The News Rundown
- As we discussed last week, Trudeau has been touring Europe this past week, as he met with leaders in NATO countries like the UK, Latvia, Germany and Poland. The purpose was to discuss the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, meet with allies, and to renew the commitment to NATO's deterrence mission, known as Operation Reassurance.
- Trudeau said: "As Russia continues its unwarranted and unjustifiable attacks on Ukraine, Canada is standing united with our European allies in supporting Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, as well as democracy and human rights everywhere."
- The mandate for the deployment of hundreds of Canadian soldiers in Latvia had been slated to expire in 2023. The federal cabinet has extended it indefinitely in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
- Canada leads the NATO battle group in Latvia and plans on reinforcing it with an artillery battery, bringing the total contingent to roughly 660 soldiers. The country also contributes two frigates to NATO standing naval task forces, a maritime surveillance plane and six CF-18s for air policing on a rotational basis.
- Trudeau joined Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš for a tour of the western military alliance's base and training range at Adazi, outside Latvia's capital Riga. They visited with troops and met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine and how allies can prevent the war from spreading.
- Stoltenberg said: "Now is the time to provide support to Ukraine, impose heavy sanctions and increase NATO's military presence in the eastern part of the alliance to make sure there's no attack against any NATO [members]."
- Canada has sent bundles of non-lethal supplies, and has upped its commitment of lethal aid to Ukraine as well in the past week. Trudeau will also send along $1 million so that the Ukrainians can buy high-resolution RADARSAT-2 satellite imagery gear that will give them an edge in tracking Russian forces on the ground. This is only fitting, since the Trudeau government scuttled a commitment to provide RADARSAT-2 data to Ukraine in 2016, only months after coming to power. The Ukrainians needed the data desperately, following Putin’s annexation of Crimea and occupation of Luhansk and Donetsk two years earlier.
- Trudeau was often pictured taking photo opportunities with the Canadian soldiers stationed in Latvia. He has also been repeating one key phrase, one that has also been echoed by Defence Minister Anita Anand and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly. Trudeau said: "Let there be no mistake, Canada and it's allies are united." Allies, by definition, are “united”; it’s why they’re called “allies.” It’s almost as though Trudeau and his ministers feel the need to go out of their way to persuade the Americans and the Europeans that we’re on the same side. We are.
- It may not seem that way, as Canada still has not committed to NATO's spending target of 2% of GDP. Indeed, Canada spends among the least percentage on NATO among NATO countries, in 2021 only beating out Slovenia, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg.
- In the meantime, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been approved to speak to Canada's Parliament this upcoming week. Government House leader Mark Holland says this would give Canadians a chance to hear directly from Zelenskyy about the “urgent and dire” situation in his country, which was invaded by Russia just over two weeks ago.
- So while Trudeau spends his time travelling Europe to take photo ops and utter meaningless platitudes to our allies, one of the very models of a modern politician will be speaking to Canadians while our often petty and bickering parliamentarians watch on. The juxtaposition is too ironic to not point out.
- Our media needs to be more focussed on what Canada is actually doing to support Ukraine in their war, and what exactly is going on, rather than allowing Trudeau to spread his puff pieces and photo ops.
- The world in large part has responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by placing hard sanctions on Russia.
- Along with this has included many countries including Canada and now the US pledging to stop buying Russian oil.
- Canada and the US each only purchase a small amount of Russian oil in the area of 3-5% of total imports. Europe on the other hand imports massive amounts of petroleum products from Russia.
- The goal with these sanctions is of course to cause economic pressure inside Russia but the west must also be leary of pushing Russia even closer to China than they already are. China, Middle Eastern countries, and African countries will still buy oil from Russia and in total, globally, Russia accounts for about 10% of the global oil supply.
- For a long time many called our oil sands the “tar sands” which unfairly paints the energy industry in this province as dirty and unethical.
- In a column appearing in the Calgary Herald, the so-called “dirty oil” from the province was called an “elixir of freedom” by columnist Chris Nelson.
- In the column he writes that, “today, with a world panic-struck over rapidly rising energy costs and subsequent skyrocketing amounts of cash needed to fill any gas tank or supply any furnace, our once infamous product finds itself appreciated anew, leaving its previously lonely supporters somewhat agog at this development.”
- The column also mentioned interviews of numerous “experts” on the CBC saying that our pipeline capacity is the problem at hand.
- This has led Premier Jason Kenney and environment minister to make the case for the export of more Alberta oil.
- The government in Alberta has been talking with allies and legislators in the US requesting that pressure be put in place to restart the Keystone XL pipeline project.
- TC Energy says that the project is still shelved and the Government of Canada and the Biden administration has been noncommittal.
- The reason of course is that with sanctions in place over Russia, energy prices have gone up higher than they were going up previously.
- Oil was still going to hit $100/barrel, the sanctions just accelerated that trajectory.
- There’s that, but there’s also two key points to this story that need to be reiterated:
- 1.) We have talked time and time again on this podcast about Canada becoming an energy superpower, a superpower that is independent and has some of the best human rights and environmental records when it comes to countries that produce oil.
- This should have made energy projects a no-brainer but what can only be described as environmental virtue signalling by the former NDP government and current Trudeau-Liberal government made energy projects toxic.
- And by extension, made national security projects toxic. If this war in Ukraine has taught us anything, anything that we should all learn, it’s that energy security and national security are inherently tied together.
- 2.) Municipalities that have felt budgetary constraints in bringing spending in line with that of traditional GDP growth are now calling for more investment given the expected windfall from the energy markets.
- This week though, Jason Kenney cautioned leaders that high energy prices would not mean new spending since oil revenues can fall quickly and the goal is to still get the province off the “roller-coaster” of the boom-bust cycle and that oil prices fluctuated by more than $15 in a 2 hour timespan on Wednesday and that we should “not start spending at a rate of revenues that we do not have and are unreliable.”
- This is what the province has needed for the last 15 years and everyone needs to hear this - including the oil and gas companies.
- They are now in a position to pay rural municipalities the more than $253m in unpaid taxes that are owed - taxes that were able to be deferred when commodity prices were low.
- The province is looking into a gradual approach that will encourage these companies to pay the delinquent tax revenue.
- And it’s important because in some municipalities, these taxes can make up 60-90% of the expected tax base.
- The past two weeks have been a wake up call, seeing the country wake up after two years due to a bloody gruesome war in Ukraine.
- A wake up call that energy independence and energy security is also tied so very closely to national security.
- And that municipalities are reliant on being paid by the energy companies but those municipalities (and everyone) should be mindful of their spending given the unstable nature of resource revenues.
- It is not the time to use the resource revenue for new spending but those owed money must be paid while Alberta becomes the focus of the national discussion on energy once again.
- For those in BC looking forward to a return to normalcy, the BC NDP government and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gave the province a reprieve from many of the health mandates that the province has been under for most of the past 2 years.
- B.C. health officials announced Thursday that the province will remove its order requiring masks in all indoor public spaces as of 12:01 a.m. Friday, and that the proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirement will be potentially lifted on April 8.
- Individual businesses will still be permitted and supported by provincial health to require masks if the owners decide to. A requirement for workplaces to mandate masks will be lifted as well, but there could be certain situations where people are still required to wear a mask.
- Masks will no longer be required on public transit, but both BC Transit and TransLink can decide to put in system-wide mandates. For schools, the mask mandate will be lifted in the K-to-12 system following the March break.
- The removal of the mask mandate signals a substantial shift from the government requiring the public to obey certain rules to allowing individuals to make their own decisions on masking. British Columbians have been required to wear masks in indoor, public spaces since last summer, and have been required to show proof of vaccination since September. The province now has a double-vaccination rate of more than 93 per cent for adults.
- In addition, faith gatherings will be moving to 100 percent capacity at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Individual congregations can decide whether to put mask rules in place. Next week on March 18, long-term care homes will be allowed to have more visitors. Vaccine cards and rapid testing will continue to be in place.
- Simultaneous to the province's announcement, another truck convoy appears to be on its way to Downtown Victoria, in order to protest the province's general left of center politics. Yes, they're not protesting the mandates anymore, because there really aren't many left, they're protesting BC's democratically elected government.
- James Bauder, one of the leaders of the so-called "Freedom Convoy" in Ottawa and a founder of anti-mandate group Canada Unity, says the westward convoy will bring trucks from across Canada to the B.C. capital on March 14. Bauder says the participants are prepared to stay for months.
- Bauder says in a video posted online Thursday: "We're going to be occupying that area for two to three months. This is a very intense, deeply rooted NDP-Liberal stronghold down there and they've had their way for too long."
- The video was recorded in a parking lot in Mattawa, Ont., according to Bauder, who says the convoy was planning to leave Thunder Bay, Ont., on Monday, with stops planned in Winnipeg and Calgary. Bauder touts his convoy's self-sufficiency by saying: "We've got seven semis that are right now en route with an amazing amount of supplies, 16,000 hamburgers. We've got a lot of logging trucks that are going to be coming out of the woods, we've got motorbikes, we've got horses."
- Once in Victoria, Bauder says the group will stage "multiple rolling convoys" incorporating hundreds of vehicles from around the region.
- Anti-mandate protests have become a common weekend occurrence outside the B.C. legislature in Victoria in recent months. Victoria police routinely set up surveillance cameras in advance of the demonstrations, and issue warnings and violation tickets for various infractions, including obstructing traffic and making excessive noise.
- Department spokesperson Const. Cam MacIntyre told CTV News he did not want to address potential police operations around the convoy directly, but said the department's approach to such protests is twofold.
- MacIntyre said: "We protect public safety and ensure that people are able to exercise their rights to safe, peaceful and lawful protest. Dangerous and/or unlawful acts are responded to with de-escalation and enforcement."
- Victoria city councillors said they have every confidence in the police service that any protest will be peaceful and lawful. Coun. Stephen Andrew said about what happened during the convoy in Ottawa: “We’ve learned a lot. We will not be allowing that to take place here.”
- In a video message posted online, Victoria police Chief Del Manak said any dangerous acts of unlawful activity “will be met with de-escalation and enforcement.”
- So while mandates may have been mostly lifted in BC, residents of our province's capital may not be returning to normal just yet. We hope that what happened in Ottawa does not happen in Victoria.
- Jean Charest, the former Liberal Premier of Quebec, Mulroney cabinet minister, and one of the last leaders of the Progressive Conservative Party has entered the Conservative leadership race.
- There have been questions about who the person will be on the “progressive” side of the race by the media and who would be the spiritual successor to Erin O’Toole.
- Names like Peter MacKay have come up but an alternate was Jean Charest.
- Charest launched his leadership campaign in Calgary on Thursday putting forward a vision of a united Canada, one where pipelines are built, and where fiscal restraint is practiced.
- Jean Charest of course raises many red flags for the grassroots membership of the Conservative Party of Canada plain and simple.
- The media won’t tell you this but this matters immensely since the bulk of funding for the CPC comes from Alberta and Saskatchewan.
- This means Charest’s past opinions on the carbon tax, maintaining the long gun registry, and his work with Huawei are huge red flags.
- Conveniently this time, Charest has not said anything on the carbon tax yet. The long gun registry is gone and it’s hard to see a Conservative government bringing something like that back. And for Huawei, he’s “very proud of the work [Huawei] did to sort out the situation of Meng Wanzhou.”
- Of course those who are listeners of Western Context will know that the apprehension of Meng Wanzhou is why China took Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor prisoner in 2018.
- Charest has also been advising Huawei on how to best participate in Canada’s 5G wireless network space.
- We know that the Five Eyes security complex representing the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have all banned Huawei from operating in the 5G network space except for our country.
- On these three policy planks alone there are many questions that Jean Charest has to answer.
- Put simply, for an electorate looking for something entirely different, Jean Charest does not scratch that itch.
- His social media campaign launch is like a raindrop in the ocean compared to the engagement and movement seen behind Pierre Poilievre.
- The idea amongst many in the media and academia is that the Conservative Party needs to become more centrist to attract the kind of voters that live in the suburbs, specifically of Vancouver and Toronto.
- But as we’ve talked about before there are many ways to win, outside of common orthodoxy.
- Those who are upset with our institutions for not delivering over the past 5+ years and those who are politically homeless must be captured and turned into a winning constituency.
- But what Charest lacks most is a command of what makes modern campaigns work.
- Campaigns that are agile, dominant with social media messaging, and able to control the news cycle succeed. Charest doesn’t have these, though the media’s love for a centrist will make his team think that they are able to control the media cycle just as Erin O’Toole’s thought but that’s not actually making news organically.
- Also joining the race is Dr. Leslyn Lewis, a prominent lawyer who also happens to be female and Black. She has an impressive profile and was seen as a star finishing a surprising third in the 2020 race.
- She represents the social-conservative side of the party and has before talked about her stance against abortion amongst other things.
- This time she’s running on a platform of hope, unity, and compassion - and while she’s just announced, details are currently sparse. We’ll update her profile as time goes on.
- One potential wrinkle for her aside from the media-created social-conservative boogeyman is that she is currently being sued by her former campaign manager who claims that he wasn’t fully paid for work on her 2020 campaign.
- Her former campaign manager is seeking $175,000 plus damages.
- We will see if this case has any impact on her standing in the race.
- Also expected to join this weekend is former Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader and now Mayor of Brampton, Ontario, Patrick Brown.
- Just this week Brown resolved his legal dispute with CTV, where CTV published a news story that took him out as Ontario PC leader months before the election was called paving the way for Doug Ford as Premier.
- It remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in Canada, who took out Patrick Brown so successfully and so cleanly.
- Patrick Brown aims to represent the Progressive wing of the party just like Jean Charest and apparently, according to the Toronto Star, the two have a pact to deny Pierre Poilievre the votes necessary to win Ontario and Quebec.
- But if recent polling is to be believed, Poilievre is well in front, currently with 41% of the vote locked up.
- Charest is in second at 10%, and Brown is in 4th at 3% with 33% undecided 6 months out.
- As we say here at Western Context, elections have consequences, if you want a voice in this race, you can have a voice.
- If you like Pierre Poilievre as we profiled last week or Jean Charest, Leslyn Lewis, or Patrick Brown seem interesting, buy a membership at conservative.ca for $15 and you can vote in the election and help shape the primary opposition Justin Trudeau will face in the next federal election.
Word of the Week
Elixir - a magical or medicinal potion
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Elixir of Freedom
Teaser: Trudeau engages in photo-ops across Europe, Albertan oil becomes an elixir of freedom, and BC lifts its mandates while a convoy heads to Victoria. Also, Jean Charest and Patrick Brown enter the Conservative leadership race.
Recorded Date: March 11, 2022
Release Date: March 13, 2022
Edit Notes: Leslyn Lewis section
Podcast Summary Notes