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/

The Return of Gerald Butts and the Question for Canadian Voters

The Niagara Independent, August 2, 2019 — As surmised in the February 22, 2019 Niagara Independent column, “There’s much more to this Gerald Butts story.” And it now appears, perhaps, the puppet master never truly left the Liberal Party’s backrooms.

Liberal Party “insiders” recently leaked that the former PMO Principal Secretary and Justin Trudeau’s best friend Gerald Butts is back and ensconced on the PM’s campaign team to guide the Liberals to victory in the October federal election. Butts has returned as a senior political strategist and it is learned has been advising the Liberal campaign for several weeks.

For Butts, the insiders’ whispers of his return were inauspicious given his flash and dash exit of mid-February; recall his dramatic resignation at the height of the SNC-Lavalin scandal to effectively take the spotlight off the PM. The insiders shared with the press corps that Butts is not leading the team and there is no certainty of whether his is a paid position (that is, beyond his generous severance pay that he is receiving after resigning from his PMO post). Apart from the vagueness of the news, the expressed takeaway for Canadians is that Gerald Butts is back in service within the Liberal fold.

This begs an important question. Is this acceptable and how Canadian politics is today, or is Gerald Butts’ return an affront to a common decency in our country? The answer to that question depends on whether Canadians believe backroom political operatives should be held to account for their actions.

Gerald Butts resigned as a result of the testimony from former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould that he was pressuring her and her staff to assist the Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. When he was confronted by the Justice Minister’s Chief of Staff that his actions were a travesty of justice, Butts is said to have stated: “There is no solution here that does not involve some interference.” From his own statements before the parliamentary committee, we understand that Butts believes that he, the PM, and PMO did nothing wrong in advancing the interests of SNC-Lavalin.

Yet, at the time, Canadians were feeling queasy about the unfolding LavScam scandal and, so, Butts staged an exit. The links between the PMO and LavScam were removed from media headlines and there is still the hope this sordid scandal is forgotten. However, as Sun Media observes in a lead editorial entitled “The return of Butts speaks volumes”: “The legal repercussions never surfaced. But that doesn’t mean the players were formally cleared of wrongdoing. It just meant there was no investigation. The stench lingers to this day.”

LavScam aside, for Liberals, Butts’ return is reassuring. He is credited with defining the Trudeau Liberal message and its 2015 campaign narrative. Hope springs eternal that this “modern-day rainmaker” will be able to manage the PM’s triumphant reelection bid. Gerald Butts himself said of his resurfacing, “It’s no secret that I have a lot of friends who are still actively involved, whom I care about very deeply, and I care about my country very deeply… we’re at a really important moment, in particular on the issues that I care most about, like climate change. We’re at a turning point and it’s important for people who care about those issues to get involved and try and make positive change happen.”

(Some background context on this statement: Butts is an unapologetic globalist. He is formerly CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada. As chief to Premier Dalton McGuinty he was responsible for creating Ontario’s Green Energy Act and implementing its renewable energy contracts. Since 2015, he is the architect of the federal carbon tax, as well as the Trudeau Government’s approach to resource development and pipeline projects.)

The condemnation from the Liberals’ political opponents was as expected. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer tweeted: “And just like that, the Trudeau team that brought Canadians the SNC Lavalin scandal is right back together.” Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre stated, “This week’s news tells us a lot about Justin Trudeau. The LavScam bully is in and the principled women who spoke truth to power are out. That’s everything you need to know about Justin Trudeau’s ethics.” Poilievre went on to say about Butts’ resignation, “Now we know that that was just a big phony act to cover for the boss.”

Ottawa’s political pundits seem to agree that announcing Butts’ return mid-summer will make it a non-story in the minds of Canadian voters during the Fall race. Liberal strategist Jonathan Scott was on the news circuit spinning the opinion that Canadians will not be “particularly animated one way or the other about who is staffing the Liberal campaign.” Then there are pundits like Warren Kinsella who excuses Butts’ reemergence as politics as usual for “Canada’s Natural Governing Party”: “Liberal arrogance has felled many a Liberal government. It is the greatest Grit weakness. And the return of Gerald Butts signals its unfortunate return, in marquee lights.”

So, the question remains whether Gerald Butts will be viewed in the annals of Canadian political history as some shadowy Svengali figure or the reincarnation of rainmaker Allan J. MacEachen. And this Fall, Canadian voters will have a say on whether this man and his best friend are to be held to account.

 

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-return-of-gerald-butts-and-the-question-for-canadian-voters/

Liberals Casting the Conservative Voters as “the Uneducated”

The Niagara Independent, July 12, 2019 — Perhaps this news item did not register beyond Ottawa’s political corridors and the national press corps, but to those in the epicenter of national politics Professor Amir Attaran caused quite a stir this week.

On Saturday, Liberal-friendly polling firm Abacus Data released a new poll stating the “tight race between Conservatives and Liberals continues as voter fluidity remains high.” Abacus numbers report that if an election were held tomorrow, 33% would vote Conservative, 32% Liberal, 16% NDP, and 11% Green. Abacus declares “it’s a toss-up.”

Abacus followed the report on its national numbers with an analysis of the parties’ support based on a person’s level of education. It highlighted that high school educated voters prefer the Conservatives. Abacus commentary read: “Conservatives have a strong lead among those who have not attended college or university, while the Liberals have a lead among those with university education, and a wide lead among those with more than one degree.”

Almost as if it was choreographed, a University of Ottawa law professor immediately took to Twitter to broadcast the data. In a series of tweets, Professor Amir Attaran contended that Conservatives are “the party of the uneducated.” Attaran furthered this argument through the weekend, tweeting statements such as “Like I’ve said, the data on Conservatives being less educated are abundant. Their courage about those data, however, is another story. (Now cue the trolls.)”; and, “I am willing to put my finger on a fact most are scared to admit: That statistically the least educated vote Conservative.”

On Monday, Attaran was on Ottawa talk radio defying his critics. He refused to apologize for any of his remarks and repeated comments about the “poorly educated” people voting Conservative. Attaran concluded by stating “I think that’s dangerous for the country.”

Attaran’s statements prompted the expected backlash by partisans (and also media) who questioned the Ottawa academic’s motives. Many ridiculed Attaran as a mouthpiece of the elitist Liberals. Though the professor claims he is not “an elite” it was uncovered that he is part of Canada’s “one-percent” when Post Millennial columnist Cosmin Dzsurdzsa dug up the professor’s “cushy publicly-funded salary” of more than $184,000 annually. Though Attaran claims he is not a Liberal partisan, Dzsurdzsa again researched Election Canada records to expose Attaran as a repeat Liberal donor, contributing multiple times on an annual basis to the Liberal Party of Canada. (So, it is not a stretch that Attaran is a mouthpiece for liberal-minded elites – and/or for the Liberal Party.)

Some media reporters challenged Attaran’s analysis of the data. The most pointed criticism of the professor was by Sun reporter Brian Lilley who called on him to climb down from his ivory tower and debate the numbers. Lilley stated: “…when it comes to people with college diplomas or undergraduate degrees, the Conservatives and Liberals are pretty close. The Liberals have the support of 35% of those with an undergrad degree, the Conservatives 31%. Among those with a college diploma, 31% back the Liberals and 33% the Conservatives. I’d say those people are educated and they are just as likely to vote Conservative as Liberal making Attaran’s analysis deeply flawed.”

Frank Graves, another pollster (president and founder of EKOS Research Associates) had a further look at the data in dispute. Remarkably, in a few poignant tweets Graves revealed a story within a story as he reviewed current 2019 numbers over the 2015 election numbers. Graves observed: “In the last election, there were NO major differences across educational attainment. Both Liberal and Conservative supporters were drawn across U, and non-U educated. This has morphed to a massive gap today.”

Graves’ data review reveals that, today, voters with high school and college education prefer Conservatives over Liberals by a wide margin of 2 to 1; and, the Liberals hold a slight lead in support from university educated voters (34 – 32 per cent). But, most telling, when 2019 numbers are compared to the numbers from the 2015 election, in every education category the Conservatives have gained 5 – 6 percentage points total. Conversely, in every education category the Liberals support has fallen. Liberal support among high school educated voters has dropped 11 percentage points from 2015; college educated by 16 per cent; and, university educated by 5 per cent.

(Another interesting fact from this review: the NDP support has dropped across all education categories – the greatest is with university educated voters; and, the Green Party support has climbed from 5 -7 per cent support in 2015 to 14 per cent support in all categories. It seems that the Liberals’ and NDPs’ losses are the Greens’ and Conservatives’ gains.)

For many Canadians this is all insider’s baseball. But for those politicos and media caught within the Ottawa echo chamber, the Attaran provocation this week is a sign that the gloves are already off and Parties are looking at every angle to move public opinion and voters’ intention – of both those educated and uneducated.

 

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/liberals-casting-the-conservative-voters-as-the-uneducated/

Closing Down Canada’s Oil and Gas Industries (Part 2 of 2)

The Niagara Independent, June 28, 2019 — The Liberal Government has passed Bill C-69, which revamps the federal environmental assessment process for major resource projects, and Bill C-48, which places a moratorium on oil tanker activity along the BC coast. Western Canadians and industry leaders have forewarned that these Bills will bury the oil and gas industry in a regulatory quagmire and kill investment in resource development projects. Even more worrisome than this is the thought that these new laws have spurred raw, regional tensions that could result in the busting apart of Canada itself.

The universal reaction from the Canadian oil and gas industry is that these two Bills combined will damage investor confidence in future resource development, which in turn will weaken the broader Canadian economy. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) proclaimed the new regulations “make an already complex system more complicated while ultimately raising uncertainty and the potential for litigation.” Tim McMillan, CAPP president and CEO observed: “The impacts of a flawed Bill C-69 go well beyond hurting Canada’s oil and natural gas industry. Every Canadian will be hurt by driving investment out of the country and preventing important nation-building projects from being developed.”

Zuzana Janos den Boer, a piping engineer at CNRL summed it up this way: “Seems to me that our comrades in federal government decided to destroy our oil and gas industry completely. Are we sure, we are not the next after Venezuela?”

The fact the new laws disproportionately impact the western provincial economies has not been lost on Canadians living west of the Ontario border. There are three striking ironies that have been widely editorialized in western media:

  • Canadian resource development projects are subjected to the rigor of the new regulations but the same carbon emission and environmental standards are not applied to oil and gas imported from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
  • BC can object to Alberta oil while Vancouver port is the #1 exporter of coal in North America; and Quebec can obstruct pipeline development while its provincial ports handle significant increases of imported Saudi oil.
  • Oil tankers are banned off the coast of BC, but coal tankers and mega cruise ships remain free to traverse BC waters.

In a letter made public by six Premiers, Prime Minister Trudeau is warned that national unity would be threatened with Bills C-48 and C-69. The Premiers wrote: “Our governments are deeply concerned with the federal government’s disregard… As it stands, the federal government appears indifferent to the economic hardships faced by provinces.” With the passage of the legislation, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stated: “The passage of these two bills not only undermines Canada’s economy but also the Canadian federation… If Albertans cannot develop our resources within the federation, then we should not be expected to pay the bills in the federation.”

In an interview on BNN Bloomberg, billionaire Canadian investor Seymour Schulich warned, “If this government doesn’t start to realize where its bread is buttered … This government has been biting the hand that feeds it in an inexorable fashion.” Schulich directly questioned the Liberal logic of reducing carbon emissions at the expense of the country’s economy: “We are 1.5 per cent of the emissions in the world, and the oil sands, which has become the whipping boy for everything, is about one-tenth of that. What are we doing? We’re basically taking an industry that employs 558,000 – it did employ it – and we’ve put up a giant sign [that says] ‘we’re not open for business.’”

Outspoken political pundit Spencer Fernando pinpoints the source of Western angst on this matter when he writes in the Post Millennial: “He’s [PM Trudeau] ignored the righteous anger of Albertans…. Trudeau has sent a message of his own to Alberta: “shut up, keep giving your money to the federal government, keep producing wealth that gets taken from you, and keep competing with both hands tied behind your back.”

With the public debate on Bills C-69 and C-48 playing out in western media through the past year, frustration levels with the federal government are at an all-time high. An Environics poll has found that 53 per cent of Saskatchewans agreed with the statement, “Western Canada gets so few benefits from being part of Canada that they might as well go it on their own.” An Angus Reid poll earlier in February found that 50 per cent of Albertans considered separatism in the province “a real possibility.”

(A side note to the passage of Bills C-69 and C-48 involves two other pieces of legislation that will place further restrictions on Canada’s oil and gas developments. Parliament just passed Bill C-88, which places a moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and effectively shuts down any would-be resource extraction in the north. Also the Senate may still pass an Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Bill C-262, which grants Indigenous communities an uncontested veto over any proposed resource projects. This legislation is at the final Third Reading stage in the Upper Chambre and could be passed at the next sitting of the Senate, should it reconvene this summer.)

For western Canadians, passage of Bills C-69 and C-48 sounded like two nails being driven into the coffin of future resource development. Should the Trudeau Liberals prove victorious in the Fall federal election, their resource development policies may very well serve not only as a requiem for an embattled oil and gas industry, but perhaps a dirge for 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/closing-down-canadas-oil-and-gas-industries-part-2-of-2/