The (Right) News Rundown
- As we talked last week Alberta's carbon tax on a per tonne basis is set to double come January 1, 2018
- This has a huge negative impact on investment to Alberta <explain>
- This week it was announced that with this increase the government will set aside $1.4b for industry to reduce their emissions.
- This $1.4b comes from taxpayers.
- The Environment Minister says that this is the "business case for action on climate change" and it "has never been more clear, more urgent or provided so many opportunities." Of course these opportunities come from the fact that if businesses don't go green they will pay the cost.
- Of this $1.4b, $440m is going to the oil industry, $225m for carbon reduction innovation, $80m for Emissions Reduction Alberta, $240m for industrial energy efficiency and $145m for the Climate Change Innovation and Technology framework just to highlight some of where this money goes.
- Businesses have no choice but to get in line, it's the taxpayers that are funding this green shift. By shifting their money to the corporations that would ordinarily oppose such a tax. This is why we have not heard industry outright speak out against the Carbon tax.
- The government wants everyone to believe that this is the new normal.
- The government knows outright knows what the consequences will be. An internal report says that the Carbon Tax will cost industry $1.2b a year by 2020.
- The NDP isn't forecasting any job losses but with that much money disappearing, one has to wonder how business will expand or hire more people.
- The NDP believes what it's selling and sums it up by saying, “We’re not only expecting the oil and gas industry to remain resilient and a driver of the economy, we’re also expecting that this kind of regulatory push, along with the innovation fund pull, will, in fact, have a positive economic effect.”
- The media reports numbers but they don't talk about the sheer impact of the actual policies that are going to come into play.
- With all the other news stories going on in BC lately, electoral reform, energy projects, and other scandals, we haven't had that much time to discuss the BC Liberal leadership race that concludes on February 4th. Just to recap, after then Premier Christy Clark's flip-flop on the throne speech after the election where she won a plurality but not a majority, her government was taken down in a vote of non-confidence by the NDP and Green parties, with the Greens promising to support the NDP in government in a power sharing agreement to create a "strong, stable" minority government, in Green leader Andrew Weaver's words. Christy Clark promised she'd stay on as opposition leader, but then just a few weeks later resigned both as leader, and as an MLA, leaving her Kelowna seat vacant. With Darryl Plecas jumping the BC Liberal ship to become the Speaker, it left the Liberals in no position to challenge for government, and having to do a hard reset on how they did things.
- Fast forward to today, and the BC Liberals are in the midst of a very unpublicized leadership election. There are currently 6 candidates, 5 of whom are males, and former cabinet ministers under Clark. The lone woman is the race is former Surrey-White Rock Conservative MP Dianne Watts, who was also a former popular mayor of Surrey. She resigned her seat in the House of Commons in order to run for the BC Liberal Leadership, in a similar way that Jason Kenney did in Alberta, in order the get the province back on track.
- Dianne Watts has not had it easy though. In every debate she's gotten hammered for her lack of support in the caucus, which is understandable as she's an outsider in the race. People are concerned that Watts will not be able to hold together the BC Liberal informal coalition of traditional free enterprise liberals and conservatives, that is designed as a way to keep the NDP out of power. Being more of a conservative than previous Liberal leaders Wilson, Campbell and Clark, means that some are worried that some of the more centre leaning people in the party will leave for the NDP.
- She's also been widely criticized for not having a proper platform, which is something that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was notably lacking in his candidacy as well. Watts counters this by saying that she’s spent the last two months travelling around the province listening to voters, a move she adds the party failed to do ahead of the spring election. “We lost the election because you guys stopped listening. If we’ve ever got a hope to get back into government, we need to make sure we are re-engaging and rebuilding the trust that was lost.” However, her performance in the debates has been rather flat, as she's not been able to offer any platform specific plans as a response to questions.
- She's also raised the ire of the other leadership candidates because of her criticism of the party and its loss of so many seats – and eventually the government – in the past election, criticism that her rivals likely find fairly irritating since they were members of that government.
- Now the Liberal leadership will be decided similar to how the federal Conservative race was. Under the rules of the leadership race, all 87 ridings are treated equally and are each assigned 100 points. The points are allocated to each candidate based on the percentage of the votes they get from the members in each riding (for example, if a candidate gets 42 per cent, he or she would get 42 points). A preferential ballot will be used, where party members can make second, third (or more) choices. If no one wins on the first ballot, the second choices are distributed and that process continues until a candidate receives a majority of points.
- And what happens in the race will be dependant on how each of the candidates are covered in the media. Currently, it seems that Watts is garnering the most attention, as the party outsider and only female of the race, but a lot of that coverage has been very slanted against her. Watts is currently in the lead in polls, but we all know how trustworthy those are. If she is to win, it will be because she is able to reach a lot of Liberal supporters that felt disillusioned from the party in the last election, as well as signing up new members from the conservative wing of the province, of which there are large amounts outside of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. One thing is for sure, it is going to be a tough race to predict, and we'll have further coverage on this in the lead up to the final count.
- Trudeau made a rather impromptu trip to China, announced only a week and a half ago.
- The goal: to start free trade talks with China. That didn't happen.
- Former finance minister John Manley said, "Prime Ministers usually don't go on trips like that without something to announce."
- The trip was rocky to begin with. Representatives from both China and Canada were heard arguing about Canadian media's access to the photo op of the two leaders.
- Agreements were announced regarding agricultural exports, energy, and education.
- A news conference was planned but instead only prepared statements were read.
- Trudeau of course committed to his reliable triple of labour rights, gender rights, and climate change as a part of any trade deal.
- This is the point where trade deficits should be considered, <explain>.
- The trade deficit between Canada and China for 2016 was close to $45b and is only expanding.
- <The double edged sword of free trade, explain>
- It is said that the Canadian delegation went to China under the assumptions that China's objections to Trudeau's triple on trade had been settled. It wasn't.
- John Ivison from the National Post said, "Trudeau emerged to give his final statement looking like the boy who expected a bike for Christmas and instead got a pair of plain socks"
- His article was followed by a cartoon of Justin Trudeau getting the boot out of the Great Hall.
- This sentiment was further repeated in the Globe and Mail and echoed by Dan Ciuriak, who is a trade consultant and former deputy chief economist for Foreign Affairs. He said, "The progressive trade agenda is well-framed conceptually, but it's a minor part of the big picture, it should not be, at this point in time, a stumbling point for Canada signing trade agreements. I am mystified at the failure to launch negotiations with China."
- <How this is being viewed in China. See China Global Times>
- "When Canada imports a pair of shoes from China, will Canada ask how much democracy and human rights are reflected in those shoes?" This is indeed the stumbling block.
- <How this affects TPP>
- <How this affects NAFTA>
- <How this affects Bombardier and the Ministry of Defence>
The Firing Line
- Members of a thalidomide survivor group say they felt belittled and are appalled after meeting with Kent Hehr, the federal minister for persons with disabilities, and accuse him of making repugnant statements about their life expectancies. For this Canada story, we will need a bit of background. Thalidomide was developed in the mid 1950s in West Germany as a miracle cure against morning sickness, anxiety, and other ailments. A few years later, it was found that thousands of infants born to mothers who had taken thalidomide were born with phocomelia, or deformed limbs. Only 40% of those infants survived, and survivors had to deal with a plethora of terrible and painful disabilities. Canada was one of the last countries to ban the drug, in 1962. Since that time, most survivors of thalidomide have received annual benefits as compensation from the Canadian government.
- Kent Hehr, was a former Alberta Liberal, who then ran federally as a Liberal in the 2015 election and narrowly and surprisingly won in a riding that had been some variant of Conservative since it was created in the 1960s and was one of the first Liberals to be elected in Calgary since 1968. Hehr became a quadriplegic in 1992 after getting shot in a drive by shooting in Calgary, and this past summer became Trudeau's Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities in a cabinet shuffle.
- Part of Hehr's portfolio includes meeting with groups that advocate for people with disabilities, such as the Thalidomide Survivors Task Group. According to members of that group, Hehr belittled them and made "appalling comments" regarding their disability. The minister flat out denies at least one of their claims and said he has apologized if some of his comments were misinterpreted.
- Fiona Sampson, a thalidomide survivor, human rights lawyer and chair of Thalidomide Survivors Task Group who attended the Oct. 19 meeting, told reporters on Tuesday that Hehr degraded those in attendance with his remarks. "In response to members of the group reading really heartfelt testimonials, Minister Hehr — apropos of nothing — commented, 'Well you don't have it as bad today as adults as you did when you were kids. Then he went on to say, 'Well you don't have it so bad. Everyone in Canada has a sob story.'"
- Sampson said one of the most repugnant statements in the 30-minute meeting came after the group explained to Hehr that they have shortened lifespans and have already lost five members since the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to support survivors back in 2014. "He said to us, 'So you probably have about 10 years left then now. That's good news for the Canadian government.' We were shocked and appalled," she said. One of the members in that meeting was hospitalized in the ICU two weeks later, said Sampson, making his comments "especially repugnant."
- In a statement, Hehr denied making comments about lifespans at the meeting, but said he apologized to the organization after his comments were misconstrued. "My heart goes out to thalidomide survivors. I have listened to their stories and I know our government, led by the minister of health, is taking the concerns very seriously and I will continue to advocate on behalf of all Canadians with disabilities. As someone with a disability myself, it was certainly not my intention to offend anyone. While some of my comments were misconstrued, as soon as I learned that my comments were felt to be offensive, I immediately called the organization directly and apologized." Hehr was asked about his conduct during question period in the House of Commons on Tuesday and answered by reading a similar statement to the one he earlier sent out to the media.
- The survivors are calling on the federal government to honour a pledge to compensate them with a lump sum payment of $250,000 and increased annual pensions. They say patients have received lump sum payments of $125,000 each, noting they are struggling to make ends meet due to the extent of their disabilities.
- What's worse, is that it's not the first time this week he's had to apologize for his behaviour. Hehr admitted to sometimes being “brash” and “inappropriate” after a fresh complaint of disrespect surfaced Thursday — this one from a Calgary woman engaged in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government. Jennifer McCrea, who has been fighting on behalf of a group of mothers who say they were denied benefits while on maternity leave, contacted Hehr’s office in October 2016 after being encouraged to speak to local Liberal MPs about her case.
- “(He was) very condescending,” McCrea said of the October 2016 interaction, noting she was able to secure less than two minutes of his time. She asked him pointedly why Ottawa continues to fight sick women — a “loaded question” to which he allegedly replied, “Well, Ms. McCrea, that is the old question, like asking ... ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ ”
- “I didn’t respond (with) anything because my jaw was on the floor,” McCrea recalled. “I was just literally (wondering), ‘Who talks like that, let alone ... a minister or a member of Parliament?” McCrea said she decided to come forward about Hehr’s comments after hearing a group of thalidomide survivors describe earlier this week how they felt belittled by Hehr’s bedside manner during a meeting earlier this year.
- We have no proof either way on what actually happened, as it appears to be a he said she said sort of story. However, you have to think that the allegations are almost unbelievable, that an elected official who lives with a severe disability would be so callous to others with disabilities as well. The fact that he didn't offer a proper defense of his comments and only read out prepared statements as an apology is also a bit head scratching. One would think someone in his position would be in full damage control.
- As Chris Selley of the National Post writes, "If anything, Hehr’s written statement — which references “misconstrued” remarks without enlightening anyone as to their nature — is even worse. “As someone with a disability myself, it was certainly not my intention to offend anyone,” it reads. What on earth does that mean? Was Hehr there in his capacity as a quadriplegic or as a Minister of the Crown? In which capacity would it have been less insane to enrage a room full of thalidomide victims with comments that he still refuses to explicitly disavow making? ...Any halfway normal human being observing this spectacle would conclude that Hehr must be completely full of it: if he didn’t say these things, why would he not deny saying them? And if he did say these things, why on earth would the Liberal government want to keep him on in such a position?"
Word of the Week
Free Trade - international trade based on the unrestricted international exchange of goods without tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Race to the Finish
Teaser: The Alberta NDP sets aside 1.4B of taxpayer money for industry to reduce emissions, we cover Dianne Watts and the BC Liberal leadership race, free trade and Trudeau’s failed trip to China, as well as callous remarks from the Minister of Disabilities.
Recorded Date: December 9, 2017
Release Date: December 10, 2017
Edit Notes: Pauses mid show