The News Rundown
- What is the Senate? House of Sober Second Thought. At times acts like a rubber stamp. But can suggest amendments. i.e. C–69
- Who appoints senators? GG. But convention says GG appoints on advice of PM.
- Trudeau’s less partisan process
- Prior to forming government, Trudeau made all Liberal senators independent.
- This was due to an increasing lens on the senate in light of expense scandals and the much media hyped Mike Duffy trial.
- Previously the Senate used to mirror the governing parties.
- Since Trudeau’s plan muddied the waters adding independents into the mix we’ve seen new groups form.
- The Independent Senators group formed a couple years after Trudeau dissolved the Liberal caucus in the Senate.
- This group makes up the largest in the Senate consisting mostly of Trudeau’s senators and ejected former Conservative senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau.
- On Monday the new Canadian Senators Group issued a press release stating that they intend for their group to fulfill the original goal of the senate being able to represent regions across the country.
- As written in the press release, “Members of the CSG want to see this founding principle maintained and respected so that the will of the majority does not always trump regional interests… United in their approach to thorough research and comprehensive review of legislation, close consultation with Canadians and rigorous, but at all times respectful, debate, CSG senators are free to take positions and vote on legislation independently of personal political affiliations and each other.”
- The group consists of 11 senators, 5 represent the west, 3 represent the Atlantic provinces, 2 represent Ontario, and 1 represents Quebec. 3 of the western senators represent Alberta, 1 for BC and 1 for Saskatchewan.
- The group hopes to be able to focus on direct issues such as energy and the opioid crisis. They also feel that they will be more effective in supporting or opposing the government if each senator has the ability to vote based on what best represents the interest of the region.
- No more than after the most recent election have regions felt more divided.
- The Senate’s original goal was to provide sober second thought but there was a push in the 80s and 90s to reform the upper chamber to be elected, effective, and equally representative of Canada.
- Ontario and Quebec each have 24 senators. The other two founders of Confederation, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick get 10 each. PEI gets 4. BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba each get 6. The territories get 1 each. A tiny province like PEI gets similar representation in the Senate to that of Alberta. And the entire west only gets as much as Ontario or Quebec. The seat of power in the senate is clear based on this numeration.
- It has been determined by the courts that serious reform or abolishment of the senate would require a constitutional amendment getting the provinces on board.
- Let us remember that Quebec never signed on to the 1982 constitution and no Prime Minister has had the will to try to get Quebec on board and make meaningful reforms.
- At this point the Senate can either become more chaotic with further dissolution of order or the Senate can become more effective in representing the regions of an increasingly divided Canada.
- One can only hope that the new Canadian Senators Group forming will lead to the latter and at some point the senate sees meaningful reforms.
- In a final note on this story, recall that Senators appointed by Justin Trudeau and put into the Independent Senators Group were vetted by a database called the Liberalist which is nothing less than a partisan database of Liberal contributors despite saying Trudeau would be appointing independent senators.
- It would appear the definition of independent is up for question.
- China has agreed to allow Canadian meat products into the country, ending a five-month suspension. China originally halted the importation of Canadian beef and pork in June, saying some Canadian meat had tested positive for ractopamine, an additive that is banned in China, and was sent over with forged inspection certificates.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted the news Tuesday afternoon, calling it "good news for Canadian farmers."
- China is one of Canada's largest export markets for pork and beef. More than $500 million worth of Canadian pork and nearly $100 million worth of Canadian beef were sent to China in 2018, representing the second- and fifth-largest markets respectively for those meats.
- Trudeau has credited diplomat Dominic Barton, who was appointed Canada's ambassador to China in September for China's reversal on the ban of meat imports from Canada.
- Prior to Barton's appointment, the position had been vacant for more than half a year. The two countries have been embroiled in a diplomatic dispute for nearly a year, ever since Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver last December. Two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, were detained in China days later and remain in custody there.
- Former ambassador John McCallum was dismissed in January after making comments that suggested an element of politicization in Canada's decision to arrest Meng Wanzhou.
- Rather than a resumption of friendly diplomacy, the resuming of meat imports from Canada is being seen as an act of desperation from Beijing.
- Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said China's decision may have less to do with a thaw in relations than with food supply issues: “The leadership in Beijing was faced with, most likely, a lot of pressure from Chinese consumers, 1.4 billion Chinese consumers that were complaining that the price of pork had increased by 70 to 100%.”
- China produces and consumes about half the world’s pork, but its herds have been devastated by an outbreak of African swine fever. Approximately 1.2 million Chinese pigs have been killed since August 2018 in an attempt to contain the disease. The decline in supply has caused the price of pork in China to nearly double over the past year, even as the country has increased its imports from Europe and Brazil.
- China has kept the bans on Canadian canola in place, furthering the theory that Beijing only lifted the pork ban to reduce rapid inflation.
- A Chinese spokesperson also agreed that the ban lifting wasn't a sign of friendlier diplomacy. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang, answering a question at a media briefing in Beijing earlier this week, was asked whether China’s reopening its market to Canadian pork and beef signaled an improvement in strained relations. He said the Chinese government says relations will only improve when Canada releases Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou: “As for China-Canada relations, the current difficulties were not caused by the Chinese side,” the spokesman said.
- “We urge the new Canadian government to face up to China's solemn position and concerns, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou at once, ensure her safe return to China and take concrete actions to move our relations back onto the right track.”
- Saint-Jacque warned that Canada should brace for more turbulence in its relationship with China: “The federal government has to make a decision on whether it will allow Huawei to participate in 5G development in Canada. We have been warned if they are not allowed there will be further measures taken against Canada. For that reason it’s important for the federal government to try to get as much support from allies.”
- Susan Rice, the U.S. national security advisor under U.S. president Barack Obama and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has explicitly warned Canada against allowing Huawei to participate in the construction of its 5G infrastructure: "It's hard for me to emphasize adequately without getting into classified terrain how serious it is. It gives the Chinese the ability, if they choose to use it, to access all kinds of information. Civilian intelligence, military, that could be very, very compromising."
- The U.S. government blacklisted Huawei in May, deeming it a national security risk, meaning U.S. firms aren't allowed to sell the company's technology without government approval. Canada has yet to make its call, but Rice insists the U.S. decision isn't one Canada can ignore.
- Especially tricky, she maintains, is Canada's key position in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group that also includes the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Her suspicion is that should Canada open the doors further to Huawei, it risks being cut out of shared information from the Five Eyes.
- One thing is for sure, the relationship with China remains as complicated as ever, and it remains difficult to predict what the communist regime will do next. Our government will need to remain vigilant and to continue to do all it can to get our Canadian detainees in China repatriated, while maintaining our national security.
- Rural crime has been a growing problem in Alberta and property owners sometimes do not have the time to wait for the RCMP to arrive.
- There’s always the question about what can be done by a property owner under the law and what’s too far.
- Back in February 2018 Eddie Maurice saw people going through his car at 5am.
- He shouted asking for them to leave, they didn’t. He fired two warning shots.
- One of the shots ricocheted and hit Ryan Watson in the arm. After this he called the police and Watson was arrested.
- Watson then sued Maurice for $100,000+ for damages and disabilities. Watson was ultimately sentenced to 45 days in jail.
- The province was also suing Maurice for damages and the cost of health services for Watson.
- Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer put an end to this back in September.
- The charges against Eddie Maurice had to work their way through six court appearances before the charges were dropped and he incurred a substantial legal bill.
- A Gofundme was started and both the Premier and Justice Minister contributed to helping pay for the legal bills.
- Why are we talking about this?
- This week the government announced they are changing the law so that so long as a person is not convicted of a criminal offence while protecting their property, they won’t be able to be sued by the perpetrator.
- The amendment will go into effect retroactively to January 1, 2018 meaning that the changes could apply to Maurice’s court ordeal if the courts are willing.
- This opens the door to a broader discussion on rural crime
- The Justice Department is also said to be coming up with a series of guidelines of what force is reasonable.
- Communities will also be able to testify how lawbreakers crimes hurt the community
- Fines will be increased by a factor of 5 with fines up to $10,000 for a first violation and $25,000 for subsequent offences as well as prison time for up to 6 months.
- Corporations that help trespassers would face fines up to $200,000 and the maximum for lost or damaged property will be raised from $25,000 to $100,000.
- The province also wants to crack down on metal theft as it is common to see theft of copper and other heavy metals from industrial batteries or power transmission systems.
- A law to deal with the theft of scrap metal was passed in 2012 but never proclaimed. The government has proclaimed this law and the legislation has gone into effect immediately
- Why is this important aside from the crime angle?
- Reasonable force.
- In 2012 the Harper government amended the criminal code to allow for citizen’s arrests and clarify the use of force.
- In particular: A person is not guilty of an offence if
- (a) they believe on reasonable grounds that force is being used against them or another person or that a threat of force is being made against them or another person;
- (b) the act that constitutes the offence is committed for the purpose of defending or protecting themselves or the other person from that use or threat of force; and
- (c) the act committed is reasonable in the circumstances.
- Property can be defended if:
- they believe on reasonable grounds that another person
- (i) is about to enter, is entering or has entered the property without being entitled by law to do so,
- (ii) is about to take the property, is doing so or has just done so, or
- (iii) is about to damage or destroy the property, or make it inoperative, or is doing so
- Eddie Maurice fit the definition of the law as set out in 2012, there was just a provision in Alberta that allowed the accused to sue him for damages.
- What will be interesting to watch from this is the Alberta government's definition of what exactly poses reasonable force.
- In theory the government could set a high bar enabling almost anything to fall under the umbrella of reasonable force and this would mean property owners would be able to do whatever they deem necessary to protect themselves and their property. That’s why this definition is so important.
- We are a long way away from matching many states in the United States that have stand your ground laws that allow a person to defend their property without any risk of facing a charge.
- Last month in rural Georgia a neighbour helped out his friend when he heard a commotion and gun fire, he gunned down 3 intruders and is not expected to face charges.
- More recently in Florida, a pregnant woman defended her home with her semi-automatic rifle as her husband was being beaten by an intruder, she’ll face no charges, her husband is recovering, and the intruder is dead.
- We’ll be watching this as it is almost guaranteed that the inherent urban media will be concerned about the changes this week and any potential definitions the government comes up with in terms of reasonable force.
- A new study has found that some Canadian cities have higher levels of lead in their drinking water than Flint, Michigan. Yes, the very same Flint, Michigan which has become infamous across America for giving birth to documentary maker Michael Moore, as well as having extremely poor quality drinking water.
- Flint made headlines globally when residents started raising an uproar over the toxic water coming out of their taps after their water source was switched in 2014 to the Flint River.
- American journalist Anna Clark said the water was more corrosive, and officials were not “treating it at all for corrosion control -- something you add to the water at the treatment plant to help keep the metals (in pipes) from disintegrating into the drinking water.”
- As Flint’s pipes degraded more, the water turned brown, she said, which was a sign of iron breaking down into it. Although the iron was “repulsive and alarming,” she said, “in fact, the most dangerous thing in their water -- the lead -- was not visible to the human eye.” A lack of transparency and accountability from officials was the main reason the situation became so critical.
- “In Flint … when residents were bringing up concerns, they were dismissed, and as they were dismissed, the problem escalated,” Clark said. “What changed was that they were able to partner with outside professionals to get more and better data that showed what was really going on. It contradicted what the state of Michigan had been saying.”
- So what does this have to do with Canada? A huge year-long investigation by many journalists, universities, and media groups conducted tests on hundreds of homes, schools and daycares in 11 different cities across the country. The study found that a third of the tests recorded lead levels above Canadian guidelines of 5 parts per billion. Some cities had lead levels that far exceeded those guidelines.
- Up until the mid-1950s, lead was the standard material for service lines, the water pipes connecting a home to a street’s water main. Lead pipes continued to be permitted by the National Plumbing Code of Canada until 1975, when awareness about the risk of lead grew. By the mid-1990s, the public portion of most lead service lines were converted to copper. But some still remain.
- Unfortunately, in Canada, there is no national mandate to test drinking water and agencies that conduct tests have no obligation to inform residents. Provinces set their own rules for water testing and lead pipe replacement. In British Columbia, where Prince Rupert recorded lead levels of 15.6 ppb, municipalities are not required to test tap water.
- In Edmonton, utility company EPCOR conducts hundreds of tests in homes without lead service lines regardless of when the building was constructed. Between 2015 and 2018, the utility says it found that 10% of homes had lead levels exceeding the recommended federal limit.
- Edmonton mayor Don Iveson agreed that action was needed, but defended the city’s water systems: “Recognizing that the pipes need to change over time and there’s work to do — overall, I have full confidence in the water supply and integrity of it in our city.”
- The risk of unsafe levels of lead in Greater Victoria drinking water is very low, according to Island Health, and running the taps first thing in the morning and after work should be enough to flush the higher concentrations that accumulate over several hours.
- Tips given by Island Health include running water after a period of inactivity until it comes out cold before drinking it or using it for cooking, avoiding using hot water from the tap for drinking or cooking, as the heat is more likely to cause lead to leach into water. Replacing any lead piping or older brass faucets and valves with new fixtures and installing a water filter at the end of the tap will also reduce the risk of lead.
- Prolonged exposure to high amounts of lead over months or years can result in lead poisoning, which can cause serious health effects, particularly among young children. although lead poisoning affects young children and people who are pregnant the most, this new study about Canada’s drinking water has frightening implications for the entire population. Men could experience more hypertension and older women may have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s if they contract lead poisoning. It’s a neurotoxin, and it can affect us all.
- Crumbling infrastructure in Canada should see a higher investment by the Trudeau Liberals countrywide. However, much of the past 4 years has been focused on either green initiatives or on expensive projects with little benefit. Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said that the federal government was monitoring the situation and planning to work with the provinces and municipalities, and Liberal backbencher Bob Bratina has proposed a private member's bill that would create a national strategy to deal with lead in drinking water.
- However, as the crisis gets more coverage and worried Canadians are talking more and more about it, Trudeau himself remains silent. Perhaps he's been too busy on his vacation in Tofino, BC, where he's been surfing and relaxing for the past week. Instead of taking the message Canadians sent him on October 21st to heart, not 2 weeks later, he was already on another vacation. While Trudeau's cabinet will be reportedly focusing on "the green economy and climate change", he's flying to Tofino and back again for the weekend. I wonder if he needed a second plane for his luggage this time too? People were wondering why there was a whole month in between the election and Trudeau's new cabinet being sworn in, I guess we know now why that is.
- First Nations reserves and rural communities have had to deal with problematic drinking water for years, and now even our largest cities like Montreal, Toronto, Regina, and Edmonton are having problems. Enough is enough, it's time for our government to stop acting like it's on vacation, and get to work on doing the job that Canadians sent them to do.
Word of the Week
Independent - free from outside control; not depending on another's authority.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Poison Cocktail
Teaser: A new group in the senate sparks calls for reform, China resumes Canadian meat imports to curb inflation, and Alberta starts to enact tougher castle doctrine laws. Also, testing has revealed lead in Canada’s drinking water, while our government is on vacation.
Recorded Date: November 8, 2019
Release Date: November 9, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes