The News Rundown
- As some of you might remember before media focus shifted to wall to wall coverage of the pandemic in February we were undergoing a series of crippling national blockades here in Canada.
- At the time Justin Trudeau was on a trip and going to be extending that trip to the Bahamas to campaign for a United Nations Security Council seat.
- This week the vote occurred and Canada took third place with 108 votes. Norway won with 130 and Ireland wasn’t far behind at 128.
- For comparison sake, and we’ll come back to this, when Stephen Harper lost a UN Security Council seat vote, he got 114.
- It is estimated that the government spent $1.74m on the campaign since being elected in 2015.
- This has also included massive amounts of pandering to UN diplomats and regimes that would otherwise be hostile to western democracy.
- The campaign was one which began on the day after Trudeau took power, claiming that Canada was “back” and we’d be returning to the honest broker role of foreign policy.
- The Harper government from 2006 to 2015 pursued a principled foreign policy, standing up for democracy and the rights of minorities all throughout the world. The most famous moment of this is probably when Harper told Putin in 2014 at a G8 conference in Australia, to “get out of Ukraine” after reluctantly shaking his hand.
- The inability of the Conservative government in 2010 to win a security council seat was branded as a massive failure and an embarrassment to Canada.
- Most of the frank commentary on this story hasn’t come from our Canadian news sources but the BBC and Time Magazine.
- The BBC called for Trudeau to explain how it happened again under his watch after saying “Canada is back” and how he was going to be a willing partner in the international community.
- And Time Magazine put this exactly in the column it belongs saying, “The latest setback is just one of many recent struggles for Trudeau globally, including a deterioration of relations with China and Saudi Arabia and a disastrous state visit to India.”
- The Globe and Mail Editorial here in Canada writes that it was “the ultimate show about nothing” and that there were no consequences when Harper lost, so why would there be now?
- The editorial rightly points out that the Harper government 10 years ago didn’t deserve the “seat-shaming” as they call it but the difference in treatment by the media of these two governments is stark.
- This also raises the question, what is the point of the United Nations?
- The United Nations Economic and Social Council elected Saudia Arabia to the Commission on the Status of Women for the 2018-2022 term. Saudi Arabia is a country where women have to cover up in full and only recently gained the right to drive and gained the right to vote in 2012.
- With utter hypocrisy and statements being made by the UN that would be ridiculed if they came from the US President, we have to ask, what role does the UN serve today?
- It was built as the League of Nations after World War 1 to prevent another world war but failed and was formally set up after World War 2.
- Canada has more influence and sway at the table of the G7 and NATO. The weight of the G7 is key in combating a rising Chinese Communist Party and our deteriorating diplomatic relations with that country. And NATO is key for ensuring Arctic sovereignty for Canada and other NATO members who share an arctic border with Russia.
- It’s difficult to list a unilateral success on the foreign policy front since 2015. Most of Canada’s foreign policy successes have been tempered and brought forth by multilateral trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the revamped NAFTA now known as CUSMA in Canada.
- This vote is much a culmination of Trudeau foreign policy going back to 2015 and says that it’s much a show about nothing.
- Chinese officials have said they had indicted two Canadians on charges of espionage, escalating Beijing’s punitive campaign against Canada over the arrest of a top executive of the Chinese technology giant Huawei.
- The two men, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a business consultant, were detained in 2018 just days after relations between China and Canada soured when Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Huawei on a provisional U.S. extradition request, in regard to the alleged defrauding of multiple financial institutions in breach of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
- In brief statements on Friday, Chinese court officials said Mr. Kovrig had been indicted in Beijing on charges of espionage and “gathering state secrets and intelligence for foreign countries.” Mr. Spavor was indicted in Dandong, a northeastern city, on the similar charges of espionage and “illegally providing state secrets for foreign countries.”
- They are now at the center of a heated international dispute that has pitted China against Canada and the United States, at a time when relations have deteriorated to their lowest point in decades.
- The Chinese government on Friday defended the indictments. “The criminal facts are clear and the evidence is verified and sufficient,” a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian, said at a news conference in Beijing.
- When a reporter asked how China viewed “hostage diplomacy,” Mr. Zhao bristled. “You ask a question brimming with malice,” he said. “You better ask the Canadian government what hostage diplomacy is.”
- Asked a similar question at a news conference in Canada on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada was “doing everything it can” to secure their release and end their “arbitrary detention.” and "continue to use all of our expertise to return these two Michaels to Canada,”
- In indicting the two Michaels, the Chinese government is trying to project strength at a vulnerable moment, experts said. China faces global anger on a variety of fronts, including its early efforts to conceal the coronavirus outbreak and its recent decision to impose tough new security laws in Hong Kong to quash dissent.
- In Canada, China experts said that Friday’s announcement was further proof that Canada’s conciliatory approach to China had not worked, and that it was time for the country to take a tougher stance.
- Guy Saint-Jacques, who was the Canadian ambassador to China in 2014 says that “We have to recover our voice to be critical. The only language China understands is one of firmness.” Saint-Jacques was the ambassador when Canadians Kevin and Julia Garratt were accused of spying and stealing military secrets and arrested. While Julia Garratt was released on bail after about 6 months in prison, Kevin remained in prison for around two years.
- Saint-Jacques suggested that the Canadian government deport Chinese nationals determined to be executing their government’s “soft power” in the country by monitoring Chinese students on Canadian university campuses or intimidating Chinese-Canadians.
- International media, including the New York Times, got the scoop on this story a full day before the Canadian media did. A full spread in the New York Times appeared late Thursday night whilst there was nothing in Canadian media, even online. Why are American news sources quicker to post Canadian news than Canadian outlets?
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is using public and private measures to secure the release of the two Michaels. Trudeau said he was "very disappointed" with the charges Chinese prosecutors unveiled, while Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland described feeling personally angry at the news.
- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the government's "naive approach to Beijing" has hampered efforts to release Spavor and Kovrig: "This case should be being dealt with at the highest levels. But Justin Trudeau has repeatedly refused to intervene."
- Scheer said further: "Don't be fooled by Mr. Trudeau's phoney statements about China right now. We have been raising the alarm about this government's failure to stand up for Canada and its policy of appeasement to the regime in the People's Republic of China."
- Scheer said today the federal Liberal government should take a harder line with China going forward, and accused it of displaying weakness in the face of aggressive moves by Beijing. He also said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also should demand greater accountability from the World Health Organization (WHO), a body that some accuse of being beholden to the Chinese, and that the Liberal government has followed a "policy of appeasement" with China.
- Scheer also called for an immediate end to federal funding for the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank and investigations into unspecified Chinese exports to prove to the regime "there are consequences for illegally detaining two Canadians and pushing Canada around".
- It's clear that the federal government's soft approach to China has not been in our favour. The media failing to cover stories as they happen, and letting American media inform us of our own news is also disgraceful.
- Alberta’s Fair Deal report has been released and its recommendations will be implemented quickly by the UCP government.
- The report can be summed up as follows, “Sentiments across the province varied from outright anger and a call for immediate separation, to a more nuanced sense of frustration and disappointment with the federal government, and sometimes other parts of Canada. Much of the frustration came from a combination of economic pain and a sense that the rest of the country wants to eliminate our way of life.”
- The report made 25 recommendations to the government, the biggest being to hold a referendum on equalization, create an Alberta police force, and look at setting up an Alberta pension plan.
- The last one regarding the Alberta Pension Plan would likely also be posed as a question in a referendum should the government deem it fiscally feasible.
- The UCP government has moved fast and said that a referendum on equalization will be held alongside the 2021 municipal elections.
- Why a referendum on equalization?
- Equalization is a program in which federal tax dollars collected in Alberta are assigned to be transferred to the “have-not” provinces of Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island.
- The referendum would ask a question similar to: Do you support the removal of Section 36, which deals with the principle of equalization, from the Constitution Act, 1982?
- This would compel the federal government to enter into negotiations with Alberta on equalization.
- The only reason this is possible is because of the Clarity Act of 2000 brought in by the Jean Chretien government to deal with cases in which a province poses a clear question on a matter of constitutional reform, such as but not limited to secession as we saw in Quebec.
- One of the pitfalls of the Clarity Act is that legally based on the Supreme Court Reference regarding the Secession of Quebec, the ruling and Clarity Act can be used to compel the federal government to engage in negotiations (in good faith) if a province expresses clearly the will to modify or delete a section of the Constitution regarding secession or modifying the Constitution.
- Other recommendations include removing constraints on the Fiscal Stabilization Program which has prevented Alberta from receiving $2.4b in equalization rebates.
- Asserting more control over immigration for the economic benefit of Alberta.
- Appointing an Alberta Chief Firearms Officer (CFO).
- Strengthening Alberta’s presence in Ottawa.
- Making no changes to tax collection in Alberta at this time. And support Quebec in its bid to collect the federal and provincial portions of personal income taxes and, if Quebec is successful, pursue the same strategy if it is advantageous.
- Continuing to diversify Alberta’s economy in the energy sector and beyond.
- And finally use democratic tools such as referenda and citizens’ initiatives to seek Albertans’ guidance on selected Fair Deal Panel proposals and other initiatives.
- The recommendations as laid out provide an outline for the remaining 3 years of the UCP government’s first term in office.
- These recommendations along with balancing the books and diversifying our economy while recovering from the self inflicted wounds will in all likelihood be this government's focus.
- The priorities laid out are designed to put Alberta interests first when at the federal negotiating table.
- But that does not mean stepping out of Canada or stepping on other provinces.
- The goal at the end of the day should be to build a stronger federation and make Canada great for all Canadians.
- Any future leaders of the Conservative Party, the NDP, or even the Liberals would be wise to take note of what’s happening here in Alberta and make building a stronger federation and respecting provincial boundaries a key part of their election platforms.
- As we move through June, many businesses are now open again, people are moving about with more regularity, and infection rates in Canada are still dropping in most places. BC, one of the most cautious of provinces on reopening despite overwhelmingly good infection numbers, less than 200 active cases for 5 million people, is looking at moving into Phase 3 of its reopening strategy, which would include a greater freedom of movement within the province, along with parks and hotels reopening.
- However, Parliament in Ottawa, will now be shuttered for another 3 months due to Jagmeet Singh's deal with the devil, otherwise known as Prime Minister Trudeau. Trudeau's motion on May 26 to suspend regular sittings altogether from June 18 to September 21 should not have been able to go through. Christian Leuprecht, an author at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, released a report that argues that Parliament should be resuming immediately, as the Liberals have exuded an “unprecedented disregard for parliamentary convention.”
- Leuprecht says that Canada's government “has become a notable outlier amongst other Westminster parliamentary systems. The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand continue to have functioning Parliaments despite the pandemic.”
- Leuprecht points out that on May 26, Canada’s federal government forced a motion to suspend regular sittings altogether from June 18 to September 21, allowing only four scheduled sittings. Never has a Canadian Parliament sat less: only 40 sitting days between July 2019 and June 2020. On June 17, only four hours were allocated for Parliament to debate total spending of $150 billion. Leuprecht writes, “For good reason, this has been referred to as the most expensive four hours in Canadian parliamentary history . . . but not subject to specific debate.”
- Duane Bratt, political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, agrees with many of the conclusions of the report, but says that greater focus should be made on Singh.
- Bratt says, “Typically, governments don’t want to be in Parliament any more than they have to and opposition parties always want them there as much as possible because that’s when they can be held to account, so to see an opposition leader basically say, ‘we don’t need Parliament right now,’ is really, really troublesome.”
- Singh negotiated away our democracy and in return, got Trudeau to make an announcement about additional paid sick days for employees, something that is under provincial jurisdiction anyway. As Bratt says: “That’s all he held out for. I want to play cards with that guy!”
- It's not the first time that Trudeau has played Singh like a fiddle. In the previous election, Trudeau was able to pull into his 2015 playbook and appeal directly to left leaning voters, traditionally the NDP base, and sway the erstwhile NDPers over to the Liberals. Despite Singh being more left wing than the previous leader Thomas Mulcair, his all flash and no substance led to widespread losses for the NDP in the 2019 election, with only 13 seats won outside of BC.
- The collapse of the NDP, formerly the party that stood up for blue collar workers rights, farmers, human rights and environmental movements, has had their support almost completely eroded, with the Green Party making inroads on environmental strongholds on Vancouver Island, the Conservatives shutting the NDP out in all but 4 prairie provinces, the BQ retaking much of their territory in Quebec, and the Liberals taking much of the rest of the NDP traditional base in Toronto, Vancouver, and Atlantic Canada.
- What does the NDP stand for these days? It's hard to tell. These days, it seems that Singh values a paltry healthcare promise for workers over the accountability and debate of Parliament, which would hold the Trudeau government's out of control spending to account.
- Instead, Singh took the last regular sitting day of Parliament on June 17th to stand up and call Bloc MP Alain Therrien racist, just because he didn't support Singh's motion recognizing the existence of systemic racism in the RCMP, refusing the unanimous consent the motion required to proceed.
- The motion points out that "several Indigenous people have died at the hands of the RCMP in recent months …" and also asked MPs to support a review of the RCMP's budget, to demand that the RCMP release all of its use-of-force reports and to call for a review of the RCMP's tactics for dealing with the public.
- "It was this brazen act of one MP to not just say no but to say no loudly and to kind of gesture like this," Singh said later, waving his hand like someone trying to brush off a fly. The motion Singh described was not caught by House of Commons cameras.
- According to Singh, he confronted Therrien about his vote: "I put my hands up [and said] "Well, how could you do that?". And he said, "Yeah, I did it." And I said, "You're a racist for voting against this." Then he challenged me to go outside and then he raised his voice, and I said, "Yeah, I'm calling you racist. This is wrong. This is wrong. I can't believe you voted against it. This is wrong."
- Moments after Singh made his remarks in the House of Commons, Bloc Whip Claude DeBellefeuille stood up to express her disapproval.
- "I do not believe that a leader of a party can, here, treat another member of this House, call them racist because we don't approve the motion that was just moved. The NDP unabashedly is treating the member of La Prairie as a racist person and this is unacceptable in this House," DeBellefeuille said in defence of her colleague.
- Deputy Speaker Carol Hughes responded by saying that she would review the record because she did not hear Singh when he stood up and said, "It's true, I called him a racist and I believe that's so."
- Singh was asked by Hughes to apologize. "I will not," he replied.
- The matter was referred to Speaker Rota, who returned to the House and ordered Singh to leave the Commons for the remainder of the day. At a press conference later in the day, Singh was asked if he would repeat his allegation against Therrien outside the House of Commons, where he is not protected by parliamentary privilege.
- "Yes. I've said it really clearly. I repeat it really clearly," Singh said. "Anyone who votes against a motion that recognizes the systemic racism in the RCMP and that calls for basic fixes for the problem … is a racist, yes."
- The Bloc Québécois issued a statement later in the day saying that "discrimination against Indigenous communities and cultural minorities is a major issue" but the public safety committee is currently studying systemic racism in the RCMP and it should be allowed to do its work, and that the party would not support drawing conclusions before the review was done.
- DeBellefeuille said in French that Singh’s insult was unjustified and tarnished Therrien’s reputation: "The NDP leader defamed the parliamentary leader of the Bloc Québécois with an unwarranted insult … He should apologize immediately. We consider it inappropriate to impose findings to a committee before it has conducted its study. We respect the parliamentary process."
- The issue of systemic racism is a complex problem that requires a complex solution, not empty words on a vote in Parliament that enforces nothing. Simply voting against something does not mean that someone is a racist. Voting against a motion doesn't even mean you are against the spirit behind the current vote, it can just be a disagreement about the details and execution of the vote, which is what the Bloc has now said it was. Their side of the story makes complete sense, that Therrien wasn't comfortable condemning the RCMP until he saw the results of a review. Singh's actions, described by himself are one of the most egregious examples I have ever seen of "If you don't agree with me then you are a racist."
- Jagmeet Singh, and the NDP, apparently, do not respect Parliament's role in representing the people. Accusing someone of racism in today’s climate is the most egregious and damaging insult one can make to another person, and doing it to a MP just because they don’t agree with everything in a motion you put forward is reprehensible. If the NDP don't want to become even more irrelevant than they are now, perhaps they need to find a leader who does respect the people, and does what an opposition leader is supposed to do, which is hold our government to account.
Word of the Week
Indictment - a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Trudeau Indictment
Teaser: Trudeau loses out on the UN Security Council, the Alberta Fair Deal report is released, and China charges the two Michaels with espionage. Also, Jagmeet Singh allows Trudeau to shutter Parliament, and calls anyone who disagrees with him a racist.
Recorded Date: June 19, 2020
Release Date: June 21, 2020
Edit Notes: Internet cutout at sign off
Podcast Summary Notes