The News Rundown
- The new NAFTA replacement deal has been signed again.
- The signing occurred in Mexico City with Chrystia Freeland, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
- The new trade deal will be known as CUSMA (Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement) but must be ratified by all 3 countries before taking effect. Mexico has already ratified the agreement.
- The Bill to ratify NAFTA died when parliament was dissolved to make way for the election.
- The US Democrats held up NAFTA this summer and fall, choosing instead to focus on impeachment of the US President.
- The US Democrats brought in additional changes that modify dispute settlement, labour protections primarily for Mexican workers, environmental protection, intellectual property protections, and rules of origin rules for car production.
- With the modifications, 70% of aluminum in cars must come from NAFTA countries and Quebec is the primary aluminum producer within NAFTA.
- 40% of vehicles would also have to originate in places where workers earn at least $16USD/hr. This is important because wages are much cheaper in Mexico.
- Free trade vs. fair trade
- The US gets a deal on prescription drugs. Previously biologic drugs (drugs that are made from living cells) were protected from competition for 10 years.
- The benefit of this deal to both Canada and Mexico is made clear by just how much the US doesn’t rely on its NAFTA trading partners. The new deal will add $68B and generate 176,000 new jobs in the US over the next 6 years. Compare this to the US on its own being an economy worth $22T.
- We’ve long said it was Canada and secondly Mexico but for different reasons that needed this deal.
- Then we get to Trump. This trade deal was one of his signature campaign promises, to re-negotiate or get the US out of NAFTA.
- The US media and Democrats have been engineering the case for impeachment since 10 minutes after Donald Trump took the oath of office back in January 2017.
- Trump’s approval with his party is the highest any President has seen, he is within striking distance or leading Democratic challenges in the key states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
- This deal more than providing certainty for Canada, provides the US President with a win. A win handed to him by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats while they were trying to impeach him.
- Many see Joe Biden as the frontrunner in the US race but Joe Biden was a huge fan of NAFTA back in the day. This provides Trump the biggest bat possible to hit Biden with should he become the nominee.
- The worst part for Biden? Canada likes the deal, Mexico likes the deal, the Democrats now like the deal, and we wouldn’t be in this position without Nancy Pelosi.
- The Canadian media would be wise to remember this given their constant coverage of the US administration, this deal changes the conversation in the US more than anywhere else.
- Did you see that this week? The answer is no.
- It's been about 2 and a half years since the BC NDP took power, and by and large, lots of people seem to be generally happy with the work that's been done by Premier John Horgan. His approval rating remains among the top premiers, and sporadic polls have suggested that the NDP still hold a slim lead over the BC Liberals.
- However, in some parts of the province, not all is rosy. Outside of the Lower Mainland, small communities very much rely on natural resources, which is one of the black marks on Horgan's record as premier. While much of the publicity of the past few years has been on Horgan attempting to stall the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by any means possible, little has been said about the NDP government's covert hostility to our forestry sector.
- Since May of this year, dozens of companies have been curtailing sawmill operations, cutting shifts, or even outright closing hundreds of mills and logging operations in areas that desperately need them to keep their community's economy going.
- On Northern Vancouver Island, where the communities are few and far between, dependence on resources can threaten entire towns if companies stop work.
- A five-month strike at Western Forest Products (WFP) has left companies, contractors and communities on North Vancouver Island caught in the middle of an economic crisis.
- The five-month strike at six Western Forests Product manufacturing plants and timberlands locations involves roughly 3,000 members of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937.
- But the ripple effect in small Island communities that depend on forestry for their economic livelihood has been much larger, as contractors, suppliers, businesses and municipalities outside of the two deadlocked parties suffer as well.
- Tamara Meggitt, who co-runs a Loonies for Loggers group that is soliciting donations, food and Christmas hampers for those affected by the strike, said she estimates 10,000-15,000 people are directly impacted by the strike.
- In the 2,200-person town of Port McNeill, which relies almost entirely on the forestry sector, Mayor Gaby Wickstrom said community groups, churches and families are organizing group dinners and other support services. Premier John Horgan has characterized the dispute as a private-sector matter. But after five months, with communities in crisis, Wickstrom said government can no longer sit on the sidelines: “You can’t tell me they don’t need help and you have to let the process run its course,” she said. “How long? We are resilient and we are going to pick up the pieces, but the longer this drags on the longer it will take to pick up those pieces. It will take us a hell of a long time to get back.”
- Government set up a $69-million forestry aid package in September. But only Interior forest workers are eligible for most of the money. North Island MLA and Transportation Minister Claire Trevena was harshly criticized in a forestry town hall meeting last week for her government’s inaction to help coastal forestry workers during a time of crisis.
- Trevena received an uncomfortable reminder last week of the gulf between the political bubble of the legislature in Victoria and the real world, after she was blasted by forestry workers in her North Island riding during the town hall.
- Trevena held a public meeting in Campbell River, in which more than 50 people gathered to vent their frustration at the inaction of her government to mitigate the forestry crisis. The gathering was many months in the making, she explained, because she’d been busy at the capital doing the work of minister.
- A 30-minute video of the encounter showed the genuine anger, and in some cases desperation, being experienced by mill workers, contractors, employers, truck loggers and striking Western Forest Product employees as they shared stories of losing their livelihoods, families and homes.
- The raw emotion caught Trevena and New Democrats by surprise. The NDP skated through the fall session of the legislature by avoiding the forestry crisis as much as it could. There was no legislation, regulations or significant announcements to help the more than 3,000 people who’ve lost their jobs or had their shifts curtailed before Christmas. And there’s been no intervention to speed a resolution to the five-month Western Forests Product strike.
- Eric Dutcyvich, president and CEO of the Lemare Group in Port McNeill, which is the largest forestry-services provider on the North Island says “It’s absolutely decimated the forestry side of our business. The same can be said for dozens and dozens of dedicated contractors to Western Forests Products.”
- Lemare, which conducts phased contracting, specialty road construction and dryland sorting for WFP, employs 200 members of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937. But Dutcyvich said he’s not allowed to negotiate with them directly. Instead, he’s been forced to watch while the cost to his company has been $47 million in lost wages, goods and services, taxation and stumpage.
- Opposition Liberal critic John Rustad, a former forestry minister, said he’s visited the North Island and heard some of the stories directly.
- “I talked to a car dealer in the previous week or two, he had to repossess 10 vehicles and he said you get all the stories, it so tragic to hear and see what’s happening. One guy came in and begged and pleaded and wanted to keep his vehicle through Christmas, so they ended up doing a deal with the guy, and he gave then a load of firewood so he could keep his vehicle for Christmas.”
- Rustad said he believes the NDP was slow to act because the United Steelworkers — the NDP’s largest donor in the 2017 election campaign — asked the government to stay out of the dispute.
- “This government has made it very clear, and I’ve heard this on numerous occasions, that they’ve got the union’s back and they aren’t going to do anything unless the union wants them do. Who is left advocating for the people caught in this by no fault of their own?”
- The sum total of the NDP’s entire response to the forestry crisis was an effort three months ago in setting up a $69-million forestry aid package to repurpose existing social assistance programs for displaced Interior workers. In many cases, it left out the coastal sector, that offered not a single new dollar of aid during the collapse of an industry that used to be the economic lifeblood of the province.
- Then there’s the NDP forestry policies that the industry has blamed for exasperating the financial crisis, including refusing to intervene on stumpage rates, adding fees onto raw log exports, new penalties if wood waste isn’t brought out of the bush, a coastal revitalization consultation process that’s going nowhere fast, and a new government veto on Crown timber transfers that won’t let companies swap forest licences unless the forests minister personally deems it in the “public interest.”
- In the legislature, it’s easy for the NDP to convince itself it has done enough to help the forest sector. But back in the real world, Trevena, who is one of the few rural NDP MLAs with forestry workers in her riding, was told quite clearly otherwise.
- One person told Trevena at the meeting: “We’ve been talking to the government for over a year, and nobody is listening to us, you are ramming down new forestry policies that are increasing our costs, and making it less economic for us to operate out there. We need forest policy that will help drive costs out of our structure, not drive costs up. That’s what we need.”
- Trevena promised to take their concerns back to Victoria. However, that wasn't good enough for the room. Another worker said “This can’t be news to [the government]. You can’t still be in the information-gathering part of solving this problem.” Another demanded “Is there a plan in place?” Trevena had no answer.
- One man in the room put his finger on the frustration: “For the working man’s party, you haven’t seen a lot of work for them.”
- While Trevena was getting grilled, Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson was announcing a halt to logging on the B.C. side of the Skagit River Valley, just south of Hope, BC. You couldn’t ask for a more representative example of the NDP in 2019 — congratulatory press releases on how it is preventing trees from being logged.
- Another man in the meeting room with Trevena sharpened the point: “I think this room is ready to take matters into its own hands. That’s how far behind we are. Everybody in here that’s had differences of opinions, competed against each other for all these years, is coming together and it’s not going to be to help you out if it takes this long.” Comments like that should give the NDP great pause.
- Party strategists may have convinced themselves that the collapse of the forestry sector won’t hurt the NDP’s re-election chances because it mainly affects people in rural ridings where the NDP has almost no MLAs.
- But as Trevena’s meeting showed, the problem bleeds over into safe ridings like North Island, which has been reliable NDP territory for decades. If the New Democrats lose a riding like that, where do they make it up?
- Bob Dewar, the NDP’s 2017 election campaign guru, tried to warn NDP members of this electoral math when he spoke to the party convention last month and bluntly said “We didn’t win the last election.” Which is true.
- The NDP with its 41 seats is not a majority government. It has to pick up at least four new seats from the Liberals or Greens in the 2021 election to have a hope at a majority. And, more importantly, it has to hold every single riding it currently has, including ones affected by the forestry crisis like North Island.
- The NDP has been coasting along in its belief that it is immune to the forestry crisis, and therefore hasn’t expending an ounce of political capital to fight to help the workers and prop the sector up during its worst crisis in decades.
- But as the confrontation in Trevena’s riding showed, that political calculation may be a mistake the New Democrats will deeply regret.
- Why is Blackfalds making news this week?
- To answer that we need to know where Blackfalds is… North of Red Deer.
- It’s a small town of about 9,000 people.
- A grade 4 teacher at Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus in Blackfalds showed two videos in class about the oil sands.
- One from the government
- One from greenpeace
- An assignment was then given where students were asked how Alberta should manage competing demands of land use for oil development, wind and solar, agriculture, and recreation.
- The assignment prompted a debate on a closed Facebook group amongst parents. The post went off topic and was ultimately shut down due to the fact that threats were made and the RCMP had to get involved.
- The RCMP did end up issuing a ticket under the School Act for disturbing or interrupting the proceedings of a school.
- A second post was made not even 48 hours after the second that was also taken down.
- The school held a social media information session on Tuesday of this week but not before the school’s Christmas Dance was cancelled for fear of parents confronting the teacher.
- The school wrote: “As you are aware, this week we were forced to cancel the annual Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus’ Family School Christmas Dance. Please know that this was not an easy decision, as we know the excitement students and families have for this event, and the value it carries in the school. But through events that unfolded throughout the week, the safety of students and staff at the event became uncertain, forcing us to make that ultimate decision.”
- The school also held a social media information session on December 10th.
- Joe Whitbread, co-founder of Jo(e) Social Media Inc. who hosted the session said that ultimately online it’s due to a “divisive culture” where both sides want to be right, and there’s no compassion or empathy. “It’s a fight, not a debate.”
- We see this all the time. It’s run election campaigns. The Twitter election.
- A school principal sat in on the lesson and said in their opinion the teacher was leading the class properly, presenting both sides of the argument.
- This should be the end of the argument on this but the Globe and Mail paint it as just the UCP aiming to weaponize the class room one way or the other.
- They did this citing the Premier’s idea that the NDP attempted to “smuggle” left-wing politics into education and that education minister Adriana LaGrange promised to “get politics out of the classroom”
- The reality is as follows: 1.) The school could’ve chose a better group than Greenpeace because Greenpeace is known for disruption (getting arrested, scaling buildings, etc.) 2.) This is a social media squabble, once again proving how the mainstream media in this country can be lead. 3.) Parents have every right to know what is being taught, have opinions about it, and ensure that it doesn’t encroach on what is the primary economic driver of our province.
- One final note: The Canadian Energy Centre launched this week. This is the energy war room promise from the campaign to counter bad media, foreign attacks, and the anti-energy lobby. Their website can be found at canadianenergycentre.ca. They have a collection of articles about how Canadian energy is extracted, how we can fight climate change with Canadian energy, and a slick ad showing what reclamation and conservation looks like in the energy sector.
- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is resigning as leader, but he says he will stay on as leader until his replacement is chosen and continue to serve as MP for Regina—Qu’Appelle.
- According to Mercedes Stephenson of Global News, his resignation comes as a direct result of new revelations that he was using Conservative Party money to pay for his children’s private schooling, according to Conservative sources who spoke with Global News.
- On Twitter, Stephenson says members of the Conservative Fund say the expenditures were made without the knowledge or approval. Just today as of recording, Stephenson put out tweet saying "Executive Director of the Conservative Party Dustin Van Vugt has been fired in the wake of the Scheer private school expense controversy and the party has launched an internal review with an auditor". Minutes later, she replied with "Senior Conservative source just called me denying Van Vugt has been fired. Source says as of three minutes ago Van Vugt had not been resigned or terminated. Says Conservative Fund/Party doesn't have the power to fire Van Vugt." She then followed up with "Welcome to the Conservative civil war".
- This is the problem with social media and journalism. Context is lost, people are guilty before innocent, and fake news can spread so quickly. Right now there's so many theories out there as to why Scheer resigned that it's hard to tell exactly why.
- Officially, Andrew Scheer says he is stepping away from being leader of the party to spend more time with his wife and 5 kids, and says the strains of the election campaign were unbearably hard on the family.
- Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun, who had a sit down chat with Scheer after the election believes that to be the case as well: "I had dropped by Scheer’s office for an informal meeting while I was visiting Ottawa. The man I had first met 15 years earlier as a young, 25 year-old, newly elected MP had changed a great deal and what I sensed as he uttered those words told me more than the words themselves. Exasperation, frustration, longing — so many emotions wrapped up in one sentence."
- "We had spent the last half-hour being brutally honest with each other about the election campaign and his party’s performance. He heard my brutal assessment, I heard his frustrations. He told me he wanted to stay on as Conservative leader and would be mounting a campaign to keep his job, but the emotion wasn’t there. When I told him that I didn’t see the fire in his belly to keep the job, he didn’t argue with me. I’ve heard plenty of politicians say they are stepping down from any given job for family reasons and I’ve believed few of them. But I believe Andrew Scheer."
- He made the decision even though he had been informed that a poll of party members had shown he would easily win the leadership review. He also made the decision even after hiring former Harper-era director of communications William Stairs to act as Chief of Staff and lead the effort to win the leadership review.
- It really did come down to Scheer deciding whether to be a part-time leader or a part-time dad. Some media outlets have tried to claim there was a scandal over the Conservative Party paying for part of the tuition for his kids to attend a private Catholic school in Ottawa. Several party officials, including some not keen on Scheer, dismissed that story.
- There was no scandal because the party had agreed to pay the difference between what the Scheer family was paying in Regina versus what they were paying in Ottawa where the family moved after he won the leadership.
- In a public statement announcing his decision to resign as leader, Scheer did not address the concerns raised by those party sources to Global News. His office says the suggestion that his resignation is linked to the issue of private school reimbursement is false.
- Scheer urged members to stay focused and vowed whoever wins the leadership contest will have his full support: “My only ask to my fellow Conservatives is this: let’s stay united.”
- Tory MPs unanimously agreed to support Scheer as interim leader at an emergency caucus meeting on Thursday, Conservative caucus chair Tom Kmiec told reporters. Asked about the school tuition issue, Kmiec said, “That’s not what we talked about today.”
- He later said Scheer “did address some of the articles that have come out” but added that the main issue discussed was the party’s constitution and making sure MPs “do right” by the membership.
- Trudeau and other party leaders offered brief remarks following Scheer’s resignation announcement: “I know thoughts first and foremost are for family. I want to salute Jill [Scheer] and recognize his kids, who I know better than most, have made significant sacrifices to see their father take on a leadership position. I very much wish him all the very, very best in his next and exciting steps, whatever they may be, be they here in the house or beyond. I want to thank him deeply for his service to Canada on behalf of all Canadians.”
- As for claims that Scheer resigned over the contents of the election review being conducted by former cabinet minister John Baird, that report has yet to be written never mind filed with the party. Baird says that his review process continues: "Some media reports this morning have falsely indicated that I have submitted my review of the 2019 campaign. My work in speaking with Conservatives continues, including this week. I look forward to writing and then submitting my report when it is complete. I hope it will inform our Party’s next campaign and provide advice to whomever the #CPC membership select as leader."
- Scheer is leaving his post as leader on his own terms, despite the claims and efforts of his many high-profile detractors. While he may not have won the big prize, he served his party well, he improved their standing in seats and in fundraising, and he leaves with a record to be proud of. Now that he has made his decision, it is time for both Scheer and his party to move on.
- And now the question turns to who will run for leader. Jason Kenney wants Rona Ambrose to run. Ambrose was a former cabinet minister under Stephen Harper and former interim leader just before Scheer was elected.
- 3rd place runner up in the 2017 race Erin O'Toole has publicly stated his intention to run for leader again.
- Candidates could also include former PC leader Peter Mackay, Quebec MP Gérard Deltell, Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre, and Calgary MP Michelle Rempel. But really, no one knows yet for sure. We'll have more information on this story going forward.
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Fog of war - the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Scheer Departure
Teaser: Canada signs the new NAFTA deal, a 5 month forestry strike leaves BC communities in limbo, and a Greenpeace video shown in an Alberta class sparks a social media firestorm. Also, Andrew Scheer’s resignation as leader prompts crazy theories from the media.
Recorded Date: December 13, 2019
Release Date: December 15, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes