The News Rundown
- It's been quite a month for news in BC. The new year has brought a sense of renewed commitment from the Greens to the minority government of John Horgan's NDP. Battles on many different sides still rage on about LNG development, which I'll be talking about later, and there's a crucial by-election scheduled for January 30th in the provincial riding of Nanaimo, after longtime NDP MLA Leonard Krog resigned to become the mayor of Nanaimo in October's municipal elections.
- The upcoming by-election is crucial because Horgan's strong stable minority government is hanging on by a slim margin, 40 NDP + 3 Greens vs 42 BC Liberals and an independent speaker Darryl Plecas, who is actually being subject to a recall campaign in his riding. If the Liberals win the riding from the NDP, it could produce a deadlock on every vote, with the decider going to former BC Liberal Plecas. If he should be forced to resign as well...well, the possibilities are very intriguing to say the least.
- It will be an uphill battle for the BC Liberals to say the least. Vancouver Island has long been an NDP stronghold, provincial, federal or even municipal, and with the exception of the landslide BC Liberal election of 2001 (77 to 2), the riding of Nanaimo has gone for the NDP candidate since 1972.
- All three major parties of influence also have nominated strong candidates to duke it out in the polls. The NDP recruited now former Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson, who resigned from Jagmeet Singh's federal NDP to run in the by-election. She's also boosted by Leonard Krog's immense popularity, and the fact that Nanaimo has a strong NDP tradition.
- The Greens also believe they have nominated a strong candidate, in Michele Ney. Her father, Frank Ney was a Social Credit mayor of Nanaimo for 21 years, and a former Nanaimo MLA. Michele Ney believes she has a strong chance to win, despite the NDP history in the riding, because the three Green MLAs all bucked trends to become elected on other parts of the Island.
- And finally the BC Liberals have recruited prominent businessman Tony Harris to be their candidate. Tony Harris is also a local candidate with history in the riding. His father Tom Harris is widely known for creating a chain of cellular stores across Vancouver Island, a business now spread to the Lower Mainland and Alberta. Tony Harris is also a real estate developer, and has worked with the Harris autogroup of dealerships based all over Vancouver Island. So it's clear he has the local name recognition to make a serious run.
- An odd article showed up last week about Harris in local newspapers, with the baffling headline "B.C. byelection candidate called out for once wearing a Trump hat", with a picture of Harris jokingly dressed up as Trump for a parody ad, taken from his instagram 3 years ago before Trump was elected president.
- This past Wednesday, the day the byelection was called, Ravi Kahlon, NDP MLA for Delta North, shared on Facebook one of the photos of Harris in a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat with the comments, “I’m not sure if Mr. Harris likes Trump or thought this was a joke but what he should realize is that this has become the symbol of hate and racism” and added that wearing the hat “shows a lack of judgment.”
- Harris said the photos were taken on a ski trip in the Rockies in 2016, a few months before Trump became the Republican nominee for president.
- “My group of friends and I, just like Saturday Night Live and everybody else was doing at the time, we just thought we’d have some fun with it and make fun of Donald Trump,” Harris said.
- Harris said he’s not a Trump supporter and “Trump’s politics certainly aren’t mine.” He suggested any politician under 40 probably has some social media posts that can be taken out of context.
- “What the NDP are doing right now is a key reason that young people avoid politics altogether, because of the personal slandering and stuff like that,” he said.
- Harris said he thinks voters recognize the photos were a joke, and that he and his party will “stay focused on what really matters, which are the issues of Nanaimo.”
- It's interesting how the NDP and the media are trying to portray Harris as a Trump supporter when it's quite clear that he isn't, just because in Canada it's almost social suicide to even mention Trump in a positive light in any way. The tactics used to dismiss a legitimate candidate based on something that isn't even true is inexcusable.
- As with most things this story started with the innocuous idea of creating three new provincial parks, 150 new campsites, areas for hunting and fishing, and many new trails for hiking and snow mobiling.
- The plan would cost the province $40 million.
- Bighorn Country lies west of Rocky Mountain House bordering both Banff and Jasper National Parks.
- Sounds simple, right?
- Last Saturday the province announced that they were cancelling 4 public consultation meetings dealing with the creation of Bighorn Wildland Provincial Park.
- On Sunday, environment minister Shannon Phillips clarified saying that, “In conversation with both my senior officials and the RCMP, it was determined that at this point we can’t necessarily guarantee the safety of the public given some of the content that has been shared with us.”
- The sessions in Red Deer, Sundre, and Edmonton were cancelled.
- Cst. Mike Hibbs on Tuesday, in charge of media relations, for Alberta’s RCMP K Division’s South District said that he hadn’t heard of any threats at all, online or real world.
- Jason Nixon, the UCP MLA for the area said he consulted with the RCMP in the communities he represents and they hadn't heard about any threats.
- He continued by saying, “Cowardly ‘trolls’ are willing to say things online that they would never say in person… Of course, if the trolls cross a line, they should be held accountable. But in many respects, the reality of social media only makes a stronger case for in-person community consultation.”
- After further questioning to the Environment Ministry they issued a statement saying: “The Minister’s decision was based off concerning allegations made by members of the public, concerns from vendors at the facilities we booked with, and advice from Government of Alberta safety and security officials organizing these sessions.”
- So first it was the RCMP advising against holding these sessions and now it’s Alberta government safety and security.
- Terry Leslie, mayor of Sundre, says that at first there was disappointment but now it’s growing into a quiet rage since the implication being made by the government is that the small town of Sundre isn’t safe.
- He went on to say, “I’ve seen people express strong opinions at many public meetings, but never threats at these meetings. That’s not what we accept in my Alberta, it’s not what we do. It’s not who we are.”
- So what actually happened…
- After the cancellation on Sunday, on Wednesday, Shannon Phillips said that the RCMP had two active investigations into what was happening.
- Later in the day Minister Shannon Phillips said that she ‘misspoke’ when citing that the RCMP had open investigations and that there were actually none.
- Postmedia investigated further that government staff lodged 7 harassment complaints after public meetings on the proposed park. They were mainly verbal in November and December and in one case a staff member reported being pushed on the shoulder by an “agitated member of the public”.
- Both the Alberta Party and United Conservative Party called on Phillips to resign. Premier Notley when asked on Thursday said, “as a result of the determined, informed, intelligent leadership of the minister, who has my complete support.”
- It’s steady as she goes and Minister Phillips remains at her cabinet post.
- There’s been some rumbling that the cancellations could be just to afford the government an easier process in approving the park, 2–3 months before an election is expected.
- Coming back from our winter break, there are lots of stories we could talk about this week. There's a follow up from a story we covered in summer of 2017, where there's now a legal challenge in Manitoba where a Star Trek fan's license plate was disallowed because it was noted that ASIMIL8, though used in reference to the Star Trek alien characters The Borg, could be interpreted as an insult to Indigenous people. Trudeau has also called 3 by-elections for February 25th, including the seat in Burnaby South that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is running in.
- But instead, we're going to talk about the other story that's been buzzing in the media the past few days. No, not the 18 year old Saudi girl granted asylum, it's actually the natural gas pipeline blockade by a particular First Nations band in west-central BC.
- Members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation reached a deal with the RCMP on Thursday to let construction crews reach the site of a planned natural-gas pipeline in northern B.C., after days of tension on a rural road where RCMP Mounties arrested 14 anti-pipeline demonstrators. Vehicles blocking the Morice River Bridge will be removed.
- The planned Coastal GasLink pipeline runs through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory, but while the nation’s elected band councils have approved it, hereditary chiefs of the five Wet’suwet’en clans have not. Monday’s arrests were made to enforce a Dec. 14 injunction ordering the checkpoints, which are backed by the hereditary chiefs, to allow access.
- The problem with this is that though First Nations largely accept the hereditary chiefs, leaders passed down from ancestors through bloodlines, the government does not, and instead refers to the elected band councils. This can lead to a clash of opinions when the elected council approves a decision but the hereditary chiefs do not, and can lead to a split in the clan. This is what happened with the Wet'suwet'en, and why the blockade happened, despite pipeline approval. The hereditary chiefs and their supporters are opposed to the pipeline, saying it could damage the watershed and wildlife, whereas the elected band council and its supporters approved the pipeline, saying it will bring much needed investment and jobs into the community, along with improved housing and a better quality of life.
- Despite what the media would have us think, most First Nations living near the LNG pipeline route support the project. At least 20 First Nations from Fort St. John to Kitimat have signed agreements with LNG Canada. Chief Rene Skin of the Skin Tyee near Burns Lake said his First Nation was among the first to lend its support to LNG.
- “We’ve always been in support of the pipeline. We voted together,” Skin said. “Lots to do with jobs, up and coming housing – people will be able to start their own companies. For years to come, there will be a lot of benefits.”
- In general, the agreements signed with the First Nations near the pipeline are worth millions of dollars, MacLachlan said, including $620 million in conditional contracting and employment opportunities, and another $400 million in contracting opportunities for local and Indigenous business.
- Burns Lake First Nation Chief Dan George, who is also the First Nations LNG Alliance chair, has said there are hereditary chiefs who support the project.
- “Helen Michelle and Skin Tyee are not alone,” he said. “Other First Nations such as the Haisla and Kitselas have declared their support for LNG.”
- Karen Ogen-Toews, CEO of the First Nations LNG Alliance, said amidst the media coverage, regular people from the Wet’suwet’en community are caught in the middle.
- “The backlash Wet’suwet’en people are facing, whether they are for or against the project, is devastating,” Ogen-Toews said.
- “Our leaders, elected or hereditary, are advancing what they believe is right, and as such all deserve respectful treatment. Social-media campaigns led by non-Indigenous groups are simply not contributing to a solution.”
- These social media campaigns were organized by anti-resource environmental groups, who also organized anti-pipeline protests across the province. However, what these groups don't realize is that BC has an opportunity with this pipeline to not only expand our economy and give benefits to rural First Nations groups that badly need it, but actually export LNG to countries that primarily use coal, which is a much cleaner burning energy source than coal, therefore actually reducing foreign CO2 emissions.
- But because these groups are against any kind of resource development, they latch onto whatever situation they can to push their agenda, even if it's actually detrimental to their cause. And the media publicizing the blockade without describing the whole issue just added fuel to the fire.
- Prime Minister Trudeau was out this week on the town hall circuit once more.
- After a stop in Kamloops he headed on to Regina in Saskatchewan.
- At that event he was asked about immigration and refugees.
- He was asked, “We’ve got an open border allowing this stuff to come in freely and what are we doing about that thing in particular, an open border? You’re talking about my freedom and everyone who gave their lives. It’s happening in France and all over” Trudeau asked, “Sorry sir, what’s happening?” The questioner continued, “the people are saying no, these two cultures won’t mix.” Trudeau: Which cultures? The questioner: Islam and Christianity.
- Trudeau then responded saying, “democracy only works in a country like Canada if people are free to express their fears, concerns, and opinions and the government gets an opportunity to respond to them.”
- The clip continues with an explanation from David Akin, where the sentences are either completed or context is added.
- Clip: 1:39 - 4:50
- Let’s unpack this.
- First: Adding context to what the questioner or Trudeau says is positioning the media as modifying the original story of what happened at the town hall.
- Second: The media in this case is fanning the flames by using words and phrases such as “that’s not true” or “mistaken belief”
- We would like to believe that the press has some level of credibility but by saying what beliefs are right and wrong in this case, the press isn’t making any friends with regular Canadians.
- “Trudeau took this question so seriously” but in a year end interview (linked on the Global News website to the right of this video) Trudeau said that the Conservative party was trying to turn people against immigration “with claims that are patently false” and that they were going where “no mainstream political party in Canada has ever gone before”.
- So while it may look as though he took the question seriously, we know what he thinks about his opponents on this issue.
- The clarification given on what Trudeau is saying regarding the context of World War 2 or Syria today isn’t a very convincing game play for the media to be making to an already skeptical population.
- “Public opinion that is formed by the likes of Donald Trump and far right parties in Europe”, that’s fine but the exchange got more interesting.
- Global incorrectly stated that Bernier and his party wants to cut immigration and doesn’t believe in a “robust refugee program” but in reality Bernier wants to retool our immigration system to suit our economic needs.
- This lead to the point being made the Conservatives want to strengthen our border security and focus on illegal migration but then the interview went truly absurd.
- “Both parties have right wing media partners and websites that amplify these issues… Some liberals resort to taunting calling conservatives racist even though conservatives support current immigration levels as well as controlled refugee programs… The liberals too have their friends in the media that can sometimes fan flames here.”
- The worry here for Global was rhetoric and whether or not some immigrants would be put in danger because of those skeptical of immigration.
- But in reality by completing sentences, offering context as the video was playing in the background, and using “right wing” in place of conservatives and calling the liberals liberal, Global was doing exactly what they said the media should not be doing!
- This is a wedge issue to divide the population and as we reported last year, the 2019 election would focus on immigration.
- The vast majority of immigration is good but it needs to be focused and any amount of illegal migration weakens support for the existing systems in place.
- Barring defamatory language, these concerns regarding immigration are valid, and deserve to be heard.
- Until the media understands what they are doing with this style of reporting (determining right and wrong) and as long as they minimize the views of citizens as they did in this segment, they aren’t helping the situation.
Word of the Week
Belief - an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Believing in Right or Wrong
Teaser: A BC Liberal candidate is subject to a witch-hunt ahead of a crucial by-election, bullying concerns stop a consultation for a proposed park in Alberta, and a First Nation blockades a natural gas pipeline. Also, the media tries to tell us right from wrong.
Recorded Date: January 12, 2019
Release Date: January 13, 2019
Duration: Shane and Patrick
Edit Notes: Internet drop at Nanaimo
Podcast Summary Notes