Trudeau’s First Year: Sunny Ways, with Cloudy Skies

There were “Sunny Ways” in Justin Trudeau’s  first year, and also some cloudy skies. One of Justin Trudeau’s biggest successes would have to be the gender-neutral cabinet.  It sounds obvious; 2015, with that amount of MP’s, there should be equal representation.  It should look like Canada; the people it represents. There’s an undeniable logic to that.

It did more than that.  It started conversations in Parliament, and every other workplace in the country about women’s roles.  It started people talking about the treatment of women in the workplace.  It made it impossible for the next person holding the Prime Minister’s Office to return to the way it was before.

Canada would’ve increased its number of Syrian refugees no matter who won the 2015 election, it was only an issue of numbers.  It’s the second major success of his first year in office.  It was termed a “national project,” by some within Canada- it felt like we were all being asked to roll up our sleeves, and help our country with this.  The Canadian success story was being applauded, worldwide.  Somehow Canada had found the balance between helping people, and security.

So two huge successes, two “Sunny ways.”  Where do the cloudy skies come in? Well let’s start with the Right-To-Die legislation.  A Supreme Court imposed a deadline, and ended up being met.  Despite a Senate that tried to adjust the wording to include people who have a grievous and irremediable condition, it became law by its June 6, deadline.  A lot of critics want some mental illnesses included as well.  There may be court challenges.

The economy has taken some hits as well.  Wildfires in Fort McMurray took parts of Canadian oilfields offline at one point costing up to 1,000,000 barrels/ day.  Energy continues to be an issue.  President Obama denied the Keystone pipeline.  Could it be revisited under a new Presidency? What of the Energy East pipeline?  How does he deal with the consistent protests from city mayors like Denis Coderre?

Interest rates are still low.   New mortgage rates requiring a higher  down payment are aimed at cooling real estate in Toronto, and Vancouver. The long-term consequences of this move remain unknown.  The deficit sits at around the $30 billion mark; a broken promise.  Trudeau initially said the deficit would be that over three years instead of one.

Questions surround the government going into its second year.  What happens with Democratic Reform? Is it going to be rolled back as Trudeau has indicated in a recent interview with Le Devoir? Is the door firmly shut against any kind of referendum on it?

What about C51? The Harper government passed the anti-terror legislation.  The Liberals initially supported it. They  have promised reforms. Will that happen in the second year?

Year one was the honeymoon; the sunny ways.  It’ll take a lot of hard work to keep the clouds away in year 2.



Carbon Pricing: Do It Yourselves or Else

The federal Liberals are asking provinces to choose between two approaches for Carbon Pricing.  A carbon tax, much like the system used in British Columbia, or a Cap & Trade system used in Quebec, and about to be implemented in Ontario.  If they don’t then Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she’ll do it for them.  According to the Globe& Mail this would take the form of higher taxes on fuel.

There are lot of issues here.  The first is timing.  Is now the right time to do this? There arguably is no good time to introduce a new tax or increase because there will always be grumbling from somewhere.  But according to Stats Canada, the economy contracted by 1.6% in the second quarter.  This is largely due to the Fort McMurray wildfires which took energy exports down by 7.5%.  The oil industry is still a significant part of Canada’s economy, there should be some recovery time before adding another tax.

Another is the “piecemeal” approach.  Four jurisdictions have some kind of carbon pricing already in place.  Alberta, and British Columbia have a tax on greenhouse gas emissions.  In Alberta the levy is mainly applied to fossil fuels such as gas, propane, diesel, and natural gas.  The cost is offset by rebates tied to income.  According to the Government of Alberta’s website up to 6 in 10 households are eligible for some kind of rebate.  B.C.’s is revenue neutral where the fees are offset by tax breaks.

Quebec and Ontario have Cap & Trade systems in place.  It’s where the government caps big polluters at a certain amount of greenhouse gases, and they have to trade amongst themselves if they produce more.  In Ontario, this will add $5/month to heating oil, and 4.3 cents/ litre to fuel at the gas pumps.  The big questions here are: Could the feds interfere with jurisdictions that already have  a carbon pricing system in place forcing them to be more aggressive? Or could they just go ahead and impose this higher tax on everyone including the provinces who have carbon taxes in place?  If the answer to either is yes, it could push Ontario over the edge.

It makes more sense to either impose a federal tax,  in which case the provinces should do nothing.  Or leave the provinces to themselves.


The Supreme Court Selection Process: What’s the fuss about?

About a week ago I got a news release from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announcing a new appointment process for Supreme Court Justices.  The process would see an independent non-partisan Advisory board look out for the selection of judges.

The candidates would be open to the “suitable candidates who are jurists of the highest caliber, functionally bilingual, and representative of the diversity of this great country.”  The new process includes a questionnaire that all potential judges would have to answer.  The candidates would have appear before a panel of MP’s, and Senators for a Q& A before getting the appointment.

What’s the difference?

The Supreme Court of Canada is made up of 8 judges+ 1 Chief Justice.  They are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.  There is a legal requirement that three come from Quebec for expertise on the Quebec Civil Code.  The remaining 6 breakdown to: 3 from Ontario, 2 from Western Canada, and 1 from Atlantic Canada.  A list of seven candidates is submitted to an “ad hoc” parliamentary committee who reviews it, and makes a recommendation to the Prime Minister.

It has become accepted that a judge from the same geographic area would replacing a retiring judge. So if a judge from Alberta were to resign, they would be replaced by someone from Western Canada.  There is some question as to whether this process can go ahead.  Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried replacing a judge from New Brunswick, with one from Quebec.  He was shot down by the court.

This opens up the process, and ditches the geography component.   There is potential here for a wider array of candidates to achieve that goal of being more diverse.

Diversity’s a good thing, what’s the fuss about?

Atlantic Canada is comprised of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador.  The new, wide open process could leave an entire region without a voice on the Supreme Court.

If you think about it, the entire legislative system (House of Commons, and Senate) is built around population.  These provinces have usually had a lower population than the rest of the country, so the number of seats and senators have also been lower. The Supreme Court represents a chance to be heard, and influence the laws.  It’s a chance at addressing the natural imbalance in the system.


D-Day Ignored?

Wars should be remembered.  If not for the reasons that caused them so we can learn, then for the heroic deeds, and sacrifices from their participants.  June 6, 2016 marked the 72nd anniversary of D-Day (or Operation Overlord).

Canadian troops were among the allied soldiers who stormed Juno Beach. It’s said those soldiers gained the most ground of any allied force that day.  And it went largely ignored, and unrecognized.

There was no laying of wreaths at war memorials, or official statements from the Prime Minister.  Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan made a statement dated June 5 referencing “Canadian Armed Forces day,” but nothing on that day.  I googled Prime Minister Trudeau D-Day statement and came up with a statement he made on Earth Day.

I get that the Liberal government wants to re-jig the image, and return Canada to this touchy-feely peacekeeping, and humanitarian role.  But that shouldn’t exclude acknowledging our history, and being proud of it.

The soldiers who fought are up into their 90’s, and a lot are in failing health.  Most are willing to speak of their experiences.  We need to grab hold of that knowledge, keep a record of it.  Or else we’ll be doomed to repeat the mistakes.

It doesn’t take very long to remember.  Five minutes to consider what happened early on the morning of June 6,1944 and say thank you.


Elbowgate Context

By now every saw the video.  The young, genial Prime Minister crosses the floor of the House of Commons, grabs an M.P. by the arm, and leads him  back to his seat elbowing a second female M.P. in the chest.

What few people are paying much attention to is what happened before.  The Liberals presented what they’re calling “motion 6.”  It’s a motion giving Liberal Ministers the power to extend sitting hours in the house until a Minister or parliamentary secretary  adjourned debate.  This would allow the party to fully control the legislative agenda.

“How is this different from what Stephen Harper pulled?” An interesting question.  As far as I can tell Harper and the Conservatives used a motion for what’s known as “closure.”  It had to be presented by a Minister, there was debate and a vote on it.   The speaker made the final decision.   The Liberals basically want to cut out the middle-man and give all this  power to the ministers.

So the opposition parties were understandably pissed.  They viewed it as the government taking away their right to speak, which it was. They were blocking legislation, and generally making life difficult for the Liberals for a few weeks beforehand.  It’s easy to see how tempers got to that point.

It surprises me Trudeau would try something like this so early in his mandate.  This is a guy who preached change, and who said he wanted to do things differently and give people a voice.  Apparently not when it threatens his legislative agenda.


Fort McMurray: 7 Days of Posting

I started this post Wednesday May 4  on the Fort McMurray fires because it was news.  My goal was to be another voice, and another source of information.  For the most part I’d like to think I succeeded.

At times I felt like harbinger of doom.  There wasn’t that much positive information coming out of the city to spread, but it was all vital.  I began scouring the Internet and trying to find those nuggets of good.  And I didn’t have to look very far.

There was a story of group of Syrian Refugees in Calgary who pooled their money to buy hygiene products.  They came here with nothing less than 6 months ago, and wanted to help because they knew what it was like to be without a home.

And if the Internet failed me, there was always Twitter.  I read a lot of the tweets coming from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.  There were countless offers of everything from cars, land to park an R.V. on, to reminders of communities with hotels.  That handle @RMWoodBuffalo itself aka Jordan Redshaw is compassion itself often serving as evacuees’ main contact with the city.

A cartoon from the Chronicle-Herald’s Bruce MacKinnon

And then you expand it outside of Alberta.  Firefighters from Quebec, Ontario, the Atlantic provinces are there.  Individual contributions via the Red Cross now sit at $86 million, and when tripled (matched by the province of Alberta, the government of Canada) are now at $258 million.  Benefit concerts being held in Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland over the next few days will add to it.

This level of national effort is indicative of a mature, compassionate country.  It was because  of this Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was able to tell other countries: “At this point we’ve got this.”  The country that helps everyone else, can also help themselves.

Planning has turned to rebuilding.  A “re-entry” plan will be revealed within 10 days.  The oil sands are starting to slowly restart.  There will be a hit to the economy, but it won’t be as bad as first thought. 90% of the city of Fort McMurray was saved.

We can take two lessons from this.  The first is that the universe manages to balance itself out.  Inside every tragic, horrific story there are always tales of goodness; you just have to look for them.  The other is that Canadians are as generous with each other, as they are with other countries.


Feminism is about perspective

Growing up I always figured I could do anything the guys did, and maybe better, and nobody bothered telling me differently.

That’s why I don’t understand how equal pay is an issue.  Multiple studies have shown there is a wage gap.  According to statistics Canada women make .75 cents to $1 for a man doing the same job.  It is unfair, and it does need to be addressed.  But, putting in perspective wouldn’t it be better to have a job first? An economy worth talking about?

There is a motion before parliament to change the lyrics to O Canada.  Liberal M.P. Mauril Belanger is trying to change the lyrics from “in all our sons command” to “in all of us command.”  I’ve never had a problem with that.  It’s a linguistic thing.  In French if you have a group made up of 5 men, and 1 woman its plural is “Ils” because there are more men than women.  It’s also an historic reference.  At one point our military (likely when it was written) was all men.


Take a look at how far this country has come.  At one point in the last five years there were 5 female premiers in Newfoundland & Labrador (Kathy Dunderdale), Quebec (Pauline Marois), Ontario (Kathleen Wynne), Alberta (Alison Redford), and British Columbia (Christy Clark,).  That’s a huge step for feminism.  Another one is Justin Trudeau’s gender equal cabinet.  It’s impossible for the next government to go back to how it was before.  What’s more is what it says about the rest of parliament: that all women are to be treated equally.  And that will be even tougher to turn away from.

We should always be striving for equality, and that perfect world.  But we shouldn’t do it to the exclusion of all else.  We should have perspective.