The News Rundown
- This week in Alberta the Throne Speech for the 31st Legislature was presented. This is the first Throne Speech for Danielle Smith’s re-elected government.
- The Throne Speech outlines the priorities for the government in the coming session and so far it looks like the Alberta UCP will keep to their trend of keeping their promises.
- Jason Kenney’s UCP government was odd in that it kept many of its promises, something that wasn’t talked about in the media, but this is a reason why Albertans should keep their eyes open.
- The Throne Speech promises to use the Sovereignty Act if the federal government does not change its guidelines on a net zero electrical grid by 2035.
- This is a piece of policy that we knew was going to be central to Danielle Smith even before the election this past May.
- The Throne Speech is full of ceremony and alongside that comes the government's choice of what will be its Bill 1. The Bill that their mandate will be defined by.
- As Premier, Danielle Smith’s Bill 1 will be tax legislation requiring any new tax increase be put to a referendum.
- The Bill will also create a new tax bracket for those making under $60,000 and extend the fuel tax pause.
- Another piece of legislation will outline and enshrine in law how the province must go forward on an Alberta Pension Plan.
- The Bill will guarantee that transferred assets stay in the plan, ensure that benefits would be equal to or better than the CPP, require that contributions be the same or less than the CPP, and that the Alberta Pension Plan be approved by a province wide vote.
- It’s also become known that there will be no referendum without a hard number on what assets Alberta will receive.
- The Throne Speech also looks to deal with the issue of affordability with an emphasis on natural gas electricity and a package of reforms that new renewable energy projects will be required to hit.
- Auto insurance is going to be an issue at work for the government and we’ll talk about that later in this episode in terms of what they may do.
- The government will also pledge to fight the federal carbon tax and has since doubled down on this since the federal government’s decision to exempt heating oil.
- The speech also outlines a doubling of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation’s (AIOC) loan guarantee, up to $2 billion and rising to $3 billion in 2024-25.
- The Throne Speech also looked into the future with the goal of growing the population to 10 million people by 2050 aiming to become the second largest province in Canada.
- With this of course would have to come a focus on housing, education, health care, and infrastructure.
- This led to an idea to build commuter rail between Edmonton and Calgary and everywhere in between.
- The idea of a population boom is to put Alberta into the driver's seat soundly with Ontario in the Canadian federation.
- This idea of a population boom was hardly talked about in the media alongside its ramifications, both good and bad.
- This Throne Speech evokes populist tones and is anything but far right.
- The UCP government has been a rarity in Canada in that they kept their promises and governed as they campaigned. So far in this first Throne Speech, Danielle Smith looks to repeat that this time around.
- Elections have consequences and for those who may have been concerned, we now know exactly what Danielle Smith is going to do.
- At a time of increased anti-semitism, not just in Canada, but around the world, BC is taking a stand, and combatting the sharp rise in racism against Jewish people that we've seen over the past few years, and especially so since the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7th.
- While many students learn about the Holocaust, there is more work to do to ensure all students graduate with an understanding about this topic. According to a study commissioned by the Canadian charity Liberation75 last year, a third of North American students surveyed believe the Holocaust was either exaggerated or fabricated. Incidents of antisemitism have been on the rise across B.C. in recent years, including a surge in violent incidents. A 2019 survey suggested that one in five Canadian youths at the time were unaware of what happened during the Holocaust.
- The Holocaust refers to when, during the Second World War, the German Nazi regime persecuted and murdered approximately six million Jewish people throughout Europe. Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration or extermination camps to be killed with poison gas or subjected to forced labour. Some of the camps were also used for other groups persecuted by the Nazis such as Roma, LGBTQ people and political opponents.
- Premier David Eby told an audience at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Monday that It has been a “frightening time” for the Jewish community after deadly terrorist attacks by Hamas militants in Israel earlier in October. He also pointed out that there has been a rise in antisemitism in the province, noting examples including recent death threats against two Jewish women at a peaceful vigil and the vandalism of a rabbi's home in Surrey, B.C., with a Nazi swastika.
- Eby said the move to make Holocaust education mandatory comes after a synagogue in Surrey was vandalized and the Vancouver police said they are investigating reports of hateful comments directed at a West End restaurant that serves Israeli cuisine.
- Eby said: “If we really want to fight hate in this province, if we really want to stand up to antisemitism, it is critical that we learn from the past. We know how threats and hate can accelerate into violent acts and into horrific outcomes. We must ensure that the same horrors are not repeated. When we say 'never again' in relation to the Holocaust, we mean it.”
- While it hasn't been required curriculum, the premier said many B.C. teachers make a point of teaching their students about the murders of six million Jews and others by the Nazis during the Second World War as their classes discuss social justice, equality and the horrors of history. He noted that the Jewish community has been calling for mandatory Holocaust education for “many decades.”
- According to the BC government, they are broadening the scope of the required Grade 10 social studies curriculum to ensure that when learning about discriminatory policies and injustices in Canada and around the world, all students in B.C. will also learn about the Holocaust.
- Other additions to the Grade 10 social studies curriculum will also be considered to reflect the diversity and history of B.C. clearly. This includes more learning on topics such as the destruction of Vancouver's Hogan’s Alley, a racially diverse community, as well as Japanese internment and discrimination against other culturally diverse groups such as Muslim, East-Asian, Black and South-Asian communities. Conversations with stakeholders will happen over the next year to ensure the provincial government is moving forward together with partners and communities.
- The changes will take effect in the 2025-26 school year to allow for consultation with the Jewish community and education partners, including the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. Nina Krieger, executive director of the centre, said it's “truly heartbreaking” to see the last eyewitnesses to the Holocaust are now witnessing a surge in antisemitism. She said the commitment to require Holocaust education for B.C. high school students is a meaningful step forward for survivors and their descendants in the province.
- The move makes B.C. the second province to add mandatory Holocaust education, following Ontario's decision to include Holocaust education in its Grade 6 curriculum. Ontario is also expanding its Holocaust education in grade 10 as well.
- At a time where anti-semitic hate incidents are on the rise, this is an excellent step by the BC and Ontario governments. It's surprising it has taken this long to get done, and that it will still take a few years to implement is disappointing. But, as we all know, ignorance can only be stopped by education, and this is a good first step to stop these hateful attacks and actually have a diverse and accepting Canada in practice, not just in theory.
- In addition to the throne speech, Alberta will be attacking auto insurance in the coming legislative session.
- To start the government will give more power to the AIRB otherwise known as the Automobile Insurance Rate Board in an effort to reduce insurance rate increases for drivers with good records.
- Starting this year rate hikes will be limited to the inflation rate from September of that year, which for this year is 3.7%.
- The goal for the Premier is to have good drivers not be punished.
- A good driver is anyone except those who have had:
- At most one at-fault accident in the last six years
- Any criminal traffic convictions in the last four years
- Any major traffic convictions in the last three years
- No more than one minor traffic conviction in the last three years.
- The throne speech as outlined features a number of populist angles and we see this continuing on auto insurance.
- The province aims to have insurers return a portion of premiums to drivers if the company’s profit surpasses profitability thresholds.
- The AIRB will also start monitoring rate increases in 2024 to ensure they are “reasonable and justifiable”.
- Finance Minister Nate Horner said that “everything is on the table” when it comes to lowering the cost of the insurance system.
- This could include a public insurer as seen in BC and Saskatchewan.
- Listeners of the podcast will of course know of the trials and tribulations of ICBC, so let’s hope that the Alberta government is paying attention to what caused those problems.
- Minister Horner said that ideologically he would have been very against starting a new Crown corporation but is going to see what a report commissioned by the Alberta government says.
- The report commissioned by the Alberta government done by the Oliver Wyman Group at a cost of $500,000 will examine options from other jurisdictions.
- Another option is also adopting a no-fault insurance system similar to that of BCs.
- All of these changes mark quite a shift in terms of how insurance has been managed since the 1990s. Alberta made history in Canada in the 1990s by shifting to private insurance.
- Many people will say that this doesn’t tick the boxes of a conservative government since in order for private insurance to work there needs to be a robust market.
- Auto insurance is a pocket book issue and for many people an ideological conservative stance on that, doesn’t make sense.
- These policies may also appear as a head scratcher for anyone who watched the spring election campaign in that one would not expect the Smith government to go down this path given what was campaigned on and some of the grassroots movements at play.
- But this policy does something important that the media will not say: the government, despite how ideological Smith may seem, is willing to do what needs to be done to solve issues that crop up.
- It also brings forward the idea that we could be seeing a shift of the UCP that wasn’t planned returning to more of the populist roots established with Western based social credit parties.
- And that itself in addition to the auto insurance warrants discussion.
- Amid a backlash against the Liberals' immigration targets, that were seeing the numbers of people admitted to Canada increased by hundreds of thousands per year, the Liberals have announced a pause. Not a total pause on immigration, just a pause on increasing the numbers even more than they have already.
- Immigration Minister Marc Miller tabled plans in Parliament on Wednesday that shows that the Liberal government will not cut immigration levels and plans to hold its target of annual newcomers steady at 500,000 people starting in 2026.
- The Immigration Levels Plan sets guidelines and targets for how many permanent residents Canada plans to welcome under economic, humanitarian and family reunification streams.
- The latest plan maintains previously-set targets of welcoming 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and 500,000 new permanent residents for 2025. The number will stay at 500,000 in 2026 and “stabilize,” which Miller said is about “allowing time for successful integration” as well as “sustainable population growth.”
- Miller told reporters in Ottawa after the plan was tabled that: “These immigration levels allow us to bring in the skills and talent we need to fill the labour gaps and ensure Canada’s economic prosperity, help families reunite and remain a leader in refugee resettlement.”
- The new targets come as a growing number of Canadians appear to feel immigration to Canada is too high, spurred by worry about the cost-of-living crisis, according to a new survey from the Environics Institute and echoing polling done earlier in the month by Ipsos.
- The Environics survey suggests that 44 per cent of Canadians agree with the statement that “overall, there’s too much immigration to Canada'' compared with 51 percent who disagree. This view of immigration marked a significant shift from the results last year, when only 27 per cent said there was too much immigration, and a record high of 69 per cent of people disagreed.
- Miller said stabilizing immigration levels will allow governments to “take stock” and make sure labour shortages — particularly in construction — are addressed, along with housing and health-care needs for those new arrivals.
- He said: “What Canadians have been telling us, essentially, is to get our acts together — whether it’s the federal government, provincial governments or municipal governments — and be a little more coordinated in the way we welcome immigration in various categories. This has been a huge debate in Canada. The eyes of Canadians are more intensely focused on immigration. They’re not xenophobic, but they’re asking us to get a little more organized.”
- Miller, when asked earlier in the week about whether he could consider slashing immigration targets amid a nationwide housing crisis, told reporters, “(It) doesn’t make sense to drop the numbers knowing what I know.”
- While Canada is bringing in more immigrants than ever before, a higher number of recent immigrants are also leaving the country at rates never seen before either.
- The onward migration rate—when immigrants who came to Canada migrate to a third country—across all immigrant cohorts that arrived between 1982 and 2018 increased to 1.15% in 2017, up from 0.8% in 2016, according to a study released by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) and the Conference Board of Canada on Oct. 31. In 2019, it reached a further high of 1.18%.
- There are many reasons why immigrants are leaving the country at a higher rate than before. If you didn't know already, Canada has an affordable housing crisis. Coupled with rising living costs, it’s making immigrants consider moving out. They're also being underutilized, where immigrants with a university degree or above are 43% more likely to work in jobs where their education level isn’t required, compared to their Canadian-born counterparts.
- The government also needs to plan for increased infrastructure spending across the board, in healthcare, transit, education, and child care, in order to help these systems cope with the increase in population.
- Many people are aware of Canada's infrastructure problems, and that bringing in even more people than ever before is putting enormous strains on a system that is not designed to help as many people as it needs to.
- Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has boldly claimed that Canada’s immigration system is broken, but has always sidestepped questions as to whether or not he would reduce the current targets.
- Poilievre’s comments come as the Conservatives try to increase their support in newcomer communities in some of the country’s largest cities and suburbs, selling the party as pro-immigration.
- The Tories have struggled to rebuild such support since losing government in 2015, when they campaigned on a pledge to set up a tip line for so-called “barbaric cultural practices.” A review of the party’s 2021 election loss called for recruitment of more diverse candidates and better outreach to cultural communities.
- Besides appearing at numerous ethnic media roundtables, attending different cultural events and meeting with various business groups, Poilievre has championed cost-of-living issues in his outreach, from a lack of affordable housing to high food prices. Rather than discussing immigration targets, the Conservative leader has focused on the system’s shortcomings.
- So while we are seeing a slight decrease in the increase of immigration targets, as it were, things are not likely to change on this front, even with a change in government. One would hope that our systems don't stretch beyond a breaking point than they already have.
Quote of the Week
“If we really want to fight hate in this province, if we really want to stand up to antisemitism, it is critical that we learn from the past. We know how threats and hate can accelerate into violent acts and into horrific outcomes. We must ensure that the same horrors are not repeated. When we say 'never again' in relation to the Holocaust, we mean it.” - Premier David Eby on BC’s introduction of mandatory Holocaust education
Word of the Week
Mandatory - compulsory actions required by laws or rules
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Never Again
Teaser: Alberta’s throne speech contains a few surprises, BC makes Holocaust education mandatory, and Alberta looks to overhaul auto insurance. Also, the Trudeau Liberals refuse to cut immigration targets.
Recorded Date: November 4, 2023
Release Date: November 5, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes