The News Rundown
- When Alberta started rolling out its COVID vaccine record program that implemented the Restriction Exemption Program. Then, there were delays with the website beyond what were deemed reasonable.
- For a while now we know that former, now independent MLA Thomas Dang, who is not running for re-election, breached the Alberta vaccine records system.
- What we didn’t know however was that the NDP including Rachel Notley knew about this and we didn’t know the huge scope of how much strain was put on the system.
- In September 2021, MLA Dang sent 1.78 million queries to the system using Jason Kenney’s birthday as was revealed in recently unsealed court documents.
- In September 2021 this created wait times of hours as more than 50,000 people were waiting in queue.
- The court documents state in full: “During this time there were 3.5 million requests using the date of birth of Premier Jason Kenney and a further 1 million requests using the date of birth of Thomas Dang, an MLA from the NDP. This flood of traffic resulted in regular users being unable to access the site to download their own records.”
- According to Dang he was testing for vulnerabilities on the newly launched website to try and find someone’s healthcare number, in particular that of Premier Jason Kenney.
- NDP Chief of Staff Jeremy Nolais and NDP Director of Communication Benjamin Alldritt were informed, which means that NDP leader Rachel Notley would have also been informed.
- It was at this time that NDP MLAs began attacking the UCP government for implementing a system that did not work, little did anyone know that the problems were caused by their own MLA.
- During this time, records skyrocketed up to and beyond 14 hours to get a simple vaccine record print out.
- In November it became clear that the government was investigating a possible privacy breach related to the system and Rachel Notley posted about it on Twitter.
- Independent media have made the link that she should have known that this was their breach but with a public facing system, it could very well have been another breach.
- This past June, MLA Dang was charged under the Health Information Act for illegally attempting to access private information and could face a fine of up to $200,000 if convicted.
- Putting this all together, we knew that there was a hack and we knew that MLA Dang was involved. But what we didn’t know was the scale of the attack and that it had been reported to the NDP.
- It started to become fishy because in October 2021 then NDP MLA Dang was promoted to the critic role of Democracy and Ethics.
- Chief Government Whip Brad Rutherford is now seeking to determine what role if any Rachel Notley had in the attack.
- This story was only covered on True North, an independent right leaning online news website, but because of how independent media often conducts themselves (others aside from True North), the NDP do not cooperate with True North to corroborate or shoot down the story.
- This leads to more polarization in the province and as we head to May’s general election, that is good for nobody.
- As the news continues to be singularly focused on the passing of Queen Elizabeth, it's hard to not talk about a story that's not at least a little bit tangentially related to the day of her funeral (which is this upcoming Monday, incidentally). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to declare a National Day of Mourning, in other words, a holiday for federal employees. Many provinces were quick to follow, including BC, meaning that public sector employees in BC, including schools and many Crown corporations will be closed on that day. Alberta was notable in calling it a provincial day of mourning, but not a statutory holiday.
- Since the day is not considered a provincial statutory holiday in any province, similar to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, private sector employees will only get the day off if their employers allow for it. It's a difference between the public sector employees and private sector employees that has many wondering exactly who gets the day off and who doesn't, and some wondering why the federal and various provincial governments took such a half measure so that only some people recognize the holiday and some don't.
- Since schools will be closed, many working parents are now in a short term child care bind because they've closed schools but haven't actually declared a full statutory holiday. Not everyone has the ability to change their work schedule to accommodate the change. Part of the problem is the two-tiered nature of the holiday, and the impact on healthcare workers as well. In many parts of the country healthcare is in a crisis mode with many patients already unable to access services without a day of closures affecting appointments, many of them scheduled months in advance.
- After two years of pandemic-related school disruptions, some parents said it's frustrating for families to once again be forced to grapple with sudden closures. Judy Haiven, a researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and a retired professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, said it's a "charade" to claim that Monday is a holiday when only civil servants get the day off: "They're trying to dangle the idea that workers have more rights...and it's absolutely not true. In fact, the reverse is true because now some parents will lose a day of pay because they have child-care responsibilities."
- It's the latest in a long line of decisions by the federal government to give preferential treatment towards the public sector. Is it any wonder then, that a new report just released this past week shows that almost all new jobs created during the pandemic were in the public sector?
- The public sector accounted for about 86.7% of all net new jobs created since the pandemic, the report found. Between February 2020 and July 2022, jobs in the sector grew by 9.4%, while private sector job growth remained almost stagnant, at 0.4%.
- Ben Eisen, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and co-author of the report, said: “Many of the headline statistics surrounding the Canadian labour market appear encouraging at a glance, but the reality is more complicated. Canada’s job creation in recent years has not been driven by private sector-growth, but rather has primarily been the result of government hiring.”
- The stagnation in private sector growth was predominantly caused by the significant contraction in the number of self-employed workers. Despite the number of self-employed workers increasing by 34,000 in July, self-employment is still down 7.4 per cent from pre-pandemic levels.
- It’s too early to say what is driving the drain in self-employed workers, said Tricia Williams, director of research, evaluation and knowledge mobilization at the Future Skills Centre. She speculates the increasing opportunities in the labour market may be drawing workers away from self-employment and towards jobs at larger organizations. She said: “When you have lots of choices (in the labour market), you might not choose to take on the personal risks associated with self-employment. Some workers may want more stability and security rather than trying (their venture) on their own.”
- However, Williams stressed entrepreneurship and self-employment are critical parts of the economy and believes there should be more research conducted to figure out why there’s been this decline in self-employment throughout the pandemic: “For a healthy social-capitalist economy, we absolutely need people to have a way to create new enterprises and feel like that’s a viable option and they have the supports available to them.”
- One day late last year, Justin Trudeau took to twitter to tout his government’s job creation record: “Thanks to your hard work and the hard work of Canadians across the country, Canada’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since the start of the pandemic. In fact, more than 154,000 jobs were created last month — and … in the COVID-19 Era, more than 1 million jobs have been recovered,” he wrote in a tweet.
- This tweet is entirely misleading about the damage which Ottawa and other levels of government have done to employment growth and the economy, using the private sector’s tax dollars to choke off its growth — right under its nose.
- Job creation slowed this summer as inflation has heated up and the Bank of Canada has dramatically raised borrowing rates. Meanwhile, a record number of jobs are going unfilled, with vacancies reaching a record high of 136,800 in July, a five-per-cent increase from the peak of the last quarter of 2021, Statistics Canada reported.
- According to StatCan, August’s unemployment rate was 5.4 per cent — up from 4.9 per cent in July, but still lower than both the 7.1 per cent recorded last August and the long-term average of 8.14 per cent.
- Public sector workers not only kept their jobs but added two-years’ credit to their pension benefits and many even saw their wages grow during the pandemic. With January Statistics Canada figures showing public sector employment up 305,000 jobs from the beginning of the pandemic and all 206,000 job losses that month coming from the private sector, Morgan rightly concluded that “Two classes of Canadians have been created: those without job security or income worries and those whose ability to support themselves and their families depends on creating value for the enterprises that employ them.”
- Another Fraser Institute report found that average public sector wages were more than nine per cent higher than those of their private sector counterparts at the outset of the pandemic. On top of wages and comprehensive benefits, 88% of government workers were covered by a pension plan, compared to fewer than 23% of private-sector workers and a higher percentage of those public sector pension plans are richer, recession-proof, defined-benefit plans. Exacerbating the inequality, the public sector is more immune to layoffs because of governments fearful of having strikes on their watch. The irony is that lower-paid private sector workers are paying for the higher wages and benefits of their public-sector counterparts.
- And yet, anyone trying to access government services is likely frustrated by how long it takes to get anything done. If you've been to a passport office recently, you'll know this to be true. It's time that the federal government is held to account for its division of Canadians and ineffective economic policies that have led to 2 classes of Canadians - those who get a holiday on Monday, and those who do not.
- As we head into the fall and newly elected Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre sets the message and media cycle over the past week, the government has opened the chequebook.
- This week the federal government announced $4.5b in new spending to combat inflation but as basic economics tells us, spending factors into inflation.
- The new spending includes a doubling of a quarterly tax credit sent to low and medium income individuals to offset sales tax and a $500 one time top up to the housing benefit that is provided to low income earners to help with rent.
- There will also be $650 per year for dental care to children under 12 who do not have insurance which is still far away from what the NDP requested when they signed their deal with the Liberals.
- As the money was just announced, it will take time to work its way into the system, probably being spent in early 2023 which could add to 2023 inflation.
- CIBC Chief Economist Avery Shenfeld said the government is “adding fuel to the inflationary fire.” He summarized it as follows, “By helping Chantal pay her food or gasoline bill with a government cheque, you hit John with higher overall inflation, and Carlos with higher mortgage payments as the Bank of Canada responds with a more aggressive rate hike cycle.”
- What then comes from this is that the Bank of Canada needs to act harder on inflation which hurts Canadians.
- Scotiabank was more critical saying, “It seems sensible to assume that this will add to pressures on measures of core inflation… Any belief that it will ease inflationary pressures must have studied different economics textbooks.”
- The National Post has a good rundown on inflation talking about true runaway inflation during the Klondike Gold Rush where prospectors became millionaires and then the economy responded by charging $100 for a single egg.
- It also highlights that parts of our current inflation crisis can be linked to the simple fact there’s fewer things to buy due to supply chain breakdowns and shortages due to the dark times of the past few years.
- Factor this in with the cash injected into the economy before 2019 and as a response to the dark times of the past few years, in just the first 12 months of the year, Canada took on $381.6b in new debt.
- TD bank estimated that a lot of the money handed out over the past few years was “stashed under the mattress” and that Canadians were probably sitting on $300m in excess savings which could make inflation worse since the economy is facing supply side constraints meaning that money could eventually flow into the economy.
- Governments across the country are giving money away from the BC government’s $600m in tax rebates and the Saskatchewan $500 cheques sent out.
- Bankers and economists say that spending won’t solve the problem, the government thinks it will and the media reporting on the matter doesn’t exactly explain how economics works and most Canadians are simply hurting at the end of the day.
- That’s why it is so important that real tangible solutions be presented and why those presenting them are able to cut through the media ruckus.
- In the week after Pierre Poilievre's leadership victory for the Conservative Party of Canada, we at Western Context were keeping a close eye on the news coverage of his landslide victory on the first ballot, to see how the media were talking about him.
- We weren't shocked to see a slew of biased and sensationalized articles be released in the aftermath, with the intent of setting the narrative that Poilievre is a dangerous 'Trump-like' figure out to destroy our democracy, never mind that only one minute of listening to the two men speak should show that there really isn't many similarities between the two.
- In the runup to the election, an opinion column from the Toronto Star was titled "Pierre Poilievre’s callous courting of Canada’s ‘deplorables’' in which the writer makes reference to the 'shocking and unwise' in their words of Hillary Clinton's comments on people who were among Donald Trump’s supporters back when she was running for the 2016 US Presidential election, and failed miserably. Even though the writer says it was an unwise comment, he makes the similar appellation when referring to Poilievre. How hypocritical.
- Bob Hepburn writes: "like Trump, Poilievre is potentially leading us down the same dark and nasty road that Trump has taken Americans, all in a sleazy bid to attain power — and at almost any price." One can look at reality and see just how crazy of a statement this is to make.
- The CBC already tried to shape the narrative that the majority of Poilievre's supporters were 'convoy donors' who gave more than $460K to the CPC leadership race, and that many were first-time federal donors.
- But by far the most shocking event of the week was when David Akin of Global News started heckling Poilievre as he was about to give a statement. Akin was upset because the newly elected Conservative leader said he wouldn’t take any questions from the media after his statement. The exchange became uncomfortable as the two men shot barbs at each other — Akin shouting, Poilievre calling him a “Liberal heckler.”
- The verbal scuffle ended when Poilievre agreed to take two questions. Later, on Twitter, Akin apologized for being “rude and disrespectful.” Even so, Poilievre used the incident, which was carried live, to raise funds in an email to Conservative party supporters. Here’s part of his email:
- “First, they hurled obscenities and then started shouting at me. Was it some left-wing protester? Maybe it was a Liberal MP or staffer? No, it was a member of the media. That’s right. David Akin from Global News was swearing, shouting, and heckling. He wasn’t interested in hearing what I had to say, and he certainly wasn’t interested in reporting it in an unbiased way.”
- Akin himself — who has worked for conservative outlets such as the National Post, Sun Media and the Sun News Network, and whose outlet receives no government funding, unlike newspapers — was branded an enemy. It's clear from Poilievre's handling of this incident that he, unlike previous leaders Scheer and O'Toole, know that the media is out to get the Conservative Party and its leaders, and twist the news to suit their own agendas.
- While Poilievre could have handled the situation more gracefully, it's clearly Akin, practically frothing at the mouth, who came off much worse. And yet, all of his fellow media was quick to jump to his defense, and make excuses for his comments.
- We should expect better from our government, and the government-in-waiting in the opposition, but we also need to expect better from our media, to report the news and not let personal emotional outbursts get in the way of what is actually going on in Canada right now.
Quote of the Week
“First, they hurled obscenities and then started shouting at me. Was it some left-wing protester? Maybe it was a Liberal MP or staffer? No, it was a member of the media. He wasn’t interested in hearing what I had to say, and he certainly wasn’t interested in reporting it in an unbiased way.” - an email from new Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre to Conservative supporters.
Word of the Week
Heckler - a person who interrupts a performer or public speaker with derisive or aggressive comments or abuse.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Hackers and Hecklers
Teaser: An NDP MLA crashed the UCP’s vaccine website, a holiday for only some shows division between the public and private sectors, and Trudeau’s inflation relief only furthers the problem. Also, Pierre Poilievre gets heckled by the media during a speech.
Recorded Date: September 17, 2022
Release Date: September 18, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes