The News Rundown
- Prime Minister Trudeau was full of announcements this week, and this one was an important one. On Tuesday afternoon, he announced the appointment of Inuk leader Mary Simon, to be the next Governor General of Canada. She will be Canada’s 30th Governor General since Confederation, and the 13th Governor General appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her 69 years on the throne.
- Simon began her introductory remarks in Inuktitut, and went on to thank both Trudeau and the Queen for their confidence in her taking on this “very historic opportunity.” She said: “I believe we can build the hopeful future in a way that is respectful of what has happened in the past…If we embrace our common humanity and shared responsibility for one another, Canada's greatest days are yet to come.”
- Simon has been an advocate for Inuit rights and culture, and the rights of all Indigenous peoples. Over four decades, she has held various senior leadership positions, including President of Makivik Corporation, where she helped to protect and promote Inuit rights through the implementation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. She also served two terms as President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, now known as the Inuit Circumpolar Council, and as President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
- Simon’s appointment comes as Canada struggles with reconciliation and as more unmarked graves are discovered on former residential school grounds across the country, with Trudeau heading on Tuesday afternoon to a ceremony at the largest site of unmarked graves discovered to date.
- Once a student at a federal government day school, Simon said she hopes to develop a relationship between Indigenous people and Canadians “where this will never happen again.”
- From Nunavik, in northern Quebec, Simon has long been an advocate for Inuit rights and culture. She has worked as a radio host with CBC North and later served as chair of national advocacy organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the National Inuit Education Committee.
- She has also worked alongside the federal government on several files over many years, including on the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), on the Charlottetown Accord, the repatriation of the Constitution, and during the implementation of Canada's first land claims policy.
- Simon was the first Inuk to be a Canadian ambassador, representing Canada both as the ambassador of circumpolar affairs and as the ambassador to Denmark. Now, she will take on the role of the Queen's representative in Canada.
- In offering some personal backstory, Simon spoke about her family and childhood—her mom is Inuk and her father “from the south,” a manager of a local Hudson’s Bay post—and acknowledged that she does not speak French but plans to learn. Simon said that she was denied the chance to pick up the language when she attended day school as a child, but is determined to conduct her work in English, Inuktitut, and French.
- With the issues surrounding the relationship between First Nations and the Government of Canada, this seems like a strong step towards reconciliation, but we hope that Mary Simon, unlike Julie Payette the previous Governor General, understands that her role is not to be an advocate for change, but to be a stabilizing force in the Canadian political system.
- While the position is largely ceremonial, Simon will play a crucial role in constitutional matters and within minority governments when it comes to questions of confidence. Perhaps most notably, given the rampant speculation that a summer or fall election call is likely, the governor general has the power to dissolve Parliament and draw up the writs for a general election, on the advice of the prime minister.
- Simon understood the importance of her parliamentary responsibilities: “I give due regard to these very important roles, but at this time, I have not talked about the election at all.”
- She also becomes the top commander of the Canadian Armed Forces, and during her remarks she thanked the troops for their work in fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic at home while maintaining operations abroad, and said she looks forward to meeting members of the military.
- The initial reaction to Simon’s appointment has been largely positive, with national Indigenous groups welcoming the choice, but voicing some caution.
- “The federal government has made an excellent choice in selecting Ms. Simon as Viceregal representative of the Monarch. She has been a human-rights activist and outspoken champion of her people,” said the Native Women’s Association of Canada in a statement. “We must point out, however, that Ms. Simon is being asked to serve the senior role in what is still a colonial system of governance.”
- It’s a tension that Simon acknowledged Tuesday, saying that she personally doesn’t view it as a conflict to have an Indigenous representative of the Crown.
- “I do understand as an Indigenous person that there is pain and suffering across our nation… But when I was asked whether I would take on this important role, I was very excited,” she said. “This is what we call reconciliation, and it's a lifelong experience.”
- Simon's lack of French skill has also drawn some criticism. Quebec Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan said he was "astounded" by the appointment: "How can a prime minister consider that it is appropriate to appoint a governor general who will not be able to speak to more than eight million French speaking citizens of Canada?"
- On the whole though, reaction to the announcement has been positive, with Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet saying in French that, while he does not view the role as a legitimate or democratic one, he hopes that the appointment would “make it easier for the Crown and Canada to admit the abuse suffered by aboriginal people.”
- We wish Ms. Simon luck in her new duties and hope that she can restore the confidence in the position that Trudeau's last appointment destroyed, while also balancing the line of reconciliation that this country so badly needs right now.
- The pandemic has raised so many questions, many of which don’t have answers.
- Where’d the virus come from?
- Did we make the right decisions in shutting down portions of the economy?
- Should we have closed the borders sooner? Though some in the government in Ottawa think that’s racist.
- The Americans want an answer to that question and Biden may force his “pal” Justin to make that decision sooner rather than later.
- 75 members of the 435 member House of Representatives are calling for a quick reopening of the US Canada border.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer went as far to say that the US should open up the border unilaterally on July 21st if Canada won’t.
- While some members want the border open with no restrictions the general sentiment seems to open it to those who are either fully vaccinated or those who can provide proof of a negative PCR test.
- The United States Congress is one of the most politically divided government bodies anyone can find. It’s very important to note that it’s not just Biden’s Democrats or the Republicans pushing for a re-opening. It is a truly bi-partisan effort.
- The main push aside from recreational travel to open the border comes from the push to allow for northern border communities, families, and economies to start to recover from the pandemic.
- There is of course none other than Point Roberts, WA which Americans must traverse BC to gain access to.
- Aides to US congress members who signed the letter state that the US has been ready but there has been continual resistance from Canada.
- Earlier this week while giving a press conference, Justin Trudeau said that there could be new border steps announced in the coming weeks.
- We’ll of course see what the government of Canada does but the level of coyness does not bode well.
- The Prime Minister also said that he doesn’t see Canada opening its borders to unvaccinated tourists for the foreseeable future because the pandemic isn’t over yet.
- The continual push by our government and most of the provincial governments to use shutdowns and other harsh measures ignores the effectiveness of vaccines.
- In Alberta, even Rachel Notley and the NDP have given in and will be attending the Calgary Stampede.
- The pandemic with vaccines, unless a wild new variant appears, will not overrun our health care system and even with the variants, the risk of hospitalization and death falls dramatically.
- It is time to re-open.
- The Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable advocacy group says that the government should be focusing on a reopening plan and not an election.
- Of course if an election happens the question of the border sits and festers.
- A reopening plan is something Canada’s conservatives have been calling for since March but it has never become an issue.
- Perhaps with an estimated $102b in the tourism industry at stake and Justin’s hand being forced by his pal, Joe Biden, we can make some sort of move.
- Tourism, families, and border businesses need certainty and this has all been exemplified by a rare moment of bi-partisan agreement in the United States showing how our government has politicized the pandemic.
- Parliament is out for the summertime, and the current minority parliament situation has seen lots of clashes between Justin Trudeau's governing Liberal Party and the Opposition of Erin O'Toole's Conservatives, as well as the NDP and Bloc. At a time where everyone expects an election to be called sometime within the year, there is bound to be lots of unofficial campaigning, especially from Trudeau, who is hoping to pre-empt the news cycle with flashy new spending promises, in hopes of maintaining and gaining their strongholds in Urban Ontario and Quebec.
- The federal government has announced it will be launching a procurement process that could see a multi-billion-dollar high-frequency rail corridor operating between Toronto and Quebec City by the end of the decade.
- Transport Minister Omar Alghabra specifically gave a shout out to Quebec in the announcement, and said: “This high-frequency rail project would be one of the largest infrastructure projects in Canada in decades and will transform travel in this busy transportation corridor. Quebecers and all Canadians deserve a fast, reliable train service.”
- Alghabra said officials are looking to open a request for proposal in the fall. While the final budget will depend on the project’s final scope, he said the final cost could be between $6-12 billion, with construction slated to be finished by 2030.
- When asked by reporters about the choice to pursue high-frequency rail (where trains would travel up to 200 kilometres per hour) versus high-speed rail (which would see trains travel considerably faster), Alghabra said high-speed rail would be much higher in cost and would take longer to complete.
- A major issue facing the corridor is the competition with freight rail, which can impact service reliability for passenger trains. The proposal, if ultimately approved, would see dedicated corridors.
- Under the high-frequency rail proposal, Alghabra said it would shave about 30 minutes between Quebec City and Montreal (the current travel time is around three hours and 15 minutes) and 90 minutes between Quebec City and Toronto (the travel time, minus a layover, currently is around eight hours and 15 minutes).
- Officials said the investment would mean more direct train trips and would see new services to communities such as Peterborough, Trois-Rivières and Laval. They also noted there would be new stations created as part of the project, such as one near Jean Lesage Airport in Quebec City.
- The announcement also came amid increasing speculation a federal election is in the offing later this year. Stephanie Kusie, the Conservative Party of Canada’s transport critic and the MP for Calgary Midnapore, said the news feels like electioneering “a hundred per cent without question.” and said the contents of the announcement aren’t new, adding the project was mentioned in the federal budget tabled in April.
- Kusie also said the technology will only maximum speeds by up to 60 km/h versus a faster high-speed rail system: “It feels like in addition to the reannouncement, this government is constantly behind the planning and execution of technologies and we end up behind the rest of the world,”
- When it comes to the overall initiative being a benefit for travellers, Matti Siemiatycki, an associate professor in the department of geography and planning at the University of Toronto, said it doesn’t just fall to faster trains. He said Via Rail, which operates most of the passenger train lines, has been challenged in developing the corridor into a strong, reliable alternative for travellers due to a combination of factors such as fare prices, service reliability and a lack of trips.
- “It starts with the service … it really is challenging when [Via Rail doesn’t] own the corridor. They’ve really struggled with how to manage increased freight on a corridor they don’t own and their passengers and trains being a lower priority,” Siemiatycki said.
- Most of the train lines in Canada are owned and operated by CN Rail or CP Rail, and due to the infrastructure of our country, freight trains get priority over passenger trains. A lack of rail track lines leads to huge backups and delays when something goes wrong, like a crash, or the major protests in early 2020, or what we saw last week with wildfires in BC actually damaging rail lines.
- Rail giants CN and CP warned their customers earlier this week that fires in BC have damaged major rail lines in the interior of the province, making them unsafe to use. That caused trains to back up along the network, idling thousands of rail cars and stranding their contents. CN told its customers in a bulletin earlier this week that all intermodal traffic (transport between trucks and trains) and carload traffic north and eastbound from Vancouver was affected by the wildfires, as was traffic coming into Vancouver from east and north of Kamloops, B.C.
- Prof. Barry Prentice at the University of Manitoba, who studies transportation logistics, told CBC News in an interview that the rail blockage underscores how vulnerable Canada's economy is to infrastructure breakdowns.
- "There are choke points where if something fails, the whole system stops," and the area with the most fire damage, at the top of the Fraser Canyon is one of them, he said. Both CP's and CN's lines in the area are "both close together so if there's a problem there, they're both affected," he said. "And if they're both affected, it's virtually the entire system. When you get a holdup like this and you get a backlog, it takes a long time for that to be incorporated into the stuff that's also coming because nothing stops coming," Prentice said.
- In other news, the Alberta government says it's now confident in the plan the City of Calgary put together for its massive Green Line LRT project and the federal government is on board too. Justin Trudeau made the announcement that Ottawa was approving the $5.5-billion transit plan during a media conference at a Calgary Transit maintenance yard on Wednesday afternoon.
- "This fall, construction on Phase 1 of the LRT Green Line will begin in Calgary's Beltline and downtown. We're also looking forward with the province and the city on Phase 2, which would see the line extended to the north."
- The line will make it easier to get around the city of Calgary, and lead to a cheaper and faster commute into and away from downtown.
- Minister of Transportation and Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver also announced details of the decision in a release Wednesday, saying that he is "grateful for the hard work" that went into building the plan.
- "Alberta's $1.53-billion commitment toward the Green Line is a massive investment in the future of Calgary, one we are happy to make because we believe our best days are ahead of us. I am confident that the Green Line is in a stronger, more certain position today, and is in the capable hands of an experienced project team that can take this important project forward."
- Of course the Alberta NDP tried to say that the UCP would attempt to "obstruct" the project, but we know that's just baseless at this point, looking at support for the project from federal, provincial and municipal governments.
- Of course, with all this funding for infrastructure happening by the federal government, one wonders exactly when they will decide to call an election, and if that will jeopardize the projects entirely. We shall see.
- As soon as it appeared Justin Trudeau was going to win most seats on election night 2019 and the Conservatives were going to win the popular vote the topic of Alberta’s place in Canada gained prominence.
- Throughout his first term, Justin Trudeau did not hesitate to put the west against the interests of the Laurentien elite.
- Following that on the next podcast I echoed the words of Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying that Canada must be great for all Canadians and our country is one based upon hope and an example to the world while being strong and free.
- Those struggling and those ideologically opposed to Justin Trudeau have been waiting for that day when hope arrives.
- This week Erin O’Toole announced a plan to bring forward a number of key policy objectives that start the process of making a fair deal for Alberta and in his own words, “truly make Alberta prosperous again and take away the limits that the Trudeau Liberal government has put on your growth… Conservatives will treat the energy sector as a key driver of Canada’s economy and leverage our environmental and social governance leadership as a competitive advantage to secure our future.”
- Erin O’Toole understands that Alberta has paid its fair share into confederation and now deserves the full support of Canada’s government.
- He also called on provinces to be treated as true partners in confederation and not like children.
- Media on the left and the right divide and wedge one part of the country against the other. Anger is what makes these media organizations thrive through sensationalist headlines, clickbait titles, and a thirst for likes.
- They would have you believe that the answer is voting Alberta out of Confederation, voting for a party that speaks loudly on these issues, or that the Conservative Party of Canada is the same as the Liberals.
- The Conservative Party of Canada has been at the forefront of grassroots democracy in this country aside from Alberta’s Wildrose and United Conservative Party.
- Through the party’s membership policy proposals putting democracy first have been passed and going forward is one of the best ways any concerned listener or citizen can have their voice heard.
- Issues like citizen referenda and recall legislation and a more fair Senate should be the keystone of Conservative policy and through grassroots democracy it can be.
- Canada’s Premiers unanimously supported the changes that Erin O’Toole is suggesting to the federal Fiscal Stabilization Program. The only one who did not was Justin Trudeau himself.
- With these changes Alberta can expect to receive upwards of $4b in rebates while other provinces that paid into equalization would receive a combined $1b.
- As Erin O’Toole said, this is the start meaning a dialog on fairness for the provinces will be heard.
- This is the start of healing years of division.
- This story received almost zero media coverage. It shows that the Conservatives are offering up ideas to fix what is a very visible rift within the country.
- The Conservative plan will also see the passage of the Equalization and Transfers Fairness Act which is currently a Private Members Bill sponsored by Calgary MP Tom Kmiec.
- Canada is our country, a country that is stronger together as one rather than regions pitt against one another.
- Justin Trudeau is furthering that divide this week on a campaign style stop in Calgary.
- When asked in Calgary by local journalist Rick Bell, Trudeau suggested that it’s actually Jason Kenney who’s at fault for the current equalization woes saying that it was his negotiations as part of the Stephen Harper government.
- “The fact he’s now railing against it means that he can probably explain better what it is he disagrees with his younger self on.” the Prime Minister said.
- The Premier reminds us regularly that it was Justin Trudeau that campaigned against the province’s industries in the last election.
- Erin O’Toole has pledged to scrap the northern BC tanker ban otherwise known as Bill C-48 and will make changes to the environmental impact assessment program brought in with Bill C-69.
- Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner said that when she signed the Buffalo doctrine last year it was to put forward a voice for Alberta and the new policies announced are a “refreshing step in the right direction in overcoming some of the systemic inequities experienced by [Alberta]”
- Albertans looking for a change and an opportunity to repair years of division should take note of this policy announcement. It allows Canada to stand together as one and have hope for a better future.
- But given media coverage and the need for media all across the political spectrum to divide that message was not heard by Albertans this week.
Word of the Week
Electioneering - to visibly campaign for a particular candidate or party by communicating announcements to the electorate to persuade their vote choice
Quote of the Week
“[We will] truly make Alberta prosperous again and take away the limits that the Trudeau Liberal government has put on your growth… Conservatives will treat the energy sector as a key driver of Canada’s economy and leverage our environmental and social governance leadership as a competitive advantage to secure our future.” - Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on his plan to secure a fair deal for Alberta.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Electoral Dark Horse
Teaser: Canada has its first Indigenous Governor General, pressure mounts from the US to open the border, and federal support for passenger rail lines is announced. Also, Erin O’Toole has lots of ideas to solve the equalization problem once and for all.
Recorded Date: July 9, 2021
Release Date: July 11, 2021
Edit Notes: Cough
Podcast Summary Notes