The News Rundown
- Alberta has announced that the province will support the development of small modular reactors in cooperation with Ontario, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick.
- Small modular reactors or SMRs are smaller than traditional reactors and are incredibly scalable.
- These reactors are at the forefront of nuclear technology and bring benefits such as lower costs and enhanced safety features.
- SMRs are small enough that they can be built in a factory and shipped by truck or rail.
- SMRs generate between 200 and 300 megawatts of power, enough to power a village or small city.
- Conventional nuclear reactors provide between 600 and 1000 megawatts, enough for a large city.
- SMRs can be linked together to operate on a larger scale providing power for a large city.
- SMRs can also provide power in remote areas or provide steam to industries such as Alberta’s oil sands.
- SMRs produce less waste than a traditional reactor and can eat the waste from a larger nuclear reactor.
- Older nuclear technology used as low as 0.25% of the available fuel while this new reactor technology increases fuel efficiency by 100-300 times. The waste from these old reactors can become fuel in these new Generation IV small modular reactors.
- The technology gets better though, 60% of the fuel becomes inert material (meaning no longer harmful), 14% has medical uses, 13% has industrial uses, and the last 13% will be radioactive for 300 years rather than 125,000 years as with conventional technology.
- The best part though is that the reactor in the event of an emergency will just shut down. A company in the United States that has been developing SMRs has a reactor core that fits in a 55 gallon drum that relies on gravity, convection, and conduction rather than pipes, pumps, and valves that are complex systems that require backup power and computers to run in the event of a failure.
- The small size of the reactor ensures that passive heat removal will be enough and that there will be no meltdown.
- This story didn’t get much coverage in the mainstream media at all which is disheartening because it should have.
- The CBC article on the subject tried to minimize its relevance by saying that you’re still creating nuclear waste but from reading their article it’s clear they did almost no research on the subject.
- The Global News article doesn’t even begin to tout the benefits.
- The benefits are massive since modern nuclear technology provides us a key to severely mitigating the oncoming “climate crisis” as it’s called.
- Wind requires a substantial footprint and doesn’t generate as much power as nuclear, plus it’s dangerous for birds.
- Solar works but we’re limited by our latitude and battery capacity.
- That leaves hydroelectric dams and nuclear as the only zero emission fuel alternatives.
- Nuclear is often panned because of scary movies or the Soviet style Chernobyl meltdown. But what everyone needs to realize is that modern nuclear, even traditional aside from SMRs, is safe.
- SMRs are even safer.
- There’s also the benefit that Alberta could become a nuclear hub with existing uranium deposits and research institutions at our universities.
- This combined with the memorandum of understanding, Canada’s SMR Action Plan, and Alberta’s attractive investment climate could make Alberta a nuclear hub.
- This would ultimately help the environment more than any carbon tax ever would and would diversify Alberta’s economy.
- But because it’s nuclear and not a climate buzz word, the media gave this story almost zero coverage and that’s a loss for Albertans.
- BC has delayed the back to school date until Sept 10th, and teachers and parents say that mixed messaging from the government has caused confusion and worry. The province unveiled the basics of its back-to-school plan last month, and said this week the process would be delayed to give teachers and administrators more time to prepare, but many teachers are speaking up and saying that they have no idea what plans are being put in place, or how classes will work, and what the requirements for masks and distancing will be in the classroom.
- It's a bigger concern of what's going on in BC, where active positive cases of Covid-19 have risen since 2 weeks ago from around 200-250 where it had been since late May up to almost 600 in just over a week. Hospitalizations have not increased and deaths have not ticked up, but many are panicking over a return to school right when modelling from the provincial govt predicts that we are headed for a surge in cases into September if British Columbians don’t change their behaviour.
- What is different now compared to the spring is who is getting the virus. Those aged 20 to 40 make up the majority of COVID-19 cases but are hospitalized at a much lower rate than those over the age of 60. The biggest concern for the province continues to be indoor private parties and gatherings where people who don’t know each other are gathering, but it should be noted that the age cohort of 20-40 also consists of most people in front line working class jobs that deal with the public.
- Getting back to the school plan, many parents and teachers are saying that the messaging from the BC government is not enough. About a dozen parents and teachers gathered outside Health Minister Adrian Dix’s constituency office in Vancouver on Thursday to voice their concerns with B.C.’s plan to restart the school year, with lots looking for more certainty, or even a hybrid online/in person plan to reduce class sizes.
- Annie Ohana, a teacher at Surrey’s L.A. Matheson Secondary, shared similar concerns. She said teachers are being bombarded with questions from parents about protective equipment, overcrowding and B.C.’s rising COVID-19 case numbers, none of which she can answer: “What if someone gets sick? What are the protocols with school? What happens with their courses? As of right now I don’t know what my classroom looks like, I don’t know how many students I’m going to have, I don’t know even what my course load looks like.”
- Initially the BC NDP weren't even releasing the updated bare-bones plan, and 2 straight days of questioning in the legislature by the BC Liberals pressing for more clarity around the specific date kids will be back in the classroom.
- Education Minister Rob Fleming said there will be an announcement in the coming days about what exactly the first day back, Sept. 8, will look like for staff teams as the return date for students is delayed: "If it takes some extra time and builds additional confidence and fulfils the guidelines that have been developed by Dr. Bonnie Henry and her team, that's what we're going to do."
- While Global News notes the struggles and worries of parents and teachers, according to the CBC, teachers are all on board with the government's plan, quoting BCTF president Teri Mooring, who says that teachers "welcomed the move" to delay to September 10th: "I think what teachers really need and want is some really high-quality health and safety orientation training. Everyone wants to normalize our lives as much as we can, but we also have to make sure that the health and safety measures are in place, that teachers are trained, support staff are trained and that they're feeling comfortable training students as well."
- Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan took to Twitter to call on BC born actors Ryan Reynolds and Seth Rogen saying "We need young people to understand that now is not the time to go to large parties," and calling on the pair to "help spread the message".
- Reynolds responded Friday with a typically tongue-in-cheek audio recording directed at Horgan's Twitter account, saying it was a voicemail message he'd left on the premier's phone. Reynolds said in the message: "I'm not sure it's a great idea, frankly. People, I don't think they want medical advice from guys like me, no sir."
- But he goes on to say that partying during a pandemic is dangerous, and thousands of young people around the world have become sick or even died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. Beyond that, young people can infect older people, who are much more vulnerable to the illness. Reynolds said that "BC is home to some of the coolest older people on earth", like his mom and quips "I hope that young people in B.C. don't kill my mom, frankly, or each other."
- As for Horgan, he told reporters on Friday afternoon that he's feeling "really pleased" with the recording: "His humour is unparalleled, underlying that humour is a really serious message."
- Horgan said that he hopes Reynolds’ message reaches an audience that doesn't tune into Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's daily briefings. Horgan added that he and Health Minister Adrian Dix have also discussed how to connect with a younger audience through TikTok and YouTube stars, and that he's speaking with singer Michael Bublé as well.
- So while many are understandably anxious about sending their kids back to school, where sicknesses always find a way to spread from one kid to the next, many of the media are not focusing on the larger picture of the working age population having a much more worrisome rise in Covid-19 cases, which are still only at 600 out of a province of 5 million people. Hopefully the government will solidify a better plan before school's in session, and hopefully the media will find out what the real story is.
- It’s been a couple weeks since we last spoke of the WE Charity scandal but it has continued to develop and not for the better.
- The Prime Minister testified to the ethics committee along with Finance Minister Bill Morneau and all we got was more distraction and misdirection. Most of the information had already come out via committee.
- But just as the Prime Minister thought things were moving into the clear, a new piece of information from WE themselves.
- WE disclosed their lobbying to the federal Commissioner of Lobbying (which is a public registry) this past Thursday. The disclosures show that WE lobbied the government 43 times in the six months leading up to the end of the deal to administer the Canada Student Service Grant.
- So not only were the Trudeau and Morneau family members being paid by WE, the WE charity was also paying the entirety of the Canadian government for preferable treatment.
- Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said, “it’s an incredible coincidence that your organization has suddenly registered to lobby, all of these months after all the lobbying happened.”
- What looked like it was limited to just the Prime Minister and Finance Minister has expanded out beyond Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth or perhaps more appropriately known today as the Minister of Distraction and Diversion.
- Chagger was the Minister pegged as responsible for setting up the agreement with WE by the Prime Minister but it goes beyond that today.
- Records show that WE communicated with Minister of International Development Karina Gould on the topic of “international development” on February 7th.
- Also with Minister of Small Business Mary Ng on April 7th on the topic of education which also happens to be the same day that WE sent the proposal for the social entrepreneurship program that was never put in place.
- WE also had at least eight communications with Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s senior policy advisor, Amitpal Singh.
- Records also show that WE communicated with Rachel Wernick, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister at Employment and Social Development Canada 21 times between April 24th and July 5th.
- There are also meetings where the government reached out instead of WE making the numbers even higher.
- But this is just par for the course for WE as according to them, until now, they felt they didn’t meet the requirements to register as a lobbying organization.
- What was done to probably try to alleviate pressure on their organization and the government by effect, has all but shown how closely WE and the government were working together on a contract that is fishy at best and criminal at the worst.
- The unfortunate downside of all of this is that WE is suffering greatly. They have started to lay off staff and sell Toronto area real estate due to, as they say, the “COVID-19 pandemic and recent events.”
- 16 full time employees will be laid off and another 51 with fixed term contracts won’t have them reviewed.
- Parliament has risen yet again and it will be a while before the Prime Minister has to face questions in the house on this.
- On Andrew Scheer’s last day as Conservative Opposition leader, Trudeau was not in the house to bid Mr. Scheer farewell and answer his questions.
- This led Scheer to point out that his tenure as leader started much the same way it began, with the Prime Minister in hot water over an ethics scandal and dodging questions in the house.
- For the role of the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, the Bloc have said they will table a motion of non-confidence when parliament returns unless Trudeau, Morneau, and Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford resign.
- The new Conservative leader, likely Peter MacKay or Erin O’Toole, will probably support a fall election.
- This moves the NDP under Jagmeet Singh being the sole party that determines if Trudeau skates free or will finally be held accountable.
- People thought it would’ve taken an investigation to shine the light on the antics of Trudeau and Morneau but it could very well be WE themselves who put the final nail in this story.
- The very fact the opposition is talking about an election less than one year after the previous speaks volumes and maybe this government will be seen for what they are.
- As time marches on this summer we're uncovering more and more scandals and skeletons that Trudeau and the Liberals would rather keep buried. Last Saturday, we found out that the Trudeau government is paying up to $84 million to a company that employs Chief of Staff Katie Telford’s husband as a senior executive to administer its COVID-19 emergency commercial rent assistance program for small businesses.
- Due to the ties between Telford and her husband, Robert Silver, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) assures that their chief of staff has recused herself from any decisions that may involve MCAP, Silver’s employer, but with how many conflict of interest problems this government has had, it still raises eyebrows.
- According to his LinkedIn profile, Silver became Senior Vice-President, Strategy, Policy, Risk at MCAP in January 2020. MCAP bills itself as one of Canada’s largest private mortgage companies, with over 300,000 customers and $105 billion in assets under management.
- But a January internal email to PMO staff shows that when Telford’s husband officially joined MCAP, Telford set up a voluntary conflict of interest screen between herself, her husband and his employer, MCAP. The goal was to “ensure that she is not exposed to any real or perceived conflict of interest,” reads the email.
- The question that follows from this is, if Trudeau's chief of staff understands conflict of interest rules, why doesn't the Prime Minister, in regards to WE Charity, SNC Lavalin, and the Aga Khan vacation?
- Since Silver took on his new job at MCAP and the beginning of the pandemic, the federal government — often through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a federal crown corporation — has created new programs or made changes to existing policies that directly impact MCAP. CMHC subcontracted delivery of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (CECRA) for small businesses to MCAP on May 15. First announced by Trudeau in April, the CECRA provides unsecured, forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to help cover the rent of small businesses tenants.
- The contract was initially worth a maximum of $56 million, but later jumped to $84 million when CECRA was extended through July. According to PMO, Telford was not involved in the decision to extend the program, specifically because of MCAP’s involvement.
- For Rémy Trudel, professor of governance and former Quebec minister, there is no doubt that Telford needed to set up a screen like she did, regardless of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion's recommendation.
- “It’s clear as day that there needs to be a screen here, because there is at the very least the perception of conflict of interest, which is just as damaging as an actual conflict of interest,” Nadeau said in an interview. “All conflicts of interests, potential conflicts of interest or even perceived conflicts of interest must be separated by a Great Wall of China that must be formal, written and made public.”
- The prime minister’s office and the finance minister’s office refuse to say if Chief of Staff Katie Telford’s husband ever communicated with them since he became senior vice-president at MCAP.
- On Friday, National Post asked both Minister of Finance Bill Morneau’s office and Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen’s office — who oversees the CMHC — if Telford’s husband, Robert Silver, had communicated with their offices since joining MCAP. If so, spokespeople were asked to provide all details about the communication, such as the date, which staffer(s) Silver communicated with, as well as the subject of the interaction.
- On Monday, the same exact questions were also put to the prime minister’s office (PMO). Though the questions put to Trudeau, Morneau, and Hussen’s offices were the same, the answers were different.
- Answering Friday, Hussen’s office responded with a categorical “no” to questions about whether Silver had ever communicated with the minister or his staff.
- Morneau’s office, on the other hand, responded that Silver had never reached out specifically to discuss CECRA. When pressed on Monday on if Silver had communicated with Morneau’s team on any other topic, spokesperson Maéva Proteau responded that she had “nothing to add to our previous response.”
- The prime minister’s office sent the same answer a few minutes later. “My response is nothing further to add,” PMO spokesperson Alex Wellstead wrote by text. Silver has not responded to multiple requests for comment sent via MCAP’s communications office.
- The federal Conservatives are calling for an investigation into the Liberal government's commercial rent relief program to find out why it could not be delivered by the public service, and how it came to be contracted out to a company with ties to a top PMO staffer.
- Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre was critical of the government's decision, asking "What we want to find out is why this multi-billion-dollar program was hived off from the public service, given to a Crown corporation that couldn't run it and therefore subcontracted to a company that has, as its senior VP, the spouse of the prime minister's Chief of Staff."
- The Conservatives are calling on the finance committee why such a program was directed through a crown corporation into the private sector instead of the CRA which already deals with the federal government's emergency wage subsidy, and asking the lobbying commissioner to ascertain if either the company or Mr. Silver should have registered their lobbying activities and whether they did so.
- Poilievre said the central issue behind the rent relief program — that it could have been administered through the public service — bore similarities to the Trudeau government's decision to task the WE Charity with delivering the Canada Student Service Grant.
- The finance committee is already busy examining documents released by the government related to the WE Charity scandal, and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion is currently investigating the prime minister and Finance Minister Bill Morneau for possible violations of the Conflict of Interest Act due to their personal ties to the WE organization.
- But that's not all. The Trudeau government also gave $20 million to venture capital investment company Cycle Capital Management that the Liberal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault advised since 2018. According to his LinkedIn, the Liberal minister continues to work for the organization as a strategic councillor. Cycle Capital Management was awarded the $20 million as a result of the government's "Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative," which was announced in 2017.
- As well as this, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner states that Guilbeault had received income from a contract with Cycle Capital Management within the last 12 months. Cycle Capital Management made the $20 million government funding announcement this February.
- A spokesperson for Minister Guilbeault wrote that he no longer works or receives payment from Cycle Capital Management. The spokesperson did not say whether the minister recused himself from a cabinet discussion about giving Cycle Capital Management the $20 million, or if there was even cabinet discussion at all.
- Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Confederation Aaron Wudrick said "conflicts of interest arise when there is even the perception of a conflict. There doesn't need to actually be a conflict. The mere appearance of one is still a problem, as it undermines public confidence that governments and politicians are acting in an impartial way."
- 3 separate scandals in the making, all going on at the same time. Will the Liberals and the media friendly to them try to cover it up? And will the other parties, most notably the NDP, let this scandal ridden government continue? We shall find out.
Word of the Week
Delay - make (someone or something) late or slow
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Delaying the Inevitable
Teaser: Alberta forges ahead on nuclear SMRs, BC’s back to school plan worries teachers and parents, and WE Charity lobbied the government hard before the scandal hit. Also the Trudeau government uncovers two more scandals that the media ignores.
Recorded Date: August 14, 2020
Release Date: August 16, 2020
Edit Notes: Internet cuts
Podcast Summary Notes