The News Rundown
- As the conflict with ISIS winds down, with most of the former terrorist militant's state being lost to allied forces, many of the citizens of western countries who left their great countries of America, UK, France, Canada and others are now having second thoughts and are wanting to come back to their so called "home countries" again. They have regrets and want to return back to the West, despite clearly leaving the West to aid ISIS in their evil goals in Syria and Iraq. Let's remind ourselves that ISIS has committed among the worst atrocities in history, with war crimes ranging from genocide, executions of innocent civilians foreign or otherwise, use of child soldiers, slavery and sexual violence against women, use of chemical warfare, and destruction of priceless cultural sites.
- Canada has its own share of technically Canadian citizens who left Canada to fight for ISIS and now are wanting to come back to Canada again. Here's the thing, these people didn't just accidentally leave Canada to go to Syria for ISIS, it's a purposeful mission they embarked on knowingly and as facilitators of terrorism do not deserve to be treated with respect.
- Other western countries, like the UK and France have balked in the past at bringing their ISIS supporting citizens back. A few of them have stripped citizenships, something that the Liberals are not willing to do.
- An article by Diane Francis of the Financial Post talking about the so called repatriation of ISIS fighters to Canada flew under the radar amid more bombshells about Trudeau's increasingly less popular government and SNC. In the article, Francis shows that Trudeau's government is bringing these supposed former terrorists back into Canada, and while hopefully they have the exact numbers and are monitoring those returnees, the public sadly doesn't have that much information on them.
- Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the House in 2017 that “the number of returnees is in the order of 60” and said fighters considered a threat are monitored. Further, they will be tried if there is evidence they acted outside the law.
- But here's the thing: under Section 83.181 of the Criminal Code, anyone who leaves or tries to leave to commit an offence that is indictable in Canada is liable to imprisonment for up to 10 years. Joining ISIS and committing acts of terror would surely be an indictable offense in Canada. So simply just for returning these monsters should have a lengthy stay in a Canadian jail upon returning. But are they in jail? Once again, we don't know.
- Here in Canada, the Liberals have done virtually nothing, which endangers everyone. In Dec. 2018, terrorism researcher Professor Amarnath Amarasingam, with the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security extremism program, said only four of the 19 Canadians he identified as having returned from Syria and Iraq had been charged. Two were found guilty and two were waiting to go on trial. Five more were given terrorism peace bonds, now expired.
- Clearly, Ottawa has been derelict in its duty to protect the public. A Dec. 2018 report, drafted by the federal Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, says it is "’conceivable’ all 60 returnees could commit ‘low-sophistication’ terrorism attacks, including knife and vehicle attacks."If that's the case, then why are they allowed to roam freely?
- In February, the Tories pushed a motion to force the federal government to come up with a legal strategy for dealing with jihadists. Exasperated Tory immigration critic Michelle Rempel said to Liberal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale that “it’s their job to keep Canadians safe … When will this government get serious?”
- But the Trudeau government doesn't appear to see these returning fighters as a threat to Canadian security. Just like the migrant situation at the Canada-USA border, this government isn't taking this potential threat seriously. It's about time we had a government that did.
- Monday saw the governments throne speech.
- The throne speech was delivered in the afternoon and given the tone and recent events, it seemed like we were headed for a spring session.
- The throne speech touched on restoring trust in government, creating good jobs in a more diversified economy, and ensuring Alberta remains a province that works for everyone. The highlights are from the GoA website.
- In actuality this meant highlighting sky palaces, continuing the NDP path of choosing corporate winners, and raising the spectre that just maybe public health care could be in jeopardy.
- Make no mistake: the throne speech was a political document talking about accomplishments rather than setting a path forward other than “steady as she goes”
- On Tuesday the Premier dissolved the house and called the election for April 16th. A short 28 day campaign.
- In this first week the NDP promised to: add 2,000 more long term care space for seniors, double the incentive for oil and gas upgrading from $3.6b to $7b over the next 10 years, and spend $1b over 10 years for Calgary flood mitigation.
- The Alberta party promised to provide vouchers or tax credits to help families with kids in daycare, provide dental check-ups for kids under 12, have mandatory school vaccinations, work with municipalities to add fluoride to their water, and double the number of educational assistants in school.
- The Liberals promised to put a cap on class sizes starting with K–3, improve child welfare, education, and justice for Indigenous peoples, and attempt to restart Energy East.
- Meanwhile the UCP has been focused on jobs and the economy squarely. Prior to the campaign officially beginning the UCP has promised to kill the carbon tax, reduce red tape for business start ups, cut the employer tax by 1/3, require that for every new regulation one existing must be removed, cut the corporate tax rate from 12% to 8% over 4 years to spur companies to come back, and consider reducing the minimum wage for youth workers and alcohol servers to reduce costs on employers and create more jobs.
- This week the UCP announced their intention to call an inquiry into foreign funded anti-oilsands campaigns and the biggest news of the week for Alberta is that if elected a UCP government will launch a constitutional challenge if a pipeline isn’t built or under construction by 2021. This will be done by way of referendum on removing equalization from the constitution.
- Following Quebec’s attempt at separation in the 1990s the federal government introduced the Clarity Act. The Clarity Act says that if a province holds a referendum with a clear question on a constitutional amendment, and a clear majority votes in favour, the federal government must engage in negotiation with the province.
- No other province has set the goal of using the Clarity Act and the very fact a province is even considering this should be headline news across Canada.
- This makes Alberta’s election the most consequential election in recent memory in Canadian history.
- Instead this week we saw a mainstream media led by social media.
- Normally we say that the media writes their stories to generate social media traction, but this week, social media led the mainstream media.
- This started with erroneous reporting from CTV Calgary that 10 UCP board members resigned from the Calgary-North East constituency association. This was later refuted by the UCP but the story ran on CTV and others such as Global picked it up as well.
- In fact this story was so bad and the media should be so embarrassed, because the “press release” issued by the board didn’t even come from anyone currently affiliated with that constituency.
- Later Broadbent Institute funded media outlet Press Progress outed UCP candidate Caylan Ford as someone who once had a chat on Facebook with white supremacist undertones. She stepped aside as a candidate to not become a “distraction”.
- The social media leading continued focusing on Jeremy Wong (Ford’s replacement) who is a pastor and is being chastised for quoting bible verses such as Ephesians 5:22 which contains but is not limited to: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.”
- Tunde Obasan, candidate for Edmonton-South West shared a meme online that said, “Dear wife, if you want to bring out the best in your husband, give him these two things: respect and sex (in that order).” When asked for clarification he said, “This meme is not reflective of my views, as I treat my wife with nothing but respect and love.”
- And finally Grant Hunter, UCP candidate for Taber-Warner is being criticized for a letter to the editor he wrote in 2010. In particular the full quote is: “How then can a small town of 3,500 people churn out such a high number of individuals of substance? Perhaps they just came from superior stock, but that thought reeks of ‘Arian’ undertones.”
- Hunter knows that that’s a bad thought to have and he said, “I was simply remarking on the strong family and community spirit in Cardston. In fact, in my letter, I explicitly rejected the idea that the strength of our community was in any way related to genetics.”
- We have gone from the media reporting on stories that actually happen, to the media tailoring their stories for the best social media clicks, like, and retweet counts, and now to the media reporting on what riles up social media the most!
- The NDPs campaign has been largely negative while the UCP remains positive as most front runners do. The sheer contrast in campaigns and the stark difference in focus, character vs. economy, says all we need to know about the election campaign.
- And polls would confirm that this week. In numerous surveys that came out the economy, pipelines, and jobs are cited as the top issues.
- Poll tracker!
- Victoria mayor Lisa Helps has a new chief of staff, and if the new hire's last name sounds familiar to British Columbians, that's probably because it is. University of B.C. political scientist Alison James was hired to be Lisa Helps' new chief of staff and will start in the newly created position of head of strategic operations on April 23. Alison James also just happens to be the daughter of B.C. Finance Minister Carole James.
- That's right, municipal governments often go at length to avoid exposing their greater political allegiances, but Helps hiring the NDP finance minister's daughter can't be more clear cut. The fact that the Finance Minister is also Victoria's local MP is also very telling.
- “I have to say I am absolutely delighted. Alison’s CV was very strong,” Helps said, adding that James was hired because of her credentials, “not because of whose daughter she is.”
- “The thing that caught most of my attention when looking at her CV was that she had a lot of project-management experience,” Helps said.
- The project management experience Helps talks about mainly comes from James having worked on provincial election campaigns in the past. No prizes for guessing which MLA campaign Alison James was working for.
- James holds an MA and a BA in Political Science, both from the University of Victoria, and is working toward a PHD in political science at UBC. Her MA research focused on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, and how that relates to reconciliation in Canada. In her academic profile, she said she focuses on transitional justice, settler colonialism, memory studies and gender.
- Helps made headlines coming into her first term in 2015 when she said she wouldn’t hire an executive assistant — a position created when Alan Lowe was mayor and continued by Helps’ predecessor, Dean Fortin.
- Helps said she could do the job herself and not hiring an assistant would save the city $400,000 over the course of the term.
- When she raised the idea this year of hiring a chief of staff — not an assistant — at a proposed salary of $130,000 a year, she ran into opposition from council colleagues who balked at the salary, ultimately whittling it down to $90,000 and benefits. James was the only candidate who was interviewed for the position.
- Back in January, Helps thought she would just abandon the search for a chief of staff, after Council lowered the salary of the potential hire. Helps said “I don’t even know that it’s worth it to go and seek a senior person who’s going to work for $80,000. I didn’t envision somebody who was going to get paid the same amount or less than many of our unionized supervisors to come and be the executive in the mayors’ office. It doesn’t make any sense. The salary makes no sense, so I’m just kind of happier to carry on with the status quo.”
- Fast forward two months, and she has indeed hired on someone.
- Alison James' Twitter account has since purged all tweets from before November 2018, but also points to a quirky and strange twitter account, called @drawingrepublicans, which James also apparently runs. It dates back to January 2017, and features her pictures of prominent figures in the Republican Party of the US, along with pointed subtitles and hashtags. Above one drawing of Trump was the words "Uge Racist", about Steve Bannon was "Alt-Asshole" and above Jeff Sessions was "Famous Racist - now with added perjury".
- It's a strange sort of fascination that someone would take this much time and effort on the Republican party. Also odd is that a now public figure in our municipal government would want to advertise this association.
- In any case, the council that famously wanted to do away with Christmas decorations last year, will now be paying 3 times that for a chief of staff that Helps herself originally said was unnecessary. The fact that it's the daughter of the finance minister? Well, that should raise eyebrows in the media, but it definitely hasn't so far.
- This week on Tuesday was a busy day in Ottawa.
- The federal budget was unveiled but the Liberal majority on the Justice Committee shut down the investigation into the SNC-Lavalin scandal.
- Behind closed doors the committee decided that they didn’t need to hear much else. Done.
- It’s important to note that this was closed to the media and the public because Liberal members of the committee gave an agenda to members of the media including the Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife and Global’s Mercedes Stephenson who ultimately tweeted it out.
- In particular they wanted the justice committee to talk about an increase in hate crimes since 2009, hate crimes motivated by race, and that the committee ultimately study how amendments could be made to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
- The opposition left the committee because the media had the agenda before they did and ultimately wanted the media to change the channel.
- This DID NOT happen.
- What ensued in the following days cannot be understated.
- First later that afternoon as Bill Morneau was delivering his budget the opposition walked out of the house.
- A walkout is always something to keep an eye on but a walk out on the initial tabling of a budget is unprecedented.
- What followed was a 31 hour voting marathon starting on Wednesday on 257 individual government spending estimates.
- Early Thursday a one on one interview published in MacLean’s magazine with Jane Philpott effectively said that there’s more that hasn’t come out that the public does not yet know on what exactly happened in cabinet.
- Each of these votes was a confidence vote meaning that if the government didn’t pass it, the government would fall.
- On Thursday afternoon a good number of Liberal MPs were absent from the chamber (51 to be precise). The government lost a confidence vote.
- The opposition tried for about a half hour through points of order (where a member can stand up and speak but not initiate debate) to get the Speaker to invalidate the votes of those who were not in the chamber. Failing that they sought to suspend the house and “check the tapes” of the cameras that are always running to see which MPs were there and which were not.
- The Speaker ultimately carried on with the vote leaving it up to the individual honour of the MPs decide if they were present in the chamber or not.
- What this means for democracy in Canada.
- Also worthwhile to note that while at a town hall in Thunder Bay Trudeau called the SNC-Lavalin case a “pretty serious difference of opinion”
Word of the Week
Mainstream - the ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or the arts.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Losing Confidence
Teaser: Returning ISIS fighters spark rule of law worries, the Alberta election campaign begins with talk of a referendum, and Victoria mayor Lisa Helps hires the NDP finance minister’s daughter. Also, Trudeau loses a confidence vote but the speaker covers it up.
Recorded Date: March 23, 2019
Release Date: March 24, 2019
Edit Notes: Shane cough Patreon
Podcast Summary Notes