Tag Archives: Niagara_Independent

Lament for (what once was) a Nation

The Niagara Independent, June 26, 2020 – Back in October 2015, the newly-elected Justin Trudeau’s seemingly obtuse comments on the country he was about to lead are now understood as a foreshadowing of his debasement of “Canada” as Canadians once knew it. In the now infamous New York Times Magazine interview, Canada’s new PM declared “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada” and he speculated that the country could become the “first postnational state.” At the time nobody thought the advance of postnationalism would be a governing imperative. Now nearly five years later, Canadians have come to recognize it as the hallmark of Justin Trudeau’s time in office.

By definition “postnationalism” is pertaining to a time or mindset in which the identity of a nation is no longer important. Wikipedia concisely describes postnationalism: “the process or trend by which nation states and national identities lose their importance relative to cross-nation and self-organized or supranational and global entities as well as local entities.” It continues to list a variety of factors constituting the postnational process: shifting national economies to global ones, increasingly referencing global identities and beliefs, and transferring national authorities to multinational corporations and the United Nations.

By looking at Canada through Justin Trudeau’s postnational lens, Canadians can better understand what is happening in the country. For example, Canadians learned this week that Canada has lost its AAA credit rating. Canada’s indebtedness has risen from 88 to 115 percent of the country’s GDP. This is being explained away as a result of necessary government spending to support Canadians through the pandemic. However, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre critiques the country’s financial state: “The Liberal government has destabilized our finances and downgraded our debt, through over four years of reckless deficit spending. The United States, the European Union, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have all retained AAA debt ratings with Fitch. All of these countries have had to contend with COVID-19, but Fitch has downgraded none.”

MP Poilievre assesses the Trudeau Government’s fiscal record: “Going into the pandemic Trudeau gave us $80 billion in debt, growth of 0.3%, half of Canadians $200 from insolvency, higher unemployment than the United States, United Kingdom, Japan and Germany and the second highest total public and private debt/GDP in the G7. All of this occurred before the first COVID-19 case.”

With the additional pandemic spending, Canada’s national debt is now nearly $1 trillion. The country’s weakened economic state and loss of credit rating puts Canadians in a more vulnerable position in international markets, increasing the cost of borrowing and our burden of debt payments for years.

Across the land, the Nation seems to be splintering. Saskatchewan news columnist and former federal MP John Gormley this week surmised “In Trudeau-land, maybe this really is post-national Canada.” Gormley is very critical of PM Trudeau’s devaluing of a core Canadian identity – particularly in Western Canada and states that now there is “nothing that anchors us — from longtime to new Canadians — to a common purpose or strives to unify us behind an ideal.” He cities the PM as being responsible for the rising civil disobedience that has resulted in growing activism, barricades and contempt for the law. Gorley writes: “His non-stop campaign of piety, virtue signalling, grandstanding and lecturing us on the holy troika of Indigenous reconciliation and “balancing the economy with the environment,” has been a green light for many activists to stop all oil and gas.”

National Post columnist Jonathan Kay went further to suggest the PM has desecrated the country’s history, its builders and past leaders. Kay argues that Canada’s identity has transformed to a country convinced that we are “a genocide state.” Canadian media, academic and political elites are obsessed with the narrative that we are “an ugly scar on traditional Indigenous lands,” and the “whole vocabulary — settler, neo-colonial, appropriation — declares that Canada is garbage, hoping that an attitude of self-abasement would somehow lead us to “reconciliation.””

Donna Kennedy-Glans, former Albertan MLA, and former CBC broadcaster Don Hill coauthored an editorial that also voiced frustration with Trudeau’s vision of the country. “Our prime minister is focused on a global agenda. Meanwhile, he and his team are setting Canada against itself…. Our prime minister’s neglect, even callousness, is driving a wedge between regions and igniting Western alienation. He’s playing with fire. Trudeau and his cabinet have been preoccupied with their global vision of how things ought to be at the expense of how things are in the country.”

The Trudeau Liberals’ disregard for the country’s diverse national interests has resulted in a new separatist Party to take western Provinces from Confederation. This week Wexit Canada Party leader Jay Hill stated, “…in the end, [federal] governments have to cater to the golden triangle of Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa and the West will never get a fair deal.” In previous interview, Hill pulls no punches: “I’m saying that this is an illegitimate government. It was elected by Ontario. Ontarians decided to re-elect Mr. Dressup despite his clear disdain for Western Canada and for our resource industries. And we just simply cannot take it anymore.”

In a 2019 Sun Media editorial Candice Malcolm dissected the PM’s rejection of Canadian nationalism arguing he has devalued Canada’s racially diverse and pluralistic society for undefined globalism. Malcolm states, “Trudeau has engineered these changes and created a toxic brew in Canada: lax integration policies juxtaposed with a forced multiculturalism that downplays Canadian values and divisive identity politics that demonizes Canadian heritage and identity.”

So if Malcolm, Kay, Gormley and others are correct with their assessments of what is left of our country, it is a vast land devoid of national identifiers. Justin Trudeau’s Canada defies unifying definitions: with our embarrassing history, there are no acceptable norms or politically correct culture, no respected traditions, no legitimate mythos. We are but a mass of cosmopolitan people, gasping at some notion of globalism, without a grounding in a Nation’s past or its peoples’ efforts to get us to where we enjoy one of the best standards of living on the planet.

Oh (what once was) Canada! Enjoy your postnational Wednesday.

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/lament-for-what-once-was-a-nation/

Canada’s Shuttered Parliament and the Challenge to Our Democracy

The Niagara Independent, June 19, 2020 –-

Democracy is never a thing done.

Democracy is always something that

a nation must be doing.

– Archibald MacLeish

Canada’s federal Parliament has sat for a mere 40 days in almost 12 months. This week MPs suspended the House of Commons and they will not be back in Ottawa to debate the business of the Nation until September 21st (that is if an election has not been called). Given Canadians’ apparent lack of interest for what is happening in Ottawa, the question one must ask is, “Who really cares about what is happening to Parliament?” Yet, Canadians need to take note of its emasculated Parliament, for to paraphrase celebrated poet and Harvard professor Archibald MacLeish: we must use it or risk losing it.

Since the mid-March agreement by all political parties to shut down Parliament, Canadians have been entertained with a daily report from the Prime Minister on the Government’s respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the most part, opposition parties have been supportive of the Government’s endless announcements of relief measures. Governing has been smooth sailing for PM Justin Trudeau with a few notable exceptions. There was that dust up back in late March when Liberal MPs attempted a power grab that would allow the PM and Cabinet to spend money without parliamentary oversight until December 2021 – an overreach that was thwarted. Then, last week, the Government brought forward unseen legislation for MPs to enact an extension to the CERB payments. When the Liberals could not get cooperation to pass the measure from any other Party, they quickly recessed the House of Commons — frustrating all MPs, including veteran Liberal John McKay who acknowledged only four hours of parliamentary review to study $87-billion in government spending is inadequate: “It’s short-term gain for a long-term pain.”

For weeks PM Trudeau has continuously dismissed calls for a budget statement from his Government. Trudeau has argued that there are simply too many variables in play to assess what is in store for the Canadian economy. “There are so many things we simply don’t know … making projections about what our economy would look like in six months from now or a year from now is simply an exercise in invention and imagination.” Opposition parties are not accepting of the PM’s explanation. BQ Leader Yves-François Blanchet retorted: “The most poisonous pill of all of that is the government trying stubbornly to act as if there were not 338 people having been elected last October… We see that the Liberals are attempting to make the special rules last as long as they can in order to handle issues like if they were something between a majority government and the rule of a king.”

Indeed, the NDP gave its support to a Liberal motion to extend the suspension of MPs’ regular sittings until late September. This deal between Jagmeet Singh and Justin Trudeau will effectively shutter Parliament and send MPs packing for another 13 weeks – without the ability to debate national issues dealing with the country’s economic recovery, Chinese relations, protests, pipelines, etc…. without the ability to review spending programs and, egregiously, without a federal fiscal statement. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is incensed: “This is not a partisan issue, this is about whether or not a democratic country like Canada should have a functional Parliament.”

In the House of Commons, Scheer called for MPs to not suspend Parliament during the pandemic noting that both the British and Canadian parliaments sat through two world wars and scores of crises. Scheer argued, “Democracy has unquestionably evolved in the intervening centuries, one of the few constants amidst this change is that the House of Commons always meets in person… Government scrutiny has largely been left to press conferences that the prime minister controls. The prime minister hosts a morning show at his doorstep, followed by a late show often hosted by the deputy prime minister.” Scheer expressed his profound disappointed in the Liberal-NDP deal to suspend Parliament by concluding: “I have never seen so many members of parliament work so hard during an election campaign to get elected and then work hard to not have to work hard.”

The Liberals’ dismissal of Canada’s democratic traditions has the national press corps itself bewildered. Lorne Gunter of Sun Media asks: “Where’s the outrage at the Liberals crushing Parliamentary procedure? The Liberals – who only have a minority – have largely governed without opposition for the past three months and intend to continue doing so for at least three more.” Financial Post columnist William Watson asks: “Why was this government’s reaction to the crisis to first curtail debate and then shutter Parliament altogether until fall?” and then makes the observation: “When the Liberals talk of “Canadian values,” they don’t mean democracy.”

