The (Right) News Rundown
- The Conservative Party forced the House of Commons to stay open for 21 hours in a response to the Liberals' refusal to have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, appear before a parliamentary public safety committee to discuss the prime minister’s recent trip to India. The Conservatives had tabled a motion to get Jean to talk for just 30 minutes to the committee, and all parties other than the Liberals voted in favour of the motion.
- The opposition parties' interest in Jean appearing before the committee stems from Trudeau’s trip to India last month, where Jaspal Atwal, convicted of the attempted murder of an Indian cabinet minister in 1986, appeared at an event and was photographed alongside Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and other cabinet ministers. In briefings to reporters afterwards, a government official suggested that factions within the Indian government might have orchestrated Atwal’s presence to embarrass Trudeau. The Conservatives have called that suggestion a conspiracy theory, and demanded that the official, whom reporters say was Jean, to answer questions about the briefing before parliamentarians.
- The Liberals, however, with their majority, voted that down. In response, the Conservatives forced voting on the 260 motions they had tabled to stall a vote on federal finances.
- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer hed emerged early Friday morning after a four-hour stint in the House of Commons to say the filibuster was a matter of principle. “It’s the principle of accountability and respect for Parliament. And the prime minister is showing utter contempt for Parliament and our role here.”
- Said Defense critic Erin O'Toole: “When they weren’t willing to even negotiate over a couple of minutes of time, it showed the cover-up is an all-hands-on-deck approach. And so we’re going to have to try some new tactics.”
- Many articles on the matter delved overly long into the MPs themselves, and how each of them coped with having to stay awake for so long. While some saw the filibuster tactic as needless and unnecessary, many have agreed with the reason why it was done. Veteran journalist Charles Adler tweeted that "in shutting down ability of Parliament to talk [to] his adviser on #India conspiracy theories, [Trudeau] has lost the right to be taken seriously next time he talks about transparency. PrimeMinister, if you don't stop the coverup you will force Cdns to ask what are you hiding & why?"
- Speaking of Twitter, #protectingbutts was trending in Canada during the marathon voting session. It refers not just to the collective protecting of Liberal butts, but just one in particular - Trudeau's Principal Secretary and closest friend Gerald Butts, who is largely in charge of Trudeau's PMO, where the Atwal conspiracy theory is widely suspected to have originated from. Opposition MPs, Michelle Rempel in particular, tweeted out the hashtag as a way to raise awareness to the PMO's complicity in the India trip's messy conclusion.
- However, not many in the media talked about that. Most instead to go with choice clips like these: "Environment minister Catherine McKenna, who represents Ottawa Centre, emerged from the chamber carrying a sleeping bag and pillow and said she was heading home to bed. Asked for her plans, employment minister Patty Hajdu blurted, “Oh my gosh, sleep, home, have a good night.” Hajdu had seemed to have an especially hard time getting through the wee hours of the morning in the House of Commons. As the voting stretched into its twelfth hour, she was slumped across her desk between each vote, a red shawl around her shoulders."
- What does that actually tell us? That our governmental MP's can't handle working a late night? I bet most people wouldn't have that much sympathy for their elected representatives. There are millions of Canadians that work harder than they do, so the media attempting to make us feel sorry for the poor Liberal MP's that made themselves sit through 260 votes just to cover up the PMO's conspiracy theories is laughable. Hopefully the public is able to get the answers they deserve.
- On Thursday Alberta finance minister Joe Ceci tabled the Alberta 2018 budget
- The budget carries on the same tune as previous years.
- An $8.8b deficit is forecast with the books coming into balance by spring of 2024
- Alberta’s provincial debt sits at $54b this year while being forecast to jump to $96b by 2023
- This gives us a debt to GDP ratio of roughly 21%
- Today we pay $2b in annual interest on the debt and by 2021 that interest fee will jump to $2.9b on a debt of $71b.
- It’s now fair to say that by 2023 with $96b in debt we’ll be paying close to $5b in annual interest payments.
- As of today, the province is borrowing money to pay the interest on money that we borrowed in the past. This is like opening a new credit card to pay the debt on another card so that you can pay your mortgage.
- When Rachel Notley started her term as Premier debt sat at $18.9b
- As our debt level goes up with little discussion of the provincial debt the talk will then turn to credit rating agencies. (Why credit rating downgrades are bad)
- Alberta’s credit rating has been downgraded numerous times. It currently sits at AA as stated by the ratings agency DBRS Ltd. It was downgraded in November to AA from AA (high)
- This has lead to numerous discussions by third party groups regarding a Provincial Sales Tax. No party wants to talk about it.
- The talk started in the Globe and Mail in a piece by Gary Mason stating, “Someone needs to start an adult conversation in Alberta about debt — but who?”
- The article says that with a 4% sales tax Alberta could fill its revenue gap with a sales tax. The justification is that Alberta has room to move and has an $11.2b tax edge over BC.
- Global News furthered this discussion by talking with Nick Faldo from the Behind the Numbers blog run by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives who also feels that a 5% sales tax could bring in an extra $5b a year in revenue.
- The issue though is that if you look at the government expenditures year over year they increase.
- Healthcare spending is increasing by 2.7%
- Children services will receive $49m more than was set aside last year.
- 22 new schools will be built for $393m
- Education spending will increase at 1.8%
- Advanced education is receiving roughly $17m more.
- $34 has been budgeted for infrastructure (roads, schools, hospitals) over the next 5 years
- Cities will receive an additional $50m through MSI funding over the next two years.
- Transit funding will also go up by $330m over 5 years.
- We know this is a spending problem because comparing Alberta to BC which has a similar population, Alberta spends on average 24% more than BC according to the latest RBC Economic report. Alberta has the highest per capita spending in the country.
- This amount of spending has happened even though the government is holding public sector salaries constant through 2019.
- This is simply unsustainable and Alberta’s economy will be forever broken if something like another major recession were to hit us with these levels of ballooning debt and deficit during a time of positive economic growth.
- This budget all but confirms that the carbon tax is feeding into general revenue and is not being directed to green initiatives. The government is also cutting back on the carbon tax rebate given to Albertans. A $30 to $40 increase in the carbon tax was also mentioned in the budget. The media have started calling this a reliable source of revenue and it’s clear the NDP agrees. (More on this later)
- The budget also makes the assumption that we’ll see both Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion and Keystone XL be built which influences the cost of commodities used in the budget.
- The province expects to gain $10b in revenue from Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, and Enbridge Line 3.
- What’s also deeply disturbing is that the provincial government expects the price of WCS@Hardisty (WCS oil from the Hardisty terminal) to be at $46/barrel CDN. It closed at $42 yesterday and hasn’t edged much above $43 since 2014.
- Jason Kenney called the budget a “Virtual Reality budget” that will “burden future generations of Albertans.”
- After questioning from the United Conservatives. Alberta Finance officials also revealed that there will be a further increase of 67% on the carbon tax to bring it in line with Justin Trudeau’s plan. This was revealed in response to a journalist’s question calling the carbon tax a reliable source of revenue.
- The video that Jason Kenney posted on Facebook has received upwards of 12,000 views so far.
- It seems like the only thing that the media wants to talk about in BC is in reference to the ongoing battle with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. For instance, the appointment of Janet Austin to being the next lieutenant governor of BC flew completely under the radar. Austin has been CEO of YWCA Metro Vancouver since 2002. She’s used the position to advocate for more affordable child care and housing solutions, as well as a larger role for women in leadership positions. When asked, Austin had this to say about her priorities as LG: “The things I’ve been long associated with are things like gender equality, early child development pluralism and diversity, reconciliation. So those would be some things I might think to establish as issues I might champion.”
- The LG's position is largely ceremonial, but as the Queen's provincial representative, the LG is something of a constitutional spare tire: not used very often, but very useful when government's wheels stop moving, as it was last summer when the BC Liberals lost a confidence vote.
- No, once again it appeared that interesting and important stories such as that were buried under surprising news on the pipeline front. NDP MP Kennedy Stewart and Green Party leader Elizabeth May join protesters in blocking the front of Kinder Morgan's Burnaby facility. In doing so, they defied a court injunction that banned protesters from disrupting construction work at both Trans Mountain terminals. Once they were at the gate, police gave the MPs and other protesters 10 minutes to leave before they would be arrested.
- A statement from protest organizers says nearly 100 people have already been taken into custody for violating the court order. The injunction prohibits activists from getting within five metres of Kinder Morgan's two terminal sites on Burnaby Mountain, where work related to the company's pipeline expansion is underway.
- The protesters and the MPs been charged with civil contempt for blocking the road. It is not a criminal offence.
- "I have never before put my signature on a line that said 'signature of accused,' but my rights have been read to me and I will return to court on June 14," Elizabeth May told reporters after her release. She said she is free to "continue to protest, continue to oppose Kinder Morgan's erroneous permit."
- Stewart, who represents the federal riding of Burnaby South, was arrested around 12:30 p.m. PT and released shortly afterwards. "This is down to Justin Trudeau's broken promises," he said as he walked with RCMP officers.
- Even today around 60 protesters were arrested, with more likely on the way.
- Meanwhile, as protests continue over tankers from the federally approved Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion, First Nations in the Northern Coast are suing governments for banning them. The Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band says it filed a civil claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia Thursday against the federal and provincial governments. It seeks to declare Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s tanker ban “an unjustified infringement on the plaintiffs’ aboriginal rights and title.”
- It also knocks British Columbia’s establishment of the Great Bear Rainforest, which the ban aims to protect, but which the band disputes because it says it was implemented in its traditional lands without its consent. It demonstrates yet again that many First Nations have their own ideas about reconciliation and environmental protection. They include responsible energy development as a way to take charge of their destiny and become less dependent on government income and control. The Eagle Spirit pipeline proposal is gaining momentum because of Indigenous leadership and partly because the Trans Mountain project looks so challenged.
- The claim by the Lax Kw'alaams says “The plaintiffs’ aboriginal title encompasses the right to choose to what uses the land can be put, including use as a marine installation subject only to justifiable environmental assessment and approval legislation." and mentions that the tanker ban “discriminates against the plaintiffs by prohibiting the development of land … (in) an area that has one of the best deep-water ports and safest waterways in Canada, while permitting such development elsewhere in British Columbia and Canada where waterways are congested and obstructed by a maze of islands, bridges, ships and other hazards to marine traffic.”
- So once again, we'll have further coverage on the government's oily mess of a policy when it comes to building natural resource projects.
The Firing Line
- The Canadian government is launching an investigation to determine if Facebook violated Canada’s Privacy Act in regards to the Cambridge Analytica Scandal and if there was “unauthorized access and use of Facebook user profiles.”
- The Cambridge Analytica “scandal” broke last week and there’s even some debate if it should be called a scandal.
- The issue comes from the United States as it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica provided data mining services for the Trump campaign.
- Data mining: Taking a huge set of data that you would have from Facebook or other internet companies and make sense of it.
- It is alleged that Cambridge Analytica used the data of 50m Facebook users without their consent. The data wasn’t accessed through a breach or a hack but by direct access through a smartphone app that connected to Facebook.
- Facebook tracking on the web.
- Aleksander Kogan, a “Russian-American” academic built an app for Cambridge Analytica that harvested the data.
- Most media coverage has been focused around the US 2016 election and the victory of Donald Trump but in reality this has been going on far longer.
- One of the earliest uses of micro targeting using Facebook data happened in the 2012 US election. It’s been used in the UK for elections there and Brexit. It’s also been used here in Canada by the Liberal party.
- Talk about micro targeting.
- The blowback for Facebook (#deleteFacebook). Wylie himself said, "I think more broadly they're starting to understand that there's a potential for an existential crisis in Facebook, because people are realizing that you've got a company that sort of has a problem with the fact that its entire business model revolves around the use of personal data... It's great that they're actually talking about it now, but I'd like to actually see what it is that they're going to do."
- It has long been said that if you look at the data one generates on Facebook, Facebook has the potential to know someone better than their spouse.
- That’s where the Canada connection begins.
- Chris Wylie is a data scientist who is from Canada and will testify in the US, UK, and now Canada on the Cambridge Analytica issue.
- Chris Wylie was also hired by the Liberal party in 2016 but was fired shortly thereafter..
- He was hired to:
- Design and organize several national samples of Canadians to explore responses to Government policy priorities and other issues of national importance.
- Recruit constituents to identify a range of local or regional issues not covered in the general national polling exercises.
- Assist the Liberal Research Bureau in setting up the infrastructure to monitor the performance of the Liberal Members of Parliament in communicating with their constituents.
- Assist the Liberal Research Bureau in acquiring and setting up social media monitoring tools.
- The preliminary work on these projects was done but the project ultimately did not start.
- Wylie also worked in the offices of former leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. His job during that time was to get the party to use more data driven marketing techniques including merging the party’s voter database with data scraped from social media. The party felt this wasn’t appropriate and abandoned the project.
- Not only is this a personal privacy issue for those who use Facebook but also becomes a matter of national security as a foreign agent can just as easily influence an election over Facebook as a political party.
- Scott Brison, Minister for Democratic Institutions plans to meet with the CSE (Communications Security Establishment) and CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Services) to assess threats to the electoral system and protection of personal information.
- Meanwhile the media feels that this issue is very important because “fake news” from their perspective is what has tipped countries like the US, the UK, Hungary, Poland, and Italy towards the anti-establishment politics of Donald Trump and Brexit.
- Policy makers feel that they are losing touch with voters who get all their information from internet posts and videos.
- This is why we exist. Right Side mission.
- The media should be using this as a learning experience rather than assuming all alternate media is wrong and trying to close the issue by becoming closer with Facebook and other social media giants.
Word of the Week
filibuster - an action such as a prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures:
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Protesting Delays
Teaser: A 21 hour Parliament session protests the Atwal cover-up by the PMO, Alberta’s budget draws criticism for its rising debt, protests at Trans Mountain result in MPs’ arrests and work delays, and an important look at data-mining on social media.
Recorded Date: March 24, 2018
Release Date: March 25, 2018
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes