The News Rundown
- Since we last gathered:
- The Carbon Tax Repeal Act has been passed and the carbon tax is gone in Alberta. Gas has gone to below $1 per litre which we haven’t seen in a long time.
- Rachel Notley and the opposition NDP have filibustered through second reading of Bill 2, the Open for Business Act that makes it so employers do not need to pay employees on stat holidays if they weren’t scheduled to work that holiday and restores mandatory secret ballot for all union certifications. With this last point it makes sense why the NDP didn’t want to see this go through. The NDP is based on unions and this was one of their covert actions while in power, stripping away the need for a mandatory union vote.
- The cabinet has also stipulated that starting June 26th, the minimum wage for those under 18 will fall to $13 an hour. This will entice work places to hire those under the age of 18 or make the decision if they want to remain at $15/hour and risk competitiveness.
- While most of the media was focused on the Bill 2 filibuster and minimum wage changes, a story flew under the radar. It should have gained higher prominence because of the reaction of Mayor Don Iveson of Edmonton and Mayor Naheed Nenshi of Calgary.
- Bill 7 which amends the Municipal Government Act and it aims to help municipalities attract more investment.
- Edmonton South-West MLA Kaycee Madu said, “We know municipalities know what is best for their residents, and we are simply getting out-of-the-way and letting them do what they know how to do best.”
- Bill 7 will allow city councils to defer or cancel taxes for specific industries they want to attract to their communities for up to 15 years.
- If Edmonton wanted to set up a tax break for AI companies they could.
- If Fort Saskatchewan wanted to set up an exemption for new industrial complexes, they could.
- If Calgary wanted to rebate the energy industry they could too.
- The tool could even be used for restaurants.
- If a council were to reject an application, the business can then pursue a judicial review which must be completed in 60 days.
- Mayor Iveson said he’s supportive but he also cautioned about municipalities with larger industrial tax bases having an advantage and undermining others, “I think we’ve got to have a conversation in our region on how to use these tools to grow the regional economy, because selective use by one of us to undermine the others could be one risk here.”
- Mayor Nenshi said, “We want to make sure that this doesn’t lead to a race for the bottom, with different jurisdictions who are competing for businesses to start giving (businesses) tax breaks and tax breaks and tax breaks.”
- What Nenshi needs to realize is that with a Calgary downtown vacancy rate at upwards of 1/3 and now down to 26%, the city of Calgary needs all the help it can get. Edmonton’s vacancy rate sits at 18.4%.
- For comparison sake Vancouver and Toronto have vacancy rates of 4.7 and 7.1%.
- This new government will be lowering the corporate tax rate on July 1st and again on January 1st. This will help business on the whole but time and time again municipalities have argued for greater control. The province is offering it to them. What do they do instead?
- They say it’s potentially a bad thing causing a race to the bottom.
- Edmonton is different than Calgary and Calgary is different than Fort McMurray or Red Deer. Each municipality has needs that is different.
- Bill 7 is nothing but good news for municipalities and local government.
- The mayors of Edmonton and Calgary have also spoke of economic diversification. Well, this is one way of achieving that by encouraging new business sectors to set up shop in your city.
- Instead of highlighting diversification, increased municipal control, and a kick start to the economies of Edmonton and Calgary, the media focus this week was on the negatives as seen by the progressive mayors of the big cities.
- That is why we are talking about it.
- For our BC story this week, we're going to head local, specifically on my hometown, the capital city of Victoria. When Victoria makes the news, it's usually due to one of three things: a news story about high gas prices, high home costs, or something insane that Victoria's municipal council did.
- In this case, it's an amendment proposed by councillor Ben Isitt to a motion by council discussing whether the City of Victoria should continue funding policing costs for Canada Day celebrations.
- On the whole, the motion raises a good question. The City of Victoria is of course comprised of the downtown core, but because the city isn't amalgamated, there are 12 other municipalities that make up the whole of Greater Victoria, most of which are suburbs of Victoria proper. Those municipalities, it's argued, benefit from the celebrations and events for things like Canada Day, New Years, and the Victoria Day parade, but contribute no funding.
- However, in usual Ben Isitt fashion, his proposed amendment, took things too far. June 6th, marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy during World War 2, the operation that provided the impetus for Allied nations to turn the war against Nazi Germany. It also marked Ben Isitt's amendment seeking to recoup costs for military events including Remembrance Day and the Victoria Day parade.
- The amendment read: "That Council direct staff to engage DND/Veterans Affairs Canada officials to seek to recover costs associated with military events in the City."
- "Those entities have substantially greater resources," Isitt told council. "I think responsibility for military commemoration and honouring veterans is more properly the responsibility of those federal agencies."
- Remembrance Day, of course, was set up just after the end of the First World War to commemorate, as Veterans Affairs Canada puts it: "the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace; particularly the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and all conflicts since then in which members of the Canadian Armed Forces have participated."
- This coming Remembrance Day will mark the 100th anniversary of the first Remembrance Day.
- So for Ben Isitt to propose an amendment ducking Victoria's obligations to those who fought and died for our country, making the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live our lives in peace, especially on the 75th anniversary of D-Day where brave Canadian soldiers stormed Juno Beach to solidify Canada as a nation that could stand on its own, it was an amendment that was completely distasteful.
- Even Ben Isitt knew he did something wrong: "There's been a bit of a pattern," said Isitt, recounting the many times he's been in the news for his musings.
- "[People] basically take remarks from council meetings out of context, frame them as if they're sort of my biggest political priority, and then try to make hay out of it by mobilizing public opinion."
- Leaving aside whether his remarks are really taken out of context, it's indisputably true that Isitt has been a lightning rod for a long time, prodding the rest of council to consider hot-button cultural issues that usually aren't debated within the realms of city halls.
- Isitt has had a history of making odd remarks and "musings", as CBC reporter Justin McElroy puts it. He said that "there's an element of glorifying militarism" in regards to a sports event centring around injured veterans that Victoria wanted to host, and he said Victoria should review whether it pays for Christmas decorations over concerns of "Christian symbolism,". He's also being advertised for speeches hosted by the Communist Party of British Columbia.
- Last summer, we profiled how Isitt was the foremost driving force of council in favour of removing the John A. Macdonald statue from city hall.
- And just last month, Isitt was talking about ridding the city of its horse-drawn carriages. “It’s always struck me as an outdated mode of transportation in a dense urban environment. So that’s the motivation. There are certainly animal welfare considerations as well,” said Isiit.
- However, locals have come out in support for the practice, claiming that it is a longstanding industry in the city. Hundreds of protestors came out in support of the family-owned businesses that provide horse-drawn carriage rides to tourists and customers.
- Unfortunately, last fall, he ran for re-election and garnered the most votes of all 29 people running for council — just like he did four years earlier.
- Isitt was interviewed by CBC's On The Island podcast to clarify his remarks, and in doing so, he remarked that World War 2 was primarily about fighting against "conservative forces". Have a listen:
- [Twitter video: https://twitter.com/j_mcelroy/status/1137037115533873153]
- That's right, Ben Isitt, who has a PHD in History said in response to the interviewer trying to clarify that "We're not going to confuse fascist, Nazi Germany with conservatives, right?" he responds that "Well, fascism is the most virulent and anti-democratic form of conservatism ... but there certainly are a number of conservatives who do uphold human rights and democracy."
- Just yesterday, Isitt doubled down on his insane remarks, and clapped back at what he calls “corporate media”, expressing that the industry adheres to the saying, “If it bleeds, it leads”.
- “It is unfortunate that the latter decision was taken on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, marking the landing of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy to turn back the tide of fascism in northwestern Europe,” he writes about the decision to seek funding from the military.
- “However, an accident of agenda planning resulted in consideration of the Victoria Police Department request on that date.”
- “More unfortunate, however, is the nefarious ways in which conservative political forces and their agents in the corporate media have chosen to distort Victoria City Council’s benign request for assistance from federal authorities, into a supposed affront to war veterans.”
- He goes on to state that conservative voices in the media along with neofascist, “alt-right” groups like the Proud Boys – referring to formations like BC Proud – are deliberately keeping citizens focused on minor controversial issues, rather than major challenges like housing affordability, climate change, and the “the dangerous slide away from democratic participation and toward fearmongering and neo-fascist politics.”
- Truly amazing. And while someone outside of Victoria might be thinking, well why should this matter to me? The problem lies in that every municipal council could have a far left anti-military, anti-Christmas, anti-history, anti-anyone further to the right than the center leader such as Ben Isitt, and because municipal elections aren't covered or profiled as well as provincial or federal, no one seems to care too much. That's why we're here, to dig deep into the issues so that we have the proper context so that you can place yourself on the right side of the news.
- Last month the Senate’s transport committee voted that Bill C–48 unfairly targets Alberta and would divide the country. Bill C–48 is the tanker ban off of BC’s northern coast.
- The vote passed on a tie vote with conservatives and Alberta senator Paula Simons voting against.
- This week the Senate voted to ignore the committee’s recommendation and proceed ahead with third reading of Bill C–48.
- The vote to reject the report was 53–38 with one abstention.
- On the Senate’s actions Premier Jason Kenney said, “I urge the Senate to reconsider the negative impact this bill will have on national unity at debate on third reading. Should C–48 be passed into law, Alberta will launch an immediate constitutional challenge.”
- Bill C–48 after passed in the Senate will return to the House of Commons where the Trudeau government and Transport Minister Marc Garneau must consider whether they want to amend the Bill given the Senate’s feedback.
- The bill to overhaul the National Energy Board and modify the approval process is also going back to the House of Commons with 180 amendments passed by the Senate.
- The government has said that they will not accept any amendments from the Senate on their Bill.
- The government of Alberta also feels that the revised Bill C–69 is “problematic” but it’s a “significant” improvement and should be allowed to proceed forward. This is important. It illustrates that Alberta is open to compromise.
- Reporting in the CBC highlights “squabbles” taking place between various senators to the point where senators are calling the transport committee “clearly dysfunctional” and overtly partisan highlighting the bill as “not as advertised”
- The Senate Transport committee has spoken. The Senate or group of independent Senators who have been appointed by Trudeau who are apparently still loyal to the partisan government has spoken. The ball is in the government’s court.
- The government seems keen to have the beginnings of a national unity crisis playing out as said by the west and conservative senators in time for an election.
- We also have to ask ourselves when was the last time Alberta was preparing or considering to prepare numerous constitutional challenges? Saskatchewan is already preparing a constitutional challenge against the carbon tax.
- This should have been the story, not the dynamics of the senate between various factions.
- The missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls inquiry report was clear that Canada has carried out a “genocide” under international law.
- Its use of the word has prompted discussions over its definition — and when acts of oppression and violence can be classified as a genocide.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stopped short of calling the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous women and girls in Canada a genocide on Monday, despite being called upon to do so.
- Hours later, he acknowledged the report’s findings, telling a Vancouver crowd: “Earlier this morning, the national inquiry formally presented their final report, in which they found that the tragic violence that Indigenous women and girls have experienced amounts to genocide. We accept their findings including that what happened amounts to genocide,” he said. He then downplayed the question. “There are many debates ongoing around words and the use of words,” he said. “Our focus as a country, as leaders, as citizens must be on the steps we take to put an end to this situation. That is what we are going to remain focused on.”
- Since Trudeau reversed course (yet again), it has prompted an intense discussion on social media about what genocide actually is, and whether or not Canada's tragic cases of MMIWG actually were a genocide.
- The term genocide was coined by a Polish lawyer by the name of Raphäel Lemkin in 1944.
- Two years later, the United Nations first recognized genocide as a crime under international law. In 1948, it was codified as an independent crime in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Canada became a signatory in 1949.
- In the 1948 convention, the UN defines genocide as: “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part 1; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
- Philippe Sands, a British professor, noted that the use of the word genocide, meant that international media would zone in on the MMIWG report right away, especially after Trudeau echoed use of the term. “The moment you characterize any act as genocide it draws attention in a way that no other word does. Unlike crimes against humanity or war crimes, if an American president mentions genocide, it’s on page one. The moment you put the g-word in, whether it’s Myanmar, Armenia, whatever it is, everyone pays attention because it is seen as the crime of crimes. The fact is the British papers picked (the inquiry’s report) up because it mentioned the genocide word. I suspect you wouldn’t have called me if it had just been called a crime against humanity.”
- As the world marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, it appears the word is in the news not just for what Trudeau is calling Canada's treatment of Indigenous people. The Rwandan genocide amounted to a brutal state butchering of 1 million people of an ethnic Tutsi minority over the period of just 3 months.
- According to the National Inquiry's 2017 Interim Report, and based on the Native Women's Association of Canada's (NWAC) 2010 report from the 1960s to 2010 there were 582.4 missing and murdered indigenous women. This was the first time a number had been given based on research. One of the most significant findings of the June 2019 report, "National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls" was that there was no "reliable estimate of the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA persons in Canada."
- The two events can hardly be considered similar in scope. Without debate, the disproportionately high murder, rape, and assault rates for Indigenous women are unacceptable, tragic, and worth discussion. Racist, sexist notions against Indigenous women and girls persist at all levels, and Indigenous women’s rights have still not fully been brought up to par with all other Canadian women’s. But does this represent genocide?
- To call it such would be to purport that the Canadian government has and is actively seeking the total elimination of Indigenous women, systemically attempting to wipe them from the face of the Earth. Certainly, efforts to cripple or destroy the Indigenous population have existed in the past, and those must be acknowledged.
- Duncan C. Scott, the superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs and the mastermind behind the Residential Schools system, was a virulent racist whose many influences and policies were not completely overturned until just recently. Scott implemented the involuntary seizure of First Nations and Inuit children from their parents, infamously declaring “kill the Indian, save the man.” Twenty years before Hitler would introduce the “Jewish question,” Scott proudly declared “I want an end to the Indian problem in Canada.”
- Any Canadian in their right mind would be horrified to learn of Scott, and the suffering he indiscriminately imposed upon Indigenous people. But the report is not simply charging historical genocidal tendencies, but modern ones. The reality is, Scott is dead, and the Canadian government has been attempting to rectify, albeit with the (in)competency one can expect from the Canadian government, relations with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people for decades. The MMIWG report alone cost $92 million federal dollars. If the modern Government of Canada is complicit in genocide, it is doing a terrible job.
Word of the Week
Genocide - the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Remembering our Anniversaries
Teaser: The Alberta government is offering tax breaks for municipalities, a Victoria councillor wants to bill the military for Remembrance Day, and we look at the progress of Trudeau’s tanker ban. Also, the MMIWG Inquiry says Canada has engaged in genocide.
Recorded Date: June 8, 2019
Release Date: June 9, 2019
Edit Notes: Cough at Canada
Podcast Summary Notes