The News Rundown
- While many businesses have opened up again, it's apparent that the government of Canada regards Parliament to be a non-essential service, despite news we covered last week of the Liberal Party accepting taxpayer handouts they gave themselves through the CEWS wage subsidy. And now questions over decisions that the Liberals have made, including a sneaky attempt to add more guns to the gun ban that was implemented by an undemocratic order in council, questions of where billions of dollars in infrastructure spending has ended up, and just where exactly the national debt currently sits at after all the spending is over with, will remain unanswered.
- It's another example of the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continuing to do its best to shield itself from parliamentary accountability during the pandemic.
- All of this, because the Trudeau Liberals decided to bargain with the NDP, who wanted Trudeau to look into implementing a national 10 day/year sick pay policy that I mentioned in last week's BC story. Because of this, the NDP voted with the Liberals to "extend the suspension of regular parliamentary sittings until September 21st because of COVID-19" and also voting to shut down any parliamentary debate on the matter.
- The Conservatives and BQ were furious, as all Canadians should be, that the Liberals are giving themselves an extra 4 months off of scrutiny when many businesses and workers are having to go back on the job.
- The Liberal-NDP deal is also shaking up the political dynamics of the minority Parliament. The Bloc Québécois, which has supported the government on the two previous motions to suspend Parliament, lashed out Tuesday at the two parties. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet said “What’s happening now is a deal between the NDP and the Liberals to shut down Parliament,” and dismissed the sick leave proposal as a promise of “two weeks of vacation for everyone in Canada” – interfering in provincial jurisdiction over labour laws.
- Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said she was "very, very disappointed” and accused the government of avoiding scrutiny Tuesday afternoon after it moved a motion to shut down debate.
- The government introduced a motion Monday outlining alternative scenarios for political debate during the proposed suspension to Sept. 21, such as meetings of some committees and a total of four formal sitting days.
- It also allows the Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic to meet four days a week in the House until June 18, including remote participation by MPs via videoconferencing. The Special Committee, made up of all members of the House of Commons, was created as part of an agreement in April to extend the suspension of regular sittings.
- The government says this provides a venue for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet ministers to answer questions from opposition MPs, but Conservative and Bloc MPs dismiss the committee as a weak replacement for regular sittings.
- The 30-member committee meets through videoconference twice a week, and one day a week in the House of Commons, with time allotted for opposition members to question ministers – but only on issues related to the pandemic.
- What might look like Question Period when the committee holds its meetings in the House of Commons has in fact been a pale imitation of the real thing. Trudeau has meanwhile been able to stand in front of a microphone every day, far from Parliament, and make announcement after announcement about new programs, with a sympathetic media asking him softball questions.
- The special committee meetings have been light on accountability and now even they are coming to an end. Under the new Liberal-NDP motion, the special pandemic committee will cease to exist as of June 18.
- With these changes, there will be only three scheduled days this summer when opposition MPs will be allowed to ask questions of the government. As well, only a handful of committees will be allowed to hold meetings, and must do so remotely.
- Most worrying of all, under the Liberals’ latest plan, a whole-of-government committee will have exactly four hours on June 17 to debate, and then approve “without amendment," more than $150-billion in new spending on proposed COVID-19 relief programs.
- Those spending estimates have not been released, so it’s impossible to say exactly what’s included. But what it is safe to say is that your average family spends more time deciding on a new washing machine than Parliament is going to be given to consider tens of billions of dollars in new authorities.
- This is not how Canadian democracy is supposed to work. We largely agree with the Liberal emergency measures – but that’s not the point. As keeper of the public purse, the House of Commons is in charge of approving, or not, government spending. While successive governments of all stripes have done their best to minimize this role, none has ever gone quite as far as cancelling the tabling of an annual budget, and then reducing debate on its near-budget to half a day’s work.
- Current Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux and former PBO Kevin Page are raising questions about a section of the deal that will limit a House of Commons review of billions of dollars in new spending to no more than four hours.
- Government spending must be approved by Parliament through a process called the supplementary estimates. The next round of spending is due to be made public in early June. It is likely to include at least some of the more than $150-billion in new measures the government has announced to address the pandemic. The motion states that these estimates are to be approved by the House on June 17 after no more than four hours of debate.
- Mr. Page said MPs should be given adequate time to review and approve government spending requests: "It is a fundamental principle – power of the purse rests with the House of Commons. I do not see how four hours could be enough time.”
- Parliament should be, and could be, sitting. You only have to look around the world to see that legislatures have found ways to continue their vital role during the crisis. That includes parliaments in Britain, Germany and France, as well as certain legislatures within Canada itself. While the Trudeau government might be happy to go a year with a silenced Parliament, nobody else should be.
- It is a “great time” to be building pipelines according to Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage.
- The remarks came on a podcast last week hosted by the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors.
- The idea of course being that with the 15 person gathering limit, protestors can’t gather.
- In particular Minister Savage said, “Now is a great time to be building a pipeline because you can’t have protests of more than 15 people.”
- She also pointed out that in general people are not going to have tolerance or patience for protests that get in the way of people working.
- Government house leader Jason Nixon supported the Minister by saying that she was stating the obvious.
- There have also been those in the media who say that this is the UCP government attempting to limit the legal process.
- But recall earlier this month a protestor was taken away and arrested at the Alberta legislature when he was protesting coronavirus lockdowns.
- Jason Kenney has reiterated his government's stance that they support the right to public protest and actually questioned why the man in question was arrested.
- This could be no further than the opposite of what some in the media are suggesting.
- Others have pointed to Bill 1, the Critical Defence of Infrastructure Act which would levy fines or jail time on those who damage or interfere with the operation of infrastructure after the national protests back in February.
- This story drew international coverage from Fox News in the US and the BBC in the UK.
- It also brought in Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
- The teenage activist said, “at least she’s being honest”, in that some jurisdictions are using the threat of the virus to relax environmental standards to get the natural resources economy going.
- And while we do not agree with a lot of what Greta has to say, she is right on this.
- This virus marks the first time in history that humanity has willingly shut down large portions of the economy for the sake of public health.
- We know we’re looking at double digit unemployment nationwide and a double digit contraction in GDP, so yes, these are extraordinary times.
- But know this, countries that rely on a resource based economy for wealth and prosperity (which is Canada, no matter how much the federal government tells you otherwise) have a duty to ensure that there is a natural resources industry left after this mess is all said and done with.
- Coming in Canada had one of the strongest records of positive environmental stewardship. It seems as though the peaceful democratic countries are always the first target for climate activism.
- Probably because if they take their antics to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or Russia they’d be thrown in the gulag or worse.
- Recall that back in February a majority of Canadians wanted the blockades to end and felt the federal government wasn’t doing enough to get the economy moving.
- As we saw then, even those in BC and areas skeptical of resource development wanted the protestors to stop.
- That combined with the Critical Defence of Infrastructure Act when it receives Royal Assent will make the Minister’s comments a simple fact of life.
- At the end of the day we need to be aware that the energy industry will always be in the crosshairs of hostile actors, both foreign and domestic and the energy minister is re-iterating the feelings of a majority of Albertans.
- And for the media to make this about the right to protest in Canada, in Alberta, misses the entire issue.
- This week's BC story is going to be a bit different from the usual. With the BC government's plan being pretty transparent for the most part, the BC media hasn't been talking about anything that much other than that the money laundering investigation is resuming and will hopefully bear fruit soon.
- So until then, let's talk about unity. We've had many bouts of fractured unity in the past year or so, but with a global pandemic it seems that for the most part Canadians are on the same page with what needs to be done. While Ontario and Quebec continue to struggle, the peak is over for now in western provinces, and places over the past week or so have been opening up again.
- Businesses that rely on tourists and transportation have predictably been the hardest hit, and as we know, many BC towns in places like the Okanagan, along the coast as well as Albertan towns in the Rockies like Jasper and Banff have been hardest hit when it comes to a drop in tourist revenue. While non-essential travel is still being discouraged, it's clear that tourist towns will need revenue sooner rather than later to survive.
- Now, as we watch what is going on in the world, we can pride ourselves on the fact that we in Western Canada have had a better reaction to the past few months events, and as we watch cities burn in the United States due to problems that have not been solved decades later, it's important to not fall into the tried and true Canadian trap of thinking that just because we might think we have a better system than the US that ours cannot improve. If we resort to comparisons to our cousins to the south, our actions and standards will never be as good as they can be.
- With that in mind, there has been a discouraging trend over the past couple of weeks of certain British Columbians acting in a way that I haven't seen since almost a decade ago when hooligans decided to take the outcome of an important hockey game and trash the reputation of a city for a good long time.
- Scary messaging from the federal government and worst case scenarios modelled back in March that excluding Quebec have not come to pass in many areas in Canada have done their job. People were terrified of going out of their own homes. So with things going better than they were predicted to, places that have suffered immense economical wounds in place of Canadian's physical health being at risk, have started the healing process by opening up to the public with added precautions.
- Canadians are urged to stay close to home and avoid non-essential travel interprovincially. However, some continue to travel within Canada and there is resentment to those who decide to cross provincial borders, but as we've mentioned many times before, the very fiber of our country, including trade and commerce, is built on the idea that provinces work together.
- With businesses now opening up, the messaging that has been put in place by the government to terrify Canadians into staying home has done its job and it's led in many cases to a fearful and distrustful populace, so much so that the idea of someone not following the "rules" is lashed out upon.
- I'm of course, referring to the disturbing news that cars with Alberta license plates are getting vandalized in BC. Now, BC and Alberta have great economic ties to one another, more so than most in the great confederation that makes up our country. While our respective governments may not always agree with each other on certain things (I don't need to bring up pipelines do I?), in any regard, Albertans and British Columbians are at the end of the day, Canadians and brothers.
- So the idea of people in small towns writing "Go Home" on a car just because of the province the car is licensed in, no matter where the person may be from, is a bit of a hard one to wrap my brain around, especially because the person with Alberta plates may be living in BC already anyways!
- Jessica Ann Sofie Grey, who took to Facebook last week to raise awareness on this issue has mentioned that she has lived in Golden, BC "for 15 years, it’s been a good town, I’m raising two kids here. I’m not from Alberta" but that she's driving a borrowed vehicle from her mother-in-law who resides in Alberta.
- Grey was shocked to find a note that demanded she “go home” stuck to her vehicle, which has Alberta plates, after shopping at IGA recently. She wants it to be known that there are plenty of reasons that someone could have a car with Alberta plates while maintaining residency in Golden.
- Grey said “You don’t know the reasons someone is driving an Alberta registered vehicle, which is why I posted on Facebook. I was shocked that something like this could happen.”
- Now a note saying "go home" is one thing, and barely worth mentioning, but as we've talked about before, a simple act like this can send a signal that further retribution could come if they do not "go home".
- After the long weekend, Grey said her experience has led her to contemplate parking her car and biking to avoid another incident. She says she has heard of other people with Alberta plates doing something similar.
- Police in Trail, BC released information on a verbal argument at a local plaza regarding a man questioning a woman’s presence in B.C. after seeing her Alberta licence plate.
- Police say the man was worried about possible COVID-19 transmission from Alberta, but noted that the woman had been living in B.C., but had not yet changed over to B.C. licence plates.
- The police said in a press release that “The B.C. RCMP are mindful that many British Columbians and Albertans alike reside in one province and commute to the neighbouring province for essential work. The public should respect that they may not have all the information regarding someone’s personal circumstances or purpose for being outside of their home province.”
- Then came another incident in Revelstoke that was much worse. Recent B.C. transplant Matt Graham his vehicle was keyed, and a note was liberally laced with profanity, essentially telling him to go back to Alberta in no uncertain terms.
- Graham said he took a job in November in Revelstoke, and that his girlfriend is a nurse and they couldn’t move together at the same time. So they kept their house in Calgary and he travelled back and forth.
- Graham said “Long story short, we were supposed to move in April, and because [the coronavirus pandemic] happened, we decided to wait an extra month.”
- Graham said he was raised in B.C., then lived in Alberta, but he’s now back. He also said “I want people to realize that I’m a Canadian, you’re a Canadian. We live in the same country. What does it matter what colour my plates are? That’s the biggest thing.”
- John Richards is taking matters into his own hands, or rather, onto his own car bumper. Richards' partner is an optometrist and just got a job in Revelstoke, so the couple is moving from Canmore.
- He has a friend who owns a screening shop in Revelstoke. Richards asked his friend: "Can you please make us some bumper stickers that say, 'Essential workers, we are here to help, please do not key our car!'"
- "These are strange times. We all have to do what we can to get by. This is what we are doing to do to hopefully dissuade people from vandalizing our vehicle. That way they will know we are members of the community and hopefully they cut us a break."
- Now generally a group of people criminally targeting another group of people simply because of where they come from is known as a hate crime, plain and simple. But because it's BC and Alberta, the police and courts will likely not see it as such. But as we move through the pandemic it's important to note that as Canadians we need to act with more kindness towards another, no matter where we're from, and to note that just because we're not rioting or burning down cities doesn't mean we can't do better.
- On May 22 a post was made on Vancouver Quadra MP and Digital Government Minister Joyce Murray’s WeChat group soliciting donations for a lawsuit against Global News.
- First, WeChat is a Chinese social network that is subject to censorship by the Chinese government. WeChat is a common way for MPs to interact with their constituents if they serve a Chinese community.
- The lawsuit is against a Global News report who broke a story about the Chinese Communist Party’s overseas efforts to purchase and amass personal protective equipment from Canada and other countries when the COVID-19 pandemic was ramping up in China.
- As the article from Global stated the investigated the “troubling methods and underground actors” used to supply PPE in a state run operation.
- China used diplomatic channels, state-owned businesses and Chinese diaspora community associations that are thought to be increasingly under the influence of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s powerful United Front Work Department (UFWD).
- The United Front networks all over the world the Communist Party in China urged millions of Chinese overseas to buy N95 masks and ship them back to China.
- It was also revealed that many members operating in Canada were previously monitored by the RCMP or CSIS.
- In March China sold masks back to Mexico at 20-30 times the prices of what they were initially bought for. The Washington Post and CNN also reported that PPE (masks and other gear) were sold for as much as 1,000 percent the prices seen in January.
- This piece came out a month ago on Global News but also has the Editor’s Note at the top stating, “One of the graphics contained in this piece has been updated to more clearly represent the Chinese Communist Party’s broad surveillance and attempted control of parts of the Chinese diaspora.”
- This article is revealing and if this story is interesting to you, you should definitely read it, you can find it in our full show notes.
- It makes sense why China wants to organize against this Global News reporter, in China you do not criticize the government and if you do, bad things happen.
- Joyce Murray through her director of communications said that she does not condone this fundraising appeal.
- Well that’s good, but at this point we have to ask, where does Canada stand on China?
- We have a government that seems to have trouble standing up to China and pushing back against the influences of the Chinese Communist Party.
- It wasn’t too long ago that our foreign affairs minister avoided thanking Taiwan.
- This week also Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO, lost her appeal to the BC Supreme Court in her cyber espionage case. This puts her closer than not on a track to extradition to the United States.
- Before the ruling Chinese authorities, in particular a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry warned that “Canada should immediately correct its mistake, free Ms. Meng and ensure her safe return to China at an early date so as to avoid any continuous harm to China-Canada relations.”
- This comes of course as Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been sitting in a Chinese prison for 530+ days.
- Also this week China instituted its new national security law on Hong Kong, effectively wiping away any special status Hong Kong had. This has drawn strong criticism from the US and the UK.
- There has also been an uptick in tensions along the Chinese-Indian border with several skirmishes where China pushed a few kilometres into India, put up tents, dug trenches, and moved heavy equipment into what had been regarded as India’s territory.
- There’s also the concentration camps in China’s western Xinjiang province where they have held more than 1 million Uigurs, Kazakhs and other Chinese Muslim minorities. Previously the Chinese government said they were skills training centres but in late February the Washington Post reported that the detainees had their culture erased.
- The Washington Post called this a cultural genocide, not in terms of killing but in the “mass extermination of their ideas and beliefs.”
- For those familiar with history all of this is incredibly uncomfortable. There are eerie parallels to the behaviour of Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s.
- And just like in the 1930s the west in large part is going along to make sure that China won’t be upset.
- The world is in large part now concerned with the corona virus and in the US the ongoing protests regarding the death of George Floyd.
- China as reported bought PPE and sold it back at a tremendous markup, China is looking to buy failing companies in Australia but also a mining company in Canada’s north, China is everywhere and is using the smoke screen of the virus to distract from what’s happening in their country and how they are pushing other democracies throughout the world.
- Canada needs to join the rest of the 5 Eyes Intelligence group and blacklist Huawei from operating on our 5G networks. The US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand have all made the decision to block Huawei. Canada is the only country that has not.
- Canada’s foreign policy needs a significant realignment on how it treats China.
Word of the Week
Hysteria - exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion, especially among a group of people
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Relaxing the Panic
Teaser: Trudeau and the NDP collude to go on summer vacation from Parliament, it’s a great time to get the Alberta economy going again, and vandalizing cars in BC is against our Canadian principles. Also, the federal government should stop appeasing China.
Recorded Date: May 30, 2020
Release Date: May 31, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes