The News Rundown
- Friday was a busy news day and as the saying goes, most things released on Friday are done to avoid coverage, we’ll see if that’s what happens with the newly released report into the Trudeau government’s use of the Emergencies Act.
- After invoking the Emergencies Act last February a public inquiry was triggered and this week saw the public release of Commissioner Paul Rouleau’s 5-volume, 2,000 page plus report.
- The report concluded that the Prime Minister and cabinet met the requirement for invoking the act.
- The executive summary at 273 pages long details a failure of federalism, failures of policing, and failures of political leaders to diffuse the situation before it reached a crisis point.
- Commissioner Rouleau traced the origins back to the COVID policies put in place saying that governments “responded in good faith to circumstances as they understood them” and that those retrains “imposed real hardship on thousands of Canadians.”
- In his statement at the tabling of the report, he wrote, “when new rules that limited the ability of unvaccinated truckers to cross the Canada-U.S. border were announced, this served as a rallying point for those who disagreed with government policy.”
- He also addressed the point that the majority of those engaged in protest were doing so lawfully and peacefully.
- While Rouleau did come to the conclusion that the threshold was met, he said he did not come to the conclusion easily saying, “I do not come to this conclusion easily, as I do not consider the factual basis for it to be overwhelming. Reasonable and informed people could reach a different conclusion than the one I have arrived at… I also reach this conclusion reluctantly… The state should generally be able to respond to circumstances of urgency without the use of emergency powers.”
- He also says that the situation could likely have been avoided as well coming back to policing failures that can be described as small yet significant.
- He also called on political leaders and government leaders at all levels “to rise above politics and collaborate for the common good.”
- The report also said, “more of an effort should have been made by government leaders at all levels during the protests to acknowledge that the majority of protestors were exercising their fundamental democratic right.”
- In responding to the report, the Prime Minister said that he regrets referring to the entire group of protestors as a “fringe minority” with “unacceptable views.”
- The Prime Minister further said, “The fact is there is a very small number of people in this country who deliberately spread misinformation and disinformation that led to Canadians deaths that lead to excessive hardship in people who believe them… But that is a small subset of people who were just hurting and worrying and wanting to be heard.”
- In responding to media coverage of the report, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said, “I condemn anyone who behaves badly or blockades critical infrastructure, while standing on the side of the hard working people who have suffered so much under 8 years of Justin Trudeau and were desperately trying to have their voices heard against an insulting and divisive Prime Minister. The only reason we had this emergency is because Justin Trudeau wanted it to happen, he wanted to distract and divide Canadians from the pain and suffering that he has caused by driving up their cost of living, making it impossible for our youth to own homes, by taxing our working class, and by imposing unnecessary and unscientific rules that brought an end to the livelihood for countless heroes that we needed for our economy.”
- The report includes 52 recommendations that are not binding to the government or police forces.
- We’re not going to go through the entire 273 page executive summary but some of the more interesting recommendations are as follows.
- Should invocation of the Emergencies Act be necessary and
- to the extent that circumstances permit, the federal government should co-operate with the provinces to ensure that the measures it adopts to deal with the emergency comply with the requirements of subsection 19(3) of the Act so as to mitigate any infringement on provincial jurisdiction.
- This of course comes to the heavy handed approach where provincial leaders in Alberta and Manitoba had said they didn’t need the Act invoked and were able to utilize their own provincial resources to clear the blockades.
- Recommendation 43 is also interesting in that it reads: A Government that has declared a public order emergency
- should be bound to produce to the resulting commission of inquiry all of the inputs to Cabinet and to ministers on the issue. “Inputs to Cabinet” should be understood as encompassing all information, advice, and recommendations provided to Cabinet, Cabinet Committees, or individual ministers.
- This means that by default cabinet communications on the matter should be provided to the inquiry.
- And finally, on the same vein, recommendation 49: The Emergencies Act should be amended, subject to any constitutional constraints, to clarify that a federal Parliamentarian may not claim Parliamentary privilege to refuse to testify before a commission of inquiry into a public order emergency.
- This means if you’re going to walk the talk, you need to be able to produce whatever evidence you feel you have and it can’t be locked behind Parliamentary privilege.
- The report also calls for a modernization on the government’s understanding of crypto currency - a topic for another day.
- On the freezing of assets, something the media did not touch on that much, the report effectively says that the net was cast too wide.
- The example given is that if someone had a joint bank account with a protester that person could have their accounts frozen even if they had nothing to do with the protests.
- The report also says that the federal government while intending to cut off financial support was using the threat of asset freezing to convince ordinary protestors to leave when in testimony Department of Finance officials said that the intention was to freeze aspects of leadership or major supporters.
- This once again fits within Justin Trudeau’s distract and divide campaign.
- Before we wrap, a quick and final note on foreign funding, many in the media and those against the protests felt that “foreign funding” or Russian bots were involved in funding the freedom convoy. But the report says that the “spectre of ‘foreign funding” of the Freedom Convoy… was arguably overblown.”
- In tying everything together we end up with a situation where Canada broke. It was a failure of federalism exacerbated by policing failures and governments.
- Going forward there needs to be an effort made to amend the Emergencies Act with some of the recommendations of the report and broader efforts need to be made to enshrine freedom for all Canadian citizens.
- The report points in this general direction, the Emergencies Act needing amendments, but with such a tool political leaders will need to be careful that they don’t further create an implement to remove freedoms.
- In the US, what the government did would see calls for impeachment of officials.
- This episode also sends a message to any leaders that the Emergencies Act can be used as a political tool should the need arise and that’s the most disturbing part that no one has picked up on.
- As such amendments to the Act are something we’ll be watching going forward.
- Farmed salmon in BC have always been a controversial topic, with supporters of the industry saying that they provide thousands of jobs in rural communities along the BC coast where there are few economic opportunities, as well as supplying a more affordable source of protein for Canadian families. Opponents of the industry point to the decrease in wild salmon stocks, a link between disease spread from farmed to wild salmon, and various other environmental concerns.
- This week's news set off another firestorm of debate about the ethics and necessity of BC's salmon farms, as federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray decided against renewing licences for 15 open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the Discovery Islands area. The Discovery Islands are in a fairly remote area of the province, located north of the small town of Campbell River, between Vancouver Island and the mainland part of BC.
- Murray said wild salmon are in serious, long-term decline, with some runs near collapse and the government is making their protection its priority. The minister said her decision was “difficult,” and she spent the afternoon providing her reasons in phone calls to First Nations and industry officials before making the announcement.
- She said of the decision: “I have to take into account the plight of wild salmon, which are in a state of serious decline. I decided this was a situation that deserved very precautious measures and that’s why I made the decision not to re-licence the Atlantic salmon aquaculture facilities in the Discovery Islands.”
- Murray said the Discovery Islands’ area is a key migration route for wild salmon where narrow passages bring migrating juvenile salmon into close contact with the farms. Wild salmon face multiple threats, including climate change, habitat degradation and overfishing, but keeping fish farms out of the Discovery Islands’ area is a move the government can make to lessen their challenges, she said. Murray also said recent science indicates uncertainty over the risks posed by the farms to wild salmon, and the government is committed to developing a responsible plan to transition away from open-net farming in coastal B.C. waters.
- Murray said the decision came after extensive consultations with First Nations, the industry and others, and the department is taking a “highly precautionary” approach to managing salmon farming in the area.
- Murray said: “From my perspective, because wild salmon are iconic for British Columbians, First Nations and non-First Nations alike, and that there are those cumulative pressures on wild salmon, I have to not only do everything I can to protect wild salmon through reducing fisheries and rebuilding habitat, I also need to eliminate the risk of additional stressors from salmon aquaculture.”
- Murray’s mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked her with developing the plan to shift from open-net salmon farming in B.C. waters by 2025, while working to introduce Canada’s first Aquaculture Act. Fisheries and Oceans said last summer that open-net salmon farms may continue operating during a consultation process, with the final plan to transition 79 farms expected to be released later in the year.
- Former B.C. premier John Horgan sent a letter to Trudeau last March saying there was widespread concern the federal government is poised to make a decision that could threaten hundreds of jobs and the economies of coastal communities. Murray said the federal government is committed to developing a “responsible plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in coastal B.C. waters.”
- B.C.’s First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance issued a statement supporting the decision. Alliance spokesman Bob Chamberlin said: “Minister Murray made a strong decision today and demonstrated great leadership advancing the DFO primary objective of environmental protection and safeguarding wild salmon.”
- But Murray’s decision was far from universally applauded. The Coalition of First Nations Finfish Stewardship, representing some First Nations in the Discovery Islands’ area, said in a statement the decision doesn’t respect their sovereignty to operate fish farms in their traditional waters. Coalition spokesman Dallas Smith said: “First Nations from the coast are trying to find their feet when it comes to reclaiming what was taken away from them by the federal government. Whether it’s creating marine protected areas or deciding whether they want to host fish farms, coastal Nations are trying to take back their inherent rights to manage their traditional waters.”
- Smith said: “This was not about protecting the sector or the companies operating in it. This was about the sovereignty of the Laich-kwil-tach Nations and their right to decide for themselves whether salmon farming, or any other resource, is the right fit for their marine plans. Unfortunately, the decision was once again taken away from them by a government located 5,000 kilometres away.”
- The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance said the decision will cut jobs in rural communities and increase food costs. In a statement the alliance said: “This decision goes against First Nations Reconciliation, increases food costs for Canadians and undermines food security, and has broad-reaching implications for employment and economic opportunity for people in rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and our global trading markets.”
- The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association has said an economic analysis concluded the province could lose more than 4,700 jobs and up to $1.2 billion in economic activity annually if salmon farm licences aren’t renewed. It called Murray’s decision “devastating” for the coastal communities that rely on the aquaculture sector. Brian Kingzett, the association’s executive director said: “Local communities have been hurting since the decision to remove the farms was announced in 2020, and thanks to this wilfully uninformed decision announced earlier today, these communities will continue to experience negative socio-economic impacts of an outcome that was based on politics rather than science.”
- The B.C. government made a statement saying it is disappointed that the announcement did not include a support plan for First Nations communities. BC Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen said: “We are disappointed that (Friday’s) announcement does not outline a federal support plan for First Nations, communities and workers that rely on salmon aquaculture for their livelihoods.
- The idea that the decision was made on politics rather than science may have some merit. Sea lice on salmon farms in British Columbia do not impact on the prevalence of the naturally occurring parasite on migrating wild stocks, states a new Federal Government science report.
- The peer-reviewed Science Response Report published on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) website by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat (CSAS) concludes there is “no statistically relevant association” regarding sea lice and the production of farmed salmon.
- The report dismantles a key claim by anti-fish farming activists’ groups that hazardous levels of naturally occurring parasitic sea lice in B.C. waters should necessitate the shutting down of the salmon farming industry.
- Previous studies have already shown that in B.C., regardless of the presence or absence of salmon farms, there is wide variability in sea lice prevalence in coastal locations. Research over the past decade shows lice levels are significantly linked with ocean conditions and variations in wild hosts.
- The new report adds to the nine previous CSAS science reviews (2020) on salmon aquaculture in BC, that concluded “minimal risk” to Fraser River Sockeye salmon from all relevant fish pathogens of concern.
- Still, some scientists have claimed that the DFO's study got it all completely wrong. Sean Godwin, a post-doctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University, said that “It is one of the worst pieces of science I’ve ever seen come out of a government agency.” He’s not alone in his concern. On January 30, he and 15 other academic scientists wrote to Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray to share their “professional dismay at serious scientific failings” in the report. The letter says “This report falls far short of the standards of credible independent peer review and publishable science.”
- So for a layman looking in on this, it's hard to know who is in the right. You have scientists, government agencies and First Nations on either side of the argument. One thing is for sure, wild salmon are in peril, but so are rural job opportunities, and in a state of rising inflation, making decisions that cause food to cost even more is a dangerous one.
- It's an incredibly tough balancing act, and likely no matter which decision was made, it was likely to upset someone. The problem is that it's incredibly tough to figure out what is the right move, because the media reports on the matter are either biased in one direction or another.That's why Western Context is here, to provide both sides in a balanced manner, and show just how the media gets it wrong.
- This past week Edmonton City Council took up the idea of what could effectively be called a “mansions tax.”
- The idea put forward by Ward Papastew Councillor Michael Janz said that those who live in multi-million dollar properties should pay more property tax.
- With this there would also be lower taxes for apartments and multi-family dwellings.
- The city also has a goal of moving the city to a higher density model with less sprawl and to this are encouraging new builds to be in-fills often known as skinny houses.
- The proposal doesn’t say it but if this is the path the city were to go down, it’s likely to assume that these properties would have a lower property tax rate since they’re favoured by the city.
- City Administration reported back on the idea saying that it likely wouldn’t be possible to do under the current Municipal Government Act.
- The Act as presently defined gives council the ability to create subclasses based on how properties are categorized based on physical characteristics.
- The law would have to change if it were to be influenced by value.
- Municipal and Real Estate lawyer Robert Noce, who also happens to be a former City Councillor, agreed that it likely would not be possible.
- He said, “You can create subclasses of the type of property. I do not read the legislation to be broad enough to create the type of mansions tax that’s being discussed … you cannot single out mansions. I suspect people (would) definitely challenge this, because there are not only legal implications, but there is a marketing perspective for the city in terms of bringing people into our city.”
- Properties are already taxed based on how large they are independent of value but one of the big reasons this should not be done is that the real estate market is volatile.
- Characteristics of homes are static.
- In the past we’ve talked about tear downs in Vancouver valued at north of $500,000. Values in Edmonton are still relatively sane but what if the worst were to happen and average bungalows skyrocketed to Vancouver values?
- That means that someone in a bungalow today or small home would have their taxes go up independent of anything they did. Just because someone’s home is worth over a million dollars doesn’t mean that they have the means to pay taxes as this proposal is inferring.
- Councillor Janz also said that he sees this as a means of generating more revenue for the city, in particular he said, “We clearly need to look under every rock to find revenue, so is it a silver bullet? Is it going to be an easy vote at council to get this done? No. There are many more steps there.”
- The operative part of that statement is that there are many more steps there.
- Janz first proposed this last year in a petition on his candidate website. It also shows that elements of City Council including Janz are willing to entertain the idea and work towards it.
- Janz himself was aligned with the NDP in the most recent municipal election. He received the endorsement of Edmonton area NDP MLAs including deputy leader Sarah Hoffman and his campaign was managed by Rachel Notley’s husband, Lou Arab.
- Political parties have been shunned at the municipal level but this policy proposal shows them at work on the current council.
- Edmontonians and Albertans need to take very clear note of this policy and the upcoming provincial election.
- The Edmonton City Council majority would work better with an NDP government and some policies like this would be possible under an NDP government given the similarities in ideology.
- This is a connection no one has made and people don’t realize that the province can exert its sway on what the municipalities can or can’t do.
- There is a very high likelihood that most if not all provincial seats in Edmonton will go to the NDP and these residents need to question if they support the policy moves of those like Janz on council and realize that they could more easily become a reality under an NDP government.
- Recently released documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, otherwise known as CSIS, confirm what we knew all along, that China's ruling Communist Party employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign. Chinese diplomats and their proxies backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals – but only to another minority government – and worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.
- The full extent of the Chinese interference operation is laid bare in both secret and top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service documents viewed by The Globe and Mail that cover the period before and after the September, 2021, election that returned the Liberals to office. The CSIS reports were shared among senior government officials and Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence allies of the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Some of this intelligence was also shared with French and German spy services.
- Over the past decade, China, under President Xi Jinping, has adopted a more aggressive foreign policy as it seeks to expand its political, economic and military influence around the world. China wants to build acceptance abroad for its claims on Taiwan, a self-ruled island that it considers a breakaway province and still reserves the right to annex by force. And it seeks to play down its conduct in Xinjiang, where the office of former UN Human Rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet last year said China has committed “serious human-rights violations” in the region, which may amount to crimes against humanity.
- Similarly it wants to generate support for a draconian 2020 national-security law to silence opposition and dissent in Hong Kong, a former British colony that Beijing had once promised would be allowed to retain Western-style civil liberties for 50 years.
- Beijing also seeks to quell foreign support for Tibet, a region China invaded and annexed more than 70 years ago, and to discourage opposition to Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea and sweeping maritime claims in the region.
- MPs on the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee are already looking into allegations that China interfered in the 2019 election campaign to support 11 candidates, most of them Liberal, in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
- Drawn from a series of CSIS intelligence-gathering operations, the documents illustrate how an orchestrated machine was operating in Canada with two primary aims: to ensure that a minority Liberal government was returned in 2021, and that certain Conservative candidates identified by China were defeated. The classified reports reveal that China’s former consul-general in Vancouver, Tong Xiaoling, boasted in 2021 about how she helped defeat two Conservative MPs.
- The documents say the Chinese Communist Party leadership in Beijing was “pressuring its consulates to create strategies to leverage politically [active] Chinese community members and associations within Canadian society.” Beijing uses Canadian organizations to advocate on their behalf “while obfuscating links to the People’s Republic of China.”
- But despite being seen by China as the best leader for Canada, Beijing also wanted to keep Mr. Trudeau’s power in check – with a second Liberal minority in Parliament as the ideal outcome. In early July, 2021 – eight weeks before election day – one consular official at an unnamed Chinese diplomatic mission in Canada said Beijing “likes it when the parties in Parliament are fighting with each other, whereas if there is a majority, the party in power can easily implement policies that do not favour the PRC.” While the Chinese diplomat expressed unhappiness that the Liberals had recently become critical of China, the official added that the party is better than the alternatives.
- Most important, the intelligence reports show that Beijing was determined that the Conservatives did not win. China employed disinformation campaigns and proxies connected to Chinese-Canadian organizations in Vancouver and the GTA, which have large mainland Chinese immigrant communities, to voice opposition to the Conservatives and favour the Trudeau Liberals.
- The CSIS documents reveal that Chinese diplomats and their proxies, including some members of the Chinese-language media, were instructed to press home that the Conservative Party was too critical of China and that, if elected, it would follow the lead of former U.S. president Donald Trump and ban Chinese students from certain universities or education programs.
- CSIS report quoted the Chinese consulate official as saying: “This will threaten the future of the voters’ children, as it will limit their education opportunities. The Liberal Party of Canada is becoming the only party that the PRC can support.”
- CSIS also explained how Chinese diplomats conduct foreign interference operations in support of political candidates and elected officials. Tactics include undeclared cash donations to political campaigns or having business owners hire international Chinese students and “assign them to volunteer in electoral campaigns on a full-time basis.”
- Sympathetic donors are also encouraged to provide campaign contributions to candidates favoured by China – donations for which they receive a tax credit from the federal government. Then, the CSIS report from Dec. 20, 2021 says, political campaigns quietly, and illegally, return part of the contribution – “the difference between the original donation and the government’s refund” – back to the donors.
- A key part of their interference operation is to influence vulnerable Chinese immigrants in Canada. The intelligence reports quote an unnamed Chinese consulate official as saying it’s “easy to influence Chinese immigrants to agree with the PRC’s stance.”
- A month after the September, 2021, vote, CSIS reported that it was “well-known within the Chinese-Canadian community of British Columbia” that Tong, then the Vancouver consul-general, “wanted the Liberal Party to win the 2021 election,” one of the reports said.
- CSIS noted that Ms. Tong, who returned to China in July, 2022, and former consul Wang Jin made “discreet and subtle efforts” to encourage members of Chinese-Canadian organizations to rally votes for the Liberals and defeat Conservative candidates.
- CSIS said Wang has direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), a vast organization that uses mostly covert and often manipulative operations to influence overseas ethnic Chinese communities and foreign governments. CSIS said Wang served as an intermediary between the UFWD and Chinese-Canadian community leaders in British Columbia.
- In early November, 2021, CSIS reported, Tong discussed the defeat of a Vancouver-area Conservative, whom she described as a “vocal distractor” of the Chinese government. A national-security source said the MP was Kenny Chiu, who was targeted in retaliation for his criticism of China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and his 2021 private member’s bill aiming to establish a registry of foreign agents, an effort inspired by similar Australian legislation to combat foreign interference. The United States has a long-standing registry; Canada is still studying the matter.
- According to CSIS, Ms. Tong talked about China’s efforts to influence mainland Chinese-Canadian voters against the Conservative Party. She said Mr. Chiu’s loss proved “their strategy and tactics were good, and contributed to achieving their goals while still adhering to the local political customs in a clever way.” In mid-November, CSIS reported that an unnamed Chinese consular official said the loss of Chiu and fellow Conservative MP Alice Wong substantiated the growing electoral influence of mainland Chinese-Canadians.
- However, the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force set up by the Trudeau government to monitor threats to federal elections never issued any public warning about foreign interference during the 2019 or 2021 campaigns.
- Trudeau has said it found no meddling, telling the Commons in November of last year that the task force “determined that the integrity of our elections was not compromised in 2019 or 2021.” He also told reporters that “Canadians can be reassured that our election integrity held” in the two elections.
- Trudeau said Canadian voters alone decided the last federal election as he played down a report Friday that China tried to unduly sway the outcome. The prime minister allowed that he has long said that China is trying to interfere in Canada's democracy, including during elections. Under a federal protocol, there would be a public announcement if a panel of senior bureaucrats determined that an incident — or an accumulation of incidents — threatened Canada’s ability to have a free and fair election.
- There was no such announcement in 2021 or concerning the 2019 election. In both ballots, the Liberals were returned to government with minority mandates while the Conservatives formed the official Opposition.
- Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused Justin Trudeau on Friday of ignoring Chinese interference in the most recent federal election because Beijing's efforts were aimed at helping the Liberals — but Trudeau said his government is taking the threat seriously.
- Poilievre said Friday he finds it hard to believe Trudeau wasn't aware of CSIS's findings. He said: "Justin Trudeau knew about this interference, and he covered it up because he benefited from it. He's perfectly happy to let a foreign, authoritarian government interfere in our elections as long as they're helping him."
- Critics of the government have pressed it to come up with a more aggressive strategy on foreign interference since a Global News story last year said CSIS briefed the prime minister on Chinese plans to interfere in the 2019 election. The government has faced calls to establish a foreign agents' registry, like those in the United States and Australia.
- Poilievre said: "I believe we need a public registry of all those who do paid work on behalf of foreign, authoritarian regimes."
- This story flew completely under the radar and was overshadowed by the Emergencies Act report, which painted the government in a good light. The fact that we now know for sure that China has been interfering in our elections, and will likely continue to do so, and the federal government has not done hardly anything to fix the issues or mitigate them for the future, is troubling.
Quote of the Week
“First Nations from the coast are trying to find their feet when it comes to reclaiming what was taken away from them by the federal government…[C]oastal Nations are trying to take back their inherent rights to manage their traditional waters. This was about the sovereignty of the Laich-kwil-tach Nations and their right to decide for themselves whether salmon farming, or any other resource, is the right fit for their marine plans. Unfortunately, the decision was once again taken away from them by a government located 5,000 kilometres away.” - Coalition of First Nations Finfish Stewardship spokesman Dallas Smith on the federal government’s decision to not renew 15 salmon farm licenses.
Word of the Week
Sovereignty - supreme power or authority.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Balancing Act
Teaser: The Emergencies Act commission report has been released, the DFO is shutting down 15 BC coastal salmon farms, and an Edmonton councillor proposes a mansion tax. Also, CSIS confirms that China has interfered in our elections.
Recorded Date: February 18, 2023
Release Date: February 19, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes