The News Rundown
- The pre-election campaign continues on in Alberta with policy announcements this week.
- Most of what we have seen has been the NDP making announcements with government money, the UCP vowing to not do the same, and the NDP making attacks on Jason Kenney and the UCP creating fear that the party could fire teachers, ban abortion, roll back LGBT rights, and demolish hospitals.
- The UCP has said they will not legislate on abortion if elected and that any potential cutbacks will be made through finding efficiencies rather than removing front line workers.
- This week though we have actual policy!
- Firstly the NDP has said that they will ban seclusion rooms in schools, that is, rooms where disruptive children (often with special needs) could be sent. Nothing controversial here.
- The UCP though unveiled a comprehensive democratic reform package.
- 1. Recall legislation — fire your MLA. Recall exists in the UK, many US states, and right next door in BC.
- The UCP’s Recall Act would be based on the BC legislation, if 40% of voters signed a petition, that MLA would be forced to resign. This can happen no sooner than 18 months after an election.
- 2. Senator selection legislation. From 1989 through 2012 Alberta elected senators. This law died in 2017 when it wasn’t renewed, the UCP will renew the law so that Alberta can select senators in the 2021 election. 5 of 10 elected senators were appointed, 1 by Prime Minister Mulroney and 4 by Prime Minister Harper.
- 3. A ban on floor crossing without a by-election. Explain floor crossing (WRP/AP). This cannot be enforced by law but the UCP says that one of the first things they will do is introduce a motion in the house asking all parties to agree to no floor crossing without a by-election. The UCP has also said it will not accept a candidate unless that candidate resigns first and runs in a by-election.
- The media asked about when the PCs and Wildrose joined the UCP, Jason Kenney said that this was due to the memberships of both parties voting to unite and create the new United Conservative Party.
- 4. Free votes on anything that isn’t a matter of confidence (meaning the budget or explicit confidence motions) or central to the party’s platform. This will allow MLAs to vote in line with what is best for their constituents. And MLAs will always have a free vote on matters of conscience.
- 5. Getting more money out of politics. The UCP would bring in a limit of $30,000 per year in contributions per person to PACs or Political Action Committees. Right now there is no limit on PAC funding in Alberta.
- The UCP would also stop organizations legally linked to a party from running a PAC. Most notably the Alberta Federation of Labour, a legal affiliate of the NDP, spent over $500,000 on political advertising last year. Another union made a $270,000 donation to a PAC.
- The UCP would also set a fixed election date rather than having an election window as we have now.
- And they would make it illegal for a government to advertise in the period leading up to an election and to use taxpayers’ money at any time for partisan ads.
- Why is this important? The grassroots. The UCP convention last summer.
- The beginning of policy and potentially a government from the bottom up, from the members to the top. This is what made Reform successful and later the Canadian Alliance and Conservative Party of Canada.
- The BC NDP government released a throne speech on Tuesday to commence the spring session at the legislature, and it showed the priorities of the minority NDP government propped up by the Green Party as we head further into 2019.
- Janet Austin delivered her first throne speech as lieutenant governor on Tuesday, which promised action on affordable housing and child care, as well B.C.'s first poverty reduction strategy. The speech also includes pledges of stronger protections for consumers, like better oversight of payday loan practices, new rules for concert ticket sales and more transparency in billing for mobile phones.
- The B.C. government says it will introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). The goal is to table legislation sometime this year. If passed, it will make B.C. the first province in Canada to legislate its endorsement of the declaration.
- Premier John Horgan told reporters on Tuesday he's unsure what implementation will look like — if a single bill will do the job or if several pieces of legislation will need to be rewritten. He said legislative councils are working on the details and will be reporting back with their findings, and that the legislation will be "more than symbolic".
- Horgan went further: "We need to address reconciliation in British Columbia, not just for social justice... but for economic equality for all citizens, Indigenous and non-Indigenous."
- The Green Party also believes in legislation recognizing UNDRIP, as was stated last month during the Wet’suwet’en standoff. Adam Olsen, Green MP had this to say at the time: "The only pathway to end these standoffs is to embrace and implement the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into B.C.’s legal framework. Our caucus believes that we need new legislation introduced as soon as possible so that we can take concrete steps towards true reconciliation based on meaningful collaboration. That is why we made the implementation of UNDRIP a key part of our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the NDP and why we continue to work with government and First Nations on its introduction."
- Horgan's NDP campaigned on a promise to implement UNDRIP, which includes 46 articles meant to recognize the basic human rights of Indigenous Peoples' along with their rights to self-determination.
- Article 32 is among those in the declaration often cited by Indigenous leadership. It directs states to to obtain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous groups before approving projects that would affect their lands or territories.
- Horgan believes that ignoring UNDRIP would have consequences for the economy: "For too long uncertainty on the land base has led to investment decisions being foregone, and I believe that that hurts Indigenous people and it hurts other British Columbians,"
- There is also a similar bill being legislated in Ottawa: A private member's bill introduced by New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash that is aimed at ensuring Canadian laws are in harmony with UNDRIP is currently before the Senate in Ottawa.
- Many have expressed concern that once legally weaponized, UNDRIP will unleash a fresh cascade of litigation that will clog the courts for years to come. There is worry, as well, that the declaration helps further construct a parallel society based on race.
- Article 8 states that Indigenous peoples have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation, which will make removing children from homes – in the sad cases where removal is tragically, a necessity – more difficult. On the other hand, First Nations children are placed in welfare care at 12 times the rate of other children; this is a systemic problem that UNDRIP may help to alleviate.
- Not only is there to be prior consent for future projects, there is also meant to be compensation for perceived prior injustices.
- UNDRIP also grants Indigenous peoples the right of redress “for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.”
- Given the absence of treaties over most of B.C., the lands, territories and resources that have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without free, prior and informed consent would constitute pretty much the entire province.
- “Compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.” In a province with few treaties, that could basically be...the whole province. How much is an entire province worth in compensation?
- Recognizing UNDRIP officially in legislation will have an unknown effect on business and the economy in BC.
- While reconciliation is worthwhile goal, and that working with First Nations to build resource projects that benefit all would be an ideal result of this legislation, there are too many variables to account for. There are over 200 First Nations in BC, and very few treaties unlike the rest of Canada.
- Many of those First Nations have territory claims that overlap with one another, and have virtually claimed the entire province, if one accounts for traditional territory as well as currently inhabited. With a lack of treaties, this leads First Nations claims to be much stronger and broader legally than in other jurisdictions.
- In short, this is a piece of legislation that is not meant to be taken lightly. It could have far reaching consequences for our province. Let's hope the NDP have done their homework and put practicality ahead of their ambition.
- 75% of Canadians trust traditional media.
- The survey carried out by Edelman Canada also found that 71% of Canadians are increasingly concerned about fake news.
- Fake news definition from episode 47: a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.
- What others see it as: if people don’t like coverage by the media, then it’s coined as fake news. The president of the U.S., who anytime there’s negative coverage around him, just terms it and deems it fake news
- The share of Canadians who consume news was up to 42% in 2018, from 31% in 2017.
- This proves that traditional media organizations are able to produce good journalism but…
- The same survey also found that social media was considered the least reliable source of information.
- 34% of respondents found social media trustworthy
- The reliance on social media to push stories and ultimately garner clicks and likes is an issue for traditional media because it means that they must inflame and exaggerate their headlines to grab attention.
- The media is built for controversy, take our Alberta story this week. The focus was on the negative rather than the shift in Alberta democracy these policies could bring in.
- This doesn’t help social media.
- This doesn’t help news organizations appear or regain trust in the public.
- The survey also notes that of government bodies, non-government organizations, businesses, and the media, the media was the least trusted.
- This is a follow up to last week's Firing Line story on the Trudeau government scandal over potential political interference in the justice system, and political corruption. Known as the SNC Lavalin scandal, there are new details emerging practically everyday on what happened between Trudeau, his senior PMO staff, and then Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould.
- As we knew it last week, SNC Lavalin, a major global construction company headquartered in Montreal, lobbied key Liberal government officials to secure a "deferred prosecution agreement" to halt federal prosecutors from investigating alleged bribery and corruption from SNC Lavalin. Essentially they were doubling down.
- Someone in the PMO noticed this, and allegedly wanted the attorney general to grant the agreement, interfering in the independent justice system for political gain. Wilson-Raybould refused, and was later shuffled to Veterans Affairs from Justice, when Trudeau made his next cabinet shuffle after MP Scott Brison's retirement announcement, who was the President of the Treasury Board.
- Trudeau denied the allegations last week, but new details are emerging every day on the issue, and the excuses from Trudeau and the Liberals have been piling up and changing daily.
- On Tuesday, Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet in a decision that Trudeau said left him “surprised and disappointed.” In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Wilson-Raybould announced she submitted her resignation as Minister of Veterans Affairs and said she has retained legal counsel to determine what she can and cannot talk about within the confines of solicitor-client privilege over the SNC-Lavalin affair. Her legal counsel includes Thomas Cromwell, a highly regarded former Supreme Court judge for 8 years, so clearly there is something there that needs the attention of such an acclaimed lawyer.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he was “surprised and disappointed” by Wilson-Raybould’s resignation, which he said was “not consistent” with their recent conversations: “In regards to the matter of SNC-Lavalin, let me be clear. The government of Canada did its job and to the clear public standards expected of it. If anyone felt differently, they had an obligation to raise that with me. No one, including Jody, did that.”
- Trudeau attempted to throw Wilson-Raybould under the bus, but there are clear signs that the prime minister was not innocent on the matter.
- He said neither he nor anyone from his office had “directed” Wilson-Raybould to come to any conclusion about the matter but refused to answer questions about whether there had been any broader “influence” attempts, as were alleged in the report.
- Later that same day, Attorney General David Lametti, who took over Wilson-Raybould’s position in the shuffle last month, went one step further and said neither he nor Wilson-Raybould had been subject to any attempts to direct or pressure them.
- But on Monday, Trudeau admitted to a conversation in the fall with Wilson-Raybould, which would have been around the same time that the public prosecution service declined to enter into a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin and when the pressure is alleged to have been applied to Wilson-Raybould to intervene.
- On Friday, he admitted that Wilson-Raybould challenged him last fall to clarify if he was “directing” her to make a decision in the disputed bribery prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Trudeau refused to say exactly what he told his former attorney general or whether he indicated his own preference to her.
- Wilson-Raybould has remained silent over the whole affair, neither confirming nor denying the reports that she resisted political pressure to intervene in the prosecution. She says she is bound by solicitor-client privilege not to divulge her past communications as the government’s lawyer.
- She did not publicly back Trudeau’s version of events after the story first broke, three weeks after Trudeau had shuffled her to the veterans affairs post, and her resignation happened right after Trudeau publicly suggested she was happy to remain in his cabinet.
- The Conservative and NDP are trying to get answers through the House of Commons Justice Committee. Among those sought by the committee are Trudeau’s two closest advisers: principal secretary Gerald Butts and chief of staff Katie Telford. The head of the public prosecution service is also being sought, as are two other senior PMO staffers who were lobbied by SNC-Lavalin on justice matters this fall.
- Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, chair of the committee, on Sunday pushed back at a report that the committee would vote against the motion. In a tweet, he called such suggestions “incorrect” and said he is “closely following” all of the information emerging about the matter. That said, it's clear the Liberals will try to block the committee at every opportunity.
- Anthony Housefather is the same MP who suggested on a Montreal radio show that Wilson-Raybould may have been shuffled from Attorney General because she didn't speak French. He said the federal Justice Department will be required to address numerous matters in Quebec in the months ahead and suggested this might be the motivation for the shuffle: that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needed a fluent French speaker. Housefather said “For example that there’s a lot of legal issues coming up in Quebec and the Prime Minister may well have decided he needed a justice minister that could speak French. So the idea that she was shuffled because of this unproven allegation to me is quite ridiculous.”
- It was clear that Housefather's assertion was bogus right from the get go, and he apologized and retracted his remarks just a day later, saying he has "no direct knowledge" on the issue.
- Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault accused opposition members of the House of Commons justice committee of being on a “witch hunt” in their bid to call key political figures to testify.
- Other government members then blocked attempts to immediately call Wilson-Raybould and Butts to testify, and also refused to commit to doing so in a closed-door meeting set to take place next week.
- The NDP’s Nathan Cullen moved an amendment to expand that witness list to include Wilson-Raybould, Butts and Matthew Bouchard, one of the senior PMO advisers who was lobbied by SNC-Lavalin on issues related to justice and law enforcement. Liberal members voted against that and defeated the amendment, with Liberal MP Iqra Khalid accusing opposition members of “partisanship” and “looking for soundbites” as rationale for why meetings about potential other witnesses should not be held in public.
- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer also criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the matter and comments the prime minister made on Tuesday that Wilson-Raybould did not express any concerns to him prior to resigning: “Now he’s trying to paint himself as the victim in all of this. He’s now publicly impugning her character in a way that prevents her being able to speak for herself.”
- Scheer is warning of consequences if Liberal members of the House of Commons justice committee refuse to call key political figures as witnesses in the SNC-Lavalin affair when they meet again next week. But if they don’t, he says the party will pursue other avenues to get answers.
- Scheer said “The truth is the best defence for people who have nothing to hide. The Liberals will have one last chance in a parliamentary setting to allow the light of day to be shone on this very serious scandal.”
- It’s not really believable that he moved her out the attorney general role simply because the Treasury Board president resigned. It's also not believable that they shuffled her out because she didn't speak French. It also isn't believable that she resigned for no reason.
- We know that there were discussions, the Liberals have not denied that, the PM has not denied that. What is in dispute is whether the discussion Trudeau and those in his office had with then-AG Wilson-Raybould were simply unethical or criminal.
- If they tried to convince her that, for political reasons, that SNC-Lavalin should not be prosecuted for bribery and corruption then that would be obstruction of justice and a criminal code violation with a jail term of up to 10 years.
- By next week, I’m sure Trudeau will have a new reason for why Wilson-Raybould was moved from cabinet. Whatever happens, we will be here to cover it.
Word of the Week
Grassroots - ordinary people regarded as the main body of an organization's membership
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Silence Speaks Volumes
Teaser: UCP policy intends to bring power to the grassroots, BC commits to UNDRIP legislation, and most Canadians worry about fake news and distrust their media. Also, new details emerge on the SNC Lavalin scandal that cause Trudeau to change his story.
Recorded Date: February 16, 2019
Release Date: February 17, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes