The News Rundown
- On Saturday, some British Columbians voted in an election that was snap called by Premier John Horgan. Some of course, also filled out mail in ballots, leaving an estimated 566,000 still to be counted and tallied, so we do not have full results yet. However, preliminary results have all indicated that Horgan will continue to lead the province, this time with a majority government.
- As it stands right now, the BC NDP are leading or elected in 55 ridings, the BC Liberals in 29 ridings, and the BC Greens with 3. Because of the large number of mail in ballots to count and check, Elections BC estimates that we won't have a final count of all the votes until around Remembrance Day.
- The preliminary results have shown that Horgan's gamble to call an election in the middle of a pandemic paid off. His personal and party popularity was enough to overcome grumbling of the year early election, and he now has a majority mandate for the next 4 years without having to listen to the Green Party, his former supply and confidence partners who felt betrayed that the election was called early, breaking both their agreement as well as BC's fixed election date law.
- For those paying even a little bit of attention to BC politics in the past month could have seen this result coming. Horgan has routinely polled close to the highest popular premier, usually only behind Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who got re-elected with another majority himself on Monday. Generally, Horgan's NDP had set out to do what they promised to in their first 3 years in power, but the pandemic and a crashing Canadian economy has dampened efforts to improve upon key promises, such as the housing crisis and the opioid crisis for example.
- Not only that, but as we've seen across parliamentary democracies in the western world in the past month, governments have generally been elected with stronger mandates during the pandemic, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, and now Saskatchewan's Scott Moe and BC's John Horgan. Prime Minister Trudeau must be looking at these results and stroking his scraggly beard in contemplation. And those looking at our neighbours to the south must be wondering how exactly their election will go as well, given what we've seen.
- For the BC Liberals, who in 2017 had won the most seats of any party, but not enough to form government, the election last weekend was a bitter disappointment. It's led to a lot of questions for the Liberals, as the 29 seats they have is the lowest result they've gotten since 1991 when they were first rising as a mainstream BC party.
- The Liberals lost a lot of seats in the Vancouver region, but did not actually gain anywhere in the province. They lost incumbent MLAs in all corners of the province. They lost their last seat on Vancouver Island, 6/9 Fraser Valley ridings (of which they held 7/9 in the last election) including safe seats in Chilliwack and Langley which the NDP had never won before. Most notably, they also lost 4/6 ridings in the Richmond/Delta area which the Liberals almost swept in 2017. They also lost ridings here and there around the province, such as in Downtown Vancouver, where former mayor Sam Sullivan lost his seat, in Coquitlam where incumbent MLA Joan Isaacs lost heavily to former NDP MP Fin Donnelly, and in North Vancouver where the aforementioned Jane Thornthwaite lost to the NDP, and in the Sea to Sky riding which the Liberals lost to the Greens, who made their first inroad off Vancouver Island.
- Speaking of the Greens, they have 3 seats as they did before, which CBC election pundits classified as a "great victory" though with Horgan winning a majority, it's a massive loss for the party as they won't be able to influence policy anymore.
- Previously, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson addressed constituents and the media Saturday night. He acknowledged the NDP were "clearly ahead" based on preliminary results, but did not concede, saying the race wasn't over until the mail-in ballot count.
- "We'll have more to say going forward but for now we all have a responsibility to be patient, to respect the democratic process and to await the final results," he said before leaving the stage at his campaign headquarters.
- He appeared to have changed his mind the very next night. He conceded on Sunday evening, saying he phoned Horgan to offer his congratulations. Wilkinson announced his resignation in a very brief address to the media on Monday. He said he has asked the party's president to begin the work to find his successor and that he will step down when his replacement is found.
- It may have been internal party pressure that forced his hand to resign. A now deleted tweet by Mike Bernier, Peace River South Liberal MLA, appeared to favour electing an interim leader instead of having Wilkinson stay on. It's hard to know how much support Wilkinson had while he was leader, but it's clear he didn't have enough now.
- The announcement caught Liberals by surprise and fuelled a growing backlash that has been building over the leader’s performance and decision-making during the election campaign. Wilkinson did not consult with caucus in any type of conference call over whether he should stay in the job until a new leader is selected, or resign immediately. It’s unclear if he even has the support required to lead the 29 remaining Liberal MLAs.
- Wilkinson also did not consult with the party before issuing the public declaration for an immediate race. The B.C. Liberal party executive isn’t set to meet until Sunday to discuss the election results.
- Not all Liberals are convinced the party should lurch into a leadership campaign before understanding what went wrong in Saturday’s campaign, in which it lost 14 ridings and was mostly swept out of Metro Vancouver by the NDP.
- Wilkinson seemed to have trouble connecting with voters during the campaign. He made comments about renting being a "wacky time of life" and described domestic violence victims as "people who are in a tough marriage". Media pundits commented that he didn't appear relatable as his speech made it sound like he was from a different time. He often made references to the time he was a doctor, but it's clear that his stories did not resonate.
- Wilkinson also did not immediately face the press after sexist comments were made by MLA Jane Thornthwaite during a video roast he was a part of for retiring longtime BC Liberal MLA Ralph Sultan, who had served for 20 years and retired at the age of 86.
- Dianne Watts, former Surrey mayor and runner-up in the last B.C. Liberal leadership race, told CBC on Monday she felt Wilkinson's wait time before addressing the sexist comments likely did not sit well with voters. When asked if she was up for the task of replacing Wilkinson should the party look for a new leader, Watts laughed, and said no. "Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt," she said.
- For some, their preference would be to wait a year or two for a full leadership race, during which time the party can retool and rebrand if necessary before emerging with new momentum before the next election campaign.
- Former Liberal cabinet minister Barry Penner stated “It would be best for the B.C. Liberal Party not to rush headlong into another leadership race. It would make sense for elected MLAs to select an interim leader once all the ballots are counted, and then conduct a review of the current rules for running a leadership.”
- An extended wait before a leadership race “could provide one or two years of stability where the focus is on fixing the party rather than arguing about who should lead it,” added Penner, who served 16 years as MLA for Chilliwack, a riding which also fell to the NDP on Saturday.
- “There will be much effort required to restore public confidence and rebuild the B.C. Liberal Party, so that it is ready to provide voters with a clear alternative next time,” wrote Penner.
- The party is now reduced mainly to rural ridings in the Fraser Valley, interior and north. Even there it's lead has shrunk dramatically. The NDP won both Langley ridings, both Chilliwack ridings, and may yet win Abbotsford South after the mail-in count — all regions the Liberals used to count as strongholds.
- Richard Johnston, political science professor emeritus at the University of B.C.,, said any future path for the Liberals will require the party luring back lost urban voters and reconciling them with a base that is now primarily rural.
- Despite being characterized as "too rural", the Liberals also did not increase their vote share in rural BC, did not gain seats, and even lost previously safe ridings like Boundary-Similkameen, located east of Hope, which had voted Liberal since the 1996 election.
- “The Liberal party electorally looks like Social Credit — and not Bill Bennett Social Credit, W.A.C. Bennett Social Credit, small town interior and rural farming,” said Johnston. “That’s no longer a prescription for governing this province.”
- The Social Credit party dominated B.C. politics from the 1950s to late 1980s by uniting the former Liberal and Conservative parties under one banner. It locked out the NDP in all but one election during three decades. The NDP ruled the 1990s until Gordon Campbell reunited liberals and conservatives under a new B.C. Liberal brand and reduced New Democrats to just two seats in the 2001 election.
- It won’t be so easy to rebuild the party this time, particularly on social issues, said Johnston. Some B.C. Liberal members publicly criticized Chilliwack-Kent candidate Laurie Throness during the election for his anti-LGBTQ views and his comparison of free birth control to the sterilization of the poor. Whether anti-gay, anti-abortion conservatives are still welcome in a new Liberal party, could have ramifications on whether the B.C. Conservative party continues to exist.
- “I think conservatives are gonna start wondering to themselves whether the price of social conservatives suppressing their voice de facto in the party led by people like Christy Clark in the past is worth paying,” said Johnston.
- “They might start thinking in terms of the long run possibility of re-engineering the landscape. There is a sense in which you could imagine a Conservative Party of B.C. as the alternative to the NDP.”
- This is a false narrative. The only time that the NDP has not ruled is when the centrist Liberal and centre-right Conservative factions of the Social Credit and now BC Liberal parties were not in sync with each other. Wilkinson's leadership could have divided the party, and it's electorate being rural and interior, and likely further to the right than before could cause further fracturing. It will be up to a new leader to figure out how to lead these disparate factions. Otherwise, we might have the NDP for a long time again in BC.
- This past Monday AUPE healthcare hospital staff staged an illegal strike. They walked out, picketed in the cold, and tried to gain support from passersby.
- The union said they walked out to “defend their jobs and the public health-care system that keeps Albertans safe and alive.”
- Unit clerks, housekeeping, food services and laundry services staff, as well as licensed practical nurses, health-care aids and maintenance workers were involved in the walkouts.
- The narrative put together by the unions and pushed by the media is that 11,000 jobs are just going to disappear.
- But according to the health minister, earlier this month, about 9,700 jobs will be outsourced to the private sector.
- These jobs include support services such as laundry, community lab services, and food services.
- By making the changeover the government expects to save up to $600m annually.
- The government estimated that around 800 jobs would disappear due to attrition while 4,000 housekeeping, 3,000 food service, 2,000 lab, 400 laundry, and 100 management jobs would be cut from Alberta health services.
- But the lab services, housekeeping, food, and laundry jobs would be outsourced.
- When you total this up you wind up with a number less than 11,000 as peddled this week and it’s closer to 10,000.
- No front line services (those who were striking) were ever going to be cut.
- If the workers can’t compete without their union they need to work harder and put themselves up to the standard that one of the private companies taking over the role would expect.
- It goes without saying that a private company will be more efficient money wise than a public service would be.
- It only took until the evening for the labour relations board to call these strikes illegal and order workers back to work.
- We need to realize that in the modern era unions are more a tool of political display than that of actually helping the workers.
- The union sees this as a decentralization of power and a loss of control because each unionized worker pays union dues.
- It also just so happens that the AUPE is in the process of building a new $49m 120,000 square foot headquarters in Edmonton.
- Any contraction of union dues towards the AUPE could increase financial stress on the union brass.
- People tend to forget that for the duration of the Notley administration the unions had a front seat to what was going on in government, that has now changed.
- The unions may also be feeling threatened from the many pro worker policies passed last week at the UCP AGM should they come into law.
- The fact is unions need to deal with this, it’s not the 1930s anymore and the vast majority of workplaces out there are safe and private enterprises can provide a better bang for buck return on spending.
- Let’s also just examine one final bit of irony. This strike was framed as building support for the workers because of the pandemic.
- But the hospital workers were on the street, elective surgeries were cancelled (some that were already delayed), and when the stereotypical image of a “hero” as some call it during the covid crisis emerges, ask yourself are they on the street?
- Or are they in a mask and gown helping patients?
- The federal Liberals have held onto the Ontario ridings of Toronto Centre and York Centre in Monday's byelections. Both ridings are considered Liberal strongholds, with the Liberals garnering more than 50 per cent of the vote in both ridings in last fall's general election.
- In Toronto Centre, Liberal Party candidate Marci Ien, a journalist, won with 42 per cent of the vote, against 32.7 per cent for Annamie Paul, Green Party candidate and leader. The NDP candidate, Brian Chang, placed third with 17 per cent, with 144 out of 144 polls reporting.
- In York Centre, Liberal Party candidate Ya'ara Saks won with 45.7 cent of the vote, against 41.8 per cent for Conservative Party candidate Julius Tiangson after a very tight race. The NDP's Andrea Vásquez Jiménez placed third with 5.8 per cent, with 143 out of 143 polls reporting.
- Toronto Centre became vacant when former finance minister Bill Morneau resigned in August. York Centre became vacant when Liberal MP Michael Levitt resigned on Sept. 1 to become CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
- The Conservative gave the Liberals a run in York Centre which was only held by Conservatives 3 times since the riding was established in 1904. The results may lead Justin Trudeau to be less eager for an election, as voters seem unpredictable at the moment.
- In other news, something the Liberals actually lost, was an opposition parliamentary motion to study the government's pandemic response. Last week, Trudeau threatened an election if MPs voted for a motion to examine the WE Scandal, this week he was threatening the vaccine supply if MPs asked questions.
- In order to dissuade MPs from voting for the motion, instead of having a regular COVID-19 update, the PM sent out Anita Anand, his minister of public works and procurement, to warn that access to vaccines and PPE would be at risk if the Conservative motion passed: “It is my grave concern that those contracts are at risk, those negotiations are at risk, and suppliers will then as a result be hesitant to contract with the federal government,” Anand said.
- Despite the fearmongering by the Trudeau Liberals, the House of Commons backed a Conservative Party motion to study the government’s response to COVID-19 176-152. The Conservatives were joined by the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, the Green Party and former Liberal MP-turned-independent Jody Wilson-Raybould.
- The motion, crafted and presented by Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner calls for the release of emails, memos, documents and other records related to contracts for items such as ventilators. The motion also specifically says that any redactions of national security, personal or proprietary information for companies involved be done “by the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel.”
- That’s what the Liberals really objected to because that is a process they cannot control. They instead suggested the Privy Council Office decide what could and could not be released which would effectively put the Prime Minister’s Office in charge of what could be released.
- The Law Clerk works for all of Parliament and in such matters, reports to the committee. The Privy Council Office is the bureaucratic arm of the PMO and reports to Trudeau. Which process do you trust to make sure that items are not excluded because they might embarrass the government? Bottom line, this was an attempt to once again shut down anything that could embarrass the government on COVID-19.
- Last week we covered issues around a contract for ventilators given to a company that didn’t exist a week before the contract was awarded, a lucrative deal that eventually landed in the lap of a man who was a Liberal MP up until last year. The ventilators sold by this firm normally retail for $13,100 per unit but the contract issued by the Trudeau Liberals saw taxpayers forking over $23,700 per unit.
- Do you think there might be problems in a contract allegedly awarded quickly to a Liberal-friendly firm for ventilators that overpaid by an estimated $10,000 per ventilator? With the contract being for 10,000 ventilators, that could allegedly cost Canadian taxpayers more than $100 million more than the going rate even during the pandemic.
- The Conservative motion also asks for documents related to the emergency stockpile of PPE that disappeared and the diminished Global Public Health Intelligence Network, the team of doctors that spotted pandemics before they happened but that the Trudeau Liberals didn’t want to keep funding. The entire motion looks at the full government response to COVID-19, which means looking at the parts that have been handled well and the parts that have been a disaster.
- The opposition motion passing reminds Trudeau that he's leading a minority government, and one that is going to be heavily scrutinized. Almost losing York Centre may give him pause on threatening an election now.
- Our government is in debt and running deficits to the tune of $300b which we have not seen before.
- These deficits are meant to help the ordinary people of Canada get through the pandemic and self inflicted economic wounds.
- We highlight this number because the federal government’s lavish spending habits are on display yet again.
- The Post Millennial has received a completed access to information and privacy request that has revealed tens of thousands of dollars of food spending on the Prime Minister’s private plane.
- The Challenger jet, which seats at most 19 passengers but probably less because of configuration for the Prime Minister, amassed massive catering bills in the first 2 months of 2018.
- Some of the line items including $412 for hot towels and $285 for Belgian waffles.
- The list goes on and on in the 176 page document.
- For those who have been listening since the beginning of our production you may realize that this coincides with the India trip that turned out to be a disaster to the point we were asking if it was right it seemed the Indian media had the most credibility in covering it.
- The documents show a copious amount of single use plastics which the government aimed to ban.
- But more shockingly on a January 31st trip in 2018 there is a line item for a $2000 seafood tray, the $412 worth of hot towels mentioned, and $20.25 for sliced lemons and $20.25 for sliced limes.
- We also see almost $60 spent on “Wet ice” as well.
- With this also included in the gate gourmet invoice (the air catering company) is $4890 in meal costs and $106 worth of newspapers.
- In total for one of the trips in mid January more than $23,000CAD was spent on catering for the plane.
- The Prime Minister and his staff are running up the tally in terms of money spent both in the government budgets and in the air.
- These are numbers that are a fraction of what undid Allison Redford in Alberta.
- If the media and opposition reporting on Trudeau’s spending was the constant drip drip that Redford saw in Alberta, one would hope that many Canadians would have a different picture of this administration.
- But no, instead the media is all too focused on the US election and not on the spending going on at home.
- You might think this is a small number but this disclosure only covers January and February 2018.
Word of the Week
Alienation - the state or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong or in which one should be involved
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Elective Elections
Teaser: The BC election sees a majority for Horgan and disaster for Wilkinson, an Alberta health strike gets miscovered, and Trudeau gets scrutinized on his pandemic response. Also, expensive waffles, ice and newspapers are a few of the items Trudeau splurged on.
Recorded Date: October 30, 2020
Release Date: November 1, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes