Page 3 of 132

The Dishonourable Senator from Northwestern Ontario: Breaking New Ground Stateside

For those who have been regular readers of this space know that I’ve had a fair bit to say about the dishonourable Senator from Northwestern Ontario Lynn Beyak. It seemed that her awful story of ignorance, unwillingness to give a fulsome apology and her attempts to save her Senate seat while avoiding taking any responsibility for her actions might have come to an end. Back in June was the last time I wrote about her, talking about her unacceptable apology as she tried to save her seat in the Red Chamber.

After that time, things went quiet on the Beyak front and honestly, that was one of the highlights of my summer. To not have to talk about her misdeeds was good, as it felt like she might finally be fading into background and out of the spotlight of Canadian politics. But today she sprung back onto the scene, thanks to an interesting story from Justin Ling printed by Vice Canada. Beyak is back, and it looks like she’s taking things international, in a way that raises a few interesting questions all its own:

Yep, it shouldn’t come as a shocker that Beyak is a Trump supporter, that part really fits everything we know. The fact that she might have wanted to give his campaign money probably wouldn’t shock either, but as she should have known (or figured out quickly) is that it’s illegal for non-American citizens to give money to American campaigns. Given that she ran for political office a few times and lost before getting her plum patronage appointment to the Senate, she should have been familiar with the concept of citizens of foreign nations not being able to give money because it’s the same law here in Canada.

Of course Beyak has come out with a weak excuse that just adds more fuel to this dumpster fire. Her Senate office is quoted in the piece stating that it was her who did it and “a donation was made in error”. But there is a problem with that excuse, which becomes pretty clear when you read this except from the story:

“In early May, Senator Lynn Beyak made a $300 contribution to the Republican National Committee, per a publicly-available Federal Electoral Commission filing. Beyak listed their profession as ‘retired,’ and their mailing address as a post office box on Davis Point Road, in Dryden, New York.

But the address and zip code do not point to any actual location in the state. There is a town of Dryden in New York, but no Lynn Beyak resides there.

There is, however, a Davis Point Road near Dryden, Ontario. A phonebook listing, that matches the street address from the GOP donation receipt, corresponds to Lynn Beyak, a sitting member of the Canadian Senate. The postal code from Beyak’s Elections Canada donation records also correspond to the address on Davis Point Road.”

Source: Vice News

Look everyone, it’s one thing to make an honest mistake, that does happen. Yet normally when you make such a mistake, you don’t put in a false address. The fact that she couldn’t make a donation with her legitimate address, because the website wouldn’t accept an Ontario one, should have been all she needed to know that she couldn’t donate or at least should have triggered her to ask a few questions and see why she couldn’t.

Yet instead of taking that piece of information and walking away, she put in an address, with a fake zip code, which she had to know wasn’t legit. Dryden, New York is very, very far from Dryden, Ontario, and it’s not like she chose a community just across the border in Minnesota, so there seems to have been some thought given to this. That is the kind of act that takes you away from making a simple mistake, and puts you towards something that could be more nefarious. And in doing so, this Senator has gone from simply making ignorant statement to possibly having broken American election finance laws, if it were to be prosecuted. Quite the leap if you ask me.

But there is another wrinkle in this story that opens up another possible pandoras box. As the Vice piece notes, this apparently illegal donation was reported to the Federal Election Commission in the US and is still sitting up on their website. Don’t believe me? Here’s a screen shot of it:

Source: FEC website

Yep, that’s pretty clear evidence. But here is the pandoras box part of this story that raises some interesting questions elsewhere. Not only did Beyak appear to make an illegal monetary donation, but the Republican National Committee also appears to have accepted an illegal monetary donation from a foreign national, who just happens to be a politician sitting in a foreign Parliament even though she is suspended. She’s not “retired” as her donation above indicated, unless that’s her own backhanded way of telling us that she’s finally resigning her seat. Of course, the jokes about a Senator saying she is actually “retired” do write themselves and I invite you to do that.

In the meantime, not only has Senator Beyak managed to break new low ground by appearing to break election law in another country, but it also raises legit questions about how many other foreign nationals might have done similar things as her. That, of course, raises all kinds of new questions about Trump’s foreign entanglements and swampy behaviour. What a way to show the candidate you back support, to open them up to even more questions of potential illegalities and corrupt behaviour.

So while Senator Beyak has been our shame in Northwestern Ontario for a while now, she has now managed to make an issue of herself on the international scene. 2020 man, it keeps bringing the twists. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing if this senator’s “accidental” donation draws enough attention to that pandora’s box she stumbled into, and if she is not alone in doing what she appears to have done. Either way, it’s another twist in this story, just one that I don’t think many of us saw coming.

Talking More Mixed Messaging on COVID-19 from Premier Ford with Kristy Cameron

Yesterday I joined Kristy Cameron on CFRA’s “Ottawa Now” along with Kate Harrison. We talked about the latest example of mixed messaging from the Ford Government on their response to COVID-19, the important to follow the science and not the political pressure, how the Premier managed to throw two members of his caucus under the bus while doing what they asked him to do and the need for an apology from Conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff. You can listen to the audio below starting at the 17:00 minute mark.

Talking the NDP Majority Government win in BC & Political Stresses during COVID-19 on “The Arlene Bynon Show”

This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed the NDP’s big majority government win in British Columbia, what it means for all the parties on the West Coast, today’s election in Saskatchewan, the increasing stresses of COVID-19 on political leaders and the importance of leaders to stand up to misinformation and propaganda being spread by some of their caucus members. You can listen to it all below.

End of October Pandemic Election-palooza

On Saturday we saw British Columbians finish their 42nd General Election, which resulted in the re-election of John Horgan’s New Democrats to a good-sized majority government. It was a campaign that was called during this pandemic, joining New Brunswick in holding votes during this public health crisis that didn’t have to be called right at this moment. But in the end, neither campaign made the pandemic worse and beyond increased advanced voting or voting by mail, it went about as normal as usual.

While BC is now out of the way, they weren’t the only ones looking at voting in this strange period. That brings us to today, and something we rarely see in Canada; multiple elections taking place on the same day. Yep, it’s an end of October Pandemic Election-palooza (trademark pending) here in Canada, with the eyes of Canadian politicos trained on two different parts of the country on two different situations. Let’s start with the one general election on the slate, happening out on the Prairies:

Today folks in Saskatchewan wrap up their campaign, the only election out of those that happened this Fall that actually had to happen. The reigning Saskatchewan Party of Scott Moe were at the end of their mandate and after floating the idea of going to the polls in the Spring at the start of the pandemic, they finally went at the last possible moment in the Fall. That was probably for the best when it came to the public health side of things, especially given that the final outcome of that campaign wasn’t something that many were doubting.

The Sask Party has become an electoral juggernaut on the Prairies and even though this is Moe’s first run as leader, they appeared to have very comfortable margins to get another large majority. Their main opponent is the New Democrats led by Dr. Ryan Meili, who has stood out as a very solid leader for the Orange Team. Really nothing was expected to change in this race, but then the race happened. Meili had a very good leaders’ debate, where Moe struggled. That led to the polls starting to tighten over the last two weeks, to the point where we saw polls like that one from Mainstreet above.

While that’s promising for the New Democrats and gives a good chance to make gains in Regina, Saskatoon and possibly in smaller cities like Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, it isn’t likely to bring them to government. Unless something seismic is happening under the polling that on one is seeing, it appears that the Sask Party will get another majority government. It’s mostly because that the Sask Party had such a large lead in this race all along that most haven’t paid attention to it; honestly there hasn’t been a lot of drama to this race to speak of. So to see it get tighter here at the end not only shows that campaigns to matter (even in a pandemic), but it also shows that politicians can’t take anything for granted. And with that, lets look at the second set of elections today, where that whole “not taking things for granted” advice gets completely blown up:

While folks in Saskatchewan cast their ballots in a race that had to happen today, people in the Toronto ridings of Toronto Centre and York Centre will also cast their ballots, in by-elections that didn’t have to happen for another five months. Yes, the Prime Minister rushed these by-elections out the door fast, appointing candidates in each of these ridings while cutting out their local members chances to choose their own candidates. It was the kind of thing that might create reasons for a party to lose that by-election, but even in a pandemic, that won’t happen in either of these ridings.

Toronto Centre is a foregone conclusion, as this has been a Liberal stronghold for the longest time. It’s long been a landing pad for star Liberal candidates, the role of which is being played by TV personality Marcie Ien this time. And despite of some troubling past Twitter comments treading on 9/11 conspiracy theories (amazingly that Tweet is still there as I write this), she seems to be right on track to win easily. The New Democrats are the usual challengers in this riding and have put up a strong campaign, while the Greens have run their new leader Annamie Paul, in the riding where she ran last time and got 7%. Despite her clearly partisan attacks on the New Democrats for not stepping aside (when the only way she was going to get a free run into Parliament was if the Liberals stepped aside), she will not be winning here today either.

As for York Centre, it will likely be a Liberal win with candidate Ya’ara Saks most likely to replace outgoing Liberal Michael Levitt. But this riding is less of a sure thing than Toronto Centre for the red team, as the Conservatives did hold it prior to 2015. That makes this a race where the Conservatives are trying to put their best foot forward, but their candidate Julius Tiangson had his own social media controversy involving American VP candidate Kamala Harris. That might have sunk any small chances the O’Toole Tories had of picking this seat up, but I guess time will tell today. Also of note is that Maxime Bernier is running for his People’s Party in this riding, in a desperate attempt to get back into Parliament. That sideshow won’t bring that result and it will be curious to see just how few votes he actually gets in this vain attempt to run.

So while today we’re getting a rare spurt of electoral action, there won’t be any surprises today. In fact, it should be quite uneventful as these races that have mostly flown under the radar stay there. We’ll see if that actually turns out to be the case, but at the very least this makes for an interesting diversion in these strange pandemic days.

The Morning After: The 42nd British Columbia General Election

Yesterday may have been a Saturday but we saw something out in British Columbia that we rarely see on a weekend in this country; an election day. It marked the end of voting in the 42nd general election in British Columbia, a campaign that had its own controversies given the fact that it was called during a pandemic. Similar to what happened in New Brunswick a month ago, many wondered if that fact would end up having an effect on the end result and if it would result in a gamble worth taking for the government of the day. In this case, it was the NDP government of John Horgan. How did it all turn out, or at least so far anyway? Here’s what has happened so far, and a few thoughts from yours truly:

The Not-Yet-Ending but Pretty Much Over Campaign: The results that came in last night, from voting that took place on Saturday and advanced, in person polls, gave the NDP a very solid majority win. In fact, if things stayed exactly where they are right now it would be one of the NDP’s biggest wins on the west coast ever. But thanks to the complexities of COVID-19 and BC electoral law, some ridings will need to wait to be called. There are about 500,000 mail-in ballots still to be counted, much more than normal, and under BC election law, those ballots can’t be counted until November 13th. In most ridings, those extra ballots aren’t likely to change the result because of either the margin of victory. Also, given that the NDP was riding higher in the polls earlier in the campaign, one could assume that those ballots might actually be more in the NDP’s favour. Either way, the fact of a majority NDP government won’t likely be changed and if anything does change, it will be a couple seats here or there. So that means for the Orange Team it’s time to…

Party Like It’s 1996: 1996 was a great year in my life; I was in 12th grade, I was living with my parents in Laclu and I drove a beat up old 83 VW Jetta Diesel to school that was rough that if I ever ran for office again, someone could ran an attack ad against me citing that car as not being “green” enough. 1996 was also the last time the NDP formed a majority government in British Columbia. Of course given the fraught days that we are living in, there wasn’t any partying to see last night (which was as strange a thing to see as it was on-brand for 2020) but for the NDP they have been given four years to run the province. With one of the most popular Premiers in the country in John Horgan, the Orange Team didn’t just hold onto the seats that they held going in, they grew in areas that most conventional wisdom thought they could never win. They won in Richmond, a place they targeted and as of this moment, have taken three of the four seats. They won in the Fraser Valley. They defeated strong Liberal incumbents like Mary Polak, Laurie Throness, Sam Sullivan & Jane Thornthwaite. It was a solid victory that the Orange Team can be very proud of.

End of a Rough Campaign: For the BC Liberals, this was a rough campaign that lurched from one scandal to the next. Leader Andrew Wilkinson’s performance, his attitude and approach went over like a lead weight, especially when compared to the popular Horgan. Wilkinson’s platform was one that screamed of desperate attempts to win votes, from openly attacking the poor and homeless, right up to promising to eliminate the provincial sales tax as a “wartime measure” to help the economic recovery. It was an approach that was, at best, naïve or at worst, bungling. It all played into some of the worst stereotypes of that party in BC, to a near comic level. When you add to that the scandals involving candidates like Throness, Thornthwaite and Wilkinson himself, and the lack lustre response to them, it all came together to make not only a campaign to forget for the Liberals, but one that should leave them asking serious questions about what they do going forward. But they can’t get there yet because Wilkinson isn’t conceding the election yet, based on those mail-in ballots. It’s true that we need to respect those ballots being counted, the Liberals sent around that fundraising email yesterday talking about “protecting election integrity” that appeared to be something straight from the Trump campaign. The integrity of this vote has never been in doubt but to raise it now, in the attempt to raise a few bucks, is an undignified cap on top of this undignified campaign by the BC Liberals.

A Silver Lining for the Greens: For the BC Greens and Leader Sonia Furstenau, this campaign was one where they faced oblivion square in the face. With Furstenau less than two weeks into the job before the writ dropped, they weren’t ready to mount a full campaign and it showed. They weren’t able to get a full slate of candidates or even close to it for that matter. For the first couple weeks of the campaign, their whole campaign was about complaining about the fact that there was an election. They continued to beat that drum long after British Columbians had moved on from the issue, and it didn’t help the Greens at all. Adding to those troubles, Furstenau’s predecessor Andrew Weaver not only openly backed Horgan, but he also gave him his approval for moving away from the supply agreement that he signed with Weaver. That further undercut Furstenau’s attempts to make the fact of the election the issue of the election. With the NDP polling in the high fourties and the Greens seeing their numbers slip, it looked like they might get wiped off the map. With Weaver’s Victoria seat assumed to be lost, if the Greens had held onto Furstenau and MLA Adam Olsen’s seat, they would have counted that as a huge win. Going into the night, that was not assured, and it was a real possibility that they could lose both seats. As the votes came in last night, it became clear that Furtsenau and Olsen had survived the night, likely thanks to a solid debate performance from Furtsenau herself. But a surprise silver lining did appear for the Greens in the form of Jeremy Valeriote, who won in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky. That unlikely win gave the Greens their first win in BC off Vancouver Island, coming at the expense of the sinking Liberals. So for the Green team, they came out of the night with less power but with the same number of seats and four years to build around a new leader and a new beachhead in the Lower Mainland. If you told the Greens that’s what they’d get at the start of this race, it feels safe to say they would take it.

Happy for some Great People: While as a New Democrat I’m naturally pleased to see the Horgan Team win this campaign, I’m most happy for a group of new additions to his caucus. I’m speaking of some great people that I got to know to varying degrees in Ottawa during my time on the Hill, some of the hardest working and most sincere people I’ve got to know. I’m talking about Murray Rankin, Nathan Cullen and Fin Donnelly. These three gentlemen served and served well in Ottawa. They would have been frontline cabinet ministers in a Layton or Mulcair government, but sadly that chance never came. So I can’t hide just how happy I am to see all three have the chance to not just sit on the government benches, but to have the chance to likely get some cabinet role. Thanks to the profile all three bring into the Legislature in Victoria, and the large number of incumbent cabinet minister who decided to retire before the election, it’s likely that all three will be given cabinet posting inside Horgan’s next cabinet. In doing so, we’ll finally get to see these awesome people do what they have waited a long time to do and I can’t wait to see the results of that work.