The News Rundown
- Statistics Canada is asking banks across the country for financial transaction date and personal information of 500,000 Canadians.
- The organization wants “individual-level financial transactions data” including information such as social insurance numbers. They say they want this to develop a “new institutional personal information bank”
- “Statistics Canada will be acquiring individual payments and income history information from financial institutions”
- The information collected will include: bill payments, cash withdrawals from ATMs, credit card payments, electronic money transfers, and account balances.
- Not only is it enough that we provide income and habit data on the long form census, but now the government run organization is going directly into our banking data.
- Granted 500,000 represents a limited subset but it is still huge.
- “Banks believed this proposed data acquisition project was still in the exploratory stages and were not aware that Statistics Canada was moving to compel disclosure of this information. No customer transaction data or other personal information has been transferred to Statistics Canada under this request,” Canadian Bankers Association spokesman Aaron Boles said an e-mailed statement.
- A new sample of 500,000 Canadians will be chosen each year
- “A CBC News report from earlier this year revealed the federal agency lost nearly 600 sensitive files during the 2016 census process. The CBC said confidential documents were left on a subway or sent to the wrong home, and in one case, hundreds were lost after an employee’s car was stolen.”
- Re-instatating the long form census
- Privacy in an era of the internet and Facebook
- Individual freedom, individual choice
- Social credit: See China. See Facebook.
- Governments need data to run. This is a huge collection of data that has consequences that have not been thought of as yet.
- Imagine: Facebook data combined with StatsCan data…
- Well, BC voters last Saturday went to the polls to elect new or old municipal governments. While there's been a few incumbents elected, there was a lot of turnover, especially in the major population centres. Former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart was narrowly elected Vancouver mayor, Longtime Burnaby staunch anti-pipeline mayor Derek Corrigan lost re-election, and there are also new faces in Richmond and Surrey.
- On Vancouver Island, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps was re-elected, leading to 4 more years of policy like intrusive downtown core bike lanes, 30km/h speed limits in the city, removing John A MacDonald's statue, and the banning of plastic bags. In neighbouring Saanich however, incumbent mayor Richard Atwell lost re-election, as he attempted to bring about a slate of candidates to the council (most of whom lost as well). In Nanaimo, BC NDP MLA Leonard Krog won election, which triggers a provincial by-election that could have stalemate consequences should the BC Liberals pick up the seat.
- But after all that, BC voters are not done yet. The mail in ballots for the referendum on electoral reform were recently sent out, starting October 22nd. All the ballots will be sent out by November 2. Voters who are not registered have until November 23 to sign up and all ballots must be in by 4:30 p.m. on November 30. Elections BC will begin to count on December 1 and hope to finish within the month, if there are no delays.
- Delays, of course could come about because of a too perfectly placed to be coincidental Canada Post strike. Elections BC is closely watching the rolling strikes at Canada Post that could slow down mail distribution. Chief Electoral Officer Anton Boegman has the authority to extend the voting period for the referendum if necessary, should job action at Canada Post materially impact the referendum process.
- For those who haven't heard, voters will be asked two questions on the referendum ballot. The first question asks if we should keep the current First Past the Post voting system or move to a system of proportional representation. The second question asks voters to rank three proportional systems: Dual Member Proportional (DMP), Mixed Member Proportional (MMP), and Rural-Urban Proportional (RUP). DMP and RUP have not been tried anywhere else and MMP takes a variety of forms in countries where it is used.
- No one in B.C. can answer this part of the ballot with full understanding, as none of the three systems is fully developed. Elections B.C. has made a valiant attempt at describing each system, but even its material leaves gaping holes. The description of dual-member proportional explains that “a party’s second seats are filled in districts where its candidates did particularly well.” What is meant by “particularly well?”
- Rural-urban proportional combines STV (single transferable vote) in “urban and semi-urban districts” with mixed-member proportional “rural” districts. What is a semi-urban district? Does the proposed form of mixed-member proportional allow one or two votes per voter? Will voters vote for a party’s list of candidates or for individual candidates on a party list?
- The government promised clarity once the ballot was made public. So here’s a test: Ask anyone around you to explain any of the three proposed systems. You’ll be met with blank stares. So much for clarity.
- It is fundamentally unfair to ask voters to choose from three vague, hypothetical systems and — only once the vote is counted — to allow a select group of the legislature (with a majority of pro-rep supporters from the Greens and NDP) to fill in the critical details.
- I outlined the different systems on Episode 72, but here's a quick recap.
- The report describes Dual Member Proportional as a system that preserves the size of rural ridings as single member districts, but increasing urban ridings to twice the size and having 2 members elected, one by winning the most vote in a district as in FPTP, and the other allocated based on province-wide voting results and the individual district results. How that 2nd member is chosen is not exactly clear. DMP has not been but into use before in the world, as it was invented in 2013 by a University of Alberta mathematics student, which means it's inclusion on a referendum is curious.
- Mixed Member Proportional is a system where ridings would again increase in size, and combines single-member electoral districts elected under FPTP with List PR seats allocated on a provincial level. The overall share of seats each party holds in the Legislative Assembly is determined by the party’s share of the province-wide vote it receives. Candidates who fill the List PR seats are either elected directly or allocated from the parties’ lists of candidates to compensate for any disproportional results from the FPTP vote.
- Rural-Urban PR consists of multi-member districts with seats filled using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in urban and semi-urban areas and MMP in the most rural areas STV means that if a riding does not achieve a candidate with a majority 50% vote total, the lowest ranked ballots are removed, and their 2nd option is then counted.In the MMP regions under Rural-Urban PR, a small number of List PR seats are filled proportionally on a regional basis in order to provide some proportionality for these regions. It would mean mega ridings with between two and seven MLAs, which means there could be anywhere from five or six candidates on the ballot to over 20.
- Confused? I've studied these systems in Political Science classes and the last time referendums were brought up in 2009. None of these systems are easy to understand, and they don't make it clear as to what candidate you're actually voting for.
- This brings another question - How many people will vote? Hard to tell, of course, but it only requires 50 per cent of voters to pass the referendum. Of those voters, a lesser amount will vote to choose a system. In other words, we could have a fundamental change to our democracy chosen by a very small number of people.
- It's also been pointed out that Pro-Rep systems take power from the people and leave it in the hands of individual parties. For instance, when Maxime Bernier left the Conservative party, leader Andrew Scheer could not expel him from Parliament and he certainly couldn’t appoint a replacement MP.
- But that is exactly what happened to New Zealand MP Donna Awatere Huata. Her party leader expelled her not just from the party, but from parliament itself, and replaced her with the next person on a party list. No need for a byelection. No need for the opinion of voters.
- How is that possible? Because New Zealand had (and has recently reinstated) what they amusingly call the “waka-jumping” law, which is far more serious than it sounds. It allows party leaders extraordinary powers because in their system of Proportional Representation, proportionality must be maintained at all costs.
- Those for and against changing British Columbia's provincial voting system to a form proportional representation will soon have a say as residents begin receiving referendum ballots in their mail boxes. The debate started to heat up Tuesday in the legislature, with the Opposition Liberals calling the vote a "sham," but it was all cheers at an evening rally in support of the change side. About 1,000 people attended a campaign-style event that featured speeches in favour of electoral reform by Green Leader Andrew Weaver and New Democrat Premier John Horgan.
- "I firmly believe people want cooperation, not conflict," said Horgan. "We will not make progress as a society if we continue to battle ourselves over outdated ideas."
- The premier told the crowd he is a late convert to proportional representation, but having his ideas constantly dismissed because he was not part of government convinced him to support electoral reform.
- Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson and Horgan spent much of Tuesday in the legislature challenging each other on the issue. Wilkinson said Horgan is afraid to debate the topic:
- "This is what we get from a premier who hasn't got the guts to face the cameras because he's a coward about this manipulative referendum. This democracy has worked since 1871. Do not let these people opposite play games with your franchise and overrule your fundamental rights. It's a complete sham."
- Shaping Alberta’s Future: From the website, Shaping Alberta’s Future exists to raise funds to promote the principles of free enterprise, limited government, free markets, ﬁscal responsibility, and the removal of unnecessary government regulation. We believe in free-enterprise and economic growth that works for the individual, as it is the ultimate instrument of poverty alleviation, freedom of speech, and social justice for all.
- The NDP has filed a complaint with the province’s elections commissioner regarding the UCP, Jason Kenney, and Shaping Alberta’s Future.
- PAC and Shaping Alberta’s Future
- Bill 32 (authored by the NDP), December 2017, discussed on Western Context raised the issue of PACs and in particular the fact that PACs are still able to accept corporate and union donations, must not outright collude with a political party, and will face restrictions in an election year.
- Third-party advertisers, including political action committees, can accept donations from unions and corporations. Starting on Dec. 1, the groups can spend up to $150,000 until the election writ is issued next year.
- PACs will be allowed to spend another $150,000 during the campaign period but not more than $3,000 to target any candidate in a particular constituency.
- The letters: MDA Chairman, Andrew Robinson wrote: “MDA president will be asked to meet with the UCP transition team to provide input on how to re-balance the playing field between consumers and industry. Returning [Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council] to a delegated authority from a government agency, appointments of AMVIC chair, compensation fund control, etc.”
- NDP Provincial Secretary Roari Richardson sent a letter to the election commissioner asking for an investigation into the MDA, UCP, and Jason Kenney
- The accusation is weak at best: The Motor Dealers Association of Alberta spoke with Jason Kenney in September about what a potential UCP government would do. The MDA asked its members to donate $5,000 each to Shaping Alberta with the aim of eventually donating $1 million.
- Alarm bells raised when filings from Election Alberta show that many car dealerships did indeed donate the money.
- Fire when there is no fire.
- Opposition tactics: ethics commissioner
- NDP friendly PACs: $251,248 from the Alberta Federation of Labour, Project Alberta: $385,000, Public Interest Alberta: $101,142, Progress Alberta: $8,706 Total: $746,096
- Alberta Federation of Labour: Run by former NDP candidate, Gil McGowan
- Project Alberta: Founded by former director of communications for the Alberta NDP, Mark Wells
- Public Interest Alberta: Joel French, former Brian Mason staffer.
- We could be talking about many more interesting and threatening stories, but instead we have another attempt to divert media attention away from affairs that are actually happening.
- Other news: more than $50 difference ($15 vs $67) in WCS and WTI oil price
- Other news: More than 40% of Grade 9 CBE students failed the math PAT
The Firing Line
- Now that Canada's smoky weed haze has dispersed somewhat, (no really, some stores are closing down due to lack of product, but that's a topic for another time) we can now see the other major policy that Trudeau wanted to reveal this month, and this time, it's something that's meant to get rid of smoky hazes everywhere. Smoky hazes of course could also refer to the deceptive language that politicians emit from their facial exhaust pipes when describing their pet projects.
- I'm of course referring to the carbon tax, which Trudeau and journalists like Chris Hall over at the CBC refer to as a "price on pollution". Make no mistake, this price that all Canadians will have to pay, including low income families, is a tax, and just like any other tax, it will take from hardworking Canadians to line the governmental coffers.
- Oh, Trudeau's definitely tried hard to lay this out as a good thing. He's mentioned that "Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. And we are going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality." Admirable sentiments. Who likes pollution after all? But what he isn't saying is that the carbon tax will apply to basic necessities that everyone, including lower income families will rely on.
- That's right. The carbon tax isn't like an income tax, where if you're under a certain threshold you get a refund, or like a sales tax where everyone is taxed the same amount. No, this will hit lower income families especially hard, despite Trudeau's promises.
- This new carbon tax will hit everything from the electricity you use to heat your home in the winter, to the clothes you wear that are shipped in from other countries, to the gas you use in your car, to the groceries trucked into your local store, to the myriad other products that have to be transported around the country.
- Oh, Trudeau says that the average family will receive a rebate on the carbon tax, by anywhere up to a couple hundred per year. As Candice Malcolm of the Toronto Sun writes, the money that he's collecting before so graciously returning to us "will only help offset a portion of tax portion paid by Canadians, not the endless unseen increases to our cost of living coming as we pay higher prices on everyday goods and services. But that’s the entire point.
- The carbon tax is specifically designed to make our lives more expensive. By imposing a regressive tax, the Trudeau government is purposefully lowering our standard of living. We will drive less, buy less, do less and have less."
- We've seen this before in Canada, especially so in BC, where the first carbon tax in Canada was created. Rebates were promised, and initially followed through on, but then as BC voters clearly rejected the implementation of a harmonized sales tax in a referendum, seeing it as the cash grab that it was, the rebates stopped. The BC carbon tax revenue now goes into general government revenue, with no oversight about where our hard earnings get spent. BC now pays the highest amount in the country on gas. And Alberta, where most of our Canadian oil comes from, now pays more for gas than fellow prairie provinces Saskatchewan and Manitoba, thanks to the carbon tax that the Alberta NDP imposed upon the province. And is Canada's resource economy getting developed as a result? No.
- Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe gave a withering critique of the federal government's newly revealed climate change plan, calling the carbon tax and rebate program a "sham" that would do nothing for the environment or the economy.
- "We already know that it's not good environmental policy. We already know that it's not good economic policy. Today we learned what it actually is. It's a cynical attempt by the Trudeau government to buy your vote with your money."
- Canadians have seen this before, and have soundly rejected it in the past, in the 2008 election where then Liberal leader Stephane Dion was proposing a "green shift", his words for a carbon tax to in his words, "save the environment".
- However, the notion that Canada, which accounts for less than 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, can make a difference on its own is naive.
- Canada risks becoming a victim of what Yale University economist and climate-change expert William Nordhaus calls the “free-rider” problem – countries taking the benefits of fossil fuels without paying for the environmental costs. “It makes no sense for countries with high existing taxes to add further penalties on top of existing ones before countries with subsidies or no penalties impose carbon taxes,” according to Mr. Nordhaus, who shared this year’s Nobel Prize for economics for his groundbreaking work on carbon pricing.
- Taxes on gasoline in Canada are already much higher than the United States. Canadians pay an average of nearly 39 cents a litre in taxes at the pump; Americans just 16 cents, according to a 2016 comparison by the International Energy Agency. Trudeau’s carbon tax would add another 11 cents a litre by 2022.
- The election in 2019 is now just under a year away. Trudeau's carbon tax grab will definitely be one of the issues that are going to make for a very interesting campaign.
Word of the Week
Privacy - the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people, or public attention.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Priority of Privacy
Teaser: StatsCan is attempting to gain our financial info without our consent, the BC electoral referendum kicks off with lingering confusion, and the Alberta NDP try to flip the page on PAC funding. Also, Trudeau tries to brand his carbon tax as anything but.
Recorded Date: October 27, 2018
Release Date: October 28, 2018
Edit Notes: Internet drop at end Canada
Podcast Summary Notes