Trudeau guilty, again

Canadian political history was made as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was found guilty for the second time in contravening the Conflict of Interest Act.

In the ruling released this week, Mario Dion, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, found Mr. Trudeau guilty of seeking to influence a decision by the Attorney General in relation to the prosecution of SNC Lavalin.

This situation led to the resignation of Jody Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal cabinet, before Mr. Trudeau removed her and Jane Philpott (who also resigned from cabinet due to concerns on the subject) from the Liberal caucus.

The report, known as Trudeau II, raises some very troubling findings.

The Commissioner found:

"The Prime Minister, directly and through his senior officials, used various means to exert influence over Ms. Wilson-Raybould. The authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the Crown's chief law officer.”

The Commissioner noted that he was denied some of the required information to view "the entire body of evidence" and that some witnesses were also unable to share certain information because of these same restrictions.

Ultimately his conclusion was:

"The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the Attorney General."

Since the report was released, Mr. Trudeau stated that he "takes responsibility for the mistakes that I made" yet, at the same time, he has also stated that he disagrees with some of the Commissioner’s findings.

Having now read the Commissioners report in full, I also have a few thoughts.

When this SNC Lavalin situation was first reported in the Globe and Mail, Mr. Trudeau told reporters:

"The allegations in the Globe story this morning are false."

Later, during a March 7, 2019 news conference, Mr. Trudeau stated:

"In Ms. Wilson-Raybould's case she did not come to me and I wish she had.”

The challenge with this statement is that the Trudeau II report clearly reveals that on Sept.17, 2018,  Ms. Wilson-Raybould did meet with Mr. Trudeau and relayed her concerns directly to him.

In other words, the comments made by Mr. Trudeau in March of 2019 do not reconcile with the facts of Sept. 17, 2018 as outlined in the report.

My question this week:

  • What do you think the Prime Minister should do in light of this serious report?

Tanker traffic will increase

As we approach the October election, one of the significant concerns in British Columbia is the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project (TMX) and by extension the increase in related oil tanker traffic.

In previous reports, I have referred to many aspects of this project, but one area I have not covered has been oil tankers.

The intent of my report today will be to provide some additional information on this topic.

For the record, there are five types of oil tankers that range in size from the 230-metre long Panamax class up to the 415-metre long ULCC class.

For a frame of reference, the Exxon Valdez was the second largest VLCC class at 330 metres.

The tankers involved in the TMX project are the second smallest Aframax size at 245 metres.

For some comparison, the B.C. Ferries "Spirit" class of vessels are 167 metres long.

In terms of capacity, an Aframax tanker can carry up to 750,000 barrels of oil.

The Exxon Valdez VLCC class can carry close to two million barrels of oil.

In terms of tanker sailings, the completion of the TMX project would result in roughly 34 tanker sailings per month.

Currently, there are five.

One question on the minds of  the many citizens I have heard from is:

  • what has changed since the days of the Exxon Valdez?

One of the more significant changes relates to construction.

Tankers involved with the TMX project are double-hulled, which is now subject to Canadian and International regulation.

Other changes relate to regulation and procedures.

Today, regulatory requirements include a certificate of insurance, arrangements with the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation for spill response readiness.

Both the tanker and the terminal are required to complete unique spill response plans.

From a procedural stand point, a tanker at berth is always enclosed with a pre-deployed oil spill boom with a second boom ready for deployment.

No tanker will enter the region without a professional pilot on board and a fully loaded tanker departing must carry two pilots.

All cargo loading is under the supervision of a loading master who must stay on board while the loading is underway.

Aside from these changes, there are also additional use of tethered and un-tethered tugboats acting as escort vessels throughout the arrival and departure process.

Aside from these measures, the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation would also significantly increase both resources and location of resources for enhanced spill response capacity and faster response times.

I have provided this information for greater context and understanding of how marine oil tanker traffic would change with the expansion of the TMX project as well as how tanker safety has also changed.

My question this week relates solely to tankers:

  • How do you feel about an increase in tanker traffic from five tankers up to roughly 34 a month?

Getting connected

Every summer, I visit each community in my riding as part of my annual summer listening tour.

Citizens deserve to be heard, and meeting with people directly in their home communities is an important part of being a member of Parliament.

