The News Rundown
- Much of the focus on the Canadian BLM protests in the summer, a movement imported from the United States, ended up focussing on issues with the police system, and how the police interact with the public, chiefly with minorities. The prevailing thought in the media was that issues around policing were what needed fixing most with the criminal justice system in Canada.
- What was missed by the media and the protests during the summertime was that by far the weakest link of Canada's justice system was not police interactions, but actually the courts and the all too often weak sentences that they hand out for criminals who get convicted of major crimes. I'm not talking about traffic speeding violations or getting caught with personal use illicit drugs, I'm referring to real major crimes that harm the public. These are crimes such as murder, drug and human trafficking, and terrorism.
- Canada by and large is a safe place, thanks to the efforts of both police and lawful citizens, but there are times when dangerous criminals commit heinous acts and need to be taken care of so that they do not cause further harm to the public. All too often there are cases where a murderer will go free after a few years, or a terrorist will get released back into the Canadian public.
- The latest case of that happening was Shareef Abdelhaleem, a key member of the terrorist group labelled the "Toronto 18" being granted day parole by the Parole Board of Canada. Inspired by Al Qaeda, the Toronto 18 were accused of planning to detonate truck bombs, to open fire in a crowded area, and to storm the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, the Parliament of Canada building, CSIS headquarters, and the parliamentary Peace Tower to take hostages and to behead the Prime Minister and other leaders.
- On June 2, 2006, counter-terrorism raids in and around the Greater Toronto Area resulted in the arrest of 18 people, including Shareef Abdelhaleem. Throughout his trial, Abdelhaleem maintained that he was merely a middle-man keeping contact between ringleader Zakaria Amara and mole Shaher Elsohemy. His lawyer has stated that the accusations against his client were due to an old friend seeking revenge through his connections to the police. In his testimony Elsohemy stated that Abdelhaleem was initially opposed to the plan but changed his mind when he realized he could benefit financially from the attack. He had also contributed various suggestions about the plan such as spreading out the timing of the attack to increase the terror factor. This was opposed by Amara who wanted to inflict “maximum casualties”. On January 21, 2010, Abdelhaleem was found guilty of plotting to bomb financial, intelligence and military targets. On March 4, 2011, Ontario Superior Court Justice Fletcher Dawson sentenced Abdelhaleem to life in prison.
- Before we get into what has happened with Abdelhaleem, we have to talk about the ringleader of the Toronto 18, Zakaria Amara. The ringleader of the terrorist operation, was interestingly part of a different court battle, and is a microcosm of how differently the Harper and Trudeau governments deal with terrorists. A dual Canadian-Jordanian citizen at the time of his arrest, Amara was stripped of his Canadian citizenship on September 26, 2015, by the Harper government's Bill C-24. Justice Bruce Durno's life imprisonment decision for Amara was the stiffest punishment imposed in the terrorism conspiracy and also the stiffest punishment imposed to date under Canada's antiterrorism laws.
- While serving his sentence, Amara received a letter in September 2015 saying his Canadian citizenship had been revoked, making it possible he would be deported to Jordan when he gets out of prison. Less than 6 months later, the new Trudeau government introduced legislation that could allow Amara to regain his Canadian citizenship. Then-Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen confirmed that Amara's citizenship would be restored following Bill C-6's passage, and on June 19, 2017 he regained his Canadian citizenship. Amara ended up being the only person whose citizenship was stripped under the Conservative government's Bill C-24, and his restoration of citizenship by Trudeau set in place a precedent for Trudeau's later handling of former ISIS fighters with Canadian citizenship returning to Canada.
- Let's get back to Shareef Abdelhaleem. The truck bombing plotter has been granted day parole on Tuesday, even though a corrections official opposed his release as “premature.” The Parole Board of Canada approved Shareef Abdelhaleem’s plan to move to a Montreal halfway house, but said he must stay away from Toronto and cannot have a leadership position in any religious group. Abdelhaleem is serving a life sentence for terrorism. At a hearing in Quebec, a parole officer said the Correctional Service Canada did not believe he was ready for day parole.
- But Abdelhaleem said he was no longer a threat: “I do believe that I am fully rehabilitated. If you release me you will not be sorry.”
- “I’m just so thankful. I know that you’re taking a risk and this is going to be highly mediatized, but in front of all these people and in front of God — I know I said I was not a religious man, but I do believe in God — I will not disappoint you. You will never hear from me again.”
- Parole and corrections officials have been struggling to deal with Canadian terrorism offenders, some of who have been released despite concerns they remained radicalized.
- Keep in mind of what this man's actions and his thoughts were. Abdelhaleem played a critical part in the Toronto-based terrorist group, which trained at a camp north of the city, built detonators and tried to purchase ammonium nitrate fertilizer.
- According to court records, he wanted the bombings to take place on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to “teach the world to be aware of that date forever.” He thought the bombs would destroy the Toronto Stock Exchange, damaging Canada’s economy. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service building and a military base were also to be targeted.
- According to court records, “It was Abdelhaleem’s wish to detonate the bombs on three consecutive days and not simultaneously. That would have a greater impact on Canada and result in citizens not leaving their homes due to fear. The plot would ‘screw’ Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper, the government and the military and might lead to Canada withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan,” the court records indicate.
- He said he now sees how wrong he was: “Definitely the wrong thing to do from all angles — moral, political, practical, anything. Thank God we were stopped.”
- While Abdelhaleem may now feel remorse and feel that he is deradicalized, the fact remains that many of these terrorists are not, and they are still getting released back into the Canadian public. It's a major problem, and the Trudeau government has seen no willingness to deviate from their current lenient stance on terrorism.
- This week the media circus has been focused on the new restrictions brought in by the government to attempt to limit hospitalizations and ICU admissions from the virus.
- These restrictions are excessive, push the boundaries of what is acceptable as defined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Premier himself acknowledges this, and we will have to wait 3 to 4 weeks to see if they are working as intended.
- The government has made it abundantly clear that allowing businesses to remain open is the right move as shutting them down gives unfair advantages to the mega corporations like Walmart.
- The government has also expanded grants available.
- The government also needs to make it clear that if this were any other province or any other administration were in charge, you’d see a complete closure of businesses and no lack of concern for the basic freedoms we all enjoy.
- The media coverage this week has been full of “I told you so” stories and overly emotional doctors pleading for more stringent measures.
- But in all that we lost a story about a key report from the Fraser Institute detailing the economic future of Alberta and ultimately that of Canada.
- The report forecasts that Alberta is likely to become a “have-not” province in the medium term (2-5 years).
- The institute estimates that the per-person fiscal capacity in Canada for 2020-21 will be $9,189 which is inching closer to the per-person fiscal capacity in the rest of Canada at $8,832.
- For comparison, in 2007-08 Alberta had a fiscal capacity of $16,743.
- For 53 years Alberta has sat at the top and the reports Canada will now be led by British Columbia and Saskatchewan in the first and second place with Alberta placing third.
- This is of course attributed to shrinking revenues brought forward by the recessions of 2014 and the pandemic as well as the declining value of our natural resources attributed to both internal and external policy factors.
- The government has also continued to spend seeing budget deficits of at least $6b over the last 5 years.
- Alberta has a healthcare sector that takes 50% of tax revenue and all options should be on the table for alleviating this problem on the spending side.
- The UCP knows this and has already been cutting the size of government and re-iterated that any PST if ever brought in would only come after a referendum.
- As for the rest of Canada, Quebec receives 10.2% of its revenue from equalization and New Brunswick receives 19.3% from equalization. These provinces who receive equalization would see the size of their equalization grants decrease.
- The report from the Fraser Institute calls this the “great convergence” that began in 2007 and has only accelerated since 2014/15.
- This of course ties in with the first Saudi led oil price cuts and the anti-investment policies brought in by the NDP in Alberta and Justin Trudeau federally.
- People in the media establishment have said that Alberta is wrong for pursuing equalization reform but that idea may change when the money received by recipient provinces decreases and will become an even bigger discussion point if Alberta does become a “have-not” province.
- The Prime Minister is keen on a Great Reset or aiming to build back better, if that’s the case nothing should be off the table. Private delivery of healthcare across Canada, more federal money granted to provinces with fewer strings attached, a natural resource corridor, a wholesale reform of the regulatory process and red tape when it comes to business startup, a reinvestment in natural resources to take advantage of the ramp up to peak oil demand sometime in the 2040s or 50s, and a goal to ensure that Canada and every province is as competitive as they can be on the world stage.
- The economy is slow right now but Alberta and Canada must be ready to hit the ground running and be focused on supercharging our economy as job #1 once the pandemic is over.
- The UCP was elected under this exact mandate in 2019 and has taken a slight detour since but this report is exactly why this approach needs to resume ASAP in Alberta and be adopted across Canada.
- When Justin Trudeau ran for office in 2015, he promised Canadians a more open and transparent government. In the 5 years since then, it's well known that Trudeau clearly lied about transparency as his government has attempted to cover up their actions more often than any other previous government in modern history. It should not come as a surprise to anyone therefore that the Trudeau government hasn't been entirely transparent about where COVID-19 aid worth billions of dollars has gone.
- While the government has made available high-level aggregate spending statistics, or estimates of the net fiscal impact, for the more than 100 programs it has launched since the pandemic began, only a few departments have released details about which individuals, groups or companies have received government money.
- The work of House of Commons committees that normally would probe government spending programs — such as the Finance committee — has been disrupted, first by the government's move to prorogue Parliament in August and then by Liberal filibusters.
- NDP finance critic Peter Julian said the government has been relatively transparent about how much it is spending — but not about where the money is going: "In terms of who that is specifically going to, this is where I think we run into problems that the government has not been transparent about — which of the big businesses, some of whom are extremely profitable during this pandemic, have actually been receiving these significant amounts of money."
- In the House of Commons, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has been unapologetic in the face of opposition questions: "Now is the time for us to focus on what we can do going forward to save Canadian lives and to preserve the Canadian economy. There will be a time for post-mortems, but while the plane is flying, one does not try to change the engine."
- Export Development Canada was charged with running the business credit availability program (BCAP) and the Canada emergency business account (CEBA). It has made public the names of a half-dozen companies that appear in ads praising the help they received, but EDC refuses to name the other 791,884 businesses approved for CEBA loans totalling $31.6 billion.
- EDC spokesperson Amy Minsky says "Company names are included in the data businesses gave in confidence. Without consent, we are not able to disclose the names."
- EDC also has refused to reveal the information through the Access to Information Act, pointing to a clause in the Export Development Act which says that "all information obtained by the Corporation in relation to its customers is privileged."
- The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has administered several aid programs, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). CRA has made high-level statistics available and says it plans to make public the names of the 355,990 employers that benefited from what the PBO estimates is more than $49.2 billion in subsidies.
- However, the CRA has been "finalizing" its plans to make the information public since journalists first asked two months ago and has failed to explain the delay. The CRA also has refused to disclose the information through the Access to Information Act, citing a clause that allows the department to refuse to reveal information due to be made public within 90 days of the access request.
- The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimates the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) handed out $2 billion through the Canada emergency commercial rent assistance (CECRA) program. CMHC initially refused to disclose any information about which companies received help, saying it was prohibited under the Privacy Act. However, Canada's Privacy Act protects the information of individuals — not companies.
- Peter Julian and Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre said the government started out by being transparent, with then-finance minister Bill Morneau briefing them behind closed doors about the government's spending plans. That all changed in August, they said, when Freeland took over.
- Julian says: "Since then, it's been very difficult to get information about which of these big, profitable companies have been receiving government support. This is a problem. Canadians have to be able to judge this. We need to have full transparency so Canadians can judge whether it was appropriate to give that handout to a company that is declaring dividends or executive bonuses and laying off hardworking employees at the same time."
- Poilievre agrees, and said that at the outset of the pandemic, with public servants working from home, it was easier to accept that the government couldn't tell Canadians where the money had been going. Nine months later, he said, "the free ride is over. We should now expect to receive the data."
- Former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, who now serves as CEO of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, said there is "an enormous transparency gap" when if comes to what the Canadian and the U.S. governments have revealed about where the money has gone — a gap the government should be pushed to close.
- Meanwhile, Trudeau took another activist turn by appointing a prominent advocate of government spending as the top economic bureaucrat in Canada. Michael Sabia, a big-name corporate leader who has run the nation’s largest phone company and second-largest pension fund, was appointed deputy minister of finance Monday. The move formalizes the role he’s played since the early days of the pandemic as a top adviser to both Trudeau and his finance minister, Chrystia Freeland.
- It also illustrates the extent to which an ambitious fiscal agenda has prevailed in Trudeau’s administration. Sabia has called for spending taps to remain open and isn’t too worried about higher debt. His ambitions are to reshape the economy after the pandemic, in line with the prime minister’s plan to put the state at the center of any recovery.
- “If I had a choice between dealing with the deficit of weak infrastructure, or the deficit of a digital divide, or the deficit of significant social inequality, those are all deficits that matter and I think addressing those right now is at least as important as managing our fiscal situation,” Sabia said in a September interview with TVOntario.
- Since the pandemic, he’s become one of the most trusted advisers to Trudeau, a relationship that was formalized when the government appointed him chairman of the state-run Canada Infrastructure Bank in April. Freeland has been leaning more heavily on Sabia for advice since August, when she took over from Bill Morneau after he resigned as finance chief amid a public rift with the prime minister.
- Sabia replaces Paul Rochon, who announced his departure on Dec. 1, a day after Freeland used her first mini-budget to forecast a deficit of $382 billion this year, or 17.5% of GDP.
- It's disgraceful that the US government is being far more transparent about spending than our own. The media need to hold Trudeau to account for his actions that are going to cost Canadians over a trillion dollars to pay back.
- Today we have just passed the two year anniversary of the two Michael’s Kovrig and Spavor being detained in China.
- Our relations with China seemingly continue to advance for the better by this government but we must ask at what cost and what exactly are we getting out of it.
- Yesterday in a 34 page document received as part of an access to information request by The Rebel it was revealed that Chinese military forces were receiving training in Canada.
- If there was no diplomatic dispute and things were progressing with China this would probably be fine.
- But what actually happened is alarming.
- After the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and the detainment of the two Michael’s in China, General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, cancelled military exercises to take place in Canada in winter 2019.
- Any nation that takes the citizens of another hostage and holds them as prisoners without trial for political gain is not a friend.
- The military exercises were to take place at CFB Petawawa in Ontario.
- The United States had expressed concerns that joint military exercises could benefit the People’s Liberation Army of China.
- “Should Canada make any significant reductions in its military engagement with China, China will likely read this as a retaliatory move related to the Meng Wanzhou case,” a February, 2019, memo to Ian Shugart, then deputy minister of Foreign Affairs.
- It was then at the urging of the United States that General Jonathan Vance cancelled the exercises.
- The response to the Global Affairs ministry was, “Unilateral decisions to postpone and/or cancel previously agreed DND/CAF co-operation with the PLA risk being interpreted by China or others in an unintended (and unhelpful) way. [This] could also damage Canada’s long-term defence and security relationship with China”
- When one unpacks all this it means that Canada was more concerned with what China would think and how relations would be damaged with a foreign power who is a known thief of intellectual property, currency manipulator, has abysmal human rights records, and was holding two of our citizens in prison than what our military thought was best and what the recommendation of our best ally the United States, thought was the best course of action.
- News headlines about the response of the Trudeau government's actions ranged from the timid “objected” to “dismayed” meaning that there was anger from the bureaucracy at what the military suggested but we’re really only seeing the tip of the iceberg of how bad it was.
- In question period Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said that the Canadian military was no longer training with China and when asked by Conservative defence critic James Bezan about the documents he blamed the Harper government which left office in 2015 for the invitation when in reality it was the Liberal government that made the invite in 2018.
- The documents also show a level of ignorance when it comes to interactions with China by the cabinet.
- Catherine McKenna while environment minister flew to China for a three day conference on climate change in 2019.
- 200 Canadian military personnel were sent to Wuhan in October 2019 to participate in the Military World Games which was used as a propaganda exercise by China.
- The document also details Chinese censorship of Twitter and concerns raised internally that the government seemed happy to ignore to advance relations with China.
- The document also confirms China was tracking its Uyghur Muslim population in Eastern China, an undesired subset of the population by the Chinese Communist Party.
- The document also refers to Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou as Ms. Meng while not referring to the two Michael’s by name.
- This report suggests either incompetence or a government so bent on not doing what the Trump administration suggested that they would go as far as siding with China over our number one ally.
- These documents were supposed to be heavily redacted making them useless but someone forgot to shade through the redacted sections with opaque ink before sending them off to The Rebel.
- We’ll leave it for the listeners to decide what’s worse, either that the government was willing to cover this up or no one in the media has yet asked the Prime Minister about this release yet.
Word of the Week
Secrecy - Secrecy is the practice of hiding information from certain individuals or groups who do not have the "need to know", perhaps while sharing it with other individuals.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Trudeau’s Secrets
Teaser: A supposed reformed terrorist is granted day parole, Alberta might become a have-not province, and the Trudeau government is covering up which companies are receiving billions in pandemic aid. Also, Trudeau invites Chinese troops to train at Canadian bases.
Recorded Date: December 11, 2020
Release Date: December 13, 2020
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes