The News Rundown
- The effectiveness of Parliament and in particular how much Justin Trudeau got done during his majority was lower than previous majority governments.
- His first minority government tabled one budget and took almost 18 months to do so. But now the question has been raised, will this Parliament be any different?
- In particular the Globe and Mail Editor board (of all people!) said, “If Justin Trudeau believes in Parliament, he has a funny way of showing it.”
- At the start of the pandemic the government tried to get a blank cheque for pandemic spending that wouldn’t require oversight until 2021, the opposition pushed back and the provisions were dropped.
- Here’s some numbers on how the current Parliament began:
- Parliament didn’t return for 2 months until November 22 which we were told we were taking part in the most important election since 1945.
- For comparison, in 2015 and 2019 Parliament was back within 6 weeks. The Harper Conservatives brought Parliament back within a month.
- Parliament was delayed but three weeks into this session, only 2 of 25 House standing committees have been activated.
- These committees are put together by the standing committee on procedure and House affairs, this group only met last Friday.
- At the rate we’re going, we’ll be well into February before the committees are operational because once Christmas break begins, the MPs don’t come back to Ottawa until late January.
- As with most things with this Prime Minister, we are witnessing a pattern of behaviour. Prior to this session, Parliament has sat for just 169 days since June 2019. In 2+ years or 700+ days, the House of Commons has been active for just under 25% of them.
- We also had adjournment through the early bits of the pandemic in spring and summer 2020 and parliament was later prorogued in August 2020.
- For comparison sake, Alberta’s government has moved quickly putting forward 87 Bills since January 2020, three months before the pandemic hit full swing.
- So why is this important? For multiple reasons.
- First as the Globe points out, it indicates that Justin doesn’t want to be held accountable and the Globe also brings up the fact that the government sued the Speaker of the House to block a committee order to produce documents regarding the Winnipeg virology lab.
- Going back to the WE scandal, SNC Lavalin, and Mark Norman, just to name a few cases, most of the damage done to previous Trudeau governments was done through committee.
- So it makes sense as to why we’re taking our time in this session.
- Also let’s map out the next 2 years.
- Parliament returns January 31st, effectively let’s say February. This means that we have at most 3 months or so before the summer break which itself could continue into October or November, but September would be the optimal return month.
- The house will sit for another month or two until Christmas 2022, potentially returning in February 2023.
- At this point the talk (fuelled by the media but also the Liberals) will be about another election or the opposition will make the decision to pull the plug either fall 2022 or sometime in 2023.
- If we’re lucky we have a redo of the 2021 election in fall 2023 at the whim of the Prime Minister at the latest given the Prime Minister himself said numerous times during the last campaign that we’ll likely be having another election within 2 years.
- History says minority governments last about 18 months and in any case, this time table puts us beyond that.
- What this means is that in a minority government there will likely be time for only one budget, this spring hopefully, and by limiting sitting days, the government lowers its surface of attack.
- The wheels have been set in motion and the only way to show that this is not the case is if the House sits for more than the recent average of 169 days in two years.
- Canadians want a government that works together and is pragmatic. So far those olive branches have been offered by the NDP and Conservatives but the limited sitting dates raise a ton of questions.
- This behaviour from the Prime Minister is also on display when he is often 45 minutes late for Press Conferences and Parliament has begun, Ministers have been appointed, and no mandate letters have been given to the Ministers (the letters that are their marching orders)
- But it’s not just the Globe, this sentiment also appeared on CTV news from commentator Don Martin calling the PM Mr. Dithers.
- But adding all this up, the Globe is right, “Mr. Trudeau is not above Parliament. In a minority government, he only serves as Prime Minister at the pleasure of the House of Commons. It is not his place to choke off the debate and scrutiny that are the oxygen of our democracy, and the fact he continues to get away with doing so should worry all Canadians.”
- Four First Nations, the city of Vancouver and the municipality of Whistler have announced the formation of a committee to explore a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics. Chiefs of the Líl̓wat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations made the announcement with Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton at the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon.
- In November 2020, Stewart told the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade that he had spoken with leaders of the First Nations about hosting the 2030 Games and said that they had expressed interest. Stewart says that he believes that “the 2010 Olympics were a good boost for Vancouver and put us on the map.”
- The formation of an exploratory committee would be the first step toward considering hosting the 2030 Games since the International Olympic Committee changed the way host cities are chosen in 2019. It would be the first Indigenous led bid for an Olympic Games.
- Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow said: “I think this is a big part of reconciliation, of moving forward. It's going to be so exciting to take this step forward with all of us. And hopefully we can be successful.”
- Líl̓wat Chief Dean Nelson said “We have been at this place before in the 2010 Olympics where we showcased our presence and our cultures respectively. The difference between 2010 (and 2030) is that we were an invitee and today we are a big part of the exploratory group to explore a bid for the 2030 Olympics.”
- Nelson says that politically, the respective Nations have a greater presence and voice on their lands than they did 10 years ago. He also said: "I also feel we are in a better place of inclusion in respect to political advancements since the previous Olympics. I am looking forward to being part of this. I'm looking forward to the future."
- With fewer cities throwing their hat into the ring due in part to a costly bidding process, the IOC now undertakes exploratory “continuous dialogue” with interested parties, which must have the blessing of their national Olympic committee. It then chooses candidates to enter into a “targeted dialogue” and identifies a “preferred host.”
- John Furlong, who was CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Games, told the board of trade last spring that First Nations’ involvement in any future Olympics hosted in the city would be profound. Furlong said the Games should only return to Vancouver if it can provide a benefit to the province and if the city’s housing challenges are met with athletes’ housing built for the sporting event: “The four host First Nations … they may want to be involved in the housing legacy,” he said.
- Furlong also said earlier this year that the new Games would not require taxpayer dollars, and a number of facilities built for the 2010 Games could be reused, bringing down the cost. The 2010 Games cost about $4 billion, and included public infrastructure upgrades, such as an expansion of the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler, and expanded Skytrain transit links from the BC Ferries Terminal in Tsawwassen straight into Downtown Vancouver. The organizing committee has said the Games broke even financially.
- The group will now work with the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee to assess the feasibility of making a bid. Factors that will be considered during the process include costs and benefits for the communities involved. A decision on whether to submit a formal bid to the International Olympic Committee is expected in the fall of 2022.
- Tricia Smith, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, said: “This announcement fully aligns with our process and our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's call to action and is an important first step toward exploring the feasibility of bringing the Olympic and Paralympic Games back to the region.”
- The next Winter Games are in Beijing early next year — the third Asian host in a row since the Vancouver Games. The 2026 Games have been awarded to Turin, Italy, who hosted the Winter Games before Vancouver, in 2006. Calgary considered hosting the 2026 Winter Games at an estimated cost of $5.1 billion. The decision went to a public vote in 2018, with 56 per cent of those who voted saying 'no' to putting in a bid.
- It’s believed that the Japanese city of Sapporo is the current front-runner to host the 2030 Games. Salt Lake City, Utah (host of the 2002 Games) and Barcelona, Spain are also in the running.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday that Canada would diplomatically boycott the upcoming 2022 Olympic Winter Games in China. Our athletes will still go and compete, but the usual delegation of political officials that attend the global event will be absent. In making this announcement, Canada followed the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and others.
- Diplomatically boycotting the games is the right thing to do. China’s behaviour abroad and very much so at home, from the concentration camps of Xinjiang to its crushing of democracy in Hong Kong, warrant nothing less. The question is whether it warrants more.
- Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Trudeau said the government is "extremely concerned" by the "repeated human rights violations carried out by the Chinese government." He said Canada will show its displeasure with the communist regime by withholding the delegates that normally would attend high-profile events like the opening and closing ceremonies. Asked if he was anticipating any blowback from Beijing for snubbing China as it prepares to host the world, Trudeau said "this should not come as a surprise" to the regime.
- Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Wednesday his party's push to relocate the games got "no traction with Mr. Trudeau" and a diplomatic boycott is the next best thing. While he said he's horrified by reports of violence in Xinjiang, O'Toole said a full boycott would be unfair to Canada's Olympic and Paralympic athletes who have trained so hard for the world's premier sporting event.
- Trudeau agreed that Olympic athletes shouldn't pay a price for China's abuses. "They need to have one thing in mind and that's representing the country to the best of their ability and winning a gold medal for Canada," he said.
- In a media statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said it "understands and respects" the government's decision and applauds the effort to "draw an important distinction between the participation of athletes and the participation of government officials."
- The last time Canada pursued a full boycott of the Olympics was in 1980, when the federal government blocked athletes from participating in the summer games in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's military presence in Afghanistan.
- Citing that 1980 move, the COC said "history has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change." The COC said the games will "create an important platform to draw attention" to ongoing issues in China.
- Things are much different between China and the West from when Beijing last hosted the Olympics in 2008, much like things were different between the Soviet Union in 1980 and Russia's hosting of the 2014 Olympics, as well as now.
- Canada's chance to host the Olympics should not be treated flippantly. Canadian pride is at an all time low, and the 2010 Olympics brought about a great amount of benefits for Canadian initiatives, tourism, and respect. If the expenses can be sorted out, why not?
- The Alberta legislature’s fall session ended this week but not after more manufactured controversy.
- As we talked about recently one of the Bills that the UCP put forward this session was dealing with some changes to election financing and in particular closing the AFL loophole as we discussed back on Western Context 243.
- We talked about this previously where extra money from nomination contests could be donated to the party, one of the amendments to the election financing bill that made its way through put a $4,000 limit on donors when previously there would have been no limit.
- This wasn’t what was controversial though as the session wrapped.
- In a story that was published by the CBC and carried forward by the NDP in what could only be described as fake news, suggests that anyone can now buy party membership for anyone else.
- This led the NDP leader to make cries that she doesn’t want to become a UCP member without her consent and regular Albertans don’t either.
- In the Alberta UCP’s bylaws, Article 4 covering membership states that a person needs to “indicate their intention to join the Association by personally authorizing an application for membership in the Association” and “have paid the prescribed membership fee, personally or through an immediate family member.”
- This should have been the end of the story but it wasn’t, reading this it’s clear that only an individual or an immediate family member can buy UCP membership for someone.
- By contrast, there is no such clause in the Alberta NDP constitution.
- So what exactly is the question at hand here that leads this fake news to blossom and grow?
- The original law about party memberships reads as follows:
- Section 25: An annual membership fee paid for membership in a political party or in a constituency association of that party, or in both, is not a contribution for the purposes of this Act if
- (a) the fee or, when a fee is paid to the party and to a
- constituency association of that party, the total of those fees,
- does not exceed $50, and
- (b) the political party and constituency association each
- maintain a membership list indicating the amount of the fee
- or fees paid by each member that is allocated to the political
- party or constituency association, as the case may be,
- but if the fee or total of those fees exceeds $50, the amount of the excess shall be considered as a contribution
- The amended version adds a subsection but changes the first sentence to read: “An annual membership fee paid by a person for the person’s own membership in a political party or in a constituency association of that party, or in both, is not a contribution for the purposes of this Act.”
- With that, the first change makes it so that anyone who buys their own membership for themselves in a party does not have to make a tax claim on that membership as a contribution if the total fee is less than $50 and it’s a legitimate party with a membership list.
- The second added subsection reads: “An annual membership fee paid by a person on behalf of another person for that person’s membership in a political party or in a constituency association of that party, or in both, is a contribution by the person who paid the fee for the purposes of this Act.”
- That’s nothing like what the CBC news story or NDP suggest.
- In fact, it’s the opposite, if someone pays for someone else’s membership, it counts as a party contribution and needs to be documented accordingly, that is of course if the party allows for others to purchase membership for other people.
- One of the great benefits of legislation written in the last 30 years or so is that most of it is written in clear language where the need of a legalese interpreter is not needed.
- Anyone could’ve gone online, read the original Bill, read the proposed amendments, and seen how the changes would actually have an impact on democracy and party memberships in Alberta.
- The fact they didn’t shows the low bar that’s been set in the modern era for journalism.
- Right from the beginning, people looking skeptically at the Trudeau government's plan to use hotels in major cities to quarantine travellers coming into the country should be vindicated now. Even had the system worked well to filter travellers sick with Covid out from the general populace, which it hasn't, the massive taxpayer expenses of setting up all these hotels, as well as staffing them correctly, was money being thrown at an issue that we'll never get back.
- And now, we're finding out just how badly the quarantine hotel program has been managed. Auditor General Karen Hogan, whose job it is to review government programs and hold the government to account for programs to ensure that they are efficiently using taxpayer money to fulfill their mandates, has released a report that not only calls into question the expense of the hotel program, but the effectiveness and the oversight of the government on this issue.
- Hogan probed the Public Health Agency of Canada’s tracking of measures put in place in response to the pandemic, and assessed whether officials had listened to warnings last year responding to gaping holes in the agency’s ability to track whether travellers were following the rules.
- Hogan writes: “Though the Public Health Agency of Canada improved its results, this is not a success story. The Agency’s inability to confirm whether more than a third of travellers complied with quarantine orders remains a significant problem.”
- Yes, that's right. First, the Public Health Agency of Canada “was either missing or unable to match” the COVID-19 test results for 30% of incoming travellers who arrived between February and June 2021. Second, officials there had no idea whether 75% of the travellers arriving by air during that period complied with the requirement to quarantine at government-authorized hotels as part of the enforcement effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Hogan said: “The Agency was unable to confirm whether 75 per cent of the individuals arrived at the hotel and actually stayed for the three days. So they were unable to show us whether that measure was an effective preventative measure.”
- The report also noted the lack of clear data extended to roughly 1,100 travellers who tested positive for COVID-19. The Public Health Agency “did not reliably track” whether they obeyed the hotel quarantine rule either.
- Hotels did notify officials about 326 travellers “who had bookings but did not check in.” But while 74 per cent of those cases were referred to law enforcement, no tickets had been issued at the time the report was being prepared by the jurisdictions with authority to do so.
- Conservative health critic Luc Berthold said the report demonstrates a “total incompetency” by the government: “The findings in the Auditor General’s report reveal a pattern of incompetence, with severe gaps in the application of policies. The report makes clear that this Liberal government has once again failed to take action on lessons learned.”
- NDP critics also called the inability to verify whether people were following quarantine rules “negligence of gross proportions.” Health critic Don Davies and Transport critic Taylor Bachrach said: “[W]ithout knowing for sure whether travellers followed quarantine orders, no one knows whether the government’s border measures are working. This government may have put Canadians at risk of getting COVID.”
- This is all without getting into the real issues that quarantined Canadians find themselves with in these hotels. Those forced to quarantine are not allowed to leave their room or even receive any food orders from delivery services or from their relatives who live nearby.
- An Edmonton woman with celiac disease says that she did not eat for more than 40 hours because she did not receive gluten-free food at a quarantine hotel in Toronto. She was released after an expedited negative Covid test allowed her to leave, but were still waiting for the go-ahead from PHAC to be able to leave.
- Several Canadians who recently travelled home from South Africa told media they were forced to stay in government-funded quarantine hotels for an extra 23 to 36 hours after receiving negative COVID-19 test results.
- Canada’s health minister Jean-Yves Duclos is demanding the Public Health Agency of Canada ensure quarantine hotels “correctly” accommodate travellers after reports of unacceptable conditions such as rotten food, no laundry service and a lack of diapers for children.
- Duclos said: “I have indeed been informed of unacceptable hotel conditions in certain places where we receive people who are arriving from countries we’ve identified (for quarantine). So I’ve asked public health...ensur[es] that standards are achieved by service providers.”
- However, more than one week since his government announced that all passengers (except those from the U.S.) coming into Canada must obligatorily take a COVID-19 test upon arrival, the minister still could not say when all airports would be able to offer that service.
- Some experts have also recently denounced the “subtle” racism in the government’s measures targeting 10 southern African countries, namely the one requiring that travellers from there receive a negative COVID-19 test from a third country before being allowed to land in Canada.
- According to Michael Embaie, a part-time professor in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work, South Africa was also completing COVID testing, and refusal to accept the results of South Africa's tests is one example of how racism is present in politics.
- Rather than being proactive, the Trudeau government is still reactive when it comes to Covid, almost 2 years into this prolonged nightmare, and the policies they are putting in place are costing far too much and because of a lack of oversight and direction, are providing far too little benefit for Canadians. It's time that we expected better from our leaders.
Word of the Week
Dither - to be indecisive
Quote of the Week
“Mr. Trudeau is not above Parliament. In a minority government, he only serves as Prime Minister at the pleasure of the House of Commons. It is not his place to choke off the debate and scrutiny that are the oxygen of our democracy, and the fact he continues to get away with doing so should worry all Canadians.” - Globe and Mail Editorial Board on Justin Trudeau’s performance as Prime Minister starting this session of Parliament.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Mr. Dithers’ Government
Teaser: Trudeau’s dithering hobbles the effectiveness of Parliament, Vancouver explores a 2030 Olympic bid, and Rachel Notley decides to not become a member of the UCP. Also, the auditor general outlines the failures of Trudeau’s quarantine hotel program.
Recorded Date: December 10, 2021
Release Date: December 12, 2021
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes