The News Rundown
- For those of us following politics, NAFTA and our trade relationship with the US is an important story right now, and the escalating trade threats between the two countries has caused tension. And now, we're finding out that the negotiators aren't even talking to each other.
- As first reported by CBC, it seems like the true state of NAFTA negotiations may have been accidentally revealed when government officials including Canada’s chief negotiator Steve Verheul accidentally let the truth slip in a taped roundtable discussion.
- Verheul was asked, “Do you still meet your counterparts? Do you still have committees that are working? What is the status of the…”
- At that moment, he responded by commenting “We don’t have any active negotiations. I haven’t talked to them in a little while.”
- When asked how long it was since he’s talked to the other NAFTA negotiators, he said “since two or three weeks. I’ll have the odd conversation, but no real engagement, no real negotiating.”
- It's a microcosm of what's been going on in the larger political scene: that Trudeau is insistent on certain sticking points when it comes to getting a trade deal done, and that the way that the American and Canadian teams have been going about getting their priorities through is completely different.
- Let's do a quick recap. Trudeau started negotiations with Trump asking for new demands related to gender and aboriginal issues, labour rights and climate change, all things that Trump does not care a great deal about and all things that don't really have much to do with NAFTA in the first place. Then, when things appeared to be getting somewhere, Trudeau holds a press conference after Trump leaves the G7 meeting to announce that "Canada will not be pushed around", which immediately halts all progress. Trump then puts more tariffs on steel and aluminum, and criticized "Justin" and his methods.
- Now, we're embarking on retaliatory tariffs that while many believe are necessary to deal with Trump, it probably didn't need to happen had Trudeau actually negotiated properly. The media is defending Trudeau daily now on US relations, and running stories on "Buy Canadian" even when they've been vilifying nationalists for years. While buying Canadian goods is good, it's odd that the media is talking about Trudeau doing so well, when his entire strategy with NAFTA has overturned the entire negotiations.
- And now, it appears that former prime minister Stephen Harper is making news again. A report on CTV News this week alleged Harper was heading to Washington in early July to hold meetings with White House officials, a move that apparently "completely blindsided Justin Trudeau’s office at a time of unprecedented tension in the Canada-U.S. relationship.”
- American officials are expecting Harper to visit D.C. on July 2, the day after Canada’s retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. goods and American-made steel and aluminum are set to come into effect. It is unclear what the purpose of Harper's visit is, and how long it has been in the works, but officials say he is planning to meet with American National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was the U.S. ambassador to the UN when Harper was prime minister. It is possible that Harper could also be meeting with Larry Kudlow, Trump's economic advisor.
- As we talked about a few months ago, Harper is the chairman of the International Democrat Union, an international alliance of centre-right parties. A series of tweets from Harper Thursday show him meeting with international leaders in Europe related to his work with the IDU. In one, Harper said: “I appreciate all the interest in the #IDU this week, and as IDU Chairman I look forward to continuing to engage with conservatives globally wherever I travel.”
- So it's quite likely that Harper's visit has nothing to do with NAFTA or political interference as the mainstream media says, and more to do with his work with the IDU or his Friends with Israel group which John Bolton is a part of. So if it indeed has to do with IDU, then why are so many worried about his possible interventions? Why are we even talking about Stephen Harper?
- Enter Justin Trudeau. Or at least, his office. The only reason we know about Stephen Harper’s adventures is because Trudeau’s office was in possession of emails that were quickly “obtained by” CTV News. In case there was any doubt over the story’s provenance, the Trudeau PMO then spent the next day briefing out the particulars of how it came to know about the visit (which involved a White House gaffe).
- But why would Justin Trudeau, at this delicate time in the Canada-U.S. relationship, with NAFTA in the balance, want to risk a public row with Harper, a man who no longer has the authority to speak on behalf of Canada? If there is genuine concern with Harper and his schedule, why not just ring Harper up in private to see what’s on his agenda?
- Given the latter option wasn’t pursued, one presumes the whole point of the exercise is to drag Harper into the fray. Indeed, the Liberals use Harper as a punching bag all the time. Harper was mentioned frequently by Trudeau in the Liberal national convention, and his main criticism of the Conservatives is that it's "still Harper's party".
- One thing is certain: Trudeau’s Liberals would like the media’s focus elsewhere. The very day the story of Harper’s travels broke, five separate news outlets, including Maclean’s, published pieces about the Prime Minister’s 2000 groping incident, a serious matter on which Trudeau has yet to comment. We talked about it a few weeks back before any mainstream outlet even covered the story.
- A wave of groping stories is certainly something that would get the Prime Minister scrambling for a channel change, lo and behold here's Harper, the go-to Liberal—and media—bogeyman, to get us talking about something else.
- So from all this, with the virtue signaling and posturing on NAFTA, with the patriotic news conferences, and the misdirections that Trudeau is clearly sabotaging NAFTA for his own political benefit. And that's worrying.
- The federal equalization formula will be reviewed for another 5 years through 2024.
- This was done through a single clause in the Budget implementation Act which recently received Royal Assent. This was unknown to many including the opposition, Saskatchewan, or Alberta.
- What is equalization?
- A marker point that says if a provincial economy is doing better on average than the rest of Canada by its ability to raise revenue, that province will receive equalization.
- All provinces pay into the scheme but BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland don’t receive equalization.
- Even through the 2015 recession Alberta received no equalization because according to the formula the ability for Alberta to generate revenue was still there and its GDP was still the highest in the country.
- Equalization deals with a cash flow of roughly $19b.
- Quebec receives $11.7b of this money.
- Alberta is responsible for $3.5b of the $19b funded, or almost 20%.
- Finance Minister Joe Ceci wants a better deal saying, “It has not worked for Alberta, even during the depths of our recession – which started in late 2014 and continued ’15, ’16 and part of ’17. I’d like to see changes to it so that we as Albertans can get a better deal from equalization.”
- UCP leader Jason Kenney has said that if he becomes Premier he’ll hold a referendum on equalization. It remains unclear what pressure this would exert.
- Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe went further proposing what he calls the 50/50 plan.
- 50/50: Cut the program in half and distribute the savings equally across all provinces based on population.
- Saskatchewan would receive $300m more per year, Alberta would receive an additional $1.1b, Ontario would gain $3.2b more while Quebec loses $3.7b.
- According to Trevor Tombe, “[B]oth provinces have deficits. But this does not reflect economic weakness. It reflects their reliance on resource revenues… It’s worth repeating: our deficits are a choice.”
- Much of the equalization skepticism in the west comes from seeing other jurisdictions (Montreal, Burnaby, etc.) block energy projects and ultimately render them financially unviable for their parent companies (Energy East (Energy East was a pre-existing a natural gas pipeline, already 3,000 km long and was going to be retrofitted) and Trans Mountain).
- Meanwhile Quebec receives this $11.7b from the program, largely contributed into by the west.
- Canada has the world’s third largest oil reserves after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia.
- Back in 2017 Norway’s sovereign wealth fund topped a value of $1T.
- Here, investment is scared away and Quebec reaps the benefits.
- Kinder Morgan this week announced a $2b pipeline project. This is the same company that was going to invest in BC. Instead that money is being invested in Texas!
- A $2b project to transport oil and gas from West Texas to Houston and Corpus Christi.
- Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern powers aren’t afraid of developing their resources.
- Saudi Arabia is modernizing (allowing women to drive) albeit slowly.
- If the middle east were to modernize further (including Iran), that region could be a beacon of wealth and investment.
- What is Canada afraid of?
- Our oil is produced ethically, we have the best work standards, and compared to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia our oil industry is only responsible for a fraction of world CO2 emissions.
- In the Calgary Herald, Don Braid described this as being the closest thing that has ever happened being similar to the 1980 Pierre Trudeau cabinet meeting in Lake Louise that implemented the National Energy Program.
- This is indeed perhaps closer to anything we have seen since elder Trudeau’s NEP, the revenue sharing idea is right there.
- So while Trevor Tombe says it’s our choice, ultimately Alberta pays and what we get in return is obstruction by any other name.
- I'll be honest with you listeners, this a weird story. I look everywhere to find news stories, from every source, and then verify it. One day last week, I saw a thread on Reddit, the Vancouver reddit in particular that caught my eye. It was titled "David Eby Appreciation Thread", and in it were some of the most bizarre statements to make about a politician.
- David Eby is basically Premier John Horgan's second in command at this point. He's taken all the huge files that the government wanted action on, including electoral reform, fixing ICBC and now he's working on money laundering in casinos, something I first talked about in October 2017 on Episode 38. It's good to see the government finally taking action on big time criminals in casinos, again, it's odd that it took over a year to start, but for political parties that's practically light speed. Yet, for just doing his job by getting rid of organized crime, and putting up smoke and mirrors and stacking the deck on electoral reform, as I talked about a few weeks ago, it appears that some Vancouver Redditors were very happy with what Eby was doing.
- I mentioned the thread in passing, and let it be. However, the next morning, I noticed that not only did Global News decided that a thread on Reddit was newsworthy, but that it was more important than talking about what Eby is actually doing or working on. Have a listen to this, these are the first few paragraphs of the article:
- "“David Eby is doing such a great job I want to impregnate him and for him to have my babies.”
- So begins the “David Eby Appreciation thread,” a Reddit-based tribute to B.C.’s attorney general that had drawn nearly 170 comments and over 600 upvotes as of Tuesday night.
- Posted to the sharing website on Monday, the thread has drawn plenty of attention from Reddit users who have glowing praise for the BC NDP MLA.
- The thread started with a message that said Eby is “restoring my faith in politicians. Anyone else feel the same way? Discuss.”
- That message was updated the following morning, with the user saying he posted it when he was “drunk.”
- “David Eby is fantastic, although I still don’t know how this thread did as well as it is,” the user wrote.
- And he clearly wasn’t alone.
- “If David Eby were your baby daddy he’d pay child support every month — two days early,” said one user (emphasis theirs)."
- Seriously. This is what Global News wanted as their top BC news story of the week. How on earth someone saw this and thought they should write an article about how much people like David Eby, and vulgar comments about it rather than talking about what he's actually working on, and how that will impact the province. It's worse than tabloid journalism. but it gets worse, not only was an article written about it, Global's Lynda Steele radio show also had an 8 minute segment about it.
- In real news, as I mentioned, Eby has been in the news this week as he had tasked former deputy Western RCMP commissioner Peter German to make a report on money laundering in BC's casinos, and the 250 page report entitled "Dirty Money" was released this week.
- Speaking to reporters, German said his investigation revealed to him “the modern face of organized crime” and the inability of existing legislation and policies to keep pace. “It is the underbelly of the violence that we see on our streets and the detritus that permeates society and engages in corruption,” German said. “Most of what (the RCMP) have uncovered has come from drug trafficking. The tentacles aren’t just local drug trafficking but potentially international drug trafficking and laundering that money.”
- While I will say kudos to the government for finally getting serious about organized crime, I will give a thumbs down to Global News for their awful coverage of a Reddit thread instead of actual news.
The Firing Line
- Headline: Do ‘parody’ Twitter accounts pose real political threats?
- W. Brett Wilson, a former Dragon’s Den personality interacted with a parody account of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
- He Tweeted: Who writes your tweets Minister? How do you find someone this incompetent (aka stupid)???
- The parody account was promoting National Beaver Week (which is fake)
- Parody accounts are not new, they exist for most prominent politicians and public figures.
- The Toronto Star points out: “If Wilson didn’t notice the difference, what about the hundreds of his followers who amplified his message?”
- Continuing on, “Wilson’s retweet of a fake highlighted the danger of political communications and advocacy on social media — particularly as Canada lurches towards an election year.”
- The Toronto Star also notes that Jason Kenney “liked” a Tweet from the parody account.
- The Star also cites one of their own columnists, Susan Delacourt, who had a link from a parody account appear “unchallenged” in her Facebook feed.
- Blue verification checkmark.
- Online due-diligence
- The Toronto Star finally makes the point that re-tweeting a parody account is no different than sharing an article from “The Onion”, a satire based news website.
- Principal Secretary to Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts, commented on the tweet from Wilson to the McKenna parody account saying: “This just goes to show that even the most discerning @Twitter users can fall prey to fake accounts. @jack you may want to look into this.”
- Later following this, even though the real Minister McKenna has a verified checkmark, the parody account was banned.
- The real Catherine McKenna said that parody accounts that deliberately try to mislead readers are a form of identity theft and need to be addressed.
- Minister for Democratic Institutions Karina Gould chimed in as well, saying, “Deceptive, fake, and misleading information circulates rapidly online - it’s a phenomenon that has increasingly taken hold not only in Canada, but around the world. It is up to each and every Canadian to rally around our democracy and fight back against those that seek to divide us.”
- The parody account came back under a new profile name, stating explicitly in the bio: PARODY ACCOUNT!!!! Was blocked for 7 days initially, and then the Canadian government had me banned. I’m back and back big!
- The author of the parody account Tweeted that they were asked to be interviewed by Alex Boutilier of The Star for the piece, but as of today it doesn’t look as though the Star actually interviewed the author of the parody account.
- Going back to sharing from parody accounts to being similar as posting from the Onion… late night comedy shows such as Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Trevor Noah all do the exact same thing.
- Take events from the day and make parody of them. Sadly there are people who use this as their form of daily news intake.
- It’s just a different medium except most aren’t even funny and their reported ratings have gone down.
- The real issue is that the government wants to clamp down on parody when parody has existed for generations.
- Last October the government had meetings with Facebook and is reported to have asked Facebook to clamp down harder on the “fake news” problem or face stronger regulations.
- Neither the PMO or Facebook commented on the exact content of the meeting.
- Part of a statement from Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould read, "We encourage all social media platforms to think critically about their current practices and how they can create spaces for informed public dialogue.”
Word of the Week
parody - an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect: the movie is a parody of the horror genre | his provocative use of parody.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Buy Canadian
Teaser: NAFTA negotiations have stalled, and the media changes the channel to Harper. Also, Ottawa has kept the equalization formula until 2024, an odd story about David Eby’s popularity on Reddit, and the government’s crusade against parody Twitter accounts.
Recorded Date: June 30, 2018
Release Date: July 1, 2018
Edit Notes: Cut out at WotW
Podcast Summary Notes