The (Right) News Rundown
- There's a very important issue that we've talked about a few times on The Right Side in the past. No, it's not Trans Mountain, it's actually BC's November referendum vote on electoral reform. If you're just listening to this show for the first time, you'd be forgiven for not hearing about it until now, after all, it's been missing from media coverage. However this past week, new BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson took the NDP to task over not releasing details or questions about what's going to be on the ballot. So far, all we know is what was given to us last October when the story first broke, and that's something that many have questioned the government over.
- 6 months ago on episode 40, I talked about the NDP's plans to change BC's electoral system, and that the referendum will be sent out in a mail-in ballot in November, requiring 50% +1 to pass. I also talked about the biased media coverage at the time, and how it didn't mention why the NDP and the Greens want electoral reform - because a proportional representation system will benefit both parties immensely. A pro-rep system would give a huge political advantage to smaller parties like the B.C. Green party. If the Greens significantly increase their number of MLAs, they could continue their minority governing alliance with the New Democrats.
- Essentially, under FPTP, the province is divided into electoral districts of roughly the same population. Higher population urban areas will therefore be geographically smaller, and more rural areas will be much larger in size to compensate for the lower population. For example, roughly 90% of the province's geographic area outside of the Lower Mainland and Victoria is represented by roughly 25% of the legislature's MLAs.
- However, under proportional representation, the geographic area represented by an MLA will grow, to accommodate for the other MLAs that are elected either through a party list, through direct elections by party percentage, or by another mean. It's still unclear which particular system the NDP favour to replace FPTP. Even now, on the government's website, it lists alternate PR systems, and doesn't make any mention of what system will be voted for in November.
- The NDP, despite attempting to maintain "neutrality" in the upcoming electoral reform referendum, are clearly stacking the deck in favour of changing the system, writes Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun. Back in November they appointed 4 academics with expertise in electoral reform across the country. However, the government already drafted in advance a questionnaire about public attitudes on electoral reform, with a short time frame to offer comments and shape the final version. Not all the advice given by the academics was taken.
- “Are you planning a citizens’ assembly?” asked Prof. Genevieve Johnson, suggesting public review would be critical to build support and understanding. “Voters have to become very familiar with the alternatives to our political system and the reasons why they are stronger. This can’t be rushed.”
- Despite the caution against rushing, the New Democrats had already put the process on the fast track. “We do not have time to do a citizens’ assembly process,” returned Neil Reimer, director of strategic initiatives in the A-G’s ministry and the lead public servant on electoral reform process. “We have been given fairly tight timelines.” The NDP's email back was on Nov. 13. Two days later, Reimer got back to Johnson and her colleagues with a revised questionnaire and solicited a second round of feedback, with responses due by noon on Nov. 17.
- The following week the New Democrats launched the public engagement process and the final version of the questionnaire. Included on the How We Vote website, was a carefully crafted nod to the limited role played by its four external academic advisers. “They reviewed the questionnaire and voting system information presented on this site. They are not responsible for the website’s design or content.”
- Next morning, all four received a cautionary email from Kevin Atcheson, the senior policy and legislation analyst in the Justice Services Branch. “We understand you may receive media requests on the topic of electoral reform and your role in the review of the government’s educational material and questionnaire,” it began before acknowledging that they were, of course, free to comment on the wider referendum process and voting systems in general. But then came a reminder of the terms on which they entered into the exercise in the first place: “As indicated in the letter requesting your participation, please refrain from commenting on the specific advice you provided and whether that advice was followed.”
- Instead of letting the academics speak out publicly about where they disagreed with the NDP questionnaire and why, Attorney General David Eby’s ministry reminded them of the obligation to say nothing. Then Eby and his staff handled the finishing touches themselves.
- “So decisions have to be made in politics,” he told the house. “One of the decisions that my office made, and that I stand here accountable for, was to release the survey in the form it was released to the public for completion. I believe the survey struck the right balance.”
- I’m sure he does think it struck the right balance. For in many readings of the survey, it was found to be skewed in favour of proportional representation — the outcome sought by both Eby and Premier John Horgan, who appointed Eby as the “neutral arbiter” on this process. When the New Democrats finally get around to setting the question or questions for the referendum, and deciding the other arbitrary rules and procedures, neutral arbiter Eby will say those strike the right balance as well. All part of an NDP-led deck-stacking exercise that began last fall and continues to this day.
- When grilled on why he hasn't released details on the referendum, Horgan said there is no particular rush. “We are months and months away,” the premier told reporters during his weekly media scrum at the legislature Wednesday. “There’s summer between us and the vote. I’m fairly certain there won’t be too many summer barbecues where the topic of conversation is proportional representation. People will be enjoying their summer. They’ll be getting on with their lives.”
- Eby also continued to stonewall requests for information, interspersed with partisan shots at the Liberals for daring to ask. Horgan, for his part, again rejected complaints that Eby is too much of a partisan to qualify as a neutral arbiter. “I’m comfortable that the attorney general is managing the process as he’s been asked to do,” he said. “We will have a question. It will be one that is simple and straightforward and the public will understand it. I am confident that British Columbians are sophisticated enough to look at options and make decisions. We have election campaigns that last 28 days that cover a whole range of issues. The public has the wherewithal to make their choices based on that information.”
- Indeed, the premier went on to predict: “I suggest there may well be criticisms that there’s too much information.” Currently, there's not much information at all, and that's not a good thing.
- Fraser Forbes, a man that many may not have heard of before this week is making waves in the University establishment.
- The University of Alberta has decided to confer an honorary doctorate of science to David Suzuki at convocation on June 7th.
- It’s no secret that David Suzuki’s views are polarizing and go against Alberta’s core economic interests.
- David Suzuki has long suggested that the oil sands should be shut down and pipeline construction stopped in the name of protecting the environment.
- The fallout was swift.
- Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes penned an open letter to the engineering community and wider Albertans.
- He called the university’s decision a “direct and alarming threat to our Faculty of Engineering and the worst crisis, a crisis of trust”
- He spoke directly to the engineering community saying, “It truly saddens me to know that many of you are, as am I, left feeling that one of Alberta’s most favoured children, the University of Alberta, has betrayed you by choosing to confer this honorary degree. I am not surprised by the level of outrage being expressed across the entire breadth of our engineering community – surely such is to be expected when one’s fundamental values are so directly questioned! I want to assure you that I have been using what I have heard from you, in our conversations, as I have argued against this degree conferral over the past weeks.”
- He later goes on to say that the University has become “too disconnected from the people that we are meant to serve.”
- The letter also served as a rallying cry for the Faculty of Engineering to go out into industry and increase their advocacy in the Alberta industrial sectors, continue to provide “exceptional” engineering education to their students, drive innovation in every sector, and “[become] a leading voice in ensuring that everyone, our youth in particular, understand the crucial role that our energy and resource industries play in powering our life, protecting our environment, and building fair and equitable societies.”
- This sentiment was also echoed by Dean Doucet who is Dean of the Faculty of Business, he even went as far as to say that an honorary degree should unite and not divide the community.
- Andrew Leach who designed the NDP government’s climate change plan who is an economics professor at the U of A tweeted his displeasure and that he was pleased his students would have their convocation on another day.
- Blow back from industry and alumni was swift.
- Calgary law firm Moodys Gartner said that it was cancelling its 5 year $100,000 funding commitment to the University’s law school.
- In another email campaign started by Calgary lawyer Robert Iverach last week suggests that a letter writing campaign could get the attention of U of A president David Turpin and chancellor Doug Stollery.
- When being interviewed by Global News Robert Iverach said, “It’s starting to become a campaign where Alberta industry and the oil patch are maybe going to start to fight back against the slander that we’ve received from what I’ll call the environmental terrorists for the last number of years… It’s surprising that the government has allowed a few protesters to take over the whole conduct of commerce in Canada. It’s unbelievable.”
- A petition has also been started that numbers in excess of 4,500 names.
- Iverach also commented indirectly on the cancellation of a $2 million funding project that was terminated in Edmonton for the University.
- The University defending their decision by noting the “displeasure” and re-affirmed that decisions made are to honour the recipients’ contributions rather than agreeing with their positions.
- It is quite clear that industry, business, and a good portion of regular Albertans are against this decision, that’s fine and expected.
- The issue illustrates quite clearly the hypocrisy of those at the University.
- Try publishing a paper that postulates the issue of climate change isn’t man caused or may not have as large of an impact on the world as thought.
- Try publishing a paper that suggests the banks after the 2008 financial crisis should have been left to fail in an effort to clear toxic assets.
- Try holding a pro-life rally on University grounds.
- The University in general is largely tone deaf on issues that they disagree with, numerous pieces mentioned that and came that same conclusion this past week.
- The issue is ultimately two fold, first that the University chose to confer the degree causing some of their donation funding dry up, and secondly that there is no care given to how their own faculties feel and how the community feels.
- No one is suggesting that the University should not support Suzuki’s ideas, just that those ideas of industry and those counter to Suzuki’s shouldn’t be slapped around.
- It seems that the more and more we hear about the Trudeau government's federal $50/tonne carbon tax, the more and more reasons there are to not have one. Conservative MP and Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre pressured the government in question period last week to release details about the carbon tax, and just how much it will cost. (As an aside, it's fascinating to see two governments in BC and federally elected on promises of openness and transparency be grilled over their lack of openness and transparency)
- Poilievre says he knows the government has the information because access to information requests he filed produced a finance department memo that says there is an analysis of the potential impact of a carbon price, based on household consumption data across different income levels. However, he says the actual data from the analysis is blacked out, secrecy usually only applied for issues such as national security or when personal information is revealed.
- Poilievre has given notice of the intention to file a motion demanding the government table documents in the House to show Canadians how much more they can expect to pay for gas, heat and groceries once every Canadian will be charged a $50 per tonne carbon tax. The carbon price legislation takes up 200 pages of that bill, but nowhere does it say how much it will cost people. "Government cannot tax what Parliament does not approve, but Parliament cannot approve what it does not know. Right now, Parliament is being kept in the dark." said Poilievre last Sunday.
- BC, AB, ON and QB already have carbon pricing systems in place, but the federal requirement will mean on January 1, every province has to have a system that applies a price of at least $20 per tonne of carbon emissions. The price has to rise $10 per tonne per year until it reaches $50 per tonne in 2022. At that point, Ottawa will review the system. However, with the information provided, it's not detailed enough for individual families to understand what it means to them, because the price will not only affect the price of gas at the pump but most of what people buy as the cost to produce and ship products also goes up.
- Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Sunday a price on carbon has a low cost and high impact, and responded simply to criticism of the carbon tax that "We know polluting isn't free — there is a cost." She said carbon pricing pushes for innovation to find ways to reduce emissions in order to pay less, and is one of the ways Canada will meet its international commitment to reduce climate-changing emissions. McKenna has also been criticized for not answering questions about how much emissions the carbon price will cut, only saying that more info would be released "shortly".
- The office of the PBO also said it expects that the Trudeau government's push to put a price on carbon will act as a drag on Canada's economy. Based on analysis conducted in 2016 by Canada's Ecofiscal Commission, the budget watchdog projects that GDP will be half a percentage point lower in 2022 than it would be without a price on carbon, amounting to a $10-billion loss that year.
- If provinces and territories were to use revenues from a price on carbon to reduce corporate or personal income taxes, the impact of a carbon price would be significantly lower, according to the PBO's report. Estimates by the Ecofiscal Commission, the leading independent policy group in the country that researches and advocates carbon pricing, suggest that using carbon tax revenues to reduce corporate income taxes would essentially nullify the impact of a price on carbon on Canada's economy in 2022.
- Also, the PBO report calculates that $10B dollar loss after rebates are applied, the actual hit will be closer to $35B. The $10 billion cited by the PBO actually explains the drawbacks to the economy after many more billions than that are raked in and then returned in the form of giving Canadians a rebate in the form of cheques.
- This is not the most efficient model for growing the economy, Christopher Ragan, an economics professor at McGill University and chair of the Ecofiscal Commission argued. “The best way, if you really care about economic growth,” said Ragan, “is that you use the revenue from a carbon price to reduce the most growth retarding tax we have, which is a corporate income tax.” While this approach may spur the best economic growth, it would essentially mean transferring billions from the wallets of individuals into the coffers of corporations.
- However, it is expected that the carbon tax revenue will go directly into the federal government's general revenue, not towards income or corporate tax cuts, and not even toward green economic initiatives as previously planned. It appears right now that the Liberals will raise taxes either directly or indirectly on all Canadians, and then increase the cost of government by spending more and more, putting Canada further into debt. And worse, Ecofiscal's report does however discuss the prospects of doubling the carbon price to $100 per tonne by 2030. It looks like $35 billion per year could be just the starting point.
The Firing Line
- The embattled summer jobs program has made the news once again.
- Previously it was for the Liberals withholding funding to faith based groups who may be against the idea of abortion and Liberal MP Scott Simm’s actions to vote against his party.
- Today it’s back because it was revealed that the Summer Jobs program is actively funding companies that seek to shutter our energy economy.
- Justin Trudeau has been resolute that the Trans Mountain pipeline “will be built” but it’s been made clear that federal money is going to groups who actively oppose this project and similar.
- The Dogwood Initiative out of BC has posted an online job application for an “organizing assistant” whose notes say that one of the tasks will be to “stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project.”
- On the same page it also says that the position is funded by the Canada Summer Jobs Program.
- CBC notes that Dogwood BC even got similar funding under the Harper government when the Harper government was advocating for Northern Gateway.
- What is also conspicuously missing in the reporting regarding Dogwood is that in the lead up to the 2015 election over the previous 5 years, the American led Tides Foundation provided $1.1m to the Dogwood initiative for their activities in Canada.
- The Tides foundation is a left-wing organization that seeks to affect social change around the world and BC, in particular natural resource development is of interest to them.
- Luckily for CBC and the former Harper government we weren’t around then.
- This is a major issue today and would have been in 2010 since the government is being totally hypocritical actively shooting itself in the foot.
- The Trudeau government argues that there’s no problem as the government is simply standing up for the principle of free expression and advocacy.
- This argument is incredibly rich coming from the government as they stifled free expression by withholding funding from faith based groups who may oppose abortion.
- Neil MacCarthy who is the spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto said that this is really tough to hear since various parishes and charities in the archdiocese had applied for $1.1m in funding and had the request rejected.
- Canada has one of the largest oil reserves in the world and governments past and present find ways to diminish that national source of wealth. It shows hypocrisy when the government says the pipeline will be built but are funding groups that actively oppose it.
Word of the Week
noun (plural hypocrisies)
the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Hypocrisy Abounds
Teaser: The BC NDP isn’t giving info on the electoral referendum, the U of A gives an honorary degree to David Suzuki, and the federal government blacks out the cost of a carbon tax. Also, the federal government is funding groups that want to stop Trans Mountain.
Recorded Date: April 28, 2018
Release Date: April 29, 2018
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes