Category: #AskTheGlobe

Ask The Globe: Is Harper correct in his assessment that “most” cases of murdered indigenous women are “solved”?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

JJ June poised this question: Fact Check “Harper says ‘most’ cases of murdered aboriginal women are solved.” CP Oct. 6/15

Kathryn Blaze Baum, a national reporter who covers the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women for The Globe gave this response:

First, it is important to note that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment was made in the context of an inquiry into both missing and murdered indigenous women. Indigenous leaders and Canada’s premiers have been calling for a federal probe to better understand why aboriginal women are disproportionately more likely to disappear or be killed and also to determine how to tackle the violence.

In 2014, the RCMP released an unprecedented report looking at police-recorded incidents of missing and murdered indigenous women across the country. It found that between 1980 and 2012, there were 1,017 homicides and 164 outstanding missing-person cases. Within that time period, there are 225 unsolved cases: 105 women have been missing for more than 30 days and their disappearances are categorized as either “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” and 120 homicide cases have not been solved.

It is true, then, that most homicides involving indigenous women have been solved. As stated in the RCMP report: “The majority of all female homicides are solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims.”

But this is not the whole picture.

It is important to understand what the RCMP means when it says “solved.” The report indicates that, for the purposes of the study, the term is used synonymously with “clearance rate.” Here is how clearance rate is defined, in one of the footnotes:

“Clearance refers to whether or not a homicide incident was cleared:  (1) either by the laying, or recommending of a charge to the Crown; or (2) where at least one suspect has been identified and against whom there is sufficient evidence to lay a charge, but where the incident is cleared otherwise (e.g. the suicide or death of the chargeable suspect … ).”

This means that if police recommend charges but the Crown decides not to proceed, or if an accused is charged but later acquitted, the case is still considered solved. A killing, then, could be deemed solved without a conviction.

Put simply, the police might consider a case cleared, but the victim’s family may still be waiting for justice.

Furthermore, it is possible that some of the 105 unresolved cases involving missing indigenous women, whose disappearances are categorized as “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” are actually unsolved homicide cases.

Finally, a couple of questions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

First Cdn Politico asks: Yes. Wasn’t Tom Mulcair in favour of TPP as recently as 2 months ago?

One of our Ottawa corespondents, John Ibbitson, answers this question.

The NDP has traditionally opposed free trade agreements, saying that they lead to lower labour and environmental standards, job losses and foreign interference/loss of sovereignty.

Under Thomas Mulcair the party has modified its stance, supporting the free trade agreement with South Korea and supporting in principle the free trade agreement with Europe, although it is withholding full approval until it sees the final, legally-vetted document. The party had no stated position on the Trans Pacific Partnership other than it supports free and fair trade.

However, Mr. Mulcair has decided that this agreement would lead to lost jobs — especially in the auto sector — more costly prescription drugs, and the erosion of the supply management system that protects the dairy and poultry industry. The NDP opposes the TPP.

Finally joey wonders: if  The NDP have said they won’t necessarily uphold an agreement PCs may reach in TPP. Have the liberals commented their stance?

The Liberal Party fought the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, and only reluctantly endorsed the North American Free Trade Agreement the included Mexico, negotiated by the Mulroney government. However, the Chretien government did conclude a couple of small free-trade agreements, and Justin Trudeau has been supportive of the Harper government’s trade agenda, endorsing the agreement with the European Union. The Liberal Party, however, declines to take a position on the TPP until the full text of the agreement is revealed.

(Want to know more about the TPP? Our explainer can be found here.)

Ask The Globe: Answers to your questions on marijuana, the census and Liberal sponsorship scandal

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Spencer Smit asks: @globeandmail Harper saying cannabis is worse than tobacco, citing “evidence” please advise #AskTheGlobe

Mike Hager, a Globe reporter in Vancouver, recently looked into this:

The Canadian Cancer Society says smoking tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature deaths in the country, claiming about 37,000 lives each year. The non-profit organization says tobacco is the main risk factor for cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease in Canada.

In contrast, no deaths have been directly attributed to cannabis use or overdose, says Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research. But it is likely a factor in “a few” fatal crashes and “a few” lung-cancer deaths each year, he said.

Elizabeth Jane Banks asks: #AskTheGlobe Please fact check Elizabeth May’s claim that almost no one completes the voluntary census. #cdnpoli #elxn42

“Almost no one” may be a bit strong, but experts have warned about the quality of the National Household Survey data after it was made voluntary in 2011. Previously the longform census, which asks for more detailed information and is sent to a fraction of households, was mandatory. The response rates for the voluntary form were about 70 per cent in 2011, whereas the response rate for the mandatory form in 2006 was 93.5 per cent.

Alex Dempster asks: @globeandmail Harper said of the Liberal sponsorship scandal that $40 million of Canadians taxpayers’ money lost. Accurate? #AskTheGlobe

Maybe? This one’s a bit tricky, and may be a case of fuzzy math in campaign slogans. But it may originate in the $40-million of government funds for contracts to a firm where there was no evidence of work done, etc.

(The Globe and Mail, incidentally, won the prestigious Michener Award for public service in journalism for its uncovering of the scandal.)

Ask The Globe: Your questions on citizenship, C-51 and refugees

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Ben asks: #AskTheGlobe Can the government legally revoke someones Canadian citizenship? #MunkDebate

and Sarah asks: What conditions can a Canadian loose their citizenship, residency, or voting rights? Do refugees hafta pay interest? #AskTheGlobe

Let’s deal with these two together.

First, yes, the government can legally revoke citizenship if it was obtained fraudulently. The Conservatives also added another policy, which is that dual nationals can potentially lose their citizenship if convicted of terrorism or treason crimes. Depending on the circumstances, someone whose citizenship was revoked may be removed from the country.

On voting, the Conservatives did change the eligibility to vote for Canadian expats living abroad. Generally they lose their right to vote after five years, which Donald Sutherland was not very happy about.

Chris asks: Did Tom Mulcair really say different things about repealing C51? #AskTheGlobe

The NDP has never supported Bill C-51, the Anti-Terror Act. The New Democrats voted against the bill, which was supported by the Conservatives and Liberals. However, in interviews earlier in the year, leader Thomas Mulcair did change his tone. In February, Mr. Mulcair said he wouldn’t commit to repealing the bill if elected, though his party would definitely change it. Weeks later, in March, Mr. Mulcair committed to repealing the entire law.

Myles asks: Harper says ours response has been generous- is that true compared to past refugee crises? #MunkDebate #asktheglobe #futurevoter

It depends on what past refugee crises we’re comparing it to. In terms of numbers and speed of access for refugees, it’s much lower than Vietnam (when Joe Clark raised the target to 60,000 refugees). Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at the Munk Debate brought up comparisons with Vietnam to accuse Harper of being stingy. What sets Syria apart from Vietnam is the rules Stephen Harper introduced about refugees needing their status approved by UNHCR or a third country, a rule that didn’t exist for the Vietnamese (and which the Kurdi family blames for the events leading to Alan’s death off the Turkish coast). If we’re comparing Syria with the Second World War, though – when we famously turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939, and were pretty hostile to Jewish refugees even during the war – our current response looks more generous. (Doug Saunders and Sean Fine have done really good historical analyses of Vietnam, the Second World War and our response to the Hungarian refugee crisis in the 1950s).

Ask The Globe: What happens if two parties tie for the most seats?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Christopher Stasiuk asks: If two parties tie for first with the most seats in the federal election, who governs? Who is the PM? #asktheglobe

According to Wednesday’s Nanos numbers the Liberals and Conservatives are locked in a dead heat atop the polls. Which makes Christopher’s question a timely one.

Digital politics editor Chris Hannay explains the process.

The incumbent always gets first crack at forming government. (Usually, if the incumbent has not won the most seats after an election, they decline.) If the incumbent is one of the tied parties and they have a Speech from the Throne, and it gets defeated by the other parties, they have to go to Governor-General David Johnston and declare that they don’t have the confidence of the House.

The Governor-General can then decide whether to call an election or let another party have a chance at governing.

If an election has just happened, typically the Governor-General is expected to let another party have a chance to form the government so as not to waste voters’ times. (This happened in 1926)

If the second-place party, or the other party that was tied, can survive a confidence vote with other parties’ support, then they’re in government now.

This is essentially what happened in Ontario in 1985.

You Googled, we answered: Everything you want to know about democracy and voting

When many people have a question they don’t know the answer to, they turn to a search engine. And during an election, apparently voters have a lot of questions.

Here are 10 of the most-searched queries you have about voting and democracy, according to Google Canada.


1. What type of government does Canada have?

We are a constitutional monarchy. The Crown, currently embodied by Queen Elizabeth II (the Globe style book says I should refer to her simply as “the Queen”), is the head of all three branches of government: the executive (i.e., the prime minister), the legislative (the House of Commons and Senate), and the judicial (our courts). The Queen’s representative in Canada is the Governor-General, who is currently David Johnston, but that changes every five years or so. The Governor-General must sign off on all new laws, which in practice they always do. Those laws are generated in the House of Commons (the body whose members we elect every few years) and the Senate (whose members are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the prime minister).

2. Is Canada a democracy?


3. What is first past the post?

It is our electoral system. Canada is divided up into 338 geographical areas of roughly equal populations, which are called ridings. In each riding, people can stand for election to represent the people of that riding in the House of Commons in Ottawa, where federal laws are made. These people, called candidates, usually run as a member of a political party, so you have a general idea of what they stand for. “First past the post” means that whichever candidate in that riding gets the most votes wins the election, no matter if they got 99 per cent or 35 per cent. The actual percentage of the vote they got doesn’t matter, only that it’s more than any other candidate.

4. What is a minority government?

In our parliamentary style of government, whichever party wins a majority (more than half) of the seats in the House of Commons gets to govern pretty well how they like. A minority government occurs when no one party has more than half of the seats. In that case, the party with the most seats usually gets first crack at being in charge, but must make deals with other parties to support their legislative agenda. If other parties vote with them, the minority government usually gets to stick around a couple of years, but if the other parties vote against them on an important bill like a budget, another election usually follows (because the party in power can’t get anything done). There have been quite a few minority governments over the years: the federal elections of 2008, 2006, 2004, 1979 and 1972 resulted in them, just to name a few.

5. When did women get the right to vote?

Federally, most women didn’t get the right to vote until 1918. Some women got to vote in 1917 if a family member or husband was in the military, for various political reasons. Aboriginal women (and men) faced restrictions on voting until 1960.

6. How to vote?

I’ll let Elections Canada handle this one.

7. Who should I vote for?

I can’t tell you that! Only you know who you should vote for.

Or watch the debate we hosted with the major party leaders. Maybe that will help.

8. Where do I vote?

Again, Elections Canada.

9. Who can vote in Canada?

Anyone who is a Canadian citizen and 18 years of age or older on voting day.

Except for some expats. And this guy — he’s legally barred from voting.

10. Why should I vote?

Not serious: Because then you’re allowed to complain about the next prime minister.

Serious: As Elections Canada says: “The right to vote is a fundamental democratic right that is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is the cornerstone of democracy.”

Bonus question: When is the election?

Monday, Oct. 19th.

Ask The Globe: Globe Debate questions answered

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

During The Globe and Mail federal leaders’ debate, readers flooded us with questions about statements made by the candidates. Digital politics editor Chris Hannay answered some of the more popular requests.

1. Viet asked a question related to Stephen Harper’s jobs record:

Mr. Harper has the worst job creation record since the Second World War…” – Mr. Trudeau. Fact check please? #AskTheGlobe

Answer: The claim comes from a study done by Unifor this summer, which concluded that average annual growth in total employment was the lowest in the years during which Stephen Harper was prime minister. However, it depends on what measure you use: for instance, Canada’s current unemployment rate of 7 per cent is low compared to the figure during much of the 1980s and ‘90s, according to Statistics Canada.

You can also read this story by Gloria Galloway on the Conservative’s plan to create 1.3 million new jobs by 2020.

2. Elizabeth A. Roth wondered if an environmental claim about B.C. was true:

#AsktheGlobe BC has a world renowned carbon tax? Fact check please.

Answer: No less an international authority than the Economist has given a thumbs-up to British Columbia’s carbon tax, which began in 2008, for driving down emissions. The OECD and the World Bank have noted the same thing. Now, is it the only way to reduce emissions, or even the best way? That, of course, is up for debate. At the federal level, the Conservatives have favoured a regulatory approach, the NDP have said they prefer a cap-and-trade system and only the Liberals seem open to a form of carbon pricing.

3. James Medeiros was one of several readers who wondered if a claim about water exports was true:

#GlobeDebate #asktheglobe – is Mr. Trudeau’s claim true about bulk water exports and @ThomasMulcair?

Answer: Bulk water exports are currently banned federally and in most provinces. In 2004, as Quebec’s environment minister, Thomas Mulcair suggested the province could export and sell water, if the process was managed sustainably. In 2007, when Mr. Mulcair entered federal politics, he recanted those views.

4. Liane Balaban had a question about emissions under the Harper government:

Did greenhouses gases really go down under Harper? Was that because of the recession though? #AskTheGlobe

Answer: We’ve answered this on a previous #AskTheGlobe, but the short answer is yes and yes. Emissions are down between 2005 and 2013, and the drop came in 2008 and 2009, when the economy was going through a recession.

5. With the migrant crisis becoming a hot topic during the campaign, Mazen Ob had a question on immigration:

Is it true that the conservative govt have brought in around 250000 immigrants every year? #GlobeDebate #asktheglobe

Answer: Yes, Canada has brought in about 250,000 immigrants per year since 2005. You can view the federal government’s stats here, broken down by category and gender.

6. Tristan Nuyens also had a question about immigration:

Fact check this: did the Conservatives take away healthcare for refugees and immigrants? #AskTheGlobe #GlobeDebate

Answer: Sort of. Three years ago, the Conservatives began to deny health care to failed refugee claimants. A Federal Court later ruled the policy was a form of “cruel and unusual treatment.” 

7. A claim that the Conservatives have spent big on infrastructure puzzled Abidah Shamji:

Fact check #AsktheGlobe PC’s have the largest infrastructure spending ever?

Answer: It’s hard to say whether the Conservatives have spent the most money ever on infrastructure spending, but it’s certainly up there. According to a 2004 report from the Library of Parliament, federal infrastructure spending declined sharply from around the time Pierre Trudeau became prime minister in 1968, and into the 2000s. Infrastructure spending increased dramatically after the 2008-09 recession, with the Conservatives using the money as a form of stimulus for the economy.

8. Finally, Marjolaine Provost asked about minimum wage’s affect on the population:

#asktheglobe – is it true that the $15 minimum wage promise of the Ndp won’t affect 99% of Canadians as Trudeau claims?

Answer: Not quite 99 per cent, but the minimum wage of $15 an hour promised by the NDP would affect only the relatively small number of workers under federal jurisdiction. For the vast majority of workers across Canada, their minimum wage is set by provincial governments. The Alberta NDP is also pushing to hike their province’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018.

Ask The Globe: Has Harper really increased spending on veterans?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader N. Miller asks: To what was Conservative Leader Stephen Harper referring when he said, during the first leaders’ debate of this federal  election, that his Conservative government has increased spending on veterans by 35 per cent? #asktheglobe

Reporter Gloria Galloway in Ottawa has the answer:

In response to accusations by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau that the Conservative government had been “nickel and diming” veterans and not giving them the services they need, Mr. Harper said: “This government has made record investments in veterans. We’re spending 35 per cent more on the average veteran today directly than we were when we came to office.”

Is this true? Yes. Technically.

The annual budget of Veterans Affairs Canada increased from $2.85-billion in 2005-06, the year before Mr. Harper’s Conservatives were first elected to power, to $3.55-billion in 2015-16. That is down slightly from 2014-15 when the budget was $3.58-billion.

Meanwhile, the number of clients served by the department dropped from 220,660 to 199,154 between 2005-06 and 2014-15, largely due to the declining numbers of aging veterans from the Second World War and Korea.

So, between 2005-06 and 2014-15, the average annual expenditure per client of the Veterans Affairs department increased from $12,930 to $17,960, a jump of 38 per cent – which might suggest that Mr. Harper was being modest with his 35 per cent figure.

And it would seem to discount the complaints of modern-day veterans who say they are not being fairly or adequately compensated for their service.

But the numbers need some explanation.

The modern-day vets are compensated under what is known as the New Veterans Charter which was introduced by the previous Liberal government, supported by all parties in the House of Commons, and brought into force by the Conservatives shortly after they took office in 2006.

It replaces a system of lifetime pensions for disabled veterans with one that relies largely on lump-sum payments.

When the Liberals proposed the New Veterans Charter in 2005, Albina Guarnieri, who was the minister of veterans affairs, promised there would be increased spending of a billion dollars over six years to help ease the transition from one program to the other. And, when the Conservatives took office, they followed through with that commitment in their first budget, increasing the money to Veterans Affairs by $349.7-million to $3.20-billion in 2006-07.

The department’s budget then went up incrementally, year after year, until 2013-2014 when it started to drop off.

According to the Royal Bank’s inflation calculator, $3.20-billion in 2006 would be worth $3.72-billion in 2015. So, given that this year’s Veterans Affairs budget is $3.55-billion, the increases have not kept pace with inflation.

Also, in the intervening years, there were large numbers of soldiers returning from Afghanistan with severe physical and mental injuries – some estimates suggest more than 2,000 Canadians were wounded during that mission. Their treatment has consumed a significant portion of the money allotted to the Veterans Affairs department.

Plus, the government was forced to admit last year that, since 2006 when the Conservatives came to power, the department has returned $1.13-billion in unspent funds to the federal treasury.

So, while Mr. Harper is correct that the average amount spent by the federal government per client of the Veterans Affairs department has gone up, it would be wrong to say the department is spending more money, in real terms, on the needs of veterans than it did before the Conservatives took office.

Ask The Globe: How many deficits has the Conservative government run?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Katherine asksHarper complains about Trudeau’s proposed deficits. Under Harper, how many years has Conservative govt run deficits#AskTheGlobe

Bill Curry, who covers finance in Ottawa, has the answer:

The short answer is six. It may turn out to be more. One would think there is an easy black and white answer to this one and yet the party leaders are offering conflicting information during this campaign. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper likes to say “We have a balanced budget.” Meanwhile NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau often accuse Mr. Harper of running eight deficits in a row.

Let’s break it down.

The issue comes down to how much weight one gives to various budget forecasts, which are an estimate of what will happen in the future.

Federal finances operate under a fiscal year that starts April 1 and ends March 31. That means the 2014-15 fiscal year is over, but we won’t know until later this year – when the final accounting figures are released – whether that year was officially in surplus or deficit. As The Globe reported in August, those figures are expected to be released by Finance Canada during the campaign.

The most recent Conservative budget projected that the 2014-15 fiscal year will show a seventh consecutive deficit. However economists say that could turn out to be a small surplus. We should find out the answer soon.

Now where does the claim of eight deficits come in?

The Conservatives promised to return to surplus in the current 2015-16 fiscal year. The April budget forecasted a $1.4-billion surplus. But the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said the year is on track for a $1-billion deficit due to slower-than-expected growth.

That means the opposition claims of eight straight budget deficits is based on six years of official results, plus the budget forecast of a seventh consecutive deficit and then the PBO’s projection that this year will also be in deficit.

Mr. Harper’s claim that the budget is balanced is based on two sources. First, the 2015 budget forecasted a balanced budget this year. Secondly, Finance Canada provides monthly updates on Ottawa’s bottom line. Over the first quarter of the fiscal year, Ottawa is running a $5-billion surplus, though the department cautions against reading too much into such early figures.

So there it is. The Conservatives have officially run six straight deficits and the projections for the next two years are too close to call as to whether they will be in surplus or deficit. There are no official final numbers to support the Conservative claim that Canada has a balanced budget, nor are there official final numbers to support opposition claims that Canada has run eight straight deficits.

Canadians are hearing contradictory statistics because party leaders are picking the forecasts that suit their political message.

Update: On Sept. 14, the federal government announced figures for the 2014-15 fiscal year that showed it had posted a surplus.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Ask The Globe: Which parties favour proportional representation?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Our third selected question comes from reader @stefanie__92 If elected, (which candidates would)fight for a proportional representation system in our elections? #AskTheGlobe #elxn42

Globe reporter Campbell Clark has the answer:  

There are two parties that favour proportional representation, and possibly a third, depending on how you count them. But there are some differences in the devilish details.

Both the Thomas Mulcair’s NDP and Elizabeth May’s Green Party say they will fight for proportional representation. Both say that if they won power, they’d change the voting system.

The Liberals also favour reform, but they are more vague on what kind. They promise to eliminate the current first-past-the-post voting system, but not necessarily to replace it with proportional representation. They’d have a parliamentary committee study it.

There are other differences between the parties on this issue. That’s partly because there are different kinds of reform, and different kind of PR. The Conservatives want to keep the current system, where the candidate with the most votes wins the seat. Most others propose change.

The NDP favours a kind of “mixed-member proportional representation” system.” As NDP democratic reform critic Craig Scott has described it, voters would get two ballots. The first would be to elect a riding MP, like the current system. The second would be to vote for candidates in a region, and the seats would be apportioned so each party’s tally would eflect the proportion of votes cast.

The Green Party also says they’d change the system to proportional representation, and would establish a multi-party Democratic Voting Commission to decide the details..

The Liberals have said they’ll get rid of the current first-past-the-post system, and set up an all-party parliamentary committee to look at various potential reforms. Mr. Trudeau has on many occasions said he’s not certain about PR, and expressed more interest in ranked ballots. That’s where voters rank their first and second choice, possibly more; if no one wins 50 per cent in a riding, then bottom candidates are dropped, and the second choices are used in a kind of instant run-off.