The News Rundown
- With this particular BC story I feel I've talked about it almost every week since the beginning of the year. However, from those small beginnings it has now turned into a national crisis threatening the Canadian economy, the rule of law, and the jurisdiction of our courts and police forces.
- I am of course, talking about Coastal Gaslink's LNG pipeline construction in northern BC, and how it is being blockaded by a small subset of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation led by several Wet'suwet'en hereditary leaders, and how the protest has been taken over by other outside interests in many major cities in Canada. This hijacking of a minority of the Wet'suwet'en nation's cause has led to protests and blockades of Canadian infrastructure around the country. But before we get to that, we have to first examine the impact on BC, and how it has led us to this point.
- Protests surrounding the Wet'suwet'en pipeline blockade have sprung up all over BC, most notably in Victoria, the province's capital. After last week's episode where I detailed the RCMP enforcing the court ordered injunction against members of the Wet'suwet'en Nation blocking access to the pipeline project, even more protests ostensibly in support of the Wet'suwet'en have sprung up.
- For days, protests and blockades have sprung up on various roads and bridges in Vancouver, and roads into the Vancouver port were blocked.
- One organizer said the protests are also meant to send a message to the government: “We recognize the importance of disrupting capital, disrupting money and goods that come out of the city of Vancouver, that are coming from up north or going up north or that are being sent around the world,” said Vancouver protest organizer Natalie Knight.
- And that's the thing that these blockades and protests are accomplishing, their goal is to disrupt ordinary Canadians from getting to their jobs, and to grind the Canadian economy to a standstill.
- An injunction was served to demonstrators on Sunday — the fifth day of their demonstration. It ordered the protesters off Vancouver Fraser Port Authority land so operations could resume.
- Police flooded the area early Monday morning when the protesters did not comply and began making arrests and removing barricades from the port. More than 60 protesters were arrested, according to Vancouver police. The streets have since reopened to traffic and debris has been removed. It’s unclear if the demonstrations at the port will resume but it's likely that it won't, given that another demonstration was launched in East Vancouver Monday evening to block a rail line that feeds directly into the port. Knight said about 150 people were gathered there.
- In Victoria, entrances to the BC Legislature were blockaded for 6 days, before protestors decided to leave yesterday before VicPD would arrest them.
- B.C. Premier John Horgan cancelled a news conference planned for Tuesday afternoon, following his government's speech from the throne, because of demonstrations outside the legislature.
- Dozens of people supporting hereditary leaders of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in their fight against a natural gas pipeline blocked all entrances and exits to the legislature in Victoria, disrupting the start of the spring session hours before it even began.
- Victoria councillors Ben Isitt and Sharmarke Dubow were seen at the Wet’suwet’en supporter protest at the B.C. legislature, and we'll get to Isitt and Dubow a bit later.
- Early Tuesday, demonstrators stopped MLAs, staffers and reporters at every ground-level entrance and exit to the building, chanting and shouting "shame" as they tried to enter. Horgan called the targeting of legislature workers and staffers as "unacceptable" because they were seen as symbols of government: “Peaceful demonstration is fundamental to our success as a democracy,” he said. “But to have a group of people say to others you are illegitimate, you are not allowed in here, you are somehow a sellout to the values of Canadians is just plain wrong, and I want to underline that.”
- One reporter ultimately climbed the side of the stone steps to get indoors; other workers already inside were asked to stay put due to security concerns. The formal marble halls were filled with the smell of smoke drifting from a covered fire outside. After several hours, Victoria police warned they would make arrests if people continued to be blocked from entering the buildings.
- Horgan said during Wednesday’s news conference anti-pipeline demonstrators who prevented people from entering the legislature for his government’s throne speech on Tuesday need to respect the rights of others.
- Victoria police said Tuesday evening they were investigating reports of B.C. legislature staff and others being assaulted during the Wet’suwet’en protest. Victoria councillor Ben Isitt, who is famous for wanting to bill the military for Remembrance day, to cancel Christmas decorations, stop Canada Day fireworks, and lately, refused to vote for a motion ending Victoria council's catered lunches on the grounds that "breaking bread together is an indigenous tradition", took to Twitter to slam VicPD.
- Isitt said "I was there all day observing interactions between the public and legislative officials. This allegation is #hogwash designed to discredit Indigenous youth and their supporters. VicPD’s mandate is to ensure public safety, not spread #fakenews."
- Victoria police chief Del Manak then responded on Twitter, calling Isitt’s comments “off base and disrespectful.”
- “We are asking victims (and witnesses) to step forward if they were assaulted during the process. Our mandate is public safety. Please let us do our job,” Manak wrote.
- Isitt, however, wrote that he stood by his comments, saying they respond to a “‘mission creep'” with VicPD management, engaging in a PR campaign against peaceful demonstrators, city councillors and others advocating for change. These kind of political communications are outside of VicPD’s mandate,”
- Isitt wrote a Medium post about history being on the side of people standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in B.C. opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. He wrote that “institutions tied to colonialism, capitalism and vested interests are scrambling to defend the status quo.”
- “Here in Lekwungen territory today, the corporate media is frantically spinning the non-violent blockade of the legislature as some kind of ‘violent protest,’ a predictable frame that has accompanied nearly every protest of any significance since at least the 1950s. Similar false narratives are being propagated by mouthpieces of the oil bosses across Turtle Island in response to local manifestations of the social movement,” Isitt wrote.
- It's clear that there is no love lost between BC's NDP Premier John Horgan, and Victoria's most radical leftist city councillor Ben Isitt. During his news conference on Wednesday, Horgan said that “My thoughts on that individual are not printable. I will say I spoke with Mayor Helps today and assured her that I do not view the city council in Victoria as a mirror image of Mr. Isitt. He will carry on living his life the way he does and will have to reckon with that as time goes by.”
- Horgan said he is going to focus on the positive and he gives “full marks” to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps for making it clear that she and her council do not support the view of Isitt regarding the protests.
- Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said on Tuesday she hopes that the province doesn’t see the actions of individual councillors as reflecting on the council or the city as a whole.
- “Councillors are free to do what they want in their spare time but the relationship with the province to me is really important and so hopefully the individual councillors actions aren’t seen to reflect on council as a whole,” Helps said.
- It was a scene far from the usual pomp and ceremony on the day of the throne speech. It took until late in the afternoon, before the demonstration began to dissipate. Horgan's government will table the budget this upcoming week, and we will see if it gets overshadowed much like the throne speech has. Some social media posts have indicated there may be more demonstrations this week in the Victoria area, and this story is far from being over.
- Speaking to a crowd one week ago in Washington DC, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said, “Over the next decades as we go through the energy transition, we all know that there will be a continued demand for crude. It is preferable that the last barrel in that transition period comes from a stable, reliable liberal democracy with among the highest environmental, human-rights and labour standards on earth.”
- Energy transition.
- Last barrel.
- Transition period.
- The Premier admitted that over time our reliance on oil based energy will wane.
- “There is no reasonable person that can deny that in the decades to come we will see a gradual shift from hydrocarbon-based energy to other forms of energy.”
- A national election was just fought where the Conservatives were branded as deniers of climate change due to their climate policy.
- Media narrative not reality.
- A change in tone for the UCP. Energy war room, scrap the carbon tax, and all in all a central focus on the oil industry.
- Why the change in tone?
- There is a federal cabinet level decision looming on the Teck Resources oil sands mine in northern Alberta.
- This is a project that would vastly expand the oil sands mining area and produce roughly 260,000 new barrels of oil per day.
- The project has received regulatory approval and Teck has agreements with 14 Alberta First Nations and Metis communities as part of the project.
- The project would be estimated to produce 4 million tonnes of carbon per year, fitting well within the provinces legislated 100 megaton cap.
- Teck has also announced that their operations will be carbon neutral by 2050.
- It has been speculated that the federal government wants the oil industry in Alberta to be carbon neutral as a whole by 2050.
- Premier Jason Kenney penned a letter to Justin Trudeau data February 5th highlighting the importance of the Teck Frontier project not only for Alberta but the economy as a whole.
- In the letter the Premier wrote, “Given the level of economic benefits, Teck’s environmental commitments and broad Indigenous support for Frontier, if this project is not approved it would send a chilling signal.”
- That chilling signal being of course to the foreign investment market looking to put money into Alberta and Canada.
- And as we talked about last week, Canada needs to compete on the world stage economically if we are to find success against a surging US economy.
- Sentiment polls have shown continuously that Albertans have little faith in the federal government to do the right thing and notions of separatism are on the rise.
- Nationally, since the election, the landscape has remained deadlocked with the Conservatives and Liberals swapping positions back and forth, even with Andrew Scheer remaining as leader.
- The election had no impact except to further push the buttons of the west.
- Now back to Kenney’s statement: it’s important because it’s the truth.
- Conservative politicians in Canada, in particular those like Kenney and Scheer both base their policy on what is happening in the economy.
- Many called the former Harper government purely ideological but following the 2008 recession we saw that government run the largest stimulus program in Canadian history, a Conservative government.
- This stance of letting economic need drive policy found success and this is what Kenney is doing.
- The economy is going in the direction where green technology is becoming a larger sector, the UCP and federal Conservatives want Canada to lead on that front.
- This has been the same since 2008 and it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that Kenney feels this way about Alberta.
- It is the natural climate stance of both the UCP in Alberta and the federal Conservative party. It’s just a shame no one orated this during the federal campaign.
- Our first story talked about the Wet'suwet'en in a BC context, now let's look at what the protests have had on a national impact.
- The protests have not just been limited to BC, they have also been happening around the country, from Calgary, to Toronto, to Halifax.
- CN Rail and Via Rail are shutting down huge sections of their railway networks as Indigenous blockades continue to cripple the country's transportation systems.
- Via Rail is temporarily ending most passenger services nationwide, expanding an earlier work stoppage that restricted train cancellations to the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor.
- "Via Rail has no other option but to cancel all of its services on the network, with the exception of Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway), until further notice," the rail operator said in a media statement. The company said it would automatically process full refunds for all cancelled trips. "We understand the impact this unfortunate situation has on our passengers and regret the significant inconvenience this is causing to their travel."
- CN Rail, the country's largest railway, is "initiating a progressive and orderly shutdown of its Eastern Canadian network" because Tyendinaga Mohawk protesters near Belleville, Ont. have so far refused to dismantle their blockade. The railway operator said the shutdown, which will affect the entire network east of Toronto, may result in temporary layoffs of CN workers. Teamsters Canada, the union which represents over 16,000 workers in the rail industry, said Friday the shutdown could lead to roughly 6,000 layoffs.
- J.J. Ruest, the president and CEO of CN, said in a media statement "With over 400 trains cancelled during the last week and new protests that emerged at strategic locations on our mainline, we have decided that a progressive shutdown of our Eastern Canadian operations is the responsible approach to take for the safety of our employees and the protestors. This situation is regrettable...these protests are unrelated to CN's activities and beyond our control. Our shutdown will be progressive and methodical to ensure that we are well set up for recovery, which will come when the illegal blockades end completely."
- A prolonged shutdown could have devastating consequences for the country's economy. CN moves more than $250 billion a year in goods across its transcontinental network.
- The shutdown threatens the transport of food and consumer items, grain, de-icing fluid for airports, construction materials, propane supplies for Quebec and Atlantic Canada, and natural resources like lumber, aluminum and coal, the railway said.
- The Canadian Chamber of Commerce urged the federal and provincial governments and the police to immediately end the transport chaos and help CN restore rail service.
- "From propane to grain and food and consumer items, Canada's supply chains are being severely damaged by the continuing interruptions to Canada's rail services by protestors," the organization said in a statement.
- "The rail system affects the entire Canadian economy and Canadians everywhere, including people trying to get to and from work. They must be allowed to continue to serve the thousands of businesses that depend on them."
- Last weekend, CN Rail obtained a court injunction to end the illegal Mohawk demonstration. The injunction has been ignored by the protesters. Activists also ignored a request from the on-reserve Tyendinaga Police for them to voluntarily dismantle the blockade. The injunction forbids any continued interference with the rail line under the threat of arrest. The Ontario Provincial Police has not yet enforced the injunction.
- The federal government, which has jurisdictional authority over railways, has so far refused to intervene. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has agreed to meet with the Mohawks on Saturday.
- Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he plans to meet with his provincial and territorial counterparts Friday, adding he is in contact with CN and CP. In a statement Thursday, Garneau said "freedom of expression" is an important democratic right, but added, "these activities must respect the court decisions and the law."
- Pipeline protesters also linked arms to physically block Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland from entering a meeting at Halifax City Hall.
- Freeland planned to meet with Halifax Mayor Mike Savage on Wednesday, but a group of protesters standing in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia blocked the front door of the building. “No thank you, no thank you,” a protester told Freeland, adding that she may need to call the police to remove the group. “This will not happen. This meeting is not happening.” Freeland was eventually able to get into the building and attend the meeting.
- A separate rail blockade on CN tracks near New Hazelton, B.C. was set to end today after Gitxsan hereditary chiefs agreed to end protests designed to show solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en.
- Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett and her provincial counterpart will hold talks with both the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs in the coming days.
- Bob Masterson, president and CEO of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada, said the rail shutdown could be hugely problematic.
- "It's a critical situation. It's an extremely dire situation for the economy and, in the coming days, for communities across the country," He said 80 per cent of his industry's products, such as jet fuel for planes and chlorine for drinking water, are shipped by rail.
- Masterson said the provincial police need to enforce the court-ordered injunction and clear out the Mohawk protesters.
- "Everyone has the right to protest ... but the courts have said, 'You've gone too far, it's no longer in the public interest," he said. "The actions are illegal, this is trespassing. What happened to the rule of law in Canada?"
- The CN and Via Rail shutdown massively harms our economy, and our transportation infrastructure. With Trudeau's cabinet ministers scrambling to do damage control, one question remains on everyone's mind: Where is our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?"
- Where has Justin Trudeau been while Canada’s economy has been grinding to a halt?
- Justin Trudeau has been on a 9 day trip across Africa and Europe with stops in nations such as Ethiopia, Kuwait, Senegal, and Germany. He has been campaigning for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
- The UN has 5 permanent security council members but from time to time, other seats come up for election.
- Ireland and Norway are also looking for seats on the security council as two seats are available to Western European countries plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel.
- Following Trudeau’s India trip in 2018 we always keep our eyes peeled when Trudeau is in a foreign country. From dressing up in India to inviting a convicted felon on that same trip, there’s always going to be going questions going forward about what Trudeau will dress up as or what he’ll say or do.
- Thankfully this trip, given the nature of the countries he’s visited and his revealed black face episodes, Trudeau did not dress up.
- While meeting with the Iranian foreign minister in Germany Trudeau bowed and smiled as though there were no tensions with Iran. But of course, remember that very early this year, Ukraine Air 752 was shot down by an Iranian military regiment while taking off from Iran.
- Yes, the diplomatic channels need to remain open during this tough time for the families of those involved and Iranian Canadians, but bowing is perhaps a step too far.
- But something a bit more egregious happened in Senegal, perhaps Trudeau thought the media at home wouldn’t cover it.
- Trudeau pledged his government will increase investment in Senegal’s mining, agriculture, oil, gas, clean energy, and digital sectors.
- Senegalese President Macky Sall tweeted, “The partnership between Senegal and #Canada offers attractive growth potential in the mining, agriculture, oil, gas, clean energy and digital sectors. Delighted to welcome PM to Dakar @JustinTrudeau to work on these subjects.”
- But what does President Macky Sall believe in?
- In Senegal homosexual activity is criminalized.
- Pride parades are outlawed.
- Gay rights in Senegal quite frankly do not exist.
- Remember the numerous times that Justin Trudeau and his campaign criticized Andrew Scheer for not wanting to walk in a pride parade while maintaining that there would be no changes to Canada’s laws regarding gay marriage.
- When asked about this Trudeau said that he “always” speaks with world leaders about human rights, that’s diplomatic speak for saying it’s a priority to him but it wasn’t pushed this time.
- When pressed further he said, "We will continue to work to ensure that people's rights are respected at home and everywhere around the world. One of the things that Canadians understand is we need to engage constructively with the world, stand up firmly for our values, and look to help people as we improve conditions for people around the world.“
- It was revealed that Trudeau has managed to secure the vote of Senegal for that seat on the UN Security Council.
- We increasingly live in a world where foreign aid is suspect and Canadians and those in the western world want to see a pull back from these kinds of money dumps.
- It is ok to help poorer nations with their development but it must not be seen as a way purely for Canada to get something in return and there be no benefit to Canadians at home.
- And Canadians at home have much more immediate concerns with the ever increasing paralyzed rail network.
- Despite what’s happening at home, the trip is not over. Next week Trudeau will be headed to the Caribbean to campaign!
Word of the Week
Blockade - an act or means of sealing off a place to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Where in the World is Justin Trudeau?
Teaser: Wet’suwet’en blockades at the BC Legislature and the Vancouver Port along with CN and Via Rail shutting down paralyzes our infrastructure and economy. Also, Jason Kenney calls for an Albertan green shift, and Trudeau is abroad campaigning for the UN.
Recorded Date: February 14, 2020
Release Date: February 16, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes