The News Rundown
- If you're from British Columbia and you liked how 2019 went, that's good. If you didn't, then bad news for you, because this year is starting off much the same as last year did.
- Coming off the winter break last year, the very first news story we covered for BC in 2019 was about an anti-natural gas pipeline protest and subsequent standoff, where members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation reached a deal with the RCMP to let construction crews reach the site of a planned natural-gas pipeline in northern B.C., after days of tension on a rural road where RCMP Mounties arrested 14 anti-pipeline demonstrators.
- The planned Coastal GasLink pipeline runs through traditional Wet’suwet’en territory, but while the nation’s elected band councils have approved it, hereditary chiefs of the five Wet’suwet’en clans have not. The protester arrests were made to enforce an injunction made earlier in Dec 2018 ordering the checkpoints, which were backed by the hereditary chiefs, to allow access.
- The problem with this is that though First Nations largely accept the hereditary chiefs, leaders passed down from ancestors through bloodlines, the government does not, and instead refers to the elected band councils. This can lead to a clash of opinions when the elected council approves a decision but the hereditary chiefs do not, and can lead to a split in the clan. This is what happened with the Wet'suwet'en, and why the 2019 blockade happened, despite pipeline approval. The hereditary chiefs and their supporters are opposed to the pipeline, saying it could damage the watershed and wildlife, whereas the elected band council and its supporters approved the pipeline, saying it will bring much needed investment and jobs into the community, along with improved housing and a better quality of life.
- Despite what the media would have us think, most First Nations living near the LNG pipeline route support the project. At least 20 First Nations from Fort St. John to Kitimat have signed agreements with LNG Canada. In general, the agreements signed with the First Nations near the pipeline are worth millions of dollars, including $620 million in conditional contracting and employment opportunities, and another $400 million in contracting opportunities for local and Indigenous business.
- At this time last year, there were social media campaigns organized by anti-resource environmental groups, who also organized anti-pipeline protests across the province. However, what these groups don't realize is that BC has an opportunity with this pipeline to not only expand our economy and give benefits to rural First Nations groups that badly need it, but actually export LNG to countries that primarily use coal, which is a much cleaner burning energy source than coal, therefore actually reducing foreign CO2 emissions.
- Because these groups are against any kind of resource development, they latch onto whatever situation they can to push their agenda, even if it's actually detrimental to their cause. And the media publicizing the blockade without describing the whole issue just added fuel to the fire.
- Now let's fast forward to now, a full year later. Coastal Gaslink went back to the table with First Nations, got approval again from both the BC and federal governments and got to work. Much of the area near Kitimat, the terminus of the pipeline on the coast of BC, has been cleared. Much of the route from the start of the pipeline has been cleared. First Nations all up and down the pipeline route approve it. Even the Wet'suwet'en's own band council approves the pipeline, but the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en are causing problems.
- Over the weekend, that same breakaway group of hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs that oppose the natural gas pipeline asked the RCMP to “refrain from interference” in the dispute over the project that will link gas fields near Dawson Creek to the $40-billion LNG Canada export project in the coastal community of Kitimat.
- Coastal GasLink said Monday that trees had been felled along the forestry access road leading to a pipeline work camp in contravention of the order, but the company said it didn’t know who cut the trees. Asked how access had been restricted, the company provided aerial photos that were taken Monday showing dozens of trees along the road in the contested area.
- The RCMP opened a criminal investigation after discovering “traps” and gasoline-soaked rags in the blockade.
- RCMP officers on patrol this week along the pipeline blockade found three stacks of tires covered by tarps and trees and were staged along with multiple jugs of gasoline, diesel, oil and kindling as well as “bags full of fuel-soaked rags.”
- In a release late Wednesday, the police said they had found the tires and fire-starting equipment on the Morice West Forest Service Road, which leads into a Coastal GasLink pipeline work camp. Dozens of trees had also been felled along the road and other trees were partially cut, in preparation for felling, which the RCMP said created a dangerous hazard.
- In a press conference Tuesday, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’moks said there will be no access to the First Nation territories without consent from the hereditary chiefs, demanding that the province stop construction of the pipeline and that the RCMP withdraw from their lands.
- The hereditary chiefs said they were acting in accordance with their laws on behalf of the five clans of the Wet’suwet’en nation.
- “The province has proclaimed they will implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which includes free, prior and informed consent, but has failed to intervene in this issue,” the chiefs said in a statement.
- Suzanne Wilton, a spokesperson for Calgary-based TC Energy, said the company is in the process of remobilizing 1,000 workers along the pipeline route through British Columbia, where preparatory work is underway and work camps are under construction. At this rate, the company plans to put pipes, which are being delivered along the pipeline route, in the ground this summer.
- Wilton confirmed the company’s security guards have abided by the eviction order and have left the area near Houston, B.C. The company will not send workers to the area at this time.
- In a release, Coastal GasLink has said, “We believe that dialogue is preferable to confrontation and will delay re-mobilization near (the workforce camp) while engagement and a negotiated resolution remain possible. Based on Chief Namox’s public comments, we anticipate a positive response to our meeting request and hope that a meeting can be set up quickly to resolve the issues at hand,” the company said in a release published Tuesday.
- Coastal Gaslink had posted an injunction order stamped by the BC Supreme court on Tuesday giving opponents 72-hours to clear the way toward its work site in northern British Columbia. As of recording, we are at the end of that time period.
- On Tuesday, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, UBCIC, issued a statement that said the group “fully supports the efforts of Indigenous Nations to ensure that their inherent Title and Rights and unconditionally recognized and upheld.”
- The group called on people who support the opposed Wet’suwet’en chiefs to join protests planned around the country this week, from Montreal to Vancouver Island between now and Sunday. Reuters reported that protesters against the Coastal GasLink project blocked a major road in the business district of Toronto.
- UBCIC has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. On Tuesday, a U.N. committee working to end racism asked Canada to stop work on some $25 billion in resource projects, including the Site C hydroelectric dam, Coastal GasLink pipeline and potentially $10-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion until it obtains approval from affected First Nations.
- The committee of 18 experts said in a written directive last month that it is concerned by the approval and construction of the three projects without the free, prior and informed consent of impacted Indigenous groups.
- This led to a scathing response from the Alberta government. Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a release: “We wish that the U.N. would pay as much attention to the majority of First Nation groups that support important projects such as Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink. First Nations leaders increasingly recognized that responsible natural resource development can serve as a path from poverty to prosperity for their people. Yet this U.N. body seemingly ignores these voices.”
- Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan has remained silent in all of this. Just a few months ago he was proud to be the first government in Canada to recognize UNDRIP. Back then, I noted that this would cause problems for pipeline approval in BC. It appears that it certainly has.
- January 1 marks the date in which the carbon tax returned to Alberta, mandated by the federal government.
- The UCP has joined other provinces such as Ontario and Saskatchewan amongst others in a court battle against the tax.
- A news story posted by Sarah Rieger (who was often one of the provincial NDP defenders during last years campaign) ran with the headline “Alberta gets a new carbon tax Jan. 1 — but that could be good news for your wallet.”
- The sub-headline reads: A family of four will get $888 back
- Trudeau’s carbon tax starts at $20/tonne, increases to $30/tonne in April, and to $50/tonne by 2022.
- The effects are immediate in that gas rose by 4.4c per litre and natural gas by $1.05/gigajoule.
- The rebates are bigger than what was offered by the former government and do not change based on income level.
- As calculated by University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, 90% of families with incomes of $90,000 or less will have a rebate larger than their carbon tax.
- The numbers breakdown as follows:
- Single adult or first adult in a couple - $444.
- Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent - $222.
- Each child under 18 - $111.
- Baseline amount for a family of four - $888.
- There’s one catch though, these rebates come in the form of income tax credits. Which means that if for some case you need to pay Revenue Canada rather than receiving a tax refund, you won’t see a carbon tax rebate.
- At the end of the day prices go up. Prices go up for the consumer, prices go up for businesses, and prices go up for freight. No one sees more money in their pocket.
- You will only see more money in your pocket if you are slated to receive a substantial enough refund on your income taxes at the end of the year.
- But the idea that it is good news is very conditional to the point of almost making this story fake news and at the very least misleading.
- After concluding a very short fall term of parliament, where there were just 7 sitting days of the House of Commons after the October election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau elected to go on vacation in Costa Rica for over two weeks over Christmas. During that time, he was apparently photographed by a local Costa Rican in a grocery store lineup with a haggard and hangover-worthy appearance, complete with a scraggly beard. Apparently, having his majority government reduced to a minority in October called for some pretty hard partying.
- After Trudeau came back to Ottawa, his official photographer Adam Scotti unveiled Trudeau’s new look in a social media post on Monday afternoon. The photo shows a newly-bearded Trudeau with his fingers tented in front of his lips as he gazes thoughtfully into the distance.
- Much has been made, both by supporters and critics, of Trudeau's appearance since his election in 2015. But one thing is undeniable is that his fashion choices are deliberately planned to invoke a positive response.
- Trudeau has spent the last four-plus years presenting a carefully-tailored image to the public. Everything from his jogging “photo bombs” to his Halloween costumes to his novelty socks appears to be planned, so it’s not a stretch to suspect some deeper motive behind his choice to grow a beard.
- Style consultant Ian Capstick, who has worked with the Liberals and New Democrats in the past, once said that every move Trudeau makes is done with an eye to cultivating his image as prime minister.
- “There is not a single action that he took publicly [over the years] that wasn’t considered [and] reconsidered,” Capstick told The Guardian in an election profile about Trudeau last summer.
- Leah Morrigan, a Toronto-based image consultant for men, says Trudeau is “on trend” with his new beard and she says “I think it gives him an air of maturity and experience. He’s allowing the grey to come out to say, ‘I’m not just the young pretty boy anymore. Now I have the experience.”
- Some on Twitter complained that Trudeau’s appearance is once again a topic for conversation, but many in the media ran with positive articles.
- Trudeau appears to be the first sitting Canadian PM to sport a beard in over 100 years, since Mackenzie Bowell, who served from 1894 to 1896, although past prime ministers — including his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau — have had beards at other points in their lives.
- Justin Trudeau himself has had a variety of facial hairstyles over the years, including the “musketeer” look he wore as an MP in 2011. Critics mentioned at the time that he looked like either a pirate or a drug lord.
- It's not clear whether the beard is here to stay, at least for a while, or just the temporary result of not bothering to shave while on vacation — the Prime Minister's Office offered no immediate comment on the matter.
- It's noticeable enough that even the foreign media is commenting on it. A BBC article says that facial hair is a look rare enough in modern politics that people take notice when a political leader decides to grow a beard.
- In the US, beards have been perceived as a political turn-off for voters for decades and the refuge of the defeated candidate. Former US presidential candidate Al Gore made headlines after he re-emerged in 2001 from his bitter election defeat with a full beard. Dubbed an "exile beard", it was subject to intense analysis.
- When former US House Speaker Paul Ryan unveiled fresh stubble on Instagram in 2015, he noted that he was the first speaker to have a beard in almost 100 years, and his decision to abandon his clean-shaven look caused a stir.
- And US Republican US Senator Ted Cruz's beard, which made its first appearance in 2018, fascinated the internet for weeks.
- The outgoing UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the first bearded man to head a British political party since 1908.
- In Canada, the last three leaders of the country's left-leaning federal New Democrats, have had facial hair, including current leader Jagmeet Singh, an observant Sikh who wears both a turban and a beard as part of his faith.
- What do all of these people have in common? None of them have become head of government. Trudeau may be growing the beard so he appears to be more experienced, but tradition has shown that the beard is a sign of a politician who only has experience with losing.
- After New years for a few days, Trudeau's beard was all that the media was talking about. Even with the Iran story, they're still talking about it. Even after 4 and a half years, the media will do anything to avoid real news, and instead talk about Trudeau's nice hair, though, should we really be surprised at this point?
- On January 3rd the United States issued orders for an airstrike which killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani.
- Since then Iran has struck back at the US and it appears as though Iran has shot down a passenger jet bound for Ukraine with 57 Canadians on board.
- We’ll address all of this in due time here but first as we do on the podcast, we need to examine the history of Iran to provide context on what has happened here.
- Back in 1953 the CIA backed up by British special forces supported a coup in Iran to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister.
- The idea being that the Shah would gain more power and Iran would become more friendly to the west.
- For all intents and purposes and due to time constraints, we need to know that due to British interference in the early 1900s, a weak Shah meant a stronger democratically elected government, but the reverse was also true.
- In 1979 the Islamic revolution came where the Shah was overthrown by protests in the street, leading to his exile and the ultimate conversion of the country to an Islamic republic on April 1, 1979 by vote of referendum.
- November 1979 also saw the beginning of the Iranian hostage crisis where 52 American diplomats and civilians were held hostage until the day Ronald Reagan became President of the United States.
- The revolution converted Iran from an authoritarian monarchy friendly to the west to a theocratic republic whose ideas were hostile to the US.
- Soleimani was commander of the Quds Force which is a unit in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that has been deemed a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.
- He was killed after the K-1 Air Base in Iraq was attacked on December 27th by Iranian backed militants of Hezbollah, another deemed terrorist group, one American contractor was killed.
- As a result of this the US struck back targeting sites across Iraq and Syria killing 25 Hezbollah militiamen. In retaliation the US Embassy was attacked in Baghdad by their supporters.
- On January 3rd the US attacked near the Baghdad airport killing Qasm Soleimani to disrupt an “imminent attack” as the US Pentagon called it but the Pentagon also evaluated that Soleimani was the leader of the attacks on US bases in Iraq.
- Following this almost all media outlets across the world blamed the US for escalation and said that we would be at war with Iran in days.
- In Edmonton supporters of the deceased general rallied at the Alberta legislature, about 50 people, with a variety of messages from “hands off Iran” to general pro peace messages.
- Masoud Shadnam who organized the rally said, “We are organizing this because of this terrorist attack on our military general… He’s widely known in the region … as someone who has actually defeated ISIS, saving millions of people. The United States by assassinating this person … have done a grave mistake. They have done no service to the people of the Middle East.”
- This is coming from a person who enjoys a peaceful, stable life, in one of the best countries in the world, standing up for what can only be described as a deceased terrorist leader who killed many in Iraq and Syria and to top it all off is a professor at MacEwan University.
- Fast forward to Wednesday and Iran struck back in what could only be described as a symbolic gesture as only a few missiles of the 22 fired hit and casualties were low when they could’ve been higher.
- It turns out that also around this time a Boeing 737 went down as it was departing the airport in Tehran. It was a Ukranian flight headed to Kiev Ukraine consisting of 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians amongst others.
- At first it was thought that it could’ve been mechanical failure but intelligence, satellite data, and video clearly shows today that it was a missile that brought down the plane.
- As of recording time Iran has cleaned up the mess and it remains to be seen how the investigation will unfold.
- But after this, the most alarming thing ever carried out by the media in Canada happened.
- People are allowed to protest the killing of the general, people are allowed to protest war, and until the downing of the plane the media was already spinning.
- As John Robson in the National Post wrote, “Why isn’t the headline ‘Trump kills terrorist, escapes quagmire’?” because the Iraqis passed a non binding piece of legislation that would’ve effectively pushed the US out of Iraq. The US won’t go but for how long has the media been wanting the US out of Iraq? Since 2003.
- That aside, the media tried to pin the downing of a passenger jet on the US President.
- CBC’s Katie Simpson said, “there are 63 Canadians dead because of the unintended consequences of a decision by the US President and that’s going to be a big question.”
- Journalists also grilled Justin Trudeau asking “How much responsibility does the US bear for this tragedy?” and “Do you think that the US is partly responsible for this tragedy?”
- Trudeau answered that “I think it is too soon to be drawing conclusions of assigning responsibility, whatever proportions. Right now, our focus is on supporting the families who are grieving across the country and provide what answers we can in a preliminary way, and recognizing that there is going to need to be a full and credible investigation into what exactly happened before we draw conclusions.”
- As two of the best allies in the world, Justin Trudeau should have ruled this out immediately.
- What’s worse though is that there was a consistent spin across the media painting this as an American caused problem.
- Without the context of Iran’s leadership structure and context of the events leading to the drone strike and subsequent retaliation, it is impossible to have an accurate picture of what happened. If the media had provided this we would have to have a different conversation regarding Iran but the media has fallen back to their favourite mode, attack Donald Trump with whatever news story exists.
Word of the Week
Crash - a violent collision, typically of one vehicle with another or with an obstacle.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Beards and Blockades
Teaser: The BC Coastal Gaslink pipeline undergoes more disruptions, the federal carbon tax will not save Albertans money, and Trudeau’s facial hair dominates the media. Also, we discuss the tragedy of UIA Flight 752, and the leadup to the deadly aviation disaster.
Recorded Date: January 10, 2019
Release Date: January 12, 2019
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes