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Welcome to Legalized, our new podcast!

Welcome to Legalized, our new podcast!

You might listen to our first podcast, Political Traction — where we cover the top issues in Canadian politics every week — but there’s one issue that we decided can’t be contained by the parameters of a weekly discussion.

Recreational cannabis use is about to be legalized in Canada. At the end of 2016, the Marijuana Task Force gave recommendations for regulation and the Liberal government has promised to table legislation this spring.

Beyond whether you’ll be able to walk to your local LCBO to freely and legally buy weed, legalization will impact Canadians across industries. It means big business, and not just for growers and cultivators: it means big business for consultants, advertisers, banks, insurance companies; down the line, it could mean big business as a Canadian export.

Canada’s poised to be a global expert in this area. So — how did we get here? What does the current space look like? And where is it headed?

We’re talking about all of this on our new 12-episode show. You’ll hear from the people who have been there since the beginning — pushing boundaries to change policy, become licensed professionals, and prepare for a huge market shift.

Welcome to Legalized. Season starts January 31st.

Visit our show’s site and subscribe now.

Spicer, on Global Morning

Randi joins Global to discuss Spicer’s first full press conference following his – now infamous – initial introduction to the press in which he discussed “alternative facts.” How did Spicer do this time around?

Aired on Global Morning, Jan 24, 2017.

Convulsing America elephant will test Justin Trudeau’s agility

The Trudeau government has navigated the challenges well thus far, but a Trump presidency fundamentally alters the waters.

It’s perhaps ironic that it is an iconic quote by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father that sums up the situation that confronts him today.

Pierre Trudeau once remarked that living next to the United States was ‘in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly or even-tempered is the beast ナ one is affected by every twitch and grunt.’

Trudeau’s relationship with former President Barack Obama was often compared by the media to Brian Mulroney’s infamously close relationship with Ronald Reagan; his relationship with Hillary Clinton, once cast as the inevitable successor to Obama, was no less warm.

Together, this promised a golden era of Liberal and Democratic rule in North America that would include increased environmental regulation, a focus on growing the social safety net, and, increasingly, aligned foreign policies that would emphasize brokering international peace rather than imposing it.

Friday’s inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States has suddenly, abruptly, rudely ruptured that idyllic vision.

The elephant isn’t so much twitching as having full-body convulsions.

Following its election in 2015, the Liberal Party mapped out a four-year guide to re-election. They did this thinking they would have an American counterpart marching in lockstep on major policies.

Instead, the Liberals now face a president with plans antithetical to core components of their platform.

That said, the Trudeau government has shown it understands the enormity of the challenges it faces. The irascible St’phane Dion has been shuffled out of the global affairs portfolio in favour of Chrystia Freeland who, in addition to having performed well at international trade, knows the United States well. A team specifically focused on U.S./Canada policy, led by Brian Clow, the very capable former chief of staff to Freeland has been drafted. High-level staff members have been dispatched to Trump Tower to meet with Trump administration officials.

And yet the enormity of the challenge has only begun to present itself; a challenge that will come in three principal forms.

The first is environmental policy. Carbon pricing grew increasingly popular with the Democratic establishment as the U.S. election approached. It is very possible that increased environmental taxation would have been a top priority for Hillary Clinton. But that reality does not exist: President Trump is uncompromisingly opposed to any increase in business regulation for environmental purposes, a position at odds with the Trudeau government’s decision to enact carbon pricing.

With a president who opposes environmental policies he sees as harming business and who favours reducing taxes, the Trudeau government could be forced to reconsider its commitment to a policy that will handicap Canadian businesses. Already, there has been pressure from our business community wary of the challenge.

The second challenge surrounds foreign policy. Again, the Trudeau government had found itself largely aligned with the less aggressive positioning of the Democratic establishment. A reluctance to be drawn into commitments on regional conflicts, support for increased consensus-building, and support of international institutions defined both the Obama and Trudeau administrations.

As Trump moves into the Oval Office, that harmony moves out. Even during the few, short months following the election, he has demonstrated a belligerent, anti-establishment approach. NAFTA, the European Union, and the UN find themselves under attack by a president who dismisses them as either useless or malicious. For a multilateralist like Justin Trudeau, the problem will be standing up for such institutions while trying to remain in the Trump government’s favour.

Finally, personality may itself be a challenge. On the international stage, Trudeau has been framed as an inspiring figure, the personification of a new generation of hope and promise.

Trump, on the other hand, has been positioned as a throwback to a time when America was meaner, smaller, more insular and selfish.

Should that narrative take hold, Trudeau will risk developing an adversarial relationship with a president who has demonstrated time and again that he has not only a fragile ego coupled with a narcissistic personality, but who takes up all the available oxygen in a room.

The Trudeau government has navigated the challenges well thus far, but a Trump presidency fundamentally alters the waters. No longer are we in an age of North American liberal ascendancy; instead, many of the underpinnings of such an agenda are under direct attack.

The ability to adjust to real life circumstances while keeping strategic focus is at the core of the challenge of governing. In 2009, Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty, elected on — and believing in — a platform of strict fiscal conservatism, found themselves deciding to run a deficit. They adapted to circumstance for the good of the country. Whether Trudeau can do the same may decide the fate of his government in 2019.

Jaime Watt is executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.

She’s back…and 48 seconds later, she’s gone

The result of Ronda Rousey’s long-awaited return to the UFC octagon was swift and brutal. After being undefeated as the women’s bantamweight champion for almost three years and against six challengers, ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey’s fall from MMA grace was swift. In large part, Rousey created the climate that allowed this negativity. Rousey’s reaction to defeat alienated MMA fans and caused opinion to turn against her. If she had managed her image a little differently, she could have mitigated the fallout.

Mixed martial arts is a sport that craves heroes as big and boisterous as the WWE, but offers none of the scripted protection that keeps those stars on top. Rousey exemplified this superstardom. She was seemingly undefeatable and seemingly unenhanced by steroids — her success the result of hard work and dedication.

Then Rousey lost to Holly Holm.

With only two fights in the UFC, social media users laughed off Holm and asked when Rousey would get a ‘real’ fight. And then 59 seconds into the second round, Holm hit Rousey with a devastating head kick that left the champion bloodied and unconscious.

As colour commentator Joe Rogan often warned about other fight predictions, MMA math never works out. There’s too much unpredictability in the sport to simply tally up wins and losses of any one fighter, and too many differences between matches for them to forecast the results for future fights.

Thirteen months later, when Rousey made her return against newly-crowned champ, Amanda Nunes, this fact was made all too clear. Thirty-eight seconds into the first round of the Nunes-Rousey fight, referee Herb ‘Green’ Dean called a stop to the contest, halted Nunes’s flurry of strikes, consoled a barely conscious Rousey, and awarded Nunes the victory.

Thousands of tweets mocking Rousey’s loss poured in from around the world. Anonymous trolls, current and former fighters, even Justin Bieber mocked her — the Biebs turned heads by declaring to Rousey ‘You just got knocked the f*** out.’

Rousey was the first women’s champion in the UFC and the women’s division owes its very existence to the crowds Rousey was able to draw — most of its contenders were brought in initially as opponents for Rousey. Most observers — most of her fans — forget this. Rousey so transcended the world of MMA fandom that a huge chunk of her fanbase had never followed professional fighting before, and many of them didn’t watch fight cards that didn’t include Rousey. For them, Rousey wasn’t just a champion she was the champion. And that rubbed hardcore MMA fans the wrong way. The diehards were the happiest to see Rousey fall, just as they had been to see the fast-talking Irishman Conor McGregor choked out by the frequently-incoherent pothead Nate Diaz.

This desire to see a champion fall comes from the very heart of the UFC. The organization was founded as a way to discover what fighting styles worked. It smashed everything up together, from kung fu to boxing to Russian combat sambo, to see what comes out on top. It’s meant to be a constantly evolving field of diverse martial artists who combine new and unused styles with ancient, time-tested techniques. Opponents are meant to be beaten, but the game is not meant to be won. In her prime, Ronda Rousey was so dominant that she seemed awfully close to winning the game. Fans love seeing someone act like a superhero, but what they love more is a human bringing that hero back down to earth. The game demands the defeat of its greatest fighters, otherwise it doesn’t improve.

When 24-year-old Cody Garbrandt danced (literally danced) his way around Dominick Cruz and propelled himself from the number 8-ranked bantamweight spot to world champ, fans were ecstatic. But none mocked Cruz in the way they had Rousey. In part, that’s because Cruz was humbled by defeat — he admitted that his opponent bested him but vowed that he would be back.

Rousey, on the other hand, went quiet after defeat. Rousey refused interviews and disappeared off social media. The fans that so often turned to Rousey for inspiration were left searching for their hero, who was nowhere to be found.

Rousey’s first public appearance was months after the loss on Ellen. Ellen Degeneres is not known as an expert on mixed martial arts and didn’t pepper Rousey with the difficult questions she would have faced when interacting with the MMA press. This move alienated MMA fans who saw it as self-serving. Rousey, it seemed, had chosen the life of a movie star over rededicating herself to her craft. Fans took this as disrespect for the industry — and themselves as supporters — that had gotten her so far.

During subsequent interviews, Rousey never stated publicly that Holm bested her and has yet to acknowledge that Nunes defeated her. She seems to treat defeat as though it were divorced from her opponent. Rousey never acknowledged her own role in defeat. She portrayed defeat as something that merely happened to her. But people want human heroes, and by not acknowledging her own shortcomings, Rousey gave off the impression that she had learned nothing from her losses. Fans loved the no-nonsense, take-charge attitude of Rousey, but when she seemingly abandoned it in the face of adversity, her fans felt they had been duped by someone who talked one way and acted another. Stars get big when fans build a connection with them and that connection requires authenticity at some level, but Rousey was slowly abandoning her authenticity each time she retreated into isolation after a loss.

If Rousey had come out after defeat humbled and admitted that she had been bested twice by superior strikers, MMA fans would have rallied behind her as they had countless other fighters. Rousey could then go quietly back to camp and work on her striking. Instead, her complete silence came across as entitlement — the belief that she deserved to be champ regardless of how well she performed.

The UFC, recently acquired by the entertainment agency William Morris Endeavor, faces a similar predicament, a classic growing-pains problem for any individual, organization or company with a niche focus looking to expand. The UFC wants to increase its viewership but cannot do so while alienating long-time MMA fans. The UFC needs to find a way to create megastars that continue to embody the spirit of mixed martial arts. There is a major drive in UFC to get its champions on talk shows, in commercials, and as stars in film. But each of these outlets will be seen by fans as a distraction from the hard work of fighting. By trying to go too mainstream, the UFC — like Rousey — risks frustrating fans who tune in not to see scripted action heroes, but skilled fighters who could win or lose from one well-placed fist.

So how do you keep your fan base? Rousey’s life as an MMA star is not over. She has only been out of the game for thirteen months, most of which were spent training. Amanda Nunes is not unbeatable, and Rousey still has caches of goodwill throughout the UFC. But Rousey needs to show fans what they want to see. Rousey can’t show mainstream fans an unstoppable superhero — and it’s impossible to try — but she can show MMA fans a focused, rededicated warrior working her way back to the top. If MMA fans see this, see that Rousey is taking her work and her fans seriously, Rousey could become the fan’s champion again long before she wins back the belt.