The News Rundown
- Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE Inc.) has left workers reeling after announcing plans on Thursday to cut nine per cent of its workforce — 4,800 jobs across the country — in a historic and unprecedented mass layoff.
- On top of the workers that have been or will be let go, Bell also announced it would be selling off 45 radio stations, closing more than 100 The Source stores and ending most of its noon and weekend newscasts.
- The latest round of layoffs comes after Bell cut 1,300 jobs just eight months ago in June 2023, but has followed a pattern of yearly cuts from within the telecom giant as the company cites floundering ad revenues and losses in its news division.
- These recent cuts happened just a few week's after 2024's Bell Let's Talk day on January 24th, a day meant to spread awareness for mental health. It's always ironic that the company touts its support for mental health when its layoffs are a huge detriment to mental health for its employees.
- In an internal memo obtained by the Star, Dave Daigle, vice-president of local TV, radio and Bell Media Studios, and Richard Gray, vice-president of news at Bell Media announced widespread programming changes coming to CTV News.
- Here's what Daigle and Gray announced would be ending: Weekday noon broadcasts will end at all CTV stations except in Toronto. CTV's weekend 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. newscasts are ending for all stations except in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. CTV's evening programs — The Debate, This Hour and Top 3 Tonight — are all being shut down and being replaced by a weekday nightly news broadcast, and BNN Bloomberg's weekday daytime programming is also being "streamlined," to "reduce the number of separate broadcasts"
- Just last month, weeks before Bell's seismic layoffs, CEO Mirko Bibic was named Canada's 38th highest paid CEO in a list published by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. In 2022, Bibic made over $13.5 million in total compensation, up from the $11 million he made the year before. He climbed fourteen spots to from 2021 to join the ranks of Canada's top 50 highest paid executives.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that Bell’s most recent round of layoffs is a “garbage decision” in response to a question about the company laying off nine per cent of its staff on Thursday.
- Trudeau said at a health care press conference in the Greater Toronto Area: “It’s a garbage decision from a corporation that should know better. Canadians need to demand better, as we will be demanding better from corporate leaders like in this case, Bell, that are eroding Canadians’ ability to know each other, to trust each other, and to trust in the country and the future we are building together. So, yes, I’m pretty pissed off about what’s just happened.”
- Trudeau added: “This is an erosion of not just journalism, of quality local journalism, at a time when people need it more than ever given misinformation and disinformation, but it’s eroding our very democracy.”
- Bell executives blamed the federal government for taking too long to provide relief for media companies seeing their advertising dry up as well as the CRTC for being too slow to react to a “crisis that is immediate.”
- Bell pointed to two pieces of federal legislation that Ottawa had billed as meant to help Canada’s struggling media sector: Bill C-18, also known as the Online News Act, meant to force tech giants to compensate Canadian news outlets for their content; and Bill C-11, which updates the Broadcasting Act to require digital platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and TikTok to contribute and promote Canadian content.
- When asked about federal support for media companies like Bell, Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge said that these companies need to uphold their end of the bargain Thursday.
- “At some point, companies also have to chip in. And again, they are not going bankrupt. They’re still making billions of dollars. There’s still that very profitable company, and they still have the capacity. And that means to hold their end of the bargain, which is to deliver news reports,” St. Onge said Thursday.
- Speaking in French during question period on Thursday, St-Onge said that Bell has been offered $40 million in support annually, but will not receive any more public money.
- Jagmeet Singh also said on X: "The news of more cuts and layoffs today at Bell and CTV is devastating. We need journalists to keep Canadians informed and to hold the powerful to account. The Trudeau govt gave $40 million to Bell without a jobs guarantee. Bell fired 9% of its workforce, closed newsrooms, and lined the pockets of its stakeholders. We have to confront corporate greed in this country. Not bankroll it like the Liberals and Conservatives are."
- This is ironic of course, because as the kingmaker of Trudeau's minority government he has allowed Trudeau's policies to carry forward. He also bears some of the criticism for this decision.
- Canadians will be disappointed yet again in a powerful Canadian company offering less and less services for more money. We deserve better.
- Last week in our Alberta segment I cheekily mentioned that if people were not pleased with the Alberta government on the parental rights legislation they should consider a recall campaign against one or more cabinet ministers.
- As it turns out, shortly after that show was published a recall campaign was initiated against Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.
- The recall campaign has until April 4th to collect 514,284 signatures representing 40% of Calgary’s population.
- That would be about 8500 signatures a day needed and with that the entire amount needed is about 130,000 more people than voted in the last election.
- The recall campaign initiated by Calgarian Landon Johnston says that he started the campaign because he’s been upset about new spending and tax increases at city hall and the general sense that the council doesn’t understand what’s being felt by many in the city.
- The single use plastic ban was the last straw.
- Gondek has said that the recall campaign came as a surprise and “it stings a little bit when you see something like this.”
- Many people see the recall as impossible including city councillors. That of course raises a question of if the province should change the threshold, because as it stands right now for municipal officials in our large city, recall will almost never happen.
- Recall has been successful once in removing an official in Alberta in the small town of Riley that has about 400 people.
- The UCP and in particular Danielle Smith has always championed direct democracy so it will be interesting to see if the UCP moves on this file.
- In the meantime though there have been questions about whether or not a full recall vote is needed.
- Even if the petition doesn’t hit its mark, it could still be damaging to the mayor to the point where it sets a question for her or council if she should continue on.
- If there are tens of thousands of Calgarians asking her to step down, she might or she might see it as a moment to reverse course. Of course, there’s no way of knowing.
- Landon Johnston so far says that he has about a thousand signatures on his own and the campaign has collected a couple thousand at least.
- Johnston has been out doing it the old fashioned way, knocking on doors, talking to people at the supermarket, and people whose furnaces he repairs. His day job is installing furnaces, hot water tanks, and air conditioning.
- Johnston said he hasn’t met anyone who is supportive of Gondek in terms of what she’s doing and would like to meet and talk with someone who did support her.
- That’s the starkness of this campaign and why we’re now asking questions about the recall process.
- Though remember all hope is not lost because there may be enough momentum to convince Gondek she can’t continue on and for Albertans?
- They can submit a petition or citizen driven initiative to the Legislature to suggest changing recall thresholds.
- Selina Robinson, formerly BC's minister of advanced education, has had a tumultuous week to say the least. Robinson was speaking at an online event hosted by B'nai Brith Canada, and during a discussion on the Middle East, Robinson claimed that Israel was founded on "a crappy piece of land with nothing on it – you know, there were several hundred thousand people but other than that, it didn’t produce an economy. It couldn’t grow things, it didn’t have anything on it."
- Most of the media reporting on this fact omit the context of the statements made by Robinson. During the event, titled “An Evening with Our Jewish Public Officials”, Robinson lamented the lack of knowledge young Canadians in the 18-34 demographic showed when asked about the history of the Holocaust and the beginning of the State of Israel in 1948.
- Robinson, a prominent Jewish politician in B.C., said there was a need for more education as many young people do not believe the Holocaust happened and only see Israel as a very powerful country. She added they “don’t understand that (Israel) was a crappy piece of land with nothing on it” when it was established.
- In her initial comments, Robinson also equated the generations-long battle between Israelis and Palestinians to a fight between the Tsleil-Waututh and the Squamish First Nations over land.
- Those comments, and not the context in which they were said, became headline news in B.C. for several days, with a number of groups calling for Robinson’s resignation.
- The lack of context sparked a furor against the NDP minister, and BC Premier David Eby pressured her to resign from cabinet after about a week of speculation, and of course, there remains the controversy.
- Robinson had been instrumental in Eby's predecessor John Horgan's cabinet, as Minister of Finance from 2020-2022. After she was shuffled from that post shortly after Eby became premier, many saw it as a downgrade for the longtime MLA.
- Still, in her post as advanced education minister, she was instrumental in crafting BC's new policy of requiring Holocaust education in school. This is important because it shows that her advocacy for Israel is not just something she talked about, it was also actioned upon.
- Robinson apologized in a social media post, saying her comments were “disrespectful,” and that she had been referring to the land having limited natural resources. Robinson issued another apology Monday morning, adding that she will take part in anti-Islamophobia training.
- Robinson, an MLA in the suburban Vancouver riding of Coquitlam-Maillardville, will be staying on the NDP caucus but has announced she will not seek re-election when the province goes to vote later in the year. Robinson has represented the district since 2013.
- But this wasn't enough for people clamoring for her resignation. The breaking point this week for Eby was when dozens of people showed up to protest outside a BC NDP caucus retreat in Surrey on Monday morning, demanding Robinson be removed from her role.
- In a statement, B’nai Brith said it was “unfortunate that comments that she made last week have resulted in her feeling compelled to step down from her ministerial position. We believe that her apology was sincere and that MLA Robinson will work to regain the confidence of the constituents who were offended by her remarks,” the Jewish human rights group said.
- Over the weekend, the ruling provincial NDP cancelled a fundraising dinner in Surrey due to protests as pressure from various pro-Palestinian groups calling for Robinson to step down continued to mount.
- And even after she had stepped down, her constituency office was vandalized with what Eby described on social media as “hateful messages.” A video posted online by Canadian Antifa showed numerous signs stuck on her office including ones that read “Zionism is Racism,” and “Crappy Piece of Parliament.”
- Robinson has also received death threats. David Eby called the action inexcusable and “completely unacceptable” in a statement posted on the social media platform X. He says police are investigating to find out who is responsible and that Robinson is safe.
- A group on the Canadian government’s terrorist list has celebrated Selina Robinson’s resignation from the NDP cabinet.
- “The downfall of a minister biased towards the zionist entity in Canada is an important precedent,” reads the headline of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Central Media Office statement on Wednesday. It appears on a Telegram channel that carries live updates from groups fighting against the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), but does not mention Robinson by name. The PFLP has a history of guerrilla warfare, suicide bombings and hijacking civilian airliners, and assassinations.
- PFLP said it “salutes” those who helped oust Robinson from her post as the Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills on Feb. 5 for comments that critics deemed Islamophobic and racist.
- "This resounding fall of one of the Canadian ministers, biased towards zionism, and the shift in the official Canadian stance on the aggression against the [Gaza] Strip confirms that the Palestinian cause is present in the conscience of the majority of the Canadian people, and that it means a lot to them, and is even inspiring to the Indigenous people in their just struggle to reclaim their rights in Canada.”
- The fact that Palestinian terror groups are celebrating Robinson's removal should call for a pause as to what is going on right now in BC.
- The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver put out a sharply worded statement expressing their deep disappointment in Eby’s decision to remove Robinson from her cabinet post.
- “The removal of MLA Robinson, who apologized for her comments and promised to do better, sends a chilling message that Jewish leaders are held to a different standard than non-Jewish ones,” said Nico Slobinsky, CIJA’s vice-president for the Pacific region.
- Slobinsky outlined the numerous occasions in recent years when the Jewish community has been called upon to accept apologies, instead of demanding resignations, after antisemitic comments were made by BC NDP politicians. As recently as International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, one of Eby’s staff released a social media post stating “we stand with the Muslim community.”
- A letter from the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver to Eby pointed out that Robinson should not be judged by one mistake, and that she had immediately issued “a lengthy, heartfelt and genuine apology.”
- The letter, signed by nine of the community’s rabbis, said: “Only two weeks ago, you issued a hurtful statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day asking our province to ‘stand together against the deeply troubling rise of Islamophobia...You said it was a mistake, conflating the Holocaust with Islamophobia. We accepted your apology, and though deeply offended we moved on with trust in you. MLA Robinson did not receive the same empathy or consideration.”
- This is a story in how it is very easy to be cancelled over remarks, as long as the people organized against you are powerful enough to lobby for it. In this day and age it's very difficult to even talk about the Israel-Gaza conflict without stepping on a metaphorical landmine. Robinson learned that this week.
- It’s long been known that Canada has a real estate bubble. Long thought this was caused by increasing demand in our urban centres, it might be caused by something else entirely.
- Speaking to The Bureau, a whistle blower who worked at a small HSBC branch in Aurora, Ontario started to notice suspicious mortgage approvals.
- Now we know that there have been curious questions about Chinese capital flowing into the lower mainland but what about Toronto?
- Chinese migrants living across Toronto were obtaining mortgages from HSBC while supposedly earning extravagant salaries from remote-work jobs in China. In one example, an Ontario casino worker that owned three homes also claimed to earn $345,000 in 2020 analyzing data remotely for a Beijing company.
- In another example, a HSBC mortgage client claimed to earn over $700,000 annually for remote work in China while simultaneously living in Canada and paying off a $10,000 student loan.
- Another lady worked at a casino part time but got a $1.4m mortgage showing over $300,000 annual income. She also takes money as benefits from the government for her two kids.
- In one of the most absurd cases reviewed by The Bureau, a woman was to own at least four Toronto area properties and opened an HSBC Aurora bank account in 2013 claiming to be a Homemaker with no annual income.
- Since 2015, the whistleblower concluded, more than 10 Toronto-area HSBC branches had issued at least $500-million in home loans to diaspora buyers claiming exaggerated incomes or non-existent jobs in China.
- While a small bank of Aurora’s size was expected to issue about $23-million in residential loans every year, this branch had shovelled out $88-million in mortgages in 2020, according to the whistleblower, and over $50-million in 2021.
- What this means is that these people who don’t have steady jobs or income in Canada are being approved while Canadians are denied mortgages and these curious mortgages are heating up real estate markets more than they already have been.
- FINTRAC, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, has been investigating this and has found that the whistle blower’s allegations fit into FINTRAC’s broader examinations of suspicious real estate and banking transactions.
- In 2023 published a study into 48,000 Chinese diaspora banking transactions. FINTRAC found that during the Covid-19 pandemic, because Canadian casinos were closed, Chinese underground banking schemes evolved, flooding electronic fund transfers from Hong Kong into Canadian bank accounts that served like corridors for murky real estate transactions.
- A 2015 examination of Vancouver land titles and mortgages looked at $525m worth of real estate purchases in a 6 month window and found that 66% of buyers in affluent neighbourhoods were Chinese diaspora migrants and most mortgages went to buyers with little or no income in Canada. And again these mortgages held jobs similar to those highlighted in Toronto.
- And in 2023 FINTRAC also found that of 48,000 pandemic era transactions, the Vancouver Model as it’s been called simultaneously facilitated money laundering and the circumvention of Chinese currency controls.
- Put simply, the initial stories we talked about regarding casinos on the lower mainland are proving to be part of a wider plot that is affecting our housing market.
- HSBC has said that if they detect any money laundering whatsoever they cut the client.
- Stephen Punwasi reviewed the documents. Punwasi provided analysis for BC’s 2018 report into the Vancouver Model of money laundering.
- Punwasi said that even though the money launderers don’t comprise a majority of buyers in Vancouver, their willingness to overbid on home sales causes ripples that send prices skyrocketing through the system.
- The scale of this money laundering scheme has not reached the mass media yet. A question was asked in the House of Commons to Prime Minister Trudeau by Independent MP Kevin Vuong to the Prime Minister: “HSBC documents show rampant mortgage fraud by people using fake high salaries from fake jobs in China to get mortgages and buy houses in Canada. How is it possible for a person with no income to buy four houses?
- These frauds fuel real estate bubbles and the information supports FINTRAC findings on Chinese money laundering in Canadian real estate. How can the Prime Minister make housing more available and affordable when fraudsters are buying up multiple homes? Why is the government ignoring the damage created by money laundering and mortgage fraud in Canada?”
- The Prime Minister replied: “ just a few days ago, we reinforced and extended our foreign homebuyer ban to make sure that homes in Canada are used by Canadians to live in, not as investment vehicles for foreign entities or foreign owners.
- This is part of our broad plan, which invests in more housing,
- that increases supply and ensures that families are able to afford the future they want to build for their kids in their communities right across the country.“
- With the media absent or not having the funds to pursue this kind of investigative journalism and the government deflecting, as per usual here in Canada we are in a situation where things are going to get worse before they get better.
Quote of the Week
“It’s a garbage decision from a corporation that should know better. Canadians need to demand better…So, yes, I’m pretty pissed off about what’s just happened. This is an erosion of…quality local journalism, at a time when people need it more than ever given misinformation and disinformation, but it’s [also] eroding our very democracy.” - Justin Trudeau on Bell’s most recent layoffs
Word of the Week
Mortgage - a type of loan used to purchase or maintain a home, plot of land, or other types of real estate
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Robinson Removal
Teaser: Bell lays off more workers and asks for more money, a recall petition starts for Calgary’s mayor Jyoti Gondek, and Selina Robinson is removed from the BC NDP’s cabinet. Also, suspicious HSBC mortgages are fuelling the real estate crisis.
Recorded Date: February 10, 2024
Release Date: February 11, 2024
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes