The News Rundown
- Last weekend the UCP gathered for their annual convention where as expected the frame of the event was that the party has tacked to the hard right.
- Others have said that the party is now controlled by social conservatives and there are no moderates left in the UCP.
- For those unaware the UCP governs itself with a focus on grassroots members involvement, this is the same policy that saw the ouster of former Premier Jason Kenney.
- The members are free, yearly, to propose policy ideas and vote on them. The policy ideas are not guaranteed to become law since the party is different from the government.
- News articles in the Calgary Herald amongst other places detailed the shift towards a more conservative angle at the policy convention.
- Before we get into what was said in a couple publications, let’s go through some of the policies voted on.
- There were policies that pushed back against the Trudeau administration’s net-zero by 2035 pledge.
- There were resolutions about free expression and another including protecting medical practitioners rights to research, speak, and write without threat of license removal.
- The big ones though were focused around protecting an individual’s right to informed consent regarding their own body and parental rights.
- The first one is targeting vaccine mandates of the pandemic and the second follows Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
- Bringing back the division of the pandemic is questionable and it remains to be seen if the government wants to enshrine such a provision when it comes to the law.
- The resolutions on parental rights effectively ask that legislation ensures parents are informed of all decisions and services rendered by schools, also that parental consent be required for students under 16 to change their names and pronouns in schools, and that teachers don’t “provide access to materials of a sexual, racist, or abusive nature that aren’t part of the curriculum.”
- Saskatchewan passed a law recently that enshrined this and invoked the federal notwithstanding clause to allow the law to be carried forward.
- New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs drew criticism this past summer and even threatened an election over such policy in his government.
- The delegates also voted to eliminate diversity, equity, and inclusion offices from public universities and colleges.
- These are some of the more contentious issues while others included a ban on electronic vote tabulation, a digital bill of rights, and blanket support for "fair, efficient, open, and competitive consumer and industrial electricity markets."
- In general it’s about a 50/50 shot whether or not a motion could be deemed controversial, now it’s time to unpack the claims of the social conservative takeover or push to the hard right.
- In the Tyee, Graham Thompson, wrote, “during debates over party policy resolutions on Saturday, there were no head-on collisions because the traffic was flowing in one direction: to the far right.”
- Thompson also remarked that most of the moderate delegates never showed up or were exceptionally quiet, he also makes mention of Jason Kenney’s former press secretary also being at the event and her assertion that the party has taken a step “away from the mainstream.”
- In the Calgary Herald, Don Braid wrote that “to find an equally ardent group of social conservatives, we probably have to go back to Social Credit before 1971.”
- To understand where writers like Braid and Thompson are coming from we need to know that Alberta has an institutional history that hasn’t been shaken and can still be described as Progressive Conservative.
- Braid and Thompson don’t show their personal political stripes but outlets involved with and around them in the past have a track record of supporting the Progressive Conservatives when times got tough for the party in 2008, 2012, and 2015 most memorably.
- The institutions of Alberta are moderate, the cities of Edmonton and Calgary are moderate, so that streak does exist in the province but we have to ask what would these articles look like if the fanning of flames was removed?
- You would see media outlets discussing the resolutions and how they relate to disruption of the status quo of the institutional nature of the province without the flamey rhetoric.
- We also have to realize that public perception wanes and moves from progressive to conservative and back and we appear to be on a move to the more conservative side with Saskatchewan and even New Brunswick considering some of these ideas and in the case of Saskatchewan, implementing them.
- So with that, are these ideas really that shocking and do they warrant alarm bells being sounded?
- That is the debate that must be answered if these policies are to be brought into the legislature.
- The UK and Canadian governments have gotten into an unusual disagreement this week, where each is showing the terror threat levels of Canada very differently. A boldface warning on the British government's travel advisory states: “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Canada.”
- A UK travel update from Nov. 3 reads: “There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting U.K. interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the U.K. and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.”
- “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should remain aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.” It then lists recent attacks, including a stabbing this year in Surrey, B.C., and the 2021 van attack that killed four members of the same family in London, Ont.
- The website includes a link to the government of Canada’s web page for national terrorism threat levels. But that page indicates that the current level is medium, defined as “a violent act of terrorism could occur.” The Canadian website notes that the terror threat has been at “medium” continuously for almost 10 years, since October of 2014.
- “Medium” is the middle of five levels. The next highest, “high,” says that a violent act of terrorism “is likely,” while the highest level, “critical,” warns that an act “is highly likely and could occur imminently.” The British warning of “very likely” attacks would seem to fall between these two highest levels.
- The issue was raised Wednesday during Question Period in the House of Commons, when opposition leader Pierre Poilievre asked the Prime Minister if he agreed with the U.K. foreign office’s assessment.
- “We are continuing to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to keep Canadians safe,” Justin Trudeau answered. “We understand that these are trying times around the world right now, but the best thing we can do as Canadians is stay true to our values, be respectful of one another, feel each other’s pain, and be there to support others through these very difficult times of a rise in hatred, including Islamophobia and antisemitism.”
- Poilievre then pushed the point, noting that “terrorists are not interested in feeling other people’s pain; they are interested in causing other people pain,” and asking Trudeau to explain the difference in threat level assessments.
- Trudeau replied: “I cannot speak to how other countries make their determinations on travel advisories, but I can say that the work is done daily in Canada to assess the threat level to Canadians and what can be communicated to keep them safe. We have top security agencies and officials who work daily to reassess the threat levels to Canadians.”
- Tom Walsh, a spokesman for the British High Commission in Canada, declined to comment on the apparent difference in assessments. “The U.K. updated its travel advice for Canada on 3 November to reflect the threat to British nationals. We continue to work with Canadian authorities to ensure the safety of all British nationals in Canada and encourage British nationals to remain vigilant and monitor media and advice from local authorities for updates.”
- Eric Balsam, a spokesperson for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said “there is no information suggesting that a credible or imminent terrorist attack is likely, which would warrant increasing the threat level.” But he said it is hard to predict the long-term impact of the war between Israel and Hamas, which he noted “has raised tensions within our society.”
- Balsam said: “Violent rhetoric from extremist actors has increased since the attack by Hamas and, as the conflict continues to unfold, it is possible that these events could impact certain individuals’ intent to mobilize to violence. CSIS is also attuned to the threat of individuals, not associated with any known group or entity, being independently radicalized through the consumption of media and information, and mobilizing to violence.”
- Separately, Canadian authorities say they are investigating possible threats to Air-India recently posted online. A video by Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based secessionist group that advocates splitting Punjab from India to create a state called Khalistan, tells people not to fly Air-India after Nov. 19. The video features Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who heads Sikhs for Justice, and who India considers a terrorist.
- Laura Scaffidi, press secretary to Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez said: “Our government takes any threat to aviation extremely seriously. We are investigating recent threats circulating online closely and with our security partners. We will do everything necessary to keep Canadians safe.”
- Pannun, who posted the video for the organization Sikhs for Justice, denies the message is a threat and said he is just asking people to boycott Air India. The Indian government, however, accuses Pannun of making threats in the video against Air-India, a carrier that has been targeted before. The 1985 bombing of Air-India Flight 182 – which killed all 329 people aboard, most of whom were Canadians of Indian descent – is the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.
- So is Canada at risk of a terror attack? It's certainly possible given rising tensions around Israel-Gaza, and problems with Sikh nationalism. It's a major problem of Trudeau's immigration and multiculturalism plan when people who come to Canada also import their problems from home.
- It's clear that other countries, even our closest allies, see the threat of terrorism in Canada, while our government is quick to downplay any increase in terrorist threats, even as they are investigating several new ones in the past month or two. The Canadian government has had a hard time being honest with Canadians for some time now, perhaps they should be honest with Canadians about the threats we face.
- As discussed in our previous Alberta story there has been discussion amongst the pundit class about whether or not the UCP is moving to the far right or being embraced by social conservatives.
- In another policy announcement this week, Danielle Smith announced that there are major changes in the pipeline for Alberta Health Services.
- Who was involved in this announcement will surprise you and make you question whether or not the province is moving to the far right.
- But before that we need to look into what’s happening and ask if the sky is really falling as the health public service has exclaimed.
- In a staged rollout AHS is being split apart into four agencies.
- There will be an acute care agency that will focus on delivery of hospital care, urgent care centres, cancer care, and emergency medical services.
- There will be a primary care agency that will coordinate primary health care services and provide transparent provincial oversight.
- There will be a continuing care agency that will oversee providers, manage contracts for service delivery, but will not be an operator of continuing care.
- There will be a mental health and addiction agency that will allow Albertans to access “a full continuum of recovery- oriented supports.”
- AHS, covenant health, and chartered surgical facilities will now be accountable to the acute care organization.
- Twelve existing AHS regional advisory councils will be restructured and a new Indigenous advisory council will be created.
- This announcement is interesting because former Premier Ed Stelmach was at the announcement in his role as board chair of the northern provider Covenant Health.
- It was his government that took the regional boards and combined them into AHS.
- Though today his opinion of the situation matched the Premier’s saying: “The function changed from operating hospitals — the intention and the design in 2008 — to where they had this incredible role across Alberta, (with) fingers into everything from hospital construction to policy to budgeting.”
- AHS will also have a new board chaired by Dr. Lyle Oberg. That name may be familiar to people as he is a former PC cabinet minister who also served as Ed Stelmach’s finance minister.
- And here is where the story gets interesting, the pundits and media have reported last week that the party was taken over by the far right.
- With these announcements though and the seeming embrace of former Premier Ed Stelmach and Lyle Oberg, we can see that the cabinet at least is trying to govern as though they’re progressive conservatives!
- And when you think about this, it makes sense. Danielle Smith is a libertarian who in 2023 presents as a populist but at her core her social ideology is that of a progressive conservative. With this it makes sense that her government would stick to the centre and dare I say it, stick to Alberta’s political establishment.
- There of course has also been alarm from people in the NDP and associated health care unions over these changes with concern over potential job losses, efficiency losses, and how much it will cost in the end.
- But we are at a crisis point where the healthcare system, specifically in acute and primary care, is broken.
- The goal looks to be with these changes, it to make the individual organizations easier to manage and make them more accountable, specifically to the cabinet.
- These changes came as a surprise to many this week but these changes are the beginning of a potential re-organization that Danielle Smith described while she was running for leadership last year.
- She outlined an idea that saw these agencies but also saw a world where private hospitals could operate under the acute care agency in competition to AHS and covenant health.
- Insurance would be provided by the government and people could choose to go where they got the best outcomes.
- We’re not there yet but the reaction to this week’s announcement is odd because in connecting the dots and listening to what Danielle Smith has said, it’s clear this is the beginning and future changes could be even more disruptive.
- Disruptive but potentially curing to the healthcare system.
- Going forward there will be a series of engagement town halls first with healthcare professionals and then with the general public.
- It is expected that these reforms will take anywhere from 18 months to 2 years to carry out.
- Right now these changes mean nothing until healthcare improves or it gets worse, in that case, the government will have a bigger problem on its hands.
- A food bank in Brampton, Ontario has closed its doors to international students this week, raising ire on social media while drawing confused reactions from others, wondering why international students visiting food banks was a thing in the first place.
- Board president Catherine Rivera says Ste. Louise Outreach Centre of Peel can't provide enough food and other supplies to its customers because of the influx of international students showing up at the food bank since September.
- The whiteboard outside the food bank includes information on opening times and where new clients and those with appointments should line up. But at the bottom, it adds: “No international students!! (Government regulations)”
- The “Government regulations” notice on that white board refers to government of Canada rules, which require international students to provide a statement of financial support before they are issued a study permit. “You must prove that you can support yourself and the family members who come with you while you are in Canada,” a government website says, stipulating $10,000 per year (not including tuition) for the student, plus $4,000 for an accompanying family member.
- Rivera says students are required to show funds for their first year before coming into Canada, and hence should not be relying on food banks. She said: “What’s happened this September is we’re in the middle of serving families, and then you get a group of kids – you know, you can tell they’re very young students with backpacks. And they’re coming with little smiles on their faces when they say, ‘We want to get food.’ And we say: Are you a permanent resident of Brampton? And they’ll say: No, we’re students.”
- "We get groups of three, four, sometimes nine, 10, with their backpacks ready for free stuff, we tell them, 'We can't feed you, you're responsible for yourself and your family.'"
- To become a client at the Ste. Louise Outreach Centre of Peel, a person needs to present identification, proof of their status in Canada, as well as bank statements and a lease. An article on CBC makes this seem like a big deal, but many food banks require identification and proof of residence as well as knowing how many people live with you in your household. Some only serve you if you live in a particular local municipality.
- Across Canada, reliance on food banks is reaching record levels. According to an October report from Food Banks Canada food bank usage reached its highest level since the survey started in 1989. The Daily Bread Food Bank's most recent annual report, found a 63 per cent year-over-year increase in use from July 2022 to June 2023.
- Some organizations, like other food banks in Ontario that do serve international students, say the decision by the Brampton food bank is disappointing, while the Canadian Federation of Students called it a "discriminatory practice". However, it's clear that there are many international students that aren't following the rules, and are abusing the system put in place.
- Rivera thinks part of the problem could be unscrupulous agents in other countries who are telling would-be students that Canada will offer them free food when they arrive. She’s also heard of blog posts and YouTube videos with titles like “How to get free food in Canada.”
- But she’s personally seen students who are fully aware they’re misusing the system. “We show them the documents that we got off the government website. And they laugh and walk away, because they already knew. Or the other thing is they say, ‘Well … we just got food from the other place.’ And our thought is: ‘Excuse me? You just went to a food bank, and now you’re coming here?’ So there’s abuse happening now where they’re not only going to one, but they’re going to many, and they know darn well that’s not what’s supposed to happen.”
- Just a few weeks ago, federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced a framework that will push universities and colleges to set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students, starting in time for the fall 2024 semester. Schools that meet the higher benchmark, including adequate housing, will get priority for the processing of student visas.
- Institutions also will be required to confirm every applicant’s acceptance letter directly with the Canadian government starting Dec. 1. The process aims to combat fraud, following revelations that hundreds of Indian newcomers unknowingly arrived in Canada with fake college admissions letters. In the coming months, Miller’s department will also review the post-graduate work permit program and introduce reforms to ensure it meets the needs of the labor market.
- The plan comes amid growing concern that Canadian educational institutions rely too much on international students as a source of funding. Foreign students are charged an average of five times as much as Canadian students, and colleges catering to foreigners have popped up in strip malls and temporary buildings, most notably in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, where Miller made his announcement. It's no coincidence that the Brampton food bank has seen such overwhelming demand from international students.
- It's clear that international students have been allowed to come to Canada without tighter controls on their acceptance for far too long, and with cost of living, inflation and housing concerns going through the roof, now is not the time for our beleaguered services to be helping those beyond which there is capacity for. While Trudeau's government has made a few changes, they have been too slow to act and have ignored the problem for far too long.
Quote of the Week
“Violent rhetoric from extremist actors has increased since the attack by Hamas and, as the conflict continues to unfold, it is possible that these events could impact certain individuals’ intent to mobilize to violence. CSIS is also attuned to the threat of individuals, not associated with any known group or entity, being independently radicalized through the consumption of media and information, and mobilizing to violence.” - Eric Balsam, spokesperson for CSIS on the potential rise of terrorist threats in Canada
Word of the Week
Threat - a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Threats and Promises
Teaser: The UCP convention showcases policy futures for Alberta, the UK says a terror attack in Canada is very likely, and Alberta is overhauling its healthcare system. Also, a Brampton food bank is banning international students.
Recorded Date: November 11, 2023
Release Date: November 12, 2023
Edit Notes: Pause at end of AB1
Podcast Summary Notes