The News Rundown
- Elections Canada, is described as "an independent, non-partisan agency reporting directly to the Parliament of Canada. Its ongoing responsibility is to ensure that Canadians can exercise their choices in federal elections and referendums through an open and impartial process. Elections Canada is the sole agency responsible for administering Canadian federal elections."
- So pretty much, Elections Canada is in charge of monitoring the integrity of our federal elections, and to provide non-partisan unbiased information about said elections to voters. That's it.
- However, Elections Canada is outsourcing its responsibilities and finding a loophole around that critical "unbiased and nonpartisan" part of their mandate, by paying money to unnamed social media "influencers" that the agency has hired to encourage young Canadians to go vote.
- The agency is planning to spend $650,000 on a social-media campaign in which personalities described as “influencers” – people seen as able to sway their online followers – will urge young adults to register for the 2019 federal election.
- Elections Canada has said the influencers include Canadian Olympic athletes, television personalities, singer-songwriters and YouTubers. The agency provided new details about the campaign Tuesday as part of an update on its efforts to prepare for the 2019 election.
- Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier said the agency will also be focused on diversity in crafting the campaign: “It was essential that the digital campaign include a good mix of influencers with regards to age, gender, ethnicity, community and interests.” She added that while the influencer campaign is specifically targeted at young voters, other Elections Canada campaigns that promote electoral participation will be aimed at Indigenous people, Canadians with disabilities and seniors.
- Conservative MPs have sharply criticized the plan during the daily Question Period in the House of Commons and accused the Liberal government of rewriting Elections Canada’s mandate in a way that will benefit the Liberals.
- The Liberal government’s Bill C-76, which was approved by Parliament in December, includes a wide range of major reforms to federal election laws. The changes include repealing a provision brought in by the previous Conservative government that restricted Elections Canada’s ability to target specific audiences to promote voter participation.
- Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, has called for the names of the influencers to be released and for the campaign to be cancelled, saying that “Any fair-minded person would see this as another example of partisanship and political-interference.”
- In 2014, as democratic reform minister, Poilievre introduced the Fair Elections Act, which Marc Mayrand, chief electoral officer at the time, feared would disenfranchise tens of thousands of Canadians. Poilievre accused Elections Canada of bias, arguing that the “referee shouldn’t be wearing a team jersey.”
- The Fair Elections Act created rules that made it harder for all parties to evade spending limits, and to streamline Elections Canada's mandate by requiring that it remains focused on "the basics of voting: where, when, and what ID to bring." People at the time were concerned that it would disenfranchise so called "vulnerable populations" from voting, but as we've seen, voter turnout has been on the rise steadily in the last few elections.
- According to Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, the Fair Elections Act that limited Elections Canada’s role to informing voters how and where to cast their ballots amounted to “muzzling” the federal agency. Gould explained that the agency was hiring “social media influencers” to "empower" Elections Canada: “We empowered Elections Canada to talk to Canadians about the importance of voting, to reach out to vulnerable populations, to reach out to those groups that don’t vote and to make sure that in this election more Canadians than ever vote.”
- However, the 2015 election had a voter turnout of 68.3 percent – its highest level since 1993. Gould’s nod to “vulnerable populations,” like indigenous voters whose participation is typically lower than the rest of Canada, also doesn’t stack up with Elections Canada data that indicates a 14 percent spike in on-reserve voting trends between the 2011 and 2015 elections.
- What's most worrying is that several outlets, like the CBC, CTV and Global are not reporting on this news with an unbiased lens as they should. Global even went so far as to call Poilievre's accusations of Liberal political interference "full of baloney": "Poilievre is of course entitled to disagree with Elections Canada and the decisions of the elections commissioner. But despite a long track record of assailing the agency’s objectivity, he has not produced any hard evidence to support his claim of bias. Meanwhile, the facts as they stand - coupled with the agency’s strenuous denials — do not support any contention that the agency is engaged in doing the bidding of the Liberals."
- But the facts remain, these unnamed influencers could be anyone, and a governmental agency spending tax dollars to meddle in an election sets a dangerous precedent and should worry us all.
- June marks pride month, which with a new conservative government in power questions are going to be asked.
- But first the media and the unions are also collectively running around with their hair on fire as the province introduced legislation to delay union wage talks. The idea being to postpone any union wage talks until after October 31st so the government can get a better picture of what the budget situation looks like.
- The unions have branded this as a “bully bill” or a removal of their rights.
- It’s safe to say that holding non-secret votes and covertly unionizing workers is closer to bullying than delaying wage negotiations to know what your financial picture looks like.
- But anyways, let’s have a look at another example of outrage this week.
- Edmonton cancelled its pride parade a couple months ago citing the “current political and social environment”. There was also thought that there was internal disagreement about the organizations idea to ban the military and police from the event. These internal disagreements weren’t confirmed but the pride parade in Edmonton didn’t happen.
- We thought this would be the end of the story and June would be relatively low key this year.
- The new government rose the pride flag on the legislature grounds in a ceremony held by Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism, and Status of Women Leela Aheer and city councillor Sarah Hamilton.
- There was a small group there to protest the UCP government raising the pride flag with slogans such as “You cannot attack our rights and raise a rainbow flag!” and “Pride 2019 = resisting UCP oppression.”
- But as with most things, the opposition NDP waded into the debate thinking they were still running this years election campaign.
- Sherwood Park singer Terrell Edwards would perform before and after the event at the Legislature.
- Former Health Minister Sarah Hoffmann lead the charge online tweeting, “Terrell, did you know (UCP Culture Minister Leela Aheer) is rolling back LGBTQ rights? If you are sincere about supporting human rights, cancel the show.”
- She encouraged fellow pride supporters to pile on as well, “Join me in calling on (Edwards) to cancel his show at the UCP’s phony #PrideMonth flag-raising.”
- And as with the usual social media environment dozens of people joined her.
- We won’t read some of these tweets as they are pretty vicious.
- For the NDP if you stand against them that is grounds to have your right of freedom of speech removed, and when you think about it, performing at a concert is a type of freedom of speech.
- No one knows what Terrell Edwards exact feelings are on the UCP government. He was just booked to perform, to do his job, in this case in celebration of pride month.
- Should he be shut down for that because the NDP doesn’t like the government? No.
- This is worrying and it shows the exact same mentality that was taken by the NDP in the campaign. As we know, the social media campaign of issues did not work.
- The media of course followed along with the social media campaign during the election and are still eager.
- Global in its reporting links the pride flags being raised to the UCP government’s Bill 8.
- Bill 8 will change the Education Act and make it so that if needed a principal can inform parents about their children’s activities in a GSA if they are in danger.
- Bill 8 will also roll back changes raising the dropout age to 17 and keeping it at 16. Also going away is the idea allowing students to attend school for free through the age of 20.
- The cap on charter schools will be lifted.
- Catholics would be able to vote and run for either public or Catholic school boards. Non-Catholics would only be able to vote or run for public school boards.
- The education minister would have the power to cancel or suspend registration or accreditation of a private school if the school’s precarious finances put students’ education at risk
- While the focus has been on GSAs this is the start of reforming education in Alberta.
- The polarization between urban and rural regions of BC that were shown in the 2017 election have only been exacerbated further under Premier John Horgan. While many have claimed that the BC Liberals were a party of the wealthy, the BC NDP are actually the ones that are focused on the highly specialized urban economies of Vancouver and Victoria, while leaving the rest of the province alone.
- Indeed, only 4 of the 41 NDP MLAs originate from outside of Greater Vancouver and the area around coastal Vancouver Island. It's led to some in the "Rest of BC" category to believe that the NDP don't care that much about issues cropping up in rural BC.
- One of the biggest industries in BC is undoubtedly forestry. While tourism, service and high tech dominate the urban areas, resources are what keeps the frontier of BC alive. If those sectors hurt, so too do the communities surrounding them.
- This past week, as companies gear up to release their Q2 financials, layoffs and closures are underway in the forestry industry. NDP Minister of Forests (and one of the 4 rural NDP MPs) Doug Donaldson believes it to be due to the invasive nature of the pine beetle and "changing markets" but companies themselves point to the uncompetitive nature of the tax structure on logging companies.
- Canfor Pulp Products is temporarily shutting down one of its northern British Columbia pulp mills -- just days after parent company Canfor Inc. announced breaks at all but one of its B.C. sawmills and the permanent closure of another.
- Canfor Pulp says the Taylor mill won't operate from June 29 to Aug. 5, reducing pulp production by about 25,000 tonnes. All but one Canfor sawmill will shut down for at least two weeks, and the mill in Vavenby, north of Kamloops, is to close permanently in July.
- Tennessee-based Louisiana-Pacific Corp. has also announced an indefinite shuttering of its Peace Valley oriented strand board mill in Fort St. John, affecting about 190 workers.
- In addition to the plans by Canfor and Louisiana-Pacific, Toronto-based Norbord Inc. announced this week that an indefinite shutdown is to begin in August at its oriented strand board mill in 100 Mile House affecting 160 workers.
- In May, privately owned, Vernon-based Tolko Industries announced its Quesnel sawmill is to close permanently in August, putting 150 people out of work, while 90 workers will be affected when half the shifts at its Kelowna mill are cut in July.
- Aspen Planers Ltd., based in Merritt, also cut 50 per cent of the shifts at its Merritt mill earlier this week, resulting in 50 layoffs.
- Doug Donaldson found a way to blame the previous Liberal government for the closures: "The fact is that we knew this day was coming, as far as the constriction on the fibre supply, at least 10 years ago. We've taken steps to address it in the last 22 months and, unfortunately, the previous government didn't over 16 years, so we're determined to make forestry an important part of rural communities."
- Donaldson has warned that tough decisions lie ahead as transition plans are developed, but B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson accused the NDP government of failing to do anything to help affected workers.
- Wilkinson has called for creation of an all-party forestry competitiveness committee and the immediate reduction of stumpage fees and carbon tax paid by the forestry sector. Wilkinson said the closures were because of Horgan's policies, saying in a statement: "This is failed leadership on the part of (Premier) John Horgan, plain and simple."
- Wilkinson and forests critic John Rustad released a letter to Horgan on Thursday, calling for reduction of carbon tax charged to forest companies, and stumpage fees collected by the province for harvesting of timber from Crown land.
- “John Horgan needs to hold himself accountable, stop making excuses and stop the job losses in this province,” Rustad said. “At a time when forestry workers across the province should be hard at work, instead they are facing job losses and no paychecks.”
- The prospect of a stumpage rate increase July 1 has industry representatives and elected officials worried about what that means for the forest industry. With B.C. already labelled as one of the more uncompetitive forest industry sectors in North America because of high logging and processing costs, having to pay the province more for timber that’s harvested is leading to fears of additional closures and production cutbacks.
- Todd Chamberlain, the assistant general manager of the Interior Logging Association which represents logging contractors through a broad swath of B.C, says that the fee increase isn't even known, 2 weeks from when it will be taking place: “From what we’re hearing from licensees, from the industry, from contractors, the feeling is that stumpage is going up July 1. But by how much, no one knows at this time. It’s a concern for us for sure. We’ve already seen curtailments at mills, including Canfor, and increased prices is something we don’t need right now. And now, with the wildfire season upon us, there’s the additional worry of shutdowns in the bush. We’re operating in a very difficult climate right now.”
- Added to the worries of a stumpage rate increase are softwood lumber duties to the United States. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to Washington Wednesday evening with a to-do list that includes nailing down the timing for the ratification of the new NAFTA deal, preventing U.S. tariffs on Canadian uranium exports, and easing U.S. barriers to Canadian softwood lumber, as well as discussing the Canadians indefinitely detained in China, according to senior government officials. Let's see if Trudeau goes to bat for Canadian forests.
- This Monday Trudeau announced that the government will ban single use plastics by 2021.
- A full list of banned items isn’t available yet but the list is likely to mirror the approach that the EU took. This includes straws, bags, cutlery, cotton swabs, drink stirrers, balloon sticks, plates, and more. Fast food containers made of expanded polystyrene would also be banned.
- When speaking on the ban Trudeau said, "We need to cover all of Canada with this decision and that’s why the federal government is moving forward on a science-based approach to establishing which harmful single-use plastics we will be eliminating as of 2021.”
- So why all of a sudden?
- The government is losing support to the Greens if polls are to be believed. The NDP isn’t much of a factor and in some polls Elizabeth May is within biting range of Jagmeet Singh, the NDP leader.
- The government is looking for something (anything) that can bring back the progressive voters that won them the 2015 election.
- What will Trudeau do to reduce his family’s consumption of plastics?
- The media didn’t cover this response but have a listen.
- Water bottles out of… plastic… away from plastics… towards paper, like drink box water bottles.
- Trudeau is off the mark and it shows.
- This continues to his tweets about the subject as well.
- He later tweeted, “Canadians throw away 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. 15 billion plastic bags a year. 57 million straws a day. They end up in our oceans, beaches, parks and streets. And this has to stop. We owe it to our planet, and to our kids.”
- 3 million tonnes of plastic a year, sure, can see that.
- 15 billion plastic bags a year. That is 405 bags a year for each Canadian or just over 1 bag a day thrown away. Everyone I know stores and reuses plastic bags if they aren’t destroyed.
- This figure is high because it assumes every Canadian from baby to senior is throwing away just over 1 bag a day. It’s probably not that high.
- Retailers should be encouraged to produce more durable plastic bags so that they actually can be reused. Too expensive? That’s where investment in technology can help.
- But the most important part? Where’d this figure come from? It’s a figure that the city of Vancouver used in their green initiative last year. Where’d they get it? An environmental think tank called the Greener Footprints Society. Their website has currently disappeared and for an eco think tank they only have 74 likes on their Facebook page.
- Next: 57 million straws a day. That’s 1.5 straws per person per day. Again, from baby to senior. This is unlikely but some quick googling let’s us see where this actually came from.
- Once again the federal environment ministry is using data from the city of Vancouver. Where’d they get it… Now this gets really interesting.
- Their data comes from a website called ecocycle.org with the “Be Straw Free” campaign. This campaign was started in 2016 by a then 9 year old for a school project. Where did he get his data?
- He carried out a phone poll in the US. His poll found that on average Americans throw out 1.6 straws per day per person. American’s aren’t Canadians, we’re similar in many ways but you can’t just extrapolate data across national borders.
- The city of Vancouver and the Trudeau government just extrapolated this data to Canada as if it were fact. That’s where the 57 million mark comes from. 36 million people x 1.6. The government didn’t even bother to update the data for the 2018 census which shows that Canada now has over 37 million people.
- The climate reports peddled by the city of Vancouver and now the Federal government are based off of data that either can’t be sourced anymore or was conducted by a 9 year old for a school project in the US.
- The media likes to claim they are the ones out there protecting us from fake news. Conservatives are often chastised for having no climate plan. The Liberals though have the answers to ban plastics but when push comes to shove and we look at the actual press releases by the Government of Canada. They are using data that wouldn’t pass muster in a high school let alone university classroom.
- Plastics are indeed a problem when they get to the ocean. We should be looking at ways to make sure they don’t get to landfills. But to outright lie to Canadians to push a plastic ban is disgusting.
- One final note: We should be using plastics, we should be pioneering safe disposal methods, and we should teach these to the rest of the world. Plastics are going to be created and used whether here or in China or India. Those countries are going to create more plastic waste than Canada. China, India, and other developing countries aren’t going to ban plastics just because Canada and the EU does. If we can pioneer disposal methods we will be doing more for the world than we would by just stopping using plastics at home.
Word of the Week
Muzzling - to prevent a person or group from expressing their opinions freely.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Grade School Policy
Teaser: Elections Canada hires social media influencers to sway voters, the Alberta NDP want Pride to exclude not include, and BC NDP taxes are killing the forestry industry. Also, Trudeau bases his plastics ban on data from an American grade school project.
Recorded Date: June 15, 2019
Release Date: June 16, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes