The News Rundown
- For a number of weeks now we’ve been presenting the news from Alberta that hasn’t been being talked about because most of the oxygen has been soaked up by the continued coverage of the ongoing developments of the UCP leadership convention in April.
- The convention has taken on a life of its own as upwards of 15,000 people were registered to vote in person on April 9th.
- 49% of these people had just bought their first UCP membership.
- The venue itself was able to hold roughly 3,000 people.
- The idea was that voting would take place from 12-6 and people would vote in person.
- With more people registered than the venue can hold, the UCP constituency associations asked for voting hours to be extended or more voting sites set up.
- The party executive and Jason Kenney instead opted for a switch to mail-in ballots sent out after the 9th and returned by May 11th.
- The prevailing narrative you will hear is that by changing to mail-in ballots the executive and Kenney are rigging the vote to make it easier for the Premier to win.
- The narrative from the party executive is that given the huge interest in the vote, why not let all members vote province wide instead of those who can just make it to Red Deer?
- It’s being framed as a case of corruption vs. expanding grass roots democracy.
- Brian Jean has notably led the anti-Kenney fight and has aligned himself with some of the far out there ideas that the World Economic Forum amongst others are pulling strings in governments.
- It also goes without saying that there has been a huge number of those in Alberta generally skeptical of COVID measures and the actions taken by the government.
- During the pandemic we mentioned that this government walked the line right down the middle and was successfully able to please no one.
- The more centrist and even left leaning elements of Edmonton and Calgary wanted more restrictions and those in rural parts of the province wanted nothing.
- Both sides were inflamed by their respective media camps driving a wedge down the middle of this province that no one cared to admit existed.
- Alberta is probably the most polarized province in this country. Its polarization is probably on par with what we see in the United States.
- This week a recording of a UCP staff meeting involving the Premier was released and Kenney admitted to considering leaving last December.
- The Premier had choice words for describing those who want to see him gone and out of the party, specifically those who held such strong anti-COVID policy views: “The lunatics are trying to take over the asylum, and I’m not going to let them… People who think I am involved in a global conspiracy to traffic children literally showing up to vote on April 9.”
- This has of course garnered media attention from all over Canada and even the international Guardian picked up on the problems that the UCP is currently facing.
- We are one year out from the next scheduled election. The 2019 election was one that was almost fought against the media instead of the opposition NDP based on the stories that we covered during the 5 weeks of the campaign.
- From Press Progress’s hit pieces to the NDP calling then candidate Kaycee Madu racist and the consistent mischaracterization of the UCP platform the media was an active player in that campaign.
- The media was an active player in the COVID pandemic.
- The media demonized anyone who went against the idea of COVID restrictions, questioned the seriousness of the pandemic, or portrayed in general a freedom-first attitude.
- The media and institutions requested that these people fall in line or else you were one of the undesirables breaking society.
- This stigmatization by the media and society in general lead to folks looking for an outlet wherever they might find it and it was found so easily online.
- The internet breeds echo chambers where ideas are reinforced and hardened.
- If conventional wisdom is to be believed, a huge uptick in support for a leadership convention signals the need for change.
- These people who were unfairly treated by governments, the media, and society are now looking for an outlet for their anger that is a legitimate feeling.
- That anger is being turned solely on the UCP and leader Jason Kenney.
- Does it make sense? In the eyes of someone voting, absolutely.
- Does it make sense based on policy? No, Alberta had the lightest COVID measures in Canada and was on par with most US states outside of outliers like Florida and California on both ends of the spectrum.
- In summary the optics of the leadership vote look like the result is being rigged, opening up the field.
- But a solution was needed to allow the thousands of people to vote who registered and while this one allows the most people to vote in a democratic process, mail-in ballots are always going to be a questionable proposition when it comes to fraud.
- In closing we’ll leave you with this note, to win an election in Alberta you need two of: Edmonton, Calgary, or the rural vote.
- There’s no question based on recent by-elections that a further right UCP would win the rural vote. The question then becomes, can they win Calgary?
- A party that tacks too far right embracing easy targets for the NDP and media puts that question at risk of being answered as no.
- The party members also need to realize that many of the tensions they’re feeling and in general the emotions Albertans are feeling have been manipulated by the day-in-day-out COVID fear cycle over the last 2 years which has supplanted the real reality with a manufactured one.
- This is what UCP members need to be considering as they vote in the leadership review and any potential leadership election that happens later this year.
- BC's John Horgan has been in the news a lot this week, and Canada's only NDP premier is under fire for a slew of environmental decisions that have some scratching their heads.
- The one that is taking immediate effect in this upcoming week is likely the one that's been under-reported the most. A proposed BC Timber Sales Pest Management Plan seeks to use aerial and ground spraying of herbicides to increase commercial lumber output over the next 5 years, ending in 2027.
- The proposed management plan would come into effect on April 1, 2022, and cover the Chilliwack and Sea to Sky Natural Resources District, including the traditional unceded territories of the Stó:lō, St’át’imc, Nlaka'pamux, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. The swath of land included is massive, going all the way from the US border up to just southeast of Whistler, and southwest of Lytton, and going from Bowen Island and Vancouver in the west all the way through the Fraser Valley to Manning Provincial Park, which is roughly 50km east of Hope.
- While the notice was printed in the local newspaper in Hope, along with the draft proposal available online, it does not include a map of specified locations where herbicides such as glyphosate, triclopyr and 2,4-D (Formula 40) will be used.
- Angelina Rose, from the St’át’imc First Nation was surprised that the proposal was able to pass consultation, as almost nobody had even heard of the plan. Rose said that the email listed in the notice for the consultation didn't even work, so the process felt 'disingenuous'. Rose said: “We're asking them to extend the consultation period for 60 days, so our community members, people who live around there [affected areas], First Nations, can actually look at what they're doing, what their plan is, where they're doing it, get a map and figure out how our communities will be affected by this.”
- The management plan highlights cottonwood, red alder, salmonberry, red elderberry, devil’s club, thimbleberry, salal, fireweed, huckleberry and blueberry as plants which will be targeted by the proposal. All of which, Rose said, Indigenous people have used as medicines and food for thousands of years.
- Rose said: “Killing these plants is going to have serious consequences on our already fragile ecosystems. And we’ve picked in the cutblocks before, which is where they're planning to spray. Without medicine gathers and berry pickers having a chance to look at the actual map and say, ‘Hey, that's my family’s berry spot. This is where we pick our mushrooms. This is where we pick our medicines,’ we need time to look at that and be able to say, ‘No, you can’t spray here.’”
- Rose also said the management plan process is “antiquated,” as it only requires it to be published in print, and not online. “The whole process … needs to be a lot more open. The government says, ‘We're working towards reconciliation with Indigenous people,’ [but] there has to be open lines of communication and the map has to be posted. Right now, you have to go to one of their offices in either Hope or Squamish to actually see the map.”
- James Steidle, spokesperson for advocacy group Stop the Spray, echoed Rose, and said the process of pest management plans are “completely out of date.” Steidle notes the herbicide glyphosate has been subject to ongoing lawsuits regarding its carcinogenicity and adds it has also been found to contaminate vegetation for up to 12 years, and have the possibility to get into the water table, as when spraying from a helicopter, regulations only require a 10-metre setback from major waterways. This would have major impacts on salmon stocks, which usually spawn in the spring.
- Steidle said that the management plan creates a mono-crop-type plantation. The coniferous species which usually replace natives like alder and cottonwood are about twice as dark, which contributes to heat retention and wildfire risk, Steidle explained.
- Steidle said: “We need these deciduous patches for biodiversity, wildlife and wildfire prevention. A lot of these deciduous species reduced wildfire. Our rush to get rid of these, so called, competing species is making our forests more vulnerable to wildfire. When you get rid of your deciduous for coniferous, your probability of wildfire is exponentially greater. The ecosystem is a complex thing; you need many parts for it to work properly. If you take out all those other parts, you get a tree farm model. That's incredibly risky.”
- UBC professor of ecology and author Suzanne Simard says that her research on spraying herbicides in interior forests shows that in most cases it fails to improve conifer survival or growth. Indeed, it also could increase the risk of wildfires and flooding.
- Simard wrote: “At the same time, [it] has negative ecological consequences including reduced biodiversity, degraded wildlife habitat, reduced carbon sequestration capacity, increased fire risk and increased erodibility of soils. Fire resistant broadleaf trees and understory plants are killed, leaving simplified flammable conifer plantations, which scientists have found in recent years to help propagate fire through landscapes,” Simard noted that this also contributes to downstream flooding events.
- The herbicide issue has only come to light this weekend, as the news has been busy talking about a different environmental issue altogether. Horgan has also been under fire for his support of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, but this time, its from American Hollywood actors. Mark Ruffalo, known for his portrayal of The Incredible Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, leads a group of dozens of rich actors and celebrities who have signed onto 'No More Dirty Banks' are campaigning against the Royal Bank of Canada for financing the pipeline.
- Horgan said the campaign was disappointing. He said: “Look, I have a lot of respect for people who have opinions. If Mark Ruffalo had a full understanding on the intricacies of economic development in British Columbia then he has a role to play. Taking shots from the sidelines without understanding the impact on Indigenous peoples, the impact on our climate plan. If he read our climate plan I’d be excited to hear his thoughts.”
- Ruffalo responded on Twitter Thursday night saying “respectfully, I am saddened Horgan doesn’t like hearing from people, no matter what work they do, about things like climate change and First Nation’s rights and what our money is being used to fund. I thought that’s what he was in office to do.” One wonders exactly how Ruffalo's money 'is being used to fund' these things, as he is an American, not a British Columbian.
- The project is being built by Calgary-based company, TC Energy Corporation. In a statement it said “Coastal GasLink is very concerned that important facts are not being shared with groups and individuals who are concerned about Indigenous rights and climate change issues. After years of thoughtful engagement and dialogue, the Coastal GasLink project received unprecedented support from all 20 elected Indigenous communities along our project corridor. Building on this support, last week, we were proud to announce that we have signed equity option agreements with two entities representing 16 Nations across the project corridor for a 10% equity ownership interest in Coastal GasLink – a first for a project of this scale.”
- As Horgan tries to appease business interests in BC, he's been under fire a lot for environmental decisions. One of these matters, that of the herbicide spray is much more important and damaging to the environment than a natural gas pipeline that's being attacked by American special interest groups. Of course, one gets all the attention, while the other flies under the radar.
- Canada will be adding 300,000 barrels per day of oil exports by year end to offset the supply crunch created by sanctions imposed on Russia.
- 200,000 of those barrels will come from the oil sands; the other 100,000 will be in natural gas.
- Europe gets about 25% of its oil from Russia and 40% of its natural gas.
- The commitment comes from the federal government directly who feels that this overall will not increase the climate burden given that it’s displacing Russian products.
- Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage welcomed the news and went further saying that Canada could do a lot more than the 200,000 barrels from the oil sands and pipeline and rail capacity could increase in the short term to 400,000 barrels per day.
- If investment returned to Canadian energy infrastructure, including pipelines and export facilities, the estimate is that exports could grow by 1 to 1.5m barrels per day.
- We’ve long said here on this podcast that Canada has squandered an opportunity to be an energy superpower.
- Ben Brunnen, VP of oilsands, fiscal, and economic policy for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers echoed this saying that the existing pipelines are nearly full and the government's plan is a best case scenario.
- He continued, "Canada lacks the infrastructure to ship any oil or gas to Europe directly. Instead it will travel through existing pipelines to the United States, which has agreed to route it to the Gulf of Mexico for export to Europe, either before or after it's refined.”
- Enbridge has been in talks with governments on both sides of the border to reconfigure some of its gulf coast facilities for exporting crude and natural gas.
- Now while the gesture is appreciated to ease the supply crunch in Europe, many firms are questioning what happens in the medium to long term.
- Production levels in the energy industry can’t be changed overnight.
- As Brunnen said this week, “Any company that's looking at increasing production is going to be faced with the additional risk of the investment community not necessarily being supportive of this growth, which has certainly been the case in the last several years. So unless there's a clear signal from government indicating support for growing production and growing egress, there's a real chance the investment community might not be supportive of these companies and any growth plans.”
- It’s at this point that we need to talk about the modern economies' reliance on psychological signals.
- This is true for both board room and investment groups but also the population at large.
- An economy that does not receive the right signals over time will not respond as the government hopes it will when they initiate a new directive, as they did this week of increasing oil production capacity in Canada.
- Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he’s open to the idea of new export terminals in the east but they’ll have to not increase Canada’s footprint and be convertible to hydrogen.
- Three weeks ago Alberta Premier Jason Kenney asked for the Keystone XL pipeline project to be restarted but there was little appetite for that from both the Trudeau and Biden administrations.
- Now with no end in sight to the war in Ukraine and a request and commitment to increase oil exports, one has to wonder how or when the Government of Canada will address the shortfall.
- This was seen as one eventuality that could come from the idealistic and ideological environment policy of the Trudeau government but the government itself and media never really asked what would happen if we got to this point.
- All that’s missing is the will to make Canada an energy superpower because things are only impossible until they’re not.
- In a surprising move, the federal NDP and Liberals have entered into a confidence and supply agreement that would see the NDP back Trudeau's minority government in confidence votes until 2025 in exchange for a commitment to act on key NDP priorities.
- The agreement would see the NDP back the Liberals in confidence votes, including the next four budgets. In return, the Liberals will follow through on some elements of national pharmacare and dental care programs — programs that have long been promoted by the NDP. The agreement would also see the two parties collaborate on parliamentary committees, as well as some pieces of legislation.
- Despite his signed support for the Liberals for the next three years, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said he had not given Trudeau carte blanche to do anything he wants: “We will remain an opposition party. We will continue putting questions to the government. We will vote against things. We have that power, and we will continue to use it. We also have the option of withdrawing our agreement.”
- The deal does not involve the NDP joining cabinet, as would be the case in a coalition government. Under a "confidence-and-supply" agreement, an opposition party agrees to support the government on specific measures under specific conditions, and to not vote to defeat the government for a period of time. It differs from a formal coalition arrangement. In a coalition, typically, two or more parties share the responsibility of governing, with each party represented in cabinet.
- The confidence-and-supply agreement was presented to NDP MPs for a vote late Monday night. The Liberal cabinet also met Monday evening virtually, followed by the Liberal caucus, who were not told the reason for the last-minute caucus meeting. In the Liberal virtual caucus meeting, which was marred by technical difficulties, Trudeau faced questions from some MPs who were concerned about why the deal was needed without the threat of an election on the horizon.
- The confidence-and-supply agreement is similar to what happened in BC, where the 41 seat opposition John Horgan NDP teamed up with Andrew Weaver's 3 seat Green party to oust Christy Clark's 43 seat minority government. Weaver wrote an article in the Globe and Mail this past week detailing his accounts of his own experiences, which you can read in the supplementals. Needless to say, Horgan ended up calling an early election and won a majority government. There is worry among NDP supporters that Trudeau might do the same, before their lofty promises get fulfilled.
- The Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois denounced the move. Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen accused Trudeau of having “hoodwinked” and “deceived” Canadians by forming an “NDP-Liberal majority government.”
- Bergen said: “The NDP-Liberal coalition is nothing more than a callous attempt by Trudeau to hold on to power. Canadians did not vote for an NDP government. This is little more than backdoor socialism. Trudeau is truly polarizing politics which is what he likes."
- She went further to say: "This is an NDP-Liberal attempt at government by blackmail. Nation-building is replaced by vote-buying; secret deal-making over parliamentary debate; and opportunism over accountability. With rising inflation, out-of-control cost of living, and national unity at stake, Trudeau knows he is losing the confidence of Canadians. His answer is to stay in power at all costs including implementing the even harsher and more extreme policies of the NDP."
- She then accused both parties of conspiring to decimate the Canadian oil and gas and natural resource sector, going so far as saying that they are thus propping up Russia and President Vladimir Putin as he wages a bloody invasion of Ukraine. Bergen concluded: "If this NDP-Liberal coalition stands, Canada is in for a very rough ride."
- Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre had even harsher words, calling the move a "socialist coalition power pact" between the two parties, who "have agreed to a radical and extreme agenda to expand the power of government by taking away the freedoms of the people to increase spending, taxes and inflation."
- Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet accused Singh of becoming the Liberals’ lackey in the House of Commons and creating an unneeded “false” Liberal majority government. Blanchet said: “There was no emergency, there was no instability, and there were surely other priorities, namely taking care of people who are living in much more distress than the prime minister’s career plans.”
- He argued that both parties would now have more power to trample on provincial jurisdictions such as health care. He also fought back against Trudeau’s accusations that the deal was necessary because “toxic partisanship” and “dysfunction” was bogging down Parliament. Blanchet said: “Anybody who is not in agreement with Mr. Trudeau is qualified as being toxic. We are in a democracy, and we are not forced to believe what he believes, to do what he commands, and to agree with whatever he says or does.”
- The accusations and thinly veiled insults continued during a particularly rowdy question period in the House of Commons in the afternoon that annoyed even Deputy Speaker Chris D’Entremont as he tried and failed to keep heckling MPs under control. When Singh began asking a question to Trudeau, Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs used their pens to tap the water glasses on their desks, replicating the common custom of wedding guests beckoning newlyweds to kiss during their marriage reception.
- The confidence and supply agreement is contingent on the Liberals passing parts of the NDP agenda, including the implementation of a dental care program for low income Canadians, a national pharmacare program, and policies surrounding affordability and climate change.
- Singh said: "We're using our power to get help to people. We are getting help for people that need their teeth fixed, we're getting help for people that need to buy their medication and can't afford to."
- The dental program, a key plank of the NDP's past two campaign platforms, would be restricted to families with an income of less than $90,000 annually, with no co-pays for anyone under $70,000 annually in income, said the government.
- The Parliamentary Budget Officer costed the NDP's dental plan during the 2019 election campaign. The PBO estimated the cost for the first, partial fiscal year would be $560 million and would rise to $1.884 billion in the subsequent fiscal year — a "one-time" surge due to oral diseases that had gone untreated. The PBO said that after that point, the program would cost about $830 million a year, rising to $856 million.
- Blanchet called the Liberal-NDP alliance a "false majority." Blanchet said the federal government does not have the jurisdiction to introduce national dental and pharmacare plans. He said the agreement won't affect the Bloc's approach to Parliament: "The Bloc will keep doing exactly the same thing: if it's good for Quebec, we will vote in favour. If it's bad for Quebec, we will vote against." For those unaware of the Bloc's policies, this is basically what they're all about.
- By 2025, if the accord survives that long, many Canadians will be sick of the higher taxes, chronic deficits, federal-provincial squabbling over dental care, ever-worsening housing-crisis and general exhaustion of a Liberal government that will have been in power for a decade.
- The Conservatives will have 3 1/2 years to craft a brand and a program suited for government. The next leader must transform the Conservatives from angry into sensible. By taking an early election off the table, the Liberal and NDP have given that leader the time they need to achieve it. Those voting in the Conservative leadership race should seek the candidate best suited to that task. There are so many ways in which this Liberal government and its New Democrat partner could founder. New social programs will divert money needed for defence, leaving Canada unprotected in an increasingly dangerous world.
- What will happen when, more likely than if, Canada’s credit rating gets downgraded because of this country’s inability to pay down debt, despite higher taxes? Imagine how angry voters in the West will be now that the federal government is even more committed to neglecting the oil-and-gas sector. Most importantly, how will voters respond when it becomes clear that neither the Liberals nor the NDP has a solution to the crisis of housing affordability?
- The agreement does nothing for those in the suburbs - the Conservatives would do well to pivot away from rural issues and retake the outskirts of cities just based on the housing crisis and inflation - which hits everyone. These next 3 years will really show us what Trudeau's Canada looks like, and if the Conservatives are ready to get back into government again or not.
Quote of the Week
"The Bloc will keep doing exactly the same thing: if it's good for Quebec, we will vote in favour. If it's bad for Quebec, we will vote against." - Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet on his party’s attitude towards government policy
Word of the Week
Coalition - a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership to achieve a common goal.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Lunatics Running the Asylum
Teaser: The UCP April convention expands voting options, the BC government sprays herbicides on BC forests, and Canada’s oil export capacity is severely limited. Also, Jagmeet Singh will support Trudeau’s government until 2025 in return for dental and pharmacare.
Recorded Date: March 25, 2022
Release Date: March 27, 2022
Edit Notes: Oil seeds
Podcast Summary Notes