The News Rundown
- The Christmas break has been refreshing for many including the Prime Minister who spent Christmas in Jamaica.
- It has been a whirlwind of a vacation for Trudeau. His plane broke down making international headlines and questions arose about who paid for this vacation.
- An issue that has been persistent with Trudeau since taking power.
- Initially as reported by the Canadian Press, Trudeau said that he and his family paid for their vacation.
- After this Trudeau clarified that he and family were vacationing “at no cost at a location owned by family friends.”
- There was also discussion that the family would reimburse the equivalent of a commercial airline ticket for personal travel.
- Any trip that Trudeau takes is in the spotlight after the ethics commissioner found that a 2016 trip to the Aga Khan’s private island violated conflict of interest rules.
- Now the opposition is calling for an investigation again on the conflict of interest nature of this recent vacation.
- Cited are concerns about the shifting narrative from paying out of pocket to to at no cost and now what appears to be a $9,300 per night gift from longtime friends.
- Conservative MP Michael Barrett wrote to interim Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finkenstein asking whether they had received all the information regarding the vacation.
- The key issue is the changing story.
- In the letter, Barrett wrote: “Did the Prime Minister and/or his office proactively disclose to you that the accommodation being provided is not part of a friend’s personal residence but a resort facility that is normally rented out at a commercial rate of upwards of $7,000 USD per night? Or was a false impression given of a Prime Minister simply staying at a friend’s home?”
- Why is this an issue you may ask?
- Under normal circumstances the Conflict of Interest Act prohibits ministers from accepting any gifts or advantages that could be seen to influence them in their duties.
- Gifts over $200 need to be declared but gifts from a “relative or friend” are acceptable and do not need to be declared as long as the benefactor has personally paid for it.
- Now while this appears as though it falls under the category of “relative or friend” the messaging from the Conservatives is that because Trudeau was gifted such an expensive vacation, they feel “it could reasonably be seen as intending to influence a government head.”
- We don’t know which way von Finckenstein will go on this one. The matter could slide or it could result in another case of the Prime Minister not fully declaring what he has received.
- The smell test on this story says that it’s probably fine and if there’s going to be any ethics transgression it’s due to the lack of declaration up front.
- At the end of the day it’s a question of whether $84,000 as a gift is meant to bribe and influence or if Justin Trudeau just lives in another world.
- As Trudeau's insane immigration influx continues to rise rapidly, we're now seeing that the immigration is not even helping the economy or fill jobs as the government claims. Canada’s record population boom continues to add more people than jobs. The working-age population (15 years or older) rose 0.22% (+74.2k people) to 32.95 million in December. At the same time, the number of employed individuals rose 0.02% (+4.8k) to 21.56 million over the same period.
- The combination helped to drive the employment rate 0.2 points lower to 61.6%. Roughly 2 in 5 working-age adults are unemployed or not in the market for work—a relatively high level considering Canada is the youngest G7 country.
- Over the past year, the labor force has added 632k people to reach 21.56 million people. During that period, the economy added 430k jobs to hit 20.31 million. Failing to keep up with growth is creating a lot of unemployment.
- Canada has seen the unemployment rate rise significantly over the past year. The unemployment rate hit 5.8% in December, rising five of the past seven months. Since April, it has added 0.8 points, the same increase observed over the past year.
- In industries that have seen a huge increase in workers, Ride sharing/taxi services has saw an increase of 48.1% in drivers from 2022. The number of delivery drivers has increased by 19.2% from 2022, for a total of over 407,000. 57.5% of people who provided either service were landed immigrants.
- Quite literally, Liberals' mass immigration policy is literally immigrating Uber & DoorDash drivers or people straight into unemployment.
- Job growth stalled in December as the total number of jobs in Canada was virtually unchanged for the month and the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 per cent for the final month of the year.
- Statistics Canada said Friday in its monthly labour force survey that the economy added a total of 100 jobs in the final month of 2023. The result came as the number of full-time jobs fell by 23,500 in December, offset by a gain of 23,600 part-time jobs.
- Bank of Montreal chief economist Doug Porter said the report comes after months of job growth that seemingly “defied gravity” as economic growth slowed.
- Porter said: “The overall economy really has been struggling to grow and it was a bit of an oddity that employment had held up so well. But the softness that we’ve seen in the economy is now starting to catch up with the job market.”
- We're seeing that inflation is continuing to rise, but also Statistics Canada sees that wage growth is going up as well. This means that the interest rates set by the Bank of Canada will remain where they are, for now.
- The December jobs report showed the number of positions in the professional, scientific and technical services sector rose by 45,700 in the month, while the number of jobs in healthcare and social assistance climbed by 15,500.
- The wholesale and retail trade sector lost 20,600 jobs in December, while the agriculture sector lost 17,700. The number of manufacturing jobs fell by 18,300.
- Statistics Canada said overall employment growth slowed in the second half of 2023, averaging 23,000 jobs per month compared with 48,000 jobs per month in the first six months of the year.
- This means the public service is continuing to grow under Trudeau, while other industries stagnate.
- Canada's immigration boom is not helping the economy, and when the current issues finally come to light, we will see that there are far more problems being perpetuated by the immigration levels than are being fixed by the influx.
- Our Alberta story this week covers work going in two key municipalities. We’re going to start with Banff.
- For the past four summers starting in 2020 Banff has closed Banff Avenue to vehicle traffic to better allow for pedestrian traffic.
- What started as a pandemic era measure to enable the then called social distancing has become a mainstay feature in the town.
- People have been split on the utility of making Banff ave pedestrian only. Some feel it makes the city more walkable and smaller. Others have said that the traffic on surrounding roads has become worse and parking is being artificially limited.
- Now the town council wants to make the road closure a permanent seasonal feature.
- The issue though is that this has hit a roadblock with the town receiving a letter from Sal Rasheed, Superintendent of Banff National Park.
- The letter says that Parks Canada supports the idea of a pedestrian-friendly area and the public space elements it creates. He did also say that this was implemented as a pandemic measure and he said, “those unprecedented times are over.”
- The specific reason as written by Rasheed is that "The proposed ongoing commercial use (e.g., restaurant patios, outdoor merchandise displays) of public space, is contrary to the laws which ensure this special place is protected.”
- Rasheed also cited a 2013 Alberta Court of Appeal decision that concluded that in conflict or overlapping previsions, the Park Management Plan prevails over the Town of Banff Land Use Bylaws.
- The Parks Canada tourism agency surveys visitors and it found that the pedestrian zone has been a hit but the question has been raised, is an empty roadway as a pedestrian zone the best experience?
- It’s not clear at this point whether or not the pedestrian zone will continue for another year but the identity of the picturesque mountain town is at play and everyone has an opinion.
- An opinion that matters because this story raises questions for Albertans in general, specifically those in Edmonton.
- There has been an ongoing discussion about whether a new national park could come to Edmonton’s River Valley.
- This is a plan that has been endorsed by City Council but as we’re seeing in Banff, we have to question exactly what the conditions would be.
- As of right now we don’t know what the boundaries of an urban based national park would be.
- We don’t know what kind of administrative provisions would be granted to the city and and the federal government.
- But it does pose an interesting thought experiment: if part of the River Valley did become a national park, would Edmonton be able to still influence policy and rules in the river valley?
- The last discussion from the city said that they were hoping for a flexible approach where the city would maintain municipal control and pursue opportunities for Indigenous co-management.
- There have also been discussions on fees and on that the river valley park would be free and open to the public.
- In closing the loop on this story we need to highlight the ramifications of a national park in city boundaries since national parks are definitely under federal control.
- The city may think they are going to be in the driver's seat but if there are to be any gotchas, the city could be regretting their decision and finding themselves unable to make policy decisions as the Banff town council has shown.
- The Banff decision about Banff ave should be something everyone in Edmonton should be aware of including our city politicians.
- Most of the time, city politicians are out of their depth in terms of what they think they can do. In reality they don’t have the control they think they do but they do have power over bylaws, user fees, and local taxes and that’s the extent of their control.
- Under the constitution they sit next to statutes governing saloons, asylums, and charities which speaks to how cities were seen when our constitution was framed.
- That is why we must all be aware of any plans to make new areas national parks as the Banff town council has been shown.
- Since our break at the end of the year, Canada has watched as our quality of life drops dramatically around us, whether from inflation, a lack of housing or healthcare, or from a myriad of other problems that the federal government has ignored during their almost decade in office. And yet, the one issue that is keeping protestors on the chilly streets of Canadian winter, is that of the Israel-Gaza war, something the Canadian government and Canadians in general have little control over.
- We have seen neighborhoods be terrified, vandalism happen, and even a Jewish owned deli in Toronto was graffitied with "Free Palestine" before it was set on fire, in a suspected hate crime, far worse than anything seen during the trucker protests two years ago. Yes, it's somehow been two years since then.
- The Belfry Theatre in Victoria BC, a theatre that produces contemporary, mostly Canadian plays, was vandalised in late December, in response to the Belfry planning to stage The Runner, a one-man play that focuses on the experience of a volunteer of ZAKA, an ultra-Orthodox rescue service in Israel.
- The play deals with political and community fallout after a person decides to save a Palestinian woman who has been accused of being a perpetrator of violence — and leaving a fatally wounded Israeli soldier behind, according to a description of the play on the Belfry’s website.
- As of Monday, about 1,000 people have signed a petition asking the Belfry to remove The Runner from its Spark Festival lineup in March, saying that it is unacceptable to tell a story on violence in the Middle East from an exclusively Israeli perspective while Palestinians are being killed and displaced.
- A competing petition with over 1000 signatures as well have asked the Belfry to keep the production going.
- Written and performed by Toronto-based artistic director and playwright Christopher Morris, The Runner has been touring on and off in Canada since its debut about five years ago.
- In a 2018 interview with theatre website Broadway World, Morris said he wanted to make sure that both the “long history of global antisemitism” and the “persistent denial of the rights of Palestinians” were front and centre in the The Runner.
- Morris said then that his play focused on the moral dilemma that unfolded for some ZAKA members when the organization said in 2015 that it would begin treating Jewish victims over the perpetrator of violence, contradicting rules of triage and the Hippocratic oath.
- A play that seems to confront the struggle in the Middle East with a balanced take and looks at the issue from a middle of the road perspective is apparently "racist, and Zionist" according to social media posts about the production.
- The Belfry states that they are "listening to the community" as they move forward, and has decided to cancel its upcoming March run of the show after being pressed to do so, first by the online petition and then, according to local press coverage, at a heated in-person community meeting.
- In a statement released Tuesday, the regional theatre company said that “presenting The Runner at this particular time does not ensure the well-being of all segments of our community.”
- “Given the current conflict in the Middle East, this is not the time for a play which may further tensions among our community,” the unsigned statement continued. The theatre declined to give any interviews about its decision.
- A statement on the Belfry website says: "We thank those of you who have expressed your convictions, and we are listening. We value and respect these conversations in our community. We have been having many complex conversations about the production, its content, and its impact on the community. We are taking time to reflect on how best to move forward and will make an announcement in the new year."
- The response to similar objections was very different at the PuSh Festival, Vancouver’s international performance festival. In a statement, leaders Gabrielle Martin, its director of programming, and Keltie Forsyth, its director of operations, acknowledged “those watching or connected to the conflict in Gaza and Israel and the feelings of hurt and helplessness at the atrocities being committed.” They called the objections to The Runner an expression of that “shared hurt.”
- But Ms. Martin and Ms. Forsyth stood by their decision to program this visually dazzling touring show – the last directed by the late, great Daniel Brooks to still have life on stage. They corrected misrepresentations about the content and authorship of Mr. Morris’s play, and they took the opportunity to highlight an installation called Dear Laila, created by the Palestinian refugee Basel Zaraa, which the PuSh Festival is programming in parallel.
- And yet, just a week later, the PuSh Festival too cancelled their run of The Runner in late January. In a joint statement with the festival and Morris, Zaraa said he couldn’t agree with showing Dear Laila alongside The Runner while Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues, calling the production “a play which reinforces dehumanizing narratives about Palestinians.”
- “Palestinians appear in The Runner almost exclusively as perpetrators of violence. While the Israeli characters are vividly portrayed, the Palestinian characters don’t even have names, and barely speak. The fundamental context of Israel’s occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people is not given,” Zaraa said.
- Zaraa said he created Dear Laila for his young daughter, to tell his family’s story, starting with a 1948 massacre in their village, Tantura. Festival organizers said they chose to respect the wishes of Zaraa, whose work reflects lived experience, and cancel The Runner, which is based on years of research by Morris, who has no religious or cultural ties to the region.
- Morris said it’s “unsettling” when Canadian theatres cannot be a space for the public to engage in an exchange of ideas, but he sympathized with the PuSh Festival’s distress when Zaraa said he would withdraw his production if The Runner remained. “For me, The Runner is a nuanced play about the need to see the humanity of others,” he said.
- Morris called Dear Laila an “extraordinary, important work,” and said if removing The Runner is the only way audiences will see Zaraa’s work, “then there is value in stepping aside.”
- It's sad that actions of a few mean that we cannot have meaningful conversations in the community from both perspectives and that vandalism is akin to letting violence dictate what Canadians can experience and feel, which is not something that should be happening. Of all the things happening in Canada right now that can be fixed, and these protestors are working on an issue that Canadians cannot control. It's sad that this is happening in our society right now.
Quote of the Week
"We thank those of you who have expressed your convictions, and we are listening. We value and respect these conversations in our community. We have been having many complex conversations about the production, its content, and its impact on the community. We are taking time to reflect on how best to move forward and will make an announcement in the new year." - The Belfry Theatre on cancelling a play set in Israel and Gaza
Word of the Week
Conversation - an informal discussion of an issue by representatives of governments, institutions, or groups
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Plays and Parks
Teaser: Trudeau’s Jamaica vacation causes a conflict of interest, Canada’s immigration isn’t helping the job market, and Banff’s pedestrian zone gets nixed by the National Park. Also, a Victoria theatre cancels a play set in Israel after being vandalized.
Recorded Date: January 13, 2024
Release Date: January 14, 2024
Edit Notes: Emergency alert
Podcast Summary Notes