OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cleared a first hurdle on Thursday after the leader of the opposition Bloc Quebecois party said he would support the new minority government’s priorities, at least initially.
Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend the delivery of the Throne Speech in the Senate, as parliament prepares to resume for the first time after the election in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Blair Gable
Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected in October but lost their parliamentary majority and need the support of at least one opposition party to stay in power and pass legislation.
“Some believe that minority governments are incapable of getting things done. But Canada’s history tells us otherwise,” Governor General Julie Payette – head of state Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Ottawa – said in a speech she delivered on behalf of the prime minister.
After the speech outlining the new government’s priorities, which could lead to a parliamentary vote of confidence, Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said his party would back it.
“I am going to support the speech because I see in (it) many opportunities … to make some gains for Quebec,” he told reporters. Minority governments in Canada rarely last more than two years.
Together the Liberals and the Bloc, a separatist party rooted in the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, would hold a clear majority of the 338 seats in the House of Commons.
On the other hand, Jagmeet Singh, leader of the left-leaning New Democrat Party which shares many policy goals with the Liberals, said the speech did not win him over, though he stopped short of saying he would vote against it.
Finally, official opposition Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer signaled he would not support the government, saying he was “extremely disappointed” by the speech.
Trudeau focused on key campaign pledges, like fighting climate change, which he said was “the defining challenge of our time,” and on taking steps to introduce national coverage for prescription drugs, known as pharmacare.
Scheer said the prime minister failed to address the concerns of the western oil patch. Trudeau’s Liberals did not win a seat in either Alberta or Saskatchewan, the heart of the struggling oil industry and home to the world’s third-largest crude reserves.
The government has not been able to accelerate the construction of pipelines needed to get the crude to international markets.
Scheer told reporters the speech “was an insult to the people of Alberta and Saskatchewan.”
In the speech, Trudeau said his government would work hard to get resources to new markets “and offer unwavering support to the hardworking women and men in Canada’s natural resources sectors.”
Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis
A dried-up river along the Karoo National Park in the Northern Cape. The drought has seen farms close down as a result of the death of livestock. (Photo: Ayanda Mthethwa).
January 2020 saw the Northern Cape finally declared a disaster area, with R300-million set aside by the government for emergency drought relief. But farmers say this assistance is nowhere near sufficient, with provincial agriculture already decimated by a drought spanning eight years.
“We are facing a tragedy. This is far beyond a disaster.” Sutherland resident Sybil Visagie doesn’t mince her words. She can’t afford to.
“Where I stand now, if I look out of my window, it is black, black, black. No green. There’s nothing.”
You can only truly understand the effects of the Northern Cape’s eight-year drought by seeing the landscape for yourself. When Daily Maverick drove through the province, we found just one river in over 1,000km, which maintained a trickle of water. The environmental palette contains only dull greys, browns and reds.
Where vanishingly rare patches of green grass are to be found, animals cluster, ribs protruding through emaciated bellies. From the road, one sees the bones of beasts who have succumbed to thirst, or hunger picked dry.
This is what eight years of drought looks like.
When it rained for a few hours during the first week of January 2020, there were reports that some young children of the Northern Cape experienced raindrops for the first time in their lives.
With the ANC’s top brass gathered in Kimberley for the party’s 108th birthday celebration a few days later, the province was finally declared a disaster area. Around R300-million was promised in emergency funds from the Department of Water and Sanitation, with the funding destined for interventions, which include digging boreholes and providing drinking water. Further assistance has been pledged from other government ministries, including the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
But throughout the province, resentment towards the government for doing too little, too late is widespread. Gratitude is reserved mainly for the teams from Gift of the Givers, the aid organisation which has been providing relief in the form of drinking water and boreholes to drought-stricken areas all over the country.
“It seems as if [government] has no comprehension of the scale of the crisis,” Agri-Northern Cape deputy president Willem Symington told Daily Maverick.
But the government’s own researchers and officials have been aware of the worsening situation in the province for at least seven months. An Early Warning Committee report on the drought, issued by the provincial department of agriculture in July 2019, estimated that more than 15,500 farms covering more than 20-million hectares were “severely affected”, with a normal production value of R2,53-billion per year. Almost 14,000 jobs are at stake.
“With the backwards and forward linkages to the rest of the economy, [Northern Cape agriculture] is responsible for 22,437 equivalent jobs throughout the economy,” the report noted.
Agriculture, it also warned, is “one of the few sectors that can absorb a relatively large part of unskilled and lower-skilled labour”.
The worst-hit part of the province is the southern area, which encompasses towns like Calvinia, Williston, Fraserburg and Sutherland. Since 2014, this area has experienced almost no rainfall.
It is not just farmers and farmworkers taking the hit. The knock-on effects of the drought on the dorpies of the Northern Cape has been devastating, with some reduced to virtual ghost towns: Abandoned shops on the main street of places like Fraserburg tell another story about the drought’s impact on this province.
The Merino restaurant in Victoria West stood completely empty at lunchtime recently, with a waitress sitting on a chair, waiting for customers who now rarely arrive.
“It’s the drought,” she responded in Afrikaans when asked by Daily Maverick why things were so quiet.
“Nobody has money. The drought has ruined our whole economy.”
A bed and breakfast owner in Sutherland, who also runs a restaurant, had a similar account. “Previously, at least the farmers’ wives would stop in for a coffee. Now, nobody has money to spend here,” she said.
As a result of this hollowing-out of the local economy, employment has been shed in sectors like hospitality and tourism as well as agriculture.
But it is within farming that jobs are most precarious. Visagie, who is active in a number of drought relief activities, carried out a survey in 2019, which found that between 40% and 90% of farmworkers had lost their jobs in certain areas.
“The financial impact is twofold,” explains Symington.
“[Livestock] herds have been drastically reduced to about 50% of normal [size]. This has resulted in at least 50% loss in income. Secondly, lack of natural grazing makes it necessary to buy fodder and feed for animals at great cost. Given the high price of these products, coupled with a fall of 30% in the farm price of red meat in 2019, it is an unsustainable situation.”
In the area around Sutherland, Daily Maverick heard stories of farmers simply abandoning their farms. Some, it was said, had gone overseas to try their luck at farming elsewhere.
“Farmers are packing up,” confirmed Visagie.
“In our prayer group, we already lost three farmers in a very short time. People are getting to a point where they say: Listen, it’s not working any more. But the average age of farmers in this area is 60 or more. Most farmers don’t have any option [but to continue].”
Those who stick it out have taken tremendous strain. Some farmers’ associations have organised “resilience workshops” for farmers and farmworkers in order to teach mental coping strategies.
One thin silver lining has been found in the open-hearted responses from South Africans all over the country, who have contributed money, animal feed and aid parcels to those in need in the Northern Cape.
“You see these big, strong farmers just crying as they receive their parcels,” one Sutherland local told Daily Maverick.
A range of initiatives has been born from the need to generate funds for drought relief. Visagie’s brainchild wasSave the Sheep, which has seen the women of Sutherland’s farming community come together to crochet sheep to sell to raise both money and awareness. Revenue from the project also goes towards supporting farmworkers’ families.
“In Sutherland, it has brought the people together,” says Visagie.
“There is no colour in drought. I can see that people are really trying to take care of each other.”
But neither the kindness of ordinary people nor the interventions of government can ultimately solve the Northern Cape’s problem.
“Drought can only end with rain,” says Symington.
“Enough rain to reach the long-term average rainfall. Then, a long period of trying to recover. Herds will have to be built up. Debts have to be paid back.”
For now, it is not uncommon for Northern Cape locals to part ways not with “goodbye”, but with “sterkte” (strength). DM
Michael I. Sovern, an ebullient law professor who as president of Columbia University during the 1980s and ’90s shored up the school’s finances, brought about divestment from companies doing business in South Africa and opened Columbia College to women, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 88.
His wife, Patricia Sovern, said the cause was amyloid cardiomyopathy, in which clumps of protein build up in the heart tissue.
When Mr. Sovern was named to replace William J. McGill as Columbia’s president in 1980, he faced numerous challenges. Columbia was not considered well-managed; an internal study by distinguished professors faulted the university for the erosion of standards in some departments, a loss of pre-eminence in social sciences and a growing paucity of elite faculty talent.
Buildings were in disrepair. New faculty had to be recruited.
He achieved many of his goals. Most important, Columbia’s endowment soared during his tenure to $1.7 billion, from $525 million in 1980.
One of his signature achievements was the $400-million sale of 11.7 acres beneath Rockefeller Center in 1985 to the Rockefeller Group, which had been paying the university rent since building the complex in the 1930s. The university had owned the land since 1814.
“As David Rockefeller was saying, this brings to a happy end 52 years of negotiation,” Mr. Sovern told The New York Times when the sale was announced.
By the time he stepped down as president in 1993, he had opened the college to women (Barnard was the university’s women’s college); broadened the university’s curriculum; increased scholarships and fellowships; made housing available to all undergraduates who wanted it; and severed ties to companies doing business in South Africa under its apartheid regime.
“Columbia is strong again,” he wrote in a letter in 1992 announcing that he would resign the next year to spend more time with his wife, Joan Sovern, a sculptor, who was undergoing treatment for cancer. She died in September 1993. By then he had returned to Columbia Law School, where he had taught since 1957. He married Patricia Walsh in 1995.
Michael Ira Sovern was born on Dec. 1, 1931, in the Bronx to Julius and Lillian (Arnstein) Sovern. His father was a partner in a women’s clothing and died when Michael was 12. His mother became a bookkeeper for an extermination company after her husband’s death and scraped by, augmenting her $25 weekly salary (about $380 in today’s dollars) with $18 a month in a Social Security widow’s benefit.
Michael graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and entered Columbia in the fall of 1949. After his junior year, he started classes at Columbia Law School under a program called “professional option,” earning a bachelor’s degree in 1953 and a law degree in 1955. He then accepted a job teaching at the University of Minnesota Law School.
One of his students there was Walter F. Mondale, the future Democratic senator from Minnesota and vice president; they developed a friendship that led Mr. Mondale, when he was running for president against President Ronald Reagan in 1984, to ask Mr. Sovern to play Reagan in mock debates.
Mr. Sovern stayed in Minnesota for two years before returning to New York as a professor at Columbia Law. He was teaching there when student protests erupted in 1968, set off by Columbia’s involvement in weapons research during the Vietnam War and the university’s plan, opposed by many Harlem residents, to build a gymnasium in nearby Morningside Park. Soon, activists occupied five buildings, including the president’s office, and shut the campus down. Police arrested and removed the protesters in a violent melee.
In the following months, he headed a faculty committee that helped the school recover from the turmoil and proposed the creation of a University Senate, a policymaking body composed of faculty members, students, alumni and staff. It was formed in 1969 and still exists.
“We learned in 1968 how fragile an enterprise a university is,” Mr. Sovern wrote in his autobiography, “An Improbable Life: My Sixty Years at Columbia and Other Adventures” (2014). The senate allowed for “a representative forum where all issues could be fairly heard,” he said, adding: “There was no tinder waiting to be ignited.”
His involvement in the University Senate whetted his appetite for administration, and in 1970 he was elected dean of the law school. While there, he recruited Ruth Bader Ginsburg as its first female law professor, and Kellis E. Parker as its first black law professor.
Mr. Sovern was named the university’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs in 1979. He became president a year later. But after a dozen years he decided it was time to leave. Not only was his wife ill, but he had also been criticized by arts and science faculty members for his handling of budget problems and strategic planning.
“Mike was a great president of the ’80s, but the ’90s pose a different challenge,” one critic of his, David S. Kastan, who was chairman of Columbia’s department of English and comparative literature, told The Times when Mr. Sovern stepped down. (Professor Kastan is now at Yale.)
In addition to his wife, Mr. Sovern, who died in a Manhattan hospital, is survived by his daughters, Julie and Elizabeth Sovern; his sons, Jeffrey and Douglas; his stepson, David Wit; 10 grandchildren; and his sister, Denise Canner. His first two marriages, to Lenore Goodman and Eleanor Leen, ended in divorce.
During his time at Columbia, Mr. Sovern, drawing on his expertise in labor law and conflict resolution, mediated contract negotiations in the 1970s between New York City’s transit workers union and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and arbitrated a dispute between the Rolling Stones and their manager, Allen Klein.
After leaving the Columbia presidency, he served as the chairman of the Japan Society and the American Academy in Rome and as the president of the Shubert Foundation.
But his time at Columbia remained the focus of his pride.
“No savvy gambler would have bet that a fatherless adolescent from the South Bronx, the first in his family to graduate from high school,” he wrote in his autobiography, “would grow up to become president of one of the world’s great universities.”
Southern Kings caretaker coach Robbi Kempson has admitted that the Cheetahs are a better team compared to his side ahead of their PRO14 match, to be played at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Kempson says that the Cheetahs’ forward pack is strong and the Kings will have to be smart if they want to win on Saturday.
The Kings are stone last on the seven-team Conference B table with six points having won only one match and lost seven matches while the Cheetahs are fourth on the Conference A standings with 21 points after winning four times and losing the same number of games.
Kempson has added that he has noticed that other PRO14 teams always make sure that they are at full strength when they play against them because the Kings have improved from how they were last season.
The Komani-born Kempson expects his players to put up yet another impressive performance just like they did when they beat the Stormers 13-3 in a friendly in Knysna last Friday.
