Transcript: Seeking Pandemic Literature | Nov 20, 2020

Nam stands in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a black blazer over a printed black shirt.

A wall screen behind her reads "The week in review."

Nam says THE AGENDA THIS WEEK CONSIDERED THE STATE OF MODERN IRAQ; TRACKED THE FLIGHT OF SNOWBIRDS IN A COVID-WINTER; ASSESSED WHETHER ONTARIO'S PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVES HAVE GONE TOO MODERATE FOR THEIR BASE; AND HEARD HOW LOCAL LIBRARIES ARE LENDING MORE THAN JUST BOOKS DURING THIS CRISIS. THE AGENDA'S WEEK IN REVIEW BEGINS WITH THREE NOVELISTS REFLECTING ON HOW THEY WROTE ABOUT THE PANDEMIC BEFORE IT WAS EVEN UPON US.

Music plays as an animated slate reads "The week in review."

In a clip, Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, blue shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Why do we love pandemic fiction? Writing about end times."

Steve says EMILY, IT'S BEEN SIX YEARS SINCE YOU WROTE "STATION ELEVEN" WHICH ALSO PRESAGES THE END OF THE WORLD BY A PANDEMIC. I GUESS I'LL ASK YOU THE SAME QUESTION: DID YOU HAVE A HUNCH WHEN YOU WROTE IT THAT A MASSIVE GLOBAL PANDEMIC THAT WAS GOING TO KILL HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WAS ON ITS WAY?

The caption changes to "Emily Saint John Mandel. Author, 'Station eleven.'"

Emily is in her thirties, with short chestnut hair. She's wearing a white shirt.

She says NOT SPECIFICALLY, BUT WHAT VERY QUICKLY BECOMES CLEAR IF YOU RESEARCH THE HISTORY OF PANDEMICS IS THAT THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY IS A HISTORY OF PANDEMIC. YOU KNOW, WE'VE JUST BEEN STRUCK BY ONE PANDEMIC AFTER ANOTHER. AND WHAT REALLY STRUCK ME IN THE RESEARCH FOR "STATION ELEVEN" IS THAT EPIDEMIOLOGISTS TALK ABOUT PANDEMICS REALLY IN THE SAME WAY THAT SEISMOLOGISTS TALK ABOUT EARTHQUAKES, WHICH IS TO SAY THAT NO SERIOUS PERSON ASKS, "I WONDER IF THERE WILL EVER AGAIN BE ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE?" THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ANOTHER EARTHQUAKE AND THERE WILL UNFORTUNATELY JUST BE ANOTHER PANDEMIC. IT'S JUST PART OF OUR HISTORY.

Steve says THAT IS TRUE AND YET EVEN AS RECENTLY AS SARS, WHICH WAS 2003, WE GOT THE SENSE AFTER SARS WAS OVER THAT, PHEW, OKAY, YES, 44 PEOPLE DIED IN TORONTO BUT IT WASN'T AS BAD AS IT COULD HAVE BEEN. THANKFULLY WE HAVE DODGED THAT. WITH NO THINKING THAT THE NEXT ONE WAS JUST AROUND THE CORNER. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHY WE THINK THAT WAY?

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Emily says I THINK IT WAS A MASS FAILURE OF IMAGINATION. YOU KNOW, I FIND MYSELF A LITTLE BIT HAUNTED BY THE PERIOD IMMEDIATELY BEFORE THE PANDEMIC, WHICH IS TO SAY THREE WEEKS OR SO BEFORE EMMA HANDED IN HER NOVEL, IN FEBRUARY, INTO VERY EARLY MARCH, WHERE EVEN THOUGH WE KNEW IT WAS COMING, WE COULD READ THE HEADLINES, WE WERE STILL SHAKING HANDS WITH STRANGERS AND TAKING OUR KIDS TO SCHOOL. SO IT WAS THAT CONDITION OF KNOWING BUT NOT KNOWING SOMETHING AT THE SAME TIME. I THINK IT SOMEHOW SEEMED UNIMAGINABLE EVEN WHEN IT WAS BEING REPORTED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES WHICH IS PROBABLY MORE FOR A PSYCHOLOGIST TO COMMENT ON THAN ME, BUT I AM FASCINATED BY IT.

The caption changes to "Recreating plagued worlds."

Steve says INDEED. BOY, THIS IS NEAT. WE'RE GOING TO PUT UP A GRAPHIC NOW, BECAUSE YOU DID A LOT OF RESEARCH TOO, AND HERE'S THE PANDEMIC THAT YOU RECREATED. SHELDON, DO YOU WANT TO BRING THIS GRAPHIC UP? HERE WE GO. IN YOUR BOOK IT STARTS WITH...

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Incredibly accurate?"

Steve reads data from the slate and says
A NOVEL CORONAVIRUS FROM YUNAN PROVINCE IN CHINA. THERE IS AN ANTI-ASIAN BLACK LASH. IT IS A RESPIRATORY DISEASE THAT'S AIRBORNE AND HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS. PEOPLE ARE QUARANTINED THREE WEEKS IF EXPOSED AND EVERYBODY WEARS PPE. THE GYMS GET CLOSED. FOOD DELIVERY SERVICE SKYROCKETS, AS DOES CONSUMPTION OF MEDIA. IT MAKES ITS DEBUT AS A SUPER SPREADER EVENT IN NEW YORK CITY AND SPREADS LIKE WILDFIRE. THAT IS EERILY ACCURATE TO WHAT HAS ACTUALLY TRANSPIRED. HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO GET SO MUCH OF THAT RIGHT?

The caption changes to "Saleema Nawaz. Author, 'Songs for the end of the world.'"
Then, it changes again to "A prescient story?"

Saleema is in her thirties, with long straight dark hair and short bangs. She's wearing a blue blouse.

She says WELL, I MEAN, LIKE EMMA, I DID A LOT OF RESEARCH, A LOT OF INTERNET RABBIT HOLES. AND BECAUSE I WAS WRITING FOR SUCH A LONG TIME, I WAS WORKING ON IT FOR SO MANY YEARS THAT I KEPT RE-RESEARCHING THINGS AND AS NEW EPIDEMICS WOULD BREAK OUT, I WOULD SORT OF COMB THROUGH THE NEWS LOOKING FOR, YOU KNOW, NEW DEVELOPMENTS, I READ A LOT ABOUT THE SPANISH FLU, I READ ABOUT SARS. I WENT AND READ A LOT OF EPIDEMIOLOGY PAPERS SHOWING, YOU KNOW, THE MODELLING OF HOW INFECTIOUS DISEASE IS SPREAD AND HOW THAT CAN BE IMPACTED BY COMMUNITY MITIGATION STRATEGIES LIKE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND QUARANTINE. SO, YOU KNOW, ALL THIS INFORMATION IS OUT THERE, YOU KNOW, AS EMILY MENTIONED, EPIDEMIOLOGISTS HAVE BEEN SAYING IT'S NOT A MATTER OF IF, IT'S WHEN IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.

The caption changes to "The Week in Review. @theagenda. Tvo.org."

Steve says BUT I JUST HAVE TO WONDER, WHEN COVID-19 HIT AND THEN ALL OF THESE THINGS STARTED HAPPENING, DID YOU START TO SAY, "OH, WOW, THAT'S LIKE IN MY BOOK. OH, WOW, THAT'S LIKE IN MY BOOK. OH, MY GOODNESS, THAT'S EXACTLY LIKE... I MEAN, DID YOU HAVE THOSE MOMENTS?

Saleema says YES, COMPLETELY. THE WHOLE SORT OF BEGINNING OF COVID-19 UNFOLDING WAS JUST A LONG, PROLONGED MOMENT... MOMENT LIKE THAT, FOR SURE.

Steve says GIVEN YOUR A. TO PREDICT THE FUTURE, DID YOU THEN GO OUT AND BUY A LOTTERY TICKET?

Saleema says THIS IS NOT THE KIND OF LOTTERY THAT ANYONE WANTS TO WIN SO, NO.

Steve says EMMA, LET ME TAKE YOU BACK AGAIN TO 100 YEARS AGO AND GOVERNMENTS THEN, AS THEY DID TODAY, OR AS THEY'RE DOING TODAY, ARE TRYING TO GIVE, I GUESS, THE BEST ADVICE THEY CAN TO THE POPULATION. WE CAN HAVE GREAT DEBATES ABOUT IT TODAY AS TO HOW WELL OUR GOVERNMENTS ARE ADVISING US ON WHAT TO DO. WHAT'S THE VERDICT ON HOW WELL THEY ADVISED PEOPLE BACK THEN?

The caption changes to "Emma Donoghue. Author, 'The pull of the stars.'"

Emma is in her fifties, with shoulder-length wavy brown hair. She's wearing a black blouse.

She says WHAT WE HAVE BEEN STARTLED BY THIS YEAR IS HOW OFTEN THE POLITICIANS IN EVERY ERA GIVES VERY MIXED, YOU KNOW, WEASEL-TONGUED MESSAGES, BECAUSE THEY'RE NEVER SIMPLY TRYING TO GIVE SCIENTIFIC ADVICE. THEY'RE TRYING TO DO THINGS LIKE BOOST THE ECONOMY, YOU KNOW? SO BACK THEN, JUST AS NOW, THERE WAS A LOT OF VAGUE REASSURANCE OR EVEN A WAY OF TALKING ABOUT THE ILLNESS THAT EFFECTIVELY BLAMES THE VICTIM. THEY WOULD SAY THINGS LIKE, DON'T BE DEFEATIST. LET THE GERMS IN. WHICH IS A BIT LIKE BORIS JOHNSON SAYING STAY ALERT OR WAYS OF IMPLYING YOU GET IT BECAUSE YOU MADE A PERSONAL MISTAKE RATHER THAN BECAUSE THERE WAS NO GOOD POLICY IN PLACE. LOTS OF BLAMING THE POOR FOR PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS. BLAMING THOSE WHO LIVE IN CROWDED CONDITIONS FOR THE FACT THAT, YOU KNOW, THEY ARE GOING TO PICK UP THINGS FROM EACH OTHER. SO A LOT OF EMPHASIS ON INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY MAKES NO SENSE WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT INVISIBLE MICROBES...

The caption changes to "For more on this story visit: tvo.org/theagenda."

Emma continues SO I PUT A LOT OF GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA INTO MY BOOK BECAUSE I WANTED TO CAPTURE THAT WEIRD SENSE IN WHICH, YOU KNOW, THE ADVICE YOU'RE GETTING FROM THE AUTHORITIES MIGHT REALLY BE INTENDED FOR CROWD CONTROL RATHER THAN INTENDED TO TRULY GIVE YOU THE MOST UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION. SO WRITING THIS BOOK HAS MADE ME FEEL PASSIONATELY PRO-SCIENCE RATHER THAN PRO-POLITICIANS, AND A FEELING THAT EVERY YEAR WE NEED TO FIND OUR DR. FAUCIS AND OUR THERESA TAMS AND CLING TO THEM AS THEY ATTEMPT TO WORK OUT WHAT'S ACTUALLY TRUE RATHER THAN WHAT'S POLITICALLY ADVISABLE OR EXPEDIENT.

Now music plays as an animated slate reads "The week in review."

Steve appears on split screens with a guest.

A caption on screen reads "How libraries check out in a pandemic. COVID-19 response."

Steve says WHAT DO YOU NOW DO DIFFERENTLY BECAUSE OF THE PANDEMIC THAT YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE THOUGHT OF DOING THAT WAY BUT NOW YOU DO AND PROBABLY WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO?

The caption changes to "Vicki Stevenson. Rideau Lakes Public Library. @rideaulibrary1."

Vicki is in her forties, with blond hair in a bun and bangs. She's wearing glasses and a gray blazer.

She says WELL, DEFINITELY THE ONLINE PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN, STORY TIMES ARE ONGOING. WE'VE ALSO EXPANDED IT INTO SOME MORE WORKSHOPS FOR YOUTH AND TEENS, SO RIGHT NOW WE'RE RUNNING A YOGA WORK SHOP SERIES FOR KIDS. AND THAT'S ONGOING. ALSO, WE DID CURBSIDE PICKUP FOR PATRONS, ONCE WE WERE ALLOWED TO HAVE THE DOORS OPEN SOMEWHAT. AND THAT'S BEEN VERY POPULAR AS WELL. WE ALWAYS DID A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF OUTREACH TO PATRONS WHO COULDN'T COME TO US, WE WOULD DELIVER TO THEM AS NEEDED, BUT IT'S BECOME MUCH MORE OF A STAPLE. PEOPLE LOOK FORWARD TO BEING ABLE TO PICK UP THEIR BAG OF BOOKS TO GO.

Steve says VICKERY, HOW ABOUT YOU? WHAT DO YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NOW THAT YOU'RE GOING TO CONTINUE TO DO DIFFERENTLY?

The caption changes to "Vickery Bowles. Toronto Public Library."
Then, it changes again to "The Week in Review. @theagenda. Tvo.org."

Vickery is in her fifties, with blond hair in a short bob. She's wearing a brown jacket, a black blouse and a golden metal necklace.

