The News Rundown
- Canada has had a rough September for many reasons, but our standing on the world stage in particular has taken a beating. Just after the diplomatic mess with India was heating up, following Trudeau's accusation that India's government was behind the murder of a Sikh religious leader in Surrey, BC, another incident took place that made the Trudeau government look like fools to the world.
- Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Canada last week and gave a speech in Parliament, where he was soundly applauded by all parties. During the visit, House Speaker Anthony Rota highlighted a Ukrainian-Canadian WW2 veteran, Yaroslav Hunka who he called "a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service."
- Rota recognized Hunka's presence in the chamber, characterizing him as "a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today, even at his age of 98."
- The issue with this, is that Hunka's service was of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician), a military formation of Nazi Germany. Born in Urman, then part of the Second Polish Republic, Hunka volunteered for SS Galizien in 1943. He immigrated to Canada as a displaced person after the conclusion of the war, and is currently retired and lives in North Bay, Ontario.
- Hunka was invited to the House of Commons of Canada by speaker Anthony Rota to be recognized and received two standing ovations from all house members, including Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Zelenskyy. Later, Hunka's identity as a former Waffen-SS member was reported on by the media, causing Rota to resign five days later, and Canadian government officials apologized to the worldwide Jewish community.
- Rota's resignation will take effect at the end of the sitting day on Wednesday. "I have acted as your humble servant, carrying out the important responsibilities of this position to the very best of my abilities. The work of this House is above any of us. Therefore, I must step down as your Speaker. I reiterate my profound regret for my error in recognizing an individual in the House."
- "I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to [honour Hunka]. I wish to make clear that no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them. I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world," he added.
- In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office said the decision to invite and honour Hunka was made by the Speaker's office alone. Trudeau apologized Wednesday on behalf of Canada for the incident that he called a “horrendous violation” of the memory of millions killed in the Holocaust.
- Standing outside the House of Commons where the incident took place during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Canada last week, Trudeau maintained blame is placed on the House Speaker who announced his resignation Tuesday.
- He called it “extremely troubling” that the “egregious error” is being used by Russia for propaganda in Vladimir Putin’s ongoing war against Ukraine, and also directed his apology personally to the Ukrainian leader.
- Trudeau said: “This was a mistake that has deeply embarrassed Parliament and Canada. All of us who were in the House on Friday deeply regret having stood and clapped, even though we did so unaware of the context. It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust, and it was deeply, deeply painful for Jewish people. It also hurt Polish people, Roma people, 2LGBTQI+ people, disabled people, racialized people, and the many millions who were targeted by Nazi genocide.
- Trudeau added that: “Friday’s joint session was about what Canada stands for, about our steadfast support of Ukraine’s fight against Putin’s brutality, lies and violence,” Trudeau continued. It was a moment to celebrate and acknowledge the sacrifices of Ukrainians, their freedom, their language and culture, and for peace. This is the side Canada was on in World War II, and this is the side we are on today.”
- The prime minister had been under pressure to personally apologize for the debacle, with the Conservatives claiming they did not believe Trudeau’s office had no role in vetting guests to Zelenskyy’s speech in Parliament last week. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre had accused Trudeau of “hiding under a rock” during what he deemed “the biggest hit Canada’s diplomatic reputation has ever taken.”
- Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party that has a parliamentary alliance with Trudeau’s minority government, has also demanded the government make steps to repair damage from the incident, including for fuelling Russian propaganda and horrifying Canada’s Jewish community and other victims of Nazi Germany.
- Poland's education minister says he has "taken steps" to effect the extradition to Poland of Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian, after it emerged that the veteran served in the Nazi SS Galizien formation during the Second World War.
- In the 1980s, a public inquiry examined allegations that war criminals from the Second World War had immigrated to Canada after the conflict. Although the broader German Waffen SS was determined to be a criminal organization during the Nuremberg war trials, the public inquiry concluded in 1986 that “mere membership” in the division was insufficient to justify prosecution for war crimes.
- This has been a highly damaging and embarrassing incident for Canada to suffer, and will take many years for people to forget about this one. It's hard to believe Trudeau's office did not have any say in this, but then again, we've seen that they've had blinders with optics on other things in the past.
- In an aim to lower the federal budget deficit the government will be aiming to cut about $1b from the department of National Defence.
- Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and Deputy Minister of Defence Bill Matthews testified before the House of Commons defence committee late Thursday, where they acknowledged in more detail the ramifications of the federal government's spending reduction plan.
- Despite the Chief of the Defence Staff and his own Deputy Minister saying so, Defence Minister Bill Blair says there is no cut.
- There is no cut, in their view, because defence spending has gone up year over year and in 2017 the Trudeau government released a 20 year $38b plan to modernize NORAD.
- The government plans to keep putting more money in, but not as much as before.
- Apparently, according to the government they have found almost “$900 million and change” this number came out when Deputy Minister Bill Matthews spoke to the committees.
- The proposed “cuts” are to new spending that put into question Canada’s continued commitment to edge closer to the 2% NATO defence spending benchmark.
- NATO suggests that all countries try to maintain 2% defence spending. Few do this outside of the US and countries in eastern Europe (mostly).
- According to NATO Canada’s defence spending was 1.3% of GDP.
- The cuts that (aren’t coming) will be aimed at “minimizing the impact on military readiness.”
- This statement speaks volumes.
- This means that there will be an impact.
- Of all budgets in the federal government one of the most complicated is the military’s and figuring out what the impact is, is difficult to put it mildly.
- The question also comes up, what does this say about our word abroad? Will we be trusted? Are we trusted as is?
- Philippe Lagassé, a professor at Carleton University who specializes in defence policy and procurement said, "I think it's just going to reinforce existing perceptions that we're just not serious about this and that we're never going to step up.”
- David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said Friday there is a disconnect to see Anand "being the person to agree to spend more, to then be wielding the budget knife that'll make that mathematically impossible."
- This came when last October the focus was finding new personnel and halting all non essential activities to focus on boosting recruitment and retention.
- As of this week there are 16,000 positions unfilled at another 10,000 soldiers representing about 1 in 10 are not yet trained to take part in operations.
- This story continues the saga of defence mishaps under the Trudeau administration. From military members needing to find their own rucksacks to us not being able to respond to the balloon in time earlier this year, to a question of commitment, it would be fair to say that national defence is not a priority for this country
- We started covering arctic sovereignty before Russia became the geopolitical threat of the day and the many holes in our northern frontier.
- These cuts will further exacerbate all of these issues and will raise many questions to our NATO allies - questions we can not afford after the mishap in Parliament which we’ll be talking about later in the show.
- In the age where housing and affordability are what most are concerned about we can not forget that our national defence strategy has gone on walkabouts since this governs whether or not we can defend the true north.
- The BC government has announced that specific municipalities in BC must build a certain threshold of houses over the next 5 years. Ravi Kahlon, BC's Minister for Housing, announced the targets and municipalities on Tuesday, including Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops, as part of the province’s plan to increase the housing supply in the places that need it most.
- The first 10 municipalities tapped by the province to speed up housing approvals will be required to green-light a combined 60,000 new homes by 2028. The highest target by far was handed to Vancouver, which is being asked to build 28,900 units over a five-year period, followed by Abbotsford at just over 7,300, and Victoria, Saanich and Kamloops at between 4-5k.
- According to the province, the targets represent a 38-per-cent increase in housing compared to what would have been built without the imposed number, based on historic trends.
- The ministry also gave each of the municipalities a guideline for what to build, including how many one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units to build, how many rental units and how many below-market rental units.
- The minister said the province will work with municipalities by providing funding to speed up the development approval process and updating zoning bylaws. Khalon said the targets were chosen by “data, not politics,” which included calculations of the current housing shortage and projected population increases over the next five years. The ministry's news release says that "targets have been set based on 75 per cent of that municipality's identified housing need".
- The 10 municipalities will be evaluated in six months, and annually after that, on their progress. The province says the Housing Supply Act includes “compliance options” that can be used “as a last resort” if municipalities are not “aligning their efforts” to achieve the targets.
- When asked what would happen if a municipality isn’t meeting its target, Kahlon said an “independent person” could be sent in to “identify what the challenges may be.”
- The announcement comes as Premier David Eby says "it's pretty clear" the federal government is not yet ready to share its renewed housing strategy or how it will work with British Columbia's plans to take on the provincial housing crisis.
- Kahlon says the housing crisis is so dire in B.C. that the province is going ahead with its plans without guarantees of federal funding, but he adds that involvement from Ottawa needs to "get into the game in a hurry."
- This messaging from the provincial government is interesting in particular because Premier Eby met with Trudeau to discuss housing among other things, a day before the housing targets were made public.
- Some municipalities are already on track to meet the B.C. government’s new five-year housing targets while others have a long way to go. But even if municipalities meet the targets, B.C. will still fall well short of the housing needed to cool prices and meet future immigration levels, housing analysts say.
- The B.C. NDP took the “politically convenient route” of setting moderate housing targets that don’t go far enough in addressing the affordability crisis, said Robert Berry of the Victoria-based pro density group Homes for Living.
- A report released this month by the Canada Mortgage Housing Corp. found if B.C. continues building homes at the current pace, the province will still be short 610,000 units of housing by 2030. CMHC’s report looked at the number of units required to return to the level of affordability seen 10 years ago.
- B.C. is one of the fastest growing provinces in Canada, with 217,500 new permanent residents expected to arrive in the province between 2023 and 2025, double the historical immigration levels.
- Brendon Ogmundson, chief economist for the B.C. Real Estate Association, said looking at the targets for the 10 municipalities selected by Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon, “some are probably a real stretch and some probably aren’t enough.”
- Even if the five Metro Vancouver municipalities — Delta, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Vancouver and West Vancouver — meet the housing targets with a combined 38,471 net new units, they will still fall short by 20,000 housing units below the projected need by 2030, according to figures in Metro’s housing data book.
- B.C. United party Leader Kevin Falcon was more blunt: “It’s a joke. They spent a year coming up with some targets? I’ve always said if we want more affordable housing, make it less expensive to build.”
- Falcon criticized the proposal by Metro mayors to hike development fees, which he said will offset the savings of the federal government’s GST waiver for rental buildings and only make housing more expensive for British Columbians.
- Kahlon said Tuesday that if the targets are met, it will mean an additional 16,800 below-market rentals over five years, which will improve affordability for British Columbians.
- Here's the thing that government's don't seem to get. If you build a certain amount of housing, but 5 times that amount arrives in the province via immigration, we're still going to be in a housing crisis, and things will not get better, just get worse at a slower rate.
- It's clear we need all levels of government on board with these plans. The federal government needs to come to the table and stop stalling, the provincial government needed to set these targets years ago and higher. And the municipal governments need to get on board and stop rejecting housing plans.
- The media needed to hold the governments' feet to the fire on this issue years ago. It's great that they're doing so now, but we're already in a huge crisis situation. It's time for solutions now.
- The fallout from Bill C-11 continues to make itself known as we just recently gleaned some of the requirements of regulation.
- Bill C-11 or An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act otherwise known as the online streaming act received Royal Assent in April and is set to require streaming services that meet a certain revenue threshold register with the CRTC.
- In effect, C-11 regulates streaming services like YouTube and TikTok. The Bill received criticism because as written initially user generated content would be regulated. This was changed but we’re not out of the woods yet.
- Regulated entities will require broadcasters to show a certain amount of Canadian Content or CanCon. This idea is very popular in parts of Quebec and in the Ottawa-Montreal corridor inhabited by the Laurentian elite.
- The core issue for YouTube and the like is that the Bill requires a section to “clearly promote and recommend Canadian programming in both official languages as well as in Indigenous languages.”
- The concern based on how YouTube and other websites are built is that when Canadian content would be recommended to someone who doesn’t want it, they’ll downvote it or skip it entirely which negatively affects that creator.
- At the time legal experts said that this would create a situation where Canadian YouTubers would have to prove they are Canadian enough to get seen.
- This brings us to today where the CRTC has outlined thresholds that streaming services will have to meet. In typical fashion this was released late Friday afternoon - the time slot where news you want to hide gets put.
- Streaming services that offer content in Canada and earn more than $10m in annual revenues need to register by November 28.
- This runs completely counter to what was proposed by the federal government as this was framed as looking at the largest of providers like YouTube, Netflix, TikTok, Crave, and Disney+.
- But the most concerning to us is that social media services and online services that provide podcasts must also register. Users who create social media content or podcasts do not need to register.
- We need to be clear that individual podcasters do not need to register with the CRTC but podcast providers do.
- The CRTC is also requiring certain online streaming services to provide it with information related to their content and subscribership, and make content available in a way that is not tied to a specific mobile or internet service.
- Here at Western Context we are jumping on this topic because it has the potential to change the podcast and video landscape in this country.
- While most of the legacy mainstream media is not affected by this, the changes here could be seen by the mainstream as a way to level the playing field.
- Content algorithms on online streaming websites make or break the success of a video, podcast episode, and even channel.
- If podcasts and similar content are served to people who don’t want them in a specific section, it could spell dangerous results for those creators.
- We are presently less than 48 hours after these rules dropped and reaction across the creator landscape hasn’t begun to trickle in yet because it’s likely that Canadian creators don’t know what’s about to happen.
- And when it comes to Canadian media reporting on the subject, YouTube and the like is never really treated seriously and when it is discussed it’s only touched on at a surface level.
- All is not lost though, we hope, as a third consultation is going to happen considering traditional broadcasters and online streaming services.
- The CRTC will hold a three week public hearing starting on November 20th and will hear from 129 intervenors.
- Until then it is unlikely the gravity of what happened will sink in, but that hearing represents an opportunity to highlight potential impacts of this and have the CRTC change their onerous regulations on the matter.
Quote of the Week
"I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to [honour Hunka]. I wish to make clear that no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them. I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world."- Now former House of Commons Speaker Anthony Rota, on his decision to honour a Waffen SS member in Parliament.
Word of the Week
Ovation - a sustained and enthusiastic show of appreciation from an audience, especially by means of applause.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Ovation Oopsie
Teaser: Speaker Anthony Rota resigns after inviting a Waffen SS member to be honoured by Parliament, the Trudeau government wants to cut $1b in defence spending, and BC sets some housing targets. Also, streaming services have to register with the CRTC.
Recorded Date: September 30, 2023
Release Date: October 1, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes