The News Rundown
- The Vancouver police department released their 2020 year end report on crime statistics and conclusions on activity in BC's biggest city, and one particular statistic grabbed headline attention in the province last week, and lots of commentary as to what exactly was the reason.
- VPD's 2020 analysis concluded that because of the pandemic, there have been less people working and driving to and from work, more people working from home, less businesses open and for shorter hours, and less general activity by people. These trends mean that overall, Vancouver saw less violent crime, but in general, serious assault cases rose, especially against police officers themselves. Total property crimes went way down, due to more people at home, but break and enters into businesses went way up instead, due to places being closed more.
- What has gotten the attention of media headlines last week and has been an ongoing discussion on social media has been that hate crime incidents almost doubled from 2019 to 2020, and that Anti-Asian hate crime incidents rose by 717% from 2019 (12) to 2020 (98).
- The police report doesn't delve into the reasons for hate crimes as it did for other types of crimes, but it's pretty clear what the main reason is, that the pandemic originated in China, and so people with hate in their hearts are taking it out on Chinese Canadians and other minorities that have nothing to do with the spread of the virus into Canada.
- BC Premier John Horgan called the news of Vancouver's hate crime increase "deeply troubling" and noted that the BC government is planning on bringing forward anti-racism legislation this year.
- Horgan said that the government has been reaching out to police all over BC to reinforce the government’s priority of prosecuting hate crimes: “We need to make sure that violence against people of colour is not just treated as violence, but in fact hate crimes, which carry much stiffer penalties.”
- Horgan acknowledged that there could be "more difficulty in prosecutions", but says that it's worth it to follow through: "and make sure that people understand in BC if you’re going to turn against people based on the colour of their skin, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That’s the message [Solicitor General Mike] Farnworth is delivering and I expect law enforcement to follow-up on that.”
- Vancouver is not the only jurisdiction in Canada reporting an increase in hate crimes. The Ottawa Police Service notes an overall increase in hate crime reports of 57% from 2019 to 2020. Police said the groups most-often targeted by hate crimes are Ottawa’s Black, Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ2, and east and south-east Asian communities.
- The media will report on this issue, but no one has any real answers on how to fix the issue. The police will state the stats, but not the reason, the government will prosecute but not prevent, and ordinary people will be left wondering how they can help.
- Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews tabled the province’s budget on this past Thursday.
- As we’ve seen for years and years the budget sees lots of red.
- The budget deficit for this year is forecast to be $20.2b and shrinking to $18.2b next year in 2021-22, $11b in 2022-23, and $8b in 2023-24.
- Debt will continue to rise to $115b from $98.3b.
- The 2021 forecasts the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil to be at around $46 for 2021-22, and rising to $55 in 2022-23 and $56.50 in 2023-24.
- Any changes in the global oil market, good or bad, will have an impact on the bottom line.
- Healthcare will receive an additional $900m for 2021-22.
- Soon after the documents were tabled the opposition NDP made claims that the province claimed to fire 15,000 workers
- The government is positioning for a $16b investment in Alberta Health Services for the Alberta Surgical Initiative, Continuing Care Capacity Plan, and the CT and MRI access initiative.
- Also included are billions for health infrastructure for health facilities including 5 new projects, $766m for Alberta Health Services self financed capital for parkades, equipment, and other capital requirements. $343m for capital maintenance and renewal of existing facilities and $90m for health department IT projects.
- The province also included a $1.25b COVID-19 contingency fund for responding to the pandemic.
- The budget also spends $1.7b more in capital funding and includes a $1.5b investment for diversifying the economy around sectors such as energy; agriculture and forestry; tourism; finance and fintech; aviation, aerospace and logistics; and technology and innovation.
- The province sees that this is an extraordinary time and has chosen to spend to ensure services are propped up through the pandemic.
- The goal for this budget is to keep net debt below 30% of GDP, bring spending in line with other provinces on a per-capita basis (Job #1 according to the Finance Minister), and plan to balance the budget post-pandemic.
- Cities will feel the pinch as funding for local infrastructure projects is reduced 25% over the next 3 years.
- This had outgoing Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson visibly upset in an interview he gave after the budget. This will be a dynamic that all council and mayoral candidates will need to consider during this fall’s municipal election.
- While most of the big line items focus on pandemic response and health care, there is still a drive to balance the budget and bring spending in line.
- As we’ve talked about frequently on the podcast any economic argument always has two sides to it and anyone who ignores that is foolish.
- Finance Minister Travis Toews framed the discussion going forward as not one of cost cutting or removing services but delivering services more efficiently.
- The pandemic has taught a lot of organizations many things about working online. Some are less efficient but some have also been forced to find efficiencies and do more with less.
- For specific job losses, the budget document details a forecast shedding of 311 jobs and this has been called ‘right-sizing” of the public sector.
- The Finance Minister said that, “Right now we are well on track with respect to the Alberta public service and our plans on right-sizing the public sector.”
- It’s also worth noting that the public sector compensation accounts for 54% of operating expenses at $26.7b, including $21b in wages, salaries, and benefits.
- Education will go from $8.32b to $8.24b in 2021-22 and hold constant in the following years. This is a decrease of $80m.
- Children services will remain flat over the next four years.
- And, expected revenue from cannabis sales was only a third of that which was expected.
- In total this $18.2b deficit is the result of $23b in health services spending, $8.2b for K-12 education, about $6.3b for social services, and many smaller pieces of the budget based off of $43.7b in revenue.
- Admiral Art McDonald abruptly stepped aside late Wednesday night as Canada's top military commander after questions were posed to the Department of National Defence about a sexual misconduct investigation into allegations against him. Those allegations involve a female crew member and an incident a decade ago aboard a warship that was participating in a northern exercise.
- McDonald just took over the chief of the defence staff post a month ago from the retired general Jonathan Vance, who is under investigation himself after a report emerged detailing inappropriate behaviour from Vance towards two female subordinates.
- Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan released a statement announcing that McDonald has stepped aside voluntarily while the investigation is ongoing. In his place, Sajjan has appointed Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre as acting chief of the defence staff. Eyre currently is the commander of the army. Hopefully the third time's the charm I guess!
- In his speech during his swearing-in ceremony a month ago, McDonald apologized to victims of racism and misconduct in the military. He later told reporters that he felt it was necessary to make the apology because he was certain that he had unintentionally been part of some of the problems that the military is now trying to address. He did not cite a specific incident in his past in those remarks on Jan. 14, but suggested that "when challenged by some of the circumstances, I thought maybe I didn't hear a voice."
- Sajjan said McDonald only learned of the investigation Wednesday night and voluntarily stepped aside — a sign of the military justice system's independence from the chain of command. Sajjan said he himself learned about it "recently" but wouldn't go into further detail.
- Sajjan said the investigations into both McDonald and Vance demonstrate that allegations of inappropriate behaviour within the military will be investigated thoroughly, regardless of the rank or position of those involved. McDonald's hiatus from the top command is another major blow to the military's efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct and violence in the ranks.
- It's also another blow that yet another top official appointed by the Trudeau government has been put under investigation for wrongdoing, after Vance and resigned governor general Julie Payette.
- Conservative MP and Defense critic Leona Alleslev told the House of Commons that when the person in charge of eradicating unacceptable behaviour is accused of perpetrating it, "this leaves military members wondering if justice can actually be achieved."
- Now the military faces a reckoning that experts say has been a long time coming over repeated urgings to change a culture that former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps described as “hostile” and “endemic” in her landmark 2015 report on misconduct in the military.
- Linna Tam-Seto, a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen’s University, says “I believe based on the Deschamps report, which came out in 2015, it was well known that this type of misconduct was happening within the ranks, running from bottom to top. What we’re seeing now is that this type of behaviour is being shown through the top.”
- David Perry, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, described the situation facing the military as it grapples with the allegations as “uncharted territory.”
- He said: “This is really, I think, a crisis for our military, no matter how the current investigations play out. I think it’s tough to understate just how significant these types of allegations against two successive leaders of our military are.”
- It's clear that Canada's military leadership has a problem. One can only hope that going forward the military can successfully reinvent itself and root out the causes of the systemic sexism and racism that is rampant at the top of the pyramid. Our brave soldiers past and present that have protected Canadian freedoms abroad and at home deserve no less.
- Canada has made international news again with a motion passing the House of Commons this past Monday.
- On Monday MPs voted to declare China’s treatment of the Uighurs a genocide. The vote passed 266-0.
- For those who are new to the story the Uighurs are a group of about 12 million mostly muslim people living in China’s north-west Xinjang region.
- They have their own language which is similar to Turkish and see themselves as culturally and ethnically closer to other central Asian countries.
- It has been reported that the Chinese Communist Party has been holding Uighurs in internment camps, forcing mass sterilization, separating children from their families, and forcing individuals to undergo re-education.
- Now going back to the vote in the House of Commons, passing 266-0 seems odd since there are usually or close to 338 Members of Parliament.
- The opposition Conservatives, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois all voted unanimously for the motion.
- The government cabinet abstained from the vote by simply not showing up.
- The only member of government to turn up was Marc Garneau who abstained on behalf of the government and given the way the House of Commons work, an MP must vote either for or against any motion or piece of legislation, there is no official abstention.
- The move was mirrored by the Dutch parliament who also passed a non-binding motion declaring China’s treatment of the Uighurs a genocide but in the Netherlands, unlike Canada, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his party at least showed up to vote against the motion.
- In the US, President Biden’s administration has not declared China’s treatment of the Uighur’s a genocide and in a CNN town hall stated that “he gets it, culturally there are different norms that each country are expected to follow.”
- This statement is loaded and could mean many things from Chinese President Xi understanding why the west is pushing this issue but it just boils down to a case of cultural norms or it could in the wildest sense be interpreted that Xi knows it’s wrong but would have trouble making that change given the dynamics of the Chinese communist party.
- Biden also made it clear that there will be repercussions for China and for China to become a world leader they would have to gain the confidence of other countries and while they are engaged in activities that are contrary to basic human rights it will be hard for them to do that.
- At the end of the day, the Dutch government stands for something and in the US, while not declaring China’s actions a genocide, Biden at least admits that China has to improve its record.
- As for Justin Trudeau and why the government didn’t support the motion, he said the term genocide needs to be used carefully and that it was a “loaded word” and that we need to be absolutely sure of what’s happening in China is genocide.
- The House of Commons also voted on another Motion calling for the 2022 Winter Olympics to be moved out of Beijing. While largely symbolic, pursuing this is unlikely to yield any benefit.
- Bringing this story back to the people this affects is something that’s been largely ignored this week.
- Two members of Ontario’s Uighur Muslim community feel that the acknowledgement is appreciated, Canada as a country needs to do more.
- The Uighur residents that CBC spoke with want the government to impose Magnitsky Act sanctions on Chinese officials.
- The sanctions would target the property, the assets, the holdings, the wealth — of corrupt officials "who have committed gross violations of internationally recognized human rights."
- Anwar Abdurahman and Rukiye Turdush who the CBC interviewed both have family and friends living in China that have been detained.
- Turdush says she has had more than 30 cousins who’ve been arrested and those that have been released are afraid to speak out.
- They also say, “[it's the] most disturbing [when] you don't know someone you love ... [is] still alive or if they're still in the camp. If they're alive or dead.”
- This is what our government is tip-toeing around and in general government administrations throughout the western world are as well.
- This has happened before and the horrors of the Holocaust weren’t known until the camps were liberated at the end of World War 2.
- You’d think we’d have learnt by then but it’s clear for some that diplomacy in the here and now is more important than lives.
- And as Brian Lilley in the Toronto Sun says, “when it came time to stand be counted, the ‘Little Potato’ was nowhere to be found.”
- Of course Little Potato refers to the nickname the Chinese administration gave to Trudeau where he and his government see it as a sign of endearment, it’s almost certainly what they see him as today.
Word of the Week
Right-sizing - to convert something to an appropriate or optimum number, often in reference to companies or organizations reducing their workforce.
Quote of the Week
“If you’re going to turn against people based on the colour of their skin, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” - BC Premier John Horgan on addressing hate crimes
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Taking a Stand
Teaser: Hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, the Alberta budget sees continued support for healthcare, and another top military commander is under investigation. Also, Trudeau and his cabinet walk out on Parliament’s Uighur genocide vote.
Recorded Date: February 26, 2021
Release Date: February 28, 2021
Edit Notes: AB end pause
Podcast Summary Notes