She says I'LL TELL YOU A BIG AREA OF DEVELOPMENT WITH US IS WITH FOOD BANKS. WHEN WE CLOSED IN MARCH, THERE WAS A REAL NEED IN TORONTO FOR FOOD DISTRIBUTION SITES AND FOR PEOPLE TO SUPPORT THOSE SITES. SO WE OPENED 12 OF OUR BRANCHES FOR FOOD BANK DISTRIBUTION. WE REPURPOSED OUR BOOK-SORTING AND DISTRIBUTION SITE FOR FOOD BANK SORTING AND DISTRIBUTION...

Vickery continues OUR STAFF VOLUNTEERED FOR THOSE SITES. AND WE DELIVERED FOOD TO THOUSANDS UPON THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN TORONTO. WITH THE SUPPORT AND THE LEADERSHIP, OF COURSE, OF THE DAILY BREAD FOOD BANK AND NORTH YORK HARVEST FOOD BANKS, AND WITH THE CITY OF TORONTO. BUT WHAT'S INTERESTING IS NOW THAT WE'VE OPENED TWO OF THOSE LOCATIONS IN THE NORTHWEST AREA OF TORONTO STILL NEED THOSE FOOD BANK SITES AND SO WE'RE STILL OPERATING FOOD BANK DISTRIBUTION FROM THOSE LIBRARIES NOW, EVEN AFTER WE'VE OPENED.

Now music plays as an animated slate reads "The week in review."

Steve and a guest appear on split screens.

A caption on screen reads "Snowbird migration in a COVID-10 winter. Out of country, out of pocket, who pays?"

The caption changes to "Sara Allin. University of Toronto. Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation."

Sara is in her thirties, with shoulder-length straight auburn hair. She's wearing glasses, a black blazer and a black shirt.

She says AND WE'VE SEEN IN THIS PANDEMIC, YOU KNOW, THE WAY THAT WE'RE GOING TO SUCCEED AND TO FIGHT IT IS THROUGH SORT OF SOLIDARITY, THROUGH THINKING ABOUT EACH OTHER, ACTING AS A COMMUNITY, AND SOMETIMES THAT GOES AGAINST OUR OWN PERSONAL BEST INTERESTS, BUT WE DO IT BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT IT'S, YOU KNOW, REDUCES RISK FOR OTHERS. SO, FOR INSTANCE, THE IDEA THAT KIDS ARE IN SCHOOL AND NOW WE SHOULDN'T BE PERHAPS VISITING WITH MY PARENTS INSIDE THEIR HOME BECAUSE THEY HAVE INCREASED RISK THROUGH THE COHORTS THAT THEY ARE WITH AT SCHOOL. IT'S NOT WHAT WE'D LIKE TO DO PERSONALLY BUT IT'S WHAT WE THINK WE SHOULD DO BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO GET PEOPLE SICK WHO MIGHT BE HIGHER RISK. THE SAME GOES FOR TRAVELLING. THE MORE CROWDS THEY ARE... AND WE'RE PART OF THAT, IF WE'RE GOING INTO AIRPORTS, WE'RE GOING INTO PLANES, WE'RE CONTRIBUTING TO A CROWD THAT THAT IS HOW THE VIRUS IS TRANSMITTED. SO THE MORE WE ACT IN KEEPING WITH SOLIDARITY IDEA, THE VIEW THAT WE'RE LOOKING OUT FOR EACH OTHER, THEN THE MORE SUCCESSFUL WE'LL BE, AND THAT'S WHY THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AND THE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER ARE SAYING STAY PUT. WE WANT PEOPLE TO STAY IN THEIR HOMES BECAUSE THAT REDUCES THE RISK FOR EVERYONE.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Steve says I HEAR YOU. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT THAT SOME PEOPLE MIGHT COME BACK WITH, WHICH IS, SO FEW PEOPLE ARE FLYING THESE DAYS, THE AIRPORTS ARE BASICALLY MUCH EMPTIER. THE RISKS THAT WE'RE TAKING OR THE RISKS THAT WE'RE IMPOSING ON THE REST OF SOCIETY IS ACTUALLY PROBABLY HISTORICALLY LOW RIGHT NOW. WHAT ABOUT THAT ARGUMENT?

The caption changes to "The Week in Review. @theagenda. Tvo.org."

Sara says YEAH, IT DEPENDS HOW MANY PEOPLE THINK THAT WAY AND THEN THEY WON'T BE SO QUIET AND, YOU KNOW, THE CROWDS WILL INCREASE, SO I THINK WE JUST HAVE TO MAKE OUR OWN DECISIONS FOR WHERE WE'RE GOING TO BE BEST PLACED. SO STAYING IN TORONTO IN THE WINTER AND WAITING UNTIL IT'S SAFER TO BE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, OR IS IT TO GO AND STAY SOMEWHERE WARM WHERE YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GO OUT AND SOCIALIZE BUT YOU CAN BE IN A WARM PLACE? THESE ARE DECISIONS THAT EVERYONE HAS TO MAKE FOR THEMSELVES.

Steve says SCOTT, LET ME GET YOU BACK IN HERE AND AGAIN GET YOU TO SPEAK TO THIS ETHICAL ANGLE HERE. AS A LAWYER, YOU WOULD CARE ABOUT ETHICS AND THE LAW. DO YOU THINK THERE'S AN ETHICAL ARGUMENT TO BE MADE THAT NOBODY SHOULD BE GOING SOUTH TO THE UNITED STATES FOR THE WINTER WHILE THE GOVERNMENTS ARE URGING US TO KIND OF SHELTER IN PLACE AND, YOU KNOW, NIP THIS THING IN THE BUD?

The caption changes to "Scott Fairley. Cambridge LLP."

Scott is in his seventies, clean-shaven and balding. He's wearing a black suit, blue shirt and a checkered blue bowtie.

He says WELL, I DON'T THINK IT'S A... I THINK THE GOVERNMENT STATEMENT THAT YOU QUOTED WAS AN ACCURATE AND USEFUL ONE, AND I AGREE WITH SARA'S OBJECTIONS BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL SITUATION. AND THERE'S A NUMBER OF ONTARIO RESIDENTS WHO, FOR VERY VALID HEALTH REASONS, NEED TO GET THEMSELVES AWAY FROM THE HARSHNESS AND HAZARDS OF A CANADIAN WINTER...

The caption changes to "For more on this story visit: tvo.org/theagenda."

Scott continues AND SO FOR THOSE PEOPLE, THERE'S LITTLE ALTERNATIVE. FOR THOSE WHO ARE JUST SEEKING... LIKE PLAYING GOLF ALL THROUGH THE WINTER, YOU KNOW, THAT'S A DIFFERENT CALCULATION, AND I THINK EVERYONE HAS TO BE THEIR OWN JUDGE OF THE MORAL HAZARD THEY'RE UNDERTAKING AND HOW IT MIGHT AFFECT OTHERS THEY CARE ABOUT.

Now music plays as an animated slate reads "The week in review."

A guest speaks on screen.

A caption on screen reads "Is Ontario's PC party too moderate? A different Doug Ford."

Then, it changes to "Donald Blair. Pivotworks Business Systems."

Donald is in his forties, bald, with a trimmed goatee. He's wearing a black suit and a white shirt.

He says NO FAMILY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IS MORE CANTANKEROUS A BUNCH THAN THE CONSERVATIVE FAMILY. I MEAN, YOU'LL NEVER MEET A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT ARE CONSTANTLY FIGHTING AND DISAGREEING OR AGREEING WITH EACH OTHER, AND IT'S ONE REALLY, TRULY BIG TENT. AND SO WITH THAT IN MIND, I DON'T LIKE THIS CONSTANT COMPARISON OF DOUG FORD TO BILL DAVIS. THERE WAS ONLY EVER ONE BILL DAVIS. THERE WAS ONLY EVER ONE JOHN ROBARTS, MY FAVOURITE PREMIER.

Steve says IS THAT HIS PICTURE OVER YOUR SHOULDER, INCIDENTALLY?

A closeup shows a black and white portrait of a middle-aged man with a mustache hanging on a wall behind Donald.

Donald says THAT IS HIS PICTURE OVER MY SHOULDER. IT SHOULD BE IN QUEEN'S PARK. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW I GOT IT.

Steve says THAT'S JOHN ROBARTS.

Donald says THE FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF ONTARIO. AND THE DOUG FORD WE KNOW TODAY IS REALLY JUST AN AFFIRMATION OF THE DOUG FORD I THINK WE KNEW WE WERE GOING TO GET. IT DIDN'T SEEM LIKE IT AT THE TIME BECAUSE IT'S PARTY POLITICS, IT'S ELECTORAL POLITICS, AND DURING A CAMPAIGN YOU'RE GOING TO SEE THE MOST BOMBASTIC PARTS OF A LEADER IN ORDER TO TRY AND WIN AN ELECTION. WE ALSO HAVE TO TRY TO REMEMBER THE WAY DOUG FORD CAME TO BE THE LEADER OF THE PC PARTY. IT WAS THROUGH A VERY DIFFICULT PROCESS. AS A RESULT WE HAVE NOW DOUG FORD AND THAT'S GREAT FOR HOW QUICKLY THE PARTY WAS ABLE TO MOVE FORWARD AND END UP WINNING THE ELECTION, BUT I DON'T THINK THAT IT'S A SHOCKER TO SEE THAT DOUG FORD, IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC, IN THE MIDDLE OF WHAT'S GOING ON RIGHT NOW, HAS SORT OF, IF YOU WANT TO SAY, TURNED THE OTHER CHEEK. I AGREE WITH MELISSA, THIS IS MORE OF AN EMPATHY DOUG FORD, THIS IS MORE OF A CARING DOUG FORD, AND IT WAS ALWAYS THERE. WE LOOK AT THE WAY THAT HE RESPONDED WHEN HIS BROTHER, FORMER MAYOR OF TORONTO, ROB FORD DIED. I THINK THAT, ASIDE FROM THE TWO OF THEM BEING SO CLOSE, YOU COULD REALLY SEE THE KIND OF PERSON THAT DOUG FORD REALLY WAS. AND EVEN THEN, WHEN HE RAN FOR MAYOR, A LOT OF PEOPLE MADE THE COMPARISON BETWEEN DOUG AND ROB, SAYING THAT DOUG SEEMED TO BE MORE OF THE CALMER, MORE SENSIBLE VOICE ON CITY COUNCIL SOME OF THE TIME AS OPPOSED TO THE CHAOS OF ROB FORD. I THINK TODAY ALL WE'RE SEEING IS A BETTER, SMARTER LEADER. HE'S GROWN INTO THE ROLE, HE'S GROWN INTO IT VERY WELL. HE UNDERSTANDS WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE. I DON'T LIKE THIS, AGAIN, COMPARISON OF ROB FORD TO BILL DAVIS OR DOUG FORD TO BILL DAVIS OR DOUG FORD TO LARRY GROSSMAN OR DOUG FORD TO ALL THESE OTHER FAIRLY PROGRESSIVE LEADERS IN THE PARTY'S HISTORY BECAUSE THERE'S ONLY ONE DOUG FORD...

The caption changes to "The Week in Review. @theagenda. Tvo.org."

Steve says I GET YOU, DONALD, I GET YOU. BUT I HAVE TO SAY, BACK... I THINK IT WAS BACK IN MARCH, THAT THE PREMIER STARTED HIS DAILY BRIEFINGS, AND WHEN HE SAID THE CLIP THAT I'M ABOUT TO SHOW YOU, WELL, I THINK IT TOOK A LOT OF PEOPLE BY SURPRISES, LET'S PUT IT THAT WAY. SHELDON, LET'S ROLL THAT CLIP, IF YOU WOULD?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "March 19, 2020."

In the clip, Premier Doug Ford gives a statement.

He says I WANT TO THANK THE MEDIA. YOU'RE PLAYING A MASSIVE ROLE IN HELPING US OUT. I JUST WANT TO THANK YOU. THERE WAS AN ARTICLE IN THE STAR, YEAH, THE STAR WRITES GREAT ARTICLES.

The clip ends.

Steve says OKAY. BRIAN, WHEN YOU HEARD THAT, WHAT DID YOU THINK?

The caption changes to "Brian Lilley. Toronto Sun."

Brian is in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short blond hair. He's wearing a black suit and a checkered gray shirt.

Brian laughs, then says THE STAR DOES WRITE SOME GREAT ARTICLES SOMETIMES. YOU KNOW, IN THE MEDIA, WE ARE COMPETITORS AT TIMES AND WE ALSO WILL READ EACH OTHER'S STUFF, WATCH EACH OTHER'S STUFF AND, YEAH.

The caption changes to "For more on this story visit: tvo.org/theagenda."

Brian continues WAS I SURPRISED BY THAT? NOT NECESSARILY. AT THAT POINT IN PARTICULAR, THE GOVERNMENT NEEDED THE MEDIA TO GET THE MESSAGE OUT.

Now music plays as an animated slate reads "The week in review."

A caption on screen reads "Rebuilding post-war Iraq. Contemporary challenges."

Steve says NOW, BESSMA, YOU GAVE US A REALLY TERRIFIC, I GUESS WHAT THEY CALL IN YOUR BUSINESS A TOUR DE RAISON OF ALL THE REASONS THE IRAQ INVASION TURNED OUT TO BE SUCH A FAILURE 17 YEARS AGO. WHAT DO YOU SAY ABOUT IRAQ TURNING INTO ANOTHER PLAYGROUND FOR PROXY WARS BY DIFFERING PARTIES ALL OVER THE PLACE?

The caption changes to "Bessma Momani. @b_momani."

Bessma is in her forties, with long wavy blond hair. She's wearing a black cardigan and a white blouse.

She says IT'S A DISASTER. IT'S A DISASTER. AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT IT IS TODAY. IT'S A PLACE OF PROXY FOR MOSTLY THE AMERICANS AND THE IRANIANS, WHO FRANKLY AREN'T BRAVE ENOUGH TO FIGHT EACH OTHER IN THEIR OWN COUNTRIES BUT USING OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, IRAQ BY FAR AS BEING A PLAYGROUND, IF YOU WILL. CERTAINLY LEBANON, SYRIA, AND TO A LESSER EXTENT IN YEMEN. BUT THIS IS A REAL BIG CHALLENGE, AND OF COURSE THIS REALLY PLAYS INTO WHAT BOTH WANT, WHICH IS LOW COST TO THEM BUT HIGH COST TO THE CIVILIAN IRAQIS ON THE GROUND. YOU KNOW, IRAN OF COURSE HAS BECOME SUCH AN IMPORTANT INFLUENCE INSIDE THE COUNTRY, TO THE DETRIMENT OF IRAQ, PARTICULARLY IN TERMS OF ITS SOVEREIGNTY, ITS SORT OF NATIONALIST DESIRE TO BASICALLY STAND ON ITS OWN TWO FEET AS I SORT OF ALLUDED TO, A LOT OF THAT IS ECONOMIC BUT IT'S ALSO VERY POLITICAL. THEY HAVE BASICALLY BOUGHT SO MANY OF THE POLITICIANS IN IRAQ. SOME OF THAT HAS... I DON'T WANT TO SAY RELIGIOUS LOYALTY BECAUSE I THINK IT'S DEEPER THAN THAT. IT'S VERY MUCH POLITICAL. THEY ARE OFFERING MONEY. THEY HAVE BOUGHT THESE POLITICIANS. AND AT THE EXPENSE OF THE IRAQIS WHO FRANKLY WANT TO HAVE IN SO MANY CASES... I KNOW WE'RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE YOUTH MOVEMENT... WHO WANT TO HAVE A COUNTRY THAT NOT ONLY STANDS ON ITS TWO FEET BUT MAKES POLICIES IN THE INTERESTS OF IRAQIS, NOT IN THE INTERESTS OF IRANIANS. SO THAT IS A REAL BIG CHALLENGE AND I'M AFRAID TO SAY THAT IS ONE OF THE WORST LEGACIES THAT THE AMERICANS MADE. THEY EFFECTIVELY MADE THESE TWO COUNTRIES THAT FOUGHT A WAR, YOU KNOW, AT THE POLITICAL LEVEL, TO BE BEST FRIENDS, AND THAT IS REALLY I THINK A CONSEQUENCE OF HOW NOT UNDERSTANDING LOCAL DYNAMICS AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, CREATING THOSE KIND OF AVENUES OF DESTROYING THE ECONOMY THAT ALLOW THE IRANIANS TO PENETRATE.

Steve says LOUISA, I WANT TO ASK YOU ABOUT MILITARY PRESENCE THERE RIGHT NOW. I THINK IT'S FAIR TO SAY THAT BARACK OBAMA SAW HIS MISSION AS MAKING SURE AMERICA DIDN'T GET INTO ANY MORE WARS WHEN HE TOOK OVER, AND I THINK IT'S ALSO FAIR TO SAY THAT DONALD TRUMP SAW HIS MISSION IN TERMS OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OF BRINGING AMERICAN TROOPS HOME, AND I GATHER THERE'S GOING TO BE ANOTHER TROOP WITHDRAWAL IN THE NEAR FUTURE, DOWN FROM 3,000 TO 2500 U.S. TROOPS BY EARLY NEXT YEAR. WHAT'S THE THINKING ON THE GROUND IN IRAQ ABOUT THAT MOVE?

The caption changes to "Louisa Loveluck. Washington Post. @leloveluck."

Louisa is in her thirties, with long straight brown hair. She's wearing a black blazer.

A map of the Middle East pops up briefly on screen highlighting the location of Baghdad, Iraq.

Louisa says I THINK A LOT WILL HINGE HERE ON HOW THIS TROOP DRAWDOWN NOW TAKES PLACE. THE FACT OF A DRAWDOWN ISN'T NECESSARILY A NEW THING. IT'S BEEN SEVERAL YEARS SINCE THE ISLAMIC STATE WERE FORMALLY DEFEATED HERE. AND IN THE YEARS THAT FOLLOWED, THERE HAVE BEEN WITHDRAWALS ON A STEADY, ONGOING BASIS. YOU HAVE SEEN THE U.S.-LED COALITION TAKE MORE OF A BACK SEAT IN THE MILITARY OPERATION. SO THIS HAS BEEN HAPPENING FOR A WHILE. WHAT IS DIFFERENT NOW, AS YOUR GUESTS HAVE SAID, IS THE CONTEXT, IS INTENTIONS ACROSS THE REGION BETWEEN IRAN AND THE UNITED STATES. THIS IS AN AREA WHERE THE U.S. TROOP PRESENCE HAS BEEN USED TO HIT THE UNITED STATES BY IRAN, THE TWO HAVE SORT OF SPARRED... THE TWO SIDES HAVE SPARRED REPEATEDLY. AND IF THERE IS ANY DEGREE OF CHAOS OR UNCERTAINTY IN THE DRAWDOWN, I THINK THAT COULD SPARK FURTHER INSTABILITY, IT COULD [indiscernible] THE IRAN-BACKED MILITIAS WHO ARE STATIONED HERE AND DO HAVE THEIR EYES ON THE COALITION.

The caption changes to "The Week in Review. @theagenda. Tvo.org."

Steve says BESSMA DID MENTION A MOMENT AGO THAT WE WANTED TO TALK ABOUT THE YOUTH MOVEMENT IN IRAQ, SO LET'S DO THAT RIGHT NOW. WALEED, I'LL GET YOU TO START. THERE WAS SOMETHING CALLED THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION LAST YEAR. WHAT WAS THE ROOT OF THE ISSUES INVOLVED IN THAT?

The caption changes to "Waleed Nesyif. Iraqi-Canadian. Contributor, 'Once upon a time in Iraq.'"
Then, it changes again to "The October revolution."

Waleed is in his thirties, with short curly black hair and a goatee. He's wearing glasses and a black sweater.

He says WELL, I THINK OUR TWO OTHER PANELISTS HAVE COVERED THIS VERY, VERY WELL IN THE SENSE THAT WHEN YOU HAVE 17 YEARS OF ABSOLUTE OBLITERATION OF A SOCIETY AND A COUNTRY, AND AS I MENTIONED TO YOU, THERE ARE KIDS THAT HAVE BEEN BORN AT 2003 AND UP. MOST OF THESE KIDS, IF THEY BECAME ORPHANS, THEY'VE SEEN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BUT WAR, CHAOS, DEATH AND DESTRUCTION. IN A SENSE IT'S A RECIPE FOR DISASTER THAT IT COULD BLEED INTO ONE OF THE TWO CONCLUSIONS. I WAS A CYNIC BEFORE WHERE I THOUGHT IRAQIS WILL NEVER RALLY UP, WILL NEVER ACTUALLY STAND TOGETHER AND RALLY UP. TO BESSMA'S POINT, I WAS LOOKING AT THE OLDER GENERATION, AND THEY'RE ALL KIND OF OLIGARCHIC, IF YOU WILL, OR OLIGARCH WANNABES...

The caption changes to "For more on this story visit: tvo.org/theagenda."

Waleed continues SO THEY WERE FIXING THEIR MINDS ON HOW ECONOMICALLY WE CAN SURVIVE, SO ON AND SO FORTH. AND THEN LO AND BEHOLD, I WAS REALLY SURPRISED WHEN IT HAPPENED. THEN YOU SEE THE YOUTH MOVEMENT RISING, STANDING UP, AND I WAS ONE OF THE PEOPLE AT THE BEGINNING AND I WAS LIKE, OH, THERE MUST BE A PLAY OVER THERE. IT WILL BE POLITICIZED. IT WILL BE THIS. IT WILL BE THAT. BUT THEN I HAD FRIENDS ON THE GROUND OVER THERE AND THEY WERE SENDING ME VIDEOS, THEY WERE TELLING ME WHAT'S GOING ON, AND IT'S REAL. WHAT THEY'VE DONE WAS UNBELIEVABLE.

The clips end and Nam stands in the studio alone.

She says THAT'S JUST SOME OF WHAT WE COVERED THIS WEEK ON THE AGENDA. FOR MORE, INCLUDING THE FULL CONVERSATIONS, YOU CAN VISIT OUR WEBSITE, tvo.org, OUR YouTube CHANNEL AT youtube.com/theagenda OR OUR TWITTER FEED: twitter.com/TheAgenda.

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