The News Rundown
- Here at WC we remove bias and sensationalism. That means focusing on the core of the news and providing context.
- Media has been too focused on what the candidates are saying rather than what’s being promised.
- This week Trudeau and the Liberals announced their intention to keep spending with no intent of balancing the budget.
- They say that this is ok because the debt to GDP ratio will decline from 30.9% to 30.2% by 2023–24.
- Explain debt to GDP ratio.
- The Liberals if re-elected will bring in $94b in new deficit spending by 2024.
- Why this is bad if a recession comes
- Some of the new spending promises include an increase in the Canada Student Grant by $1,200, interest charges on student loans would not be charged for two years or until a graduate is making at least $35,000 a year. Graduates who are new parents would have the option to suspend student loan payments until children reach the age of 5.
- The plan also calls for a 10% luxury tax on goods worth more than $100,000 such as cars, boats, and personal aircraft.
- Digital companies (read: Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix) that make at least $1b in global revenue and $40 million in Canadian revenues would pay a 3% tax on sales earned through ad revenue and the sale of user data.
- The federal minimum wage would also increase to $15/hour and a $200 culture pass would be created for every child when they turn 12 to cover the costs of theatres, museums, art galleries, and other cultural venues.
- Ontario Conservative candidate Pierre Poilievre called this “Justin Trudeau’s credit card campaign” and that “he expects Canadians to believe that money falls out of the sky or grows on trees."
- This week the Conservatives also announced how they will pay for their universal tax cut and other platform promises such as taking the GST off of home heating bills.
- The Conservatives will reduce Canada’s foreign aid budget by $1.5b or roughly 25%.
- They will also shift aid from middle and high income countries to the world’s poorest.
- The high and middle income countries that the Conservative mention include: Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, China, Iran, Mexico and Turkey.
- The Conservatives will also cut $1.5b in funding to large corporations.
- Stephen Brown, a professor at the University of Ottawa who studies foreign aid, said Canada is already “stingy” with its foreign aid so further cuts would only solidify the notion that the government doesn’t do its share.
- The Conservative plan to cut foreign aid coupled with a renewed focus on the middle class and policies to help all Canadians get ahead, can be described as nothing but “Canada First”
- This is what propelled Donald Trump to the US Presidency and what pushed Brexit forward to success.
- People in the media and establishment like to say Canada was immune from the populist backlash. But the fact is that both Trudeau and Scheer are running campaigns that tap into this sentiment whether or not it exists in Canada.
- Whoever can create a more convincing vision that their policies and leadership will be better for Canadians over the next 4 years will win.
- That is why here at Western Context while we remove media bias and sensationalism, we also like to shine a light on policy as well.
- In BC news, BC Premier John Horgan has been busy travelling up and down the western part of North America. Why? After a citizen's survey showing that 93% of 223,000 respondents were in favour of BC switching to permanent year-round daylight saving's time, the ruling NDP have decided to champion the cause.
- Last week Horgan met with Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, ostensibly to talk about jobs, the environment, and First Nations, but the main reason was to see if a switch to permanent DST was in the cards for Yukoners, as the only other Canadian landmass that is on Pacific time with BCers.
- In a joint press conference held late Monday morning in Whitehorse, Horgan said he and Silver have a good working relationship: “It was an opportunity for us to talk about the commonalities between Yukon and British Columbia. Whenever we get together, (we’re) talking about the importance of linking not just our economies and our social and cultural connections, but also making it absolutely clear that there is a seamless connection between our two jurisdictions.”
- Horgan and Silver discussed the possibility of eliminating daylight saving time. Horgan said he is working in tandem with Washington, Oregon and California to co-ordinate a regional shift into eliminating the twice-yearly time change and expects legislation in B.C. to come within a few weeks.
- Silver said he is interested in making a change in step with the Pacific Northwest, but requires more consultation with Yukon stakeholders. He added he is interested in consulting with Alberta and Alaska: “We’ve always said we need to work in partnership with regions around us. We’re so closely tied to what British Columbia does, so it’s really great for Premier Horgan and I to have this conversation right now.”
- After the trip Horgan said that Yukon is pretty much on board with the permanent DST plan: "The view of the Yukon territory is that if British Columbia stays on permanent daylight saving time, they will as well. So they're waiting on our leadership on that question."
- Horgan and Silver also discussed formalizing conversations between energy ministers to strategize greening the economy and expanding the energy grid. Silver said they have tried to “get off of one particular conversation about one particular pipeline” and instead focus on connecting communities through utility corridors. He said fibre optic technology could be a potential path forward.
- Silver suggested British Columbia may be looking for a northern client for hydro energy. He said the two leaders began to discuss the possibility of developing a relationship about three years ago: "We’re turning a page in Canada, where people are understanding the benefits to the economy to get ahead of the technologies, to make sure we are at the forefront of a green economy,” Silver said.
- After the Yukon, Horgan then travelled to Washington, to take part in the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference and to see about the coastal American states' ideas on switching to permanent daylight savings time as well. In doing so, Horgan waded into the delicate swamp that is American politics.
- The conference aims to boost the economic advantage of the “Cascadia mega-region,” which encompasses the areas around Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. Also at the conference were Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan, and many other mayors from the Pacific Northwest region.
- Washington Governor Jay Inslee who is a Democrat, has a very good working relationship with Horgan, and the two neighbors have now firmly planted themselves together on one particular side of the American political spectrum. While Horgan was interested in building up a working cross-border economy and to gauge the Washington government on permanent DST, in seems that Inslee was more interested in taking potshots at Donald Trump.
- Horgan and Inslee announced the launch of a clean energy working group Thursday, a cross-border effort they described as a reaffirmation of their shared commitment to being North American leaders on climate change. They unveiled the “joint clean grid initiative” at an appearance in Seattle at the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference. Inslee described it as an example of his government teaming up with Horgan’s to fight against what he called the U.S. federal government’s regressive approach on the environment.
- “We have a current administration that has, at every chance they get, tried to damage the ability of Washington state to protect our state. They have tried to strip us of our ability to protect against pollution. … They’re trying to stop us from reducing dependence on fossil fuels, every chance they get. Now, we have defeated them 21 times in a row in court. So they haven’t succeeded in stopping us, and our view is that Donald Trump cannot stop us from protecting our state because we’re going to continue beating him in court. We are, essentially, allied with British Columbia, which wants to move forward on a clean energy agenda. This is a powerful alliance, it’s effective, and to a large measure, Donald Trump cannot stop us from doing these things. He tries, but he fails repeatedly. So that’s the good news: British Columbia and Washington state are defeating Donald Trump.”
- Yes, you heard that right. BC and Washington state are defeating Donald Trump. That's what this boils down to for Inslee. As is so often the case in American politics, you're either with us or you're the enemy.
- As for moving the coastal states of the US to permanent DST, the move would require the approval of the United States Congress, something both Horgan and Inslee don't believe will happen in the current climate of impeachment inquiries against U.S. President Donald Trump.
- Horgan said: "Trying to get Congressional approval for something like daylight saving time while they're talking about impeaching the president is probably going to be difficult. Governor Inslee said to me, 'Look, I support what you're doing and this is what we want to do as well.' But he couldn’t give me any assurances that Washington state would be able to stop with the changing of clocks this fall."
- The premier added that we should "Blame the United States, particularly the Congress, which is being gridlocked by Donald Trump."
- Horgan said the B.C. government will, however, begin to put the wheels in motion to end the seasonal time changes before next fall: "We'll be introducing legislation this fall to allow us to ensure that next year we don’t fall back. I expect to fall back this year and then when we spring forward next year in 2020, that will be the last time we do it."
- So in the end, like so many news stories in America, a major partnership between coastal North America, devolves into Democrats mudslinging Donald Trump. Hopefully Horgan will wisely keep British Columbians out of the crossfire.
- Meanwhile, closer to home, B.C. Minister for Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims has resigned from the NDP cabinet amid an RCMP investigation related to her, the premier’s office announced Friday. Horgan said he learned from Attorney General David Eby that a special prosecutor has been appointed to oversee the investigation, prompting Sims’ resignation. Minister of Housing Selina Robinson will temporarily take over Sims’ role as Minister of Citizens’ Services.
- Sims remains the MLA for Surrey-Panorama, where she has served since 2017. She previously served as a member of Parliament for Newton-North Delta from 2011 to 2015.
- Sims was also infamously the president of the BC Teacher's Federation from 2004 until 2007. In her role as president of the BCTF, she was involved in the May 2005 provincial election when the BC Liberal Party, a week before the election, accused the BCTF of having a "secret plan" to strike two days after the election; the organization subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit. When the teachers, did provide strike notice in September 2005, the provincial government immediately extended, by legislation, the last contract to June 2006 and made a potential strike illegal. Regardless, Sims led the teachers in job action, culminating in a two-week strike. The Labour Relations Board determined the strike illegal and the BC Supreme Court found the BCTF in civil contempt of court, fined the BCTF $500,000 and ordered the BCTF to not pay the teachers a strike pay. The strike ended when the membership voted to accept a $150 million mediated settlement which both the government and the BCTF executive had endorsed.
- It’s not yet clear what these latest allegations are against Sims. In a statement released Friday, the MLA said even she has not been given the details behind the investigation. In her statement, Sims noted there “was no credibility to previous public allegations,” referring to accusations levelled by a former employee in May.
- Sims was accused of writing support letters for travel visas to be issued to 10 Pakistani individuals, three of whom are on U.S. security watch lists. The former employee, Kate Gillie, also charged that Sims spoke openly about being promised campaign donations for writing the letters. Gillie — who was fired on Feb. 22 after working for Sims for six weeks — also alleged Sims told staff to bypass Freedom of Information laws by communicating through WhatsApp and personal email addresses, rather than official email addresses. Those same Freedom of Information laws are overseen by the Ministry of Citizens’ Services, which was, of course, Jinny Sims.
- Also, last year, she apologized after being caught using personal emails to conduct government business.
- BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said he doesn’t yet know what the latest allegations are, but alluded they could be related to Gillie’s allegations: “We’ve been raising questions about Jinny Sims’ integrity for almost a year, and John Horgan did nothing about it. Now it finally takes the police stepping in to get John Horgan to act and drop Minister Sims from cabinet because she does not deserve to be there.”
- Wilkinson said the BC Liberals notified the RCMP about the information uncovered by Gillie and other staff who were “appalled” by Sims’ behaviour: “Perhaps that’s the cause of this RCMP investigation, but there may be other issues,” he said, referring to allegations of “totally inappropriate behaviour in [Sims’] constituency office in Surrey.”
- We will keep track of what the allegations are, and keep you up to date as this story continues to unfold.
- The Alberta government is getting ready to start its fall legislative session next week. The budget will arrive on October 24th.
- This budget is a big draw for those in the media and the opposition NDP because it will mark the first time since the Klein era that we will see spending restraint.
- The NDP has been out and about holding “budget consultations” for what could only be assumed to be a shadow budget that they will release.
- While speaking on Wednesday at the University of Alberta Notley and her former Ministers said that, “Jason Kenney plans to make students pay more for education, The changes [as outlined in the MacKinnon Report] could double the cost of tuition for post-secondary students here in Alberta.”
- In reality the MacKinnon report has said that the province should find a funding formula that is similar to that of Ontario.
- Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides clarified that the 2014–15 tuition freeze will remain in effect. The ministry also clarified that students pay about 20% of the cost for their education while taxpayers pay for 50% of the bill.
- The government boils the NDP’s statement down to simple fear mongering.
- The government says that the stakeholders they’ve consulted with suggest that maintaining the freeze could negatively impact the quality of education by limiting the funding that universities need.
- U of A president David Turpin on Wednesday also said that he expects cuts to been the way for post secondary institutions.
- Turpin also had to say that, “We are now halfway through this fiscal year without a budget letter from the province, so the budget that will be tabled on Oct. 24 will likely affect us immediately.”
- Recall that the MacKinnon panel was chaired by former Saskatchewan NDP Finance Minister Janice MacKinnon. Her panel recommended the government provide smaller grants and encourage post secondary institutions to find alternative sources of funding including possibly corporate partnerships.
- The end goal of course is a revenue mix comparable to that of BC or Ontario.
- Anyone who’s navigated a university system as complicated as that of the University of Alberta will know that the University has as much bureaucracy as the biggest governments do.
- There are rungs of officials, advisors, and administration if you want to follow through the system to get an answer to a simple question sometimes or if you have a complaint to lodge.
- The most front facing aspect is of course the professors but they don’t have all the knowledge about the university’s workings so you must navigate the system if you have questions beyond academics.
- The university doesn’t acknowledge this but as with any government department there are layers and layers of bureaucracy and administration staff that can be slimmed down to save money.
- The university just must be creative.
- Finally, the NDP leader suggested that Alberta will be in for “American-style tuition rates.” When in reality tuition in the US can be 10s of thousands of dollars per year.
- What Notley and the NDP do not realize is that it wasn’t their lack of consultation or the meat of the budgets that caused them to lose. It was the downright toxic environment for investment, natural resources, and small business that their policies and the NDP name created for Alberta. Notley was fighting the wrong battle and still is. That’s why after 4 years of NDP government in Alberta, it was time for change.
- In federal campaign news this week, it was uncovered that while most federal party campaigns are travelling with just one campaign plane, or even none at all, Trudeau and his Liberal team are trekking around the country with two campaign planes.
- On the surface, that doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you put it up against Trudeau's holier than thou stance on the environment and climate change, and his views on the carbon tax and polluters, and the fact that he marched in Montreal's climate strike last week, it doesn't add up that he's using a 2nd campaign used primarily for "baggage".
- Trudeau defended his two campaign planes this morning after Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called him a climate hypocrite last night for his carbon-heavy leader’s tour. In a statement released during the TVA French language debate, the Conservatives pegged Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as a “high carbon hypocrite” for “lecturing everybody else” on emissions but using “two aircraft to campaign”.
- Scheer went further: "I don't know what types of props or costumes or camping equipment he's bringing along, but he's made his choice. If he thinks it's okay to emit far more emissions than our campaign is emitting, we're going to hold him to account for his hypocrisy."
- After Scheer raised the issue of the planes, Trudeau said that the Liberal Party is purchasing carbon offsets to make up for the extra plane, referring to a scheme that funds a reduction in emissions that compensates for emissions made somewhere else. In this case, the Liberal's carbon offset contributions are going toward the Essex‐Windsor Regional Landfill Gas Capture and Destruction Project in Essex, Ontario.
- But the president of the company that the Liberal Party purchased those carbon offsets from said that the offset mechanism is “not the ultimate solution” to the problem of carbon emissions. “The ideal is not to emit carbon in the first place,” said Sean Drygas, president of Bullfrog Power, a renewable energy provider. The company’s website says offsets are an “imperfect solution” and should be used as a “last resort” only.
- Trudeau called the criticism from the Conservatives a "far right" tactic: "What we’re seeing here from the Conservatives is a classic and desperate attempt to distract from the fact they have no plan for the environment." Really? Criticizing hypocrisy on the environment is a far right tactic? Since when did Hitler and the Nazis ever care about saving the planet? It's despicable how the term "far-right" is trotted out for practically anything these days.
- Scheer dismissed the Liberal decision to purchase those offsets: "I don't buy Mr. Trudeau's excuse that somehow purchasing some credits excuses him — gives him the privilege to burn more fuel."
- Kate Ervine, a professor of international development studies at Saint Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, agrees with that basic statement: “The real danger with carbon offsetting is, it allows us to say we are doing things we are not actually doing. For instance, with flying — you aren’t lowering emissions overall just because you purchase carbon offsets...carbon offsetting is not intended to reduce emissions. It’s not as simple as, ‘I can continue doing what I want as long as I offset’.”
- An example of carbon offsetting is planting trees — if a flight from Toronto to Vancouver generated 0.5 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, carbon offsetting in this case would mean planting enough trees to remove 0.5 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Trudeau took the time to include a tree-planting photo-op with his daughter, which looked good for the media and the cameras. The only problem is, for Trudeau's 3 flights just that day, his planes burned almost 10,000 litres of jet fuel, which is definitely not offset by just a few trees.
- On October 3rd, the biggest hypocrisy of Trudeau's flight habits is that his campaign took a 14 minute flight to fly from one part of Montreal to the other, flying from Montreal's Mirabel airport to the northwest of the city to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport on the island of Montreal. This would normally be a 30 minute drive.
- On September 22nd, before the 2 plane controversy was discovered, Trudeau's team took a flight from Toronto's Pearson International Airport down to Hamilton's John C. Munro Intl. Airport and back again. That's just a 40 minute drive.
- We are now just over 2 weeks away from the election. The NDP and Greens have tried to frame the election as one solely about the environment. The Liberals have tried to do the same, but their hypocrisy on the issue is showing. Figurative bombshells are being dropped every day, and it's hard to keep up with all of the bias and sensationalism going on out there, but you can count on Western Context to give you the straight news.
Word of the Week
Offset - to counteract something by having an opposing force or effect, or a consideration or amount that diminishes or balances the effect of a contrary one. Also, the amount or distance by which something is out of line.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Just Plane Wrong
Teaser: The Liberal spending plan will add $94b to the debt, BC not enacting permanent DST is being blamed on Donald Trump while a BC cabinet minister is under RCMP investigation, and the Alberta NDP wants to fund endless post-secondary bureaucracy. Also, Trudeau uses double the campaign planes.
Recorded Date: October 4, 2019
Release Date: October 6, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes