The News Rundown
- This week's BC story is less one major story than it is a series of smaller inter-related stories. News this week was released about NDP MP for the riding of Victoria, Murray Rankin, considering retirement from politics. Rankin said today he's still thinking about whether to run for his party in this year's federal election, despite having said he intended to make a decision about his future by early January:
- "I'm one of those people in the yet-to-be-nominated, yet-to-confirm category. I'm thinking about it. It's four more years. I'm not a spring chicken anymore. I've got to figure out with my family whether … taking me into 2023 of my life is something I want. All those things have to be sorted out. I am definitely thinking about it right now."
- Rankin said that he will make a decision within the next month, despite having said that he would make the decision by early last month.
- 11 of the 44 NDP MPs who won election in 2015 have either resigned their seats or have said they won't run again.
- Rankin, meanwhile, has accepted a job — an unpaid one, he told CBC News — as the B.C. government's representative in its Indigenous reconciliation process with the Wet'suwet'en.
- The BC government's press release on the matter draws more on Rankin's expertise as a lawyer rather than a politician: "To support [the reconciliation process with the Wet'suwet'en], the Province has appointed Murray Rankin as B.C.’s representative to help guide and design the process between the Province and the Office of the Wet’suwet’en. Mr. Rankin, a lawyer and mediator, has an understanding of the Supreme Court’s historic [Tsilhqot'in land title] decision and an abiding commitment to better understand the history and current reality of the Wet’suwet’en people."
- Meanwhile, the Wet'suwet'en are still trying to block Coastal Gaslink's $6.2 billion natural gas pipeline, that would carry natural gas from the source in the Peace River country near Dawson Creek all the way to the refinery and shipping lanes on the coast near Kitimat, BC. I covered this on episode 101, where elected leaders approved the process, whereas hereditary leaders vehemently oppose the deal and set up blockades to stop construction, leading to arrests from the RCMP.
- Coastal Gaslink is still facing problems with construction, and it's likely the project will collapse completely if progress is not made with the Wet'suwet'en.
- Coastal GasLink received provincial regulatory approval in 2014 to proceed with plans to construct a 670-kilometre pipeline to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a West Coast terminal. The $18-billion plant in Kitimat, for exporting liquefied natural gas to Asian markets, will be built by LNG Canada, the consortium led by Royal Dutch Shell PLC.
- The Unist’ot’en blockade on the bridge came down on Jan. 11, allowing Coastal GasLink workers to gain access to a portion of the pipeline route located 1.1 kilometres away. Unist’ot’en is affiliated with Dark House, one of 13 hereditary house groups belonging to the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
- The RCMP and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs agreed to a deal to comply with an interim court injunction.
- “If the project does not proceed, then LNG Canada’s facility will have no source of gas, and likely it would not proceed either,” Mr. Gateman warned.
- He said the economic stakes are enormous, pointing to $527-million already spent on preliminary development costs. He also estimates that the pipeline would contribute more than $20-million annually in property taxes to four regional districts in British Columbia, as well as generating $170-million in tax revenue for the B.C. government during the construction phase.
- A TransCanada Corp. vice-president who headed Coastal GasLink for nearly seven years has warned that the $6.2-billion pipeline project will be at risk of being cancelled unless workers are allowed unfettered access across an Indigenous protest camp.
- “Inability to construct any portion of the project means the whole project will cease,” Rick Gateman said in an affidavit in B.C. Supreme Court. Coastal GasLink, owned by Calgary-based TransCanada, is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent protesters from reviving a blockade on the Morice River bridge in the B.C. Interior.
- Mr. Gateman, who is now a TransCanada vice-president of business development, served as Coastal GasLink president from 2012 until last week. “Unimpeded access is important to ensure the safety of crews working in these remote areas,” he said in his affidavit dated Nov. 23, 2018.
- If the provincial and federal governments fail to get another pipeline built through lack of consultation with First Nations, then Canada's economy could be severely adversely impacted. And the media needs to be covering that angle much more than it is.
- This week we could be talking about the newest jobs report and how unemployment is up to 6.8% from 6.4% all but confirming last weeks story, but there’s more news.
- As we’ve been mentioning from he start of the year, the province is all but in campaign mode for the 2019 election.
- One example of this is our story, the provincial government granted $440m to an oil sands company a week and a half ago.
- The company is called Value Creation that was apparently building a new oilsands upgrader near Edmonton.
- First things first, this was a loan guarantee meaning that the money is contingent upon the project going ahead which they were to decide on later this year.
- The government complicated matters by saying in their press release that construction was already underway.
- But… no one seemed to look into what Value Creation has been up to.
- The Rebel investigated this press release and found more questions than answers.
- First of all there is no construction underway, there’s an empty field, and some signs of construction from maybe a decade ago.
- Second they found that the company entered bankruptcy protection effective December 31, 2008 for being unable to repay a $50m loan plus interest. This was confirmed by Dr. Columba Yeung who joined Notley to make the funding announcement, in a sworn affidavit from 2008.
- This put the company in such a position where credit lenders were able to accelerate the immediate repayment of all of the company’s loans which as of January 9, 2009 totalled $507m USD.
- Third, Dr. Columba Yeung’s technology wasn’t thought to actually work. According to a CEO from a multi-billion dollar oilseeds company, “[H]e has spent the last 15 years trying to convince all serious refining players that his technology of partial upgrading is the answer to all problems. It would have been if it only worked. Total, Shell, BP etc. all looked at his technology but none believe it will work.”
- This is the same technology that Notley is investing $440m of Alberta taxpayer money into, she said the money was on track and the company was going to progress forward.
- The Rebel investigated and in an email reply was told, “We are NOT an operating Company (yet) with cash flow and accumulated cash pile, waiting for a Project, in fact, it would be poor financing to pile up cash waiting for a project for a developing company.”
- At the end of the day, $440m for an announcement into… nothing? Or to make it look as though the government is investing?
- A couple of months back on episode 93 we covered a story that showed that $23 million on purchasing new cars for the G7 summit last summer in Charlevoix Quebec. According to the RCMP, 431 vehicles were to purchased to be used for “motorcade” purposes, and another 200 for “administrative” purposes at the summit, where the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and Italy met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Only 51 are being repurposed for use within the government.
- But that's not all. Now we're finding out that the Canadian government spent more than $12.7 million on vehicle rentals for the summit, as well as $4.5 million on aircraft rentals and about $6,000 on the rental of 'ships'.
- Although the RCMP now says it has sold more than 500 of the 631 cars it bought, the rentals are sunk costs, part of the behemoth $600 million budget required to host foreign leaders, including United States President Donald Trump, for a major international summit in Charlevoix, Que. last June.
- The new numbers come from a government response to a written question from a Quebec Conservative MP, Bernard Généreux, which was tabled in the House of Commons last week. The documents detail line-by-line expenditures related to the G7 summit, which include everything from the costs of hotel rooms and catering to the costs of fireworks ($20,000) and a Cirque du Soleil performance put on for dignitaries ($67,000).
- When the initial news story was released in November, it was said that the government decided to purchase vehicles and then resell after, as it was deemed to be more cost effect than renting. Now we're finding out that they bought cars as well as renting them!
- Global Affairs Canada, the lead government department in organizing the summit itself, incurred total costs of nearly $26 million, of which almost $4.7 million went towards 28 transactions for vehicle rentals or “vehicle rentals and travel expense.” Of those, seven transactions were with companies that had “limousine” in their name. Those seven transactions cost just under $1.5 million.
- “They need to get their story straight. If they had to buy the cars because they couldn’t do rentals, why is there $12 million in rental fees as well?” said Aaron Wudrick, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “It’s good that they’ve recovered some of the money but now they need to explain an additional $12 million in rental fees. You can’t make this stuff up. That’s unbelievable.”
- Another G7-related question was answered through a document tabled in the House of Commons last week. Conservative MP Todd Doherty had been wondering whether the government had paid for “yoga teachers for the prime minister” during the event.
- Each department and agency individually responded that they had not incurred such an expense. Even the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.
- “CSIS does not generally disclose details related to expenditures beyond those publicly reported,” the spy agency’s response said. “However, CSIS can confirm that it did not incur any yoga-related expenses during the G7 Summit in Charlevoix.”
- Yoga jokes aside, there were very real expenses incurred by businesses in Quebec due to protests and police presence in the area. Many of those are petitioning the federal government for compensation. More than 120 business owners in Quebec City and La Malbaie applied for compensation for lost revenue. They said the G7 protests and increased police presence deterred their customers, as many avoided Quebec City's downtown altogether. Global Affairs Canada will not say how much individual businesses are receiving.
- Benoît Huot, the owner the CD Mélomane record shop on St-Jean Street, said he saw fewer customers as a result. "People were definitely walking around town less."
- Keep in mind that this meeting was one in which Donald Trump walked away from talks early, and Canada was no closer to trade deals with US, or other G7 countries than before the summit. It's amazing how more than $600 million of taxpayer money was just flushed down the drain like that.
- Justin Trudeau last year liked to spout that Canadians had the highest wealth per person out of any country in the G7, and while that's still true, we're also the only country where wealth has been declining.
- If this keeps up, Canada will lose its status as wealthiest G7 country to Japan within five years. It will be near the bottom by the end of the 2030s, a report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development predicts. The report pointed to "the depletion of many of Canada's natural resources" as a major source of the problem, along with the increasing flow of money into the housing market instead of other parts of the economy.
- So while on the surface, a story about the Canadian government pawning off barely used vehicles might be funny, the wider implications are much more sinister indeed. And the media has not connected the dots yet.
- What does this mean? Simply put: Someone very close to Justin Trudeau wanted the Justice Minister to intervene in the corruption and fraud persecution of a global company.
- SNC Lavalin is a company with over 50,000 employees with upwards of $9b in revenues.
- What’s the issue? In 2015 federal prosecutors allege that SNC paid millions to bribe public officials in Libya between 2001 and 2011 to secure government contracts.
- SNC then lobbied people in Ottawa (read: donated money) who are senior in this Liberal government to secure a deal known as a “remediation agreement” or “deferred prosecution agreement” that would set aside the prosecution.
- These agreements are completely legal and were brought in by this government just last year in 2018 as part of… wait for it… the federal budget.
- The remediation agreement would allow the company too accept responsibility for the wrongdoing and pay a financial penalty without going to trial.
- In October 2018 the federal director of public prosecution refused to negotiate a remediation agreement. SNC wanted a judicial review of the decision and sources say that Wilson Raybould was unwilling to instruct the director of the public prosecution service to negotiate a remediation agreement.
- The dots are simple to connect: SNC paid the government money or senior officials in the government money, the PMO noticed, and the PMO then wanted then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to grant the remediation agreement.
- Wilson-Raybould hasn’t commented yet citing solicitor-client privilege.
- Trudeau denied the charges while out in public Thursday. While in the House of Commons the repeated line from the current Minister of Justice was, “these allegations in the Globe and Mail are false.”
- In Question Period, Andrew Scheer asked if in government meetings with SNC Lavalin anything regarding criminal prosecution was discussed. All Andrew Scheer got were non-answers from the current Justice Minister.
- Other government officials in media interviews suggested that maybe the anonymous source could be wrong. Fake news, right?
- On Friday the PMO confirmed that Gerald Butts did have a conversation with Wilson-Raybould in December. The PMO said Wilson-Raybould initiated the conversation and Butts referred her to the clerk of the Privy Council’s office on the issue.
- As written in the Globe and Mail, “Another official said the PMO had every right to raise the prosecution case with the justice minister, because a conviction could destroy the company and hurt thousands of workers at SNC-Lavalin.”
- While media outlets such as MacLean’s attempt to minimize the issue by saying that what could’ve been offered would’ve been within the law, what is looking like what actually happened is that someone, either Trudeau or Butts or someone else near the top wanted then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to step in and grant the remediation agreement.
- Why is this an issue? If the Justice Minister who is also the Attorney General said no to a request from the PMO and as a result Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of that portfolio down to Veterans Affairs weeks later, that would suggest that this government yet again doesn’t grasp the rule of law. If you don’t have rule of law, you don’t have a country.
- The media completely steps over this fact yet again. While yes this story is only a few days old and most of the media doesn’t seem to be providing the context necessary to Canadians, this is by far the biggest issue of this story.
- What happens next? The Conservatives and NDP want to take this to the justice committee where Wilson-Raybould and others would be compelled to testify and must do so as that is a legal process.
- The Liberals hold a majority on that committee, they could shut that idea down if they want.
- The only other alternative is a constant media barrage and slew of questions in the House of Commons (which so far have proven useless) until someone talks.
- As Warren Kinsella wrote on Twitter, “So what if Trudeau fights the committee move? If he’s smart, he will. So, #CPC and #NDP, you have only one option: shut down the fucking House of Commons. Paralyze Parliament. If you want Jody Wilson-Raybould to confirm what we all know happened, that’s the only way.”
- It is now incumbent upon the opposition to keep digging on this issue in government and the media must verify the Globe and Mail’s source and reporting on this.
Word of the Week
Quid pro quo - Latin term translating as “something for something”, a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Connecting The Dots
Teaser: A BC NDP MP mulls retirement to mediate a pipeline dispute, Rachel Notley loans $440M to an invisible company, and the feds spent $12.7M on renting cars for the G7 summit. Also, corruption in the Canadian justice system questions the rule of law.
Recorded Date: February 9, 2019
Release Date: February 10, 2019
Edit Notes: Start and Patreon overlap
Podcast Summary Notes