The News Rundown
- Four years ago we detailed what a Donald Trump presidency would mean for Canada and we were largely right. Our governments and media were continually out-maneuvered and out-played by the Trump administration. The media covered this up by painting the US President as the bully.
- Now 4 years later with a new US administration in place, we have to wonder if events will repeat themselves.
- Will Joseph Robinette Biden take the opportunity to rob Canada of economic progress because our federal government is asleep at the wheel?
- Early in the week we learnt that one of the first Executive Orders signed would be to undo the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline -- the order was signed and the future of energy investment is in question.
- Canada itself is unified against the actions of the Biden administration. Premiers Kenney, Moe, and Ford of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario are deeply upset by the decision and want to go as far as imposing trade sanctions on the United States.
- Quebec Premier Francois Legault is also concerned as Enbridge Line 5 could be next that goes through Michigan to Ontario. The concern being that gas prices in central Canada would increase.
- Conservative leader Erin O’Toole sees the project as essential and that the government should have done more to ensure the project was built. He also underscored how important the natural resource sector is to our economy.
- Justin Trudeau on the other hand issued a statement and wants to look past Keystone for areas of mutual alignment with the United States.
- The Prime Minister said, “While we welcome the President's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President’s decision to fulfil his election campaign promise on Keystone XL.”
- In that statement he also mentions that he also looks forward to working with the Biden administration “to reduce pollution, combat climate change, fight COVID-19, create middle class jobs, and build back better by supporting a sustainable economic recovery for everyone”
- This amounts to an attitude of too bad, let’s just move on, see what happens next.
- When the Trump administration utilized tariffs against Canada, we responded the same day, in kind. What do we have this week? Nothing.
- TC Energy has gone lengths to green the project, committing to spend $1.7 billion on solar, wind and battery power to operate the partially completed 2,000-mile pipeline system between Alberta, in western Canada, and Texas.
- They are also planning to hire a union based workforce and eliminate all greenhouse gas emotions from operations by 2030.
- The losses from this project are far and wide, $785 million was spent by five indigenous groups in the US to take up partial ownership. Alberta is on the hook for about $1b in taxpayer money and this doesn’t even begin to address the impact Alberta will see economically in the long run.
- Chief Alvin Francis, president of Natural Law Energy and Chief of the Nekaneet First Nation in southwest Saskatchewan was hoping the project would bring new money to his community, lower the 50% unemployment rate, and allow them to build a soccer and baseball field for their youth.
- Other indigenous leaders speaking to the Calgary Herald are said to be devastated.
- The cancellation of this project is also being felt.
- It’s well known that Justin Trudeau was BFFs with Barack Obama and Joe Biden while they were in office, he’s not going to do anything that would ruffle feathers.
- The bigger concern here is the message this sends to the investment climate. The Investment climate was already cooled by our federal government, this just pours more cold water on the natural resources sector.
- Some could say that this is just incompetence of our government not knowing how or when to push an issue. But don’t be fooled, this is exactly what Trudeau wants as it fits right in along with everything his government has done since 2015.
- The bigger concern is that enviro groups will see this as license to push other pipelines and use similar tactics. This is Jason Kenney’s exact concern.
- “You don’t surrender. If you surrender then they’ll just come at us again and I’m concerned they’ll come at us through other pipelines.” the Premier said.
- The fact Francois Legault in Quebec is aligned on this speaks volumes and shows the true unity problem lies with Justin Trudeau and his cabinet.
- Canada is united against this problem and we must focus on the end goal, never accept defeat, and push hard for total victory.
- It's not been an easy road for Erin O'Toole as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Immediately after being elected he faced a daunting task: to introduce himself to Canadians who hadn't heard of him before, and to try to convince them that he was ready to become Prime Minister. We're half a year into his leadership and results on that goal are mixed.
- This past week, he's faced calls to turf controversial Ontario MP Derek Sloan from the party, over remarks that Sloan had made in the past, and with new news that Sloan's leadership campaign accepted a donation from Paul Fromm, a notorious white nationalist. Sloan accused O'Toole of hypocrisy, arguing that the Conservative Party also failed to red-flag Fromm's donation and party membership.
- Sloan was booted from the Conservatives on Wednesday, and now sits as an independent MP. He was ousted after a majority of his (former) caucus colleagues voted to eject him for what O'Toole called "a pattern of destructive behaviour involving multiple incidents and disrespect towards the Conservative team for over a year."
- O'Toole's issue with Sloan comes as a microcosm of a greater attempt from the Liberals to link his party to Trump-style politics, after the riot on Capitol Hill stunned the world. A Liberal Party fundraising letter sent to members last week that accused the Conservatives under O’Toole of “continuing a worrisome pattern of divisive politics and catering to the extreme right.” As one example, it cited the motto used by O’Toole’s leadership campaign: “Take back Canada.”
- It also referenced a photo that has been circulating of Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen wearing a hat with Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and a since-deleted Tory website alleging the Liberals want to rig the next election. They also brought up that O'Toole had done an "exclusive interview" with Rebel News, which had turned out to actually just be an e-mail exchange between the controversial news site and a party staffer.
- O’Toole pushed back on Sunday, saying there is “no place for the far right” in the Tories while accusing the Liberals of divisive dirty tricks. In a statement Sunday, O’Toole asserted his own views on such issues as abortion, gay rights and reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada while insisting that his party is not beholden to right-wing extremists and hatemongers.
- O'Toole said: “The Conservatives are a moderate, pragmatic, mainstream party – as old as Confederation – that sits squarely in the centre of Canadian politics. My singular focus is to get Canada’s economy back on track as quickly as possible to create jobs and secure a strong future for all Canadians. There is no place for the far right in our party.”
- O’Toole on Sunday condemned the Capitol Hill attack as “horrifying,” and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism by touting his party’s support for free and fair elections, the peaceful transfer of power and accountable government.
- To that end, he lashed out at the Liberals, referencing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to prorogue Parliament last summer as hurting accountability, before turning the tables on the governing party and accusing them of using U.S.-style politics: “If the Liberals want to label me as ‘far right,’ they are welcome to try. Canadians are smart and they will see this as an attempt to mislead people and import some of the fear and division we have witnessed in the United States.”
- Former Conservative strategist Tim Powers, who is now chairman of Summa Strategies, believes O’Toole’s team saw a “gathering storm” and felt the need to act to prevent the Liberals from painting the Conservatives as beholden to "Trumpism". Such action was especially important ahead of what has been an extremely divisive few weeks down in the U.S.
- Powers suggested it is also the latest act in O’Toole’s effort to introduce himself to Canadians and redefine the Conservatives ahead of the next federal election, both of which have been made more difficult by COVID-19. And when Conservatives in caucus make statements or otherwise act counter to his stated positions, Powers said O’Toole will need to “crush them and take them out” to prove his convictions.
- Of course, that won’t stop the Liberals from portraying O’Toole and the Conservatives as “Trump Lite.”
- Liberal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said: “Mr. O’Toole needs to be very careful that he’s not trying to stir up the kinds of divisions that exist in the United States. That’s not something Canadians want.”
- The whole thing looks like an election campaign style tactic. Trudeau just shuffled his cabinet last week, in what looked like an obvious pre-election staging move.
- O’Toole called this out: “I find it actually shocking that the prime minister of Canada, in the middle of a pandemic when there are curfews being imposed in Quebec and Ontario going to stronger measures, that he could possibly be thinking of an election.”
- Trudeau said he doesn’t want an election, but noted an election is always possible in minority parliaments. The Conservative leader said he’s ready to fight an election if one happens, saying he wants to protect Canadians from Liberal tax hikes: “They’re already looking at taxing your house, they’re already looking at raising the GST.”
- As we move further into the spring, we will see the media and the Liberals try to further tarnish O'Toole as a supporter of the far right, and O'Toole will be constantly on the defensive. We've seen this before with Andrew Scheer, and it might just work again on O'Toole. Time will tell.
- Last week we covered Canada’s inability to secure extra doses of the already approved Moderna vaccine.
- The Moderna vaccine is preferred as it is more easily transported meaning it can be taken to facilities that do not have the ultra-cold storage needed for the Pfizer vaccine.
- We still wait for approvals of vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson but the Pfizer vaccine is raising eyebrows this week.
- Because of a technical re-tooling at the Belgium plant where Canada’s Pfizer vaccines come from, we will get no doses delivered in the next week.
- Other countries in Europe will have their dose shipments continue at a reduced as will Israel.
- On Thursday this week the Prime Minister spoke with the CEO of Pfizer, Dr. Albert Bourla, and while there was no commitment to doses over the next week or until February, Canada is on pace to receive 4 million Pfizer doses by the end of March.
- Normally this would be no problem but as we mentioned on last week's show, Canada lags far behind many other countries.
- Whether this is from the federal officials not believing that a mRNA based vaccine as is the Pfizer and Moderna inoculations would be ready by the end of 2020 or if the bureaucratic body just couldn’t move fast enough, no one knows for certain.
- But one thing we do know is that other countries managed to get it done, we didn’t get it done.
- Israel is a model country for vaccinations. Their population of roughly 9 million is 25% vaccinated.
- They secured a deal with Pfizer where they would provide medical data and Pfizer would provide the doses.
- It’s widely reported that Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were in early contact with Pfizer and possibly paid up to 50% more than the market price for the vaccine.
- It’s expected that Netanyahu has spoken 17 times with the Pfizer CEO and they started vaccinating those aged 45+ last Sunday.
- By contrast, our government has bought over 80 million doses, some of which are vaccine candidates that may not even be approved including the China vaccine that the government of Canada wanted to cooperate on that turned out to be only about 50% effective.
- In comparing the picture of what’s happening in Israel to that of what’s happening in Canada or even the United States, we need to ask why.
- We asked why last week with Moderna but the issue keeps coming up.
- It doesn’t feel as though the federal government is putting everything they have into securing vaccines quickly.
- We know the possibility of a spring election is real and the question each day on that campaign field should be: why aren’t more Canadians vaccinated?
- Some people try, some pretend to try, but things are only impossible until they're not. Despite people saying we can’t do better, we must treat the word ‘impossible’ as nothing more than motivation.
- Last summer, on Western Context 180, we detailed a story about Governor General Julie Payette, and we even said "we told you so at the time", as news broke of an investigation into Payette's serious and repeated workplace harassment of her staff. That episode actually referenced a story going all the way back to Western Context 86 in September of 2018, which foreshadowed this ugly saga. That story detailed the "failure to launch" of former astronaut Julie Payette's turbulent first year as Governor General" showed just how awful of a pick that Trudeau made to make Payette Governor General.
- That story talked about Gov General Payette and her struggles with the job that requires public appearances, strict adherence to convention, and lots of public scrutiny. In it, the article describes the duties of the Governor General, and how one of the most important duties is to sign bills into law, and how on several occasions Payette didn't appreciate having to work her schedule around Parliament, and asked if it was really necessary that she be at the ceremonies signing budgets and big bills into law.
- Many members of the tight-knit community that operates in and around Rideau Hall said they had grown frustrated with Payette who constantly challenges tradition and had substantially reduced the workload of her office. However, most believe the blame lies with the Prime Minister’s Office, for abandoning the advice of vice-regal experts and choosing a star candidate without ensuring she would be a good fit for the job.
- Allegations Payette fostered a “toxic” workplace culture at Rideau Hall were first reported in July. Current and former employees claimed the former governor general bullied and humiliated staff, sometimes in front of other people, and had reduced staffers to tears with belittling remarks.
- Fast forward to today, 5 months later from that initial report, and the impartial workplace harassment probe at Rideau Hall conducted by the Privy Council's Office is finally complete. And the result? Well, Julie Payette has now resigned as governor general. Payette issued a statement Thursday confirming earlier reports that she would step down as the Queen’s representative in Canada.
- Payette said no formal complaints or official grievances were filed against her. Repeating what she said about the allegations when the story first broke, she said she takes the allegations very seriously. Her decision to resign from her role comes at an opportune time, she said, explaining her father’s health has “seriously worsened in the last few weeks and my family needs my help.”
- Payette thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the “incredible opportunity” to serve as governor general and extended her gratitude to Canadians, calling her tenure in the role an “honour and a privilege.” Bizarrely, Payette at no time thanked Queen Elizabeth for appointing her to the role on the recommendation of Trudeau.
- Trudeau said he spoke with the Queen by telephone Friday to let her know that Chief Justice Richard Wagner is stepping in until Trudeau names a new governor general. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said earlier that the Queen was being kept informed and will leave the matter in the hands of the Canadian government.
- Payette then went on to say: “Not only did I welcome a review of the work climate at the [Office of the Secretary to the Governor General], but I have repeatedly encouraged employees to participate in the review in large numbers. We all experience things differently, but we should always strive to do better, and be attentive to one another’s perceptions.”
- Hmm...Experiencing things differently...now where have we heard that before? This quote is bizarre enough that we decided to use this as our quote of the week.
- Payette seems to have torn a page out of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s playbook with that line, perhaps in a crafty attempt to show the double standard that she is being held to a higher standard than the prime minister.
- After it was revealed Trudeau had been accused of groping a female reporter on Aug. 4, 2000, at a Creston Valley, B.C., festival when he was 28, Trudeau dismissed the reports when the story broke in July 2018.
- “In terms of my recollection there was no untoward or inappropriate action but she was in a professional context. Who knows where her mind was and I fully respect her ability to experience something differently,” Trudeau said of the short-lived scandal dubbed Gropegate by reporters.
- Isn’t that how it usually goes? The person who does the groping enjoys it, while the person who is the recipient of the unsolicited groping does not?
- Payette apparently regularly publicly belittled, berated and verbally attacked her staff to the point of tears. That's something that Trudeau was also accused of in the past. In March 2019, in the midst of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, Whitby, Ont., MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes quit the federal Liberal caucus saying that Trudeau had yelled at her and berated her after she told him she would not run again in the next election.
- Caesar-Chavannes said: “He was yelling. He was yelling that I didn’t appreciate him, that he’d given me so much,” something Trudeau’s office denied.
- In the House of Commons at that time, Conservative House Leader Candice Bergen said Caesar-Chavannes’ statements were more evidence that Trudeau didn’t live up to his self-professed feminism: “When he silences women, when he yells and screams at them, when he says that their experiences are just different perspectives, he is demeaning all women and showing what a fake feminist he is,” she said.
- Payette received a severance of roughly $200,000 when she resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints about her treatment of employees. In 2017, Payette left the Canadian Olympic Committee after two internal investigations into her treatment of staff that included claims of verbal harassment.
- All of this is costing the government money. Payette retained the services of former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache as “constitutional adviser” and paid him $41,488. The law firm Blakes is assisting the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General in the review process and has been paid $111,179. That contract has been amended to allow for billing up to $149,500. The workplace review cost $88,325.
- Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent to renovate her accommodations, because apparently Payette doesn’t like to see maintenance workers or even RCMP officers paid to protect her when she is in her office.
- Already, many anti-monarchists have used this controversy to call for the scrapping of the role altogether — something that would be difficult to do and unwise. Four of the past six governments in Canada have been minorities and the GG plays an especially important constitutional role during minority government. More importantly, however, the monarchy plays an important stabilizing role in turbulent times. After all, in a world where “we all experience things differently” is an accepted excuse for abuse, we can use all the stability we can get.
- Payette’s name did not come up until late in the process the Trudeau administration set up to find Gov. Gen. David Johnston’s replacement. In 2012, then Prime Minister Stephen Harper created the Advisory Committee on Vice-Regal Appointments, a panel of experts to help the government select future governors general, provincial lieutenants governor and territorial commissioners. Since Trudeau came to power in October 2015 he completely ignored the committee, and decided to politicize the appointment by picking from a list of Liberal party insiders, without checking references to find out that Payette's behaviour was characteristic of her from previous job at the Montreal Science Centre.
- Trudeau said his Liberal government will look at how it can improve vetting for high-level appointments after the unprecedented resignation of the governor general over allegations of a toxic work environment at Rideau Hall.
- “We will continue to look at the best way to select people for viceregal appointments,” Trudeau told a news conference Friday outside his residence at Rideau Cottage. “It's an important role for Canadians and we will look at how we can improve it.”
- Perhaps by using the non-partisan committee that Harper set up, Trudeau could have avoided this mess altogether. In the end, Trudeau will have to take the blame for picking such an unworthy and unsuitable candidate for such an important role in our democracy. The failures of Payette's leadership and management style were there to be seen, but the attraction to Trudeau of having a female astronaut in the position was worth more than doing his due diligence and actually vetting candidates properly for the position. And now, one of the most important positions in democracy in Canada has been degraded, all due to the prime minister who couldn't do his job properly.
Word of the Week
Regal - of, resembling, or fit for a monarch, especially in being magnificent or dignified
Quote of the Week
“We all experience things differently, but we should always strive to do better, and be attentive to one another’s perceptions.” - Former Governor General Julie Payette
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The World’s Doormat
Teaser: Biden’s inauguration has steep consequences for Canada’s economy, O’Toole faces more challenges from the media and the Liberals, and Canada is once again last in line for vaccines. Also, Julie Payette resigns as Governor General.
Recorded Date: January 22, 2021
Release Date: January 24, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes