The News Rundown
- Last Sunday as our podcast was going to press, protestors in Montreal toppled a statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald.
- We have seen protests in Canada linked with the Black Lives Matter movement after shootings occurred in the United States and these protests have caused destruction of public property.
- Remember that here in Canada we don’t have the same problems as the US and assuming that something is a problem in Canada because it is a problem in the US is extremely naive.
- The protestors who took down this statue say that the statue had to go because of MacDonald’s association with the residential school system and his opposition to Chinese immigration.
- In addition to being toppled the statue was vandalized with paint.
- Condemnation of the statue came quickly from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney who said, “Many of those on the extreme left responsible for this kind of violence claim that Canada is an illegitimate state, all the while enjoying Canada’s rights, freedoms, privileges, and prosperity. None of those things were created by accident. They come from the vision and sacrifice of those who went before us, particularly MacDonald himself.”
- He also went one step further adding, “If the City of Montréal decides not to restore Wade’s statue of MacDonald to where it has stood for 125 years, we would be happy to receive it for installation on the grounds of Alberta’s Legislature at no cost to the city of Montreal.”
- Quebec Premier Francois Legault also condemned the destruction of the statue.
- This put both Premier Kenney and Premier Legault in the position of occupying the high ground.
- One of the most effective methods of persuasion or arguing is the high ground maneuver in which other people, the protestors, vandals, and those who would normally support them are debating whether statues should be taken down.
- The Premiers completely bypassed that and said that destruction is illegal and if that’s going to happen, in the case of Premier Kenney, the statue needs a new home.
- This spurred Trudeau and Montreal’s mayor to step in saying that the statue needs to be restored and replaced.
- In particular the Prime Minister said, "We are a country of laws and we are a country that needs to respect those laws, even as we seek to improve and change them, and those kinds of acts of vandalism are not advancing the path towards greater justice and equality in this country… Actions such as that have no place in a society that abides by the rule of law.”
- The media is often guilty of following the favour of the week and milking a story to continually generate traffic and likes.
- There was also another act of vandalism this week when a Virgin Mary statue at the Our Lady of Lebanon church in Toronto was decapitated.
- Lebanon has been through a lot recently with that massive explosion and there’s a huge Lebanese community in Canada. No one deserves this ever, let alone after such a tragedy.
- Conservative leader Erin O’Toole tweeted that, “Desecrating a place of worship, where people find hope, is both horribly divisive & sad. Sending strength to the Maronite Catholic community”
- This just goes to show that there’s always two sides of the same page and one will get covered due to the media’s favourites and the story’s ability to generate clicks and likes while others are just ignored.
- Both acts of vandalism this week are despicable and need to be condemned with their statues being restored.
- But we don’t hear that from the media instead we hear it from two prominent conservative premiers who then push the momentum to have the statues restored.
- That’s the missing angle on this story that you’ll only hear here on Western Context.
- "Canadians don't know much about Erin O'Toole but poll finds openness to him". That headline seems to be the consensus around O'Toole, the new Conservative leader, in that he's not that well known, but people are open to hear what he has to say, what his views are, and more importantly, if he's better than what we have, a scandal-ridden Trudeau Liberal government, and an ineffectual virtue-signalling NDP led by Jagmeet Singh.
- The poll by Leger finds that a much larger number of respondents were more favourable than against O'Toole's views once informed that O’Toole is personally in favour of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion and supports same-sex marriage, as well that O’Toole is a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, advocates a harder line against China, supports building new pipelines and is opposed to a carbon tax.
- O’Toole has announced his new House leadership team, with Manitoba MP Candice Bergen crowned his new deputy leader and Quebec MP Richard Martel taking on the role of the top voice of Quebec, as O'Toole's Quebec Lieutenant. Gerard Deltell, another Quebec MP, has been named the new House leader, succeeding Bergen. The team seems calculated in an attempt to win more support for the party in Quebec in the next election, which could be in the fall, but who knows really?
- With a throne speech looming this month that could see the Liberal minority government toppled and an election called, O'Toole repeated that while the Conservatives are "ready" for an election, it’s not his priority: "I'm not here for an election. I'm here for the relaunch of our economy post-COVID. I want to make sure we fight for the opportunity for Canadians in any part of this country to work to provide for their families. That will be our priority number one." However, O'Toole said the party is "united" and is "financially equipped" for an election and if the Liberals want to 'rattle the sabres', "they will find that our sabre is sharp."
- O'Toole also wrote an op-ed in the National Post, talking about the dangers of China, and expressing disbelief in Trudeau's admitted admiration of 'China's basic dictatorship' that allowed its government to move swiftly to implement its agenda.
- O'Toole wrote "I will soon be asking Canadians to trust me to be their next prime minister. I will say right up front that the country I admire most is the one I have dedicated my life to serving: Canada. But Canadians deserve to know where I stand on China."
- He was very quick to point out that the struggle lies with China's oppressive communist government, not the Chinese people, or Chinese-Canadians who have immigrated to Canada 'for the liberties and opportunities that they could never have there'. O'Toole also pointed out his attempts to raise cyber-security concerns with Huawei with the government before, and also raise the issue of the oppressed human rights of the Uyghur minority in China. He's also raised the issue of working with our allies against China, especially Asian allies in the region such as Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, India, as well as the 5 eyes countries. In this, he's described Canada as needing an "eyes wide open" approach to China, "in order to see the country as it is and not as corporate lobbyists would like it to be''.
- Erin O'Toole has also looked at domestic issues, and says he wants to chart a new path in the Crown's relationship with Indigenous peoples, a relationship he argues has been marred by the Liberals' reliance on symbolism over action: "I haven't seen a serious approach from Mr. Trudeau, despite positive rhetoric. I want to see action and positive movement."
- A senior party adviser to O'Toole said the Crown relationship with Indigenous peoples is a priority for the new leader. The adviser said O'Toole's approach to the file will be based on three simple principles: show up, listen and have an open dialogue.
- O'Toole already has formed some relationships within the Indigenous business community. He was also the only Conservative leadership candidate to sit down for an interview with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde for his Ahkameyimok podcast. During that 45 minute discussion, O'Toole said that to him, reconciliation means Indigenous participation in the economy to the fullest extent, along with collaboration and partnership with communities.
- Bellegarde said O'Toole's willingness to participate "speaks volumes" about his accessibility to Indigenous leaders: "If Erin O'Toole's job is to make the blue tent big enough to include everybody in Canada, including First Nations people, he needs to build a relationship with First Nations people — as do all parties."
- During the podcast, O'Toole brought up his relationship with Chief Kelly LaRocca of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, the only First Nations band in O'Toole's Durham riding, as an example of his outreach. LaRocca has said she's known O'Toole since 2012 and described their interactions as pleasant, even though they don't always see eye-to-eye.
- O'Toole also heavily focused on the economy, which has been in shambles due to Trudeau's pandemic response. O’Toole says the Liberal government’s recovery plan is too narrowly focused on a green economy and will leave out major employers in sectors such as energy, manufacturing and Canada’s small businesses.
- He also said he wants to erase Canada’s deficit in about a decade if his party forms government, a timeline he said can be accomplished without giving credence to Liberal characterizations of a Conservative “bogeyman” who imposes deep spending cuts.
- Mr. O’Toole said he supports environmental measures, but that a post pandemic economic recovery plan must have a broader focus. He pointed to “heartbreaking” stories of Canadian immigrant families who have seen their previously successful small businesses, such as restaurants, go under during the pandemic: “We can’t pick or choose what parts of our economy Ottawa likes…I think we have to have every cylinder firing.”
- The Conservative Party has long advocated for balanced budgets, but the fact that large deficits by countries around the world have not yet triggered higher interest rates and widespread public-debt concerns has some economists and politicians questioning whether past warnings about deficit spending were misplaced. Mr. O’Toole said he doesn’t accept those arguments: “If interest rates change, we are in for bad times,” he said, predicting that in such a scenario, the federal government would struggle to fund core programs such as health care transfers to the provinces and Old Age Security. O’Toole said in his leadership platform that the country needs to maintain an annual growth rate of 3 per cent.
- Overall, O'Toole's moderate common sense ideas should be a welcome breath of fresh air in Canadian politics, and the polls agree that a lot of people, once they hear about O'Toole and his policies, should agree with him. Over time, this could prove very useful to the Conservatives as the uncertain future looms closer, as well as whenever the next election will be. We will be looking to see if the media coverage of O'Toole is fair, or if it will echo what it has done to Conservative leaders over the past decade.
- The Canadian Economic Response Benefit has been one that has been criticized and rightly so.
- The program didn’t ask for proof of work and ended too abruptly causing more people to stay on rather than looking for work.
- A recent study by the Fraser Institute in BC adds to this by suggesting that up to $22b of aid may have gone to high income Canadians.
- The study estimates that a maximum of $11.8 billion could have gone to young people with part-time jobs who are dependents in families with more than $100,000 in annual income.
- A further $7 billion could have gone to spouses in similar circumstances in families making more than $100,000.
- These figures assume that people had income in 2019, lost it, or saw it decrease.
- The program had very little fiscal accountability attached to it since the program was built to put the money out the door as fast as possible.
- The study also targeted the increase to the Canada Child benefit, where they found more than $500 million went to families making more than $100,000.
- Millions of dollars were also handed out in the form of a “top up” to anyone getting the Old Age Security (OAS) pension. The fact is that most seniors didn’t need this and it should be noted that OAS itself is paid to couples with up to $260,000 a year in income.
- In July the federal government admitted that $442m was sent out in double payments by mistake.
- Also in July Canada had handed out up to 15% of GDP in terms of fiscal aid.
- Australia, 10.6%.
- 8.9% in Germany.
- 5% in France and 4.9% in Italy.
- When measuring debt and deficits a measure focusing on percentage of GDP is better than raw numbers and these speak volumes.
- These numbers put us squarely at the top of the G7. The 2009 recession saw Canada emerge on top in terms of middle class wage growth but this recession is a different beast.
- Decisions were made to shut down the economy and without lasting structural damage the economy should bounce back relatively quickly.
- That difference means that we should not be spending willy nilly as the fundamentals of the economy remain strong.
- This lack of fiscal prudence combined with what’s inevitably going to be an expensive throne speech and budget will ensure that the budget is not balanced for a long long time.
- And as the old saying goes, budgets mean debt, debt means debt servicing costs, and those costs mean less programs for Canadians.
- Money does not grow on trees. And our currency doesn’t attract substantial investment like the US dollar or Japanese yen, both of which can be used can be used to expand monetary policy by creating new fiat money because of that investment.
- As has been said in Alberta by Jason Kenney, the same is true for all of Canada. We are on the path of a fiscal reckoning and either there will need to be cuts in spending or new taxes brought in at some point going forward.
- This is likely why Trudeau is jockeying for an election with the hope he can snag a majority and tax and spend to his heart's content once the economy returns to normal.
- Both paths are deeply worrying for Canada and the media needs to be asking the hard questions on this matter.
- Just over a month ago on episode 180, we detailed the troubling tenure of Governor General Julie Payette, who was appointed to her position in late 2017 on the advice of Prime Minister Trudeau. The 3 years she's been in office have raised a number of startling allegations from many different sources about creating a toxic work environment for Rideau Hall staffers, with abusive mistreatment and harassment of current and former staff in her office.
- Since then, there have also been a large number of reports of the Governor General's disregard for her RCMP security detail, which has unnecessarily risen the security risks as well as taxpayer costs of Payette's security. Multiple sources have said that Payette's secrecy and resistance to working with the RCMP routinely sends her protective detail scrambling to fulfil last-minute requests and drives up spending on overtime, hotel and plane tickets. Payette has even made repeated attempts to slip away from her protectors in Canada and abroad. The force has also had to apologize for her behaviour to foreign security abroad because she treated them so poorly.
- There have been a number of avoidable security expenses that left taxpayers on the hook. They include the RCMP paying double or triple the price for flights abroad because Payette hadn't decided if she was going on personal or work trips until the last minute. Some international flights have cost up to $12,000.
- Sometimes hotel rooms with a $400 price tag have been sitting empty near the Citadelle, her second official residence in Quebec City, because Payette suddenly decided she wanted to go to her cottage north of Montreal, but it was too late to cancel the original booking. On international trips, the RCMP have had to send an additional officer for Payette's security detail, ranging from an estimated $4,000 to $15,000 per week, to guard Payette's door because of her repeated attempts to slip away from her protective detail.
- One RCMP source with direct knowledge of Payette's protective detail called these extra expenses 'infuriating' and 'unnecessary': "She incurs costs that are unbelievable. It's Canadians' money that is not well spent because of someone who is difficult." Another said "She doesn't realize it's not her life anymore and everything she does costs Canadians money."
- The RCMP confirmed there was more than a $1 million increase to $7.4 million in spending to protect the Governor General in 2019-20 compared the previous fiscal year. That number is roughly $700,000 higher than her predecessor David Johnston's last year in office, even though he travelled more and had a larger security detail, because there was a greater threat to Canadian public figures at the time, a period that included the October 2014 attack on Parliament Hill.
- Earlier in August we also found out that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to satisfy Payette's need for privacy at Rideau Hall before she agrees to move in, but she still hasn't moved into her official residence almost three years into her five-year mandate. They include almost $140,000 spent studying and designing a private staircase that was never built, and more than $117,500 on a gate and series of doors to keep people away from Payette's office, according to the National Capital Commission (NCC), which manages the official vice-regal residence.
- The NCC says those projects were at the request of Rideau Hall, and are in addition to the $2.4 million the NCC spent on pre-planned renovations in 2018 to the so-called Monck wing which houses a "significant portion of the private quarters and state offices of Rideau Hall." Those renovations included a new heating and cooling system, new furnishings, lighting and $290,000 on the administration bathroom to make it universally accessible.
- These extraordinary costs go well beyond the usual transition expenses, which normally involve some fresh paint and new furniture. The expenses as well as the unusual behaviour of Payette paint a portrait of a Governor General who is deeply uncomfortable with the spotlight of public life that comes with holding office, such as being in the constant presence of staff, RCMP security and, to some extent, the public. Governors general have to accept a degree of privacy loss when they take on the vice-regal role, but it seems that Payette has done everything she can to shirk the duties that she's agreed to fulfill when she accepted the appointment.
- Not only doesn’t the Governor General like her Ottawa digs, she apparently doesn’t prefer her second official home at the Citadelle in Quebec City, either, instead opting to hole up in her personal chalet in the Laurentians, north of Montreal, causing additional expenses for the RCMP and lots of short, expensive hops in the Challenger aircraft between Mirabel and Ottawa.
- Much of the verdant grounds of Rideau Hall are open to the public, who wander freely around what is seen in the national capital as a public park. Family picnics and pick-up football games abound on any particular summer day. But Payette "wanted to come and go without anyone seeing her," said one source with knowledge of the project. Early in Payette's mandate she wanted a door for her cats to be able to exit the living quarters on the second floor and go outside. The idea then changed into a private exit for Payette.
- The NCC hired an architectural firm to draft the plans, which included a small landing area at the top of the stairs where Payette could sit alone outside, according to sources with knowledge of the project. In addition, Rideau Hall asked for a fire safety study which cost $16,500, the NCC said. A team of government staff and outside companies spent months working on the project and going through a rigorous approval process to make the addition to the heritage building, according to sources. But the staircase was never built.
- After $138,654 of completed work, the NCC says Rideau Hall "discontinued" the project in April 2019 before construction started. The Governor General's press secretary Ashlee Smith said it paused the work after learning its total projected cost. The NCC estimated it would cost $271,000. Smith said "After the original design and cost were disclosed to [Rideau Hall] it was decided that further analysis should be undertaken to ensure that any work done would strike a balance between safety and cost effectiveness." It seems that her team was only concerned about cost effectiveness after the project was already more than half paid for.
- Payette doesn't even like maintenance workers in her line of sight. Even RCMP paid to protect her are no longer allowed to stand directly outside her office door and must hide in a room down the hallway, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. Only some select staff currently have access to the restricted area by her office. Sources have said she doesn't like the idea of workers and the public coming in and out of the building, and even though Payette personally requested a number of these renovations, staff have been personally confronted by her over construction noises and questioned about what they were doing and why they were doing it. Some workers have been belittled and were visibly shaken afterwards.
- There are a number of other shocking stories involving Payette located in the supplementals that are just too numerous to go over here. Feel free to check out our show notes and supplementals at westerncontext.ca to read through them.
- At this point it should be noted that Julie Payette was one of Justin Trudeau's signature appointments during his first mandate as prime minister. Trudeau rejected Stephen Harper's process of using an advisory board to suggest suitable candidates for the post and instead went with his personal choice, the female former astronaut.
- On Wednesday, Trudeau called Payette an "excellent" Governor General and said he has no intention "right now"' of asking the Queen to replace her, and that because of the pandemic, "nobody's looking at any constitutional crises." Payette's office is still the subject of an independent review launched by the Privy Council Office responding to claims of harassment and a toxic work environment. The extra expenses, sadly, aren't subject to a review.
- One former Rideau Hall employee who reported harassment said Trudeau's comments felt like a "kick in the stomach." and made them wonder if Trudeau is taking the harassment claims seriously. The former staffer even said that Trudeau's remarks have solidified their decision to take part in the review: "It saddened me. I don't feel I'm being treated fairly as a human being. He doesn't realize there are people behind those allegations who have suffered. It was a nightmare. I almost had PTSD after that. I know there's people that went into depression. It's not normal."
- The change in Trudeau's tone more than a month later has caused some people to reconsider their decision to take part in the review — while others who weren't planning to take part are now considering it, with one calling the comments "appalling" and another asking whether the prime minister's comments amounted to "tampering" with the process.
- One complainant who alleges Payette's second in command Assunta Di Lorenzo harassed them said if the prime minister really felt Payette was doing a good job, he would have said so in July when the original story broke: "For him to wait a month to say he supports the Governor General that he hand-selected is bizarre. It shows he cares about the optics at this stage, not the actual people who have been harassed or bullied. I think there's a political game going on."
- This is bang on. Trudeau could be worried about Payette adding something unexpected to her delivery of the speech from the throne on Sept. 23, or what might happen if there's a sudden election: "To get rid of her at this point when there may be a fall election is very difficult and, constitutionally, it would be a mess. It would be quite different if we were in a majority situation."
- While it’s likely too late to get rid of Payette and probably not worth the trouble, it’s important to recall how we got into this pickle, which was all so avoidable. Anybody who had done even a rudimentary series of checks on how Payette performed in her earlier jobs would have discovered in two minutes that this was the last person you would ever want to appoint to a very public, ceremonial role that requires an outgoing, tolerant personality, not an introvert described by one former employee as “a difficult person.”
- As has been reported elsewhere, her earlier time as chief operating officer of the Montreal Science Centre was a disaster, resulting in a toxic work environment and many precipitous departures by people who couldn’t stand working for her. She left the job abruptly.
- The problem is that Trudeau and his brain trust at the PMO, led by the devious but incompetent Gerald Butts, who has since resigned in the shadow of the SNC-Lavalin affair, obviously fell in love with Payette’s CV and the “idea” of a Payette GG. Stephen Harper had wisely established an advisory committee on vice-regal appointments, but Trudeau & Butts figured they knew better, scrapped the group and decided on their own. Who could object to a former astronaut, a francophone, and a woman, to boot?
- Even the announcement of the new Governor General was another one of Trudeau's now signature channel changes of the media. Trudeau was already dealing with backlash from the announcement of a $10.5-million settlement and apology to Omar Khadr, and It was important to change the subject. So the Payette announcement was pushed out quickly in early July, with little vetting, all to take the heat off of one of the first of Trudeau's major scandals, of which he's accrued quite a few more.
- In the end, the woes and expenses surrounding Governor General Julie Payette, can be laid at the feet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It isn’t just that he gets it wrong, it’s that Trudeau clearly doesn’t get it. At all. It’s a continuation of the privilege-driven myopia that seems to afflict Trudeau in moments that require an understanding of how the real world works, which further speaks to the out of touch nature of his Laurentian elite-driven government. To him, Payette is undoubtedly just another trifling annoyance. But to those whose concerns are minimized by his off-the-cuff defence of the apparently troublesome Governor General, such a blissfully ignorant dismissal could very much feel like a boot to the gut.
Word of the Week
Wasteful - (of a person, action, or process) using or expending something of value carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Waste of Time
Teaser: Vandalized statues prompt a call for change from premiers, Erin O’Toole opens up about his favourable views, and CERB funnels $22b to the rich. Also, Trudeau defends the wasteful spending of the reclusive and abrasive Governor General Julie Payette.
Recorded Date: September 4, 2020
Release Date: September 6, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes