The News Rundown
- This week the province announced a new batch of COVID related restrictions to attempt to blunt the recent uptick in cases.
- These, for the most part, are the same restrictions that Dr. Bonnie Henry brought in for BC last week with the exception of religious gatherings in Alberta being limited to 15% capacity but we’ll get to these in a moment.
- The reaction in BC? This was called a circuit breaker lockdown while in Alberta the opposition NDP and media are saying we still need a circuit breaker.
- This speaks to the difference in media narrative between provinces and administrations at hand.
- COVID restrictions have the province split, likely down an urban/rural divide. The divide has also penetrated the UCP caucus but more on that soon.
- On Sunday health inspectors paid a visit to Street Church in South East Calgary where they were confronted by Pastor Artur Pawlowski who did not let the health inspectors in who were accompanied by Calgary police.
- A video of the encounter was posted to YouTube and quickly went viral online. You can see the video in our show notes.
- It’s actually proved to be an interesting learning experience for us because we learnt that it’s actually a violation of the criminal code under section 176 to disrupt a member of the clergy, religious worship, or anyone met for moral, social or benevolent purposes.
- While the argument can be made for health reasons the province can temporarily suspend these rights, those operating religious houses of worship certainly do seem to have a case to pursue.
- After the restrictions were announced on Tuesday, on Wednesday Alberta Health Services shut down Grace Life Church by fencing it off, a church that has been ticketed many times for violating restrictions and their Pastor, James Coates, spent 35 days in the Edmonton Remand Centre.
- The church is being represented by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms who feels the church has a case to stay open and that the closure violates constitutional rights.
- Supporters of the church have been gathered outside recently and have no intention of relenting.
- The Church has received 105 complaints since last July and for AHS, this was reportedly the final infraction.
- Rebel News interviewed Pastor Coates as the Pastor has decided to not talk to any of the mainstream media for fear of being taken out of context. We have their interview linked in the show notes.
- Alberta Health Services enforcement operates independently of the government cabinet. It’s Alberta Health Services, not Jason Kenney, not Health Minister Tyler Shandro, or the COVID cabinet making these decisions.
- NDP leader Rachel Notley said she was glad to see “AHS is finally taking steps to enforce public health orders at GraceLife church” and that Grace Life church members need to take this opportunity to “learn from the leadership of so many other communities.”
- Jason Kenney was well aware that many in the community and in fact in his own party would be against the new restrictions.
- These restrictions are fracturing the province and the media has only inflamed the problem this week. The media would love nothing more than to see the UCP crash and burn as a result of divisions due to COVID policies.
- On Wednesday, 15 UCP MLAs signed a letter requesting a regional approach to restrictions, raised concerns of their constituents and called on the province to follow a “transparent path forward that provides certainty to Alberta families, communities, and businesses.”
- Following this an additional two MLAs added their names in support.
- This has spurred headlines of a UCP revolt and branding from the NDP.
- NDP leader Rachel Notley has called for all the MLAs to be expelled from caucus.
- Jason Kenney said he understands the diverse pool of views in his party and “what those MLAs were doing was giving voice to those concerns about the very real, negative consequences of restrictions, and I respect their responsibility as elected representatives to articulate concerns like that”
- The line for them being kicked out of caucus would be encouraging civil disobedience or encouraging others to break restrictions.
- This is a rather interesting turn of events because while the NDP was in power, one of their MLAs, Robyn Luff was removed from caucus for alleging bullying at the hands of Rachel Notley and not properly being able to represent her constituents.
- This is the complete opposite, the Premier is encouraging the MLAs to represent their constituents and the media is vilifying him. When in 2018 the opposite happened while the NDP were in power.
- Calling this a revolt is a step too far. If the MLAs actually crossed the floor or introduced a motion of non-confidence, then it could be called a revolt. But this is just democracy functioning as intended.
- And Albertans want to see that. Numerous businesses rurally have opted to challenge restrictions.
- But it’s not just Alberta. Patrons at a restaurant in Vancouver shouted out health inspectors.
- For restrictions to work, there has to be public buy in. Because as we see, most everything remains the same in Alberta this week but tensions are on the rise. We’ll see if the new restrictions brought in limit the uptick in cases and which way the UCP goes.
- Albertans need to remember that it could be a lot worse, we could have curfews and mandated stay at home orders. For the liberty minded the real enemy is not Kenney. It’s Justin Trudeau, Rachel Notley, the media, and everyone is using the pandemic to raise division amongst those who are genuinely concerned about livelihoods.
- When BC makes international news, it's usually for something good. Sometimes, it's something really bad. This time, it's the latter.
- Last episode at the end of my skewering of John Horgan's failed pandemic response along with raising taxes that disproportionately affect the working poor, I also had a footnote that the BC Supreme Court has decided to uphold an injunction against the Fairy Creek logging blockaders. I've talked about the ongoing logging of old growth forests on Vancouver Island in the past, notably on episode 183 in the summer, and on episode 197 last November. This is not a new issue, and the BC NDP government of John Horgan has had plenty of time to address the issue. He has not, and now the world's eyes are on BC for our government's failure to protect our most precious, valuable and irreplaceable ecosystems.
- The Guardian, based out of the UK, ran with a story on Friday with the tagline "War in the Woods". Other international outlets have covered the story, and numerous high profile celebrities have taken to social media to highlight the struggle, located in a remote corner west of Victoria BC.
- The injunction was granted by the B.C. Supreme Court on April 1. It orders the demonstrators to take down the blockades that they had set up to prevent forestry company Teal-Jones from accessing its logging operation in the area.
- Photographer and actor Cole Sprouse, who films Riverdale in British Columbia and learnt about the story from local activists, recently visited the forest in the days leading up to a Supreme Court ruling on the demonstration, to capture its vast, ancient trees and their ardent defenders.
- Glen Reid, a camp manager with the Rainforest Flying Squad, said Thursday from Fairy Creek that fundraising for the group has surpassed $200,000, food donations are arriving daily and support is coming in from celebrities such as Academy Award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo, former wrestler Hulk Hogan and musicians Bruce Cockburn and Midnight Oil, who have given organizers permission to use their songs on social media.
- One of the protestors noted that this area was part of Premier John Horgan's own riding, and that he should "listen to his constituents".
- Teal-Jones is speaking out on the dispute between the company and activists. Fairy Creek sits within tree farm licence 46, which was established back in 1955.
- Jack Gardner, log broker and custom cutter with Teal-Jones notes that “Over 70 per cent of the province's old-growth is protected. You know, we believe in a balanced approach to a working forest.”
- The company says it only has access to a small portion of the Fairy Creek old-growth forest area, and of that total, it currently only plans to log a fraction of it.
- Fairy Creek only makes up about 1,200 hectares. Of the 200 hectares available for logging, Teal-Jones says it currently only plans to harvest 20 hectares.
- Activists, however, say it's unacceptable to log even a relatively small portion of the region.
- “As Teal-Jones points out, it’s only a small section of the valley,” said Joshua Wright, spokesperson with the Rainforest Flying Squad. “(But) it’s still an intact valley and when you log a small section of an intact valley, it’s no longer intact. Beyond that, we shouldn’t be logging old-growth forests period,” he said.
- So why harvest old growth trees in the first place? Teal-Jones says it's because the wood is easier to work with for high-value products. The tighter the grain the better, and old-growth timber provides that tighter grain, meaning it won’t crack when it is dried out to make specialty products.
- Protesters, however, say the ends don't justify the means. “Those quality wood products (come from) deforestation,” said Wright. “They’ll say they're going to replant and the trees will grow back, but you can’t grow back a 1,000-year-old tree.”
- That's really the issue at heart - that the BC government has remained silent on this issue. Last fall John Horgan made a plea to BC to elect him to a majority government so he had the mandate to make tough decisions. Instead, he has not made the decisions necessary for this province. We hope that he will reconsider before his constituency loses valuable ecosystems forever.
- It is becoming more and more apparent that Canada has made a terrible mistake with its vaccine procurement plan.
- For the first time in the pandemic Canada is on track to pass the United States in new COVID cases relative to population.
- For the longest time we were told day in and day out that the US had failed and Canada was the model to follow. This was repeated so many times that it has stuck in the minds of Canadians and become the dominant viewpoint.
- To address why this may be, the provinces have continually pointed to a lack of vaccine supply. This week Doug Ford effectively said that if the province gets a vaccine it goes into the arm of someone.
- He said, “I saw some tweet from a federal minister, 'Oh, we have a million three in the freezers.' We just got those. We literally got them a few days ago. So before that, we were running out, and we'll continue to run out.”
- To combat an increasing spike in infections Ontario has prioritized hot spot regions opening vaccination up to anyone over the age of 18 who lives in a highly affected postal code.
- On the other side, Health Minister Patty Hajdu has made the point that over 4 million vaccines have been delivered to Ontario but only 2.5 million were administered.
- In a tweet storm earlier this week Hajdu posted statistics for other provinces as well in an attempt to paint the picture that it is the provinces fault and not the fault of her government.
- [show note mention with tweets]
- When asked if she had any direct concerns in an interview, she wouldn’t outright say yes, but from the tone of the tweets and her answer, it seems as though she wants the focus to be on the provinces: “I think that it’s hard for me to give you a general answer because of course provinces and territories have very different strategies across the country. What I can tell you is we’re watching closely and we stand ready to assist any province or territory who’s having a challenge in rolling out vaccination.”
- This shift in narrative of putting the blame on the provinces is interesting and only possible because of the huge shipment of doses Canada received this week.
- The country as a whole has been receiving at least 1 million Pfizer doses a week and that spiked this week to more than 2 million.
- This included 316,000 doses of AstraZeneca which leaves just over 1 million Pfizer doses and 855,000 Moderna doses.
- Speaking from the perspective of Alberta, the province has been administering anywhere from a low of about 10,000 doses a day upwards to a high of just over 25,000 in late March. It’s not a matter of rollout in Alberta.
- Ontario has been administering upwards of 100,000 doses a day with 2.9 million in total administered.
- This perception that the provinces are causing the lag has made its way into the nightly national news cycle so much so that on Global News it was the top story Thursday.
- Both CTV and CBC also covered the comments but Major General Dany Fortin (who’s the military general in charge of the vaccine rollout) said, “I think provinces and territories do their very best to administer as rapidly and as effectively as possible vaccines to Canadians throughout the country, full stop… No one is holding onto vaccines in the reserve… except for local readjustments. What I would say is, and based on a lot of conversations at all levels… what we see is a real desire to ensure that they have a constant flow of vaccines.”
- The question is being asked because anywhere from two thirds to 75% of the vaccines delivered have been administered but he cautioned that looking at these numbers doesn’t give the full picture.
- This week as well Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Procurement Minister Anita Anand failed to show up for an emergency meeting called by the Health Committee (which is opposition controlled).
- The topics to be discussed were the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine and vaccine supply. The meeting was not even scheduled.
- For their part the federal government wants to turn the channel to the provinces and ignore the problem and the media has done nothing but help them this week.
- The media as usual sets the narrative, primes the public for a certain reaction, and as a result people may start to forget that this whole problem started with Justin Trudeau. He spent almost three months working on a vaccine program with China that was ultimately a flop when he instead should’ve been securing a supply agreement from our best ally, the United States.
- We have officially passed the one year mark of the WE Charity Scandal, which still sees no conclusion in sight. On April 5, 2020 amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and his then-Finance Minister Bill Morneau, held a telephone conversation discussing measures to financially assist the country's student population. The Finance Department was tasked with devising a series of measures to address these issues. This would begin a chain of events involving numerous governmental agencies.
- Through a no-bid selection process, WE Charity was chosen to administer the Canada Student Services Grant, which would have created grants for students who volunteered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- WE, which was founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger, received a contract of $543.5-million to administer the student service grant program, officially signed on June 23rd 2020, which was cancelled amid conflict of interest allegations against Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Morneau, whose families were involved with the charity and received compensation in the form of travel and expenses.
- The federal ethics commissioner is investigating Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Morneau over connections to the charity. Both apologized last summer for not recusing themselves from the decision on the contract.
- Mr. Trudeau’s mother and brother were paid speaking fees and travel reimbursements to appear at WE events. Mr. Morneau and his family accepted trips, for which they were later repaid, to visit WE projects in Kenya and Ecuador, and Mr. Morneau’s daughter worked for the charity.
- And now, Canada’s elections watchdog has been making inquiries about whether WE Charity carried out activities that benefited the Liberal Party in violation of electoral laws, according to a researcher who said a senior investigator from the office recently interviewed her.
- Vivian Krause, an independent researcher and blogger who testified about WE Charity at the House of Commons finance committee last July, told The Globe and Mail she was contacted in February by Louise Panneton, a senior investigator with the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections.
- Ms. Krause raised concerns at the hearings about get-out-the vote activities that WE Charity has conducted, and she alleged the charity promoted Justin Trudeau, including before the 2015 and 2019 elections. She said Ms. Panneton called her on Feb. 22 to discuss her testimony further.
- “It was the issue of whether WE Charity should have registered as a third party. They never registered in any of the recent elections and should they have done [so]. That was sort of the big question,” Ms. Krause said.
- Organizations that want to be active to support a particular party or candidate must register as a third party with Elections Canada.
- The Commissioner of Canada Elections is responsible for ensuring compliance with Canadian election law. The Canada Elections Act prohibits incorporated entities from making contributions – whether monetary or in-kind – to political parties during campaigns.
- The finance committee has also been investigating whether connections between WE Charity and the Trudeau family led the government to approve a contract for the charity to administer a planned $900-million pandemic aid program called the Canada Student Service Grant.
- In what was meant to be one of its last hearings on the WE Charity scandal, the federal ethics committee once again refused to hear a Liberal cabinet minister who was sent to testify on behalf of the government, instead of key witnesses the House of Commons actually requested.
- Conservative MP Michael Barrett said during Thursday’s committee meeting: “It’s disappointing that we find ourselves for a third time experiencing the Liberals’ ‘Choose your own adventure of parliamentary democracy'. We’re now jammed up with shenanigans that leave us unable to complete our report.”
- Last week, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez announced that he will testify at a parliamentary committee about the WE Charity, rather than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or members of his staff. The move came as all opposition parties and the Liberals are at odds over a Conservative-sponsored motion passed by the House of Commons last week calling for Mr. Rick Theis, director of policy to the prime minister and other members of Mr. Trudeau’s staff to testify before the committee. Theis was instructed by the Prime Minister's office to not appear.
- The motion also called Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s former chief of staff to appear at the defence committee to shed light on how the Liberals handled sexual-misconduct allegations against the previous commander of the Canadian Armed Forces, general Jonathan Vance.
- Mr. Rodriguez had indicated that the Liberals would ignore the motion, accusing the Conservatives of trying to intimidate political staff and arguing that ministers are ultimately responsible for those who work for them.
- This week, the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Québécois were outraged that the Liberals blocked another high-ranking staffer — this time Ben Chin, a senior advisor at the prime minister’s office — from testifying in front of the committee despite a formal request in the form of a motion adopted by the House of Commons two weeks ago.
- Once again, the Liberals opted to send Associate Finance Minister Mona Fortier to testify instead, citing “ministerial responsibility”. And once again the opposition committee members voted to adjourn the meeting before Fortier could utter a single word.
- “The committee simply does not have the authority to hear Mona Fortier today,” Bloc Québécois Rhéal Fortin argued during the meeting. “Today, we are meeting because we were ordered by the House for a simple reason: to hear Ben Chin, or the prime minister instead of Ben Chin.”
- “At this point, the committee doesn’t have the choice but to report back to the House and allow it to react accordingly,” he continued in an annoyed tone.
- NDP MP Charlie Angus also expressed his discomfort at the fact that the Liberals were preventing witnesses from appearing: “It is important for us to recognize that the witnesses that were called for by Parliament did not appear. That’s a fact,” Angus said.
- Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said if Mr. Trudeau’s staff would not appear to answer the ethics committee’s questions, then the Prime Minister himself must appear: “If Trudeau staffers can’t testify, then he can. We ask him to testify for no less than four hours before the ethics committee in person. … He can answer why his staff were engaged in a long string of correspondence with the WE brothers about setting up programs and grants of taxpayer money.”
- Michael Barrett later blasted Mr. Rodriguez’s plan to attend the committee meeting instead, noting that the motion passed by a majority of MPs in Parliament specifically named Mr. Trudeau and his staff: “Nowhere does it include any reference to the government House Leader. For over a week, the Liberals have used the excuse that ministers should testify before the committee. The key players in Trudeau’s WE scandal work for the Prime Minister, not the government House Leader, so why shouldn't he come and testify then?"
- We could see a resolution to this major scandal one way or another if it weren't for the Liberals using every trick in the book and out of the book to avoid the truth. Also avoiding the truth were the Canadian media, who outside of the Globe and Mail and National Post, did a poor job of reporting on this story.
Word of the Week
Revolt - to break away from or rise against constituted authority, to cast off allegiance or subjection to those in authority
Quote of the Week
“It’s disappointing that we find ourselves for a third time experiencing the Liberals’ ‘Choose your own adventure of parliamentary democracy'. We’re now jammed up with shenanigans that leave us unable to complete our report.” - Conservative Ethics Critic Michael Barrett on Liberal stonewalling on WE Charity testimony
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Choose Your Own Democracy
Teaser: Kenney walks a tightrope with unpopular restrictions, Horgan ignores a major logging protest in his riding, and Trudeau attempts to blame the provinces for poor vaccine rollouts. Also, Trudeau continues to stonewall testimony on the WE Charity scandal.
Recorded Date: April 9, 2021
Release Date: April 11, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes