The News Rundown
- The new UCP government was sworn in on Tuesday and the cabinet got to work right after proclaiming Bill 12, the BC “Turn off the Taps” legislation.
- The new cabinet is full of expertise including a Finance Minister who has experience as an accountant, an Education Minister who is a former school trustee, an Energy Minister who has worked with pipeline and oil and gas companies before, and an Agriculture Minister who has a deep experience of Farming.
- Premier Kenney has also been busy, so much so that he’s already had his first face-to-face meeting with Justin Trudeau and has testified in front of the Senate on Bill C–69.
- Bill C–69 overhauls the National Energy Board to drastically increase the amount of review needed for Energy Projects.
- These new hurdles would stifle investment and lower investor confidence within Canada because the regulations are seen as red tape which simply doesn’t exist elsewhere.
- In the hearing Kenney said, “This is not just a slight against the people of Alberta, this is the culmination of a full-frontal attack on our economic prosperity… I plead with you, as federalists, to understand the national unity implications of this.”
- After when speaking with reporters he made the point that if polls were showing 50% of Quebecers were toying with the idea of separation, the federal government would take them seriously and not pass such a bill as Bill C–69.
- He told reporters, “More and more Albertans are asking, ‘Why are we being dealt with so unfairly,’. (The bill) will fuel a deep and growing sense of resentment and alienation. It’s the role of the PM of any party to safeguard national unity. These bills undermine national unity.”
- The line has been drawn that should Bill C–69 pass in its current form, Alberta will trigger a referendum on equalization to seek to make it more fair or remove it from the Constitution.
- Jack Mintz in the Financial Post summarized that the situation may not be as easy to resolve as some think.
- Conflicts of taste revolve around differences in political preferences, this is largely what Quebec’s focus was on while they focused on separation.
- Conflicts of claim involve disputes over “sharing the wealth” which is what we’re seeing in regards to Alberta. These are harder to resolve for Alberta because Alberta is called on to contribute and support provinces such as Quebec which are larger by population but in general are poorer.
- Quebec yields more power electorally both in the House of Commons and the Senate as well as having provincial governments hostile to natural resource projects.
- This is why in the 1990s the West, including Alberta, advocated for a Senate with equal representation for the provinces.
- This means it is required for the Federal government to avoid top down policies and instead should seek to cooperate with the provinces of regulations, carbon pricing, and fiscal policy to avoid conflicts of claim.
- Mintz proposes that the federal government could revamp the equalization program to better help provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan that face sharp revenue declines due to natural resources.
- He also guesses that Alberta could push for federal cash transfer to be converted into personal tax points to give the province a bigger share of the personal income tax. This would see Alberta having more control over its tax system as happens in Quebec.
- The reason for this? It’s the tax regime which attracts skilled labour to Alberta.
- This could be talked about constructively during the federal election this fall but as we said previously, the government seems all too happy to campaign on a unity crisis.
- We've covered the BC casino money laundering scandal on Western Context before, but this week startling revelations were released by a whistleblower who apparently warned a casino of money laundering and organized crime.
- A Great Canadian Gaming employee who was concerned about workplace safety informed the company’s founder that she felt staff had to “accept doing business year after year with what most certainly appears to be some level of cooperation with organized crime,” according to documents obtained by Global News.
- Former Great Canadian dealer supervisor Muriel Labine sent the complaint letters in January 2000 to the company’s founder and then-president, Ross McLeod.
- McLeod’s responses acknowledged “potentially serious allegations in the Richmond casino” and claimed that senior management was working with the RCMP and B.C. Lottery Corporation in an ongoing investigation.
- Labine explained how she first noticed what she believed were loan sharks flooding the Richmond casino with suspicious cash after May 1997, when the NDP government first introduced baccarat and raised casino betting limits from $25 to $500. Bet limits on baccarat were raised repeatedly, starting at $500 per hand in 1997 and eventually growing to $100,000 per hand in 2014.
- According to allegations in Labine’s records, some staff believed the dominant loan-sharking gang in the Richmond casino was the Big Circle Boys, a powerful, transnational heroin-trafficking cartel rooted in China, Macau and Hong Kong. The Big Circle Boys are the Asian organized crime kingpins responsible for the so-called Vancouver Model of underground banking (read: money laundering), which police believe is driving Vancouver’s housing affordability and fentanyl overdose crisis.
- With ties to Hong Kong underground banks and drug supply in Burma, the Big Circle Boys control North America’s heroin trade, according to federal records. And now, with connections to officials and factories in China, they also dominate the illicit fentanyl trade, police sources say.
- On Jan. 5, 2000, Labine wrote her first letter to McLeod: “As you may know, I am currently on a medical stress leave from our Richmond location. In light of all the ongoing activities within our casino, from allegations of sexual harassment to what certainly appears to be illegal activities surround the various ‘gangs,’ I find it at this time very difficult to put myself in an environment which I consider to be unhealthy and unsafe.”
- About a month after Labine’s initial complaint, McLeod replied with a detailed response. The letter indicates McLeod had investigated Labine’s claims and spoken with Great Canadian’s then-VP Adrian Thomas, the manager who had previously handled Labine’s complaints.
- McLeod wrote in February 2000: “In your letter, you expressed difficulty in believing that I would not have been informed of what appeared to be illegal activity in our casinos. To the contrary, I have been kept advised on the whole situation since its inception.”
- Contrary to Labine’s allegation that the company was ignoring her complaints, McLeod’s letter claims Labine and associated union organizers were informed multiple times that Great Canadian Gaming was “fully aware of the problem” and had “initiated contact with and worked with BCLC, RCMP and the Vancouver police since the beginning of suspected criminal activities.”
- Labine says she regrets signing an $18,000 “gag order” with Great Canadian Gaming that prevented her from speaking at a public hearing regarding the company’s application to open a casino in Coquitlam, B.C.
- What we know about this scandal is that both past BC NDP and BC Liberal governments have had their hands dirty on this issue, and it's one that clearly had a jumpstart of many of the crises plaguing BC to this day: the housing affordability crisis, the fentanyl overdose crisis, and organized crime in Vancouver.
- When the NDP took power almost 2 years ago, money laundering was one of the bigger files that was promised to be tackled. The NDP still has not started a public inquiry, and RCMP cases on the money laundering file have failed to go to court.
- Former BC Liberal solicitor general and current MLA Mike Morris has fingered the blame solely on current BC NDP attorney general David Eby for compromising a police investigation and collapsing a major money-laundering case, however Morris provided no proof of the matter. It led to a bitter day in the legislature as the two main parties hurled accusations back and forth.
- What's clear is that the issue is still not being solved, and both parties would rather blame each other than actually get the problem fixed. Hopefully it does soon, as without 2 decades of inaction, we could have been looking at a very different BC.
- SNC-Lavalin was back in the media this week but there were bigger stories as we heard in our Alberta segment.
- So what are the Liberals and SNC-Lavalin up to?
- August 5, 2016: A letter marked “confidential” was sent from the Commissioner or Canadian Elections to the federal Liberal party.
- We just heard about it this week.
- Between 2004 and 2009, 18 SNC employees contributed $110,000 to the Liberal Party of Canada.
- Comparatively, $8000 was indirectly donated by SNC employees to the Conservatives.
- Nothing wrong with this
- Except: SNC-Lavalin reimbursed these donations in the form of corporate bonuses. It is forbidden for a company to do this.
- Which ridings did they target? Four ridings in Quebec and 4 leadership campaigns.
- What was happening from 2004 to 2009? Liberal corruption was being exposed.
- SNC-Lavalin avoided charges in this matter by signing a “compliance agreement” in 2016 with the Commissioner of Canadian Elections after promising to not break the law again.
- Sound familiar?
- Compare this to former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro who was charged by the same commissioner for over $21,000 for spending violations in the 2008 campaign.
- This is one person compared to the 18 involved in SNC-Lavalin donations to the federal Liberals.
- At the end of the day one SNC-Lavalin executive was charged.
- Talking to the CBC, Michael Novak who was charged, denied that these donations happened.
- We have the list, his name is there. It happened, the story everyone should be talking about is why the Liberals covered this up.
- With the firing of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, threatening to sue the opposition leader, and shutting down the committee investigations gathering full attention since February, it makes sense why nothing else has come up, even this horrible SNC-Lavalin continuation.
- As Brian Lilley wrote in the Toronto Sun, events transpired as follows.
- 1. US Ambassador David MacNaughton said that steel and aluminum tariffs would be lifted in a “few weeks”. He said this the week before Jody Wilson-Raybould testified. The tariffs are still there.
- 2, Gerald Butts was handling the tariff negotiations with the US. He resigned leaving no one to continue these talks and the US has since moved on to trade talks with China.
- 3, Canada is also dealing with China in terms of Huawei executive Men Wanzhou since last December. Our relationship with China has turned cold seeing Canadians arrested, one now sentenced to death, and China restricting imports of Canadian canola.
- 4, Why could this be? Canada told China and the world that we are a country governed by the rule of law but that is the complete opposite of what has been happening in the Prime Minister’s Office.
- It was also revealed earlier this week that a special deal for SNC-Lavalin is not off the table from the government.
- Where is the media on this? It should be headline news but it is not.
- Trudeau’s liberals are operating the same way they did under Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Stephane Dion, and Michael Ignatieff.
- The rest of us are paying the bill for this government obsessed with Quebec companies issues important to everyday Canadians slip by this government and the media.
- Over the past few weeks, Eastern Canada, specifically, parts of New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario have been devastated by severe flooding. Rivers, especially the St John River in New Brunswick, and the Ottawa River in Ontario and Quebec, among others, are overflowing with water after a large amount of snowmelt runoff and wet weather has combined to surge rivers well past their normal heights.
- Several communities in the Ottawa to Montreal corridor, as well as Fredericton and Saint John are still on watch, and working hard to save their homes. Tens of thousands remain evacuated, with many homes still flooded and underwater.
- The crisis has prompted an outpouring (if you'll pardon the pun) of support across the country. with crowdfunding for victims, the military setting up massive amounts of infrastructure and massive amounts of volunteers working around the clock to fill sandbags and provide aid for neighbours affected by the floods.
- Politicians have also stopped in to "help" volunteers, the price being a few photo ops of course.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Quebec Premier Francois Legault have been working with volunteers and the military and have shown up in affected areas.
- Prime Minister Trudeau was also on hand to visit a west-end Ottawa community joined by sons Xavier, 11, and Hadrien, 5 to pick up a shovel and fill up a few sandbags with the cameras rolling of course.
- Trudeau was briefed by officials in charge of the fight against the flood at a community centre before filling sandbags and thanking those who came to the aid of local residents. “Thank you for doing what you are doing,” Trudeau said as he and sons Xavier and Hadrien spoke with volunteers working around a large sandpile. However, not everyone appreciated Trudeau’s efforts to encourage others to help out flood-stricken families.
- As he was shaking hands with military personnel and volunteers in Constance Bay, the riverfront village west of downtown Ottawa that has seen the worst flooding so far, a local resident confronted the prime minister to complain that his visit and photo-ops had held up trucks from getting to the sandbags, and that he had to wait for 30 minutes just to get to the staging area.
- The unidentified man said: “You and your security are blocking the roads. What you’re doing is insincere.” The man who identified himself as a volunteer voiced his frustrations with Trudeau, dismissing his presence as a "photo-op" and blaming the prime minister's security for long waits for people looking to obtain sandbags.
- "You know how long you've held up people picking up bags?" the man asked Trudeau. "I've been waiting in line down the road for 30 minutes while you've been here soaking up the rays. While you're here, no one can pick up sand. You held people up, all the RCMP and security held people up."
- Trudeau initially ignored the volunteer, then went over to apologize to him, and responded by saying he understood the "frustrations with security" that accompanies the prime minister wherever he goes, and that his aim was to encourage more Canadians to volunteer.
- Trudeau's executive assistant Philip Proulx wrote on Twitter "RCMP confirmed to us on site that no trucks had been blocked. Trucks were pulling up one after the other to get sandbags while PM was there. I know because I helped put sandbags in some of those trucks."
- What CBC, Global, and others failed to note, even though the video evidence was right there, was that the volunteer was being pushed away by a female member of Trudeau's staff before Trudeau turned around to acknowledge the disgruntled volunteer by saying "I'm sorry for your challenge", the volunteer replied "It's not my challenge, I'm a volunteer trying to help someone save their home". At the end of the tirade, the volunteer said "this was the most insincere thing I've ever seen" and turns away. The Prime Minister then has the gall to say "that's unfriendly and unneighborly here today", even though he was a volunteer helping others!
- It seems that Trudeau can't get through an entire week without having some sort of oops moment. There are still 24 weeks until the next federal one, we'll just have to see how many of them are weeks where Trudeau either says or does something dumb.
Word of the Week
Sandbagging - to treat unfairly or harshly, to coerce by crude means, or to conceal or misrepresent one's true position, potential, or intent especially in order to gain an advantage over someone else
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Flooding Concerns
Teaser: Alberta resentment against Bill C69 is growing, BC was warned of money laundering 20 years ago, and we find out more about the roots of Liberal corruption with SNC Lavalin. Also, Trudeau slams a flood volunteer as “unfriendly and unneighbourly”.
Recorded Date: May 4, 2019
Release Date: May 5, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes