The News Rundown
- In spring 2020 after the horrific Nova Scotia shooting the federal government announced a ban of more than 1,500 firearms including anti-tank weaponry and rocket launchers as we covered here on Western Context.
- This week Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro announced that the province will direct the RCMP in Alberta to not enforce the confiscation of these firearms from what were once legal owners.
- This follows from Alberta appointing a Chief Firearms Officer in Teri Bryant, who this week said, "All Canadians whether firearms owners or not should be concerned about the scapegoating of law abiding citizens and the targeting of their property.”
- In his press conference on the matter, Justice Minister Tyler Shandro said, “Alberta has been told that the federal government will use the RCMP to confiscate firearms – as they did during the 2013 floods – when the RCMP seized over 600 firearms during the notorious High River gun grab. Actions taken today will seek to prevent history from repeating itself. Further options are being explored and all options are on the table.”
- Things are becoming interesting in Alberta as the UCP heads into the last week of its leadership race. But we’ll get to that angle later in the story.
- A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office called the move disappointing and an abdication of responsibility.
- Advocacy groups like the coalition for gun control pointed to the story and said that a “vocal minority hijacked the public agenda about gun control” while both Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also joined the move, this in total represents 3 of the 4 western provinces.
- And if anything is to be said about Saskatchewan and Manitoba, those governments on their own do not represent a fringe minority.
- Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a Facebook post, “Manitoba has consistently stated that our approach to gun violence is to focus on those who use weapons in crime, not law abiding gun owners.”
- Saskatchewan wants the federal government to focus on gangs and violent offenders instead.
- Recall that going back to 2020, this gun ban was done hastily by order-in-council rather than legislation and it wasn’t until after last year’s election that it was put into power by legislation.
- What this showcases is an example of haste by the government wanting to do something but not executing properly.
- The frame on this story from the Trudeau government is that Alberta is trying to “opt out of a federal law” when in reality it’s not quite that simple.
- Section 6.1 of the Provincial Police Services Agreement states that, “The Provincial Minister will set the objectives, priorities and goals of the Provincial Police Service.” Meanwhile section 6.4 of the agreement states, “Nothing in this Agreement will be interpreted as limiting in any way the jurisdiction of Alberta in respect of the administration of justice and law enforcement in the Province.”
- What this means is that Alberta tells the RCMP what to do in the province and the RCMP contract does not limit Alberta from exercising its powers.
- What is happening is that the Trudeau government is trying to get the RCMP to enforce their laws that do not necessarily fall within the purview of the RCMP.
- The RCMP is on record as saying they don’t have the resources to enforce the ban and it gets more interesting when looking at the history of the legislation.
- Canada Post was also considered as a partner for firearm collection but told the government they would not be able to handle the volume of firearms.
- The question is, should the police be the ones to implement the gun program and if that’s the case, don’t the provinces have a say in how or if that happens?
- If this at all sounds vaguely familiar to you, that’s because this is largely what UCP leadership candidate Danielle Smith has been proposing with her sovereignty act.
- In talking with the Calgary Sun, Danielle Smith said, “I had to do a bit of a double take. It sounded an awful lot like the Sovereignty Act.”
- Last month the provincial media was up in arms with the suggestion that Alberta not enforce federal gun laws if something like the sovereignty act were to pass.
- The idea was seen as fringe beyond belief and a case of political interference by the legal experts.
- The UCP leadership race ends in the next week and it’s widely expected that one of Brian Jean, Danielle Smith, or Travis Toews will win.
- Danielle Smith would mark the biggest shift from the current Kenney government and a lot of the discussion about her campaign has focused on the sole idea of the sovereignty act.
- Either by accident or by brilliant timing, Tyler Shandro and by extension Jason Kenney have pulled off a masterful piece of political re-framing.
- By effectively implementing the biggest element of the sovereignty act, it takes the discussion off the table for the few who have not yet voted.
- Jason Kenney as a political operative never lost an election and always had the next political move up his sleeve. This move might be too late to swing the race in the direction he wants it to go but it will at least blunt the reaction should Smith win and implement her sovereignty act.
- By taking an issue off the table, it removes said issue as a point of contention and battering ram.
- What impact this has on the leadership race if any remains to be seen but it is certainly a very interesting move for a Premier in the final days of his administration.
- This past summer, not much news has been released on the opioid crisis that has been ongoing for over half a decade in BC. According to preliminary data released by the BC Coroners Service, about 1,100 people have lost their lives due to the toxic drug supply in BC, in between January and June of 2022.
- Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, said: “The ever-increasing toxicity of the unregulated, illicit drug market is taking a heart-breaking toll on the lives and well-being of members of our communities across the province. Deaths due to toxic drugs in the first half of 2022 have surpassed the number of deaths experienced in the same period in 2021, putting our province, once again, on track for a record loss of life.”
- The number of lives lost to toxic drugs in B.C. between January and June is the highest ever recorded in the first six months of a calendar year. 7 years after calling a public health emergency, the province is actually increasing the number of opioid related deaths per year.
- One can compare what the BC NDP response is, to the province just to the east, and see if the Alberta UCP approach is better or worse. Geoff Russ of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute says that like so many other issues, BC and Alberta are once again the tale of two provinces when it comes to the opioid epidemic.
- Since January, Alberta has seen the number of overdoses reduced by significant margins. In BC, the numbers have kept rising with no end in sight, even as the province doubles down on its strategy. Indeed, BC is no longer an active theatre of the War on Drugs under its current government. And the province’s NDP government has long supported decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs.
- Alberta’s strategy emphasizes personal recovery and expanded treatment facilities, with thousands of new spaces for addicts beginning their recovery. By contrast, BC has embraced harm reduction, involving the distribution of pharmaceutical alternatives to addicts in place of toxic street drugs, usually referred to as “safe supply.”
- Sheila Malcolmson, BC's Minister of Addictions and Mental Health said: “We’re leading the country on prescribed safer supply, decriminalizing people who use drugs, and have allowed registered nurses to prescribe medications for opioid-use disorder. We won’t stop working until all British Columbians can get the help they need, when they need it.”
- Premier John Horgan had previously urged Ottawa to develop a national plan to change its policies regarding possession of illegal substances for personal use. “The province of British Columbia offers its support and encouragement to the government of Canada to take urgent, necessary action on this matter to save lives,” Horgan wrote in a letter to Ottawa in 2020.
- By early next year, BC will become the first province to receive a three-year exemption from Ottawa that decriminalizes possessing small amounts of illegal drugs. Third-party activist groups have also been controversially allowed to distribute heroin, cocaine, and other drugs to addicts without prosecution. Government-supplied heroin has also been floated as a future possibility.
- On August 12, 2022, the BC government announced a $430 million investment to escalate its response to what it calls the “toxic drug crisis.” A statement from the BC Ministry of Addictions and Mental Health notes: “Separating people from the toxic, unpredictable illicit drug supply is an important step to preventing drug poisonings and helping people stabilize their lives.” BC is the first province to offer prescriptions of “safe supply,” a term that describes otherwise illegal drugs produced and distributed under governmental supervision, such as fentanyl patches.
- Meanwhile Alberta is trying a different approach to BC. Marshall Smith, chief of staff for Mike Ellis, who is Alberta's Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions says both provinces have embraced different ideologies to combat the opioid crisis, and says that BC's model of harm reduction is a 'low bar'. He opines that: “There is another view that says no, addiction is a chronic, relapsing healthcare condition, and with the right treatment, recovery should be possible.”
- Smith says Alberta subscribes to the latter, calling it the “recovery oriented system of care.” More affectionately called the “Alberta model,” it involves heavy government investment to streamline access to expanded, government-funded treatment for addiction. According to Smith, part of the Alberta government’s approach is believing people will enter treatment to “regain their life” if given the option.
- Most narcotics remain illegal in Alberta, without a prescription. Alberta police now offer treatment to persons caught using illegal drugs almost immediately after being apprehended. Five recovery (or “therapeutic”) communities, designed to host long-term residential care, are being built across Alberta, each costing $5 million. One community in Lethbridge hosts 50 beds, while one on the Blood Reserve has 75 beds.
- Every participant inside the communities dictates the pace of their treatment, like setting personal goals for their recovery process. Aside from becoming drug-free, recovery community goals include participants reflecting on their behaviour, and leaving employed or enrolled in schools, or job training. Also present are “recovery coaches,” or people with lived experience. They go into the communities and engage with people to help them in their recovery.
- In total, Alberta has spent $140 million to fund more than 8000 new annual treatment, detox and recovery spaces located throughout Alberta, including the therapeutic communities. Addiction treatment is free for any Albertan, and voluntary. Meanwhile, while BC’s government says it has also created new treatment and recovery beds, there are just 3261 in total.
- Malcolmson has come under criticism for her office’s failure to improve the situation. She defended herself by saying: “Despite our best efforts, the street drug supply has become increasingly toxic over the last six years and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. [I]ncreasing illicit drug toxicity has outstripped our unprecedented addition of new overdose prevention services.”
- It's clear that the approach in BC is not working well and that tweaks or even outright changes to the government's approach to the opioid crisis is necessary to stop the increasing number of deaths. We will see if John Horgan's successor can do what Horgan could not.
- Economic data for Alberta is looking up and the trend in data matches that from boom periods in years past.
- 10,000+ more people moved into Alberta from other areas in Canada than vice versa in the second quarter of this year.
- This is the largest provincial population gain since 2014.
- What’s more interesting though is that the people coming over are young, in their 20s and 30s.
- Ontario lost the most residents to other parts of Canada with a net outflow of 21,008 residents in the second quarter. Ontario was also the main contributor to Alberta’s net gain with 6,281 more people moving from Ontario to Alberta than the other way around.
- A good chunk of the people coming over in that age range are from Ontario and the lack of affordable single detached homes in the Toronto area may be having an impact.
- This data again shows why the UCP government among other things is running ads in the Vancouver and Toronto markets encouraging young professionals to come over.
- What happened is that they saw this migration happening and jumped on it as a way to further juice the economy.
- In total 15,208 people have moved here over the past 4 quarters.
- The question of pairing the UCP with economic diversification was always front and centre but the industries that are hiring are not just the traditional oil and gas industry but a good portion of the new jobs in Calgary are in the tech field and others like aerospace, aviation, manufacturing, film, and television.
- What does this mean?
- First, it means that Alberta is following the trend of when times are good, people run to the province.
- Secondly, and relatively speaking the housing situation here is better compared to that of the other big cities in the country.
- As of September 28, there were 250 single detached homes for sale in Calgary below $500,000 while none in Toronto. If you go up to $800,000, only 31 in Toronto and more than 1,000 in Calgary.
- The reason these numbers are striking is that between Q3 2015 and early 2021, the province lost 50,000 people and these moves to Alberta were made over just one quarter.
- Nationally the population has increased to 38.9 million people and we’ve set the pace for fastest population growth since 1957.
- Now of course pro growth policies and a bustling economy does have a major impact but what’s really being put on display here is the cost of living benefits combined with that growing economy.
- This is the good economic news as rising interest rates and changes in the bond market potentially foretell a slowing economy in 2023.
- For Jason Kenney and the UCP their term has been an example of how to use the economic and legislative tools combined with global affairs to generate the best possible scenario for Alberta.
- Other provinces and Canada as a whole should take note as the Premier heads out.
- This past week he said he didn’t plan to stick around for that long and anticipated leaving office 18 months or so after the next election.
- But Jason Kenney’s legacy will be turning around the province’s economy and budget (balanced budget, wonderful!) in one term instead of the two or so it was thought to have taken after the 2014 recession, the worst resource price collapse on record, and a once in a century global health crisis.
- Only time will tell if UCP members made a mistake or not in replacing him with someone else.
- We finally have economists saying the scary R word this week in reference to Canada - recession. With inflation running out of control, and an economy that's facing a shrinking workforce, and a housing market that is starting to cool down after a long time of being artificially inflated by federal government policies, the writing is on the wall. What this means for ordinary Canadians is that their own financial futures could be set into unpredictable waters.
- David Doyle, the Toronto-based head of economics at Macquarie Group, an Australia-based global financial services provider, estimates Canada will face an approximately three per cent contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) and a five per cent rise in its unemployment rate during the predicted recession.
- Doyle says: "I don't think that we're in a recession just yet, but I do think that one is on the horizon. Our baseline is that Canada will enter a recession in the first quarter of 2023. We actually think it will be pretty severe in Canada. I think the die has been cast on this front. Because inflation has become so elevated, and unemployment was allowed to fall so low, I think a recession is almost inevitable at this point."
- The problem with such a high inflation rate is that fighting it causes a recession, and the prices will generally not come back down again after going up. The Bank of Canada raised interest rates to 3.25 per cent on Sept. 7, which has contributed to the cooling housing market. The increase followed a full percentage point hike in July, which was the largest single rate increase in Canada since August 1998.
- The Bank of Canada began hiking interest rates in March, after they fell to 0.25 per cent during the dark times of the past few years. Last year, the head of the Bank of Canada, Tiff Macklem, famously and wrongly predicted that inflation would only be 'transitory' and that it wouldn't be around a long time. Almost a year into this inflation crisis, and it's not expected to stop for another year.
- According to new data from Statistics Canada, the Canadian economy stayed virtually stagnant in July, only barely growing by 0.1%. Their estimates, however, show economic growth stagnating in August, when the annual inflation rate reached 7.0 per cent, only slightly down from a high of 8.1 per cent in June. What the Bank of Canada is doing is triggering a recession to fight inflation, but it's not having much of an impact.
- Unfortunately, the inflation crisis is not just happening in Canada, and while Canada was in a relatively good place during the recession in 2008 under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we are certainly not right now under the reigns of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
- Global growth is being hit on multiple fronts. The European energy crisis escalated this week, with the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines that ship gas from Russia to Europe. Meanwhile, Britain is in the midst of a currency and bond market meltdown, which pushed the Bank of England to intervene in markets Wednesday and warn of a “material risk to U.K. financial stability.”
- The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said earlier this week it expects the world economy to be US$2.8-trillion smaller in 2023 than it projected a year ago. And things could get a lot worse, the OECD warned, if a cold winter in Europe leads to energy rationing and new gas supplies fail to materialize.
- The crucial variable for Canada is what happens in the United States. There, the outlook has darkened over the past week as the U.S. Federal Reserve doubled down on its efforts to curb demand in the U.S. economy and get prices under control. The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.75 percentage points last Wednesday, to a range of 3%to 3.25%. The rate hike was expected. But updated projections showed policy makers expect to push the Fed Funds rate to between 4% and 4.5% by the end of the year – considerably higher than previously forecast.
- Craig Alexander, chief economist at Deloitte Canada says: “That materially raises the risks that the U.S. economy has a hard landing. And if the U.S. has a hard landing, I think it’s very hard for Canada not to have one as well.”
- Economists in the US over the past few months have talked about the US hoping to have a 'soft landing' of the economy, where things gradually smooth out. But in September, the landing was predicted to not be soft anymore. And that has a huge cascading effect for Canada, who's economy largely relies on trade exports to the US.
- A U.S. recession would hit a range of Canadian exporters, particularly those tied to interest-rate-sensitive sectors. Lumber and building supply companies would be slammed by a slowdown in American home construction. Automakers and other durable goods manufacturers would be hurt by a pullback in U.S. discretionary spending.
- On the economy, Stuart Bergman, chief economist at Export Development Canada describes it simply: “It’s like a bicycle that’s going really, really slowly. It’s fast enough that it’s still staying upright, but it’s kind of wobbling. If it hits a pebble, it could be knocked over. … And there’s a tonne of pebbles around.”
- If your bicycle is going slowly and might fall over, you hope that the person riding it knows what they're doing. Unfortunately that person is Justin Trudeau. Let's hope we're wearing kneepads and a helmet.
Quote of the Week
“It’s like a bicycle that’s going really, really slowly. It’s fast enough that it’s still staying upright, but it’s kind of wobbling. If it hits a pebble, it could be knocked over. … And there’s a tonne of pebbles around.” - Stuart Bergman, chief economist at Export Development Canada, describing the Canadian economy at present.
Word of the Week
Execute - carry out or put into effect
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Slow Bicycle
Teaser: The Prairie provinces join against Trudeau’s gun ban, we compare the opioid crisis approach of BC and Alberta, and people are moving from Ontario to the West. Also, Canada might be in a recession soon.
Recorded Date: October 1, 2022
Release Date: October 2, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes