The News Rundown
- Say what you will about Andrew Wilkinson, he's certainly gotten British Columbians talking over the last week. The question to be answered in the upcoming election on the 24th will be, is what people are saying about the leader of the BC Liberals positive? Wilkinson decided to open up a massive provincial can of worms, and it remains to be seen which way the needle will fall.
- One of the sore spots for the province, both for John Horgan's BC NDP and the previous BC Liberal governments under Clark and Campbell has been ICBC, the insurance crown corporation that has a monopoly on vehicle insurance for the last 46 years in the province. Its finances have been ubiquitously described as "a dumpster fire" in recent years, though politicians disagree and point fingers over which party is to blame.
- On Tuesday, Wilkinson said the NDP has been responsible for rates rising by an average of $620 per driver over the previous three years — an increase of 48%: "Under Horgan, B.C. drivers pay the highest premiums anywhere in Canada."
- Wilkinson said, if elected, his government would end ICBC's monopoly on auto insurance in British Columbia and open the market to competition for all forms of the insurance. He said the change would mean drivers could "shop around," choosing to buy vehicle damage insurance and bodily injury insurance from the private market or to stick with the ICBC model: "A consistent theme we hear in this campaign is that people are really fed up with ICBC. The ICBC monopoly has been a failure."
- Wilkinson said a B.C. Liberal government would introduce lower premiums for young drivers, ensuring those drivers get two years' credit or — if they complete a driving education course — four years' credit. The change would lead to "significantly" lower premiums for young drivers with a clean driving history, he said. He said private brokers would be able to offer a range of products for customers to choose from, just as with home insurance or life insurance — and similarly to the system used in Saskatchewan.
- Wilkinson also pointed out that the NDP also promised to provide drivers with the money the corporation has saved during the COVID-19 pandemic due to fewer accident claims. He said drivers should have been given their money back months ago, and the NDP is using the potential rebate as an election promise. BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau also called Eby’s announcement a shallow election ploy by the NDP.
- For their part, the NDP has repeatedly said the previous B.C. Liberal government drove the corporation "into the ground" during its 16-year term, amassing a deficit of $1.3 billion. On Tuesday, NDP candidate David Eby — the minister in charge of ICBC — said Wilkinson's election plan was "ludicrous" and accused the leader of bowing to lobbyists who have pushed for private insurance in the province.
- Eby said that killing the ICBC monopoly would cost the province too much money to use: "Running two different insurance systems cost money. That's why we didn't do it. The reason this wasn't pursued by the B.C. Liberals when they were in power, when [former premier] Gordon Campbell was in power and wanted to privatize ICBC, is because it won't work. It will only increase costs."
- The outgoing provincial government was planning to radically overhaul the province's vehicle insurance system effective May 1, 2021, by switching to what's known as no fault insurance. This would cut insurance lawyers out of the process, and the NDP claim premiums would drop by as much as 20 per cent — an average of $400 a year — under the new system.
- Eby conceded some drivers over 45 would see lower rates under a competitive insurance model, but said those under 35 would see premiums increase by 18 per cent. He said motorists under 20 would see rates rise by 37 per cent, referencing a 2018 report from the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
- The turn to no-fault by the NDP hasn't been discussed very much in the media until now even though we've known about it since July. Horgan calling a provincial election during a pandemic has also proven to be a recipe for a lack of public engagement and debate, even about the radical changes proposed for ICBC.
- Geoffrey Sing, a survivor of a brain injury who works with and lobbies for other victims said that there's been no discourse or debate about no-fault because of the pandemic: “This no-fault stuff went completely off the radar because people became completely focused on COVID, and they still are. I did one television interview to express our concern about this, but generally there has been no real interest in it. This is a significant change in survivor rights — theoretically, they have a legal right to receive fair compensation, and we’re not certain they are going to get this through the enhanced care model.”
- Even advocates against the NDP's plans were hoping for detailed engagement especially given the stark choices being offered — the Liberal plan to replace the Crown monopoly with a hybrid system with renewed faith in private enterprise or the NDP’s fundamentally different no-fault model for ICBC.
- It's clear that a lack of media engagement and bigger worries for British Columbians, such as the pandemic, the economy, jobs, healthcare, etc. have put the issue of ICBC on the backburner during this election. The issue with that is that both major parties want to drastically change how ICBC operates, and without public engagement before a crucial election, we will likely not go into it fully informed. As we all know, elections have consequences, and the consequences of not being informed because the media can't do their jobs properly could be drastic.
- The Alberta Federation of Labour or AFL, one of the provinces largest unions launched a boycott list of businesses this week.
- In particular they’re boycotting Albertan businesses who supported the UCP or UCP-related groups in the last election.
- The website which is honestly disgusting names the businesses, gives addresses, and provides links to their storefronts.
- The AFL says they’re empowering Albertans because people shouldn’t have to buy from a business that in their words is “kicking Albertans when they’re down.”
- They specifically highlight nurses and teachers, both of which have had their funding increased by this government.
- Rachel Notley and her NDP have not condemned this website yet and what happened from 2015 to 2019 was the NDP and their union allies kicking Albertans while they were down.
- Ken Wagner, general manager of Moore Pipe said that his business was asked to take part in an advertising campaign and in the last election were supporting a party that was speaking for them.
- He also said that most of his customers are likely UCP supporters but takes issue with any campaign that singles out struggling businesses.
- Jason Kenney called the website ‘disturbing’ and ‘un-Albertan’ before going further and saying, “I would ask Ms. Notley to call off the NDP anger machine, respect differences of opinion in this democracy. Stop the bully tactics.”
- Rick Bell in the Calgary sun said that, “They see those on the other side as the enemy to be destroyed and it’s gloves off and no holds barred and the ends justify the means in what amounts to an attitude of total war.”
- Shane Wenzel of Shane Homes in Calgary said he sees himself and his 82 staff as the enemy of the people. There are also 1,000 others indirectly employed by various trades and suppliers that could also be affected.
- Unions today are as much political groups as they are groups for workers and these tactics have some eerie similarities.
- If we look back to the 1930s in Germany it was the Nazi affiliate groups who first started defacing and branding Jewish owned businesses.
- These businesses then became a target of ridicule and hate by the wider population.
- This is the ultimate form of societal division and it is propagating yet again today.
- This time in the form of a list of businesses with a map that your workplace or union may say not to support.
- In society there are limits, there should be a common understanding of what is and what is not acceptable both by the population and political actors.
- But as it happens many act surprised when the people take matters into their own hands. We reap what we sow.
- A boycott in this climate today has the potential to turn into greater unrest and potentially violence by either side.
- By taking it back to the 1930s and branding our fellow citizens and potential neighbours as enemies the AFL puts too much on the line and is responsible for increasing the political temperature in Alberta which could have further consequences.
- Now as Rick Bell says we can tell the AFL to go to hell or we can do as Shane Wenzel of Shane Homes did and use this list as a list of businesses that anyone who hates the AFL or NDP should support.
- One avenue of attack that the Trudeau Liberals liked to bring up when they were in opposition against the Harper government was just how poorly the Conservatives treated our military veterans. Since 2015, the Liberals quickly did an about turn, and have actually litigated and treated our veterans even worse.
- Case in point, was news this week that Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan has been defended in a defamation case in small claims court that has now topped $213,500. The federal government agreed last June to settle the lawsuit, which originally asked for $25,000. The final settlement was paid last week.
- The $213,500 includes the cost of litigation and support services delivered by the government lawyers and staff who worked on the lawsuit launched two years ago by Sean Bruyea, a former air force intelligence officer. Bruyea served in the Canadian Air Force for 14 years and is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War. He sustained injuries in the conflict which lead to his retirement, and since then he has become an advocate for the rights and dignity of injured veterans and their families.
- Bruyea claimed O'Regan — who was the Veterans Affairs minister at the time — defamed him in a February 2018 opinion piece in The Hill Times, a parliamentary precinct publication. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed to the public and the payment to Bruyea was not factored into the Department of Justice's estimate of the costs.
- Bruyea's lawsuit stemmed from a Feb. 26, 2018 column written by O'Regan and printed in the Hill Times. The minister's piece was a rebuttal to an article by Bruyea published two weeks prior about the Liberal government's plan to offer veterans the option of taking either a pension for life or a lump sum payment for injuries sustained in the line of duty.
- In his original opinion piece, Bruyea compared the old pension system, enacted by the former Conservative government, with the overhauled one put in place by the Liberals that came into effect on April 1, 2019. Backing up his claims with data, Bruyea said "the numbers don't add up." He argued that the pain and suffering compensation for ex-soldiers is "grossly unfair" and that disability claims had become "miserly."
- O'Regan responded with his own column saying it was time for a "reality check" and arguing that "individuals like Sean Bruyea" are stating "mistruths about Pension for Life ... to suit their own agenda."
- Bruyea said he was surprised by the amount of public money spent on fighting his case, adding he was astonished by what he called "the lengths the government will go to, with other Canadians' money, to avoid saying 'I'm sorry, I was wrong.'"
- The government also has racked up legal costs fighting other veterans in court — most recently former corporal Charles Scott, whose Veterans Affairs case file was mishandled on at least two occasions.
- Conservative senator Don Plett, who pushed for the release of the figures of the Bruyea case, said it was astounding that the government would spend almost 10 times the original claim to defend O'Regan: "I'm floored. I feel the government has to defend itself against frivolous claims. This was not a frivolous claim." He added that had the government "negotiated in good faith, this could have been dealt with honourably".
- Plett said the disclosure of the figure makes him wonder how much the current government spent fighting other "questionable" high-profile cases — such as the criminal case against former vice-admiral Mark Norman, which concluded with the Crown staying the single breach of trust charge filed against the ex-commander of the navy.
- As of last December, the federal government acknowledged spending $1.4 million on prosecuting Norman, who was accused of leaking cabinet secrets. But that sum does not include the cost of the RCMP's investigation, the former senior military officer's settlement and the cost of covering his legal fees. Plett said it's a disturbing pattern for a government that came to power five years ago arguing that no veteran should have to fight the federal government in court.
- It's amazing how the amount of money that the government wasted on defending a minister that was clearly in the wrong barely scratched the surface of the news world. Outside of the original report by CBC and a follow up by the Post Millennial that had much better linked sources, no other publication even reported on the government's wasteful spending.
- It's yet another example of the Trudeau Liberals purely wasting tax dollars. With Canada further and further in debt, it's clear we need a government that isn't frivolous with our money.
- This week with the help of the New Democrats the Throne Speech passed 177-152 leaving no question that Trudeau’s government is safe.
- Elections have consequences and we’ve seen a major shift in the last 5 years of what Canada’s left-leaning political parties stand for.
- With the Trudeau government needing support from the NDP this opens up a wide range of possible policy ideas that will bankrupt our country.
- Money is something we can measure and account for but ethics and morals are often grey.
- This week along with the passage of the throne speech the Liberals and NDP members on a House of Commons committee voted to shut down another attempt for the Conservative opposition to examine the WE scandal.
- Ruby Sahota, chair of the Procedure and House Affairs committee said that any further investigation into the WE scandal would require the Prime Minister and other members of cabinet to testify before Parliament and that the government report on the prorogation was not ready.
- She said, "Undertaking a pre-study at this time would be seen as being premature. In this instance, because the government has not yet tabled in the House a report outlining the reason for prorogation, the committee is not in a position to have a base of reference from which to begin the study nor would it be appropriate to pre-suppose the outcome of the report."
- This of course refers to new rules that the Liberals brought in when it comes to prorogation from what they saw as unacceptable in previous governments.
- The Liberals and NDP voted to shut down the study while the Conservatives and Bloc wanted to continue.
- NDP House Leader Peter Julian said the party is willing to continue the WE investigation but in a “more professional” way which would in all likelihood be a special committee.
- We anticipated the NDP would negotiate a deal on sick leave or child care and by extension the throne speech but when now given the chance to push forward and continue the WE investigation they say no and support the Liberals.
- It is clear now that there is some sort of deal that was negotiated between the Liberals and NDP to keep the government alive and at the very least slow the process of the investigation into the WE scandal.
- Peter Julian’s words can be dismissed as the NDP favouring policy over stepping right into an investigation but this is the classic way of saying no without actually saying no upfront.
- We have to wonder what exactly the NDP were promised in exchange for their support and a slow down of the investigation.
- This also has a troubling impact for Canadians because while elections do have consequences the implications of this are “unsettling” as John Ivison wrote in the National Post.
- First the Parliamentary Budget Officer says that the current level of spending is sustainable “but, really, barely.”
- He also said that whether it be new spending or tax cuts, the federal debt would become unsustainable.
- The NDP and Liberals are also advocating for a wealth tax to shore up the coffers and “tax extreme wealth inequality.”
- Second, he points out that Canada is being run by an informal social democratic coalition committed to income redistribution, regulation of the economy, and generous social welfare provisions.
- This is the other side of the coin to the populism that we see from the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.
- He also points out that there’s an electoral risk that Singh may not see why national director Anne McGrath and party seniors like Peter Julian may. The risk is that the NDP risk assimilation and their voters voting for the Liberals next time around.
- Past NDP leaders like Jack Layton and Thomas Mulcair knew when to withdraw support under the best of times.
- The question for the NDP of today is how much they want to let the Liberals get away with and if they’re ok with being what amounts to coalition partners that may get devoured.
- But the bigger question is why hasn’t the media caught onto this yet?
Word of the Week
Coalition - a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership to achieve a common goal.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Social Democrat Coalition
Teaser: Big changes for ICBC go unreported, the Alberta Federation of Labour lists pro-UCP businesses to boycott (or support), and Seamus O’Regan’s careless words cost taxpayers over $200k. Also, the Liberals and NDP have entered into an informal leftist coalition.
Recorded Date: October 9, 2020
Release Date: October 11, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes