Category Archives: Features

News, articles and opinion pieces

Our 10 FAV Memes of Pun-Fun Week

We have had a lot of fun at By George sharing punny material through the past week. We received a great many memes through email and here are our top 10 – and we thank all our followers who participated in our antics!!

 

Join us at the By George Journal on Facebook and Twitter. Enjoy our daily injections of provocative posts.

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Kudos for the Federal Government’s $87 Billion Relief Package

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a handful of key cabinet ministers announced the “comprehensive” coronavirus response package.

The Niagara Independent, March 20, 2020 – Canadians had been hearing for days from their political leaders, “we have your back,” “we’re all in this together,” and “nobody will be left behind.” Then on Wednesday the federal government stepped forward to announce a support bundle of $82 billion to ease the angst Canadians are now beginning to experience as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau offered up a sweeping $27 billion aid package to support families and businesses from economic fallout of the spread of the coronavirus. In addition, Morneau provided $55 billion in tax deferrals and low-interest loans designed to lessen the shock of the plummeting stock market and to stabilize a wobbly economy.

It is a sweeping relief package to weave together a safety net that will catch all those middle-class Canadians (one in three) who are living paycheque to paycheque, those worrying about their future in a gig-economy, and low-wage earners who can in no way afford to be without a job. The government’s support will help Canadians pay for rent and groceries, and businesses continue to meet payroll and pay their bills. Ultimately, the support package is to carry the Canadian economy over an indeterminate period of time as our country slumps into an anticipated recession.

From new EI measures, to boosting child benefits payments, to new GST credits, to a host of tax measures, the federal government stepped up. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided comforting reassurance to Canadians that they need not worry about protecting their health and the health of their loved ones for the fear of not being able to feed their families or pay their rent or mortgages. PM Trudeau stated, “In these extraordinary times our government is taking extraordinary measures. Public health should never hinge on financial considerations.”

Immediately financial analysts and political commentators began parsing the package to translate what this might mean for individuals and the business community. Some criticized that, given the mechanics of government programming, real dollars to those in need could not possibly start flowing until May. But Finance Minister Morneau assured Canadians who are worrying about money to pay necessities that they can expect emergency funds in two to three weeks.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, was critical of the 10 per cent wage subsidy rate offered to business owners to retain their workforce. CFIB is pressing government to provide a wage subsidy of 75 and 90 per cent, but Ottawa’s Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux exposes how costly this may be: “It’s very, very expensive—can you imagine the government of Canada paying 75 per cent of the salaries of all those people that were laid off?” Giroux added the observation, “I don’t see anyway where you could keep all the people employed, preventing job losses, when you have restaurants, airlines and other firms shutting down… In a situation like the one we’re in, ideally assistance should not only be targeted, but also temporary.”

The knee-jerk criticisms aside, the federal government’s announcement was greeted with praise. Ontario Premier Doug Ford applauded the package as “important steps to help keep our economy and people strong.” Kevin Page, president of the Institution of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa, said the government deserves kudos for moving so quickly. National Post columnist John Ivison also gave thumbs-up: “Ottawa’s commitment to ‘do what it takes’ is exactly the right message for Canadians.”

Ivison was bullish on the reasoned approach taken by the Finance Minister who focused on putting food on tables and keeping roofs over heads, quoting Morneau, “Clearly the impacts of this pandemic have been profound and will continue to be profound… Our government is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep our economy strong and stable. Whatever it takes.”

What is disconcerting though is not knowing exactly what it will take. A closed Canada-U.S. border, grounded flights, closed restaurants, cancelled concerts and “a new normal” for social interactions; how bad will the pandemic and required shutdowns be for Canada’s economy? How much can Canadians expect the government to spend on the safety net – and for how long?

Canada’s Central Bank Governor Stephen Poloz said the package of individual initiatives are “elastic” and “designed to expand or not,” depending on circumstances. Poloz identified that those individuals with the greatest employment risks are the five million who work in retail, culture/recreation, accommodation/food services and real estate sectors. Though neither the Finance Minister nor the Bank Governor would venture an estimate of how many Canadians would lose their jobs, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin forecasted that unemployment in the States would likely grow to 20 per cent. This is sobering: one in five will be without work.

Neil Irwin wrote a thoughtful NY Times piece in which he foresees the pandemic having a profound economic and social impact — and a much longer than expected hang-over. Irwin argues that the health of the five sectors that have been shut down (air transportation; performing arts and sports; gambling and recreation; hotels and other lodging; and restaurants and bars) are critical for a robust American economy. The sectors accounted for 13.8 million full-time jobs and $574 billion in total employee compensation in 2018. Compromised is the $11 billion a week the affected American businesses normally pay their employees, not to mention all their payments for rent, debt service and property taxes. Irwin concludes, “the economy can’t adjust on a dime, and the fact that doctors, nurses and grocery store clerks may end up working longer hours won’t make up for millions of waiters, flight attendants and hotel housekeepers who are likely to see their incomes plunge.”

John Robson of the Ottawa Citizen echoes this insight when commenting on the limitations of government support: “You can’t ‘stimulate’ your way out of a pandemic-driven recession.”  Robson writes: “With the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone’s telling governments to “stimulate” something called “the economy” through deficits and interest rate cuts so we won’t have less wealth just because people can’t go to work and create it…. here’s the stinger: unless government multiplies loaves and fishes or cures the sick, it cannot “stimulate” the “economy” in a pandemic.”

Unquestionably, there should be kudos to the federal government for its $87 billion relief package announcement this week. It is reassuring and provides Canadians with the support required to focus on what matters most. So, stay healthy and safe all. The multiple questions regarding the country’s economy and our future prospects can wait for another day.

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/kudos-for-the-federal-governments-87-billion-relief-package/

$213 Billion of Canadian Resource Projects Lost

The Niagara Independent, March 13, 2020 — Our history documents that Canada was founded on the development of its natural resources. Canadians today enjoy their standard of living as a direct result of wealth generated by the development of our country’s natural resources. The Nation’s mining, oil and gas, forestry and agriculture sectors have provided us with good jobs, a stable economy, and a wondrous promise of an enduring national prosperity. Given Canada’s illustrious past, it is remarkable that in five short years, under one federal administration, that our promise would be forsaken, perhaps irreversibly broken.

Second Street, a Calgary-based news agency, recently tallied up the total dollar figure of all the resource development projects that have been cancelled in Canada since 2014. The total loss of investment is an astonishing $213 Billion worth of cancelled or stalled Canadian projects from coast to coast to coast. This figure is unfathomable, yet Second Street attempts to put it into context by calculating that the $213 Billion would allow for the construction of a NHL-sized arena — one a day, for a calendar year.

A few weeks ago, Canadians learned that the $20.6 Billion Teck Frontier mine project was scrapped. This resource project would have had 40 years of anticipated production and economic contributions to Canada’s coffers. Teck Frontier was to directly employ 7,000 workers during construction and up to 2,500 workers during operation. It would have generated more than $70 Billion in revenue to governments — $12 Billion in Canadian taxes and royalties and a total of $55 Billion to Alberta to pay for Albertans’ future healthcare and education needs.

Last week, Canadians were made aware that Quebec’s Energie Saguenay pipeline project was losing its largest investor. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway firm took $4-billion off the table and abandoned its investment in the $9-billion liquefied natural gas project. This project would have built a new 782 km pipeline corridor across northern Quebec and constructed a natural gas liquefaction complex at Port Saguenay. The new port facilities would handle annual exports overseas of 11 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas. The Province would have directly benefitted for decades to come from the jobs, economic spinoffs, and taxes generated by this project and its exports.

Like the Teck Frontier project before it, company officials confirmed the Energie Saguenay project investment was lost due to Canada’s current political instability that is undermining the country’s resource sectors. Tristan Goodman, president of the Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, admitted Warren Buffet’s move “sends a signal that all governments and particularly the federal government should pay attention to. We have to have foreign investment. We do need to ensure that major infrastructure projects can be built across the country.”

Further to the resource sectors, all industrial and commercial activities in Canada have been disrupted by a series of rail blockades and protest demonstrations. The disruptions were prompted by an indigenous grievance with the B.C. Coastal GasLink pipeline and they quickly spread across the country in the form of environmentalists’ anti-pipeline demonstrations. However, describing the effective shutdown of Canada as “an anti-pipeline campaign” is far too narrow as Rex Murphy has assessed in one of his recent columns, “These are the anti-industry, anti-energy, anti-Alberta, climate-change save-the-worlders who have been harassing the country for years.”

And Rex Murphy squarely identifies the Trudeau Government as the prime contributing factor in our country’s economic standstill. He writes: “The steadfast refusal to defend the industry, always bending to the other side to placate the protesters, the demonstrators; muttering on constantly about carbon dioxide “pollution;” caving in on every occasion there is an interruption in a legal development: all of these things were a bugle call to those who like to think their cause is above normal politics, above normal protest, and most of all, as we have seen this week, above the courts and the legislatures. By insisting for their full tenure that “climate change” is “Canada’s No. 1 priority” the Liberal government has stimulated the current rage that is seizing the country.”

The Trudeau Government’s actions – and its purposeful non-actions relating to resource development have had a dramatic impact on both large and small resource companies. On one level there is a company like the American energy giant ConocoPhillips which abandoned its Alberta oil sands operations and sold outright its $17.7 billion worth of Canadian assets. On another level, equally harmful, are smaller businesses that are shutting their doors, like Calgary-based Trident Exploration, which simply walked away from its 4,700 oil wells and placed nearly 100 people out of work.

Abandoned resource projects equate not only to lost employment but also lost investments and future economic activity. Cameron Gingrich, Director of Strategic Energy Advisory Services at Calgary’s Solomon Associates, cites a long list of foreign investors who have recently pulled out of planned investments in proposed LNG projects alone. This list includes billions of dollars of investment from Chevron Corp., Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Exxon Mobil Corp., CNOOC Ltd. and Petronas Bhd. The LNG projects in B.C., on the prairies, and in eastern Canada are jeopardized or lost altogether.

In commenting on the fallout of the Energie Saguenay news, Finance Professor George Athanassakos of Western University views the effects of the Trudeau Liberals’ anti-resource approach as having serious negative effects for the country in the longer term. “Value investors are long-term fundamental investors, and when governments do not care about the long-run economics and fundamentals are impacted by politics, they run away. When a democratically elected government ends up following policies driven by activists, it is neglecting its larger mission and mandate and that will eventually hurt the economy and fundamentals.”

For Canada to lose $213 Billion of resource projects does not only damage our country’s current economic standing, it will surely cripple the opportunities of future generations of Canadians. Without the wealth generated by resource projects like Teck Frontier, Energie Saguenay, and the dozens of others that have now been lost, Canadians in the coming years will be hard pressed to fulfill the promise of an enduring national prosperity.

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/213-billion-of-canadian-resource-projects-lost/

 

On “Wild Pigs”

Take a moment to let this sink in.. and here’s a thought to remember as you read this: Marx said, “Remove one freedom per generation and soon you will have no freedom and no one would have noticed.”

There was a chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting Communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country’s government and install a new communist regime.

In the midst of his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question.  He asked: “Do you know how to catch wild pigs?”

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch-line. The young man said that it was no joke. “You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come every day to eat the free food. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd.

“Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.”

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening in Canada. The government keeps pushing us toward socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of government programs to feed us from cradle to grave, while we continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

One should always remember two truths:
1.  There is no such thing as a free lunch, and
2.  You can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

If you see that all of this wonderful government “help” is a problem confronting the future of democracy in our country, you might want to share this with your friends.

God help us all when the gate slams shut!

A here’s a thoughtful quote to pass along:  “The problems we face today are there because the people who work for a living are now outnumbered by those who vote for a living.”

.

(Received in my email today – and could not not reshare it. – cg) 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Father and Son Trudeau, and Canada Then and Now

The Niagara Independent, March 6, 2020 —  Former Timiskaming MP John MacDougall remembers the overwhelming feeling of relief on February 29, 1984, the day when PM Trudeau took his walk in the snow.

Sitting in the House of Commons chamber, the rookie MP representing an immense northern Ontario riding stretching from Lake Temagami to Moosonee, sensed Canada was teetering on a precipice – and from his vantage point, MacDougall worried that Pierre Trudeau was nonchalantly (perhaps intentionally) pushing the country over the edge. On that February 29th, he along with many Canadians were relieved to learn Trudeau was choosing to leave politics and walk away from the mess he had created.

In 1982, John MacDougall was swept to his bi-election victory on a wave of anti-Trudeau sentiment. Many Canadians had grown angry at how the Trudeau Government altered the face and character of Canada — Trudeau marshalled policies that buried the country in debt, weakened the country’s resource and business sectors, and gave rise to regional tensions and a separation movement. Today, MacDougall assesses the state of his country and, sadly, he sees a similar landscape. In 36 short years, now by a hand of a younger Trudeau, history is repeating itself.

“Pierre Trudeau was a brilliant individual; his son not so,” says MacDougall, who is animated when comparing and contrasting the father and son Trudeau – and Canada then and now. “There are two striking similarities between them that sum up their approach to governing. There is an arrogance in Justin that I saw in his father. It’s a disrespect for anyone with a contrary view. Pierre had a dislike for Parliament and he didn’t like Question Period and was often rude to MPs. He ran the country from his Prime Minister’s Office. It is fair to say Justin holds that same contempt for the House of Commons. He would rather speak with Gerald Butts and his PMO staff than consult with MPs.”

“Both also love big government – the bigger the better. They like a model of government like China where leaders dictate, where they can put in place laws and regulations and government programs that will control people from cradle to grave. Of course, big government comes at a cost. But that doesn’t matter for either of them. With Justin and (Bill) Morneau I hear echoes of Pierre’s finance minister Alan MacEachern when he laughed at us and said “What’s a deficit?” They have no regard for the taxpayer, no regard for the country’s economy. It is likely due to Trudeau’s upbringing.”

MacDougall won the ’82 bi-election and was re-elected in ’84. In 1988, he was the only PC MP from northern Ontario to be returned to Ottawa in the great Canada-US Free Trade election, overcoming the strong fears of what the new trade deal might mean for the resource-based regions of the country. MacDougall spent his time in Ottawa championing both the development of resources and the livelihood of single-industry small town Canada. Today he is troubled for northern Ontario and rural Canada.

“Pierre wanted control of the resources and he attacked the oil and gas sectors with the National Energy Program. Justin is even more damaging to the sector. This government is not listening to resource industries. It is introducing new regulations and new approval processes that will not permit industries to do their jobs. I see that Justin spoke at the Prospectors and Developers (Association of Canada) conference and said it is time for Canada’s industry to transition from a resource economy. Seriously, Canadians are to transition from these industries when countries such as China, Russia and India increase their wealth from developing resources? Like Pierre, Justin doesn’t consider the impact his policies are having on the resource sector, on rural Canada. I’d like to ask him what is going to happen to the hundreds of single-industry towns dependent on resource development across our country?”

MacDougall acknowledges politics today is a lot different from when he was in Ottawa. “In many ways the world has gotten smaller. There are more outside influences factoring into Canada’s politics. Lobbyists and special interest groups are well funded and are involved in every aspect of our government. We have seen international lobbyists impacting our country’s economy – for example, how the Rockefeller Foundation is closing down Alberta’s oil sands. It has become much harder for MPs to have a voice on issues affecting their ridings. There are too many hidden agendas being played out by people beyond our borders – including at the U.N.”

“MPs’ voices has also been silenced by today’s Party discipline. Pierre Trudeau called MPs “nobodies” and his son has the same attitude: MPs are to be seen and not heard. I was fortunate to serve under Brian Mulroney who respected his MPs’ concerns for their constituents. We had votes in the House where we could vote our conscience and vote for our constituents. Today, every vote is whipped and the Liberal backbencher must support the Government or else. If you represent a mining or oil town, you cannot speak up for your constituents’ concerns about the damage the carbon tax is doing to your community. The strict party discipline is one-step closer to dictatorship, to Trudeau’s China-styled government.”

Asked to sum up his thoughts on the Trudeaus – both Senior and Junior – MacDougall is reflective, “I have been fortunate to live and work through the years in a Canada that is a source of great pride. But today I look at the next generation, and the debt and counter-productive policies in place in Canada, and I know they will not have the same opportunities for work or quality of life. I do feel for the younger generation and I feel for those in rural Canada. I have that same, sick feeling in my stomach that I had in 1982 when I ran. We live in the greatest country, yet we are squandering Canada’s riches.”

John MacDougall’s remarks are recorded from two conversations this past week, on the anniversary of PET’s “walk in the snow” and on March 3rd.   

Photo Credit: Pierre Trudeau (Chiloa/Flickr) and Justin Trudeau/Facebook

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/father-and-son-trudeau-and-canada-then-and-now/

Whither Canada, a True North Strong and Free?

The Niagara Independent, February 28, 2020 — “This is a serious existential crisis for this country.”

Harrie Vredenburg, Professor of Global Energy at the University of Calgary’s School of Business, assesses the state of Canadian politics and summarizes by calling it an “existential crisis.” What else might any Canadian think in reflecting on the events of the past week: Teck Resources walking away from its Alberta mine, the Wet’suwet’en territory standoff over the Coastal GasLink pipeline unresolved, an escalation of demonstrations and blockades that have halted trains and businesses across the country, and a Prime Minister and federal government demonstrating time and again their reluctance to restore order.

On Teck’s abandonment of its $20-billion-7,000-job Frontier mine project,  Professor Vredenburg stated in a CBC interview, “Companies comply with all the regulations and in the end it still comes down to a political decision. There’s a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty in this country for investment in any type of resource.” He observed: “The political morass we’re in, it’s a mess. What you have are investors or directors of a company like Teck who are saying, “This isn’t the kind of place we want to be investing in…. If you’re on the outside looking in, you’re saying, “Whoa, we’ll wait to see if that ever passes.” Canada is all risk, risk, risk.”

The professor’s analysis portrays the underlining circumstances that drove the Teck Resources decision last week. CEO Don Lindsay cited the country’s political uncertainty as the reason for the company’s withdrawal from the Albertan project. Lindsay said Teck did not want to be “at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved … there is no constructive path forward.” Lindsay stated that the company would not consider any further investment in Canada without the government having a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change.

Resource development projects must also navigate the politics of Canada’s indigenous communities. With the Teck’s Frontier mine, one might think it is beneficial to have a total of 14 indigenous communities signed onto the project. Yet, like the politics that is disrupting B.C.’s Coastal GasLink project, agreements with indigenous leaders and peoples guarantee nothing. In B.C., even though 20 local First Nation elected councils approved of and are participating in the natural gas project, a handful of Wet’suwet’en territory hereditary chiefs have effectively derailed years of planning with a roadblock.

The Teck decision shone a clearer light on another recent announcement from Alberta — the release of the Buffalo Declaration, a document championed by four irritated Albertan MPs. These western MPs have delivered a plan for their Province, described as their “culturally distinct region” to remain within Canada. The declaration highlights frustration in the handling of the resource sector, equalization payments and it proposes a series of initiatives and political gestures that will go a long way towards easing the tensions in the West.  It states: “Confederation must rectify the critical injustices that prevent Alberta’s equal participation in Canada.” The Buffalo Declaration concludes with “The path forward starts today. One way or another, Albertans will have equality.” (Some have commented that this is no more than an idle threat; but, the declaration’s attempt to work within confederation will be much more constructive than the possible outcomes of the Wexit movement to separate, or Premier Jason Kenney’s announced referendum legislation.)

Compounding these complications are the multiple rail blockages and disruptive demonstrations that have now become commonplace across the country. From Vancouver to Montreal, from Edmonton to the GTA, bands of young militant protestors have jarred the routines of ordinary Canadians with uncompromising demands and seemingly no goal other than to create havoc and unrest. Today we have our political leaders and mainstream media debating on whether to call these people protestors or anarchistic radicals – and this is nothing but a moot argument. Whoever the perpetrators of the blockades and demonstrators are, the lawlessness that has shut down rail service and halted a Nation’s economy must be addressed by our political leaders. Finally, news on Wednesday headlined our Prime Minister stating, “It is extremely concerning to see people endangering their own lives and the lives of others…”

In a Washington Post editorial, our southern neighbours expressed their dismay at Canada’s political response to the current affairs.  “The present crisis is another example of how the Canadian state has embarked upon a remarkable social experiment of gradually devolving its responsibility to uphold the broad national interest — particularly the approval of economically critical natural resource projects — to anyone who claims to speak for Canada’s 1.7 million indigenous residents. This is a risky and radical political idea, and it should be treated with the sort of skepticism all risky and radical ideas deserve… it should never be forgotten that the Canadian state is only as powerless as it chooses to be.” (An ironic aside is the fact the Post’s masthead mantra is “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”)

In another editorial, Canadian political commentator Spencer Fernando laments “time is running out for Canada” and asserts “The Trudeau Experiment is over: a country can’t survive without unity, patriotism and identity.” Indeed, when people stop believing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, when people no longer recognize the wonder of their historic achievements nor the primacy of their existing laws, than the dreams and aspirations of a Nation will die.

The country Canada is dynamic: it has had a remarkable past and there’s potential for a remarkable future. It has thrived as a welcoming and accommodating land for all, prospered with the development of its natural resources, and has become one of the most enviable places in the world to live. Canada’s society was founded on and has been sustained with the principles of peace, order and good government. Herein is the existential crisis: we must have our Canadian political leaders (starting with PM Trudeau himself) begin to act assuredly on our country’s foundational principles.

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/whither-canada-a-true-north-strong-and-free/

my ribs ring

my ribs ring as your truths pound and then sear

like hot irons on open flesh wounds;

your words drive me back against the wall

hopelessly grabbing at my entrails, that you have

so nicely carved up for our consumption.

And no doubt you will find me from

the trail of vomit that reveals I was

unable to keep my secrets down.

Now, as I kneel in my own bile

I can’t help thinking that

this is what I deserved; and

I make a note to remember to thank you

once I gather up what’s left of me.

 

– Chris George 

April 1981  

Trudeau Liberals Undermine Canada’s Independent Judiciary (Again)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle seen in this Twitter photo from Oct. 20, 2016. St Catharines MP Chris Bittle was one of a handful of Liberal backbenchers caught feeding names into the Justice Minister’s office.

The Niagara Independent, February 21, 2020 — From a Federal Government that has brought us the Jody Wilson-Raybould scandal, and from a Prime Minister and PMO that has on multiple occasions breached ethical standards and parliamentary rules, Canadians are now being informed of Liberal backroom machinations that, yet again, undermine the independence of the country’s justice system. The latest violation of Canada’s Madame Justice has been exposed this week by the investigative research of Globe and Mail’s parliamentary affairs reporter Daniel Leblanc.

The G&M special report “E-mails reveal network of Liberals involved in judicial appointments” may have gone unnoticed this week with the international Coronavirus scare and the cross-Canada illegal blockades. Yet, it is a serious matter when a country’s political leaders establish a judicial selection process as an extension of their political office.

At the core of the G&M report is the fact that PM Justin Trudeau’s government is appointing judges using a behind-closed- door partisan process that results in the selection of solely (capital L) Liberal individuals. A PMO spokeswoman has rebutted the claim stating the current selection process is a merit system that includes open applications, a short list drawn up by public advisory committees, and a final appointment to be made by the Justice Minister. However, Daniel Leblanc’s investigation shines a light into an alternative process that is being coordinated out of the PMO, drawn from weighted input exclusively by Liberal MPs who forward their candidates from their network of Liberal Party workers and donors.

The clandestine orchestration of this partisan network to vet and select judicial appointments makes it impossible for Canadians to know whether judges are being chosen on merit or simply for their Liberal pedigree. The G&M found a series of emails that show direct involvement of Liberal MPs, ministerial staff members and party volunteers in vetting potential judicial candidates. Leblanc writes: “The dozens of e-mails between ministerial staffers from 2017 and 2018 detail widespread partisan involvement in the selection of new judges, offering unprecedented insight into the inner workings of the current judicial appointment process.”

The e-mails from 2017 and 2018 also show a strained relationship between the PMO managing the internal partisan network and the Justice Minister – who at that time was Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould. In one particular episode, emails detail a power struggle between the Justice Minister and her then cabinet colleague Jim Carr over appointments to the Bench in Manitoba. The ministers’ wrestling match required the PMO to step in and referee, ultimately ensuring Jim Carr’s candidate got the appointment he sought.

It remains uncertain how entrenched the Liberal selection process is since the Trudeau Government adjusted the judicial selection process in 2016. It was reported in the media in April 2019 that the PMO was using a private Party database called “Liberalist” to vet candidates for judicial appointments. In the latest emails, it has come to light that, since the 2016 changes, there were a handful of actively engaged Liberal backbenchers feeding names into the Justice Minister’s office. St Catharines MP Chris Bittle was one of those backbenchers identified, as was Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Anthony Housefather, James Maloney, Geoff Regan, Nick Whalen and the soon-to-be-named Justice Minister David Lametti.

The Liberal selection process has resulted in blatantly partisan appointments. In July 2019, six judges appointed in New Brunswick have links to Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc. These appointments included MP LeBlanc’s neighbour, a LeBlanc family relation, and three lawyers who helped retire debts from his unsuccessful 2008 Liberal leadership bid. Canada’s ethics and government organization Democracy Watch flagged this egregious activity for the federal Ethics Commissioner claiming the Trudeau Cabinet hid details about the appointment processes not only from the public but from Parliament.

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher states: “To stop this dangerously undemocratic and unethical appointment process for judges and watchdogs, the appointment process should be suspended until, as in the UK and Ontario, a fully independent public appointment commission is created to conduct public, merit-based searches for nominees and send a short list to Cabinet, with Cabinet required to choose from the list.”

One MP who has been vocally critical is NDP MP Charlie Angus: “We saw the Liberals lose their mind when Stephen Harper did this. Then they get into power and they enact the same corrupt, lousy system. It undermines confidence in the judiciary. We need a full investigation, we need to find out how something as important as judicial appointments could have been handled basically through Liberal operatives.”

The motive behind the Liberals actions are obvious. By appointing like-minded judges, a political party can impose in the courts their political mindset for years into the future, even after they are voted out of office. And Canadians can look south of the border at the American judiciary to see the outcome of such a partisan judiciary. The politicizing of the U.S. Justice System has evoked high-pitched political battles over U.S. Supreme Court vacancies. What is disconcerting is the Canadian selection process does not have this public scrutiny (and we are now fully aware it is less than transparent). Canadians should be very concerned over the potential abuse of justice – at an institutional level.

Maintaining a clear separation of the country’s three branches of government [executive, legislative and judiciary] is precisely the focus of Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner in his recently penned opinion piece in The Hill Times. Justice Wagner writes: “The equilibrium of all three branches of government is what gives us our vibrant democracy, strong rule of law, and robust protections for people’s rights and freedoms. Judicial independence is critical to the balance.”

So, though this matter may pale in comparison to other crises currently seizing our citizens’ attention, an independent judiciary is fundamental to a healthy democracy. And Canadians’ trust in an independent judiciary is vitally important. Politicizing the judiciary selection process as the Trudeau Liberals have, undermines that trust – and they must be held to account for that.

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/trudeau-liberals-undermine-canadas-independent-judiciary-again/

Autopsy

aren’t you melodramatic

a shish kebab meant for royalty

sausages for the public

one man’s meat…

and then the convenient martyred victim searching for pathos in a world made for Oedipus as the essence of your life slips from your control and time slides pass the allotment of chance

allowing the impetus to drain, the dreams to fade and the self pity to devour the ill fortunes of your half-baked hell, like a buzzard tears at a skunk that has been hit by mankind some two hours earlier while crossing the yellow line of his life

self inflicted pain

escorting experiences

just a numbing sensation

in a cool breeze

 

– Chris George  

January 1981 

the dream of a writer

can anyone anywhere reveal the dream of a writer

he who is endlessly searching

relentlessly attempting, inevitably failing

better to ask whether you could capture the light of providence

and project that ray so that others

may bask in its glorious reflections

 

– Chris George

October 1979   

Enjoy Life ( a redux)

Enjoy life while you can – enjoy each moment

Take in all experiences as they come

For it is all fleeting and will not last

 

The moments just disappear – without notice

slip into some hidden spot behind you

and are lost in the darkness of time past.

 

– Chris George

Originally August 1980; revised 2020  

Hero

the pale green grasses stood knee high

the tin god rode into the field on his

wooden horse

 

he showed no spirit but strained his eyes

in his restless and annoyed manner

the sun shone high in the cloudless sky

and the heat could be felt under his worn coat

decorated with his red and blue medals,

ribbons, and pins which hung heavily as

accomplishments of his past battles

 

he smiled as he pulled on the bit of Xeelo

because he knew no one would enter this pasture

hidden behind Mount Parnassos in this hot valley

His dismount was stiff and stately

the tin clanked against the stirrups

sending the birds reeling to the treetops:

 

a fanfare for his efforts.

 

he saw in the treetops the mountain’s shadows

and saw the glade where he had eaten goat

and rice the day before over a brazier

Janos had comforted him and given him

the new directions and his new coat of mail

they fitted light on his shoulders and

were comfortable when out of the sunlight

 

this he concluded as he squatted in the grass.

 

Janos is serious but then

he is sure to be laughing at the sight

and welcoming this god to rest in any oven

 

being neither iceberg nor island but rather tin

planting a flagless pole next to his horse

the Hero relieves himself before anybody comes.

 

– Chris George 

1981/82 

Trudeau’s cabinet is dancing around approval of Alberta’s Teck Frontier project

The Niagara Independent, February 14, 2020 — In the last few weeks the federal government has stepped into a lively tango with Albertans over the fate of the natural resource development project Teck Frontier. The conflicting messages coming from Liberal Cabinet members – and the Prime Minister himself – have drawn into question (again) the government’s ability to manage the country’s resource sectors. When a Canadian mining company spends a decade and a billion dollars to successfully secure approval for a mine site from an arduous federal-provincial approval process, only to have its future hang in the balance of a federal cabinet meeting, what does this say about resource development opportunity in the country?

Teck describes its Frontier project as a “truck-and-shovel oil sands mine located between Fort McMurray and Fort Chipewyan in northeast Alberta.” The project will consist of surface mining operations, a processing plant, tailings management facilities, water management facilities, and associated infrastructure and support facilities.

The size and scope of this enterprise is remarkable. The mine will have 40 years of anticipated production and economic contributions. Teck Frontier will directly employ up to 7,000 workers during construction and up to 2,500 workers during operation. It will generate $70 + Billion in revenues to governments — $55 Billion to Alberta to pay for services like healthcare and education and $12 Billion to Canada in taxes and royalties.

Responding to the environmental imperatives in Canada, Teck publicly commits to best practices for environmental protection, tailings management, water use and managing greenhouse gases.  The company has measured and quantified the project’s carbon emissions. Officials report that the Frontier mine, once operational, would produce about four megatonnes of carbon a year – less than a single percentage point of Canada’s current emissions (716 megatonnes in 2017) or of the country’s 2030 Paris target (517 megatonnes).

Still, PM Justin Trudeau is being squeezed by Liberal Ministers and MPs to reject the project on the grounds that any development contributes to climate change and will hamper the government’s attempt to obtain net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Environmental lobbyists in Canada and abroad (most notable being former Greenpeace activist and now Cabinet Minister Steven Guilbeault) have been vocally supporting the anti-development Liberal policy stand.  In fact, they have been successful in “moving the goal posts” on the approval criteria for Teck.  In January Jim Carr, the Liberals’ special Prairie representative, dictated a new criteria that the project must “get to zero emissions.” In response, Teck announced its corporate objective to be carbon neutral across all operations and activities by 2050. In a news conference last week, the company detailed a plan to achieve carbon neutrality that includes alternative ways of moving materials at mine sites and using cleaner power sources, among other measures.

The Liberal Cabinet is proving tone-deaf when it comes to Albertans’ aspirations. Last Friday it was leaked that federal officials were preparing a funding package for Alberta should the Cabinet deny the Frontier project. Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon was swift in his rebuke of any such aid: “Albertans are not looking for a Justin Trudeau handout. We’re not interested in that. We want Justin Trudeau and the federal government to get out of Albertans’ way, to let hard-working Albertans do what they do best, which is create prosperity for this province and create prosperity for this country.”

To further exacerbate the issue, the Prime Minister mused that his Cabinet was in discussions to determine if approving the Teck Frontier mine project was in the “national interest.” Trudeau commented that the project has implications across Canada and his Cabinet would “take a responsible decision.”

The PM’s posturing about the national interest succeeded in fueling the fires of regional divide. On Tuesday Alberta Premier Jason Kenney publicly questioned the PM’s intent, “If this were about a $20-billion investment into an airplane factory in Quebec or a car plant in Ontario, the government would not try to link airplane or car emissions to approval, but would instead be falling all over itself to offer subsidies.” In referring to a Quebec cement plant that the Trudeau Cabinet excused from an environmental review, Premier Kenney pointed out that the Quebec plant produces two megatons of CO2 emissions per year, which is half of what Teck Frontier will produce. “It’s not about emissions. It’s not about the environment. It appears to be about the West.

In the last few days there have been many who have made the case that, historically, the Albertan oilsands have been a cash cow for all of Canada. Teck Frontier is yet another magnificent natural resource development project that provides jobs, economic security, and unparalleled wealth generation for Albertans — and for all Canadians. Therefore, to reject Teck will be to reject Canada.

In an erudite editorial penned by journalist Spencer Fernando, he offered a sobering picture should the Liberal Cabinet reject the Frontier project, “They will be denying Alberta the chance to grow and prosper, and imposing a devastating economic blow on the province from their cloistered elitist bubbles in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal…. If the Liberals reject it, then they’ll be deciding to push Alberta out of the country, ensuring that the Liberal ‘legacy’ is a nation torn apart, divided, broken, and at risk of collapse.”

Such are the stakes with the impending decision on the Teck Frontier project and Canadians should be concerned on how this dance card may end. What for the Liberal Cabinet may be a “Trudeau Tango” atop the coffin of a natural resource project may very well result in an Albertan stomp over our country’s crypt.

Photo credit:  Alberta Premier Jason Kenney (left) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are at odds over the Teck Frontier mining project. Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/trudeaus-cabinet-is-dancing-around-approval-of-albertas-teck-frontier-project/

 

untitled (burning hard and fast)

burning hard and fast

charcoaled remains

purposely skewered

upon the cross

through my entrails

so all may see the

blood delivered

 

I hang

on the point

musing the world

which passes beneath me

as my life

drops cold and red

into a draining sea

 

the tide rolls out

decayed dreams dead

the cross upon the hill

has fallen (or perhaps never there?)

my life carried away

leaving just my mind

to sift the sand.

 

– Chris George 

1981/82 

 

To Lisa

Let’s make that promise to go hand-in-hand down this road

 

roads that lead into horizons

dirt, loose gravel laying the way

straight into unknowns before us

and we are running (at times,

bent over with laughter)

anxious to move along our path

kicking at the stones to make a mark

 

deep breaths of the warm air

fill our lungs – we are content

hand-in-hand, a pull and playful tug

eyes fixed on the point ahead

where the road becomes grayish-green

and disappears into the clouds

— just like our days,

always unfolding…

we run, kick stones, and laugh

for we recognize we are together

 

companions in life’s journey

 

– Chris George

2004