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NDP engages supporters in election post mortem

By Mark Burgess      
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As the New Democrats look to rebuild and remain relevant with a substantially reduced Parliamentary caucus, the party is asking supporters about their policy priorities and how to work with the new Liberal government.

A Nov. 3 email from party president Rebecca Blaikie includes a survey with about 20 questions for NDP supporters. The survey asks respondents to rank the importance of a number of issues—including health care, childcare, environmental policies, indigenous issues, corporate taxes and marijuana—before asking about how the NDP should approach the new Liberal government in Parliament.

“Canadians have high expectations for this Parliament, but past Liberal governments have a bad record of delivering on their election promises,” the survey says. “How would you like to see Tom Mulcair and the NDP work with this Liberal government?”

The survey offers four answers:

• “Canadians voted for change. New Democrats should work with Justin Trudeau to deliver that change.”

• “The Liberals have a majority government—and need a strong NDP opposition to hold them to account.”

• “The Liberals have no plan to reverse cuts to health care, establish a $15 an hour federal minimum wage, or create affordable childcare. We must continue fighting for these issues.”

“New Democrats should work with the Liberal government on issues we agree on, but hold them to account as the opposition.”

The NDP went from official Opposition status, with 95 seats when the 41st Parliament was dissolved, to the third party in the House of Commons with 44 MPs. The party held its first caucus meeting since the election last week.


International media interested in Punjabi-speaking Canadian MPs

The 20 Punjabi-speaking MPs elected to the 42nd Parliament received international coverage last week after The Hill Times wrote that Punjabi had become the third most common language in the House of Commons.

Abbas Rana’s story was picked up by a number of news outlets in India last week, including New Delhi Television, The Hindustan Times, The Odisha Sun Times and Mumbai daily DNA. The World Economic Forum even mentioned the Punjabi-speaking MPs in its Daily Current Affairs post on Nov. 3.

Canadians elected 23 MPs of South Asian origin on Oct. 19, 20 of whom speak Punjabi.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, 430,705 Canadians identified Punjabi as their mother tongue, making it the third most common language after English and French.

The 430,705 native Punjabi speakers make up about 1.3 per cent of Canada’s population. The 20 Punjabi-speaking MPs represent almost six per cent of the House of Commons.

 Two of the top Canadian journalists who covered the war in Afghanistan will speak about the film they collaborated on at a Nov. 11 screening.

The Canadian Press’s Murray Brewster and photojournalist Louie Palu will attend the screening of Kandahar Journals at the Bytowne Cinema on Remembrance Day. Mr. Brewster, who covered the war for CP and authored the book The Savage War, wrote the documentary’s screenplay while Mr. Palu co-directed the film, which includes his footage from Afghanistan.

Kandahar Journals uses Mr. Palu’s personal journals from his time covering the war from 2006 to 2010, including the soldiers and civilians he meets and the violence and trauma he witnesses. Co-director Devin Gallagher films scenes of Mr. Palu’s life back home in Canada after the war, contrasting the banality with the war’s chaos.

The more time Mr. Palu spends in Afghanistan, “the more he recognizes the disconnection between the public back home and himself. In the end, he must come to terms with the impossibility of photography ever conveying the reality of war, because it is such a deeply personal experience,” says a description from the Lost Dominion Screening Collective, which is presenting the film.

Mr. Brewster will speak before the screening, at 9:10 p.m., and Mr. Palu will answer questions after.


Book commemorates 100th anniversary of In Flanders Fields

A new book with essays from some of Canada’s most esteemed writers examines the meaning and legacy of iconic First World War poem In Flanders Fields 100 years after it was published.

Field surgeon and poet John McCrae’s poem was published in December 1915 in the British magazine Punch. In Flanders Fields: 100 Years—Writing on War, Loss and Remembrance is an anthology that looks at Mr. McCrae and how the poem’s meaning has evolved over a century, as well as broader reflections on memory and war. The contributors include former MP Ken Dryden and former Senator Roméo Dallaire, novelists Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, Frances Itani and George Elliott Clarke, and other celebrated writers such as Tim Cook and Wade Davis.

In Flanders Fields: 100 Years was released Oct. 27 from Knopf Canada.


Ken Rubin wins inaugural investigative award

 Long-time right-to-know advocate and Hill Times columnist Ken Rubin will receive the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression’s first-ever CJFE Investigative Award at a gala next month.

The inaugural award goes to a journalist or researcher  “who has made a significant contribution to advancing investigative public interest reporting in Canada.” Mr. Rubin is being recognized for his decades of work that includes his “instrumental” role in creating Canada’s Access to Information laws, as well research into the federal government’s role in Maher Arar’s arrest and its support of the asbestos industry.

“Driven by the conviction that Canadians are entitled to know exactly what the government is up to, Rubin has filed and researched thousands of Access to Information requests, resulting in hundreds of important media stories and reports,” the organization’s write-up says.

Mr. Rubin will receive the award Dec. 2 at the CJFE gala in Toronto. Saudi freelance journalist Safa Al Ahmad will also be honoured, receiving the International Press Freedom Award for her documentary reporting on the uprisings in Saudia Arabia and Yemen. Lawyer Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a board member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, will receive the Vox Libera Award for contributing to the principles of free expression at home and abroad.


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