Tag Archives: Niagara_Independent

Trudeau government’s fiscal approach is failing Canadians

The Niagara Independent, December 2, 2022 –The enabling legislation for the government’s Fall Economic Statement was before the House of Commons Finance Committee this week. On Monday finance minister Chrystia Freeland waxed on about the government’s new programs and increased spending in support of Canadians. In spite of her enthusiasm for the tax and spend approach the Trudeau government is championing, many in Canada’s financial community are critical of where her fiscal plan will take the country.

In early November the finance minister delivered the government’s fiscal update to its spring budget. Freeland forewarned of tough economic times and a caring government introducing new measures to help Canadians cope. Highlights of the Fall Economic Statement include:

  • doubling the GST tax credit for six months
  • cancelling interest of federal student loans
  • advance payments to the Canada Workers Benefit
  • an investment tax credit for green technologies
  • increased spending on job training, a skills strategy and youth employment

In total the finance minister outlined approximately $11.3 billion in new spending this fiscal year and next, adding to the $11.6 billion of new measures already announced for 2022-23 since her April budget address. That 2022 federal budget announced $31 billion of new government spending over the next five years.

In commenting on the government’s COVID spending and her post-pandemic fiscal plan, Freeland said, “The spending, it was the compassionate thing to do. It was also economically the smart thing to do, and the numbers show it. Once the main COVID emergency was behind us, we moved to a really responsible fiscal path.”

Canadians have accepted the extraordinary expenditures in COVID relief spending in 2020-21 and 2021-22. It is the tens of billions of dollars in new post-pandemic spending, at a time when most financiers are forecasting a downturn in the economy, that is drawing cautionary notes and criticism.

Yves Giroux, the federal parliamentary budget officer, told MPs on the finance committee that the government’s increased spending does not “spell fiscal restraint” nor “keeping one’s powder dry” for future tough times, as Freeland has repeatedly stated. By Giroux’s accounting, since April, the government has earmarked $52.2 billion in new spending in the coming years. Giroux made a special note of $14.2 billion of unspecified spending that is buried in the latest documents.

Giroux’s concern is echoed by others. Economists at the Royal Bank of Canada observed that “program spending in the current fiscal year is the highest in nearly three decades outside of the pandemic” and suggested any government revenue boost should be applied to its bottom line. BMO Capital Markets flagged in a note to its investors that the debt-to-GDP figure Freeland has stated is a guardrail for government is only marginally being reduced with her fiscal plan. Today the debt-to-GDP is 42.3 per cent, well above the pre-pandemic level of 31 per cent.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s main criticism of finance minister Freeland’s fiscal approach is that it fails to curtail government spending to pre-pandemic levels. Poilievre states: “We did not have to increase government spending by 30 per cent from pre-COVID to present, now, when all of the COVID programs are supposedly lapsed. We didn’t have to have a rate of permanent growth in spending, unrelated to COVID, that has left us in this precarious situation.”

Poilievre is often quoted slamming the Trudeau government’s fiscal approach: “We do not have a finance problem – we have a spending problem.”

Recent published statistics reveal some rather big numbers.

  • Total federal spending in 2022 will be $493.3 billion – up from $296.4 billion when the Trudeau government was first elected in 2015.
  • Total number of federal bureaucrats increased during the two years of COVID lockdowns by 35,000, a 12 per cent increase from pre-COVID times; today’s 335,957 federal public servants are the greatest number in Canadian history.
  • The federal payroll will surpass $55 billion in 2022; federal contracts for outsourced services is $14.6 billion, an annual increase of 24 per cent, and up 74 per cent from 2015.
  • Federal debt charges in 2022 will total $24.5 billion and are expected to more than double to $53 billion by 2024.
  • In May 2021 Freeland requested MPs raise the federal government’s debt ceiling from $1.168 trillion to $1.831 trillion (a 57 per cent hike); today the national debt is approaching $1.6 trillion.

The Trudeau government’s continuous, unbridled spending is impacting taxes and the country’s inflation and interest rates. Regarding taxes, Canada has the dubious notoriety of being the only country in the world to have raised taxes during the pandemic. Research compiled by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation reveals that other countries cut consumption taxes, personal income taxes, business taxes, and/or fuel taxes. Meanwhile during the pandemic, the Trudeau government maintained its GST rate, provided no tax relief to individuals or businesses, and it has hiked its carbon tax on pump gas prices and home fuel – and will do so again in 2023.

On Canada’s rising interest rates, both the Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem and Senior Deputy Governor Paul Beaudry have intimated in recent public statements that the federal government stimulus spending (and now its post-pandemic spending) has fueled the country’s inflation and prompted the necessary hike in interest rates. The Bank of Canada’s assessment is that Canadians feel the global inflationary pressures to a greater degree because of the government’s fiscal approach.

Economists John Cochrane and Jon Hartley of Stanford University make a similar observation when analyzing the country’s fiscal record: “The most important source of Canada’s inflation is simple: starting in 2020, the government borrowed more than $700-billion, and mostly handed it out. People spent it, driving up prices… Canada can borrow an immense amount without an impact on the price level if the government has a believable plan for repayment. But the government had gone too far in borrowing and spending, without such a plan.”

And international economist Daniel Lacalle has provided a succinct and sobering explanation of the inevitable outcome: “Every single unit of government spending is paid by you, with more taxes, more inflation, or both. All government excess makes you poorer. The government doesn’t give you free money – it gives you expensive destruction of your options for a better future.”

So, putting Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s enthusiasm aside, it is clear the Trudeau government’s fiscal approach is failing Canadians – and we will be sure to pay for this.

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-governments-fiscal-approach-is-failing-canadians/

Photo credit: PMO/Adam Scotti

G20 nations (Canada included) are advancing vaccine passports and a global digital health ID program

The Niagara Independent, November 25, 2022 – Last week in Bali the G20 nations agreed to continue establishing vaccine passports and introducing a global digital health ID program. The Trudeau government’s ArriveCAN app and digital ID work are central to advancing these international initiatives. (This is not conspiracy; it is fact.)

Not surprisingly, Canadians know little about this activity as the federal government obfuscates the role it plays in the World Economic Forum (WEF) work to establish a global digital ID network. Furthermore, this news item is not being reported in Canada’s subsidized mainstream, legacy media.

So, here are the facts (with links to the original documents) of the declaration document signed in Bali last week by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and the other G20 national leaders.

  1. The G20 nations have agreed to introduce a globally validated vaccine passport for international travel.
  2. The member countries have also committed to developing “global digital health networks.”

On the vaccine passport, the G20 resolution reads: “We acknowledge the importance of shared technical standards and verification methods, under the framework of the IHR (2005), to facilitate seamless international travel, interoperability, and recognizing digital solutions and non-digital solutions, including proof of vaccinations.”

By way of background, the “IHR (2005)” is in reference to the International Health Regulations (2005). This document was developed under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and it sets out the global framework for responding to the international spread of disease. In other words, it is the playbook that countries are obligated to follow during international pandemics (or any perceived global health emergency dictated by the WHO).

With respect to the global digital health ID program, the G20 countries committed to “international dialogue and collaboration on the establishment of trusted global digital health networks as part of the efforts to strengthen prevention and response to future pandemics.” Among its member states, the G20 leaders resolved to widespread adoption of digital documentation of COVID-19 certificates that can track individuals’ movement with an “technology-enabled ‘always-on’ global health infrastructure.”

The vaccine passport and digital health ID resolutions were not spoken of when Indonesia President Joko Widodo presided over the closing ceremonies for the G20 Summit and celebrated the adoption of the “G20 Bali Leaders Declaration.” Given the significance of these initiatives, it is inexplicable that they did not appear in G20 communiques or media. Remarkably, no final declaration document is found on the official G20 website. (Canadians are left to speculate why the resolutions were not mentioned in any of PM Trudeau’s communications – or any other world leader for that matter?)

However, evidence of these international commitments can be exhumed in a background document published by The White House: articles 23 and 24 in the G20 Bali Leaders Declaration. Also, the G20 nations’ cooperative drive towards a global digital ID is described in part on pages 50 – 56 of their bureaucrat-speak tome entitled: Final Communique: Policy Recommendations to the G20.

Though PM Trudeau appears reluctant to talk about the work the Canadian government has undertaken on these international initiatives, there are many related developments in Canada regarding vaccine passports and digital IDs that are of public record. Here are three.

  1. On October 1, 2022 the government announced an end to the mandatory use of ArriveCAN app, the “communication and screening tool” to enable all travellers to enter Canada in compliance with the government’s “pandemic border measures.” The ArriveCAN digital border program has not been dismantled and the federal health and transportation ministers have suggested the requirement for using ArriveCAN at the country’s border may be reinstated should the government need to respond to future pandemic crises.
  2. The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) is contracted by the WEF to create its global digital ID program, which utilizes QR codes in a similar way that Canadians’ vaccination status are validated with the ArriveCAN app. Financial expertise in Canada is responsible for advancing this international work.
  3. Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Deputy PM and Finance Minister is a trustee of the WEF Board, responsible for advancing the WEF objectives of developing global digital ID capacity. By directing Canada’s financial networks under the authority of the Emergencies Act, Freeland was responsible for freezing and seizing financial accounts of persons the government identified as being part of the Truckers Convoy protests. (Could it be that Canadians may have been the guinea pigs for the WEF to assess how a digital ID can be used by government?)

In juxtaposing the Bali Leaders Declaration with these apparently separate occurrences there are obvious questions relating to Canadians’ privacy and civil rights, and possible government overreach. These very questions are today part of public debates in Europe where the European Union (EU) has been more transparent about its plans to morph the existing EU vaccine passport with a new digital ID program.

One vocal critic of the global digital ID program is Eva Vlaardingerbroek, a Dutch news commentator who has been connecting the dots between vaccine passports and what she surmises is the globalists’ powerplay. Recently she has rang alarm bells about the KLM airline coupling digital passports and facial recognition software to board flights, WHO technocrats talking about “the next pandemic,” and French President Emmanuel Macron openly proclaiming at last week’s APEC Summit in Asia that, “We need a single global order.”

Vlaardingerbroek is very concerned about the plans for the EU’s Covid-19 health certificate app, which is described as a vaccination passport that eases travel within Europe. The EU has announced it intends to introduce a new “digital wallet” for its 450 million citizens to carry the health app in. The wallet is to serve as the individual’s proof of identity and, according to EU technocrats, it could expand its functionality to permit users access public and private services in their own countries and across the bloc of European nations: cross over borders, verify vaccination records, open a bank account, enroll in a university, rent a car, file tax documents, etcetera.

Picking up on the potential of the EU digital wallet, in a recent media spot Vlaardingerbroek paints the nightmare scenario that she sees playing out: “We are heading towards a new system of tyrannical regime of mass surveillance and control. This is not just a hunch but this is part of a bigger plan… We have had this digital COVID pass in place in Europe, which is basically a QR code on your phone, that grants you access to everyday life… This is a European digital identity. This will not stay just linked to your vaccination status. This will be encompass taxes, your medical records apart from your vaccination status, your bank information… basically we already have a system in place right now that is the beginning phases of a social credit system. We are literally turning into China.”

In Canada, the Vlaardingerbroeks of this world are dismissed as conspiracy theorists. It is as if the resolutions of the Bali Leaders Declaration are of no consequences to Canadians, no connections with our ArriveCAN app, frozen bank accounts, or responsibilities for the WEF’s global ID program.

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/g20-nations-canada-included-are-advancing-vaccine-passports-and-a-global-digital-health-id-program/

Photo credit: AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

The Trudeau—Xi exchange: what was said and why

The Niagara Independent, November 18, 2022 – The exchange between Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping that was recorded Wednesday by the media pool at the G20 summit in Bali has gone viral. The video generated international news headlines that screamed Xi “angrily rebukes”, “scolds”, “lectures” Trudeau over release of details from their unofficial chat.

The UK’s Daily Mail headlined: “President Xi humiliates Trudeau as he is caught on camera tearing strips off Canadian PM.” The opening sentence of this news report read more like the lead for a soap opera: “Toe-curling footage has emerged of Chinese President Xi Jinping humiliating Justin Trudeau with a dressing down on the sidelines of the G20 conference.”

Some news reports could not resist to inject humour at PM Trudeau’s expense. Sun Media newsman Brian Lilley commented, “Little Potato peeled, China’s Xi dresses down Trudeau at summit.” Trace Gallagher of Fox News reported, “The PM who likes to get dressed up got dressed down.” And senior editor Jack Posobiec of HumanEvents.com was one of the first to share the breaking news with the observation: “Chairman Xi dresses down Justin Trudeau like a junior employee for leaking their private conversation to the media. Trudeau can barely walk after.”

Let’s review the lead up to this spectacular showdown. Before heading to Bali, Indonesia, PM Trudeau was repeatedly asked by Canadian media whether he was going to meet with the China president. Xi was scheduled to meet formally with U.S. President Joe Biden (a three and a half hour closed-door meeting), France President Emmanuel Macron, Australia PM Anthony Albanese, UK PM Rishi Sunak as well as the leaders of the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Senegal, Argentina, Indonesia and South Korea. However, Canadian media widely reported that Trudeau was left out of the scheduled meetings with Xi, and this was being interpreted as a diplomatic snub for the PM.

Through Sunday and Monday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) would not confirm whether there would be any opportunity for the PM to talk with President Xi. Yet, as fate would have it, on Tuesday at a summit reception the two found themselves face to face and had an informal discussion.

With that unofficial exchange, the PMO immediately launched a PR initiative to make the most of the Trudeau—Xi chance encounter. The PMO issued a readout of the conversation and provided a photo of the two leaders facing each other in the crowded reception room.

It also dispatched “a senior government source” to comment that PM Trudeau “initiated a conversation” and “raised serious concerns” on the reports of Chinese interference in Canadian elections, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea’s missile launches, December’s biodiversity summit in Montreal “to protect nature and fight climate change,” and “the importance of continued dialog” – said the source.

The PMO’s media assault achieved the desired result. Canadian news headlines extolled the PM: “Trudeau spoke with China’s Xi about ‘interference’ on sidelines of G20 summit.” In Ottawa, the political pundits were roundly congratulating the PM for his forcefulness.

In Bali, Chinese officials would not comment on the Canadian news reports.

So, this is the background to the frank encounter between Xi and Trudeau on Wednesday. By all media accounts this second tete-a-tete in two days was a tense and difficult moment for PM Trudeau. Xi is described as “visibly frustrated” seeing and pulling Trudeau aside. The Chinese president was “straight forward and blunt about his displeasure” and Trudeau “just nodded while standing awkwardly as Xi continued his rant.”

While Trudeau was speaking, Xi “refrained from making eye contact” and “looked disgusted.” Xi interrupted Trudeau and made repeated hand gestures before smiling broadly. The video shows that he reached out to shake Trudeau’s hand to end the discussion and abruptly walked away, smiling at the cameras. PM Trudeau wandered off alone, immediately leaving the public reception area.

Brian Lee Crowley of the MacDonald Laurier Institute made much of Xi’s body language. In a CTV News interview Crowley assessed,Well, clearly, you know, Xi kept trying to turn away from the prime minister. I thought his body language communicated disrespect, communicated a disinterest in what the prime minister was saying, and the esteem or lack of esteem in which Xi holds the prime minister? I mean, he basically couldn’t even bring himself to look at him.”

The specific words spoken between the leaders was reported in Canadian media in this way: speaking in Mandarin, Xi says to Trudeau via a translator, “Everything we discuss has been leaked to the paper, that’s not appropriate. And that’s not the way the conversation was conducted.”

Trudeau responds to Xi, “In Canada, we believe in free and open and frank dialogue and that is what we will continue to have. We will continue to look to work constructively together but there will be things we will disagree on.”

Xi tells Trudeau, “Let’s create the conditions first,” before the two shake hands.

However, there were additional words spoken that have been shared in foreign media reports by viewers of the video, significant comments that have been left out of most Canadian media.

The translator had not finished interpreting Xi’s opening comments before Trudeau cut him off. What is not reported in Canadian media is the fact that Xi called Trudeau out for not accurately reflecting their conversation, “If there is sincerity on your part, we can have conversations based on an attitude of mutual respect. Otherwise, the outcome will not be easy to tell.”

The other unreported comment came after the two had parted ways. Xi was smiling and passing by the camera, and he is heard to say, “Truly naïve.”

Two former Canadian Ambassadors to China had enlightened comments in media in the aftermath of the dust up. Guy Saint-Jacques surmised, “Clearly, Xi Jinping feels that Canada is a minor country. He doesn’t have much time for Trudeau, and this shows how complicated it will be to try to restore a minimum of relations…” David Mulroney was more to the point in making the observation that the encounter was a “staged, public rebuke for the leader of a vassal state.”

As a postscript, on Thursday China foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated that Canada’s actions in Bali were disrespectful. Mao said, “China has no problem at all with having a candid dialogue with other countries. But we hope such a candid dialogue will be based on equal treatment and mutual respect, rather than criticizing the other in a condescending manner.”

Mao’s comment speaks directly to the too-clever-by-half political tactics of the PMO spinmeisters and our hapless PM. And on this point, Canadian Senator Leo Housakos summed up the fiasco in a tweet, “Instead of addressing a very serious issue facing Canada with clarity, strength and action, Justin Trudeau as usual continues to engage in false photo-ops and naval gazing. This time, his incompetence and his weakness gets exposed on video.”

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

LINK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-trudeau-xi-exchange-what-was-said-and-why/

Photo credit: PMO/Adam Scotti

Again, Trudeau government refuses to pay “a fair share” for health care

The Niagara Independent, November 11, 2022 – With the health ministers’ meetings in Vancouver this week, Canadians were once again treated to the gag made familiar by Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts cartoon characters. The provincial health ministers were embodied in Charlie Brown, as he put his head down and ran to kick the placed football. PM Trudeau and his health minister, like Lucy, promised to hold the football steady and, at the last minute, pulled the ball away to watch Charlie fall flat on his back. Eyerolling amusement!? It would be if Canadians’ health care system was not in such a serious state.

Canada’s health ministers gathered Monday for their first in-person meeting since 2018. Even before they saw the whites of each other’s eyes it was clear that the priority agenda item was to be money. For years the provinces have been asking the federal government to increase its health care transfers, a call that has gotten louder and more urgent since the COVID health crisis.

Adrian Dix, the meeting host and B.C.’s health minister stated prior to the start of the meeting, “It’s been two and a half years of pandemic, we’re in more than six years of a public health emergency with the overdose public health emergency in B.C.. They have issues in every province in the country and it’s time for the federal government, which has significant responsibilities here, to take its responsibilities seriously.”

Dix was also very critical that the prime minister has repeatedly refused to meet and discuss health care funding. He stated in a CBC interview, “The federal government has not been willing to do the work to come to the table and sit down, prime ministers and premiers, and talk about one of the central issues facing the country.”

In response, the federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos suggested he would be an ally of the provincial ministers and he was prepared to pull out a cheque book in Vancouver. Duclos stated, “In the spirit of collaborative leadership, I’m glad to confirm that the Canadian government is ready to increase healthcare investments through the Canada Health Transfer.”

As the meetings commenced Duclos explained there would be conditions to the federal cash. He wanted to create a federal health data system that could plan workforce changes, manage Canadians’ health records and analyze key health indicators. Bottom line: in exchange for increased federal health dollars, the provinces were to agree to Health Canada establishing and administering a health data system for the country.

It was with the discussion of this conditional agreement that the meeting went sideways. The health ministers wanted details of the new data system. Duclos had little to share. The ministers pressed for a specific dollar commitment. Duclos then quit the meeting stating bad faith, saying, “Premiers are forcing my colleagues to speak only of one thing and one thing only: money.”

However, Duclos’ protest about the ministers’ fixation on money can be described as nothing short of disingenuous in that the singular focus of these meetings was well telecasted.

Consistently through the pandemic years (and even prior) the premiers had asked the federal government to begin paying “a fair share” of the increasing health care costs in Canada. When Tommy Douglas first introduced Canadian medicare it was understood that the federal government was to cover 50 per cent of health care costs. Through the decades that number has been whittled down to 35 per cent. Yet today, the federal government is covering only 22 per cent of the total cost of Canadian health care.

In dollar terms, in the 2020-2021 fiscal year the Canada Health Transfer was $42 billion. The provinces are looking for substantially more from the federal government on an annual basis, an additional $28 billion that would bring the federal share to 35 per cent.

PM Trudeau promised to boost the transfers after the pandemic was over. Yet, in the federal budgets of 2021 and 2022 there was no mention of an increase to the Canada Health Transfer; even a $2 billion federal promise made in spring 2022 to help provinces clear the backlog for medical operations created by the pandemic crisis was not forthcoming.

In responding to the 2021 federal budget Dr. Ann Collins, then Canadian Medical Association (CMA) president, was irritated that emergency health care dollars for the pandemic costs were not earmarked. Dr. Collins assessed Canada’s system in this way: “Small cracks have become gaping holes. Building resiliency for the future must include real commitments to health care. If anything, this pandemic has shown us where the problems are, but we must address them before it’s too late.”

The strain on Canada’s health care system is evident as Canadians hear regularly of overcrowded “code orange” hospitals, resulting in a disarray in wait rooms, hallway gurneys, and restricted or closed ORs. Selective surgeries are cancelled and mental health services are not available. Medical staff are stretched, and nurses and PSWs are taking ill and are reportedly tired and discouraged. A growing number of Canadians cannot obtain a family doctor.

To get the system off its life support condition, there is an immediate need for a huge injection of federal cash that would allow provinces to hire nurses and PSWs, increase pay to retain staff, increase training positions for staff, increase the number of doctors, open and support more beds, provide mental health services, and keep ERs open.

Susan Martinuk, a health care analyst for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy reflects, “Every province is paying more than 40 per cent of its revenues into health care. And it’s still not enough. We’ve got a million people on waiting lists. In my mind, it’s time to stop talking about who’s going to pay for health care, and start talking about how we’re going to change health care.”

So, as the provincial health ministers assert, it does come down to money. Without the federal government increasing the health transfers, the provinces remain cash-strapped. This leaves Canadians with a threadbare public health care system that will be challenged to respond to any future health crisis – and challenged to meet even the most basic health care needs of our aging population.

The current CMA president, Dr. Alika Lafontaine, sagely observes the crux of the problem is much more than the sum of the money spent on health care, “We definitely know we need more money. The more important question and discussion is how that money is spent.”

The Fraser Institute released a study this week highlighting the fact that Canadians spend more on health care than most developed countries with universal coverage, yet Canada has the lowest numbers of doctors, hospital beds, and medical technologies. Canada has the longest wait times of any developed country. Bacchus Barua, the study’s co-author states, “There is a clear imbalance between the high cost of Canada’s health care system and the value Canadians receive in terms of availability of resources and timely access to care.”

This Fraser Institute study confirms that there are serious failings in the delivery of health care services that must be addressed. Whether the federal government adding an untold number of Health Canada bureaucrats to monitor a new data system is the answer is debatable. But this discussion is moot without the federal government first injecting the necessary cash to take Canada’s health care system off life support. It is moot when Charlie Brown is flat on his back.

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/again-trudeau-government-refuses-to-pay-a-fair-share-for-health-care/

Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck 

Canada’s foreign affairs policies shifting to reassure Americans

The Niagara Independent, November 4, 2022 – Last week U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken found his way to Ottawa to hold meetings with Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and to also sit down with PM Justin Trudeau. It was the first senior American official of the Biden Administration to visit Canadian soil since the election of U.S. President Joe Biden in 2020. Remarkably, President Biden has not visited Canada yet – and there is no trip planned.

The Secretary of State’s visit to Canada came a month after Joly travelled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Blinken, his officials, and members of Congress. Joly’s Washington meetings were part of an orchestrated public relations assault on the American Capital by the Trudeau government. In addition to Joly’s trip, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered a speech that called for “friendshoring” trade agreements. Also last month, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne made bold statements in Capitol Hill meetings about the need to break trading ties with China.

The three senior ministers had a coordinated message for their Washington audiences, even though what they said was disconnected from the Trudeau government’s track record of fostering closer ties with China. The ministers were there to provide solid messaging that Americans can depend on their neighbour to the north. Their overtures were well received. However, though Canada may have begun to talk the talk, the question still remains, “Is the Trudeau government prepared to walk the walk?”

One significant development from the Blinken-Joly’s tête-à-tête in Ottawa was the public revelation that our government has requested to join the American led trade and security pact, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). To counter China’s aggressive economic and trade policies, a total of 14 countries have joined together to discuss coordination of government policies: U.S., India, Australia, Japan, South Korea and many Asian countries. In May, when the IPEF was announced as “the future of the 21st century economy” by President Biden, Canada was left out of the group.

Canada’s exclusion from the IPEF was the latest in a long list of snubs by our country’s traditional allies and trading partners. In the past few years, Canada has been embarrassed by being excluded from Indo-Pacific defence and security pact AUKUS and excluded from the Indo-Pacific trade relations discussions of QUAD.

Canadian defence officials acknowledge that Canada is recognized as the “weak sister” when it comes to the country’s ability to contribute to international safety priorities and crises. The Trudeau government’s spending of only 1.4 per cent (2020 figures) on its military leaves the country punching below its weight, with a laundry list of military items that require immediate action: NORAD radar, submarines, aircraft, icebreakers, military pistols, to name a few.

With the current state of the country’s military, not surprisingly, Canada was not invited by the U.S. to participate in the initial NATO discussions about the defence of Ukraine and safety of Europe.

At the time of being left out of AUKUS, retired Vice-Admiral Mark Norman surmised that Canada is no longer considered by its traditional allies as a contributing partner, “I don’t think our allies think we are serious when it comes to defence. I think they have concerns not just about our defence expenditures, but also the extent to which our [international] commitments are both lasting and meaningful.”

Canada’s tarnished reputation with the U.S. and our allies makes the news that Melanie Joly heralded in Ottawa last week that much more important. Along with asking to join the American led IPEF, Joly announced Canada is striking new foreign affairs talks with U.S. officials. The “Canada-U.S. Strategic Dialogue on the Indo-Pacific” is explicitly formed to “further align our approaches” in the region.

In response to Joly’s announcements, Blinken promised to support Canada’s bid to join IPEF. He promised to “consult closely… on the development of a process for considering new members.” He mentioned, “It’s not a decision the United States can make unilaterally,” but stated, “We would welcome Canada’s participation.”

Canada has been the subject of many inquiries in Washington, D.C. in the past year and it appears American politicians and officials are looking for tangible signs of reassurance. The most public dispute was the prolonged delay by the Trudeau government in banning China’s Huawei technology company from developing Canada’s 5G infrastructure. This delay caused undue tension and raised questions of trustworthiness with Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence partners.

Recent testimony and tabled reports at various U.S. Congress hearings have put Canada in a negative light when it comes to the country’s ties to the communist China regime. There have been allegations raised about the joint Canada-China virus research at the Winnipeg Labs that likely led to the development of the COVID-19 virus. There are security reports respecting the China government-run police stations that are operating in Canada – apparently with the Trudeau government’s knowledge.

There have been ongoing criticisms against the Canadian industrial strategy and national security for permitting sales of critical mineral operations to Chinese companies – Manitoba’s Tanco cesium mine is often cited as being a harmful sale. On this point, American business media have featured Dominic Barton, former Canadian ambassador to China, and his oft stated biases for Canada to continue fostering economic activities with communist China. Incidentally, Barton is currently chairman of the Board of Rio Tinto, an international mining company with huge investments in China. Barton is also a member of the advisory group counselling Foreign Affairs Minister Joly on the drafting of Canada’s Indo-Pacific policy.

This week Industry Minister Champagne took steps to address some American doubts regarding Canadian policies respecting critical minerals mining. Champagne ordered three state-owned Chinese companies to sell their investments in Canadian lithium companies. He also announced an update to Canada’s industrial policy regarding investments by foreign state-owned enterprises in the country’s critical minerals sector.

With this decision, the minister asserted, “The government’s decisions are based on facts and evidence and on the advice of critical minerals subject matter experts, Canada’s security and intelligence community, and other government partners.”

It is more than coincidence that Canada’s senior ministers’ PR exercise in Washington a month ago has been followed up with government announcements signaling noticeable shifts in the government’s foreign affairs policy. Joly announces new alignment with the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific strategy. Champagne reassures Americans on its stewardship of Canada’s critical minerals sector.

