The News Rundown
- The inquiry into the Trudeau government's invocation of the Emergencies Act has had another wrinkle added to it. The inquiry is meant to determine if the federal government was justified by broadening its powers unilaterally to deal with the Freedom Convoy, or if the protest met the definition of an emergency.
- New evidence submitted shows that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, otherwise known as CSIS, told government officials — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — before they invoked the Emergencies Act last winter that the Freedom Convoy protests didn’t pose a national security threat and weren’t supported by foreign state interference.
- Ultimately, no activities tied to the pandemic protests across the country ever met CSIS's definition of a national security threat, as defined by the CSIS Act, according to the summary of an interview of service director David Vigneault by Public Order Emergency Commission lawyers in August.
- The document was made public at the inquiry by Brendan Miller, a lawyer for some Freedom Convoy organizers, during cross-examination of then-deputy minister of Public Safety Canada Rod Stewart. Vigneault is set to testify next week.
- The information comes to light as the inquiry investigates whether the federal government met the legal threshold to invoke the exceptional powers in the Emergencies Act to break up Freedom Convoy protests in February. It was the first time the act was invoked, and it can only be used in a national emergency when a situation “seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada” and cannot be dealt with by any other law. It specifically refers to the definition of a national security threat detailed in the CSIS Act.
- But according to Stewart, it is not CSIS but the federal cabinet that ultimately decides whether the threshold for a national security threat is met when invoking the Emergencies Act. Stewart testified that: “The cabinet is making that decision, and their interpretation of the law is what governs here. And their decision was evidently that the threshold was met.”
- According to the CSIS interview summary, once Vigneault learned the government was seriously considering invoking the Emergencies Act, he felt obliged to “clearly convey” the agency’s view that “there did not exist a threat to the security of Canada” as defined by the CSIS Act.
- He briefed high-ranking government members, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, of the service’s findings on Feb. 13, the day before the act was invoked, according to the summary.
- Another passage reveals CSIS never found that a foreign state was helping to organize or raise money for convoy protests. The document says: “CSIS did not assess that any foreign states supported the protests through funding; that foreign states deployed covert or overt disinformation techniques; or that any foreign state actors attempted to enter into Canada to support the protests.”
- The new information from the head of Canada’s spy agency appears to contradict a statement from Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair on Feb. 16, two days after the Emergencies Act was invoked. At the time, Blair said: “We have seen strong evidence that it was the intention of those who blockaded our ports-of-entry in a largely foreign-funded, targeted and coordinated attack.” This has clearly turned out to be a massive exaggeration of the actual events.
- Previous documents made public at the commission showed that CSIS had expressed concern to government officials that invoking the act would “likely galvanize the anti-government narratives within the convoy and further the radicalization of some towards violence.” Stewart testified Monday that he too worried it could create more violence and that he saw “pros and cons” in invoking the act. However, such widespread violence was never actually seen.
- We have also found that the RCMP never used the sweeping powers of the federal Emergencies Act to clear protests choking key border crossings in regions where it is the lead police force.
- When the government invoked the act on Feb. 14, it argued it could not be limited to Ontario because it was also required to end blockades at several border crossings. Yet testimony and documents presented at the inquiry show police cleared several anti-government, anti-vaccine mandate border blockades without using its powers, while others ended the same day the act was invoked or earlier.
- And on Tuesday, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told reporters after her testimony that within RCMP jurisdiction, the Emergencies Act wasn’t used because the service “used existing tools.” The RCMP has jurisdiction in vast swaths of the country – with the exception of Ontario and Quebec – through contracts with provinces, municipalities and some Indigenous communities.
- The Mounties had jurisdiction at the border blockades in Coutts, Alta., Emerson, Man., and at the Pacific Highway blockade in British Columbia, according to a document produced by the commission.
- Witness testimony has shown that the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont., was cleared on Feb. 13, without use of the act. The blockade in Coutts, meanwhile, was cleared on Feb. 15, also without direct use of the act, witnesses have said. Documents tabled with the commission also suggest that the blockade in Emerson did not require the act’s powers when protesters dispersed on Feb. 16.
- In an email on Feb. 14, Michael Richards, a senior bureaucrat in the Manitoba government, told a federal counterpart that a negotiated end to the Emerson border blockade was likely “imminent.” Two days later, he followed up that a peaceful resolution had been reached and it appeared that the Emergencies Act had “nothing” to do with the RCMP’s operations.
- Moreover, Mr. Richards said the act’s invocation “complicated those efforts, and actually delayed this outcome by at least one day.” He added that Manitoba’s justice department didn’t believe that the legal threshold for the federal act had been met.
- And now, the Prime Minister's team is trying to rewrite history by redefining what a threat actually means. The prime minister's security and intelligence adviser Jody Thomas says that the definition of a "threat to security of Canada" under the terms of the Emergencies Act should be reconsidered to better reflect the times. In an interview with commission lawyers this fall, Thomas and other officials suggested that this definition be "reconsidered."
- To deploy the Emergencies Act, cabinet must have reasonable grounds to believe a public order emergency exists — which the Act defines as one that "arises from threats to the security of Canada that are so serious as to be a national emergency."
- Clearly the government wants to be able to invoke the Emergencies Act more broadly. Whether or not you agree with the Freedom Convoy or not, or the usage of the Emergencies Act or not, it cannot be understated the dangerous slippery slope that letting the federal government expand its ability to suspend civil liberties is dangerous, and should not be allowed.
- Last week we talked about the inability of the BC healthcare system to surface data to reform the system in that province.
- This week Premier Danielle Smith started the public facing changes to the Alberta healthcare system.
- This started with dismissing the Alberta Health Services board and installed a new administrator.
- The administrator served the government before under Premier Allison Redford.
- The new administrator, Dr. John Cowell is to attempt to provide some immediate relief to the system.
- Health Minister Jason Copping along with Dr. John Cowell and the Premier held a press conference and detailed the problems they want fixed quickly.
- And the decision to replace the board was made because they need a governance structure that can work quickly — more on how the board worked later.
- In the eyes of the Minister and Premier the current process isn’t working fast enough which results in patients waiting too long.
- There are four key planks which are targeted for improvement.
- 1. Improve EMS response times: https://youtu.be/nUrY_NsG3m8?t=998
- 2. Decrease emergency wait times: https://youtu.be/nUrY_NsG3m8?t=1048
- 3. Reduce wait times for surgery: https://youtu.be/nUrY_NsG3m8?t=1192
- 4. Develop long term reforms with consultation: https://youtu.be/nUrY_NsG3m8?t=1273
- Dr. John Cowell said that no one is denying the problem. It’s been heard from everyone from front line workers to government to patients.
- There is very little concrete news of what is going to be done but just that there’s a flow that’s going to be examined.
- As it was put in the press conference the flow from EMS to admission and the associated bed problems and surgical wait times all tie in together.
- In summarizing his job, Dr. Cowell said, “my job is to quickly and rapidly evaluate (AHS) leadership, (AHS) organizational structure, how are decisions are actually being implemented, acted upon, and how can I expedite that so that we can get action in play now?”
- In the Q&A section following the press conference the metrics that are being put out for success right now are an improvement from where we are at.
- There has also been questions of how this will be carried out given that there was no concrete actions listed that were going to be taken.
- The understanding from the press conference and Q&A is that practices of observing, analyzing, and then coming up with a business plan of action.
- Now people are probably wondering, why get rid of the board?
- The legislation in the province specifies that the health service can be run by an official administrator for a board.
- The Official Administrator is a Dedicated full time position rather than part time strategic board.
- The Health Minister was clear that this is a temporary fix to drive immediate changes. The Board will be restored later.
- And this is why that decision was made: the board was part time. Despite it being a 13 member board, one member who quit previously and another wrote a scathing open letter, these people did not work the stereotypical 9-5 job of supporting healthcare.
- They were part time and convened only when required by AHS.
- The full time administrator will be full time in that there will likely be more than the usual 9-5 hours put in. Dr. John Cowell said this was a major factor that he had to discuss with family since he retired.
- The questions of course immediately meandered to what about private care.
- The province this week announced that some orthopaedic surgeries will be done in charter facilities that will be covered by the province.
- There was also the idea of using private ambulance services for patient transport to free up EMS. This would allow for the right vehicle to be used since an ambulance isn’t always required.
- Everybody in this press conference was clear that all surgeries even in charter facilities will be covered under the publicly funded model. And the same would go for any means of transportation.
- The idea from the media which is largely driven by the opposition is that change can happen overnight.
- But before you embark on any major changes touching the province’s biggest ministry, we had better make sure that the changes are the ones that are needed.
- And anyone who watched the press conference will see that this is the route the province is taking rather than making large wholesale changes up front.
- Perhaps the biggest indicator of future change is on the horizon: the fourth goal of Dr. John Cowell will be to develop long term reforms with consultation.
- This needs to take us down the road of considering everything from more funding and staff to streamlining of systems to private models seen in Europe and elsewhere.
- This should have been the point of discussion this week but the histrionics of the healthcare industry in Alberta prevented it from reaching everyday Albertans.
- The BC Liberal Party, having no relation to the federal Liberal Party in quite some time, has decided to change its name to BC United. Party Leader Kevin Falcon announced the results of a membership vote on the name change on Wednesday — in which 80 per cent of those who cast a ballot supported the move — following a process that began at the party's June convention with the support of Falcon, who won the leadership vote in February.
- Voting began Nov. 13 and wrapped Wednesday. Approximately 8,100 or 18% of the party's 45,000 members cast a ballot in the vote, which included both phone and online voting options.
- Falcon had made renaming the party one of the planks of his policy platform during his leadership campaign. He said he was 'thrilled' as he announced the name change, saying it signifies a party "united by values, united by determination." He said B.C. United represents a big tent party that unites people “regardless of who they choose to love or what God they choose to pray to.”
- The name change comes as fairweather voters in BC have been long confused by the difference in the name and its values, often thinking that it is the provincial wing of the Trudeau Liberals. In reality, over the past three and a half decades, the party has pretty much become the centre-right counterbalance to the centre-left NDP, an odd provincial coalition of federal Liberals and Conservatives that banded together to keep the NDP out of power.
- Of course, rebranding is a gamble for any party, because there’s a risk of turning off some voters. The new name will likely play well with the conservative side of the coalition; however, it could alienate federal Liberals worried that the party is shifting to the right.
- It's hard to know if the strategy will win over centrist voters in suburban Metro Vancouver ridings who traditionally voted B.C. Liberal but flipped to the NDP during the 2020 election, handing the Liberals their lowest seat count in three decades. Since Falcon took the reins of the party in February, he’s pushed for a name change in the hopes of revitalizing the party following those disastrous election results.
- Falcon dismissed suggestions that the name change represents a shift to the right for his party and an effort to court B.C. Conservatives, a party that gained a larger share of the vote during recent byelections in Surrey South and Falcon’s riding of Vancouver-Quilchena.
- The party did not have an estimate for how much it will cost to rebrand their logo, website and campaign literature. The B.C. Liberals have consistently been out-fundraised by the B.C. NDP, raising $355,852 from July 1 to Sept. 30 compared to $988,265 raised by the governing party during the same period according to Elections B.C.
- Currently, a Google search for "BC United" points to a basketball club based out of North Vancouver, and it has been said that BC United sounds more like a sports team name rather than a political party. It will remain to be seen how the new name will play with voters, and if it will retain the feeling of the free enterprise coalition that governed the province between 2001 and 2017.
- It’s unclear how soon the name change will take effect. The party executive said the vote must be ratified in early 2023 and the constitution amended before deciding on when to make the switch. Falcon said the party must be strategic about the timing to ensure the B.C. NDP don’t call a snap election immediately after the rebranding. That could put the governing party at an advantage if the electorate aren’t yet familiar with B.C. United.
- Falcon, who doesn’t believe incoming premier David Eby when he says he won’t call an election before the fixed date in October 2024, said the party will “make sure we implement (the new name) when it makes sense for us.”
- Speaking of David Eby, he has now been sworn in as premier, as John Horgan's retirement takes effect. The new B.C. premier announced on Friday morning families and small businesses in B.C. will get a one-time cost of living credit on their BC Hydro bill this fall, and a new B.C. Affordability Credit in January.
- A BC Hydro bill credit of $100 will be provided to all eligible residential and commercial electricity customers, including those who receive their electricity service indirectly from BC Hydro through FortisBC or a municipal utility. Commercial ratepayers, including small and medium businesses like restaurants and tourism operators, will receive a one-time bill credit averaging $500.
- The B.C. Affordability Credit is separate and will be based on income. Eligible people and families will automatically receive the new credit through the Canada Revenue Agency, the same way the enhanced Climate Action Tax Credit was received in October. An eligible person making an income of up to $36,901 will receive the maximum BC Affordability Credit with the credit fully phasing out at $79,376.
- The premier expects to continue on with former premier John Horgan’s mandate with a focus on affordability issues. Eby said: “British Columbia is a wonderful place to call home. At the same time, people are feeling uncertain about the future and worried about their families. I’m proud of the work done by John Horgan and our government to put people first. And there’s so much more to do. I’m ready to get to work with my team to deliver results that people will be able to see and feel in their lives and in their communities.”
- BC remains a very expensive place to live, and the province's top two parties will likely remain focused on affordability issues as we head into the next year. We will have to see how each party decides to tackle the issues, but for now, the NDP are continuing to give money back through indirect means rather than by cutting taxes. We'll watch to see if the approach helps. As for the BC Liberals, we'll keep an eye on if their new name of BC United helps or hurts the party.
- Much of the news this week regarding the G20 summit in Bali that has trickled back to home has been of Justin Trudeau’s interaction with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
- The two had an interaction that was caught on camera that can be summarized as follows: the Chinese President confronted Justin Trudeau for leaking details of the conversation to the media.
- Xi speaks through an interpreter and said, “everything we discussed has been leaked to the paper; that’s not appropriate. And that’s not… the way the conversation was conducted, if there is sincerity on your part.”
- Trudeau’s response was that, “in Canada, we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have… We will continue to look to work constructively together, but there will be things we disagree on.”
- Xi simply responded “let’s create the conditions first.”
- This interaction is striking since it was only revealed last week that China has effectively infiltrated Canada.
- Early this week a Hydro-Quebec employee was charged with espionage for sending trade secrets to China.
- We still don’t know which MPs campaigns or offices had received funding from China and where the operatives worked. There has been no movement on this file since last week when in reality this is something that Canadians deserve to know.
- The interaction between Trudeau and Xi is one thing but Canadian media in their discussion of it have all but legitimized China.
- Aside from the war in Ukraine, China remains the biggest geopolitical threat today and as evidenced, our nation is at risk.
- An opinion piece in the National Post said that Xi took “Justin Trudeau down a peg.”
- Let us be clear: media also on the other side of this debate have published wonderful headlines for the Prime Minister.
- The reality is, we have no concrete action or info about who in Canada was infiltrated by China as first revealed in the reporting from last week.
- The stance of the National Post opinion piece is that Justin Trudeau was doing his usual politican-like thing where he amplifies and grandstands over an issue, this time about democracy in Canada.
- The article rightly highlights China’s egregious human rights abuses and the fact that we are getting ripped off on trade despite the fact the Trudeau government wanted a free trade deal with China.
- The article also talks about the US warning us about Huawei.
- The issue that stands though is that the article by its very nature is standing on the side of President Xi Jinping.
- It does this because it criticizes Justin Trudeau for the only public interaction that has happened so far in relation to the spying revelations.
- We know the PMO leaks like a sieve. And whether or not the details were intentionally leaked is another question, they shouldn’t have been, at the end of the day Canada’s interests must come first.
- And that relies on not elevating Xi Jinping.
- Sun columnist Brian Lilley also ran a headline, “Little Potato peeled, China’s Xi dresses down Trudeau at summit”
- The reason this headline was made is that the word “Trudeau” when said in Chinese almost sounds like their word for potato and being Pierre Trudeau’s son, Justin is known as the little potato by China.
- The issue highlighted in the Sun is that the presentation Justin Trudeau put on in the eyes of the columnist is that Trudeau appeared physically meek.
- [our commentary on body language]
- There is only so much that can be done in a public interaction that is but seconds long and through an interpreter at best.
- Body language and leaks are an issue and always important but the discussion this week has become about Justin Trudeau’s interaction rather than what Canada is going to be doing to secure ourselves against China going forward.
- That includes figuring out where the money went and who and what was compromised.
- We also need to further our actions to decouple and move businesses away from China and elsewhere until they start playing by the rules.
- That was evident before COVID and hopefully has become even more evident as we move into the future.
Quote of the Week
“In Canada, we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have… We will continue to look to work constructively together, but there will be things we disagree on.” - Justin Trudeau on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s reaction to their conversations being leaked.
Word of the Week
Definition - a statement of the exact meaning of a word, especially in a dictionary.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Changing Definition
Teaser: The Freedom Convoy wasn’t a CSIS threat, Alberta makes changes to AHS, and the BC Liberals vote to change their name to BC United. Also, a confrontation between Xi Jinping and Trudeau overshadows China’s growing influence.
Recorded Date: November 19, 2022
Release Date: November 20, 2022
Edit Notes: CSIS start
Podcast Summary Notes