As Western premiers blow smoke on carbon tax, youth organize for climate justice

Image: Spence Mann
Image: Spence Mann

Justin Trudeau’s re-election has unleashed political outrage in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is talking about Alberta’s being “betrayed” while Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe sent a letter to Trudeau demanding the cancellaiton of the federal carbon tax, support for various pipelines, and a renegotiation of the formula for equalization payments.

I’ll withhold detailed comment on equalization payments, other than to say that for many years, Saskatchewan was a “have-not” province that relied heavily upon them. But let’s look more closely at Moe’s letter as it relates to the carbon tax and pipelines. Moe’s strident demands are likely based upon the election results in Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the Conservatives won 47 of 48 seats. On the other hand, parties supporting a carbon levy won almost two-thirds of the seats and popular vote across Canada.

It is significant, too, that the results in Alberta and Saskatchewan were not monolithic. In Alberta, 28 per cent of those casting ballots voted for the Liberals, NDP or Greens, and these parties all support a carbon tax. In Saskatchewan, 34 per cent of the electors voted for those three parties. If we had purely proportional representation rather than our flawed first-past-the-post electoral system, parties other than the Conservatives would have 10 seats in Alberta and five in Saskatchewan. So Kenney and Moe cannot say that they are speaking on behalf of all their constituents.

 Carbon tax haters are delayers and deniers

Kenney, Moe and others constantly repeat the mantra that the carbon tax will be a “job killer” and according to Doug Ford will lead to a recession. But these claims have been challenged. In a February, three independent experts, including the highly respected Don Drummond, concluded: “Economists are virtually unanimous in the view that carbon pricing reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost to the economy.” British Columbia, Quebec and California are all using some form of carbon tax and their economies are humming along.

If Moe and others are opposed to a carbon tax, what is their suggestion, if any, for a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? There’s the rub. While Moe, Kenney, Ford and Andrew Scheer rail against the carbon tax, or demand that various pipelines be built, they usually avoid any mention of the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes the world’s best climate scientists, has been issuing reports for years. The IPCC reports of late are increasingly urgent in tone. The IPCC now says that global carbon dioxide emissions will have to fall by 45 per cent in 2030, and to reach a net of zero by 2050 to avoid catastrophic damage.

The Trudeau government — implausibly, many suggest — has promised that it is on course to meet those targets and that a carbon tax is the rightful centerpiece of that effort. Ottawa believes the tax will encourage a market shift away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources of energy.

The strategy of the tax’s opponents has shifted from denying the reality of climate change, which is no longer credible, to tactics of delay. During the election campaign, Conservatives said they would require large polluters to pay into a research and development fund for green technology. That plan appeared suspiciously akin to what was being proposed by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oil industry’s main lobby, which has a close relationship with Andrew Scheer. Tellingly, the proposal contained no associated targets or timetables for reducing emissions, and was described by one analyst as simply “a plan to expand fossil fuel production.”

Support on the street

While premiers Moe and Kenney attempt to delay, there is growing support on the street for climate action. On September 27, hundreds of thousands of people — 500,000 in Montreal alone — marched in climate strikes that took place in 200 Canadian cities and towns. Many of the organizers were youth, and they were participating in a global day of action to demand that our political leaders do more to confront the climate crisis. These youth organizers are looking to the future. Premiers Moe and Kenney are staring into the rear-view mirror.

Ethics watchdog pushes for ‘collusion’ probe of Conservatives, oil lobby

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks to reporters after the English-language leaders’ debate on Oct. 7, 2019 in Ottawa. Photo by Andrew Meade

The Conservative Party and Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group stand accused of possibly “colluding” in violation of the country’s elections law, according to a complaint made to a federal commissioner.

Ethics watchdog Democracy Watch said Thursday it was calling on Commissioner of Canada Elections Yves Côté to investigate whether the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Tories broke the Canada Elections Act.

The complaint centres on the fact the lobby group and the Conservatives have both done business with an advertising firm co-founded by Hamish Marshall, who is Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign manager.

These connections, along with revelations about three events this past spring involving Scheer and oil industry executives, “point to a relationship of collaboration and support” that would give Côté “reasonable grounds to investigate,” the complaint reads.

“Don’t just call them up and say, ‘Hey, are you guys colluding?’” Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher urged the commissioner in an Oct. 10 interview.

“There’s enough there, I think, for (Côté) to go to court and try to get a subpoena.”

As part of its evidence to the commissioner, Democracy Watch cited a National Observer story that a member of the CAPP board of governors lobbied Scheer during a gala dinner event sponsored by one of CAPP’s member companies, Imperial Oil….

Recent changes to the Canada Elections Act ban third parties and political parties acting “in collusion with each other,” including through information-sharing, in order to “influence” the third party in its partisan campaign activities, ads or election surveys. MORE

If Scheer wins, Albertans can kiss their economic future goodbye

Alberta oil sands in a photograph by Kris Krug

Yet the political parties who pretend to represent the interests of the oil industry are the ones dismantling carbon pricing and other policies that would help Canada transition to a clean economy. Add to that the McCarthy-esque Kenney “war room” trying to suggest that foundations and charities are somehow not permitted to weigh-in on the world’s great challenge of climate change, and oil industry lobby groups sponsoring nonsense to support this kangaroo-court sham, and we have the makings of the true demise of Alberta as an economic player going forward.

To understand why and how this will happen, we need only turn back the clock to the days of Harper and the various Alberta premiers whose collective intransigence led to Alberta and Canada being a global punching-bag as climate laggards. Forgotten, it seems, is that the Conservatives in power federally and provincially were still incapable of getting a pipeline built, mainly because of their climate science avoidance and disrespect of due process. How then do they imagine that even greater ignorance, and more egregious due process will succeed?

If Scheer wins, this is what the Canadian political playbook will look like. First, Conservatives (or at least the Reformers at the helm) will be gloating in a false victory for those who do not accept the urgency. Second, a strong coalition of leaders who seek to delay action will dig in on dismantling climate policies, ensuring that Canada returns to global pariah status on the international stage. Third, as a consequence of the first two, anti-Alberta campaigns will ramp-up and the Kenney war room will be exposed for the boondoggle it is. And finally, the international investment community will hasten the already rapid withdrawal of investment from Alberta accelerating the provinces economic woes. At this point new pipelines will not be needed as the industry will be contracting. There is now an active and sophisticated global movement on sustainable investing and if Canadian businesses (financial and fossil fuel) aren’t actively defining how to invest in the transition out of oil, the scenario painted above will come faster and harder….

Fossil fuels aren’t going away tomorrow and having Alberta supply Canada and the rest of the world with Canadian fossil fuel is a much better scenario for Canada than shutting down one of the largest economic engines, while other countries eat our lunch. Contrary to popular wisdom, demand for fossil fuels is still growing. The Americans are massively expanding their domestic oil and gas production to record levels, the Norwegians still drill for oil offshore, the Germans mine coal etc. The only option for Canada is to understand and embrace the complexity of how to finance the transition to a clean economy through a measured, long-term transition investment strategy that sees the cleaning up of the fossil fuel sector in a way that demonstrates global leadership. Politicians pitting different parts of Canada against each other is about the worst possible outcome for Canadians and a sad reflection on the narrow-mindedness of our Balkanized politicians. We need to be competing with the world, not each other. SOURCE

A fortune lies in Canada’s oil sands. Many voters want to leave it there.

Robbie Picard, founder of Oil Sands Strong, sits for a photograph at a diner in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Sept. 24, 2019. Photo: Bloomberg Photo By Jason Franson. / The Washington Post
Robbie Picard, founder of Oil Sands Strong, sits for a photograph at a diner in Fort McMurray, Alberta, on Sept. 24, 2019.  Photo: Bloomberg Photo By Jason Franson.

At the Fish Place diner in Fort McMurray, booths are filled with oil workers in baseball caps and the parking lot is lined with pickup trucks sporting six-foot (1.8 meter) neon safety flags, a hallmark of the mining industry.

Fort McMurray is the regional hub for the oil sands that produce two-thirds of Canada’s crude, a status that puts the city carved out of Alberta’s wilderness at the heart of the Oct. 21 federal election.

Robbie Picard, who heads an oil-sands advocacy group, calls it “the most important election we’ve ever had.” Over a breakfast of eggs and cheese in the diner, Picard said that a second term for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would cause “anxiety, depression and despair” in the city. “I’m terrified for our future,” he said.

In a campaign that’s been uncharacteristically personal in tone for Canada, energy and the environment is arguably the key policy area that will decide the election-and most agree the outcome of the vote will in turn be crucial for Canada’s energy sector.

Not only will it determine the future of carbon taxes, pipeline approvals and environmental regulations, it’s also a referendum on a dispute central to the country’s identity: Is Canada a global oil superpower or is it a leader in fighting climate change?

Trudeau and his Liberal supporters argue that it can be both, using proceeds from its oil and gas to fund green-energy solutions. He says he has supported the industry more than his Conservative predecessor, spending C$4.5 billion ($3.5 billion) to save a key pipeline project from cancellation, taking flak from the environmental camp in the process.

But critics including his main challenger, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, hammer him for abandoning a pipeline through British Columbia, failing to push through another line to Canada’s east coast and passing a law that they say will make major energy projects impossible to approve. Trudeau’s comment at a town hall meeting in Ontario back in 2017 that the country needs to phase out the oil sands has added to the sense that it’s not just specific policies but the industry’s very existence that’s on the ballot.

“Do we want our energy industry to be a global player, or do we want our industry to go into hibernation and we’ll just slowly shut it down?” Derek Evans, chief executive officer of oil-sands producer MEG Energy Corp., said in an interview. “That’s the point we’re at.”

The source of the dilemma lies in the expanse of forests and marshes surrounding Fort McMurray. These lands contain the world’s third-largest crude reserves, but the sticky bitumen extracted needs to be transported to market, and that means building hugely contentious pipelines. At present, there just aren’t enough of them for an energy sector that accounts for a tenth of Canada’s economy and a fifth of its exports.

In recent years, rising production from the oil sands has strained against limited pipeline capacity, exacerbated by delays to projects like TC Energy Corp.’s Keystone XL. That has weighed on regional oil prices and prompted companies including Royal Dutch Shell Plc and ConocoPhillips to sell off Canadian assets in a $30 billion-plus capital exodus.

A year ago, the pipeline pinch reached crisis proportions, sending Canadian heavy crude prices crashing below $15 a barrel and prompting Alberta’s government to intervene with mandated production cuts to stave off a full collapse. While prices have rebounded, the situation remains tenuous, hitting Alberta’s economy hard and inflaming opposition to Trudeau’s federal government.

The political predicament is encapsulated in the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which carries the heavy crude extracted near Fort McMurray about 715 miles (1,150 kilometers) westward to a Pacific port near Vancouver.

In 2013, then-owner Kinder Morgan of Houston won federal approval to triple the line’s capacity, promising to alleviate the bottlenecks and help Canadian crude reach new markets in Asia. But the proposal hit so much opposition-legal challenges, protests and a British Columbia government pledging to block it-that by last year Kinder was ready to abandon it.

Then, in a move that stunned the nation, Trudeau’s government swept in to buy it, vowing it would be built. Yet the purchase won Trudeau little support in deeply conservative Alberta, and it only hurt his standing with environmentalists, earning him the nickname “Justin Crudeau.” While opposition remains, construction on the project has begun.

Naomi Klein, the prominent Canadian writer and activist, said the purchase highlights the “utterly hypocritical” position Trudeau has taken since coming to power, allowing the oil sands to expand while claiming to make Canada a climate leader.

“What we need to be doing is investing the billions of dollars that the Trudeau government has been spending buying pipelines on rolling out renewable infrastructure,” she said in an interview. “We have not done that. We’ve wasted precious time.”

Trudeau’s energy policy thus risks alienating voters on both sides of a debate that is increasingly becoming a key dividing line across Canada. It’s a political reality that Scheer is playing upon, portraying his Conservative Party as a champion of the oil sector and pledging to remove the stricter environmental regulation brought in by Trudeau. With her party polling at a record, Green leader Elizabeth May also sees an opening.

Current polls suggest a close race, with Trudeau’s Liberals set to lose their majority. That raises the prospect of a minority Liberal government with the even more environmentally minded Green Party and New Democratic Party-“a nightmare” outcome for oil sands advocates like Picard, but arguably one in tune with voters in large parts of Canada. MORE


‘Mr. Delay, Mr. Deny’ and Canada’s precarious climate change future

Both Scheer and Trudeau have much to improve upon when it comes to climate policy; the Liberal government, in particular, is mired in deepening contradictions on environmental matters

PHOTO: Justin Trudeau/via Wikimedia Commons

During the recent federal leaders’ debate, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer only distinguished himself on climate issues by earning the title of “Mr. Deny” from Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats.

But Scheer nonetheless had two important insights into environmental issues raised during the campaign.

First, he reiterated the contradictions of the Liberal government’s approach to climate change, noting of Justin Trudeau’s participation in the Sept. 28 climate strike march in Montreal:

“I find it interesting and ironic that Justin Trudeau is actually protesting his own government’s record on the environment.”

Second, he has noticed, correctly, that for the most part, “the largest (industrial) emitters receive an exemption” from the Liberal’s carbon pricing system.

Of course, rather than addressing these contradictions and gaps by strengthening the way the carbon pricing system applies to large industrial polluters, the Conservatives would simply scrap the “job-killing” carbon pricing system altogether.

That, as Trudeau rightly pointed out, would remove the central element of Canada’s strategy for meeting its obligations under the Paris climate change agreement and effectively replace it with—if based on the feeble contents of the Conservatives’ own climate strategy so far—nothing.

At the same time, Scheer promises to use long-dormant Constitutional powers to override provincial and Indigenous objections to a national energy corridor that seems designed to cement Canada’s role as a high-carbon export economy for decades to come.

Separatism revival?

PHOTO: Andrew Scheer/Andre Forget via Wikimedia Commons

It’s difficult to imagine a better strategy for reviving the otherwise moribund separatist movement in Quebec given the strength of the objections to the proposed Energy East pipeline throughout the province.

That said, Scheer’s observations about the Liberal government’s contradictions on the climate file emphasize the point that the approval, then the $4.5 billion purchase, then re-approval of the Alberta-to-Vancouver Trans Mountain pipeline has become a millstone around the Trudeau government’s neck when it comes to appealing to progressive voters.

The defection of those voters to Singh’s NDP and Elizabeth May’s Greens threatens Trudeau’s majority government, and perhaps his ability to form a government at all.

Ironically, with the exception of the Trans Mountain pipeline question, the government’s record on the environment and climate change, although not perfect, is certainly respectable.

Trudeau’s Liberals have done more than any previous federal government to implement effective policy measures to reduce GHG emissions. They achieved a federal-provincial near-consensus (only Saskatchewan and Manitoba refused to sign) on the December 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change.

In the aftermath of that agreement, which included commitments by all provinces to adopt some form of carbon pricing, Trudeau has stood remarkably firm in the face of opposition from newly elected Conservative premiers in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick.

The federal carbon pricing backstop is now being implemented in whole or in part in six provinces and all three territories. It was originally expected that, under the Pan-Canadian Framework, all of the provinces would implement their own carbon pricing systems. A major federal role in the process was never anticipated.

To its credit, Trudeau’s government has applied the federal backstop as provinces abandoned their commitments under the Pan-Canadian Framework and dismantled their own carbon pricing systems.

The government’s support for the Trans Mountain project was grounded in a deal with former Alberta premier Rachel Notley, exchanging a federal commitment to pursue a pipeline to tidewater for Alberta’s constructive engagement in a national climate change strategy.

Fair trade-off

This was, arguably, a reasonable trade-off. Alberta’s refusal to engage in discussions of serious climate change policies had been the key stumbling block in more than two decades of efforts to formulate an effective national climate change strategy following the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Rio Conference in 1992.

Notley’s NDP government was initially true to its word and did engage seriously on the climate change issue. It participated in the 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework, implemented a carbon tax in Alberta, initiated a phaseout of coal-fired electricity and launched major strategies around energy efficiency and renewable energy.

None of these things can be said of Notley’s successor, Jason Kenney, who as leader of the United Conservative party became the premier of Alberta in April.

Rather, Kenney has made a point of shredding Notley’s climate change strategy, particularly the carbon tax. Kenney has signalled his intention to join the quixotic challenges by Ontario and Saskatchewan to the federal carbon pricing system to the Supreme Court of Canada.

He’s also challenging the federal government’s new environmental assessment legislation, Bill C-69.

The situation begs the question: If Alberta has walked away from its part of the bargain, why is Trudeau—dubbed “Mr. Delay” by Singh in the debate—still trying to move the Trans Mountain project forward?

Why not put pipeline on hold?

Wouldn’t it have been a better political and climate change strategy to put the pipeline on hold until Kenney agrees to re-engage, in a serious and constructive manner, on climate change?

The political cost of such an approach appears to be low. Trudeau’s continued support for the project seems to be winning him few friends in Alberta anyway. At the same time, it would have given the Liberal leader a much stronger response to his Green and NDP challengers.

It would have also provided a better justification for joining Greta Thunberg’s climate strike—Trudeau could have argued he was protesting the governments of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick and their refusal to take the issue seriously.

The future of Canada’s first serious attempt and—as May pointed out during the debate, potentially last opportunity—to actually implement an effective national climate change strategy now hangs in the balance on Oct. 21.

The Liberal government’s deepening contradictions on energy and environmental matters has played no small part in creating the precarious situation in which Canada now finds itself.

Future generations may well be justified in saying, as Thunberg recently did in her speech to the United Nations: “We will never forgive you.” SOURCE

Conservative platform a recipe for public service job losses and service cuts

The newly released Conservative party platform confirmed what many in the federal public service feared; Andrew Scheer is planning to pick up where Stephen Harper left off.

The Conservative plan looks to slash government operations by a staggering $14.4 billion and recklessly gut 25% of government regulations. In the end, cutting “operations” always means reducing the services Canadians receive and eliminating the jobs of those who provide them.

Needless cuts to federal regulations can dramatically weaken existing rules that protect the environment, federally regulated workers, and the health and safety of Canadians. It can also be expected to result in layoffs of federal public service workers responsible for developing and administering these frameworks.

And in the wake of Phoenix, a disaster the Conservatives engineered, Scheer’s platform doesn’t even mention the failed pay system, but instead calls for a hiring freeze for full-time federal government workers. This will lead to the loss of thousands of federal government jobs in the years to come and hurt the economy of communities across Canada.

“The Conservatives are trying to balance the budget on the backs of federal public service workers – the same men and women who haven’t even been paid properly for over four years because of the Phoenix disaster they started,” said Chris Aylward, President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

“It was clear from the start that Andrew Scheer was no better than Stephen Harper, and today he confirmed it.”  SOURCE

Candidates say little on Indigenous issues as race grabs headlines

Elizabeth May
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. | Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP

Canada’s Indigenous communities had high hopes that their priority issues such as public safety and drinking water quality would be in the headlines during this year’s national election, on the heels of a damning report that found the country hasn’t protected Indigenous women and girls.

But despite race issues being thrust to the forefront in the election amid Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s blackface scandal, party leaders are saying little on the campaign trail about Indigenous inequalities.

The lack of discussion is especially noticeable after a government-appointed commission in June released the results of the three-year Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, highlighting Canada’s complicity in “deliberate race, identity and gender-based genocide.” Some Indigenous leaders were hoping the confluence of the probe and the election would propel the issues they care most about into the spotlight.

“There’s nothing earth-shattering about what the parties are promising right now,” said Veldon Coburn, a professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Ottawa, saying Indigenous priority issues aren’t getting top billing in the parliamentary campaigns. “It’s just a matter of degrees of difference between one or the other.”

Urging all leaders to speak out

In September, the Assembly of First Nations, which represents nearly a million Indigenous people in Canada, released a policy document urging all political parties to recognize top issues for Indigenous people.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May endorsed the First Nations’ agenda at a press conference last week, adding that if her party took control of government, she would introduce legislation to implement calls to action of both the National Inquiry and the previous Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools.

“It’s time to end the era of colonial oppression and genuinely support Indigenous Peoples’ work and efforts towards self-determination so no one is left behind or excluded from their rightful heritage,” May said in a statement.

Among the top issues presented by the Assembly is clean drinking water. Throughout his 2015 election campaign, Trudeau promised to eliminate all long-term water advisories on First Nations by March 2021. A new report shows 56 long-term water advisories still await removal.

Trudeau is again promising action following the disturbing findings about Indigenous women and girls, but has said little on the campaign trail unprompted.

“The work of the commissioners, the stories they have collected and the calls they have put forward will not be placed on a shelf,” Trudeau said in June when the National inquiry was initially made public.

Since the report came out, Trudeau has said little about how he plans to prevent more murders. In his first speech after calling the election, Trudeau said he wanted to “move forward with everyone” but did not include Indigenous people among the Canadian communities he called out.

The National Inquiry, which split the nation with its use of the word “genocide,” detailed inequities and violence toward Indigenous women and girls and members of the LGBTQ+ community over the country’s colonial history.

“The calls for justice [provided in the report] are legal obligations and not just recommendations,” Native Women’s Association of Canada President Lucy Lorraine Whitman said at an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights panel in September.

Liberals losing support

Trudeau sailed through his 2015 election with the help of Indigenous people turning out to vote, in large part to expel then-Conservative leader Stephen Harper from office. A new poll conducted by Environics Research shows 51 percent of Indigenous people voted Liberal in the last election. This election, the poll found only 21 percent of Indigenous people plan to vote Liberal.

In 2015, Indigenous voters had a 15 percent rise in voter turnout compared with the 2011 election. The result was a record 10 Indigenous Members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons — or 3 percent of the 338 seats, which is proportional to the number of Indigenous adults who live in Canada.

This year, 40 indigenous candidates are running for Parliament, according to CBC News.

Rudy Turtle, chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, who is running for Parliament with the New Democratic Party in his hometown of Kenora, Ontario, said at a press conference where he announced his decision to run in July that he chose the party because it has “done more for [Grassy Narrows] than the other two parties.” Kenora has been plagued with mercury contamination since the 1960s.

Turtle’s campaign themes mirror those of the NDP, which is attacking Trudeau for ignoring Indigenous people and other minorities.

“What bothers me the most about this is Prime Minister Trudeau raised the hopes of the most impoverished people of this country, but he forgot to say, ‘I’m just kidding,'” Bob Chamberlin, the NDP candidate for Parliament from Nanaimo-Ladysmith said in September at his campaign office in British Columbia. “The actions certainly did not live up to the commitments.”

Indigenous rights have come up in the party leader debates, although Trudeau skipped the first one in September to hold a rally in Edmonton, Alberta.

During Monday night’s debate the candidates were asked how they will handle concerns from Indigenous communities regarding the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline. The conversation quickly shifted toward a corruption scandal involving Trudeau’s government.

“I have nothing to learn from Mr. Trudeau who fired the first Indigenous attorney general for doing her job,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said. “She said she would do politics differently, and you fired her when she did.”

Scheer was referring to allegations made in January that Trudeau pressured former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould to cut a deal with SNC-Lavalin, an engineering firm facing corruption charges.

“Trudeau wanted to fight hard to keep SNC-Lavalin out of the courts, but he’s going to drag Indigenous kids to court,“ NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said. “That is wrong.”

In an earlier debate, Scheer did not directly respond to questioning about whether a Conservative government would appeal the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s September ruling that requires Canada to reimburse First Nations children who were made wards of the state under the on-reserve child welfare system.

But during a press conference last week at the Upper Kingsclear Fire Department, Scheer said, “It would be appropriate to have a judicial review” of the ruling.

When asked last Thursday during a press conference addressing supporters in Montreal if he would appeal the ruling, Trudeau side-stepped his answer saying, “We have always moved forward in a responsible way, and we will always make sure to do that as we move forward.”

The following day, the attorney general of Canada filed an appeal just days before the Oct. 7 deadline. In a statement released by his office, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said the government wants time to “address important questions and considerations such as who is to be compensated and the role of the Tribunal.”

Not one of the candidates brought up the National Inquiry during the debates.

But with the election in full swing, the government as well as federal public services are required to “act with restraint,” according to Canada’s Caretaker Convention. This means the calls for justice from the National Inquiry will stay in limbo until the new government can reassemble.

Critics argue there is no time to wait. Indigenous women and girls make up about 4 percent of the female population of Canada but 16 percent of all female homicides, according to government statistics.

“If there was a terrorist attack, there would be an emergency action,” said Pamela Palmater, a professor at Ryerson University. “There’s always a reason to not accept genocide.“ SOURCE


Reconciliation, Indigenous engagement in question ahead of election

Andrew Scheer Just Announced a Sneaky Campaign Promise That Would Let Rich Canadians Dodge Taxes


“This is very blatantly a tax break for millionaires”

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have a sneaky plan that would let rich Canadians avoid taxes by using numbered companies as a tax loophole.

This week, the Conservative leader held a campaign event where he pledged his “support to small businesses” through a couple of tax changes, except he left a few important details out of his announcement.

What Scheer portrayed as tax relief for small business owners was, in reality, a plan to reopen a pair of tax loopholes that have been exploited by millionaires who use private corporations to make money off stock markets and real estate.

Two things Scheer is promising to do include bringing back “income sprinkling,” a tax scheme that allows owners of private corporations to “sprinkle” income to their children and spouses, and also — more significantly — change the way passive income is taxed.

Kevin Milligan@kevinmilligan

Today’s @CPC_HQ announcement *brings back* income sprinkling, and allows firms with $1million+ of assets to
shelter their savings in ways not available to other Canadians.

These proposals clearly benefit the highest earners who have private corps. 

View image on Twitter
Passive income generally refers to the income made off investments, as opposed to the money an ordinary business makes selling goods and services.

Scheer’s plan allows wealthy Canadians who run personal investments through a numbered company to be taxed at a lower small business tax rate, rather than the normal personal tax rate.

“This is very blatantly a tax break for millionaires,” Toby Sanger, Executive Director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, told PressProgress.

Sanger said Scheer’s tax scheme would easily cost “over half a billion dollars.” MORE

A Brief History of Canada’s Failure to Fund Indigenous Kids Equitably

Instead, we’ve spent millions of dollars to avoid doing it.

Cindy Blackstock
The Trudeau government has challenged a decision ordering Canada to compensate Indigenous people hurt by the on-reserve child welfare system, to the tune of $2 billion. Advocate Cindy Blackstock has said such a challenge would represent ‘racial discrimination of the worst kind.’ Photo by Jeff McIntosh, the Canadian Press.

[Editor’s note: In light of the news that the Trudeau government is challenging a “landmark ruling” that orders Canada to compensate Indigenous children and families hurt by the on-reserve child welfare system, we publish a recent essay by Tyee reporter Katie Hyslop that explores the federal government’s history of chronic avoidance when it comes to funding Indigenous kids equitably. The essay, titled: “Why fund Indigenous child welfare equitably, when you can spend millions to delay instead?” recently appeared in our free Tyee newsletter, The Run. You can subscribe to The Run here.]

Two-thirds of the kids in British Columbia government care are Indigenous; nationally it’s over 50 per cent. Most are First Nations. Yet only about 10 per cent of children in Canada and B.C. are Indigenous. They’re vastly over-represented in care. And that’s partly because the federal government continues to uphold a racist child welfare system.

Let’s look at the tape.

In 2005, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society released a report on federal funding for status First Nations kids showing their medical and child welfare services received 30 per cent less funding per child than services for non-Indigenous children.

That same year, the society’s executive director Cindy Blackstock began lobbying the federal government to adopt Jordan’s Principle. Jordan River Anderson was born with multiple disabilities; disputes between the federal and provincial governments over who would pay for his treatment delayed his care for three years. Blackstock wanted governments to pledge to pay for care, and sort out the bills later.

She got her wish in 2007. Kids would come first next time.

Except they didn’t.

That same year Blackstock, along with the Assembly of First Nations, launched a new campaign. She filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission arguing the government had been discriminating against First Nations children by underfunding services. The next year, the commission sent the complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Years of legal battles ensued. Stephen Harper’s federal government pulled out all the stops to get the case thrown out and — when that didn’t work — delay it. It also spied on and “retaliated” against Blackstock.

Eight years later, on Jan. 26, 2016, the tribunal ruled that the federal government knowingly underfunded child welfare and medical services for 165,000 First Nations kids living on reserves and in the Yukon.

The government knew it wasn’t spending enough to meet provincial/territorial standards for care. But it still didn’t provide enough money.

It was ordered to cease its discriminatory practices immediately, as well as reform and broaden the scope of its child welfare services and supports. Compensation for the discrimination was to be decided at a later date.

But the rights tribunal ruling didn’t bring change. The tribunal has issued eight non-compliance orders, to little effect.

While the government was unwilling to equitably fund services for Indigenous children, it was prepared to spend to deny them services. For example, from 2015 to 2018 the feds spent $100,000 in legal fees to avoid paying $6,000 for one First Nations child’s braces. The government eventually settled with the family.

This isn’t just about medical expenses. The main reason kids are in care is neglect. Child welfare researchers say this is another word for poverty, which is only exacerbated by underfunded services.

The government’s discrimination against Indigenous children, established by the action launched 12 years ago, comes with a price. Canada must pay every on-reserve First Nations child who was removed from their families (since 2006) for reasons other than abuse $40,000. The guardians who they were taken from receive $20,000 per child apprehended.

Status kids on or off reserve who were denied or delayed in receiving necessary medical services from 2007 (when the government adopted Jordan’s principle) to 2017 also receive $40,000. Their guardians get $20,000.

The Assembly of First Nations says the child apprehensions payments alone apply to about 54,000 people and will cost more than $2 billion.

Scheer says he’d seek ‘judicial review’ of First Nation child welfare compensation

Deadline to appeal passes Oct. 7 — two weeks before election day

If he was prime minister, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he would seek a judicial review of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision on First Nations child welfare compensation. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer today called for a “judicial review” of a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision to compensate First Nations children harmed by the on-reserve child welfare system.

The tribunal ordered the federal government on Sept. 6 to pay $40,000 — the maximum allowed under the Canadian Human Rights Act — to each child apprehended from homes and communities under the on-reserve child welfare system.

The ruling also directed Ottawa to compensate some of the parents and grandparents of children who were apprehended.

Scheer said the decision could leave the federal government on the hook for billions of dollars in compensation.

“This is a far-reaching decision that has major impacts on multiple levels of government,” Scheer said.

“It would be appropriate to have a judicial review.”

A party spokesman later clarified Scheer’s statement by saying the Conservative leader would appeal the decision if he were prime minister right now. The deadline for the federal government to appeal is Monday — two weeks before election day.

Scheer has not said specifically what a Conservative government would do with this file if it forms government after Oct. 21. MORE


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