The News Rundown
- Unemployment rates are back on the topic for Alberta, this time in particular, Edmonton!
- Edmonton’s unemployment rate fell marginally to 6.6% from 6.7% the previous month.
- Province wide the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7% from 6.3% the previous month. Meanwhile, the national average hovered at 5.8%, Quebec 5.4%, Ontario 5.6%, Saskatchewan 6.3%, BC 5%.
- John Rose, economist for the City of Edmonton said, “More people are leaving the labour force and that’s not a good sign because obviously once someone leaves the labour force the probability of them actually migrating out of the city goes up quite significantly. Over the past three months we’ve basically undone all the job gains that we saw in 2017, so a very weak first quarter.”
- The number of people leaving the workforce is attributed to people leaving the construction industry. This is a result of lower housing starts, both single family and multi family.
- Going back to episode 56 back in February we talked about the ATB economic outlook for the province.
- This drop in housing starts was indeed forecast by the ATB.
- The unemployment calculation.
- Why the media can be wrong on unemployment rates.
- If like me you've been starting to tune out the ever increasing posturing over Trans Mountain, there's not a whole lot that's been reported on in BC lately. Outside of more people entering the Vancouver mayoral race, the City of Vancouver banning drinking straws, and a man attacking people with a field hockey stick in downtown Victoria, there really wasn't that much on the media's radar.
- One of the stories that was lost in the shuffle was a report from BC’s Information and Privacy Commissioner that discussed a widespread problem with BC Government employees deleting emails, rather than responding to Freedom of Information Act requests for those emails.
- Several of Premier John Horgan’s top staff improperly deleted all of their sent emails for months, leaving confusion over publicly-accessible records during the busy first months of the new NDP government.
- The mass deletion involved at least five officials in Horgan’s office: Kate Van Meer Mass, director of operations; Layne Clark, director of liaison and coordination; Suzanne Christensen, assistant deputy minister; Stephanie Papik, director in the deputy minister’s office; and Don Bain, special adviser to the premier. In each case, all of their sent emails were requested under the Freedom of Information Act for a period of several months and came back with no records found.
- For Van Meer Mass, Clark, Christensen and Papik, the time period was for more than three months, from the day the NDP was sworn into power, July 18, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2017. During these months the NDP was transitioning into government and enacting its early fall legislative agenda. In the case of Bain, who was hired at a later date, the only record returned was the human resources forms he completed to authorize his pay in January 2018.
- The premier’s deputy minister and head of the civil service, Don Wright, confirmed the deletions in a statement: “As staff learned their roles and responsibilities, there may have been some instances of best practises not being followed. Staff have since received training and are taking a more cautious approach to the management of email. While we are not aware of any specific records being handled in a way that violates policy, my office will be reviewing email records for this time period and restore any records if necessary.”
- When the BC Liberals were in power, they responded with similar Freedom of Information requests by releasing a few heavily censored emails, and were accused of bulk deleting emails by "triple deleting" them. Triple deleting means first moving an email to the computer system's "deleted" folder, expunging the email from the folder itself, and then manually overriding a backup that allows the system to recover deleted items for up to 14 days.
- The NDP when it was in opposition in 2015 tried to get records of emails from then premier Christy Clark’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, and heavily criticised the methods used by the Liberals to get rid of them. Horgan at the time said “I think all British Columbians should be concerned when their government hides things from them. The whole point of having access to information is so we can all make reasonable judgments about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our political leadership,” adding it was “inconceivable” any staff would just delete all their emails.
- Horgan went further: "Premier Clark sets the tone for every part of her government, "This shows that her hyper-partisan, do-whatever-it-takes-to-win attitude has been taken to heart by her staff. British Columbians expect and deserve better than this from a premier. That is perhaps the best example of her attitude towards politics in British Columbia."
- Yet here we are just 3 years later and we have the exact same problem with the NDP as we did with the BC Liberals in regards to deleting emails, and the Premier is silent on the matter. The media is also silent on this issue, outside of a few articles online, there's been no coverage on TV or radio, with many stations preferring to talk about the pipeline or Ontario's election before abruptly moving onto the Royal wedding of Prince Harry. It's quite the change from 3 years ago when the mainstream media fully covered the Liberals’ follies. It's clear there is a serious problem in our government, whatever government, with erasing their tracks, and the media, who should be hounding them for this isn't covering it fully.
- The House of Commons was in session last week and information was revealed in the House that should be news for all Canadians.
- The news in question was that a Canadian citizen was recruited by ISIS and went to Syria to fight.
- The man in question first surfaced in a CBC article back in 2017. He later re-surfaced in a New York Times podcast.
- Following the release of the New York Times podcast, CBC made contact and he recanted what he said on the New York Times podcast.
- Why would he recant?
- The New York Times podcast detailed the training method that ISIS put him through including the methods of execution.
- Let’s just say they started with chickens and moved to executing people.
- The grotesque methods of ISIS: whippings, lashings, and more.
- The story or lack of a story if you’re the mainstream media in Canada comes from the fact that this guy is now walking around free in Toronto after returning.
- Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said, “Canadians can be very assured that the government of Canada, the security agencies and police agencies of the government of Canada are making sure that they know all the facts that they need to know and they are taking all of the measures that are necessary to keep Canadians safe.”
- The RCMP requires evidence that crimes were committed abroad to prosecute anyone who returns. The government says they are working on a procedure for this and will have more answers in the future.
- This was the second and perhaps “real” response from the government.
- Justin Trudeau while in the House called the question when it first came up, regarding the ISIS fighter, divisive.
- Justin Trudeau of course was referring to the opposition conservatives who asked the question. For those who may not remember, Trudeau was referring to the “cultural snitch line” that the Conservatives wanted to set up in the last election campaign.
- Though I think everyone can agree, if there is a potential ISIS fighter on the streets of Toronto or anywhere in Canada, that’s a concern for all of us.
- While this was mentioned briefly in the media, the gravity of such a story should hit all Canadians at home and should the content of the New York Times podcast be proven true, our media should engage in similar investigative reporting on the whereabouts of ISIS recruits who’ve returned home.
The Firing Line
- You're probably wondering why the media has been writing dozens upon dozens of articles on former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper lately. Depending on your place on the political spectrum, you're probably thinking "Oh! I wonder what Harper's up to lately, I miss him and his government" or "Ugh. This guy again? I thought we banished him to the 9 circles of hell after 2015." No matter whether you love or hate Harper, you have to admit it's a little odd that the media has decided to put him back in the forefront of our collective conscious again.
- It all started with the Liberal national convention back on April 21st, in which Trudeau told a roaring crowd of his supporters what he thinks happened in the 2015 election. Trudeau said "No, my friends, Stephen Harper's personal disposition didn't fail Canada. His policies did. And if there's one thing — and there may be only one thing — we've learned about the Conservative party under Mr. Scheer's leadership, it's this: It may be Andrew Scheer's smile. But it's still Stephen Harper's party. The same policies. The same politics of fear and division."
- Trudeau very much likes to compare Scheer's conservatives to those of Harper, branding both with the "politics of fear and division" line, but he's been finding it harder to criticise the "government opposite" as Catherine McKenna once called the Opposition Conservatives, now that Trudeau's party is the governmental one and not a distant third. He deflects questions in Question Period quite often with the fear and division line, as well as his old standby of "personal attacks" when Scheer or his other MPs criticise or try to get answers on policy decisions by Trudeau's government. Trudeau also tried to say that they're the same old Conservatives and has insinuated that Harper is still controlling the CPC, like a maniacal puppeteer that's pulling the strings to make Scheer smile as he does often when he calls himself "Harper with a smile".
- But enough about Trudeau and Scheer, and even about our former Prime Minister. At Western Context we remove the bias and sensationalism from the media. And when it comes to this story, there's a whole lot of it.
- For almost 2 years Harper has been quietly going about his business, as he is wont to do. Immediately after departing the House of Commons, Harper set up a law consulting firm, and stayed quiet on many issues in Canadian politics. He was quiet through the leadership race, not wanting to tip voters one way or another. Only last October he broke his silence when he rightfully criticized Trudeau's handling of NAFTA.
- Since then he's been more involved in politics around the world, in February he was elected chair of the International Democratic Union, an international alliance of centre-right political parties. Also in February, Harper spoke on stage at Stanford University, where he talked about his political career and the role of conservatism in the modern world.
- None of that is that newsworthy, and as soon as those stories broke, Harper's name drifted from the media again. Until Trudeau invoked Harper at the convention, Harper was not discussed much at all. Since then, a layman would be forgiven for thinking that Harper was still in power, with all of the focus on him. And it appears that the media attention is squarely because of Trudeau.
- During just one question period in April, Trudeau raised Harper’s name no fewer than seven times. Clearly, Trudeau’s team seems to have decided that the best way to fight the next election is as a sequel to the last one.
- Harper, for his part has been more visible lately. In the past couple of weeks, he’s announced that he's writing a book on populism and how the word is misdefined these days (see our glossary for the best term), saying that he could still “easily” lead the Conservative Party but decided to put the party ahead of his own personal power, and for adding his name to a full-page ad in the New York Times praising President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran.
- Last week he was in Montreal to mark Israel’s 70th birthday and he tweeted he was pleased to be back in “la Belle Province”, adding it was great to see one-time colleagues including former Conservative MPs Denis Lebel and Christian Paradis and Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos.
- And the media seems to be just lapping it up. A few days after the Liberal convention, Tristin Hopper of the National Post wrote that "More than any other ex prime minister, Harper keeps showing up in quotidian places — often wearing the same thing", a subtle dig at Harper's laid back smart casual style opposing Trudeau's costumed flamboyance.
- A week later, the Toronto Star's Susan Delacourt ran with "Justin Trudeau fighting ghost of Stephen Harper, struggling with ghost of his own father" as a headline, with a few days later "A Stephen Harper endorsement of Trump gives the Liberals a foreign policy opening" appearing as well, referencing the NYT ad endorsing Trump's withdrawal of the Iran nuclear deal.
- The Globe and Mail joined in, with "Stephen Harper finally lets his sharp conservatism fly", a reference to Harper's tweet congratulating the re-election of Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary. Just a few days ago was "Stephen Harper comes in from the cold", talking about Harper's return to prominence in the media, and how both Liberals and Conservatives appreciate that.
- The CBC, CTV, Global News, and other outlets have also jumped on the bandwagon. The media thinks that by talking about Harper, it will distract from other real issues going on in Canadian politics, most at the hand of those actually in power at the moment. By bringing out the so called boogeyman, the media wants us to hide under our beds, and we at Western Context will always be the flashlight that shines light on the media monsters and removes that bias and sensationalism that they so often exhibit.
Word of the Week
Distraction - a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.
"the company found passenger travel a distraction from the main business of moving freight"
How to Find Us
Episode Title: A Distracted Media
Teaser: Edmonton unemployment numbers drop but not for a good reason, Horgan’s office hypocritically deletes emails, and questions about a former ISIS executioner are called divisive by Trudeau. Also, we explore the media’s latest fascination with Stephen Harper.
Recorded Date: May 19, 2018
Release Date: May 20, 2018
Edit Notes: End show social
Podcast Summary Notes