The News Rundown
- There is no good news out of Ottawa this week. We learned just how bad the federal budget deficit actually is.
- Prior to the pandemic and the self imposed economic shutdown the budget was thought to be hovering in the $22b range.
- That estimate was blown out of the water this week when sources first hinted the budget would be around $300b but later Bill Morneau revealed in his financial snapshot that the budget deficit is actually going to hit $343b this year.
- $343b. That’s 17 times what it was initially forecast to be and 340 times what it was when the Liberals took over in 2015.
- When the Trudeau government took power the government of Canada was spending just $260b a year.
- One has to question how it got to this point.
- There has been no oversight.
- Statistics Canada released new jobs numbers this week showing our unemployment rate improving by dropping to 12.3% from 13.7% last month.
- 953,000 jobs were added in June nationwide. Alberta added 91,600 jobs, BC 118,000. While the unemployment rate stayed constant in Alberta and ticked down 0.4% in BC.
- It’s important to remember the term that the federal government used here, snapshot, normally these events are called fiscal updates.
- A fiscal update is usually taken on by parliament and voted on. I don’t think anyone needs to say anything as to why the Trudeau government doesn’t want to face a confidence vote at this time.
- Bill Morneau called this budget deficit the challenge of our lifetime and sources have noted that we haven’t seen this level of spending since World War II.
- The debt previously set to be around $700b was forecast to smash through the $1T mark hitting $1.2T this year.
- This spending of course comes from all the new programs put in place to “help” Canadians during the pandemic. But as the eagle eyed have pointed out, it is easy to stay on new programs such as CERB and head back to work at the same time.
- The Conservatives have suggested a transformation called the Back to Work Bonus because currently a Canadian can earn up to $1,000 while still qualifying for their full $2,000 CERB.
- But if someone earns $1 more than the government's $1,000 limit, they are kicked off the CERB program making CERB more enticing.
- The Conservative plan ensures everyone receiving the CERB benefit will still receive it and instead it will be phased out for workers who earn between $1,000 and $5,000 a month at a rate of 50 cents per dollar over $1,000.
- The Conservatives as telegraphed by finance critic Pierre Poilievre said that economic programs for people who can’t work when the economy was shut down by the government are “absolutely necessary.”
- Many in the media and in the talking circle believe that the Conservatives would slash these benefits and take them away from Canadians. The Conservatives are well aware that these programs are needed when people are not working.
- Canada has the highest unemployment rate in the G7.
- And of course, we must also ask if this lockdown was indeed truly necessary.
- Sweden, a country that didn’t shut down has a death rate of 544 per million related to COVID-19.
- Canada has 231 per million.
- A decision back in March was made that the economy must shut down to try to save as many lives as possible.
- We were told at first that this would be to flatten the curve. The curve was flattened. Then questions were raised, is it a shutdown until there’s a vaccine? Or is the virus going to slowly trickle into the population?
- These are questions that no one answered and there are questions to be asked if the economy really did need to be shut down to the extent that it was.
- After all, we’re out and about engaging in physical distancing and managing the spread, why couldn’t this have been done in March?
- Or why didn’t we follow the path of Australia or New Zealand and shut our borders sooner effectively preventing the virus from taking root?
- These questions are the root of the $1.2T debt, $343b deficit, and seeming lack of a plan by Bill Morneau to get the budget deficit under control.
- This is indeed a snapshot, a hip term to describe looking briefly at a problem and then running away.
- Canadians are on a path of fiscal reckoning. No one has told them this yet and evading this question and chastising the official opposition for wanting to cut benefits willy nilly does no one any good.
- These wounds are self inflicted but Trudeau, Morneau, and their media cheer leaders will take a victory lap touting saved lives making criticizing their idiotic handling of the crisis all but impossible except for the most persuasive talkers.
- Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole, Leslyn Lewis, Derek Sloan, Jagmeet Singh, and Yves Francois Blanchet had better take notice and start shifting the channel off of the Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau network.
- Canadians on the other hand need to realize that a good portion of what they read on Twitter about Conservative critiques of this snapshot is fake news.
- And the media isn’t there to help and we are in a self inflicted economic crisis, of which is the biggest we have ever seen.
- That is the truth and what the media is not telling you.
- On the back of the wave of anti-police sentiment following the May murder of George Floyd in the US comes a call for change in policing in Canada. An open letter signed by dozens of organizations was released, protesting the use of police street checks by Vancouver police, and calling for the provincial government to end the practice. Before we get into the meat of the story however, we must delve into what a street check is, and why some view them to be so controversial.
- A street check is a practice where police stop a person in public, question them, and record their personal information in a police database. It differs from a vehicle check, where police have the authority to conduct legal check stops and to require the driver produce their license, proof of ownership and insurance. However, a street check is defined as a stop that happens outside of a motor vehicle, such as a pedestrian.
- In the context of a street check, there are two competing interests. On one hand, a person’s right to liberty provides that they have the right to “do as they please”, absent a law to the contrary. On the other hand, police have powers under the common law to investigate crime and keep the peace, which may include the practice of stopping and questioning a person on the street (i.e. a street check). However, this power is limited.
- While police may stop and question a person on the street, that person has the right to walk away unless they are under arrest. Furthermore, that person has the right not to provide police with their identification unless they are under arrest or being ticketed.
- For instance, if you are stopped by police while on foot, questioned, and asked to identify yourself, you have the right not to answer questions or provide your ID. If you do not want to answer questions or provide your ID, say “Am I free to go?” If the police say “Yes”, you are free to go. If the police say “No”, you are being detained.
- Detention under sections 9 and 10 of the Charter refers to circumstances where police curtail a person’s liberty by a significant physical or psychological restraint. If, for example, a police officer physically blocks you walking away, that is a physical restriction and you are being physically detained. For psychological detention, there may be no physical restriction on your movement, but the way that the officer is acting would lead a reasonable person to understand that they have no choice but to do what the officer says.
- For a person to be detained, under constitutional rights, a police officer must have reasonable ground to suspect that there is a connection between the individual to be detained and a recent or on‑going criminal offence. Police have no legal authority to detain a person based on a hunch or because that person looks “suspicious”. Plus, it is not proper grounds for detention that a person is simply in a so-called “high crime area.”
- Therefore, there exists a balancing act between a police officer's powers to prevent crime, keep the peace, and to protect life and property, as well as the powers that the Canadian constitution gives to all Canadians. A street check is a way for an officer to gain information and feel out a situation before making a discretionary call to either let the person go, or to proceed to detainment. Street checks, used properly, can be an important proactive tool not just for crime prevention or investigations, but also community outreach as well.
- For example, in a VPD policy report, an incident is described during which police officers asked a man if he lived at a nearby home after they observed him looking into vehicles at 5 a.m. in the Kitsilano neighbourhood. It turned out there was a warrant for his arrest and he had an extensive criminal record.
- The reason why the policy of street checks is controversial, is that many see the practice as a form of police harassment and racial profiling, as well as evidence of systematic racism within police forces. The letter calling for the end of the Vancouver police department's use of street checks was made public soon before Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart introduced a council motion to vote on stopping street checks.
- According to Stewart, Vancouver Police Department data shows that between 2007 and 2018, Black and Indigenous people were "significantly over-represented" in the almost 100,000 street checks conducted by the force. That data showed 15% of all police checks between in that time were on Indigenous people, who make up just 2% of the Vancouver population. Likewise, 4% of people carded were black even though that population in Vancouver makes up less than 1%. The letter reiterates this point: "Street checks are harmful and discriminatory for Indigenous, Black, and low-income communities."
- VPD Chief Constable Adam Palmer defended the force's record at the time and said checks are often the result of a member of the public calling to report suspicious activity, or a police officer coming across something suspicious during a patrol.
- The Vancouver Police Department has already introduced a new formal policy for street checks earlier in the year, to comply with new provincial standards. The formalized policy which was approved on Jan. 7 addresses areas of concern including bias and a person's rights during a street check.
- Officers cannot make random stops, or stop someone on the sole basis of an identity factor, and officers need a "justifiable reason" to demand or request identifying information. Also an officer must take steps to ensure a person is aware of their rights during a street check and have a specific public safety purpose to ask for identifying information and tell the person of that reason.
- B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the guidelines were developed to ensure biased policing does not happen, and that according to him, the stricter guidelines has reduced the number of street checks by around 90%. He added that if necessary, the City of Vancouver does have the power to take further action through the police board if desired. Nova Scotia banned street checks last October, and Montreal introduced stricter guidelines for their police force earlier this week.
- As you can see, the balancing act between giving police tools to keep the public safe and giving everyone constitutional freedoms and liberty has led to a power struggle between those who wish to erode the police's powers, and the police who dearly want to keep the power that they feel is essential to preventing crime. It's a complex issue, and no matter what happens with street checks in BC, it's clear that there will be cases where a street check can be used either for good, or for bad, and that supporters and critics will invariably look to one instance or another to prop up their arguments while ignoring the other side's scenarios.
- Whatever happens, it's clear that if street checks in BC are banned, civil liberties groups and organizations like BLM will not be happy with just that.
- Last year the UCP was elected with the largest number of votes ever that an Alberta government received. They were elected primarily to get the province’s economy going again, balance the budget, and undo the damage of the Notley NDP.
- This week Bill 32 was tabled in the Legislature, the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act.
- The Bill is drawing fire from the NDP and their union allies because there are changes to the rules unions have to follow, but more on that in a moment.
- Other highlights of the Bill include allowing 13 and 14 year olds to do more types of jobs without an employer needing a permit, these may include light janitorial work in offices, coaching and tutoring, and see jobs in the food service industry if the youth is working with someone over 18.
- Employees can also now be laid off for 90 days within a 120 day period, currently 60 within a 120 day period, before losing their job. This allows workers to stay attached to their jobs and be recalled easier.
- The Bill also makes substantial changes to the way unions in the province work.
- The media, the NDP, and the unions, all of them, have made this Bill all about unions and an attack from the UCP.
- Union finances must be reported as soon as they are filed to the members of a union.
- Employees will be able to opt-in, not opt-out, to pay the portion of the union dues that go towards a union funding a political party or cause.
- The Labour Relations Board will have additional criteria to determine whether picketing is lawful.
- If employees are on an illegal strike, they might stop paying union dues if directed by the Labour Relations Board.
- An employee’s union will need permission to picket somewhere other than their workplace.
- And most importantly, those picketing cannot block someone from crossing a picket line.
- We’ve all seen the stories in the past of workers on strike blocking roads and entryways into businesses. That will be a thing of the past.
- The power pendulum had swung to the far union side while the NDP were in power.
- Most of their cabinet members had union pasts, unions were given more latitude over arbitration (which this law makes a tool of last resort), and the former Premier’s husband herself was and is communications representative for CUPE in Edmonton.
- The NDP has deep, deep roots to the political union movement.
- The NDP also removed the secret ballot for workplace unionization meaning that it was entirely possible for a workplace to become unionized without holding a vote by secret ballot and actually happened in Calgary by workers just giving their names to a union representative.
- That was restored by the UCP last year and this Bill 32 while improving and making some changes to workplaces in Alberta moves the pendulum back to a point that doesn’t overtly favour the unions.
- For the media, the NDP, and the unions to make this an attack on unions misses the picture and common sense approach that the vast majority of Albertans favour.
- Another day, another Justin Trudeau ethics scandal in the news. It all started on June 25th when Trudeau announced that WE Charity, an organization run by brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger, would receive a $19.5 million sole-source contract to WE Charity to administer the Canada Student Service Grant, a $912 million program offering grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 to post-secondary students in return for supervised volunteer hours.
- The federal ethics commissioner is investigating the WE contract to administer the volunteer grant, after Conservative and NDP MPs contacted the office raising concerns about the relationship between the charity and the prime minister's family. Amid questions over a potential conflict of interest, the government and WE Charity said the cancellation of the contract was “mutually agreed” on 3 July.
- After questions by reporters and digging into We Charity, it's been revealed that Justin Trudeau's mother Margaret and his brother Alexandre have both been paid tens of thousands of dollars to appear at WE Charity events.
- Initially, both the government and WE Charity claimed that the organization did not
- WE Charity has provided details of the speaking fees paid to both individuals for their participation at events between 2016 and 2020. Both Margaret and Alexandre are registered with the Speakers' Spotlight Bureau, which arranges appearances for clients in exchange for negotiated fees. Margaret spoke at approximately 28 events and received honoraria amounting to $250,000. Alexandre spoke at eight events and received approximately $32,000. The prime minister's wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, also "received $1,500" for participating in a WE event in 2012, before Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party.
- Trudeau admitted to reporters earlier this week that he did not recuse himself from cabinet discussions that led to the decision to award the contract to WE Charity. Less than an hour after the WE statement went out Thursday, Canadaland reported on its website that it had records showing Speakers' Spotlight had invoiced Free the Children (the not-for-profit arm of WE, now called WE Charity) directly for some of Margaret Trudeau's speaker's fees — and had asked WE about the discrepancy.
- Initially, both the government and We Charity claimed that the organization did not pay members of Trudeau's family. WE Charity initially told the media outlet Canadaland that Margaret Trudeau had not been paid for appearances at charity events. The PM’s office told the Globe and Mail that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Trudeau’s wife, never received compensation from the charity.
- Reactions from all major opposition parties have been swift and condemning of Trudeau's actions.
- Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said the WE contract must be investigated and that Trudeau should step aside from the role of prime minister "for a few months."
- Trudeau, he said, "cannot create a program which seemed to be custom made, tailored for an organization, that gave $250,000 of contracts to his mother, $30,000 of contracts to his brother, while his own wife is a spokesperson for the same organization. All of that is unacceptable."
- Blanchet said that he thinks Trudeau should step aside from being Prime minister and leave the responsibilities to the deputy prime minister "because for the time being he cannot be considered as being qualified to keep doing the job."
- Michael Barrett, Conservative MP and critic for ethics, called the news of the fees "scandalous."
- "We know now that Justin Trudeau handed almost a billion-dollar contract to a charity that not only had close ties to the Liberal Party, but which paid his family almost $300,000. Parliament must immediately be recalled so that we can get to the bottom of this. All of the documents related to the contract must be made public. Every single cabinet minister needs to come clean about whether or not they knew that the prime minister's family had a financial relationship with WE Charity when they approved this massive contract. Canadians deserve answers and the prime minister and his government must be held accountable."
- NDP MP Charlie Angus accused the Liberal government of thinking "they could play Canadians for suckers."
- He had few pointed words for Trudeau: "Did they really think that people weren't going to notice a billion dollar contract given to people who are very close to the prime minister's family? When asked straightforward questions about whether his family was receiving money from WE, the prime minister should have told the truth and he didn't tell the truth. That's why he's in trouble. He doesn't seem to understand, and the people around him don't seem to understand that there are laws that have to be followed."
- Just today, we're also finding out that Finance Minister Bill Morneau's family also has ties to WE Charity, and that he also did not recuse himself from cabinet's consideration of the WE Charity contract.
- Grace Acan, who was born in Uganda but joined Morneau's family as a teenager in 2010 when she was sponsored to come to Canada, has been a paid employee of the charity's travel department since 2019.
- Morneau's other daughter Clare also has been involved with the WE Charity, particularly following the publication of her book Kakuma Girls, which shares the stories of African schoolgirls in a refugee camp in Kenya, and even has a foreword by WE Charity founder Marc Kielburger. During high school, Clare started a pen pal program between her school and an all-girls school that her father's company, Morneau Shepell, supported inside the camp.
- Clare spoke at WE Day Ottawa on November 9, 2016, when she was 17 years old. A Toronto Star profile at the time described her as “Craig Kielburger in a kilt.” Since then, she's been engaged as a speaker to talk about this education partnership and has addressed the charity's WE Day events, where thousands of students gather to hear motivational speeches promoting civic engagement.
- In 2019, Bill Morneau announced $3 million in federal funding to WE for its “social entrepreneurs” program.
- Brian Lilley, a reporter for the Toronto Sun, digged deeper into WE Charity, wondering how they amassed $43.7 million in land and building holdings in Canada alone by the end of August 2019, when the organization only had a total revenue last year of $65.8 million.
- Lilley put together some basic questions for WE's public relations team, such as how did WE amass so much real estate, are donors made aware that money they have pledged to WE has helped pay for real estate to be purchased, can you provide me a detailed list of the real estate holdings of WE, and how much real estate does WE own outside of Canada? Instead of receiving answers or clarification, Lilley got a response from WE's defamation lawyer instead.
- Lilley writes that the only reason he's ever been contacted by a lawyer is to "try to use the threat of a lawsuit to stop questions the organization doesn’t like." He also says that having your defamation lawyer respond to media questions sure looks like an attempt to intimidate the media into not asking more questions.
- Pivoting back to the Prime Minister, the investigation by the ethics commissioner marks the third time the prime minister has faced ethics violations.
- In August 2019, ethics commissioner Mario Dion, determined Trudeau violated the country’s ethics laws when he urged his attorney general not to prosecute SNC-Lavalin.
- And in 2017, the previous commissioner Mary Dawson found that the prime minister violated conflict-of-interest laws a year earlier when he took two all-expenses-paid family trips, including a helicopter ride, to a private residence in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan.
- Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said a probe by the ethics commissioner alone is insufficient, given the new revelations: "It's not just a conflict of interest. It's much more serious than that. We have a prime minister that has used his powers to get a benefit out of an organization related to himself and his family."
- Poilievre cited Section 121 of the Criminal Code as a potential avenue for the police. That section, titled "frauds on the government," says it's an offence for someone to give an elected official or any member of their family "a loan, reward, advantage or benefit of any kind as consideration for cooperation, assistance, exercise of influence or an act or omission in connection with the transaction of business with or any matter of business relating to the government."
- In a letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett said his party is also concerned about the seven other federal grants and contributions — valued at more than $5 million — that WE has received from Ottawa since 2017.
- "I encourage the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate the possibility of criminal offences arising from these disturbing facts. You and the very able members of the national police force possess the necessary skills, expertise and tools to get to the bottom of this," Barrett said in the letter.
- One has to admire Trudeau's resolve in refusing to be bound by the conventions, or more accurately, the laws, that have constrained his predecessors. Not only has he already contravened sections 5, 9, 11, 12 and 21 of the Conflict of Interest Act, he may yet add sections 6 (1) and 7 to his rap sheet. The sheer variety of misconduct is impressive, yet Trudeau’s behaviour is excused by his apologists because they see his motives as pure.
- This sense of licence was on display in the House of Commons on Wednesday, as Trudeau sparred with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer in a rare summer question period. Scheer asked whether Trudeau would waive all privileges and confidences, so that the Ethics Commission could conduct a full and proper investigation.
- Trudeau replied that he always co-operates with officers of Parliament, including the Ethics Commissioner. This prompted the Conservative leader to remind the prime minister that during Trudeau II, he refused to waive privileges and confidences. “That is his modus operandi when it comes to a scandal investigation. He does everything he can to prevent the full truth from coming out,” he said.
- Trudeau feigned outrage, saying that “in the last situation”, his government waived Cabinet confidence and solicitor-client privilege. “It was an unprecedented step, because we deeply believe in transparency and accountability,” he said, against a background of uncharitable guffaws from the opposition. Scheer fired back very quickly, saying that it was only an "unprecedented step" because it was an "unprecedented thing that the Prime Minister did", in intervening in a criminal case. Scheer said "pardon me for not giving him a gold star for handing over some documents to the ethics commissioner.
- Ethics commissioner Mario Dion is also unlikely to believe that this is a prime minister who “deeply believes in transparency and accountability.”
- Trudeau must now defend himself against accusations that he engaged in preferential treatment; that he failed to recuse himself, and that he participated in a decision when he should have known that he could be in a conflict of interest. Given his intimacy with the Act, after repeated engagements with the Ethics Commissioner, the prime minister should indeed have known the perils associated with waving through a near $1 billion contract to his friends.
- Barrett was asked if the governments moves were criminal or just stupid. The stupid part is obvious, this whole contract, this whole idea was stupid. As for whether the move was criminal, that is up to the Mounties. But proving the PM acted in a criminal way will be difficult. What is less difficult, is for voters to realize this is a government led by someone who has a great deal of difficulty in staying between the ethical lines. He’s already been found guilty of violating the Conflict of Interest Act twice. And I expect that to become three times in the near future.
Word of the Week
Snapshot - A picture taken by a photographer, or a shot from a hunter, often done in a hurry or without aim.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Challenge of Our Lifetime
Teaser: The federal debt hits $1.2T with $343b spent just this past year, a tug of war arises in BC over police street checks, and a UCP bill reverts power given to unions by the NDP. Also, Trudeau and his finance minister engage in yet another ethics scandal.
Recorded Date: July 10, 2020
Release Date: July 12, 2020
Edit Notes: Cough and computer error
Podcast Summary Notes