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The House of Commons voted on a controversial non-binding NDP motion on Mar. 18 that left a sour taste in most politicians’ mouths. It also left one unresolved matter that could open some additional political wounds.

Briefly, NDP MP Heather McPherson tabled the motion on Feb. 13. It was a means of recognizing the state of Palestine in the midst of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and was far more critical of Israel’s actions. While the chances of this motion going anywhere seemed remote, the Liberals foolishly didn’t speak with the NDP about making necessary adjustments for over a month. When the NDP forced a vote, the Liberals quickly realized they didn’t have caucus unity to flat-out reject it. The Liberals scrambled to make last-minute adjustments – and barely made it under the wire.

The hastily amended motion passed by a vote of 204-117. The Liberals, NDP and other left-leaning parties supported it. The Conservatives opposed it along with Independent MP Kevin Vuong and three Liberal MPs, Marco Mendicino, Ben Carr and Anthony Housefather.

The unresolved matter relates to Housefather, a Jewish MP who represents the Mount Royal riding in Montreal, Quebec.

He told reporters on Mar. 19, “I’ve had to reflect on last night’s vote. It was a very hard time for me…I will be very honest, I felt that the message I put through about how disturbing the original motion was clearly didn’t prevail…that was a difficult one to lose.”

He was asked whether he felt he could stay in the Liberal caucus. “Right now, I’m reflecting on what happened yesterday. And when I have an announcement…and ended my reflection, which could be whenever, I’ll certainly let you know.” With respect to reflecting on his future with the party, he responded, “I think it’s the first time in my parliamentary career that I’ve had a reflection like this, where I truly felt last night that a line had been crossed. When my party members got up, and cheered and gave a standing ovation to Heather McPherson and the NDP, I started reflecting as to whether or not that I belonged.”

That’s interesting in itself, but an additional wrinkle (or two) was still to come.

In a Mar. 20 interview with Vassy Kapelos on CTV’s Power Play, Housefather said, “I want to reconcile – which I think a lot of Liberal supporters who are Jewish right now are trying to reconcile – is our feelings about Israel, and the existential threat that Israel faces, and the rising tide of anti-semitism, and the place that we landed Monday in the House of Commons vote, and whether or not we fit. So, this is a bigger question than just Anthony Housefather. I think it’s a question of a community.”

Kapelos also asked Housefather about the possibility of moving to another party, namely the Conservatives. “Again, when I say that I’m reflecting, I’m reflecting all options.” When she pressed further, he responded, “Look, I have a lot of Conservative friends and…Conservative colleagues. I’m not at this point engaging in direct discussions to say, ‘hey, I’m crossing the floor.’ But again, I have relationships. And in the same way my Liberal colleagues are talking to me, others are talking to me.”

It’s easy to sympathize with Housefather’s frustration. His party aligned with the NDP and passed a controversial motion that could jeopardize Canada’s relationship with Israel. The original version was far more critical of Israel than Hamas, and the final version wasn’t much better. The motion was amended at the 11th hour, and there was no proper debate and discussion about its contents. He wasn’t asked for input. His views were isolated, along with Mendicino and Carr. He watched his caucus colleagues give a standing ovation to a vile (albeit non-binding) motion that created plenty of confusion in his riding and the Jewish community.

That’s why he’s reflecting on his future in the Liberal caucus – and as a Liberal. Nothing further has happened to date.

If Housefather chooses to sit as a Conservative, that’s fine. Pierre Poilievre would welcome him into the Conservative caucus. Conservative MPs would welcome him, too.

But with all due respect, Housefather doesn’t fit with the Conservatives. He’s been a Liberal since he was a teenager. His Mount Royal riding, which was once represented by the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, has been consistently in Liberal hands since 1940. His political ideology appears to be left-of-centre. He’s supported most Liberal policies since he was first elected in 2015. He’s barely spoken out against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s litany of gaffes, foolish remarks and controversies. He was the chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in 2019 that voted to adjourn rather than invite then-Liberal MP Jody Wilson-Raybould to speak a second time during the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Other than supporting issues related to Israel and the Middle East, like this recent motion, I don’t see where he aligns with the Conservatives. You can’t have a real, honest-to-goodness change of heart that quickly in politics. Agreement on a limited number of issues isn’t enough to build a strong relationship with a party and political movement that you’ve largely rejected for decades, either.

None of this means the Conservatives wouldn’t accept him if he crossed the floor. It’s just difficult to perceive how this arrangement could last.

Housefather should therefore sit as an Independent to begin with. It’s a more difficult road in politics, especially when it comes to getting re-elected. That being said, it would give him the ability to speak his mind and vote as he sees fit. He would also have additional time to truly figure out if he belongs with the Liberals or not.

If the Conservatives form government in the next election, and Housefather’s ideological journey truly shifts to the right, then make the move. That’s a better route to a long-lasting political alliance and electoral success.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

When the terrorist organization Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, it led to the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. The after-effects have also been felt around the world. Pro-Palestine and pro-Israel rallies. Protests in front of small businesses, restaurants and even hospitals. Threats of antisemitism in Jewish and non-Jewish schools. Growing distrust of individuals and groups in neighbourhoods and communities.

Every so often, these incidents have contained a connecting theme. While this isn’t surprising per se, it’s interesting enough that some people will take note of it.

Here’s one of the strangest connections to date. Two Jewish women living in two different countries were recently involved in two bizarre situations that ended in an eerily similar fashion.

Strange, but true.

The first story relates to Leah Goldstein. Born in Vancouver to Israeli parents, she’s lived in both countries and currently resides in Vernon, B.C. She went from being a medal-winning kickboxer to a renowned cyclist. Goldstein won the women’s solo category in the annual Race Across America in 2011, and became the first woman to win the overall solo category in 2021.

Goldstein was asked in Aug. 2023 to be the keynote speaker at an International Women’s Day event in Peterborough, Ont. She often appears as a motivational speaker, and gladly accepted this honour. Her speech would’ve been given in March.

So far, so good.

Everything came crashing down a few months later. The event organizers unexpectedly disinvited Goldstein in January. “Our focus at INSPIRE has been and will always be to create safe spaces to honour, share, and celebrate the remarkable stories of women and non-binary individuals,” the organization said in a statement. “In recognition of the current situation and the sensitivity of the conflict in the Middle East, the Board of INSPIRE will be changing our keynote speaker.”

What had exactly caused this decision? Goldstein had reportedly served in the Israel Defence Force over three decades ago. This led a “small but growing and extremely vocal group” to take issue with her invitation – and INSPIRE caved in. Goldstein was never invited to speak with the event organizers, and refused to respond when some members reportedly demanded to know her position about the Israel-Hamas war.

“I am zero political when I speak,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Feb. 15. “Honestly, there is nothing political about my presentation. I just talk about the crap that I went through and the crap that most women go through, and they still do, and how I handled it.”

If she had spoken with the organizers, this would have been her first question, “You didn’t hire me because I’m Jewish, so why are you firing me because I’m Jewish?”

Good point.

What does being Jewish have to do with making a keynote speech on International Women’s Day? Absolutely nothing.

This brings us to our second story involving British actress Tracey-Ann Oberman. She’s appeared on popular TV shows like EastEndersFriday Night DinnerRobin HoodDoctor Who and Tracey Ullman’s Show, theatre performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Soho Theatre, and radio programs on BBC4.

Oberman was set to perform on the opening night of Merchant of Venice 1936 at the Criterion Theatre in London’s West End on Feb. 15. It’s a reimagined version of William Shakespeare’s play that takes place during the rise of fascism in parts of Europe, and focuses on a march by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the Jewish East End.

So far, so good.

While the play opened as scheduled, Metropolitan Police were called in to monitor the performance due to a number of online threats and abuse against Oberman. She’s been a vocal opponent of rising antisemitism in her country, especially in the Labour Party under former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Some people are irritated by her words and actions, it seems.

“’Tracey is really nervous at the moment like a lot of Jewish people are with the rising tide of antisemitism in this country, with people mixing up their anger at Israeli actions in Gaza with attacks on Jews in this country,” an unnamed friend of Oberman’s told the Daily Mail on Feb. 15. “She was very grateful to learn that police were outside the theatre on the opening night.”

In a twist of irony, Oberman plays the role of Shylock in Merchant of Venice 1936.

The original Shylock, a villainous Venetian Jewish moneylender who ultimately converts to Christianity, has long been the subject of controversy for representing historical Jewish stereotypes. Oberman’s portrayal of Shylock has been notably different since she introduced it last year at Watford Palace. Her version is a Jewish “matriarch and pawnbroker, dignified and steely,” The Guardian’s Arifa Akbar wrote on Mar. 2, 2023, “who is spat upon and verbally abused by powerful men on the street and has antisemitic graffiti daubed on her house.” This is what the audience at the Criterion Theatre witnessed, too.

Let’s recap. Olberman, who’s Jewish, had to be protected by police from antisemitic threats while performing a modern adaptation of a Jewish Shakespearean character based on historical antisemitism.

What does being Jewish have to do with playing Shylock on stage? Absolutely nothing.

So. While Leah Goldstein and Tracey-Ann Oberman may never meet, their stories that rose out of the Israel-Hamas war actually “met” in the most peculiar way.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney was honoured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on Nov. 9. He was given the World Jewish Congress Theodor Herzl Award, joining a list of recipients that includes former U.S. president Ronald Reagan (posthumously), former U.S. Secretaries of State Colin Powell, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former German chancellor Angela Merkel, writer/activist Elie Wiesel and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Mulroney’s speech that evening was superbly crafted. I’m sure it was delivered with the eloquence we’ve come to expect from one of the finest orators ever to lead our country.

A few paragraphs deserve to be highlighted that focus on the Israel-Hamas war and the scourge of anti-semitism. These are important issues due to the times we live in. The former PM has also strongly and passionately opposed this type of racist behaviour for his entire life, which means it’s a matter of personal importance.

“Hamas knew full well the reaction its murderous rampage against innocents would provoke,” Mulroney said. “They knew and didn’t care. Indeed, it is the reaction they sought. They chose to put the lives of the two million people of Gaza they claim to defend in mortal danger in a deliberate, nihilistic attempt to set the Middle East on fire.”

The reasons for this attack “was not to increase the likelihood of a Palestinian state” and “was not to improve the lives of the people of Gaza,” the former PM told the audience. “These are terrorists in the purest sense of the word for whom the senseless violent act satisfies the strategic objective, killing Jews. Hamas knew something else. They knew they could count on a legion of apologists who, while decrying attacks on Jews here at home, are prepared to accept attacks on Jews in Israel as deserved.”

In Mulroney’s view, “contemporary antisemitism has added the State of Israel to its list of targets. Israel has become the new Jew. Stripped of its intellectual pretensions, of the cloak of human rights, these ritual denunciations of Israel with which we have become all too familiar are a pernicious form of racism.”

There was also this powerful paragraph near the end. “Antisemitism, born in ignorance and nurtured in envy is the stepchild of delusion and evil and is a scourge that must be eradicated. It will not be stamped out in my lifetime, nor in the lifetime of my children, or even, sadly, in that of my grandchildren.”

Well said and articulated.

Mulroney’s commendable opposition to antisemitism was detailed in Donald E. Abelson and Monda Halpern’s “On the Right Side of History”: Brian Mulroney’s Enduring Battle Against Antisemitismpublished by the Brian Mulroney Institute of Government at St. Francis Xavier University. I wrote about this paper in a Troy Media syndicated column in January, but it’s worth a second examination.

Mulroney was born in Baie-Comeau, Quebec. It’s a “small pulp and paper mill town that had no Jews.” The first Jewish person he would meet, the “son of a local clothier,” occurred at St. Thomas High School in Chatham, New Brunswick.

Abelson and Halpern provided three reasons why Mulroney has strongly opposed anti-semitism in his lifetime. They’re as follows: “his exposure to social justice issues while a student at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX), his years in Montréal in the 1960s, and his intense appreciation for the lessons of the past which inspired his consistent resolve to be ‘on the right side of history.’”

Mulroney has also been frustrated at the hostility against Jews in and around our country. He firmly believes “Canada’s collective shame rests largely in the treatment of the Jews by the Mackenzie King government,” and has always “looked to the lessons of the Holocaust as inspiration for helping to redress other injustices.”

Some critics may feel that Mulroney’s support of Jews and Israel has been politically motivated. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“With Jews representing less than two per cent of Canada’s electorate, Mulroney had little to gain politically by garnering favour with the Jewish community,” the authors correctly pointed out. Rather, he was “fulfilling an ethical imperative – pushing for Jews in federal politics and diplomatic posts, establishing the Deschênes Commission, and supporting the existence and self-preservation of Israel.”

The proof is in the pudding, as the old saying goes.

Three of his chiefs of staff were Jewish – Stanley Hartt, Norman Spector and Hugh Segal. Spector would also be named Canada’s first Jewish Ambassador to Israel, and Conservative Mira Spivak would become Canada’s first Jewish female Senator. Former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis became Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Liberal Senator David Croll, who Mulroney believed was consistently passed over for a cabinet position “for no apparent reason at the time other than his Jewishness,” was appointed to the Queen’s Privy Council.

I’ve known Mulroney for years. His opposition to antisemitism, support of Israel’s right to defend itself and friendship with the Canadian Jewish community is genuine and has never wavered one iota. He, along with several other former Canadian prime ministers – including my old friend and boss, Stephen Harper – have consistently defended Jews and Israel in both public and private life.

That’s why Mulroney deserves not only the Theodor Herzl Award, but our thanks for being a beacon of light during this difficult time for our country and world.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Marit Stiles and the Ontario NDP recently booted out a controversial MPP from its party caucus. This episode serves as a cautionary tale for all political parties, but none more so than the party and movement that foolishly protected this politician until the very end.

Let’s examine what happened between the NDP and Sarah Jama.

Jama, a disability rights activist living in Hamilton, Ont., co-founded the Disability Justice Network Ontario in 2018. She also co-founded the Hamilton Encampment Support Network in 2021 which focuses on affordable housing.

Her left-wing views and regular involvement in radical causes helped her become a visible presence in a short period of time. When Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath resigned her Hamilton Centre seat to run for mayor, Jama announced she was entering the race. No-one challenged her, and the 28-year-old was acclaimed in July 2022.

Jama’s campaign faced controversy when it was revealed she held less-than-salient views about Jews and Israel. This was after an eye-raising video clip from a 2021 pro-Palestinian protest in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square posted on the X account of Documenting Antisemitism went viral.

She declared that Israel was an “illegitimate” country and cryptically suggested the “same people will continue to fund the killing of people here, locally, and globally.” It wasn’t terribly difficult to figure out who she was referring to. She also accused Hamilton police of “protecting Nazism” by targeting “Black Muslim Palestinians.” While the specific reference to Nazis was never determined, she described Israel as an “apartheid” state  and  stood in front of signs that say, “Zionists you will see, Palestine will be free.”

Jama was obviously allowed to make these outrageous and ignorant statements as a private citizen in a free society. The difference was that she was now running for public office. Most political parties shy away from candidates like Jama. They don’t want to be painted with a similar brushstroke – and they certainly don’t want to be associated with real or perceived racist and anti-semitic remarks. Not if they can help it, anyway.

Several organizations like B’nai Brith Canada suggested that Stiles would be wise to withdraw Jama’s candidacy. She didn’t budge, however.

Why? Hamilton Centre had been a safe riding for the NDP for decades. As an example, Horwath won comfortably in 2007 and was easily re-elected an additional four times.

Meanwhile, Jama apologized for her “harmful” comments and said “Jewish people deserve to feel safe, and should never be targeted because of their faith or their culture.” This carefully worded statement satisfied the NDP, and the matter was dropped.

Jama won 54.28 percent of the vote in the March 16 Hamilton Centre by-election. Her route to the Ontario Legislature was now complete.

The warnings that Stiles and the NDP ignored in March would rear its ugly head once more in October.

Three days after the terrorist organization Hamas launched a massive and deadly attack against Israel, Jama posted a controversial statement to her X account on Oct. 10. She depicted Israel’s actions in Gaza against Palestinians as “apartheid” and rooted in “settler colonialism.” She called for an “immediate ceasefire and de-escalation” in Gaza, and that “we must look to the solution to this endless cycle of death and destruction: end all occupation of Palestinian land and end apartheid.”

Many individuals and groups spoke out against Jama’s statement. This included Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ontario Liberal leader John Fraser, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Ford also announced his PC government would begin the process to censure Jama for her comments. The NDP MPP threatened to sue the Premier for libel because he had said publicly that she had “hateful views” and a “long and well-documented history of antisemitism,” among other things.

Stiles was also displeased. She spoke out against Jama’s statement and asked her to remove it and apologize. Jama did comply with a semi-apology, but her original statement remained online. In spite of ignoring this request, it appeared the NDP was going to protect its controversial caucus member once again.

Hours before the Oct. 23 censure vote, however, Stiles removed her from the NDP caucus. Several reasons were provided, including Jama reportedly being uncooperative with NDP colleagues, making unilateral decisions and endangering the work environment of party staffers. Stiles also noted that while she and Jama had agreed to work together “in good faith with no surprises,” the latter’s decision to speak against the censure motion in the Legislature came completely out of the blue.

Jama was censured by a vote of 63-23. The NDP was the only party that voted against it. She currently sits as an Independent with no ability to speak or ask questions in the Legislature. As fate would have it, she recently had a Zoom meeting with former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, an equally controversial politician accused of many of the same things she’s faced in her short political career.

There are several lessons to be learned from the Jama-NDP episode. Controversial candidates will almost always fall back on controversy. Apologies in politics are important, but the apologetic politician has to be trusted to follow it to the letter. Losing a safe political riding is obviously unfortunate, but gaining and protecting a caucus member with a terrible track record will cost you even more ridings in the end.

There’s another important lesson in all of this.

Federal and provincial New Democrats have been repeatedly accused of harbouring anti-Israel and anti-semitic candidates, ideas and policies for years. As much as they deny these associations, they continually fall into the same trap and make these alleged ties even worse in the public eye. Had Stiles listened to the advice she was given in March and removed Jama’s candidacy, this particular allegation could have been avoided. It’s actually worth listening to your political rivals every so often.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

In politics, there are important issues and there are useful issues. International issues and foreign affairs are important… but rarely useful, politically. No one could deny that the recent Hamas terrorist attacks, Israel’s military response, and the resulting humanitarian crisis are important things.

But watching the debate unfolding about this new crisis in the Middle East during the NDP convention, it’s hard to imagine how useful this is for New Democrats. Few voters really care about the party’s position on Palestine and Israel, and even fewer will think about it on Election Day.

Among the major parties, the NDP is the one most sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Already in 1938, J.S. Woodsworth, first leader of the CCF, was opposed to the right of Jewish refugees to enter Palestine, claiming “it was easy for Canadians, Americans and the British to accept a Jewish colony,  as long as it was elsewhere. Why ‘pick on the Arabs’ other than for ‘strategic’ and ‘imperialistic’ reasons?”

This position created a lot of turmoil within the party at the time, especially since Woodsworth, a pacifist, had been the only MP to vote against Canada’s declaration of war on Hitler’s Germany. The party would eventually line up behind the creation of Israel. But the debates were lively and accusations of racism and anti-semiticism, numerous.

Interestingly, the first Jewish politician to become leader of a party in Canada was Stephen Lewis in Ontario in 1970. His father David, became the first Jewish leader of a federal party in 1971. Another New Democrat, Dave Barrett, was elected premier of British Columbia in 1972, becoming the first Jewish premier.

This is to say that the NDP’s desire to find a balanced position on the conflict between Israel and Palestine goes back a long way. This desire for nuance has forced NDP leaders to be funambulists over time: a two-state solution; Palestine has the right to independence; Israel has the right to defend itself; denouncing terrorist actions and violations of international laws.

But this balanced position does not make all New Democrats happy. Ed Broadbent, Alexa McDonough and Jack Layton all had to manage very delicate situations. Numerous resolutions denouncing Israel are regularly brought to NDP conventions. Candidates have been rejected or dismissed because of their overly strong pro-Palestinian positions or anti-Israel statements.

Former MP Svend Robinson was once arrested by Israeli soldiers while trying to enter Ramallah, arguing that he was there to carry a message of solidarity and to promote peace.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper called for the resignation of Layton’s deputy leader, Libby Davies, for her support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

On the other hand, many NDP MPs have been part of the Canada-Israel Inter-Parliamentary Group, which “furthers cooperation and mutual understanding” between Canadian parliamentarians and members of the Israeli Knesset.

Under the leadership of Tom Mulcair, some felt the party was taking a stronger position in favour of Israel. Ignoring the latter’s epic quarrels with leaders of the Jewish community, MP Sana Hassainia even slammed the party’s door using the issue as an excuse, pointing to  Mulcair’s in-laws being Holocaust survivors and to the sizeable Jewish community in his constituency.

From there to say that the NDP is under the thumb of the Jewish lobby, there is only one step, happily taken by the most pugnacious. There is a mirror reaction from the fiercest supporters of Israel, who believe that the NDP is infiltrated by pro-Palestinian hysterics. In this context, having a reasonable discussion is mission impossible.

Jagmeet Singh had to play a balancing act once during this last Convention, marked by scenes of demonstrations, heckling, delegates being removed and police intervention. This is not Singh’s fault, but it gave the party an immature image, as videos of the confrontations made the rounds.

At the tactical level, these ardent pro-Palestinian activists target the NDP because it is the lowest hanging fruit. They assume the message will have a more significant and immediate impact on delegates and party policies than if they showed up at a Conservative convention.

They will claim victory when they see New Democrats stand up in Question Period, denouncing “the impact of this war on the Palestinians”, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and asking the government to “stand up for international law”. Important questions, to be sure.

Meanwhile, Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives are relentless on the cost of living, asking Prime Minister Trudeau to “reverse his inflationary policies,” “to lower interest rates” and to “allow Canadians to keep their homes.” Useful questions, without a doubt.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.