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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.

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Ottawa Book Expo Author Boot Camp: What’s in it For You?

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Would you love to attend a writers’ book camp? If yes, then check out this upcoming boot camp on meetup.com organized in conjunction with the Ottawa Book Expo. The boot camp seeks to boost the commercial success of authors while providing a convivial atmosphere for social networking among authors. There you would learn what you need to do to boost the sale of your book. The goal of the group asides social networking is to empower authors to make money while also saving money.

What’s in it for you?

Whether you are a new writer who hasn’t published any books yetor you are a veteran writer who has been publishing for decades, a writers boot camp could still be extremely beneficial to you in a couple of ways. There, you would get to meet other writers, you would be motivated to start up your book or continue your writing journey. Ways you can benefit from a writers boot camp include:

  • You get to ask questions and have your questions answered.

The book camp is not just a place to make new friends and link up with old ones; you also get to learn new ideas. You could ask questions about any topic on writing and have these questions answered by professionals. You would also get to see other writers ask their questions, and learn from them. Your questionsare more likely to be answered directly by someone who knows their onion in the field.

  • Network with other writers

At the boot camp, you would get to make friends with other writers who would be in attendance. A lot of writers are introverts who would rather not make small talk; however, you have to remember that putting yourself out there, is what’s going to help you sell your books. You could also come along with a business card that has your name, what kind of author you are, and the links to your social media. Networking with other writers is definitely worth the time and money you’re spending at the Expo.

  • One last thing

There’s no better way to gain some exposure as a writer than starting local. The boot camp would feature experts on all types of writing. This is one of the most efficient ways to connect with other local writers who would are likely to keep in touch with you through social media or in person, you can also connect with your fans and readers who would be likely to purchase your books. If you’re thinking about attending a writers’ festival, start local, with the Ottawa Book Expo.

The event is open to all writers and publishers locally and internationally. The Expo is a grassroots-oriented author, publisher, bookseller and literary services festival which supports authors and publishers who seek to promote marginalized voices such as those of different cultural backgrounds, gender and LGBTQ communities.The Expo would hold at the Horticulture Building in Lansdowne Park on the 20th of October 2019.

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Virtual farmer’s market comes to Ottawa

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Ottawa first-ever virtual farmer’s market has begun delivering food from local farms straight to people’s homes.

Farm to Hand is making it easier for people who cannot access their local farmer’s markets to find local, fresh organic food by bringing ordered food right to their doors. 

“The difference between us and the farmers market is really just the convenience and the on-demandness,” Sean Mallia, the co-founder of the business, told CBC Radio’s In Town and Out.

“[Often times a] person wants to make the purchase but they don’t have the time on Saturdays to go to the farmers market. Everyone wants to eat local … so when it’s easy for them to do it, it just happens.” In Town and Out No time to drive to the farmer’s market but really want to eat local?

Connecting farmers with people 

The online platform allows farmers to list all their own products, and buyers can have the goods delivered. 

“What we really are trying to do is build that connection between farmer and consumer,” Mallia said. “When people fill up a cart … they’re not just filling a cart full of food, they’re filling a cart full of farmers and farms and their stories.”

Mallia said the aim is to connect people to the “vibrant food ecosystem” around them, and to local support farmers.

The virtual market is currently limited to the Ottawa area as a pilot project, but Mallia, 21, said the company is looking to expand.

“[We chose Ottawa because] Ottawa really cares. Ottawa really thinks about local [food] and thinks about sustainability,” he said. “It just made sense to come out of Ottawa.”

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Denley: Stonebridge and Mattamy show compromise is possible over development in Ottawa

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In Ottawa, development proposals too often end up in acrimony and trips to the provincial planning tribunal. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see Mattamy Homes and residents of the south Nepean suburb of Stonebridge work together to resolve a dispute in a way that’s likely to lead to a victory for both sides.

A little over a year ago, Mattamy created an uproar in the golf course community when it announced a plan to build 158 new homes on golf course lands and alter the Stonebridge course to make it shorter and less attractive to golfers. To residents, it looked like the first step in a plan to turn most, or all, of the course into housing.

It’s easy to see why residents were upset. When people pay a premium for a lot backing onto a golf course, there is certainly an implication that the lot will continue to back onto a golf course, but without a legally binding guarantee, it’s no sure thing.

Mattamy’s situation was understandable, too. This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive, doubly so when the golf course is owned by a development company.

This is a tough time to be in the golf course business in Ottawa. There are too many courses and not enough golfers so it’s no surprise that golf course owners would find the idea of turning a course into a housing development to be attractive.

In the face of the local opposition, Mattamy withdrew its development application. When things cooled down, the company, the neighbours and the city started to work together on finding a solution that would satisfy everyone.

With the city-sponsored help of veteran planning consultant Jack Stirling, they came up with an unusual idea that will still let Mattamy develop its desired number of homes, in exchange for a promise to operate the course for at least 10 years and redesign it so that it remains attractive to golfers.

At the end of the 10 years, Mattamy can sell the course to the community for $6 million. To raise the money, the community working group is proposing a special levy to be paid by Stonebridge homeowners starting in 2021. The amount will range from $175 a year to $475 a year, depending on property values.

If the deal is approved by a majority of homeowners, Mattamy gets its development and a way out of the money-losing golf business. Homeowners get certainty about no future development. They can choose to keep the course going or retain the 198 acres as green space. It’s not a cheap solution, but it keeps their community as it is and preserves property values.

If a majority of homeowners backs the deal, both the levy and redevelopment will still need to be approved by the city, something scheduled for late this fall.

Stonebridge Community Association president Jay McLean was part of the working group that prepared the proposal and he’s pleased with the outcome. The community’s number one goal was preserving green space, and the deal will accomplish that, he says. Mattamy division president Kevin O’Shea says the deal “gives the community the certainty they are looking for.”

As useful as this deal could be for Stonebridge residents, it doesn’t provide a template to resolve a somewhat similar dispute in Kanata North, where the owner of the Kanata Lakes golf course wants to work with a group of local developers to replace the course with housing. In Kanata, a longstanding legal agreement saying the community has to have 40 per cent open space strengthens residents’ situation. In Stonebridge, there was no legal impediment to developing the whole course.

Golf course communities have become an anachronism in a city intent on intensifying within the urban boundary. Redeveloping those lands for housing is in sync with the city’s planning goals, but it’s not politically saleable to homeowners who thought they had a deal. If it goes ahead, the Stonebridge plan shows there is a reasonable middle ground.

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