The (Right) News Rundown
- Alberta's current fiscal policy is "not sustainable" in the long term. Who's saying this? The opposition? A UCP leadership candidate? Nope, the Parliamentary Budget Office in Ottawa. Alberta's gap between balance sits at roughly $14.1b or 4.6% of GDP in the province.
- This gap would be settled by either a 25% increase in the overall tax burden on the province or a 20% reduction in program spending. Recall a few weeks ago that we discussed Jason Kenney's plan to reduce spending by 20% to the levels in British Columbia. This plan was called "mean-spirited" by Premier Notley. It looks like the UCP's plan to return to balance has been vetted, albeit indirectly, by the Parliamentary Budget Office in Ottawa.
- The report goes on to estimate that Alberta's fiscal gap is responsible for most of the consolidated subnational government (provinces and territories) fiscal gap, roughly 92% or 0.84% of Canadian GDP. Looking at the data in this report it also re-iterates the point that the federal government won't reach a zero debt future until the 2060s. The provinces or subnational governments continue on an upward trend reaching 75% debt to GDP ratio by 2068.
- What the report from Global News neglects to mention is that Alberta is nearly the worst off in our country. Our fiscal gap is only preceded by the territories and Newfoundland and Labrador. The only government's fiscal plans who are sustainable in the long term are those of Quebec and Nova Scotia.
- The Premier feels that this is, "an interesting academic exercise [and] it really has no value in terms of projections". What we do know is quite simple, oil prices aren't forecast to go much beyond $55/barrel and our current budget projections were rather modest with a higher value of oil factored into the forecast than we actually got, we had an average oil price of $40/barrel last year with $49/barrel forecast this year. We also know that under the current NDP plan the province won't reach balance until 2024 if things continue on this path and we currently have a $10.5b deficit.
- A government memo obtained by a Postmedia freedom of information request, shows the level of governmental awareness of the foothold that organized crime, particularly from China, has in BC casinos. The memo was sent to John Mazure, B.C.’s assistant deputy minister in charge of the gaming enforcement branch, and it shows how money laundering in casinos could pose a danger for both B.C. residents and the provincial economy.
- The memo was written by Len Meilleur, the gaming enforcement branch’s director of compliance. It refers to RCMP and B.C. Lottery Commission investigations that led to allegations that “illegitimate lenders” associated with organized crime are lending cash earned through crime to VIP gamblers, with drop-offs in B.C. casino parking lots. After a series of redacted paragraphs, Meilleur’s memo said: “This information is proving well founded within the current investigation and these subjects have been identified as threats to public safety … because of their involvement in a wide array of criminal activity.” Documents also say that evidence provided by police to the BCLC suggests organized crime’s laundering of money through casinos and thus into B.C.’s economy is “substantial.”
- These documents refer to RCMP investigations that allege that an underground banking network with links to China is connected to organized crime. That network is accused of using an illegal money-transfer business in Richmond to lend suspected drug-dealer cash to high-roller Chinese gamblers recruited from Macau, which then used huge wads of small bills to buy chips, mostly at River Rock Casino in Richmond. Internal documents written between 2015 and 2017 show that B.C. is an outlier on casino money laundering in Canada. They show that a tiny portion of ultra-wealthy VIP gamblers from China account for a significant part of B.C. casino revenues.
- Then Finance Minister and current BC Liberal leadership contender Mike De Jong was also warned in 2015 that money laundering concerns could open the B.C. Liberal government to criticism for deciding in 2009 to disband B.C.’s integrated illegal gaming enforcement team. Documents that back up Meilleur’s memo indicate that reports of suspicious transactions filed by BCLC with Fintrac, Canada’s anti-money-laundering agency, exploded after 2010 from 491 suspicious transactions in 2010-11 to 1737 in 2014-15.
- In a stunning indication of how much dirty cash could be rolling into B.C. government coffers through its take from casinos, suspicious currency transactions accounted for $176 million in 2014-15. That was 10 per cent of total gambling revenues in B.C. casinos, the documents say.
- Gambling enforcement documents also break down the backgrounds for major B.C. casino gamblers. A July 2015 “Cash in Casinos” report says the top 45 patrons of B.C. casinos in 2013, by total deposits, were all Asian and 55 per cent represented “Chinese-based wealth.”
- “It is appreciated that a relatively few high-value patrons account for a significant portion of BCLC revenue and a corresponding number of suspicious transaction reports,” the internal report says. “It is also understood that these clients have a preference for cash.”
- Despite all the red flags, in 2015 the gaming enforcement branch advised B.C.’s government to tread carefully because of the potential to cut government revenue. “The impact on high-value patrons will need to be taken into consideration in the development of any additional measures to enhance the anti-money-laundering due diligence,” documents said.
- It's amazing how something like this would remain so quiet in the media for so long. There's always the stereotype of casinos and organized crime, but for it to be actually happening in BC right under the watchdog's eyes is a startling revelation. For the government to be aware of this problem for over 7 years without doing anything about it because of potential impact to revenue is appalling. One wonders if the new NDP government will tackle the serious problem that this organized crime money laundering poses, or if it will follow in the footsteps of the BC Liberals and accept the money no matter where it came from.
- Each year when governments present their budget documents to the House, reporters, and organizations it's presented in the form of a book. The book is just like any other book including the table of contents, index, figures, and so on. Included in that of course is the cover. This week we're going to be talking about the cover design of the 2017 Federal Budget.
- It was reported by The Blacklock's reporter and subsequently picked up by the National Post that this year's budget cover cost $212,234 to design! This huge sum included $89,500 for talent fees and models posing as Canadians.
- The information was received through an Access To Information request. Getting the info though wasn't easy... Blacklock's ended up filing a formal complaint with the Office of the Information commissioner in order to get access to the information after being held up for 6 months.
- It's also been revealed that in the request, "future of children is an issue that is central to the 2017 budget, that is why they are the focus of every visual." The request further details discussions with the McCann ad agency who received the sum that, "we would like to know about the ethnicities you would like us to cover... Asian? Native? Indian? Latino? There are four models, so we will have to choose."
- There was a young girl playing an air guitar intended to convey "fairness". The cover included a boy with a cartoon bridge representing infrastructure. A woman in hiking boots with a cartoon laptop representing "innovation and skill". There was an email exchange between the Prime Minister's Office and the ad agency, "I vote glasses... put me on team hipster." There was also a photo of a grey-haired man having his blood pressure checked which was thought to symbolize a, "Strong Canada" though one staffer described the facial expression as "quite unsettling." This is the level of discussion that went into the 2017 budget document when in reality the government should have been more concerned with looking at the monetary policies inside the budget.
- For comparison last year's budget cover cost $176,339 and that involved photographing two models as mother and daughter. Previous Conservative governments used a plain blue cover or inexpensive stock photos for $600 or less. Paul Wells from Maclean's magazine tweeted a photo of the 1995 Paul Martin budget calling it, "the most consequential budget" that he covered. It was a white document with the label "Budget Plan" and tag line "Including Supplementary Information and Notices of Ways and Means Motions". (https://twitter.com/inklesspw/status/918676697884581888)
- This huge campaign underscores the huge disconnect between Ottawa bureaucrats and what normal Canadians would find acceptable. This $212,234 expense was included in the $750,000 campaign to promote the budget. Of course what's really disheartening is that now that this Access To Information Request has been made public there has really been no coverage of it in national media. You'd think that if this had happened under the former government the media would be having a field day with it just as they did with the Bev Oda orange juice a number of years ago.
The Firing Line
- For this week's firing line segment, I'll be covering two articles from different mainstream media outlets that roughly cover the same story, but from two dramatically different outlooks. First, let's take a look at the good article.
- Roy McGregor of The Globe and Mail writes about new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, and his ongoing search for his identity among Canadians. "Mr. Scheer arrived on the national stage almost completely unknown, to most Canadians a Nowhere Man not sure where he's going to."
- McGregor notes that the upcoming by-elections will be a major test for Scheer: "Slowly, oh so slowly, he has been coming into faint focus, but speed is now of the essence with two federal by-elections, both currently held by the Conservatives, slated for Oct. 23. The Alberta seat, Sturgeon River-Parkland, was previously safely held by interim party leader Rona Ambrose. The Quebec seat, Lac-Saint-Jean, was held by retiring Member of Parliament Denis Lebel, who squeaked back into office with only 33 per cent of the vote two years ago. Lac-Saint-Jean will be a significant test for Mr. Scheer."
- He also notes that Scheer has had a "blank slate" style of leadership, which appears to be modelled after Stephen Harper: "The new leader began as a blank sheet that his party envisioned as filling with hope for a return to power in 2019. The governing Liberals, on the other hand, had hoped that sheet would soon fill with deeply conservative stances that would largely turn off voters. Mr. Scheer, after all, has been anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, as well as very much opposed to the possibility of a carbon tax, which he says will "kill jobs in Canada. It will hurt low-income Canadians." That sheet, however, remains blank enough that many websites say nothing about his positions on a long list of issues. It appears that he is deliberately modelling his leadership after former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who succeeded in no small part because he refused to go down several controversial paths, regardless of his own convictions. When Mr. Scheer was asked this spring about his stance on the legalization of marijuana, for example, his response was that both he and the party have to be "realistic." Since he has become party leader, he has determinedly avoided such issues. It is impossible, at this point, to produce a comprehensive list of what he does and does not stand for."
- It also notes that while that blank slate is excellent for deflecting controversy, it also makes it so that Canadians are having a hard time deciding what to think about Scheer.
- The article talks about a story of Scheer at his son's football game, where he talks with other parents: "Well," Scheer tells an immigrant doctor from the United States, "I'm the leader of the opposition in Parliament. And in the next election, if my party wins more seats than the other parties, then I would become prime minister." She listens patiently along with her husband, and her eyes grow wide with curiosity. "But," she says, "you're too … too nice … and quiet. If this was America, you'd be a lot louder and" – she slams her fist into the open palm of her other hand, laughing. Blushing, Mr. Scheer laughs with them, but he also knows she is right. "The election is two years away, but it begins right now for me," he tells the two doctors. "I have to get out more. I have to work on name recognition."
- There's more, of course, it's a very long article, and quite well written, all about Scheer's struggle for identity, and a bit about him so you can get to know him and his positions better. You can find the link in the full show notes at rightsidenews.ca
- But now, let's turn to the other article, one that's so ridiculous it's hardly worth noting, except that it came from another huge Mainstream outlet, the National Post.
- Right from writer Tristan Hopper's headline, I was rolling my eyes. "Andrew Scheer’s sex appeal: How the Tory leader stands up against two world-renowned political hunks: In a Westminster first, both of Andrew Scheer's rivals for power have attained international acclaim for their looks and style sense"
- But it gets worse, as it actually has a caption of the new NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, with Scheer and PM Trudeau that states "Canada's three main federal party leaders, two of which have received praise for their looks." At this point, you have to think, it has to be satire right? And yes...it probably is. But it's quite hard to tell at first glance, and with all the misinformation spreading about around the media about Singh, Scheer, and Trudeau, wouldn't it be better to have a more informational approach?
- But let's point out some of the more ridiculous quotes from the article. "Just this week, for instance, newly minted NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was disparaging the luxurious hair of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by claiming “I have more hair, and it’s longer, and it’s nicer.” In the interest of balanced coverage, the National Post presents this semi-scientific guide to how Scheer may hold up in Canada’s emerging struggle for prettiest party leader."
- "Andrew Scheer is a giant. He is 6’4”, far taller than any current world leader of note, and slightly taller than Abraham Lincoln, still the tallest president in U.S. history. And society’s preference for taller men is well-known: They make more money, get more sex and are more likely to be trusted by strangers."
- "Aside from personal hygiene, the number one trait that women seek out on online dating sites is a keen grasp of proper grammar. This is according to a 2015 survey by Match.com, which found that good grammar on dating profiles outranked even confidence and straight teeth in increasing male desirability. According to a Conservative staffer on Parliament Hill, one of Scheer’s most attractive traits is his keen interest in etymology, the study of word origins."
- "Trudeau enjoys boxing, running and making strenuous yoga poses in public. Singh has a taste for high fashion suits, submission wrestling and is known to leave his top button undone on hot days, allowing his ample chest hair to billow forth. To date, Scheer’s the only one of the three not to have been photographed in the act of lifting weights. While undoubtedly exciting, testosterone-heavy traits can be very intimidating on a first date, and for good reason."
- "A May study out of Britain’s University of St. Andrews found that people are most likely to prefer mates that they’re familiar with. Scheer has a clear advantage in this department, since there are exponentially more Canadian men that are not GQ-magazine material."
- It's amazing how this whole article's premise is to make a joke out of the clear "sex appeal" writings that have been going around about Singh and Trudeau. However, it's quite hypocritical, as this whole thing would not be an issue if a female was one of the 3 parties leaders. Would the media be talking about sex appeal if it were Rona Ambrose, Niki Ashton and Joyce Murray at the helms of Canada's major parties?
- Also, what the media should be talking about is the leader's leadership qualities, policies and plans for improving Canada, not about whether or not they have the "looks" to win. As one commenter mentioned, "Just ask any grown woman who’s sexier? The good looking guy who is in a world of debt....Or the guy who can pay his bills?"
Word of the Week
Balance - stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side, equipoise between contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Scheer Identity
Teaser: Alberta’s fiscal policy is “not sustainable”, organized crime in casinos threatens BC’s economy and residents, $212,234 for a federal budget book cover by the federal government, and the wildly varying stories on Andrew Scheer and the focus on sex appeal.
Recorded Date: October 14, 2017
Release Date: October 14, 2017
Edit Notes: None