NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said today that his party will not give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau an “excuse” to send Canadians to the polls in the throes of a global pandemic — an apparent signal that Trudeau’s government will survive today’s confidence vote.
In a news conference just two hours before a crucial confidence vote, Singh declined to say exactly how his MPs would vote or whether they might abstain.
“We are voting for Canadians. We are voting against an election,” he said.
Singh said the NDP will still work to get answers on the WE Charity scandal through the Commons ethics committee.
The Bloc Québécois had already confirmed it will support the Conservative motion, leaving the outcome in the hands of the NDP.
The vote is expected to happen around 3:15 p.m. ET and CBCNews.ca will carry it live.
The opposition day motion would create a special committee to probe the Trudeau government’s ethics and spending in response to the pandemic — including the controversial WE Charity contract to administer a student volunteer grant program.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not recuse himself from talks on the agreement, even though several of his family members had been paid for speaking engagements by the organization.
WATCH / Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on possible election:
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she’s focused on passing legislation to support Canadians during the pandemic as a confidence vote looms in Parliament today. 1:39
Speaking to reporters after the Liberal caucus meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government needs the confidence of the House to do its job.
“I really believe at the end of the day common sense will prevail and we’re going to get through this,” she said.
Freeland also said that legislation for several new pandemic supports for Canadians and businesses need to be passed and an election could jeopardize that.
Heading into their weekly caucus meeting this morning, NDP MPs said they had not yet decided on a path forward and would talk about how to proceed behind closed doors.
“At the end of the day we have a lot of moving parts and we’re still in a pandemic and we’re still committed to fighting for Canadians and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Ontario NDP MP Matthew Green.
“We have to look at what all the variables are going in to this discussion and do what’s best for the country.”
Asked by reporters if the NDP had an obligation to support the Conservative motion, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said, “There’s many ways to skin a cat, my friends.”
WATCH / NDP MPs on today’s confidence vote:
NDP MPs arrived for their weekly caucus meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday. 1:26
Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell said the ethical questions surrounding the government require a special committee with a clear mandate. He said it’s the “duty” of opposition parties to hold the government to account.
“This is what the issue is all about with this motion, and what we see right now is a prime minister who will do whatever it takes to call an election,” he said.
“The only Canadian who would like to have an election today is the prime minister. The only Canadian who would like to freeze the government for a few months is the prime minister by calling an election.”
The Conservatives amended the original motion to state that voting to launch the committee should not be considered grounds to order an election.
It also dropped the “anti-corruption committee” label it initially proposed.
Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien said the WE Charity issue is so complex that it requires a special committee to get answers.
He said the Liberals’ “scorched-earth” approach to politics is the product of a “club of cronyism” and renders compromise impossible.
He also criticized the NDP, suggesting the party’s MPs have obediently followed Liberal demands.
“The NDP have acted in the last little while a little like the Liberals’ lap dog,” he said.
‘Unwelcome drama’: Paul
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul issued a statement urging the parties to cool their jets, calling the brinkmanship “unwelcome drama.”
“The Liberal and Conservative parties’ high-stakes, high-tech game of chicken can have no winner,” she said.
“They should leave such games outside of Parliament, and focus on the urgent needs of people in Canada. I ask members of Parliament to dial down the rhetoric, which is not in keeping with the seriousness of this unprecedented moment, so that we can get back to working on the critical matters at hand.”
Law enforcement and election officials are investigating threatening emails sent to voters in multiple Florida counties pressuring them to vote for President Donald Trump and claiming to be from a far-right group with a history of violent confrontations.
The emails, which appeared to be sent from “firstname.lastname@example.org,” said the group had obtained contact information about the voter and threatened to “come after” the person if they don’t vote for Trump
“No, it wasn’t us. The people (who sent the emails) used a spoofing email that pretended to be us,” Enrique Tarrio, international chairman of the Proud Boys, told USA TODAY. “Whoever did this should be in prison for a long time.”
Email spoofing is a technique commonly used by scammers to fool victims by making them believe the email comes from a source other than the scammer.
Tarrio said the emails in this case showed signs they were spoofed and said he is working with law enforcement to address the issue. “It is voter intimidation, no matter if it came from us or it didn’t — which it didn’t.”
“Hi (name) We are in possession of all your information You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you. (Voter’s address)”
Election officials said Tuesday they’d heard of dozens of the emails, but were unsure of whether they were solely sent to registered Democrats.
Donald Schwinn, 85, a snowbird registered to vote in Melbourne Beach, received one, telling FLORIDA TODAY, part of the USA TODAY Network, that “they’re trying to scare people into voting for Trump.”
Local officials were scrambling to get on top of the situation on Tuesday.
Kimberly Boelzner, spokesperson for Brevard Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott, said their office had received several reports of such emails and were awaiting guidance from the state division of elections.
“We’re advising voters to report it to local law enforcement,” she said.
By 6 p.m., Boelzner said her office had received about a dozen emails and a dozen calls about the matter. Scott has been in touch with the FBI and other authorities, she said.
Stacey Patel, chair of the Brevard Democrats, said she received at least five such emails from voters Tuesday and had notified the elections supervisor’s office.
“We’ve not seen this kind of voter intimidation in the past and it’s obviously really troubling,” she said. In a follow-up text, she said she advises recipients of the email to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI and the Florida Democratic Party Voter Protection team at 1-833-VOTE-FLA.
Last fall, when Breanna Brown wanted to talk to her fellow students about voting, the then-freshman at Wayne State University would walk into a lecture hall (with the professor’s permission) and extol the virtues of civic participation before class started.
In between classes, she and other organizers would “table” in highly trafficked areas, and guide students as they filled out a voter registration form on a friend’s computer. “We would have everybody touching that laptop,” Brown said. “That’s nothing you would ever imagine now.”
Like most things during the pandemic era, the candidate forums, residence hall canvassing and other typical election season activity on college campuses has gone digital. As such, Brown, who works as a fellow for Rise, an advocacy organization focused on college affordability and other youth and student issues, has shifted her strategy from last year.
Now, she connects the interns she manages with resident advisors or other influencers on campus, to try and convince them to talk about voting with their networks. In between Zoom classes, the students Brown works with will send Instagram or Twitter direct messages to almost 50 people on some days hoping to discuss their voting plans — and maybe get a handful of responses.
“It’s a lot more work,” Brown said of pandemic-era organizing. “It’s harder to have those conversations,” when you’re connecting digitally, “and really get to the meat of the subject with them, you just have to kind of put it out there and hope for the best.”
More than 80,000 voting conversations
Rise is working with more than 500 students such as Brown in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and California to increase voter turnout among college students. Since the organization launched in 2017, its approach has always been to urge students to use the power of their relationships with friends, family and others to cut through the avalanche of messaging they receive around voting, said Max Lubin, the chief executive officer of Rise.
With fewer in-person opportunities to have these conversations, students are turning to text message chains, social media and other digital formats, he said. So far, Rise organizers have had conversations about voting with 80,000 young people and the organization’s voter registration and education platform, Rise.vote, has had 166,000 visits, Lubin said.
Increasing voter turnout among college students has been a key component of their strategy of building youth political power to make college more affordable, advocate for students struggling to afford basic needs, and other policy priorities. “We no longer live in a society in which elected officials are always inclined to do the right thing by constituents; they’re really motivated by the voters that elect them,” Lubin said.
Young people are a coveted demographic
Young people are a coveted demographic among candidates, said Hahrie Han, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. For one, they account for a sizable portion of the electorate — one in 10 eligible voters this election season is from Generation Z, according to the Pew Research Center. In addition, habits that start when voters are young have the potential to set a precedent for the rest of their voting life, she said.
Finally, because our politics are so polarized, elections are largely won on turnout, Han said. That typically involves two components: Turning out your base and bringing in new voters. “They don’t have this voting history to draw on so everyone is fighting for that vote,” Han said of young people.
Though not all young people go to college, college campuses have historically played a role in creating a culture around voting and participating in civic life, she said. Some of those activities, like hosting a physical polling place, may be different this year, but many can still carry on in a remote format, Han added.
Perhaps counterintuitively, the pandemic constraints have allowed the College Republicans to draw more students to events that aren’t at their college or in their region, said Courtney Britt, the organization’s southern regional vice chair.
Students “are able to attend a national online conversation much more readily,” Britt said. Some of the issues the group is emphasizing as part of their get out the vote efforts include the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barret and the economy. “It’s a big deal. They need to have a strong economy to walk into,” Britt said of college students.
In addition to holding events and town halls on Zoom ZM, -3.25%
—“it’s pretty much the default at this point,” Britt quipped — the organization launched a national effort to recruit student volunteers for phone banking, canvassing (when appropriate) and other activities for close campaigns, even if they live elsewhere.
One of the biggest changes from previous years is an increased emphasis on voter education, Britt said. “This year it’s been a lot more focused on making sure people know how to vote early, how to vote by mail, making sure that they have the information and they have the resources they need — and making sure the ballots are going to the right places if they’re voting by mail.”
Integrating voter education into the websites where students turn in their homework
The Students Learn Students Vote Coalition — a group of nonpartisan organizations, colleges, universities and higher education associations working to increase college voter turnout — has also pivoted its efforts this year. The coalition formed in February 2016 initially to advocate that the U.S. Department of Education do more to make colleges aware of their responsibility to help students register to vote. The Higher Education Act requires colleges and universities to make a good faith effort to distribute voter registration forms to students in years when there’s a federal election or governor’s election in their state.
Initially, the group had planned to help colleges integrate one-on-one conversations about voting into typical touch points on campus, like registering for classes and orientation, said Clarissa Unger, the organization’s director. But once colleges began sending students home in the spring, the coalition, which was working with colleges on primary campaigns, had to switch gears, Unger said.
Now the organization is helping colleges integrate voter education into learning management systems, the websites where students attend classes and turn in homework. It held a virtual National Voter Education Week this month and has provided campuses with messaging they can use to convey to students the importance of voting early, Unger said.
College students face particular obstacles to voting
Despite these efforts, Unger worries about the obstacles students could face that are particular both to this election cycle and their status as students. “The biggest challenge that students are facing this year is just not having certainty as to where they’re going to be on Election Day,” she said.
Students who might have had their mail-in ballots sent to their dorm room mail boxes could struggle to access them if they’re sent home due to a coronavirus outbreak. In this case, there’s little colleges could do because it’s illegal to forward election mail.
And because college life is so different from a typical year — even for students who are on campus — much of the social incentives around voting are gone. When in-person campus activities were robust, students would “go over to the voting locations with the a capella group,” or other student organizations, “they can’t do that right now,” said Nancy Thomas, the director of the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University.
On top of those challenges are the hurdles college students typically face to voting — some states won’t accept student IDs as proof of identity and/or residency, others ban voters from using an out-of-state ID to confirm their identity — and Thomas worries college student turnout could be depressed from previous years.
The average student voting rate in the 2018 midterm elections was 40%, according to Thomas’ organization, a much higher level than in previous midterm election cycles. That high level of participation was the result of a combination of several factors, according to Thomas, that included, for some, an interest in registering their displeasure with the policies of the Trump administration. Before the pandemic, she assumed college students would continue to turn out at high levels.
“I was often giving talks to administrators on college campuses back in January saying ‘don’t worry about 2020, you need to worry about 2022’,” Thomas said. “Then COVID hit and that really changed the landscape.”
Though the pandemic has increased the challenges students might face voting, the last several months have also brought into stark relief many of the issues important to young people, like economic and racial equality. That dynamic could fuel students’ enthusiasm for voting this year. More than 60% of students in a recent College Reaction/Axios poll said they would “confront or otherwise express disappointment” towards someone they know who chose not to vote if they couldn’t.
Systemic racism, student debt, climate change and other issues are on the ballot
At the NAACP, student leaders at campuses across the country are holding Zoom tutorials on how to properly fill in a mail-in ballot and how to respond if you’re denied the right to vote at a polling place. They’re also hosting virtual candidate forums and Instagram FB, +0.90%
live conversations. During this programming, organizers work to convey that issues important to young people, such as student debt, climate change and police brutality are on the ballot.
“It goes far beyond the candidates, it’s about the issues at stake,” said Russell Boyd, a national field organizer for the NAACP’s youth and college division. “It’s about the movement that we build to hold candidates accountable to support Americans, to support young Black Americans specifically, around their interests and their needs.”
“There are so many of us who are actively seeing every day the importance of voting that goes beyond the president,” Boyd added.
Indeed, that’s the case for Blaine Lewis-Thompson, a senior at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at Rise. “When I look at civic engagement, I see it as our responsibility as United States citizens and I also see it as part of the experience of being part of the Black community.”
Lewis-Thompson first got involved in civic organizing in 2017, when he started as a freshman at Cheyney, a Historically Black College. There, Lewis-Thompson began to reflect on all of the micro-aggressions he’d experienced during his K-12 education in predominantly white schools.
“My decision to go to an HBCU was looked down upon by past coaches, by past teachers,” he said. That experience pushed him to ask the question: “why is a predominantly Black space being looked down upon as opposed to my other options for schools.”
Now, Lewis-Thompson is managing a team of fellows and interns who are encouraging students to make a voting plan. “Things need to change and the greatest time to change them is now,” he said.
For Aaeshah Siddiqui, the possibility of free or affordable higher education is a major part of what motivated her to get involved with Rise and its voter registration efforts. She works as the Michigan Deputy State Director for Rise.
“When I was applying for college in senior year, I was like, ‘Oh my God what are the prices? This is too much, this is absolutely inaccessible for a lot of people,’” Siddiqui said, noting that her decision to attend Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, was based in large part on that it was the most affordable option.
By registering students and young people to vote and helping them to develop a voting plan, Rise organizers can hold politicians accountable to their interests, like making college more affordable, she said.
If there is one American community that you might think has more reason than most to be wary of Donald Trump, it is the millions of Latinos across the country.
Yet the man who once labelled Mexicans as “rapists and criminals” and vilified migrants before and after the last election does maintain some support in the Latino community.
And the president has been making an aggressive last-minute push for the Latino vote ahead of 3 November. It is a slice of the electorate that could prove decisive.
Voters in the Latino community are, of course, as diverse in their political views as any group in America. And whether it is the Cuban-Americans of Florida or the Mexican-Americans in the southwest, Mr Trump is just as polarising as for the rest of the country.
How important is the Latino vote?
This will be the first US election in which Latino voters make up the largest minority group.
The shifting demographics in America have been a growing feature of recent elections with the move towards a “majority minority” face of the nation.
The country is changing, especially in states like California, Texas, Arizona and Nevada and Mr Trump’s anti-immigration policies and the perception he is focused more on his white, working-class base has energised the minority vote.
“Latinos have become more active and more energised,” said pollster Joshua Ulibarri, “and with a shifting white vote, that is the winning coalition that Democrats are chasing”.
Which are the states to watch?
In the state of Arizona, one in five voters this time will be Latino. Mr Trump beat Hillary Clinton by four percentage points in 2016 but the polls this time show him behind Joe Biden and Latino interest in the election is surging, particularly among young voters in the urban centres like Phoenix.
“I think a lot of people have more reason to come to the polls this time,” said Caitlin Montoya.
She said “unseen Democrats” are especially engaged, “because they see how much chaos there’s been these past four years and they want a competent president”.
The strong connections to Mexico within the community in Arizona made Mr Trump’s comments about the country especially distasteful.
“I was bummed out when he won in 2016 and I think people have just got more tired the more he opens his mouth,” said Tania Lopez.
Her work colleague Phanessa Salazar agreed. “He’s said so many harsh things to so many different minority people, not just Latinos, he just in general has a foul mouth and that’s something we don’t need representing our country.”
Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player
How to win a US election
But there is a familiar divide within the Latino community in Phoenix. “There’s a lot of conservative Hispanics, it is prominent in the catholic culture,” said Montoya.
“But hopefully people can see past that and care more about their rights, their people’s rights and their family’s rights.”
Who are Trump’s Latino supporters?
You don’t have to look far to find the very vocal and engaged “Latinos for Trump” at his events.
It is often reported that as many as 30% of Latino Americans support Donald Trump and the popular view is that the majority of those are men.
“Trump’s appeal is a big puzzle to figure out,” said Mr Ulibarri. “The group Trump most appeals to is Hispanic men, college graduate Hispanic men and younger Hispanic men.”
He said Mr Trump’s projection of himself as a strong leader focused on the economy and job creation is especially successful.
“Latino men have to be the providers, we have to be the ones earning the wages, bringing in the money, so Trump’s appeal, better, stronger jobs, has worked on these men in the past,” he added.
Add to that Mr Trump’s tough rhetoric on places like Cuba and Venezuela, this too has proved popular in Latino communities linked to those countries.
The Trump campaign’s attempt to reach young men might be falling flat though. At the Tres Leches coffee shop, Emmanuel Lupercio said: “It just shows he’s desperate. It hasn’t worked.”
But Democrats are nervous and they have been accused of taking the Latino vote for granted in recent years and neglecting that economic conversation with the community.
So, could Trump win the Latino vote?
No. And the president knows it.
In 2016 just one in five Latinos voted for him. But his campaign’s push for Latino votes is strategic.
“The president is not trying to win the majority of Latino voters,” said Mr Ulibarri. “All he has to do is win enough of the Latino vote to make it impossible for Democrats to put that winning coalition together.”
Mr Biden will win votes in the Latino community and amongst Latino men in particular but he needs to win with percentages in the 60s to flip states like Arizona, Florida, Texas and Georgia from red to blue. The question is: will he reach those numbers?
Young voters in Arizona are worried that other generations will be too willing to accept the status quo.
Carmen Zamora runs the Casa de Lola plant nursery and will vote for the first time this year.
She said: “I see my parents and they’re not doing the research, they’re not getting involved. We need the community to vote.
“There is a lot of tradition and religion that goes hand in hand. I hope our voice as a minority gets heard and I hope the younger generation go and vote so that we can see change happen.”
At the counter of Tres Leches, Judith Esqueda offered her bleak assessment: “I’m sad about the election. I don’t think most people are going to vote.
“Last election there was a lot of talk about voting, when it was ridiculous who was running for president, but nobody voted ‘contra’, nobody tried to go against him.
“I’m not sure if they will this time. So, there’s a dread.”
Arce, meanwhile, appealed for calm in the bitterly divided nation saying he would seek to form a government of national unity under his Movement Toward Socialism party.
“I think the Bolivian people want to retake the path we were on,” Arce declared, surrounded by a small group of supporters, some of them in traditional Andean dress in honor of the country’s Indigenous roots.
To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50 per cent of the vote, or 40 per cent with a lead of at least 10 percentage points over the second-place candidate. The independent counts, sponsored by the Catholic Church and civic groups, showed Arce with a little over 50 per cent of the vote and a roughly 20 point advantage over centrist former President Carlos Mesa, who also acknowledged defeat.
Officials said final results could take days.
Arce, who oversaw a surge in growth and a sharp reduction in poverty as Morales’ economy minister for more than a decade, will struggle to reverse the nation’s fortunes.
The boom in prices for Bolivia’s mineral exports that helped feed that progress has faded and the coronavirus pandemic has hit the impoverished, landlocked Bolivia harder than almost any other country on a per capita basis. Nearly 8,400 of its 11.6 million people have died of COVID-19.
Arce, 57, also faces the challenge of emerging from the long shadow of his former boss, whose support enabled the low-key, UK-educated economist to mount a strong campaign.
Anez’s government tried to overturn many of Morales’ policies and wrench the country away from its leftist alliances. Newly installed electoral authorities barred Morales from running in Sunday’s election, even for a seat in congress, and he faces prosecution on what are seen as trumped-up charges of terrorism if he returns home.
Morales, who turns 61 this month, said at a news conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Monday that he plans to return to Bolivia, though he did not say when.
Like Arce, he took a conciliatory tone and called for “a great meeting of reconciliation for reconstruction”.
“We are not vengeful,” he said.
He declined to say if he would have a role in the government. But few expect the sometimes-irascible politician — Bolivia’s first Indigenous president — to sit by idly.
A boyhood llama herder who became prominent leading a coca grower’s union, Morales was immensely popular as Bolivia boomed, but support faded due to his reluctance to leave power, increasing authoritarian impulses and a series of corruption scandals.
He shrugged aside a public vote that had set term limits and competed in the October 2019 presidential vote, which he claimed to have narrowly won outright. But a lengthy pause in reporting results fed suspicions of fraud and nationwide protests followed, leading to the deaths of at least 36 people.
When police and military leaders suggested he leave, Morales resigned and fled the country, along with several key aides. Morales called his ouster a coup.
All seats in the 136-member Legislative Assembly also were also being contested, Sunday, with results expected to echo the presidential race.
“Bolivia’s new executive and legislative leaders will face daunting challenges in a polarised country, ravaged by COVID-19, and hampered by endemically weak institutions,” said the Washington Office on Latin America, a Washington-based human rights advocacy organisation.
Morales led Bolivia from 2006 until 2019 and was the last survivor of the so-called “pink wave” of leftist leaders that swept into power across South America, including Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
Morales expelled the US ambassador in 2008, though the embassy in La Paz has remained open.
Arce may have benefited from overreach and errors by Morales’ enemies. Anez, a conservative senator, proclaimed herself interim president amid last year’s tumult and was accepted by the courts. Her administration, lacking a majority in congress, tried to prosecute Morales and key aides while undoing his policies, prompting more unrest.
“A lot of people said if this is the alternative being offered, I prefer to go back to the way things were,” said Andres Gomez, a political scientist based in La Paz.
European parliamentarians are set to vote next week on legislation that could take “veggie burgers” off the shelf.
The European Parliament is considering two amendments that would prohibit the use of meat and dairy-related names for plant-based foods, which would also include terms like “vegan sausage” or “yogurt-style.” These amendments fall under one of the three files that make up the mammoth Common Agricultural Policy reform, specifically covering how products can be marketed.
The meat and dairy industries argue that using such terms is misleading to customers. The push to ban terms like veggie burgers, which have existed for decades, comes as the alternative meat market is growing more mainstream. It also comes at the time when the European Commission’s Farm to Fork strategy is promoting healthier and more sustainable foods, another potential threat to the meat and dairy sectors.
So far, MEPs seem divided on the topic of restricting food terms, with no clear majority for or against the measures. It’s also very likely that lawmakers will end up voting on more “compromise” amendments on the issue.
The plant-based food industry argues the amendments on the table won’t help the EU transition toward a more healthy and sustainable food system envisaged under the Farm to Fork strategy, which says explicitly that “moving to a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat … will reduce not only risks of life-threatening diseases, but also the environmental impact of the food system.”
One of the proposed amendments says that “the meat-related terms and names that are currently used for meat and meat cuts shall be reserved exclusively for edible parts of the animals.” The amendment adds that designations such as “steak,” “sausage,” “escalope,” “burger” and “hamburger” should be “reserved exclusively for products containing meat.”
Plant-based food companies and consumer groups are fighting to convince MEPs not to approve such measures, which would require product name changes across the Continent.
“Banning common terms like ‘veggie burger’ is a patronizing move that threatens to cause confusion where none exists, as companies would be forced to use unfamiliar terms to describe their products,” said Elena Walden, a policy manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, a lobby group representing the alternative meat sector.
“This drastic change to existing law is unnecessary. People aren’t buying veggie burgers by mistake. They’re buying them because they recognize the benefits of these products for their health, the environment and animal welfare,” she added.
According to a survey conducted by consumer organization BEUC in 2019 on respondents from from 11 EU countries, the majority of Europeans aren’t concerned about the “meaty” denominations used by plant-based products — 42.4 percent believe these names should be permitted provided that the products are clearly labelled as vegetarian, 26.2 percent do not see any problem at all with using such names, while only around 20 percent do have a problem with the practice.
“The use of culinary ‘meaty’ names on plant-based foods … makes it easier for consumers to know how to integrate these products within a meal, and as such should not be banned,” BEUC said in a letter to MEPs.
But this is not the view of many European farmers. Last week, several farming associations launched a campaign called “Ceci n’est pas un steak,” meaning “this is not a steak” — a reference to Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe. The campaign urges lawmakers to pass the amendment.
“We believe that it is in the interest of the consumers to know if certain denominations contain meat,” said Pekka Pesonen, head of the Brussels-based Copa-Cogeca farming lobby. “In fact, it would be unfair competition to bring new products — being exclusively plant-based — to the meat specific names.”
“If the purpose is to promote plant-based products, why should this be done at the expense, tradition and work done by other product categories?” he added, stressing that he doubts that promoting “ultra-processed chemical products” is really in consumers’ interest.
The second amendment concerns a similar issue, but for the dairy sector.
EU law already bans the use of dairy terms like “milk,” “cheese” or “butter” for vegan products that don’t come from animal milk (barring some exceptions). That means “almond milk” isn’t allowed, but “almond beverage” would be.
The amendment in question goes even further, seeking to prohibit names like “yogurt style” or “cheese substitute,” as well as more descriptive terms like “creamy.”
“The current plant-based food descriptions are functional and inform consumers, whereas passing amendment 171 … would cause profound confusion,” said Jasmijn de Boo, vice president of campaign group ProVeg.
“There are countless existing references to foods’ textures, consistency, function, flavor or origin, such as ‘peanut butter’ or ‘cream crackers.’ It would be beyond laughable if all these products and food preparations had to be renamed just to protect dairy milk,” de Boo added.
She said the new law could even prevent companies from stating that their products “contain half the amount of fat of a dairy product,” or cause “lower carbon emissions than cheese.”
“The effect will be truly disproportionate and could plunge the entire plant-based food sector into chaos,” de Boo said.
But Pesonen from the farmers’ lobby Copa-Cogeca said that thanks to the current regulations, “consumers know exactly what butter, milk or cream would stand for.”
“We all know what margarine stands for. And it is not butter or plant-fat butter,” he said. “And this requirement certainly has not stopped plant-based products from developing their market shares.”
Patna: The Bihar government is trying to increase voter turnout in the upcoming assembly election without letting its guard down in the fight against Covid-19, a stiff challenge especially since public activities have increased because of election campaigning and the ongoing festive season.
“Definitely festivals and elections increase public activities and these are bound to contribute to the Covid-19 surge. We regularly discuss the Kerala model during our meetings as how one Onam festival has led to a surge in cases in Kerala,” Pratyay Amrit, health secretary, Bihar told ET. “We are keeping a close watch. It is a challenging period for us.”
The health department has adopted a multi-pronged approach in order to control the spread of the virus. Bihar is conducting about 120,000 tests every day, and the state had 10,621 active cases on Sunday evening. The number is not high compared with the figures of other states but an election activity could add to the surge.
“We have identified districts which are reporting constant Covid-19 cases and are a little bit towards surging. Patna, Araria and Saharsa are the districts we have put on our watch,” said Amrit.
On Sunday Patna recorded 316 new Covid-19 cases while Araria and Saharsa recorded 72 and 15 new cases respectively. Some other districts, such as Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Purnia, are also under watch as they have been recording a constant increase in numbers.
In Patna, the government has done a sero survey and identified certain pockets which are contributing to the list regularly. The administration has also clamped restrictions in these areas.
“Nominations are being filed for the elections. We have set up our camp equipped with testing and primary treatment facilities at the nomination centres,” said Amrit. “During public rallies we set up our camp at a distance from the venue and people can voluntarily come and get their tests done at the centre.”
For the second challenge – to increase the voter turnout – district administrations are working on awareness programmes. “We have identified 40 booths in each assembly segment of Patna, which had recorded a low voter turnout in the previous election,” said Kumar Ravi, district magistrate, Patna. “Our special focus on these booths.”
In the past few days, apart from ads, the district administration has organised a bike rally, lighting rally and various games in the area, aimed at encouraging people to cast their votes and to make them aware of the Covid-19 guidelines.
A contactless voting has been planned on the election day with strict Covid-19 protocol.
Similar efforts are being made in the other districts of the state. Ravi said a lot of complaints of violation of Covid-19 guidelines had come during the nominations and accordingly first information reports have been registered against the parties and the candidates.