The News Rundown
- With inflation crunching ordinary Canadians, times are tough as the weather is turning cold, and people's finances are being stretched to the limits. With food costs spiralling out of control, a record number of people used food banks in Canada this year, with high inflation and low social assistance rates cited as key factors in the rise, according to a new report.
- The annual report from Food Banks Canada said there were nearly 1.5 million visits to food banks in March, 15% more than the same month last year and 35 per cent more than in March 2019, prior to the pandemic. The report is based on data from more than 4,750 food banks and community organizations. The report also said that around 500,000 food bank clients — about one-third — are children, who make up around 20 per cent of the country's total population.
- Kirstin Beardsley, the CEO of Food Banks Canada said: "What we are seeing is the combination of long-term effects to a broken social safety net combined with the effects of inflation and high costs driving more people to use food banks than ever before in Canadian history. Behind each one of these numbers is a person who is struggling too much to get by."
- Included in the amount of people needing the food bank are seniors, who retired thinking that their finances would last the rest of their lifetime, only to find that it was not enough. Fixed-income groups like seniors and employed but low-income people such as students have been hit harder because their paycheques can't keep up with inflation.
- Beardsley said: "We have got people like seniors, who have been able to afford to live, suddenly having to turn to the food bank for the first time in their lives because it doesn't all add up. And students are the same; often they are on a very limited income, and so when the costs go up, the way we have seen, you just can't stretch the dollar."
- Ottawa Food Bank CEO Rachael Wilson said she's seeing those same challenges playing out locally: "Students are really struggling. When you look at the cost of education, as well as the cost of rent here in Ottawa — I know it's similar in Toronto and across the country. The cost of food is incredibly challenging."
- The surge in demand has made it difficult for some food banks to keep up. The food bank at Memorial University's St. John's campus, for example, had to close temporarily because it had nothing left in stock. Matt Pike, the food bank's volunteer coordinator said: "The demand over the past few months has just been more than we could have possibly predicted."
- Pike said use of the campus food bank in August — about 150 clients — usually increases by 50 per cent in September as students head back to class, but this year it doubled. He said the food bank served about 300 clients in September and 360 in October before it was forced to close.
- Food prices continued to rise in September at an inflation rate of 11.4 per cent, even as Canada's overall rate of inflation slowed for the third month in a row. The figures from Statistics Canada put food inflation at twice the overall inflation rate, and the fastest pace of increase since August 1981.
- Economist Jim Stanford said higher prices are being driven by several factors: supply chain interruptions during the pandemic; the impact of climate change on agriculture; and the war in Ukraine's effect on energy prices.
- Stanford said: "Then on top of it all, there's a great big layer of cream that the supermarkets themselves are collecting. Profits in food retailing are up very, very strongly compared to pre-COVID times." Stanford said grocery chains face increased costs from manufacturers and suppliers, who are also on average posting increased profits. But he argued that some large grocery chains are "passing on their costs — and then some" to consumers.
- In the most recently completed quarter, Canada's three biggest grocery chains have all posted profit increases of tens of millions, compared with the same period pre-pandemic in 2019. While not all those profits derive from food sales, the figures have bolstered accusations of profiteering against Loblaw Companies Ltd., (which operates Loblaws, Zehrs, No Frills and Real Canadian Superstore); Metro Inc. (which owns Metro, Food Basics and other brands); and Empire Co., (owner of Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Farm Boy, Foodland, FreshCo and other brands).
- Stanford described Canada's supermarket industry as "a cosy oligopoly" — or a market dominated by a small number of suppliers. "Three major chains have a dominant market share, and they are able to exercise price power both over consumers, but also over their own suppliers and their own workers. If it truly was just a question of higher supply costs, their profit margins should have shrunk, not widened. I'm not saying that their greed has sparked the whole problem … but their greed is certainly present in the increased profits that they're generating through this inflationary episode."
- On Oct. 17, the federal agriculture committee recently passed a motion calling for an investigation into grocery store profits — which could see CEOs of the three major chains appear before the committee to answer questions.
- On Monday the Competition Bureau, Canada's consumer watchdog, also announced that it will investigate the sector, with a view to recommending measures to improve competition in the sector.
- Whatever happens in the near future, this is a wakeup call that inflation, and the federal government policies that have contributed to it, always hit the poor the hardest. Justin Trudeau can claim that his out of control spending has helped the working poor get a step up, but at the end of the day, people who have less money are the ones getting hit hardest in the last few years. It's time for Canada's fiscal house to get in order, and to stop these blatant attacks on ordinary Canadians.
- Last weekend saw the simultaneous UCP and NDP conventions held in Edmonton and Calgary respectively.
- Headlines framed the conversation where the NDP was focused on affordability and healthcare while the UCP was focused on voting down anti-racism policy motions and apologizing to those who were not vaccinated and faced restrictions.
- We need to be 100% clear that this is not what was talked about by leader Danielle Smith. Framing it as such is a disservice to Albertans.
- The reality is that both parties talked about the same thing: affordability.
- For those unaware, party motions held at these conventions are non-binding and not guaranteed to make it into either’s coming election platform.
- While we’re looking at policies, let’s look at a few the NDP voted for:
- The first that would drastically change elections involved lowering the voting age to 16 which was submitted by the New Democrat Youth of Alberta.
- The second was a motion on projecting LGBTQ+ youth in schools which as we’ve covered before here on the podcast is already enshrined in law.
- And the third we’ll mention is the NDP’s push to expand abortion access across the province.
- None of these are guaranteed to make it into the platform and some of them may warrant future discussion but the reason we show you what these motions were is to show the stark difference in coverage.
- Media coverage of the UCP convention focused on their motions which are tailored to the party base while the NDP coverage focused on a wider message that you’d think was absent at the UCP convention unless you looked for it even though the NDP was still discussing niche party ideas just as the UCP was.
- Premier Danielle Smith’s address focused on affordability and inflation, jobs and the economy, improving healthcare, and standing up for Alberta.
- Front and centre were the connections that so many people ignore of Rachel Notley’s NDP to the federal NDP of Jagmeet Singh.
- This topic perhaps warrant further discussion in the future, but essentially as per the NDP constitution, “Each province of Canada shall have a fully autonomous provincial Party, provided its constitution and principles are not in conflict with those of the Federal Party” and “In the event of dispute as to whether any particular organization is or is not a provincial Party in good standing, the Federal Council of the Party is empowered to rule on whether an organization shall continue to be a provincial Party, subject to appeal to Convention.”
- What this means is that the provincial NDP can claim to be independent but if the party goes against the federal NDP, the parent party, the federal NDP could remove party status of the provincial NDP in the event of a dispute.
- With that being said, Danielle Smith took aim at the federal policies put in place by the Trudeau government that have tamped down the economy of the entire country and pointed out that many would be the same if the NDP were elected in Alberta.
- The points were briefly:
- Affordability and Inflation created by the Liberal and NDP coalition: lands squarely at the feet of Justin Trudeau, anti energy policies that Rachel Notley, Justin Trudeau, and Jagmeet Singh are fond of.
- She also pointed out that Alberta can’t solve the inflation crisis on our own as a province, and that Albertan families need to better able to manage through the crisis.
- She also promised to lower electricity costs further, sooner, make the financial burden easier on seniors, and to examine permanently removing the fuel tax.
- The UCP under Danielle Smith will continue to focus on jobs and the economy and she called it the greatest strength of the UCP government. Alongside this income taxes will be reindexed and lowered soon.
- Finally, she highlighted the impending increases to the federal carbon tax brought forward by the “NDP/Liberal” coalition in her own words and mentioned that Rachel Notley did not disavow these increases.
- The UCP government will act on healthcare immediately and reform AHS.
- And of course then came the Alberta Sovereignty Act which will be passed in the Legislature this fall.
- For those concerned, we’ve already seen a template of how this could work regarding the handgun ban and how it became normalized when Saskatchewan and Manitoba stepped in in support.
- The table has been set for what the UCP will focus on in the next election and while the controversial motions and apology to the unvaccinated and those who faced restrictions were made headlines by the media, only a few outlets focused on what was actually talked about and what the UCP’s plan going forward is.
- At the end of 2021, we discussed on Western Context 248 a story about Vancouver, Whistler and the local First Nations exploring a 2030 Olympic bid. This bid generated a lot of excitement, as the 2010 Vancouver Olympics were generally regarded to be quite successful, not just in terms of breaking even on spending, but on building long lasting infrastructure. This included long lasting supports such as housing at the Olympic Village, the new Canada Line skytrain route linking the airport, ferries and Downtown Vancouver, the expanded Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler, as well as the prestige and tourism generated that has had a long lasting effect on the West Coast in general. It also was exciting in that the possible 2030 bid was backed by the 4 local First Nations, the Líl̓wat, Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and represented a large step forward for reconciliation, as well as economic opportunity and better life chances for First Nations, not just in the area, but around the province as well. The bid also had the support of the national Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the municipalities of Vancouver and Whistler.
- As I said at the time last December, 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?
- With this in mind, it seemed like a slam dunk to go forward, but unfortunately, the BC government gave British Columbians terrible news this week, as they announced Thursday that it would not be supporting a bid to bring the 2030 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games back to the province.
- Lisa Beare, the BC NDP's minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, said: "Government had to take a look at that bid and weigh it. [We had to weigh] its costs, its risks, its potential benefits against government priorities like health care, like public safety, investing in the cost of living. Ultimately, we came to the decision to not support the 2030 bid at this time."
- Beare said the province understands the prospect of hosting another Olympic Games was exciting for athletes and sports fans but pointed to prior commitments to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2025 Invictus Games she says will still bring the international spotlight to B.C.
- Beare said the province's share was $1.2 billion in hard costs, plus another $1 billion in risk, an amount that has the potential to take resources away from other pressing priorities like health care and public safety.
- This has immensely frustrated not just sports fans, but also the First Nations who put a lot of effort into the proposal. Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow said the four First Nations were excited by the prospect of hosting the first Indigenous-led games, especially with the recent commitment by the City of Vancouver to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The leaders of the four nations say that a request to meet with incoming premier David Eby was turned down.
- It should be noted that The NDP cabinet is only six months past the debacle that was the Royal B.C. Museum announcement, when Premier John Horgan blind-sided everyone with a $789-million replacement project that would have closed the museum for several years. After five weeks of intense criticism, Horgan capitulated and announced “back to the drawing board.”
- Chief Wayne Sparrow said: "It would've been nice to sit down with all parties involved ... before they make their conclusion. We'll have to wait and see where this goes from here. But for me, this squashes it."
- He continued: "When the minister mentioned it was not a priority … I mentioned it's bigger than 2030. It's reconciliation, and it's working with the nations, government to government, to move forward."
- Chief Jen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said the B.C. government's decision not to support their efforts to host the 2030 Winter Games is a blow to reconciliation: "For our nation, this is 10 steps backwards in reconciliation. We were asked by the province to share why we want the Olympics, and we didn't get the opportunity."
- Wilson Williams, a Squamish Nation councillor, said the four nations were not included in any discussions around the funding denial. He said: "We didn't come to the table asking for a blank cheque. We were [told] this ain't the right time. When will be the right time for Indigenous peoples to be at the forefront in this so-called spirit of reconciliation?"
- The bid even had the support of the federal government. Canada's Minister for Sport, Pascale St-Onge, said she respects B.C.'s decision but said the bid could have set "a groundbreaking precedent for future games in terms of reconciliation, sustainability and inclusivity."
- In separate statements to CBC, Vancouver and Whistler officials both said the news was disappointing. Whistler Mayor Jack Crompton said: "The [Resort Municipality of Whistler] entered into this process in good faith, believing it was a model for reconciliation in action. We are disappointed it has ended without the opportunity for the kind of fulsome, all-party analysis we have looked forward to completing."
- In its statement, the City of Vancouver said it "understands and acknowledges the disappointment expressed at this news, especially given the historic element this bid would have as the first ever Nations'-led Olympic bid."
- Both municipalities said they enjoyed working with the Indigenous leaders and communities that were involved and plan to maintain those partnerships and collaborate on other projects going forward.
- The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee also issued a statement, saying they were informed of the decision and were taking time to process the information Thursday.
- It should be noted that the decision was made during the premiers’ transition, apparently to shield premier-designate David Eby from any blowback. But Opposition Liberals resurrected an old video clip of him as a civil rights lawyer on a panel, sneering at the Games and those who enjoyed them. He said they were turning Vancouver into a police state. He dismissed people “apparently uncritically attending Olympic events, not thinking about the impact the Olympics have on … public funding for education, health and housing…” So Indigenous-led or otherwise, it seems it would have been thumbs down, no matter who was premier.
- With B.C. out of the picture, only Salt Lake City and Sapporo, Japan, remain in the running for 2030. However, both cities have issues. Sapporo is facing low support from the Japanese public due to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics bribery scandal and the arrests of a Games organizer and a number of business executives. Salt Lake City has indicated 2034 may be more feasible since Los Angeles is already slated to host the 2028 Summer Olympics.
- First Nations leaders say they're still open to pursuing a bid to host the 2030 Olympics in British Columbia, but need the provincial government to engage in talks for plans to move forward. Wilson Williams said “Our canoe is stalled right now. Truly, if we don't get the provincial or federal government in the canoe, we are still here. We aren't going anywhere. And the power of us working together, it's not going away.”
- Let's hope the BC government understands just what an unpopular decision that they've made is and reconsider their refusal to engage in dialogue with First Nations.
- A few weeks ago we talked about the Canadian delegation’s visit to Taiwan and the subsequent reaction from China.
- The reaction should have reminded Canadians about the threat that China remains to national security.
- This week we’re back with another under-reported story revealing the presence of Chinese “police” stations in Canada.
- The RCMP is investigating the existence of these police stations and a House of Commons committee was asked about them as well on October 4th by Conservative MP Michael Chong.
- On the surface it might seem odd that we’re covering this story but we’re covering this story because China has outright admitted they exist.
- They’re hazy of course on their true purpose which according to them ranges from pursuing international fraud suspects to helping Chinese citizens do simple things like report crimes or renew drivers licenses.
- The outlets are spoken of in great esteem in China by the national newspaper and state newspaper.
- They glowingly highlight bringing fraudsters to justice and boast that 50 police stations exist over five continents and that list just happens to include 3 in the Greater Toronto Area.
- European non-profit watchdog Safeguard Defenders show that between April 2021 and July 2022, more than 230,000 people were brought back to China through these stations.
- With that out of the way, we can safely show that these outlets do exist and are operating in Canada.
- A police station fits a typical profile of having an office where people go to work and it being identified, but the locations in Ontario are covert.
- One was a residential home, a single floor commercial builder, and another a convenience store.
- They can also be a network of individuals rather than a physical building.
- Where this story becomes really troubling is the knowledge reported to CBC that the RCMP is investigating criminal activity in relation to these so-called police stations.
- The threats being made relate to people who are advocating for minority rights in China and those people advocating are being repressed by China in Canada.
- Speaking to the media on the matter, MP Michael Chong said, "We've heard of threats directly targeting people who are advocating for minority rights in China, such as those from the Uyghur and Tibetan communities. These stations are now another tool that Beijing can use to repress Canadians here in the Chinese community in Canada.”
- According to Safeguard Defenders, the true spectrum can range anywhere from economic crimes to those who have stood up to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
- Court documents out of New York show that these police stations engage in foreign interference and harass and surveil Chinese nationals. In one case a Chinese citizen here in Canada was persuaded to return to China and faced charges of embezzling worth nearly $380,000.
- In this case the man was able to return to Canada after the verdict and was not mistreated while in China.
- That is one case but there are fears by many that it does go further based on China’s reputation.
- Their methods are expansive according to Laura Harth of Safeguard Defenders, “[the] operations go from harassing and threatening family members back home to sending covert agents abroad to approach the target directly and coerce them into returning home…the worst-case scenarios are those where they even lure or entrap people to a third country, from where they can have them returned — or even kidnappings.”
- This is striking because we’ve all seen a movie where someone is on vacation reasonably safe and is then kidnapped away to a third country to be imprisoned or face torture.
- This is now a potential reality for Chinese people in Canada who are critical of the regime in China.
- At another level this means an incursion into Canadian national security and our government agencies need to do everything possible to rectify it.
- Chinese dissidents and human rights advocates who escaped China to Hong Kong and later to Canada fear what this could mean for them.
- Sheng Xue who moved to Canada after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre said she has been targeted whenever she goes to visit family, both in China or Hong Kong.
- Now with one of these Chinese so-called “police stations” only a few kilometres away from where she lives, she’s worried even more since people in her position in Europe or Asia have been kidnapped to a third country and tortured.
- Others are worried about what may happen to family members back home when they voice dissent.
- This story has gained more prominence since the initial reporting this week but the actions of the Chinese Communist Party abroad are unlikely to change unless they are confronted by some of the world’s biggest democracies and that’s where Canada has a role to play.
- Once the investigation concludes it is absolutely imperative that the government do what must be done to prevent foreign interference at home.
- If they don’t then there will be bigger questions to ask about this government.
Quote of the Week
"It would've been nice to sit down with all parties involved ... before they make their conclusion. We'll have to wait and see where this goes from here. But for me, this squashes it. When the minister mentioned it was not a priority … I mentioned it's bigger than 2030. It's reconciliation, and it's working with the nations, government to government, to move forward." - Musqueam First Nation Chief Wayne Sparrow on the BC government’s decision to not hold dialogue on a possible Indigenous-led 2030 Winter Olympics bid.
Word of the Week
Disservice - a harmful action
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Stalled Canoe
Teaser: More Canadians are turning to food banks, the Alberta NDP and UCP conventions get covered differently, and the BC NDP decide to quash the indigenous-led 2030 Olympic bid. Also, the RCMP is investigating Chinese-run police stations in Canada.
Recorded Date: October 29, 2022
Release Date: October 30, 2022
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes