Tag Archives: Niagara_Independent

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/

 

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/

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/

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/

 

Federal Government continues corporate welfare spending spree

Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. 

The Niagara Independent, February 7, 2020 — Many Canadians feel the federal government should not be in the business of doling out corporate welfare cheques. From an economic standpoint, it is most often money down the drain. Yet the Trudeau Government continues to shovel taxpayers’ dollars to multi-million dollar corporations. There have been numerous corporate payouts and debt write-offs in the last four years. Perhaps the most egregious example of corporate welfare is the recent payout to credit card company MasterCard – yes, that MasterCard, which recorded a net income of nearly $4 billion in 2017.

Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains took a break from hobnobbing with the wealthiest corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to announce the Canadian Government is gifting $50 million to MasterCard to help the corporation set up a Vancouver office. Minister Bains held a press conference with the company’s CEO Ajay Banga (whose 2018 salary was more than $20 million and his net worth is over $200 million) and the only thing missing in the Minister’s presentation was the over-sized cheque and grip-and-grin photo. For this handout, MasterCard will develop a new centre to advance cybersecurity technology that is expected to employ 380 people.

When the Prime Minister was first asked about his Government’s decision to give MasterCard $50 million, his response was, “Over the past five years, we have been focused on growing the middle class and supporting those working hard to join it. That is exactly what we have done.”

With the Trudeau Government it seems every explanation includes platitudes about championing the middle-class. With the new federal cabinet, Canadians can now rely on the Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity Mona Fortier and her new departmental bureaucrats to stand up for their interests, even though she admits she cannot define “middle class.” In Parliament this week the Minister stated, “Canada has no official statistical measure of what constitutes the middle class.”

But the greatest insult to taxpayers in the recent $50 million payola to MasterCard could very well be this: while corporate welfare was being debated in the House of Commons, the Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity was touting the Government’s generosity in having provided Canadians with a $90-a-year tax break – which the Minister suggested will pay for a child’s summer camp. This Government has no issues with the logic that would have MasterCard receiving a $50 million handout while Canadians get handed $90 to supposedly pay for summer camp?

The Trudeau Government has a long track record when it comes to rationalizing their corporate welfare. Recall these handouts:

  • Former Environment Minister Catherine McKenna gave away $12 million to grocery chain giant Loblaws to purchase “low-emission” refrigerator units for its stores. Loblaws, having earned more than $221 million in profit in the prior three months, announced in January they will lay off 800 people at their Ottawa and Laval distribution centres.
  • The federal government handed Maple Leaf Foods $28 million (Ontario handed out $34.5 million) to help the mega-food company with construction of a new poultry operation in London, ON. What was not communicated in this corporate grant announcement was that when the new facility opens, Maple Leaf will close its facilities in Toronto, Brampton, and St. Mary’s – leading to a net job loss of 300.
  • The Trudeau Government doled out $595 million over three years to its favourite mainstream media newsrooms, picked by media’s anti-conservative labour union bosses at Unifor.

This list goes on: $2.7 milllion to Canadian Tire to put electric car charging stations at their gas bars, $40 million to BlackBerry’s automated car division even though the company’s CEO said they did not need the money and a $373 million loan to Montreal-based aviation company Bombardier (which later laid off 3,000 Canadian employees).

There are also those endless, inexplicable debt and loan write-offs for government-friendly corporations. Recall a few years ago, the Trudeau Government wrote off $2.6 billion to General Motors and Chrysler corporations only to have Chrysler lay off 1,500 employees in Windsor and GM to close its doors in Oshawa putting 3,000 people out of work. Then there is the government forgiving the Irving family of a loan worth $7.4 million – beyond the $35 million in non-repayable funding for its wallboard operations in the Atlantic. Imagine this government looking after the interests of the middle class by writing off multi-million dollar loans to James Irving, who is worth approximately $5 billion!

Of course there is the temptation to swipe at this Federal Government that is headed up by a Laurentian-minded, trust-fund Prime Minister. How does such a government relate to middle-class taxpayers when they are cozied up to their tight corporate fraternity? This is a fair question for the Middle-Class Prosperity Minister and her Liberal colleagues, given that the Trudeau Government wants to put middle-class Canadians at the centre of all its rationalizations. But, irrespective of the answer, middle-class common sense tells us that the cheques recently handed out to corporations were a waste of taxpayers’ dollars – and in principle and in practice, corporate welfare should end.

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/federal-government-continues-corporate-welfare-spending-spree/

Why obfuscate the facts about the Wuhan Coronavirus?

A traveller wears a mask at Pearson airport arrivals, shortly after Toronto Public Health received notification of Canada’s first presumptive confirmed case of novel coronavirus. Photo: Carlos Osorio/Reuters.

The Niagara Independent, January 31, 2020 — During Parliament’s first week back to business, Canadian news media were not focused on the MPs’ theatre, but rather on the breaking international story of a spreading coronavirus from Wuhan China. MPs and federal government officials fumbled about making statements about the coronavirus. However, they were background noise to newsmakers from Beijing to Toronto who were providing Canadians with less than satisfactory answers on the details of the evolving health scare. Many details remain unclear – and obfuscating the facts on what is a deadly serious issue has the potential to undermine public trust; something our federal leaders cannot ignore.

Here are the facts. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains coronaviruses are a group of viruses that are transmitted to people from animals such as cows and pigs – and bats – and it can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. WHO describes the symptoms: “Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.” WHO states that the virus can be transmitted from person-to-person and symptoms may not be detected for days. The virus can survive on inanimate surfaces for short periods of time.

In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus there are (as of Thursday noon) more than 6,000 cases of the illness reported globally with 132 related deaths. The vast majority of those affected are in China and all fatalities are in China. (An aside: To put these numbers in perspective, the U.S. Centers for Disease control estimates that “so far this season there have been at least 15 million flu illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths from flu” in the United States alone.)

The first case of the Wuhan coronavirus in Canada was confirmed in Toronto last Saturday, January 25th. A man in his 50s travelled from Wuhan, arrived in Toronto on Wednesday, became ill within a day, and self-reported to local health officials. Since, the man’s wife is confirmed to have the virus. Now there is another confirmed case in Vancouver.

In Ottawa on Wednesday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told MPs that a vaccine for the flu-like coronavirus is at least a year off. In the meantime Canadians are told they can reduce their exposure and transmission to all strains of coronaviruses by washing their hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and practicing proper cough and sneeze etiquette. Canada’s Minister of Health Patty Hadju counsels: “Those who have travelled to an affected area of China and subsequently developed flu-like symptoms to reach out to their health care professional.”

Presently, this is not considered a health crisis in Canada. However, for Canadians this conjures up memories of SARS, which was also first reported as a virus that need not raise concern. Recall some 16 years ago, outside of Asia, Canada was the hardest hit by SARS, accounting for more than 400 cases and 44 deaths. SARS overwhelmed our public healthcare system. This fact makes the current dismissive commentary from canadian and international authorities about the Wuhan coronavirus – “a novel virus” with no known cure – so discomforting.

The Chinese Government has been caught spreading misinformation to reassure world health authorities it has the outbreak under control. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs published an image of a building they claimed was a Wuhan hospital specifically constructed (in just 16 days!) to manage the coronavirus patients. This “hospital” has been fact-checked by the international group Human Rights Watch and found to be an apartment building. Chinese state media is actively tweeting photos of roadblocks, checkpoints, and calm medical personnel caring for patients in Wuhan. It is discrediting a local nurse video that has been released to the world that states there are close to 90,000 people in China with the disease (Chinese officials report there are 1,975).

It is ironic that Chinese state officials are using Chinese news organizations and social media to combat what they are describing as “disinformation campaigns.” Officials are repeatedly stating that the outbreak was not planned nor is it the result of bioweapons experimentation. They are also stating “bat soup” is not responsible for the disease, though health experts are speculating that Chinese “wet markets” selling warm, freshly slaughtered animals may be the breeding grounds for diseases like this novel coronavirus. (The bat soup videos have gone viral even if Chinese officials are correct in saying they are not the cause of the virus.)

WHO officials warn the spread of the disease outside China is a “grave concern” and all of the 15 countries that have imported cases, including Canada, must be at “full alert.” On Thursday, the head WHO bureaucrats and medical specialists are considering whether this virus constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Yet, in Toronto news, Mayor John Tory assembled with community activists and City Councillors at a press conference to chastise Torontonians for being racist. The Mayor stated he’s “very troubled” to hear of Torontonians response to the evolving health scare. He profiled colleague City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam who said, “There will probably be more harm caused by racism, xenophobia, discrimination, harassment, racial taunts directed specifically toward the Chinese Canadian community, and others of Asian descent, than will be caused by the coronavirus.” Mayor Tory also advised against any calls to quarantine travelers coming from Wuhan because that demonstrated prejudice and displayed anti-Chinese sentiment. Tory insisted “this kind of stigmatization discussion can actually make us less safe because it spreads misinformation at a time when people need real information and real facts.”

The editorial team at Sun News immediate challenged those at the Mayor’s press conference: “Toronto’s leaders seem more worried about hurt feelings than they do about the spread of the virus. People avoiding Chinese restaurants or shopping areas are not bigots but concerned about their health…. the real facts are people are not racist for trying to avoid a virus that could kill them.”

Real facts are what Canadians deserve with this troubling health concern (crisis or not). We don’t need to hear spin from our politicians, nor filtered or fabricated facts from authorities. No obfuscation please.

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/why-obfuscate-the-facts-about-the-wuhan-coronavirus/

Canada Sinking In a Quagmire of Debt

The International Monetary Fund recently reported that Canada’s federal government spending is now at the highest level in Canadian history.

The Niagara Independent, January 24, 2020 — Delivering continuous deficit budgets is like spinning your wheels in mud; it’s inevitable that you will eventually get stuck. That common sense is beginning to creep into the conversations about the federal Liberal deficit spending as more Canadians are starting to appreciate what it means to be sinking in a quagmire of debt.

The Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau recently provided an update of Canada’s finances in which he reported the government’s projected deficit is $26.6 billion for this 2019-20 fiscal year – a total of almost $7 billion more than originally planned for in his budget of last March.  Finance Minister Morneau went on to project next year’s deficit would be even higher. He pegged a budget deficit of $28.1 billion for 2020-21, but that is not accounting for several costly campaign promises – and the spending orgy the Liberals are expected to make in advance of the next election.

In his fiscal update, the Finance Minister matter-of-factly stated that the Liberal Government is planning five more years of double-digit deficits. He told Canadians the federal debt should reach $713 billion at the end of the current fiscal year and grow to $810 billion by 2024-2025. He made no mention of a balanced budget in the Liberals’ future fiscal plan.

This is noteworthy given the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently reported that Canada’s federal government spending is now at the highest level in Canadian history. The federal Liberals, under the watch of Bill Morneau, are outspending all past federal governments, including those governments that had to respond to world wars and global recession crises. According to the IMF, spending by all levels of government in Canada accounts for more than 40 per cent of the country’s economy. This rate is well above what research indicates is the optimal size of government at 26-30 per cent of GDP. If unbridled, this government spending will jeopardize both Canada’s economic growth and our social wellbeing.

The Fraser Institute is an organization that has been consistent in its message stating that continuous deficit spending by our governments is unsustainable. In a number of fiscal reports through this past year, the Institute demonstrates that budget deficits and increasing debt have become serious fiscal challenges – if not the greatest challenge – facing the federal and many provincial governments today. Today, combined federal and provincial net debt is expected to equal 64.3% of the Canadian economy or $39,483 for every Canadian. The growing concern is the interest payments that must be paid on this debt. Money spent on interest means there will be less money available for government programs such as health care, education, and social services.

The HEC Montreal’s Centre for Productivity and Prosperity issued a report underlining that recurring federal deficits could be risky for future generations of Canadians. This policy institute warns posting continuous deficits with no deadline to balanced budgets is a risky fiscal strategy for the federal government that may just “indebt itself indefinitely.” It underscores its potentially dire outlook for intergenerational equity is its conclusion, stating: “In addition to passing part of today’s bills on to future taxpayers, Ottawa is unduly increasing their risk exposure by accumulating deficits, to the point where tomorrow’s taxpayers might be unable to enjoy the same services if interest rates were to increase significantly or if the Canadian economy experienced a serious economic crisis.”

In the next decade the Federal Government will also be pressed to meet the financial commitments to seniors. By 2030, one in four Canadians will be aged 65 and older. Today, seniors account for 17 per cent of the country’s population and the $56 billion the federal government spends on seniors’ benefits make up the single largest expense of the federal government’s budget. That line item will rise to $99 billion as “the grey tsunami” washes over Canada. In a recent report, Royal Bank of Canada warns of the consequences related to the rising costs for elderly benefits over the next ten years: “The financial demands of an older population will make it harder for governments to fund key growth priorities like education and skills development, let alone the vote-getting niche initiatives they often advance at election time.”

In a rather bleak end-of-year assessment of the country’s fiscal state of affairs, Financial Post columnist Diane Francis asks, “Who’s going to look after Canada’s economic wellbeing for the next five years?” Francis sees a troubling horizon, “Canada slips and there’s nobody to catch it, not Parliament or other levels of government. The Liberals spent five years variously pandering to environmental, regional or anti-capitalist interests… The country’s governance, like a 100-car pile-up, is a tangled mess that is transiting out of the free enterprise system every year.”

Still, when presenting his fiscal update last month, Finance Minister Bill Morneau expressed no concern in forecasting continuous and indefinite deficit budgets. No concern for the growing debt. No concern for the future generations of Canadians, nor aging seniors. And yet, for many Canadians it is now clearer that the Liberals’ cavalier approach to government deficit financing has become of great concern.

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/canadians-sinking-in-a-quagmire-of-debt/

Brace yourself. It’s Going to Be a Very Taxing Winter

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Photo: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

The Niagara Independent, January 17, 2020 — Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau forewarned Canadians this week about the Liberals’ first budget of this minority Parliament. It will be a budget that will focus on the environment and climate change. It is to trumpet policies aimed at curbing energy consumption and planning for future climate emergencies. In launching the government’s pre-budget consultations, the Finance Minister framed the government’s priority saying, “We think that we have a mandate, together with other parties, in government to move forward on issues around environment and climate change.”

In questions after his announcement, Morneau stated, “We will be thinking of other ways to change energy consumption habits, and change our carbon intensity.” Yet in subsequent interviews the Finance Ministers has left little doubt that the primary carbon-reducing initiative in the upcoming budget will be adjustments to the federal carbon tax rates.

On April 1, 2019, the Trudeau government implemented its carbon tax, the centerpiece of the Liberals’ plan “to reduce Canadians’ dependence on fossil fuel and lessen Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.” The new “price of pollution” imposed on Canadians is a $20 tax on every tonne of carbon emissions from any fossil fuel. According to the Government’s published tax schedule, this tax would increase by $10 per year until 2022, when it would peak at $50 a tonne. However, that was last year — before the election.

It was also before the United Nations “Emissions Gap Report” urged a further global reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The new report suggests emissions must be reduced by 7.6 per cent each year in order to successfully meet its prescribed limit for global warning of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Citing a mess of mathematical projections and forecasts, the UN concludes GHG emissions now need to go down by at least 55 per cent over the next decade.

From a Canadian perspective, the new UN targets equate to a greater-than-planned reduction. In the Paris Climate Agreement, Canada pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. In the election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged Canada would not only exceed its 2030 emission goal, but achieve a net-zero carbon emissions level by 2050.

Yet the UN report projects otherwise, stating Canada’s emissions in 2030 are expected to be 15 per cent above its target. This bad news was corroborated in December with a federal government report that states Canada’s 2030 emission targets are sure to be missed. In fact, the country’s emissions are not reducing; they are increasing. Canada’s emissions last year rose to 723 megatonnes, up from 716 megatonnes in 2017 and 708 megatonnes in 2016. Today, the country’s emissions are back to the same level they were in 2015 with PM Stephen Harper – and before the imposition of the Liberal carbon tax.

As an aside, the introductory carbon tax rate added 4.4 cents per litre at the pump and more than $100 to the cost of annual home fuel bills. At the projected $50 tax per tonne, the tax adds 11 cents per litre and an average $235 increase onto home fuel bills. Where the math does not add up though is with the Liberal government’s own estimates: its $50 a tonne levy will only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 million tonnes in Canada – which is short of its Paris Climate Agreement promise and far short of the new targets suggested by the latest UN report. In order to ko keep our Paris Climate Agreement promise, Canadians will need to be taxed at least $300 a tonne – 15 times greater than the current tax rate. If we are to rise to the challenge presented by the UN report, the tax rate will be much, much more than that. Which leaves many wondering how much of a carbon tax increase is Finance Minister Morneau contemplating for his Spring Budget?

Of course there are other factors Minister Morneau has to take into account when considering his carbon tax hike. Canadians are beginning to debate the impact that our country’s carbon tax regime has on the reduction of global GHG emissions. Canada’s emissions account for 1.6% of global output. Though global activists have demanded “we do our part,” the facts suggest the tax pain will not produce the desired results. Consider for example that China, India, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines and Japan – all signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement – are in various stages of bringing online 1,800 new coal-fired power plants. If Canadians were to reduce their emissions to zero overnight, those new plants alone would replace our country’s emissions in about three months.

For the Finance Minister and this Trudeau Government the question becomes how to frame the UN’s siren calls for further reductions to GHG emissions as a moral imperative for Canadian taxpayers to endure. This dilemma becomes even more challenging given the fact that the introduction of a “price on pollution” has made no difference to the country’s GHG emissions; suggesting the carbon tax is not as much an environmental tool as it is a revenue tool for the government. And yet, if only the Finance Minister can keep Canadians preoccupied wholly on the climate crisis… present it as the focus of the budget. With temperatures forecast to plummet to as low as -70 degrees Celsius through February, Canadians are best to brace themselves for this upcoming budget and the taxing winter ahead.

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/brace-yourself-its-going-to-be-a-very-taxing-winter/

10 MPs to Watch in the 43rd Parliament (Part 2: Opposition MPs)

Leona Alleslev speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario on Sept. 17, 2018. Photo: Chris Wattie / Reuters

The Niagara Independent, December 13, 2019 — There are a few key MPs whose performances in the 43rd Parliament will have a direct impact on their respective Party’s fortunes in the next election. Last week five Liberal MPs were highlighted and this week, let’s consider five MPs from the Opposition benches.

Leona Allesley, the Liberal-turn-Conservative GTA MP, has been drawn into the spotlight as Deputy Leader. Allesley is to replace the irreplaceable Conservative stalwart Lisa Rait as the Party’s Trojan horse with a mission to capture as much as she can in seat-rich Ontario. This retired Canadian Forces officer, relatively inexperienced in politics and unknown to the Tory base in the Province, has been given a proverbial mountain to climb (by a Leader who has decided to step aside to allow for a changing of the guard). In an interview in her local media, Allesley said her appointment sends a clear message to Ontarians that their voices matter. She is confident her background gives her an advantage, “I know as an ex-military, it’s more a question of know your enemy. I certainly know our enemy and have valuable insights about what they are up to and how destructive they can be. It’s the first time, since I left the military, that I’ve been part of a team so unequivocally focused on the country and what we need to do to keep united and food on the table and a thriving economy.” Time will tell whether Allesley can fulfill her mission (or might she be redeployed under new leadership?).

Michelle Rempel is known to Conservatives as “unflappable” and to Liberals as “damn annoying.” The Calgary MP has made a name for herself as being omnipresent in social media and a continual embarrassment for the Trudeau Government with her pointed questions and storytelling. Rempel was a tour de force for westerners during the election telling Canadians: “Oil and gas and the Alberta economy need to be a ballot question for you.” She has wasted no time in this Parliament introducing a petition calling on Canada to let Alberta take action to further its own interests and autonomy. Rempel is a commanding siren, and pulls no punches when it comes to the current PM: “Every Canadian needs to understand the consequences of the unity crisis that Justin Trudeau has put us in.” She is one of the Conservatives’ best weapons largely because she is the antithesis of how the Liberals want to stereotype Conservatives: young, articulate, a charismatic woman with a conscience that, at times, she’ll wear on her sleeve. Rempel is indeed a wildrose darling and the thing to watch is whether her dynamism can transcend the prairies to be understood and appreciated in central Canada.

Jagmeet Singh has a secret assignment to resuscitate the NDP. Though nobody will admit this Party is in trouble, the fact is it has just suffered an electoral setback, is bankrupt, and has an unproven leader yet to bring together the various factions of the Party’s socialist base. It is that serious: a four percentage point drop in national popular vote, a caucus that lost 14 MPs (Quebec’s Orange Crush was “crushed”), and an ill-defined platform that must compete in a crowded, left-of-centre space. And yet, with Jagmeet there is great hope. His leadership still has a sense of freshness and his personality is infectious. Singh’s responses to racism during the election – with the PM’s blackface issues and Quebecers’ comments about his turban – have won many Canadians’ respect. So, even though he lost a great deal in the election, Singh personally won. And, now, the trick to be turned is for Singh to exercise this good will and aptly manage the NDP’s rebuild coopting union leaders, social activists, and loyal NDP supporters. There is immense pressure on Singh to perform and to capture Canadians’ attention – and recapture the NDP’s lost fortunes.

Jenica Atwin, not yet a household name, is unmistakably the next generation of leaders in Canada’s green movement. Some might think that Atwin was lucky to become the first female MP for the Fredericton riding and the first Green MP elected outside B.C., but there was no luck involved.  Atwin is the real deal: a hard worker and the best chance for Greens to increase their seat count in the next election. Atwin has repeatedly said she will be a “strong voice” for Canadians and that she expects the Green caucus of three MPs to punch above its weight. She is an energetic millennial with a clear purpose: “With the rapidly changing world, we need a multitude of perspectives including those from younger Canadians. The climate crisis requires us to think both short term and long term; millennials, in particular, are excellently situated to speak about both arenas. We also need to understand the changing communications and employment landscape. Quite frankly, “the game” has changed.” During this Parliament, Canadians will get to know Jenica Atwin.

Jody Wilson-Raybould (JWR), as the Independent MP from Vancouver, may be sitting far removed in a back seat opposite the Government front benches, but her frowns and grimaces, her every facial expression will not be missed by the PM and his Ministers. Her presence in the House of Commons is unsettling for the Liberals. JWR represents the failed-promises-of-the-sunny-ways-Liberals, the trust that has been lost and cannot be regained. She is a constant reminder of the Government’s first term SNC Lavalin scandal as well as of the Prime Minister’s challenged feminist persona. But more than all that, this MP is also the face of the Liberals broken promises to Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. As the drama of this 43rd Parliament unfolds, there is a potential for Puglaas (Jody’s Kwak’wala name which translates “woman born to noble people”) to play a central role in the national debate respecting indigenous rights — especially given her revered reputation with the Assembly of First Nations. JWR has stated that she wants to put partisanship aside to address deep divisions in our country on topics such as climate change and west-east politics. Perhaps she will contribute to those debates. But this fiercely strong, independent-minded MP will be a force to be reckoned with when Parliament debates the Government’s commitment to matters of Reconciliation.

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/10-mps-to-watch-in-the-43rd-parliament-part-2-opposition-mps/

10 MPs to Watch in the 43rd Parliament (Part 1: The Liberals)

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland will play a key role in the Liberal’s minority government.

The Niagara Independent, December 6, 2019 — Parliament resumed this week, however it will not be until the last week of January, after a Christmas break, that MPs will actually get down to their substantive business in the House of Commons. With the realities of the new minority parliament, all elected representatives will be functioning with the pressure that they are but one vote away from the next federal election.

Members of Parliament will be working tirelessly to demonstrate their understanding and mastery of the issues – to find and secure favour with Canadians. In saying this, there are a few key MPs whose performances in the 43rd Parliament will have a direct impact on their respective Party’s fortunes in the impending election. Here are 10 MPs to watch:

Chrystia Freeland is now Ms. Everything for the re-elected Government as the Prime Minister handed her two critical files. She is asked to finish the job she started with the NAFTA trade agreement and, with her intergovernmental affairs role, she is to bridge the Nation’s regional divide. As Deputy Prime Minister she will be an articulate voice in Question Period. Indeed, she has proven since 2015 to be a consistent voice in support of Justin Trudeau and now she has been given added authority to speak for the Government. The PM-DPM relationship forms a mutual admiration society; PM Trudeau on his stalwart: “We know that as we move forward on issues that matter across the country, like energy and the environment and other large issues, we will have to engage in a strong and positive way with different orders of government.” Cue Ms. Everything for centre stage.

Justin Trudeau – It is noted by many pundits the PM has been uncharacteristically quiet and low key since the election. He has not been invisible, just careful to stay out of the headlines and away from microphones. PM Trudeau has followed a schedule of private meetings and official photo-ops – from Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Opposition leaders to the King of Jordan and Prince Phillip. The Globe and Mail editorial team has described his new-found persona as “terse and understated.” The Hill Times questions whether this “transformation from a celebrity politician to a “humbled” leader” will be played out into 2020. As Greg Lyle, president of Innovative Research in an interview with the paper observed, “We don’t know if this is an actual conversion on the road to Damascus, or if this is just a different role that he’s playing for now.” Final word on the new Mr. Trudeau goes to Sheila Copps, former DPM under PM Jean Chretien, who states: “PM Justin Trudeau obviously got the message that was delivered in the minority victory. He needs to reach out to Team Liberal, instead of simply selling the country on Team Trudeau.” (How the PM slips into this new character will be an interesting subplot of this Parliament.)

Pablo Rodriguez is the new Government House Leader and named the PM’s new Quebec lieutenant to handle the Bloc’s resurgence both in Parliament and in La Belle Province. This affable Montreal MP possesses a flare that has the potential to reinvigorate the Party’s fortunes in the Province that could deliver a Liberal majority in the next electoral contest. Most English media have overlooked just how significant Rodriquez’s mission is – yet, the PM has entrusted a great deal on this minister’s agility and acumen to deal with the Bloc and their coveted seats. He is the Government’s chessmaster for its legislative agenda and the Liberals’ general on the Quebec battlefield.

Mona Fortier, the named Minister of the Middle Class is a MP to watch, not so much as a new minister around the cabinet table, but more for what she represents. Fortier is the minister to provide greater prosperity for all middle class Canadians – and those aspiring to enter into this class. Yet, in her first media interviews, Fortier was unable to describe her role in Cabinet, clearly uncertain of her responsibilities. When pressed, it was clear Fortier did not know her place. She has been given a title without being told a mission. Surely this cabinet position was created to be more than Fortier hinted, “That it’s about promoting the kinds of Canadians whose kids are enrolled in hockey…” Liberal supporters hope Mona Fortier and this new position can deliver new ways to reach out and inspire working Canadians to the Liberal fold. Canadians hope that the new minister is more than an extra cast member in a Monty Python “The Department of Redundancy Department” skit. As Parliamentarians get down to work, many will look for Minister Fortier to clarify what exactly she is working on. In defining her mission she signals the Liberals’ seriousness in supporting working Canadians.

David Lametti was reappointed as Canada’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice to continue to “carry the can” respecting the SNC Lavalin scandal. MP Lametti is a learned McGill University Law Professor – an intelligent thoughtful man. He is also an elected Montreal representative serving Trudeau, a PM from Montreal. Lametti is part of a Government that has had its highest political office, the PMO, wholly entangled in a sordid affair involving a powerful Quebec-based company imposing its undue influence through the past four year. Given that this scandal has already exposed multiple acts of obstruction of justice by the PMO, and perhaps the PM himself, the question remains what Minister Lametti will do for his Government and its political fortunes in Quebec? (Sadly, the real question should be what the Minister will do for Canadians and our justice system.) We have learned there was a PMO directive to grant SNC Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement; PM Trudeau has repeated that what is paramount in this matter are the Quebec jobs. So, there is a great level of suspense around whether Lametti will succumb to the endless political pressure, allowing this scandal to define him and his term in Canada’s highest office of law.

Next week: The key MPs to watch on the Opposition benches.

 

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/10-mps-to-watch-in-the-43rd-parliament-part-1-the-liberals/

The 401 Liberals in the Prime Minister’s Office

The Niagara Independent, November 29, 2019 — As mentioned in last week’s column, National Post columnist John Ivison punted aside the list of newly appointed cabinet ministers with his insightful commentary “Who’s in Trudeau’s cabinet? It doesn’t matter, political power lies elsewhere.” Ivison observed that nothing really has changed as a result of the election because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “has surrounded himself with advisors of like mind and experience who act like a political praetorian guard.” With the Trudeau’s old guard again ensconced in the Prime Minister’s Office one cannot expect that there will be a change of direction with his second Government.

The PMO staff is predominately Central Canadian with an inherit Laurentian bias. Professor Donald Savoie, the country’s premier public administration and governance expert, observed that the Trudeau Government of 2015-19 was one of the most centralized governments in recent political history. Senior PMO staffers dominated the policy and political process to a far greater extent than ever before. In his recent book Democracy in Canada, Savoie states, “Trudeau has strengthened the centre of government rather than rolled it back.” He also makes the point that there’s a lot of discontentment with the PMO among those who live “outside the Quebec-Windsor corridor.”

In a Hill Times review of Trudeau’s staff, Ottawa pollster and political pundit Nik Nanos suggested PM Trudeau needs to ensure his second term as PM is not driven by staffers coming out of the McGuinty-Wynne Queen’s Park era. Nanos stated in the Hill Times, “The trap that [Trudeau] has to avoid is the narrative that he’s hostage to Ontario and this is an Ontario-driven government. That will be political poison to him in every single region outside of Ontario. If it’s too Ontario focused, it undermines his ability to operate in this environment.”

Yet the PMO remains comprised primarily of “401 Liberals” – a term for political staff who travelled directly from the Queen’s Park backrooms to the PMO. As Ivison suggested, it is these 401 Liberals behind the doors of the PMO who hold the real power in this centralized Trudeau Government. So, who are these people?

The PM’s chief of staff Katie Telford has been in Trudeau’s top staff positon from day-one in 2015. But, her history with the PM predates this. Telford started in 2012 when she was asked to manage Trudeau’s leadership campaign and was always by his side through the 2015 election. Prior to that she served as former senior aide to then Liberal opposition leader Stephane Dion. Before that she was at Queen’s Park as chief of staff to education minister Gerard Kennedy.

Gerald Butts and Katie Telford are the wagon masters for the 401 Liberals, both hailing from senior positions in the Liberal backrooms of the Dalton McGuinty – Kathleen Wynne Governments. The Butts-Telford tag team was with the PM though his first term and, although Butts no longer holds the title of PMO principal secretary, it is expected this dynamic duo will continue to be the central force guiding PM Trudeau — and herding their 401 colleagues.

Here are ten more PMO operatives who are of Queen’s Park pedigree and/or from the Liberals’ political backrooms in Toronto:

#1 Zita Astravas is PMO Director of Issues Management. This Ms, Fix-It was Premier Wynne’s director of media relations and previous to that, press secretary for Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews.

#2 Matthew Mendelsohn, who serves the PMO as deputy secretary to the cabinet in the Privy Council Office, is central to managing policy development within the bureaucracy. Mendelsohn is the former special policy advisor to both Premiers McGuinty and Wynne.

#3 John Zerucelli was integral to the 2019 election campaign tour in the GTA and he is rumoured to be returning to the PMO as a senior advisor. Zerucelli served as a chief of staff in the Wynne Government, and he was a staffer in both former PM Jean Chretien’s office and Premier McGuinty’s office. (Zerucelli’s better half is Jane Almeida, former press secretary to Premier McGuinty.)

#4 Ben Chin is a trusted senior advisor, who has a reputation for his partisan metal. Chin was one of the PMO staffers to be embroiled in the SNC-Lavalin scandal. Recall that Chin served as the strong-armed envoy for Gerald Butts as he attempted to influence then-Attorney General Jody Wilson Raybould.

#5 PMO advisor Brian Clow is a longtime Wynne Government staffer who served as the Premier’s issues manager, then moved to Ottawa as Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland’s chief of staff. Now Clow is rumoured to be tapped for an important hands-on political role in a PMO, which is retooling without the services of Gerald Butts.

#6 Susan Menchini, who is one of the leads in PMO Tour Office, was special assistant for tour in Premier Wynne’s office.

#7 Lindsay Hunter is director for the Ontario Regional Desk in the PMO and the former director of operation for Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

#8 Sarah Hussaini, policy advisor in the PMO Cabinet and Legislative Affairs Branch, is a Toronto Liberal who first arrived in Ottawa to assist then-Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

# 9 John Broadhead who was chief of staff in Trudeau’s first term of Government, left to manage the federal campaign – and is expected to return to the PMO. Broadhead’s history at Queen’s Park included a key policy advisor for the green initiatives in Premier McGuinty’s office.

#10 There’s the Honourable Mary Ng. One must not forget Ng, who served as chief of staff to ministers in McGuinty and Wynne governments and then move to the PMO as a special advisor in 2015. In the previous Parliament Ng won a Toronto bi-election and became MP, then soon invited into Cabinet in a junior portfolio. Ng has now been given increased power in the new Cabinet. She is not only Trudeau’s eyes and ears in Parliament and in the GTA, but also an important PMO confidant at the Cabinet Table.

There are many more connections than this space allows. It is a tangled web that the 401 Liberal operatives weave. In watching this minority Parliament, it will remain to be seen whether this group’s prowess continues unchallenged – or if the PM and his Office will get caught up in the endless strands stretching from Queen’s Park to the PMO.

 

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/the-401-liberals-in-the-prime-ministers-office/

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet of 36

The Niagara Independent, November 22, 2019 — With all the traditional pomp and ceremony, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week announced his Cabinet to guide the minority government in the 43rd Parliament. The PM has increased the number of ministers on his front bench to three dozen. A great many of these ministers were members in Trudeau’s pre-election Cabinet, and eleven ministers maintain the same portfolios. And yet, there were a few noteworthy appointments in this executive council that provide Canadians with a hint of what can be expected in the months ahead.

Most significant, the new Cabinet is weighted with representatives from Central Canada. The majority are MPs from Ontario and Quebec – and then there are four from BC, one from Manitoba, and one from each of the Atlantic Provinces. It is remarkable that Ontario and Quebec have 28 of 37 spots at the cabinet table, including the PM. Breaking this down: nearly half (17) are from Ontario with 6 from Metro Toronto, and there is an overrepresentation of 11 from Quebec with 7 from Montreal (again, including the PM). There are two words to aptly describe the Cabinet’s composition: “urban Laurentians.”

Regardless the total number of ministers, the central figures in this Cabinet can be counted on one hand. Foremost, there is Deputy Prime Minister and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. She has been harnessed with the formidable tasks of improving strained relations with the US as well as mending an increasingly divided Nation. On the latter, there has been a great amount of ink spilt over her Peace River Alberta childhood — as if this may endear the jet-setting Torontonian to western Canadians. It remains to be seen just how far this narrative can be stretched.

Toronto Centre MP Bill Morneau was entrusted as Canada’s Finance Minister for another Parliamentary Session. In the lead up to this week’s announcement, it was widely broadcasted that Bay Street wanted the reinstatement of Mr. Morneau in the finance portfolio (being the only elected Liberal with any tie to the country’s finance community). However, the news of his return was anything but welcoming. The Financial Post ran an opinion piece calling on the Finance Minister “to start speaking for business – not Team Trudeau.” FP’s columnist Kevin Carmichael sums up Bay Street’s less than flattering assessment: “Bill Morneau has been a disappointment, if only because his background suggested that he would have a greater impact… Morneau was parroting the Prime Minister’s made-for-social-media lines about helping the middle class. No separation, just another member of Team Trudeau.”

PM Trudeau has turned to Pablo Rodriguez to keep order in the House of Commons, naming this veteran Montreal MP as both Government House Leader and the PMs Quebec lieutenant. Rodriguez is challenged to find common ground with opposition parties and make the minority Parliament work. Key to that mission will be to keep in check the reinvigorated Bloc Quebecois. Though this minister will not get the headlines that Ministers Freeland and Morneau garner, Rodriguez will be omnipotent behind the scenes with the reins on both the Government’s legislative agenda and Quebec’s patronage machine.

Media reaction to the Prime Minister’s selection was mixed. Predictably, CBC News lauded his work: “Trudeau’s cabinet picks seem designed to project stability, seriousness.” Sun Media Brian Lilley noted: “Most of the cabinet couldn’t get picked out of a police lineup and the reality is that the days of cabinet ministers being powerful is mostly a thing of the past.” Macleans’ Paul Wells observed the bloated membership will make most ministers inconsequential: “A multiply redundant federal cabinet will quickly become a pretext for central control even if that wasn’t the point of building it that way, because none of the title-holders hold enough of the elephant to discern its shape, let alone influence its path.”

John Ivison of the National Post insightfully asserted the group of ministers around Trudeau does not matter in relation to the group of advisors in the Prime Minister’s Office. In a column entitled: Who’s in Trudeau’s cabinet? It doesn’t matter, political power lies elsewhere,” the columnist contends, “What we are talking about is a shuffling of deckchairs – if not on the Titanic, then perhaps on the Queen Mary, a cruise ship that is no longer fit for purpose… Both cabinet and Parliament have been relegated to the role of rubber-stamping decisions taken elsewhere. The prime minister has surrounded himself with advisors of like mind and experience who act like a political praetorian guard.”

Ivison concludes: “Justin Trudeau’s cabinet re-jig will do little to arrest the continuing disintegration of Canada’s democratic representation.” (An interesting side note is that there is no longer a minister for democratic institutions.)

With Paul Wells and John Ivison pointing to where the real power lies, the question becomes who are the policy and political advisors behind the doors of the PMO (to be taken up next week!)? That being said, the story this week from Ottawa is the regal ceremony revealing Prime Minister Trudeau’s selection for Cabinet. So, we now have seated 36 ministers on the front bench waiting for Parliament to resume Dec. 5.

 

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/prime-minister-justin-trudeaus-cabinet-of-36/

The Great Canadian Standoff: The West vs Quebec Interests

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The Niagara Independent, November 15, 2019 — The federal parliament convenes on Dec. 5 and there is great trepidation across the country as the next act in “The Great Canadian Standoff” is about to begin. With the divisiveness of the federal election campaign still on everyone’s mind, the “sunny ways” of the central-Canadian-backed Liberals’ return to power is threatened by ominous dark clouds of western alienation. The central figure in the Parliamentary theatre is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a character who has yet to show his merit in understanding the divided country, let alone be the hero to unite it.

Never before in the country’s history has western separatist sentiment been so agitated. Four of every five Albertans and Saskatchewans believe the country is more divided than ever before. Half the residents in both provinces feel angry and want to look at separating from central Canada. To the new cries of “the West wants out”, the re-elected Prime Minister has proven tone-deaf. In the last two weeks Canadians have been watching a series of political sideshows unfold like a slow motion train wreck.

The economic and political realities of what is happening in the West are best exemplified with the news of Encana pulling up stakes and leaving the country. Encana, one of Canada’s most iconic energy companies dating back to Sir John A. Macdonald and a dream to build a railroad westward, announced its operations are heading south and the company is renamed Ovintiv Inc. to drop Canada from its name. There was not a whisper of response from Ottawa and, in fact, the Encana commentary about losing a piece of Canadianna was juxtaposed with pictures of a relaxed Justin Trudeau catching waves in the Tofino surf.

The tension and political rhetoric this week as the Prime Minister hosted a series of meetings with premiers and political opponents prior to the recall of Parliament. On Tuesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe left Ottawa in a foul mood, “Disappointingly, after this meeting here today, what I do see is we are going to see more of the same from this prime minister. We had provided some options for him to support the people of the province and today I did not hear a commitment to moving forward on those items.” Premier Moe’s immediate response upon hearing there would be no deviation in the Liberal’s approach to governing was a blunt, “We are also going to look at opportunities that we have to expand our provincial autonomy.”

This encounter was followed up with a tete-a-tete between the PM and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet. In his post-meeting scrum, the BQ Leader made a point of poking at the western premiers with the observation, “If they were attempting to create a green state in western Canada, I might be tempted to help them. If they are trying to create an oil state in western Canada, they cannot expect any help from us.”

This provocation came in the wake of news from La Belle Province that the Quebec Government had just delivered a budget with a $4.8-billion surplus. Quebecers will enjoy lower day care fees, free parking at their hospitals and increased family allowances, largely because Quebec is receiving $13 billion yearly from Ottawa in transfer payments.

Remarkably, BQ Blanchet’s comments came on the same day a motion was tabled in Quebec’s national assembly that Quebecers would have a veto on any proposed changes to the federal government’s equalization formula.

Blanchet’s headlines from Parliament Hill incited Alberta Premier Jason Kenny to repeat publicly his criticism of the federal equalization payments. Kenny rebuked Blanchett saying: “If you are so opposed to the energy that we produced in Alberta, then why are you so keen on taking the money generated by the oilfield workers in this province and across western Canada? You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pick a lane.”

“Either you can say as Quebec you’re no longer going to take the energy and equalization resources from Western Canada’s oil and gas industry, and then you can become even more independent, by the way, on OPEC dictator oil imports, or you could do what we do as Canadians, coming together to support each other, especially at times of adversity.”

Though the Albertan Premier is annoyed with the BQ Leader, he is most irritated with the Liberals. He has described the re-election of the federal Liberal government as a “hostile situation.” Kenny observes: “There is a federal government that just ran a campaign against Alberta, against our largest job-creating industry, that will be supported by opposition parties who are committed to shutting down the energy industry that produces so much of Alberta’s wealth and jobs.”

Like Saskatchewan, Alberta is now looking at ways to provide greater autonomy to its provincial government. Premier Kenny has announced a Fair Deal Panel tasked with creating “Alberta’s strategy to secure a fair deal in the federation.” Kenny explains, “The wellspring of modern western frustration and anger lies in the original flawed articles of confederal union, and the key to our contentment lies in repairing those flaws…. the flaws are embedded in the economic structure of the federation, our national political institutions and often the complacency and condescension of the so-called Laurentian elites.”

So, the stage has been set and the plot seems to thicken each day leading up to the resumption of the federal parliament. Canadians can expect another element of suspense with a provincial-territorial meeting on December 2nd,, chaired by Premier Moe, to discuss how best to engage with the new Liberal government. However, the real theatre will commence a few days later when PM Trudeau takes centre stage to strike a pose and deliver his opening lines in “The Great Canadian Standoff.”

 

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/the-great-canadian-standoff-the-west-vs-quebec-interests/

The Dirty Secret of Coal Exports from the Port of Vancouver

Coal exporting facilities near Vancouver, BC

The Niagara Independent, November 8, 2019 — It is perhaps our country’s dirtiest secret – the export of Canadian and American coal through the Port of Vancouver.

Operating in the very heartland of Canada’s green movement, what is occurring at this B.C. coast port is criminal by any environmental standard. And what is so startling about this secret, getting dirtier year-over-year, is that it is being supported by both the federal Liberal and provincial NDP Governments. Given the vilification of the prairies’ oil and gas industry by these same self-proclaimed environmental stewards, the silence surrounding the Port of Vancouver’s coal exports shouts out Canadians’ very own definition of hypocrisy.

The Port of Vancouver operates Roberts Bank Super-Port, which is located on the mainland coastline of the Strait of Georgia in Delta, B.C.  Roberts Bank is referred to as Vancouver’s Outer Harbour of Canada’s busiest port and it hosts a single business enterprise – the Westshore Terminals. The terminals have become a major hub for container trucking companies as they feature a marine container loading facility and are serviced by rail and tugboat. What is most noteworthy about Westshore Terminals is that the operation is the busiest coal export terminal in North America.

In 2017 the Port of Vancouver exported more than 36 million tonnes of coal. To put this into perspective, this port ships more coal than the legendary American coal centre Norfolk, Virginia, which exported 31.5 million tonnes that same year. The Port of Vancouver also handles more than double the amount that is produced in all of the coal mines in Mexico in a single year.

As big as this is, Roberts Bank and Westport Terminals keeps getting bigger in every way. Originally created as a 49-acre pod of reclaimed land for a major coal port, it is now physically four times that size. In the last ten years, the terminals completed a $49-million equipment upgrade, upping its annual coal exporting capacity by 20 percent. Westshore Terminals is in the midst of another $275 million upgrade over the next five years which will boost shipping efficiencies – likely increasing exporting capacities yet again.

For British Columbians coal is king. According to Natural Resources Canada, the Province accounts for nearly half of all Canadian coal production – much of it metallurgical coal exported to Asia for the making of steel. Coal is B.C.’s number one export commodity, accounting for $3.32 billion of economic activity in 2016. This is big business for the province and for the country: Canada is the world’s third largest exporter of metallurgical coal, after Australia and the U.S. (However, to put the country’s less than 40 million tonnes of exports into the context of the world’s largest coal producing and consuming country, on an annual basis China produces 3.1 billion tonnes and imports 271 million tonnes.)

The metallurgical coal exports bound for foundries in Asian are not the full story of the Port of Vancouver’s success and this is where the secret becomes ugly. Consider that in 2008, there were 4.4 million tonnes of coal exports called “non-metallurgical” (a.k.a. thermal coal which is a dirtier burning coal). By 2017, this had more than doubled to 11.3 million tonnes. Then in the year 2017, exports shot up a remarkable 15 percent. What accounts for the marked increase? Roberts Bank is receiving and exporting more thermal coal from mines located in Wyoming and Montana.

James Kerr, a retired Environment Canada senior research scientist, explains what is occurring between U.S. and Canada. “It appears that weak Canadian environmental laws are rigged to favour economic benefits for a handful of people, in this case mostly in the U.S. coal industry, over the health and well-being of the environment and citizens…U.S. coal is not purchased or owned by Canadians and is not consumed in Canada so it is not subject to import tariffs, carbon tax or other levies. It is just a product in transit, passing through and contaminating the suburban, agricultural and Indigenous land corridor between the Canada/U.S. border and Roberts Bank. Thus the Westshore Terminals facility has become a nearly tax-free bypass conduit, allowing the U.S. coal industry to export its product overseas.”

The U.S. “non-metallurgical” / thermal coal now accounts for 29 percent of coal shipped from Vancouver. James Kerr has factored that this U.S. coal exported from Vancouver approximately equals the tonnage of metallurgical coal shipped from all U.S. West Coast ports.

Two other facts that should alarm all environmentally-concerned Canadians. First point is the Sierra Club has factored an emissions formula based on 2017 numbers that reveal Vancouver’s annual coal exports will produce 99.8 million tonnes of CO2 over their lifetime. The NDP BC Government would be interested to note that this is significantly higher than B.C.’s entire carbon footprint, estimated to annual produce 64.5 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. It is just marginally better than the annual emissions of the Trans Mountain expansion, which depending on the diluted bitumen exported will emit an estimated 129 million tonnes of CO2 over its lifecycle.

Second point is the federally legislated ban on oil tankers off the B.C. coast (Bill C-48) might well be extended to ban coal tankers. James Kerr again explains the expanded coal trade through the Port of Vancouver has led to a significant increase in shipping traffic of foreign owned and operated freighters, tankers and cargo ships. Tankers that had been anchoring in English Bay near the Port of Vancouver are now encroaching on the pristine waters of the Gulf Islands while waiting to dock — they run generators 24/7 without regulation and without monitoring, pollute the air and disrupt marine life, and often drag their anchors along the sea bottom, destroying marine habitats.

Kerr punctuates his frustrations by stating, “From a global perspective, the appalling hypocrisy of Canada’s policy regarding coal is a national embarrassment.” Indeed, as the facts of the Roberts Bank secret are exposed, can the federal Liberal and provincial NDP Governments find any justification to permit the coal exporting activities to continue at the Port of Vancouver?

 

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/the-dirty-secret-of-coal-exports-from-the-port-of-vancouver/

Quebec’s Pipeline Politics And Canadian Energy Resource Development

The Niagara Independent, November 1, 2019 — On election night, Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet repeated a message he had asserted throughout the campaign that he obstinately opposes the construction of any new pipeline from Western Canada. For months Blanchet has been crowing that the Bloc helped cancel the Energy East pipeline and they are the only Party to stand against new pipelines on Quebec soil. Whether it is political doublespeak or intentional deception, this rhetoric in no way reflects the reality in La Belle Province.

In direct contradiction to Blanchet’s bluster is the fact that a few Quebec companies are aggressively planning what will be Canada’s largest pipeline development. The Energie Saguenay pipeline project will build a new 782 km pipeline corridor across northern Quebec and construct a natural gas liquefaction complex at Port Saguenay. The $14 Billion Quebec project includes liquefaction equipment, storage facilities, and marine shipping infrastructures that will export overseas 11 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas annually – which is sourced directly from Western Canada.

This new pipeline also connects to the Energir natural gas network of pipelines in Quebec. Energir is the largest gas distributor in Québec and Vermont with almost 10,000 km of underground pipelines that serve more than 300 municipalities. This extensive network of pipelines is commonly referred to as “The Hub of the Quebec economy.”

Of course the Bloc Leader is well aware of the Saguenay megaproject as it has been on the planning table since 2014 and operations are slated to begin in 2025. In Quebec-French media, during the election campaign, Blanchet made a politically expedient statement that he would await the outcome of provincial environmental studies, expected in early 2020, before deciding to support or denounce the project. It is noteworthy that ridings along the new proposed corridor returned Bloc candidates.

In English Canada little is known of the Energie Saguenay pipeline project. However, one cannot help but notice this project looks a lot like the ill-fated TransCanada Energy East pipeline. Energy East was to have delivered 1.1 million barrels of Alberta oil daily to tidewater in Saint John, New Brunswick. That $15.7 billion project would have seen 3,000 km of existing natural gas pipeline converted to handle oil, and the construction of 1,500 km of new pipeline across Canada. But, due in part to Quebec politics, TransCanada abandoned its plans for this pipeline. Today, Canada increasingly looks elsewhere to supply its oil; Quebec and New Brunswick increasingly look elsewhere for their oil refinery industries.

The latest Statistics Canada figures report that Canada has imported a total of $20.9 billion of Saudi Arabian crude oil between 2007 and 2017 (considerably more than the cost of constructing Energy East). All of this Saudi oil came through the Irving Oil-owned Saint John, New Brunswick refinery. In dollar terms, the Irving refinery handles roughly $10 million per day of crude from Saudi Arabia – approximately 2 ½ times the amount of American oil now entering the refinery on a daily basis. It is noteworthy that the Saint John refinery has no access to a pipeline, so every barrel of oil it processes is delivered to Canadians by St. Lawrence and Great Lake tankers or via railcars.

Another interesting twist to the country’s energy story is found within Quebec’s oil refineries located in Montreal and Quebec City. Five years ago, 92 percent of oil supplied to Quebec’s refineries was imported by tankers from Kazakhstan, Angola and Algeria. Today, a total of 44 percent of oil in Quebec refineries come through pipe from Western Canada – and another 37 percent come from increased production of shale oil from south of the border. On Montreal Island, the Montreal Refinery is supplied by Canadian oilsands giant Suncor through an Enbridge pipeline system that, on a daily basis, pumps more than 24,000 barrels of diluted bitumen east from Alberta and from North Dakota to Sarnia in southern Ontario. The Montreal Refinery produces gasoline, heavy fuel oil, solvents, petrochemicals and other petroleum products for markets primarily in Ottawa and Toronto – delivered by truck, rail, and over water.

Though our national energy debates may be currently focused on getting prairie oil to Pacific tidewater, the country’s domestic energy supply also depends directly on pipeline – the maintenance and the construction of new pipelines. Former Canadian Ambassador to the United States Derek Burney observed in a recent BNN Bloomberg interview: “We can’t live with this kind of uncertainty in Canada. We can’t build a major infrastructure project in Canada for what should be our prime asset. We are an energy producing country – we should recognize that fact and pull together as a nation and get it happening … It makes no sense whatsoever if the federal government cannot impose its will and legislate in every way to have an interprovincial pipeline built in the country. We simply have to get our act together on these matters because we’re becoming a laughing stock in the world.”

So, during the election what was spun out in media as a political feud between Quebec and Western Canada is much more than it appears. Bloc Leader Blanchet’s campaign bravado belie inconvenient truths about pipelines in Quebec and a larger reality about Canada’s energy delivery through the country’s network of pipelines. From the Energie Saguenay pipeline project to the bitumen flowing into the Montreal Refinery, Quebec’s pipeline politics should inform all Canadians of the crass politics hampering energy resource development in the West and across our country.

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/quebecs-pipeline-politics-and-canadian-energy-resource-development/

Interesting Facts from the Election Entrails

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Monday’s election results

confirm there’s a fire of frustration burning in Western Canada.

The Niagara Independent, October 25, 2019 — For politicos and pundits, inspecting and dissecting the results of a vote provides endless hours of amusement. Canada’s 43rd general election results have not disappointed – and in fact they have produced a few political firsts.

Consider this political first. The Trudeau Liberals will form government with the lowest share of popular vote in Canadian history. The Liberals recorded 33 percent of the vote and one needs to go back to the country’s confederation to find anything comparable. The last and only time a party formed government with less than 35 percent of the national popular vote was Sir John A. Macdonald in 1867 with 34.8 percent.

The Conservatives actually received a greater number of total votes: 6.1 million to the Liberals’ 5.8 million. Remarkably, like the U.S. presidential race four years ago, the Leader who garners the greatest number of votes does not win the Office.

The final seat count on Monday night also revealed a collapse of the NDP support in central Canada (one Quebec seat and six Ontario seats) and a failure of the Green Party to convert good will to actual votes (only 1.1 million votes nationally). The Liberals were the direct benefactor of the NDP and Green weaknesses and nowhere is this more evident than in Ontario. Though the Liberals dropped 20 seats nationally, their seat count in Ontario remains unchanged from the dissolution of Parliament. Liberals received 41 percent of the vote in Ontario; won all 25 seats in Metro Toronto and 24 of 29 seats in the GTA.

Toronto was but one City where the Liberals dominated. They also swept the ridings on Montreal Island, in Halifax, and won 4 of 6 seats in Winnipeg.

The Conservative bedrock in Western Canada resulted in lopsided ballot box victories and a bevy of seats. The Party captured all but one seat in Alberta with an avalanche of votes. In fact, 32 of 33 Albertan Conservatives captured 70 percent or more of their local vote. Conservatives swept Saskatchewan, won all but one rural Manitoba seats, and upped their seat count in B.C. And notably, the Conservatives defeated key Liberal Cabinet Ministers in the west: Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton and (Sir) Ralph Goodale in Regina.

So, Monday’s vote reconfirms the Liberal base is built in the urban centres of central and eastern Canada, while Conservative support is entrenched in the West. It is a political divide in our country that has the potential of becoming a societal chasm. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, we are only beginning to witness the potential fracturing of the country.

On Monday night as the results were still being reported out, the term ‘Wexit,’ (a western Canadian version of Brexit) was trending on Twitter. Tuesday morning Alberta Premier Jason Kenney spoke with PM Trudeau to tell him directly the “deep frustration expressed by Albertans is very real.”  Kenny repeated to media later “If the frustration and alienation in Alberta continues, it will pose a very serious challenge to national unity.”

Both Premier Kenny and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe have publicly called on the newly elected Liberal Government to demonstrate its support for the West by advancing new development of pipelines and restructuring equalization payments. Unquestionably, these are two initiatives that the Trudeau-led-NDP-supported minority government will not address, which is sure to escalate the tension and sense of alienation for western Canadians.

Professor Barry Cooper of the University of Calgary opined about western alienation, “It’s about the bizarre ingratitude of Laurentian Canada and what they have taken from here. People are saying, ‘What is the point of belonging to a political organization where we are donors and no one says thank you.’” Peter Downing, the founder of the movement Wexit went further in stating, “People are heartbroken. The concept of Canada has died in a lot of people’s hearts.” Point of fact: the VoteWexit Facebook page with its motto “The West Wants Out” went from 2,000 members on the weekend to nearly 171,000 by Tuesday afternoon and the group has received more than $20,000 in donations and membership fees overnight.

Other facts from the national vote.

  • On Tuesday there were diametrically opposing reactions in Canada’s eastern and western business communities, perhaps best illustrated by the companies SNC Lavalin and Husky Oil. The shares of Quebec’s SNC Lavalin surged 13 percent in trading with their investors’ belief that the Liberals will defer a prosecution agreement and allow the engineering company to escape justice. Conversely, hundreds of Husky Oil workers were laid off as the company is “taking steps to better align the organization and workforce” in Alberta and through western Canada.
  • Elections Canada reports that four of the five biggest third-party spenders during the pre-writ and election campaign periods were organized labour. Unifor, the union representing a majority of Canada’s media, spent close to $1.3 million on an anti-Conservative ad campaign. The United Steelworkers, who endorse the NDP, spent the second-highest amount. Third was Fairness Works funded by the Canadian Labour Congress. Then there is Friends of Canadian Broadcasting that spent more than a half million dollars, and Canadian Federation of Nurses Union that spent $412,000. By comparison, Canada Proud, an anti-Liberal organization, spent just under $200,000.
  • The national public opinion website 338CANADA.com was highlighted in media throughout the campaign period. For the record on the weekend it published its last seat count predictions: Lib 142 / Con 126 / NDP 34 / Bloc 33 / Green 2 / PPC 1 / Ind 0. Looking at the vote results, it under-estimated the Liberal tally by 15 while over-estimating NDP support.

Breaking news from the re-elected Prime Minister is that he will announce his Cabinet on November 20th. With this news, the ruminations of Ottawa’s chattering class will soon turn from the minutia of the vote results to the questions of governing in a minority Parliament.

 

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/interesting-facts-from-the-election-entrails/

What of Canada’s Economic Future?

The Niagara Independent, October 11, 2019 — It remains to be seen whether the country’s economy and pocketbook issues will be the determining ballot box question this election. Judging from the little attention the mainstream media (and the Party Leaders) have paid to the country’s economy, it is unlikely voters will consider Canada’s economic future when casting their vote. That being said, what happens Oct. 21 could determine the economic fate of the country for decades to come.

So, what of Canada’s economic future? Here are three factors requiring a greater discussion before the vote: the country’s fiscal plan, taxes, and growing the economy.

Canada’s fiscal plan: In past federal elections, the front running parties would announce fully costed platforms that would inevitably reference a target date for balancing the country’s books. Not in 2019. This election is hijacked by the Liberal’s gambit that Canadians no longer care for the country’s balance sheet. Justin Trudeau and his Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled a platform that will run deficits of more than $20 billion for each of the next four years. The Liberals propose tens of billions in new spending (with promises like their new pharmacare plan not costed) and there is no mention to balance the budget. After the 2019 Morneau Budget the Parliamentary Budget Office issued a projection that the Liberals would not be balancing the country’s annual books until 2040 – and now with their election promises, this will not even be possible.

As hefty the spending promises made by the Liberals, both the NDP and the Green Party have promised more. The Conservatives have indicated they intend to balance the books in five years, but have not produced a costed platform.

The underlying problem with this lack of concern for Canada’s fiscal situation is that the mounting debt forces mounting interest payments and this takes directly from the government’s ability to provide future programs and services. Consider these facts: In the last fiscal year 2018-19 we paid $23.3 billion in interest payments on a national debt that has climbed to $685 billion. Runaway spending and continual deficits as promised by the Liberals, NDP and Greens will cause future distress for Canadian taxpayers.

Taxes: Middle-income individuals today pay higher personal income taxes than they did in 2015. The Fraser Institute reports that with the Liberal Government’s tax policies more than 80 per cent of middle class families (households earning between $77,000 and $108,000) now pay an average of $840 more in personal taxes annually. Lower-middle-class families (household incomes between $52,000 and $77,000) pay nearly 70 percent more in personal income tax.

The current tax burden cannot be worse given many Canadians are struggling with living costs. Accounting firm BDO Canada Ltd recently released statistics that suggest more than half of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque and more than a third have no retirement savings. A majority of Canadians (53 percent) had little disposable income and about one-third of Canadians are carrying credit card balances they cannot pay off.

Both the Liberals and Conservatives are promising relief for the indebted middleclass with income tax reduction plans. The difference between the two parties is the fate of the carbon tax. The Conservatives promise to eliminate this tax, which impacts gas pump prices, home fuel and all goods and services that require transport. On the other hand, the Liberals will maintain the tax and Justin Trudeau has repeatedly remarked there is a plan to adjust the tax so that Canada can meet its 2030 carbon emission targets. This will likely mean, if re-elected, the Liberals will need to raise its carbon tax five times its current level to $300 per tonne, which will hike pump prices to well over $2.00 per litre and add to the cost of everything that moves. The carbon tax will be a considerable burden for all Canadians.

Economic Growth: Aside from the all-party debate on the fate of future pipelines, there has been little sparring over trade and commerce issues. International economic data shows that the country’s economy is waning. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce issued a statement on the release of this week’s World Economic Forum report on global competitiveness: “Today, the world’s leading competitiveness index shows that Canada has dropped in the rankings for the second year in a row…. (It’s) proving what Canada’s business leaders have expressed over and over and over again — that this country’s business and investment environment is weakening. And it is inconceivable that Canada’s competitiveness is not a central issue in this election.”

Up until 2015, Canada’s real GDP per capita growth tracked closely with the U.S. After 2015 real GDP per capita increased only 2.7 percent in Canada, compared with 6.3 percent south of the border. For the North American business community the difference was the Liberals regulatory and fiscal policies undermining business confidence. And, it appears that the promised Liberal platform presents more of the same. (Unfortunately, Canada will not “grow the economy from the heart out” as Trudeau had predicted in the 2015 campaign.)

The single big-ticket, economy-related promise that has been presented to Canadians this election is the Conservative plan to create a national energy corridor. Andrew Scheer has committed to building a cross-Canada corridor to carry oil, gas, hydroelectricity and telecommunications. He has stated the Conservative corridor plan will increase certainty for investors, help get critical projects built, and provide greater economic and social benefits for all Canadians. Scheer also expects this corridor plan will minimize environmental impacts. For the Conservatives, this plan is much more than a debate over future pipelines; it is Canada’s future economic generator.

The political parties all have different approaches to the critical economic issues we face as a country. The Oct. 21 vote matters a great deal when considering Canada’s fiscal plan and national debt, our current and future taxes, and the country’s economic growth.

 

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/what-of-canadas-economic-future/

There’s Much to be Concerned About with Canadian Media

Unifor president Jerry Dias with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Unifor represents thousands of reporters from mainstream media.

The union has vowed to be Andrew Scheer’s worst nightmare.

The Niagara Independent, August 23, 2019 — Can Canadians trust their media regarding its coverage of national politics? Based on a string of events over the past few months this is a legitimate and worrying question.

Consider the latest federal budget where the government set forth a fund of $600 million to be paid to selected Canadian newsrooms. At the same time, the government selected “an independent panel” to dole out its largesse, which includes the journalists’ union Unifor. Conservative MP and former newsman Peter Kent was very troubled that the governing Liberals would potentially undermine the freedom of the press: “getting involved in this sort of direct subsidy to what is supposed to be an independent estate. From top to bottom it smells. It’s simply unacceptable.” National Post columnist Andrew Coyne perhaps put it best stating the government cheques will “irrevocably politicize the press.”

This month outspoken Unifor union president Jerry Dias announced that the journalists’ outfit will run an aggressive anti-Conservative campaign. Dias signaled that the union will run television ads during the election writ period asking Canadians to “think twice about supporting the Scheer agenda.” Recall that Dias’ union executive has described itself as “Andrew Scheer’s worst nightmare.”

Concurrently, the Unifor union has been unabashed in its praise of Justin Trudeau, providing standing ovations for the Prime Minister’s appearance at their annual meetings. And the PM often refers to Jerry Dias as “his friend.” (Again, this is the same Unifor that is handing out government cheques to newsrooms.)

Point of fact, Unifor members include a total of 12,000 Canadian journalists — columnists, editors and news anchors at the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Global TV and CTV stations and employees at the Winnipeg Free Press, London Free Press and the Hamilton Spectator.

There is also recent news about the Toronto Star, the news source that declares it is “leading progressive journalism” in our country. The news agency Blacklock’s Reporter has learned that the Star publishers “estimated its take of federal media bailout money is worth the equivalent of $115,385 a week.” (So, doing the math, this equates to a payout of more than half-a-million dollars that will be paid for the election writ period.)

But, apart from the issue of newsroom payouts, there is recent findings bringing into direct question the accuracy and integrity of what is being reported by Canadian newsrooms. Research from the Public Policy Forum found that mainstream media outlets like the CBC, CTV and Huffington Post, are in fact one of “the causes of misinformation” for Canadians.  In the Forum’s study it was found that many Canadians exposed to traditional or mainstream media are more likely to give incorrect answers to questions about basic government policy issues. The summary states: “Survey respondents who read or watched more traditional news media were less likely to express uncertainty about policy questions than those with low consumption, but more likely to give an incorrect response.”

There is also a disturbing pattern of anti-Conservative sentiment that has unfolded within the Canadian journalists’ echo-chamber on Twitter. This bias has resulted in unbalanced reporting and, in some cases, the promotion of fake news to embarrass Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Liberal partisans spread a falsehood via Twitter that, in one of his policy announcements, the Conservative Leader was employing an actress who pretended she was a cancer survivor. Media jumped on Andrew Scheer to explain. When it was found that the woman was indeed a cancer survivor, there was no apology from media. Instead, CBC ran a story about a professional actress, mistakenly identified in this mix-up, who was subjected to online cruelty and bullying.
  • Media followed the story of a (obviously phony) woman protestor standing outside an event where the Conservative Leader was speaking. This protestor was holding a sign reading, “Vote Andrew Scheer” and seen spitting on a person and making racist statements. Reporters at the event dogged Andrew Scheer to explain and the news story became his denouncing the fake Conservative supporter. The Leader’s speech was ignored; the protestor’s story made headlines.
  • Liberal MP Adam Vaughan made headlines with graphic photos and tweets that falsely accused conservatives of mistreating and caging refugee children. Using photos of children in U.S. border detention centres, the Toronto MP was attempting to smear the federal Conservatives, stating in one tweet “We all know where right-wing scapegoating leads us. Our Government won’t cage children.” MP Vaughan’s tweets and photos were sprayed across the newswires and social media platforms while his eventual apology for this fake news made little press.

Connecting all these dots, are we not left to wonder what news sources can be trusted when it comes to national politics? From the recent comments of Jerry Dias, Canadians can see how union activists are in bed with the Trudeau Liberals in their re-election bid. And there is the fact that the Liberal Government is rewarding certain newsrooms with generous cheques. Andrew Coyne observes: “It is a disaster that is now unfolding. If there were ever the slightest chance the process would not be politicized, that has already vanished.” So, in all seriousness, how can Canadians trust their media?

 

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/theres-much-to-be-concerned-about-with-canadian-media/