The News Rundown
- It's been a whirlwind week in BC this week, almost literally. A huge low front battered southern coastal BC on Thursday, leaving many homes and businesses without power, ripped up trees, wreckage and lots of cleanup to do. Flights out of Vancouver's YVR airport and Victoria's YYJ airport were delayed and all major BC Ferries sailings before 6pm were cancelled. Over a third of Vancouver Island was without power, and the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast was subject to widespread outages as well. White Rock's pier was even completely torn in half.
- Because of the destructive storm, another story was released on Thursday that completely flew under the radar: the results of BC's electoral reform referendum. Voters have overwhelmingly endorsed the current first-past-the-post system in the B.C. government’s electoral reform referendum.
- Out of 1.43 million ballots cast, 61.3% were for keeping the current system, while 38.7% supported proportional representation, B.C.’s chief electoral officer Anton Boegman announced Thursday afternoon. Eligible voter turnout was 42.6 per cent.
- It led to a very pointed statement by BC's Finance Minister Carole James: "Electoral reform is finished." adding that the NDP government will focus on other ways to improve the democratic process.
- According to Elections B.C., only 16 of B.C.’s 87 electoral districts voted in favour of a switch to proportional representation, which failed to appeal to the majority of voters in the province’s most populous cities including Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby and Richmond, but also in the Fraser Valley, Interior, Cariboo and North.
- The only region where PR received a majority support for proportional representation was southern Vancouver Island, with just 55% support. All other regions voted against. Outside of Greater Victoria, the only support for PR was found in some downtown Vancouver ridings, the Sunshine Coast, and the two safe NDP seats in the southeast of the province.
- The NDP had promised the referendum on electoral reform during the 2017 election and Premier John Horgan’s NDP government, along with Green Leader Andrew Weaver, supported proportional representation. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson argued the referendum was too politically driven by the NDP.
- Horgan said in a statement that he respected the results: “This referendum was held because we believe that this decision needed to be up to people, not politicians. While many people, myself included, are disappointed in the outcome, we respect people’s decisions.”
- Wilkinson said in a statement that voters had sent a “clear” message to the NDP and Greens that they weren’t going to tolerate the parties’ “self-serving” referendum: “Today we saw the power of democracy as millions of British Columbians sent a clear message to the NDP and Greens that their self-serving referendum was not going to be tolerated. This was a flawed process from the beginning as the NDP stacked the deck to satisfy the Green party and remain in power. This has never been about improving our democracy, it was always about power and control. However, to all the British Columbians who voted for a change believing that we need to improve our democracy, we can assure them that they have been heard.”
- Bill Tieleman, of the No Proportional Representation Society, said he was pleased with the results: "We said from the beginning of this campaign that proportional representation is complicated and confusing, that it was a big risk for British Columbia to consider, and voters overwhelmingly agreed."
- Media around the country has been laughing at BC's attempts at electoral reform. The editorial from the Globe and Mail wrote: "it sure was thrilling to watch Canada’s least honest attempt at electoral reform – a B.C. referendum whose deck was stacked by the New Democratic government and its Green allies – being given a sound thrashing this week. It restored one’s faith in democracy."
- It's good that this issue is now put to rest so British Columbians can go into 2019 with a clean slate. Electoral reform, after three swing and misses, appears to be out in BC. Now we can focus on other issues in the province that actually need to be addressed.
- Such as the news that Exxon Mobil Corp. has withdrawn its environmental assessment application for a $25-billion LNG export facility on the B.C. coast it proposed in 2015. Company spokeswoman Julie King said Exxon Mobil and Imperial withdrew the WCC LNG project from the environmental assessment process after careful review.
- "We remain committed to our Canada operations and to ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of oil and gas to our customers," King wrote in a brief email.
- Exxon Mobil and Imperial continuously evaluate their portfolios to identify opportunities to invest, restructure or divest assets to strengthen their competitive position and provide the highest return to shareholders, she said. She didn't say why the application was withdrawn.
- With LNG prices heading up again, BC's LNG sector is still trying to get off the ground. Further delays could lead to major loss in revenue, something that the province directly to the east of us knows full well.
- Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr announced on Tuesday that $1.6b is on the way to help the Alberta oil and gas industry.
- The money is coming in the form of forgivable commercial loans.
- $1b for commercial financing for all oil and gas exporters
- $500m in commercial financing providing by the Business Development Bank of Canada over 3 years to help “higher risk but viable” small oil and gas businesses.
- And $50m from the Clean Growth Program to support oil and gas projects
- Premier Rachel Notley said the package will help but ultimately called the aid package “tone deaf” as it doesn’t fix the core problem of a lack of pipelines.
- Furthermore she said, “Offering Alberta business owners and industry the opportunity to go further in debt is not any kind of long-term solution. Especially not when we are a province and we are talking about an industry that is very good at being profitable if given the freedom to do so.”
- Political scientist Duane Bratt from Mount Royale said that this announcement “falls flat” and is the same money that would be used for the forestry sector or steel industry. Bratt also pointed out that the money is loan money at commercial rates and that the government may have been better off doing nothing.
- He ended off by saying, “I don’t know what they’re thinking” in regards to the federal government. Bratt said that railcars or changes to Bill C–69 would have been a better starting point.
- On Wednesday the federal Conservatives held a rally in Nisku where residents were able to voice their concerns.
- Prior to the rally a 22km long convoy of trucks headed to Nisku drawing more than 600 trucks in what is thought to be one of the longest convoys ever.
- The convoy was so long that Andrew Scheer even had to get out and walk to the venue rather than waiting in traffic.
- The province and federal government have attempted damage control but there seems to be little movement on the issue of pipelines.
- One thing can be certain going into 2019, pipelines will continue to dominate the agenda and it’s been a long time since there has been this level of discontent with a federal government in Alberta.
- As December comes to a close, the media likes to take a look at the biggest stories of the year, as we ourselves will be doing next week on our Year in Review podcast episode. One of the biggest stories undeniably from this past year has to deal with foreign affairs, and how other countries are reacting to Canada and our federal government's policies.
- It's been a tough year for Canada on the world stage. When Justin Trudeau was elected with a majority in 2015, there was a lot of optimism for him to display Canadian hospitality on the world stage. After the election, Trudeau proclaimed triumphantly that "We're back". Just listen to Trudeau himself: “Many of you have worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years. Well, I have a simple message for you: on behalf of 35 million Canadians, we’re back.” This sense of Canada being back and involved positively in world affairs was a message that a lot of Liberal supporters gravitated towards and lent itself to much of Trudeau's popularity for the first half of his term in office.
- Now that we're reaching the end of his third year in office, and as another election looms on the horizon (fall 2019 for those keeping track), we have to take a critical look at what Trudeau has and hasn't been able to accomplish when it comes to foreign affairs.
- First let's look at the most recent trouble that Canada's been on the world stage: China. Our proximity to China doesn't even extend across the Pacific Ocean, but actually starts right in the heart of Vancouver. The housing and fentanyl crises can be directly laid at the feet of Chinese money launderers and the provincial governments of both the BC NDP and BC Liberals have been hard pressed to find a solution. While the foreign buyers tax has contributed to a cooling of real estate prices, the drug known as fentanyl that is mainly supplied from the east Asian country continues to ravage across Canada.
- Canada's problems with China do not stop there however. The arrest of Chinese technology giant Huawei's CFO Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the US has led to an unprecedented level of hostility between Canada and China. Even though the arrest was on behalf of the US, President Donald Trump also played a role in escalating Canada's tensions with China when he suggested that he might intervene in Meng's extradition case if it would help to secure a trade deal with Beijing. That comment suggested there was a political element to Canada's extradition proceedings. It also undermined the Trudeau government's efforts to expand Canada's trade and financial ties with the second largest economy in the world.
- As 3 Canadian citizens languish in Chinese detention, arrested directly after Meng, one of which is subject to 24 hour a day lights in his cell, another is subject to "administrative punishment" after a work visa was invalidated, Canada sits in a precarious position with the world's most populous country. Canadian citizens living working and travelling in China should be worried about this concerning evolution between the two countries, and our government must step carefully lest our trading relationship founder.
- Canada doesn't do anything by half when it comes to declining relationships with foreign countries. Along with the world's most populous country, the relationship with the world's largest oil producer is declining as well. Last summer, we talked about Saudi Arabia on episode 81, the podcast where Shane and I were able to be in the same room together. The Saudi regime ostensibly led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been increasingly belligerent on the world stage, and Saudi Arabia ordered 15,000 Saudi students to leave Canada, halted direct flights to and from Canada and froze new trade and investment — all over of a tweet by Global Affairs in August that called for the release of two jailed human rights activists.
- As the Middle Eastern country continues on its path of human rights abuses and worsening humanitarian crises (the bombing of Yemen comes to mind), it's become quite clear that Canada needs to be wary of the Saudis. As it stands, eastern Canada imports oil from OPEC countries, mostly Saudi Arabia, while Western Canada's oil remains landlocked and unable to reach Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Refineries do exist in New Brunswick, but Canadian oil cannot get there. It's becoming clear that Canada needs to be prepared in case the Saudis cut off Canada completely. Already Saudi Arabia has fallen behind in making payments on its $15-billion arms deal with Canada, a contract that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he’s looking for ways to halt. The Saudi regime is $1.8 billion dollars behind, and no resolution is in sight. If Trudeau cancels the deal completely, not only will Canada have to pay penalties for breach of contract, but the money already owed will likely not be seen.
- Trudeau's trip to India earlier in the year was also much maligned. His government bringing along a member of a banned Sikh separatist party to official Canadian events in Mumbai and New Delhi did not bode well for trade negotiations with the world's second populous country. Jaspal Atwal's invitation, a man who was also convicted of attempted murder of an Indian politician, showed Canada in a bad light, and revealed to India a side of Canada that many wouldn't have. Sikh separatism is a huge deal in India, and with the Sikh diaspora in Canada, but many others don't care about it that much. It just led to a more frigid relationship with India.
- Back in April 2017, the chief minister of Punjab refused to meet defence minister Harjit Sajjan, after accusing him and four other Canadian ministers of being “Khalistanis.” (Khalistan is the would-be Sikh homeland in the Indian state of Punjab.) A rash of stories appeared in the Indian press alleging Canadian complicity in Sikh extremism. Trudeau did not help his case by attending a Sikh event in Toronto the previous year, which featured Khalistan flags and posters of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a Sikh extremist leader killed by Indian troops at the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984. For Trudeau's delegation to then bring up the issue of Sikh separatism not in speech, but in a physical presence of a man who embodied Sikh separatism in Canada, was appalling. It's not surprising that India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi would snub Trudeau and only give a token support on trade issues.
- And all that is without mentioning the United States. Previously stalwart allies and trading partners, the Canadian and US governments eye each other warily across the world's longest land border. President Trump's policies could be described by both supporters and critics as "unconventional" and the replacement of NAFTA has taken a toll on Canadian diplomats and negotiators, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland actually taking a timeout on the Prime Minister's Office floor after the signing.
- Trump's erratic policy mood swings have made it difficult for Canada to figure out how to react. The tariffs on aluminum and steel exports that the US administration had placed on Canada last spring has remained even with the signing of the USMCA trade agreement. Trump personally attacked both Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland — referring to Trudeau as "very weak and dishonest" as he instructed his officials not to sign the communique following the G7 summit hosted by the prime minister.
- As Chris Hall of the CBC writes, two world leaders who share many of Trudeau's views on signature issues like migration, globalization and climate change are facing troubles of their own. Germany's Angela Merkel is beginning a slow march to retirement, her departure sparked in large part by opposition at home to her migration policies. Emmanuel Macron of France had to scale back his climate plan after violent street demonstrations. It all suggests Canada's isolation on the world stage isn't over yet.
- What Hall doesn't write, is that perhaps Trudeau's exclamation of "we're back" was more for Liberal supporters, and that the rest of the world didn't really care about his "sunny ways" either. Powerful countries aren't going to agree with Trudeau's push for gender, climate and indigenous resolutions, like in the NAFTA case with the US; or in his inability to move oil to market, as with Saudi Arabia; or his inability to stabilize the housing or fentanyl crises, as with China. India isn't going to care if it was a mistake to invite Jaspal Atwal with the trade delegations, they'll simply view it as an insult, and retract trade opportunities as a result. And the US certainly won't favour us for doing their dirty work with Huawei, and won't help us if China threatens us because of it. It's all showing that Trudeau's pro-migration, pro-globalisation, pro-world affairs, pro-human rights messages are falling on deaf ears internationally.
- It's clear from all these examples that Trudeau's foreign policy in the past year, let alone the rest of his term has been an abject failure, and Canadians are beginning to see that underneath the smile, the nice hair, and the pretty bowtied language and positive image that Trudeau portrays, that there is no substance involved. And Canada is the worse off for it. Angus Reid Institute polling released this week doesn’t suggest any imminent thawing of affections. Trudeau’s approval has sunk to 35%. It was at 46% this time last year, 55% 12 months before that, and way back at the end of 2015, was as high as 63%. It's being shown that as Trudeau's policies fail to deliver results, more and more people are finding out just what kind of government was elected in 2015. One can hope that the next election in 2019 will elect a leader that knows what they're doing on the world stage, because the last one certainly didn't.
- The carbon tax has been and is a central point of contention going into 2019.
- Provinces that don’t comply will be forced to bring forward a tax.
- This week the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said: “The Chamber’s view is that this is the only cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions in Canada, and when done right, carbon pricing can equip businesses for the transition to a lower-carbon economy, and reduce the overall regulatory burden.”
- This lead to headlines from the CBC such as: “Canadian Chamber of Commerce solidly backs carbon pricing”
- From Global: “Carbon tax is the smartest way to target rising emissions”
- The CBC and Global pieces then used this to go on a crusade in favour of the carbon tax this week. They highlighted that the Chamber represents 200,000 companies through Canada and that the Chamber sees the tax “as the most cost-effective way to transition Canada to a low-carbon economy”
- Perrin Beatty, the Chamber’s President and CEO said, "Business wants to play its part in the fight against climate change, but our public policy has to balance our climate objectives with the need to ensure Canada remains attractive to start or grow a business, and to invest”
- The CBC article goes on to highlight the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the OECD concerns about the cost of climate change in the next century.
- The reporting on this issue forced the Chamber to issue a statement saying: “While some of the coverage notes the Chamber’s support for carbon pricing, it neglects to include that the support is contingent upon significant caveats. The report calls for government to take concrete steps to reduce the overall regulatory burden on businesses in Canada, and to return the revenues from the carbon tax to business to help them lower their carbon emissions and their energy costs.”
- The CBC story was amended to include these recommendations including a reduction in other regulations, that carbon pricing should be revenue neutrals and revenue going into investments for clean technologies, and that governments should help businesses develop an export strategy.
- The Global story mentions nothing about regulations whatsoever.
- The Chamber also highlights where carbon pricing has been done wrong in their view, such as in Alberta, “the Carbon Levy was implemented and added additional cost burdens on business while monies collected through the levy will flow to general revenues beginning in 2021.”
- As has been missing for much of the federal government policy in 2018, the report also highlights the importance of the natural resources sector to the Canadian economy.
- This is pure fake news from the mainstream media. The media jumped at the sound of a business group supporting a carbon tax that they didn’t even bother to check if they got the facts right.
- It’s also worth noting that the CBC article was posted in CBC’s “What on Earth?” section.
Word of the Week
Reform - make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Proportional Failure
Teaser: BC’s referendum is complete as 61.3% vote to stick with FPTP, the federal government loans $1.6B to Alberta’s oil sector, and we look at Trudeau’s foreign policy failures. Also, pure fake news on the Chamber of Commerce’s support for the carbon tax.
Recorded Date: December 21, 2018
Release Date: December 23, 2018
Edit Notes: Canada foreign policy internet drop
Podcast Summary Notes