The News Rundown
- This week Canada’s Constitution has been set to change. Normally this would be a huge deal but it all is set to happen rather unceremoniously.
- Quebec has asked that the Constitution be amended to call themselves a nation and that French be made the official language of Quebec and strengthen language protections for the province.
- The Constitution of Canada only dates back to 1982. Prior to that we were governed under the British North America Act of the UK Parliament.
- The plan spearheaded by Quebec Premier Francois Legault has received support from both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole, and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
- To those unfamiliar with the workings of our Constitution this may seem like a huge deal but it’s written as part of the document.
- For those who are familiar with this document it raises many questions.
- First, Quebec didn’t sign on to the Constitution in 1982. One could make a legal argument that Quebec’s ask isn’t possible without signing on to the Constitution.
- Secondly, if Quebec is able to change the Constitution, questions have been asked what other changes the amendments could bring forward.
- Thomas Mulcair, former NDP leader and architect of the party’s success in Quebec in 2011 has concerns that the amendments as put forward could do away with English language rights in both the Houses of Parliament and in the Quebec National Assembly.
- He also suggests that it shouldn’t be as easy as Quebec and the governing Liberals in Ottawa are making it.
- Quebec tried to make these changes in 1979 and was shot down by the Supreme Court of Canada. So what will happen now?
- We also need to remember that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that English and French are the official languages of Canada.
- Lucien Bouchard sought to change the school board system in Quebec from one based on Catholic and Protestant boards to one based on the languages of English and French.
- He did say Quebec would change the Constitution but he also got the support of the House of Commons and Senate.
- The Constitution of Canada can be amended unilaterally by a province if the section in question only pertains to that province and is accepted by the House of Commons and Senate. That is the part of this story that has been missed by the media.
- Mulcair also points out that Trudeau has been weak on religious rights in Quebec in the name of vote buying and it’s going to be very interesting to see where the government comes down on the latest demands from Francois Legault.
- Mulcair in addition to having been NDP leader and orchestrating the NDP’s success in Quebec also served as a Minister in Jean Charest’s Liberal government.
- In doing so he has a unique view on Quebec affairs and in particular Premier Legault.
- Before Legault formed the CAQ and became Premier in an interview he said his approach to Ottawa would be a series of Constitutional amendments to gain control over language, culture, and immigration.
- The question is, where does this lead? An independent Quebec? Or a greater discussion on what our system of confederation looks like?
- Quebec’s Bill 21 or the ban on religious symbols was tiptoed around by Justin Trudeau in the last election. Bill C-10 which has the potential to control what we see on the internet is seen as a positive in Quebec by Quebec nationalists, hence the government's move to bring it forward and the Bloc Quebecois supporting it.
- This signals that there will be very little opposition to Quebec’s proposals by the Trudeau government and a potential Conservative government and the only one speaking in terms of reality is Thomas Mulcair.
- Do Justin Trudeau and Erin O’Toole know the plan must come forward through Parliament? Yes, probably. But will Trudeau see it through? Who’s to say?
- Now of course the eagled eyed of you will be saying what about Alberta? Or BC? Or Saskatchewan?
- Paul Hinman, leader of the Wildrose Independence Party sees these developments as positive paving the way for a more independent Alberta.
- Former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall also weighed in saying, “The PM is fine [with] Que[bec] unilaterally amend[ing] the constitution to declare Quebec a nation and French its official language. So hypothetically speaking - AB and SK can do something like that too? Or would the answer be no....’asymmetrical federalism’ and all?”
- The discussion then pivots back to 2006 when the newly minted Harper Conservative government stated that the Quebecois, not the province of Quebec, forms a nation within a united Canada and this motion passed the House of Commons with a large majority.
- Note that it wasn’t that Quebec forms a nation or the Quebecois form an independent nation but Quebecois forms a nation within a united Canada.
- Legault’s push makes the term “nation” apply to the province itself and not the Quebec people. This throws away any notion of Canadian unity if this goes into the Constitution, the Supreme Court will have to recognize and respect it whenever dealing with a case involving Quebec.
- This combined with the move from Quebecois to Quebec the province changes what it means for a province to be part of Canada and no one realizes it yet.
- B.C.’s rarest forest ecosystems are rapidly disappearing and if the province doesn’t act immediately to defer logging in key areas, as recommended by the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review, they will be lost forever, according to a report released Wednesday by a team of independent scientists.
- The analysis of B.C.’s remaining old growth forests and mapping tools aims to help the province meet the recommendations of the old-growth panel.
- While the map was designed to flag forests that meet the criteria for deferral rather than note specific at-risk locations, the authors noted it includes places like the Nahmint River watershed and Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, currently a hot spot of protest and near where the RCMP began making arrests on Tuesday as part of its enforcement of an injunction. The map also identifies unharvested old-growth in the Babine watershed near Smithers and rare cedar hemlock old-growth near Nelson as top-priority areas for logging deferrals.
- The new analysis takes its lead from the independent strategic review commissioned by the province, which outlined criteria to determine which forests are of the highest value and most at-risk, and clarifies which areas should be immediately protected. The review recommended the province defer development in old forests with a high risk of irreversible biodiversity loss.
- Rachel Holt, forest ecologist and one of the authors of the report said “It’s been a year since that report went to the government and there have been no meaningful deferrals since that time. We waited for the government to map what the panel recommended and there’s been no action — so we decided to just do it.”
- While the province implemented deferrals last year that ostensibly protected 353,000 hectares of forest, closer inspection revealed how the numbers were skewed to include already protected areas and 157,000 hectares of second-growth forests open to logging. The province subsequently adjusted its numbers to reflect the inclusion of second-growth.
- The new analysis identifies about 1.3 million hectares of at-risk forests across the province, which is about 2.6 per cent of B.C.’s timber supply. According to the analysis, the actual area that requires logging deferrals will be much smaller and the province has the tools to put any planned cutblocks and road building on hold while it works with First Nations and other stakeholders to develop land use plans.
- The strategic review highlighted the urgent need to stop looking at B.C.’s forests as timber supply and start prioritizing Indigenous Rights and ecological and cultural values. It acknowledged this transition won’t happen overnight but noted the urgent need to put the brakes on logging the rarest trees while creating a new strategy.
- Very little remains of B.C.’s old-growth forests. Holt, forester Dave Daust and ecologist Karen Price calculated that just 415,000 hectares of productive old-growth forest remains in the province. Productive old-growth supports numerous endangered and threatened species, including caribou and northern goshawk.
- "Less than three per cent of the old growth that remains is the high, big productivity, big forests that people think about," she said. "And more than 80 per cent of the old growth that remains is the low-productivity, small-treed, small-statured forest (at) high elevation, or it's bog forest."
- Holt emphasized that the stakes couldn’t be higher: “We are losing biodiversity and we’re losing carbon storage,” she said. “Old large tree ecosystems hold a phenomenal carbon store. We don’t have time to plant trees and wait 100 years.”
- B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau reacted to the project in a statement Wednesday, saying the NDP government has the tools it needs to take action to protect ancient forests and "all that's lacking is political will."
- "Deferrals are an essential tool to maintain options in a time of crisis. You can't build a new framework for protection while you log the last of what's left."
- The Forests Ministry said in a statement it is currently reviewing the maps and exploring further deferrals "through engagement with Indigenous nations, and in alignment with the old-growth report."
- B.C. has pledged to implement the report by the panel that it received last year, which urged the government to act within six months to put harvesting on hold in old forest ecosystems at the highest risk of permanent biodiversity loss.
- The initial nine deferral areas were identified "where conflicts had occurred in the past," the ministry said in an email. Forests Minister Katrine Conroy has said previously the province was able to act quickly in those areas because it had already been working with nearby Indigenous nations.
- Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem said the province is not offering First Nations the option to defer first and then begin discussions on how to pivot to sustainable forestry and ecotourism opportunities, for example.
- Meanwhile, arrests are happening by RCMP in the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island, where protestors have been trying to block forestry workers from heading in and cutting down the old growth that supporters feel should be protected.
- Video captured by an independent journalist shows police and protesters clashing on a remote logging road on Southern Vancouver Island. The more physical arrests on Thursday morning by RCMP officers are the first of their kind in what has mostly been a peaceful and calm protest.
- RCMP returned to a Vancouver Island logging road Thursday to enforce the court-ordered injunction to remove old-growth logging protesters who are disrupting forestry operations in the Caycuse watershed area.
- As police slowly creep down the remote logging road arresting protesters, the protesters continue to find unique methods of blocking the roadway. On Thursday, officers found a woman suspended in a makeshift wooden structure 30 metres off the ground.
- The arrests are bringing more attention to the issue. We at Western Context have been talking about this issue since last summer. What will it take for the BC NDP and Premier John Horgan to do the right thing?
- Last time we did a check in on the municipal races in Alberta, Calgary Naheed Nenshi had not announced his intentions, since then he announced he will not be seeking re-election and has opened the field.
- Together Nenshi and Iveson had represented a progressive pair in a province that otherwise is thought of as typically conservative aside from the vote-split caused by the NDP government of 2015.
- In total there are 12 candidates running for the position of Mayor in Calgary.
- The most known candidate is Jeromy Farkas who currently sits as a city councillor in ward 11.
- Farkas is running on a campaign of low taxes and fiscal constraint. He was also one of the earliest candidates to declare, declaring last September. He’s also been involved with the Wildrose at the constituency level in Calgary-Elbow and worked for the Manning Centre.
- Prior to Nenshi announcing he would not be seeking re-election, Farkas polled within the margin of error of the current mayor.
- Other notable candidates include Teddy Ogbonna who is a Nigerian immigrant who is the founder of Youth For Transparency, a group that aims to get young people civically involved and he has been a board member for the Calgary-McCall UCP constituency association.
- Finally, we have Zane Novak who is a businessman who settled in Calgary. He aims to alleviate the tax burden on citizens and businesses in the post pandemic recovery and ensure that Calgary invests into itself with “equitable” distribution of funds to fund community amenities and programs through Participatory Budgeting.
- There are about 9 other candidates who will be struggling to gain prominence in the race. They have until October to stand out and make their voices heard to the people of Calgary.
- Pivoting back to Edmonton now, the mayor’s race there got another huge entrant this week with Amarjeet Sohi.
- Sohi is a former city councillor and was Trudeau’s Minister of Natural Resources before being defeated by Conservative MP Tim Uppal.
- Amarjeet Sohi is seen as having the policies that are closest to that of Mayor Iveson and of course Justin Trudeau.
- Sohi highlighted his beginnings as a new immigrant and said that a full campaign platform is on the way but the focus will be on rebuilding and diversifying the economy while tackling social issues and climate change.
- The only candidate at launch to have a fully fleshed out platform was Councillor Mike Nickel.
- Sohi describes the economy, social issues, climate change, and equity as being all interconnected.
- You’ll note more and more recently that politicians of the left have started using the word equity over equality.
- Put simply this means that everything must be fair and impartial with equal outcomes rather than equal opportunities.
- He also feels that true success can only come when the deep seated issues of racial pain and trauma are addressed.
- It’s at this point we go back to episode 134 in which the media accused Jason Kenney of having a spat with a train in South East Edmonton which Amarjeet Sohi highlighted the ineptitude of the Trudeau government.
- Sohi said the Premier was out of touch with what the neighbourhood needed when in reality it was Sohi himself who complained about being delayed by a train carrying crude oil.
- Of course since then we’ve lost Keystone XL which was only going ahead due to the Trump administration, Energy East was cancelled due to Keystone XL getting a green light, and TransMountain has faced numerous delays.
- A good portion of these cancellations did happen under Amarjeet Sohi while he was Natural Resources Minister.
- Had we played our cards differently we could have had Keystone, we could have had Energy East, and we could have had Northern Gateway, an immense amount of pipeline capacity.
- As he wades into the mayor’s race, the new candidate must be held accountable for having a hand in putting Alberta where it’s at economically today when it comes to our natural resources economy.
- The media won’t do that so we will here at Western Context.
- Also this week, Edmonton teacher and community activist Augstine Marah declared his candidacy. He’s been a teacher at numerous levels and for his ambitions as Mayor, he wants to continue the efforts of Don Iveson in reducing the homeless population and improving and diversifying job creation in Edmonton.
- Much like many of the candidates his platform is forthcoming.
- This puts the Edmonton mayor’s race in an interesting position with Mike Nickel as the sole right leaning candidate while Michael Oshry, Kim Krushell, Diana Steel, and Cheryll Watson all represent the middle of the road and Amarjeet Sohi can be seen as the social progressive with highest prominence.
- Senate elections will also be running this fall at the same time as the municipal vote as well as the Province’s referendum on Equalization.
- If you live in Edmonton and Calgary and you want a change from the progressive mayors of Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson this is your year.
- With an increased focus from the provincial UCP government to vote on their referendum, it’s just entirely possible that this could come out to benefit candidates like Farkas, Ogbonna, and Novak in Calgary and Mike Nickel in Edmonton.
- The question remains though, have the other candidates in Edmonton realized that they may be setting up a major vote split in the centre and left in Edmonton?
- As more and more people get vaccinated across Canada, the pandemic will be over soon, and people are already wanting to get back to a normal life. Unfortunately for a lot of people, a normal life won't be awaiting them as our federal government has put our economy in an awful position to recover financially from the losses of the past year. At a time of year when people need money to pay taxes, repair bills, and all other sorts of unexpected money sinks that occur in the spring, things have never been more expensive to buy.
- A journalist in Global News makes a very self aware opening to an article: "As parts of the world begin to eye the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are starting to grapple with a phenomenon that has long failed to make headlines: inflation."
- This is just admitting that the Canadian media has been going criminally easy on Trudeau's spending spree ever since he got into power. By saying that inflation has long failed to make headlines, it's agreeing that it's been a problem, and also that the government has not addressed the problem and in fact has made it worse.
- Talk to any average working Canadian. Families in cities, in rural areas, young single people, retirees, the working poor, and those in the mythical middle class. They will all tell you that their bills have been going up on everything, and thanks to the pandemic, many wages have remained stagnant.
- We here at Western Context have been sounding the alarm on this literally for YEARS while the mainstream media has been silent. All along, we've been worried about the rapid increase of inflation, and that our federal government has been devaluing our Canadian dollar by not only dragging us further into debt, but also by not directing that money towards programs and services that would actually help ease the pain from not just the pandemic, but from a generally uncompetitive economy that's only gotten worse since Trudeau came to power in 2015.
- Go to a grocery store, a building supplies warehouse, a department chain selling appliances, a gas station, that house for sale down the street...you name it, the price of everything has gone up, and in some cases, up exponentially.
- Economist experts are trying to calm rising panic by saying that it looks like inflation, but it's not really inflation. On both sides of the border, much of those annual inflation increases are amplified by comparisons with figures from the spring of 2020, the early days of the pandemic when the prices of many goods and services plunged amid a collapse in global demand.
- The cost of the most common lumber used in home construction more than quadrupled in the 12 months leading to April 30, according to Madison’s Lumber Reporter. At the onset of the pandemic, mills in Canada and the US curtailed production, or even closed due to what they expected would become a housing bust that never materialized. This led to a much smaller finished good supply than there would normally be.
- Instead, the predictable happened, and with everyone staying around the house more, people started noticing things about their house that they wanted to fix, add on to, or change up. Therefore, building supplies have been skyrocketing in demand, and in price.
- I can already hear you now - isn't a rise in lumber costs good for Canada, since Canada exports so much lumber? No, it's not good for Canada. In the short term, lumber producers will make more, but we've been seeing mills close in much of Canada before the pandemic, especially in BC.
- Most of what remains are owned by big American corporations like Weyerhaeuser, and Masco, and the rest are owned by billionaire Canadians, like companies Teal Jones, West Fraser and Canfor. In this scenario, the rich get richer, and the people that want to replace their deck or fences are out more cash then they normally would be.
- A similar phenomenon is at play in the automotive market. When consumer demand for cars and trucks plunged at the start of the health emergency, automakers around the globe rushed to scale down production, which included dialing back their orders of semiconductors, essential components of electronic devices that are also vital for new vehicles’ infotainment modules, engines and fuel management systems.
- At the same time, though, as people heeded lockdown and stay-at-home orders, demand for tablets, laptops and cloud-computing services soared, quickly filling the semiconductor demand gap left by the auto sector.
- Now that consumers in several parts of the world are once again in the mood to buy cars and trucks, automakers are struggling to get their hands on enough chips.
- The dearth of semiconductors is causing production delays and pushing up prices for both new and used vehicles. In Canada, the average price of a new car now tops $40,000, according to data from J.D. Power Canada. For used vehicles, Canadians are paying more than $25,000 on average, according to a recent analysis by Canadian Black Book.
- Economists have been spinning the higher Canadian dollar to the US dollar as a good thing keeping the Canadian economy afloat. However, if the dollar gets too strong, it incentivises buyers to look elsewhere. This drives a boom-bust cycle which is impossible for the businesses to effectively predict or plan for, it will likely cause some large bankruptcies.
- Last week, Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem said he didn't think a high inflation reading in April would require immediate action by the central bank.
- “Large parts of our economy remain very weak,” he told reporters following a speech to university students in Atlantic Canada last week. “There are far too many Canadians unemployed, and that is putting downward pressure on inflation. So, yes, we expect it to go up to around three (per cent) and then diminish thereafter.”
- Inflation hits those without assets the most, those with the least amount of money to have extra cash to pay for higher bills. Like a wealth tax, the inflation tax is also hurting those trying to save money by reducing the purchasing power of money.
- But even if inflation is only temporary, people will already have been hit hard by the inflation tax. Why? Prices have ratcheted up for many goods and services. Unless there is a recession, we can’t assume they will return to where they were. Thus, there has been a permanent reduction in purchasing power even if the inflation tax does prove to be “temporary.”
- Once health restrictions are lifted, expect Canada’s prices to jump. Will that be temporary or longer-lasting? The Bank of Canada has already indicated it might have to wind down quantitative easing sooner than initially projected. This has helped push the dollar up – that and surging commodity prices. A higher Canadian dollar does reduce inflationary pressures, although it makes our export industries less competitive.
- Inflation reflects demand outstripping supply. The pandemic has created a supply shock with disrupted supply chains for goods ranging from semiconductors to lumber and copper. Many Canadian businesses are facing rising wages as workers either have retired from the workforce (in part due to generous public benefits) or need retraining since their job won’t be coming back.
- Another $100 billion in federal stimulus demand, piled onto a $350-billion deficit for 2020, is stoking demand ever further, with more social spending coming. The inflation tax is back. And many of us aren't prepared for it, due to the media not covering the issue at all.
Word of the Week
Nation - a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory.
Quote of the Week
“The PM is fine [with] Que[bec] unilaterally amend[ing] the constitution to declare Quebec a nation and French its official language. So hypothetically speaking - AB and SK can do something like that too? Or would the answer be no....’asymmetrical federalism’ and all?” - Former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall on the looming constitutional crisis.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Inflating the Problem
Teaser: Federal politicians say Quebec can amend the constitution, tools to identify old growth are ignored by the BC government, and Alberta’s municipal races heat up. Also, inflation is on the rise once again, while the media and government both ignore it.
Recorded Date: May 21, 2021
Release Date: May 23, 2021
Edit Notes: Cough and internet cut
Podcast Summary Notes