The (Right) News Rundown
- On Thursday the Alberta Auditor General released its February report.
- The auditor general report highlights where the government is doing well in terms of funding but also highlights area that need improvement in accountability.
- The report for February includes headlines such as the government's class size initiative which aimed to reduce class sizes, the report also looks at investment into the new Sturgeon County Refinery, meal and travel expenses for the ministry of indigenous relations, and costs related to the climate leadership plan.
- The class size initiative saw $2.7b spent to try to reduce class sizes, but there's no way of knowing if the report made a difference.
- The report concluded with uncertainty if the level of investment into the Sturgeon county refinery is enough.
- If you focus on most of the coverage on news outlets such as CBC or Global, the headline is the class size initiative with a minor focus on the Sturgeon refinery.
- We're lucky if we got a sentence on the climate leadership plan in the media outlets.
- The opposition is once again doing the work of the MSM.
- On Facebook, the opposition surfaced relevant passages from the report:
- "Future reports should more clearly and completely describe the actual and expected costs of the CLP and its initiatives and programs" -- Page 96
- "Clear and complete information on the cost of the Climate Leadership Plan is missing" -- Page 101
- "While the report shows the expected emission reductions to 2030, it does not clearly state the expected and actual cost of the overall CLP, and it does not state for each program the expected cost needed to achieve those reductions." -- page 101
- "It is difficult to get a full picture of the total costs and benefits" -- page 101
- And finally, “the desired results may not be achieved cost-effectively or at all.”
- The carbon tax is one of the biggest fundamental changes to Alberta policy, you would think the media would want to report on how it's doing. They don't and we know why.
- What's effectively stated here is that the government has no issue with taking money from the people for some unknown cost of doing so in the pursuit of their climate change plan.
- And let's recall that it's not just everyday Albertans, carbon tax money is taken when you buy from the grocery store or consume anything that was brought to you by truck, train, or plane. Which is almost everything.
- For context, the reporting in the CBC waited until the 4th last paragraph to mention the climate leadership plan and only mentioned that auditors found it has no overall implementation plan, nothing on the unknown costs.
- Where it gets worse is that CTV and Global failed to mention the climate leadership plan at all.
- It's not until you get to the Edmonton Journal, 660 News in Calgary or the news website from Morinville, Morinvillenews.com that you hear about the carbon tax and climate leadership plan woes.
- On Tuesday, the BC government released its spring budget, which we talked a bit about last week when I went over the throne speech, among other things. As mentioned, the biggest priorities for the NDP this spring were housing, healthcare and childcare, and they ended up spending quite a bit on that, while raising taxes pretty much everywhere else to cover the costs.
- When we talked about how MSP premiums were going to be eliminated in Jan 2020, there was a lot of speculation as to how that could be achieved affordably. Now we know the answer, big businesses will be paying a new payroll tax directly to subsidise all worker's premiums. This works out to 1.95% if their payroll is over 1.5M a year, a reduced rate if between 500k and 1.5M, and none if under 500k. That said, it isn't hard to reach that level if you employ even just 15 people in a business. Lots of small business groups are up in arms about this, as bigger chain stores like Walmart, mining companies, telecoms and banks and medium stores like a local grocery store are going to have the same rate.
- Iain Black, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, said the payroll tax will have a significant impact on businesses already coping with increases in the minimum wage, a carbon tax hike and a higher corporate tax rate. “So now to hit the small-business community with an additional two-per-cent payroll tax — there is only one thing they can do … hire less people or don’t give raises to the existing ones,” he said. He also pointed out many large corporations already pay their employees’ MSP premiums as a workplace benefit. Since MSP is being phased out, the new payroll tax will just replace it with little net impact.
- Finance Minister Carole James said the budget marks the beginning of a universal child care plan, but she made no mention in the legislature about the NDP’s campaign promise of $10-a-day child care. Instead, she said the province will spend $182 million this year and more than $1 billion over the next three to make child care more affordable and create 22,000 new spaces. The plan includes a new affordable child-care benefit that the government says will reduce costs by up to $1,250 a month per child for a family earning less than $45,000 a year. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is on board with the budget, and is especially "thrilled" with the childcare plan.
- With housing the government has introduced a large number of tax measures intended to cool the rapidly rising costs in the housing market, but also will undoubtedly be using the money to pay for affordable housing as well. The government will introduce legislation this year to create a new speculation tax on residential property aimed at foreign and domestic owners who don’t pay income tax in B.C. The tax, which already applies in Vancouver, will apply in Victoria, Nanaimo and other major centres around the province. It will be $5 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2018 and rise to $20 per $1,000 in 2019.
- In addition, the government will increase the foreign buyers tax to 20% from 15 effective Wednesday and expand it beyond Metro Vancouver to the Capital Regional District, Nanaimo, the Fraser Valley and the Regional District of Central Okanagan. The property transfer tax on properties above $3 million will increase to five per cent from three effective Wednesday.
- The budget also increases the fuel tax on clear gasoline and diesel in the Capital Regional District to 5.5 cents a litre, from 3.5 cents, effective April 1. The tax is expected to raise $7 million a year for the Victoria Regional Transit Commission. It also froze fares on all major BC Ferries routes.
- So it turns out it's a very taxing budget, in more ways than one. How was it received in the media? The Globe and Mail's Gary Mason described it in his very one sided article "BC NDP ignores elites and tables budget for those who need help".
- From Mason's article :"How much better the New Democrats were at tapping into and understanding the profound frustration and anger many British Columbians were feeling was on full display in this week's budget. The government designed a fiscal plan that addressed the long-ignored needs of average folks, over the wants and wishes of a corporate and development community beloved and coddled by the former government.
- That is why this budget is going to be difficult for the Opposition Liberals to criticize, try as they might. It addresses a fundamental failing of their government to demonstrate even the tiniest bit of compassion and sympathy for the average person and their workaday lives. It was a budget that focused attention away from the elites and the bond-rating agencies and toward people who genuinely need help."
- Mason writes a lot more about how the Liberals were out of touch with the electorate, but they were still the party with the most seats after the election. They created a strong economy, encouraged investment in the province, lowered the unemployment rate to the lowest in Canada, and yet are still labeled as "out of touch" and "working with the elites. Overall, he misses the mark on this one. While the budget does help those with the lowest incomes, is still increases taxes in some way on everyone. Increasing taxes on corporations will usually just end up passing on the cost to employees.
- Mason also says that "In a province where income inequality is so pronounced, any moves by the government to ask the wealthy to pay a bit more will be welcomed by the masses, not denounced." However, there are a lot of people noticing items in the budget not overly talked about in the media, and they're asking questions.
- As Mike Smyth of the Vancouver Province writes, "James delivered a budget speech in the legislature, that completely ignored forestry, mining, oil-and-gas development, fishing, aquaculture and energy generation. There was not even a single mention of any of these lifeblood B.C. industries. Not one. That’s pretty shocking. By focusing solely on social spending and raising taxes, the NDP runs the risk of further alienating the rural north, interior and coast of B.C., where unfairly snubbed resource industries make the lavish spending possible."
- Divide and conquer is a common strategy many like to employ in the political spectrum to win, but do we really understand what divide and conquer means?
- A strange piece appeared in the National Post: Divide and conquer? In Canadian politics, it seems maybe not
- The idea is that "Perhaps the Canadian left has succeeded, not in spite of its division into two or more parties, but because of it"
- The author, who is Andrew Coyne, postulates that prior to the appearance of the CCF (the precursor to the NDP), the Liberals won only 7 of 17 elections and trailed the Conservatives by an average of 1.6%.
- After the NDP appeared the Liberals then won 16 of 25 elections with an average 3.3% victory margin.
- This is in large part the total argument, it's expanded a bit by saying that maybe the presence of more left of centre parties (i.e. the greens and Bloc) has enlarged the voter base.
- What's missed by this is that both the Greens and Bloc are issue based parties and have moved around the spectrum throughout their existence.
- It's also argued that the NDP pushes the debate and therefore moves the political centre to the left creating more of a space for the Liberals to respond allowing them to gain more votes.
- The opposite is then argued for the Conservatives that since 2004 while ending vote splitting, having one party on the right did not alter the political balance and change the conversation in Canada.
- The biggest way to knock this argument flat on the floor is to have a look at the 1984 election in which Brian Mulroney won 211 seats with over 50% of the vote.
- This of course happened because the voter base for Mulroney's PC's expanded to not only include the west and conservatives from southern ontario, but also Quebec nationalists. Since Mulroney no conservative leader has tailored their message to Quebec, some argue that such a victory today, even with the NDP in existence is still possible.
- What's more the conversation of new conservative ideas still happens every year at the conservative party conventions or third party conferences like the manning networking conference each spring.
- These ideas do exist in the party grassroots but in the off chance that they appear in the national media, they're lambasted for the content of the ideas by the national media.
- Conservative policies in Canada are somewhat drawn back unlike in the US because if their ideas were on full display at a a policy convention as was the case with the NDP last weekend (who want a national minimum wage, universal pharmacare, universal dental care, and the legalization of all drugs) they would be subsequently picked apart by the media and shunned.
- Two big ideas that received this treatment during the past conservative leadership race were having a look at abortion laws and putting some kind of regulation or restriction on them, the media was in utter dismay at the idea even though polls have said greater than 50% of Canadian favour some kind of regulation on abortion, not an outright ban though. Another was Kellie Leitch's talk on immigration and the need to have a better understanding of who is coming into our country and make sure that they understand Canadian values, the media didn't like this either even though Canadian values is something that was defined in Pierre Trudeau's re-patriation of the constitution in 1982.
- So while Andrew Coyne may believe this, it's his industry that's responsible for bringing these ideas down as they don't fit their world view.
The Firing Line
- Before the week started, we were talking about Trudeau's visit to India, and given his disastrous trade trip to China, what would happen, and what would go wrong. It appears that we couldn't even begin to predict the myriad of issues that have cropped up with Trudeau's "Bengal Bungle". Leaving the Trudeau family's Indian fashion choices aside for a moment, let's ask one simple question. Just how is it that a man convicted of attempted murder, and terrorism can be invited to a dinner reception with our Prime Minister? It seems very easily. After meetings with Omar Khadr and Joshua Boyle, we now have another one to add to the list.
- Jaspal Atwal, is a man convicted of attempted murder and terrorism, and is a former member of an illegal Sikh separatist group advocating for an independant Khalistan, a region in North Eastern India with a large Sikh population. The International Sikh Youth Federation, was declared a terrorist organization by the Canadian government in the early 1980s. Its members had ties to Sikh extremists who orchestrated the deadly 1985 terrorist bombing of Air India Flight 182 off Ireland that killed a total of 329 people, including 268 Canadian citizens.
- Atwal's conviction stems from an incident in 1986. He was one of four men who shot and wounded an Indian cabinet minister, Malkiat Singh Sidhu, on Vancouver Island in 1986, and was convicted of attempted murder for his part in the attack. He served jail time and was later paroled. Sidhu was murdered in India just a few months later, and the attackers were never caught. Atwal was also charged with a near fatal 1985 attack on now former B.C. premier and Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, a vocal opponent of the Sikh separatist movement, but was later acquitted.
- More recently, in 2010, Atwal was found to have been part of an automobile fraud ring that cheated the Insurance Corporation of B.C. by falsely reporting vehicles as stolen, changing their identification numbers and reselling them. Atwal was a car salesman at the time and helped convert of one of the stolen vehicles, a judge found. He lost an appeal in 2012.
- At the time, Atwal had a position on a federal Liberal riding association executive in Surrey, which he’d held since at least March 2011. Gulzar Cheema, a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister, told the Sun that Atwal had been active for both the federal and provincial Liberal parties, and would attend fundraisers for the federal Liberals that Cheema organized, including one attended by then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
- Atwal has made other attempts to insert himself into federal and provincial politics. Aside from this week’s photos with Grégoire Trudeau and Sohi, older photos have surfaced of Atwal posing with prominent Canadian politicians, though dates and locations are not always clear. Photos shared on social media show Atwal with Trudeau at a Liberal Party event in Vancouver in May 2015, as well as with Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough, Ignatieff and Brampton Liberal MP Sonia Sidhu. An older photo, which Atwal posted to his Facebook profile in January 2013, shows him with a long-haired Trudeau before he was elected Liberal leader.
- So fast forward to a week ago. It appears that the Liberal MP for Surrey Centre Randeep Sarai submitted Atwal's name in a list be added to the guest list for the dinner reception formal event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner Thursday in Delhi. Atwal has already attended at least one event tied to the Trudeau visit, and was pictured with Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi. And now, the Liberal government has been quick to describe the incident as just a mistake caused by a backbencher. However, it's hard to call this a "mistake" when such a man was known to the party for a long long time beforehand. In a statement, Sarai said he acted alone and “should have exercised better judgment.”
- Reports from Indian media say the Indian government is looking into how Atwal obtained a visa for the trip. An official spokesperson for the Indian government had no explanation for how Atwal managed to get his name removed from the list of people banned from travelling to the country, or any information to offer on the documents he used to get into India, but said that the government is investigating further. He apparently travelled outside of the PM's delegation to India on his own, and said that he travelled to Mumbai on business for Media Waves, a Surrey online radio station.
- The government has also received heavy criticism for how they've handled the aftermath of the Atwal incident. According to David Akin of Global News, the PMO brought out one of the most senior members of the civil service, someone who is one of the handful of bureaucrats privy to literally all the secrets of our national security agencies, to engage in frantic damage control. "After insisting that any journalist who wanted to listen to what this individual had to say could not name this person, the government tasked the bureaucrat with peddling what must be one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories ever advanced by a Canadian government: That Jaspal Atwal, the terrorist invited by the Liberals to Mumbai, may have been planted there by the Indian government or maybe by Indian security agencies or perhaps by factions in the Indian government."
- Akin also blew a hole right through the idea that Atwal was placed by anyone other than the Liberals. "Among other things, in order to have this theory work — to accept the idea that some third party in India arranged Atwal to be present at the PM’s Mumbai event — one has to accept the idea that Randeep Sarai, the member of Parliament for Surrey Centre, was in on the scam. Sarai has refused to answer questions about his role in this affair but we do know that Atwal was on the invitation list for two Mumbai events at Sarai’s request. So, to come back to the conspiracy theory, Indian agents looking to show up Trudeau had to somehow convince Sarai to be their willing stooge and issue the invitations to Atwal. Secondly, we must believe that Sarai happily took it upon himself to recommend Atwal for an invitation with no clue about his background, despite articles in the Vancouver Sun as recently as 2012 about Atwal’s criminal connections and Liberal background — articles that forced other Liberals to resign their positions with local constituency associations. That Sarai, a lawyer and real estate developer, who described himself prior to his election as active in electoral politics “at all levels” and who was called upon by local media outlets in Surrey to talk about regional politics, did not ever run into Atwal is impossible to accept.
- The Atwal debacle adds insult to injury for Trudeau’s India tour, already overshadowed by the cold shoulder the Indian government has given Canada’s PM. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not welcome Trudeau at the airport, as he has for many other foreign leaders, and did not accompany Trudeau to his home state of Gujarat. The snub likely comes as a result of Trudeau’s failure to denounce and condemn Sikh extremists and Khalistan terrorists in Canada. As we covered at the time on The Right Side, in April 2017, Trudeau attended a pro-Khalistan parade that featured shrines dedicated to Sikh terrorists. Trudeau was photographed in front of a Khalistan independence flag, a move that was seen as very disrespectful.
- As if all that wasn't bad enough, Trudeau's visit also garnered ridicule amongst international media for his "choreographed 'fake, tacky and annoying' wardrobe of traditional outfits" which he and his family wore on each of the first 3 days of the visit. After heavy criticism from the Indian Media such as "even Indians don't dress like that", and being accused of pandering, he very quickly changed into wearing a suit for the rest of the visits. It's hard to see how Trudeau could have messed up back to back visits with both of the top 2 countries by population so badly, but here we are.
Word of the Week
conservative - holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Conspiracies and Excuses
Teaser: The Alberta auditor general’s report is missed by the media, BC’s tax and spend budget is praised while ignoring the economy, and faulty logic argues against political party unity. Meanwhile, Trudeau’s India trip is plagued with numerous problems.
Recorded Date: February 24, 2018
Release Date: February 25, 2018
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes