Justin Trudeau was a man on a mission Monday. Canada’s global golden boy came to Washington ready to go head to head with Donald Trump, newly elected US President and international orange pariah.
First, there was the handshake. Trump’s grip and grin style is a classic, though awkwardly applied, power move: yank the unsuspecting fellow world leader in and only let go on your own terms.
Trudeau, a sometimes amateur boxer and full-time media savvy politician, was ready. He bound from the car and immediately grasped Trump’s shoulder, turning the President’s opener into a stalemate:
Then there was the joint press conference. While the focus was clearly on NAFTA and the plans Trump had to renegotiate it, reporters did ask about the infamous (and now officially suspended) travel ban. In particular, they wanted to know how the two leaders would square the circle that is their quite different approaches to refugees.
Trump dodged the issue, like, well Donald Trump. He talked about his Electoral College victory. At least he managed to mention an initiative for women in business without plugging his daughter’s clothing line. He’s, um, learning?
As for Trudeau, well, he spun it like a pro. First he talked about Canada accepting 40 000 Syrian refugees and then finished by saying that “the last thing Canadians expect is for me to come down and lecture another country on how they govern themselves.”
Mission accomplished. At least for Trudeau’s international reputation as a refugee-hugging progressive. He met the beast head on and prevailed. The memes, shared video and pics will attest to that:
As for his claim that a lecture is the last thing Canadians would expect him to bring, well, he’s right. After the NDP tried to get his government to publicly condemn the Trump travel ban, Trudeau dodged and refused. If he wouldn’t step up in the comfort of our Parliament, why would we expect him to in Trump’s home?
That doesn’t mean a good many of us didn’t want him to say something a bit more confrontational. Maybe he could have put the same energy and tact into fighting against arrogant and ignorant discrimination that he did into his photo-op handshake.
Criticizing the travel ban would not be akin to “lecturing another country” either. There are plenty of Americans vocally opposed to the executive order. Thousands of them took to the streets and the airports and quite a few can be found in both the legislative and judicial branches of the US Government and it’s the judicial branch that has the final say in the US, no matter what the President thinks.
But…diplomacy you may argue. Sure, fine, but Trudeau’s agree to disagree approach in the press is hiding a just agree but try not to talk about it one behind the scenes.
The day before Trudeau’s trip to Washington, the CBC reported on Bill C-23, the so-called Pre-Clearance Bill, which would give US Border Control agents the power to detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil and even deny permanent Canadian residents the right to re-enter Canada. While this was, admittedly, originally negotiated by the Harper and Obama administrations, it’s Trudeau’s Liberals who are trying to make it law.
They’re doing so with full knowledge that they will be giving new powers to an agency that didn’t think twice about implementing an illegal, illogical and immoral ban. They’re also doing so in cooperation with an administration run by white supremacists who propagate myths equating refugees with terrorists.
Diplomacy is one thing. This is falling in line with the fascistic tendencies of the Trump Administration. Trudeau won the handshake battle on camera, but in reality, Trump’s power move prevailed.
And then there’s Keystone XL. At least, with this one, it’s something Trudeau has supported all along. He even went to Washington before he was Prime Minister asking President Obama to approve it.
Now, with a new President hell-bent on profit for energy companies regardless of the environmental cost, it looks like he will get his wish. Keystone was a key part of the joint statement the two released.
Coming across as a progressive environmentalist standing next to Donald Trump is easy. Living up to your international reputation here at home in reality, not so much.
I’ll leave it to The Beaverton to sum up the Two Trudeaus in this comedy skit:
He’s not as bad as Trump, nowhere near it. He may be the progressive hero the world needs, but that fiction is not what Canada has.
Yesterday marked a historic occasion. It wasn’t just the meeting of the Canadian Prime Minister and the American President, those things happen all the time. This occasion was historic for no two leaders could be so different.
The American President is an inexperienced physically repulsive fascist classist racist misogynist who is suspected of not only tax evasion and sexual assault but also of high treason against his own country, treason, which most likely led to his current position as leader of the free world.
The Canadian Prime Minister is young, handsome, openly feminist, physically fit, and has made efforts to reconcile white Canadians with its racial and ethnic minorities. Unlike President Agent Orange, Trudeau has political experience and there is no disputing that he won his position somewhat fairly.
People watched on the edge of their seats yesterday as the two of them met.
For Canadian politicians and businessmen, the big concern was North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The Agreement was negotiated between Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, US President George H. W. Bush and President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico. It has recently become a yuge cause of worry because Cheeto Head’s electoral campaign was marked by inflammatory rhetoric branding NAFTA a bad deal that had to be renegotiated for the sake of American workers.
According to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister and de facto Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, updating treaties is routine. On February 8, 2017 she told the CBC that NAFTA has had at least eleven updates since it came into force in January 1994. She also said that if the Americans are looking for a better deal, Canada has every intention of going on the offensive and protecting our national interests.
To everyone’s surprise, yesterday’s meeting went well. People were concerned because of Trump’s talent for bullying other men and many thought that Trudeau’s popularity and good looks would bring that out. It seems, however, that our Prime Minister knows and applied the tactic that works with all vain, self-important wealthy old men: flattery.
Trudeau presented the Orange Narcissist with something he knew he’d love: a picture of himself (with his father). By the end of the meeting the President emphasized that his issues with NAFTA were primarily about Mexico and in a joint statement he and the Prime Minister said that:
“We recognize our profound shared economic interests, and will work tirelessly to provide growth and jobs for both countries.”
This is a far cry from the words of Minister Freeland, so it’s time to look at NAFTA and what it actually says.
The Agreement’s main goal is to eliminate trade barriers and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It contains a lot of rules about intellectual property and different industries but the main issue with NAFTA seems to be regarding tariffs.
Tariffs, also known as customs duties, are taxes that must be paid on a particular class of imports or exports. The practice of imposing them serves to protect products produced domestically and helps to set the prices of certain classes of goods.
Tariffs have become a big issue because NAFTA discourages tariff use and President Agent Orange’s picks for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross Jr, and Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, are in favor of tariffs.
As per NAFTA, no party can increase existing tariffs or adopt new ones on goods produced in a member state. Parties to the Agreement also have to eliminate existing customs duties as per a schedule set in the Agreement but can consult with one another on how to speed up the process thus doing away with tariffs ahead of schedule.
Until the Orange Racist Misogynist’s picks for Commerce Secretary and Trade Representative are confirmed, no re-negotiation of NAFTA can take place. It’s therefore time to look at who these men are.
The President’s pick for Commerce Secretary is billionaire investor Wilbur Ross Jr. He is deeply critical of trade agreements, NAFTA included, and wants to impose a thirty five percent tariff on the goods of companies that send jobs overseas.
Ross is also a hypocrite for as Reuters reported, he is guilty of sending two thousand seven hundred American jobs overseas since 2004. Ross justified the move by claiming he was able to save other jobs in the process, but it nonetheless adds to his questionable reputation.
With the Orange Administration already under suspicion for links to Russian espionage, nominating Ross, who has close financial ties to the Renova Group, a conglomerate closely linked to the Kremlin does not bode well for his chances of confirmation. As Commerce Secretary, he would be responsible for the US Patent and Trade Office, the Census Bureau, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration among others, if confirmed.
Then there’s the pick for US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, a man whose last name sounds like an infomercial fitness product. Unlike Ross, Lighthizer has a lot of political experience, having served as a Reagan Administration Trade Official. He is a skeptic of free trade, advocates for increasing tariffs on imports from competitors, and if confirmed as Trade Representative, will be responsible for negotiating trade agreements and representing the US at the World Trade Organization.
Of the two men, Lighthizer is the one most likely to be confirmed with minimal conflict. It is unlikely, however, that any decisions they make will affect Canada’s obligations as per NAFTA. Canada shares the largest and least defended border with the United States and the US is our greatest trading partner.
With our Prime Minister’s charm, feminism, and message of welcome, tolerance, and inclusiveness, we look like pillars of virtue compared to our neighbors to the South and they know it. So long as Trudeau continues to fluff Cheeto-Head’s fragile ego, we can take comfort in the fact the White House won’t give any trouble, NAFTA or not, if only because standing next to us makes them look a little less awful.
Panelists AG and Jerry Gabriel discuss Donald Trump’s travel ban and Pride Toronto’s decision to not allow uniformed police to participate in the next parade with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup. Community Calendar and Predictions!
News Roundup Topics: Françoise David’s farewell, Keystone back on the table, Ireland divesting from fossil fuels
AG: Communications sales rep and political observer
When you look back on 2016, you may think of all the greats we lost like David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and, most recently, Carrie Fisher and her mom Debbie Reynolds. You may also remember it as the year the UK decided to leave the EU or the year the US decided to leave its senses politically.
No matter how you saw it, though, you have to admit that quite a bit happened. With that in mind, we take a look back at 2016 in the News.
As this post had two authors, parenthetical initials indicate if the section was written by Jason C. McLean (JCM) or Mirna Djukic (MD).
2016 was the first year of the post-Harper era and it was an agitated one in federal politics.
Justin Trudeau’s popularity soared for a while, still largely carried by the expectations built during his campaign and his undisputable quality of not being Stephen Harper. To his credit, he did score some significant points in his first months in office by immediately opening the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and rebuilding relationships with our neighbours (which gave us both the most hilarious handshake attempt of all time and the TrudObama Bromance).
One of the first flies in the ointment was the infamous #elbowgate incident in the House of Commons. Last May, the Prime Minister took it upon himself to escort Conservative Whip Gordon Brown through a cluster of opposition MPs in order to move the procedures along and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest. This was perhaps a fairly embarrassing show of temper for the PM, but it degenerated into something out of a Shakespearian comedy in the following days, with Trudeau issuing apology after apology and the opposition throwing words like “molested” around.
Inopportune elbows aside, the Liberals took quite a few steps during the year that caused the public to question how different they really are from their predecessors. Not only did they go through with the $15 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, but they also quietly changed the country’s policies about export controls to ensure that they could continue to trade arms with shady regimes with a lot less obstacles.
As for the Greens, they started the year as the underdogs who were doing unexpectedly well. The increased attention, though, revealed a world of messy internal struggles. These started when the party voted in favour of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Leader Elizabeth May disliked this so much that she considered resigning. (MD)
Indeed, discrepancies between the government’s discourse and their actions accumulated throughout the year. None was more flagrant than their attitude toward pipelines.
The Liberals campaigned on promises to restore the trust of Canadians in the Environmental Assessment Process, “modernize” the National Energy Board and make Canada a leader in the worldwide climate change fight. Trudeau was the first to admit that the current environmental assessment protocols were immensely flawed and he mandated a committee to review them.
While still waiting for their conclusions, though, he had no problem with major projects still being approved by that flawed process. He had no comments when it was revealed that the NEB board members in charge of reviewing Energy East had secretly met with TransCanada lobbyists nor when indigenous resistance against various projects started rising.
If he thought that the population was on his side, or that they would remain passive about it, he was sorely mistaken. In August, the NEB consultations about Energy East were shut down by protesters. Anger and mistrust towards the NEB only grew after that, with environmental groups calling for a complete overhaul.
None of this stopped the government from approving two contentious pipelines in late November. Both Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain project and Enbridge’s Line 3 were officially accepted. Fortunately, they did reject Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, which was set to go through the Great Bear Rain Forest. (MD)
2016 was the year that saw the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe emerge victorious (for the moment) over big energy and the North Dakota Government.
In July, Energy Transfer Partners got approval for the $3.78 Billion Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the tribe’s only source of drinking water. The plan also saw DAPL cut across sacred burial grounds.
The Standing Rock Sioux challenged this both in court and with water protectors on the front lines. They invited others to stand in solidarity with them and assembled the largest gathering of Native American tribes in decades.
Things came to a head on Labour Day Weekend early September when DAPL sent private corporate security to attack the water protectors with pepper spray and dogs. Democracy Now’s shocking footage of the incident got picked up by major networks and there finally was major media attention, for a while.
As more people joined the camp and solidarity actions, including Facebook Check-Ins from around the world, increased, corporate media interest waned. Meanwhile the Governor of North Dakota Jack Dalrymple activated the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which brought law enforcement from ten different states to Standing Rock.
With most media focused on the elections, police used tear gas and water cannons on water protectors in freezing temperatures. The US Army Corps of Engineers sent an eviction notice demanding the camp be cleared by December 5th and roadblocks went up.
The Sioux Tribe’s infrastructure survived, however, and once 4000 veterans showed up in solidarity, the official stance changed. President Obama’s administration got the Army Corps to change its tune and deny the easement over Lake Oahe, meaning the DAPL will not go through Standing Rock, at least not until the Trump Administration takes office.
While their fight may not be over, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did flip the script in 2016 and was even named FTB’s Person of the Year. (JCM)
Indigenous Issues in Canada
Meanwhile in Canada, indigenous issues did make their way a bit more to the forefront in 2016. The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women finally got underway September 1st.
While long overdue, the Inquiry will be independent of the Federal Government and has a budget of $53.86 million to be spent over two years. While overall optimistic, some in Canada’s First Nations communities are concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too broad, making it easy to not investigate police forces and specific cases.
Quebec is considering its own inquiry. It’s needed, especially when you consider that the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) treated accusations that its officers were assaulting native women in Val d’Or by going after Radio-Canada and its journalists for reporting on the story and no one else.
Meanwhile, conditions in many First Nations communities continued to deteriorate. An indigenous police force in Ontario even recommended its own disbanding for lack of proper funding. (JCM)
The provincial government keeps slowly but steadily dropping in the polls. According to a Léger-Le Devoir poll conducted in November, the Liberals hit their lowest approval rating since the 2012 crisis. With only 31% of the intended vote, they are now barely 1% ahead of the PQ.
The fact that they did reach a budgetary surplus as a result doesn’t seem to have calmed the popular discontent. The shadow of past corruption scandals also remains.
Couillard assured the public that none of the scandals happened under his watch and that his administration is fully committed to fighting corruption. This commitment was, however, brought into question by a recent report which accuses the government of lagging behind on the Charbonneau recommendations.
In any case, the party was left in turmoil. It wasn’t long before another of its prominent figures left. Bernard Drainville, champion of the infamous Charte des valeurs, but also a major architect of the party’s policies and democratic reforms, decided it was time to call it quits. In a slightly surreal move, he announced that he was retiring from politics to co-animate Éric Duhaime’s notoriously salacious radio show.
Those who had hoped that his departure would help the PQ move toward a better relationship with minorities and immigrants were disillusioned by the conclusion of the leadership race. Veteran Jean-François Lisée and his divisive views on immigration won by a landslide, while the favorite, Alexandre Cloutier was left in the dust with Martine Ouellet and Paul Saint-Pierre Plamondon.
However, let’s not forget that Quebec’s political scene is not limited to the two major parties. In fact, a new player is preparing to enter it before the next election. FTB learned that a provincial NDP is in the works, hoping to provide the voters with a progressive option that doesn’t aim for Quebec’s independence. (MD)
Rape culture neither started nor ended in 2016, but it did seem to find its way to our newsfeed frighteningly often.
First came the disappointing conclusion of the Gomeshi trial in May. The fact that a celebrity with so much airtime on the CBC and elsewhere had been sexually harassing his colleague for years and committing multiple sexual assaults while his entourage and superiors turned a blind eye was outraging enough on its own. The fact that four counts of sexual assault and one of overcoming resistance by choking pretty much ended with a slap on the wrist from the court was worse. It made it very hard to keep pretending that our institutions and our society were not rigged to protect aggressors and silence victims.
Barely a month later, as if to demonstrate the scale of the problem, there was the Brock Turner case. Turner, a 20 year old student athlete at Stanford and a perfect mix of white, male and class privilege, was standing trial for raping a young woman on campus. Caught in the act by other students, he was found guilty. This could have landed him in prison for more than a decade, but he got six months in a county jail (he only served three).
A horrible event brought the discussion about rape culture a lot closer to home for many Quebecers in the fall. Multiple attackers entered the dorms of Université Laval and assaulted several students during one night in October. This sparked a wave of compassion and awareness with province-wide protests.
During a solidarity vigil in Quebec city, a young student named Alice Paquet revealed that she was raped by Liberal MNA Gerry Sklavounos back in 2012. Despite an onslaught of victim blaming and skepticism, Paquet decided to finally press charges, and her lawsuit is now in front of the Directeur des Poursuites Criminelles et Pénales. The latter will decide if the case goes to court. (MD)
US Presidential Election
For most of the year, politicos everywhere, including here in Canada, were glued to what was transpiring in the US Presidential Election. And for good reason, it was an interesting one, to say the least.
First there was the hope of some real and unexpected change in the form of the political revolution Bernie Sanders was promising. The upstart Vermont senator managed to go from basically nothing to winning 23 states in the Primaries and even got to meet with the Pope, but that wasn’t enough to beat the largest political machine out there and the Democratic Party establishment’s chosen candidate Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump, another upstart candidate, though one of the secretly pro-corporate and openly far-right variety, easily clinched the Republican nomination. With the exception of a bit of plagiarism on opening night and the whole Ted Cruz non-endorsement incident, the GOP Convention was quite unified behind Trump.
The Democratic National Convention was a completely different story. Sanders delegates booed speakers endorsing Clinton and connected to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even left the room in protest when Clinton officially won the nomination.
The ensuing General Election campaign went back and forth for a few months with each candidate having their ups and downs. Clinton’s health rumours and Wikileaks revelations and Trump’s…well, his being Donald Trump.
Well, on Election Day, the unthinkable happened. The ideal “pied piper candidate” the Democrats had sought to elevate, because he would be so easy to beat, ended up beating their “inevitable” future President.
The bogeyman came out from under the bed and was elected to office. The joke went from funny to scary. Failed casino owner and third-rate reality star Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote and became President Elect of the United States.
As Trump started building his brand new bubble filled with climate change deniers, corporate execs and white supremacists, the fight against him in the streets started and shows no signs of stopping in 2017. The real question is now: will the Democrats change gear and become a progressive alternative or stay the establishment course that led them to defeat at the hands of an orange carnival barker? (JCM)
At least Montreal didn’t spend 2016 electing a frequently cartoonish populist who doesn’t listen to experts. We had already done that back in 2013.
This was the year, though, that our Mayor, Denis Coderre, really started to shine. And by shine I mean make Montreal nationally and even globally famous for some really bad decisions and ideas.
2015 ended with the Mayor dumping untreated sewage right into the river. With that out of the way, 2016 was going to be the year where we planned for our big 375th Anniversary in 2017.
Coderre’s focus was squarely somewhere else in the last half of the year, though. After a 55-year-old woman was killed by a dog in June, Coderre tabled rather extreme Breed-Specific Legislation aimed at pit bulls, despite no initial proof that a pit bull was the culprit (and the later revelation that it absolutely wasn’t).
There were protests and even international condemnation, including that of celebrities like Cyndi Lauper. Coderre would hear none of it, though, even ordering the mic cut on an citizen during a City Council meeting.
When the so-called Pit Bull Ban, officially the Montreal Animal Control Bylaw, became law in September, the proverbial other shoe dropped. People started picking up on some of the other aspects of it, in particular the fines and fees and the fact that it covered other breeds of dog and cats, too.
The SPCA got a temporary injunction on the “dangerous breeds” aspects of the law in early October which was overturned on appeal in December. The bylaw comes into full effect March 31, 2017, at which point the SPCA will no longer deal with stray dogs or accept owner surrenders.
In September, another project met with a legal obstacle. Turns out fines Société de transport de Montréal (STM) security officers were handing out constituted a human rights violation.
While the STM will be appealing the Montreal Municipal Court decision, for now at least, they’re not supposed to be sending out squads of transit cops acting as glorified revenue generators. In practice, though, we’ve heard reports they’re still doing it.
What was really surprising was that the SPVM got warrants for this surveillance. What was not surprising at all is how high this probably went. Police Chief Philippe Pichet must have known, and he was handpicked by Mayor Coderre a few years prior.
2016 continued the sad tradition of police murdering innocent people of colour for no good reason and getting away with it (for the most part). The Black Lives Matter movement also continued to speak out against these killings.
There were two such murders in early July very close together, to the point where it was possible to confuse notification of one with the other. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile died at the hands of police in different cities in different states within 24 hours of each other.
In Dallas, Texas, a lone sniper, not part of the peaceful protest, decided to murder nine police officers, which, of course, became a national tragedy and an excuse for the right wing to incorrectly attack BLM.
In September, following the police murder of Keith Lamont Scott, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina erupted. There were days of protest and the governor declared a state of emergency on the second night.
There is sadly no sign that any of this will change in 2017, especially given the positions of the incoming administration on race and police. (JCM)
Sadly, this year was marked by the continuing conflict in Syria. Dictator Bashar al-Assad has again been accused of deliberately targeting civilians. The carnage in Aleppo reached new heights as the regime’s forces renewed their assault, driving residents to send their goodbyes over social media.
Local groups have been fighting the rising terrorist factions in Syria, namely the now famous Kurd “women’s protection unit”, also known as YPJ. However, despite their important role, their status with the international community is on shaky ground. One YPJ fighter is currently detained in Denmark under terrorism charges. (MD)
So that’s our look back at 2016 in the news. Here’s hoping for overall more uplifting stories in 2017!
It happened. Justin Trudeau has gone from the Selfie Prime Minister to the Photobombing PM. At least that’s what it seemed like yesterday.
He was speaking (and I use that term liberally, he really didn’t get to talk much) at a Youth Labour Forum in Ottawa. Most of the assembled crowd, though, seemed less interested in Trudeau’s platitudes then they were in speaking up on his inaction or potentially wrong action on several fronts.
They were upset over what his signing onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership would mean for their job prospects and the effects of “precarious work” which Trudeau said is now a fact of life. They also challenged Trudeau on his broken election promises, saying “we don’t have dialogue with liars.”
At one point, a group of attendees literally turned their backs on the PM because they felt he had turned his back on them. This led to the image you see at the top where it looks very much like Trudeau is an unwanted part of the photo.
Overall, it hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Trudeau. On Monday, about 200 protesters showed up on Parliament Hill upset with the prospect of our Prime Minister approving the Kinder-Morgan Pipeline. Close to 100 of them were arrested.
Up until a few weeks ago, things had been running real smoothly for our PM. Sure, there were attacks, but most of the ones which garnered major media attention came from the right and were over ridiculous things like him posing for shirtless selfies or progressive things like an MP (who has since passed away) trying to make the lyrics to O Canada gender-neutral.
The only time the NDP made a go at him that garnered mass coverage, it failed. It was supposed to be about his strongarm political tactics, but it ended up being about the physical movements of his actual arm, or elbow, when in Parliament.
That’s not to say there weren’t valid progressive reasons to criticize Trudeau over the past year. This self-proclaimed feminist let the previous Harper Government’s arms sale to Saudi Arabia go through and even relaxed our policy to make it possible.
Meanwhile, the Trudeau Government’s attempts to “modernize” the National Energy Board have amounted to nothing more than committees studying problems with no concrete action. The NEB, of course being the organization that Harper had chosen to evaluate pipeline proposals after abolishing the Environmental Assessment Agency.
So, progressive criticisms of Trudeau, until recently, have been focused on Harper policies that the Liberal Government has been ineffective in getting rid of. Not nearly enough to ruin Trudeau’s mainstream progressive cred at home, given the fact that his government has made some significant improvements on what the previous administration was doing.
It also hasn’t been anywhere close to something that could spoil his rep abroad. I constantly see Facebook friends living in the US and other countries as well as foreign progressive media jealously praising our Prime Minister and wishing he could be their head of state.
While I don’t think Trudeau’s honeymoon with the world will end anytime soon, especially given the nastiness in the US Presidential Election, his sunny ways love-in with progressive Canadians may be about to come to an end. The downfall started when when he clearly stated that a $15/hr minimum wage was not a currrent goal of his administration.
Think about that for a second. This is now part of the official Democratic Party platform in the US. Sure, Bernie Sanders forced the issue and pushed Hillary Clinton in that direction, and there’s no proof that she will actually fight for it if elected. But if a corporate centrist running to be leader of a centre-right country can be cajoled into running on a $15/hr minimum wage, then what business does the self-billed progressive global heartthrob leader of a centre-left country have in rejecting it?
It was a long honeymoon for Trudeau, but is it now really over, or at least ending? Does the Emperor now really have no clothes, and not in a fun shirtless selfie kinda way? Maybe.
Dear Mr. Prime Minister
Now, I’d like to shift gears and speak directly to our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Take a look around you, sir. The people turning their back (literally) on you and the people being arrested for getting a little too close to your place of business aren’t Conservatives. They aren’t even jaded lefties like me who vote NDP, sometimes while holding our noses because the leader is not progressive enough.
These are your people. People who voted for you in hopes that you would change things. They wanted to get rid of Harper and his rhetoric, which you have done, but, most importantly, they wanted to throw his policies away, too, and you, sir, have failed to do that.
Does your feminism include arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it’s 2016? Are Kinder-Morgan and Harper’s NEB part of your sunny ways? Have you given up on improving the condition of workers in this country? Can you really use your government’s popularity as an excuse to backpedal on electoral reform when that popularity seems to be waning, or rather plummeting, among former ardent supporters?
I’ll admit I was skeptical of you from the start and I’m sad to report that you have justified my skepticism. I’m a lost cause for you, but it’s not too late, though, for you to win back your former voters and live up to the false impression many have of you. It’s not that hard, either.
Just make your policies match your rhetoric and you can continue the honeymoon until the next election. Otherwise, the honeymoon’s over and things are gonna be kinda awkward before they’re downright unpleasant.
This podcast features panelists Mirna Djukic and Jimmy Zoubris discussing the new NDP back in Québec , Projet Montréal looking for a new leader, Trump’s latest remarks regarding women and more in our News Roundup segment. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha
For this very special podcast our host Jason talks with panelist Ron Roxtar about the last Tragically Hip concert, it’s political implications and the Monkland Street Fest. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha
Ron Roxtar: Pop Culture Aficionado , Journalist and Promoter
The three North-American leaders are meeting this week in Ottawa for the Three Amigos Summit. It’s the first summit in almost three years, and the last one for US President Barack Obama. This is relevant because both major party presumptive nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have recently claimed to be against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and lean towards protectionism.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted his Mexican counterpart Enrique Nieto this morning. Obama is expected to join them to start the negotiations. Here’s what is on the table (and what is conspicuously absent).
A Hope for Climate Action
Climate action is expected to dominate the talks this week. The leaders will discuss how to reduce methane emissions and encourage carbon markets and renewable energy.
The most important thing, both for the environment and the Canadian economy, is Mexico and the US’s commitment to get 50% of electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
It is a remarkably ambitious target; currently, only 13% of US electricity and around 22% of Mexico’s is from renewable sources. Hydro-electricity puts Canada at a great advantage by providing almost 60% of its energy (other sources like wind and solar provide 3%).
The leaders have yet to decide whether to include nuclear energy as an acceptable source. Nuclear energy produces very little greenhouse gas, but it produces radioactive waste that we don’t know how to get rid of.
Including it would mean little to Mexico, because it represents only 3% of its electricity, but would be significant for the U.S, where 19% of electricity is from nuclear energy. For Canada, it means that around 80% of its electricity would be considered clean.
Leaders are expected to discuss how to facilitate the movement of all this clean power across borders. Whether nuclear energy is accepted or not, this would be a tremendous trade opportunity for Canada.
US and Canada have also committed to reduce their methane emissions by 40 to 45% by 2030 and are pressing Mexico to do the same.
Canada’s relationship with its continental partners has been strained under the conservative government. Last year’s Three Amigos summit was cancelled partially due to Harper’s quarrel with Obama over Keystone XL.
Trudeau’s election drastically changed the situation, as was clearly demonstrated when he visited Washington in March. It was the first official visit in nearly 20 years and it went along so warmly that Trudobama bromance quickly became a trending hashtag.
It is doubtful that the negotiations will go as smoothly with the next President of the United States. While a good relationship with a Hillary Clinton presidency is conceivable, the rising protectionist streak in the U.S will be harder to work around. Trudeau has expressed, as openly as he could, that a Trump presidency would be quite undesirable. Canada and Mexico are thus eager to get the maximum out of this last summit with Obama.
The relationship between Trudeau and Nieto has not had much chance to develop. But if this photo of them jogging together is any indication, it started off on a pretty friendly path:
Trudeau’s promise to lift restrictions on Mexican visas to Canada certainly goes a long way towards that.
Mexico and Canada want to sign an agreement on Indigenous rights. They will officially commit to sharing information about best practices for protecting indigenous people from violence, social isolation and exploitation.
This very vague promise is the only concrete human rights issue on the summit’s agenda.
The Three Amigos Summit should be an opportunity to focus on human rights issues above all, argues Amnesty International in an open letter. The NGO is calling on the leaders of all three countries to stop putting illegal refugee and migrant children behind bars.
There are also considerable concerns over the civil rights in Mexico. 27 000 Mexicans have disappeared since the country started its famous war on drugs in 2006.
The absence of Mexico’s civil rights as an issue at the summit is especially conspicuous, considering six people were recently killed in violent clashes between protesters and the police in southern Mexico. The teachers from the radical National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) are blocking roads and train tracks to protest against the education reform and the arrests of union leaders. Footage shows police officers firing on civilians.
Activists are also pushing the Canadian Prime Minister to address women’s rights in the Southern state. An appealing study revealed that a majority of detained women were sexually abused while in custody.
I really thought the US would get there first and we’d see a fistfight on the floor of the House of Representatives before what happened Wednesday in Canada’s House of Commons. I was wrong.
In case you were on a social media sabbatical, I’ll recap: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau manhandled Conservative Whip Gordon Brown and accidentally elbowed NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau in the chest, then got into a shouting match with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.
Have a look (starts around 0:38):
What lead up to this was a vote being called on a reduced timeframe for debate on the Liberal Government’s controversial assisted dying bill. The NDP is not opposed to the bill itself, but nor do they support it as a party. Mulcair made it a free vote, so MPs could vote their conscience.
What they are opposed to is the way Trudeau’s Liberals have been limiting the debate time on this and other recent pieces of legislation. That’s why they were blocking Brown’s path, something the whip didn’t seem to have a problem with, which prompted our PM to leave his seat and take matters, and Brown, into his own hands.
I have some advice. Most of it is for the NDP, but we’ll get the easier advice out of the way first.
Dude, What Were You Thinking?
By all accounts, Justin Trudeau is a smart man and a skilled politician. That’s why his antics on Wednesday really make no sense.
The vote was going to happen. The opposition whip making his way to the Speaker was really just a formality.
If he wanted to break up the logjam, he had two viable options: officially ask the Serjeant-at-Arms to do it or unofficially get some MP craving the spotlight to do it. What he did wasn’t one of them.
Maybe he thought this would play like Jean Chretien choking a protester. Instead it came across more like the late Rob Ford knocking over a city councillor by accident.
Or maybe he wasn’t thinking at all. Maybe he was just pissed. If that is the case, then there is a real problem. When the opposition is pulling a stunt to highlight your government ramming things through, maybe pulling your own stunt of ramming yourself through them isn’t the best idea.
My advice to our Prime Minister is, well, to think.
Wrong Spin, NDP
As for the NDP, Trudeau had handed them the kind of PR gold opposition parties can only dream of. Their response should have been a simple one that stayed on message: Trudeau is trying to steamroll bills through Parliament and now look at him physically steamroll through the opposition.
Instead, they decided to sell it much in the same way a pro wrestling jobber would sell an elbow from an up-and-coming mid-card talent, by falling to the ground. They decided to take the “what kind of feminist is Trudeau, he just elbowed a woman and she had to leave the room” approach.
Now don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of ways to call bullshit on Trudeau’s much touted feminism. His recent arms sale to Saudi Arabia comes to mind. This, unfortunately, was not one of them, and I am astounded NDP leadership didn’t realize it.
In less than 24 hours, they managed to turn a story about our PM acting like a bully into one where they were the butt of jokes in The Beaverton and, at the same time, the posterboys of trivializing violence against women by reducing it to an accidental elbow caught on camera while others have suffered and continue to suffer much worse on a daily basis.
The NDP stunt was a statement against fast-tracking legislation in general, not against the specific bill being fast-tracked, but it’s easy to conflate the two when Mulcair and company aren’t sticking to their original point of contention by making it all about the elbow. Trudeau has apologized three times for the elbow, muting further attacks based on it and the Liberals have now quietly withdrawn their attempts to speed up debate in the Commons, meaning the NDP has now completely missed their chance to make it an issue, at least for the moment.
Another unfortunate side-effect is that now Brosseau is fielding tons of personal attacks online about the incident which she, in no way, deserves. Getting elbowed in the chest, I can only imagine, is quite an unpleasant experience, even if it was an accident. She was right to leave the room after being hit and also perfectly justified in being upset about what happened.
The over-reaction and insistence of her party that this is all about the elbow is not her fault. Unfortunately, now when Mulcair and others defending her against the recent hate tweet something like this:
Almost all the responses are about the elbowing incident and whether or not the party over-reacted and not about all of the hateful comments she has received.
So now the NDP has completely lost their message and are now fighting against internet trolls when they could have easily turned this into a statement about government bullying.
My advice to the NDP is the exact same advice I gave to Justin Trudeau: think.
So who comes out of this debacle on top? Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and the Conservatives.
May got her chance to chastise both the Liberals and the NDP for being incredibly immature. Meanwhile, former PM Stephen Harper, who doesn’t always show up in the House of Commons these days, but was present for this vote, can be seen briefly in the video feed of the incident smugly smirking at what was going on:
Fort MacMurray and large swaths of Northern Alberta have been burning for a few days. Homes and communities have been destroyed and people have died, too.
This is a time for everyone in Canada and beyond to come together and try to stop the fires and assist those who have been forced to evacuate as much as they can. That has been happening. There have been stories circulating of everyone from the people of Lac Megantic, Quebec to recent Syrian refugees pitching in.
Politically, though, there has been a fire of a different sort. At first, there were those online suggesting that the fires were directly caused by the oil being pulled out of the ground, but when it was clear that the fires did not start at the extraction site and had no specific correlation to the most prominent industry in the region, those rumblings gave way to a political argument about whether or not the wildfires were the result of climate change.
Ottawa Weighs In
Green Party leader Elizabeth May fired the first shot, so to speak, when asked if the fires were linked to climate change:
“Of course. It’s due to global emissions. Scientists will say we know with a destabilized climate, with a higher average global temperature, we will see more frequent, more extreme weather events … due to an erratic climate, due to our addiction to fossil fuels.”
Later in the same day, she walked that statement back a bit, saying there was no specific correlation and that “no credible climate scientist would make this claim, and neither do I make this claim.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got the question next and responded like this:
“It’s well-known that one of the consequences of climate change will be a greater prevalence of extreme weather events around the planet, however any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster I think there is a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome.
Pointing at any one incident and saying, ‘Well this is because of that,’ is neither helpful nor entirely accurate. What we are focussed on right now on is giving the people of Fort McMurray, and across Alberta, the kind of support that they need.”
Now, I, for one, am loathe to agree with Trudeau anything, let alone on environmental issues. He is, after all, the one who seems to think pipelines will lead to our green future. I also believe that most of Alberta’s oil should stay in the ground. In fact, I experienced quite the dilemma a few paragraphs back in this article. I absolutely refuse to use the term “oil sands” but thought that “tar sands” was a little too hardcore a term to use for the “coming together” point I was trying to make.
That dilemma is nothing compared to the one faced by people whose homes have recently burned to the ground. In fact, not all of those fleeing the wildfires are oil company executives, very few are. These are workers, their families, activists opposed to pipelines, First Nations communities and others who, a week ago, were fighting against the destruction the oil industry would bring to their home, and now are fleeing from their home.
With that in mind, I have to agree with Justin Trudeau. This is not the right time to be talking climate change.
Put the Fires Out First
Are these fires the result of climate change? Maybe. Could they also have been caused by inconsiderate campers? Maybe. Are wildfires a natural occurrence in the area? Yes. Do these fires have no other explanation? Maybe. These are all good questions that can be answered later.
Right now shit is burning and stopping that and helping those affected has to be our first and only concern. There will be time to talk cause and assign blame later.
When a spree killer is chasing you down the hall, you don’t stop running, turn around and pontificate on the lack of gun control or our failing mental health system, you get the hell out of there and hope the killer is stopped before he gets to you. If you survive, there will be plenty of time to talk about and hopefully stop the root causes of what happened.
Right now, metaphorically, we’re still running down the hall. The fires are still raging and we need to stop them and find a way out.
It’s fine to criticize the government at a time like this, but only on things they aren’t doing or could be doing better to deal with and hopefully end the situation (like not letting the Russians help). Linking the disaster to climate change at this point isn’t one of them.
I know that I may be annoying some people whom I otherwise agree with and may agree with on this issue, except that I don’t think this is the right time to be on a soapbox about it. I don’t really care, because, here in Montreal, I still have a roof over my head, which is more than some in Alberta, Manitoba and now Ontario can say.
Panelists Ethan Cox, Josh Davidson and Jerry Gabriel discuss student tribunals at Concordia, the US Primary Season and Justin Trudeau’s statement that pipelines will pay for green energy. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha
This week will go down in history as the week in which our Canadian government discovered the solution to climate change: an increase in CO2 emissions will save the planet! The brilliant idea is that the growth of the oil and gas sector will pay for our GreenTransition.
Climate Change shenanigans were all a problem of perspective. For so many years we were just looking at it the wrong way. It’s now obvious that the biggest polluters in the world were just asking for a concrete way to contribute and a listening ear.
Thankfully our new prime minister was capable of enlightening us all, and bridging public and private interests together. After all, it’s a known fact that problems are always best resolved by the initiative and the savvy of the private sector.
Case in point, one of the biggest problems multinational Canadian mining and energy corporations were confronted with was named Berta Cáceres, a renowned political leader and Honduran environmental activist. Her struggle to uphold indigenous rights, to put a hold on the destruction and pillage of Honduras, was put to a brutal end this week.
In this case the ingenuity, the constant push for innovation, private initiative and all those buzzwords at the heart of what makes the private sector the most competent problem solver, were missing. Apparently within the entrepreneurial world , simplicity is virtue: hire a bunch of thugs to ransack the person’s house, use the centuries old technique of cold steal and assassinate a dissenting voice in cold blood. Problem solved.
Although the death of Berta Cáceres, her activism and the struggle she ultimately gave her life for, unfolded thousands of kilometers from Canada, her death couldn’t be closer to home. The implications of her life struggle and its brutal end weigh heavily on the Canadian government and Canadian foreign policy.
Her blood indelibly stains Canada’s conscience, like the deaths of so many other activists killed in the name of private interests. First of all, it was Canadian corporate interests that she was at odds with and campaigned against.
The role of the previous Harper administration in the Honduran coup which ousted Manuel Zelaya, who was in favor of redrawing jurisdiction around foreign mining interests in the country, is unclear. One thing is certain, though: Canadian multinational companies have benefited the most from the trade deal that was signed between the military junta and the Canadian government in 2014.
Careces’s death and struggle sheds light on the unbearable lightness and lethal naïvité manifest in the idea that Climate Change is merely a “scientific” problem. This enables the idea that with the right equations, calculations, mechanisms put forward by the private sector the question of Climate Change will be resolved.
The abstraction of the talk about climate change revolving around targets and fancy conferences, with standing ovations, blueprints filled with buzzwords like “incentives” and “corporate solutions” and “private sector initiatives” omits the most important factor of climate change: its inherent violence. Climate change when disembedded from the social and geopolitical factors is seen at a fraction of its face value, as a scientific phenomenon, at best an environmental process, but not as a whole, as an environmental process that enables and fosters a social and geopolitical process.
The violent death of Berta Careces and the 100 plus deaths of environmental activists in Latin America, Africa and Asia are the figurative manifestations of the violence inherent to Climate Change. We know that indigenous communities and populations within the “global south” will be tenfold affected by the disasters brought about by environmental deregulation. It is also embodied by large scale violence employed in the commodification of resources and diverse natural environments.
Yet the discourse of Trudeau & co, of the COP 21 and similar conferences, sanitizes the horrific violence that is at the heart of Climate Change. It creates an unintelligible discourse that silences and ostracizes the voices of those most affected by it.
This “scientific” discourse that sees Climate Change merely as a warming of few degrees here and there, a rise in sea levels, a destruction of ecosystems, doesn’t take notice of the underlying social-historical structures, systemic racism and neocolonialism that make the bed for Climate Change as an environmental phenomenon to exist.
Without tackling the power structures that feed-off Climate Change: neocolonialism, racism, imperialism, there will be no solution.
The vision Trudeau champions, that the private sector offers the best solution to climate change, is the direct cause of Berta Cáceres’ death and the death of several hundred environmental activists and entire communities throughout the globe.
The private sector solution to Climate Change is that of giving a price to nature. The idea is as simple as it is flawed: a price tag to everything in nature, to the natural beauty of beach, the existence of species, the natural habitat of an indigenous community, will somehow help to preserve it.
This opens the door to the commodification of nature which allows for speculation, the creation of derivatives and other innovative financial products. Ultimately the usefulness, the value, of a given ecosystem or a species or the livelihood of a community, of a culture will be determined by how it fairs on the stock exchange.
This idea of “price tagging” nature coexists alongside two other private sector innovations: cap and trade, which relies on the dispossession on a massive scale of communities within the global south to function and the continued pillage of resources to satisfy the cult of perpetual and masturbatory growth.
As long as the cult of growth is upheld, so will the constant commodification of all living things, the massive disenfranchisement and continued violence, the continued mobilization of neocolonial, racist and imperialist attitudes and ideologies be upheld as well. A poignant example is the racist rhetoric used by the “decayists” of pseudo-intellectual European right, towards Syrian refugees.
In Disaster Apartheid: A World of Green Zones and Red Zones, the last chapter of The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein refers to the idea that the neoliberal shock doctrine is reshaping the world in its image, dicing up the world into Green Zones (reference to the Green Zone in Baghdad) and Red Zones. There’s a relationship of domination between these zones; for Green Zones to exist there must be Red Zones.
For Canada and the rest of the “global north” to theorize a way to salvage the capitalist system and the cult of growth, many more Berta Cáceres’ must die. For the corporate Green Transition to work, the disenfranchisement of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities within Canada must continue, the denial of their rights to auto-determination must be upheld.
Cáceres’ blood wasn’t shed in vain. Like the hundreds of environmental activists that have died before her, Cáceres knew that within the struggle against Climate Change exists the extraordinary potential to dissolve the toxic power structures, the structures of domination, of oppression, that are the biggest polluters in the history of humanity.
Panelists Katie Nelson, Enzo Sabbagha and Jerry Gabriel discuss the feud between taxi drivers and Uber, the Canadian Parliament voting to condemn the BDS movement and Apple challenging the FBI. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!
Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha
Katie Nelson: Concordia student and frequent taxi passenger
Enzo Sabbagha: Concordia student and podcast technical assistant
So while our collective political attention, or at least mine, has been focused south of the border, or on less partisan though equally polarizing issues like taxi protests, celebrities being screwed over and basically anything but Canadian federal politics, our parliament has been debating a motion to condemn the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel) movement which will come to a vote today, the same day McGill University votes on whether or not they will adopt a pro-BDS stance or not.
Yes, that’s what our elected officials are spending their time and your tax dollars doing. It started when the Connservative Party, our Official Opposition put forward this resolution:
“That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”
What’s different this time is that even though Stephane Dion initially called the resolution divisive, it now looks like Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government will be voting for it today. The NDP and Greens will oppose.
This is a really embarrassing moment for the Parliament of Canada. While toothless, the resolution is a clear indication that our parliament, and moreover the Liberal Government, doesn’t respect the right of economic boycott, an overall effective tactic protesters can use to bring about real change.
Now remember that Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terror bill that leaves the definition of terrorism so broad it can apply to anyone the government wants to tag with it, and C-24, Harper’s second-class citizens bill, which could strip citizenship from anyone convicted of “terrorism” are both still on the books. The Liberals haven’t scrapped C-24 or changed C-51 yet, both things they promised to do. In that context, this toothless statement seems a little more menacing.
Makes sense that there is a petition out against this and people are urging Canadians to contact their MPs (and making it easy to do so). I have signed the petition and sent an email to my MP, who is a Liberal and sadly will probably vote for this resolution anyways. If you agree with me, even if you don’t agree with BDS at all but think Canadians have a right to call for economic boycott nonetheless, I urge you to do the same.
While Justin Trudeau clearly likes appeasing the right wing, including the right-wingers in his party, while at the same time trying to mollify the left with some feigned indignation followed by actual voting support for the very thing they are indignant about, I think a clearer message is in order. Here is my resolution, which, sadly, will never come before Canada’s Parliament :
Criticism or promoting an economic boycott of the State of Israel is not anti-Semetism and any politician who argues so is either uninformed or a political opportunist
Condemning economic boycott is un-democratic
Any politician who supports a resolution condemning the BDS Movement can no longer claim to be progressive and must admit that they are just a neocon in progressive clothing from here on
Contact your MP and sign the petition, but if that doesn’t work, then please make me this one promise: vote any MP who supports this monstrosity of a resolution out of office the first chance you get!