The News Rundown
- There will be no snap election call — at least not yet — after a contentious Conservative motion that the Liberal government declared a confidence test was defeated in the House of Commons Wednesday. Liberal and NDP Members of Parliament voted 180 to 146 against an opposition bid to create a new committee to scrutinize the WE Charity controversy and the government’s handling of pandemic-related spending. The three Green MPs and two Independent MPs, including former Liberal minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and disgraced former Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara who is under criminal investigation, also voted to reject the Conservative gambit.
- At a press conference roughly two hours before the crucial vote, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh signalled his party wouldn’t support the Tory motion, but would not say if his party might abstain from the vote altogether. In the end, his MPs voted to quash the Tory motion and ensured the minority Liberal government would survive another confidence vote, weeks after the NDP supported its throne speech. It seems that the informal social democrat coalition between the Liberals and NDP is alive and well.
- The motion introduced by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole proposed the creation of a new House of Commons committee to study the WE Charity controversy; alleged lobbying by the husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford; and contracts awarded to firms with Liberal ties, as well as other “potential scandals” related to the COVID-19 pandemic spending.
- O’Toole told reporters earlier this week that new details that continue to emerge “paint a concerning picture of potential corruption at very high levels of the government.” O’Toole said he did not want an election, but he also said he had no confidence in the Liberal government.
- Bloc Québécois MPs voted with the Conservatives. Earlier in the day, Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien urged the NDP to vote with the opposition in defeating the government: “This government is starting to look more and more like a club of cronyism, who take money from public funds and to give to their friends. We must absolutely stop this government.”
- Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Liberals don’t want an election but, as a minority government, cannot continue to govern and pass legislation, such as help for small businesses, without opposition cooperation: “We need the confidence of the House to do our job. The ball is in the opposition’s court.” Apparently just investigating allegations of corruption counts as "not helping Canadians" in the government's eyes.
- Originally pitched as an “anti-corruption committee,” the Conservatives renamed it Tuesday as a special committee on “allegations of misuse of public funds by the government.” Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez compared the name change to writing a book about Frankenstein and calling it “Cinderella.” The concession did nothing to change the Liberal government’s view that the opposition is calling the government corrupt, Rodriguez said, and that passing the motion would mean the Liberals had lost the confidence of the House.
- Monday’s threat of a confidence vote by Liberals did not impress the opposition. Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre said the threat was overcompensating: “Is [Rodriguez] really suggesting that if the committee looks into Trudeau’s corruption that Trudeau is just going to call an election? No government in Canadian history has been brought down because an opposition motion passed to set up a committee.”
- While many Canadians probably don't want an election right now, having just had one a year ago, it should be said that many Canadians probably would like to see the rampant corruption located in government to be sharply reduced.
- Though it’s now spilled into the House of Commons, the battle over the study of the WE Charity scandal has been raging in various committees for weeks now. Lately, the Liberals have filibustered multiple parliamentary committees as they try to avoid being outvoted by the opposition parties.
- Poilievre said “The Conservatives will take any steps necessary within our parliamentary system to get at the truth,” he said, adding that the government needs to “get out of the way” and let committees do their work.
- In the ethics committee, the Liberals have been filibustering debate to delay voting on a Conservative motion that orders the Speakers’ Spotlight bureau to turn over details of speaking fees paid to Trudeau and his wife, mother and brother since 2008. Opposition MPs say they want to verify how much money WE Charity and its affiliates paid the Trudeau family over the years.
- Meanwhile, Liberal filibustering over a Conservative motion that protests redactions applied to thousands of pages of WE Charity documents released by the government in the summer has paralyzed the finance committee.
- The health committee has also been bogged down due to Liberals fighting a Conservative motion that would order a sweeping study into the government’s handling of the pandemic — including by ordering the production of a massive trove of government documents for committee inspection.
- The Liberals are clearly trying to govern as if they still have a majority mandate. Unfortunately, with Singh and the NDP easily capitulating to Trudeau, it seems that they still do. It raises questions about just what are the Liberals trying to hide that they'd go so far as to force an election during a pandemic.
- This doesn't relate to just the WE Charity documents that they have been trying to hide but also the documents that opposition members of the Commons health committee would like to see related to the government’s COVID-19 response.
- So, let’s get this straight: the Liberals have prorogued Parliament, filibustered committees and are now threatening an election all to stop the release of documents? That doesn’t sound like the open and transparent government that Justin Trudeau promised when he was elected: “Government and its information should be open by default,” Trudeau promised in the 2015 Liberal platform. Now he is doing everything he can to keep secrets, secret. What exactly would we find in those documents?
- If the documents requested by the health committee were released, would we find out that the government botched its response to the pandemic? Would we find out what really happened to the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile and the Global Public Health Intelligence Network?
- If the truth resembled, even partially, what the government has claimed, then they would have no problem releasing the emails, memos and more. That they are fighting hard to keep them secret makes me think there must be something damning in them.
- Now that the Liberals are also blocking access to information on their handling of the pandemic while also threatening an election it really makes you wonder, how bad are the documents the Liberals are trying to hide? We may have an election before we ever get to find out and depending on how it goes, we may never know.
- Last weekend the UCP held a virtual annual general meeting and as per the course of UCP annual general meetings, policy was discussed and voted upon.
- The media lightning rod sprung into action shortly after decrying:
- Two-tier health care system policy resolution gets lukewarm response at UCP AGM
- UCP approves policy to create private health-care system in Alberta
- UCP passes all 30 party policies, including option of 'privately-funded' health-care system
- And of course the media also took issue with Jason Kenney and Erin O’Toole sitting side by side without masks dedicating an entire article to the subject.
- The UCP like the federal Conservative Party of Canada has its policy guided by its members. The members choose to elevate certain policy ideas for consideration each year.
- This is grassroots democracy where people who choose to become active within the party can have such a say.
- Grass roots democracy has been the bedrock of prairie conservatism since the formation of the Reform party in the 1980s.
- The policy declaration that set the media and NDP into a frenzy said, “the Government of Alberta should support the option of a privately-funded and privately-managed healthcare system.”
- The resolution passed 53% to 47% in favour of 793 voting members.
- Media also questioned if it’s right for 793 people to have a say on something so crucial to the fabric of life in Alberta.
- The answer to this is simple, if anyone in the media or anyone listening to this podcast feels they have something to say on this matter in the future, they should become members of the UCP and vote at the next AGM.
- The media also conveniently left out that many European countries such as Switzerland and Sweden have privately delivered health care and the Canada health act, unless repealed, says that no Canadian can be left without health coverage.
- People also forget that there are already many privately funded and privately run services in Alberta when it comes to health care.
- Doctors and hospitals are private enterprises but are funded by the government.
- Optometrists, podiatrists, and dentists are private enterprises as well and most people pay out of pocket for their services with the option of employer insurance or insurance from Alberta Blue Cross, another private enterprise.
- People also have the option of paying out of pocket for some procedures such as MRIs and cataract surgery already in Alberta.
- So despite the fear peddled this week by the NDP and mainstream media, private health care already exists in Alberta.
- This mandate would allow the government to look at expanding the option of private care with private insurance.
- We also need to remember that for those who say the Premier is violating his public healthcare guarantee, the final stop is the Premier.
- All that’s been done so far is fostering discussion on what could be and no legislation has even been suggested that could violate that guarantee.
- The policy resolutions also called for making Alberta right to work jurisdiction passing 81% to 19%.
- This means that Albertans would be able to opt out of joining a union and opt out of paying union dues.
- Another policy was also passed that would see teaching accreditation handled by a self governing professional regulatory association for Alberta Teachers that is responsible for the Teacher/Principal certification, professional conduct and practice, professional qualifications, and continuing teacher competency.
- This effectively means that teaching accreditation would be done by a non partisan, professional, non-union based organization. This policy passed 77% to 23%.
- So while the discussion on public health care raised the biggest concern amongst the mainstream media, you’d also think that loosening the grasp that unions have on the workplace would also remain high on the list, it didn’t.
- What’s most alarming though is that the discussions taking place are seen as odd and something that shouldn’t happen by the media and other political parties.
- When in reality it’s this grassroots democracy that lets people have an impact on their government. This is the angle that the media missed this week and one that they could all learn from.
- On last week's Western Context we touched a bit on the pervasive quiet invasion that the Chinese government is attempting in Canada. On the same week we had news of a mysterious Chinese MLM organization possibly covering up an even more mysterious murder of an employee in Surrey and at the same time holding military style boot camps on quiet hippie Salt Spring Island. As well, the Chinese ambassador to Canada has threatened the safety of Canadians living in Hong Kong, and this week has stepped up his aggressive rhetoric towards the Canadian government.
- China's foreign ministry is lashing out at Canada after a House of Commons subcommittee concluded that the state's mistreatment of Uighurs living in Xinjiang province amounts to a policy of genocide.
- The committee's report, tabled Wednesday, says that China's persecution of this Muslim minority — through mass detentions in concentration camps, forced labour, state surveillance and population control measures — is a clear violation of human rights and is meant to "eradicate Uighur culture and religion." The committee said that it agrees with the experts who say China's campaign against the Uighurs meets the definition of genocide set out in the 1948 Genocide Convention.
- Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, said today that this "so-called genocide" is "a rumour and a farce fabricated by some anti-Chinese forces to slander China," calling the committee's report a "groundless statement full of lies and disinformation," and warning parliamentarians to "avoid doing any further damage to China-Canada relations." Lijian called the report "blatant interference in China's internal affairs" and that it "reflects those Canadian individuals' ignorance and prejudice. China firmly deplores and rejects that."
- Meanwhile, our US allies laud the report from the committee on human rights, and are encouraging Ottawa to join Washington in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the repression.
- “This act by the Canadian Parliament reflects the moral repulsion of the world against atrocities in Xinjiang perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party. It is only the tip of the iceberg of the crimes that the Chinese Communist Party has conducted in the entire Chinese territory,” the unnamed senior US official said.
- Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole told The Globe Thursday that Canada should work with allies to jointly impose Magnitsky-style sanctions on China for what he described as “ethnic cleansing" in Xinjiang. O'Toole said: “With respect to the Uyghurs … we should have a targeted approach with the Americans. The more we work together, the more difficult it is for Beijing to isolate especially smaller economies like Canada."
- The Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, adopted by Canada, mirrors similar legislation passed by the U.S. and European countries and imposes sanctions on human-rights abusers. It’s named after whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who was killed in a Russian prison.
- What is taking place in Xinjiang meets at least one of the United Nations criteria for genocide, said Adrian Zenz, a U.S.-based scholar who is a senior fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Zenz said: “I have called it demographic genocide. It is evident that Beijing is seeking to destroy the Uyghurs in part. It is, in my view very, shameful that Western nations, including Canada, have not yet bothered to embark on the process of determining whether Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang meet the legal definitions of crimes against humanity or genocide.”
- It's clear that now more than ever the Canadian government needs to begin detaching our economy from China so they don't have as much leverage in negotiations. The fact that the Two Michaels have been held for this long still is a travesty.
- Meanwhile, as I mentioned last week, the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government funded institution that spreads Chinese culture and language education in many Canadian schools, is being defended by those same schools.
- Canadian schools and universities that maintain ties with China’s Confucius Institute say they see no reason to reassess those partnerships, despite new questions over what role the Chinese-government-backed education organization has in some Vancouver-area schools.
- Victoria Dinh, spokeswoman for the University of Saskatchewan, said in an email: “We continue to believe that in an increasingly global world, academic exchanges and conversations lead to better understanding between nations and people of differing views. We are committed to advancing the free exchange of ideas among academics, irrespective of governmental policies and practices."
- Mabel Tung, chair of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, said Coquitlam should terminate its contract with the Confucius Institute. She said the program is Chinese state-owned education propaganda that forbids content Beijing considers politically sensitive, such as the Tiananmen Square massacre and Falun Gong.
- Over the past decade, critics have raised concerns about Confucius Institutes in Canada providing paid trips to China for school or university staff and questioned whether China is using the organization to gain a window into, or influence, Canadian affairs. McMaster University closed its Confucius Institute in 2013 over practices that appeared to prohibit teachers hired in China and sent abroad to teach from having certain beliefs.
- Charles Burton, a former Canadian diplomat and senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said Confucius Institutes appear to function as branches of the Chinese Communist Party. He said that “ they clearly do have a mandate beyond simply the soft power of increasing global respect for Chinese culture and civilization.”
- The threat of China's looming presence in many forms of Canadian life are being underreported by the media. Only the Globe and Mail seems to be reporting on these issues with any frequency and many of those articles are behind paywalls that mean average people don't get to see them. We need more from our mainstream to give us the truth about what China is doing in this country.
- Reporting out of The Post Millennial and Le Journal de Quebec shine the light on another shady government contract administered by the Trudeau government.
- The Liberal government awarded a $237m contract to the Baylis Medical Company for ventilators amid the pandemic which is run by former Liberal MP Frank Baylis.
- It is estimated that the government overpaid $10,000 per ventilator for the 10,000 machines that were purchased.
- This means that the government overpaid by $100m.
- As per the Minister of Health, the purchase had never been “approved in any jurisdiction to date.”
- Baylis’ company also received almost $700,000 in payments spread between $273,237 for the contract itself and another $422k for a research contract as the government puts it.
- This contract itself violates the Conflict of Interest Act as former MPs are not supposed to take advantage of their previous role in public office.
- The contract itself becomes more suspect since the contract was given to an obscure company, FTI Professional Grade. The company is a team of only two people and was formed one week prior to receiving the $237m contract.
- FTI then subcontracted the manufacturing to Baylis.
- Any time you have a shell company formed in the midst of an upcoming deal, something is up, but a week before and a company with only two employees, smells fishy.
- One has to wonder though why this wasn’t picked up in the media aside from Post Millennial and Le Journal de Quebec.
- Last year we had SNC, earlier this summer, WE, and now the ventilator contract from Baylis.
- This is a pattern of behaviour from the Trudeau government that shows a potential contract awarded to friends, they try to cover it up, most of the media tries to cover it up, then it’s shown to be true.
- This is the third time in the span of 18 months that this has happened.
- The Trudeau government has not been held to account by the media or the opposition NDP and the bad behaviour is going to continue.
- We’d love to peer more into the contract but that’s all we got this week on this story that will hopefully see more investigation done in the coming weeks.
Word of the Week
Shell corporation - a company or corporation that exists only on paper and has no office and no employees, but may hold passive investments or intellectual properties.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Corruption of Confidence
Teaser: The Liberals threaten to call an election to keep their skeletons hidden, the UCP AGM shows the importance of grassroots democracy, and the China-funded Confucius Institute is defended by universities. Also, Trudeau overpaid $100M for ventilators.
Recorded Date: October 23, 2020
Release Date: October 24, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes