The News Rundown
- David Johnston has resigned as Trudeau's special rapporteur investigating foreign interference into Canadian elections. While said as early as last week that he would be staying in the role, he has now decided to vacate that role amidst what he calls a 'highly partisan atmosphere'.
- In a resignation letter sent to Trudeau, the former governor general said his role has become too muddled in political controversy for him to continue. A government source said Johnston made his own decision to resign and wasn't asked to step down by the Prime Minister's Office. Since his appointment, Johnston has been accused of being unfit for the job because of his personal connections to Trudeau.
- In the letter Johnston said: "When I undertook the task of independent special rapporteur on foreign interference, my objective was to help build trust in our democratic institutions. I have concluded that, given the highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work, my leadership has had the opposite effect."
- The leaders of the Conservative and Bloc Québécois parties have both said Trudeau and Johnston are self-declared friends and their longstanding ties are too close to allow Johnston to judge the prime minister's actions.
- Johnston has said that while he was friends with Pierre Trudeau and skied with the Trudeau family back when Justin Trudeau and his brothers were children, he hasn't had any meetings, dinners or personal contacts with Trudeau in the past 40 years.
- That didn't stop opposition parties from questioning Johnston's investigation of foreign interference. Even the NDP — which currently has a supply-and-confidence deal with the governing Liberals — put forward a motion in the House calling on Johnston to step aside because of an "appearance of bias." The motion passed with Conservative and Bloc support. At the time, Johnston said he planned to stay on until his mandate was complete.
- In his initial report released last month, Johnston recommended against calling a public inquiry on foreign interference — despite opposition parties and diaspora groups calling for one.
- Johnston's report satisfied no one as it did not delve very deeply into the problem of Chinese interference, and specifically dismissed the need for further investigation, effectively trying to sweep the problem under the rug. This, more than anything, led the opposition parties to call for him to resign, and for Trudeau to call a public inquiry.
- It's a rare moment when the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc are all united on a particular matter. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre blamed the Liberals for putting Johnston in a tough spot and repeated his demand for a public inquiry.
- "[Trudeau] has destroyed the reputation of a former governor general all to cover up his own refusal to defend Canada from foreign interests and threats," he said in a tweet.
- Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett told CBC that Trudeau was "setting [Johnston] up for failure" by not calling a public inquiry from the start.
- NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted that Johnston had "done the right thing" and again called on the government to launch a public inquiry. In a separate statement, Singh said he respected Johnston but he had "fallen victim to the bungled handling of foreign interference by the Liberal government."
- Singh said: "When we tabled our motion calling for the special rapporteur to step aside, we said that the appearance of bias was too much to continue. I always thought that Mr. Johnston is an honourable man and today's decision shows that," Singh said.
- Former Conservative leader Erin O'Toole took a similar tone, tweeting that Johnston is an "exceptional Canadian" and that his service to Canada has been "extraordinary."
- "It is so disappointing that the prime minister used his stellar reputation as a political shield," O'Toole said.
- So no, partisanship was not the problem, given all parties except one were on board. The problem was that Trudeau appointed someone in a clear conflict-of-interest position with his family — and that Johnston accepted. The problem was the job itself — people have some idea what a public inquiry looks like, none at all what a special rapporteur’s rapports look like — and the absurdly quick timeline on which Johnston was meant to operate, especially considering he has no known extensive background in national security.
- Because Johnston is well-liked by people in all parties, it seems the Trudeau gang assumed his word would carry the day — bipartisanship being the closest thing to non-partisanship that partisans can imagine. But most Canadians aren’t partisan. And most Canadians, unlike most of the Laurentian Elite, understand what a conflict of interest looks like.
- In this case, it doesn’t mean “you’ve violated the Conflict of Interest Act.” It simply means “your interests are conflicted.” Johnston’s conflicts of interest with the Trudeaus pale in comparison to the conflict of interest he triggered when seeking an opinion that he was not in a conflict of interest: He asked retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iobucci, a self-described close friend, to sign off on that.
- Prior to his resignation, questions were also being raised about the individuals Johnston chose to work with during his investigation. On Tuesday, the Globe and Mail reported that Sheila Block, a lawyer Johnston hired to assist with his work, has donated to the Liberal Party in the past.
- Johnston also told the procedure and House affairs committee on Tuesday that he has received unpaid informal advice from Don Guy, former chief of staff to former Ontario Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty, and Brian Topp, chief of staff to Rachel Notley when she was the NDP premier of Alberta.
- Johnston also had hired communications crisis firm Navigator at the start of his mandate and that taxpayers were footing the bill. Johnston cut ties with the firm after it was revealed that Navigator had also worked with Independent MP Han Dong, who was a subject of the former governor general's initial investigation and report.
- Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Saturday he will work quickly to consult with opposition parties around forging a public process to investigate foreign interference in Canadian elections, including who might lead a public inquiry into the issue.
- Leblanc said he would address questions around a public process or inquiry, who would lead it, what its scope and timeline would be and how it would address national security information.
- "My job, in the very next few days, in short order, is to ask opposition leaders to take this matter seriously. Those are the questions we're prepared to have in very short order," he said. "We're not looking to delay this process at all."
- It looks like the Liberals are trying to continue to sweep the issue under the rug and hope that the issue of Chinese interference will go away over the summer. It will not go away, and one hopes that the next investigation into the matter will actually help Canadians find out what exactly went on, and what will be done to address it. Until that, we will remain in the dark.
- This week we got a double dose of economic news first with the Bank of Canada raising interest rates 0.25% to 4.75% and secondly with new labour data showing that Canada lost 17,000 jobs in May.
- This pushes the unemployment rate up to 5.2% from 5%.
- The jobs were mostly lost in the 15-24 age category across the provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. Employment increased in Manitoba and held constant elsewhere.
- That being said, employment increased in the prime working age range of 25 to 54 with an increase of 63,000 jobs.
- The Bank of Canada raised interest rates in their push to combat high inflation.
- Inflation has been a worldwide phenomenon since our emergence from the other side of the covid pandemic.
- Inflation though can be exacerbated by other things such as the addition of new money into the economy or low interest rates.
- Since 2015 the federal government has spent at levels reminiscent of time periods where stimulus was necessary.
- Interest rates were low to encourage growth while the economy was shuttered and before that we had almost a decade of low interest rates.
- The end result is an economy flush with money and now we’re feeling the consequences in terms of inflation.
- This stems from many things going back to the 2008 financial crisis where the decision was made to keep the economy afloat with no question of what the ramifications could be.
- This was further exacerbated by high government spending in Canada post 2015 and throughout the rest of the G7 since 2008.
- Then came the pandemic where the economy was shut down seeing the largest contraction since the Great Depression.
- This in turn lead to the largest influx of cash by the government since the Great Depression.
- And that is how we end up where we are today seeing stubbornly high inflation and an economy that’s beginning to right itself.
- Statistics Canada has said that the overall employment rate is “virtually unchanged” but the media coverage this week went with the angle that we were losing thousands of jobs.
- And the interesting part about that is that it’s true if you live in Ontario and you are in the age range affected. Otherwise it’s really not true.
- The first angle on this that wasn’t explored is that this hurts up and coming students who are going to be entering the summer job market and could put a damper on them as they enter the workforce post-schooling.
- This of course opens an opportunity for opposition parties federally which the Conservatives have already seized on.
- The second ignores the larger macroeconomic picture.
- Economies are measured in a variety of ways such as employment, GDP per capita, average income, average disposable income and so on.
- The pandemic largely saw Canadians become poorer, the last time this happened was during the 2008 financial crisis. This happens by people losing work, taking pay cuts, or life becoming more expensive.
- This is often paired with a loss in productivity that is hard to recover.
- What’s happening with these numbers we see in employment and the trend in inflation rising is the economy righting itself after the self-imposed shutdowns of 2020 and 2021.
- And some economists will say that the growth we’ve seen over the past 2 years or so is a mirage since we’re behind where we are productivity wise and are only starting to meet pre-pandemic levels.
- Now the more stark comparison is an imaginary exercise where we imagine growth continued at the rate of 2019 without the drastic slowdown. That difference of where we’d be on that trajectory compared to where we are today is the true loss.
- And that loss is more than we see in this jobs report.
- Similar events also happened after 2008.
- Getting us back on the growth trajectory we were on is difficult and requires government and monetary policy to supercharge growth and investment.
- But that can’t happen until inflation eases and as such it’s rare that an economy goes back to its growth trajectory it was on before the calamity.
- While the metrics say we’ve had a wonderful 2 years it takes a macroeconomic look at trajectories, individual wealth, and wellbeing to see that we’re not really experiencing a good economy no matter how good the numbers may be.
- The Canadian government has confirmed its participation in a first-of-its kind international meeting on unidentified flying objects hosted at United States military headquarters.
- The gathering at the Pentagon late last month happened amid a burst of activity in Washington and eye-popping news reports related to so-called Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP). It featured a U.S.-led briefing to visitors from nations of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
- The Canadian Department of National Defence said that Canada attended the meeting, led by a Royal Canadian Air Force representative. The DND said: "The details of the meeting remain classified. It can be characterized as the sharing of information on the subject of UAP and no further details can be shared at this time."
- The meeting featured a presentation by Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick — the veteran scientist in the U.S. national-defence establishment who leads the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), a new entity created in 2022 to lead UAP-related activities for the U.S. military. Kirkpatrick publicly revealed the Five Eyes gathering last week while speaking at a public conference hosted by NASA.
- The US has been urged to disclose evidence of UFOs after a whistleblower former intelligence official said the government has possession of “intact and partially intact” alien vehicles.
- The former intelligence official David Grusch, who led analysis of unexplained anomalous phenomena (UAP) within a US Department of Defense agency, has alleged that the US has craft of non-human origin.
- Information on these vehicles is being illegally withheld from Congress, Grusch told the Debrief. Grusch said when he turned over classified information about the vehicles to Congress he suffered retaliation from government officials. He left the government in April after a 14-year career in US intelligence.
- In 2021, the Pentagon released a report on UAP – the term is preferred to UFO by much of the extraterrestrial community – which found more than 140 instances of UAP encounters that could not be explained.
- The report followed a leak of military footage that showed apparently inexplicable happenings in the sky, while navy pilots testified that they had frequently had encounters with strange craft off the US coast.
- It's truly an odd story that bears more looking into, as the US government has been accused of hiding UFOs for years - Roswell anyone? But the fact that the US has brought in members of the Five Eyes to debrief on the matter creates a smoking gun that raises more questions than it answers.
- One wonders if this debrief also refers to the Chinese spy balloons that flew over the North American continent earlier in January 2023, and if there have been any others that we don't know about yet. This story is shrouded in mystery still, and it's a good bet to say that there is still a lot more we don't know yet.
- The culture war comes to Canada. This is not something we’re typically known for but with Pride month comes an inevitable push back.
- We’ve seen this in New Brunswick where 7 of Blaine Higgs’ caucus are standing against his government's decision to require parents consent for students to change their names and pronouns in school. Higgs has threatened to go to an election over this. Higgs last won a majority government in 2020.
- In Ottawa late this week we saw a protest against “gender ideology” which drew trans rights counter-protestors.
- This protest saw Christians and Muslims standing on the same side leading to images of young children stomping on pride flags and trying to destroy them while they were encouraged by their mother.
- These episodes mark the culmination of a week where news stories show an uneasy alliance between Canadian Muslims and Canadian Christians in some cases.
- We now go to Edmonton this week where a teacher’s dressing down of her students made social media internationally.
- A teacher at Londonderry School can be heard lecturing her students in a very forceful tone after it was found that they skipped school to get out of Pride celebrations.
- It’s important to note that the initial media reporting of the story did not include anything on what the students did. This had to be pieced together by reading between the lines from multiple outlets and putting ourselves in the minds of young students.
- The teacher can be heard telling the students, “In Uganda, if they think you’re gay, they will execute you. If you believe that kind of thing, then you don’t belong here, because that is what Canada believes. We believe in freedom, we believe that people can marry whomever they want, that is in the law, and if you don’t think that should be the law, you can’t be Canadian.”
- The teacher also said that the students, if they want to be respected for who they are, also need to respect people who are different from them.
- What we have just done here is put the teacher’s words in a way that makes sense in terms of Canadian values, specifically those of tolerance and acceptance.
- For what it’s worth, the school also observes Ramadan and the teacher reminded the students that the entire school shows respect to the student’s religion.
- The teacher did make a mistake. She should not have approached the students in this way, her actions are anything but professional.
- The principal of the school wrote a letter to parents in which part of it said, “I want to emphasize that the views expressed by the teacher do not reflect the values of acceptance, inclusion and belonging that are so strong at Londonderry School.”
- The letter effectively says, nothing to be seen here, the teacher was in the wrong for chastising the students.
- In London, Ontario, a city with about 10% Muslim population, they have seen a notable uptick in school absences on days where Pride related activities were happening.
- The condemnation here is on the teacher who made the mistakes but this ignores a wider issue.
- There is a spectrum of progressive virtue signalling where even progressives will turn against one group who they initially championed if they deem another group to be underserved.
- But the question not being asked in all of this is: how is our country being changed by the record levels of immigration we’ve seen?
- These are children that are very clearly standing against Pride events and in the case of Ottawa attempting to destroy Pride flags.
- With that, we have to ask what do their parents think? Where are they getting these values? And what does that mean for our country?
- Christian groups have also started to take a stand against new pro-LGBTQ+ policies as well and this speaks to a wider change in the Canadian discourse than was revealed this week.
- It shows that our country has been changed by record high levels of immigration that are absent of a values test or at the very least a focus on a central Canadian identity.
- Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have stated that they want Canada to be the first post-national state and this is a step along the way to that.
- We are perhaps more polarized than anyone has realized and the media and political parties operate at their peril for not realizing this.
- When we have most media and politicians from all parties condemning the teacher in this case without asking further questions it leaves a huge blind spot for further polarization.
- These examples this week are a harbinger for what is to come, not in what we see, but what is lacking in the void.
Quote of the Week
"When I undertook the task of independent special rapporteur on foreign interference, my objective was to help build trust in our democratic institutions. I have concluded that, given the highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work, my leadership has had the opposite effect." - Former Governor General David Johnston on his resignation
Word of the Week
Resign - voluntarily leave a job or other position
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Ex-Special Rapporteur
Teaser: David Johnson resigns as special rapporteur, the Bank of Canada hikes interest rates again, and the Five Eyes countries have a meeting about UFOs. Also, a clash of culture during Pride month shows Canada’s increasing polarization.
Recorded Date: June 10, 2023
Release Date: June 11, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes