The (Right) News Rundown
- Shocking political news out of Quebec: 7 out of 10 BQ MPs resigned from caucus to protest the leadership of Martine Ouellet. Ouellet, who does not sit in the House of Commons, is an elected PQ MNA, and until now, has been an unknown in the media. It appears that Ouellet's strong stance on Quebec separatism has alienated most of her now former caucus. The departing MPs believed that the BQ should be promoting Quebec's interests above all others, including separatism, which is a stance that Ouellet seemingly disagrees with, and that Ouellet was not listening to their concerns.
- Even before the schism, the Bloc caucus was far smaller than at its peak in the early nineties, when fractured right wing parties actually led to a BQ Official Opposition after the 1993 election. However, its support has declined in recent years as the party won four seats in 2011 and 10 in 2015, with the Orange Crush of the NDP dominating the province. It has continued to attract about 20 percent of the vote in Quebec in recent elections and polls, and if the party collapses, it stands to leave a number of ridings up for grabs in Quebec in the next election in 2019, providing an opportunity particularly for the Conservatives and the NDP to make gains in the province.
- The Bloc has regularly faced internal upheaval over the years, but Louis Plamondon, the dean of the House of Commons, said the party has now hit rock bottom. "I have seen a number of crises in the Bloc Québécois. There is no doubt this is the biggest," said Plamondon, who was first elected as a Progressive Conservative in 1984 and now opposes Ouellet's leadership. Plamondon said previous Bloc leaders such as Lucien Bouchard and Gilles Duceppe "always managed to patch things up, but that did not happen in this case."
- In an interview, Duceppe said the writing is on the wall for Ouellet. "When 70 percent of a caucus doesn't see its priorities reflected by the leader, he or she has to leave. Secondly, I don't think the Bloc has to choose between promoting sovereignty or defending Quebec's interests. You can do both at the same time, as we used to do."
- Ouellet, who has been sitting in the National Assembly since 2010, and finished third in the Parti Québécois leadership race in 2016 before becoming Bloc Leader last year, said she is promising to run for the Bloc in 2019, and that she will not quit as leader. "I'm staying on. I was elected by Bloc Québécois members; they are the one who gave me my mandate."
- Unless Quebec sovereigntists find a way of winning the provincial election later this year, the Bloc vote stands to collapse in the 2019 federal election, pollster Jean-Marc Léger said. He added that among federalist politicians, the biggest victim of the Bloc's unravelling stands to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "What is obvious is that Bloc voters won't go to the Liberal Party," Mr. Léger said. "The Conservatives are more likely to benefit, along with the NDP to a lesser extent given the left-wing faction in the party. Over all, these are voters who oppose Justin Trudeau."
- Carl Vallée, a Quebec strategist in the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, said Bloc voters will tend to react differently whether they live in Montreal or in the rest of Quebec. Said Mr. Vallée, now a partner at Hatley Strategies, "In rural areas, it could help the Conservatives, because these are what we call 'blue' voters. On the island of Montreal, there is a direct link between Bloc and NDP voters."
- CBC Pollster Eric Grenier disagrees, thinking that the Liberals will benefit the most from a Bloc fracture. He says that in eight of the 10 BQ ridings, the Liberals placed either second or a strong third. "Considering the Liberals have made significant gains in popular support in the province since, that would put Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a good position to pick up all 10 seats in 2019."
- As for the NDP, Grenier points to polls that suggest that Quebecers — and Bloc supporters in particular — are the least likely to vote for a party led by a leader wearing visible religious symbols, such as a turban-wearing Sikh. He says the Conservatives might have an opportunity to pick up more nationalist-minded Bloc voters, but that identity issues might shy away some voters.
- So what will this do to the 2019 race? As we say a lot on this show, we'll just have to wait and see. One thing is for sure, 2019 will be a very interesting year, and there's no way of knowing what will happen in the election.
- Stephen Mandel has won the leadership of the Alberta Party.
- Mandel won with 66% of the vote on the first ballot. Kara Levis came in second at 18% and Rick Fraser came in third at 16%.
- Mandel was the mayor of Edmonton from October 2004 to October 2013.
- He was also Health Minister in Jim Prentice’s Progressive Conservative Government.
- The Alberta Party is a party that was founded in 1985 but gained little traction throughout the years leading up to the 2015 election.
- In 2010 the Alberta Party re-oriented itself as a centrist political option aiming to be fiscally responsible yet socially progressive.
- Soon after being declared winner Mandel said, "The Alberta Party is not just here to be an alternative. We're not here to be an also ran. We're not here to talk about 2023. We're here to earn your vote in every single Alberta community and to be the first choice for government in the next election. Winning in 2019 means winning the hearts and minds of Albertans in every corner of our province.“
- Mandel won 3,045 of the 4,613 votes that were cast.
- During the race the party’s membership increased to 6,543 members from the roughly 1,500 or so that they had before.
- Comparatively this is 4 times larger than the group who elected David Khan as Liberal Leader but is much smaller than the 58,200 who elected Jason Kenney as leader of the United Conservative Party.
- There were very few policy differences in the race between the contenders but one differing point was on that of a PST. Kara Levis said during the campaign that a PST should be considered while both Mandel and Fraser disagreed with the idea.
- On the day the leadership race concluded now former leader Greg Clark mused that a provincial sales tax should be something that the party would consider going forward.
- This is important because Clark has since been named the party’s finance critic.
- It must be known that the Alberta Party is the first political party to start talking about a PST in the sense of the 2019 election. We already know that if Jason Kenney and the UCP are elected in 2019 there will be no sales tax.
- Absent from media coverage following the race was Mandel’s expensive Edmonton Arena deal which received a good chunk of taxpayer money from the city.
- Mandel also oversaw capital projects that such as the 23rd avenue interchange that were late and over budget.
- Also absent was coverage of who exactly was involved with Mandel’s campaign. Some of these are:
- Stephen Carter who ran Allison Redford’s leadership campaign.
- Susan Elliott who managed the 2012 PC election campaign.
- Former PC Party President Katherine O’Neill who oversaw the party after the 2015 defeat.
- There were also numerous former PC MLAs and operatives at the Party’s AGM in November.
- This was largely absent during the campaign and was only talked about briefly once Mandel entered the race.
- Following Mandel’s victory only two mainstream media outlets reported this. One of which was the Globe and Mail in a syndicated column which also appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post, and Edmonton Metro.
- The CBC also reported on this but did not mention any of the individuals by name.
- At this point it’s safe to say that the Progressive Conservative takeover of the Alberta Party is complete.
- Perhaps the news headlines should have read, “Stephen Mandel elected leader of PC Alberta Party.”
- There's an interesting headline out of the BC paper The Tyee, an independent news organization that one could say skews their news coverage to the left, especially on environmental issues. But, as we've said before, at the Right Side we don't just look at the mainstream outlets, but everywhere for news, as indeed many big media companies often do not focus on the smaller, less reported stories that are just as important.
- The Tyee's Paul Willcocks wrote a pretty alarming article entitled "How the Chinese Government Took Control of BC Seniors’ Homes". We'd have to go back just over a year ago in Feb 2017, to Episode 5 for the first Right Side coverage on this story, when it was reported by the Globe and Mail that the Trudeau government had green-lit the sale of one of British Columbia’s biggest retirement home chains to a Beijing-based insurance titan, Anbang Insurance Group. It was a deal that gave China a foothold in Canada's healthcare system.
- Anbang spent an estimated $1 billion to buy Retirement Concepts, which operates 21 seniors homes in British Columbia. It’s the biggest private provider in the province, collecting $87 million from the provincial government in the 2015/16 fiscal year. Anbang has no experience in seniors care. Its finances were murky and ownership so tangled as to be incomprehensible. It offered no promises of additional investment in the company or increased employment. Concerns about its business practices were already widespread.
- On Friday, the Chinese government seized control of Anbang Insurance Group, a financial giant with investments around the world. It cited corruption, fraud and a risk the whole $390-billion company could go broke.
- The Tyee article blames the former BC Liberal government for allowing the takeover, but ultimately this was in the hands of Ottawa. To promote its pro-China agenda, the Trudeau government turned a blind eye to the risks — and shifted them to seniors. Ottawa quickly approved the takeover, and the government offered no objections and transferred operating licences to the Chinese company. Canadian officials said their review of the takeover included a screening for any potential impact on national security. “No issues were raised,” a spokeswoman for Innovation, Science and Economic Minister Navdeep Bains said, at the time.
- And has Trudeau's pro-China agenda really gotten him anywhere? He left China in December after a frosty visit with no trade deal in hand, and his dealings with China could have a huge impact on NAFTA negotiations with the US.
- Last week’s Chinese government takeover is no surprise. When the sale was debated in the House of Commons last year, Conservative Mark Strahl asked what would happen “when the Anbang house of cards finally collapses. Are seniors about to find out that their landlord is actually the People’s Republic of China?”
- As Willcocks asks, "If the Chinese government’s goal is to save Anbang, what pressure will be put on its global properties to deliver more cash, and how will that affect residents? Will Chinese government pressure force managers to cut costs on basics?"
- Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie reported last month that only 15 percent of facilities were meeting the guideline of 3.36 hours of direct care per resident per day — an improvement over the previous year. The reality is that a lack of staff to meet residents’ needs translates into dramatic reductions in quality of life.
- In conclusion, it's clear that the Trudeau government should have never approved such a takeover, as we could even see back then that it had a terrible end on the horizon, and just a year later we're seeing the results of that. With Premier John Horgan setting record levels in healthcare spending in the spring budget, one wonders what his plan will be for BC seniors who are suffering quite literally under Communist China's rule.
The Firing Line
- Canada’s latest federal budget was tabled on Tuesday with an $18.6b deficit for the coming fiscal year.
- By 2022-23 the budget deficit will shrink to roughly $12.5b.
- This would ordinarily be a huge issue but the opposition and media has still been very concerned with the Atwal case from last weeks India trip.
- Today it was announced that Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale prevented a senior security official from testifying on the matter.
- The government would love for us to focus on the fact that the debt to GDP ratio will however be decreasing.
- The budget document is filled with figures comparing Canada to countries like Italy and Japan who have over 100% debt to GDP ratio.
- Why high deficits in time of economic growth is bad.
- This claim was re-iterated by Jean-Francois Perrault, chief economist for Scotiabank who said that the high spending ways raise questions if the government is able to “navigate rough economic waters in the future”.
- With increasing amounts of program spending and debt, you would expect our economy to be taking off but on average since 2016 it has grown at 3.2%.
- The Phoenix pay system was also addressed… An additional $430m was committed to address its continued problems (expand) as well as $16m towards replacement.
- Upwards of $1b has already been dumped into the system in order to attempt to fix it and ensure employees get paid on time.
- So by this point you might be wondering, what does this bring to everyday Canadians and you?
- Well, the budget mentions the word “gender” 330+ times. The goal of this of course is to bring groups who the government feels disadvantaged forward.
- Some highlights: paternity leave and pay equity for women
- Currently a new family can take 35 weeks of paid leave, under the new budget this is expanded to 40 weeks as long as the second parent claims at least 5 weeks.
- In the last budget the government introduced 18-month parental leave, with this the second parent can take up to 8 weeks of leave.
- The goal is to allow the dad to stay home with the child enabling the mom to return to work sooner if she wishes.
- Also reported in the media on this is that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives feels that this a “missed opportunity” because the government didn’t raise the EI benefits available to new parents. They would rather see a model similar to Quebec’s where paternity leave covers up to 70% of income.
- The budget allocates $1.2b over 5 years for this program and $345m a year thereafter. It becomes available in June 2019.
- In regards to pay equity, the government wants to bridge the average 12 cents per hourly wage gap between men and women.
- No details were provided as to how this may be achieved but we are assured they will be coming in the budget implementation Bill.
- The government also attacks the NDP in this budget by promising to look at universal pharmacare, a policy that’s part of the new national NDP platform.
- So then, what about the national economy, what’s being done to ensure we have sustainable growth going forward?
- Well… not much.
- While the budget increases spending it does so in none of the areas that can make the economy grow by leaps and bounds.
- This is compounded by the fact that the United States recently brought in one of their largest tax cuts in history.
- Previously we had a double digit tax advantage over the United States, now the United States has the advantage by about 2 percentage points.
- This with the American dollar makes US investment much more attractive.
- And this is the biggest issue with this budget, there’s nothing done to make Canada more competitive with the US.
- Precision Drilling, the largest oil drilling company in Canada, said that they will not be increasing capital investment in Canada and instead will focus on the US, Mexico, and United Arab Emirates.
- Bill Morneau insists that he’s watching the US. On Wednesday speaking to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa he said that Ottawa will focus on more immediate worries like NAFTA and lower US corporate taxes and at the same time taking steps to address longer term domestic risks like the aging workforce.
- He feels that our “brightening economy” allows the government to play the long game and fully take stock of what’s happening in the US.
- While Bill Morneau says this, it’s not until page 288 of 369 pages that business investment is thought of.
- Real business investment would actually be a reduction in red tape or tax cuts in general.
- Anything that could be seen at investment is just a small sprinkling of money at small subsidies like the Industrial Research Assistance Plan.
- All of this comes as on Thursday Statistics Canada reported that direct investment in Canada dropped 26% in 2017 alone to $33.8b. (Bloomberg picture)
- According to Bloomberg, "ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell Plc are among the companies that led the exodus from the nation’s energy sector last year."
- With that being said, if a budget doesn’t attempt to create economic growth in any meaningful way, is it really a budget?
Word of the Week
deficit - the amount by which something, especially a sum of money, is too small, or an excess of expenditure or liabilities over income or assets in a given period. “an annual operating deficit"
How to Find Us
Episode Title: $18b in the Hole
Teaser: The BQ fractures under poor leadership leaving questions for 2019, Stephen Mandel’s Alberta Party win shifts the party to former PC control, China’s government takes over BC seniors care, and we cover why Trudeau’s budget is not as good as it seems.
Recorded Date: March 1, 2018
Release Date: March 4, 2018
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes