Trump’s shutdown hand weakens again after dreadful two days

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WASHINGTON— His poll numbers cratered. Six Republicans defected. He lost a staredown he started. He and his senior officials outraged people with tone-deaf remarks. FBI agents, air traffic controllers and former homeland security chiefs warned of risks to public safety.

Already losing the public battle over the partial government shutdown he initiated, U.S. President Donald Trump’s hand has weakened again this week after perhaps his worst 48 hours of the 34-day impasse — a cascade of errors, indignities and criticisms that laid bare the precariousness of his position.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures talks tariffs in the cabinet room of the White House Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures talks tariffs in the cabinet room of the White House Thursday.  (Jacquelyn Martin / AP)

His problems were made most obvious on Thursday, when the Senate voted Thursday on competing proposals to reopen the portions of the government Trump has refused to fund unless Congress also gives him billions for the wall he promised to build on the Mexican border.

Neither Trump’s proposal, which included wall funding, nor the Democrats’ proposal, which didn’t, received the 60 votes necessary to pass. But the Democrats’ proposal got more votes — 52 compared to 50 — because six Republicans, including two who face challenging re-election battles in 2020, broke ranks to support the Democratic proposal after Trump’s proposal failed, a sign of growing discomfort in some quarters of the party.

The unsuccessful votes triggered a new round of negotiations between Democratic and Republican Senate leaders. Trump suggested he would be open to “some sort of pro-rated down payment” on the wall. Senators did not understand what he meant.

The developments came a day after Trump tried and failed to bluster his way into delivering a State of the Union address in the House chamber next Tuesday. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who effectively controls the chamber, had told him she wanted him to reschedule for some date after the government was reopened. With characteristic bravado, Trump sent Pelosi a public letter on Wednesday declaring that he would be giving the speech as originally planned.

Read more:

Trump-backed measure to end government shutdown fails in Senate

Ending showdown with Pelosi, Trump postpones State of Union

Jared Kushner thrusts himself into middle of shutdown debate

Pundits speculated about a dramatic showdown at the House doors, the kind of made-for-TV base-rallying moment Trump usually cherishes. Trump and his spokespeople suggested they would instead choose some sort of “alternative” venue. Instead, within 12 hours, Trump made a rare decision to publicly cave — announcing on Twitter that he would simply wait to speak until “the Shutdown is over.”

Earlier Wednesday, two polls suggested that the damage to Trump is worsening as the shutdown drags on. His approval rating in an Associated Press poll dropped to 34 per cent, his lowest in more than a year. He hit a new disapproval high in a CBS poll, 59 per cent, with just 36 per cent approval.

Comments from Trump and two of his senior appointees on Thursday were unlikely to help. Told that some federal workers have resorted to food banks while they have gone unpaid, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire, said, “I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why.” He said they should be able to get loans. Later in the day, chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow described the shutdown as a mere “glitch.” Then Trump himself claimed, with no apparent evidence, that federal workers get free groceries at their local stores.

As Trump tried again to make the case that the border situation is a security crisis, the news was dominated by others arguing the shutdown itself is a serious hazard.

On Tuesday, the FBI Agents Association issued a report detailing how the shutdown was hampering work against terrorism, drug trafficking and even the MS-13 gang Trump has cited in promoting the wall. On Wednesday, the president of the air traffic controllers’ union said his members are making “routine mistakes” because of their financial stress.

Also Wednesday, five former chiefs of the Department of homeland security sent Trump and Congress a letter telling them to fund the department, suggesting the shutdown was “putting national security at risk.” One of the signers was John Kelly, Trump’s former chief of staff.

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8

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I want to thank the world for holding my hand as my father, Harry Leslie Smith, died

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At 3:39 a.m. on Nov. 28, as daybreak prepared to be born, my father, Harry Leslie Smith, at the age of 95, died in my arms.

Politicians, journalists and ordinary folk knew him as “the world’s oldest rebel.” But he was much more than that to me — not only my father but my friend, my political comrade and my mentor, who I had the great fortune to accompany on a spiritual and political odyssey that spanned the last nine years of his life.

Harry Leslie Smith, the “world’s oldest rebel,” and his son John, who will pick up where his father left off and travel by bus to the Mexican border in California to document “the injustice, the cruelty, the inhumanity that is being shown to the caravan of migrants.”
Harry Leslie Smith, the “world’s oldest rebel,” and his son John, who will pick up where his father left off and travel by bus to the Mexican border in California to document “the injustice, the cruelty, the inhumanity that is being shown to the caravan of migrants.”  (Family photo)

Harry, a survivor of the Great Depression and veteran of the Second World War, was on a mission to warn younger generations not to make his past — one filled with politically driven austerity, private health care and raging, intemperate populism — our future.

Driven by the poverty of his childhood that had seen him scavenge through rubbish bins in Depression-ravaged Britain, we travelled the world, much of it at our own expense, so he could speak to both the ordinary and the mighty, to make a last stand for a return to a decent society in the 21st century.

Now, at 55, I am alone, faced with rebuilding my life and preserving the legacy of Harry Leslie Smith. It is why I will resume his refugee tour and complete his Last Stand. This holiday season, I will travel across America by bus to the Mexican border in San Diego to document — on Harry’s enormous social media platform — the injustice, the cruelty, the inhumanity that is being shown to the caravan of migrants by a Trump government intent on ruling by fear and intimidation rather than by compassion, pragmatism and good governance.

Harry feared that humanity was at a juncture in history just as dangerous as Hitler’s rise to power and if we didn’t change course we would spiral into war and economic mayhem.

Over these last years, as he approached the eventide of his life, his intellectual and emotional vitality never seemed to tire, despite many health issues. It’s why it didn’t seem possible to me, even at his deathbed, that he could die.

"With a smile and a joke that it was best to enjoy yourself because it's later than you think, my dad, who had protected and loved me as child, teenager and adult, lost consciousness and never returned," writes son John.
« With a smile and a joke that it was best to enjoy yourself because it’s later than you think, my dad, who had protected and loved me as child, teenager and adult, lost consciousness and never returned, » writes son John.  (Paul Hunter/Toronto Star File Photo)

When I kissed his hands and cheek while telling him how much I loved him, I thought this must be a nightmare, because I felt he had so much left to do and contribute.

But Harry knew. I am sure he knew that only the briefest of moments were left to him because days before his death, Canada’s immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, came like a pilgrim to his bedside in the ICU of the Belleville hospital to thank him for his advocacy to help stop the refugee crisis.

With a machine pumping compressed air into his lungs, a PICC line in his right arm and bags of IV fluids dripping into his left arm, my dad, in a weak but prophetic voice, told the minister that time was running out for him and for a compassionate solution to the refugee crisis.

John Smith travelled the world with his father, Harry, "so my dad could thunder like a warning from history."
John Smith travelled the world with his father, Harry, « so my dad could thunder like a warning from history. »  (Family Photo)

Still, it just didn’t seem conceivable to me that since we had set out on this journey together nearly a decade before, covering tens of thousands of miles so my dad could thunder like a warning from history, that he would not complete his Last Stand.

But he didn’t. He couldn’t because his body was just too damaged by age and the strain of our travels and advocacy.

My dad’s body, nearing 100 years, didn’t stand a chance against the pneumonia, sepsis, congestive heart failure and weakened kidneys that were killing him. It’s why he gave permission to his doctor and nursing staff to discontinue the medical treatment that was prolonging his life but stripping it of all quality and dignity.

He did it with the words “no more” and a final demand that he be given a beer as he’d been starved of food and fluids for a week because doctors were afraid he’d aspirate.

Author and columnist Harry Leslie Smith and his son John in younger times.
Author and columnist Harry Leslie Smith and his son John in younger times.  (Family Photo)

And with a smile and a joke that it was best to enjoy yourself because it’s later than you think, my dad, who had protected and loved me as child, teenager and adult, lost consciousness and never returned.

Harry held on to life for 12 hours after medical supports were removed, and I did not leave his side for one moment of it. I sat by his bedside in the ICU and played for him his speech to the Labour party conference in 2014, where he galvanized Britain with his reminiscence of the brutal, short and cruel life the working class endured before public health care was introduced.

I read to him from the books he’d written and I’d helped research, five in total — 1923: A Memoir; Love Among the Ruins; The Empress of Australia; Harry’s Last Stand; Don’t Let My Past Be Your Future — stories about the rich working-class canvas of his youth in Depression-era Yorkshire, his experiences during the Second World War and his search for love in the rubble of postwar, Allied-occupied Hamburg, where he was redeemed through his marriage to Friede, my mother.

Author and political activist Harry Leslie Smith at the Calais migrant camps in France in 2016.
Author and political activist Harry Leslie Smith at the Calais migrant camps in France in 2016.  (Family Photo)

I thanked him for teaching me how to be a decent human being while hearing his last breaths. It hurt me so much to feel his body grow cold as death approached. Then I heard, while I whispered to him that it was time to join history, his breathing grow faint, as if he were an exhausted swimmer, too far from shore to reach the safety of land, before sinking beneath the cold, dark waves.

I hovered over his corpse and stroked his cheek, knowing that after that moment, I’d never again have the opportunity to touch my dad. And something lingered in me, still lingers in me — and that was the enormous love, respect and understanding that we had shown each other for my entire life, but especially during the last years of his life when we dared to change the world for the better.

After placing one last kiss on my father’s cold brow, I placed in his hands a picture of my beloved mother and walked from the hospital out into the morning air. Too tired for tears, in the frigid indifference of late November, I made a quiet promise to my father, and to myself. “Dad, I will finish what we started. I will use the example of your life to teach others that a better society can be built on the foundations you and your generation laid at the end of the Second World War. You will not be forgotten, judging by the grief expressed by tens of thousands of people across the world at your death. A new tomorrow is possible.”

"There are no words to express my gratitude to all those people who ... became our friends during our journey of the heart toward a more decent world," writes Harry's son John, seen in an undated photo with his father.
« There are no words to express my gratitude to all those people who … became our friends during our journey of the heart toward a more decent world, » writes Harry’s son John, seen in an undated photo with his father.  (Family Photo)

What Harry accomplished could not have happened without this love and commitment to him. Each time we travelled, both Harry and I were moved by the simple kindness of strangers. I’ve cried many times over the thousands of tweets from people all over the world expressing their condolences and love for my dad. It has made this walk of mourning less lonely. Thank you.

My dad was an ordinary man, born into extreme poverty, then raised out of it by the creation of the welfare state after the Second World War — his generation’s hard-won legacy for future children of this planet. It is truly humbling that his efforts in later life to make society better have been recognized by so many as noble and heroic acts.

However, now, to preserve his legacy, I must conclude his travels to the world’s refugee hot spots, finish his book on the refugee crisis, write my own book about life with my dad, continue his advocacy on social media and begin speaking to anyone who will listen about the life history of this remarkable man, Harry Leslie Smith — my dad.

Harry Leslie Smith, a survivor of the Great Depression and veteran of the Second World War, with a copy of one of five books he wrote in the last years of his life.
Harry Leslie Smith, a survivor of the Great Depression and veteran of the Second World War, with a copy of one of five books he wrote in the last years of his life.  (Facebook)

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Labour issues may hand Democrats the key to fighting USMCA

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In conversation at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School last month, Nancy Pelosi laid out her priorities should the Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives and should Pelosi reclaim the top job as Speaker.

HR1, she said, meaning House Resolution Number 1, would be campaign finance reform, followed by lowering the cost of health care, “building the infrastructure of America” (mass transit, schools, housing), protecting the Dreamers and passing the Equality Act amendment to the Civil Rights Act, thereby enshrining protections for the LGBTQ community.

Trump’s NAFTA plan could be upended by Democrats’ House takeover

U.S. midterm elections put USMCA in jeopardy

Now that Democrats are back in control of the House, it isn’t certain, but it is a reasonable bet, that Pelosi will re-emerge as Speaker. When she last took up that gavel in January of 2007 she delivered, within 100 days, on her promised legislative agenda, which included rescinding billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil and gas companies and raising the federal minimum wage, which the Democrats will fight for again, she vows.

What Pelosi has not put on her Top 10 list is passage of the United-States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

This shouldn’t come as a post-election surprise.

Those who lived through the first NAFTA recall the free trade expansion negotiated by the Republicans under George H. W. Bush in 1992, the opposition from the Democrats, and the 11th-hour conversion of Bill Clinton, who, as president, signed the trade deal into law late in 1993, but not before the ignored issues of the environment and labour were addressed.

By “addressed” I do not mean to suggest they were addressed effectively. Kept out of the main text, environment and labour were written in as side agreement addenda. The language was woefully lax. On labour, as I have written before, the signatories to the deal said they were “committed to promote” a few “guiding principles” governing “broad areas of concern.” The word flaccid does not do the deal justice.

The warnings raised by Democratic opponents were realized.

The labour rights of the Mexican worker would be ignored. There would be no enforcement of the right to collective bargaining. The suppression of wages for Mexican workers would see American jobs flood south of the border, as North American business exploited cheap labour.

The NAFTA accord marks its quarter century this January.

And where are we? In the new USMCA there is a direct labour chapter, with an annex specifically addressing worker representation in collective bargaining in Mexico.

Again, 25 years have passed and here we are. An excerpt: Mexico is to “provide in its labor laws the right of workers to engage in concerted activities for collective bargaining or protection and to organize, form, and join the union of their choice.” Employer “domination or interference in union activities” is to be prohibited. Discrimination against workers for union activity is to be banned.

There’s a seven-point directive as to what the new legislation is to cover.

We must wonder: how is it this was not enshrined decades ago? “It is the expectation of the Parties,” the annex concludes, “that Mexico shall adopt legislation described above before January, 2019. It is further understood that entry into force of the agreement may be delayed until such legislation becomes effective.” (Those italics are mine.)

On this issue of enforcement, we find such mewling language as “encouraging the establishment of worker-management committees” and “providing or encouraging mediation” and implementing undefined sanctions.

Little wonder there’s a growing expectation that the Democrats could seize the moment to call for changes to the labour chapter and, while they’re at it, push for new environmental standards, a back-to-the-future discussion, if you will.

None of this interferes with the timeline Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and U.S. President Donald Trump continue to follow, that is, the formal signing of USMCA by month’s end. But that formality is just setting the stage for the tumult ahead.

Perhaps, as some have suggested, Trump will threaten to pull out of NAFTA altogether if the deal doesn’t advance through Congress after it convenes in January.

There will be the inevitable complaints about political opportunism on the part of the Democrats should they hold firm.

This ignores the failure of NAFTA in its first round: that it failed to enshrine labour rights as it advanced “freer, fairer” markets. The new deal promises the “protection and enforcement of labour rights, the improvement of working conditions, the strengthening of co-operation and the Parties’ capacity on labor issues.”

That isn’t much of a promise at all. And Nancy Pelosi knows it.

Jennifer Wells is a business columnist based in Toronto. Reach her on email: jenwells@thestar.ca

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Who’s rating doctors on RateMDs? The invisible hand of ‘reputation management’

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This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.

Did that doctor pay to hide some bad reviews on RateMDs, the online physician rating system? You wouldn’t know.

Nor would you know if a doctor hired a reputation management service to boost the volume of positive reviews.

Online reputation management is an emerging industry with companies offering a variety of services to professionals who find themselves ranked on rating sites with no ability to opt out and with no control over the anonymous comments that can affect their reputation.

I feel this is akin to  cyberbullying .– Dr. Sukhbir  Singh, gynecologist, The Ottawa Hospital

The fact that those reputation management tools exist came as a shock to Dr. Sukhbir Singh, a gynecologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Singh was already grappling with a negative review posted on his RateMDs page — a posting he discovered last weekend after an anonymous person claimed he had harmed them with a procedure that he doesn’t do.

He quickly responded on the site, advising the person to speak to the hospital about their concerns,

Then, just as suddenly, the posting vanished.

« This is crazy. None of this makes sense to me, » he said. « I feel this is akin to cyberbullying. »

In the middle of all of that a sales representative from RateMDs contacted him offering « reputation management tools » for a fee. The service includes the ability to keep up to three comments hidden from public view.

« That just made me sick to my stomach, » he said. « It doesn’t seem that in a public health-care system that I should be marketing myself, that I should be protecting my reputation and paying an independent private company to do that work. »

RateMDs offers doctors two special plans to enhance their presence on the site. The « Promoted » package costs $179 US per month and includes banner ads that will appear on competing doctor’s pages.

RateMDs online physician rating site sells advertising packages to doctors which allows them to pay a fee and hide some unfavourable comments. (Daniel Rofusz/CBC News)

And for $359 US per month the doctor can buy the « Promoted plus » option. Both packages allow doctors to hide up to three unfavourable comments — a feature called « Ratings Manager. »

But if a doctor stops paying, those unfavourable ratings will reappear.

« The reviews a provider designates with the Ratings Manager are not permanently removed and their numerical scores remain as part of the calculation of a provider’s overall rating, » said Chris Goodridge, chief investment officer of VerticalScope Inc., the parent company of Toronto-based RateMDs. (Torstar Corp, publisher of the Toronto Star, purchased a 56 per cent ownership in VerticalScope in 2015.)

« If a user unsubscribes from the Promoted or Promoted Plus plans, he or she will no longer receive the benefits associated with that subscription, » Goodridge said via email. 

« You’re held a little bit to ransom because the second you stop paying that $200 per month, those hidden reviews come back online, » said Ryan Forman, who runs a company called GlowingMDs that helps doctors manage their RateMDs profiles.

Reclaiming reputations

Forman’s company advertises its service to doctors with the line: « Reclaim your reputation. »

For a monthly fee of $229 plus HST the company provides a ratings template that doctors offer to patients to complete after an appointment.

« We then take all of those reviews, good or bad, from the doctor, and we then post it to RateMDs in effect on the doctor’s behalf. »

A reputation management company advertises service to physicians to boost positive patient testimonials on RateMDs online doctor rating site. (Daniel Rofusz/CBC News)

« We’re not able to remove any negative reviews but what we can do is post legitimate reviews that come through the doctor and hopefully improve their RateMDs profile, » said Forman.

Over at RateMDs, Goodridge said he knows that companies are selling reputation management services that target the online site.

« We’re certainly aware that there are a number of companies that support health care providers in soliciting patient reviews and in assisting with posting those reviews, » wrote Goodridge, adding that RateMDs has a system to disallow testimonials from suspicious sources.  

« RateMDs.com utilizes a variety of proprietary methods to identify and remove programmatically-generated reviews or reviews originating from suspicious sources. »

Software circumvents filters

But Forman said RateMDs filters have not prevented his company from posting multiple patient testimonials for a single doctor.

« We have had experience where they have picked up where we are putting more than one review for a doctor from the same location but the truth is our software circumvents that, » said Forman, adding he simply tweaks his software to get around the RateMDs filters.

So could anyone get the software and start posting whatever they wanted as many times as they wanted?

« Yes, I think if they were tech-savvy they probably could, » Forman said. » It’s not software that we developed, it’s software that’s out there on the internet so, yeah, they could definitely do it on their own. »

RateMDs is a free and open forum. That means anyone can say anything about any doctor. Just write a comment, click on each of the four rating stars and hit « Rate this doctor. » The site does not ask for a name, email address or phone number.

The doctor has no control over whether he or she appears on the site and there is no way to remove their page once it’s been posted.

A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that more than half of Canada’s physicians have been rated on the site.

« Overall, physicians are rated positively, » said study author Dr. Jessica Lui, a clinical investigator at the University of Toronto. « We did find there were differences in the likelihood of receiving a positive rating depending on what type of medicine you practiced. »

Misconduct decisions not visible 

But how useful are those ratings for patients especially if there are ways for doctors to boost their positive ratings?

And right now RateMDs does not post any warnings about physicians who have been disciplined by the medical regulatory colleges.

« If a provider has active or past disciplinary actions on their file they are not visible on their RateMDs.com profiles, » Goodridge wrote.

The remedies do not entirely correspond to the challenge.– Chantal Bernier, privacy and cybersecurity counsel, Dentons Canada LLP

The result? Doctors who have committed professional misconduct including sexual abuse of patients can still have glowing reviews on RateMDs.

« Providing transparency on disciplinary actions is a feature we continue to pursue on behalf of our audience, » wrote Goodridge. « At the moment, the limited availability of this data from the disparate colleges does not make this practical. RateMDs.com hopes to add this information in the near future by partnering with regulatory colleges if they are willing. »

There is also little transparency when it comes to anonymous accusations posted on RateMDs. Several doctors told CBC News about bad experiences including malicious postings from disgruntled employees.

And when patients do post negative reviews, the doctors pointed out that they can’t tell their side of the story without breaking patient confidentiality.

Forman started GlowingMDs after seeing some of those problems emerge in the medical clinics he manages.

« There’s definitely a need for the service, » Forman said. « Their hands are tied in terms of what they can say and do on RateMDs »

Thorny issues

Being rated without your consent can now happen to anyone. Doctors, lawyers, dog walkers — there is nothing preventing a company from setting up an online rating site and publishing anonymous reviews in any field — comments that will circulate on the internet forever.

« There is, I think, a very real issue that has, in a way, run away on us because we do not have the laws that specifically address these situations, » said Chantal Bernier, former federal privacy commissioner, now a privacy and cybersecurity counsel at Dentons Canada LLP.

« The thorny issues it presents is the reconciliation between the right to information, the obligation of accountability on one side and privacy and reputation on the other. »

Bernier said there is a need to examine the legislative tools that will be required to manage those competing ethical issues.

« Right now the remedies do not entirely correspond to the challenge. »

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‘It just came up in my hand’: Seatbelt installed after recall fails

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A Cape Breton man wants anyone who owns a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu to check their seatbelts after the replacement for a recalled seatbelt failed in his vehicle.

Stanley White bought a 2011 Malibu brand new from a dealership in Sydney. Four years later, he received a letter from General Motors.

« I got a notice in June [2015] telling me there might be a safety issue with my seatbelt and it was recalled, » he said.

The notice said the flexible steel cable that connects the seatbelt to the vehicle in the front seats can wear over time and separate, increasing the risk of injury in a crash.  

This 2015 GM recall notice for seatbelts shows where they can break. Stanley White’s replacement seatbelt broke in the same place. (Gary Mansfield)

According to Transport Canada’s website, 18,486 Malibu vehicles were subject to the seatbelt recall.

White’s recalled seatbelt was replaced and he didn’t think any more about it.

‘I couldn’t believe that it actually happened’

Then, in September, he got into his car and got a big surprise.

« I went to put the seatbelt on as usual, only the seatbelt wasn’t connected to anything, » he said. « It just came up in my hand.

« I couldn’t believe that it actually happened. »

The seatbelt that was installed in Stanley White’s car to replace one that was recalled has now broken. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

White said the replacement seatbelt seemed to fail in exactly the same place that prompted the recall. He expected the replacement would be replaced for free.

« I thought, ‘Well, this is a no-brainer and they’re going to fix it. Why wouldn’t they? »‘ he said.

No more replacements

But he soon discovered that wasn’t the case. Both the dealership and GM told him there was nothing they could do.

The dealership said there was only a one-year warranty on parts and labour on the replacement belt and once the recalled part is replaced, the recall is over.

White said it would cost him $300, plus labour, to have a new seatbelt installed.

Only one complaint to government

White also reported the problem to Transport Canada, which in an email said it has received no other complaints about the replacement seatbelts.

« Transport Canada is working with the owner to examine the replacement belt, » spokesperson Pierre Manoni said.

He said the department is not in a position to speak about the complaint until the examination is complete.

GM agrees to pay

CBC also contacted General Motors, which subsequently agreed to replace the faulty seatbelt for free.

It did not answer a question asking whether it was aware of other faulty replacement seatbelts, and if so, how many complaints it had received.

« We are investigating the matter, » Uzma Mustafa, GM Canada spokesperson, said in an email.

White said there should be no end date on recalls.

« If they manufacture a car with a known defect it should be replaced, » White said.

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‘You can’t … look away’: Halifax cartoonist on his image of Lady Justice with a hand over her mouth

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Lady Justice is on her back, blindfolded. And above her, a man with elephant cuffs on his wrist, is pinning her down with one hand and covering her mouth with the other.

Bruce MacKinnon drew the cartoon for Nova Scotia’s Chronicle Herald newspaper, inspired by Christine Blasey Ford’s Senate judiciary committee testimony last week against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

« I understand it’s hard for people to look at, especially people who might be survivors of sexual assault, » MacKinnon told CBC News. 

« For that reason though, I think a lot of people also agree that you can’t turn off the conversation, pretend it didn’t happen or look away. »

Bruce MacKinnon’s cartoon based on Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony has been repeatedly shared on Facebook and is drawing strong reaction. (CBC)

Ford told the committee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

She alleges that a drunken, 17-year-old Kavanaugh forced her down on a bed, groped her and tried to take off her clothes during a high school gathering in the summer of 1982. She was 15 at the time.

Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

‘Powerful and emotional’ testimony

Like many people, MacKinnon was glued to the coverage last week.

« She gave her testimony, it was so powerful and emotional. You couldn’t even take a breath until it was done, » said MacKinnon.

MacKinnon said the cartoon mirrors the alleged attack: « Lady Justice being smothered the way Dr. Ford was allegedly attacked by Kavanaugh back when she was a teenager. »

Cartoon from ‘perpetrator’ perspective

MacKinnon said he drew the picture from the angle of « the perpetrator. »

« Which is kind of a shocking camera angle, but it was just sort of what was in my head — a bit of a difficult angle to draw from, but it seemed to flow out of the pen pretty naturally, » he said.

« So I think just the way the image fell on the paper kind of grabs a lot of people. »

Since the cartoon was posted Saturday, the cartoon has had a lot of response from people across North America, both from people who believe Ford and those who support Kavanaugh.

Impact ‘all you can hope for’ as a cartoonist

The Washington Post wrote a short piece about it Saturday.

« I guess that means the cartoon had an impact. And that’s all you can hope for as a cartoonist, » he said.

As of 3 p.m. AT Sunday, the cartoon had been shared more than 9,000 times from his Facebook account.

« To underscore the importance of the decision to allow someone who is going to be making decisions on the highest court of the land, to have that shadow hanging over his or her past, I think that’s a pretty weighty decision, » he said.

« A shocking image is probably the only way to be effective. »

Read more articles at CBC Nova Scotia 

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