The feedback and concerns I hear are part of the focus for when the House of Commons resumes, typically in September.

This year, the House is not expected to resume given that the next federal election will be in October.

I am frequently reminded how far away the Ottawa bubble is when it comes to those who live in Canadian rural communities.

In several parts of my riding, there are no public transit options.

Where there was once Greyhound service in some areas, it now no longer exists.

Some areas have no access to natural gas for home heating.

There is also a lack of internet access in many areas and, in some cases, no wireless signal whatsoever.

For this reason, both the provincial and federal governments have promised to increase rural internet connectivity.

Despite these promises, as many rural residents without wireless service can confirm, little to no progress has been made.

Recently, with the fall election fast approaching, the Liberal government made yet another promise with regards to rural internet connectivity.

The Liberals announced a down-the-road program to pay $600 million over 10 years to what was described as an "Ottawa-based company" to launch low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

LEO satellites orbit at a height of roughly 1,000 kilometres, compared to conventional satellites that are typically orbit the earth at a range over 30,000 kilometres.

LEO satellites can provide much faster wireless connections to hard-to-reach, isolated locations.

LEO satellite technology is an emerging industry with several international private sector companies investing in new technology in a race to get LEO satellites launched.

This leads to my question for this week.

The Liberal government's track record on rural internet connectivity has not been stellar.

As the Auditor General concluded in a report from last year, the connectivity program did not get value for money.

The AG also determined that the Trudeau government was hindered by having no overall rural connectivity strategy.

This remains unchanged.

People in rural and remote communities deserve better than a program where under 15% of the promised funding for internet infrastructure to date, has been spent, as is the case under this Liberal government.

My question to you:

  • Should the next government prioritize having a comprehensive strategy to make sure rural and remote communities have internet connectivity?


Writ will soon be dropped

In less than two months, the writ will be dropped and the official campaign for the October federal election will begin.

I refer to the "official" campaign getting underway because by all accounts active campaigning has already begun.

What does "dropping the writ" mean?

A writ is "dropped" when the Prime Minister presents the Governor General with an instrument of advice recommending the House of Commons be dissolved.

The Governor General then issues a proclamation dissolving Parliament.

Previously, there was no maximum length for a writ period until the passing of  Elections Modernization Act, passed in this Parliament, that set that a maximum of length of fifty days.

Another change was the creation of a restricted pre-writ period that began back on June 30 of this year.

This newly created "pre-writ" period imposes restrictions, such as limits on advertising for political parties, prior to the official writ being dropped.

Previously spending limits were only imposed on political parties during the writ period.

How does this change things?

In the writ period, the government enters into what is known in our Westminster form of government as the Caretaker Convention.

The Caretaker Convention recognizes the underlying principle that government must still run, however the elected political side of government cannot use taxpayer provided resources or other powers of government in an effort to influence the election.

As an example, a cabinet minister or the Prime Minister could not fly, at taxpayer expense, to make major spending announcement or announce other changes in government policy intended for political gain.

When the Trudeau Liberal government created the new "pre-writ" period, they ensured that the restrictions on expenses (such as advertising) only applies to political parties.

The Prime Minister and his ministers are not subject to any spending restrictions on their political activities during the pre-writ period.

The Liberals also ensured that the Caretaker Convention would not apply during the pre-writ period.

Meaning that taxpayer resources can be used while the PM and his ministers fly around Canada making funding announcements precisely intended for political gain.

Likewise government policies and project announcements can also be manipulated for partisan political purposes.

My question to you this week is one of fairness:

  • Do you believe that in addition to political parties, that this new pre-writ period should also equally apply to the Prime Minister and Cabinet?

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About the Author

Dan Albas, Conservative member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is the shadow minister of innovation, science, economic development and internal trade, and sits on the standing committee on finance.

Before entering public life, Dan was the owner of Kick City Martial Arts, responsible for training hundreds of men, women and youth to bring out their best.

In British Columbia, Dan has been consistently one of the lowest spending MPs on office and administration related costs despite operating two offices to better serve local constituents.

Dan is consistently recognized as one of Canada’s top 10 most active members of Parliament on Twitter (@danalbas) and continues to write a weekly column published in many local newspapers and on this website.

He can be reached at [email protected] or call toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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