Legal pot could see justice costs climb, not drop, Rachel Notley says

Alberta’s premier says she’s worried that marijuana legalization could drive up policing and court bills her province cannot afford to pay.

The justice system is already overburdened and enforcing new pot-related measures could make things worse, Rachel Notley warned in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Notley said she was surprised by the recent federal proposal to levy an excise tax on recreational marijuana once it becomes legal next July, with the provinces and territories receiving just half the revenue.

Alberta and other provinces have already expressed displeasure about the sharing plan, saying they should get the bulk of the revenues to cover their costs. The issue will resurface at a meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers next month.

It is not reasonable to make the provinces do most of “cost-based heavy lifting” on implementing the new cannabis regime “with only a portion of the taxation,” Notley said.

According to Health Canada, 74,013 people in Alberta are registered to receive medicinal marijuana

The Trudeau government has earmarked just over $274 million to support policing and border efforts associated with legalized pot. (CBC)

The federal government says legalizing recreational use will help keep marijuana out of the hands of young people while denying profits to criminal organizations. But it acknowledges the need to train and equip police to better deal with the phenomenon of drugged driving.

The Trudeau government has earmarked just over $274 million to support policing and border efforts associated with legalized pot, with some of the money to be made available to the provinces.

‘The justice system is stretched’

There are still many unanswered questions, including around enforcement, Notley said.

“The issue with enforcement is, if we don’t get it right what we do is we drive up policing and court costs quite significantly,” she said.

“The justice system is stretched, and so to inject something like this in without a clear understanding of how we’re going to prosecute those things that we’re being asked to enforce could really drive a lot of costs.”

In response to Notley, Liberal MP Bill Blair said Wednesday that the advent of a new approach will also mean cost reductions.

“We know that each year, tens of thousands of people are charged with simple possession of cannabis,” Blair said in an interview. “Those charges will come out of the criminal justice system.”

Ottawa will closely monitor the cost impacts of legalization, said Blair, parliamentary secretary to the justice and health ministers.

“I think there is a very real possibility of savings but we also know it requires investment in oversight and administration and, where appropriate, enforcement,” Blair said.

“That’s part of the ongoing work that we’re doing with provinces, territories and municipalities to make sure funding is available.”

At the same time, cannabis producers are seeking clarity on future regulations for the recreational pot regime, noting they need to make critical decisions now on everything from fonts to layout for future packages.

The federal government released a nearly 70-page consultation document late Tuesday that shed more light on proposed regulations including strict limitations for colour, graphs and font size for products.

“There will just be a lot of risk that we make the wrong choice.” –  Mark Zekulin, Canopy Growth Corp.

Canopy Growth Corp. president Mark Zekulin said Wednesday his company is already preparing mock-ups for products ahead of marijuana’s legalization, adding that key details remain unknown. The lack of information means the company has to play a guessing game, he said.

“If you had all the information now, you could prepare a jar, for example, with elements already pre-printed on it,” Zekulin said.

“These are the choices that we will need to make and frankly we’ll still need to make them now, there will just be a lot of risk that we make the wrong choice.”

In its consultation document, Health Canada also proposed mandatory health warnings similar to those on tobacco products.

The document will be open to public input for 60 days.

A Health Canada official said Wednesday the department is looking at creating standardized requirements for all packages and labels for cannabis products while it also allows the industry some space to provide consumer information as part of efforts to undercut the black market.

The department’s goal is to publish an additional document by winter to summarize the key results of the consultations and provide details in areas including packaging and labelling, the official said.

‘Neighbour helping neighbour’ is the Canadian way: Trudeau delivers Symons lecture

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began his Symons Medal lecture Thursday in Charlottetown on the state of Confederation with a humble story of a Charlottetown couple that helps their neighbours shovel snow.

When asked why, Janey Kitson simply said, “It’s the Island way.”

The event is streamed live here and on the CBC P.E.I. Facebook page.

“I love that story. Neighbour helping neighbour, lending a hand when times get tough, and being there to help share the load,” said Trudeau.

“Long before the Europeans arrived it was the Mi’kmaq way, and today when we’re at our best it is the Canadian way.”

Economic benefits not shared

But Trudeau went on to describe how Canadians over the last few decades have not always been at their best. He said while the economy is doing well, not everyone is getting a share of that economic growth.

He noted while over the last 30 years the size of the economy has more than doubled, income for the bottom 90 per cent of income earners have seen incomes grow less than one per cent a year over those same three decades.

“No wonder so many Canadians feel they’re working harder than ever and not getting any further ahead,” he said.

Meanwhile the wealthiest one per cent have seen their incomes increase up to 50 per cent. The incomes of the 0.01 per cent have seen their incomes triple.

“We have to start telling the truth about income inequality in Canada,” he said.

“As uncomfortable as it might be to talk about it, it’s a lot more uncomfortable to live it.”

Sharing the load

Business leaders need to look beyond the short-term interests of their shareholders, he said, and look to the long-term interests of their workers and of the community that supports their business.

“That means paying a living wage, paying their fair share of taxes, giving workers decent benefits and the peace of mind that comes with stable, full-time contracts,” Trudeau said.

He said that also means the richest Canadians paying their fair share of taxes. Trudeau said his government has spent a billion dollars investigating tax evasion through overseas accounts, and that those efforts are on track to recover $25 billion in owed taxes.

Taxes are not, Trudeau said, as many of his political opponents would have it, an insult.

“The taxes we pay as Canadians build the highways and seaways and airports and rail lines that get our goods to market. The taxes we pay help to set broken bones and push cancer into remission. The taxes we pay mean if you lose your job you might not have to lose your house,” he said.

 “It’s not because we’re Liberals that we protect the common good, but because we’re Canadians.”

Trudeau finished his lecture with a challenge for his audience.

“Think about three things you can do, three acts of service, large or small,” he said.

“Take a cue from Ted and Janey and just show up.”

A celebration

The medal ceremony started with a presentation of the Confederation Centre Young Company’s production of The Dream Catchers, a celebration of reconciliation in Canada, not just with Indigenous peoples, but for all of Canada in all of its diversity.

Confederation Centre artistic director Adam Brazier introduced the show by describing the cross-country trip, the meeting of youth across Canada, that began the process of its creation. He described finding racism and aggressive colonialism, alongside courage, grace and compassion.

“We are more determined than ever to be a centre for all Canadians,” Brazier said.

“We must acknowledge the founding nations that were here 15,000 years before us.”

The Symons Medal, named for Prof. Thomas H. B. Symons, the founding president of Trent University, is awarded to a distinguished person who has made an exceptional contribution to Canadian life. Previous recipients include Prince Charles, Paul Gross, Beverley McLachlin and David Suzuki.

Justin Trudeau honoured with Symons Medal in P.E.I.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on P.E.I. today to receive the Symons Medal and give a lecture at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.

The event kicks off at noon with a performance by the Dream Catchers. The presentation of the Symons Medal is scheduled to start at 12:45 p.m. AT, followed by Trudeau’s speech and a Q and A session with the prime minister.

The event will be streamed live here and on the CBC P.E.I. Facebook page.

The Symons Medal, named for Prof. Thomas H. B. Symons, the founding president of Trent University, is awarded to a distinguished person who has made an exceptional contribution to Canadian life. Previous recipients include Prince Charles, Paul Gross, Beverley McLachlin and David Suzuki.

Justin Trudeau to be honoured with Symons Medal in P.E.I.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on P.E.I. today to receive the Symons Medal and give a lecture at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.

The event kicks off at noon with a performance by the Dream Catchers. The presentation of the Symons Medal is scheduled to start at 12:45 p.m. AT, followed by Trudeau’s speech and a Q and A session with the prime minister.

The event will be streamed live here and on the CBC P.E.I. Facebook page.

The Symons Medal, named for Prof. Thomas H. B. Symons, the founding president of Trent University, is awarded to a distinguished person who has made an exceptional contribution to Canadian life. Previous recipients include Prince Charles, Paul Gross, Beverley McLachlin and David Suzuki.

‘You feel like two people:’ How a Chatham mother overcame addiction, and came clean about her life

It’s hard to believe that 32-year-old Larissa Maunula — who loves to read and cook for her two kids — spent years of her life in and out of shelters, in an abusive relationship, and absorbed in addiction.

“I felt like two people for so long…”  – Larissa Maunula

“I felt like two people for so long,” she said, sitting in the kitchen of what was once her grandmother’s house in Chatham. “I felt like the addict and the past that defined me, and this new person who I presented myself to be didn’t include any of that.”

That past consumed her for nearly 15 years. Now nearing the end of her journey of treatment, Larissa feels ready to shed her double life — and come clean about her opioid addiction to the people that she loves the most.

Down a bad road

Despite growing up a “sweet, innocent girl,” in her early teens, Larissa began skipping school and turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to escape. She felt out of place and unable to cope, saying that looking back she thinks she had adolescent depression. 

“It was causing a lot of issues in my family life,” she said, adding that her parents and younger brother were caught in the fray of her erratic behavior. 

“And then I was addicted. I was just in that position and I was addicted and I was using every single day.” – Larissa Maunula

As she got older her dependency became worse, and Larissa became immersed in a completely unstable lifestyle where at one point she became homeless, and eventually turned to harder drugs, like Oxycontin. 

Video | What it felt like to hide

Keeping up appearances1:06

“I didn’t care what drug it was,” she said. “And then I was addicted. I was just in that position and I was addicted and I was using every single day.”

Family strain

Larissa’s mother Arica Maunula had to make a heartbreaking judgement call; Larissa’s choices were putting such a strain on the rest of the family, that she would not be welcomed back into their home.

“We were asking that [she] not bring drugs into our home. We acknowledge we cannot control or manage what [she would] do outside of our home but our request is that [she] not bring drugs into the home,” said Arica.

Arica Maunula

Larissa’s mother Arica never wanted to enable her daughter’s addictions, but was always available when she needed help. (Melissa Nahkavoly/CBC)

Larissa is quick to point out that for an addict, that’s “essentially impossible.” But her parents were trying to do the right thing, and provided for Larissa in other ways by buying her groceries or taking her for meals when she would let them.

“We had another child in the home,” said Arica. “Our principle was that we were going to make ourselves available to her at whatever point in time she was ready to make changes.”

Taxing treatments

“With any illness you’re going to do better when you have people close to you who live with you that are supportive of what you’re doing and encouraging you to do the right thing,” said Dr. Robert McKay, President of Erie St Clair Clinic which specializes in addictions medicine.

McKay said that when addicts are dependent on narcotics, getting clean can be extra difficult because emotionally they are used to feeling great.

“Stopping it provokes a lot of anxiety, provokes withdrawal symptoms, they feel depressed,” he said. “And so then trying to get folks to be clean, be abstinent, becomes very difficult because it provokes all of these very harsh symptoms.”

Video | How hard is it to come clean

What withdrawal feels like0:59

During her first pregnancy, Larissa was determined to beat her addiction. Her family was there to cheer her on. But when she later relapsed, Larissa couldn’t confide in them, because “there was no trust there.”

“You feel like two people… because your whole life is revolving around a pill essentially,” said Larissa. “At that time I couldn’t let any of that show because at that point I had a professional job and I was a mother and I just had to keep up appearances.” 

“I am who I am now and I am that addict, but kind of bringing them both into one person… because I know that’s not who I am now.” – Larissa Maunula

Through methadone treatments, Larissa had been able to come clean again. But that treatment was something else she felt she had to hide, even from her family. 

“I went out of my way to hide it in some cases… I was worried I would be judged.” she said. “I am who I am now and I am that addict, but kind of bringing them both into one person where I can talk about my past in a healthy way. Because I know that’s not who I am now.”

This is something McKay is used to.

“I think addiction generally is looked down upon by the general population,” he said. “So likewise I think treatment of addiction is generally looked down upon whether that be methadone or not.”

Coming clean

On top of her treatment, Larissa said that integrating into her new life was a “slow process” because she felt so different from everyone else.

But she’s been clean for about six years now, and her methadone dose is extremely low — though still very necessary to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay.

“Realizing it’s not something I need to hide and it’s not something I need to be ashamed of – I think anybody that goes through addiction goes through this process,” she said.

Larissa Maunula

Larissa and her kids like to read book while they eat their meals. (Kaitie Fraser/CBC)

She’ll be done her treatment in February or March of next year, and feels more comfortable sharing her story. It’s even helped to mend her relationship with her family.

“I’m really very happy and very proud of where Larissa is today,” said Arica, adding that she’s “thrilled” her daughter wants to openly talk about her past.

Video | Providing for her children

How her children helped0:55

Newfoundland and Labrador residential school survivors prepare for federal apology

Survivors of the residential school system in Newfoundland and Labrador are bracing themselves for an emotional event this Friday. That’s when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will apologize for the federal government’s role in the residential school system in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“No apology will ever take this pain that I have in my heart. I don’t have forgiveness. What I have there is big chunk of my life taken away,” said Joanna Michel of Sheshatshiu.

Michel said two men came to take her to the junior dormitories in North West River in the 1970s, which were set up by the Grenfell Mission. The men told her they were taking her to a “better place.”

“They lied to me,” she said.

Joanna Michel

Michel stands outside the window of the room she stayed in as a child at the junior dormatories in North West River in the 1970s.

She would attend an Innu school across the water in her home community but was taken back to the dorms at night, and kept apart from her parents.

She said there were instances of sexual abuse in the dormitories and that she was made to feel ashamed of her culture and who she was.

“You would hear these kind of comments, ‘the little Indians, the little dirty Indians,'” Michel said of the school’s faculty.

“It’s the most unjust thing you can do to the Innu is take away their culture and what they believe in and what they are. Shaming us for who we were was wrong.”

A survivor

Life after the dorms has not been easy for Michel.

“My relationship with my children today, it’s been a struggle. I never talk about this to my mom or my dad cause I don’t want them to [think] it’s their fault I was here.”

Junior Dormitory

The junior dormitory in North West River run by the Grenfell Mission (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Though it is a struggle, today she is proud of her culture, of her language, and of who she is, she said.

“I call myself a survivor because I survived all that time and I never threw away my life, I face it head on.”

Old friends

“It was pretty devastating,” said Don Preston, who was in an orphanage in St. Anthony from 1960 to 1969 with his two younger brothers.

“There was no love given … no compassion whatsoever.”

Preston was good friends with Nicky Obed at the orphanage. Obed was part of a class-action lawsuit launched by former residental school students in the province in 2015 against the federal government when they were left out of an apology. 

Nicky Obed

Nicky Obed was part of the class-action lawsuit by students against the federal government, but he passed away before the apology expected Friday could take place. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Obed passed away before the apology could take place. 

“If Nicky was there I don’t think I’d leave his side … Me and Nicky, we would’ve been sitting right beside each other,” Preston said. 

Preston is looking forward to catching up with old friends and meet others at Friday’s even with the prime minister, but he doesn’t think much of the apology itself.

“It’s a political reason, that’s why [Trudeau] has got to do it. I don’t think it’s going to mean crap, it’s just something he’s got to do.”

Repairing exclusion

“There’s no way to do this without a lot of memories sort of coming back into the forefront… It already is very emotional and people handle that level of emotion in a lot of different ways,” said Steven Cooper, the lawyer that represented the former students in the law suit.

The suit settled last year for $50 million.

steven-cooper-lawyer

Steven Cooper is one of the lawyers who represented hundreds of N.L. residential school survivors in a class-action suit that was settled out of court with the federal government in 2016. (CBC)

“This apology really does go a ways… towards fixing the horrific harm that was caused by the 2008 apology by Prime Minister Harper,” Cooper said.

“That just cut to the core because it expressly excluded the survivors from Newfoundland and Labrador and the Prime Minister of the time didn’t even bother to mention Labrador, referring only to the province of Newfoundland.” 

‘It’s wild’: Wacky weather in Nunavut breaks records

Blizzards, 140 km/h wind gusts, and rain?

Many regions of Nunavut experienced “strange” weather over the past few days, causing sea cans to fly through one community and muddy puddles in another.

“It’s wild,” said David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Sea can Pangnirtung wind

A seacan flew into a structure in Pangnirtung on Nov. 20. (Submitted by Peter Kilabuk)

It all began last weekend.

A very “potent, powerful low pressure” system centred around the Hudson’s Bay area “just wound up like a top,” says Phillips.

“And it just brought a lot of blistery and gusty winds to the North.”

The easterly winds moved North towards Baffin Island.

Gusts of 120 to 140 km/h ripped through Pangnirtung, which Phillips said were near record-level winds for the community.

Iqaluit saw near 100 km/h winds, which caused closures across the city, from schools to government offices to many local businesses.

Puddles and ice

Then things took a wet turn in the capital Tuesday, when it saw “temperatures just rocket up there … well above freezing,” said Phillips.

Rain showered Iqaluit much of Tuesday with a high of 3.5 C — a record-breaker for Nov. 21 for the city. The previous record was back in 1962 when temperatures reached 0.6 C.

slush in Iqaluit November

The ice and snow turned to slush Tuesday, Nov. 21 in Iqaluit after an unusual November rain. (David Gunn/CBC)

The rain turned to freezing-rain and turned some areas of the city, like the airport, into an ice-rink by Wednesday.

Phillips also noted that parts of Nunavut were warmer than Toronto, which had a high of 1 C Wednesday.

“My gosh, you would never tell Canadians at this time of the year, if they wanted warm temperatures, to head to the North!”

Winds died down south of the territory by Wednesday, but communities like Grise Fiord were under weather warnings, with winds of 90 to 120 km/h.

Meanwhile, communities in the Kivalliq region have been met with blizzards, causing white-out conditions. Baker Lake had zero visibility Wednesday.

Chesterfield Inlet blizzard

A shot of the Northern store from just nine metres away in Chesterfield Inlet Wednesday morning. There was zero visibility in some regions of Nunavut that day due to a weather system that brought ‘strange’ conditions across the territory. (Submitted by Laura Thacker)

The culprit?

“It’s all the same weather system, but it just has different components depending upon where you live,” said Phillips.

Should people be worried?

The normal high for Baffin Island should be around -11 to -13 C this time of the year, says Phillips.

But communities are seeing typical September temperatures now, five to eight degrees warmer than what’s normal for November, and an unusually mixed bag of precipitation.

Rankin Inlet blizzard

Snow piled up in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Wednesday morning, preventing Ralphy, pictured here, from going on his walk. (Submitted by Candis Sateana)

“This seems unreasonably warm … nature seems confused,” said Phillips.

But Phillips says people shouldn’t worry.

“I think this maybe should be looked upon as just making winter a little shorter,” he said, adding that the warmth is from a “heat pump” from the south.

“I always say, enjoy the weather, but be concerned by the climate,” he said.

Phillips said the current system will weaken and die down eventually.

He described the system as “little jokers in the weather deck” — a great conversation starter.

“I am sure it is on the lips of everybody in Iqaluit, and Baffin Island, is ‘what’s with that weather?’ and some people are cursing it, and others are blessing it.”

How should we decide which party leaders get invited to the national election debates?

MPs studying the creation of an independent commission to oversee leaders debates during federal elections were quick to arrive at the most fraught question they could dare attempt to answer: Who should be eligible to appear on the biggest stage of an election campaign?

“What about your thoughts on who should be included in the leaders debates?” Liberal MP Filomena Tassi asked Karina Gould, the minister for democratic institutions, at the House of Commons committee on procedure and House affairs on Tuesday. “Is there a threshold in order to meet a participation requirement?”

“Well, I think that’s something I’m hoping the committee would push and pursue,” Gould responded, “in terms of what they think is reasonable and what they think is necessary for the robust political landscape that we have here in Canada.”

The landscape is indeed relatively robust. There are currently 15 federal parties registered with Elections Canada. Seventeen parties ran multiple candidates in the last federal election.

But putting the leader of each of those parties on stage at the same time would likely not make for a particularly useful or relevant debate. 

So a line must be drawn somewhere.

The fun starts when you try to figure out where to draw that line.

Green leader Elizabeth May, who was initially excluded from the broadcast consortium’s leaders debates in 2008, presented Gould with one possible threshold for participation: a seat in the House of Commons. 

Gould said she thought that would be a “reasonable criteria” moving forward, though she later suggested this was just one of her initial thoughts (five per cent of the popular vote, she added, could also be a criteria).

Is one MP enough?

To understand the possible implications of a one-MP rule, consider the case of Strength in Democracy, a short-lived party formed in 2014 by an MP who had quit the Bloc Quebecois caucus and one MP who had left the NDP. In 2015, it fielded 17 candidates, most of them in Quebec.

By a simple single-MP standard, Strength in Democracy would have been entitled to a spot in any official debate (it was not represented at any of the five ad hoc debates in 2015). Conceivably, their inclusion might have also have inspired other independent or dissident MPs to form parties with an eye to getting on the main stage.

Alternatively, the rule could be tweaked to say a party must have one MP who was elected under that party’s banner (as opposed to an MP who changed affiliation after being elected).

That would exclude a party like Strength in Democracy in 2015, but would allow for something like the Reform party’s situation in 1993 — it had one incumbent MP after Deborah Grey won a by-election under the Reform banner in 1989.

Debating the debates…again5:49

A two-part test

But May’s Greens have also proposed a more detailed set of criteria.

For inclusion in a debate, the Greens suggest, a party must meet two of three thresholds: an elected MP in the House of Commons, a candidate running in all or nearly all ridings, and four per cent of the national popular vote in the previous election.

“All or nearly all” would have to be quantified, but, for the sake of argument, let’s say a party would have to field candidates in at least 90 per cent of ridings to meet that threshold. 

The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP would have met all three of those criteria in 2015, while the Greens and Bloc Quebecois would have qualified by meeting two of the thresholds. The Greens had an MP and fielded 336 candidates. The Bloc had several MPs and received six per cent of the vote in 2011.

But it is interesting to note how those criteria might have applied to at least one previous election. In 1993, the Reform party and Preston Manning would not have qualified for the debates because the party took just two per cent of the vote in 1988 and it fielded only 207 candidates in 1993 (70 per cent of ridings at the time).

That sort of example could make the case for using current public opinion surveys instead of the previous election results as a criteria. (The commission that oversees American presidential debates, for instance, requires that a candidate average 15 per cent or more in a set of recent surveys.)

One other thing about the Green proposal: the difference between a threshold of four per cent and a threshold of, say, five per cent is potentially very significant.

At four per cent, the Bloc Quebecois would be eligible for official debates in 2019. At five per cent, they would come up short: the party received just 4.7 per cent of the vote in 2015.

A debate for smaller parties?

All of this matters because of the status and exposure that a nationally televised debate provides. Commenting on the broadcast consortium’s handling of previous debates, Elizabeth May suggested media outlets were able to decide which parties were the “real” parties and there is no doubt something to that. (Coincidentally or not, the Green party’s best result was in 2008, when the broadcast consortium was still in control and May was included.)

It remains to be seen whether the MPs studying the issue — hearings continue on Thursday — will decide to recommend criteria or whether they’ll be willing to decide that such things are better left to the independent commission the government is aiming to establish.

But near the end of her appearance, Gould floated a potentially intriguing option (or consolation prize): a separate debate for smaller parties.

A debate featuring the leaders of the Libertarian, Marxist-Leninist, Communist, Christian Heritage, Animal Protection and Rhinoceros parties could at least prove wildly more entertaining than the debate between the “real” parties.

Perhaps the possibility of such a debate would even be enough to convince the Natural Law party to come back.

Bill who? Canadians might not know the finance minister’s name, but they know what they think of him

In 2015’s Canadian Election Study, an academic survey conducted during every federal election campaign, a handful of people asked to name the minister of finance said it was Mike Duffy.

One respondent, with some apparent hesitation, said it was “Mulcair maybe.” Another felt confident it was “a lady whose name I don’t recall.” Some guessed it was David Johnston, who was instead the governor general, or John Tory, the mayor of Toronto.

Many thought Jim Flaherty still held the job, or knew that Flaherty had passed away a year earlier but were unable to name his successor. Those who remembered that it was “Joe Something” or “Joe what’s his name” were halfway there.

Just under one-fifth of respondents correctly identified the outgoing minister of finance as Joe Oliver.

Those of us who live inside the so-called Ottawa bubble might be discouraged to find out just how opaque it can be.

Has Finance Minister Bill Morneau pierced that bubble?

There hasn’t yet been a survey asking whether people can name the current finance minister unassisted, making it difficult to compare Canadians’ awareness of Morneau to his predecessors.

But a recent series of polls suggest Canadians’ opinion of Morneau is not positive.

Liberal Cabinet 20151104

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau arrive at Rideau Hall with his cabinet to take part in a swearing-in ceremony in Ottawa in 2015. Studies show Canadians have long struggled to name the finance minister, or any minister of the government. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Polls by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI), Nanos Research and Forum Research indicate that, by an average margin of 13 points, more Canadians think Morneau has done a bad, poor or ineffective job as finance minister rather than a good or effective one.

But these recent polls also suggest that the vast majority of Canadians have an opinion on the finance minister. He earned the lowest ranking among Trudeau’s ministers in the ARI poll.

These polls, unlike the election survey, explicitly identify Morneau as the minister of finance — and the ARI also included a picture — aiding people’s memories and placing him in the context of his responsibilities.

Could the effect be that respondents are not only opining on their views of the man himself but how the government as a whole is handling his particular file?

“Morneau has been singled out for attention in the news, largely as a result of his own actions,” says Shachi Kurl, executive director of the ARI. “That drives awareness in a way that Morneau might not have preferred.”

Morneau was grabbing headlines for weeks after it was learned he hadn’t disclosed to the ethics commissioner a private corporation that holds his villa in southern France and later, that he hadn’t put all the shares of his family pension company in a blind trust.

But Morneau is not the first finance minister to make headlines. Nevertheless, Canadians have had great difficulty in naming his predecessors in past surveys.

Don’t you know who I am?

In addition to the shrug elicited by Joe Oliver in 2015, just 32 per cent of respondents correctly identified Jim Flaherty — or something approaching that name — as the head of the country’s finances when surveyed in 2011. At that point, he had been doing the job for more than five years.

It was even worse in 2004, when the Canadian Election Study survey found that just eight per cent of respondents could correctly name Ralph Goodale as the finance minister. 

MARTIN-BUDGET

Paul Martin laughs as he is congratulated by members of the Liberal government after delivering his budget speech in the House of Commons in 1997. He had higher name recognition than some other finance ministers. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Even in 2000, when Paul Martin had been an MP for 12 years and finance minister for seven of them — years during which Canada’s finances were significantly overhauled —  no more than 65 per cent of respondents could identify him as the minister of finance.

What actually drives opinion?

The opinions expressed in any poll on cabinet ministers might have less to do with the minister than with government policy more broadly. Unprompted recognition of cabinet ministers is low — in the 2008 election study, the last time the question was asked, over 60 per cent of respondents couldn’t name a single cabinet minister.

(We may be getting less informed, as nearly 60 per cent could name a cabinet minister in a 1954 Gallup poll.)

The lower-scoring ministers in the Angus Reid Institute poll now are those currently responsible for finance, Indigenous affairs, immigration, national revenue, natural resources and democratic institutions — ministries that deal with controversial issues or those in which the Liberals have broken or have yet to deliver on election promises.

“Decisions made by the Liberal government on the immigration file, for instance, are not necessarily in line with public opinion,” says ARI’s Kurl. “So are opinions of Ahmed Hussen [the immigration minister] related to his performance or due to him handling a contentious and divisive file?”

This makes it difficult to say with certainty what Canadians really think about the individuals who make up Trudeau’s cabinet.

Undoubtedly, there is a link between Morneau’s troubles and his far poorer ratings in the ARI poll than those of his fellow cabinet ministers. Nevertheless, ask Canadians who the minister of finance is and most will probably have no clue, raising some doubts about how strongly held these views really are.

But one doesn’t need to know the name of a minister or be familiar with his or her biography to have an opinion that will influence a vote. If Canadians think the finances of the country are in poor shape or smell a whiff of scandal in the finance ministry, they know who to blame: “Bill what’s his name.”

‘They have a duty of care,’ says mother of man who died in police lockup

The deaths of Corey Rogers and Howard Hyde, nine years apart, are very different cases — but what they share is troubling, according to Rogers’s mother and a law professor.

Both men were arrested by Halifax Regional Police. Both needed medical attention. And both died in custody.

Rogers, heavily intoxicated, died of asphyxiation in a police cell in June 2016.

Hyde, a man with schizophrenia who was in a psychotic state, was Tasered by police multiple times in the station’s booking area in November 2007. Thirty hours after he was hit with the stun gun, he died while being restrained by jail guards. His death was ruled accidental.

Need for medical assessments

Rogers’s mother, Jeannette Rogers, wonders whether any lessons have been learned since the Hyde case about the need for medical attention for vulnerable people in custody.

Corey Rogers, who had a history of alcohol abuse, was arrested for public intoxication outside the IWK Health Centre where his partner had just given birth.

Corey Rogers

Corey Rogers died hours after his daughter was born. (Jeannette Rogers)

Corey was too drunk to book, she said, and arresting officers should have obtained medical care for him.

“He should have been in hospital as opposed to being in a police cell,” she said. “Corey should have been assessed — if not before he was taken to the police station, definitely once they got him there. He couldn’t stand up.”

Rogers said there is a recurring theme in her son’s and Hyde’s experience in police lockup.

Corey Rogers

Corey Rogers, 41, died in June 2016 while in police custody. (CBC)

“They have to be aware when people need a medical assessment,” she said. “Once somebody is placed in their care, they have a duty of care.”

Rogers cited a CBC News story that said 249 people were arrested in one month by Halifax Regional Police for public intoxication.

She said she’s speaking out because “the next time, it could be your son or daughter.”

Corey Rogers ashes

Jeannette Rogers wears a pendant that holds her son’s ashes. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Duty of care

Archie Kaiser, a professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, said the Rogers and Hyde cases speak to the issue of duty of care for anyone who is vulnerable due to mental health difficulties or intoxication or both.

He said police have a legal and moral responsibility to detain someone safely, which includes determining if they’re medically safe for custody and checking them frequently to ensure their condition hasn’t deteriorated.

Archie Kaiser

Schulich School of Law professor Archie Kaiser says police have a duty of care for people in their custody. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Those issues arose during an investigation into the death of Victoria Paul, an Indigenous woman who died after she was held in the Truro Police Service lockup. A report recommended implementing better policies to assess the condition of intoxicated people. 

“They have no more independent decision-making, and the state is wholly responsible for their welfare. So it’s obvious then that as a moral obligation, the jailers must ensure people are safe and protected,” said Kaiser.

Charges laid

Two Halifax police special constables, Dan Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, were charged earlier this month with criminal negligence in the death of Rogers.

They are accused of “accepting Corey Rogers into custody without medical assessment, failing to adequately check on him, and leaving a spit hood on him,” according to a court document filed earlier this month.

The spit hoods used by Halifax police, called Safariland Tranzport hoods, have mesh at the top so the wearer can see, and fabric covering the nose and mouth to catch spit or other bodily fluids.

The charges were recommended by the Serious Incident Response Team, which investigated the death.

Same booking officer

Fraser was on duty as a booking officer in police lockup in both the Hyde and Rogers cases.

In July 2009, he appeared at the inquiry into Howard Hyde’s death. The 11-month public investigation is the longest fatality inquiry in Nova Scotia history and produced a 462-page report.

Howard Hyde

Howard Hyde died after being restrained by jail guards, 30 hours after he was arrested and Tasered by police. (Family photo/The Canadian Press)

While Fraser was commended for successfully calming Hyde from an agitated state, the inquiry report also found problems in the police booking area.

After he was Tasered, Hyde was seen by an emergency physician who issued an urgent order that he receive psychiatric assessment after police took him to court. 

Fraser told the inquiry he had never seen a health information transfer form with that instruction. He didn’t seek any clarification, assuming Hyde was “safe to go to cells and safe to go to court,” he told the inquiry.

Dan Fraser

Special Constable Daniel Fraser, who is facing a charge in the death of Corey Rogers, testified at the Howard Hyde fatality inquiry in 2009. (Nova Scotia Judiciary)

The inquiry found no wrongdoing against Fraser or any of the police officers, but said a mobile mental health crisis team “could have been called to assess Mr. Hyde in booking.”

‘I don’t think he learned anything’

Hyde ended up going to jail without medication and without an assessment. On his stomach and struggling to breathe as he was being restrained by jail guards, Hyde died.

Rogers said in light of Fraser’s testimony at the inquiry, she thinks he should’ve been more sensitive to the issues raised about people in detention.

“One would think that after going through the inquiry, you would think he would have a better understanding of what needs to be done and follow through with that,” said Rogers. “I don’t think he learned anything from being involved in the Hyde inquiry.”

Policy review on high-risk prisoners

In a statement, Halifax Regional Police said due to criminal proceedings and civil litigation, they are unable to provide further comment on this case or on the review of their policy on high-risk prisoners.

Both Fraser and Gardner have been released on $5,000 bail and are due back in court on Jan. 22.

In the meantime, they continue to work for the police service.

Fraser is working as a court liaison officer, a non-uniform position.

Police would not disclose Gardner’s current duties. She is under a court order not to work in booking.