Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the UN Security Council’s rare universal condemnation of and call for an investigation into Israel killing Palestinain-American Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh harassed in Peterborough, Francois Legault refusing to participate in an English Leaders’ Debate and Elon Musk pausing his purchase of Twitter.

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the news that the US Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade and what it might mean for Canada & the Federal Conservative Party Leadership Race plus try and find some lighter news.

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the giant and expensive ring coming to Downtown Montreal and the reaction to it, Canada lifting the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood (and Hema-Quebec doing something “distinct”) and Elon Musk’s plans for Twitter.

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Montreal’s pilot project to allow the S.A.T. to serve alcohol without a last call, Russia banning 61 more Canadians, the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard defamation trial and more

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Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Pope Francis’ planned visit to Canada to meet with Residential School survivors, Elon Musk’s attempt to buy Twitter (and Twitter’s attempts to block him), the City of Montreal moving forward on Falaise St-Jacques Park and more.

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Dawn McSweeney and Jason C. McLean discuss Elon Musk purchasing 9% of Twitter and not declaring it right away to make some cash, 10 Montreal streets going pedestrian-only for the next three summers and Will Smith being barred from the Oscars for 10 years.

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On a Saturday edition of FTB Fridays, Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the recent deal between Jagmeet Singh’s NDP and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, François Legault and the upcoming Quebec election and the ongoing Ukraine invasion.

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter and Instagram @mcmoxy and read her book The Mountains We Climb by Accident

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Jagmeet Singh and the Federal NDP struck a deal with Justin Trudeau’s Minority Liberal Government to support them electorally when it comes to confidence motions until 2025, giving the Libs a defacto Majority Government. In exchange, the NDP (and Canadians) get dental care gradually implemented until everyone earning less than $70 000 a year is covered by 2025, a Canada Pharmacare Act passed by the end of 2023 and other New Democrat priorities that, until now, the Libs have only given lip service to, actually worked on.

This is exactly how minority parliaments can produce good results. It’s also another smart political move on the part of Singh and a surprisingly cautious one on the part of Trudeau. Or, as some commenters have put it, a tyrannical power grab.

Allow me to address the last group first: I won’t bother explaining how parliamentary democracy works or even go beyond seat counts and mention that in 2021, the total combined vote percentage for the Liberals and NDP was 50.44%, compared to 48.65% if you add up the percentages the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois, the People’s Party and (why not) the Green Party got. You won’t think anything but what you want happening is legit.

I will, though, ask you what’s worse: a defacto Trudeau Majority until 2025 with free dental or a proper Trudeau Majority until 2027 with nothing but what the Liberals want? Because the latter is exactly what we would get if there was an election next year with Pierre Poilievre leading the Conservative Party (CPC).

A right-wing CPC Leader might please the party base, neutralize the People’s Party and win a handful of seats in the Prairies, but even tacit association with or presumed endorsement of the unrest in Ottawa would destroy the party’s chances in the 905 and 519 area codes, the riding-rich areas surrounding Toronto, where federal elections are generally decided in Canada. Also, Poilievre’s flirtation with hard social conservatives would cause some progressive-minded voters to not risk voting NDP and select the Libs out of fear.

So, the question I have for fellow progressives and NDP supporters who may be less than thrilled at the prospect of the New Democrats propping up Trudeau is a slightly altered one (I already assume you understand how parliamentary democracy works): Would you prefer supporting three years of Liberal rule with key NDP policies being enacted or Liberal rule until at least 2027 with no concessions and a weakened New Democrat caucus?

Some opposition members have also dubbed this a “power grab” by Trudeau. They’re wrong, of course. If this is a power grab by anyone, it’s by Singh on behalf of those who support NDP policy.

The “on behalf of” part is crucial. This isn’t a formal Coalition Government. Don’t expect NDP MPs to occupy cabinet posts. It’s the policies that have power, policies that when implemented Trudeau may very well get credit for.

Yes, that’s a risk, but it’s a calculated one and a worthwhile one to take. Singh is getting things done and doing an excellent job as an opposition leader. While he won’t get the full credit if and when these plans are implemented, he is showing the power of voting NDP and giving New Democrats a larger voice.

Sure, these wins aren’t perfect (I, for one, would have preferred immediate coverage of all dental for everyone under the Canada Health Act) and they aren’t confirmed wins yet. Quebec Premier François Legault has already promised to challenge dental care and pharmacare on provincial jurisdictional grounds and says other premiers such as Doug Ford will do the same (Let’s make “Legault wants me to have a toothache” an election year slogan, shall we?).

Regardless of the outcome, though, it is a great step forward for Singh and the NDP. I am surprised why Trudeau jumped on, though. He could have waited a year and got the majority he was setting himself up for.

Maybe he thought that Poilievre wouldn’t win the CPC nom after all (Jean Charest is polling well) so he decided to play it safe. Maybe he thought that he could get some popular policies through and use the NDP deal as political cover for his corporate donors who may not like some of them.

Or maybe, for Trudeau and Singh, this is about exactly what they said it was: stability.

Regardless, I’m really starting to like the possibilities minority parliaments have to offer.

So Jean Charest is running to be leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Yes, THAT Jean Charest. The former Quebec Premier and Maple Spring antagonist who lost power after over a decade because people took to the streets en masse after he refused to budge an inch.

I have three thoughts on this completely expected announcement last week (the fact that he caught COVID and is campaigning from home was a bit of a surprise, but doesn’t change my thoughts on him) :

1. I despise Jean Charest

He is the living embodiment of bourgeois arrogance and austerity for everyone but the rich. Charest was kicked “dehors” but wasn’t someone supposed to find him “un job dans le Nord”? I guess that didn’t work out and instead we have the most undeserving and undesirable of political comebacks.

Maybe he feels that others in Quebec may remember his political exit in 2012 more than anything else, which could be why he chose to launch his campaign in Alberta. That or a desire to appeal to the party base. Either way, typica crafty, slimy Charest.

2. He’s the Conservatives’ Best Chance of Actually Winning

Sadly, it’s true. The first time he ran for Conservative leadership (it was the PC party then, not the CPC), Charest lost his bid but was one of only two MPs to keep their seat when Jean Chretien wiped the Kim Campbell-led party off the political map.

Unless Quebec decides to collectively do something unexpected (which they do every few decades or so), federal elections in Canada are decided by hockey moms and dads in the 905 and 519. Charest can play to that crowd, a right-winger cannot.

And Charest is the one with name recognition. Sure, in Quebec it’s complicated, but that’s not the case everywhere else, like in Calgary where he announced his candidacy.

3. He Won’t Win the Nomination

Pierre Poilievre will most likely get the nomination. He’s Justin Trudeau’s dream opponent. Getting the CPC base to replace Erin O’Toole with a far right winger was part of his reasoning when he called the last election.

Canada is a center-left country and Trudeau knows it. Neo-Cons like Charest or right-wingers in centrist clothing like Harper can win here. Right wingers like Poilievre only appeal to the base which can maybe swing a few ridings and are thinly spread out across the rest. Just ask Maxime Bernier (or maybe don’t, that guy doesn’t need any more attention).

So it may be a little premature to dust off those old anti-Charest posters, but then again, who knows.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

François Legault is a lot of things: he’s a millionaire, he’s a baby boomer, and he is a populist. He is also one of the few premiers to not need Montreal votes in order to end up in office, and the first anti-union Premier in Quebec since the bigoted and dictatorial Maurice Duplessis. Legault’s biggest crime as premier, however, is prioritizing the financial interests of wealthy baby boomers over the lives and safety of younger generations, and nowhere is this clearer than in Legault’s back-to-school plan.

We are still very much in the throes of a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right before the December holidays Quebec had a massive spike in cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant for which Montreal schools accounted for nearly half of all outbreaks.

Numbers seem to have dropped over the holidays, but this is clearly not just because cases are being underreported due to the limited ability of home testing to detect of Omicron, and insane lineups to get an in-person test due to the highly infectious nature of this variant. It’s also because the kids have not been in school.

As I write this, it is the day before elementary and high-school students are required to return to in-person schooling, a plan for which Legault and his cronies in government are utterly inflexible. (ed’s note: the snow ended up cancelling many classes that the government did not)

“I think the government is putting on the illusion of caring for the kids, but really their motivation is money,” said “A”, a mother of two whose children are expected to return like all other Quebec kids on January 17, 2022. “They want parents back at work at all costs,” she said, adding that she is “f*cking scared to send them back.”

A is not the only one afraid to send her kids back. X is a teacher and mother of three, one of whom has severe, non-verbal Down’s syndrome. She says that since public health measures have been put in place over the last two years, her daughter – whose condition makes her especially vulnerable to lung and sinus infections – has been less sick than she has ever been in her life. X would rather her special needs child not get Omicron given the lack of research into how the variant will affect her morphology.

“She catches everything,” X says, knowing that when her sons, who attend regular elementary and high schools catch anything, her daughter will most likely get sick. Unlike other kids, her daughter cannot communicate symptoms like a sore throat, so her mother would only know to get her tested if she’s alerted by her school or shows visible signs of illness.

The child’s special needs also make it harder for her to address basic self-care, such as regularly drinking fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. That said, if given a choice between in-person schooling and online learning, X expresses distaste for online learning given the disastrous effect it has had on her sons’ mental health.

X is one of the few to propose an alternative to online learning and in-person schooling that the Quebec government seems to have willfully avoided considering: providing parents with homeschooling materials or even giving kids a break from schooling entirely, at least until the current wave passes.

“All this back and forth? What’s the point?” she asks, referring to the constant cycle of school closures and re-openings in response to the regular outbreaks in schools doing in person learning.

Carolyn Gehr, a high school math teacher with the English Montreal School Board, has concerns of her own, pointing out that there are currently no class bubbles in place, so you can have hundreds of unmasked kids in the hallways and cafeterias over lunchtime.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says, adding that the government’s plan to call in parents to supervise classrooms when teachers are out with COVID cheapens the teaching profession, making them seem like “nothing more than glorified babysitters,”

“A” feels that none of the government’s decisions are based on the current science regarding COVID and the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a very good idea to send them back with even less rules about isolation and contacts. I won’t know if my kids have been in contact with a positive case and they could very well bring COVID to their aging grandparents, who despite being triple vaccinated, can still get severely ill,”

It’s no coincidence that this back to school plan will primarily affect working-aged adults while many wealthy Baby Boomers have the luxury of working from home or are retiring in droves and can therefore stay home safe from Omicron.

This is the not the first time the government’s COVID plan has put Gen X and younger generations in mortal danger either. Past vaccination campaigns that prioritized people with chronic illnesses with the over 65 camp, younger people with diseases such as diabetes that put them at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus were considered a lower priority for the COVID vaccine than Baby Boomers in perfect health. This is an issue that I raised on multiple occasions in interviews with CBC Radio last year.

François Legault’s actions are not the ones of a man ‘doing his best’ as many wealthy members of his generation believe. They’re the actions of someone who doesn’t care how many young people he kills in order to keep himself and his cohort rich and comfortable.

Legault is up for re-election this October and it would be wise of younger people across in Quebec to recognize his actions as those of a man who prioritizes pocketbooks over people and elect someone who will be more responsible with the health of ALL Quebeckers instead.

Featured Image of a painting by Samantha Gold

Jason C. McLean and Special Guests Dawn McSweeney and Jerry Gabriel start with Quebec’s second curfew which begins on New Year’s Eve and then talk about some of the top news stories of 2021.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much upon us, and with the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, I think we can all agree that the Christmas holidays are going to suck this year. That said, no one wants to make things worse by getting slapped with a fine for violating public health rules, or thrown in jail for crimes that are painfully common during the season.

As per what’s become a bit of a Forget the Box holiday tradition, I’m here to help. This article is going to give a crash course on the new Quebec COVID-19 rules in effect as of today, as well as other tips for getting through the holidays in one piece. I’m not a doctor, or a psychologist, I’m just a law school grad who likes to research and help others.

First, let’s talk about the Omicron variant and why it’s driving case numbers up. It is a COVID-19 variant discovered in late November 2021. While research on the variant is ongoing, one thing is clear: it’s spreading fast, and is likely to overtake the Delta variant in the 89 countries it has been detected in, Canada-included.

The numbers in Quebec have gone from less than five hundred cases a day to nearly four thousand a day because of Omicron, and as a result the provincial government has imposed new health measures that started yesterday. Here’s a quick summary (the complete English version of the new rules is available for download on the Quebec government’s website):

As of yesterday, December 20, 2021, at 5pm, primary and secondary schools are closed until January 10, 2022 when in-person schooling is expected to resume for primary school students. Secondary schoolers will be doing remote learning when classes resume. Bars, taverns, gyms, movie theatres, spas and concert venues are closed until further notice. Restaurants are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity and limit their hours from 5 am to 10 pm.

As of when this is being written, religious services must operate at 50% capacity, attendees must remain seated and vaccine passports are required. Weddings and funerals can take place with a maximum of 50 people. For funerals those 50 can be on a rolling basis, meaning once 50 people have paid their respects, another 50 can replace them. If the wedding or funeral does not require a vaccine passport of its attendees, the maximum number allowed drops to 25 people.

For gatherings in private homes, be they with family or chosen family, the current legal limit is ten people, but the government said that may change. If the gathering is outdoors, that number increases to 20 people, but the cold weather will likely deter the latter.

Working from home is now required of all non-essential workers including civil servants. Failure to obey these rules can result in massive fines, and maybe even encounters with the police like the ones that went viral last holiday season.

The non-mandatory recommendations by the government include avoiding social contact. This can be especially hard on one’s mental health, as people always feel lonelier over the holidays when ads are promoting the merits of togetherness.

Try keeping the TV or Youtube or a podcast on to break the painful silence, and take the isolation as an opportunity to brush up on a skill, learn a new one, or take up a new solo hobby. Do not hesitate to seek help if you feel yourself slipping under the strain of new rules and the fear of getting sick, despite your attempts to cope.

Seeking help takes immense courage and you’re not weak if you do so. If you’re in a mental health crisis Call 811 and press two to speak to a social worker who can direct you to mental health services in your area or text 686868 to chat anonymously with a crisis worker for free 24/7.

As of today, rapid tests will be available free every 30 days in certain pharmacies throughout Quebec. In order to adhere to government rules regarding the lowered capacity of stores and other businesses, some chains like Jean Coutu are offering the rapid testing kits only by appointment.

One testing kit is good for up to five tests, and you should absolutely get one. The test is sensitive enough to pick up the infection marker of the virus even if you’re asymptomatic, so taking one right before a holiday gathering might be a good idea, but there’s a shortage of tests so use yours wisely.

Don’t bother with mistletoe this year; given the pandemic, that kind of random kissing is just silly.

When it comes to alcohol and cannabis, the chemicals that make family gatherings tolerable for so many, remember that driving while under the influence is a criminal offense that can result in fines and jail time. If intoxicated, crash with your host, accept a lift home, have someone call a taxi or an Uber for you, but if you’re female or female presenting, it is ill advised to ride the latter two alone, given the history of drivers taking advantage of women under the influence.

Last but not least, let’s talk about fireworks. They’re popular to set off on New Year’s Eve, but they are also extremely dangerous. Asian language news channels seldom censor the consequences of mismanaged fireworks, which show footage of protruding hand bones and fingers blown off.

In Montreal, fireworks must be handled by someone over the age of 18, and it is illegal to hold fireworks once the fuse is lit. It is also illegal to set off fireworks in windy conditions or in a location where they’ll fly over an audience; for more information check out of the City of Montreal’s website.

The holidays are once again being ruined by the pandemic, but with a few precautions, we can perhaps make them a little less awful. Stay safe, stay sane, wear a mask, and get vaccinated.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, and Maligayang Pasko!

Featured Image by Joe Buckingham via WikiMedia Commons

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney discuss some of the big news stories of the week including the first person sent home because of Bill 21, a subreddit thwarting Kellogg’s plans to hire scab workers and more. Plus a Legault rant!

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The John Oliver video mentioned

There is currently quite a buzz about climate change, especially in light of the recent COP26 talks.

Protesters outside COP26 demanded climate action, while world leaders primarily negotiated climate goals and funding mechanisms at COP26. In other words, they talked.

What COP26 really was, was an exercise in international goal-setting, not really in policy-making, as we see via COP26’s focus on incentives and goals rather than action. World leaders have now gone home from COP26 to formulate proactive solutions and policies on their own. Although COP26 did seem to bring about an increased honest willingness to save some forests and reduce coal consumption, this is far from enough to curb global warming to COP26’s goal of 1.5 degrees.

Genuine and dedicated protesters of course were right to be there but will do better to keep up their efforts aimed at their respective governments at home, as that is where climate action begins and needs their pressure in order to be implemented.

For the time being, governments will need to take action themselves in order to accomplish COP26’s 1.5 degree goal. Protesters should keep up the pressure to encourage climate change bills to be at least presented in legislatures on an ongoing basis, as likely those that do pass worldwide will be seen as seminal to solving climate issues.

Very recently Trudeau and world leaders have shown they are entirely capable of taking bold action to solve a crisis, as they did to fight the Covid pandemic. They must now become at least as bold working to keep everyone safe from climate change as they were bold working to keep everyone safe from Covid.

Trudeau can begin shifting from talk to action by adopting energy transition strategies that have long been shifting countries such as Germany and Sweden from majority fossil-fuel based energy production to renewable energy production. This will utilize COP26 promises as a basis for directing policies, subsidies and mandates toward building more power generation from hydro, wind and solar.

Canada will need to build better power-sharing infrastructure as well, such as a true east-west power grid in Canada. This way daily peak energy demand on our energy grid can be offset by energy produced geographically where peak demand has passed or not yet arrived. Canada is geographically large enough for this to work.

Action needs to be bold enough to take the form of direct laws, as it has been for a long time with regards to transportation when we mandated catalytic converters on all new cars and improved fuel economy, to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.

Canada must now do the same for housing as it did transportation: New home construction needs to be mandated to include geothermal heating and cooling systems, solar panels, green roofs and better insulation. This type of mandate upon the construction industry is nothing new as the existence of electric and fire codes prove.

Urban planning and zoning must be focused away from single-detached homes and towards low-rise multiplexes such as townhouses and triplexes. This housing style reduces distances and therefore carbon intensity for everything from transportation to water infrastructure to fire response.

Heat loss is also reduced. Personal front and back yards remain, unlike in high-rise developments which result in anonymity potentially dangerous corridors, and dependence on elevators and building management.

As batteries are currently deemed to be the future solution to transportation, to power electric vehicles, subsidies already provided to automobile manufacturing and high-tech should now require battery innovation, production and safe end-of-life cycle recycling and disposal take place domestically. This will ensure jobs, supply and innovation in Canada.

Products such as paper and cardboard need to be legislated to be made of recycled materials only. This will force use of material municipal recycling programs already collect but then leave unused, while reducing the logging of trees and expenditures of re-planting forests. Plastic packaging needs to be eliminated and replaced with biodegradable paper and material as plastics are not only very polluting as waste products, but are also very carbon intensive to produce.

The farming industry needs to be reformed to be able to produce more food organically, as fertilizers and pesticides are carbon-intensive and cause many other negative environmental externalities such as soil nutrient depletion.

Finally, we will have to begin making oil and gas companies partners in fighting climate change as they currently produce and deliver most of Canada’s energy. These companies will have to acknowledge that the oil and gas products they sell have no long-term future, and their survival depends on their switching to generating and delivering renewable power instead. They must be clearly mandated to do so, and as such, some subsidies to them may be required.

Trudeau and world leaders have a plethora of climate solutions to choose from, and Canada is already far enough behind other countries in many fields. Nevertheless, the media attention and protests generated by COP26 demonstrate a great enthusiasm for climate change initiatives. If such enthusiasm can be focused toward every government at every level, and better yet also at passing individual specific bills that address climate change, climate talks would lead to far more climate action.

Featured Image Via COP26 on Flickr Creative Commons