The House

How will premiers keep a provincial focus with a federal vote looming?

This week on The House, B.C. Premier John Horgan joins us to look ahead to next week's premiers' meeting. We look at the stakes for Canadians in Hong Kong amid protests over extradition laws with an activist. Finally, are political cartoons a dying medium? We talk to a communications professor about up-and-coming memes.
Premier John Horgan reacts to the federal approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Vancouver, British Columbia on June 18, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
Listen to the full episode49:14

B.C. Premier John Horgan says the upcoming federal election shouldn't get in the way of discussing important provincial issues.

The nation's premiers will gather in Saskatchewan next week for their annual meeting. 

Horgan says there may be a collection of the leaders who want to turn the target on Ottawa, but there are other big issues at stake. 

"There are going to be those that are going to want to draw lines in the sand," he told The House. 

Inter-provincial trade has been a particular roadblock in the past few years, including limits on how goods and services flow between Canada's internal borders. 

Alcohol, in particular, has been a sticky issue. 

This spring, Ottawa introduced legislation that it says will remove a final federal barrier to ease the flow of beer, wine and spirits across provincial and territorial boundaries. The final step is for the provinces to implement rules of their own.

But there are also federal-provincial issues, like the carbon tax and Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that will likely take up space on the agenda. 

Saskatchewan and Ontario's court challenges of the federal government's carbon tax plan were shot down in their respective courts, though both say they will appeal the rulings. And meanwhile, B.C. is still looking to assert its will over Ottawa regarding the pipeline. 

Looking beyond those issues could be a challenge at next week's meeting.

Next week Canada's premiers will be gathering in Saskatoon at a moment of frayed provincial relations... and just a couple month's before the federal election. B.C. Premier John Horgan joins Chris Hall to talk about the strength of the federation, his relationship with neighbouring premier Jason Kenney and the upcoming federal campaign. 9:37

Horgan says that's to be expected and they've been defining issues for this relatively new group of premiers — now dominated by Conservatives.

"We have a range of perspectives at the table," he said.

"It's critical to our federation that the federal government recognises responsibilities and roles for the provinces and also that the provinces recognises the role and function of the federal government." 

And while there are disagreements at the table, Horgan said anyone who's expecting a dog fight won't be satisfied. 

He met new Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at the meeting of western premiers and said the conversations were constructive.  

"Premier Kenney and I both recognise that there's more value in trying to find the things that bring us together than to focus on those that are obviously taking us apart."

Canadians will be in danger if Hong Kong extradition law passes, expert says

Protesters try to break into the Legislative Council building where riot police are seen, during the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Canadians in Hong Kong could face the same fate as the two men detained in China if a proposed extradition law passes, one expert warns. 

Gloria Fung, the president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, says she's very concerned about legislation that would allow criminal suspects in the former British colony to be extradited to mainland China for trial.

"We understand there's no rule of law in China, therefore people could be subject to the same treatment as what the two Michaels have been going through," she told The House. 

With escalating protests in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition agreement with China, the president of Canada-Hong Kong Link Gloria Fung talks about what's at stake for Canada. With two citizens still detained in China, what's the danger for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who live in Hong Kong? 6:48

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been detained in China for six months with limited access to consular services and no formal charges laid against them. 

Fung warns the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in China could face a similar fate if Hong Kong's extradition bill passes and the dispute between the two countries continues. 

"We do not trust that anybody will be subject to a fair and transparent trial in Beijing."

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the same year Fung's organization was founded. Since then, the city state has been governed under a "one country, two systems" formula. This allows freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including an independent judiciary.

Under threat of this extradition law that would threaten their independence, millions took to the streets to protest the changes. 

Fung said the threat to Canadians is real and the federal government needs to express opposition to this shift. 

"I think the Western democracies should lend all support to Hong Kong in its defense of its autonomy and rule of law," Fung said.

What's needed, she added, is "solidarity with Hong Kong and also concrete action being taken to make sure that the extradition bill is withdrawn completely.

"It's very very essential to stop the crisis."

Meme today, gone tomorrow

Michael de Adder released this cartoon on June 26 of Donald Trump next to the bodies of a father and daughter who died trying to cross the border into Texas. (Michael de Adder)

Political memes on social media are the new future of satire, one professor says. 

Controversy around political cartoons has increased in recent months, as the New York Times decided to curtail publication of the comics after one sparked accusations of anti-semitism. More recently, Canadian cartoonist Michael de Adder was let go from his New Brunswick newspaper contract, saying he believed his anti-Trump cartoons crossed a line with his bosses. 

Jennifer Grygiel says it's the natural progression of cartooning to see papers decline and social media thrive. 

"The public is consuming vast amounts of social media and Instagram Twitter you name it they're not necessarily going to go to a digital publisher's site or even get a newspaper," Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University, told The House. 

With memes — images with text overlay that's usually humorous — taking over the Internet, they say the political world is following. 

You've likely seen the pictures, everywhere from "Crooked Hillary" to "Unwanted Ivanka." Grygiel says it's a way to diversify who creates the content, as political cartoonists are predominantly older white men. 

Political cartoonists say they are a dying breed. But Syracuse University communications professor Jennifer Grygiel argues that is not necessarily a bad thing because political cartooning has been reserved for a privileged group. The professor says it's time to embrace the power of online memes because they are more democratic and more fun. 8:38

"We need to see more diverse political rhetoric."

But there's a trade off. 

"We just have to consider where we're getting our information and consider some of this political rhetoric that's being created via the Internet means and vet that information to make sure that it's not just intending to spread disinformation."


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