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Mixed midterm messages
The midterms have exposed glaring weaknesses in the Democratic Party. Although it won control of the House of Representatives, Republicans strengthened their grip on the Senate, the legislative body that gives equal representation to all U.S. states, most of which are Republican. It will take more than one election cycle for the Dems to win back the Senate, and it may not realistically be possible in the near term with “fly over” states supporting Republicans.
The Dems’ greatest problem, however, is that they no longer know what they stand for. Supporting “pre-existing medical conditions” doesn’t cut it. Bernie Sanders offered a real alternative but Hillary Clinton’s control of the Democratic National Committee ensured he wouldn’t win the 2016 nomination. Would the Dems ever support publicly funded health care and education? Is there a “left” left in U.S. politics?
James G. Heller, Toronto
Re If The Midterms Were A Test Of The Country’s Character, Americans Failed (online, Nov. 7): The attitudes expressed in this are jaded on so many levels. Hollywood, the left and mainstream media are out of touch with “average America.” Instead of telling citizens what we should believe, why doesn’t the media listen to understand? And I have plenty of character, thanks.
Chris Helmkay, Ottawa
I had hoped for so, so much more. By leaving the Senate in even-stronger GOP hands, America has made it clear that it will not turn its back on Donald Trump’s vile politics of race and division.
Samantha Richards, Calgary
John Ibbitson is correct that Donald Trump will renew his racist, anti-immigrant screeds following the midterms, but I disagree with his reasoning (Expect The GOP To Double Down, Nov. 7). Mr. Trump is a one-trick pony: He always reverts to the one thing he knows best – divisive appeals to his base.
However, with Democrats solidly in control of the House and an improved share of governorships, Mr. Trump is going to find the going tougher. Investigations into the 2016 campaign, and into his opaque and sordid personal financial affairs, will get new legs, no longer thwarted by sycophantic Republican committee chairs.
The Mueller investigation will likely reveal new, even more troubling findings, and Mr. Trump, aware of the criminal prosecution he could face as a private citizen, will of course fight back.
It’s going to get ugly.
Frank Malone, Aurora, Ont.
Re Tory MP Clement Resigns From Caucus Duties After Sharing Sexually Explicit Images, Video (Nov. 7): A former cabinet minister – a politician who sat on the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians no less! – gets caught with his political pants down (one hopes not literally), sharing sexual images and video and then describes his conduct as “very poor judgment.” Unbelievably dumb is what I’d call it.
Alice Nguyen, Victoria
Fascinating. When the lieutenant-governor “calls on” someone to become premier it is the height of democracy; when the lieutenant-governor “decide[s] who will become premier,” it is not democratic (How Proportional Representation Would Erode B.C. Democracy – Nov. 7). What nonsense.
As Geoff Plant notes, the government in the Westminster system governs because it has the confidence of the elected representatives in the house. Proportional representation changes who might have that confidence, and how a majority in the house is assembled, nothing more nor less.
As for democracy, whatever else you might say about PR, it is evidently more democratic than a first-past-the-post system that routinely returns majority governments on the basis of minority votes.
David Mutimer, Chair, Department of Politics, York University
Statscan, banking data
Re Why Statscan Should Have Access To Our Banking Data (Nov. 7): It can’t happen soon enough.
Month-to-month volatility in the amount and timing of household income, driven by the rise of precarious work, is making it hard for many Americans to budget and save, and causing them to borrow more to stay afloat in months when their incomes dip and expenses spike. At our request, the TD Bank conducted a national survey in Canada that found 37 per cent of working age adults here are in the same boat. TD could validate these findings by examining account data, as JPMorgan Chase did in the U.S., but the results cannot be shared due to the privacy of client data.
By bringing together U.S. and Canadian household-finance experts and government officials to explore this issue, we were able to get it on the radar of policy makers, but this should not have been our job. Had Statistics Canada had access to a sample of Canadians’ payment data, it could have seen this issue emerging and federal and provincial policy makers would have been well down the road to developing solutions. As it is, they’re just getting started or, worse, pursuing policies (in some provinces) that further aggravate this problem.
We can only fix what we can see. Statscan is our eyes and ears. Without it, we are blind to the social and economic challenges we face and who is most affected. Statscan is the exemplar for statistical agencies worldwide, so let’s give it the data and tools it needs to do its job – for all our sakes.
Liz Mulholland, CEO, Prosper Canada
Prisons need a deeper fix
Re The Only Real Way To Fix Canada’s Jails (editorial, Nov. 7): Yes, yes, yes to all your unhappy points on the increased use of solitary, plus the need for a deeper fix to prisons – it’s not just solitary that is wrong. And, yes, radical change is needed in prisons federal, provincial and territorial.
The various improvements that you call for can be achieved by better programming, probably more staff, with, at most, regulation. To get rid of solitary confinement, however, will require legislation banning it. It would be naive to expect that the use of solitary will diminish otherwise.
If there is discretion – any loophole will do – solitary confinement will continue to be used, inmates (especially First Nations) will be forgotten in the process, horrendous cases of prolonged use will continue to occur, and suicides and mental breakdown will follow. We need both a specific ban on solitary, and redirection within the prison system.
Lynn McDonald, co-founder, Campaign for the Abolition of Solitary Confinement
Rules for visitors
Re No Visitors, Please (letters, Nov. 7): My late father-in law was an old-school general practitioner. He said a particular clergyman was the best possible hospital visitor because he followed two rules: He never sat down, and he never stayed in a patient’s room longer than five minutes.
Ronald C. Stevenson, Fredericton