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The NDP’s response to the Venezuela crisis has become an unfunny farce

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It was probably inevitable, given the New Democratic Party’s chronic and debilitating habit of subcontracting policy on any number of vexing foreign-affairs questions to groupuscules of undead church-basement pamphleteers who haven’t managed to articulate a single original thought since the 1970s.

Or maybe it wasn’t inevitable. It’s not as though the party’s foreign-affairs critic, Hélène Laverdière is an idiot. The object of an internal NDP “Hands Off Venezuela” motion to have her fired from her shadow-cabinet post more than a year ago, Laverdière has tried to enforce a bit of discipline, at least. But despite her efforts, on the serious question of how the world’s democracies might rescue the people of Venezuela from the bloody and devastating depredations of the gangster-caudillo regime of Nicolas Maduro, the NDP has made a laughing stock of itself.

This is an urgent bit of business, owing to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s leadership in the 15-nation Lima Group of anti-Chavismo nations. Another 35 countries have signed on to the outlines of Freeland’s formulation, which involves the isolation and encirclement of Maduro and the recognition of Juan Guaidó, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as Venezuela’s de-facto interim leader, pending new elections.

Coming out of several weeks of intense diplomatic mobilization across Europe and Latin America, Freeland has never looked better, tougher or smarter. Her adept marshalling of the emerging consensus among the world’s democracies—although it still may have come too late to avert something approaching a civil war—is a much bigger deal than has been generally acknowledged. And not just because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been gifted with a rare and perhaps singular foreign-policy triumph. This is a crucial test of the capacity of democracies to shift a rampaging, election-rigging despot without going to war.

RELATED: What can Canada do for Venezuela?

The Conservatives’ Erin O’Toole and Peter Kent have argued for a slightly different line than the Lima Group has taken, preferring a more active role for the Organization of American States in evicting Maduro from his palace in Caracas. But that’s about it. The NDP, however—owing to a series of contradictory utterances and weird pronouncements from certain of the party’s yesteryear characters, a handful of sitting MPs and some of the party’s up-and-coming personalities—has lost the plot.

And that was before all the whirlygig recapitulations of what the NDP’s criticism actually is ended up leaving the nominal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, looking profoundly airheaded on the subject, and apparently at odds with his own parliamentary caucus, besides. This, too, is a much bigger deal than you might think. What’s happening here is not just an instance of the NDP’s incoherence and a gong-show inability to articulate a clear party line.

This is about an abdication across the Euro-American “Left” from the challenge of having something useful to say about the ever-intensifying global struggle for democracy, and the challenge of articulating some kind of genuinely progressive internationalism. You’ll find this slovenliness at the helm of Britain’s Labour Party, in the rank-and-file of several European leftist parties, and at the fringes of the U.S. Democratic Party—which otherwise officially supports Guaidó.

The NDP’s unravelling on the Venezuelan question came to public notice shortly after Singh issued a terse and anodyne statement about how Venezuela’s fate should be decided by Venezuelans, but that Canada “should not simply follow the U.S.’s foreign policy, particularly given its history of self-interested interference in the region,” which is nothing like what Canada was or is doing at all.

Singh’s statement circulated in tandem with declarations by Manitoba MP Niki Ashton and former NDP star Svend Robinson (who has announced a return to politics) to the effect that Guaidó was mounting a U.S.-backed “coup” in Venezuela. In what appeared to be an effort to clarify the NDP’s position, Singh later uttered more platitudes about how Venezuelans should choose their own government. But when pressed, he refused to recognize Guaidó as Venezula’s interim leader—even though Laverdière, the party’s foreign affairs critic, and caucus chair Matthew Dubé, had insisted that the NDP held no official objections at all to Canada’s assertion that Venezuela, for now at least, had a new leader—Juan Guaidó.

RELATED: Venezuela’s collapse and the ‘useful idiots’ of the Canadian left

The background to all this is the surfeit of Maduro supporters in the NDP’s activist base, not least Common Frontiers—an outfit drawn from labour unions and the United Church—which had preposterously “observed” Maduro’s most recent election to the presidency and declared it an exemplary exercise in democracy. Maduro was “duly elected by the people of Venezuela,” the Canadian Union of Public Employees has lately explained. Maduro’s election, boycotted by the opposition and condemned as fraudulent by the European Union, Canada, the United States and most South American countries, proceeded with key parties excluded and key candidates in prison or in exile.

But that’s what it’s come to. Instead of supporting an anti-authoritarian democrat backed by Venezuela’s National Assembly as the country’s interim leader—Juan Guaidó’s party, Popular Will, is a social-democratic party and a member of the Socialist International, incidentally—a powerful bloc within the NDP prefers to back a tyrannical regime that has driven Venezuela to ruin.

Inflation is in such hyperdrive the value of the currency gets cut in half every three weeks. Three million Venezuelans have fled the country. Venezuela is a basket case, a nightmare zone of hunger, sickness, and despair.

While he was refusing to back Guaidó, all the while insisting at a press conference, against all evidence, that there was no division in the party on the subject, Singh uttered this astonishing statement: “We must advocate for the United Nations to be involved.”

RELATED: What the yellow vests’ revolt revealed about the sad state of the Left

The thing is, the United Nations is involved. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is involved. The World Food Program is involved. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is involved. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is involved, and they’ve set up operations on a border crossing with Colombia, which Maduro has blocked, ensuring that Venezuela is spared the corrupting capitalist influences of HIV medication, malaria medication and baby formula.

The NDP was facing a simple choice. It could back Guaidó and the National Assembly, and stand with Canada, almost the entire European Union, the United States, and a host of democratic governments representing two-thirds of the population of South America. Or it could side with Belarus, China, Syria, Russia, and all the other torture states that are in the ascendant these days.

It would not be fair or accurate to say that the NDP has chosen to side with the tyrants and mass murderers of the world. But it is more than fair to say that the choice has been so confusing for New Democrats that they cannot say, with a straight face, exactly whose side they’re really on.

MORE ABOUT TERRY GLAVIN:

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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