Canada’s next major foreign affairs policy announcement is the long-awaited release of the government’s Indo-Pacific strategy, expected in the coming weeks. With it, one might expect Canada will be lock-step with the U.S. policy, reassuring our American friends that, indeed, we are walking the walk.

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-foreign-affairs-policies-shifting-to-reassure-americans/

Photo credit: Twitter/Antony Blinken

Ottawa: Nonsensical. Hypocritical. Disrespectful. Cynical.

The Niagara Independent, October 28, 2022 – It is challenging to know exactly how to describe the absurdities unfolding and taken as acceptable and “a new normal” in Ottawa. Every week stories are revealed that defy a reasonable explanation. Take this week for example.

It was uncovered that the hotel bill for the Canadian delegation to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral cost $397,000 for five nights. The block of rooms reserved at the Corinthia Hotel in London included a room suite that cost $6,000 per night. It came with a complimentary butler service.

The government is refusing to reveal who would possibly have requested the $6,000 per night room; although Governor General Mary Simons (embroiled in her own entitlement fiasco) has been quick to make public that she was not the occupant.

The obvious answer is that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the one enjoying this luxury. However, it would be hard for him to admit the expensive five-day stay when he is crowing about the empathy he has for Canadians and his extra GST tax rebate cheques and the generous one-time $500 payment for low-income renters.

In the same vein, recently, it was revealed that the Trudeau family is billing taxpayers approximately $55,000 per year – more than $1,000 per week – for their groceries. PM Trudeau can be excused for not fully appreciating the impact inflation has had on Canadians’ grocery expenses when he does not have to pay for his family’s food. Indeed, Trudeau is fortunate that none of his $357,800 salary needs to be spent on food – or gasoline for that matter.

Part of this taxpayer-funded grocery bill is a $1,000 price tag for bottled water or in Trudeau’s own words “away from plastic towards paper, um, drink box water bottle sorta things.” As it is, it is rich to think that the PM’s family water bill is equal to the amount a couple of the low-income renters are receiving from his generosity.

Another absurd Ottawa story came to light this week when it was revealed that the government would be placing menstrual products in men’s washrooms. Kudos to Matthew Lau who exposed this matter and had the nerve to write about it in the Financial Post.

In a 10,000-plus word report authored by four government departments – Employment and Social Development, Indigenous Services, Natural Resources, and Transport – the Trudeau government has concluded: “A lack of access to menstrual products in men’s toilet rooms has raised concerns regarding washroom equity.”

The action to be taken in all federally regulated workplaces (government buildings and places like airports) is to place menstrual product dispensers and products in all men’s washrooms as well as disposal containers in every toilet stall.

In adopting this plan, the government claims its proposed regulations will improve sanitation, “build a more inclusive Canada,” address systemic inequities, make workers more productive, increase workplace safety, improve employees’ physical and psychological health, reduce discrimination against 2SLGBTQI+ communities, positively impact Indigenous workers, disproportionately benefit the poor, reduce gender-based discrimination and increase fairness and equality.

The estimated cost of the new regulations is $116.6 million.

Matthew Lau makes the observation, “There is, at bottom, no accounting for regulations compelling employers to put women’s products in men’s washrooms, except that the federal government is flamboyantly committed to demonstrating its wokeness and wasting everyone’s money.”

One final note on this matter is to recall in the 2022 Federal Budget, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a national menstrual equity pilot project that was to cost $25 million over two years. The pilot was to create a program making menstrual products available to all Canadians, in particular, people who are racialized, gender nonconforming, disabled and experience other forms of marginalization.

As follow-up, a spokesperson for Marci Ien, the Women and Gender Equality Minister, said she is intent “to make menstrual equity a reality… Supporting people that menstruate is long overdue and is part of our government’s plan to build a more equitable Canada.”

That apparently includes men. Simply put, one cannot make this stuff up.

PM Trudeau this week also added to his already long list of quotable quotes in commenting on the energy crisis in Europe and his government’s reaction to requests for Canadian oil and gas. In an interview at an Ottawa conference with Bloomberg climate reporter Akshat Rathi, Trudeau asserted that the Russia-Ukraine war will accelerate the green energy agenda in Canada.

Rathi asked the PM, “Will the Russian war in Ukraine delay Canada’s energy transition?” Verbatim, this was Trudeau’s answer: “No, it’s accelerating it, it is absolutely accelerating it. As people are saying, ‘Wow, ah, we, you know, built an economic model and a prosperity in some parts of the world – including in Europe – that was reliant, including in some parts of Europe, that was reliant on energy with inputs from Russia.’ As they have to get off of that, people are realizing that, okay, getting off Russia oil and gas means to get onto more oil and gas to replace that from elsewhere. But it is also showing that, okay, we need to accelerate, our, ah, move off of oil and gas, or our move to decarbonize the gas at least, so that we can actually not be reliant on Russia.”

Much has been written about German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Canada and his request for increased gas exports. And Trudeau’s response was to propose a hydrogen pilot project that could be operational and exporting gas by 2030. And Scholz made a subsequent visit a few weeks later to the Middle East to sign a trade deal for increased gas shipments from the Saudis.

Much has also been written on Trudeau’s press conference where he stated there has “never been a strong business case” to export Canadian energy to Europe from the east coast. In response, more than 100 business leaders in Canada’s energy industries took out a full-page add to educate the PM on the sector and what it has to offer the world – and the environmental roadblocks imposed by the Trudeau government that makes it impossible to begin an oil and gas project in Canada.

Little has been written about Trudeau’s “it’s absolutely accelerating it” comments. Then again, what is to be made of the PM’s desire to halt oil and gas development in our country at a time when so many are in dire need for it? Although it was not as concisely stated, those recent comments by the PM rank right up there with his assertions, “The budget will balance itself,” “We will grow the economy from the heart out,” and “The pandemic provides us an opportunity.”

So, to reflect on the original question: how to describe the absurdities reported from our Nation’s Capital? The actions and statements are non-sensical, and many hypocritical. On good days, perhaps, they can be seen as disrespectful of Canadians and their common sense. On bad days, one might cynically conclude they are products of Trudeau and Co., who have no regard for the impact their actions are having on the country and its citizens.

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/ottawa-nonsensical-hypocritical-disrespectful-cynical/

Other disconcerting news from Ottawa: on drugs, assisted suicide, and asylum seekers

The Niagara Independent, October 21, 2022 – The Nation’s Capital is the scene of an unprecedented public inquiry into the Trudeau government’s invocation of the Emergency Act, which has monopolized national news coverage and seized Canadians’ attention. However, there are many other disconcerting issues that are currently being debated in the offices and committee rooms of Parliament Hill. Here are three issues that are having a profound effect on our country.

Decriminalizing possession of hard drugs and the state of Vancouver streets 

On January 31, 2023, British Columbia will remove criminal penalties for anyone possessing small amounts of hard drugs, including opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, having been granted a special exemption of federal drug laws by the Trudeau government. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett expressed the hope that this B.C. pilot initiative will serve as a model for other parts of the country – such as her home of Toronto.

The fact is the B.C. attorney general’s office and the city of Vancouver are already treating drug possession and crimes resulting from drugs with leniency. The province’s NDP government sought the federal exemption to fully implement its approach to drug possession. For years, Mayor Kennedy Stewart and a bevy of NDP city councillors undermined Vancouver law enforcement by under funding police and espousing a more liberal approach to drug users. Not surprisingly, the B.C. government and Mayor Stewart and councillors hailed the federal announcement.

Minister Bennett waxed that this B.C. approach “is about, obviously, saving lives,” and she expected it would also help reduce the stigma of drug use. She claims the approach will prevent overdoses and cut crime. In making the announcement of the federal drug pilot project in B.C., she stated, “Crime goes down, people aren’t using in washrooms and really upsetting the neighbourhoods.”

The stories from the streets of Vancouver say otherwise. Police statistics show that serious assaults and robberies are up by more than 20 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels. There has been a steep rise in “stranger attacks”; random violent assaults by assailants who are usually on drugs or dealing with a mental health crisis. Police report there are four stranger attacks per day on Vancouver streets.

Business owner Sabastian Cortez, whose downtown butcher shop has been repeatedly vandalized, sums up the reality of the sad state of Vancouver when he assessed, “The city of Vancouver, it’s honestly like a zombie land… they [drug users] are spread out all over the city”.

In last week’s municipal election, incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart was soundly defeated and his supportive NDP councillors were also sent packing. The mayor’s challenger Ken Sim ran on a platform of public safety and one of his first acts will be to hire 100 new Vancouver police officers.

The prevalent political commentary is that Sim’s landslide victory signifies a public rejection of recent progressive policies. Coincidentally, a new Harvard-Harris poll from the U.S. reveals that two in three (64 per cent) Americans blame “woke” politicians for the crime spike on their streets.

Expanding eligibility for assisted suicide  

Canada’s MAiD law, which was first introduced in 2016, permits Canadians to receive state-assisted suicide if suffering from a “reasonably foreseeable” fatal condition. Since MAiD’s introduction, the Trudeau government has been incrementally expanding the eligibility for the service. In 2021, the requirement that a person’s death must be “reasonably foreseeable” was removed, permitting people who are not terminally ill to use the state’s service. One needs to have “intolerable” suffering or an “advanced state of irreversible decline.” In March 2023, these requirements become even broader to include Canadians “whose only medical condition is a mental illness.”

Statistics Canada reports the number of MAiD deaths since its inception has steadily increased every year. The total MAiD deaths between 2016 and 2021 is 31,664.

Conservative MPs have been voicing concern in the House of Commons and at committee hearings reviewing the new MAiD law. The question is whether expanding the scope of MAiD is replacing the government’s responsibility to help Canada’s most vulnerable improve their lives. Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Canada, expresses the essence of the government’s MAiD program in this way: “It’s abandonment. So you’re in a bad situation, and instead of receiving care … euthanasia is the only real option you can apply for and get.”

In the last few months there have been some alarming instances in the news that gives us reason to pause. Consider:

  • A 51-year-old Ontario woman with severe sensitivities to chemicals chose MAiD when she could not get affordable housing.
  • A 54-year-old Vancouver woman with $40,000 in debts trying to treat myalgic encephalomyelitis and when her money runs out she says MAiD is her only option.
  • A 54-year-old St. Catharines man is applying for MAiD because he is about to lose his house and fears becoming homeless.
  • A Manitoba woman with ALS was assisted with her suicide on October 3 because she did not wish to be transferred from one health-care facility to another; her obituary read “Ultimately it was not a genetic disease that took me out, it was a system.”

Still the Trudeau government is intent on once again expanding the MAiD eligibility in March and opening a pandora box for people struggling to cope with their mental illnesses.

Increasing numbers of asylum seekers entering Canada via Roxham Road

The federal government is before the Supreme Court to keep in place a Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S, which has both countries agreeing to turn back asylum seekers crossing at regular border crossings. Canada is attempting to extend the agreement so it applies across the entire land border – and this will close down the infamous Roxham Road, an irregular border crossing on the Quebec border.

Critics of the federal government’s court action want to see the Safe Third Country Agreement scrapped because they argue the U.S. no longer provides assurances that the rights of refugees will be respected. Two former cabinet ministers of PM Jean Chretien – Allan Rock and Lloyd Axworthy – are leading this cause to fully open Canadian borders to all refugees seeking asylum in our country.

There are a great many side stories to this issue that have recently come to light as MPs debate the fate of Roxham Road and the increasing numbers who are using it. For one, a record number of refugees seeking asylum (over 26,500) have crossed at Roxham Road in the first nine months of this year. The federal government has (quietly) paid Quebec more than $500 million to offset the province’s accommodation expenses. In May, when more than 100 people daily were crossing at Roxham Road, Quebec Premier Francois Legault demanded that the PM close the road. In answer to this complaint, the government (quietly) transferred almost 2,000 refugees in June to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The porous illegal entry proved to be a political football in the Quebec election. Premier Legault associated immigration with violence and extremism and worried taking in more immigrants would be “suicidal” in furthering French culture and language in the province. Opposing leader Eric Duhaime called for a halt to “the thousands of illegal immigrants” flooding into the province and he made headlines musing that a wall may have to be built at the Quebec-New York border.

There is now a MP committee studying the facts and the costs around maintaining Roxham Road, including a recently exposed scandal about Pierre Guay, a lifelong Liberal Party donor who has been paid over $136 million to date to provide services and accommodation for the illegal immigrants.

Whaou! C’est pas possible!  

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/other-disconcerting-news-from-ottawa-on-drugs-assisted-suicide-and-asylum-seekers/

Photo credit: CNS/Art Babych

Greater transparency needed with federal government spending

The Niagara Independent, October 14, 2022 – Canada is now ladened with a considerable debt load. The sorry state of federal finances dates back to the early years of the Trudeau government when there was unbridled spending and an absence of a fiscal plan. Deficit spending then exploded to unprecedented levels during the pandemic. The current budget pegs a national debt in excess of a trillion dollars and federal expenditures this year of more than $434 billion. The government’s annual spending in 2022 represents a two-thirds increase since 2015.

This Trudeau government’s fiscal legacy will be its accumulation of national debt. It has created more debt than all previous governments in Canada’s 155-year history – all previous governments combined.  For those with an eye to the financial and economic health of the nation, the past seven years have been akin to watching a run-away train wreck.

Though Canadians are well aware of the overspending of the Trudeau government, they are less informed on how the billions of dollars are being spent. There have been three instances of questionable spending that illustrate there is little discipline when it comes to government spending (and no fiscal acumen to know any better).

Three recent stories out of Ottawa underscore an imperative for greater transparency regarding federal government expenditures.

The $54 million mysterious ArriveCan App

When ArriveCan was launched in April 2020, the government made no reference to the cost of the development of the travel app. MP Chris Warkentin requested information in the House of Commons on the cost of the app. The MP was told that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) reported the price tag was $19.4 million. In late September the CBSA revised its cost estimates for the app to be $29.5 million. But, now we know that estimate too was inaccurate.

A Globe and Mail report divulged spending on the app is projected to be in excess of $54 million, more than two-and-a-half times what the government first reported out to MP Warkentin. When pressed to explain this escalated cost the government would not release any details claiming it was a matter of federal procurement confidentiality.

The company that holds the contract does not do the actual work but farms it out to dozens of unidentified subcontracts. Conservative MP Luc Berthold said what many Canadians were thinking when he observed that ArriveCan “was surely put in place to make some people rich. Fifty four million dollars would be a million hours at work for an engineer. That’s 31,000 weeks or 596 years for one person. The numbers just don’t add up.”

Over the Thanksgiving Weekend two Canadian tech firms recreated the app in order to demonstrate that the $54 million cost was ludicrous. Sheetal Jaitly, the CEO of one of the firms that completed the task, said it would cost his company TribalScale less than $1 million to build the app.

Liberal MPs in defence of the government’s spending have suggested the $54 million accounts for more than the development of the app – which clearly begs further explanation.

Coincidental to the revelations of the ArriveCan app was the disclosure by the Trudeau government that it had entered into a $105.3 million contract with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to create a traveler digital ID. MP Leslyn Lewis, who has been repeatedly mocked by government MPs as a conspiracy theorist because of her suggesting the ArriveCan app is a WEF pilot project, appears to now be vindicated with the public disclosure of the WEF digital ID contract. Lewis tweeted out on the Trudeau government’s WEF connection: “It’s no longer a conspiracy theory – it’s a contractual fact!”

Why is it that PM Trudeau did not scrap the app completely and there has been repeated suggestions that the government intends to use it for cross border ID in the future? What has been the real cost of the AriveCan app – and what further expenditures has the government contractually committed to with the WEF?

The real cost to taxpayers of the Trans Mountain pipeline 

To avert having the last of Canada’s major energy projects collapse under the weight of its anti-resource policies, in 2018 the Trudeau government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion. At that time the government estimated the cost for completing the construction of the pipeline was $7.4 billion. This cost was soon adjusted to a price tag to $12.6 billion. Then, in February 2022, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stated the cost to complete the project would be $21.4 billion, or almost triple the original cost estimate.

With the news that the Trudeau government intends on selling the pipeline to Indigenous groups, a new economic report by the West Coast Environmental Law organization suggests Canadians may never know the real cost of this beleaguered resource project. Economist Robyn Allan’s report alleges that the federal government is hiding the debt load of the project. Industry experts contend the federal government would be unlikely to sell the pipeline without providing some kind of financial backstop to the potential buyer. Allan’s report suggests billions of dollars of debt forgiveness is inevitable if this project is to be completed.

So, what kind of shell game is being played to off load the pipeline – and how much exactly did the Trans Mountain debacle cost Canadian taxpayers?

The federal bureaucracy’s raises and bonuses – during the pandemic

Millions of Canadians were adversely impacted through the pandemic. Information on federal bureaucrats through this period has been recently made public largely through freedom of information requests. We now know more than 312,000 federal government employees got raises in 2020 and 2021 – a year when nearly 75,000 federal workers were at home on “leave with pay.” The federal civil service also grew during this time; a Fraser Institute study revealed that nearly nine out of every ten jobs created in 2020-21 were in the public sector.

There’s more… Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) has uncovered that during the pandemic years more than 45,000 federal workers joined the $100,000+ salary club. MP Kelly McCauley discovered through questions placed on the House of Commons Order Paper that 89 per cent of federal public sector executives were paid bonuses totaling more than $190 million in 2021-22. And in the previous year the government handed out $171 million of bonuses. Government data suggests bonuses are a common, annual occurrence (obviously, regardless of whether there is a pandemic and downturn in the economy or not).

As CTF federal director Franco Terrazzano states, “We’re not all in this together… It’s not fair to ask the Canadians who lost their job or took a pay cut during the pandemic to pay higher taxes so the federal government can add thousands of highly paid bureaucrats.”

Not only does it not seem fair to Canadians, but does it not seem underhanded to not have public sector pay and bonus data public?

In the end, Canadians will only be able to gain a better understanding of how the government is spending their tax dollars – on the ArriveCan app and WEF digital ID contract, the Trans Mountain pipeline, and the largesse of the federal bureaucracy – when there is greater transparency in Ottawa.

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/greater-transparency-needed-with-federal-government-spending/

Canada’s subsidized mainstream media is not trusted

The Niagara Independent, October 7, 2022 – Canada’s mainstream media (a.k.a. legacy media) outlets are floundering with an existential question of journalistic independence as they are accepting increasing amounts of government subsidies. With this obvious conflict of interest, Canadians are losing trust in news reporting and editorial commentary from legacy newsrooms.

The impact (good and bad) of the federal government’s media subsidies is currently being assessed at a parliamentary committee studying Bill C-18, the Online News Act. This legislation is designed to produce a new advertising revenue stream for a select group of Canada’s legacy news organizations. Bill C-18 forces Google and Facebook to pay a fee for their hypertext links to Canadian news sources; a fee that is arbitrated as well as policed by the Canadian regulatory body CRTC.

Given Canadians’ loss of faith in their fourth estate, the committee’s legislative hearings are taking on added significance in addressing the integrity of subsidized media. And it is telling that Canadians are not learning of the committee’s work from the CBC or other legacy media. Thankfully, independent news source Blacklock’s Reporter (not government subsidized) is providing details of the committee’s testimony.

Bill C-18 is deeply flawed as assessed by ex-CRTC commissioner and former Calgary Herald editor in chief Peter Menzies: “It’s going to create more mistrust and it’s not going to end well. Trust in Canada’s media has never been lower. It will keep the wolves from the door of a few legacy companies for a few more years but won’t save journalism…”

“Bill C-18 will permanently entrench the industry’s dependency not on the loyalty of citizens, readers and viewers but upon the good graces of politicians.”

In his committee testimony Menzies explained the Catch-22 problem that legacy media wants to ignore (while continuing to take the money the government is handing it). Menzies stated: “The more government assistance news media gets, the more broken the relationship with readers becomes. The more that relationship is broken, the more subsidy will be required. The people who today think media are toadying up to the Liberal government will at some point in the future believe they are toadying up to someone else. It doesn’t really matter whether they are or they aren’t. What matters is people won’t believe them.”

Jeanette Ageson also provided an insightful testimony to MPs. Ageson is the publisher of the Vancouver news site The Tyee and she was appearing as spokesperson for the Independent Online News Publishers of Canada. Ageson observed, “Canada is facing not one news crisis but two. One is financial and the other is the crisis of mistrust… Canadians are expressing unprecedented distrust towards the news and the reporters who deliver it. Canadians need to know who is funding the news they receive and on what terms.”

So, let’s review what is publicly known about the subsides to Canada’s legacy news outlets.

  • In 2019 the Trudeau government doled out a $595 million bailout of cabinet-approved news publishers.
  • Subsidies to these select news organizations include 25 per cent payroll rebates to a maximum $13,750 per newsroom employee
  • Select news organizations also receive a 15 per cent tax credit for subscribers
  • Citing income tax confidentiality provisions, the government will not disclose the recipients of the bailout payments that have been made to a selected set of news organizations (selected by the Trudeau cabinet)

This summer the Trudeau cabinet let it be known that the government is committed to providing legacy media with long term financial support, beyond 2024 when the federal subsidies were scheduled to end. No doubt this promised largesse is well received by the legacy media, particularly those select newsrooms that know they will be covered through the next federal election.

The $595 million bailout money is only part of the dollars the federal government is shoveling to Canadian media. In the past two years, Canadian media also has received millions of dollars in “pandemic relief” payments. It was just disclosed that TV broadcasters were given more than $100 million of cash grants, and millions of dollars of mandatory licensing fees were waived. Direct payments to television networks and affiliates totaled $22.5 million in 2021 and $81.1 million in 2020.

CBC also received pandemic relief funding of $21 million. (Coincidently, in the last two years, salary increases at CBC totaled $21 million and managers were also awarded $30.4 million in bonuses.)

But, CBC is another story onto itself. Consider that this state broadcaster receives a $1.36 billion annual federal grant for its operations. Given this, MPs on the Bill C-18 committee were surprised to learn that CBC will be the largest beneficiary of the new subsidy win fall (which might explain why Canadians do not hear critical analysis of the legislation from CBC).

Aside from the money, there are continuous unethical activities occurring in the Ottawa press corps that bring into question the journalistic independence and integrity of Canada’s fourth estate. Here are a handful:

  • Senior Cabinet Minister Pablo Rodriguez thanked news agencies for their supportive coverage of the truckers’ convoy and the imposition of the Emergencies Act – as he was promising further subsidies for legacy media (ironically he made these statements on a webinar entitled “The Future of News”)
  • Legacy media were exposed photoshopping photos and editing news stories of Chrystia Freeland holding a pro-Nazi banner in a February 2022 Ukrainian protest parade
  • Finance Minister Freeland and her officials were caught having a “media blacklist” of news reporters that they would not take questions from (something they denied existed)
  • Federal government gave $600,000 worth of contracts to “media influencers” in 2021 to praise government programs and services on TV, in print, and in social media
  • CBC pundit was contracted by the Governor General’s office to comment on-air about the “perfect” appointment of the new GG Mary Simon

These incidents are routinely being reported to Canadians in independent news sources like Blacklock’s Reporter and True North Media – and they go unreported by the legacy media.

There is little wonder how trust in Canada’s media is waning. University of Oxford’s 2022 Digital News Report states only 42 per cent of Canadians were found to be trusting of “most news,” representing a 13 per cent decline since 2016. These numbers are corroborated by a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism survey that found 42 per cent of Canadians “trusted the news,” compared with 58 per cent in 2018.

In the same Reuters survey, only 29 per cent of respondents indicated that the media is free from undue political influence. An earlier 2022 survey released by Edelman Canada found that 61 per cent of Canadians believe journalists and reporters purposely try to mislead them “by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”

Jen Gerson, editor of the Calgary online newsletter The Line, summed up Canadian media’s existential quandary to MPs at the Bill C-18 Committee when she said, “I have real concerns about making media outlets dependent on revenue that is subject to the whims of the government in power. The industry’s dependence on these revenue streams makes us pawns of partisan politics whether we wish to be or not.”

Canadians are left to ponder: What is there to trust in legacy media that is bought and paid for?

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-subsidized-mainstream-media-is-not-trusted/

Photo credit:  CBC

Ottawa’s ‘sport’ has become a lot more entertaining

The Niagara Independent, September 30, 2022 – Political pundits and much of the national press corps will often resort to jockular descriptions of politicians’ debates and activities. Whether it is covering the pugilists’ blow by blow in the House of Commons or announcing who is nosing ahead in the latest opinion polls, the news from Ottawa is regularly presented as a contest. The punchy headlines and bellicose commentary grab and keep Canadians’ attention.

And now with the newly selected Conservative Leader in the ring, Ottawa’s “sport” has become a lot more entertaining.

September 22 was the first time combatants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre met two swords length apart in the House of Commons. Media reports of the encounter did not disappoint those anxious to get their first glimpse of the titans coming together: “Trudeau, Poilievre face off”, “Pierre Poilievre leans in as Justin Trudeau pushes back”, “Poilievre has first joust with Trudeau”.

Here’s the ringside call of that first fisticuffs:

  • PP came out with a few haymakers, “It’s good to see the prime minister here visiting Canada to fill up the gas in his private jet, but things are bad on the ground in Canada. Will the prime minister cancel the tax increases on gas, heating, food, and pay cheques?”
  • JT congratulated his opponent on his latest leadership victory and then shuffled and backstepped explaining his government is creating an economy that “works for everyone.”
  • PP advanced and landed a few jabs saying that “heating your home in January and February in Canada is not a luxury…” Canadians mustn’t be seen as “polluters” because of their energy consumption.
  • JT counter-jabbed that Poilievre “has an opportunity to support these measures and get help directly to Canadians.”
  • PP circled back and punched, “This from a prime minister who burned more jet fuel in one month than 20 average Canadians burn in an entire year. So will the prime minister ground the jet, park the hypocrisy, and axe the tax hikes?”
  • Again, skillfully backpedaling, JT scored with an uppercut before the bell, “If Canadians had followed the advice of the leader of the opposition and invested in volatile cryptocurrencies…they would have lost half of their savings.”
  • JT then looked over his shoulders as he walked back to his corner and taunted the new contender, “On this side of the aisle, we are going to stay focused on helping Canadians for real.”

The feistiness of this exchange was brash enough to have the Toronto Star lead editorial the next day plead, “Civility in politics, please.” Star editors wrote: “The issues confronting the nation should be vigorously debated in the House of Commons. Surely those debates can be civil too.”

The Hill Times has published a number of articles in the past weeks recording MPs’ impressions of what to expect in the House of Commons through the fall. It appears everybody is ready to rumble. A senior Liberal pundit admitted, “It’s going to be a fist fight. I mean, the Conservatives under Pierre Poilievre are going to be in a fist fight. They are going to punch Justin Trudeau and the Liberals in the head every day, every hour, every minute, every second, every week, and they’re going to use their different platforms to do it.”

A Liberal MP candidly stated, “We’re not going to just, you know, lay down and get punched. There’s a serious belief [in the] caucus that this guy is a serious contender, probably the biggest challenge that we faced in the last several years, and he’s very skillful. So I think there’s no question that they [the PMO] take him as a serious threat.”

Liberal veteran MP Judy Sgro adds a threatening warning, “We’ll take whatever steps are necessary to protect our brand…”

In all those interviewed by the Hill Times it was the NDP House Leader, MP Peter Julian, who offered a moment of sensible reflection when he observed, “I think one of the things that I’ve seen over my many years in Parliament is the Liberals and Conservatives love culture wars. And they love to paint each other as diabolical and outrageous, and I think people are really tired. People are frustrated. There is a level of anger up there. But I think what people want is someone to actually deliver.”

To switch venues, let’s consider the race program and recent results from the downs of Parliament Hill. It appears the earlier news of the Conservatives inching ahead of the Liberals is confirmed this week with three opinion polls indicating the Conservatives have opened up a considerable lead.

Earlier in September, Leger suggested newly crowned Poilievre and the Conservatives had surged from a five-point deficit in an August poll to take a 34 to 28 per cent lead over the Trudeau Liberals, Mainstreet’s poll reported the Conservative lead was greater, 40 to 32 per cent. Abacus Data released their numbers, showing a five-length lead for the Conservative horse, er Party, 35 to 30 per cent.

This week Ipsos released a poll exclusively conducted for Global News. Ipsos’s take is that the Conservatives are leading 35 to 30 per cent. But the more troubling news for the Liberals is the commentary that Opposition Leader Poilievre is the “best candidate for prime minister” (by a margin of 35 to 31 per cent). Furthermore, two out of three Canadians now believe it is time to change horses.

Angus Reid also shared their latest polling results and they have the Conservatives opening up a seven-length lead over the Liberals, 37 to 30 per cent. The Conservatives have a spring in their step as the polling results from voter-rich Ontario show their fortunes are rising to nearly 40 per cent support. Angus Reid’s summary on this surge is that Poilievre has harnessed the support of the People’s Party voters.

This same opinion poll has 49 per cent of Canadian respondents believing that the best descriptive for Justin Trudeau is “arrogant.” Another 45 per cent said Trudeau was “dishonest,” and 39 per cent said he was “corrupt.” A 56 per cent majority of those polled said they disapproved of the PM’s overall performance.

Many pundits are weighing in on these results and there is a general consensus that it is too early in the race to say who will cross the wire as the winner. The prevailing wisdom is the Tories need to run up the middle of the Liberals and NDP, while Trudeau needs to jockey his fortunes and convince enough voters that the Liberals are the only hope to defeat the Conservatives.

The track for the next two years appears to be hard and fast. Both Trudeau and Poilievre have solid support bases who have very different beliefs on how to approach the challenges facing Canada today: inflation and government spending, post-pandemic economic recovery, natural resources development, regional politics, international diplomacy… it is going to be a flat-out race to the finish.

So, in the Nation’s Capital the marvel of this spirited contest has captivated us all. It’s like cheering through a glitzy wrestling match where we are fully aware the scissor-kicks and sleeper holds are choreographed. But it’s the excitement of the sport and it was perhaps best captured by a Liberal MP, who confessed in a Hill Times back-to-parliament interview, “You just get your popcorn, make sure your popcorn is ready, you’re sitting in front of your tv, and it’s going to be entertaining.”

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/ottawas-sport-has-become-a-lot-more-entertaining/

Photo credit:  The Canadian Press/Darren Calabrese

Trudeau government vs. Canada’s financial experts

The Niagara Independent, September 23, 2022 – Parliament resumed this week and on the first day back the government introduced two pieces of legislation to signal its focus on helping Canadians cope with the rising cost of living. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau forecasted the government will spend billions of dollars to provide relief from the financial strain being inflicted by inflation. Yet, according to Canada’s leading financial experts, the Trudeau government’s unrestrained spending is fueling the country’s inflation and exacerbating Canadians’ financial headaches.

On Tuesday, Trudeau’s team introduced Bill C-30, which will double the next two GST rebate cheques to Canadians, as well as introduce a dental care subsidy to uninsured parents with children under 12. It also introduced Bill C-31, which will enact a plan to send a one-time, “rent support” cheque of $500 to lower-income Canadians. Liberal MPs state that these measures are a targeted approach to supporting low-income individuals and families.

The exact costs for these government payouts amount to $4.7 billion. It is estimated that the GST rebate cheques will cost $2.5 billion. The dental care payout will cost $650 per child, and it is estimated that 500,000 children will qualify. The total cost of the subsidy is nearly $1 billion dollars. The rent support cheques are estimated to cost the government $1.2 billion.

The $4.7 billion price tag on these new initiatives is added to the $9 billion accountability plan announced by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in June. That government package included inflation-indexed increases to the Canada Child Benefit, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, as well an enhanced Canada Workers Benefit.

So, this year the Trudeau government has announced new program spending of $13.7 billion. This is over and above its 2022 federal budget announcement of $31 billion of new spending over the next five years (resulting in a fiscal deficit for 2022-23 of $52.8 billion).

PM Trudeau announced the latest “affordability package” while at a caucus retreat in New Brunswick a week ago. Trudeau explained in his presentation to the media corps, “My own perspective is Canadians are almost entirely preoccupied with the big issues we’re facing, whether it’s the rise in the cost of living, global inflation… We are retaining fiscal firepower and at the same time ensuring that those who need support don’t get left behind.”

Trudeau stated that the government’s $4.7 billion spending on new programs “is sufficiently targeted that we are confident they will not contribute to inflation.” The PM crowed, “These measures all put people at the centre of our plan to grow the economy. They are targeted to the middle class and people working hard to join it, while we continue to be responsible with public finances.”

Trudeau then repeated, “The help we’re announcing today will make a big difference for the people who get it in a targeted way that will not stoke inflation.”

Though not questioned by the mainstream media in attendance, the PM’s assertions did not reassure Canada’s financial community. In fact, there is a consensus view from a chorus of financial experts that unbridled government spending is problematic.

Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics at Scotiabank, sarcastically responded to Justin Trudeau’s statements. In a note to bank clients he wrote, “Any belief that it will ease inflationary pressures must have studied different economics textbooks.”

Holt reasoned “it seems sensible to assume that this will add to pressures on measures of core inflation” and it will “aggravate the Bank of Canada’s stance on monetary policy.”

Scotiabank’s financial expert also made this forecast, “The information today suggests that the Bank of Canada is likely to be dragged along by the Federal Reserve with domestic fiscal stimulus reinforcing the likelihood that the policy rate breaches 4 per cent by December, if not October.”

BMO senior economist Robert Kavcic was also critical of the government’s continued spending, “We’re not going to deny that there are households seriously in need of help right now in this inflationary environment. But, from a policy perspective, we all know that sending out money as an inflation-support measure is inherently inflationary.”

Avery Shenfeld, the chief economist for CIBC also warned his bank’s clients, stating “while there are times where fiscal largesse is just what the economy needs, these aren’t such times.”

Shenfield observed, “In a period of high inflation and excess demand, cutting taxes or handing out cheques can add fuel to the inflationary fire, and make the job of a central bank that’s raising rates to cool demand all that more troublesome.”

Shenfeld also forecasts potential dark clouds on the horizon for a government that has no financial discipline, “A recession is a distinct risk in the next two years, so this year’s revenue windfall might not last long. If another global crisis comes along in future years to sink growth and inflation, whatever fiscal room we can build up now will come in handy.”

Consider the rising cost of financing the federal debt with increased interest rates. In the recent budget, with the government’s planned deficit spending, the interest payments on the national debt will rise to $42.9 billion by 2027. This figure is factoring a near-zero interest rate, however with interest rates at three or four per cent, the government will be paying triple or quadruple that amount in servicing the debt. With higher interest rates, future governments’ ability to carry the debt is increasingly difficult.

Each day seems to bring more unsettling news related to inflation and interest rates.

  • Canadians collective net worth fell by nearly $1 trillion in the second quarter of 2022
  • Canada’s inflation rate hit a 40 year high of 8.1 per cent in June
  • the cost of groceries has risen by 10.8 per cent in the past year, which is the fastest increase in a grocery bill since 1981
  • home ownership rate is declining and now is at a 20-year low
  • the loonie is faltering at a two-year low against the American dollar
  • the Bank of Canada has raised interest rates five times in 2022 to 3.25 per cent and it has signaled it will do so again on October 26

On the last point, the Bank of Canada is widely anticipated to raise Canada’s interest rate to beyond 4 per cent by Christmas. Paul Beaudry, deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, has publicly stated these rates will remain above pre-pandemic rates through 2024, largely because inflation figures are not projected to decrease to a targeted 2 per cent for years. So, the Bank of Canada is forced to pursue an aggressive interest rate policy in order to wrestle inflation down.

High inflation necessitates high interest rates, which in turn dearly costs all Canadians’ cost of living. According to financial experts this vicious cycle is fueled by increased government spending. Verily, it is a relatively simple equation for those who understand monetary policy.

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-government-vs-canadas-financial-experts/

Photo credit: Reuters/Patrick Doyle and Carlos Osorio 

Three international issues that deserve full parliamentary attention

The Niagara Independent, September 16, 2022 – Canada’s parliament resumes next week and domestic politics and policies are sure to dominate the fall session. There will be great theatrics from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau exchanging daily barbs with newly crowned Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre. The House of Commons focus will be on national economic issues as the government pushes through its $4.5 billion relief package to combat rising inflation.

Though domestic debates are expected to draw most of the attention through 2022, still there are three serious international issues that deserve the full attention of our parliamentarians.

The virus research Canada was conducting with China in the Winnipeg lab 

The Trudeau government has attempted to run from this question repeatedly for more than two years, since the news broke on the firing of two lab scientists. Now there are renewed allegations raised in a U.S. Senate committee hearing. American physician scientist Dr. Steven Quay expressed his concern that the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg was engaged in research with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and, in March 2019, the Canadian lab sent both Nipah and Ebola viruses to Wuhan.

In his testimony, Dr. Quay explained to Senators, “The Nipah virus is a smaller virus than SARS2 (the virus causing COVID-19) and is much less transmissible. But it is one of the deadliest viruses, with a greater than 60 per cent lethality. This is 60-times deadlier than SARS2.”

The fact that the Canadian lab shipped samples of Nipah and Ebola viruses to WIV was a subject of review by MPs in Canada’s previous Parliament. A special parliamentary committee was also probing the reasons for the dismissal from the Winnipeg lab of scientists Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng. Qiu and Cheng’s research prompted an RCMP investigation, but no details of their work nor of the police investigation have been revealed. The government cites privacy and national security concerns for withholding lab research documents. (MPs work was disrupted and their report was left unfinished with the call of the 2021 federal election.)

Given that there are confirmed accounts that Canada was engaged in research in 2019 with a virus that caused COVID-19 and another more lethal virus, it is disconcerting that our government is withholding the details of Canada’s role in this research.

Canadian government’s response to China’s human rights violations against the Uyghurs 

The United Nations has just released a damning report of China’s inhumane treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. The UN report substantiates abuses that “may constitute crimes against humanity” and it calls for an urgent international response.

The report details how China is separating families and severing human contacts, while causing particular suffering to Uyghur, Kazakh and other Muslim minority families. The victims are suffering persecution and arbitrary imprisonment, torture and ill-treatment, forced medical treatment, and incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly released a printed statement in response to the UN report that urged the Chinese government “to uphold its international human rights obligations and respond to the concerns and recommendations raised in the High Commissioner’s report.” Minister Joly stated the government would continue to collaborate with the international community to hold the Chinese government to account. Aside from this vague statement, there has been no suggestion of how Canada will address the ongoing human rights abuses affecting the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China.

The official stand of the Trudeau government remains unclear. In the previous parliament, MPs passed a unanimous motion calling China’s treatment of Uyghurs “genocide.” However, PM Trudeau instructed his cabinet ministers to abstain from voting on the motion – which they did on masse. Now, there are mounting concerns about how Canada can diplomatically respond to China’s human rights abuses when the PM has failed for more than eight months to name a new Canadian Ambassador to Beijing.

MP Sameer Zuberi, who serves as chair of a parliamentary subcommittee on International Human Rights, said the UN report is significant and deserves Canada’s immediate attention, “It really triggers responsibility for governments to act and to move ahead in a concrete way.”

MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, who is Bloc Québécois human rights critic, is openly critical of the government’s negligence. “Right now there is no leadership at all from Trudeau. We never took any leadership on crimes against humanity since 2015… All the opposition parties are working in this direction—now the Liberals have to take the lead.”

Canada’s lack of support for Afghan allies left behind 

Another special UN report on human rights was recently released on the horrors in Afghanistan since the UN Force abandoned the country to the Taliban in August 2021. The UN reports that one year later there has been a “staggering regression” of women’s and girls’ rights and “reports of ongoing extrajudicial and reprisal killings” by the Taliban.

Also, 95 per cent of the population is not getting enough to eat, with 800,000 children “acutely malnourished” and 3.5 million children in need of nutrition treatment. UN Humanitarian Coordinator Ramiz Alakbarov states frankly: “The fate of an entire generation of Afghans is at stake.”

For Canada, last June an MP report to parliament summed up an embarrassing chapter in our country’s history: “The way Canada left Afghanistan in August (2021) was a betrayal.” One year later… CBC reports the government has “quietly” ended their special immigration programs for Afghan refugees.

Our Canadian military participated for 13 years in the UN’s Afghanistan mission, including a lead role in Kabul. Through that time thousands of Afghan people were employed and assisted the Canadian government. So, at the time of the UN withdrawal, PM Trudeau made the commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, our allies who were left vulnerable under the Taliban rule. Ten months into the refugee relief efforts Canada had supported less than half that number. And now, the government has shut the door.

In light of the UN’s report of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghans, common sense and decency suggests the government be held accountable for its commitments – and its incompetency.

Canadians deserve answers to these three serious issues.

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/three-international-issues-that-deserve-full-parliamentary-attention/

Photo credit: The U.S. Air Force. Pictured an Afghan child sleeps on the cargo floor of a C-17 Globemaster III, kept warm by the uniform of a U.S. Air Force loadmaster,

Trudeau government to focus on the economy?

The Niagara Independent, September 9, 2022 – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines this week when the federal cabinet met behind closed doors at a Vancouver resort ruminating on the increasing financial pressures faced by Canadians. The PM framed these discussions by stating his government will focus on Canada’s economy when parliament resumes on September 19.

“Our focus this week as we kick off what will be a busy and important fall of parliamentary work is on the economy. It’s hearing from Canadians, working with Canadians, to solve the very real pressures they’re facing,” Trudeau offered.

The PM and his cabinet colleagues were looking for “solutions” to ease the affordability concerns of Canadians. The PM cited two specific examples of his government’s focus to improve the country’s economic matters: affordable housing and the national childcare program.

With respect to affordable housing, the PM himself announced what is the largest loan in Canadian history to a housing project with the Squamish Nation. The government will provide a low-interest, 50-year loan of $1.4 billion to help with a ten acre residential and commercial development project in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver. The First Nation received this unprecedented loan to build affordable rental apartments.

Yet, the government made a special arrangement for this particular deal that will allow the Squamish Nation to skirt national affordable housing criteria. Of the 6,000 units being constructed, only 20 per cent are required to be affordable housing units. This is well below the 40 per cent affordable housing criteria set for government loans. In the end, there will be 1,200 units priced at Vancouver’s rental market value, instead of being available for low-income Canadians.

Although there was no specific news emanating from the cabinet retreat about implementing the national childcare program, CBC broke “insiders” leaks about the government’s plan to introduce a national dental care program as well as a one-time $500 benefit payment to low-income renters.

The CBC was also the first to report on the government’s plans to temporarily increase GST rebate cheques in the fall. Two “anonymous sources” said the Trudeau cabinet agreed to double the amount of the next two GST cheques – received by lower income Canadians every three months. The thought is this initiative will ease some of the hurt of inflation through 2022.

It has also been reported that the federal cabinet is considering new federal measures that might be provided to help Canadians with the cost of living. These measures could include a direct payment to middle and lower-income individuals, although in a media availability session Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland would not confirm specifics.

What is strikingly absent in the news from Vancouver is any substantive comment by the PM or his finance minister on Canada’s fiscal policy, or government spending, or industrial growth, labour issues, national trade objectives, etc. In what is being reported out to the public, the cabinet’s discussions centered around new government programs and new spending.

In related news this week, the Bank of Canada announced another interest rate hike of 0.75 percentage points. This is the fifth time since March that the Bank has increased borrowing costs in an effort to curb Canada’s inflation rate, which is at heights not seen in this country since the 1980s. Canada’s benchmark overnight rate is now at 3.25 per cent, the highest level since the economic troubles in 2008.

Inflation and higher interest rates are having a direct impact on Canadians’ budgets. An August Angus Reid survey revealed that three of four Canadians (76 per cent) worry about their finances, and more than half (56 per cent) cannot keep up with the cost of living. One in two Canadians (52 per cent) stated they could not manage a sudden expense of more than $1,000.

Then there was the report by Equifax Canada that revealed Canadians are racking up credit card debt to stay on top of their bills. There has been a 6.4 per cent increase in credit card balances between the first and second quarters of 2022.

This type of financial strain currently being felt by Canadians is likely not to be eased by doubling a GST rebate cheque or a one-time $500 hand out. Conservative MP Dan Albas who serves as the Opposition finance critic lamented the Bank’s interest rate hike “more pain for Canadians.” Albas issued a media statement on Wednesday claiming the Bank’s move is a direct result of the government’s “out-of-control spending” that has contributed to inflation.

Albas stated, “Canadians appear poised to face a significant economic downturn. Canadians deserve a government that will fight the cost of living crisis.”

A recent Scotia Bank analyst of Canada’s monetary policy points to unbridled government spending as a core reason for the Bank’s inability to harness inflationary pressures. The Scotia Bank report suggested The Bank of Canada should not be fighting inflation on its own. It concluded that “lower government spending on goods and services could help lower inflation.”

Clearly, Finance Minister Freeland and the Trudeau cabinet are not heeding this counsel for fiscal prudence. In June the government announced an additional $8.9 billion “affordability plan” that will have government spend its way out of its fiscal jackpot.

In Vancouver, Canadians heard more of the same.

On this point, Yves Giroux of the Parliamentary Budget Office has been highly critical of Freeland and the government’s long term fiscal plan. Giroux points to one factor that is seldom mentioned: the cost of financing the debt, particularly with increased interest rates. Consider the federal government’s interest payments on bonded debt totaled $20.4 billion last year. With the continuous deficit spending by this government the interest payments are projected to rise to $42.9 billion by 2027. This figure is factoring a near-zero interest rate, however with interests rates of three per cent one must triple that payment.

Given the government’s propensity to spend more and more money (it does not have) it is not surprising that the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has projected that growth in living standards in Canada would rank dead last among its 38 developed member-countries over the next 40 years.

From the headlines out of Vancouver, it is evident there is no relief in sight for financially strapped Canadians. There is no reassurance to be had from a PM who does not think about monetary policy. There is no confidence in Trudeau with the claim his government will focus on the economy.

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-government-to-focus-on-the-economy/

Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck — Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland addresses reporters in Vancouver.

The last of the summer snippets

The Niagara Independent, September 2, 2022 – Unfortunately, every summer must come to an end. Labour Day Weekend marks the beginning of a transition when we all must begin to focus again on reality. Therefore, the last of the ‘summertime snippets’ provides final news and commentary on the current state of affairs in the Nation’s Capital – to help us brace for the eventualities of fall on Parliament Hill.

There are endless signs of incompetence. The last few weeks of national news were littered with stories of government incompetence and ministers routinely sidestepping all responsibility. Apparently, there is no accountability to be found in Ottawa.

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, is publicly stating that “someone else” let the government contract a hateful antisemite, Laith Marouf. Marouf led a government anti-racism program, though he himself authored such tweets as: “loud mouthed bags of human feces aka the Jewish White Supremacists,” they deserve “a bullet to the head.” He called former justice minister Irwin Cotler the “Grand Wizard of Zionism” and former U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell a “Jamaican house-slave.”

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather revealed that he had warned Hussen about the bigot Marouf. Apparently though, Marouf was fine to continue with his contract, that is until media exposed him to the public (full credit to Sun Media columnist Brian Lilley who was relentless in reporting on this story). Only then did the minister get around to cancelling the contract. (One has to ask, if there were no negative headlines would Marouf still be leading the government’s anti-racism program?)

Chris Bittle, St. Catharines MP, added another embarrassing twist to this story last week when he attacked University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist for criticizing the government’s contract with Marouf. Bittle said the professor himself was racist, suggesting he criticized Hussen because of his skin colour. The baseless, partisan attack prompted Brian Lilley to respond with, “Bittle isn’t worthy of the office he holds, he’s an embarrassment to his riding.”

Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, appeared in the news again when it was revealed that international students are now at risk of missing the start of their school year because of visa delays. Immigration officials reported that the department was overwhelmed because there is an unprecedented number of foreign students applying to come to Canada. This notion of Ottawa being “overwhelmed” has become Ottawa’s default response to all issues. In July, the department reported an immigration backlog of 2.7 million people. The backlog has been cited by immigration officials as the reason why Canada was challenged to rescue Afghanis and provide refuge for Ukrainians. So, who is accountable for this impossible situation, or is it so commonplace that now it is acceptable to regurgitate tired excuses to explain away the country’s immigration department failings?

Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, audaciously told MPs in a special summer committee hearing on the chaos at Canadian airports that there were no problems with the government’s ArriveCAN app, and that it was “helping reduce congestion.” Seriously, can we believe this given all the facts reported out by airport officials and travelers? This is the same minister who this spring blamed airport delays on Canadians who were too eager to travel and unaccustomed to airport protocol after not travelling during the pandemic restrictions. Alghabra basically told Canadians, “It is your fault.” However, now it has been uncovered that Alghabra had private department reports of a 25 per cent understaffing of airport security personnel. Obviously, this minister is adept at political doubletalk, inexcusably obscuring facts to evade his responsibility.

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, has been caught up in a number of “mis-communications” defending RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who claims she is being caught up in a scandal that is nothing more than “mis-communication.” But, Mendicino has a remedy for this lack of clarity: the group overseeing the activities of the police force, the RCMP’s Management Advisory Board (a creation of the Trudeau government) will report directly to his office. (MPs believe the board needs to report to Parliament but, obviously, this would cause too much information dragged out into the public.) The minister’s solution would allow Mendicino to build Canadians’ trust and confidence in the RCMP. Imagine the end results. Had this reporting structure been in place this past year, there may not have been the unnecessary probing into RCMP conduct with the N.S. mass murder investigation. Mendicino would have taken care of it.

On a separate note, about this trusting minister, he appeared before a special committee this month that was looking into the RCMPs’ spyware technology. It has been exposed that RCMP used surveillance spyware on Canadian citizens and have also done so on opposition MPs. At the committee, Mendicino offered very few details – only the reassurance that he is managing it.

Melanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, takes the prize as the most incompetent of the Trudeau cabinet lot. Consider this minister’s actions – and Canada’s shame:

    • A year since Canadians abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban and we now admittedly have left them behind. The government originally said it would resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees, but only rescued 17,000, and now has shut down its rescue program.
    • As Vladimir Putin was bombing cities in Ukraine, Joly’s diplomats were partying at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa – yet the minister stated she did not know anything about it (and therefore is not responsible).
    • Remember when PM Trudeau said “We’re back!”… But in many forums Joly is MIA. Recently the minister was marginalized at NATO talks reviewing the defence of Europe. Canada is not a member of the international alliances of AUKUS or QUAD. The Americans are openly expressing concern about Canada’s China policy and yet the minister has failed repeatedly to provide clarity. And Canada has not been invited into US President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific accord – and the minister has nothing to say on this?
  • When pressed to comment on the role of Canadian military in the world’s current conflicts, Joly made this remarkable statement about the country’s forces: “What we’re good at is convening.”

Who is there to steer Canada’s recovery? There are formidable challenges for Canada as the country looks to emerge from the pandemic. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has projected that growth in living standards in Canada would rank dead last among its 38 developed member-countries over the next 40 years. From 2015-19 (pre-pandemic) there were only four countries in the world that saw a decrease in foreign investment – and Canada was one of them. During 2020-21, the OECD reports Canada outspent all countries in the world to post an overall debt burden equivalent to 352 per cent of GDP.

To deal with these issues Canadians have a prime minister who admittedly does not think of monetary policy. And we have a finance minister in Chrystia Freeland who is a journalist with no formal financial background or business experience.

In a recent True North Media expose, Andrew Kozak catalogued the background of the 39 member Trudeau cabinet. A vast majority have zero business background:

  • five have degrees in economics
  • four have degrees in business administration
  • ten have experience owning or managing a small or medium-sized business
  • fourteen have experience working in higher positions of a business
  • eleven had careers in law or studied the subject in university
  • six have experience in journalism or media, and five hold degrees in political science

Do Canadians need to be concerned about who will lead the cabinet discussions on the economy and the country’s recovery? It’s a serious question. Consider PM Trudeau’s inability to make a case for exporting more Canadian oil to Europe…

Enjoy your Labour Day and welcome back to reality.

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

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-last-of-the-summer-snippets/

Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Justin Tang

More summertime snippets

The Niagara Independent, August 26, 2022 – Herein are more “summertime snippets,” presented with the requisite warning to read no further if you wish to enjoy what is left of the season. It is suggested that you clip and save the column until after Labour Day.

The Trudeau-Scholz Photo-Ops: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s end-of-the-summer sojourn in Canada with PM Justin Trudeau was no doubt fashioned to cast these progressive politicians as forward-thinking visionaries when it comes to their countries’ respective green energy goals. The leaders’ meetings were capped with a visit to Stephenville, Newfoundland and a signing ceremony on a hydrogen export “joint declaration of intent.” The Scholz tour’s success was incumbent on its expressed avoidance of any mention of Germany’s recent request of PM Trudeau to increase liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. In fact, it was dictated to Canadian mainstream media newsrooms by both Canadian and German tour officials that there were to be no questions about German industry having to ration their energy use or its residents freezing in the dark this winter.

According to script, Scholz and Trudeau (and Canadian media) waltzed through the tour and dutifully promoted a joint agreement for Canada to potentially develop a green-hydrogen facility that would, if built, at some time in 2025 (or later), be capable of exporting hydrogen energy to Germany. Clearly this ignores the current reality of the imminent energy crisis facing Europe. It ignores Scholz’s desire for an immediate increase of Canadian gas exports – and, as the National Post Tristin Hopper assesses, “It could well represent one of the biggest missed opportunities in Canadian history.”

Remarkably, when asked about Canadian LNG exports, the math-challenged Trudeau attempted to squelch the idea by questioning the business case for further developing Canadian gas exports. (In related news this month, StatsCan reports an increased trade surplus of $5 billion in June driven by rising oil export volumes. The Canadian dollar has rallied and strengthened against the U.S. greenback on the back of strong oil prices.)

The Trudeau-Scholz joint declaration for hydrogen energy is yet another remarkably nonsensical act by these two progressives who recently, secretly, mutually agreed to return turbines to Vladimir Putin (and word has now broke Canada will be sending five more turbines to Russia).

French Facts: StatsCan news report on Canada’s changing linguistic realities was released with many confusing narratives. The most often cited data told us that there is an increasing number of Canadians whose mother tongue is neither English nor French; 12 per cent of people speak something other than an official language at home. There are nine million people, or one in four, who have a mother tongue other than English or French.

This emphasis on the data resulted in English Canada headlines that focused primarily on the increased multicultural nature of the country. In Quebec however, the headlines expressed the threat of increased multiculturalism and the resulting decline of the francophone language.

In Quebec, much has been made of the fact there are now less than three of four Quebecers whose mother tongue is French. Quebecois appear anxious that there are now more than one million people speaking English as their first official language in La Belle Province. And PM Trudeau’s take on it: “The numbers that recently came out are extremely troubling and worrisome but not entirely a surprise.”

Let’s consider the StatsCan data without the governments’ francophone preoccupation. Without the political spin there is a clearer picture painted of the nation’s linguistic reality.

  • English is the majority language used by 75 per cent of Canadians
  • A total of more than 87 per cent of Canadians speak something other than French
  • There are more Canadians whose mother tongue is a foreign language (9 million) than there are francophones (less than 8 million)
  • The proportion of Canadians living outside Quebec whose first official language spoken is French has dwindled to 3.3 per cent. And French is not the second-most used language in most provinces today. In some cases, French is the fourth- or fifth-most used language.

With this assembly of the facts, the Globe and Mail published an opinion editorial that declared, “Official bilingualism is officially dead in Canada.”

Directly related to this mid-summer night’s data dump is the language debate that is about to unfold in Parliament this fall. The Trudeau government had pre-knowledge of the data and, in the spring session of Parliament introduced Bill C-13 amending the Official Languages Act. A briefing note for the legislation states: “saving the French language is fundamental to preserving the nation.” The intent of the legislation is to further strengthen the rights of francophones across the country. It will ensure all federally regulated private sector businesses are to offer French service to the public in places with “a strong francophone presence” (this term and its thresholds left undefined).

It appears the government is about to lead Canadians back onto the Plains of Abraham to reenact that infamous battle (this time with another Trudeau rewriting the terms of Malcolm’s defeat).

From the ArriveCAN App to Digital Identity: By every measure the ArriveCAN app is negatively impacting cross border traffic, and yet, the federal government will be transitioning from this app to a soon-to-be-unveiled digital identity program that every Canadian must use.

It matters not what border-town mayors say about the devastating decrease in American tourism, or what border agents say about not being able to properly do their job. Apparently, there is no downside to ArriveCAN, says transport minister Omar Alghabra, as it’s “actually helping process arrivals much faster and helping reduce congestion.” From the media reports of the congestive backlogs at Pearson and Trudeau airports, clearly Alghabra is either in denial or just gaslighting anyone who will listen to him as Liberals prepare for the next shoe to drop.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino this summer suggested the app is here to stay as part of the government’s strategy to better monitor Canadians’ health and safety. News is now trickling out of Ottawa that Treasury Board President Mona Fortier will be unveiling a new Digital Identity Program this fall. It will be billed to provide “a common and secure approach for a trusted digital identity platform to support seamless service delivery to Canadians across the country.”

Yet, government backgrounders state: “Digital identity is the electronic equivalent of a recognized proof-of-identity document (for example, a driver’s license or passport) and confirms that ‘you are who you say you are’ in a digital context.” In other words, Big Brother will be able to keep better track of you – for your own safety and security.

On a hopeful note, a federal court legal challenge of the ArriveCAN app has been launched and it appears the Conservatives are prepared to fight the new digital identity program in Parliament.

Bons mots: Gerard Deltell, Conservative MP from Louis-Saint-Laurent, Quebec observed: “The best politician is not the one who speaks the most, it’s the one who listens the most and who speaks better after that.” Imagine: a politician who listens to Canadians and will champion their needs… that’s novel.

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/more-summertime-snippets/

 

Summertime snippets: ICYMI news

The Niagara Independent, August 19, 2022 – In the dog days of summer many Canadians are trying hard to tune out the news of the nation. Many are taking a hiatus from the headlines, not to refocus on reality until sometime after Labour Day.

Yet, through the weeks of July and August there have been news items that are sure to impact Canadians. Over the next few weeks, this column will present “summertime snippets” of the more important stuff – ICYMI.

(WARNING – The snippets may cause grief and heartburn. For those who wish to live in blissful denial for the last weeks of the summer, the helpful suggestion is to save these columns and not pull them out until mid-September when you may want to begin to refocus.)

Federal Employees Just Keep Getting Richer: Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) has uncovered that during the COVID-19 pandemic the number of federal government managers earning more than $100,000 increased by a whopping 66 per cent. There were 45,000 more bureaucrats – a total of 114,433 – now making the super-salary of 100K+ (which does not include the value of their perks).

According to the CTF’s Access to Information request, during the pandemic there were 312,825 federal employees who received a pay raise (while working from home). There was no record of an employee receiving a pay cut.

Let’s put this into perspective. The average national income of a full-time working Canadian is $54,630. The average household income in Canada is $92,764 (and after taxes this figure is $76,171). So, these numbers tell us that civil servants make so much more than Canada’s working stiffs that they pull up the average income figure across the country.

CTF’s federal director Franco Terrazzano neatly summed up this largesse, “We are not all in this together.”

Dr. Tam Cashes In: In a closed-door federal cabinet meeting, Justin Trudeau’s braintrust awarded Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam a 22 per cent pay increase with a three-year contract bump from $265,000 to $324,000.

This is the same Dr. Tam that was out front through 2020 assuring Canadians there was nothing to worry about. It’s the same Dr. Tam that echoed the Prime Minister’s pandemic narrative through the past two years. Obviously, her performance was appreciated by our country’s number one former drama teacher.

Canada is Now the Second-Most Indebted Country in the World: The Fraser Institute released a report in late June revealing that during the pandemic Canada had become the second highest most indebted industrialized country, behind only Japan.

Canada’s spending through 2020 and 2021 was the greatest per capita of any country. Canucks’ gross debt-to-GDP ratio is now 32 out of 33 countries covered by the International Monetary Fund. Canadians will need to bare the weight of this debt for decades, if not generations.

No Balanced Federal Budget for Two Decades: Another report released by the CTF provides the alarming bottom line that it will take the federal government at least 20 years to balance its budget – and that is a hopeful forecast. When factoring for the government’s total revenue, total spending, budgetary balance, and its interest charges on the national debt, there is little hope to see a balanced budget until 2041. That calculation does not take into account any new political promises.

The CTF commentary on this: “But taking another two decades to balance the budget is too long, and even that target won’t be met if interest rates tick up, the economy doesn’t grow every single year, or politicians can’t find the willpower to say ‘no’ to new spending.”

“By the time the feds balance the budget two decades from now, interest charges on the government credit card will have cost taxpayers more than $800 billion.”

Canada Funding the WEF: The 2020-2021 Public Accounts of Canada indicate that, in that single fiscal year, Canadians gave more than $1.5 billion to the United Nations in the form of financial support, contributions and grants. The government also slipped $3 million that year to the World Economic Forum (WEF) (yes, that global cabal of multimillionaires who annually jet to Davos, Switzerland to warn the world of carbon emissions).

There are few records explaining where Canadians’ money went into the U.N. And there has been no explanation from the government on the details of the $3 million payment to Klaus Schwab’s global forum. Perhaps WEF board members Chrystia Freeland or Mark Carney could enlighten us?

Of interest on the subject of the WEF, the forum issued findings this week from an international survey that showed “70 per cent of adults across 19 countries believe children will be financially worse off than their parents.” Most striking for Canadians is the data: “At least three-quarters of adults in Japan, France, Italy and Canada say children will be worse off financially than their parents.” Canadians rank among the most negative about the prospects for the next generation.

If the WEF’s Great Reset is to bring about positive change for the world, is it not disconcerting to imagine this change will come at the expense of our Canadian children?

Canada’s Tree Planting Program: Figures recently released indicate that the federal government planted 29 million trees in the second year of Trudeau’s feted national tree planting program. The PM promised $3.2 billion for Ottawa to manage the planting of two billion trees by 2030. A recent Globe and Mail editorial explains this commitment will cover an area twice the size of PEI, approximately two per cent of Canada’s land mass. Canada’s forests have more than 300 billion trees and the country’s forest industry presently manages an ample reforestation program.

Another remarkable fact about Trudeau’s program is the news from the federal Department of Natural Resources that in the first year of the program (when not a single tree was planted), the Ottawa bureaucrats paid $3.1 million for a study to tell them how to plant trees.

Of course, this absurdity begs a couple of questions for levity’s sake: Just how many Ottawa bureaucrats does it take to plant a tree? If the PM plants a tree in Brampton does that offset the carbon emissions used to fly him there for his 30-minute photo-op?

Next week: More summertime snippets

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/summertime-snippets-icymi-news/

Photo credit: The Canadian Press

Trudeau government’s green plan is hurting Canadians and failing the global community

The Niagara Independent, August 12, 2022 – The irony was not lost to many Canadians (and even mainstream media) that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was jetting across the country to deliver his dire warnings about climate change and how Canadians must do their part. The PM, his Minister of Environment Steven Guilbeault and a cadre of Liberal ministers and MPs spent July sharing the paramount objectives of the Liberal green plan that will get Canada to “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

The age-old adage may be “the devil is in the details,” but already there is mounting evidence to conclude the Trudeau government’s green plan is hurting Canadians and failing the global community.

First and foremost, when it comes to being responsible for one’s own carbon footprint, it is hard to reconcile the PM’s July tour that was, in part, to highlight the Liberals’ green plan. Last month the PM spent 20 days in the air flying 26,238 kms aboard CanForce One. His 20 flights took Trudeau from coast to coast, touching down in some locations for only a few hours to plant a tree, gladhand on main street, or visit a local business – and then there were the trips coordinated to include a Liberal fundraising event. What is most noteworthy is Justin Trudeau’s flights in July released nearly 120 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the environment (and for comparison, a Canadian’s average annual emissions total is 4.1 tonnes).

PM Trudeau capped his Canadian tour with the revelation that his family would be holidaying in Costa Rica. More irony: the day the PM jetted off for the south, CBC News featured a piece prodding Canadians that we have a moral responsibility to give up personal ownership of vehicles for the good of the planet’s environment.

Central to the Trudeau government’s green plan is a schedule of carbon tax hikes on gas pump prices and home fuel, purposefully designed to raise energy prices and cause a behavioural change in Canadians’ lifestyle habits. The government has proved regimented to their tax hikes; Canada was the only country in the world to hike taxes during the pandemic.

Carbon taxes have raised the price of all goods and services in Canada and, in this way, has contributed to the country’s inflation rate. Yet rising fuel costs, inflation and the financial stress bearing down on Canadians is “good,” as Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland explained at one of her recent tour stops, for it will help speed along Canadians’ transition to green energy choices.

With this rationale, Trudeau and Freeland are soon to double down on taxing Canadians by introducing a second carbon tax, estimated to drive up gas prices 13 cents per litre and cost an additional $220 annually on an average home fuel bill. The government’s own estimates forecast that this new tax will shrink the Canadian economy by $9 billion and the Fraser Institute estimates it will result in the loss of 184,000 jobs. (To paraphrase Freeland: no pain, no gain.)

The Trudeau government’s emissions reduction plans have adversely impacted domestic and foreign investment in the country’s natural resource industries, most strikingly the oil and gas sector. The regulatory straight jacket placed on all resource development projects – new mines, oil and gas projects, and pipelines – has had serious repercussions in Canada as well as beyond our borders. The most recent case in point is how Canada responded to the call for energy resources from Germany.

Europe is in the grips of an energy crisis brought about with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s threats of turning off the flow of natural gas to Europe this winter. Germany turned to Canada to request liquified natural gas (LNG) exports. Though Canada is one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas, the country currently has no capacity to export gas anywhere other than the U.S. So, Canada was unable to assist with the requested LNG exports. Instead, PM Trudeau made a closed-door promise with Germany that would have Canada break with the solidarity of the international community and violate our country’s own sanctions against Putin. Trudeau promised to return a gas turbine to Russia so Putin could then export his gas.

On a related matter concerning the development of LNG export facilities in Canada, this week Enbridge CEO Al Monaco stated the Trudeau government needs to “get out of our own way when it comes to energy and building infrastructure… We need a sense of urgency and clarity around regulatory and permitting certainty to make sure we attract capital.” Monaco is quoted in the Globe and Mail to say that this is important for Canada and the world: “Our ability to export low-emission natural gas can have a massive impact on global emissions.”

Still, the Trudeau government’s zeal for its environmental objectives remains unyielding. Steven Guilbeault continues to suggest options for Ottawa’s Emissions Reduction Plan, which is to cut oil and gas emissions by more than 40 per cent by 2030, and emissions from electricity generation by almost 80 per cent. With the government’s heightened rhetoric about Canadians doing their part for the existential global climate challenge, the government’s green plan has effectively put a chill on all Canadian energy projects.

Canada’s former Finance Minister Joe Oliver summed up the government’s green plan with this frank assessment: “Trudeau’s fixation has become an obsession. His preoccupation with a climate emergency has morphed into a moral, quasi-religious imperative that tolerates no dissent and justifies policies, irrespective of their harm to Canadians and people around the world.”

This places the Canadian energy sector on the sidelines – at a time when international bodies would welcome Canadian resources. Consider what is happening in the world:

  • Germany, Holland, and UK have fired up decommissioned coal plants
  • European Union is revisiting its ban on fracking
  • India has increased its coal usage and increased imports of Russian oil and gas
  • China has increased the number of coal plants being built (currently coal supplies 60 per cent of the country’s energy)
  • China has increased imports of Russian coal, oil, and LNG

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, assessed the current global energy requirements, “We will still need oil and gas for years to come. I prefer that oil is produced by countries… like Canada who want to reduce the emissions of oil and gas.”

With respect specifically to China, former Canadian envoy to Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan Randolph Mank, suggests Canada could make a significant contribution on geo-environmental issues if they were to change tact and encourage development of LNG facilities. Mank stated, “We account for 1.5 to 1.7 per cent of global emissions, and China is 30 per cent. So it would seem a natural way to contribute to the global effort to reduce emissions.”

However, this type of international contribution would require the Trudeau government, as Al Monaco put it “to get out of the way”; something that will not occur as Freeland introduces the Liberal’s new carbon taxes and Guilbeault details his Emissions Reduction Plan.

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-governments-green-plan-is-hurting-canadians-and-failing-the-global-community/

Photo credit: PMO

The public health care system is Canada’s Gordian Knot

The Niagara Independent, August 5, 2022 – On July 15, a B.C. Court of Appeal delivered a decision that tightens the country’s Gordian Knot: our revered public health care system. The court’s decision rejected user-paid medical care, even if the patient must wait an unreasonable and potentially harmful amount of time for care. For defenders of the public system, this edict pulled taut those Canadian ties that bind us to an increasingly strained (and some will describe as “broken”) care system.

The B.C. court justices upheld a lower provincial court decision which rejected arguments made by Dr. Brian Day that Canadians’ right to life was being violated by not being able to receive timely medical attention. Dr. Day, an orthopedic surgeon, argued that where the public health care system fails to meet the needs of an individual, the individual should have the ability to access personal care at their expense. But, the court ruled against the individual in favour of the common good, rationalizing the necessity of banning private health care in order to protect the public system.

In their written decision, the justices went so far as to say that, even though long wait times may risk poor health outcomes – in some cases denying patients their charter right to life and security of the person – these violations are within “principles of fundamental justice” as they assure the sustainability of Canada’s public health system.

The subtext to the court decision was the justices’ recognition of the ailing state of public health care in B.C. where it is appreciated that wait times can be excessive and increase risks to patients. In March 2018, almost 33,500 adults were waiting for necessary medical care beyond the maximum wait time – and since the COVID pandemic this number has grown. On this point, the court admitted the lower court judge had erred by minimizing the harm to patients and failing to acknowledge that wait times could even lead to death.

In the weeks following this notable decision, Canadians learned of the extreme harm our public health care system can inflict. In New Brunswick, a patient in pain and visible discomfort died while sitting for hours in the waiting room of a Fredericton hospital ER. In Vancouver, an elderly woman died while laying on a stretcher in a hospital waiting room for two days without attention.

A 76-year-old Ontario man made national news when he was left for four days on a stretcher in a hallway of a Wiarton hospital. He had shattered his femur in a cycling accident and required transportation and surgery in a London hospital.

The Ontario care system is in critical care this summer.

  • There are now 13 ERs – from Wingham to Perth to Huron County – forced to close because of staff shortages.
  • The Ontario Nurses’ Association reports that 25 hospitals were forced to make changes over the Civic holiday weekend due to staff shortages.
  • In the hospitals opened, the average wait time to be admitted has climbed to an unprecedented 20.1 hours.
  • People needing an ambulance must wait longer due to ambulance offload delays that keep paramedics in ER departments with their patients waiting for admission to the hospital.
  • In May, patients waited an average of 2.1 hours for a first assessment by an ER doctor. They remained waiting after the assessment as beds were simply unavailable due to lack of staff.

Registered Nurses Association of Ontario President Claudette Holloway sounded the alarm bells in a recent Toronto CP24 news interview this week, “I have not seen it this bad… this is certainly a dire and a dangerous situation that needs drastic responses from our politicians.”

In another frank interview, ER doctor Raghu Venugopal stated the health system has collapsed.

“Nurses and doctors across Ontario and Canada who are working in emergency departments are greatly dismayed, honestly, by the human situation that patients and families have to face on a daily basis… There is no metric or no nothing that your eyes can’t see as a patient or family member in the ER that says the system has not anything but collapsed as we know it.”

The mounting pressure on the public health care system has Ontario Premier Doug Ford calling for the federal government to provide financial support to help an impossible situation for existing hospital staff and medical professionals. Premier Ford assessed, “It’s not sustainable that the federal government is giving us 22 per cent. We’re paying 78 per cent. And that’s across the country. Unacceptable. We’re going to continue asking the federal government to step up and do their fair share. There’s never been a more important time to do so.”

These comments echo the repeated requests made by premiers in March 2021 when they wanted the federal government to expand its share of health care costs from the current rate of 22 per cent to the historically agreed upon share of 35 per cent. That sizable increase would see an additional $28 billion poured into the public system.

This federal cash would allow provinces to increase training positions for staff, hire nurses and PSWs, increase pay to retain staff, increase the number of doctors, open and support more beds, and keep ERs open.

Yet, to date, the plea for financial assistance has fallen on deaf ears. The federal budgets in 2021 and 2022 were silent on the subject of health care transfers. Instead, the Trudeau government touted investments of $3 billion for mental health services, $3 billion for long-term care, $3 billion for home care and $2 billion to help provinces address surgical backlogs. Some of these investments are spread over three to five years and all come with an understanding that there will be federal regulatory strings attached.

The federal government’s offerings is not enough to begin to address the foundational cracks in the country’s health care system. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada has the fourth-lowest number of funded acute care beds per capita among its member countries. The Commonwealth Fund has ranked Canada’s health system second-last among 11 rich countries.

The bottom line is that without the federal government increasing the health transfers, the provinces remain cash-strapped. This leaves Canadians with a threadbare public health care system that will remain strained in meeting even the most critical health care needs.

Health care analyst Susan Martinuk of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy reflects, “Every province is paying more than 40 per cent of its revenues into health care. And it’s still not enough. We’ve got a million people on waiting lists. In my mind, it’s time to stop talking about who’s going to pay for health care, and start talking about how we’re going to change health care.”

This is the very discussion Dr. Day intends to take to the Supreme Court of Canada. Those justices will need to consider whether a public health care system that is consistently proving to be inadequate requires a new approach – perhaps akin to Alexander’s legendary sword stroke that cut free the knot.

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

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-public-health-care-system-is-canadas-gordian-knot/

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Josef Hanus — Vancouver General Hospital

A fitting proverb: a fish rots from the head down

The Niagara Independent, July 29, 2022 – With a growing number of inconveniences and increased financial stresses in daily living, there are more Canadians realizing our federal government’s inability to manage Canada’s affairs. Political leadership is wanting, and the country’s bureaucracy is proving incapable of delivering basic services. Headaches in obtaining a passport or flying out of Pearson airport are prompting Canadians to ask, what is happening to the country, its services and standing in the world?

A recent lead editorial in the Toronto Sun exclaimed, “Federal services collapsing under Trudeau.” It cites the daily chaos unfolding at airports and the unheard-of flight disruptions. According to aviation industry experts, the primary cause of Canadians’ travel turmoil is federal government mismanagement. This has led to the critical shortages of federal security and customs officers. To respond to this crisis PM Justin Trudeau immediately struck a task force committee of 10 cabinet ministers to improve the situation (and now more than a month later there is no word from the committee or any action to alleviate the problems).

There was also a damning National Post editorial, “Canada’s public service is collapsing.” It recounts details of the federal bureaucracy’s “passport pandemonium.” The Post reports on exhaustive, hours-long line-ups at passport offices, airline counters, and airport security lines. It describes an overwhelmed bureaucracy that is haplessly coping with the crisis. Imagine the management at the Montreal passport office ordering 801 chairs so people will not have to stand in line?!

In a separate National Post piece, columnist John Ivison posits: “The rot in Canada’s dysfunctional government is coming from the top.” Ivison lays blame squarely on a tired and wayward Liberal government.

“Over the past seven years, the Liberals have lost, or jettisoned, some of their most seasoned ministers and political staffers. They have often been replaced by farm-team players with less experience and less rounded skill sets. The upshot is a preoccupation with issues management and the politics of spin.”

Ivison draws the analogy of the Trudeau government’s inconsistencies with that of a decaying body. His argument proceeds to conjure up that ancient Turkish proverb: A fish rots from the head down.

Indeed, there are many stories from Ottawa that signal the country’s mismanagement. Apart from airports and passports, in the last month there have been two significant news stories unfolding that go beyond mere inconvenience and speak directly to the devolution of the country. In both instances, PM Trudeau and his PMO operatives are at the centre marshalling the policy decision and government action.

In mid-July an international news story broke in Moscow that Canada was returning a repaired turbine to Russia for its Nord Stream gas pipeline. This news reverberated around the world as the surprise shipment violates the free-world’s sanctions of Vladimir Putin in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was initially reported that Canada’s actions occurred without knowledge of its allies, including besieged Ukraine. In fact, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told PM Trudeau directly, “Ukrainians will never accept Canada’s decision regarding the Nord Stream turbine.”

Since, Trudeau cabinet ministers have rationalized it was a hard decision that was made to remove the threat by Russia to turn off its flow of gas to Europe. PM Trudeau made the final decision (without any parliamentarian discussions) as a result of private conversations he held with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the recent G7 Summit. Still, it seems unconscionable that the Canadian PM made his decision while Russian missiles were killing civilians in the bombing of apartment buildings and a shopping centre.

Yet, this is just the last inexplicable foreign policy move for the Trudeau government. There has been no consistent Canadian foreign policy with quizzical stances taken on failing to call out Uyghur slavery, silence concerning democracy in Hong Kong, the abandonment of Afghanistan, the secret Canadian-Sino virus research project in Winnipeg, etc. For a country that has no ability to defend its borders or people, does it not appear to be dangerously brash for the PM to be continuously undermining the Canada’s international relations and allies’ trust?

The second damaging story from Ottawa, being revealed at a parliamentary committee, is the travesty of Canadian law that took place in the public inquiry into the horrific Nova Scotia mass shootings. RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki was called out by senior RCMP officers for making a promise to the PMO and public safety minister Bill Blair that the RCMP would make public certain firearms information about the Nova Scotia massacres to tie it to the government’s new gun control legislation. In essence, Commissioner Lucki was directing the RCMP investigators to shill for Trudeau’s gun control agenda.

Commissioner Lucki contests this accusation, as well as the fact that she reprimanded senior Nova Scotia Officer Darren Campbell for his unwillingness to play to the PMO script. This drama is playing itself out in Ottawa right now and MPs are left to decipher the facts from the conflicting accounts: on one hand there is the decorated, career RCMP commanding officer and, on the other, Justin Trudeau’s handpicked commissioner and his lackey public safety minister.

But it seems Canadians have no interest in news on the corruption of Canada’s justice system – likely because it has been a recurring theme of the Trudeau government since it took office. There was the PMO-led attack on the reputation of Vice Admiral Mark Norman and the intense pressuring of then Justice Minister Jody Wilson Raybould for SNC Lavalin favours. There’s been repeated stories involving named judges selected from Liberal donor lists.

And is it not disconcerting that our ethically challenged PM (Trudeau has been charged three times for violating the country’s ethics laws) sets the tone for his government? Does this not beg the question, if our PM and his government are above the law, what does it say for the country’s justice system?

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau gets a haircut and makes a week’s worth of headlines jetting cross-country on a photo-op campaign. From one coast to another, and one BC town to another, Trudeau mugs with kids, and lectures Canadians about reducing their carbon emissions. The PMO staff is again successfully changing the channel… if only it weren’t for that rank, fishy smell.

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-fitting-proverb-a-fish-rots-from-the-head-down/

Photo credit: Reuters/Jennifer Gauthier 

Trudeau’s and Freeland’s fiscal management is no laughing matter

The Niagara Independent, July 22, 2022 – There is a political meme circulating these days of PM Justin Trudeau and Deputy PM and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland whispering to one another. Trudeau leans over to ask, “How did we destroy the economy so badly?” Freeland reminds her friend, “Well, you’re a drama teacher and I’m a journalist, so…”

The country’s financial community may have known for some time but now there is an increasing number of Canadians learning that this meme accurately sums up Ottawa’s fiscal mismanagement.

Again, this week the economic news is grim for Canadians.

The country’s inflation rate hit 8.1 per cent, and that was after the Bank of Canada shocked our financial markets with a full percentage point interest rate hike. The stubbornly high inflation rate spells more interest rate shock therapy in the near future, and inevitability that is sure to exacerbate the financial woes most Canadians are stressing over these days.

Statistics Canada factors the price of store-bought food in Ontario has risen by 10 per cent or more since last June (in April and May it was 9.7 per cent). Stats Can also reveals gas prices have risen more than 55 per cent compared to a year ago.

The rising cost of living is taking its toll on Canadians. A MNP survey reveals 59 per cent of Canadians are concerned about their financial situation, and 27 per cent are cutting back on food, utilities, and housing just to get by. The Toronto organization Stop Community Food Centre reports that there has been a 26 per cent increase in families with children accessing their food bank in 2022.

Many financial experts have assessed Canada’s current economic state and point to the federal government’s spending as the primary cause of pain that Canadians are only beginning to feel. In an informative National Post column, John Ivison interviews Philip Cross, former chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada. Cross provides this important background:

“Nearly two years ago, the OECD said that, as Canada’s GDP fell by 10 per cent in the second pandemic-hit quarter of 2020, household income grew by 11 per cent, thanks to generous government hand-outs. The same phenomenon did not happen in Germany, France, the U.K. or the U.S.”

Cross also provides key numbers required to begin to understand the country’s financial problems:

  • Family median market income was $56,300 in 2015 and $55,700 in 2020 (all figures adjusted for inflation and expressed in constant 2020 dollars). In other words, employment income was practically unchanged.
  • Family after-tax income rose to $66,800 in 2020, because government transfers increased to $16,400 from $6,900 in 2015.
  • After-tax income for all Canadians rose by five per cent in 2020, even though employment income fell two per cent.

Cross states that the 2020 pandemic year was “the only recession in Canadian history where people were actually better off.” He says, “We just stuck a huge mixer in the economy and hit top speed. We are still trying to figure out what happened.”

John Ivison cleverly calls it “Trudeau’s helicopter money experiment.”

The Liberal government followed up its 2020 pandemic experiment with yet further spending. Finance Minister Freeland’s 2021 and 2022 budgets earmarked billions of dollars in new initiatives. With Trudeau and Freeland, there appears to be no forecasted balanced budgets.

A recent report by the Fraser Institute calculates that the federal debt per person has grown to a total of 35 per cent under Justin Trudeau since 2015, which includes an increase of more than 25 per cent from 2019 to 2022. Soaring annual deficits are sure to be the hallmark and the legacy of the Trudeau government.

Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, has described this government’s spending as being seriously out of control. After Freeland’s 2021 fiscal update, Terrazzano sounded the alarm bells: “The cost of living is soaring and Canadians should be worried about how the government is going to pay for its unprecedented spending and hundreds of billions of dollars in new debt. The feds need to stop dishing out cash we don’t have and pouring fuel on the inflation fire. Freeland needs to hit the brakes on this government’s runaway spending train.”

This week in a BNN Bloomberg News interview, former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge echoed the concern that the federal government was adding “fuel to the fire.” Dodge called on Freeland to postpone the government’s 2022 budget expenditures to help get inflation back under control. His advice to Canadians was to contact MPs to “ask the [finance] minister why she’s not doing what she can from her side in order to help control the excess demand at the moment.”

Chrystia Freeland has heard the suggestion from the financial community a few times recently that she is not doing enough to combat inflation.

  • Scotiabank Chief Economist Jean-Francois Perrault and Director of Forecasting Rene Lalonde were highly critical of the government’s elevated spending, stating the government was “doing nothing” and “shirking Canada’s inflation fight.”
  • From his new Bay Street perch, former finance minister Bill Morneau criticized the federal government for its short-term, politically motivated thinking on fiscal policy and economic growth.
  • In a Globe and Mail editorial the paper notes, “Economists worry that Ottawa’s fiscal plan is still pulling in the wrong direction on inflation”, concluding Liberals’ fiscal policy is more a part of the problem than the solution.

This repeated critical analysis of Freeland from the country’s leading financial minds has left Canadians shaken. Four of every five Canadians have lost faith in the Trudeau government to manage the country’s economy. According to a recent Maru Public Opinion poll, 55 per cent of Canadians do not believe Trudeau has a “solid plan” to battle inflation and weather the country through economic troubles. Another 25 per cent believe the PM is on the wrong track.

In the same poll, Canadians showed no more confidence in Chrystia Freeland: 55 per cent of Canadians believe that the finance minister has no plan to tackle inflation and 24 per cent believe Freeland has a specifically “bad plan.”

On one hand we have Justin Trudeau who frankly admitted that he does not think about monetary policy and, on the other hand, we have Chrystia Freeland who nonsensically lectures us that inflation is the reason we must double down on climate change.

There is no wonder how “we” got into this economic mess. That meme of the two of them would be funny if it were not so true.

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-and-freelands-fiscal-management-is-no-laughing-matter/

Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld