The News Rundown
- Earlier this week on Monday, Canada's 13 premiers met in Toronto for talks on ways to move forward together for Canada's prosperity. The slumping economy was the main focus, and the premiers united to agree that Canada and the federal government needs to focus on developing our natural resources. To do this, they want the federal government to look at ways to streamline the federal approval process for large infrastructure process, and to focus on international trade to get our products to market.
- Also on the agenda were the fiscal stabilization program, and to have the federal government make it more responsive to economic circumstances and downturns in resource sectors without compromising other transfer programs.
- The premiers are proposing Ottawa bolster the stabilization program to help cover some of those budget shortfalls by removing per capita limits on the money available to provinces. The premiers also said Ottawa should consider retroactive payments from such a program to make the provinces whole.
- The current program, which is administered by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, provides financial assistance to any province faced with a year-over-year decline in its non-resource revenues greater than five per cent.
- Alberta Premier Jason Kenney thanked his fellow premiers for the "tremendous moment of solidarity". He said "I have been trying to convey to Albertans that we are not alone or isolated in the federation. There are provincial and territorial governments that get what we're going through and understand our ask for a fair deal."
- Quebec Premier François Legault said: "Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador are in very difficult circumstances with the rapid drop in oil and resource revenues and we're all asking the federal government to improve this program to provide more support to those provinces."
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford said while the 13 provinces and territories may have their differences, Canada is united: "We're a united nation. When some of the provinces are struggling we're all there. We're going to be there, we support them, and we're going to have their backs. It wasn't too long ago Ontario was taking equalization."
- Beyond the stabilization fix, the premiers have also agreed to ask Ottawa to bolster the country's economic competitiveness by "improving" Bill C-69, the Liberal government's controversial overhaul of the environmental assessment act. The premiers want Ottawa to exempt some projects that fall under provincial jurisdiction — most importantly in-situ oilsands projects in Alberta — from a mandatory federal review.
- The federal Liberal government has said it would consider exempting new oilsands developments if Kenney maintains a cap on emissions from the sector.
- As well, health care and health transfers were a big priority. Premiers reiterated their call for the federal government to increase funding by an annual escalator of 5.2% to the Canada Health Transfer. They also discussed national pharmacare and emphasized that any program must be developed in partnership with provinces and territories.
- The premiers said health care in Canada has reached a crisis point and the federal government needs to do much more to help provinces pay for their largest budget line item.
- Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said health wait times have grown over the last three years, according to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and Canadians are waiting far too long for surgeries like hip and knee replacements because Ottawa has been slow to send more money to the provinces.
- Pallister said Ottawa should park its plan for a national pharmacare plan and instead focus on improving the country's existing health care system.
- "Don't start broadening health care when you can't get it right now. Start by getting that right," Pallister said.
- BC Premier John Horgan echoed the other premiers on this issue as well, surprisingly since a national pharmacare plan was a big selling point of Jagmeet Singh, Horgan's federal NDP counterpart: “We were welcoming a discussion about a national pharmacare plan, but those of us who really already have significant plans would prefer that we first and foremost get back to a more equitable distribution of resources to deliver health care broadly.”
- An additional $30 million would flow to the province this year, were Ottawa to agree to increase transfers to the amount specified by the premiers.
- Other premiers were more hesitant about a national pharmacare proposal, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in the election. They agreed to lobby for an opt-out clause if Ottawa decides to push the program into reality.
- Canada’s current drug coverage system is a fragmented and unfair patchwork of more than 100 government-run plans and 100,000 private drug insurance programs, according to a June report by the federally commissioned Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. One in five Canadians have no drug coverage or inadequate coverage, the council found.
- A single national system for prescription drugs would mean a copayment of as little as $2 a person for essential medicine and $5 a person for other drugs, as well as exemptions for those on social or disability assistance and a cap of $100 a year on any household payments, according to the council’s recommendations.
- B.C. is budgeted to receive $5.4 billion in federal health transfers this fiscal year. The province spends $23 billion of its $58.3-billion annual budget on health care and pharmacare.
- BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C.’s increases to health spending have outpaced the growth in federal transfers, and addressing that immediate financial pressure on existing services is the priority.
- “Our priority is the Canada health transfer,” Dix said Tuesday. “But if (the federal government) comes forward with pharmacare proposals that actually have financial support behind them, then obviously that’d be of interest to every single province. What we’re saying is let’s get our fiscal house in order on the Canada health transfer, and then we can have that discussion.”
- The footnote to the meeting's communique says that the North (probably meaning the territories) need to be developed: "Tangible and significant nation-building activities are needed in the three territories. This includes robust investment in infrastructure that will improve the lives of northerners, and greater support for climate action that fights, mitigates and adapts to rapidly changing environments in the North."
- It's clear that the Premiers are united on one thing for certain, and that's that the federal government should give them more money. However, given that health care is the single biggest expense for provinces, and that natural resources are the economic driver of the nation, can we really blame them?
- Doug Ford, Scott Moe, and Blaine Higgs of Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick have made an announcement on their intent to develop a new nuclear reactor technology for energy in Canada.
- Small modular reactors otherwise known as generation IV nuclear are as small as a house in some cases, they can be shipped where they’re needed (remote communities), and are a lot safer than existing technology.
- These reactors operate at a lower temperature and should a meltdown situation happen, the reactor simply shuts down over time.
- The reactors utilize molten salt instead of water to handle cooling and therefore control of the reaction. Unlike water, salt can’t boil away.
- The salt when heated expands, pushes the uranium apart, and thereby slowing the reaction.
- There are other reactor designs that can operate by burning away nuclear waste from traditional reactors. The world has huge stockpiles of nuclear waste that needs to be guarded carefully. These designs could provide a use for it.
- The Canadian nuclear safety commission is reviewing the new designs.
- The reactor technology when applied could help Saskatchewan reach a 70% reduction in greenhouse gases. The target for the much lauded Paris accord says emissions should be reduced 30% below 2005 levels.
- This is one province.
- By fall 2020 the provinces of Saskatchewan, Ontario, and New Brunswick aim to have a full strategy for the roll out of the reactors.
- The reactors being in the development state will be ready at the soonest in 5–10 years.
- The provinces will also be able to sell the technology and the global market for this nuclear technology is estimated to be valued at $150b.
- The reactors would generate about 300MW of power, powering about 225,000 homes! A traditional reactor generates 800MW of power.
- The reactors can be smaller than this too to be tailored for small communities going all the way down to just 3MW of power generation.
- Why are they doing this? The government wants coal electricity phased out by 2030.
- The reactors could also be sold to oil sands companies to help them reduce emissions.
- The government of Canada has also published the Canadian Small Modular Reactor Roadmap which sets out the long term vision for the nuclear industry in Canada focusing on small modular reactors.
- The government of Canada invested about $200,000 in the initiative and has brought forward four next steps focusing on demonstration and deployment, indigenous engagement, legislation, regulation, and policy; and international partnerships and markets.
- It is entirely feasible that a nuclear energy program based on small modular reactors could act as a national unity project that any political party wanting to double down on nuclear in the next election, would have a good chance of winning with a nuclear policy.
- That should be the climate policy of Canada.
- Justin Trudeau's throne speech for the newest session of parliament, in which he holds the largest number of seats but not a majority, was delivered on December 5th, by Governor General Julie Payette. It was the first tangible proof we have of what direction Trudeau wants to lead government towards, and like I've said a few times in the past few weeks, we're going to be looking at more of the same.
- One day after having Payette’s nearly 40-year old plane requisitioned from Italy to replace the prime minister’s nearly 40-year old plane, which had broken down in England after being pressed into service because of a crash involving Trudeau’s nearly 40-year old primary plane, the jet-lagged Governor General delivered the throne speech in Parliament.
- Astronaut turned vice-regal Payette added a line to the Trudeau government’s throne speech that government sources say was all hers: “We share the same planet. And we know that we are inextricably bound to the same space-time continuum and on board the same planetary spaceship,” Payette said.
- When you distill the politician speak and the overly wordiness of the document down to basic English, we find that Trudeau has a few very simple goals with some very difficult decisions to make to get there.
- The speech started talking about Canada's history, and took on a tone of stability and togetherness, as well as climate change. Also mentioned was reconciliation, "strengthening the middle class", health care, and gun control.
- Indeed, the phrase climate change was mentioned a whopping 10 times, reconciliation was mentioned 8 times, gender 6 times, lower taxes 5 times, gun control 5 times, housing 3 times, and resources just 3 times. The West wasn't mentioned, nor were pipelines, oil, or even forestry.
- As we can see with the speech, it's a lot of words to say not much at all. And the course is the same as it has been for the past 4 years. the conclusion says: "Parliamentarians: Canadians are counting on you to fight climate change, strengthen the middle class, walk the road of reconciliation, keep Canadians safe and healthy, and position Canada for success in an uncertain world."
- Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun says that Trudeau has "learned nothing from the election": "Yet, did the government temper any of the ideas they ran on in the election? No. Did they adopt any ideas from any of the opposition parties to show that they are willing to work together? No."
- To no one’s surprise, there will be a “middle-class” tax cut. There will be more action on climate change. There will be a “walk” along “the road of reconciliation” with Indigenous Peoples. Illegal guns will be made illegaller. If you loved the Grit platform, you’ll love it even more in speech form.
- The Liberals will continue their push on a climate change agenda that will see the carbon tax go up. There was no explicit promise to raise the tax but they doubled down on lowering emissions faster than previously promised.
- On health care, the speech ignored the call earlier this week by a united group of premiers looking for increased funding and greater cooperation. Instead, they are offering more national standards, read that as more federal meddling in provincial health systems, without any new funding.
- The speech also invoked the 30th anniversary of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre to announce that they would ban “military-style assault rifles.” The Liberals have never defined what a “military-style assault rifle” is.
- Nor has Trudeau ever explained why he wants to ban these rifles and spend $600 million or more to buy them back when the problem of gun violence in Canada comes from smuggled handguns. On handguns, the speech said cities will be allowed to put their own bans in place.
- Andrew Coyne likened the throne speech to coded talk from WW2: "The deepening sense that the West is not just ignored or misunderstood but under assault, its major export treated as a kind of blight, was puréed into “concerns that the world is increasingly uncertain and that the economy is changing.” It was all rather like one of those coded messages to the French underground the BBC used to insert in its broadcasts during the War: “with the late frost, the hedgehog has no place to burrow.” Only way more condescending."
- Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet declared his party would support the government in any vote on the Throne Speech on the grounds that the Governor-General had not actually spoken the word “oil.” Maybe “natural resources” meant Quebec hydroelectricity instead. That's the problem with vague promises and language. It can mean absolutely everything and absolutely nothing at the same time.
- Andrew Scheer believed that Trudeau's throne speech failed Canadians and that his party would vote against it: "Yesterday, in the speech from the throne, [Trudeau] revealed that he hasn't learned a thing, that he hasn't changed at all. Even though the people of Canada sent a message that they demand better ... They demand a fundamentally new approach from a government that is prepared to rise to this moment in history. The status quo had failed. That the approach of the previous four years just wasn't good enough. Canadians want better."
- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who also has enough votes in his caucus to help the Liberals survive a vote on the throne speech, said he could not support the speech because it only paid lip service to issues his party cares about.
- "If the Liberal government thinks that this is good enough to deal with the struggles that people are facing right now, then they are wrong, this is not good enough. What we're seeing is a lot of pretty words but not concrete actions," he said.
- Singh said he was not closing the door to supporting the speech in any possible vote, but in order for his party to back Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals, his government would have to promise more specific policy actions.
- Trudeau met with the opposition leaders before his office put digits to keyboard but, other than a comma or perhaps a period, there doesn’t appear to be any sign of their influence on Liberal thinking.
- However, the throne speech isn't the first confidence vote test for Trudeau. Senior House of Commons officials told reporters Thursday that the first do-or-die vote after Parliament returns will be on a motion to allow the government to continue operating, by December 10th.
- In last month's general election, the Liberals landed 13 seats shy of a majority in the House of Commons. That drop in seats means the Liberals will need the support of other parties on "confidence" votes, such as the speech from the throne and money bills, which include budgets.
- In the parliamentary system, the government has to hold and maintain the confidence of the House of Commons. Parliamentary convention says that if a government loses a vote of confidence, the prime minister is expected to visit the governor general and either request a new election or resign.
- There's no legal definition of a confidence vote but, traditionally, they're considered to be votes to approve spending or implement the budget. The government can, if it chooses, hold a vote on the throne speech, which is considered a confidence vote.
- The House of Commons can pass a motion that explicitly declares its lack of confidence in the government. The government can also declare a vote to be a matter of confidence.
- The speech from the throne is usually the first vote of confidence (if the government chooses to hold a vote). But because this Parliament is resuming on Dec. 5, the first vote of confidence on its agenda will be one to allow government spending to continue.
- That vote is known as the "business of supply" in Commons-speak. Basically, MPs vote to supply the government with money to operate — to pay public servants, for example, or to cover the cost of federal-provincial transfer payments.
- By next week, we will know if Trudeau's vague and wordy promises will be enough for this more of the same government to continue. After all, we’re all on the same planetary spaceship. For that reason, Trudeau thinks apparently, the 43rd Parliament should get on with implementing the entire Liberal platform. All of it.
- Earlier this week NATO leaders jetted off to London for a NATO summit. Of these of course included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many other world leaders including US President Donald Trump.
- This was the annual gathering of NATO countries where they take stock and determine the direction for the alliance originally built during the cold war to counter the soviet block.
- Media coverage of these events have devolved to a circus since President Trump arrived on the scene.
- All media focus was taken away when our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was caught on a hot mic taking a jab at Donald Trump with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
- The clip circulated in global media circles shows Trudeau asking why he was late for a meeting, he goes on to talk about Donald Trump’s 40 minute press conference where Trump announced that next year's G7 meeting would be held at Camp David, a US presidential getaway.
- Trudeau continues in the clip being visibly animated while describing the encounter animating Trump’s press team’s mouths dropping to the floor when Trump made that announcement.
- This wouldn’t be the first time that Trudeau has talked about Trump behind his back, the last being at the G7 conference hosted in 2018 in Quebec.
- In response to this, the US President called Justin Trudeau two-faced. His son, Donald Jr, tweeted a photo showing Justin Trudeau as two-faced using the blackface photos that emerged in the recent election campaign.
- Focus of the NATO summit should be on national defence and what the future of the alliance is going to be.
- Instead, in some media circles Trudeau has been championed for standing up to Donald Trump (to the point the Joe Biden campaign has used footage in a campaign ad) but this could have very real consequences for us at home.
- NATO countries are supposed to pay 2% of their annual GDP towards national defence.
- For 2019, only 7 countries are expected to meet that marker. They are the US, UK, Greece, and eastern european countries including Estonia, Romania, Poland, and Latvia.
- In their one on one meeting, Trump and Trudeau were asked about spending. Trump repeatedly asked Trudeau, “What are you at? What is your number?”
- One of Trudeau’s aids chimed in saying 1.4%, in reality it’s expected to come in at 1.31% unless things change.
- This difference based on our expected values versus what Trudeau’s team said amounts to a difference of $2.1B
- A question that needs to be asked of Trudeau is if he’s going to raise the defence budget by $2.2b.
- And in describing the Canadian contributions, Trump called Canada, “slightly delinquent” — a term used to describe bills not paid on time.
- Because of the theatrics kicked off by Justin Trudeau, almost all news coverage in the daily media coverage was missed from this NATO summit.
- The media LOVES a chance to make fun of Donald Trump and the CBC even published a behind the scenes article about how the clip was produced and disseminated to the world.
- It’s not over though, the US continued pushing the issue on Friday.
- Brad Parscale, campaign manager for Trump’s re-election campaign, Tweeted: “Let’s see. @realDonaldTrump is fighting for America and our economy just ADDED 266,000 jobs. @JustinTrudeau was laughing it up in London and the Canadian economy just LOST 71,200 jobs. That’s no joke. Trump wins. Again.”
- Donald Trump Jr made the comparison that our job loss numbers would be equivalent to the US losing 700,000 jobs and said, “Maybe Justin should watch @realDonaldTrump & learn how to create jobs or go back to being a substitute drama teacher. Either way Canada wins!”
- Many love to state that the Trump campaign spouts nothing but fake news, but this is all too real.
- Alberta lost 18,000 in November with the unemployment rate going up 0.5%
- Canada did indeed lose 71,200 jobs in November. The biggest drop since 2009, this brings the unemployment up to 5.9%.
- Compare this to the rosy report during the election campaign that only showed 1,800 jobs lost.
- The total number of jobs lost this year sums up to 285,000.
- The Canadian economy is in crisis but this week shows what the Canadian media would much rather focus on rather than real tangible issues such as defence spending and our economy.
Word of the Week
Delinquent - typically of a young person or that person's behavior, showing or characterized by a tendency to commit crime, particularly minor crime. Also describes someone being overdue for a payment
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Delinquent Spaceship
Teaser: The premiers meeting showcases provincial unity, a provincial plan for new nuclear technology is ignored by the media, and Trudeau’s throne speech says a lot and nothing at all. Also, we detail Trudeau’s delinquent behaviour at the NATO summit.
Recorded Date: December 6, 2019
Release Date: December 8, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes