The News Rundown
- Before we start this story, I'd like to pay respects to the 22 people who died in the horrific mass shooting in Nova Scotia this past weekend. Their families are going through an unimaginable horror due to the actions of a psychopath.
- For part of the thirteen-hour crime spree, the shooter impersonated a police officer by driving a replica police car and wearing a police uniform. Authorities have yet to establish a motive for the killings; however, it is not being considered as an act of terrorism, and an investigation is underway. The slow RCMP response to the shooter has also been sharply criticized in the aftermath, and security experts say lives could have been saved last Saturday if the RCMP had used Alert Ready, Canada's emergency population warning system, to send out an emergency alert to phones.
- Instead of Alert Ready, the RCMP used Twitter and Facebook to provide updates. However, the areas affected had poor cellular Internet service and were mostly populated by seniors who might not have used social media. Relatives of the victims pointed out that Alert Ready would have sent text messages advising residents of what was happening and to stay indoors, which could have saved lives. Chief Superintendent Leather said an investigation would be conducted into the decision-making process on alerting the public.
- The United States Consulate in Halifax also said it emailed American citizens in Nova Scotia warning them of the situation using the RCMP's information. Marcia R. Seitz-Ehler, a spokesperson for the U.S. Consulate General in Halifax: "The information we used in our emailed alert to U.S. citizens on Sunday was taken from the Nova Scotia RCMP's Twitter account. It is our protocol - when emergencies occur - to alert U.S. citizens in the area to the situation."
- Leah West, a national security and intelligence lecturer at Carleton University in Ottawa, is one of the security experts who says RCMP should have used the emergency alert when they took to Twitter telling residents to stay indoors. But she believes RCMP didn’t send one out because it’s a tool the detachment had never used before for a shooting.
- Dalhousie professor Kevin Quigley, who is another security expert, says the tactics the suspect used likely caught the RCMP by surprise. These tactics include the uniform, the fake RCMP car and the remote location where the shooting happened. However, questions remain as to how the shooter could have created his replica RCMP car without raising any questions about his behaviour.
- According to Premier Stephen McNeil, the province’s emergency management office reached out to the RCMP at the time to aid with an alert. However, an RCMP top official says they were close to issuing an alert, but then officers had killed the suspect.
- In light of what happened, Quigley suggests that, moving forward, the RCMP needs to share more information to maintain public trust: “The RCMP really has to be very open about what happened and they have to get the facts on the table, and … they have to convey the concern that they have and show they are learning from this experience and sharing information so we can all be aware of what happened,” said Quigley.
- The shooter also did not possess a firearms licence, and it has not yet been determined how he acquired his weapons, which were illegal under the firearms act.
- RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell said the gunman had a "significant number of weapons" on him, including the gun of the late Constable Heidi Stevenson, who the shooter killed in a gunfight after colliding with her vehicle. Campbell confirmed that one weapon has been traced to Canada, but that the other weapons on the scene were likely obtained illegally in the United States, as he did not have a valid license to possess or buy firearms in Canada.
- However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's response has been to craft more gun control legislation. It's hard to see how this legislation would stop criminals like the Nova Scotia shooter from obtaining his guns, given he was already breaking the law to do so.
- However, gun-rights advocates say large-capacity magazines are already banned in Canada, where legal centrefire rifles are restricted under the Criminal Code to a maximum of five bullets in a magazine.
- Gun-rights advocates seethe over these criticisms, arguing legal, semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 still require a separate trigger pull for each shot, and cannot “spray” bullets like fully automatic military weapons, already banned in Canada. They are also sick of the attacks on the AR-15, which Trudeau is almost certain to ban if his reforms go through.
- Rod Giltaca, president of the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights says the calls for more legislation are misinformed as to how guns actually work: “The AR-15 is no different than any other centerfire, semi-automatic rifle. Classifying firearms based on pistol grips or handguards or colour is completely absurd.”
- Giltaca said Trudeau’s public focus on an undefined assault-weapon ban appears to be a political tactic that ignores more pressing questions. Those questions include: How did the shooter get his hands on a real police uniform and such a convincing replica police car? Why were Nova Scotians not warned about the active shooter using the province’s Alert Ready cellphone system during 12 hours of mayhem? Why did U.S. citizens receive a direct e-mailed warning from the American consulate in Halifax, while the only Canadian warning came over the RCMP’s Twitter feed? And how would an assault-weapon ban have made any difference when it appears the Nova Scotia shooter was already prohibited from owning any weapons, legal or otherwise?
- “It’s all political,” Giltaca said. “It’s an opportunity for the anti-gunners to say, ‘This is all about guns,’ when it was not remotely about guns. The most effective weapon this person had was the fact that he was wearing an RCMP uniform, driving a police cruiser and pulling people over and killing them. No law in this country could have stopped a madman with this level of determination and resources.”
- Trudeau politicizing the event to campaign for gun-control is the wrong response, and is tone deaf, given that we already have hugely restrictive gun laws. Instead, he should be looking at increasing border security with the US to stop illegal importation of guns from the US, which is where most of the guns criminals use comes from, as well as pressuring the RCMP to train more on emergency response methods.
- The federal and provincial governments are handing out new money constantly. Alberta put forward money for road, bridge, and school repair. The Federal government pledged money for oil well clean up, summer student support, and expansive support for those who lost their jobs.
- According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) as of April 8, globally the fiscal and liquidity measures add up to $3.3T and $4.5T respectively. This is about 9% of world GDP according to Dr. Jack Mintz.
- Canada’s debt to GDP ratio coming out of this will be the second highest out of all advanced countries at 11.8% surpassed only by the US.
- The only country forecast to run a surplus in 2020 is Norway.
- Debt for countries works a lot like mortgages for households, they have to be renewed periodically.
- The part of our debt that is due to mature next accounts for more than 20% of our GDP.
- Our gross public debt is forecast to hit 110% of GDP in 2020 when factoring all levels of government: federal, provincial, and local.
- Gross public debt is the total debt. Debt as we often hear is the net debt which is total liabilities (the gross debt) minus any assets on hand.
- Countries with massive gold reserves like the US or stable currencies like the US and also Japan can afford to do this. But Canada’s economy is in large part based on commodities. Oil, timber, auto parts, etc.
- And as pointed out in the article by Dr. Mintz, “Canadian governments should have been running larger fiscal surpluses by using more of our commodity-based revenue to pay down debt, as Australia and Norway did over the past decade and half. On this score, Alberta and Newfoundland have been the biggest offenders.”
- When running in 2015 Justin Trudeau promised 3 years of "a modest short-term deficits” or as former Prime Minister Stephen Harper called them “three modest little deficits at a modest $10b each” that were so small that you could hardly see them.
- Since 2015 however the deficits have ballooned well past $20b while the times were relatively good. We don’t have a final number on where we are at today but it is bad.
- The deficits since 2015 under Trudeau and Bill Morneau have been justified by claims that the growth rate in taxes from the new spending would surpass the financing costs of debt making it so the debt burden would not rise. That is no longer the case.
- The problem here is simple. The economy can grow, money can come in, GDP can grow, and you can in theory run deficits while decreasing debt to GDP ratio.
- But what if GDP contracts? That’s what’s happening now.
- GDP growth and inflation are both expected to be in the negative territories for the foreseeable future.
- The IMF has calculated that interest rates on Canada bonds will be 5.8% above the nominal GDP rate in 2020. This means that our debt will be expensive.
- Growth Canada wide should become positive in 2021 but times will remain rough for Alberta and other resource producing jurisdictions.
- Canada’s all-government fiscal deficit should plummet to “just” 3.5 per cent of GDP in 2021. That’s roughly $59.9b in 2019 GDP.
- This relies on the lockdown lifting soon and a cure or vaccine being found to combat the virus.
- Canada will also face an extended period of low commodity prices as the world currently faces an excess in supply.
- As a final point, Canada must also rely on financial market confidence. If financial markets lose confidence in our ability to manage our debt and deficit, the servicing costs will go up and the debt could no longer be sustainable.
- This would mean that Canada would have trouble selling its bonds on the international market, this is what happened prior to the Chretien administration cleaning up the federal debt.
- We came out of the 2008 recession in a good position, but we’re unlikely to emerge as well out of this recession as we did the last. Canada requires strong and sane fiscal management that has been lacking.
- And as it turns out, budgets don’t balance themselves, and those teeny tiny deficits are causing us problems today.
- Former Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's newly released autobiography has caused a stir halfway around the world here in Canada. Turnbull's memoirs, which chronicle his political life up until internal party politics had him replaced as Prime Minister with current PM Scott Morrison, and when Turnbull resigned as an MP. Turnbull's party lost the following by-election, and also their majority in the House of Representatives, leading to continued political turmoil in Australia.
- But let's get back to how this relates to Canada. In the book, Turnbull describes negotiations for a revamped Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in 2017, the agreement that was intended to lower trade barriers and tariffs along a large number of countries along the Pacific Rim, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Vietnam, and Malaysia. When US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the trade deal in January 2017 among a larger political mindset of US trade protectionism known as "America First", the remaining signatories, including Canada, were left to renegotiate their terms.
- Negotiations were held concurrently with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam in November 2017 for the upgraded deal, called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership at the insistence of the Canadian delegation led by Trudeau.
- Trudeau refused to sign the agreement in principle, stating reservations about the provisions on culture and automotives, insisting that cultural and language rights, specifically related to its French-speaking minority, be protected. It was part of a bigger move of Trudeau trying to insert his socially progressive agenda into trade deals with countries that have no interest in talking about anything except for trade. We would see this crop up in negotiations with the US and Mexico over the new NAFTA agreement, with Trudeau clinging to ideals that both of the other countries Media outlets in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, which strongly supported quick movement on a deal, strongly criticized what they portrayed as Canadian sabotage.
- However, Canada's major reservation was a conflict between the percentage of a vehicle that must originate in a CPTPP member nation to enter tariff-free, which was 45% under the original TPP language and 62.5% under the NAFTA agreement. Japan, which is a major automobile part exporter, strongly supported lower requirements. In January 2018, Canada announced that it would sign the CPTPP after obtaining binding side letters on culture with every other CPTPP member country, as well as bilateral agreements with Japan, Malaysia, and Australia related to non-tariff barriers.
- In his autobiography, Turnbull has accused Justin Trudeau of “humiliating” other world leaders during negotiations for a revamped Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in 2017. Turnbull said he personally felt let down by Trudeau and upbraided him for embarrassing other world leaders when he failed to show up for a critical meeting. Turnbull said Canada’s indecision on the trade deal also made Trudeau look “flaky.”
- Turnbull said he was scheduled, by coincidence, to meet with Trudeau after the no-show and the Canadian prime minister seemed more interested in talking about his socks than the previous meeting: “Justin always wore perfectly tailored suits that fitted like a glove, bright socks and on this occasion two-tone shoes. ‘What do you think of the socks?’ he asked, crossing his legs as he sat down. ‘Justin,’ I said, ‘we’re not here to talk about your socks’.”
- The new deal was informally called TPP-11, after the 11 original signatories, but Turnbull wrote that the other countries were so annoyed with Trudeau that they were ready to announce a TPP-10 agreement that excluded Canada.
- It was generally assumed among the other leaders that Trudeau was putting the brakes on the new trade deal because he was concerned about offending Trump. Turnbull agreed with that, but said it was the wrong way to deal with the U.S. president: “The best way to deal with Donald was to be up-front, frank and stand your ground; there was no other way to win his respect.”
- Turnbull suggests he probably called it off to please Trump. I don't know about that. The TPP was designed to outflank China not the US. And right after refusing to sign Trudeau made his fateful trip to China expecting to announce the start of free trade talks there. Instead he got completely shut down for pushing his typical progressive agenda and was sent home with nothing. With this in mind, it was probably the Chinese government Trudeau was hoping to please by throwing a wrench into the TPP.
- At the time, Canadian officials blamed the no-show on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe running late, rather than any deliberate attempt to derail the negotiations. Turnbull’s account tells a different story.
- After discussions with each country’s trade ministers, the leaders were under the impression that all that was left was to shake hands and smile for the cameras. For Vietnam, which was hosting the conference, the new deal was set to be a major diplomatic coup.
- The leaders noticed that Abe and Trudeau were late for the meeting and some murmuring broke out. Abe soon came striding into the meeting looking “very flustered,” according to Turnbull. When Turnbull asked him what was going on, Abe said, “Justin won’t sign. He’s pulling out.”
- Asked if Trudeau was trying to scuttle the deal, Abe said he thought so.
- “I was extremely disappointed with Justin and felt really bad for Shinzo Abe. He’d put so much into the TPP-11 and this was a very public humiliation. Likewise for Prime Minister (Nguyen Xuan) Phuc of Vietnam. He had dozens of cameras waiting to record the historic moment, and then it hadn’t happened,” wrote Turnbull.
- Even more annoying for the other leaders was they felt they had “bent over backwards” for Canada during the negotiations, allowing for the clunky new name requested by the Canadian delegation, among other things.
- Turnbull also felt that Trudeau had personally let him down. After initially believing that Trudeau had been unfairly cast as a “lightweight” by his critics, simply because of his youth and looks, Turnbull had come to believe that Trudeau was “more thoughtful than some of his reviews suggested.”
- Now, he doubted himself, questioning if Trudeau really was flaky all along. It was then that Trudeau met with Turnbull and mentioned his colourful socks.
- “What, Justin, is going on? You have just humiliated our friend Shinzo, who happens to be the leader of the third largest national economy in the world,” wrote Turnbull. “And, if that wasn’t enough, you have humiliated our host, Prime Minister Phuc.”
- It was only when Japan and Australia threatened to move forward without Canada that Trudeau renegotiated bilateral agreements on his precious French language rights with other countries. Less than a week after a Japanese negotiator presented the Canadians with two draft press releases about the deal, one excluding Canada and one including Canada and said “right now, we are pretty indifferent as to which one we issue”, Canada signed onto TPP.
- This flakiness and sabotage by Trudeau was noticed by other leaders too. The APEC conference soon devolved into a series of confused meetings between world leaders trying to figure out what Canada was up to.
- Enrique Peña Nieto, who was the then Mexican president, confided to Turnbull that he believed Trump was at the heart of it and that he was pessimistic about the Canadian prime minister changing his mind again. Nieto told Turnbull that Trudeau had “lacked the strength to say ‘no’ months ago and now lacked the strength to say ‘yes’.”
- Given Peña Nieto's characterization of Trudeau as weak and flaky, it makes much more sense that Mexico moved forward with the US on the new NAFTA deal, leaving Canada behind. It left Canada in the lurch and we were forced to accept a deal much worse than it could have been. It's clear that Trudeau at the helm of trade negotiations has hurt Canada so much when the Prime Minister was much more concerned about how his socks looked than Canadian jobs and how Canada's image was worldwide.
- Back in March Parliament was adjourned until April 20th. This was at the time the public was led to believe the lockdowns in effect could potentially be over by mid April.
- Parliament gathered a few times during the adjournment to pass key legislation related to the ongoing stimulus programs.
- Parliament is an essential institution as it provides an opportunity for the opposition to ask questions of the Prime Minister and government.
- Parliament was successfully opened to pass stimulus legislation, successfully, with a reduced number of MPs. The number of MPs to reach quorum (minimum number needed to conduct business), is 20. About 30 or so MPs arrived and debated stimulus legislation representing the proportionality of the elected house.
- Anyone today who skirts the will of Parliament or diminishes its importance is doing a major disservice to Canadians.
- It was decided by the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois that there will be one in person sitting weekly with two additional virtual sittings. The Conservatives wanted 3 in person sittings a week.
- Most self absorbed reporters in the media called the Conservatives idea irresponsible at best.
- But in one of the contrarian opinions out there, the Globe and Mail editorial board argued that when Canadians are risking their lives going out shopping for food or essential service workers work, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc were calling it too dangerous to meet an extra two times for a scaled down session.
- If you can physically distance at the grocery store or on a bus, surely 30-40 MPs could be sat comfortably in a chamber designed for 338?
- Parliament has to address how and when to get the economy going, what measures should be taken to do so, when borders should reopen, coordinate the national testing strategy, and set up contact tracing tools amongst other things. Parliament is crucial.
- And then the Globe gets to the main point about why journalists are really angry: Parliament under the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc plan could become a sideshow next to the Prime Minister’s daily briefings.
- The Prime Minister likes these briefings because they are in front of favourable media and he can go on for as long or as short as he wants to.
- He should also of course go to Parliament and take questions in person more than once a week.
- Susan Delacourt in the Toronto Star ran with the headline “Andrew Scheer isn’t getting the message” and Althia Raj of the Huffington Post parroted Trudeau’s line of calling Scheer “irresponsible”
- Green party leader Elizabeth May’s blood was apparently boiling over Scheer’s desire to have limited sittings 3 times a week instead of once.
- Robyn Urback of the Globe and Mail called it “utterly out-of-touch”
- For the Conservatives part they see parliament as essential, they stopped the government from giving themselves mass power to spend for the next 18 months.
- Scheer also argues that committees need to be able to work because they can pass motions and force the government to produce documents vital to getting information to Canadians.
- Parliaments in Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Finland and the European Parliament are continuing to meet.
- The media loves the attention they get from Trudeau and want to keep it that way and have themselves act as the opposition and engage in question period with the PM, but that’s not how the system works.
- It is truly amazing to see two columnists, Raj and Delacourt, out with these pieces this week when they were two of the moderators for the train wreck of an english debate last fall during the election. We now see why the government consortium chose the moderators they did.
- And given the fact that this is a minority government, there’s a huge play to be made here by the opposition should they want to:
- First Scheer should start hosting response press briefings shortly after Trudeau’s, responding to the government and providing an alternative.
- Second, the opposition should ensure that ALL regions of the country are treated fairly during this crisis and that the government does not circumvent parliament.
- Third, should this not happen the opposition Conservatives should defeat the government on a day when a confidence motion is up for vote by secretly bringing in more MPs than the government side has.
- It’s a bold plan that would address the tactics of what now amounts to a Liberal, NDP, and Bloc coalition and it would completely turn the tables on the media.
Word of the Week
Flaky - odd or unconventional, not reliable in performance or behavior
How to Find Us
Episode Title: It’s The Little Things
Teaser: Trudeau jumps straight to gun control after the Nova Scotia shootings, Canada’s debt has ballooned during this crisis, and Australia’s former PM calls Trudeau flaky over trade negotiations. Also, parliament is being disregarded as an essential service.
Recorded Date: April 25, 2020
Release Date: April 26, 2020
Edit Notes: Coughs
Podcast Summary Notes