The News Rundown
- The B.C. government is going after a couple on Salt Spring Island, demanding they explain where they got the money to purchase a house, worth nearly $2M. It is the first use of B.C.’s new Unexplained Wealth Order, which is legislation intended to combat money laundering. It puts the onus on alleged launderers to explain where money came from to buy their assets.
- Mike Farnworth, BC's Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General said Thursday that the notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court is the beginning of a series of similar applications, which will be powerful tools that “put those engaging in illegal activity on notice.”
- A statement from Farnworth said the province “will not tolerate criminals prospering in our communities” and it will pursue illegally acquired properties, luxury vehicles, money laundering schemes and businesses operating as fronts.
- The civil forfeiture action in this case alleges the house on Salt Spring Island was purchased by a couple, with the proceeds from a $200 million international stock fraud. The government now wants to seize the house under civil forfeiture laws.
- Farnworth said: “I can’t provide you at this point with the specific circumstances, but what I can tell you, it often involves fraud in significant cases. It could, for example, involve stock fraud, organized crime, criminal activity. It could involve money laundering. It could involve what’s often referred to as pump-and-dump scams. There’s a whole range of activities where this legislation is going to allow us to go after criminals and their assets.”
- Civil forfeiture has existed in B.C. since 2006, allowing the province to confiscate people's property without any criminal charges attached. Forfeited assets obtained through unexplained wealth orders are redirected to community safety and crime-prevention initiatives, said Farnworth.
- Amendments to the Civil Forfeiture Act earlier this year allow the use of unexplained wealth orders, which require people to explain how they acquired their wealth and property if there is suspicion of criminal activity.
- Confiscating unexplained wealth was one of the recommendations in the Cullen Report on money laundering, which estimated that billions of dollars worth of illicit funds have poured into the province, especially in casinos and real estate.
- Bibhas Baze, a Vancouver-based lawyer who specializes in civil forfeiture matters, told Global News he doesn’t think the new law is required.
- He said “It certainly isn’t necessary, especially given what we know about the effectiveness of civil forfeiture, and that civil forfeiture has been very successful in being able to get wealth and property from individuals. Even with all the concerns that it might not be fair at the end of the day, civil forfeiture has still been very successful, even in the face of those concerns. And so I don’t see it as necessary in that way.”
- Moreover, Baze said it allows the B.C. government to treat certain citizens in an unfair way.
- “They’re supposed to be fair in the way they treat us, no matter what they might think about who we are as individuals or as a society. They need to be fair in how they treat us,” Baze added. “This seems to be taking that unfairness to another degree, because what it is, is it’s allowing defendants to be put in a position where they’re even more prejudiced than they are in the standard civil forfeiture proceedings. So not only is it not necessary but it goes further in terms of not being fair to the citizen.”
- Whether or not this couple truly was laundering money and purchased their home on Salt Spring Island with illegal assets is up to the courts to decide now, where the case will be heard in early January. That said, it does seem like an overreach of government to just declare someone an enemy of the government. It's a slippery slope and no doubt that if a different government were in power in BC, or if this happened at a federal level there would be a lot more people, and media, crying foul. Perhaps the use is justified in this case, perhaps it's not, but this is something that the media has not focused on, and it's easy to say that this is not a path we want to tread too far down.
- The Alberta government has invoked the Sovereignty Act. The Sovereignty Act was invoked with respect to the new electricity regulations being brought in by the federal government.
- The Sovereignty Act was one of Danielle Smith’s key policy promises upon becoming leader of the UCP.
- Folks have been raising hay about the Sovereignty Act and how it would be disruptive to the country but now with its first invocation we’re left to parse what the invocation means.
- The crux of the matter is that the province does not want to be left in a situation where our private electricity companies have to shutter capacity to reach a net-zero target.
- For listeners outside of the province a bit of history is required: in the 1990s the province deregulated the electricity market allowing for private companies to sell electricity.
- To get around Ottawa’s regulations the province would create a new provincial Crown corporation aimed at becoming the province’s “power generator of last resort.”
- Danielle Smith on Monday said, “These measures are not something that we want to do. They are a plan to counteract the absurd, illogical, unscientific and unconstitutional interference in Alberta’s electrical grid by a federal government that simply doesn’t care what happens to our province. We refuse to meekly accept actions which are so plainly destructive to Alberta’s economy and to the very safety and security of Albertan citizens.”
- The resolution asks cabinet to order all provincial entities to refrain from enforcing or complying with the proposed electricity regulations, “to the extent legally permissible.
- The resolution asks the legislature to implement various reforms to Alberta’s electrical system to ensure grid affordability and reliability.
- The legislature will study the feasibility of establishing a provincial Crown corporation that, if created, would not recognize the clean electricity regulations.
- And it urges the government to use “all legal means necessary” to oppose federal electricity regulations.
- The important bit is that all orders under the act would not apply to private companies or individuals.
- This is why the province is willing to go to the extent of creating the Crown corporation to be the ‘generator of last resort’.
- The reason for this as stated by the government is that there aren’t enough new natural gas projects coming online.
- Danielle Smith was also clear to state that this would not mean a re-nationalization of the power grid stating that this crown corporation would function similar to the ATB or Alberta Treasury Branch that works alongside other private banking entities.
- Steven Guilbeault said that there is “no legal basis” for Alberta to be doing this and the decision is “bad for Albertans.”
- The response to that is: Well if there’s no legal basis then what does that mean to BC and Saskatchewan’s power grid?
- Rachel Notley views the Sovereignty Act as an “illegal stunt” which when you parse that, aligns closer with Guilbeault than the Alberta government.
- The most interesting peek into the future regarding what this mean for Alberta at a macro level came from David Staples in the Edmonton Journal.
- He picks up the point where Smith said that we don’t have enough natural gas coming online to meet the 2050 target. So with that the need for the Crown corporation is almost a given.
- This then opens the door to the prospect of nuclear which is very abundant in Ontario.
- Aside from protecting Albertan’s pocket books the most important issue is ensuring grid reliability and that we do not run into blackouts during periods of peak electricity demand.
- The government prevents those blackouts by ensuring adequate capacity with natural gas or nuclear.
- Secondly, an Alberta power generation company would effectively prevent the federal government from imposing power restrictions on Alberta (assuming the UCP stays in power) which would force the issue by having the federal government take Alberta to court.
- We don’t know how the courts would react to such a situation but it’s possible that judges at the Federal Court or Supreme Court level could see this as a violation of Canada’s Constitution.
- At the end of the day this is a win-win situation for Alberta since it ensures that if push comes to shove, a crown corporation could generate electricity with gas and then that would make it easier for Alberta to slip into nuclear power which creates a very roundabout way for Alberta to meet net-zero and capacity commitments.
- Listeners at this point are also asking: wasn’t this story about the Sovereignty Act? And yes, it was, but we’re seeing that the Sovereignty Act is the weapon it was made out to be.
- The Sovereignty Act is a way for the Alberta government to make a statement and any actions requested by the Sovereignty Act have to be implemented in the legislature. A far cry from what the Act was framed as when Smith came to power.
- This should hopefully quell the fears of the anti-Smith crowd but it won’t since either of these angles won’t be presented in mainstream media.
- Anyone in BC who has tried to find a doctor or get care at a hospital lately knows that it is not as easy as it should seem. One of my favourite sayings relating to Canadian health care is, 'is it really free if you can't access it?' Not only is this a problem in BC, but it is taking place Canada wide, but it does seem like the worst examples tend to happen in BC, especially in the Lower Mainland, where population growth has far outstripped the infrastructure needed to sustain life.
- Bruce Banman, the new Conservative Party of BC MLA who crossed the floor from BC United back in September, made headlines this week by comparing BC's health care system to that of a third world country. Banman is calling on the provincial government to do something to address cracks in the health-care system, citing his daughter’s recent stay at a Fraser Valley Hospital.
- Last month, Banman says his daughter was admitted to Abbotsford Regional Hospital with, what he describes, as a life-threatening medical issue — she was there for several weeks. He says he was shocked the hallways were clogged with patients on stretchers. One particular case last month detailed how an Abbotsford senior was forced to spend an entire week in the hallway before they could get a room, due to overcrowding and understaffing.
- There was another case that made headlines this week, in regards to cancer treatment in BC. One woman was told that it would take weeks to get an ultrasound and CT scan done, and months or even longer to see an oncologist, all while her abdominal pain was getting worse. She ended up waiting even longer until she finally got fast tracked for a CT scan that showed possible abdominal cancer, but it needed to be confirmed with a CT-guided biopsy. Almost 2 months after the first pain appeared, she was informed it was stage 4.
- When referred to the BC Cancer Agency, she was not given the option to have chemotherapy, and was told that 'It only works in about 50 per cent of the cases to slow it down' and she would only live between 2 months and 2 years longer. The woman was told to get her affairs in order and decide if she wanted MAID.
- The woman was shocked and looked at other options. She said she didn’t even see an oncologist with BC Cancer until two-and-a-half months later but at that point, she had already received treatment somewhere else.
- Her brother contacted his mother-in-law who lives in Taiwan and she was able to get some advice from an oncologist there, after only waiting an hour. That oncologist confirmed that HIPEC was the treatment for the cancer. She set up a Zoom call with that oncologist later that week but then she found out about a doctor in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as one in Washington state that would take her on as a patient immediately.
- With the help of a surgeon in Vancouver, she finally got a telephone appointment with an oncologist at BC Cancer for the middle of March – two-and-a-half months after receiving her diagnosis and the news that she may only have two months to two years to live, and two months after getting surgery in the US.
- Health Minister Adrian Dix said that the government is in the midst of the biggest hiring period it’s ever had. He acknowledged that there is still room for improvement.
- That's for sure. For health care in Canada, it's becoming more and more likely that people are dying before receiving the treatment they need, and not only that, but they are offered MAID as an option instead of treatment. The system is broken, and it's time to fix it.
- Last week on the podcast we reported on the fall economic statement providing an increase in funding to media organizations by way of increasing the amount claimable per employee to the federal government.
- This week in what has been described by the media as a “win for the Trudeau government” the federal government secured a deal with Google worth about $100m to have Google continuing to serve news to Canadians.
- Meta made headlines when they did not accept a deal and Google had until mid-December to make a deal or risk Canadian news from disappearing from their platform.
- The federal government wanted $172m but now it’s down to about the $100m mark.
- Google and other tech companies have expressed what they called “Critical structural issues” with Bill C-18.
- C-18 is the Bill that would see the tech companies pay the federal government for the privilege to serve news to Canadians and then that money would in theory flow to the media organizations.
- News coverage from CTV, Global, and CBC all framed the story as one where even smaller news outlets were pleased with this because it would ensure their websites are still able to be seen on Google.
- Google puts it best: Bill C-18 is a “link tax” and “breaks the way the web and search engines have worked for more than 30 years and may expose [Google] to uncapped financial liability.”
- In their summation of the Bill and its problems Google states: the reason news businesses are not compensated by platforms linking to their content is not due to a bargaining power imbalance, but because there has never been a “link tax” on the Internet, given that the value of linking is primarily to the publisher of the linked content.”
- Free linking is the foundation of the open web and it is essential to communication online.
- Heritage Minister Pascal St. Onge has also suggested that the CBC’s portion could be tweaked as right now they are scheduled to receive as much as $33m per year when the company already receives more than $1.3b in federal funding.
- These critiques were levied by Conservative MP Rachel Thomas who is the Opposition critic for Canadian Heritage, she also sits on the Canadian Heritage committee.
- Bloc Quebécois leader Yves−François Blanchet said that CBC should receive nothing and that the money should be kept for private media. This sentiment was also mired by Quebec’s minister of culture.
- The bulk of the media coverage on this deal has been very favourable towards the government but Torstar owner and Toronto Star Publisher Jordan Bitove is calling the deal struck between the federal Liberals and Google over compensation for online news a “disappointment,” and one the media company can’t support.
- Bitove said he appreciated St-Onge’s efforts, but “Torstar cannot support the $100 million cap in its current condition,” adding it “was not responsible” to announce a deal while final regulations are still not publicly available.
- The core issue of course comes down to the amount of competition and independent actors in the Canadian media landscape.
- 2-3 companies own practically everything which makes it very easy for those companies to lobby the government for more money.
- The fact is that journalism in Canada never fully adapted to the digital world and even compared with the US, we have few options for media outlets outside the big 3.
- The response from the media companies facing difficulties is to ask for more money.
- Google would be entirely within their own prevue to just remove all links from media outlets on search and the internet and have no deal. This would hurt the media companies more.
- But with virtually all the mainstream media cheerleading this deal, we have to realize that things really are not going to change going into the future.
Quote of the Week
“These measures are not something that we want to do. They are a plan to counteract the absurd, illogical, unscientific and unconstitutional interference in Alberta’s electrical grid by a federal government that simply doesn’t care what happens to our province. We refuse to meekly accept actions which are so plainly destructive to Alberta’s economy and to the very safety and security of Albertan citizens.” - Danielle Smith on Alberta’s first invocation of the Alberta Sovereignty Act.
Word of the Week
Forfeiture - the loss or giving up of something as a penalty for wrongdoing
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Slippery Slope
Teaser: BC’s Unexplained Wealth Order claims its first forfeiture candidate, the UCP invoke the Sovereignty Act on provincial power generation, and BC’s healthcare is likened to a 3rd world country. Also, Google makes a deal with Trudeau on C-18.
Recorded Date: December 2, 2023
Release Date: December 3, 2023
Edit Notes: MAID quick pause, healthcare story end pause
Podcast Summary Notes