The News Rundown
- Trudeau’s India trip back in February that resulted in the he said/she said affair with the India government over Jaspal Atwal has been revealed to cost in excess of $1.5m
- Atwal was a convicted murderer “invited by the Canadian government” who tried to pass the invite off as being given by a backbench MP.
- This resulted in a great level of uncertainty for us here, do we trust India? Do we trust our government? Or do we trust our media?
- That’s not the story today thankfully
- Why wouldn’t we hear about this?
- Here’s some of the figures
- $323,000 for hotels
- $485,070 to fly the government plane
- $5,235 in cell phone fees
- $5,100 on Canadian wine
- $3,600 for team Canada hockey jerseys
- And the most surprising… $17,044 to fly Vancouver Chef Vikram Vij to India
- The Liberal government passed these costs off as necessary to defend the $1bn in two way investments secured on the trip.
- Vij prepared Indian-inspired meals at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi
- Vij is also an active supporter of the Liberal Party
- Vij when speaking to CTV News said he was an “unofficial culinary ambassador” and his role was to “create menus that showcase Canadian ingredients and produce and to promote Canadian farmers, wines, tourism, and food safety standards to Indian dignitaries and political decision-makers.”
- Let’s also return to the almost $3,600 ($3,581 to be exact) spent on hockey jerseys.
- This covered 21 discounted Team Canada women’s hockey jerseys that were ultimately given to Indian athletes. The jersey’s were purchased from Wick Hockey, an outreach group run by Canadian hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser. The jersey’s given were used for a ball hockey game played with India’s national women’s team.
- Considering the expected costs of the trip (airfare, accommodation, etc.) and the outcome of the trip (a disaster that raised diplomatic questions) we have to ask if it was really necessary to spend over $17,000 on a Canadian celebrity chef and almost $3,600 on hockey jerseys.
- This isn’t all the government has been revealed to be spending on this week.
- Harrington Lake is the Prime Minister’s lakeside retreat and official summer residence, it resides northwest of Ottawa.
- This week it was revealed that the Prime Minister commissioned a number of upgrades including:
- A sauna which he paid for but the feds paid ~$4,300 for wiring.
- A new screened patio for $10,000
- Three patio umbrellas and stands for $3,000
- A new swingset and play structure (presumably for the kids) was added for $7,500
- An old deck and floating deck were replaced for about $12,000 each
- New boat racks for $8,500
- A new golf cart for $5,000
- In total this round of upgrades totals at or about $62,000
- Begs the question with everything going on with our international diplomacy, is it really worth it to be spending all this money on things that both the India trip and Harrington lake would still function without?
- Back in October 2017 on Episode 39, I talked about the new NDP government's hostility toward the fish farm industry, and the steps that they were taking in an attempt to regulate the industry by forcing companies to obtain agreements with all First Nations who claim the area as part of their traditional territory. At the time, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said that it was not enough to build working relationships with most First Nations in the vicinity of a given land use or resource development project. Unanimity among all affected First Nations was now required. It's no small order in a province with 203 recognized First Nations, especially when the "traditional territories" of each of the First Nations overlap.
- Something that is likely to rile up coastal British Columbians almost more than the existence of pipelines is the existence of fish farms. Fish farms are used as a way to provide the world with an ever increasing demand for fish, without causing disastrous overfishing or extinction. It is estimated that almost two thirds of the world's farmed fish are supplied by China. There are many American and Canadian hatcheries along the Pacific coast, and it is common for Atlantic Salmon to be farmed near the ocean where Pacific Salmon are known to live. It's a topic that causes concern for many First Nations and environmentalists, as mixing farmed Atlantic and wild Pacific Salmon could cause unintended consequences for the Pacific salmon stock, but stopping fish farms completely could cause a rapid depletion of fish populations.
- Fast forward 8 months later, and it appears that the BC government is taking a delayed step to enact what they promised before the election, just over a year ago. The BC government has let 20 provincial tenures for fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, which is between Northern Vancouver Island and the Mainland, to expire today, and then automatically renew them month-to-month until 2022. Upon 2022, federal licences that control the location of those farms come up for renewal. The idea is that the two governments will act then together in the renewal process.
- Agriculture Minister Lana Popham will announce that, after 2022, the province will only approve renewals or new fish farm licences that meet two strict conditions: a stipulation from the federal Fisheries Department that the farm won’t endanger B.C. wild salmon and consent from local First Nations. B.C.’s tenures merely let a company fix its open-ocean pens to the seabed. It is Ottawa’s licences that control where a fish farm can be located in the ocean, how it can restock its fish, what science is used to determine the disease risk, and the overall potential impact on federally regulated salmon stock.
- The NDP government has been pressuring fish farms to switch to closed land-based facilities, where there’s no risk to wild salmon. But the industry has said it’s not financially feasible. The province intends to encourage more research on land-based fish farms during the four-year transition. If the industry can't adapt, then it's basically a deadline for the 6,600 direct and indirect jobs that could be lost if the industry can’t satisfy government requirements.
- Environmental groups, tourism operators and some First Nations have called on the NDP government to honour its promises and immediately close open-pen ocean fish farms. They worry that diseases from farmed fish could infect and kill wild salmon, though the industry argues its science proves otherwise. A four-year wait is likely to disappoint those seeking quick action to protect wild salmon. One environmental group in particular is furious with the NDP's delay tactics. Alexandra Morton, a longtime critic of open-pen fish farms, said she was disgusted the government refused to cancel outright 20 tenures in the Broughton Archipelago that were up for renewal on Wednesday. “That’s what’s so disappointing about this government, they are chickens. They are weak.”
- Morton said the government had all the evidence it needed, including clear opposition from First Nations in the archipelago, to simply act. Instead, she said, it kicked the issue down the road until after the next scheduled provincial election in 2021 (or earlier depending on Premier John Horgan’s minority government). “They are not going be here in four years. Nobody is going to hear this little squeak from the NDP. Nobody is going to respect it. They literally used it as ransom for us to vote for them again. Four years, that’s eight generations of salmon coming and going that are going to be exposed to these viruses, to these sea lice which are still out of control and they did absolutely nothing to protect these fish.”
- When it comes to obtaining First Nations consent, there's also been criticism on both sides of the political spectrum. Popham insisted “there is no veto” for First Nations on fish farms, despite the new requirement that fish farm companies obtain local Aboriginal consent. She offered no clarification on what constitutes First Nations consent in situations where multiple nations have overlapping or competing claims in an area, or where elected band councils have different views than hereditary elders.
- That approach is bound to lead to disputes among First Nations, because treaty claims and interests can overlap not only on the land where a fish farm is located but also throughout the larger rivers and oceans where fish lay eggs, spawn, migrate and live, said Green MLA Adam Olsen. Olsen said he's disappointed in the government strategy: “It’s the same old kind of divide and conquer. It’s going to turn First Nations against each other.”
- The concern was shared by the Nanwakolas Council, which represents six coastal nations on northern Vancouver Island and the southern Central Coast. There’s already differing views by nation members, including two nations that have fish farm agreements, some that are unsure and others that are opposed, said board president Dallas Smith.
- The fish farm policy destabilizes investment in B.C. because it creates uncertainty over whether the NDP government might change approval rules for some of the other 60,000 tenure holders on Crown land in sectors such as forestry, mining, oil and gas, and recreational tourism, said B.C. Business Council president Greg D’Avignon. D’Avignon said this of the new rules: “Effectively, it’s a death knell for the industry. That will in turn have an economic impact on thousands of direct and indirect jobs, from processing plants, to truckers, restaurants, post-secondary trades programs, hotels, and other local businesses, he said.
- When it comes to fish farms, the media hasn't been unbiased in its coverage over the past year. Many Postmedia outlets have penned pro-fish farming articles, while more liberal media sites have slammed the fish farms. In reality, there's a more middle ground that journalists should be occupying: that fish farms are necessary for fish consumption, but more careful oversight should take place to avoid environmental disaster. Also, it's good to have regulations on the industry to protect wild salmon stocks, but if you over-regulate, those companies will shut down their operations and those jobs will instead flee to the United States or Chinese fish farms, both of which already have less regulations. Giving up market share to either giant is not a good way to protect the environment, nor the Canadian economy.
- This past Wednesday a court in Medicine Hat heard arguments on whether or not Alberta’s Gay-Straight Alliance legislation should be put on hold until there’s a ruling on its constitutionality.
- This case is being lead by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms on behalf of dozens of faith based schools, parents, and public interest groups.
- Following the reporting on this you would believe it’s just Christian groups opposed but those finding their way to the Justice Centre’s website will see it’s 26 faith based schools.
- These include Jewish, Christian, and Sikh schools.
- The challenge also includes more than 10 individual parents who are concerned about Bill 24.
- The court application seeks to strike down the provisions in Bill 24 that violate the rights of parents and schools provided by section 2(a), 2(b), and 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Bill of Rights.
- The bill also seeks an injunction (a stoppage) staying the operation of these provisions until the Court rules on their constitutionality.
- The primary provision being challenged is the requirement that prohibits principals and teachers from notifying parents about student organizations or “activities” other than the establishment of the organization or holding the activity.
- On this provision, Justice Centre President and lawyer John Carpay said, “There is evidence of harm from the teaching of gender ideology to vulnerable children who are young, developmentally delayed, struggling with anxiety, and with disabilities such as autism… There are no parameters about what a GSA is, what materials can or cannot be used, who may or may not attend, or the age of the children that may participate. With so many variables, it is unconstitutional to require schools to limit the information that is available to all parents.”
- Two parents involved in the complaint say that their teenager daughter who suffers from autism joined a GSA and was convinced to dress and act like a boy.
- They went on to say that their daughter then became suicidal due to “confusing influences”
- It’s situations like these that the Justice Centre is aimed at preventing from happening again.
- The parents say that the Bill’s intent is laudable but it doesn’t lay out what’s appropriate for different age groups or what protections may be required for kids who have special needs or other vulnerabilities.
- Most of the media ran this week with the headline that the Justice Centre was calling GSAs “ideological sex clubs” but later they were corrected to “ideological sexual clubs” with the follow up that the clubs make graphic information on gay sex available.
- This would lead many readers or watchers to believe that that’s what the complaint is targeted at, but based on the case of these parents we can see what the true motives of the suit are.
- Parental choice
- The government has mandated that schools have until the end of June to show that they are following the new legislation, meaning holding firm to not informing parents about their kids possible attendance at a GSA.
- Faith based schools want to see a speedy resolution to this suit so that they don’t risk losing their funding if they don’t comply in the new school year.
- The Justice Centre lawyer Jay Cameron said some principals and teachers couldn’t enforce the legislation in good conscience, calling it “simply unjust”
- Wrap up: Both sides of this story has their supporters. The media did not mention the United Conservative Party surprisingly in their reporting given their shared stance on the law with the Justice Centre. And once again while we have one headline, digging into the story provides the truth.
The Firing Line
- A news story you might not have heard about is the federal byelection in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord. It occurred on Monday earlier this week, to little fanfare. In the run up to the byelection there was just a few articles online and little to no TV coverage at all.
- The headlines from Postmedia outlets read "Conservatives steal riding from Trudeau Liberals". As we've said before on Western Context, the words you use are important. By using the word "steal" in the headline, it implies that the Conservatives did something wrong, or committed a crime, and even if you know that that that is not the intention, it still paints a negative connotation that's completely unnecessary. If they wanted to be truly neutral in their reporting, they could have easily gone with "Conservatives win riding from Trudeau Liberals”. There. That's a positive headline that's more factually correct.
- But I digress. Let's talk a little more about the riding itself to find out why exactly the riding flipped to the CPC in a province that has a more storied history of electing Liberals.
- Chicoutimi-Le Fjord is a suburban-rural riding northeast of Quebec City. It encompasses the northeastern part of the city of Saguenay, and some townships east of the city, which is located south of the Saguenay River.
- Before this by-election, it was a mixture of Liberal, BQ, and NDP. The last Progressive Conservative, or indeed any Conservative at all since the 1958 election to hold the riding was André Harvey, who was first elected in Mulroney's landslide of 1984, and re-elected in 1988. He lost in 1993 to Gilbert Fillion of the BQ when the PCs were nearly wiped out, but regained his seat in the 1997 election. In 2000, Harvey left the party alongside a few other Quebec MPs and later joined the Liberal Party. He then lost in 2004 to the BQ's Robert Bouchard.
- Bouchard then kept his seat for the BQ until 2011 when Jack Layton's NDP orange crush swept through Quebec and much of the rest of Canada as well, decimating the Liberal vote. NDPer Dany Morin was then elected, but lost when Trudeau swept to power in 2015 to his Liberal opponent Denis Lemieux. In 2015, Lemieux edged out Morin by just 600 votes, with the BQ and then Conservative candidates trailing further. Lemieux then announced his resignation last fall citing family reasons.
- Enter Richard Martel, the Conservative candidate for Chicoutimi-Le Fjord. Despite the party placing a distant 4th in 2015, Martel and the Quebec Conservative team worked hard to try and win the riding back. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer campaigned in the riding last week with former Bloc leader Michel Gauthier, who urged voters who used to support the now leaderless BQ (which I covered two weeks ago on Episode 72) to switch their allegiance to the Conservatives.
- Scheer has also endorsed a number of Quebec-focused policies designed to appeal to separatists and soft nationalists — such as allowing Quebec to collect federal taxes on Ottawa’s behalf so that Quebecers would be able to file a single federal-provincial tax return each year, rather than the two they’re currently required to file. As well, Scheer has said he’d give Quebec more power over culture and immigration and has promised to crack down on the influx of illegal refugee border crossers, a huge problem in Southern Quebec and possibly an election issue in 2019.
- Richard Martel was a popular local candidate, he was a well known junior hockey coach who was easily the highest profile contender in the race. His candidacy allowed the Conservatives to not only win the riding, but jump from 16.6% vote share to 52.74%, an astounding increase of over 36%. While Martel's local popularity definitely had a large contributing factor to his win, it's quite clear that people on the fence and trying to decide which political party to support clearly chose the Conservatives. The NDP and BQ vote collapsed completely, the NDP down from 29% in 2015 to just over 8%, and the BQ vote down from 20% in 2015 to just over 5%. It's become increasingly clear that with the BQ's infighting and implosion, and Jagmeet Singh's unpopularity that Quebec is becoming a two horse race between the Liberals and Conservatives.
- Scheer's nationalist vision in Quebec could pay dividends in the next election, by focussing on Quebec issues that the Liberals have largely ignored (ie, border crossers). And as has happened many times before, who Quebec decides to vote for could decide the election, especially with Doug Ford's PCs elected in Ontario. Coupling that with the Atlantic provinces probably not electing 100% Liberal MPs as was the case in 2015, and Alberta Liberal MP controversies, and Trudeau's pipeline stance in BC could lead to a very interesting election and campaign.
- However, the media has barely been talking about the by-election, Scheer's Quebec policy, or the implications on the next election. Outside of the National Post, most outlets shuffled the byelection news behind Trump talk, even on the day of. There was little to no TV coverage of the byelection, again preferring to talk about Trump's Twitter or the so called trade war. With the media doing a distraction and diversion, it's no doubt that so many people are turned off and misinformed about Canadian politics these days.
Word of the Week
By-election - a process by which a single constituency votes to fill a vacancy during a government’s term.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Overshadowed
Teaser: Unnecessary expenses incurred by Trudeau’s India trip raises questions, BC’s deadline to fish farms could push companies out of Canada, Alberta GSA legislation mishandles parental choice, and a Conservative by-election win receives little coverage.
Recorded Date: June 21, 2018
Release Date: June 22, 2018
Edit Notes: Chainsaw @ BC
Podcast Summary Notes