Tag

politics

Browsing

Legal cannabis in Canada has wild reactions

On Wednesday, Canada did what it said it would and became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace, joining Uruguay to become the second country in the world to nationally legalise cannabis.

To the surprise of no one, sales began early Wednesday in Newfoundland with hundreds of customers lined up around the block at St. John’s by the time the clock struck midnight.

The atmosphere could only be described as ‘festive’  with some of the customers too excited to wait until they returned home, lighting up on the sidewalk and motorists honking their horns in support and they drove by the happy crowd.

Ian Power will go down in history as one of the first in line in the private store on Water Street to buy the newly legal national marijuana in Canada however, he told reporters that he has no plans on smoking it, instead he will frame it and hang it on his wall to be saved forever.

“Prohibition has ended right now. We just made history,” said the 46-year-old Power, who bought a gram. “I can’t believe we did it. All the years of activism paid off. Cannabis is legal in Canada and everyone should come to Canada and enjoy our cannabis.”

There was even more good news for cannabis aficionados, as hours before any retail outlets were opened, it was revealed that Canada would be pardoning all those with convictions for possessing small amounts of the drug up to 30 grams.

News of Canada’s firm decision to begin a national experiment that will alter their cultural, economic and social fabric in was met with calls for other countries to follow suit, expression of envy over Twitter and some backlash from other countries who are not willing to decriminalize the drug.

“Canada shows the way. When will the UK end the catastrophic prohibition of cannabis?” tweeted British MP Norman Lamb.

“Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country,” said  Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon in a statement, urging the U.S Government to follow Canada’s lead.

However just as there were thousands of excited tweets coming in, there were those who expressed their distaste with the legislation.

One such instance came from the citizen group the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which said Canada had declared a winner in the war on drugs, tweeting,  “Congratulations Drugs. Better luck next time public health and saftey [sic]”.

The U.S has set up its own wall against the legalisaiton of the plant based drug by revealing that those who use marijuana legally in Canada could be banned from entering the country for smoking a single joint.

On the eve of Canada’s big day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection executive assistant commissioner Todd Owen told journalists, “Admission of illegal drug use are grounds to be found inadmissible into the United States.”

“It’s now legal in Canada, so a lot of it comes down to … whether the officer believes they may engage in the same activity while in the United States,” he said. “If somebody admits to smoking marijuana frequently in Canada, then that will play into the officer’s admissibility decision on whether they think on this specific trip they are also likely to engage in smoking marijuana in the United States as well.”

There are still many things that have to be resolved around the national legalization of the drug, including health and public safety as well as the threat of addiction and the effects it will all have on young people, including social pressure similar to what many already experienced with alcohol use.

 

#MeToo movement looks to November midterms

Brett Kavanugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court over the weekend was met with loud opposition from many, especially those who support the #MeToo movement; because it showed that their painful stories were still not believed and appeared to have no relevant impact where it needed to.

Kavanaugh who in his hearing claimed he was the victim of character assassination amidst very strong, sexual assault allegations from Dr Christine Blasey Ford was confirmed in a narrow 50-48 vote, that saw him promptly sworn in at a private ceremony, by Chief Justice John Roberts and the man he will replace, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, thereby cementing his lifetime appointment as a Supreme Judge in the United States.

As  the senators voted on the confirmation of what has to be President Trump’s most controversial nominee, protesters in the gallery shouted ‘Shame!’ and when he arrived at the Supreme Court in Washington to be sworn in as an associate judge, he was met by hundreds of protesters demonstrating on the steps of the building.

Many of those protesters who waved such signs proclaiming  ‘Women must be heard’ , ‘Believe Survivors’ and the most telling, ‘A woman brought you into this world and women will vote you out’, were arrested, and lead down the court steps with their hands in plastic cuffs behind their back.

Many took to their social media to express their disappointment, lively distrust and the questioning of the legitimacy of their legal system, with Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“The anger is real,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned on ABC’s “This Week.”

This bitter political fight became the cultural litmus test for the year-old  #MeToo Movement, which inspired women to speak out about their painful incidents of sexual harassment and abuse, as it collided with the ‘patriarchy of a political establishment dominated by ageing white men’ and received a serious blow.

Prior to his confirmation on Friday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat who along with her peers staged a last stand against confirming Kavanaugh, warned against what the backlash of such an appointment would mean for the country’s ethics.

“Today, in just a few hours, the United States Senate is going to turn its back on righteousness,” she said. “It’s going to turn its back on fairness and reason. And make no mistake, it is going to turn its back on women.”

With Kavanaugh becoming the 114th Supreme Court Justice, those following the #MeToo movement have set their sights on the November midterms, an outlet, that Winnie Wong, a senior adviser to the Women’s March, explained will allow women to voice their frustrations and be a ‘powerful political force’ for change.

She explained that the people she’s protesting with are ‘fired up’ and ‘enraged’ and said that they were only just getting started in their movement.

Barbara Smith, a psychotherapist who works with traumatized children, is also looking towards the midterms saying, “It’s important to vote to make our voices heard loud and clear”.

The 67 year old from Virginia noted her work and career was centered on helping people and families to find middle ground, however this situation had the feeling of domestic abuse. “Someone abuses their power and then they say: ‘Why can’t we all get along? Why are you so angry about this?’ It’s an issue of power. If we try to lower the partisanship while this group of people has all this power, they are going to continue to abuse it.”  She said.

The midterm is indeed an outlet for many to show that this kind of behavior where they are made to feel shut out is unacceptable and cannot continue.

 

 

 

 

 

Canada to discuss rift with Saudi Arabia

Ministers from Canada and Saudi Arabia are hoping to meet this week to discuss the rift between the two countries.

This headline making announcement came from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who on Tuesday announced her plans to meet and discuss the diplomatic dispute with her Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York.

The goal of this meeting is to begin mending fences between the two powerhouse countries following Canadian criticism of the kingdom’s arrests of human activists, which lead to an explosive dispute over the summer.

The global headline making rift between the two countries began when Ottawa called for the release of activists who were detained for urging more rights for women in the kingdom, including women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi on August 2nd.

Samar Badawi is the sister of well known detainee Raif Badawi who is serving a 10 year prison sentence. His wife and children however are Canadian, thus making Samar the sister-in-law of a Canadian citizen.

“We feel a particular obligation to women who are fighting for their rights around the world, women’s rights are human rights,” said Freeland.

“And we feel a particular obligation to people who have a personal connection to Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

To this Saudi Arabia responded by freezing new trade with Canada; blocked grain imports; ordered thousands of Saudi students on government scholarships to leave Canadian universities and relocate to other countries or return home; placed a ban on Saudi flights to Canada, along with orders to brokers and bankers to suspend transactions with Canadian entities and finally, expelled Canada’s ambassador from the kingdom.

At the height of the dispute, it was al-Jubeir who appeared to lecture Canada on its responsibility to defuse tensions, saying at a news conference, “Canada knows what it needs to do. Canada started this, and it’s up to Canada to find a way out of it.”

However, Canada has not back down and Freeland has made it clear, prior to the hoped for meeting that the country would not be changing its fundamental position of standing up for human rights.

The Saudi side has relented to some extent, and has quietly dropped at least one of their more extreme measures, where the medical students and interns who were ordered to leave Canada by August 31st, were allowed to continue at their posts for the time being.

However, at least 7,000 non medical Saudi students were forced to interrupt their studies and some have chosen to file asylum claims in Canada instead of returning home.

Leading up to the hoped for meeting, Freeland disclosed that she was in regular touch with al Jubeir who she disclosed was working very hard to also soothe the rift between the countries.

“He is very engaged on the issue … we are hoping to meet in New York this week and I think that’s a good thing,” she told an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Both Canada and Saudi Arabia have chosen to allow their foreign ministers, rather than heads of state or heads of government, to deliver their country’s addresses to the General Assembly.

That means under UN protocol they must wait until later in the week to speak as Freeland will speak on Saturday morning, and  Jubeir will be the final speaker to give his presentation on Saturday afternoon.

A whole new digital money world for Barbados

A new digital currency pilot project may just be the thing to stop the potential standoff between Bitt -a financial technology (fintech) company in Barbados and some of the commercial banks, while allowing Barbados to move further onto the world’s digital money stage.

For years tension has run deeply between the commercial banks and newer fintech company,  Bitt, where banks have faced the ongoing dilemma of whether to collaborate with this company, or to develop their own in house, money transfer systems.

As pointed out by Bitt CEO Senator Rawdon Adams, the company has had to deal with  commercial banks in Barbados being ‘obstructive and anticompetitive’ while conversely they were developing more partnerships in the rest of the Eastern Caribbean than in Barbados -the country that ‘arguably needs fintech the most’.

At this year’s Bitt  annual blockchain conference, held at the Hilton Resort, Adams, spoke about the reluctance of some of the local commercial banks to embrace Bitt’s proposal to partner with them in introducing blockchain and distributed ledger technology to facilitate secure peer-to-peer transactions in moving money between clients.

In a call for Barbados to not be “stuck” in time, Barbados’ first female Prime Minster, Mia Amor Mottley, has stepped into the fray and announced her plans to launch a mMoney pilot programme. This pilot will be between Bitt, the Central Bank of Barbados and the Financial Service Commission (FSC) that facilitates electronic and digital payments for those on the island.

Mottley spoke at the annual conference which was held under the theme Central Bank Meets Blockchain: From the Ground Up, saying there was  a need for Barbados and Barbadians to bring an end to ‘this unfortunate debate and tension between those who want to hold onto a status quo and those who want to move forward’.

“Our people want digital money and …want the ease and security of electronic payments, and as a result, what must happen is face to face discussions with urgency…such that we can launch the Barbados mMoney Pilot,” she told those who had gathered for the conference.

Mottley also soothed the concerns of the commercial bankers about the new programme, after one of the bankers referred to the mMoney wallet as a ‘potential danger to the financial system’ claiming that she would be leading the program herself and that the legitimate concerns of this new payment method from all sides would be addressed as they were not going to launch this pilot project recklessly.

Mottley explained that Barbados would not be held to their old ways of banking due to the fear of the unknown, rather they would be looking to improve development because Barbados would not be left behind as the wider world continued to evolve.

News on when the planned mobile wallet pilot project would be  officially launched has yet to be presented, however Mottley assured that Barbados would remain in agreement with anti-money laundering laws and customer fairness guidelines.

GTHA Transit Wants & Woes

A transit strike is looming that may impact the GTHA. Metrolinx shared that the strike involves CP labour unions and may commence as early as Monday. The action by the union may impact GO Transit rail services.

Metrolinx made a statement on the impending transit troubles promising that services will not be disrupted:

“While we are hopeful that an agreement can be reached, we have plans in place to ensure customers can continue to travel safely and as easily as possible if a strike occurs. Our plans have been adjusted since our last communication to customers in April and no train services need to be cancelled. In the event of a CP labour disruption, we are now able to operate trains into Hamilton GO Centre.”

The reason that a CP strike may still impact GO Transit service is that many tracks that are used by Metrolinx for these services, are owned by alternate rail companies, such as CP. A strike means less CP staff available to operate the traffic switches and signals, leading to delays and suspended services.

The unions, which include the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have carried on talks with railway management.

A spokesperson for Teamsters Canada stated that the union would likely reject any offer and that they will request immediate resuming of negotiation to reach a deal before a strike ensues.

If the unions decide to strike, members must give 72 hours notice, as CBC indicates.

GTHA Transit efficiency is always a focus, whether good or bad, in this city. Even without a looming strike posing a threat to service, it’s clear that Toronto and GTA transit could be made more efficient. The upcoming election has the big four political parties making promises to do just that. The PC, Liberal and NDP parties are all pro-relief line plan. The line is to be built from the Danforth directly to downtown and relieve overcrowding on the Yonge/University Line. The Green Party is also making transit a focus, but in Scarborough.

Strike or not, Canada’s most densely populated region needs politicians and transit services always looking to the future for betterment of the transit network already in place. Hopefully negotiations and elections lead to reaching this common goal quicker.

Doug Ford and Kinga Surma controversy

The Ontario provincial campaign is well underway.  It seems there really isn’t a clear leader. Although the Conservatives initially appeared to be leading the pack in the early stages, controversy has shaken Doug Ford’s platform.

Ford was under attack last week after allegations surfaced that Tory candidates may have used stolen customer information obtained as part of a data breach from a toll highway operator.

The Liberals have shared evidence discovered in a recording that implicates Ford  involving membership and nomination of local Etobicoke conservative  candidate Kinga Surma.  Wynne’s party has released a tape of Doug Ford asking people to sign nomination papers for Kinga Surma and telling them that they don’t have to pay for them. This is illegal and something he, himself, has said he’ll put a stop to. He recently blamed  Patrick Brown for PC candidates accessing 407 data, but now it seems more likely that Mr. Ford may have had more involvement.

Ford reportedly paid for memberships of new Tories and indicated that memberships were “free”. This is illegal and goes against the PC party bylaws. The National Post indicates that a former top Conservative official who was at the 2016 vote, has confirmed this.

The Liberals have released a statement about the recording that implicates Doug Ford. The anonymous source  recorded Ford and Kinga Surma at a Tim Horton’s, offering free memberships.

The candidate who lost the Etobicoke nomination, Pina Martino, has since filed a complaint, that consists of  an email to then party lawyer Mike Richmond that Ford used “intimidation” tactics against her that included following her home. the National Post relays. The party allowed Kinga Surma to continue as the Etobicoke candidate, despite the complaint.

Surma began her career in politics in 2010 by working on Sarah Thomson’s Toronto mayoral election. She moved on to help George Smitherman’s race against Rob Ford and was then hired by Peter Milczyn who was a councillor in Etobicoke.

Kinga Surma has refrained from commenting on the latest controversy surrounding her and Doug Ford. The question is, why was membership stacked in favour of Ms. Surma by Doug Ford? Could there possibly be more to the relationship between Ford and Surma than politics?

 

 

Green Party set on tolls

The provincial election has kicked off and party leaders are doing their best to sway voters with promises and by calling out opponents.  There is no clear front-runner at this point either, which makes for an exciting campaign

Ahead of last week’s debate, the Tories were holding steady as the favored party. Andrea Horvath of the NDP, seems to be closing the gap since she impressed during the debate while joining Premier Wynne by taking aim at Doug Ford.

Most recently, it’s the Green Party that has earned the attention of voters after unveiling a tiered platform consisting of 9 parts.  Leader Mike Schreiner has high hopes that the platform will lead to the Green Party’s first seats in legislature.

On Monday, Schreiner shared the 9-part plan, named “People Powered Change.”  The platform focuses on the environment, transit, affordable housing and the expansion of health care, while also including the implementation of province-wide basic income.

“Greens are showing people that we can do politics differently,” he said. “Greens in Ontario are ready. We are ready to lead, we are ready to elect our first MPP. We believe it is time to end red tape for the most vulnerable in Ontario and ensure that everyone has a basic income guarantee,” he said.

One inclusion in the platform is to implement road tolls on all 400-series highways. Schreiner insists that tolling could raise over $1.4 billion for the province. He also intends to raise over $100 million in land value taxes and expand transit across the GTA

The 9- tier plan includes developing a clean economy, making homes and business more energy efficient, lowering payroll taxes on small businesses and non-profits, requiring all new developments include a minimum of 20 per cent affordable housing, putting mental health services under OHIP, implementing a basic income guarantee province-wide, protecting the environment, moving Ontario toward 100 per cent renewable energy, and expanding transit across the GTA.

Although the Green Party is focused on making big moves this election, Schreiner was left out of the recent debate between NDP, Conservative and Liberal leaders. The election is on June 7. Until voters take to the polls, it’s anyone’s game.

 

Woman of the Week: Li Koo

There need to be more women in politics.  Li Koo is one woman in Toronto working hard to change this reality and level the playing field. She is in the running to be the Toronto-Danforth’s next MPP. When I met Li, I immediately was drawn in by her charisma, humour and warmth. She shook my hand and chatted  with me as if we were old pals and I felt comfortable to ask for an interview right away.

Li explained what first drew her to politics, stating that experience is what shapes us, and adding that she has known from a young age that it’s “not a level playing field, even in a great province like Ontario.” She shared how her parents arrived in Canada with only $8 in their pocket and that “they worked twice as hard as everyone else around them to get half as far.” Admitting that she was once an underdog, Koo now vows to make a positive change through politics by creating a more “open, inclusive and fairer society.”

“Fighting for positive change that will make other people’s lives better is what this is all about for me,” she said.

 Politicians by times seem out of reach and disconnected from the public they are representingThis is not the case with Li. She admits that the best part of campaigning as a candidate is knocking on doors of people in her community and learning about the issues of most importance to them. Li even admits that she wishes she had the superpower of time travel to help her meet more people from her community, ahead of election day.

“It’s incredible what we learn by listening to our neighbours,” she said. Li was raised to be conscientious to others around her and to give a voice to those who may not have the benefit of a platform. Her parents instilled a strong work ethic in her and taught Li to always hold the door open for others and assist in anyway she can.

She is clearly quite close to her family and wishes that more time with loved ones could come along with achieving her goals. “I’m so fortunate to have such a supportive partner and such strong support from my extended family and friends. I could not do this without them. “

As a young Chinese mother, Li has faced roadblocks. She admits that women have made strides and shifted workplace cultures, but  adds that barriers are still there, keeping women from getting ahead.

“We need to shift what qualities are valued in our workplaces to create spaces that are creative, collaborative and kind. And most importantly – fair,” she stated.

Li recognizes that women often let competition get in the way, and that this needs to be replaced with collaboration and kindness, reminding that “together we stand, divided we fall.”

Despite her success so far, Li has experienced challenges in both her personal and professional life. She shared these and about how she moves forward and pushes past them daily.

“I’m a woman, I’m Chinese, I’m gay, I’m a parent. I’m a new candidate. As a result of this, I’ve never taken anything for granted and have always worked hard to overcome many systemic barriers. I also recognize that the sacrifices my parents made and the education and experiences that I have gained is a privilege that I hold now and it’s my duty to pay it forward to my community.”

She says Joan of Arc and Hua Mulan are two women in history who inspire her.  Her own fighting spirit is reminiscent of these figures’ strength that saw both women rise up courageously for their ideals and values.

The MeToo movement has swept across North America, uniting women on the issue of harassment. Every woman has experienced a #MeToo moment and Li shared that each of her own moments are a reminder and a “wake-up call” that change must happen in the workplace and beyond, to make ours a nation that is safer for girls who are growing up. Li reminds that Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals have given full support to the movement

She is a person for the people and may soon be a Member of Parliament. For more about Li Koo, visit hello@LiKoo.ca .

Ontario election: Gloves are off!

The gloves are off in Ontario politics. Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath seemed to be a joint force while individually taking aim at Conservative leader Doug Ford  this week as the three leaders participated in a heated debate.

 

Horvath and Wynne both warned the public about what a Ford provincial government would result in. Horvath questioned Ford about his promises and how he plans to cut taxes and to be transparent, like former Conservative leaders.

“The other Conservative leaders, Mr. (Tim) Hudak, Mr. (Mike) Harris — they were very upfront about what their cuts are going to look like,” Horwath said.

“Why don’t you have the guts to tell people what your cuts are going to look like? What is in store for the people of Ontario?”

To this Ford simply stated that he was on the side of the taxpayers, also vowing to not be the cause of any layoffs if elected.

Horvath went on to describe a decision made between her rivals, Ford and Wynne, is like choosing between “bad” and “worse,” insistent on showing why she Is the best choice out of the three”

“She will now be the centre of interest “CBC reports the words of Geneviève Tellier, a political studies professor at the University of Ottawa. “Even if you didn’t think you wanted to vote for her, you’re more likely to pay more attention to her now.”

The consensus from political enthusiasts was that Doug Ford played the election debate safe yet raised eyebrows when he stated he would not support safe injection sites.

 Wynne shared her expertise on policy and her intentions to put them to use. She spoke about “inclusionary zoning” and were in a sparring match with Ford over affordable housing for young people.

Each candidate, all in the running for the provincial election on June 7th, revealed how they plan to win the election.

The provincial election debate kicks of the on Wednesday, despite the feeling that it began weeks ago, due to candidates speaking regularly to the media about their party platforms and intentions. All contenders are solid competition and it will be interesting to see how the remainder of the election unfolds.

Sidewalk Labs to improve Toronto living

Toronto is a great city and I am happy to have called it my home for over a decade. But there are flaws that have me thinking about moving to the suburbs and even to the Hamilton region. Mainly this has to do with the astronomical cost of living , and the unavoidable congestion on roadways and delays experienced on transit.  But even a move to the suburbs would mean a more expensive and time-consuming commute to central Toronto for work.

I dwell on the thought of moving for a moment, and I remind myself why I love Toronto so much- the culture, the activity and the people.

Organizations are stepping in to attempt to better our great city. Sidewalk Labs is a Google-affiliated high-tech company, which is pushing to develop a technological hub on Queen’s Quay. The Manhattan-based firm that specializes in urban innovation, seeks to use its technology to include sensors that will collect and analyze data. This will then be used to  assist with solving problems in Toronto — such as high housing costs, road safety and safety of citizens as well as other issues that go along with urban living.

This all sounds beneficial, but worries have arisen over how the data collected will be used. On the heels of the Cambridge Analytica case, which saw a privacy breach on 600,000 Canadians and over 80 million Facebook users, this is a growing concern. Questions as to whether the U.S. government will have access to private data were also posed.

Sidewalk Labs won a Waterfront Toronto contest last October to develop a live-and-work neighbourhood on 12 acres of land that stretches from Queens Quay to Parliament Street. The firm released a “summery report” on Wednesday.

In the report, residents said their wish is for any data collected to be “transparent and consensual.”

If the Sidewalk Toronto project is fully approved, it will be partially paid for by Canadian taxpayers through a public-private partnership. Any councillors who know insider details about the project have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

The pitch made by Sidewalk Labs last fall was quite attractive- proposing the neighbourhood would serve as “a hub for innovation-related companies and entrepreneurs,” while offering residents more opportunities to “live, work, learn and play.”

While some developers are concerned the benefits that may result if the plan is executed in a transparent  and effective way could be massive for the city.