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Forecast Podcast: After closing a border bridge, Canada’s anti-vaccine truckers may inspire a U.S. protest

Top photo: Trucks block an intersection at University Avenue and Bloor Street in downtown Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 5. Photo by michael_swan on Flickr.

Listen to the full episode here:

Show notes:

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Sophie Perryer discuss an apparent coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau, plus more on the cyclone headed for Madagascar, an election in Costa Rica, Libya’s parliament voting on a new prime minister and Russian military exercises in Belarus.

These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff LandsetIrene VilloraAlex MooreDavid Wyllie and Sophie Perryer.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Transcript:

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is February 10th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a strike at London’s Heathrow Airport, Germany’s presidential election, Russia’s State Duma Council discussing a bill to recognize breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, leaders from the European Union and African Union meeting for a summit and an update on Canadian truckers protesting a vaccine mandate.

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Heathrow airport strike

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: London’s Heathrow Airport may see a three-day strike by some workers on Friday. Hundreds of unionized ground staff and baggage handlers employed by Menzies Aviation have threatened to strike in a dispute over pay. 

Staff announced the potential strike as a protest after the company fired and rehired more than 800 employees during the coronavirus pandemic, with some incurring substantial pay cuts in the process. 

The union claims Menzies has refused to enter pay negotiations and staff have been working under unfair conditions. 

Now, according to Unite, that’s the union representing the workers, the strike would increase waiting times for passengers traveling with as many as 14 airlines.

And if the workers do strike, it will be during a traditionally busy period for Heathrow airport due to UK schools’ half-term break. 

Menzies has assured pay negotiations with Unite are taking place to avoid the strike but insists that customers will not face any disruptions should the actions go ahead. 

Unite has confirmed it’s currently consulting its members about Menzies’ offer, but has not announced a cancellation of the strike so far.

German presidential election

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: Germany’s president will be elected on Sunday.

The process is part of a Federal Convention in which sitting parliament members and delegates chosen from the country’s states vote for a candidate. 

Standing candidates need an absolute majority of votes from the 1,472-member body in the first two ballots to be elected.

Incumbent president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a center-left candidate first elected in 2017, chose to run for re-election and looks set to win a second term as president thanks in part to the support of Germany’s Greens. 

Following the recent election of Olaf Scholz as chancellor as the country continued to navigate the spread of coronavirus, the role of president looks set to provide continuity, with Steinmeier saying he wants to heal wounds that were exacerbated by the pandemic

Still, there are at least two other declared candidates, Gerhard Trabert who is being supported by The Left, and Max Otte, a Christian Democratic Union of Germany politician who was suspended from the party after being nominated by the far-right Alternative party for Germany.

Now, even though the role of president Is often ceremonial, the office-holder does act as head of state and serves important constitutional functions, all while representing Germany’s government at home and abroad. 

The “traffic light” coalition of Social Democrats, the Greens and the Free Democrats have thrown their weight behind Steinmeier, meaning he is likely to succeed.

Russian State Duma Council discusses bill to recognize breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Russia’s State Duma Council plans to meet Monday. And according to state media, they’ll be discussing a proposal to legally recognize breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine. Specifically, the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

The proposal was first issued in January by Communist Party legislators. Though, according to the Duma chairman, members of all of Russia’s major legislative factions, including the ruling United Russia party, will likely support the initiative

The Duma Council, of course, is a powerful body with the authority to set the legislature’s agenda.

Now, with tensions remaining high along Ukraine and NATO’s eastern flanks, rhetoric from Russia-backed separatists has taken a noticeably dire turn recently, with multiple statements accusing Ukraine of perpetrating a genocide against Russian-speakers. 

Such rhetoric, as well as potential other forms of subterfuge, could pair with legal recognition of the breakaway republics as the basis for a renewed Russian incursion into Ukraine. 

Russia has previously argued this would be legal internationally, and such a playbook closely mirrors Russia’s occupation of partially-recognized breakaway states in the country of Georgia. 

EU-African Union summit

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Leaders from the European Union and African Union will begin meeting on Thursday.  The two-day summit in an effort to overhaul their relationship and strike new economic deals.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he hopes the conference will reforge an economic and financial New Deal with Africa, establishing a system of peace and prosperity to build investments in the continent. 

Several issues are on the agenda, such as health systems and vaccine production, peace, security and governance, education and climate change.

Now, summit participants are expected to adopt a declaration on a joint vision for 2030, which EU officials hope is the beginning of a “renewed and deeper” partnership based on trust and with a clear understanding of mutual interests. 

The summit will also prove to be a decisive moment for the French presidency of the Council of the EU, which began on January 1st and runs through the end of June.

Ottawa truckers protest

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the protest against vaccine mandates underway in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. For more on that I recently spoke with Factal Editor Joe Veyera. 

JIMMY: Hi Joe

JOE: Thank you for having me.

JIMMY: Hey, before we get into the nitty gritty of what’s going on in Ottawa, can you catch our listeners up to speed on what started this protest? And, you know, how are truckers involved?

JOE: So this began as a protest against cross border vaccine mandates which prevent unvaccinated truckers from transporting goods back and forth across the US-Canada border. But, over time, that’s morphed into an occupation of Ottawa’s downtown core against all coronavirus restrictions. Now, before we get too much further into this, it is important to note that this group doesn’t seem to be representative of the whole. The Canadian trucking Alliance estimates more than 85% of truckers are indeed vaccinated.

JIMMY: What kind of impacts are we seeing from the protest?

JOE: So the biggest impact has to be on the people living in downtown Ottawa. So, for nearly two weeks, they’ve been subject to blocked roads and blaring horns, the latter of which has led to a court injunction with the rationale from a judge essentially being that keeping the truckers from constantly honking does not infringe on their right to protest.

JIMMY: Is there any indication on how long they plan to keep the protest going?

JOE: Well, that’s a complicated question. So, the protesters have essentially said they’re not going anywhere until all COVID restrictions across the country are lifted. But that’s not something the federal government really has control over with many of the mandates put in place on a provincial level. But what we’re starting to see now, whether that’s in response to a restless public or an improving situation, when it comes to case figures and hospitalizations, is that officials are charting a course to lift the existing measures. In Alberta and Saskatchewan they’re lifting their vaccine passports which required proof of vaccination to enter businesses and public spaces. Quebec says it intends to lift most of their restrictions by mid March. So there’s an end in sight here for a lot of what they’re protesting, but whether that actually leads to the end of the demonstrations is less clear.

JIMMY: Has there been any violence associated with the protest?

JOE: In terms of, say, clashes between protesters and police? Not really. There have been at least 23 arrests since Friday and police are investigating an attempted arson in an apartment building in downtown Ottawa that may also be linked to the demonstrators.

JIMMY: Final question for you then: What should folks be watching for next?

JOE: Well, we’ve seen the response by police starting to intensify, both in terms of those arrests and a raid Sunday night at the baseball stadium parking lot that has served as a staging area for the protesters – and in that instance, officers removed at least one tanker of fuel. But beyond Ottawa, and whether that comes to an end anytime soon, there are reports that a trucker convoy is planning to descend on the Washington DC area in conjunction with President Biden’s planned State of the Union on March 1. So we’ll have to see if that effort takes hold and if so what the response from the federal government would be in the US.

JIMMY: Well, Joe, I appreciate the update and I know you’ll be keeping an eye on all this for us in the days to come. Thank you for that.

JOE: Always a pleasure. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Irene Villora, David Wyllie, Alex Moore, Jess Fino and Ahmed Namatalla. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

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