Terrorists subvert Wet’suwet’en cause

Michael Fortier was jarred awake at 1:30 a.m. on May 4 by the banging on the drain pipe of his Montreal home. A neighbour was trying to get Fortier’s attention –his two cars were ablaze.

Fortier woke his wife and three kids and they ran from the house. An eyewitness said someone could have died if the flames had engulfed the house.

Damage at Costal Gaslink site in northern BC. image: Costal Gaslink

Surveillance footage of the firebombing showed two men pulling up on bikes, taking out a package and nonchalantly tossing it towards one car.

Montreal Counter-information claimed responsibility for the attack. On their website, mtlcounterinfo.org, they explained: “Mr. Fortier was a federal cabinet minister under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Today, he is the vice-chairman of capital markets at the Royal Bank of Canada. This act is in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders and all those who fight the extractive industry.”

You might wonder why the home of a bank executive in Montreal would be firebombed by so-called Wet’suwet’en land defenders. Well, you see, RBC is one of the financers of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory 4,685 km away.

RBC is just one of five commercial banks that supplies working capital to Coastal GasLink.

MTL Counter-info warns on their website:

“Mr. Fortier may think that his money and connections will protect him, his children and his grandchildren. But the ecologically dispossessed will know the names of those responsible. He must understand that no one is safe amid this storm.”

Tenuous hardly describes how thin the thread is between Fortier and the natural gas pipeline project in northern B.C. Should I be worried because I bank at RBC? Might I have to flee my home in the middle of the night from terrorists who are in fit of self-righteous indignation?

Closer to home, workers at the Coastal GasLink pipeline site fled for their lives in the middle of the night on February 17 after 20 masked attackers, some carrying axes, overwhelmed security at the site. Nine people on the pipeline site were forced to escape their remote forest work camp while attackers tried to torch a truck.

“This is absolutely shocking. And quite scary,” said MLA Ellis Ross, former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation. “There were workers inside a truck while attackers were trying to light it on fire. A lot of the people working on the pipeline are First Nations themselves.”

The terrorists caused millions of damage to machinery and property. The perpetrators have not been arrested.

The Wet’suwet’en are divided over the merits of pipeline. The elected band councils of 20 Indigenous communities along the pipeline route, including five Wet’suwet’en bands, support it. In a poll, 92 per cent of the Wet’suwet’en community are in favour of the project. Hereditary chiefs oppose it.

If these terrorists really respected the Wet’suwet’en people, they would let them figure it out themselves.

Instead, these wannabe warriors are taking the cause into their own hands, much to the dismay of Wet’suwet’en leaders. Theresa Tait Day, a hereditary sub chief says:  “I ran into a few claiming to be ‘land defenders’ coming to Smithers [the location of Wet’suwet’en office]. I said ‘go home, we don’t need you here’. But they did come and one even had a warrant out for their arrest.”

Emergence of Canada’s economy from a coma must be done carefully

Canada’s economy has been placed in an induced coma since it was infected with the novel coronavirus. Arousal from the coma must be done carefully to avoid a devastating setback.

The Dirty Thirties. Image: Canadian Encyclopedia

Keeping the comatose economy on life support has been expensive. We’ve blown the wad on the first wave of the pandemic to the tune of one-quarter trillion dollars. We can’t afford an expensive relapse.

Canada’s debt, manageable now, could lead to consequences worse than that of the Dirty Thirties if the recovery is not done right.

Royal Bank of Canada CEO Dave McKay puts it this way: “We can’t screw this up because we don’t have enough fiscal firepower. We can’t fail the re-entry. We don’t have enough money for a massive step back.”

Bringing the economy back to life is as much an art as a science; a little wakefulness here, a few stimulations there. Hurry up and wait to see what happens. The patient’s urge to run must be tempered with the pitfalls that lie ahead.

Deep thinkers are at work. We need to listen to the advice of health professionals, who understand the mortal dangers of this virus, and to economists who appreciate the long-term social and economic costs of tanking the economy.

Unemployment already exceeds anything in the past century, except the Great Depression. The sheer number of people affected is staggering. A projected 8.5 million Canadians will receive $2,000 monthly from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). That’s nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s work force.

Unlike Employment Insurance, the CERB does not require recipients to look for work. It doesn’t require them to accept a job offer. Recipients can only earn up to $1,000 a month, anything more and the CERB is lost.

The disincentives to find work are part of the induced coma. Rest and relaxation is the prescription. Workers must stay home to avoid contagion. To encourage workers to help wake up the economy, they should be allowed to keep a larger portion of the benefit as they return to work with a gradual clawback as earnings rise.

This would be a step towards a basic annual income for all Canadians –an idea supported by both the right and left ends of the political spectrum. Sheila Regehr, chair of the Basic Income Canada Network, is urging just such a change. The group issued a policy paper in January that proposed a $22,000 annual benefit for a single adult. Under that proposal, benefits would be reduced by 40 cents for each dollar of earnings and would be eliminated entirely after a person’s income rose above $55,000.

Child care is another knotty problem. Parent returning to work need affordable child care, but they need to assured that they are not sending their children into harm’s way. Any uncertainty about public-health risks at daycares and schools will prove to be a significant disincentive for many Canadians to return to work.

The next decade may well be known as the Dark Twenties. The economy that awakes from the induced slumber might not recognize its former self.