far-right Quebec nationalist group from 1929-1939. Some, most notably Esther Deslile and Mordecai Richler, argue that the group, Groulx included, were borderline fascist and quite anti-Semetic.
Groulx also opposed Jewish immigration to Quebec in the time leading up to World War II and wanted people to boycott Jewish-owned Montreal businesses.
Was Groulx a slave-owner, murderous colonialist like Amherst, or avowed Nazi? No. Was he a virulent anti-Semite? Sure seems like it. Is he, at best, a problematic figure? Yes. Does he have anything to do with Little Burgundy or Montreal’s Sud-Ouest? Absolutely not.
So why name one of the most used metro stops in the city after him? There’s a small avenue bearing his name that intersects with Atwater Avenue right in front of the metro and the STM likes to name their stations after streets or places.
So, a quick fix would be for the city to rename Avenue Lionel Groulx in Little Burgundy Avenue Oscar Peterson and then the STM would have no excuse not to follow. Or, they could simply name the green area surrounding the metro Place Oscar Peterson, as with the area surrounding Place-St-Henri Metro.
Renaming a metro station won’t be erasing Lionel Groulx. There’s also a CEGEP named after him and a street in Saint-Leonard.
But isn’t Oscar Peterson already honoured? Yes, Concordia’s concert hall on the Loyola Campus bears his name, as it should, but that’s at the western end of NDG, two metro stops and a bus ride from the community he grew up in.
Shouldn’t our metro stations and other landmarks honour our local communities and, in particular, our racialzied communities? Why does some white Quebec nationalist theorist with problematic views get a Montreal Metro station in between Little Burgundy and St-Henri named after him when there is clearly a better, more locally representative and internationally renown option?
It’s not just about removing, it’s about respecting and reflecting our communities. We need Metro Oscar-Peterson. If you agree, sign the petition.
Featured image of Peterson in 1977 by Tom Marcello via WikiMedia Commons