What was legal opinion that changed mind of CSIS director?

Emergencies Act hearings

In late April, I wrote about the government invoking the Emergencies Act.

I pointed out many of the reasons the majority of Liberal and NDP MPs cited to justify voting for invoking the act had since been proven as false and untrue. For example, there was no “act of attempted arson” on behalf of the protestors, nor were any guns found in Ottawa during the protest. I further pointed out the law governing the use of the Emergencies Act requires an independent review must occur after the act is invoked.

For the past 28 days, the Public Order Emergency Commission has been conducting hearings into the invoking of the Emergencies Act. This week took a very interesting turn as cabinet ministers took the stand.

While direct questions to the ministers have yielded little useful information as to how the government believed the legal threshold was met to invoke the Emergencies Act, the normally confidential and private messages shared between ministers has been far more of interest.

One text message between the Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and the Justice Minister David Lametti read as follows: “Police have all of the legal authority they need to enforce the law, they just need to exercise and do their job” That was a message from Minister of Public Safety.

This is particularly relevant as the legal standard to invoke the Emergencies Act is clear. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association describes it: “The Emergencies Act can only be invoked when a situation 'seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada' and when the situation 'cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.'"

The last part is key: “When the situation 'cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada". This was precisely the argument the Opposition, a few Liberal MPs and other academics and legal scholars opposed to invoking the Emergencies Act referenced.

To hear the public safety minister state, privately in a text message to the justice minister, “Police have all of the legal authority they need to enforce the law, they just need to exercise and do their job” is a candid admission they knew this situation could be dealt with under existing Canadian laws.

If you are following the hearings in the news, you may have heard the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, confirm CSIS did not believe the legal standard had been met to invoke the Emergencies Act (as is required under law). You may have also heard that, in spite of this fact, the CSIS director still advised Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke the Emergencies Act.

Why would he advise that, given that the legal standard had not been met? The Commission was told by the CSIS director his recommendation was based on a new legal opinion from Justice Canada.

The obvious question is, what was the legal opinion? Unfortunately, the government is claiming privilege and refuses to reveal the legal opinion.

My question this week:

Considering this new information, do you believe use of the Emergencies Act was justified?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


More transparency needed from Health Canada

Kid's pain meds secured

I have increasingly heard from parents with young children, concerned about a serious shortage of children’s pain relief medicine at local pharmacies and grocery stores.

Recently, a Kelowna resident, returning from a trip to Washington State, sent me pictures from U.S. grocery stores and asked why the same problem was not occurring there.
He asked what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was doing to resolve this problem.

While it is true the U.S. does not have this problem to the same extent asCanada, it is less clear as to the reasons why. Fortunately, early this week, Health Canada issued a statement that may help resolve the critical shortage.

Health Canada indicated it has secured a foreign supply of children’s acetaminophen that will be available in retail stores and pharmacies in the coming weeks.

The reason I suggest this “may” help resolve the shortage is because Health Canada is refusing to reveal precisely how much supply it has “secured” and where exactly in Canada it will be distributed.

After two years of very detailed drug procurement and distribution information from Health Canada during the pandemic, this sudden refusal to disclose these basic details and the lack of transparency raises serious questions and concerns. Why would this information be withheld from Canadians?

On an unrelated note, this week an investigation continued into how the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) managed to spend $54 million on the ArriveCan app after it was originally budgeted to cost $80,000.
The app is no longer mandatory for those travelling into Canada.

The CBSA was to turn over documents related to this boondoggle to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates this week, to meet a pre-established production order and deadline.
So far CBSA has declined to reveal exactly where the money went and who ended up with it.
When a committee, or the House itself, passes a production order—as was the case here—that order is equivalent to a court order and the government, elected to serve the House, must respond.

While these two situations are not directly related, they do point to a disturbing pattern. Canadians elect Members of Parliament to represent them at the federal level in Ottawa. Parents wondering what actions are being taken to rectify the critical shortage of children’s pain medication deserve to know what is being done, with significant details.

Likewise, when a federal department somehow manages to spend $54 million on an app, Canadians deserve to know where that money went and who profited from it.

These should not be considered partisan questions and Canadians deserve to have answers to these questions. Instead, we see stonewalling, excuses and a complete and total disregard for Canadians right to know basic information about how and where their money is spent.

My question this week:

Are you concerned by this growing lack of transparency, or do you view this as the official opposition sweating what you consider small and insignificant details?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Government promises of 'small' deficits not being kept

Federal deficits continue

Late last week, the federal government released a fall economic statement, promoted as a “mini-budget”.

Why? One can assume it was a clever play on words, suggesting the fiscal announcement was small when in reality it proposed to significantly increase more deficit spending.

First some context. You may recall Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected in 2015 with a promise to run several “small” deficits before he made what he called a “cast in stone” promise to return to a balanced budget in 2019.

The promises at that time were “small deficits” of $ 9.9 billion in 2016, $9.5 billion in 2017, $5.7 billion in 2018 and a return to a $1 billion surplus in 2019.

How did those promises turn out? They didn't. In reality the size of these deficits were much larger, with a $17.8 billion deficit in 2016, $19 billion deficit in 2017, $14 billion deficit in 2018 and a $39.4 billion deficit in 2019. Keep in mind that all of that was before the pandemic.

Fast forward to what the government announced in the “mini-budget” last week—a deficit this year of $36.4 billion, followed by a $30.6 billion deficit in 2023, another $25.4 billion deficit in 2024, with a further deficit of $14.5 billion in 2025 that will lower to a $3.4 billion deficit in 2026 and finally a $4.5 billion surplus in 2027.

Aside from the obvious that the government has never established itself as being able to come even close to meeting the fiscal promises it makes, there is another challenge. Once again we are in a situation where these are all deficit forecasts, meaning the actual deficits could be much higher, as has been the case in the past with this government.

Even within the “mini-budget,” the government includes a “downside scenario” in which the federal deficit this year could be as high as $49.1 billion, followed by $52.4 billion in 2023 and $42.3 billion in 2024. In this downside scenario, instead of a small surplus in 2027, there would still be a deficit of $8.3 billion.

There is another more alarming trend. As prices rise with inflation, so do the taxes on all those goods and services that now cost more. That means the government actually receives more tax money from struggling consumers trying to pay their bills.

As an example of this, the actual federal government revenue received was $19 billion higher in this “mini-budget” than was forecast in last April’s (actual) budget. In other words, at a time when the federal government is receiving increased tax revenues at your expense—due to higher prices—it is taking the extra revenue and still spending it while creating deficits significantly larger than what they campaigned on back in 2015.

As I mentioned last week, Desjardins (from Quebec) is now forecasting Canada’s debt servicing costs will hit $49.8 billion next year, and we could be spending more money servicing debt than the total of the Canada Health Transfer for 2022/23, expected to be $45.2 billion.

My question this week:

Did you find the “mini-budget” to be credible?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Another large interest rate hike will really hurt

Dealing with debt servicing

Ottawa is a very busy place this week with many different topics dominating media stories.

The ongoing inquiry into the federal government invoking the Emergencies Act continues and many surprising details are being revealed to the public. That will be a topic for a future column.

Also occurring this week was a request to the House of Commons Speaker from the NDP asking for an emergency debate in the the House over Ontario's pre-emptive use of the notwithstanding clause to impose a contract on CUPE workers in the Ontario public education system.

As this is a provincial matter, it is unknown at this point if the Speaker will agree to a request for this emergency debate.

Somewhat overlooked in many media reports this week was the Bank of Canada coming out and stating it has not ruled out another oversized interest rate hike to fight sky-high inflation. With many families seriously struggling to pay increased interest on debt for mortgages, lines of credits and other debts, these comments will be of very serious concern. However, it is not just individual households that will be seriously impacted by a further increase in interest on debt.

As many know, every year since it was formed, the (current) government has deliberately run deficit budgets that have significantly increased Canada’s debt. For those who havefollowed closely, they will know the government has consistently defended its deficit budgets by stating the spending is “affordable” due to low interest rates.

In my criticism of the government’s budget early last year, I warned rising interest will mean rising payments on that debt, a term known as “debt servicing”. In fact, I pointed out the interest we paid on our public debt for 2020/21 was $20.4 billion.

I also pointed out that by 2026/27, those debt servicing costs are forecast to rise to $40.9 billion. For context, I gave an example of the Canada Health Transfer, which was $45.9 billion (at the time) and forecast to rise to $55.2 billion in 2026/27.

I did that to raise the issue that over the next five years the cost to service our debt is doubling and increasing at a rate faster than our health transfers are increasing. I viewed this as a very serious concern and many local citizens agreed.

Flash forward to this week and Desjardins (from Quebec) has forecast Canada’s debt servicing costs will hit $49.8 billion next year. To put $49.8 billion in debt servicing charges into perspective, the total of the Canada Health Transfer for 2022/23 is expected to rise to $45.2 billion. In other words, the situation I was worried about has now occurred over a much shorter period.

With Canada’s debt servicing now forecast to see us spending more money on debt servicing than we are spending in funding the entire Canada health transfer to the provinces and territories, here is my question for you this week:

What actions would you like to see from the federal government take in response to this situation?

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

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Dan in Ottawa articles

About the Author

Dan Albas is the Conservative Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.

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.

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

Dan welcomes comments, questions and concerns from citizens and is often available to speak to groups and organizations on matters of federal concern. 

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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