The News Rundown
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to launch a federal election campaign this Sunday, with the vote set to be held as early as Sept. 20, first reported by CTV News, then quickly spread by everyone else.
- After months of speculation over the prospect of a pandemic election, many believe that Trudeau is planning to visit Rideau Hall this weekend and ask newly minted Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve the 43rd Parliament. If the campaign kicks off this Sunday, with an election day on Sept. 20, the 2021 federal election would be 36 days in length, the shortest possible permitted under elections law.
- In his anticipated post-election call remarks from outside Rideau Hall on Sunday, Trudeau will have to explain to the electorate why he felt it was necessary to put the country into an election now, while reopening and vaccination efforts are still underway.
- The news of the speculative election call came just as Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam held a press conference announcing that the country has now entered a fourth wave of the pandemic, driven by the Delta variant and mostly impacting the unvaccinated.
- With cases on the rise again, it will be up to the electorate to decide whether Trudeau deserves another chance to steer the country through, and out of it, or if in their minds it’s time for a change.
- Of course, the election date is not set in stone, nor is the Trudeau-Simon meeting. The news has been wrong before, and it's important to note that the media has been falling over themselves all summer speculating about an election.
- Both Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have spoken out against a snap election, though all sides have already been engaging in pseudo-electioneering all summer long. Parties have also been pushing ahead with nominating candidates, putting in place key campaign staff and sorting logistics like renting campaign planes and buses, while pledging to follow all local pandemic precautions.
- Singh condemned the news: “While Justin Trudeau wants to just act like it's over, it's not over, and people are still worried. And if Justin Trudeau was listening to people, and their concerns, and their worries he would not be holding a selfish summer election.”
- Singh has been outspoken about his opposition to an election throughout the pandemic, and recently tried to make the case in a letter to newly-installed Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, arguing that there is “no reason” to call an election right now, other than Trudeau wanting more power: “Sure, people might say ‘that that's what governments do.’… I don't think that's what governments do when you're in the middle of a pandemic, when you're up against a potential fourth wave, when you're up against such serious problems.”
- Nanos Research's Nik Nanos says “There's not a lot of enthusiasm to have a federal election at this particular point in time, and I think the fact of the matter is, for most Canadians, they're just happy to try to put the pandemic behind them, and to start to connect with loved ones, [rather than] think about listening to politicians ask for their votes.”
- Despite that, Nanos and other polling companies are predicting that were an election held soon, Trudeau could get a majority, and fourth wave or not, that's really the only reason why the Liberals want to send us to an unnecessary election.
- Vast swaths of the country have been literally on fire. Thousands have been forced out of their homes, or they are waiting for the order to evacuate. Smoke from wildfires has been all over the country, from BC to Nova Scotia. There are multiple crises going on right now. Yet, Trudeau wants to call an election and play politics.
- O’Toole tweeted: “Justin Trudeau’s planning an election in the middle of a pandemic because he’s focused on politics. It’s time we had a prime minister planning an economic recovery focused on Canadians. We’re ready.”
- He has a ready source of ideas — his own leadership campaign platform — but his team has also spent months consulting with conservative-minded policy thinkers and looking at provincial conservative governments for successes that could be implemented at the federal level.
- The Conservatives also laid out their new innovation policy ahead of an expected election call, part of an effort by the party to distinguish itself as an alternative to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, one that could dependably navigate the post-pandemic economic recovery.
- The Conservative proposal, if fully realized, could mark a departure from years of Liberal innovation policy, which many observers say has become unfocused and weighed down by a long list of incongruous subsidy programs.
- Just this week, O'Toole has unveiled several ideas. One was a pledge for $250 million over two years for a job training support fund. Another was $5 billion to start a new research and development agency that would spur development in carbon capture, utilization and storage, electric vehicles and pharmaceutical technologies, among other things.
- The plan includes efforts to slash by half income tax rates on new technologies patented in Canada, review and potentially trim back Ottawa’s bloated subsidy landscape, streamline a key innovation tax credit. The policies are largely representative of what has been recommended by industry groups in recent years, who warn that a failure to streamline Canada’s innovation space could increasingly put it at a disadvantage to other countries.
- Some observers, including Robert Asselin, senior vice-president of policy at the Business Council of Canada, and former Trudeau advisor, have been calling on Ottawa to develop a body similar to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which acts as a bridge between industrial and military research. Asselin said: “A Canadian version will not solve Canada’s innovation challenges on its own, but it is a key ingredient in a complex recipe. If it imports all the benefits of DARPA it would act as a powerful public-private bridge. It would streamline our ability to commercialize our ideas and do transformative applied research.”
- These are all important ideas that would help Canada return to a competitive economy, and to actually boost jobs in innovation and reduce reliance on foreign products. However, for the average person, these are not the flashy and sparkly ideas that will win them over to the Opposition Leader. The media is already calling for the demise of the Conservatives in the election before it's even called, and it's clear that something needs to change with O'Toole's media and marketing strategy.
- This same media is continually ignoring Trudeau's past scandals, unethical dealings, and the insanely ballooned deficits as he's plunged this country into debt. It's time that they started focusing on that a bit more.
- Our last Alberta segment covered the removal of further COVID restrictions and the outrage that was apparently stoked in the province.
- On July 30th it was announced that anyone with a positive COVID test must still isolate but quarantine for close contacts was recommended but not mandatory.
- This coming Monday, all remaining public health restrictions were to end with testing ending for all but the severe cases by the end of the month.
- The province has now decided to wait another 6 weeks until September 27th to evaluate the situation given the concern of rising cases.
- No new restrictions are being added.
- Since we last gathered here there has been daily coverage of protests in Edmonton and Calgary of doctors and concerned citizens supposedly gathering during their lunches at the Edmonton Legislature and Calgary McDougall centre.
- Initially the protests were seen as organic concerned citizens but through following and researching the organizers, they are nothing but.
- One of the best ways to figure out what’s truly happening in any media cycle is to look for what isn’t being talked about and that was the organizational element of these protests.
- Independent media and the Premier’s office itself did some investigating and found that Dr. Joe Vipond, a Calgary ER doctor has been spearheading a number of the protests in question.
- Dr. Vipond has been a loud advocate during the pandemic and rightly so as anyone with expertise should but his partisan connections were all but ignored.
- A scroll through his social media will see various retweets and tweets that are pro health union. He’s also been pictured at Alberta NDP events in the past and even he has said that he’s donated money to the Alberta NDP.
- And it’s not just a couple of $35 donations, records show that Dr. Vipond has donated in excess of $20,000 to Alberta’s NDP.
- Dr. Vipond for many in the media has become the go-to face of the protests with many outlets doing multiple hits a week with the doctor.
- The media can do what they want but once again as we see week after week their inability to do basic research that is publicly available online is a dereliction of duty. That’s why the public is so quickly losing trust in our media establishment.
- On one hand we have the media eager for a story, on the other we have a doctor who clearly supports the NDP, this together is a recipe for making protests that are very clearly organized with a pro-union, pro-NDP angle, appear as organic by our mainstream media.
- There is always another side to the story, the question is, will the media tell you? Probably not.
- Prior to Alberta’s announcement to ease restrictions further, another doctor with no NDP connections and chair for the department of immunology and infectious disease at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston told CBC Radio that she believed Alberta’s plan was a good one!
- "I think Alberta is taking reasonable steps in the face of having done a good job of bringing the viral numbers down and in the face of good vaccine coverage," she said.
- But the story you hear in Alberta courtesy of our media is NDP and union talking points turned into a news story by journalists who haven’t even done the basics of research.
- This story ends with another old investigatory maxim, “follow the money.”
- The money in this case very clearly leads back to the NDP and their union friends.
- What this means is that for the last two weeks on this story in Western Context’s absence, Albertans have been underserved. And that’s why our podcast exists.
- Canadian businessman Michael Spavor, one of the Canadians being held in arbitrary detention for 2 and a half years in China, has been found guilty by a Chinese court for espionage and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Spavor was also convicted of illegally providing state secrets to other countries.
- Canadian Ambassador Dominic Barton, who attended Spavor's hearing in Dandong, a coastal city near the border with North Korea, said "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this decision after a legal process that lacked both fairness and transparency."
- Barton, who visited with Spavor following the verdict, said Spavor had three messages that he asked to be shared with the outside world: "Thank you for all your support," "I am in good spirits," and "I want to get home."
- Spavor was based in China but had extensive links with North Korea in tourism and other commercial ventures that brought him into contact with the isolated communist state's leadership. In a statement, Spavor's family said they disagreed with the charges and said the next step is to "bring Michael home."
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the verdict of Michael Spavor:
- “China’s conviction and sentencing of Michael Spavor is absolutely unacceptable and unjust. The verdict for Mr. Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law. For Mr. Spavor, as well as for Michael Kovrig who has also been arbitrarily detained, our top priority remains securing their immediate release. We will continue working around the clock to bring them home as soon as possible.”
- Kovrig's trial concluded in March but it's not clear when a verdict in his case will be delivered.
- Diplomats from over 25 countries, including the United States, Japan, Britain, Australia, Germany and other European countries plus the European Union gathered at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing in a show of support. They also have issued separate appeals for Spavor and Kovrig to receive fair trials or to be released. The top American diplomat in China, David Meale said in a statement: “These proceedings are a blatant attempt to use human beings as bargaining leverage. Human beings should never be used as bargaining chips.”
- The two Michaels were detained shortly after the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, on U.S. charges of lying to the Hong Kong arm of the British bank HSBC about possible dealings with Iran in violation of trade sanctions. Meng, whose extradition hearing is now in its final stages, has been held under house arrest in Vancouver since 2018.
- Earlier, Barton said he didn’t think it was a coincidence the cases in China were happening while Meng’s case was advancing in Vancouver. There are only a few weeks left in the trial, with a verdict to be given in a few months. He said the case was "part of the geopolitical process of what is happening."
- It's clear that despite Beijing denying there is a connection between Meng’s case and the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig, but Chinese officials and state media frequently mention the two men in relation to whether or not Meng is allowed to return to China.
- A day earlier, a Chinese court rejected the appeal of Robert Schellenberg, whose 15-year prison term for drug smuggling was abruptly increased to death in January 2019 following Meng's arrest. The case was sent to China's supreme court for a mandatory review before it can be carried out.
- The ambassador said Canadian diplomats talked with Schellenberg after the ruling but declined to give details. Barton said: "He is remarkably composed. We had a good conversation."
- Schellenberg's family declined to comment Monday, but a friend, who said she was authorized to speak for the family, released a written statement saying they remain hopeful that diplomatic efforts between Canada and China will bring about the "best possible outcome for Bob."
- The verdicts for both Schellenberg and Spavor, as well as Kovrig being still held in limbo present complications for the relationship between China and Canada. Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole urged Canada to consider boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics, in response to the verdicts. O’Toole added that China needs to be held accountable for its campaign of oppression against the Uyghur population in the country’s Xinjiang region.
- O'Toole said, “Yes, Canada should be considering a boycott. I know how hard our athletes are training for Beijing, but we are approaching a point where it won’t be safe for Canadians, including Olympic athletes, to travel to China.”
- The Beijing Winter Olympics are slated to open on Feb. 4, 2022. China has vowed a “robust Chinese response” if the U.S. and its allies boycott the Beijing Olympics. So far, the Biden administration has been non-committal about a boycott, as has the Trudeau government.
- It's also interesting to note that foreign media got the stories about Spavor and Schellenberg to press much quicker than our own Canadian media did. Not only is our media slow to the punch on a huge news story, it did not get covered with the same detail as those elsewhere, such as CNN or the BBC.
- On Wednesday this week the federal government under Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced a digital vaccine passport program for Canadians.
- The sole purpose of these documents will be to enable international travel, says the government.
- But, provinces, municipalities and institutions are looking at the possibility of using the federal system.
- We live in a society where the perceived threat of COVID-19 has turned the world upside down creating a confusing mess of governments moving forward and backwards shredding trust they had in the process.
- With the combined efforts of a politicized media and fact masquerading as opinion, trust, at least of a significant part of the population, is fragile at best.
- Disasters, war, and economic collapses bring in new government policy and these policies seldom leave. Just look at the Great Depression.
- Some provinces like Quebec and Manitoba are jumping onboard the vaccine passport bandwagon but others like Alberta, Saskatchewan , and Ontario have said no-way.
- Of course many who jumped on the bandwagon of “the first vaccine is the best vaccine” and got AstraZeneca and then Pfizer or Moderna are probably wondering what this means for them. The Americans have not yet approved AstraZeneca and a hybrid dosing regime doesn’t count as complete in their eyes.
- Will our vaccine passports show this and deny people entry to the United States?
- Quebec’s vaccine passport program will utilize a smartphone app and a scannable QR code (those images that look like random blobs of ink). What this means, without a paper system at least, is that anyone who does not have a smartphone will have their freedoms severely curtailed if the system goes forward in Quebec.
- The federal government says their system will be based on the existing ArriveCAN app with a paper option if necessary.
- In the United States, one of the largest unvaccinated segments of the population is the African American community. States like New York and California rolling out vaccine passport systems are institution segregation without knowing it.
- We of course have to be careful here too. Both for population groups remaining unvaccinated and those who don’t have the technology currently to show their papers.
- The act of showing papers was something that was common throughout the Third Reich and Soviet Union. We need to be crystal clear in acknowledging that any measure to travel internationally on a vaccine passport must be time limited and reviewed regularly.
- Provinces also need to decide whether or not they will let cities, universities, and individual businesses demand proof of vaccination.
- Jason Kenney has said that Alberta will not bring in a vaccine passport system.
- Both the Edmonton and Calgary chamber of commerce have called on the province to bring in vaccine passports. The province must reaffirm their commitment that they will not bring in a vaccine passport system and will not allow cities, businesses, or universities to do the same.
- The first demand was that we quarantine for two weeks to slow the spread, then it was that we wear masks to slow the spread, then it was that we all get vaccinated. And now the demand is going to be to prove that you’ve done the righteous act to show you’ve done your part to get us out of this horrible pandemic.
- Vaccine passport systems unchecked can open the road to the technology being used for other purposes down the line. Rest assured if the federal plan goes forward we will have a full rundown of the technology behind it here on Western Context.
- Based on what the “experts” and public opinion polls say, the majority would support a vaccine passport system but there’s even differing opinions in the Conservative Party of Canada.
- Jonas Smith, candidate for Yukon has been removed as the party’s candidate after he opposed calls for mandated workplace vaccinations and vaccine passport requirements.
- Smith lost narrowly to the Liberal candidate in 2019 and was the Conservatives best shot at picking up one of the northern seats.
- Smith described himself as a “regular, every day Yukoner” and worried that this would cause problems for the party’s base up north.
- At the end of the day it is up to the party who runs. But, running, apologizing, and making concessions because of a media firestorm is no way to win an election.
- Why you might ask? It’s responding to, rather than setting the news cycle.
- Expect vaccine passports to be a key issue in the first couple weeks of the campaign and know that no one is truly appreciating the ramifications of a vaccine passport style system.
Word of the Week
Arbitrary - based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system, unrestrained and autocratic in the use of authority.
Quote of the Week
“Justin Trudeau’s planning an election in the middle of a pandemic because he’s focused on politics. It’s time we had a prime minister planning an economic recovery focused on Canadians. We’re ready.” - Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on his priority in the coming unnecessary election
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Arbitrary Decisions
Teaser: The upcoming election spurs a need for Canadian innovation, a Calgary doctor donating to the NDP organized anti-government protests, and China sentences Michael Spavor to 11 years. Also, concerns over vaccine passports go unheard.
Recorded Date: August 13, 2021
Release Date: August 15, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes