The News Rundown
- This week, the federal government created a controversy all on their own, by sticking their fingers into something that did not need to be changed. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser lauded the new ability for Canadians to renew their passports online, as the government unveiled a new design for the Canadian travel document.
- The federal government mentioned in a press release that “The new passport has been redesigned from cover to cover with state-of-the-art security features and new artwork, maintaining its status as one of the most secure and universally accepted travel documents in the world for all Canadians.”
- Rather than being praised, the new passport look has seen intense backlash. Inside images of the country’s history, including Terry Fox and Vimy Ridge, are replaced with images of Canada’s diversity, nature and wildlife.
- Gone are Nellie McClung, instrumental in obtaining the vote for Canadian women, the Bluenose, a 1920s racing schooner that became a symbol of ordinary working Canadians using grit and ingenuity to defeat wealthier and better-resourced American challenger, and the Grey cup and Stanley Cups, trophies that have attracted the respect and worship of generations of Canadian youth.
- Instead in their place are pastoral images that showcase Canada's environment without any semblance of history. For instance, one page shows a lot of leaves on the ground with a couple raking and wheelbarrowing them away. Another shows a group of people enjoying a canoe trip on a lake, and people swimming. Another page shows the extraction of maple syrup, and a pumpkin and corn field.
- However, it is the removal of Terry Fox, a Canadian national icon that inspired the world to do better that has people upset. Dave Teixeira, the organizer of the Terry Fox Hometown Run, says that Fox’s efforts and story should be showcased in any way possible: “I would advocate that [Terry Fox] should be on more things. He’s one of Canada’s greatest heroes. He was a young person in the early 80s who inspired a nation and a world to do better. And because of him, there’s been a lot of suffering that’s been alleviated because of the money raised for cancer (research). To remove such an iconic Canadian in place of what I’ll call such generic Canadiana imagery makes absolutely no sense.”
- Brad West, who is the mayor of Fox’s hometown of Port Coquitlam, is also weighing in, expressing his displeasure. He said on Twitter: “I’m the Mayor of Terry Fox’s hometown. Whoever made the decision to remove Terry Fox from Canadian passports needs to give their head a shake. Our country needs more Terry Fox, not less.”
- Sean Fraser said the new Canadian passport is more than a travel document; it is a representation of our national identity and values. However, it seemingly removes many of the historical identifiers of Canada, and replaces them with nondescript scenes instead.
- Fraser said: “The new passport celebrates Canada’s heritage and identity with iconic images of Canada’s natural beauty throughout the four seasons. It also includes a new cover design with an outline of a maple leaf — the first significant change in decades.”
- What's sad is that the apparent 10-year public consultation that led to the new visuals filling the passport fail to look earnestly at our history and to address it in a new, modern and relevant context.
- Perhaps significant changes in the passport are not what the federal government should be focusing on right now. Then again, the Trudeau government has made mountains out of issues that do not need to be changed, like their excessively prohibitive gun control measures, internet content regulation, or even changing the national anthem. Instead, real problems and issues that Canadians face go unaddressed. The problem is not with the passport, it's with the Canadian government's priorities.
- One of the stories that has been consistent in the news across the nation has been the repeat violence in our cities.
- Stabbings, at times random, have made their way to the top of the news cycle with imagery of the crime scenes with sheets draped over bodies and weapons shown in the news reporting.
- We’ve seen commitments in the campaign already to hire more police officers and social workers. But there is still a case that more needs to be done.
- A plan put forward by the UCP includes increasing the monitoring of dangerous offenders who have been released from custody on bail as well as hiring sheriffs to monitor them.
- They will be monitored by utilizing ankle bracelet technology.
- 100 additional patrol officers will also be deployed in Calgary and Edmonton to target drug trafficking, gangs, and child exploitation.
- There’s also a plan to educate the public about Clare’s Law which allows anyone in Alberta to learn about their partner’s possible history of violence.
- With this, the UCP will also increase funding for women’s shelters and sexual assault counselling.
- The UCP has also highlighted the federal Liberal’s catch-and-release bail system that allows for those in jail to get out sooner if they are a part of a marginalized community.
- There is also money for new anti-Fentanyl trafficking teams to hunt down those bringing drugs into our cities.
- The NDP for their campaign promises will up the ante to 150 officers plus social workers and also want to re-invest in affordable housing.
- UCP leader Danielle Smith said, “Albertans deserve to feel safe walking down the street. We have to address gang violence, expand access to mental health and addiction treatments, and keep violent offenders and sexual offenders off our streets. Anything less is unacceptable.”
- On the issue of law and order we’ve talked about the NDP’s candidates who have called for further divestment from the police and many who have supported the Defund the Police movement, a largely American based movement that has been imported into Canada.
- Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi also waded into the debate by unveiling an initiative called the “Meet Me Downtown!” campaign.
- The plan is paired with a vibrancy fund designed to get people to eat, show, and ultimately visit the city centre core.
- This is interesting because the campaign, while good for business, doesn't address or even assume that there is a personal security problem going on downtown.
- The campaign even includes a mascot, Marvin the Meatball that looks like an emoji. We really have to wonder who is living in fantasy land when a mascot named Stabby would’ve likely been a better choice.
- The issues of today require us to address the problem of safety, going forward visual imagery of the random death and gore in our cities is likely going to be the only way to convince people who are on the fence that something is actually wrong.
- Media persuasion by fear is one of the best opinion movers and we saw that actually during the COVID pandemic which in a roundabout way has led us to where we are now.
- With people still suffering in terms of underemployment, unemployment, and worse, someone needs to ask how we got to where we are now when it comes to safety from stabbings and drugs.
- The pandemic also hollowed out the downtown cores by allowing so many people to work from home, that is something that is continuing.
- The vision of a downtown with or without Stabby has to change as we move forward.
- Public safety commitments address the problem of criminals out on bail causing gore, mayhem, and carnage. That needs to be done.
- But no one in the media is asking what the true source of the problem is and what a re-imagined downtown actually looks like.
- These problems will only get worse and affordable housing won’t fix the problem.
- BC has appeared under the international spotlight again, and usually that means it's not for anything good. In an article in the UK's The Guardian, BC is being exposed again for its failure to protect old growth forests.
- TJ Watt, a photographer with the conservation group Ancient Forest Alliance, travelled to Quatsino Sound, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, as a part of an effort to catalogue possible old growth forests. Unfortunately, members of the group had discovered that when they arrived at the forest in Quatsino Sound, they found hundreds of old growth trees that had recently been logged.
- We've highlighted Watt's photos on the podcast before, dating back 5 years, and in the past they have shown the massive difference in an old growth forest before the logging companies descend on the trees, and after everything has been cut down.
- In November 2021, amid mounting public frustration over the destruction of old-growth trees, the British Columbia government deferred logging in 2.6m hectares within the most at-risk forests. The BC government has also pledged to protect 30% of the province’s land area by 2030, part of broader efforts within Canada to meet biodiversity preservation goals.
- Since outlining its planned deferrals, however, less than half of the proposed areas have been agreed upon by the province and First Nations communities, whose consent is required. A number of First Nations are actively involved in the logging industry and would see a drop in revenues if logging in their territory was halted. Groups such as the Ancient Forest Alliance say more funding is needed to help offset lost forestry revenues among First Nations.
- Critics of the province’s deferral plans also say there are problems in the original recommendations, including an admission from the technical advisory panel that a number of forests are likely to have been incorrectly classified as being younger than they actually are. In the case of the cutblock found by Watt, held by Western Forest Products and logged in late 2022, it was classified as 210 years, slightly younger than the province’s 250-year-old threshold for being considered old-growth. The trees in that particular cutblock are actually far older than 250 years and should have been protected.
- Watt says: “It just underscores the fact that the logging industry is racing to cut the biggest and best trees while they still can. Tree-planting does not replicate a complex old-growth forest ecosystem. Knowing this forest could potentially have been left standing, had it been identified properly by the province...It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to see a tree lying on the ground, and to think that it had lived for more than 500 years and then it can be gone in the blink of an eye, never to be seen again.”
- Currently, there are no mechanisms in place for the public or industry to flag forests with trees older than those the province has identified. Watt says that since the province has admitted that the data could be imperfect, there should be an ability for citizens to identify and report to the provincial government areas missed during their surveys.
- The Ministry of Forests replied Friday, by saying that it was “committed to using the best science and data available, and collaborating with First Nations, local communities, and forest companies and others to create a stronger, more sustainable forest economy, prioritizing ecosystem health and community resiliency.”
- Geoff Senichenko, the coordinator of research and mapping at the Wilderness Committee, said while the province has announced old-growth deferrals with First Nations, they haven't released any maps to back up what they are saying.
- Currently though, the province has committed to creating a conservation financing fund by the end of June but so far has not publicly committed any taxpayer money towards it, instead relying on private and philanthropic donations. With economic losses not being offset, logging companies and First Nations have little reason to stop logging old growth.
- Sierra Club BC and Stand.earth have reviewed how the government is living up to 14 recommendations made under the Old-Growth Strategic Review in 2020. The NDP government had previously pledged to carry out those recommendations "in their totality" over a three-year time frame, notes the report. But in every area, the report card found the government is falling short with only six months to go.
- Jens Wieting, a senior forest and climate campaigner at Sierra Club BC says that one of the government's most troubling failures has been its inability to fulfill the Old-Growth Strategic Review Panel's call for a six-month interim protection order for at-risk old-growth. In the fall, the government claimed record-low old-growth logging. That didn't square with what the three environmental groups were seeing on the ground, said Wieting.
- Of all people to take a stand, is a Liberal MP from BC, Patrick Weiler, who represents West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country. He introduced a private member's motion urging the government to stop old-growth logging on federal land and end the export of old-growth products from Canada by 2030. The vast majority of old-growth logging in British Columbia is on provincial Crown land. The federal government controls only about one per cent of land in the province, and none of it is currently being logged.
- However, the provisions banning export of old-growth logs and log products would directly impact logging operations on land controlled by the province. The motion, if supported by the federal government, sends an "important signal" to B.C. and industry that Ottawa is willing to step in to protect old growth. Still, private member's motions are not bills. If passed, the motion would demonstrate that parliament supports the government introducing legislation to carry out these changes. At the end of the day, the federal government can't do much in this area, it all comes down to the BC NDP.
- While many might see this story and simply see it either as an attack on the forestry industry or just a bunch of whiny environmentalists that are never happy, that is missing the point. Just like last week's BC story where we highlighted that what the BC NDP government says and what they do are two different things, Premier David Eby has promised to accelerate plans to protect old growth, but has not taken any concrete steps to doing so, and has allocated no funds towards it in the latest budget.
- It is true that a strong sustainable forestry sector is needed in BC to support the many thousands of jobs around the province, it is possible to do so while protecting the oldest and most vulnerable forests so that future generations may continue to enjoy the beautiful sight of these centuries old ecosystems. BC is a vast province and filled with untapped tourism possibilities and has unique areas not seen anywhere else in the world. If the NDP government continues to talk while not acting, it will be too late.
- All election campaigns have moments, from our coverage of Christy Clark’s #IAmLinda moment to Trudeau’s Liberals turning the debate on Andrew Scheer’s abortion stance, and so many others.
- We have one of those in Alberta this week where the NDP released a chopped video of Danielle Smith talking about healthcare in 2021.
- The allegation is that she wants to sell off hospitals to the private industry where patients would then have to pay to access their services.
- But with a little bit of digging, it’s clear that no one in the media searched for or watched the original video.
- <NDP Rupar cut>
- <Context cut>
- First and foremost what is being suggested is splitting up the roles of purchasers, providers, and auditors for healthcare in Alberta.
- Right now Alberta Health Services pays the hospital to provide services, those providing the services are under Alberta Health Services, and then Alberta Health Services audits their own results.
- What Smith is suggesting in the video is a new structure in which the government would give money to Alberta Health Insurance (a government entity). They would be forbidden from running hospitals.
- AHS would then become the contractor.
- And then the Alberta Health Quality Council would audit the hospitals.
- Then based on that it is suggested that if AHS can’t meet the quality terms set out, then Alberta Health Insurance could give a different contract to a different entity to run those hospitals mentioned - the ones that the NDP says the UCP wants to sell. Nowhere is selling the hospital mentioned.
- And yes, one of those who picks up the contract could be a private company.
- The idea is that at the end of the day, the government still funds the hospitals and patients do not pay anything.
- The Canada Health Act ensures that this will happen and from the video, it looks like Danielle Smith assumes that this delivery model would fit within the Canada Health Act.
- The same talk also included a discussion on the health spending account which we have talked about before as being represented horribly by the NDP since most former NDP cabinet members would have access to very lucrative Government of Alberta health spending accounts implemented by Alberta Blue Cross. And no - the money would not be used to visit your family doctor.
- The other proposal was that hospitals should be able to contract directly and operate outside of AHS. Once again, this is something that already exists for hip and knee replacements in Alberta.
- The suggestion then is that the hospital could set themselves up and get paid on a per-patient basis. The funding would follow the patient.
- The most idiotic part about this accusation this week is that this model that the NDP is slamming is similar to how services are delivered in many places in the world, including Europe.
- Many European countries like Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, and Sweden have highly ranked healthcare systems. The NDP is campaigning against this.
- But the video was chopped up effectively to the point where it has almost 1 million views.
- Media this week either covered the NDP video verbatim and the UCP response to it - that the UCP has increased health funding and signed a public healthcare guarantee. But no one actually debunked the video or watched the larger presentation to provide context on what was actually going on.
- It is truly a disservice to see this kind of media coverage here as this is reminiscent of many of the media cycles in the 2020 US election.
Quote of the Week
“I would advocate that [Terry Fox] should be on more things. He’s one of Canada’s greatest heroes. He was a young person in the early 80s who inspired a nation and a world to do better. And because of him, there’s been a lot of suffering that’s been alleviated because of the money raised for cancer (research). To remove such an iconic Canadian in place of what I’ll call such generic Canadiana imagery makes absolutely no sense.” - Dave Teixeira, the organizer of the Terry Fox Hometown Run, on the federal government’s removal of Terry Fox from the new passport design.
Word of the Week
Passport - an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder's identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Cutting Down Our History
Teaser: Canada’s passport redesign removes iconic historical images, the UCP makes a plan to reduce city crime, and BC’s old growth forests are still being logged. Also, the Alberta NDP spreads misinformation about healthcare.
Recorded Date: May 13, 2023
Release Date: May 14, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes