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Catalan trial: Will Spanish Socialists survive snap polls? | Pedro Sanchez, prime minister of Spain News

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Madrid, Spain – The Spanish government is expected to announce snap elections after the minority Socialist government failed to pass a national budget during a Wednesday vote.

Votes against the budget came from parties across the political spectrum and totalled 189 of the 350-seat Congress of Deputies, ensuring an early end to the legislature. The polls are expected to take place in mid-April.

The spotlight rested on Catalan nationalist parties who announced last week they would not support it after the government’s refusal to negotiate Catalan self-determination.

The tension between the ruling Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Catalan nationalists is based around the trial of 12 Catalan leaders in connection with a failed 2017 independence bid.

The Catalan leaders on trial, including former regional Vice President Oriol Junqueras and nine other former government ministers, face as much as 25 years each on charges of rebellion, disobedience and embezzlement.





The Spanish Supreme Court has been accused of ‘politicisation’ [Creede Newton/Al Jazeera] 

Catalan nationalists had hoped to hold negotiations with PSOE about self-determination, including the possibility of a state-recognised independence referendum.

But Maria Jesus Montero, the Spanish minister of the treasury, told reporters on Tuesday the government “doesn’t want nor is it able to negotiate outside the walls of the constitution”, which does not recognise any Spanish region’s right to secede.

In Madrid, the trial’s political fallout weighs heavily on the minds of residents.

Xose do Covelo, a waiter at a restaurant near Madrid’s Atocha train station, told Al Jazeera he was aware the trial “will have national consequences” for the foreseeable future.

Covelo didn’t have an opinion about Catalonia’s secession, but he liked to watch the news: “For me, it’s like a play. We don’t know if the prime minister will stay or go, nor Catalonia.”

Complicated political terrain

Catalonia held an independence referendum in October 2017 viewed as illegal by the Spanish government. That same month, the restive region unilaterally declared independence from Spain.

The central government stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and called new elections for December 2017, hoping that the polls would put a pro-union coalition in power.

A right-wing unionist party won the most seats but separatists still managed to secure a ruling coalition in the regional government.

PSOE holds 84 seats in Spain’s Congress of Deputies, roughly half the number needed for a majority. The centre-left party has a tenuous alliance with a left-wing coalition headed by Podemos that holds 67 seats.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of PSOE has been in power since June 2018, after conservative former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy failed a no-confidence vote.

The rest of PSOE’s confidence votes come from pro-independence parties in the Basque region and Catalonia, like the Catalan Republic Left and Catalan European Democratic Party, who hold a combined 17 seats.

Last Monday, the pro-independence parties threatened to oppose the budget unless Sanchez made concessions on Catalonia’s right to self-determination.

The shadow to the right

If the spending measure isn’t passed, Sanchez plans to call elections in mid-April, hoping it will mobilise left-wing voters, Spanish media reported.

The ruling coalition has strengthened Spain’s social welfare system, which was gutted by years of austerity measures implemented by the right-wing People’s Party (PP), which ruled from 2011 to 2018.

Observers said the dictatorship between 1939 and 1975 inoculated Spain against the kind of far-right groups that have made electoral gains across the continent.

Still, a right-wing resurgence is possible. The far-right Vox party, which has been called Islamophobic and antifeminist, won 12 seats in the 2018 regional elections in the southern region of Andalusia, helping PP and right-wing Citizens Party form a coalition that unseated PSOE after over 30 years of uninterrupted rule.

Vox, PP and Citizens called a protest against Sanchez’s rule in Madrid on Sunday that saw at least 45,000 attendants.

According to official polls conducted by Spain’s Centre for Sociological Studies (CIS) released on January 31, Vox has surged in the polls.

Vox would win 6.5 percent of the vote, CIS said, up from 3.7 percent in December. Coupled with PP’s 14.9 percent and Citizens’ 17.7 percent, a right-wing coalition is conceivable.

Sebastian Balfour, an emeritus professor of history at the London School of Economics who specialises in modern Spain, told Al Jazeera the PSOE government’s fall could lead to “the parties of the centre-right and right, including the far-right Vox” winning in general elections.

However, PSOE would win nearly 30 percent, with Podemos garnering another 15.4 percent.

Those numbers didn’t bother PP’s leader, Pablo Casado, who said on Tuesday that “if it’s decided to call elections, they will be welcome”.

Sanchez’s government is “dead and doesn’t know it”, he said.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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