The News Rundown
- In the past few weeks a gruesome and tragic mystery has unfolded in Northern BC. On July 15th a roadtripping couple were found shot dead just off the Alaska Highway at a remote location 20km south of Liard River Hot Springs. 23-year-old Australian Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old American Chynna Deese were travelling and working their way through B.C. on a three-week road trip to Alaska. Liard Hot Springs is a popular tourist destination in the far north of the province; about 160 kilometres southeast of Watson Lake, Yukon.
- 4 days later on July 19th, a burning camper truck was found on the road about 50km south of Dease Lake, about 500kms west of where Fowler and Deese were found. The camper belonged to teenagers Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, from Port Alberni on central Vancouver Island. While police were investigating the truck fire, a motorist drove up to police to tell them that a body was found at a nearby highway pullout. That man was later identified as Leonard Dyck, a 64 year old UBC lecturer of botany, who was on a solitary camping trip through BC as he was known to do.
- The teenagers McLeod and Schmegelsky were originally described by police as "missing", but a few days later, they were wanted and now charged with the murders. Evidence shows that they fled east, and were spotted through Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. They escaped possibly by stealing Dyck's Toyota Rav4 which was later found on fire 70kms northeast of isolated Gillam, in northern Manitoba. It's a community with only one road in and out, making the decision for the teens to drive there confusing. From there, the trail has apparently run cold, at least from what we've heard from police. RCMP and the military are still combing Gillam and the nearby Fox Lake First Nation in search of the teens. Our thoughts are with our brave police officers who are brave heat, swamps and mosquitoes to do all they can to bring these two accused killers into justice and for answers.
- What brought this story home to me, other than it taking place in my own province, is that just last summer I went on my own Northern BC road trip almost exactly a year ago and went to these same places that Fowler and Deese, as well as the two accused teens would have travelled to. In fact, episodes 79-81 of this very podcast were recorded while I was on the road, two of which were in Watson Lake, on the border of the Yukon and BC. So while most of the stories we talk about have a very detached air about them, this one hit me personally, knowing that a terrible action could have happened to me had I decided to wait and do the trip this year instead.
- As is often the case, social media has blown up about this story, leading to a lot of false rumours and scaremongering. Intentional hoaxes have also emerged, muddying the waters, and making it even more difficult to discern the truth. A man bearing an uncanny resemblance to McLeod, was shown in a photo posing with a copy of Thursday's Winnipeg Sun, with the frontpage picture of McLeod and Schmegelsky. The photo blew up on social media, but police have confirmed that despite the strange resemblance, the man is not the alleged killer.
- On Thursday, social media posts began circulating claiming that the suspects had been spotted in Beausejour, Man., about 50 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. Beausejour RCMP confirmed to CBC News that they hadn't received any reports of sightings in the area.
- "Apparently, someone posted on Facebook that they heard a rumour that the suspects were in the area and the rumour spread, causing people to lock their doors and businesses to close. At this time, we don't believe there is any threat to public safety." an RCMP spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
- Social media means that people can communicate with others instantly, but the major downside of it is that events such as this can easily spread falsehoods.
- Probably the only lighthearted part of this tragic story is that when the BC RCMP were doing a livestream on Facebook on the murders of Fowler and Deese, a cat filter was overlaid on the broadcast, in what was later called "technical difficulties". RCMP later apologized saying that the filter was an automatic setting: "Our effort to be available via a social media platform did have technological challenges which is a risk that can happen."
- This is actually the second recent incident involving Facebook Live and a cat filter. In June 2019, a regional Pakistani minister streamed a press conference with the same filter activated. The minister's party later blamed the incident on “human error” from a volunteer and said “all necessary actions have been taken to avoid such [an] incident in future.”
- RCMP are asking anyone who sees McLeod and Schmegelsky to call 911 immediately. Anyone with information is asked to call the major crime tip line at 1 877-543-4822. McLeod and Schmegelsky are considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who sees them should not approach.
- The RCMP suggest the public take general safety precautions like sharing travel plans with friends and family and establishing check-in times, as well as to remain vigilant and to notify loved ones if plans change. That's something I did when I was away last summer, and is always useful whenever you're travelling. As summer reaches its zenith, we at Western Context would like to remind everyone to have their eyes open and be aware as they travel around our lovely country.
- Aside from the occasional blip of the Toronto Raptors making and winning the NBA playoffs, hockey is the main event in Canada.
- Canada has many beloved teams and rivalries and the fans are amongst the most dedicated.
- Cities move heaven and earth for the teams.
- When in the late 90s there was the potential for the Edmonton Oilers to move it was a city calamity.
- When the Oilers wanted a new arena, a deal was made by the city at great cost.
- The same is happening in Calgary!
- The new Calgary arena project is expected to cost $550m.
- This is supposed to be split 50/50 between the city of Calgary and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment corporation, each paying $275M.
- For comparison sake the Edmonton arena cost over $613M. The city paid about $313M. While the Edmonton Arena Corporation, owned by Daryl Katz, put forward $165M and event goers will pay $125M over 35 years by way of the ticket tax.
- This has led many in the media to say that Calgary is getting a better deal in that the city has to pay less and that the city of Calgary will receive some money back.
- It looks great on the surface but there’s one thing that really wasn’t mentioned all that much, the Calgary ticket tax of 2%.
- When dealing with purchases of goods that are luxuries (such as a hockey game or concert), the person buying the good is more likely to accept the burden of a tax since the good being purchased is a positive good.
- If the city of Calgary increased the ticket tax to 6% the city would break even on returns from its investment into the project.
- As laid out the City of Calgary would only receive $3m per year for the first 5 years of the lease even if the ticket tax brings in more revenue.
- City Councillor Ward Sutherland said that the projections and tax amount were based on the arena’s lowest possible usage, a worst case scenario.
- The city projects about $400m in direct revenue coming back to the City over 35 years. That is about $13m a year after the first 5 years years with the $3m cap.
- While once again this sounds good on paper the City Council needs to keep in mind who they represent.
- Calgary’s downtown core has suffered since the 2014 oil collapse. Low rent. Lay offs. Lack of confidence.
- The city is also looking for ways to trim its budget.
- Once again city councils show their lack of understanding of basic economics.
- Hockey tickets are an inelastic good, meaning that (especially in northern Canada) that if the price goes up a few dollars, people will still purchase that ticket.
- First in Edmonton and now in Calgary the mayors are touting the development that the new arenas will bring to the area.
- City governments can choose to build (and build) but they must not be blind to the realities of the economics of the province and country.
- Take care of the taxpayer dollars.
- The arena deal goes to vote this week.
- With three months to go now until the election, the Liberals are intensifying campaign efforts with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hitting party events to drum up support and by ensuring his long-time friend and former senior adviser is in the fold.
- A Liberal party official confirmed Sunday that Trudeau’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts is playing a key role in the party’s election campaign.
- Yes, the same Gerald Butts who resigned just last February amid the SNC Lavalin scandal under allegations that he pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to assist the Quebec engineering giant, directly undermining the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.
- Just a few weeks ago, we were noting that even though Butts had resigned, there was no way to tell that he wasn't still working with Trudeau, and now we have proof that they were working together all along. Multiple sources have said that Butts has been taking part in campaign strategy discussions for a while now. Butts’ departure did leave many wondering how Trudeau could ever replace an adviser who had been so crucial over nearly a decade in shaping his political persona and message. As it turns out, no replacement was necessary.
- Trudeau is more closely associated with Butts than he is with any other single adviser. But since he launched his quest for the federal Liberal leadership in 2012, Trudeau has gradually accumulated a slate of long-serving aides who will accompany him into the 2019 campaign. And they're all interconnected.
- In the beginning there was Butts, a friend to Trudeau since university, and Katie Telford, a friend of Butts's from their time together as senior figures in Dalton McGuinty's government. Telford got to know Trudeau when she was running Gerard Kennedy's campaign for the Liberal leadership in 2006, which Trudeau had endorsed. Telford became Trudeau's chief of staff after the 2015 election and formed an inseparable duo with Butts.
- Tom Pitfield, a childhood friend of Trudeau's and whose father Michael Pitfield was clerk of the Privy Council under Pierre Trudeau), was enlisted to begin building Trudeau's digital operation. Mike McNair, who had worked with Telford in Stéphane Dion's office, was recruited to help with policy.
- Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre gave a news conference on the matter that really sums it all up: “Gerald Butts is back, the Lav-scamsters are reunited, and nothing has changed. If Trudeau and Butts are returned to power, we will see more SNC-Lavalin scams. The modus operandi that we saw in this scandal will continue and it will worsen.”
- For the Liberals, bringing back Butts — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s long-time friend, confidante, and indispensable adviser — for the election campaign is a gamble that his political skills are worth the cost of giving the opposition parties the gift of resurrecting the scandal.
- It may also be a bet that the scandal no longer resonates as deeply with Canadian voters, or at least that voters won’t notice if it’s resurrected in the summer but fades again by the time the campaign kicks off in September.
- Poilievre tried to recapture that sense of outrage on Monday, calling it “probably the most grievous example of political interference in our criminal justice system in modern memory.”
- Poilievre said “When Gerald Butts took the fall and resigned in disgrace in the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Trudeau was trying to tell voters, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve learned my lesson, I’m a changed man’. Justin Trudeau has not changed. There will be more SNC-Lavalin scandals. And we know that because he brought back the very architect of that scandal to serve at the centre of his decision-making organization.”
- The election is now under 3 months away. Voters will have a clear choice on who to vote for. In 2015 we did not know what a Trudeau government would look like. In 2019, we now do.
- So how has Canada changed under Justin Trudeau?
- The gender balanced cabinet, “because it’s 2015”, is lauded in the story.
- Changes to pay equity, the gender-neutral national anthem, new protections for trans-gender people, and required gender-based analysis on major policy issues.
- Marijuana is legal.
- More refugees and immigrants than ever before.
- The story mentions the 40,000 Syrian refugees and the #WelcomeToCanada tweet that the Prime Minister put out after Donald Trump was elected.
- “Climate change is a priority”
- Climate change is a priority and the article notes the adoption of the 2015 Paris climate accord and introduction of a carbon tax. But as we’ve noted before governments need to be cautious of using a carbon tax as a new revenue stream and there should be a higher emphasis on green technology and nuclear.
- “Long-form census is reinstated”
- One of the most important moves to increase citizen privacy and shrink the size of government taken by the former Conservative government was the abandonment of the long form census.
- According to CTV. “The decision to conduct the long-form census was heralded as a win for informed decision-making, and representation of the diversity in Canada.”
- “Majority of senators are now Independents”
- On paper.
- The majority of Trudeau’s appointees vote with the government. Trudeau has now appointed over 50 senators and look at the results of the passage of Bill’s C–48 and C–69. The tanker ban and bill to overhaul the NEB.
- These are definite changes that we’ve seen since 2015 but what’s missing?
- To date since January 2017 and the #WelcomeToCanada Tweet the RCMP has intercepted 46,719 people trying to come into Canada illegally. Most of these still have their case before the courts and some are being held. This is all at the expense to the tax payer.
- Justin Trudeau and his government authorized the $10.5m payout to Omar Khadr in an attempt to ensure the case didn’t go before the courts in Canada and cost us more money. Khadr then proceeded to use some of these funds to buy a strip mall in Edmonton to hide the funds from the American widow of the soldier he killed while in Afghanistan.
- The Trudeau government has made us here at Western Context distrust the media to a point where when his India trip was happening, the Canadian government and the Canadian media could not be trusted and for a while it seemed as though the Indian media and government was more trustworthy.
- This was of course due to Jaspal Atwal, a Canadian, who was convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister. Atawal made his way into the official Canadian delegation on Trudeau’s 2018 trip to India. Atwal even posed with Trudeau’s wife on the trip.
- The India trip also included a $17,000 celebrity chef and $3,600 for hockey jerseys given to Indian athletes.
- There’s also the numerous party flights and extravagant costs for alcohol on trips involving the Prime Minister to the tune of over $8,000 and a $7,500 swing set at the Prime Minister’s retreat of Harrington Lake.
- Meanwhile the Canadian military asked service members to return rucksacks that weren’t in use due to a supply shortage and the government resorted to buying used Australian F–18 fighter jets to address a shortage at over $1b, far more than the Ministry of Defence claimed.
- We also have Canada not standing up to China to the point the Canadian agriculture sector is being bullied and our citizens are being taken prisoner in China and held at extensive lengths.
- Throw in rumours that John McCallum may still think he’s speaking for Canada on matters concerning China, diplomacy with China is a mess.
- This is also so important because of the SNC-Lavalin scandal this past spring. Canada must be a country dedicated to the rule of law and show this to the world.
- That does not happen when the government seeks to get a company like SNC-Lavalin out of trouble with a deferred prosecution agreement and when the Justice Minister of the day says no, she gets fired.
- So while Canada has changed on the surface as the CTV article points out and not for the better, there are many, many other examples of change and Canadians are paying the price both at home and abroad.
Word of the Week
Hoax - a falsehood deliberately fabricated to masquerade as the truth.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Butts and Hoaxes
Teaser: A northern BC murder spree leads to social media hoaxes, the new Calgary arena proposal will cost taxpayers, and Gerald Butts returns to Trudeau’s team, if he ever actually left. Also, a glowing report on Trudeau’s tenure leaves out all the negatives.
Recorded Date: July 27, 2019
Release Date: July 28, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes