The News Rundown
- The day has come: Rachel Notley is giving the oil industry a break from the carbon tax.
- While speaking to the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors in Calgary, she announced that oil and gas drilling would be added to the list of exemptions.
- The exemption will be made retroactive to the start of 2017.
- This also comes during a week when the Premier appointed three envoys to examine the oil price differential.
- She appointed University of Calgary School of Public Policy executive fellow Robert Skinner, her chief of staff (and former federal NDP leadership candidate) Brian Topp, and deputy minister of energy Coleen Volk.
- Robert Skinner has some interesting ideas.
- Brian Topp and the energy deputy minister on the other hand.
- Brian Topp called for a phase out of coal while running for the leadership federal NDP. This is akin to letting the fox guard the hen house.
- What this group will accomplish is unknown, the sentiment is good, but any solution will take time to implement.
- This week also saw the fall fiscal update. The fall federal fiscal update saw the deficit go up with no date assigned for a return to balance.
- There was also no direct mention of the problems that the oil industry and in particular Alberta are facing.
- Instead the government announced a series of tax write-offs which they say will effectively lower Canada’s corporate tax rate from 17% to 13.8% to compete with the United States’ 15% corporate tax rate.
- If they wanted to do that, they should have just cut corporate taxes.
- Later in the week on Thursday, the Prime Minister flew to Calgary to address the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
- He acknowledged that this is a “crisis”
- What happened outside was truly astonishing. 2000+ people gathered to protest the Prime Minister at the event.
- The protestors chanted “BUILD THAT PIPE” repeatedly and held placards saying “If you support Bill C–69 you don’t support the men and women that work in our energy sector”
- Bill C–69: The Bill that changes the mandate of the National Energy Board to be that of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. This effectively means that for any project to go forward they must look at all the impacts. This is environmental both upstream and downstream, indigenous, economic, and so on.
- The protestors also took issue with Bill C–48 which is the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act. This Bill prevents vessels from leaving BC’s coast with heavy oil from the Alberta oil sands. It does nothing to slow or limit import foreign oil through the port of Vancouver.
- This was by in large part a massive protest. Meanwhile rather than showing the huge mass of crowds the media elected to focus on the couple people wearing hoodies that said “Come West Trudeau” and featured a noose on them hanging from a tree.
- We also had an interview in Edmonton on the noon news with the president of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce and called for an “adult conversation” about an Alberta sales tax.
- It’s particularly odd that the carbon tax would be linked with the oil story as the oil story has a fix of its own and we know it’s a spending problem and not a revenue problem as Alberta spends 20% more than BC on healthcare, has fewer seniors, and has a similar amount of people.
- To fix:
- Use the declarative power in the constitution that would declare trans mountain in the national interest.
- Appeal the court’s decision
- Restart northern gateway and energy east
- We have photos in our show notes of the crowds at the protest.
- Two key officers of the BC Legislature, Clerk of the House Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were placed on indefinite paid leave following details coming to light about a criminal investigation that may involve the pair.
- The clerk of the house gives non-partisan advice to the Speaker and can be consulted on procedural matters, as well as maintaining a record of all the legislature's proceedings.
- The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for maintaining order in the legislative chamber and other areas used for the business of the house. The most famous Canadian sergeant at arms is probably Kevin Vickers, who served the federal Parliament from 2006-2015 and was a key participant in ending the terror attack of Oct 22nd 2014 on Parliament Hill.
- Alan Mullen, a special adviser to the Speaker of the legislature, says there is an active investigation by the RCMP, but that further details would not be provided in an effort to not "jeopardize any investigation of the RCMP that's ongoing."
- Mullen also said the house leaders of all three political parties in the legislature agreed on the decision.
- As he left his office with personal belongings in hand, James told reporters he did not know what the investigation was about, that he was informed he was being placed on leave as Farnworth told the legislature, and was obtaining legal counsel.
- "Somebody knows something, and I think out of the fairness principle [we] should be informed before we're placed on administrative leave, exactly what it involves," he said.
- "I think it's very unfair, and very unfortunate, and very disappointing."
- James and Lenz walked out of the legislature separately and left the parking lot together in a vehicle driven by Lenz.
- It is unprecedented to remove two high-ranking officials at the same time in the legislature. James, as clerk, has a lifetime appointment in the job in order to be free from political interference by parties that may or may not like his rulings. They are the two senior-most non-partisan officials inside the legislature, and their jobs are supposed to be protected from political interference.
- Premier John Horgan said he was "shocked" to hear of the allegations: “I am certainly very concerned that whatever investigation is underway is completed as quickly as possible for the individuals involved but also for our institutions.”
- Horgan said he is largely in the dark on the issue. “I really can’t comment because I don’t know what the allegations are, I don’t know what the scope of any investigations were,” said Horgan.
- “I do know both Gary and Craig, I’ve worked with them for many years and hold them in high esteem. But I’m unaware of what led to the events of today.”
- Both men have led an overhaul in the operation of the legislature in recent years. James spearheaded the publication of MLA expenses, organized the legislature’s financial books and pulled the legislature out of critical financial audits by the province’s auditor general.
- Lenz has led the response to a foiled terror plot at the Legislature, installing security scanners and other measures.
- Apparently the investigation was started because of Speaker Darryl Plecas. An RCMP investigation into the senior staff at B.C.’s legislature started in the office of Speaker Darryl Plecas, who began conducting his own quasi-police probe into concerns he had personally identified almost ten months ago.
- Plecas, the MLA for Abbotsford South, continued to refuse interview requests Wednesday and has not made himself available to speak to what has turned into an unprecedented parliamentary crisis at the legislature.
- The specific allegations against James and Lenz remain unknown. No charges have been laid or tested in court, and neither man has been arrested. In fact, charges may never come.
- The investigation by Plecas is the latest controversy surrounding his role as speaker. He was ejected from the B.C. Liberal party last summer after accepting an offer from the Greens and NDP to become speaker under their new power-sharing agreement.
- The Liberals accused Plecas of lying to them repeatedly about his intentions to take the job, no-showing meetings and hiding out in the chamber alone until the last minute to avoid the repercussions of turning on his party. He now sits as an independent and is also expected to be targeted for a recall campaign by unhappy Liberals in his riding.
- And now, news has come out that Plecas himself has sought to provide himself legal cover at the centre of a worsening scandal, amid allegations he asked a friend to conduct a secret investigation into two senior officials, spearheaded the suspension of the men and then tried to install his friend into one of their vacant positions.
- Plecas’ office announced Thursday that former attorney general Wally Oppal had been retained to provide legal advice in a new special assistant role. It’s unknown what Oppal will actually do or how much he will be paid because Plecas refused, for a third day, to take any questions on any matters.
- The move capped another dramatic day at the legislature, in which Plecas clashed with reporters and promised to explain himself at a 2 p.m. press conference only to take off down a legislature hallway and send an assistant out to read a statement. The assistant, Alan Mullen, is himself at the centre of the scandal.
- Liberal house leader Mary Polak released a sworn affidavit in which she said Plecas tried to have the house leaders of the Greens, Liberals and NDP agree to appoint Mullen as the building’s new sergeant-at-arms during a meeting Monday evening.
- Polak said they immediately denied the request and deemed it “inappropriate.” Her account was backed up by NDP house leader Mike Farnworth. “The suggestion was made,” he said. “It was a very firm no.”
- The house leaders in the meeting weren’t told Mullen had been conducting a clandestine seven-month investigation into current sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, as well as legislature clerk Craig James, said Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson.
- That only came out later, after Lenz and James were placed on administrative leave Tuesday and marched out of the building by Mullen and Victoria police officers that he’d called to provide security. Mullen, a former corrections manager at the Kent Institution, said he’d provided his investigative findings to the RCMP, which confirmed they are investigating under the direction of two special prosecutors.
- BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson had this to say on the matter: “I think all of us were concerned that we found out yesterday that a seven month investigation was being conducted by someone with no legal training or policing experience and this was being effectively hidden by the elected assembly. We’re very concerned about that.”
- So to sum up, the Speaker of the House was investigating senior officials of the Legislature, and then tried to replace them with his own personal friends. No matter how the allegations turn out, it appears that Speaker Plecas should be forced to resign, as he is supposed to remain impartial, and clearly can't do so.
- Spread over 5 years measures included are to facilitate fundraising by non-profit news organizations and tax breaks to fund production of original content.
- The package aims to help “trusted” news organizations but it will be up to the media industry to define who or what this encompasses.
- The government is also offering a temporary 15% tax credit for Canadians who take up online subscriptions to some media outlets.
- An independent panel comprised of members of the news and journalism industry will be in charge of nailing down the finer details of which jobs and which organizations are eligible.
- The initiative will also allow “non-profit journalism organizations that produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians” to get charitable status an issue receipts to donors.
- Some major news organization representatives called these measures “innovative ways to support the media without interfering in the reporting process”
- Writing in the Calgary Herald and other Post Media papers, Andrew Coyne says, the package, “will irrevocably politicize the press”
- Coyne respects the reader, writing, “This, at a time of maximum suspicion among much of the public about our credibility, or our good faith. You wonder what went on in all those closed-doors meetings? What undertakings were given? What threats were made? Relax. It’s probably nothing. No, really. You can take our word for it.”
- Coyne doesn’t believe there’s any direct “quid pro quo” but surmises that the independent panel will be much like the Senate appointees, in particular, “dependably progressive”.
- He maintains that this is fine, they’ll probably be non partisan but when a Conservative government takes power, they’ll have a choice, keep the appointees or replace them with a more right wing option.
- The option of course is to just not do this.
- Coyne nails down the problem, an outlet won’t be denied because they’re not partisan enough, that will just come in the mask of being not “professional” enough. Or maybe… too “ideological”.
- Andrew Coyne sums up the best option for journalists: “To hell with it. To hell with all of it. No newspaper publisher should have anything to do with this plan. And no journalist worthy of the name should go anywhere near that accursed panel.”
- Outlets such as the CBC and others already display their partisanship daily.
- CBC Rosemary Barton Clip
- Canada Post strike, response
- October 21st - first strike day, still ongoing.
- Legislature has passed back to work legislation, Senate won't be discussing it until Monday.
- What are strikes - massive work stoppages by employees, usually to air grievances of working conditions, pay, or rights and benefits.
- Influence of unions (short history) - Winnipeg General Strike of 1919, where future founders of the CCF were present (JS Woodsworth). Led to a polarization of politics, where unions and labour forces abandoned the traditional Liberal-Conservative tilt and created their own movements.
- Impacts on business - Businesses, especially online retailers, and other companies that have to use mail often are forced to use couriers instead, which means most of the burden lies on individuals.
- BC referendum - Delay of receiving voter packages. Deadline extended to December 7th. Impacts rural voters more, as takes more time to get to cities.
- Marijuana legalisation - Legalization on Oct 17th, Strike on Oct 22nd. Intentional for maximum pressure on government. Causing delays, undermining the system.
Word of the Week
Compliance - the state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards
How to Find Us
Episode Title: You Will Comply
Teaser: Notley releases a carbon tax break for oil and gas, non-partisan officers of the BC Legislature are placed on leave, the media sector receives $595M from the federal government, and we explain the Canada Post strike and the effect unions have on society.
Recorded Date: November 24, 2018
Release Date: November 25, 2018
Edit Notes: carbon tax pause, boost cbc clip
Podcast Summary Notes