The erudite Rex Murphy remarks: “The House of Commons is an empty gilded shell on a deserted hill in the heart of a city that is supposed to be the heart of Canada’s democracy…. We have the most impotent Parliament in Canadian history during one of the greatest crises in Canadian history. Terribly, it has signed onto its own impotence and irrelevance; it has conceded that it does not count when it should matter most. This is a national shame.”

It was Robert Hutchins, the twentieth Century American philosopher, who opined in his Education of the Modern Man: “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” Certainly, Canadians’ seemingly lack of concern for the Trudeau Liberals’ continual chipping away of parliamentary traditions is putting Hutchins’ statement to the test.

As a post-script, the latest Angus Reid poll places the Liberals with a nine point lead over the Conservatives among decided voters. A May 2020 Nanos survey recorded high satisfaction marks for the federal government performance and steady approval ratings for PM Trudeau. It is conceivable that this minority Liberal Government may not have to face Parliament again before it faces Canadians to restore Justin Trudeau with a democratically elected majority.

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/canadas-shuttered-parliament-and-the-challenge-to-our-democracy/

Foreign investments prompt concerns for national security

The Niagara Independent, June 12, 2020 – In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and as Canadians brace for the impending economic crisis, concerns about Canadian companies being sold to foreign investors at fire-sale prices are sounding alarm bells in Ottawa. The greatest concern is the possibility of aggressive takeover bids from Chinese companies with ties to the country’s communist government. From Hope Bay gold mine to Huawei’s bid for Canada’s 5G network, there seems to be a growing wariness with Canadian-Chinese business relations.

This week, MPs on the House of Commons Industry Committee began special hearings to discuss a temporary freeze on large foreign takeovers of Canadian businesses, primarily, to guard against national security threats posed by Chinese firms tied to its communist state. The Industry Committee is studying whether the Investment Canada Act needs to be reinforced to more effectively evaluate the “net benefits” of proposed foreign takeovers, factoring potential risks versus potential jobs. Currently, Canadian security agencies CSIS and the RCMP review the risks of a sale and share any concerns with the federal cabinet. Following the cabinet review a decision is made on whether to block a foreign takeover that is “hostile” or consequential to critical or sensitive industries.

Industry Committee MPs heard testimony that Canada should implement tighter rules on foreign investment by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) — such as China’s — during the pandemic and seriously consider making these new rules permanent. Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative MP who initiated the committee’s study of foreign takeovers, explained her concern: “Companies across Canada have reportedly experienced significant devaluations due to the pandemic. In some circumstances, companies in financial distress may seek to be acquired by a foreign owned entity as a way to stave off bankruptcy.”

“Investment in Canada is a good thing and should be encouraged. The worry comes when companies that are vital to Canada’s national interest are acquired by firms tied to authoritarian SOEs. That’s when it becomes a matter of national security. If enough of these takeovers occur, there is a concern that those investments could be consolidated, and we could be in a situation where a foreign government controls a portion of Canada’s strategic industries,” said MP Rempel Garner.

These concerns are echoes of warnings being heard around the globe. In April European Union’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager was advising member countries to buy stakes in European companies to prevent Chinese takeovers. Vestager stated: “It’s very important that one is aware that there is a real risk that businesses that are vulnerable can be the object of a takeover,” she added. “The situation now really underlines the need so we work really intensively.” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg recently called for a “more global approach” in response to China. He said the coronavirus pandemic had “magnified “security concerns and the West must be conscious of the dangers of relying on China for goods and technology: “…China is coming closer to us – we see that in the Arctic, we see they are heavily investing in critical infrastructure in Europe, and we see of course China also operating in cyberspace.”

In Canada, in an annual report released a few weeks ago, CSIS underlined the risks posed by foreign takeovers to Canadian national security. Canada’s lead intelligence agency assessed that the country’s “economic wealth, open business and scientific environments, and advanced workforce and infrastructure” posed an attractive target to foreign investors. CSIS warned that those sales to foreign state-owned enterprises and firms with close ties to governments or intelligence services need to be weighed very carefully. The annual report stated: “Corporate acquisitions by these entities pose potential risks related to vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure, control over strategic sectors, espionage and foreign influenced activities, and illegal transfer of technology and expertise. As difficult as it is to measure, this damage to our collective prosperity is very real.”

Consider the recently announced $207 million deal that would have Canada’s TMAC Resources sell its Nunavut Hope Bay gold mine project to Shandong Gold Mining, a Chinese state-owned mining company. What may have been a “done-deal” a few years ago has today raised red flags over military and geopolitical concerns. The international community recognizes China has a major strategic interest in expanding control over the Arctic. The country has an interest in the key shipping routes through the North and the region’s resource development. As a result, the Canadian government has initiated a review of the sale for “a mix of security considerations and political considerations.”

Canada-China business news this week reports that Canadian telecommunications giants BCE and Telus have decided to use Nokia and Ericsson equipment to develop Canada’s 5G network – freezing out Huawei Technologies. Industry analysts are forewarning the Canadian business community of a backlash from Beijing over this decision. One response by the Chinese government could be to withhold exports of personal protective equipment (PPE) to Canada. Other possible repercussions are for China to reduce Canadian lumber and pulp imports, and B.C. coal and copper imports – potentially impacting hundreds of millions of dollars in trade.

The anticipated wrath of the Chinese Government underlines the need for the federal government to come up with a plan that will safeguard Canadian companies by being targeted by authoritarian regimes. Stephanie Carvin, a national security expert teaching at the Norman Patterson School of Public Affairs at Carleton University says, “We can’t split the economy away from national security. This is what we’re seeing with Huawei right now but Huawei isn’t the end — Huawei is the beginning. This is going to be possibly one of the biggest national security challenges that Canada faces for the next decade is trying to figure out how to manage these geo-economic threats.”

University of Ottawa Professor and a national security expert Wesley Wark concurs, “There is an awakening concern about Canadian economic security and even economic sovereignty, which will be accelerated by the impacts of COVID-19 and challenges around maintaining critical supply chains for health-care supplies. There will be increasing focus on preserving Canada’s economic security in the midst of a turbulent global economy.”

Concerns for Canada’s national security amplify the importance of the Industry Committee’s hearings and MPs’ questioning of Chinese SOEs investments and takeovers. The committee testimony is candid: “sellers beware.”

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/foreign-investments-prompt-concerns-for-national-security/

Trudeau’s Coveted United Nations Security Council Seat

The Niagara Independent, June 5, 2020 – On June 21st we will know whether “Canada is back” sitting in one of the two available seats at the United Nations Security Council table. Since the Liberal Government was first elected in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has coveted this seat on the Security Council and set about on a costly campaign to have our country back at the table. Trudeau has inserted himself into the bid – trekking across the African continent in February and more recently participating in UN video conferences – doubling down on what appears to be an obsessive, personal mission that critics observe is more style than substance.

The Security Council “maintains international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations.” It is a body that monitors situations threatening world peace – such as the current troubles in Syria and Hong Kong – and is charged with leveling economic sanctions to restore stability. The Security Council has five permanent members – United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – and is comprised of a rotating cast of 10 non-permanent members who serve terms of two years. Today, countries like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Estonia, Niger, and Tunisia have chairs at the table.

On Thursday PM Trudeau took part in his third international summit in a week to discuss the UN’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The PM joined leaders from 50 countries and major organizations, along with billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, to discuss ensuring all poorer nations will have timely access to the eventual COVID-19 vaccine. The summit was another of the UN’s pledging conferences to raise $10 billion for GAVI, an international vaccine alliance. PM Trudeau is a welcomed participant of this alliance having already announced Canada’s five-year, $600-million pledge to GAVI.

Trudeau’s attendance at the GAVI meeting came 24 hours after Trudeau delivered a speech at a virtual summit of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States in which he promised Canada would champion the developing countries request for debt relief in the face of their pandemic crises. And both these meetings were preceded a week ago with Trudeau co-hosting an UN meeting that explored the possibilities of coordinating post-pandemic economic recovery plans. At that event, Trudeau pledged Canada’s support and urged all countries to accept the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund as the institutions to lead the international recovery efforts.

Apart from these UN meetings, in the past few weeks PM Trudeau has held numerous virtual meetings with representatives from eastern European countries, from Asia-Pacific countries, and from Arab countries all concerning Canada’s candidacy for the Security Council seat. Trudeau also called the heads of government from Mozambique, Barbados, and Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron to have private chats with no fixed itinerary.

Canadians might expect the PM’s pitch in his private conversations to sound a lot like his statement during one of his recent daily Rideau Cottage appearances. Trudeau explained that Canada needs to be at the table to have a say in how the world recovers from the pandemic.

“… we have another crisis that is comparable in scale to that Second World War, and I think there need to be real reflections on how we move forward as a world, how we update and adjust our various multilateral institutions to better respond to the world we’re becoming part of right now in a post-COVID era. Canada’s voice is going to be really important, as it was around the forming of the Bretton Woods Institutions, as it will be as we create a better, more prosperous, fairer world for everyone. And Canada having a voice at the UN Security Council will allow us to continue to be at the heart of those discussions as we move forward as a planet.”

The CBC has filed many stories on the PM’s bid, covering it much like some boxing match. Our state-funded news organization’s prediction: it’s “a close contest.” The CBC reveals “Canada is in a tight fight with Norway and Ireland… Most experts think Norway has a lock on one of those seats, leaving Ireland and Canada to duke it out for the other one.” The tale of the tape: Canada requires 128 votes from the 198 UN member nations to secure one of two seats that are open.

Our federal government representatives are optimistic that Canada’s international standing has grown in 2020 with the PM taking a leading role in the UN’s efforts to respond to the pandemic. However, there are two core items that are sure to factor greatly in the choice for the Security Council membership and Canada has proven to be sorely deficient in them both.

First, Canada’s peacekeeping commitment is embarrassing when considering today the UN has 83, 000 men and women in service around the world. Canada currently has just 35 personnel involved in UN peacekeeping, the lowest number of “Blue Berets” since 1956. By comparison, Norway had 66 active peacekeepers and Ireland has 533 peacekeepers contributing to UN operations.

Second, Canada’s record on the UN’s foreign aid commitments is shameful. Canada ranks very low among the 30 richest countries spending only 0.28 per cent of its gross national income (GNI) in 2019 on foreign aid – about a third of the UN’s target spending of 0.7 per cent. In comparison with its competitors, Ireland spends 0.35 per cent of its GNI and is committing to increase that figure. Norway contributes more than one per cent of its GNI to international assistance.

On the latter point, Canada has recently pledged sizeable amounts of money for UN efforts. Trudeau promised $850 million in post-pandemic relief funds and Government officials have stated that “It’s only the beginning.” Indeed it might prove to be as this week the UN upped its global appeal for pandemic humanitarian aid to $6.7 billion (U.S.) – and this figure is in addition to the urgent appeal for $2.4 billion (U.S.) to help the war torn Yemen.

Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, is closely following the country’s bid for the Security Council seat and he is doubtful of Canada’s chances. He believes the Liberal Government has not matched its “rhetoric with performance.” Lewis states: “The government espouses generosity: in fact, they’re begrudging pretenders.” Lewis assesses the Canadian efforts to schmooze foreign leaders for their country’s vote as “a bit of a sham.”

Global News reporter David Akin concludes much of the same: the Prime Minister is betting he will win the UN Security Council seat on the strength of his own personal brand and his courting exercises of the past few months: “Trudeau is binding himself — and himself only — to the success or failure of the bid.”

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-coveted-united-nations-security-council-seat/

Butts is Back to Have Canada “Build Back Better” (Part 2)

The Niagara Independent, May 29, 2020 – Gerald Butts has resurfaced in Ottawa as a member of the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery. This is a group that has tasked itself to review the Resilient Recovery Framework document, and then report into the federal government a recovery plan to support Canada’s 2030 and 2050 climate goals. The Task Force’s primary goal is to develop “actionable recommendations on how governments can help get Canadians back to work while also building a low-carbon and resilient economy.”

The Resilient Recovery Framework that the Task Force is reviewing is a document that was submitted to the group the very day it came into being, authored by the Smart Prosperity Institute of the University of Ottawa – the same institute that is listed as a research arm of the Task Force. (Does this not beg the question how the Task Force will maintain its objectivity assessing the Institute’s work while employing Institute researchers?)

On the Task Force’s website www.recoverytaskforce.ca it encourages Canadians to get to know “our insights and recommendations for government” by highlighting (who else!) leading experts from the Smart Prosperity Institute, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (the second research arm of the Task Force) and a news magazine Corporate Knights which is “The Voice for Clean Capitalism” with a mission to advocate for a “green recovery” by promoting “a green renovation phase.” It appears the Task Force has a limited scope, drawing from its own research bodies and a sustainable industry publication dedicated to advancing social and environmental sustainability worldwide.

The Resilient Recovery Framework sets out the criteria for Canada’s best recovery investments. It states: “When Canada turns the corner on the COVID-19 health crisis, the nation will make a once-in-a-generation investment in economic recovery. That investment needs to kick start growth and jobs right away, while also continuing Canada’s progress toward building a stronger, cleaner economy.” In the document’s executive summary it indicates its focus on “a decarbonized and digitized world” steering the government towards “Canada’s natural capital and low-carbon future.”

The document poses three key questions to assess investments: 1) Does the measure stimulate timely, lasting economic benefits and jobs? 2) Does the measure help the environment and support clean competitiveness? 3) Is the measure equitable, implementable, and feasible? Drilling down to the next level, it is noted that investments are to show economic benefits in a timeframe of 6-18 months, meet Canada’s climate change targets, and have a positive or at least neutral impact on vulnerable, marginalized or underrepresented groups, such as Indigenous peoples and women. (PMO staff might not have been able to write a better criteria for this Liberal Government to use.) 

This is all part of what veteran financial columnist Terence Corcoran calls “The “’resilience” ploy to seize the economy.” The hidden agenda has been “to lift economy out of deep lockdown hole politicians threw us into by having the same politicians take control and re-engineer the whole system.” In a May 27 Financial Post article, Corcoran explains the global environmentalist branding exercise:

“Resilience is the post-COVID-19 replacement for sustainable (117,000,000 Google results). In pre-pandemic economic policy terms, sustainable development called for a rethink of global, national and local economic objectives. The United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development policy goals describes the agenda as “ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth — all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.” These sustainable development objectives are identical to those of the global resilience movement. The only difference is the label.”

The resilience movement and its warriors also have a new rally cry — as Canadians will come to recognize from multiple Corporate Knights articles, Task Force interviews, and CBC headlines: this orchestrated green recovery from COVID-19 is going to help Canada “build back better.” Euphemistically, to build back better is to “green the energy supply”, “tap into Canada’s renewable cornucopia”, and “to establish a reference level for a carbon-free generation in Canada.”

There have been clarion warnings about the political maneuvering of Gerald Butts, the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery, and its cadre of environmental lobbyists and green business interests. Former Liberal MP Dan McTeague warns “Gerald Butts and Bruce Lourie are two folks well on their way to bankrupting Canada.” Jocelyn Bamford, president of the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada, warns that the PM’s green energy plan will bankrupt us as “it is built upon the same priority as the one pushed by former Ontario premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne.”

Trying to get ahead of the resilience movement’s likely investment recommendations, Calgary Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein flatly stated: “As the global economy struggles to recover from the recession caused by COVID-19, what we don’t need are more wind turbines and solar panels.” In the Financial Post, Canada’s former finance minister Joe Oliver assessed that the Trudeau Liberals are worsening the countries fiscal problem: “Canada has the dubious distinction of being the only country rich in energy resources whose government’s policy is to keep most of its wealth buried forever.”

Then there is Gwyn Morgan, the retired founding CEO of Encana Corp, who in a recent C2C Journal article stated: “No other country has so deliberately turned itself into a climate-change martyr. And yet for all the economic, social and national unity pain inflicted, our sacrifices will have no perceptible impact on global climate change. Entering the third decade of this troubled millennium, we can only hope our federal government somehow realizes the future of our Confederation requires leaving behind blind ideology and finding some basic common sense.”

Still Gerald Butts and the Task Force are on track in July to bring forward recommendations for recovery investments so that the Liberal Government can champion a resilient recovery that will ensure Canada will “build back better.” And with Parliament suspended, who is there to speak up and hold Butts, PM Trudeau, and their resilience warriors 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/butts-is-back-to-have-canada-build-back-better-part-2/

Butts is Back to Help Shape the Liberal Government’s Green Policies (Part 1)

The Niagara Independent, May 22, 2020 – The understated announcement of the “Task Force for a Resilient Recovery” went largely undetected by national media and political pundits. Though the Ottawa grapevine was abuzz with the mention of Gerald Butts’s resurfacing, there was no commentary beyond recognizing his membership on the Task Force. The possibilities that this man’s return to counsel the Prime Minister and the Liberals’ backroom as they prepare for the impending election battle went wholly unconsidered.

Gerald Butts has re-entered the Nation’s Capital as a member of the Task Force for a Resilient Recovery, “a new and independent group of finance, policy and sustainability leaders.” The Task Force has proclaimed for itself the task of “developing actionable recommendations on how governments can help get Canadians back to work while also building a low-carbon and resilient economy.” With a time frame of eight weeks, it will review and assess a variety of potential environmental “recovery investments” to recommend for inclusion in the federal government’s economic plans to kick-start the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Remarkably not one member of this Task Force, that is to assess Canada’s economic recovery plans, has run a corporation or industrial business. The membership includes international non-governmental agencies, academics, and leadership from environmental groups. It is being co-chaired by Barbara Zvan of the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Don Forgeron of the Insurance Board of Canada, and Elizabeth Beale, formerly with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. The Task Force states it has advisory support by eight business and finance advisors and that it will be supported by two research organizations — Smart Prosperity Institute and the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Its primary focus will be a review of The Resilient Recovery Framework, a document submitted to the Task Force by the Smart Prosperity Institute on the very day of its launch. (The framework document, as well as the close relationships between the Task Force and the Institute is reported on in my next column.)

In a written statement, the Task Force declared: “Canada’s investments to recover from COVID-19 will either lock us into a vulnerable future or put us on a resilient path towards net-zero emissions, good jobs and a strong economy. This is an important opportunity for Canadians everywhere. We’re determined to help Canada’s governments seize it.” In an exclusive CBC pre-launch interview, a spokesperson explained that the Task Force’s goal is to help seize a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to “build back better” by directing government stimulus funds to sustainable projects. Task Force member Bruce Lourie, who is president of the Ivey Foundation at the University of Western Ontario, told CBC News they want to make sure the government does not take its eye off the ball and invest in the “wrong kinds” of areas for the future.

Spencer Fernando, an Ottawa political reporter, immediately identified the possible implications of having Gerald Butts involved. “The group – anticipating massive government stimulus spending – is seeking to direct funding to what they see as parts of the economy key to building a ‘green economy’” and Fernando explains, “The problem will be if the group seeks to use the CCP Virus Crisis as a pretext for pushing for the destruction of Canada’s oil and gas sector.” In his editorial comment “Butts Pushing New Movement,” Fernando concludes, “It remains to be seen whether this new group will be focused on good ideas that can help all Canadians, or on playing political games that further divides our nation.”

Whether the Task Force recommendations reflect beneficial or divisive suggestions for Canada’s future economic recovery, they will certainly advance green investment programs and services. And this is where Gerald Butts will be indispensable to the Task Force and its success in packaging its green investment solutions. Given Butts’ past record with green programs, and his adeptness at presenting environmental concerns as wedge issues in political campaigns, Canadians can expect to see much of the Task Force work finding its way into the Liberal campaign platform.

As Principal Secretary to former Premier Dalton McGuinty, Butts is acknowledged as the chief architect for many of Ontario’s environmental initiatives and its infamous Green Energy Program. As a result of unscrupulous solar and wind power projects, an ill-conceived coal shutdown, and pricey incentives to renewable industries, Ontario taxpayers are now saddled with hydro and energy expenses in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Ontario manufacturers are paying the most expensive rates of electricity in North America. The Liberal Government’s last Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault issued a mea culpa by way of an admission that the Green Energy Act not only led to “sub-optimal outcomes” for consumers, but increased prices in electricity for families and businesses in Ontario. On the 2018 election campaign trail, then Premier Kathleen Wynne herself conceded that many Ontarians must “choose between paying the electricity bill and buying food or paying rent.” In part, this is Gerald Butts’ green legacy in Ontario.

Fast forward to his actions in Ottawa as the PMO confidant of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Butts is credited with the development and implementation of the federal government’s carbon tax regime. He is also widely recognized as framing the Liberals’ energy and resource development strategy, which has been nothing less than an orchestrated assault on Canada’s resource sectors, driving out Encana, Koch, Stratoil, Marathon Oil, to name a few – and cancelling mega-energy projects such as Teck Resources’ Frontier Project and the Energie Saguenay natural gas project. Today, the Trudeau Government showcases its environmental policies as a top priority. Jocelyn Bamford, President of the Coalition of Concerned Manufacturers and Businesses of Canada, observes that this environmental focus is the very same priority of former Ontario Premiers Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne. Bamford states: “At both the federal and provincial levels, the brainchild of the liberal policy aimed at kick-starting green energy initiatives is former Trudeau principal secretary Gerald Butts.”

Indeed, Justin Trudeau’s BFF is back. There is much to Gerald Butts’ resurfacing; his seemingly inconsequential role as a member of an unheard of task force is likely much more of a story for the Government’s green recovery investments and for the Liberals’ election platform.

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/butts-is-back-to-help-shape-the-liberal-governments-green-policies-part-1/

Optimistically Canadians will have a $252 Billion deficit this year and more than $1 Trillion debt

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux waits to appear before the Commons Finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday March 10, 2020. Photo: Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Niagara Independent, May 15, 2020 –  A budget deficit of $252 billion this year and a national debt of more than $1 trillion? But then, who is counting?

Two weeks ago the Parliamentary Budget Officer Report was issued and it projected that, given the combined impact of the pandemic and the collapse of world oil prices, Canada will have a budgetary deficit of $252.1 billion this year. The country’s GDP (the value of all goods and services produced) will fall by 12 per cent for the fiscal year. This will result in federal tax revenues falling by $60 billion, while the government’s program spending will increase by $168 billion.

To put all these numbers in context, it is the worst financial statement in Canada’s history. The deficit figure that is about to blot the ledger books of our country is greater than in any single year during the Great Depression.

That was two weeks ago. Fast forward to this week when Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux appeared before MPs to testify at a finance committee meeting. Giroux said the $252 billion figure he cited in his report is “optimistic” and that it is “a low-ball estimate” of how much the federal government programs will cost the federal treasury this fiscal year. He anticipated the figure to be higher as the government continues to spend billions of dollars on emergency economic support programs to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Giroux explained, “The figure of $252 billion is very likely to be the very optimistic scenario, as opposed to the number for the deficit for the current fiscal year. It’s very difficult to estimate what is a likely deficit figure given that details are missing for some of these potentially very expensive measures.”

Giroux also projected that the coronavirus lockdown could result in Canada’s debt climbing to surpass $ 1 trillion. The PBO replied to Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre’s question whether it was “possible or realistic” that the federal debt could reach a trillion dollars during this fiscal year. He answered, “Possible, yes. Realistic? Yes. Certainly not unthinkable.”

In follow-up to the PBO appearance, the Federal Department of Finance reaffirmed Giroux’s projection, saying that the department had no estimate on the amount of money spent by the Trudeau Government in the last nine weeks. As it turns out, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada is also not able to provide any performance audits of federal departments. It has been reported that the Trudeau Government has been withholding operations funding from the office, preventing it from conducting its regular schedule of audits.

So, one trillion dollars of debt: $1,000,000,000,000. Can Canadians carry this burden? The short answer is “yes.” Given the current projections, the PBO sees the federal debt-to-GDP ratio rising to 48.4 per cent this year (Trudeau Government has boasted it has always been able to keep it at a manageable 30 per cent). Even at this inflated rate, the debt-to-GDP remains below its peak of 66.6-per-cent back during the PM Jean Chretien years of 1995–96. In the mid-90s Canadians were paying 38 cents of every tax dollar to pay the interest on the national debt. As it is in our post-pandemic world, Canadians will be paying about 30 cents on the dollar in interest payments – but that depends on interest rates.  As Paul Boothe, a former senior bureaucrat at Finance Canada also explains, it will depend on the foreign government(s) who will set the conditions on the debt they will finance (about one-third of government’s debt).

For the PM, this is a problem for another day. Trudeau said recently, “There will be time after this is all done as we figure out how exactly this unfolds, where we will have to make next decisions on how that recovery looks. But right now our focus is on getting through this together as a country.” When pressed about how Canadians may be told what the country’s books look like, Trudeau offered, “We’ll find ways to share this with you but we have not yet been able to determine what the best way is of looking at a budget or an economic update or maybe another way of sharing information with Canadians about what we foresee for the months to come.”

It is difficult to keep track of the multiple financial commitments made by the Trudeau Government. The numbers are alarming. Last reported, more than 7.3 million Canadians have applied for emergency assistance. Another 96,000 employers have applied for the 75 per cent wage subsidy to cover about 1.7 million workers. Another 518,000 businesses have applied for $40,000 government-backed loans.

And there are increasing concerns being expressed by MPs and media about the lack of government controls in place to monitor its own spending. This week, details of how the federal government has suspended “compliance and enforcement” of the EI program during the pandemic were exposed. Federal civil servants revealed to media that massive fraud is taking place. There are as many as 200,000 cases being given the $2,000-a-month emergency payment; yet, questions to the PM about this $400-million-per-month-boondoggle were dismissed.

In a special column to the Globe and Mail, Preston Manning sounded an alert on the gross spending by the federal government. He wrote, “Sooner or later – and preferably sooner – Canadians will come to realize that the country is headed into a financial and economic crisis of unprecedented magnitude with, as yet, no realistic plan or demonstrated capacity on the part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government to deal with it.”

Last word goes to an unlikely left-of-centre character, former NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who was also highly critical of the Trudeau Government’s spending ways. Mulcair wrote in a Sun Media editorial: “Trudeau will have created $10,000 of new debt for every man, woman and child in Canada during his time in office. The sums are staggering. Trudeau swatted away questions on that, not because it isn’t a huge problem but because he knows there’ll be an election before he has to bring in new taxes to start dealing with it.”

Mulcair concluded his criticisms with a lament for Canada’s future taxpayers, “Once again, this generation of leaders is putting everything on the maxed-out credit card of our grandchildren. One of the greatest inequalities in our society is that which exists between generations and it’s getting more and more unfair.”

(Is it now not accurate to say that with this $1 trillion dollar debt legacy, Trudeau Jr. has far surpassed the dubious legacy of Trudeau Sr., the father of Canada’s debt and its deficit-spending tradition?) 

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/optimistically-canadians-will-have-a-252-billion-deficit-this-year-and-more-than-1-trillion-debt/

A Spotlight on Canada-China Relations (Part 3)

The Niagara Independent, May 8, 2020 – In responding to the unfolding crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the glare of the spotlight on Canada-China relations has illuminated the Liberal Party’s affairs with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). What Canadians are witnessing is that our country’s relations with China are as much about political and business ties as they are about Canada’s foreign policy position.

Consider Canada’s reluctance to join with its traditional allies on matters relating to China. Australia’s initial call for an independent international investigation into the origins and spread of the coronavirus resulted in an Australia-China diplomatic tussle. Australia’s foreign minister publicly questioned the CCP’s transparency surrounding the pandemic and accused Chinese officials of destruction and suppression of evidence. The country’s PM Scott Morrison followed up with statements about greater transparency from both Beijing and the World Health Organization (W.H.O.). The response from China was public threats about trade embargos on Australian wine and beef and a travel ban that would not permit Chinese tourists and students to go down under.

Still Australia’s call for an investigation has gathered momentum. The U.K., German, Polish and Netherlands Governments have been publicly critical of the CCP’s bullying tactics. The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made overt political claims this week that there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory. This was followed up with the European Union’s 27 member states joining together to co-sponsor a resolution calling for an independent review at the W.H.O. assembly when it meets May 18th. A spokesperson for the European Commission is quoted as saying it is “essential” that the world gets answers.

With the international community uniting in a quest for truth, it remains unclear what Canada’s position is – unclear how the Canadian W.H.O. delegation will vote when it comes to launching an investigation. If the delegation were to parrot PM Trudeau’s views on the matter, Canada will abstain or, perhaps, vote against an investigation. The Prime Minister, yet again, said this week Canada is not drawing “firm conclusions” on allegations about the origins and spread of the coronavirus. Trudeau stated Canada would continue to work “independently” with its intelligence partners and would want all countries, including China, to participate in any international investigation.

Financial Post columnist Diane Francis penned a strongly worded rebuke of this political-speak: “Canada needs a prime minister who will stand up to China and hold it accountable for the untold damage this pandemic has caused the world. Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sanctimoniously says that now is not the time for criticism, but for international co-operation. How bloody naive.”

Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier institute, Charles Burton offered a more reserved observation in calling on the PM to support a “meaningful and full investigation” of the origins of the coronavirus. “If we decided that we would not support an international investigation of what went on in Wuhan and how the matter was handled by the government of China, we would in effect be giving in to a form of diplomatic and trade blackmail that would clearly not be in Canada’s longer term interest in maintaining the international rules-based order.”

A commentary published in The American Conservative received mainstream coverage south of the border. The column entitled, “Justin Trudeau’s Weak Sauce Approach To China Is Embarrassing” asserts that the Canadian PM is coddling the Communist Party at the worst possible time, further eroding his own authority. The publication opines: “In recent years, there have been numerous reports of Beijing’s tyrannical abuse of its own citizens and economic ruthlessness abroad. Yet Justin Trudeau still lacks the guts to even broach the subject, ostensibly undermining the foreign policy of our closest allies.”

On both sides of the border, there has been continuous editorializing on the possible rationale for Canada’s reluctance to join with the call for an independent investigation. Is the Canadian Government attempting to chart its own post-pandemic diplomacy with China? Or is it something more evident – like securing China’s endorsement for a seat on the United Nations Security Council? PM Trudeau has long coveted this UN seat and has spent untold resources and millions of dollars to secure it. Is Canada’s avoidance of irritating the CCP part of its strategy to win the June vote? Sun News pundit Lorne Gunter has no doubt it is, “They undoubtedly figure if they can show themselves to be playing along with the phony narrative about COVID-19 being spun by the Chinese government with the help of the UN’s World Health Organization, they will win brownie points for their Security Council bid against Norway and Ireland.”

There is perhaps another not-so-evident but much-more-compelling reason for Canada’s response to all matters relating to the CCP and China. It could be the multifarious financial dealings that members of the Liberal Party of Canada (particularly those from the old families of Montreal) have with the CCP. At the heart of Canada-China commerce is the Demarais family’s Power Corporation, which has significant investments in China, including assets bought from the China International Trust Investment Corporation, a firm owned by the Chinese government. Power Corp and Montreal Liberals are interchangeable: former PM Jean Chretien’s son-in-law Andre Desmarais is President and co–CEO; John Rae, brother of former Liberal leader Bob Rae is a long-serving senior manager; and former PMs Paul Martin, Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau all served within Power Corp – in fact, Chretien is a Power Corp lobbyist within China. And PM Justin Trudeau also works this corporate network – his trusted advisor has been Peter Harder, President of the Canada-China Business Council and member of the Power Corp Board of Directors. (Incidentally, one of the first Senators named by Justin Trudeau was his friend Peter Harder.)

So, perhaps these intricate Power Corp business interests may have had some pull with the Montreal Liberals – from Trudeau Sr. through to Trudeau Jr.? They may also be a clue to (Shawinigan-born-Montreal-schooled-MP) Canada’s current Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne’s assessment of China when he says the country is a “beacon of stability, predictability, a rule–based system, a very inclusive society.” Certainly the ties were precisely what former Liberal MP and Ambassador to China John McCallum was alluding to when, before the 2019 federal vote, he advised Chinese officials not to hurt the Liberals’ chance of reelection. Recall McCallum said, “The Conservatives would be harsher in holding China to account.”

On many levels, Canada-China relations will be one of the most significant policy areas for our country in the post-pandemic world. Canadians will expect their government to have their best interests at the centre of foreign policy positions. And that is where what has come to light is most revealing.

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/a-spotlight-on-canada-china-relations-part-3/

A Spotlight on Canada-China Relations (Part 2)

The Niagara Independent, May 1, 2020 – The last column explored three current irritants in Canada-China diplomacy: the prolonged captivity of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, China sending back two chartered planes without their payload of medical supplies, and the sudden political arrests of human rights activists in Hong Kong. Canada’s relations with China are tense with a great many more contentious issues, including the Meng Wanzhou trial, the overdue decision regarding Huawei’s 5G network, the canola trade dispute, and the multiple queries about China’s influence over the World Health Organization (WHO) and what impact that had on the spread of the coronavirus.

With growing apprehensions relating to a number of issues between the two countries, Canada’s positions are seemingly ambiguous. Official government responses are scripted and any criticisms of China are muted. This obvious posturing has raised questions and concerns by two Canadians who are eminently qualified to analyze Canada-China relations: two former Canadian ambassadors to China, David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques.

David Mulroney, who served in Beijing between 2009 and 2012, has grown increasingly critical of the Canadian Government’s unwillingness to acknowledge even the remote possibility of China’s wrong doing. In a CBC interview with Vassy Kapelos, Mulroney identified Ottawa’s Achilles heel, “Again and again our officials use language that tends to flatter China, tends to veer towards euphemism rather than facts. You can’t get a country right if you don’t even have the very basic vocabulary for describing it. Until we have the courage and the clarity of thought to do that, we are going to be floundering as we are now…. There is a tendency to confuse diplomacy with flattery.”

Mulroney levelled, “People have been inconsistent or, frankly, cowardly in their failure to hold China to account. It is a misguided view that by flattering China that we will get better behavior from China.”

In a separate interview with the National Post, Mulroney elaborated on this thought, “I’m not suggesting that we need to insult China or provoke a quarrel. We should simply be guided by the facts. And right now the facts argue for the case that China was delinquent, that it wasn’t transparent enough. That’s not a conspiracy theory.”

The former ambassador assessed, “When you start acknowledging the truth, then positive and corrective action is possible. As long as you’re in denial, there’s no hope of action that will ameliorate the situation. This is a tremendous missed opportunity and it’s not too late for the government to slowly turn the ship around.”

Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as Canada’s envoy to China from 2012 to 2016, was pivotal in setting the Trudeau Government’s first trade meetings with the Chinese Communist Party. He tells of Canada’s newly minted government needing to curtail its “progressive” interests once Chinese officials expressed annoyance at any mention of human rights, environmental policy and gender-based analysis. Saint-Jacques summed up the first trade mission in this way: “Cabinet did not fully realize what I call the dark side of China.”

Saint Jacques believes today Canada is in “a very difficult position.” In a CBC interview a few weeks ago, he explained, “We should request that a full investigation be made and I see this as a question of national security. The UN Security Council should instruct the WHO to do a full investigation to learn lessons and avoid the repetition of such a crisis in the future. Also, we have to call on a country like China to be more transparent in the future.”

Saint Jacques also offered, “The lesson for Canada is we have to ask the WHO to do a much better job… In the future we could be faced with a similar problem and we have to be confident that the WHO is providing the best advice – and same thing regarding how we prepared based on the Chinese numbers, obviously those were underestimated for a number of reasons, and we cannot rely on China numbers to make our own decisions in the future.”

David Mulroney sees the tough questions of the WHO and of China as the start of a much more significant discussion to be had on Canada’s engagement in international diplomacy. He comments, “The larger problem for Canada is not just a health problem or a China problem; it is a global problem. China is much more influential in global bodies like the WHO, like the UN, bodies that we really depend on as a middle-power and that we helped to create. As those bodies are skewed by China’s influence, they are in some respects corrupted…. We are going into a world where the United States is acting more unilaterally and the multilateral world that we used to depend on is a lot less reliable. We have to do hard thinking that I don’t see us doing right now.”

Strikingly candid comments from two former Canadian ambassadors to China. Yet, when asked about this commentary, the Prime Minister deflects by saying “now is not the time to raise questions” about other countries and the WHO; Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam maintains the WHO’s response to the spread of the coronavirus has been a responsible one; and, Health Minister Patty Hajdu continues to ridicule anyone who challenges the data from China. These non-responses to the former ambassadors’ observations suggest there is much to learn.

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/a-spotlight-on-canada-china-relations-part-2/

A Spotlight on Canada-China Relations (Part 1)

The Niagara Independent, April 24, 2020 – First came the open letter to the world signed by more than one hundred senior political figures and China experts describing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) subversive role in allowing the coronavirus to spread beyond Wuhan. That letter called out CCP authorities for silencing Chinese doctors, physically removing conscientious Chinese citizens who dared criticize the government, and executing a covert campaign of misinformation about the severity and spread of the coronavirus.

Now, calls have escalated for an independent investigation into China’s culpability relating to the origins of the novel virus and its Government’s responsibility for allowing this deadly virus to explode into a global pandemic. Australia called on the international community to launch an investigation on the origins of the coronavirus; in separate news conferences, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab publicly doubted China’s official story and its data; U.S. President Donald Trump repeated his contention for China to face consequences if it is “knowingly responsible” for the pandemic; and, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a much-publicized interview in which she urged China to be transparent with what occurred. This growing international backlash was amplified midweek when a German news agency presented China with a bill for $165 billion in reparations and it leveled the accusation that the CCP kept the “world in the dark,” and that China “should pay for the massive economic damage the coronavirus is inflicting worldwide.”

In Ottawa, as the cries for a probe of China’s actions mounted, the official comment from the Canadian Government came from the Prime Minister, who stated he would not comment. On repeated occasions through this week – and there were at least three opportunities – PM Justin Trudeau refused to denounce the CCP or make any comment on Canada-China relations.

Trudeau’s enduring silence on “the two Michaels” defies common decency for these two Canadians and their families. On Wednesday, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor marked their 500th day of captivity in China, cut off from family and friends and without any Canadian consular contact since last December. In an alarming Globe and Mail account, it is reported the men are jailed in crowded facilities where the lights stay on 24 hours a day. They are hopelessly languishing in their jail cells, arbitrarily imprisoned with no charges laid and no judicial recourse.

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, explains the injustice is “ransom demand” for Meng Wanzhou, the Chinese Huawei executive who was arrested by Canadian authorities and is currently residing in her Vancouver mansion, on bail awaiting her extradition hearing to the United States. Mulroney commented, “It’s a reminder to all of us what an almost unimaginably cruel act this has been for the men and their families. Not only are their conditions terrible but they are cut off from any meaningful connection and at this time of pandemic they seem to be even more remote. It’s a hostage-taking and the ransom demand is Meng Wanzhou… it’s very nakedly a quid pro quo.”

Also this week, PM Trudeau was caught fabricating an excuse when relating why two chartered planes returning from China to Canada landed without their payloads of medical equipment. CBC reported the planes were forced to return empty due to “on-the-ground congestion.” The Prime Minister is quoted as saying “Supply lines and truck shipments to the airports are difficult and interrupted by checkpoints and quarantine measures. For the most part, we’ve been able to navigate through those and ensure that Canada has received the equipment that it needs, but these two airplanes were forced to take off empty.”  However, Chinese officials immediately disputed this explanation and stated the Prime Minister and CBC have it wrong. It remains unclear what exactly happened with the two cargo planes; apparently the supplies are still available in a Shanghai warehouse; Trudeau is avoiding any further comment.

This incident raised media inquiries about two other mysteries surrounding Chinese promises to supply surgical masks and medical supplies to Canadian relief efforts. Three weeks ago, PM Trudeau praised China for its generosity in sending 30,000 medical masks along with thousands of gowns, gloves and goggles to Canada. When reports from the Netherlands and Spain raised concerns about defective masks and faulty test kits, the PM assured Canadians all Chinese materials would meet Canadian standards. Since this assurance, media learned that masks and equipment were found to be faulty in Toronto, yet the Canadian Government refuses to identify where the equipment shipments came from. As Canadians are left to wonder how these stories connect – if at all, the PM continues to avoid comment on any of these questions.

Also in the international headlines this week, police rounded up 15 of Hong Kong’s leading advocates for independence from mainland China. In what is being described as a CCP rapid-fire political coup, founder of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party “father of democracy” Martin Lee, publishing magnate Jimmy Lai, news columnist Margaret Ng, civil rights lawyer Albert Ho, and trade unionist Lee Cheuk Yan were all hauled away. While other countries issued diplomatic statements of concern, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister offered only a milquetoast response according to Lynette Ong of the University of Toronto’s Asian Institute. Ong observed, “They [CCP] know the rest of the world’s attention is on coronavirus… I’m not optimistic for the future of Hong Kong.” The PM did not comment.

On three separate occasions Canada-China relations were placed under a spotlight this week. Each time PM Justin Trudeau provided non answers or no comment at all.

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/a-spotlight-on-canada-china-relations-part-1/

Mounting Condemnation for CCP Misleading the World on Coronavirus

The Niagara Independent, April 17, 2020 – Canadian lawyer Irwin Cotler was at the centre of this week’s international media maelstrom that openly criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for allowing the coronavirus to become a global pandemic. This is the same man whose distinguished 16-year career as Montreal MP culminated in being named Justice Minister by then PM Paul Martin. Today Cotler is Founder and Chair of Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and a respected elder statesman for the Liberal Party of Canada.

The Canadian was not only a signatory to an open letter but Cotler marshalled an international media campaign that called on world leaders to hold the CCP accountable for lives lost and economic hardships as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Canada, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute posted the letter and issued the damning press release that insists the corrupt and repressive regime in Beijing must be held accountable for the pandemic.

More than one hundred senior political figures and China experts from around the world signed the open letter describing the CCP’s role in allowing the virus to spread beyond Wuhan. The letter was addressed to Chinese citizens and friends of China at home and abroad. In part, it reads: “The roots of the pandemic are in a cover-up by CCP authorities…. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak: Dr Ai Fen can no longer appear in public after accepting a domestic media interview; her colleague Dr Li Wenliang died while fighting the virus in Wuhan. On his deathbed Dr Li famously said that “a healthy society shouldn’t have only one voice.”

The letter concludes: “As an international group of public figures, security policy analysts and China watchers we stand in solidarity with courageous and conscientious Chinese citizens including Xu Zhangrun, Ai Fen, Li Wenliang… just to name a few of the real heroes and martyrs who risk their life and liberty for a free and open China. Their individual voices are already forming a chorus. They demand nothing less than a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world. We urge you to join them.”

With the letter published, Irwin Cotler carried forward the plea for justice and accountability. He co-authored a Times of Israel editorial entitled, “Xi Jinping’s China did this.” He argued, “The CCP’s infodemic — in addition to its intense spinning of solidarity on social media and its framing of a “people’s war against the virus” — was both a deceitful and farcical illusion of a coming together in China. The extent of the CCP’s self-promotion and its portrayal of President Xi as a hero ready to save the world — while making Western democracies look grossly incompetent — is as shameful as it is duplicitous.”

The Globe and Mail also published Cotler’s editorial and interviewed him. The paper headlined that China is getting its own “Chernobyl moment” due to Beijing’s attempts to hide and distort key scientific data. Cotler was pointed in his criticism of the CCP. “China’s leadership must be held to account for its criminality and corruption… The behavior of the CCP endangers both Chinese citizens and the international community. This is China’s Chernobyl moment. It is tragically a self-inflicted wound.” Cotler adds, “This shows the cruelty of this leadership. We have to continue to have relations with the Chinese citizenry, but it is this particular government that has a culture of criminality, corruption and impunity.”

Canada’s former Justice Minister is urging the Trudeau Government to impose sanctions on CCP officials who mistreated or silenced medical staff and citizens in the early days of the pandemic. International law does allow for Canada to impose asset freezes and travel bans on human rights abusers around the world. Cotler states Canada must do its part, “The CCP has to be held accountable through naming and shaming, in the court of public opinion, in actual courts of law through international tort actions, and through Magnitsky sanctions. We can target those who have been responsible for the disappearances of the doctors, such as Dr. Ai Fen, director of the emergency department at the Central Hospital of Wuhan, who has now disappeared.”

As Cotler engaged the international press corps, PM Justin Trudeau entertained questions about Canada’s relationship with China and, as has been the case throughout the pandemic crisis, he repeatedly refused to denounce the CCP. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers have consistently deflected questions about the origin or spread of the coronavirus. Asked a week ago “about China’s lies and how it might have hurt the global reaction”, Health Minister Patty Hajdu responded, “I would say that your question is feeding into the conspiracy theories that many people have been perpetuating on the internet.” Then this week in a special sitting of the House of Commons, Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland unapologetically defended Canada’s relationship with China and the World Health Organization. (Freeland was answering a question on why Canada did not recognize the coronavirus as a national threat until March 13, days after WHO had declared COVID-19 a global pandemic).

An annoyed Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer questioned the government’s stonewalling on denouncing the CCP. “Is Trudeau worried about upsetting the communist government in China? Why does he continue to put so much faith in the WHO instead of listening to the Canadian experts who warned us to take this threat seriously?” Scheer stated, “We’ve seen examples of how the communist, autocratic, human rights-abusing government of China has had an inordinate effect on the WHO. There’s evidence of suppressing information, not being open and transparent about the number of cases. Those are very concerning.”

The questions surrounding the CCP actions were also being raised by government MPs. Toronto Liberal MP John McKay, Chair of the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee, said he would like to probe China’s conduct. “I would dearly love to confront this. The failure on the part of a nation to properly disclose its pandemic numbers and its impact in effect becomes a security issue for us all.”

Political pundit Spencer Fernando expressed hope for justice and accountability as condemnation of the CCP appears to have now extended beyond Party lines. Fernando observed, “Many Liberals in Canada remain committed to what that party once claimed to support. Irwin Cotler – who called for sanctions on CCP officials who covered up the virus – is one of them. Canadians are wondering why that kind of integrity is absent from the Trudeau government.”

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/mounting-condemnation-for-ccp-misleading-the-world-on-coronavirus/

Canadians Will Need to Brace for the “Second War”

The Niagara Independent, April 10, 2020 – In one of his daily addresses to the Nation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to questions about the country’s economic wellbeing by stating that his government had always kept a “rainy day fund” of money in case of a federal emergency. The PM told Canadians to be reassured that, though “it’s raining,” the country’s economy is in a strong position to outlast this storm.

Trudeau’s rain analogy was a direct swipe at a Globe and Mail lead editorial that was critical of the Liberal government’s fiscal mismanagement through good economic times. The editorial began: “One of the many things we’ve learned from the pandemic crisis is the importance of saving for a rainy day. Canada has failed for many years to do so. Now it’s pouring outside, and both governments and individuals will struggle to cope.”

The paper poured down on the government’s “sunny days” performance, stating: “Justin Trudeau’s Liberals instead kept ramping up spending, taking advantage of a booming economy…  Their apologists patted them on the back for their wisdom and foresight. If Mr. Trudeau had broken a little promise, what of it? Everyone did that. And the size of the debt didn’t really matter anyway; it was its size compared to GDP, you see. As long as that didn’t soar, well, not to worry. No rain was in sight.”

The Trudeau Liberal’s record over four deficit budgets have left Canadians with $78 billion of new debt. The Fraser Institute reports that the combined federal and provincial net debt has reached $1.5-trillion. Mirroring this government debt, Canadians’ personal and corporate debt are at record highs. Former Chief Economist for Statistics Canada, Philip Cross, surmised, “High debt levels across households and governments mean Canada is quite vulnerable to a downturn in the global economy … It is easy to imagine how the dominoes might fall.”

Canada’s debt realities are very disturbing when considering the country must now brace for the economic storm front that just battered China. Last week The Economist reported on “the jaw-dropping bad economic data” coming out of China as a precursor of what the rest of the world will likely experience. “In the first two months of 2020 all major indicators were deeply negative: industrial production fell by 13.5 percent year-on-year, retail sales by 20.5 percent and fixed-asset investment by 24.5 percent. GDP may have declined by as much as 10 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020.”

With the Canadian government’s proverbial cupboard bare, its $82 billion federal relief package will be paid for by borrowing money at record amounts – placing a yoke on the shoulders of future generations of Canadian taxpayers.

More disturbing is the fact that Canada’s pre-pandemic economy was showing signs of strain and systemic weakness. Canadians were absorbing news of the loss of $20.6 billion investment in Teck Frontier mine project and the possible collapse of Quebec’s $9 billion Energie Saguenay pipeline project. In total in the last five years, more than $200 billion in investment has been lost in the Canadian resource sector. The Conference Board of Canada has assessed, “With the economy already on precarious footing, the added shocks of the recent rail blockade protests, the arrival of COVID-19 and a collapse in oil prices have brought the country to the brink of recession.”

This week, Statistics Canada reported more than one million Canadians lost their jobs in March. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business reported that as many as 40 percent of small businesses are not expecting to survive the economic shock of the pandemic (the Business Development Bank of Canada factors that 1.1 million small-to-medium sized businesses provides approximately 7.7 million Canadian jobs). Also this week the Canadian dollar dipped further below the American greenback: if one were to spend $100 in U.S. dollars buying an item online today, it would cost $143 compared to $134 only five weeks earlier on March 1st.

Punctuating this cacophony of bad news, Bloomberg News reported Canadians’ consumer confidence has fallen to a record low, surpassing even the worst numbers from the Great Recession. Nik Nanos reported on Canadians stark non-confidence in their economy: “The reality is there is a second war going on, that has to do with our economic and prosperity being at risk… when you look at consumer sentiment it is a steep, negative cliff.”

Even with government relief, Nanos is not optimistic in the short-term: “For many Canadians their initial inclination is still not to spend but to squirrel away… we’re in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm right now from a consumer spending perspective. I would expect for any support Canadians get (including businesses) they will try to maximize it, optimize it, and to hold back…. just because you send out the cheques and support businesses and Canadians, it doesn’t mean they will automatically start spending.”

The numbers in the Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index are a “bleak picture of economic anxiety across regions, age groups and most income levels.”  Three in four Canadians believe the nation’s economy will worsen over the next six months. One in three Canadians say their personal finances have worsened over the past year. Almost one fifth of respondents now say they are worried about losing work. Nik Nanos sums up the numbers by stating, “This is unprecedented because there is no structural problem in the economy right now. But this is like a hurricane bearing down on the Canadian economy and just wiping out prosperity and putting jobs at risk.”

In another interview this week, Royal Bank of Canada CEO Dave McKay and CIBC CEO Victor Dodig both projected that the economic fallout of the pandemic will last well into 2021. Businesses will assume a more cautious mindset which will prolong the economic recovery. Dodig summed it up by saying. “What worries me most is making sure our clients are able to bridge to a period of normalcy. It’s impacted everybody’s income, because it’s just stalled, and the income replacement hasn’t fully funded what they’ve lost. People will get back on their feet, but they’ll be a little bit more sheepish. They’ll manage more cautiously.”

In overcoming the health crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, as Nik Nanos stated, Canadians will need to brace for the “second war.” With the country’s finances as they are, we can expect individuals and businesses to be shell-shocked. And then the deluge of government stimulus dollars is sure to leave Canadians treading water in a sea of debt for years to come. (Which reminds me of that quote… “War is hell.”)

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-will-need-to-brace-for-the-second-war/

In the middle of Canada’s coronavirus crisis – a carbon tax hike?

The Niagara Independent, April 3, 2020 – This week the federal government raised its carbon tax 50 percent on gas prices and home fuel. Imposing this tax increase at a time when Canadians are facing an unprecedented pandemic crisis and an untold economic challenge was a conscious, deliberate decision made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Cabinet.

The Liberal’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act legislation of a few years ago scheduled a 50 percent rise in the carbon tax from $20 per tonne to $30 per tonne for April 1, 2020. The carbon tax was to increase tax collected at the gas pump from 4.4¢ a litre to 6.6¢ a litre (on top of other federal taxes and HST) as well as on all other carbon-based fuels.

As the April date approached there was a plea from many business and interest groups to reconsider the tax hike in the face of Canada’s efforts to contain the coronavirus, which has resulted in many Canadian businesses having to shut down. Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland said the government was reviewing the situation, “We are thinking very carefully about our whole approach to what we are doing economically, both in terms of how we are supporting workers and businesses, and also what we are doing on the tax side.” Yet, a few days later, the PM followed up with a clarifying statement that Cabinet would not postpone the scheduled fifty percent tax increase.

In one of his daily addresses to the nation, Trudeau commented on the tax increase, “We know that we need to do things to make sure that we’re both supporting families through ordinary times and through difficult times and moving forward on continuing the fight against climate change, which remains even at a time of immediate crisis and pandemic.”

The PM said this as it was being reported that the country’s coronavirus crisis is delivering a financial shock to Canadians. The MNP Consumer Debt Index reports half of Canadians (49 percent) are on the brink of insolvency, $200 or less away from not being able to meet their monthly financial obligations. With the pandemic and economic crises, MNP President Grant Bazian observed, “Now all Canadians are feeling the effects on their paycheques, pocketbooks, and stock portfolios. Those who were already saddled with a lot of debt are in economic survival mode.”

Trudeau’s insensitivity to Canadians’ financial worries was underscored by Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who said, “As governments work to help Canadians get through economic challenges, minimizing the tax burden must be a central element. With many Canadian businesses shuttered and millions of people losing income, the last thing Canadians need right now is higher taxes driving up the costs they still face.”

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, speaking as the Party’s finance critic, demanded the cancelation of the carbon tax hike. “Higher home heating and grocery prices will hurt households whose incomes have already plummeted. Higher energy prices will force businesses to further cut jobs, leaving manufacturing and energy workers even worse off than before… In times of crisis, the government needs to drop its ideology and do what is practical. That means stopping the carbon tax hike. Workers, consumers and small businesses need a break now more than ever.”

Canadian farmers and truckers – those very people who are ensuring food is still being delivered to our tables – expressed sheer frustration at the carbon tax increase. Western Canadian Wheat Growers President Gunter Jochum stated, “The Canadian economy is facing a serious challenge. Adding a 50% increase in the carbon tax is a further hit to grain farmers’ bottom line and Canadian consumers’ food bills. Now is not the time to be adding to our household expenses. Our focus should be on the health and economic well-being of all Canadians.”

Daryl Fransoo, the growers’ Saskatchewan Director. “Rather than increasing the costs for consumers, the government should be doing everything necessary to ensure our transportation system stays operational. From our trucking system to rail and ports, we need to keep our grain moving both domestically and for export.”

The additional costs for farmers is substantial as the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan recently reported to Parliament. APAS President Todd Lewis reports that farmers lost about eight per cent of their income from the carbon tax last year, “We have to pay that tax and there is no way to pass that along through our commodity prices. We’re on a world market and you can’t add two per cent on the price of your wheat because of carbon tax. It’s comparable to having 12 per cent of your paycheque disappear in a year.”

APAS estimates a 5,000-acre grain operation will lose $8,000 to $10,000 in 2020 with a carbon tax of $30 per tonne, rising to between $13,000 and $17,000 when the carbon tax hits $50 per tonne in 2022.

Similarly, Canadian truckers are directly affected. For a tractor-trailer consuming 88,000 liters of fuel per year, the carbon tax translates into $3,500 in additional operating costs for 2019, $5,250 in 2020 with the hike, and approximately $11,200 by 2022 with future hikes. In Ontario’s long-haul trucking sector alone that is about $750 million in carbon taxes taken from truckers between 2019 and 2022.

Ontario Trucking Association President Stephen Laskowski explains, “The trucking industry is dominated by small businesses and competes on very tight margins, with operating ratios in the 0.94 range or higher. Consequently, the government of Ontario is correct in its belief the trucking industry will face challenges in absorbing rising fuel costs and going forward this issue will be a major point of discussion between carriers and their customers.”

Challenger Motor Freight CEO Dan Einwechter (who this week had to temporarily lay off 40 drivers from its Cambridge Ontario base) summarizes truckers’ plight, “Our industry like so many others is impacted by the federal carbon tax that will make fuel more expensive and therefore make shipping more expensive for our customers.”

And the last word on the week’s carbon tax hike is given to business personality Kevin O’Leary who wryly tweeted: “Is there a single government on earth raising taxes on its people by 50% at a time of coronavirus pandemic and economic collapse? Yes it’s happening in Canada where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is telling his subjects “Let them eat cake.”

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/in-the-middle-of-canadas-coronavirus-crisis-a-carbon-tax-hike/

Liberal’s Machiavellian Power Grab “Defeated”

The Niagara Independent, March 27, 2020 – Partisan politics at any time is ugly, but during a national crisis partisan politics can be detestable. With the Liberal Government’s attempted end-run around Parliament this week, Canadians saw the very worst kind of political power-play. It was a calculated maneuver to sidestep Canada’s foremost democratic institution and ensconce the Prime Minister and his Cabinet with unassailable powers through an extended period of time. Even for former PM Jean Chretien advisor Warren Kinsella, it was daringly Machiavellian: “You cannot use a national emergency as a pretext to turn a Parliamentary minority into a de facto majority with no opposition. It is unethical and fundamentally wrong. It squanders, in 10 minutes, whatever goodwill Justin Trudeau had built up over 10 days.”

Political commentators were challenged to come up with insightful parallels to explain what was unfolding in Ottawa this week. Many reflected on the challenges democracies faced during WWII. Through the bombing of London, British PM Winston Churchill faced Parliament to address his government’s actions to turn the tide against the Nazi terror. At the same time, Canadian PM MacKenzie King faced Parliament to argue the necessity for conscription to meet the country’s commitments to the war effort. As these parliamentary experiences reveal, during a time of crisis our Westminster model of Parliament proves indispensable, not only contributing to responsible decision-making, but also providing its citizens with demonstrative leadership and reassurances that their elected leaders are considering all options in the best interests of all.

The echoes from these past troubled times served to underscore just how disturbing it is that the Liberals would attempt their unconstitutional overreach of power during a national crisis. On Tuesday morning the Prime Minister assured Canadians that he respected the country’s democratic institutions. However, Liberals’ actions speak louder than their Leader’s words, for had the Liberal backroom strategists been successful Trudeau would have erased Canada’s traditional parliamentary checks and balances. National Post political reporter John Ivison sums it up as “a Liberal plan to effectively neuter Parliament for 21 months.”

At the centre of this controversy is the Liberals’ “Trojan horse;” a piece of legislation they rolled out to enact $82 billion of promised relief to Canadians — and a poison pill hidden within. The story broke on Monday night when Global News revealed the Liberals’ emergency bill was to grant “extraordinary new powers to spend, borrow and tax without having to get the approval of opposition MPs until December 2021.” Global News described the new powers as “highly unusual” since “The Canadian Constitution enshrines taxation as a power of the parliamentary branch.”

The Liberals’ package provided all the necessary legislative authorities to implement the $82 billion of aid funding announced by the Prime Minister. The legislation permitted augmenting the GST/HST credit and the Canada Child Benefit, implementing a “temporary wage subsidy,” and amending the Employment Insurance. It included support for the private sector relating to deposit insurance coverage, measures with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Export Development Corporation and Farm Credit Corporation. Finally, the package contained measures that would authorize additional transfers to the provinces and territories. This was the gift horse.

What was not expected was what was hidden within: additional measures that would empower the government to unilaterally raise taxes without Parliamentary approval and amend tax laws through regulation. The legislation would create a new law to authorize the Minister of Health and Minister of Finance to spend “all money required to do anything” in relation to a public health crisis. The Health Minister would also be able to use any health information from authorities and the Cabinet would be given the power to circumvent patent protection to “make, construct, use and sell a patented invention to the extent necessary.” The Trudeau Cabinet would have the power to exercise these provisions for 21 months, through to the end of 2021.

The outcry to this power-play was immediate. A Hill Times editorial assessed, “It would be unconscionable for any government, whether they hold the majority or the minority of seats in the House, to propose giving themselves unfettered powers in a time like this.” The Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Conservative Andrew Scheer said: “In a crisis, broad all-party agreement is essential… we are prepared to have Parliament sit as needed to transact the business of Parliament.  But we will not give the government unlimited power to raise taxes without a parliamentary vote. We will authorize whatever spending measures are justified to respond to the situation but we will not sign a blank cheque.”

So, noon Tuesday, Liberals sheepishly acknowledged their overreach and promised to revise the legislation. The House of Commons convened and MPs immediately suspended so that the Parties could agree on an acceptable set of conditions for governing the country through the crises. At 3 a.m. Wednesday, after 15-hours of backroom negotiations, MPs reconvened in the House to debate the new legislation, and this was passed just before the morning sunrise.

That revised legislation was markedly different, with significant concessions made to the original Liberal package. In the approved legislation, the Government:

  • removed the section that allowed the Cabinet to raise taxes without parliamentary approval
  • shortened to 6 months, the period the Cabinet has its unlimited spending powers
  • included explicit reference to putting taxpayers’ rights first
  • placed sunset clauses in the legislation
  • established accountability measures with regular reports to parliamentary committees
  • agreed Opposition Parties have the right to recall Parliament if any abuse is identified

In the wee hours of Wednesday, Pierre Poilievre, MP for the Ottawa-area riding of Carleton, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, tweeting the news: “Canadians will get COVID-19 aid. The power grab is defeated.”

The last word on the Liberals’ failed power-play is given to the ever-observant Rex Murphy, whose commentary on this turn of events reads as a poignant reminder to our elected representatives and their political operatives of what must be their first calling in a time of crisis. Murphy writes, “We need all leaders, all qualified voices, not a series of edicts from people who are severely overconfident of their abilities and understanding. We are Canadians, not Liberals and Tories. At this moment, let us try to live that truth.”

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-machiavellian-power-grab-defeated/

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/