The News Rundown
- Google is banning political advertising on its ad platform ahead of the election.
- This is as a result of Bill C–76 which passed in September which would require ad companies to keep a registry of all political and partisan ads they directly or indirectly publish.
- Colin McKay, Google Canada’s head of Public Policy and Government relations called the decision painful saying, “We’ve come to the decision that the best way for Google to comply with the Elections Act in the 2019 election cycle is actually to stop accepting elections ads as defined in the legislation”
- The requirements would come into effect on June 30th.
- Google is pulling out because it is not easy to detect ads of a partisan nature if they don’t mention a candidate or party name.
- Colin McKay, said “The challenge for us is that the definition is extremely broad”
- Google spoke to a Senate committee in November and they even then noted that it would be “extremely difficult” to comply with.
- How ad sales work
- With this system Google says that the ad publisher and themselves may not even know which ads were served. Sometimes the ad exchange that serves the ads may not know, just that one advertiser beat out another. And with dozens or hundreds of advertising campaigns, it would be hard to build the registry.
- YouTube will be exempt in that YouTube will function as normal and in some cases, YouTube recommendations are more powerful than ads.
- Facebook, Twitter, and and any other media organization that runs ads and has an online platform is included in this legislation. This means newspapers, broadcasters, and any app falls under this legislation.
- John Hinds, CEO of News Media Canada said that even publishers need to keep a directory of all ads that appear on their site and it’s a question of even if the publishers can comply.
- What Bill C–76 does do is prevent a third party from using funds if the source of these funds is a foreign entity. This happened in 2015 to the tune of $1.5m from the Tides Foundation.
- It's been a fairly quiet week for news in BC. As the media, local or otherwise, gets caught up in the continuing fallout of the Trudeau-SNC corruption scandal, anything that the BC provincial government is doing seems to be flying under the radar. The major news of the week is that former Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin was approved by all 3 parties in the Legislature to investigate the legislature spending scandal. According to a BC Legislature press release, McLachlin will determine "whether Craig James, Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, or Gary Lenz, Sergeant-at-Arms, engaged in misconduct in the course of their employment as permanent officers of the Legislative Assembly, as outlined in reports by Speaker Darryl Plecas that have been publicly released by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee". So that's a pretty big deal. If anyone can get to the bottom of this mess, it's probably McLachlin.
- The other story to come out of BC flew in under the radar, but longtime BC residents will recognize it as a story that has been present for many decades. It is of course, the never ending debate over softwood lumber exports, and the crippling tariffs that the US continues to land on lumber exports. Though one of BC's biggest industries and one of the greatest sources of wealth for our province, the NDP government does not seem to be willing to go to bat for the forestry industry to ensure that we are getting fair value for our exports.
- Last week, the topic of softwood lumber came up in the legislature. Premier John Horgan came under increased scrutiny from the official opposition about the softwood lumber dispute after telling MLA Jackie Tegart to “stop whining about it.”
- Horgan was quick to respond that the negotiations between the two countries had fallen apart, and the softwood lumber issue was now being resolved in the courts. The premier then touted the government’s work to revitalize the B.C. forest industry, calling for Tegart to “get on board, rather than whining about it.”
- Tegart had this to say about the issue: “There are 140 forestry-dependent communities in our province that are suffering without a softwood lumber deal. I have had constituents come into my office literally in tears because of rolling layoffs at the local mill. I am appalled the Premier of this province called MLAs ‘whiners’ during Question Period today for putting pressure on the government to act. The Premier said nearly two years ago that he would be directly involved in negotiations, but we haven’t seen or heard anything since.”
- “To have the Premier suggest that it be inappropriate for us to call them to account on promises they made two years ago, to me is more than disappointing. He has been in the states a number of times. He should bring it up every time he’s there, it should be a top priority as far as I’m concerned.”
- Forestry Critic John Rustad agreed: “British Columbia is responsible for 50 per cent of all softwood lumber exports to the United States; Horgan should be on the forefront of Canadian efforts to resolve the dispute,” said Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Critic and Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.
- One underlying issue is the difference in land ownership between the two countries. In the U.S., about 90% of forest land is owned and managed by private entities, whereas in Canada about 90% is managed by provincial governments on behalf of the public. Another underlying issue leading to the continuation of this dispute is that the U.S. lumber industry has been successful since the mid 1980’s in having its government impose tariffs on Canadian lumber, even after Canada demonstrated in international appeals that the tariffs were unfounded.
- Currently with no deal in place between Canada and the US, America is free to implement duties on the lumber being imported from Canada. Two of these duties are the countervailing and antidumping duty. The BC government describes the duties as the following.
- A countervailing duty is a duty assessed by the U.S. government on Canadian exports of lumber to the United States. The U.S. argues that the duty is required to offset unfair subsidies that Canadian and provincial governments allegedly provide to lumber companies.
- An antidumping duty is a duty assessed by the U.S. government on Canadian exports of lumber to the United States. The U.S. argues that the duty is required to offset unfair selling practices by Canadian lumber companies that are allegedly selling lumber into the U.S. at a price below their costs or sales value in Canada.
- Prices for lumber were strong through 2018 but have experienced a downturn in recent months. Prices of benchmark softwood lumber commodity Western Spruce-Pine-Fir at US$402 mfbm (a measurement used to measure lumber, which is a thousand board feet, one board foot being 1ft by 1ft by 1inch thick wood). This week that price is down -4.7% compared to last week and to one-month-ago, and is down -26% from the same time in 2018, when it was US$540 mfbm.
- Strong housing markets in the US as well as in the US have boosted sales of lumber, but as we've seen in Vancouver and Toronto, the housing bubble will crash eventually, leading to a loss of revenue in the forestry industry, as well as jobs in small communities in BC that depend on natural resource work to survive. Due to the downturn this year in prices, many sawmills in Canada – particularly in BC – have been curtailing operations or closing for extended periods of time to save costs.
- “Premier Horgan held a joint news conference with [Washington State] Governor Inslee just weeks ago and never even raised the topic of softwood lumber,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “We have a premier who appears in lots of photo ops but seems afraid to act on behalf of the forest industry.”
- Premier Horgan handed the governor a cheque for $600,000 to study a rail link between Seattle and Surrey. This happened the day after a “Buy-American” executive order from the White House made it impossible for Canadian companies to contribute to that study, or the construction project (in the extremely unlikely event it is ever built). Premier Horgan was taken for a ride by Governor Inslee, and British Columbians paid for the ticket.
- New Brunswick PC Premier Blaine Higgs, elected just last fall has already met with counterparts on the east coast in Washington to try and ease tariffs on the New Brunswick forestry industry, meeting with New England governors who were sympathetic and promised to try and find a way forward.
- So, if Atlantic Canada's newest premier is attempting to make inroads with the US on this issue, it begs the question, why isn't Horgan? And why is the media not talking about it?
- The NDP government in Alberta has appointed Ed Whittingham to Alberta’s Energy Regulator.
- Whittingham is the former executive director of the Pembina Institute from 2011 to 2017.
- Pembina Institute: A think tank that is working to reduce the negative impacts of fossil fuels while supporting Canada’s transition to an energy system that is clean and safe.
- He will make $76,500 per year with an additional $750 per day he participates in meetings with the Alberta Energy Regulator.
- What does the Alberta Energy Regulator do?
- Regulates the life cycle of oil, oil sands, natural gas, and coal projects in Alberta
- This includes oil wells, pipelines, gas facilities, oil facilities, oil sands mines, in situ projects, upgraders, coal mines, and coal processing plants.
- According to Vivian Krouse, who is a Vancouver based researcher that has been following the flow of money into anti-Alberta oil groups, the Pembina institute accepted $8m in foreign funding from US foundations including the Tides Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, and the Oak foundation which operate under the guise of the Tar Sands Campaign which had the aim of “land locking” Alberta’s oil.
- Whittingham was also involved in pushing the Trudeau government and NEB to have the Energy East consultations include emissions from the consumers of the oil products, not just the construction of the pipeline itself.
- Post media asked for an interview with Whittingham but the Alberta Energy Regulator did not approve the interview.
- A complete 180 from what the premier has been championing.
- Trans Mountain Pipeline ads
- Speaking to the Senate
- And campaigning on pipelines.
- But Ed Whittingham was hired.
- Actions speak louder than words.
- The Rebel first ran with this story on February 22nd. The media is now covering it.
- We return to the ongoing issue of the SNC corruption scandal rocking federal politics and shaking Trudeau's federal government. Currently his ship is taking on water and in risk of capsizing, and just this week, one of his top cabinet ministers has metaphorically taken off with one of the lifeboats.
- For those needing a recap on this issue, have a look at last week's episode where we detailed former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould's damning testimony alleging that she received veiled threats from members of Trudeau's PMO to let SNC off the hook in a corruption trial so that Trudeau could cater more to Quebec. Ever since Wilson-Raybould's testimony, Trudeau has faced calls to resign. We also talked about the testimony of Gerald Butts, the now resigned principal secretary of Justin Trudeau, who testified that he said “there’s no solution here that doesn’t require some interference.”
- But back to the cabinet minister who jumped ship. Jane Philpott, the former Treasury Board president was highly respected in her position, and widely known as one of Trudeau's most competent ministers. In a statement posted to her MP website, Philpott said that the recent events, including the SNC-Lavalin scandal, "have shaken the federal government in recent weeks and after serious reflection, I have concluded that I must resign as a member of cabinet."
- In her resignation letter Philpott cites the convention of cabinet solidarity—where ministers must always be prepared to defend other ministers publicly—in saying that it has become "untenable" to continue to serve in cabinet. Philpott also said the evidence of alleged pressure offered by her friend and former fellow minister Wilson-Raybould has "raised serious concerns" for her.
- "The solemn principles at stake are the independence and integrity of our justice system…. Sadly, I have lost confidence in how the government has dealt with this matter and in how it has responded to the issues raised," Philpott said in her resignation letter to Trudeau.
- The independence and integrity of the justice system is also important to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, a governmental body set up shortly after Stephen Harper became prime minister. As Shane said last week, back in 2006 one of the first Bills passed by the government of Stephen Harper was the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. This Act was designed to prevent future occurrences of the Sponsorship Scandal that saw government money funnelled to Liberal advertising in Quebec. This Act prevented the government from overruling the Director of Public Prosecutions created by this Act in 2006. If the government were to overrule the Director they would have to announce this publicly.
- This week the Public Prosecution Service of Canada tweeted that "Prosecutorial independence is key to our mandate. Our prosecutors must be objective, independent and dispassionate, as well as free from improper influence—including political influence." That means, no PMO influence, and certainly no influence from Trudeau.
- Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough is assuming Philpott's portfolio in an acting capacity. It's yet to be seen if this will prompt the third cabinet shuffle in as many months, or whether a sole person will be named to that role. Treasury Board President is a role typically held by a more senior minister.
- In a press conference, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said that Philpott's resignation "clearly demonstrates a government in total chaos led by a disgraced prime minister."
- He made a direct call to other Liberal cabinet ministers to think about following suit, saying that the remaining cabinet ministers either need to force Trudeau to stand down or disassociate themselves from the scandal. "Is this what you got into politics for? If not, it’s time for them to stand up and be heard, like Jane Philpott did today."
- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a tweet that Philpott's resignation "now more than ever" compels the need for a public inquiry. He said it raises "serious questions" about the alleged interference of Trudeau's government and its commitment to reconciliation. The NDP are calling for Trudeau to testify under oath about the whole scandal.
- "Jane Philpott has made her decision based on information she received from cabinet; Canadians deserve to know what happened as well," Singh said in the statement.
- Reacting to the sudden resignation, fellow Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes also announced this weekend that she won’t be running again. A second Liberal MP, Wayne Long, has spoken out—not the first time for him on this case—to say Philpott’s resignation further bolsters the argument that an independent investigation is needed. Long said this in a statement: "I am deeply troubled by the fact that Ms. Philpott felt the need to resign as a result of our government’s handling of this matter. I believe that we will not be able to successfully return our focus to this work until they have those answers."
- On CTV's Power Play, Summa Strategies vice president Kate Harrison said that ahead of the previous election, the Liberal Party recruited a number of established professionals who were not partisans, on the promise to do politics in a less partisan way, and noted that Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were two of those star candidates. Harrison said that Philpott’s resignation is the result of not delivering on that promise.
- Justin Trudeau deflected concerns about misconduct and enabling of corruption in PMO, while similarly trying to throw Wilson-Raybould under the bus on the issue by trying to boil down the whole scandal to a simple "erosion of trust". At a news conference Thursday in Ottawa, Trudeau said he tasked his staff members to engage Wilson-Raybould on the file while she was justice minister to stress the potential impact of her decision. In hindsight, he said, he should have reached out "personally" on the crucial matter instead of dispatching staff.
- He said an "erosion of trust" developed between his principal secretary at the time, Gerry Butts, and Wilson-Raybould. "I was not aware of that erosion of trust and as prime minister and leader of the federal ministry, I should have been."
- When asked in the news conference if he was "specifically apologizing for anything today", referring to the SNC scandal, he said "I will be making an Inuit apology this afternoon", referring to his trip to Iqaluit to apologize for the way the federal government handled tuberculosis outbreaks in the north in the mid-20th century.
- As John Ivison of the National Post writes, "It will be an opportunity for more images of the kind in which Trudeau and his spin-doctors have specialized over the past three years – a chance to highlight his compassion, empathy and sensitivity, while apologizing for historic wrongs that he personally had nothing to do with. Yet when it comes to accounting for his own mistakes, he is less demonstrative. His advisers had previously suggested his appearance to answer questions on SNC would involve a display of contrition."
- While acknowledging that he could have acted differently as events around SNC-Lavalin unfolded, Trudeau stopped short of apologizing for the interactions he and other senior officials had with the former attorney general and justice minister about the Quebec engineering giant's case.
- "Each of these interactions was a conversation among colleagues about how to tackle the challenging issue. Each came at a time when my staff and I believed that former minister of justice and attorney general was open to considering other aspects of the public interest, however, I now understand that she saw it differently," Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottawa.
- These last words invoke his words talking about the groping scandal last summer where he was alleged to have inappropriately touched a female reporter 18 years ago.
- At the time he said “There’s a lot of uncertainties around this. In terms of my recollection there was no untoward or inappropriate action but she was in a professional context. Who knows where her mind was and I fully respect her ability to experience something differently.”
- Sound familiar? Rather than apologizing or making amends, he tried to discredit the woman, just as he has been doing now with Wilson-Raybould. I guess the self-proclaimed feminist Prime Minister just experienced feminism differently than women do. Unfortunately for him, one cannot experience truth differently. It is the truth. Perhaps we need a Prime Minister that will tell it.
Word of the Week
Transparency - operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are being performed, implying openness, communication, and accountability.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Experiencing Truth
Teaser: Google is banning political ads ahead of the fall election, John Horgan wants us to stop whining about softwood lumber, and an anti-energy advocate is now a part of Alberta’s energy regulator. Also, Trudeau’s cabinet experiences another resignation.
Recorded Date: March 9, 2019
Release Date: March 10, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes