Daniel Dale speaks at UTM’s Snider Lecture

Washington reporter for CNN talks Donald Trump, the Ford brothers

Daniel Dale speaks at UTM’s Snider Lecture

Reporter Daniel Dale gave the Snider Lecture at UTM on October 3, where he discussed his reporting on Donald Trump and the Ford brothers, as well as disseminating truth in a precarious media landscape.

Dale works for CNN as part of the fact-checking team and was previously a reporter at the Toronto Star for 11 years. His efforts to fact check Trump’s every comment and tweet has gained him international attention and a sizeable Twitter following — over 619,000 strong as of October 6.

However, it was here in Toronto, while reporting on the former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and current Ontario Premier Doug Ford, that Dale first delved deeply into the practice of fact checking and outwardly pointing out false political claims.

After Rob Ford falsely accused Dale of peering over his family home’s fence, he wrote an article for the Star titled, “Rob Ford is lying about me, and it’s vile.” This prompted Dale to think that, “if I can use the word ‘lie’ in a story about me, why can’t I use it in all the other stories?”

He went on to create a “campaign lie detector where [he] would count… how many false, inaccurate, dubious claims the candidates made.” Dale noticed there was a disparity in the number of lies Rob Ford would tell in comparison to the other candidates and thought that “the disparity was important in itself… that disparity told the story.”

Soon after, Dale went to Washington, DC and “was sure that it was going to be much more normal… and of course, Donald Trump comes along in June.”

Dale found it “distressing how much Donald Trump was lying… and not only the frequency of the lying, but the triviality of the lying.” He noticed that news outlets and papers were reporting what Trump said, without identifying false claims to be as such.

In order to promote what he calls “a truth-centric model of political journalism,” Dale suggests that the media engage in a number of practices, including that no one should “quote a politician saying something false without noting that it is false,” using the term “lie” when it is the most accurate way to describe a claim, and giving less airtime to political figures that have a history of deception.

Dale often encounters people who think his work is useless and that “facts obviously don’t matter in this era,” to which he responds: “what is the job of a journalist in democracy, if not to provide accurate information to whoever wants it?”

The president still has supporters despite what Dale describes as a “full-blown truth crisis with Donald Trump.” However, in an article for the Star entitled “Donald Trump voters: We like the president’s lies.” he points out that many Trump supporters do not believe the president’s every word without question.

The Varsity caught up with Dale after his lecture to inquire if he was seeing any trends in Trump’s lying in the lead up to the 2020 US Presidential election. “Over his first two years in office, immigration was his number one subject of dishonesty,” said Dale. “Over the summer, it’s been the economy and trade, and I think that reflects concerns about… a possible recession… some sort of slow down.”

Climate crisis sparks tension at UTSC federal candidate’s debate

SCSU organizes debate for candidates in the federal riding of Scarborough–Rouge Park

Climate crisis sparks tension at UTSC federal candidate’s debate

Five candidates vying for the MP position for Scarborough–Rouge Park, the riding in which UTSC is located, came together on October 1 to debate before the federal election. Organized by the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU), the debate was attended by a mixture of UTSC students and local community members.

The candidates included Bobby Singh from the Conservative Party, Jessica Hamilton from the Green Party, the incumbent candidate Gary Anandasangaree from the Liberal Party, Kingsley Kwok from the New Democratic Party (NDP), and Dilano Sally from the People’s Party of Canada (PPC).

The climate crisis

The Liberal, NDP, and Green Party candidates all indicated that addressing the climate crisis would be their top priority should they win the election, and furthermore that their parties would each approach the issue with a carbon tax.

Liberal candidate Anandasangaree said, “if we fail on climate change [then] nothing else really does matter.” However, he also faced criticism from both the Green and NDP candidates over the Liberal’s $4.5 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Hamilton commented: “[you] had four years to do whatever you wanted with your majority government and you still bought a pipeline.”

Anandasangaree justified the pipeline as a “necessary [evil]… in order [for] the economy [to be] able to sustain itself while we transform into a clean carbon economy.”

Conservative candidate Singh said that the “carbon tax is unfairly penalizing companies locally.” He suggested, rather, that carbon absorption would be a better option to address the climate crisis.

The PPC candidate, Sally, falsely said that “carbon dioxide is not a pollutant… [and] global warming has not increased natural disasters.” According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at least 97 per cent of publishing scientists agree that the climate crisis is caused by human activities. Carbon dioxide is a pollutant that has concentrated significantly in the atmosphere over the last century due to the burning of fossil fuels, and increased heat waves and stronger hurricanes will result from the climate crisis.

Sally also noted that he does not believe in the climate crisis and cited evidence from an article in Talouselämä, a Finnish magazine, that features World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. Sally’s remarks prompted a strong condemnation from Anandasangaree, who said “your denial is just unacceptable.”

As per the Talouselämä article that Sally referenced, Taalas released a statement on September 12 that expressed that such a reading “is a selective interpretation of my words and my longstanding views…[and] it is highly important that we rein in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Budget

The Greens, Conservatives, and the PPC all plan to balance the budget, rather than run a deficit.

NDP candidate Kwok emphasized that with regards to the budget, the NDP “are for fair taxation.” Kwok continued that as part of their New Deal for the People they “just want the super rich to pay a little more” in order to prevent cuts to government programs.

Anandasangaree noted that the Liberals “do believe in running honest deficits.” However, he justified the policy, saying they carry a positive impact because they are investing in people and infrastructure.

When faced with criticism from Singh for the government’s failure to balance the budget, Anandasangaree responded by noting that the Conservative Party has not released a full, costed platform, saying that “I’m willing to defend our record, but at the same time, I do want to see a plan [from the Conservatives] that I can also scrutinize.”

Elxn 2019 and the Climate Crisis: A Youth Town Hall

Join us on Thursday October 3rd at the Tranzac Club from 6-8 PM as we discuss what it means to vote for the climate in the upcoming federal election. The night will be kicked off by a youth panel of climate, labour, and migrant justice activists, and then we will have a quick discussion on climate action with local MP candidates from across the GTA before splitting off into a roundtable town hall with all of the candidates, where you’ll get to speak one-on-one with candidates about their plans for climate action.

Justin Trudeau announces full, costed Liberal platform at UTM Town Hall

Plan includes tax cuts, increased student grants

Justin Trudeau announces full, costed Liberal platform at UTM Town Hall

Liberal Party leader and incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his party’s full platform at a town hall event held this Sunday at UTM. In it, he set out a “real plan for the middle class.” The platform is set to increase spending on student grants, child benefits, and the environment by billions of dollars, at the expense of the wealthiest one per cent of Canadians. He also took questions from students, community members, and the press.

Restructuring of student grants

In introducing his plan to support students, Trudeau brought up Premier Doug Ford’s changes to education in Ontario.

“Doug Ford slashes education funding and makes it near impossible to pay for tuition.”

Under a Liberal government, Trudeau vowed to increase the Canada Student Grants by another 40 per cent, a move he claims will provide students with an additional $1,200 per year for tuition, books, and rent. The maximum Canada Student Grant will be raised to $4,200, up from $3,000.

He will also institute a two-year interest-free grace period with a minimum $35,000 income requirement, which is an increase from the previous six-month grace period. This means that even after the two-year grace period elapses, students will not have to start their student loan repayments until they are making at least $35,000 a year. Parents with student debt will also have the option to freeze their loan payments until their child reaches the age of five.

When asked about her thoughts on Trudeau’s plan for students, UTM student Maha Taieldien said in an interview with The Varsity, “I think it’s a step in the right direction. There’s obviously a lot more that they can do, but it’s baby steps.”

Tax cuts for the middle class

Trudeau kicked off the event with a scathing criticism of conservative politics, both federal and provincial.

“When he was campaigning, Doug Ford said that not a single person would lose their job to pay for his massive cuts. Well, tell that to the 10,000 Ontario teachers who are losing their jobs. Andrew Scheer is asking you to double down on Conservatives. That’s twice the handouts for big polluters and the wealthy, and twice the cuts for you and your family.”

In response, he promised to make Canadian lives more affordable. He plans to achieve this with tax cuts for the middle class — cuts that he claims will save the average family $600 a year and lift 38,000 Canadians out of poverty.

In addition, the platform, which was titled “Forward: A Real Plan for the Middle Class,” aims to cut phone bills by 25 per cent, provide interest-free loans of up to $40,000 for families who wish to retrofit their homes, and boost the Canada Child Benefit so that families with newborns will receive up to $1,000 more in payments.

On climate action

Trudeau said that Canada will reach net zero emissions by 2050 under his government, and that fossil fuel subsidies will be phased out by 2025.

“In the process, we’ll become world leaders in clean technology.”

He also defended his Liberal government’s move to greenlight the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, promising that profits from the pipeline will go directly back to funding clean energy projects and an initiative to plant two billion trees in the next decade.

“I’m glad that they’re doing something about it but I just feel like 2050 is very far into the future,” noted Taieldien.

Emphasizing the point of her fellow classmate, UTM student Amanda Hammad said, “especially based on how much limited time we have, I agree, it’s something that needs to be done sooner.”

Media response

When taking questions from the press, Trudeau faced multiple queries regarding how he plans to fund his tax cuts and benefits for students and the middle class, while continuing to work toward a balanced budget.

His answers often repeated the same sentiment that increased investment in the middle class would result in greater economic output. These answers weren’t well received by journalists who were looking for specific plans on when and how Trudeau might curb his spending.

Trudeau also faced scrutiny for continuously mentioning Doug Ford, a provincial politician. One journalist asked if Trudeau was attempting to associate Ford with Scheer. In response, Trudeau noted that, “Mr. Scheer is the person who has associated himself with Doug Ford.”

NDP, Green Party MP candidates for University–Rosedale discuss climate at Sidney Smith

UTEA and APSS host Melissa Jean-Baptise Vajda, Tim Grant

NDP, Green Party MP candidates for University–Rosedale discuss climate at Sidney Smith

The University of Toronto Environmental Action (UTEA) group and the Association of Political Science Students (APSS) hosted University–Rosedale’s MP candidates Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Tim Grant from the Green Party, to discuss their parties’ approach to the climate crisis. The Liberal and Conservative Party candidates for University–Rosedale were not invited to the discussion, as UTEA only invited parties with climate as a central part of their platform.

Keith Stewart, a senior strategist with Greenpeace Canada, was one of the speakers for the event. He criticized “petro nationalism,” the rhetoric of oil companies where they attempt to connect the extraction of fossil fuels to a Canadian identity.

Speaking on each party’s environmental plans, Stewart described the Green Party as being more focused on the reduction of greenhouse gasses than on environmental justice, which he defines as “transforming relationships” between society and environment. He described the NDP as being more focused on environmental justice.

“We don’t have to be very nice. The thing is this is actually a fight,” said Stewart on Greenpeace’s approach to environmental issues.

The discussion then turned its focus to the two MP candidates. The NDP wants to make emissions reduction targets legally binding. “We will establish a climate and accountability office that will be outside of the government,” said Vajda.

On environmental justice, Vadja commented that the NDP plans to put Indigenous people “on both sides of the table,” referencing the fact that the NDP is putting forward Indigenous candidates in the election.

Speaking on her housing plans, Vadja said, “We’ll build 500,000 more units all across Canada. We will build more affordable housing, social housing, co-ops — all of that impacts the ability for people to remain in their communities to live safer and healthier lives. It’s all intertwined and connected with a green new deal.”

Green Party candidate Tim Grant emphasized the importance of working with other parties and increasing political engagement from young voters. As 18–24-year-olds are the biggest demographic of non-voters, “your ability to reach out to your friends and get them engaged is critical,” said Grant.

Moving into possibly a minority government, Grant said, “the Greens and NDP I think quite reasonably are going to be pressing hard on climate and other files.”

What makes the Green Party stand out, according to Grant, is that they do not whip votes, a practice he criticized other parties for. “And that means you have to wilt the same way and you can’t speak out even though you may, on various issues, feel differently than the party mainstream, and you can’t speak out otherwise.”

Liberal, NDP, Green MP candidates debate transit

Conversation focused on environmental and safety concerns at Innis Town Hall

Liberal, NDP, Green MP candidates debate transit

There were no major roadblocks at a transportation debate for Toronto federal candidates at Innis Town Hall on September 17, as Liberal Party, New Democratic Party (NDP), and Green Party members largely reached a consensus.

The debate, hosted by Transport Futures, featured two of the candidates for the Spadina–Fort York federal riding: incumbent Adam Vaughan of the Liberal Party and Diana Yoon of the New Democratic Party (NDP), as well as Tim Grant — the Green Party candidate for the University–Rosedale federal riding.

Absent from the debate were invited candidates of the Conservative Party and Renata Ford of the People’s Party of Canada.

The conversation was moderated by Ben Spurr, a transportation reporter for the Toronto Star. While the discussion covered a breadth of topics, three issues persistently came up during the evening: environmental impact, safety, and funding for transportation.

Platform comparisons

Vaughan kicked off the debate by announcing his party’s intentions to deliver a $180 billion infrastructure program — $28 billion of which will be allocated to public transit. Under this plan, funds will be distributed on a per-rider as opposed to a per-capita basis. The TTC will receive just under $4.9 billion over a 10-year period, with pedestrian and cycling infrastructure also being supported under the Liberal plan.

The hallmark of the NDP’s platform is fare-free public transit. Yoon emphasized the importance of this policy for low-income and marginalized communities who have faced decades of Liberal and Conservative underfunding on the topic of transportation.

Grant advocated for his party’s transportation strategy, which he described as a “hub and spoke” system. The Green’s plan proposes the use of rail as ‘the hub’ and electric buses, the ‘spokes,’ which would connect more remote areas to a central rail system. The aim of this vision is to use as much electric transportation as possible by 2040.

Environmental implications of transportation

The debate touched on the impact of public transit on the climate crisis at length, as the candidates spoke on the future of Toronto’s public transportation. All three candidates made impassioned arguments for the role of zero-emission cars and public transit in their plans to fight the crisis.

Yoon, who worked at the City of Toronto’s Atmospheric Fund, said that the “motivating force” for her candidacy was the climate crisis, emphasizing equity in her policies.

Bike lane accessibility also played a large role in the conversation, which prompted discussion around the question of whether or not the lack of infrastructure was the true problem surrounding environmentally-friendly transportation.

Yoon attributed the alleged lack of investment in proper infrastructure from the federal government to be a concern. Grant disagreed, blaming increased congestion in the city on the development of ride-sharing applications instead.

While the NDP, Liberals, and Green Party candidates all agreed on providing tax incentives for the creation of zero-emission vehicles, Grant made an effort to note that electric busses, more than cars, are a “big part of the answer.”

“What we really need is harder, bigger, and more ambitious federal targets on vehicle use and on carbon reduction,” argued Grant.

Transportation and safety

Pedestrian and cyclist safety was a priority for all candidates: “I am not a cyclist because, frankly, I am concerned about my own safety,” Yoon said, and argued that Toronto’s poor urban street design is the root of the problem.

Vaughan referred to his work as a city counsellor in establishing more bike lanes, and he credited the King Street pilot for taking a step toward safer transit. He continued by saying that federal investment was necessary to design safer transportation policies.

Grant’s safety concerns were focused on train rail safety. Notably, he pointed toward the Dupont Street corridor, where the City of Toronto cited a lack of rail safety in blocking a condo development from being built too close to the rail.

The Green Party candidate argued that rail companies need to have higher standards and include the implementation of safety options such as electronic sensors. The concern for the Dupont Street corridor was shared by Vaughan, as he agreed that bigger security measures need to be taken to avoid a catastrophe like the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013.

Ontario Liberal leadership candidates promise reversal of Ford policies

Mitzie Hunter, Alvin Tedjo, Michael Coteau, Kate Graham, Steven Del Duca on their plans

Ontario Liberal leadership candidates promise reversal of Ford policies

Following the resignation of Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Liberal Party will be electing a new leader in March 2020 to challenge Premier Doug Ford in the 2022 election. In the past year, the provincial government, led by Ford, has made several significant changes to postsecondary education, most notably the restructuring of Ontario university and college funding, cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), and the implementation of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI).

In an article from The Queen’s Journal, all Ontario Liberal Party leader candidates announced their intentions to restore OSAP and reverse the SCI if elected as premier.

The Varsity spoke to all five candidates about their plans for postsecondary education: Mitzie Hunter, Scarborough—Guildwood MPP and former Minister of Education; Alvin Tedjo, former Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities; Michael Coteau, Don Valley East MPP and former Minister of Community and Social Services; Kate Graham, a political science teacher at the University of Western Ontario; Steven Del Duca, former MPP for Vaughan and Minister of Economic Development and Growth.

Mitzie Hunter

Hunter said she will reinstate $750 million in OSAP cuts: “I’m hearing directly from students who have lost thousands of dollars that they were previously receiving under the former Liberal government, and they no longer [receive] as a result of the Ford cuts. This is delaying their completion of their programs and this helps no one.”

“It’s certainly a challenging bar for various universities and colleges because each of them have different conditions in which they operate,” said Hunter, on the topic of tying funding to performance metrics. She also expressed concern about equity in the new postsecondary funding system.

In addition, Hunter plans to increase the interest-free grace period to two years, as well as provide mental health coverage through OHIP to people under 30.

Alvin Tedjo

On the Ford government’s announcement that 60 per cent of postsecondary funding will be tied to performance metrics by 2024–2025, Tedjo said, “I think in theory it should be a good thing. But in practice, I worry that the Ford government will use it to manipulate what they want more out of the system and in their own ideological way and not in a fact-based way.”

To Tedjo, the SCI is “[the] government attacking student leadership, attacking student program, attacking student life, attacking student media outlets, because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid to give students that voice… And we’re seeing how devastating it is for a number of governments and student groups, in terms of what they’ve been able to do.”

Tedjo’s campaign is exploring the idea of universal basic income and universal child care, especially for students with dependents.

Michael Coteau

Instead of focusing solely on academic success through performance metrics, Coteau believes we should also be “looking at the health and well-being of students, looking at ways for the university to benchmark and make improvements in those areas.”

“I think some of the pieces that we should be looking at — and this is what we’d need from the [Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities] — is, number one, enrollment numbers,” said Coteau on understanding the effects of the OSAP cuts, emphasizing that the ministry should look into Indigenous and low-income enrollment.

“If I was the premier of Ontario, I would reverse those cuts immediately and I would continue to explore ways to invest [in] postsecondary education and training only because I believe that is probably our number one economic development strategy by getting people ready for the new economy and the opportunities.”

Kate Graham

In an email to The Varsity, Graham wrote that in her experience as a university instructor, she saw “how damaging the recent OSAP cuts have been for students.”

“Even in the single year of expanded OSAP, the initial numbers showed increased enrolment from Indigenous students and mature students — we heard stories of people going back to school who would never been able to afford it otherwise.”

Graham added that she believes “investing in people and their skills is the best kind of investment.”

“I would plan to bring back funding into the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities: not only for student aid, but for the direct funding of institutions that has also been cut by this government.” Graham would also reverse the SCI if elected premier.

Steven Del Duca

Del Duca told The Varsity that, if elected, he would reverse the SCI, “bring back truly affordable tuition,” and “[restore] an OSAP upon which students can rely.”

He called out Ford’s policies by saying that the cuts the current provincial government have made come “at the expense of student experience and success.”

“I will fight so that every single individual in Ontario has a genuine opportunity to go as far in life as their talent and effort can take them. To accomplish this, high-quality education must be accessible regardless of income level.”

The Varsity has reached out to the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Editor’s Note (September 24, 12:39 pm): This article has been updated with comment from Graham.

Editor’s Note (September 24, 1:04 pm): An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that The Varsity had reached out to Graham for comment. The Varsity regrets the error.

Editor’s Note (September 29, 3:16 pm): This article has been updated with comment from Del Duca.

UTSG: Four Faultlines of the Indian Republic

India is an ancient civilization but a new nation. As a political experiment it is very much a work in progress. This lecture will provide a brief political history of India since Independence before discussing four key challenges facing the Republic in 2019; these are (1) inter-religious disharmony; (2) environmental abuse; (3) institutional decay; (4) the cult of personality.

Dr. Ramachandra Guha is a historian and biographer based in Bengaluru. His books include a pioneering environmental history, The Unquiet Woods (University of California Press, 1989), and an award-winning social history of cricket, A Corner of a Foreign Field (Picador, 2002), which was chosen by The Guardian as one of the ten best books on cricket ever written. India after Gandhi (Macmillan/Ecco Press, 2007; revised edition, 2017) was chosen as a book of the year by the Economist, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, and as a book of the decade in the Times of London and The Hindu.

Dr. Guha’s most recent work is a two volume biography of Mahatma Gandhi. The first volume, Gandhi Before India (Knopf, 2014), was chosen as a notable book of the year by the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. The second volume, Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World (Knopf, 2018, was chosen as a notable book of the year by the New York Times and The Economist.

Dr. Guha’s awards include the Leopold-Hidy Prize of the American Society of Environmental History, the Daily Telegraph/Cricket Society prize, the Malcolm Adideshiah Award for excellence in social science research, the Ramnath Goenka Prize for excellence in journalism, the Sahitya Akademi Award, and the Fukuoka Prize for contributions to Asian studies.