The News Rundown
- House of Commons Speaker Greg Fergus, elected as an MP of the Liberal Party has been in hot water numerous times now since he became speaker just over 2 months ago, following at the time Speaker Anthony Rota's resignation after he invited Jaroslav Hunka, a former member of the Schutzstaffel, a Nazi paramilitary organization, to attend an address from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
- Now, we already knew that Fergus was going to struggle with impartiality after he was found to have violated the Conflict of Interest Act in February by writing a letter of support for a television channel's application to the CRTC for mandatory carriage.
- It takes considerable effort to botch the job of Speaker in the House of Commons. For an hour a day they preside over question period to scold MPs when they can’t hear answers over the heckling. If that fails, they simply stand at their chair to silence the microphones until the hubbub subsides. And it almost goes without saying that keeping the Speaker job means avoiding the introduction of a Nazi seated in the viewing gallery.
- For performing these less-than-onerous duties, the lucky MP gets a Parliament Hill suite, a historic farm residence a short drive away, a car allowance, a lavish hospitality budget, fawning support staff, a $93,000 pay boost and a special Speaker-labelled Scotch.
- And yet, Fergus, just two months into being Speaker, has already found himself with controversy. Last week Fergus appeared in a video tribute to John Fraser which was played at the Ontario Liberal Party leadership convention, while he was dressed as Speaker of the House of Commons, and in the Speaker's office. Conservative Party of Canada and Bloc Québécois MPs called on Fergus to resign for breaching the Speaker's impartiality.
- He could face a parliamentary committee inquisition next week with his fate hanging on a few supportive NDP votes, party support which might be shaky given how one possible replacement is assistant deputy speaker and NDP MP Carol Hughes, who could become the first NDP to take the chair.
- He then compounded his misstep by jetting off to Washington D.C. for a highly questionable junket on the same day his conduct was being sullied and shamed on the Commons floor, leaving his deputy to handle the awkward fallout.
- Now, let us pause here for a moment to question why any Speaker is given the VIP travel treatment to the U.S. capital at any time. It’s hard to imagine any MP contributing less to high-level international discussions on trade, economic or cultural cross-border enhancements than the one MP elected to impartiality and cut off from any political decision-making.
- The justification for Fergus to attend an embassy Christmas tree lighting, deliver a nostalgic speech about his young Liberal days and hobnob with U.S. counterparts who, unlike him, have actual political power is a mystery that has even the NDP raising their eyebrows.
- He compounded the lousy optics by defiantly declaring he had no intention of resigning and vowing to “demonstrate fairness and impartiality in getting the job done,” a pledge he had used after an earlier political mistake.
- Days after being elected the first Black Canadian as Speaker, his honeymoon hit a speedbump. Fergus was poised to rule on the misleading answer given to MPs on the actual cost of a holiday for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but he had personally approved the questionable response as Trudeau’s parliamentary secretary prior to becoming Speaker. Only under pressure did he quietly recuse himself, but reputational damage was done.
- Then Fergus needlessly intruded on question period’s allotted hour with a long statement outlining his intentions to enforce House decorum. It was a procedural quibble to be sure, but one which infuriated the Conservatives.
- All this suggests Fergus's already short tenure as Speaker could be cut far before anyone would have thought. All parties seemingly agree to send the matter to be studied in a House of Commons committee to decide on the next steps.
- They also agreed to expedite the study on the Speaker’s impartiality and report back to the House next week, before MPs leave Ottawa for the holiday break. Liberals initially did not support the idea, but voted in favour of the amendment.
- The Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois are still calling on Fergus to step down, arguing that he demonstrated a lack of judgment and impartiality by engaging in partisan activity as Speaker of the House.
- As the Trudeau Liberals continue to make mockeries of the House of Commons, it appears that Canada's tolerances for their politicking is at an end. We'll see if their Speaker continues the trend.
- Canada and representatives from Alberta this week were attending the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.
- While we ignore the irony of a climate conference being held in Dubai there were substantial ramifications for Canada at this conference.
- First: Canada aims to cut methane emissions by 75% with a focus largely on the oil and gas sector.
- The announcement was made by Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.
- Second: The federal government is proposing a minimum 20-23% emissions cut in the oil and gas sector that works out to be between 35 and 38% from 2019 levels.
- These two policy objectives are a continuation of the federal government's approach to limit growth going forward of the oil industry in Canada.
- A cut below 2019 levels is effectively a production cap. That means that all existing projects need to green up and there will be very little incentive for new projects to come online with the current crop of technologies available.
- For listeners in the rest of Canada and maybe outside the country, why is oil and gas so important?
- It is a resource that sells incredibly well and makes all Albertans and all Canadians wealthy.
- It drives the economy. Economic growth spurred by growth in primary sectors (I.e. resource extraction) is always going to be better for economic growth than growth that comes out of secondary industries (i.e. manufacturing) or the services sector.
- And finally, Canada is one of, if not the most, cleanest and most ethical energy producers in the world when compared to others such as Russia, Venezuela, and Middle Eastern countries such as where COP28 was being held.
- The full policy regulations haven’t been unveiled yet and were only offered to Premier Smith if she signed an NDA, a non-disclosure agreement, which she did not.
- The full policy regulations will be made available in 2024 with implementation starting in 2025 and finishing in 2026 - that means of course if there’s a change of government before then, this ceases to be an issue.
- Environment Activist turned Minister Steven Guilbeault, who was once arrested for scaling the CN and now rewarded with the ability to set environmental policy, said, “What we’re trying to get at is reducing emissions. We’re not trying to burden the industry with regulations.”
- But of course with that, to slow emissions is to slow growth without a magical new technology which is done by way of regulation.
- It’s clear at this point that there’s something missing in the Environment Ministry and in Minister Guilbeault’s head if he truly is not trying to shut down the oil industry.
- For Alberta’s part? They’re not having any of it.
- Premier Danielle Smith said, “Albertans will not tolerate it. Our province is simply done with what amounts to a steady stream of economic sanctions and punitive measures thrown upon our citizens and businesses to intentionally damage their livelihoods.”
- In response to Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Ryan Turnbull, Brian Jean who is Alberta’s Energy Minister said, “Mr. Turnbull has no problem sacrificing tens of thousands of jobs to signal his climate virtue. He has no idea what he is talking about. As Canada's finances and standard of living plummet, this is the best Ottawa can do. No wonder so many people from out east are moving to #Alberta, where we understand you can protect jobs and the environment at the same time.”
- And that’s the crux of the matter: the standard of living is plummeting in Canada and is not keeping pace with G7 peers.
- It was only in a recent report by TD economics that said that Canada has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels and the standard of living is forecast to continue to shrink into 2024.
- There are no small potatoes in this fight and the Alberta government has pledged to do whatever they can to fight the federal government whether that means further invocations of the Sovereignty Act or even taking the federal government to court.
- The regulatory frameworks have been likened to the National Energy Program all over but worse due to the significant overreach.
- Media reporting on the matter has framed this as a new cap and trade program where industry can buy credits if they’re more emissive or sell credits if they’re cleaner but the interesting aspect that was missed by the media on this is that if the oil and gas companies are selling credits… it’s the rest of the economy that needs to green up and not the energy industry.
- U of C economist Trevor Tombe whose analysis is frequently cited by the province said that, “The cap is a wedge issue, not an efficient means of lowering GHGs, and further erodes carbon pricing. It is a complex way to levy a higher price on a single sector, while still allowing Quebec to lag behind others.”
- The idea behind that is that the price of carbon is lower in Quebec than everywhere else therefore emissions are higher in Quebec than they would be!
- It’s often said that the strongest argument is one backed up by numbers and data and this is it.
- The numbers involved make it a wedge issue as everyone in Alberta knows, lives, and feels but this is an aspect of course that was entirely missed by our media.
- And with that we have to question why we’re hobbling and hampering ourselves: Sultan Al Jaber, president of the COP28 conference said that the rapid phaseout of fossil fuels would be a disaster for all. He is the chief executive of the UAE’s state oil company.
- The UAE, Canada, and other countries signed on to a commitment to triple nuclear power by 2050 which is many years away and is why China, Saudi Arabia, and Russia agree with Al Jaber and reject a fossil fuel phase out.
- So if they’re going to be here for decades to come, why do Guilbeault and Trudeau insist on hampering Canada if not only to wedge the west?
- As we start to wind down the year of 2023, it's necessary to talk about all the changes that have happened in Canada this year. In BC specifically, we've seen a dramatic shift in politics, where Premier David Eby cemented his place at the top, keeping a relatively stable polling level throughout, despite overseeing some of the province's worsening crises, like housing, healthcare and opioids. Now, whether or not you believe that his sustaining popularity is due to belief that he really is trying to tackle the problems effectively, or just has a well oiled media presence that tends to make it look like he's tackling the problems effectively, it's undeniable that it has served the NDP well over the past year.
- Of course, much of the credit for the NDP's popularity could also go to the floundering opposition parties. While BC United's name change from the BC Liberals has not gone over astoundingly well, they have really been the architects of their own downfall in other ways too. The BC Conservatives have been on the rise in the polls, especially in more rural parts of the province, away from the political and population capitals of Victoria and Vancouver. Much of the credit has to do with BC United leader Kevin Falcon booting MLA John Rustad from the party over his stance on climate change, and yet, Rustad was quickly acclaimed leader of the BC Conservatives and recent polls are to be believed, is now outperforming his former party.
- Of course, a lot of the BC Conservative Party's rise in power could be as a result of the leader of the federal Conservatives, Pierre Poilievre, being far more popular in BC than his counterpart Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Still, the stagnation of BC United after a rebranding has got to be a warning call for those who still remember the days of Social Credit and the heyday of the BC Liberals, where pro-market centrists and centre right politicians united, if you'll pardon the pun, to keep the NDP from power. Nowadays, those memories seem far away as the NDP continue to have a stranglehold on power with the Conservatives and United seemingly determined to split the anti-left vote.
- And yet, it seems that Falcon and Rustad know that their adversarial stance towards one another is not a winning formula in Canada. Just look at Alberta in 2015, where the unexpected NDP swept to power after a divided right wing could not figure out how to work together. If BC is not careful, we'll be in that same situation, only with a much smarter, richer, and more coordinated NDP, that has already navigated the past 6 years of power deftly, despite all their shortcomings and broken promises.
- Rustad now says he is willing to enter discussions with B.C. United about “how we could bring things together” to defeat the NDP. During a news conference at the legislature on Wednesday, Rustad said he wouldn’t “prejudge the outcome” of such talks. He was responding to last week’s half-hearted overture from Falcon.
- Falcon, on the day the fall session of the legislature adjourned, said: “I’m always open to working with anybody that wants to defeat the NDP, obviously. But I’m also a realist. Opposition parties, including the B.C. Conservatives, and before them the B.C. Reform, we’ve always tried hard to work together in some fashion. It’s rarely been successful.”
- Rustad sounded more game to make the effort: repeating the age old adage: “Why would you rule out anything in politics? A week can be a long time in politics. Certainly, if the United Party were to reach out and want to have a discussion about how we could bring things together, I think it’s possible.”
- But he added an upfront caveat: “With the Conservative party, we will not compromise on our principles. We’ll not compromise on the values that we are running on.”
- “We’re willing to sit down and have a conversation. I’ve never said we wouldn’t. The challenge would be, of course, they have a very different view in terms of how the world works compared to us.”
- He reiterated the challenge Wednesday, noting that his party’s candidates are bound by the four-point statement of principles, posted on the party website.
- Those being support for: “Good government, individual liberty and freedom, social responsibility, and a free enterprise economy.”
- The two parties might be able to reach an understanding on those generalities. But it would be tougher to find common ground on issues like SOGI policies in schools and vaccine mandates, both of which the Conservatives oppose and B.C. United supports.
- Rustad’s comments were also framed by an awareness that a recent opinion poll had dealt him a strong hand in any dealings with B.C. United. An Abacus survey, posted this week, put the B.C. Conservatives in second place, 18 points behind the leading New Democrats, but nine points ahead of third place B.C. United.
- Rustad says he is already hearing calls from business leaders and others for the parties to combine forces to defeat the NDP.
- The Abacus poll was a bit of a wake-up call in that regard. The two parties together had 43 per cent of the vote to 44 per cent for the NDP.
- Whether or not you believe the Conservatives would actually do well in an election, Rustad said that the growing belief in his party is already shaking things up in BC. He says the Conservatives have caused Eby to express “anxiety” about the party and forced Falcon to change policy, especially with regards to the province’s carbon tax. BC United, who introduced B.C.’s carbon tax in 2008 when the party was named the B.C. Liberals, now plans to dump the tax completely if a federal Conservative government is elected in Ottawa, he said.
- “As the Conservative Party, I think we’ve changed the dialogue. You’ve seen a massive shift in terms of where the United policy is and what they’re doing, quite a flip-flop actually.”
- The Conservative rise also has some New Democrats wondering whether the premier should call a pre-emptive early election. Once again this week, Eby slammed the door on that possibility, saying: “Oct. 19, 2024 is the fixed election date. I’ve talked to a lot of people and not one of them has said please call an early election, and that includes my wife, who is expecting a child in June.”
- That’s the best excuse I’ve heard for not calling a snap election. It also leaves time for those opposed to the NDP to combine forces, presuming they can overcome their egos and policy differences.
- Regardless, it's undeniable that things have changed in BC over the last year. Things have gotten more unaffordable, housing has gotten worse, healthcare has gotten worse, and our standards of living have dropped. Yet, the BC NDP remain strong, and it seems there will be no change of that in the new year, thanks to a divided opposition.
- Commissioner Marie Josée Hogue for the inquiry on election interference in Canada this week announced the group of people who will have standing in the factual phase of the public inquiry.
- The federal Conservatives, the NDP, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, Liberal-independent MP Han Dong, and others will have intervenor standing at the inquiry.
- Others including organization representing Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, and Indian diaspora groups will also have some form of standing.
- There will also be a “media coalition” represented by CBC, the Toronto Star, CTV, Global, QMI, and TVA.
- These participants make sense but who else is invited?
- Senator Yuen Pau Woo.
- Yuen Pau Woo is a senator whose loyalties should be questioned.
- He is on the record of speaking softly towards the CCP.
- Yuen Pau Woo was also questioning whether a foreign influence registry in his own words “might become a modern form of Chinese exclusion.”
- This is a normal question of course and should be asked.
- We’ve talked about Senator Woo before, in particular back on Western Context 299 when we first started talking about Chinese interference where he called it a witch hunt.
- He also accused Canada of taking Huawei CFO Meng Wenzhou “hostage” while the situation with the two Michael’s Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor was happening in China.
- Yuen Pau Woo also dithered when it came time to declare China’s actions against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims genocide who called the exercise “gratuitous and simply an exercise in labelling.”
- He’s also on the record of saying that Canada should avoid criticizing China for its human rights abuses because our country mistreated Indigenous peoples which mirrored China’s official stance at the UN.
- So with Yuen Pau Woo’s history as we’ve detailed thoroughly here over the years at Western Context, we have to ask for what side will he be intervening?
- The push by the Liberals and NDP has been to make the inquiry focus more on all actors including China, Russia, and Iran rather than just focusing on China where we have concrete evidence that they interfered in our elections.
- The timing of the announcement of the intervenors list featuring Yuen Pau Woo is interesting because this week we had another drop of evidence showing the Chinese Communist Party’s meddling in the 2021 election.
- CSIS intercepted phone calls between a Consul General and a middleman for a federal candidate that was being clandestinely supported by a “loyal” Chinese Canadian community group.
- The case is detailed in a “Canadian Eyes Only” report containing intelligence on China’s efforts to influence recent municipal elections, provincial, and federal elections using the same cells of influence.
- Online news agency The Bureau reported on cases detailed in CSIS’s last Intelligence Assessment and has new cases being highlighted just this past week.
- The data points to unaddressed gaps in Canada’s foreign interference laws such as the inability to convert CSIS evidence into prosecutions.
- A report in the New York Times also suggests that the mandate of the Commission misses the majority of China’s interference through Canadian democracy.
- A pair of proxies active in provincial interference have also sought to control a federal electoral district association “from at least 2020 onwards” — attempting to appoint the riding’s candidates and control its finances.
- Experts, including Hong Kong Canadian community leader Fenella Sung, say this top-to-bottom control of certain ridings in Toronto and Vancouver demonstrates the deep penetration of Beijing’s United Front political warfare teams.
- The Interference Commission only focuses on the past two federal elections.
- The report also says, “CSIS intelligence indicates that, during General Election 44 a PRC Consulate in Canada clandestinely supported an election candidate (CA4) via a local Chinese Canadian community association (CO1).”
- With the terminology CA4 and CO1 we have the most damning piece of evidence: “On a different telephone call between the Consul General and CA4’s trusted interlocutor,” the Intelligence Assessment says, “the Consul General confirmed that CA4 had met with the leader of CO1, and that CO1’s leader ‘was reliable and loyal and had an excellent team who was greatly involved in the previous provincial and municipal elections.’”
- “An excellent team”
- The reporting in the New York Times and the Bureau blow away anything any of the mainstream media outlets did this week and that is downright shameful given how important this issue is.
Quote of the Week
“Why would you rule out anything in politics? A week can be a long time in politics. Certainly, if the United Party were to reach out and want to have a discussion about how we could bring things together, I think it’s possible. With the [BC] Conservative party, we will not compromise on our principles. We’ll not compromise on the values that we are running on. We’re willing to sit down and have a conversation. I’ve never said we wouldn’t. The challenge would be, of course, they have a very different view in terms of how the world works compared to us.” - BC Conservative Leader John Rustad on possibly working with BC United’s Kevin Falcon to defeat the NDP.
Word of the Week
Hamper - to hinder or impede the movement or progress of
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Hampered and Divided
Teaser: Speaker Greg Fergus’ impartiality is put to question, COP28 highlights the opposition to Canada’s new emissions cap, and the BC NDP finish 2023 with a divided opposition. Also, the mainstream media completely ignores the foreign interference inquiry.
Recorded Date: December 9, 2023
Release Date: December 10, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes