The (Right) News Rundown
- Monday was decision day for the Site C dam project, on the Peace River just south of Fort St. John in northeastern BC. Basically, it was down to the NDP government to decide whether they wanted to keep construction going and complete the hydro-electric dam project or cancel it and add all the costs of the project already spent onto the government debt.
- A few days before the announcement, Global BC chief legislative correspondent Keith Baldrey said the project would go ahead. “I’ve talked to a couple of senior government officials over the weekend, I can tell you the dam is going to proceed. It will be completed, the NDP making a difficult decision.”
- From the NDP point of view it was a lose-lose situation, as they were not in favour of the project in the first place, but cancelling the project would have skyrocketed electric bills for everyone in the province, which would have been a bad proposition for a shaky minority government. From other's point of view, it will provide extra renewable energy for the province, and allow BC Hydro to recoup losses, secure BC's energy independence. Interestingly, it seems that environmentalists are overwhelmingly against the project, despite the dam allowing Canada to more easily reach targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
- Baldrey said the NDP faced a near impossible choice, with both options on the table likely to ruffle feathers. He said, "This is one of the issues that’s a defining moment for the NDP. No matter what they do on this question they are bound to upset some people."
- The NDP avoided making any promises on Site C during the 2017 election campaign, and agreed in their power sharing deal with the Greens only to send the project to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC). The government-commissioned review by the BCUC found in November that the dam would likely miss its 2024 target completion date, and could exceed its original $8.3 billion budget by 20 to 50 per cent. However, that review also determined that pulling the plug on the hydro project would cost about $4 billion, including money already spent.
- Opponents of the dam, including First Nations, environmentalists and the the BC Green Party have argued there is not enough energy demand for the dam, and that it will destroy sensitive ecosystems and valuable farmland. Two First Nations have served notice that they are heading to court over the project, saying it infringes on their treaty rights. If successful, those lawsuits could drive the costs even higher.
- The Site C dam will provide enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes a year. But it will flood 55 square kilometres of river valley and an environmental review concluded it will have negative effects on wildlife, agricultural land and First Nations' communities.
- Premier John Horgan, who had been pressured by the NDP's trade union allies to continue the project, said the rest of it will be built with new hiring requirements designed to increase the number of apprentices and First Nations workers. And, in response to the loss of agricultural land, he pledged that some of the revenues generated by the dam, once it is in service, will be used to support farming.
- Green Leader Andrew Weaver had been making threats before the decision, and even went as far as to suggest on Sunday that NDP Energy Minister Michelle Mungall face a recall campaign if the party gives the dam the green light. “I would suggest a recall campaign in Nelson-Creston would be in order if Site C is approved on her watch as energy minister,” Weaver wrote on Twitter.
- However, Weaver reiterated that the Greens won’t defeat the NDP if they let Site C go ahead. Doing so, he said, would spark an election in which the Liberals or NDP could win a majority and push Site C forward unopposed. The Greens would be unlikely to win a majority in the next election, said Weaver, adding, “we’ve still got some work to go from three to 45 seats.”
- Horgan held a news conference, acknowledging Green anger over the government move. "I am fairly confident that though Mr. Weaver and his colleagues disagree with us on this decision that it won't have an impact on the long-term viability of the government."
- With this announcement, we can finally put Site C behind us, and it will hopefully not dominate news cycles like it has the past few months. One wonders what the NDP government will focus on next.
- The headline reads as "Jason Kenney undermines his message in over-the-top attacks" and following it says, "this is going to get tiresome... another day, another statement from United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney that has to be run through the fact-checker."
- A week ago on Twitter: NDP supporters are denying that their new election law removes the residency requirement to vote. Below left is the current law, below right is where Bill 32 strikes the 6 month residency requirement. Upshot: you can come to Alberta & vote the next day.
- "But that's not what Bill 32 says." It does.
- The article then does confirm that the Bill removes the 6 month residency requirement.
- The article is then making the insinuation that the UCP and Jason Kenney feel that "simply show up and vote" means to infer that you can vote even if you don't have an Alberta address.
- Everyone with two brain cells reading Kenney's tweet will know that you still do need to have appropriate documentation, that's just common sense in a democracy.
- What we have here is a story made up over nothing, a story made up over the vagueness that we often find on social media.
- Fake news.
- I'd also like to point out the difference in language used. Jason Kenney is an eloquent guy. It is no secret that people resonate better with a message if that message is delivered in a language that is similar to that of the voting base, in this case regular normal Albertans.
- It makes sense for a writer from the Edmonton Journal or similar paper to take issue with this as they see the world's language in black and white. If you're using a vague form of language you must mean exactly what you're saying whereas the rest of us use some common level of basic understanding or inference.
- The article goes on to say that the NDP is following recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officer, but in reality a letter was sent by the Chief Electoral Officer to the government that there should be extra steps of consultation with Bill 32.
- He went so far as saying that the bill has "unintended consequences" and is "concerned that Bill 32 will deteriorate the service provided to electors." So the NDP isn't following the advice exactly of the Chief Electoral Officer.
- The original Journal piece by Graham Thomson continues to take issue with Jason Kenney's tweets nitpicking that he said the government "lied" about not instituting a carbon tax in Alberta.
- Fact is, when you institute one of the largest taxes in Alberta a year after an election and don't mention it, that's selective omission or lying.
- And that’s what this story is doing…
- Remember last week's episode, where I talked about the federal Disabilities minister Kent Hehr and his open mocking of people with disabilities, despite being in charge of the portfolio that administers benefits to those same people? It appears that more and more people are speaking out about Hehr and his appalling lack of judgement.
- For the third time this month, Hehr has been forced to defend himself against allegations he was rude and insensitive toward Canadians who came to him for help. Nova Scotia activist Kim Davis says that while Hehr was the veterans affairs minister, she and her husband Blair Davis met with him to discuss the challenges they were facing. Blair, a veteran of the Canadian peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, has been diagnosed with severe and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. Kim says she has had to quit her job to look after Blair, whose condition prevents him from even attending the doctor's office on his own.
- Struggling to cope financially and save for her children's education, they met with Hehr to ask about the possibility of extending certain financial benefits — offered to the families of deceased military personnel — to the families of those with severe injuries as well. According to Kim, Hehr said: "There's lots of kids out there that don't get [a] paid education, why should yours? Lots of kids out there don't have an education and they figure it out."
- Hehr denies the allegations, insisting he did not utter the comments attributed to him and was respectful throughout the meeting. "No, no, I did not, in no uncertain terms, did I say that. We had a talk about the benefits we were giving and how we were working on better supporting veterans and their families… and I repeatedly thanked her and her husband for their service to this great country."
- But enough about Hehr. What's more important and not talked about in the media is the serious lack of support that the Liberal government is failing to give veterans and those with disabilities.
- The number of veterans waiting to find out whether they qualify for disability benefits has skyrocketed over the last eight months, new figures show, leaving thousands of former military members in limbo. Veterans Affairs Canada says there were about 29,000 applications for disability benefits in the queue waiting to be processed at the end of November — a nearly 50 per cent increase since the end of March. Nearly one-third of those applications have been in the line for more than 4 months, which is also an increase since the spring and a sign that wait times are continuing to grow.
- The backlog of benefit requests in the queue is unacceptable, as it's something that can really make the difference in someone's lives, and is a fundamental reason as to why we pay taxes in Canada, to help those who have protected us by serving in the military. “It’s so important for people in transitioning to civilian life and can impact a whole bunch of factors, including the ability to pay your bills,” said Scott Maxwell, executive director of Wounded Warriors Canada. “In some cases, it can mean the difference between being a homeless veteran and not.”
- Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan admitted the government needs to do better to ensure disabled veterans get the benefits they need and deserve and said action is being taken. “More veterans are coming forward to get the help they need. And we need to meet them where and when they need that support.” O’Regan said in a statement.
- Former NDP MP Peter Stoffer is a longtime advocate for veterans, and says the problem has just gotten worse and worse over the past 20 years. “All 13 ministers since ’97 have said the exact same thing: ‘We have to do a better job, we’re speeding up the process.’ And it’s getting worse, to be honest with you.”
- But that's not the only recent governmental attack on people with disabilities. Disability advocates and opposition parties have been hounding the Canada Revenue Agency for weeks over the fact that hundreds of Canadians with Type 1 diabetes have suddenly found themselves ineligible to claim the disability tax credit, even though they’ve previously qualified for it.
- The CRA insisted there’s been no change in the eligibility criteria, which requires an individual to spend at least 14 hours a week engaged in activities related to the administration of insulin.
- But diabetes support groups pointed to a May clarification letter sent by the CRA to doctors who provide the medical information needed to support a claim for the tax credit. That letter said only in “exceptional circumstances” would adult diabetics need 14 hours a week to manage their insulin therapy; most would not — which would mean they’re not eligible for the credit.
- The CRA said Friday that it will revert to the clarification letter that existed prior to May, and review all applications for the disability tax credit that have been denied based on the May letter.
- However, skepticism remained among opposition MPs over what precisely will change for diabetics, given that Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier has insisted throughout the controversy for weeks now that there’s been no change in the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit, nor any change in interpreting the rules.
- If that’s the case, Conservative revenue critic Pat Kelly questioned the purpose of pulling the May clarification letter and reviewing the cases of those denied the tax break on the basis of that letter. “They want to go back and review a change that they’re denying that they’ve made. It’s just the strangest thing,” said Kelly. Since May, the government has rejected almost every application by diabetics for the disability tax credit and yet it’s “still trying to act like nothing has changed,” he added.
- The CRA has come under similar fire recently for its uneven handling of disability tax credit applications from Canadians coping with autism.
- And in October, the agency was strafed for issuing a new directive instructing that employee discounts — including those enjoyed by retail store workers, who typically earn little more than minimum wage — should be considered taxable benefits. The directive was pulled after Lebouthillier ordered the CRA to review its interpretation of the tax code and consult stakeholders in the retail industry.
- At first glance, one would think that the Conservative attacks in Question Period are baseless. Surely the Liberal Party wouldn't be going after minimum wage workers, diabetics, autists, and veterans with disabilities, but it certainly seems true. Hopefully the government will reverse on their heartless course.
The Firing Line
- "Harm Canada's Economic interests"
- This is becoming government policy so much so that Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough is building it in to all bidders in all competitions.
- In government circles this has become known as the "boeing clause" due to the ongoing trade dispute between Boeing and Bombardier.
- Earlier in the year Boeing said that Bombardier used unfair government subsidies to secure a contract for 75 CS 100 planes to Delta Airlines.
- This is only one such trade dispute at the moment with the United States. The other two are Softwood lumber and Supply management of our dairy sector.
- Softwood lumber
- Supply management
- The Boeing issue didn't arise until supply management and softwood lumber became an issue.
- "Anyone can apply, but we've been very clear with this new policy: If there is economic harm to Canada, if there's an impact on Canadian jobs, if there's an impact to some of the key sectors in the Canadian economy, you will be at a distinct disadvantage," Minister of Innovation Navdeep Bains said at a news conference.
- As a result the government is no longer buying 18 new F-18 Super Hornets from Boeing.
- We are now going to buy used Australian jets! This raised lots of questions in the house, so much so that opposition leader Andrew Scheer offered Justin Trudeau is old minivan if he's now interested in buying used goods.
- And that’s a pretty decent analogy: "We know these eighties-era jets are rusted out because a 2012 Australian report said corrosion was so bad that the number of active flying days had to be cut. This is not a bucket of bolts; this is a bucket of rusted-out bolts," Conservative MP Tony Clement said during Question Period.
- Defence analysts are taking issue with this move as this will add another layer of complexity for military procurement.
- David Perry, a defence analyst, also said that, "companies such as Boeing, which do billions of dollars of business and provide thousands of jobs in Canada, will be hard to box in specific categories."
- This basically means that even as we may like to squeeze Boeing or other companies, it will be hard for a country such as Canada to do that to a large company such as Boeing.
- We will eventually buy new planes with a process started in 2019: potential candidates and bidders will be the Lockheed Martin F-35, the Saab Gripen, the Safale by Dassault, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.
- Finally throughout this process the blame comes back to Trudeau's favourite target, the former Harper government. Trudeau insists this process began because the Harper government didn't go through the proper bidding process when signing up to buy the F-35.
- <Reason for buying the F-35>
- Not only do our trade disputes prevent us from ratifying TPP and kicking off free trade talks with China, they're now harming our national defence priorities.
Word of the Week
Fake news - a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media. (Wikipedia)
How to Find Us
Episode Title: The Danger of Bad Journalism
Teaser: The BC NDP government goes ahead with Site C, an article about Jason Kenney contradicts facts, the federal government continues to ignore veterans and benefits for those with disabilities, and used jet purchases and the danger of progressive trade policy.
Recorded Date: December 16, 2017
Release Date: December 17, 2017
Edit Notes: Internet audio quality issues