1/ The Victoria Derbyshire Show is coming off air. I understand @BBCNews is committed to Victoria + the (award-winning) journalism of the show. Cost of doing it on linear channel when savings are needed deemed too high. BBC declined to comment ahead of an announcement next week
When Victoria Derbyshire proposed a TV version of her Radio 5 Live Show to former BBC News boss James Harding, he gave her the green light within days.
BBC News has a big problem in connecting with some licence fee payers away from big cities and from poorer backgrounds – or, in the jargon, “underserved audiences”.
For Harding and BBC News, Derbyshire – and the show’s first editor, Louisa Compton (now at Channel 4) – were the solution to a big problem.
It worked – online.
Derbyshire’s programme was highly effective in reaching those people, through original journalism, investigations and scoops of a kind that the BBC generally struggles to do. But on linear TV channels it failed to garner a sufficiently big audience to justify its cost.
First it was chopped from two hours to one. Now it is gone.
BBC News is looking to make big savings and re-organise its structure so that digital journalism is prioritised.
And we watched older children at circle time, studying the animals under the sea — the octopus has eight legs, the sea turtle is a reptile. They could all read, they were all comfortable in English. More than that, they were clearly comfortable in the classroom; they knew all the subtle rules of classroom conduct, like making eye contact with the teacher, raising their hands to answer, giving their answers in complete sentences.
As we walked through the bright hallways, decorated, like day care and kindergarten hallways everywhere, with personalized cubbies (all the names here in English and Mandarin) and children’s art, we could hear much more raucous noises coming from the gym where groups of children were presumably engaging in more physical — and more chaotic — activity. All the classroom schedules featured playtime, built into the day in carefully programmed increments.
But in showing us circle time, what the school was showcasing was something far more curriculum-based and far more instructional than anything my own children experienced in their years of day care. In fact, the people running the kindergarten acknowledged that parents in Shanghai are deeply aware of the competitive nature of the educational system for which the children are being prepped — and expect them to emerge ready to take tests and excel.
I knew that some of the college students would have concerns about whether what we were seeing represented early academic pressure on very young children. But I also knew that my students were impressed — and so was I.
The classrooms were cheerful, the teachers were positive, and the children seemed to be engaged in the back-and-forth of learning. Yes, the 2-year-olds sometimes seemed to be speaking English sentences they had memorized, without necessarily completely understanding them — but that’s also a part of how children learn language, and they were clearly enjoying shouting out the words together. And the older children — the 4- and 5- and 6-year-olds — understood what they were saying well enough to be making jokes and even teasing their teachers.
When my own children were in day care, all those years ago, I never yearned after curriculum — I just assumed that my children would read on schedule, and read well, that they would learn math just fine when the time came (by the way, the Shanghai day care center told us proudly that it follows the Singapore math curriculum, which produces much better results than our methods in the United States.) But watching the process of deliberately creating bilingual 5- and 6-year-olds, taking full advantage of that remarkable developmental window that helps children learn fluent language in those early years, I felt downright wistful.
To speak a second language from childhood is to have a more capacious brain and a larger connection to the world. I never aspired to having young children who were prepped for testing, or who had been drilled to get a jump on elementary school subjects. But I looked at the way those 2- and 3-year-olds navigated a second language, and I wondered whether I could have done this for my children — or found them a setting that would do it.
A portion of Cape Town’s Hout Bay beach has been cordoned off after a woman was reportedly caught in a sinkhole brought about by the weather and tidal patterns.
“The sinkhole is believed to be caused by unseasonal summer rains over the weekend falling on very loose dry sand, matched with higher than usual tidal movements resulting in a waterlogged area in the vicinity of the old river mouth,” said Roberto Quintas, ward councillor, on Wednesday.
“Long term residents of Hout Bay may remember this being an unusual, but occasional event of similar weather and tidal patterns.”
This follows a cautionary post on Hout Bay Organised’s Facebook group stating that a resident got stuck with her dog up to her shoulders on Tuesday.
She shouted for assistance, but nobody assisted her.
Cordons at the site of the sinkhole which changes according to tides and weather patterns. (Roberto Quintas, Supplied)
She eventually got out and went to Deep Blue Security for assistance.
Reeds were put around it in the meantime to warn people, and lifesavers have since placed netting and flags in the vicinity.
Quintas said he contacted officials from the City of Cape Town’s coastal management department after hearing about the incident, and they had already been on site in the morning for feedback.
Hout Bay beachgoers are urged to walk on the waterline, where the sand is firmer and more compact.