Politics Insider for Dec. 6, 2021: Confusion in southern Africa; O’Toole’s last shot; and 100 years of women in the House
Stuck in Africa: New federal travel rules have stranded some Canadians in southern Africa and forced others to fly to war-torn Ethiopia on their way home, the Globe’s Geoffrey York reports from South Africa.
Under a new rule imposed last month, Canadians are prohibited from using a COVID-19 test from any southern African country if they are returning to Canada from one of those countries. Instead, they must obtain a molecular test from a third country – a rule that has obliged some Canadians to stop in Ethiopia on their way home, despite federal advisories against travel to Ethiopia because of its civil war. On the weekend, the federal government announced a temporary exemption from the rule – but only for one airline, Germany’s Lufthansa, and only for a week. The exemption allows transit only through Frankfurt’s airport. Scientists and other experts have sharply criticized the Canadian refusal to accept southern African tests. South African laboratories are considered world class and detected the new Omicron variant before any other country did, they noted.
Not testing yet: Although the government has stranded Canadians in Africa, it has yet to pull the trigger on enhanced testing at Pearson, CTV reports.
Toronto Pearson said they are still waiting for a date from the federal government about when the new testing program will come into effect. Until the program comes into effect, COVID-19 testing of international travellers only happens randomly and vaccinated travellers do not need to isolate.
Groundhog day: In the Star, Supriya Dwivedi has a column lamenting the rise of Omicron, and wishing that public health leaders would take the steps necessary to end the pandemic.
We need public health and infection prevention and control leaders to acknowledge that COVID is spread through the air, not just through droplets. Canada should be emulating countries like France and have clear guidance on air quality control measures. Instead of continuing with the theatrics of deep cleaning surfaces and putting up Plexiglas barriers everywhere, we should be imploring the public to upgrade to better masks. And we should be handing out rapid tests like surplus Halloween candy, making them widely and readily available to every single person, business and organization that wants them.
And ICYMI, here’s Justin Ling on ‘the plexiglass barrier problem‘, in Maclean’s in October.
Climate progress: In Maclean’s, Shannon Proudfoot observes that the Liberals look determined to make progress on climate policy in the year ahead, pointing out that Mother Nature has been making sure it is top of mind of voters.
If the summer of 2022 unfolds anything like the way the summer of 2021 did, it will serve only to focus a more urgent spotlight on the issue. Last year saw flash flooding in Europe that killed hundreds, drought, wildfires and, perhaps most dramatically—and most viscerally close to home for Canadians—a “heat dome” that descended on the West Coast in late June. Great swaths of British Columbia spent days on end punished by record-breaking heat; the temperatures were apocalyptic, boiling shellfish alive on beaches. The village of Lytton, B.C., spent three consecutive days suffering under the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Canada, peaking at 49.5° C on June 29. And then, as if the universe really had a point to make and was not particularly interested in narrative restraint, a wildfire charged down the valley and burned Lytton, which had been home to 250 people, to the ground.
Fighting O’Toole: Erin O’Toole isn’t going down without a fight, reports Stephanie Levitz for the Star.
In the last three weeks, he’s publicly dressed down his MPs who challenge vaccine science, booted a long-time party loyalist out of caucus and in a move even critics applauded, convinced a sizeable faction of his caucus to give up their fight against a ban on conversion therapy. Those close to O’Toole say the leader on display now is a man who knows he’s only got one shot left at winning government for his party — if he even gets that far.
Although his poll numbers are not good, Levitz reports that he is working the grass roots in the event that he has to face a review sooner that he would like to.
Speaking of O’Toole’s numbers. Philippe J. Fournier looks at the latest Abacus numbers for Maclean’s and notes a troubling trajectory for the Tory leader.
Rein in Poilievre: Also in the Star, Chantal Hebert notes that the Conservatives were wise to sidestep a fight over conversion therapy.
One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to note that the timing of that vote conveniently fit the Liberals’ pre-electoral political agenda. The divisions it brought to light could not but cast more doubt on O’Toole’s capacity to make good, should he become prime minister, on his commitment to protect abortion and LGBTQ rights.
Hebert thinks, though, that O’Toole would be wise to get Pierre Poilievre to start saying things that make sense.
Week in and week out, there are more columns, and more analysis of the distortions finance critic Pierre Poilievre brings to the discussion than about the government’s handling or mishandling of the economy
Jean over Kenny: A Leger poll says Brian Jean has a better chance as leader of the UCP come election time than Jason Kenney, the Edmonton Journal reports.
The online Leger poll of 1,000 adult Albertans from Nov. 16 to 29 found that 18 per cent said they would most likely vote for Jean in the next Alberta provincial election compared to 15 per cent who would choose Kenney. Just over half — 51 per cent — of those polled said they would not vote for the UCP at all.
Jean is seeking the UCP’s nomination in the upcoming Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche byelection.
One to watch: In the Calgary Herald, Don Braid has a column on the fierce backroom struggle going on in the nomination battle, which looks like a race to watch.
Brian Jean as an official UCP candidate would be a huge symbolic defeat for Kenney. It would imply that UCP members who want him out have a wide base in the province. There aren’t many Canadian premiers — certainly not this one — who would tolerate a former leadership competitor in their caucus as a declared member of an internal opposition party. And so, Kenney’s people are striving to short-circuit Jean before he gets started. Some 370 new UCP members were signed up by Gogo’s backers and submitted by the final cutoff date. Jean’s campaigners feel they have majority backing based on his long record in federal and provincial politics and based on his support for the community.
Not Alberta bound: Speaking of Alberta polls, there’s some interesting stuff to mull over in this Maru Public Opinion poll from CBC, including news that Kenney polls better outside his province than in it, and half of Canadians in other provinces say they would not feel comfortable moving there.
Maximum security: Maxime Bernier has easily held on to the leadership of the party he founded, winning 96 per cent of votes cast in a leadership review, CP reports.
Mad Randy: Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, who was kicked out of the PCs in 2019, will lead a new party — the Ontario First Party, which sounds like a provincial version of the PPC, the Star reports.
A century of women in the House: Today marks 100 years since Agnes Macphail won a seat in the first Canadian federal election in which most women were allowed to vote. CBC has a look back at the progress made and the challenges that remain.
Fewer than five per cent of MPs in the 1960s were women — a share that grew to 30 per cent in the most recent election. But while having 103 of the 338 seats in the Commons filled by women may represent progress, it’s still a long way from parity. “It’s a glass half full,” (Jane) Arscott said. “But then, you might also say that the glass is teeming. It’s teeming with possibilities for what could happen if people have the courage to be bold and step forward.”
Check out this 1933 profile of Macphail from Maclean’s.
— Stephen Maher