The News Rundown
- This week we've had another small development in the ever continuing saga of Chinese foreign interference in Canada, this time from an unlikely source.
- The RCMP released a statement this week, saying that a former police officer Bill Majcher has been charged with two counts under the Security of Information Act. According to the RCMP, Majcher "allegedly used his knowledge and his extensive network of contacts in Canada to obtain intelligence or services to benefit the People's Republic of China."
- The release alleged that Majcher "contributed to the Chinese government's efforts to identify and intimidate an individual outside the scope of Canadian law." The identity and nationality of the alleged target remain unclear.
- Majcher now faces two criminal counts: preparatory acts for the benefit of a foreign entity and conspiracy. Both charges fall within Canada's Security of Information Act. Majcher appeared in court in Longueuil, Que via videocall on Friday. He has another court appearance scheduled next week.
- The RCMP said their Integrated National Security Team (INSET) launched an investigation into Majcher's "suspicious activities" in fall of 2021. INSETs are multi-agency teams scattered across the country — sometimes made up of RCMP officers, provincial and municipal police service members and representatives of federal agencies — which investigate cases concerning national security, extremism and terrorism.
- Insp. David Beaudoin, the head of Montreal's INSET, told CBC the investigation was launched through a complaint-driven process, but the complaint didn't come from the victim.
- Beaudoin said Majcher was arrested Thursday in Vancouver, but the investigation is taking place in Quebec because Majcher spent most of his RCMP career in B.C. Majcher moved to Hong Kong in 2006 to work in the banking industry after more than 20 years specialising in money laundering and financial crime prosecutions at the RCMP.
- According to his profile on the Hong Kong-based website Speakers Connect, Majcher founded a corporate risk firm called EMIDR in 2016. EMIDR's website lists state-sponsored espionage, intelligence gathering and money laundering as some of its areas of expertise. It also says the firm specializes in asset recovery.
- An Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) article from 2019 said Majcher was part of Project Dragon, a Chinese operation to recover money allegedly siphoned out of the country illegally.
- In the article, Majcher is quoted as saying he is a "hired gun" for governments and corporations to "get back what is rightfully theirs." In terms of Project Dragon, he told ABC that he was working for a third-party "entity" that was associated with Chinese police "in some form or another."
- Majcher is quoted in the Australian article talking about his role in helping China's Ministry of Public Security: "I have a commercial relationship with entities that are in themselves associated in some form or another with policing authorities in China. And a big part of their mandate is focused on economic crime, financial crime, money laundering. We know how to operate more clearly I think than a country like China or personnel from China in our own jurisdictions. We have a familiarity."
- It's interesting how the investigation into Majcher only happened 2 years after he was quoted as helping the Chinese government with his work in Hong Kong.
- RCMP spokeswoman Cpl Tasha Adams said the evidence "appears" to suggest the Chinese government was one of Majcher's clients. But Beaudoin said the RCMP is unable to state whether these charges are related to Majcher's past employment.
- While the alleged foreign interference did not involve elections or politics, it's clear that something serious still occurred, and it's likely not an isolated incident. When it comes to the threat of foreign influence or interference, our investigating authorities cannot be years behind the times. The time to act is now.
- Over the past couple weeks the Alberta government has been posting the mandate letters for the Alberta government ministries publicly.
- Mandate letters once upon a time were kept secret but recently there has been a push to make them public.
- The mandate letter for Health Minister Adrianna LaGrange is interesting not for what it says, but for what it doesn’t. Most of the media is talking about the big ticket item which we’ll get into shortly.
- As part of the mandate letter LaGrange announced a review of Alberta Health Services (AHS) to examine its scope and functions, which have expanded beyond its original mandate of acute care.
- The review aims to assess whether AHS has become too large and evaluate its roles in primary care, continuing care, service provision, and policy development.
- The interesting part is that when AHS was formed, it was initially just supposed to focus on acute care delivery but has expanded into the previously mentioned care areas as well as procurement, staffing, and policy.
- And with the focus on the potential de-centralization has come concern from the union bosses in charge of the health care workers. Their focus is stability and investment in the workforce.
- The Mandate Letter also puts the focus on speeding up lab services which have been nothing but problematic, especially in Calgary and southern Alberta.
- And continuing from the pre-election period there will be a continued effort on reducing surgical and emergency wait times, reducing EMS response times, and focusing on recruitment of more healthcare workers.
- This in particular includes increasing the number of training seats which is one of the core areas that’s overlooked in our system since our universities cap admissions quite heavily.
- These are all fine and can be seen as incremental changes but are not transformational.
- The media coverage on this story was black and white, government vs. union leaving out opinions and perspectives from patients and healthcare researchers.
- The mandate letter does also ask the ministers involved to start looking at health spending accounts which would give more choice to people when it comes to accessing health care.
- Health spending accounts were a lightning rod earlier this year in the pre-election period when they were framed as a way of backdooring Albertans into private health care.
- The reality is that Alberta Blue Cross advanced plans, like those that government workers receive, have access to health spending accounts they can use for accessing services or buying equipment.
- And at this point we get to what wasn’t talked about, anything that could be transformative is not on the table, at least now.
- There has been discussions about whether or not a starting point would be looking into European models of healthcare delivery.
- Once upon a time Alberta and other provinces required patients to pay yearly healthcare premiums, a tax if you will.
- If more money is needed that’s an avenue to explore but at that point maybe it’s time to look at expanding private insurance options.
- There’s also the question of private delivery with public funding that is nowhere in sight to be discussed.
- Revamping and de-centralizing AHS is a big move indeed but we have to ask, is it truly transformative? Is it going to fix the problems we have? The jury is out on that.
- And that’s where it comes to the Minister’s Mandate Letter again, is the UCP playing it safe with an eye on the next election to look like a moderate option? Maybe.
- But at that time, are residents going to see any benefit in terms of increasing the level of care received?
- Perhaps not.
- Everyone is talking about the decentralization of AHS and the harm it could cause but no one’s talking about the benefit it could bring and the stepping stones it may set in place.
- And by ignoring what’s not talked about, we’re locked in to more of the same.
- The Trudeau Liberals are still planning to introduce the digital services tax, or DST in 2024 despite U.S. opposition, according to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, despite 138 other countries and jurisdictions agreeing last week to delay similar measures.
- The Canadian DST, estimated to bring in $3.4 billion over five years, is aimed at large companies that operate online marketplaces, social media platforms and earn revenue from online advertising. This includes Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb. The Liberal government first promised the tax in the 2021 budget. It would be retroactive to 2022, meaning the companies would be on the hook for more than $1 billion once it comes into effect.
- It’s a move that comes as the Liberal government is already in conflict with Google and Facebook over the Online News Act, which would force the companies to share revenues with Canadian news publishers.
- Freeland, speaking by phone from the Group of 20 finance ministers’ meeting in India, said Canada had already made a “significant concession” in 2020 by agreeing to delay its plan for the new tax. She said: “Canada’s position is unchanged. It is really important for us to defend our national interests, and what we agreed to was a two-year pause.”
- Freeland had pledged to implement a new digital services tax (DST) in early 2024, which would apply retroactively to Jan. 1, 2022 unless a global tax agreement is ratified by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The Canadian proposal would see a three per cent tax on revenue earned by large technology companies in Canada.
- Last week, the OECD unveiled an agreement to delay new DSTs for at least another year, a key request by U.S. President Joe Biden as his administration attempts to ratify the global tax pact. However, with Republican opposition to the OECD deal, it’s unclear whether Biden can get it through Congress.
- U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has asked Canada not to bring in its own DST, and business groups have expressed concern over potential trade repercussions if Canada ignores the American warnings.
- Freeland said Canada would still prefer to see the OECD deal ratified, adding she has been discussing it with her Group of Seven counterparts and other ministers in attendance at the India summit.
- U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen said that the US could target digital trade if it decides on retaliatory measures against the proposed Canadian DST, given that it would be mostly targeting American companies.
- Cohen said Tai’s “statement was direct and clear and strong that if Canada decides to proceed alone, you leave the United States with no choice but to take retaliatory measures in the trade context, potentially in the digital trade context, in order to respond to that.”
- Just last week, OECD countries agreed to delay any plans for their own unilateral taxes by another year. Only Canada, Belarus, Pakistan, Russia and Sri Lanka — of 143 countries party to the deal — weren’t supportive of the one-year delay.
- Cohen said “when you look at the countries that do not agree with that position, they are not countries that you would normally think Canada wants to be a part of. They are a combination of autocracies and Third World countries.”
- Cohen said he was hopeful Canada and the United States could work out their differences over the issue without “having a disruption of retaliatory trade tactics against each other.”
- Listeners will remember that when Donald Trump was US president, he threatened Canada with taxes and tariffs and the reaction to that in Canada was largely negative. It is baffling that such a similar move by Trudeau would be popular amongst Canadians, as it would be an opening salvo in a tariff war that Canada cannot win.
- All this fuss over a few billion dollars which is relatively insignificant to a federal government, we could certainly stand to lose a lot more than that, all due to the federal government's overspending that requires them to raise taxes even higher. Canadians need to be aware that these policies will be the financial ruin of Canada if our course is not changed.
- Canada's environment minister, Steven Guilbeault, met with international ministers to outline expectations for the upcoming COP28 climate summit.
- He hopes the summit will commit to phasing out unabated fossil fuels, particularly oil and gas projects that lack technology to capture emissions.
- Carbon capture has been proposed as a potential solution for the industry to continue production without contributing to climate change.
- The conference's president-designate, Sultan Al Jaber of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), also expressed ambitions for COP28, calling for a transition to an energy system free of unabated fossil fuels and emphasizing renewable energy and hydrogen production.
- Some countries in the High Ambition Coalition urged for an urgent phase-out of fossil fuels, criticizing the use of abatement technologies to prolong the industry's lifespan.
- These countries include amongst others, France, Germany, Spain, and Ireland.
- Canada and the U.A.E. face pressure to be more ambitious in their climate goals, while Premier Danielle Smith of Alberta and Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan criticized Guilbeault's comments.
- Danielle Smith has been very clear that the 2035 emissions cap is effectively a production cut, she said, “instead of seeking ways to sow investor uncertainty and reduce support for Canadian energy globally, the federal government should focus on partnering with Alberta and investing in our national energy sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 while simultaneously increasing energy production, jobs and economic growth for Canadians.”
- Scott Moe said, “If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. The Trudeau government doesn’t want to just reduce emissions in our energy sector, they want to completely shut down our energy sector.”
- These seem like strong statements from the Premiers and we have to ask, what would “phasing out unabated fossil fuels” mean?
- As of 2022, Alberta alone had capacity for 2.96MT of carbon capture and sequestration.
- In 2021, Canada’s total emissions were 670MT. 189MT of that were from the oil and gas industry. The rest breaks down to transport, buildings, electricity, industry, and agriculture.
- This means that even with Alberta’s target of about 56MT captured by 2030, if what is being talked about by Guilbeault and friends, the oil and gas sector would see a reduction of 70%.
- Let’s not even add in transportation, buildings, electricity, industry, and agriculture to see the amount of carbon that can’t be captured.
- The review process for things such as pipelines is now required to take into consideration downstream effects, so with that, shouldn’t this plan require anything that uses fossil fuels to factor in?
- It’s at this point we see how absurd this plan is.
- It is largely said to have been a one sided conversation when Alberta Energy Minister Rebecca Schulz met with Guilbeault.
- Guilbeault also did not meet with the large oilsands companies while he was in Calgary, he reportedly turned down a meeting request from the Pathways alliance - a group that represents 95% of oilsands production.
- We also need to appreciate the optics of these discussions happening in the UAE.
- Technologically Canada leads the pack when it comes to oil and gas production.
- Our commitments put us on a path of severely limiting our own economic competitiveness to make a statement to the world, echoed in a country and region with some of the dirtiest oil and worst human rights.
- Canada needs to question what its end goal is: energy super power or waning energy power for the sake of setting world benchmarks.
- There has also been a push in recent years to enact “just transition” legislation or heavily subsidize “green” companies as they’re called.
- $30b has been paid by the federal and Ontario governments to two companies, Volkswagen and Stellantis LG Energy for battery projects.
- Together both will create 5,500 jobs at the cost of $5.5m per worker.
- If Canada were to go to the level that Joe Biden’s inflation reduction act did, we’d have to spend $130b over a decade.
- Do we have the capacity for that? No.
- Will the government try to go that way? Possibly.
- It all comes back to the push to “phase out unabated fossil fuels” and show the world we’re doing our job.
- The headlines are flashy and the data shows what a tall order it is and that everything being talked about is just the tip of the iceberg and monetarily there are huge questions if we can afford it.
Quote of the Week
“If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. The Trudeau government doesn’t want to just reduce emissions in our energy sector, they want to completely shut down our energy sector.” - Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on new revelations about a federal emission cap.
Word of the Week
Unabated - without any reduction in intensity or strength.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Full Steam Ahead
Teaser: An ex-RCMP officer is charged with using information to help China, Alberta’s health minister has a mandate to review and reform AHS, and Canada is committed to the digital services tax. Also, Steven Guilbeault continues to attack the oil and gas sector.
Recorded Date: July 22, 2023
Release Date: July 23, 2023
Edit Notes: Patreon ad
Podcast Summary Notes