Brett Kissel hits back at pro-lockdown trolls after Calgary Stampede concert

First published at True North on July 19, 2021.

Canadian country singer Brett Kissel had a stern message for trolls who attacked him for performing a sold out show at the Calgary Stampede.

“I’m going to do me. And I encourage YOU to do YOU,” the singer posted on Facebook.

Kissel headlined the Stampede’s Nashville North last Monday in his first show since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020.

The outdoor concerts were criticized by those claiming Alberta reopened too much too quickly.

Kissel said he wasn’t going to let the trolls deflate what he called the “BEST show of my career to date,” however.

“If you want to stay home, wear two masks, and build your bunker – I accept your choice. I respect your choice,” he said. “If you want to come out, party your face off, making up for lost time, and get this world spinning again – then here’s my open invitation for you all to enjoy one of my concerts.”

Kissel applauded Alberta’s reopening in his statement, and said he had no interest in getting into a political debate, but had to lay his “boundary” for the critics.

“My social media channels are for joy, fun, family, and music ONLY,” he said. “So, if you want to come at me for my performance in front of thousands – I suggest you unfollow me, and complain to your other social media-troll-friends privately.”

Nashville North featured a star-studded line-up of Canadian country artists, including George Canyon, Aaron Pritchett, and Jess Moskaluke.

The Calgary Stampede wrapped up Sunday after a 10-day run.

Marc Emery running for People’s Party of Canada in London, Ont.

First published at True North on July 16, 2021.

The self-styled “prince of pot” is running for the People’s Party of Canada in London North Centre.

Political activist and cannabis entrepreneur Marc Emery is among 173 PPC candidates confirmed so far, according to a list released by the party Friday afternoon.

Emery has deep roots in London and is in the process of returning to the city, where his brother is opening a cannabis store.

Emery, who ran in the former London East as a Libertarian in 1980, said he’s come “full circle” with his latest candidacy.

“It was 30 years ago this summer I began my legalization of cannabis campaign in London, and now it comes full circle as I return to live and work in London once more, selling legal cannabis,” Emery said. “I know every street in the London North Centre riding, having walked every one of them in campaigns of the past.”

In an email to True North, PPC spokesperson Martin Masse welcomed Emery’s candidacy.

“Marc has been a vocal supporter of Mr. Bernier since the days of the CPC leadership campaign,” Masse said. “He spent most of his adult life fighting for more freedom and paid the price by spending many years in prison for a crime that doesn’t exist anymore. The PPC is a broad coalition of people from different backgrounds and perspectives united in the desire to restore common sense policies in this country, and we’re very happy to have Marc run as a candidate for the People’s Party.”

True North previously reported on Marc Emery’s return to politics when he was eyeing the nomination in neighbouring London––Fanshawe. 

In a January interview on The Andrew Lawton Show, Emery said the “COVID dictatorship” had, in part, motivated his candidacy.

“The bottom line is, I think the People’s party will become much more popular because they’re a clear alternative to the Conservatives, Liberals, Greens, NDP,” Emery said at the time. “Those four parties…have endorsed the same totalitarian authoritarian measures. They’ve all been part of the dictatorship.”

London North Centre is currently held by two-term Liberal member of parliament Peter Fragiskatos, though the Conservative Party of Canada held the seat from 2011 to 2015.

Fragiskatos is seeking re-election, with Conservative candidate Stephen Gallant and NDP candidate Dirka Prout also vying for the seat.

Kenney calls on Trudeau to honour Alberta senate elections if he “respects democracy”

First published at True North on July 15, 2021.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would do well to appoint the winners of this fall’s Alberta senate elections if he supports democracy.

When Albertans go to the polls in October for their municipal elections, they will also be voting for senate candidates and on a referendum to renegotiate interprovincial equalization payments.

While senators are appointed on the prime minister’s recommendation, Kenney said there’s an established “convention” to appoint senators chosen by Albertans in a democratic process.

With no legal mechanism to force the appointment of the successful candidates, Kenney said it comes down to whether Trudeau supports the democratic process.

“Does this federal government respect democracy or does it not respect democracy?” he said. “These are powerful democratic statements that Albertans will be making on October 18th. Previous prime ministers have used their discretion to appoint individuals elected by Albertans to Canada’s senate. In fact I would argue it has become a convention, a tradition of sorts. I urge the prime minister to respect that democratic tradition.”

Four senators were appointed on former prime minister Stephen Harper’s recommendation after winning senate nominee elections, including sitting senators Doug Black and Scott Tannas. Brian Mulroney also appointed the winner of Alberta’s first senate election in 1990.

Trudeau has made no commitment to respect the results of the October senate vote, but Kenney says he was “encouraged” when Trudeau told him in a meeting last week the winners of Alberta’s senate elections should apply as senators through the government’s supposedly independent selection process.

“If they go through that process and they also happen to prevail in your provincial election, maybe that’s something that we could consider,” Kenney recounted Trudeau as saying.

“I was encouraged to hear the prime minister open the door, at least a little bit,” Kenney added.

While Kenney recognizes the government is not compelled to respect the senate election, he says that is not the case with the equalization referendum, pointing to a 1998 Supreme Court reference on Quebec’s separation referendum finding the federal government must negotiate in good faith if a provincial referendum delivers a mandate on a clear question.

“This is a federation, and if that’s the law as determined by the Supreme Court applies to Quebec, then it has to apply to Alberta,” Kenney said.

Trudeau might face another ethics probe over MP contracts to childhood friend

First published at True North on July 14, 2021.

Canada’s ethics commissioner has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to explain his role in contracts between a majority of Liberal MPs and a company owned by Trudeau’s childhood friend.

Commissioner Mario Dion said the criteria for questioning Trudeau have been met after receiving a complaint from Conservative member of parliament Michael Barrett, who requested a formal ethics probe into payments made to Data Sciences, a firm run by Trudeau’s longtime friend and the Liberal party’s former digital operations director.

The controversy stems from the revelation from a Globe and Mail report that 97% of Liberal members of parliament use money from their government-funded office budgets to pay a company called Data Sciences, owned by Tom Pitfield.

Pitfield was in Trudeau’s wedding party in 2015 and also vacationed with the Trudeau family on the Aga Khan’s Bahamas island, a trip which itself was the subject of a report and finding of wrongdoing by the ethics commissioner.

Trudeau has said that services from Data Sciences aid members of parliament in their constituency work and are not used for political purposes. However, at least two members of parliament, Wayne Easter and John McKay, have said they were not aware what services Data Sciences was providing their offices.

“I vaguely recall once a year we write a cheque and it’s always been explained that it is within the ethical guidelines so we all kind of sign up for it and it goes into some oblivion,” McKay told the Globe and Mail of his office’s use of Data Sciences.

Trudeau also uses the company’s services in his own office as the member of parliament for Papineau.

The ethics code governing members of parliament prohibits MPs from acting “to improperly further another person’s or entity’s private interests.”

On Monday, the House of Commons ethics committee attempted to call Pitfield as a witness, but were blocked from doing so by the committee’s Liberal members.

Trudeau will have 30 days to respond to Dion’s letter, at which point Dion will decide whether there are grounds to launch a formal inquiry.

GoodLife Fitness says it will not require staff or members to be vaccinated

First published at True North on July 14, 2021.

As debates wage in Canadian provinces about vaccine passports, Canada’s largest gym chain says it will not require its staff or members to be vaccinated.

The London, Ont.-based fitness centre was trending on Twitter Wednesday as people shared a response the company provided to a query.

“At this time, we are not planning to require Associates or Members to be vaccinated to enter our locations,” the company said. “For privacy reasons, GoodLife will not disclose information regarding any individual Associate’s vaccination status.”

GoodLife’s Ontario locations will be reopening Friday as the province enters stage 3 of its reopening plan. Locations in other provinces have reopened when local regulations have permitted.

GoodLife said in a follow-up statement it will “continue to follow all requirements and guidelines set out for fitness facilities by government, public health, and other legal authorities.”

Replies to GoodLife’s tweet were overwhelmingly negative, with numerous users claiming they intend to cancel their GoodLife memberships.

The company was lauded by some Twitter users for intending to protect member and staff medical privacy.

While COVID-19 vaccines are strongly encouraged by federal and provincial health officials, no government has made them mandatory. It is not yet clear whether mandatory vaccine policies by private businesses and institutions would even be legal, one civil liberties lawyer says.

Businesses can make decisions about what customers they want to serve, and in general this is a good thing. But turning away customers is still subject to Human Rights legislation,” Canadian Constitution Foundation litigation director Christine Van Geyn told True North. “That legislation prohibits discrimination on protected grounds, like disability, and I think there is a pretty compelling case that it would be discriminatory to turn away a person who cannot be vaccinated for something like a medical reason.”

Van Geyn said this sort of exemption can be difficult to enforce in practice, however.

“You can see the issue with masks, where medical exemptions are granted in the government mandate, but in practice many stores simply turn away unmasked customers,” she said. This happens even if the customer has a valid claim for a medical exemption from masking.

Discover Fitness, a gym in Timmins, Ont., said it would require anyone entering its facility, including staff and customers, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless exempt based on medical or human rights grounds.

Ontario’s Seneca College also instituted a mandatory vaccination policy for any students wishing to take in-person classes in the fall term.

Canada added just 345 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths nationwide on Tuesday.