The News Rundown
- The House of Commons has unanimously passed legislation authorizing new Liberal benefits for workers left jobless or underemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the process, the minority Trudeau government has survived its first pandemic-era confidence vote, which they declared on the legislation in order to force the other parties to either vote for it and prop up their government, or give the Liberals ammunition against them for voting against benefits.
- Bill C-4 passed in the House of Commons in the wee hours of the morning Wednesday, after a day of political maneuverings and just four-and-a-half hours of debate on the actual contents of the legislation. In the end, Conservative and Bloc Quebecois MPs, who had protested loudly against fast-tracking the bill and used procedural tactics to hold it up, voted for it.
- The NDP had promised to support the bill, having won two key changes to it. The bill replaces the now-defunct $500-per-week Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which came to an end last weekend.
- In its place, workers impacted by the pandemic will have access to a more flexible and generous employment insurance regime and, for those who still don't qualify for EI, a new Canada recovery benefit. The bill also creates a new sick leave benefit and another new caregiver benefit for those forced to take time off work to care for a dependent due to the pandemic.
- At the behest of the NDP, the government has increased the proposed new benefits to $500 per week from the originally proposed $400, ensuring no one receives less than they were getting under the CERB.
- It has also expanded the eligibility criteria for the sick leave benefit so that it applies not just to individuals who contract COVID-19 but also to those with underlying health conditions or other illnesses, including the flu or the common cold, that makes them more susceptible to COVID-19.
- Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough estimated the new measures will cost $34 billion. The bill also included some $17 billion in other COVID-19-related spending.
- But all opposition parties blamed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for necessitating the speedy approval, without allowing for adequate parliamentary scrutiny.
- They pointed to Trudeau's decision last month to prorogue Parliament, which prevented it from dealing with any legislation until Parliament resumed last week. And they accused him of using prorogation to put a stop to studies by Commons committees into the WE Charity affair, which has triggered investigations into possible conflict of interest by Trudeau and former finance minister Bill Morneau.
- To draw attention to other Liberal ethical lapses, Conservative MP Michael Barrett forced debate and a vote on a motion calling on former Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido to apologize to the House of Commons for breaching conflict of interest rules when he was still an MP. Barrett said it was just another example of Liberals ignoring the rules.
- Ethics commissioner Mario Dion issued a report eight months ago saying Peschisolido repeatedly failed to disclose his private interests, including assets, loans, his marriage and the fact his B.C. law firm was taken over by the Law Society of British Columbia.
- Liberals accused the opposition of putting political games ahead of the needs of people, thousands of whom were anxiously waiting to see if the new benefits would be approved. Barrett shot back that if the Liberals wanted the bill dealt with quickly they should not have “slammed the door on Parliament” by proroguing parliament in August. Debate on Barrett's motion delayed progress on Bill C-4 for more than two hours. In the end, his motion passed easily with all opposition parties supporting it.
- A day after surviving the confidence vote, the Liberal government promised to spend $10 billion on infrastructure initiatives such as broadband, clean energy and agricultural projects — part of a plan to boost growth and create one million jobs after the pandemic shutdowns pummelled the economy. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Infrastructure Minister Catherine McKenna announced details of the three-year Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) plan during a news conference today. The government says it's expected to create 60,000 jobs. For those keeping track on your calculators, that's roughly $167,000 spent per 1 job created.
- Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said today he would scrap the infrastructure bank, calling it "nothing but a waste of taxpayer dollars." He said he would bring forward a different plan to create jobs and get projects built. He accused Trudeau of making empty promises with a "Liberal re-announcement" and slammed the government's progress on infrastructure projects: "Justin Trudeau's record on infrastructure is abysmal. In five years, the Liberals have failed to get money out the door and shovels in the ground."
- McKenna said the pandemic created a time of crisis, but also a time of opportunity to rebuild with stronger, cleaner, more inclusive communities. She said the investments align with the federal vision to build clean, modern communities: "Canada has an opportunity to be the low-carbon economy that global investors beat a path to."
- McKenna was also in the news this week for something completely unrelated. Two shocking videos were released which show the now minister eating dog and bribing her way into a cockfight on the Indonesian island of Flores in 1995.
- The videos originate from a travel documentary made by Underknown's Steve Hulford, wherein young travelers explore foreign cultures, including cuisines. The first clip shows McKenna and her group bribing their way into an illegal cockfight. Cockfighting, a violent gambling event wherein two roosters are put into a ring to fight to the death, was made illegal by the Indonesian government in 1981, 14 years before McKenna travelled to the Island nation.
- The second clip shows McKenna eating dog meat, a dish that is popular across the large island nation. Experts believe that at least one million dogs are butchered for human consumption in Indonesia annually. The US National Library of Medicine has also found that Indonesia has become a "rabies endemic country," noting that several islands have seen sharp spikes in areas "which were previously considered rabies-free," with the dog meat trade being called a main factor in the fatal disease’s rise.
- Animal rights activist and Leader of the Animal Protection Party of Canada Liz White called the actions of McKenna "entirely offensive," highlighting that cockfighting is illegal across Canada: "Does it not call into question the person's notion of morals and ethics in this regard? If somebody is prepared to go over to Indonesia and engage in what is defined almost all across Canada as cruelty, and then engaging in eating dog, which is considered problematic here, I think the voters—wherever this person is a representative in Parliament—should look at this person and say, 'my goodness. What kind of person have we put into power here?’"
- While McKenna portrays herself as a champion of progressive issues and environmental activism, the former Environment Minister's reputation in both fields is far from inspiring. In 2018, 95 politicians and animal rights activists signed a letter to McKenna, requesting a ban on all elephant ivory—a resource which requires killing the animal—and to make it illegal to import, export, or re-export. As of yet, no ban has occurred.
- Additionally, McKenna was found to be using a "car and chauffeur" to attend both meetings where she would promote public transit. Expense accounts show that the minister was driven to Rockland, Ontario to attend a photo op at a bus barn to "discuss the importance of public transit," according to Blacklock's Reporter.
- No mainstream media outlet picked up on the additional McKenna story this week. After bullying parliament to pass their stimulus package, the Liberals seem to want to hide their skeletons, just as they've attempted to do for the previous 5 years.
- TC Energy, the company forced to rename themselves from TransCanada, are facing another pipeline delay.
- The delayed natural gas pipeline project will impact close to $4b in planned capital spending, delay drilling plans, and potentially lead to higher natural gas prices.
- The Nova Gas Transmission Ltd (NGTL) is set to be expanded which would alleviate pinch points along route and allow more gas from Alberta to flow to trading and storage hubs in southern Alberta.
- The Canada Energy Regulator recommended the federal government approve the project on Feb. 19, triggering a 90-day timeline for Ottawa to make a decision. But on May 19, the government opted to take another 150 days to review the project and consult with affected Indigenous communities.
- A decision is expected by the federal government on October 19th and despite the decision TC Energy’s plans have been delayed for a full year.
- The company is uncertain as to winter operations because the amount to be drilled in the winter is dependent on what the system’s capacity next summer will be.
- The message to producers on this is simple, don’t drill.
- Natural gas producers have said the NGTL is akin to a puzzle with missing pieces and the missing pieces make it difficult for traders and producers to determine how much gas to drill, buy, and sell next year.
- TC Energy has said they have lost the summer construction season and the earliest in service date is April 2022.
- Jason Kenney reacted saying, “Alberta is facing historic unemployment amidst the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and Ottawa’s regulatory delay couldn’t have come at a worse time. Once again, the inability of the federal government to get approvals done is tone-deaf to the economic reality and the needs of Alberta.”
- It’s estimated that the hit to capital spending in Alberta will be close to $3.9b due to the $2.4b project and $1.5b in upstream spending.
- This is coming during a time where the federal government has ballooned the deficit by billions and has committed to doing what it can to keep the economy going.
- This should be a simple matter of making the decision but it has not been made and it’s been delayed.
- Instead Alberta sees relief through the north.
- US President Donald Trump earlier this week before testing positive for the corona virus and being taken to hospital issued a presidential permit worth $22b.
- The permit will green light a freight rail project between Alberta and Alaska.
- The project will build a rail line between Fort McMurray going through the Northwest Territories and Yukon to the Delta junction of Alaska where it will connect with existing rail lines to Anchorage.
- The rail line will move everything from oil, potash, ore, and container goods to passengers.
- The project will still need to be assessed here in Canada by Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson’s office.
- The company building the project, A2A rail, says the line would be complete in 2025 and operational by 2026.
- The story at the end of the day here is that we see more delays in Canada and we have to look at other options for getting our resources to market but as it’s a railway through other provinces it still falls under federal jurisdiction.
- Both stories just exemplify how the federal government needs to get its act together on infrastructure approval processes.
- One of the downsides of BC NDP leader John Horgan calling a snap election for October 24th is that everybody was caught off guard. Because the election is happening during the pandemic, naturally people are less likely to want to go to a polling station to vote. Record numbers of people have already requested a mail in ballot, as of recording about 500,000 people have done so.
- The issue with the snap election is that all three major parties have been scrambling to get candidates approved for all 87 ridings before the confirmation today on October 2nd. So, any mail-in ballot requested before that deadline will not have that person's riding's candidates on them. Anyone who requests a mail-in voting package after candidates are confirmed on Oct. 2 will receive a traditional ballot with names and parties listed. But by then, hundreds of thousands of blank write-in ballots will already have arrived, or be in the mail.
- Andrew Watson with Elections BC attempts to clear up the confusion: “Any voter who requests a mail-in package before nominations close will receive a write-in ballot. So it’s a blank white space on the ballet that voters fill in the name of a candidate or party of their choice.” He acknowledged this could present a problem if voters believe without a list of candidates in the voting package they can cast a ballot for their preferred premier. And if they write in NDP Leader John Horgan, the BC Liberals’ Andrew Wilkinson or Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau? The ballot would be rejected if they are not a candidate running in your electoral district.
- Elections BC is also trying to get the information to voters through social media and in the voting package. Said Watson: “One of the changes we made to hopefully make this really clear is to make the ballot bigger and provide instructions on the ballot itself.”
- UBC political science professor Richard Johnston says he was surprised when he saw the blank mail-in ballot: “I think Elections BC and the parties are going to have to spend some time, starting now and for the next several weeks, clarifying what it means to express intent,” he said.
- If some voters do write the wrong name and have their ballot invalidated, Johnston doesn’t think any particular party will benefit. But he does think the parties should make sure their voters know what to do, adding “There is quite a lot of time for further information dissemination.”
- Unfortunately, relying on political parties to show how to vote properly is not something that can be relied on. Just this week, John Horgan gave faulty advice on voting that if followed, would mean your vote would be discarded.
- Speaking to CTV Morning Live on Wednesday, Horgan said he's confident people will be able to follow the mail-in ballot rules and have their vote counted in next month's election – even as he gave some erroneous advice about the different ways people can cast their vote.
- "You can just identify the party you want to support, you can identify the leader of the party you want to support, you can identify the candidates that you know and I think that will reduce spoiled ballots," Horgan said. "We're saying to British Columbians: Show us your intent on your ballots and Elections BC will certify that as your view."
- Asked about his remarks at a campaign event hours later, Horgan was quick to correct himself: "You can write in the name of the candidate in your community or the political party, not the leader, and I appreciate the opportunity to correct that," he said. "The information and the directions are very clear. I don't have a package – I'm going to be voting in advanced polls – so I misspoke this morning."
- Mario Canseco, president of polling company Research Co., isn’t surprised Horgan made the mistake and expects some voters will too. Canseco worries if just five per cent of people who request vote-by-mail packages fill out the ballot wrong: “That’s 30,000 wasted votes. From people who are supposed to be voting, they want to participate.”
- And mistakes could go beyond writing in a party leader’s name. Liberal candidate for Vancouver-Fairview, George Affleck, shares a first name with the NDP incumbent George Heyman in the riding. The write-in ballots concern him.
- Aside from the mail in ballot misinformation, there is also the matter of the short election cycle, with only 3 weeks left until mail in ballots can be received by a polling office. With hundreds of thousands of mail in ballots out there, it's possible that only a small portion will actually count towards the election.
- In the meantime, party leaders have been quick to make promises. Horgan has promised to build schools in BC Liberal-held turf in Metro Vancouver, a key region for ridings in the election. He's also unveiled a $1.4b plan to give seniors in long term care facilities their own rooms. New Green Leader Sonia Furstenau says she would phase out private seniors care facilities completely.
- Meanwhile, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson has put forward a bold plan to cut the PST for one year at a cost of $7 billion, in the hopes it would encourage consumers to spend more, thus boosting revenue and employment for businesses still ailing from COVID-19.
- The PST cut was the second major tax announcement during Wilkinson’s campaign, after he said last week that if elected he would scrap the BC NDP's speculation tax in favour of a new capital gains tax on condo presales.
- We will likely see more bold promises coming in the following weeks, along with a scrappy debate on October 13th.
- Conversation of course has been about what the NDP, Conservatives, and Bloc Quebecois are up to but we can’t forget about the smallest party in the house, the Greens.
- On Saturday the Greens will be choosing a new leader to fill the spot vacated by Elizabeth May. The Greens are said to be looking for a leader who can move the party to the political mainstream in Canada while still advancing their goals of the environment and electoral reform.
- But what’s often over looked about the Greens is the anti-semitism that has surfaced within the party.
- Annamie Paul is suspected to be the new leader who herself also happens to be Jewish and a human rights lawyer.
- The Greens won 3 seats in the last election and held the balance of power in BC. Had the house turned out to have a different make up, the Greens could have had the balance of power.
- It is important that the media vet political parties and their candidates when they are put into this position.
- Many party members and supporters have attacked Paul for being Jewish.
- In July she said, "I have been subjected to months of antisemitic attacks. The moment it became known that I was Jewish, I was bombarded with questions about my positions on Israel, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and the proposed annexation of West Bank territories."
- Paul also admitted that the attacks are persistent and often go unchallenged.
- She also doesn’t want to push identity politics despite the fact she would be the first black person to lead a political party in Canada.
- Her goal if elected as leader is to push the Green Party to resolve these issues that plague its membership.
- The party’s former justice critic, Dimitri Lascaris, who was fired by Elizabeth May is also running for the leadership.
- Lascaris was fired from the role because he questioned two Liberal MPs of being more loyal to Israel than the Prime Minister.
- This attack was called anti-semitic by the leaders of the day, Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer, and Jagmeet Singh.
- When it comes to fundraising Lascaris is second to Paul and he refused to apologize for the comments made towards the Liberal MPs.
- Lascaris himself also put forward a motion that was adopted by the grassroots of the Green party in support of the BDS campaign against Israel.
- BDS - Boycott, Divest, and Sanction.
- The campaign to boycott, divest, and sanction is one of the most antisimetic out there as it outright targets Israeli owned businesses and assets and seeks to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel.
- In 2016 the Liberals and Conservatives voted to condemn BDS movements but the NDP and Bloc did not, it’s important to remember this when it comes to who is supporting the government today.
- Going back to Annamie Paul, she said that she does not believe it is acceptable for Lascaris to be a candidate for leader.
- Steve May, Officer of the Nickel Belt Greens maintains a blog and on Thursday he also wrote about the anti-semitism in the Green Party.
- The blog post contains a sampling of the many anti-semitic attacks on Paul found online and they are quite frankly disgusting.
- It’s a shame that a story wasn’t published on this by the media until 2 days before the election but it highlights many incredible issues that have gone unaddressed.
- First, the media never vets parties such as the NDP, Bloc, or Greens. It’s even a problem for the media to vet the Liberals from time to time and we wind up with nasty surprises like this and we saw this primarily in the Alberta 2015 race.
- Second, this antisemitism exists not only in the Greens but the NDP and Bloc as well. This wasn’t talked about and is in many ways a secret. We’re looking at the parties that currently keep the government alive. They aren’t just minor parties.
- Third, it underscores how rampant anti-semitism is today when most of the focus is on racism against indigenous people or black Canadians. Racism is bad and we can’t ignore one type of it because the others are popularized by Black Lives Matter and others.
- We’ll be watching the outcome of this race closely and when election time comes around we’ll keep a special eye on the Green Party here at Western Context.
Word of the Week
Anti-Semitism - hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Not Easy Being Green
Teaser: Trudeau survives a confidence vote amid billions in further spending, the federal government delays yet another pipeline, and BC’s premier gives faulty advice on mail in voting. Also, we profile anti-Semitism in the Green Party of Canada.
Recorded Date: October 2, 2020
Release Date: October 4, 2020
Edit Notes: Internet cut near end
Podcast Summary Notes