The News Rundown
- One of the hallmark promises of the UCP’s election platform was to get provincial spending under control.
- Despite what some city politicians may think, cities fall under the jurisdiction of the provincial government.
- We have heard many times that reducing spending would harm services or put people out of work and that the cities do not want to go that path.
- The cities want to find another way and are often content to raise your property taxes and increase user fees while adding more spending.
- The City of Edmonton got quite a surprise this week when the Office of the City Auditor recommended that the City of Edmonton look at a growing number of supervisors and middle managers if spending is to be reduced.
- Many city services including transit are on the edge of being financially sustainable given the self inflicted economic shutdown during this pandemic.
- The report says, “Since 2017, the workforce has grown each year and supervisory FTE (full-time equivalent positions) have grown disproportionately high compared to non-supervisory FTE.”
- On a pure number to number basis this results in a 22% increase to 589 middle managers while the number of frontline supervisors has gone up by 19% to 1,242.
- Workforce costs have increased $63m since 2017 including $19m spent on 232 new hires which amounts to a 2% staff increase but a cost growth of 5.6%.
- The interesting part though is that non-supervisory positions ultimately dropped by 1%!
- The current ratio across all city departments is five staff per supervisor. In the city’s infrastructure department, the groups are even smaller with a ratio of 2.3 staff per supervisor.
- It is worth noting that these numbers do not take into account the layoffs as a result of the pandemic.
- The mayor after seeing this report admitted that the city will need to ‘shed’ some supervisory positions.
- He also said that he’s going to need “unusual co-operation” from the labour unions because many of these supervisory positions are union based.
- This audit will be discussed by city council on Sept 18.
- There is of course a huge amount of irony in this that the council won’t admit.
- The irony is that when the province mentioned reducing spending last year, it was the end of the world for Edmonton and Calgary.
- We need to be 100% clear that the spending reductions asked for were not front line workers at the city.
- The province suggested that the city look at management and reducing the overall spending cost by attrition.
- But now today, what the provincial government was saying last year was the problem actually is the problem.
- And this highlights the ideological divide between the reality of operating a business (which the city is) and what the strong majority of city council members would like to focus on.
- That’s why when the municipal elections come around next year, we should pay special attention to who we’re electing.
- Are we electing a high school student council body or are we electing the board of a corporation?
- In the beginning of May, on episode 167 we discussed Justin Trudeau's gun ban, a reactionary policy released in the wake of the horrible and tragic spree shootings in Nova Scotia on April 19th. In his legislation, Trudeau banned more than 1500 guns or variants of rifles that he described as "military-grade assault weapons", a fancy name with no real definition meant to demonize the issue in the media by making these guns seem scary to the public.
- At the time, Justin Trudeau told the country he was doing it to tackle gun violence and make Canada safer, saying that “every single Canadian wants to see less gun violence and safer communities,” while calling the ban a "big step forward". His Public Safety Minister, former Toronto police chief Bill Blair said “Enough is enough. Banning these firearms will save Canadian lives.”
- Blair, we need to remember, was architect of the largest mass arrest in Canadian history at the 2010 G20 Toronto summit protests, which was marred by intense police brutality and human rights violations, and he even lied about video evidence of police beating up an unarmed protester, saying it was "tampered", before retracting his statement admitting he had no evidence to support it. The Toronto Police Service also held press conferences to speak out against inappropriate actions of protesters, including displaying items alleged to have been seized from protesters. However, when confronted, Blair admitted that many of the items were completely unrelated to the G20 protests. Based on his horrific G20 response and his history of manipulation and lies, Blair is the last person you want in charge of your government's response to curb violence, but here we are.
- Trudeau's sentiments of curbing gun violence and making safer communities would be admirable, if he only focussed government legislation on actually doing so. Rather than tackle border security for illegal handguns imported from the US through Toronto and Montreal, where the majority of shootings take place, he instead decided to go after one of his party's favourite scapegoats: legal gun owners.
- Many of the guns banned were designed to be used in Canada for hunting and aren’t military grade. Since May 1, hundreds more firearms have been added to the banned list even though they are shotguns or bolt-action rifles. In 2018 249 of 651 murders in Canada were committed with a firearm. Of those, about 60% were with handguns. As mentioned this ban doesn’t touch handguns and it forgets that most of the illegal guns are smuggled in from the US.
- The ban is expansive and covers weapons such as the common Ruger Mini-14 often used by farmers to protect their livestock. This weapon has multiple colour and stock versions available making it look like one of those scary military style weapons. But the ban also includes some things that you would not expect to see on a “gun” ban like: MARK 153 SMAW Rocket Launcher, Missile Launcher FGM-148 Javelin, and the Russian Artillery M1942 Anti-Tank Gun. When was the last time you saw someone robbing a store with a rocket launcher? How will that solve gun crime?
- Legal gun owners are not the cause of gun crime in Canada. Up until Trudeau's gun ban, there were almost 100,000 AR-15 rifles owned in Canada. The number of legally owned AR-15s proven to be used to kill anyone in Canada would shock many who just get their news from the media and the government, because that number is 0. And yet, it continues to be demonized by the government, who use the menacing look of the gun to produce ineffectual legislation that doesn't accurately address the problem.
- Despite banning these scary assault weapons, handgun crime continues to rise, despite Trudeau's promise of safer communities. Between May 1 and Sept. 6, shootings were up in Toronto, as were the number of people killed by guns over the same period last year. Shootings are up 12.5% this summer compared to the same time period in 2019 and 24% higher than what was recorded during the summer of 2018. Compared to summer 2015, the summer just before Trudeau was elected, shootings are up 83% in Toronto.
- A parliamentary e-petition sponsored by Conservative Calgary MP Michelle Rempel-Garner that calls for the federal government to scrap its firearms ban has been certified with more than 230,000 signatures, the most on the online platform since it was introduced in 2015.
- The petition asks the prime minister to immediately scrap his "firearms confiscation regime," calling it "undemocratically imposed without debate during a pandemic while Parliament is suspended, [and] an assault on Canadian democracy."
- Instead of a ban on assault-style weapons, Rempel-Garner's petition calls on the government to crack down on firearms obtained illegally, specifically targeting the prevention of smuggled firearms across the U.S. border.
- Rempel-Garner calls the issue truthfully with what is actually going on: "Canada has one of the most rigorous firearms acquisition licensing regimes in the world. When we're looking at the very important issue of preventing firearms violence in Canada, we have to look at where firearms that are used in violent crime are coming from and we know that the vast majority of those are illegally obtained and primarily smuggled in from the United States."
- As Parliament is currently prorogued until Sept. 23, Rempel-Garner will need to wait to table the petition. In the meantime, we know that this Liberal gun ban was never about keeping Canadians safe or reducing gun crime. This was about Trudeau looking like he was taking strong action when he wasn’t. What Trudeau has banned were guns with no history of crime in this country claiming it would stop the shootings. The numbers show that’s not the case.
- Back in February, Heritage Minister, Steven Gilbeault made news when he went on a CTV interview and said that media publishing companies in Canada would have to be licensed.
- This was quickly walked back but this week we’re seeing the alternate policy plan moved forward.
- This week as the Minister was giving an interview to Radio-Canada he said that large tech companies will have to produce Canadian content and support the media.
- He’s also going to be bringing in an internet giant sales tax.
- The internet giants in question are of course the likes of Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon.
- The government sees this as supporting Canadian content creators but these actions of course go against the idea of a free and open market on the internet.
- And the way it’s seen, according to the minister, is that “It is not fair that a large company like Facebook, which is making record profits, which is one of the largest companies in the world, does not adequately compensate Le Devoir or La Presse for the use of the content they make on their platforms.”
- This issue is far more nuanced than anyone in government is aware.
- The issue is that the legacy media companies in Canada often see their headlines with excerpts posted on social media. And in the world of social media, a headline, and a couple sentences is enough to get the gist of the story.
- There are other full news publishers out there like Facebook or Apple that publish the story on their website and let the users read it as is.
- Apple has Apple News+ for any publication that wants to charge for access to articles.
- Facebook also has a service where news agencies can publish on Facebook and charge a fee.
- What the government wants effectively amounts to a link tax paid by the large tech companies. The idea being that some of the money the large tech companies earn will be funnelled back to the media agencies in Canada.
- Every news company, and even podcasts, needs to be on social media to be discovered. It’s part of the game today.
- Competition in a market creates a superior product because if someone doesn’t like the service they receive at store A, they can go to store B.
- You have one choice for each type of platform online.
- There is one video service where you can be seen, YouTube.
- There is one long form social media service where you can be seen, Facebook.
- There is one short form social media service where you can be seen, Twitter.
- There is one place the majority of Apple users can be expected to read news, Apple News.
- The point is that the problem isn’t on the side of the news media or the individual publishing platforms.
- News publishers have no choice but to be on these platforms to be seen.
- If you’re Global News or CBC your content is put into the Facebook news aggregation feed for free.
- If the media doesn’t like being there for free or they feel it short changes their business model, they can opt out from being featured on the Facebook news feed or Apple News service.
- Put simply there needs to be alternate social media platforms that cater to the demands of different kinds of publishers.
- Facebook is a monopoly and could fix this problem immediately with their subscription news service if they wanted to.
- But the government will fix it for them which also enforces their monopoly.
- If you don’t want your website to appear on Google or Google News that can be made to happen relatively easily too.
- But because there exists only one type of all of the tech giants, you can’t just not have a presence.
- The better solution is to foster more competition. Make it easier for there to be a Canadian Netflix streaming service or a Spotify-esque service run by Corus radio network.
- With this plan the media will get some extra money from the tech giants and there will be a Canadian section with Canadian content and this is the problem the government sees.
- But the problem it creates is that it makes it even harder for new tech startups to compete against the internet giants because the internet giants become the default option.
- And what it also makes worse is the monopoly position that those like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook all enjoy.
- All in all this is a solution by a government that doesn’t understand what the problem actually is.
- This week, we have seen vastly different economic policies between the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal parties, revealing both leader's visions for Canada as we head closer towards a possible fall election. New Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says his plan for a "Canada First" economic strategy would prioritize the needs of working families and take a harder line against China in international affairs.
- Immediately as O'Toole uttered the words Canada First, the media was quick to make comparisons between him and Donald Trump, as the media and the Liberals would much rather continue campaigning against Trump than actually look at Conservative parties as leaders in their own right with their own ideas and policies.
- O'Toole described his policy as delving more into self-sufficiency than Trump's, especially with food and energy security as well as in-country production of personal protective equipment to combat the pandemic, similar to strategies adopted by the Ontario and Quebec governments since March.
- O'Toole also said his approach wouldn't stray as far into protectionism as Trump's has: "I'm more of a free trader than what we see in the United States right now. We see some protectionism and we really see a couple of large corporate interests being advanced. That actually hurts a lot of middle size employers in both the United States and Canada."
- O'Toole also committed during the interview to meeting Canada's greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris Agreement, which he pointed out were set by the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper. To get there, though, O'Toole said he would let the provinces take the lead, rather than force policy from the federal government like Trudeau's carbon tax.
- O’Toole used his first speech to his party’s caucus on Wednesday to declare that they will be an intelligent, compassionate alternative to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, and argued that Trudeau created deep problems in Canada even before the pandemic hit, and pledged that the Conservatives will show they are ready now to govern the country.
- The speech began with a message of unity for the Conservatives, then slammed Trudeau’s record of managing the economy, and ended with a lengthy discussion of Riel, John A. Macdonald, and how Canada’s past must not be “cancelled,” but instead used to inform debates about the future.
- O’Toole’s speech argued that Trudeau had stoked divisions in Canada well before the COVID-19 crisis, citing office towers standing empty in Calgary and the rail blockades that had dominated the news in February. As O'Toole said, “It would have been difficult enough to guide our country through this pandemic and rebuild if we had entered the crisis united and with a strong economy. Instead, we entered the pandemic divided, disrespected and indebted.”
- We've already talked about the gun ban, designed to throw the crosshairs on legal gun owners instead of criminals. A day after O'Toole's speech, Trudeau introduced more legislation intended to divide Canadians against each other, proving the Conservative leader right.
- Trudeau revealed a new $221 million dollar federal program this Wednesday, that will give loans and support for training and mentorship for Black Canadian entrepreneurs. Another $6.5 million will go to collect data on the state of Black entrepreneurship and identify the barriers preventing Black Canadians from succeeding in business.
- Trudeau said the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the systemic gaps and economic barriers Black Canadians face every day, and that his government wants a pandemic recovery that is “inclusive and equitable for all Canadians.” In response to the July "Black Lives Matter" protests that swept across North America, Trudeau announced his cabinet had created a summer work plan to draft policies to tackle systemic racism in Canada and to help eliminate barriers facing Indigenous and racialized people and those with disabilities.
- While support for Black Canadians to get ahead in business is admirable, it's odd that just black people will be benefiting from this legislation, given that they aren't the only minorities or people in Canada in need of a step up. First Nations have faced discrimination and systemic racism for years, yet this program deliberately excludes them, as well as all others. It's a head scratcher to focus help on a person just based the color of their skin, rather than looking at opportunities to help all Canadians who need the opportunity, whether Black, First Nations, Asian, White.
- The government’s official press release calls the program “progress in advancing equitable access to support and opportunities,” while forgetting that equitable and equal are not the same thing.
- Not only that, but Trudeau’s new program may even fly in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that his father passed to guarantee equal rights for ALL Canadians. Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains guaranteed equality rights. As part of the Constitution of Canada, the section prohibits certain forms of discrimination perpetrated by the governments of Canada with the exception of ameliorative programs (e.g. employment equity).
- “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
- While not against the letter of the constitution, Trudeau certainly skirts around the edges, as he so often does. The fact that his policy of reverse racism is endorsed by his father’s ambiguous document is a constitutional nightmare. In this, it can be seen that “disadvantaged people” can be whoever the government and courts want them to be, to the exclusion of all else. In this particular case, it’s Black Canadians. Instead of focussing on one group, why not attempt to uplift all disadvantaged Canadians rather than zoning in on particular groups at at time?
- At this time during one of the toughest peacetime years in history, we see one party that looks to put all Canadians first against bigger countries looking to bully us and go against Canadian economic progress, while the other party looks to focus help for only select groups of Canadians. In the fall, we might find that we'll have a choice of which vision we believe is best.
Word of the Week
Division - a partition that divides two groups or things, disagreement between two or more groups, typically producing tension or hostility
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Politics of Division
Teaser: Auditors recommend a sharp reduction in city supervisors to save money, shootings are up despite Trudeau’s gun ban, and Guilbeault wants tech companies to give money to the media. Also, O’Toole unites while Trudeau divides.
Recorded Date: September 11, 2020
Release Date: September 13, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes