The Daily Visionary: Tuesday, January 15, 2019

President Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks a Kurdish militia in Syria


The Story


The United States (US) President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks a U.S.- allied Kurdish militia in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Turkish government reviving fears of another downturn in ties between the NATO allies.


On Monday, President Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed by phone the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria cleared of militia groups, and both men emphasized the need to avoid giving any opportunity to elements seeking to block the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria.


President Trump told President Erdogan he wants to address Turkey’s concerns, but stressed Ankara must not harm Washington’s Kurdish allies or others who have fought the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group in Syria.


The Details


  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Marine General Joseph Dunford, will meet with his Turkish counterpart on Tuesday to continue consultations.

  • On Sunday, the US began the military pull-out announced in December, but will continue to hit Islamic State fighters there.

  • President Trump imposed sanctions on two of President Erdogan’s Ministers and raised tariffs on Turkish metal exports last year, which helped push the Turkish lira to a record low in August.




Relations between the United States and Turkey have long been strained by Washington’s support for the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), which Turkey views as a terrorist organization that is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has for decades waged an insurgency in Turkey.


The Kurdish YPG has been a US ally in the fight against the jihadists and it controls swaths of northern Syria. President Erdogan has vowed to crush it in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull troops out. Turkey has swept YPG fighters from Syria’s Afrin region and other areas west of the Euphrates river in military campaigns over the past two years. It is now threatening to strike east of the river, which it has avoided until now, partly to avoid direct confrontation with U.S. forces.


President Trump’s withdrawal announcement came as he said US forces had succeeded in their mission to defeat ISIS and were no longer needed.


Key Quotes


You’ll have to ask the President. We have applied economic sanctions in many places, I assume he is speaking about those kinds of things,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when asked what President Trump meant by economic devastation.


China escalates the diplomatic crisis with Canada, sentencing a Canadian man to execution for drug smuggling


The Story


A Chinese court sentenced 36-year-old Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to be executed for drug smuggling by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in China’s northeast province of Liaoning in a retrial.  Mr. Schellenberg had appealed his original 15-year prison sentence, resulting in the retrial, and was told in court he had the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within 10 days upon receiving the ruling.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said China decision to use the death penalty was an arbitrary use of justice and vowed to “continue to engage strongly” with Beijing over the detainment of another Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to comment.


A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Trudeau should “earnestly study” the Vienna Convention governing diplomatic ties so as to “not become a laughing stock.”


The Details


  • The ruling and PM Trudeau’s reaction has aggravated poor relations between China and Canada following the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a US extradition warrant, and China’s subsequent detention of two Canadians.

  • Drug smuggling is routinely punished severely in China. Beijing has previously executed foreign nationals convicted of drug-related crimes, including a Briton who was executed in 2009.

  • The court said in late 2014 Mr. Schellenberg had conspired with others in an attempt to smuggle 222 kg of methamphetamine in plastic pellets and shipped it from Guangdong to Dalian. He allegedly planned to conceal it in tires and tubing and ship it via a container to Australia. Chinese state television said in an earlier report that Mr. Schellenberg argued in court that he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals.




Mr. Schellenberg’s criminal record dates back to February 2003, when he received a six-month sentence for possession for the purpose of trafficking. At the time, he was struggling with addiction as a result of abusing pain medication following a work-related accident. In 2012, Justice Neill Brown sentenced Mr. Schellenberg to two years in prison for possession of both cocaine and heroin for the purpose of trafficking as well as simple possession of cannabis resin and methamphetamine.


Mr. Schellenberg pleaded guilty to all four counts, which came about as a result of an investigation into a high-volume drug sales operation that saw his apartment in Abbotsford used as a "distribution centre." According to the reasons for sentence, Schellenberg was on probation at the time that police raided his fourth-floor apartment, seizing CAD $6,080 worth of cocaine and heroin as well as CAD $3,205 in cash from pill profits. Justice Brown said Mr. Schellenberg was not considered to have been at the "lower rung" of the operation.


Key Quotes


"Your country deserves much better from you. You are in one of the best places in the world to live. You are not caught up in Libya or Syria; I do not have evidence of any abuse in your childhood and I accept that you have your own struggles to deal with, but you have to confront those. After all, it's not as if you are 18, and having to storm Juno Beach,” said Justice Neill Brown as he sentenced Mr. Schellenberg in a Chilliwack, B.C. Supreme Court in 2012.


It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply (the) death penalty ... as in this case,” said PM Trudeau.


Canada’s grandstanding government angers tens of thousands of potential immigrants by allowing a Saudi teenager to jump the line


The Story


Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun ran away from a family trip to Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, Thailand hoping to reach Australia. Questions surround the 18-year-old Saudi teenager, who was granted asylum and arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport Saturday, greeted with flowers by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland. The exact details of her Ms. al-Qunun’s situation and subsequent asylum are unknown. After her arrival in Canada, Ms. al-Qunun was hurried to an undisclosed location out of concerns about what her dissent from Saudi Arabia might mean for her safety.


Speaking to the New York Times before being granted asylum, al-Qunun described life in Saudi Arabia as "a prison" and said she was once locked in a room for six months over a haircut to which her family took objection. Thai immigration police Chief Surachate Hakparn said Ms. al-Qunun's father denies physically abusing her or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for wanting asylum.


At least one former diplomat said Canada's privileging of al-Qunun's case could set a "dangerous precedent." Canada's quick decision to grant her asylum has been criticized for the message it sends to the nearly ten thousand immigrants waiting in line and the implications of the government’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, where an estimated 17,000 Canadians currently live.


The Details


  • ked why al-Qunun's claim was processed so quickly, Global Affairs Canada was tight-lipped.

  • International rights monitors consistently rank Saudi Arabia among the world's worst nations for women's rights and gender equality. In its annual report on gender equality in 2018, the World Economic Forum ranked it 141 out of 149 countries.

  • Refugee status is normally granted by governments, but the UNHCR can grant it where states are "unable or unwilling to do so", according to its website. The UNHCR says it does not comment on individual cases.




Ms. al-Qunun was detained by Thai authorities on January 6 while transiting from Kuwait to Australia through a connecting flight in Bangkok. Thai immigration officials had initially said she should return to Kuwait, where her family were waiting. Since she did not have a visa to enter Thailand, Thai police had denied her entry and were in the process of repatriating her, an official said.


Ms. al-Qunun refused to board a flight from Bangkok to Kuwait on Monday and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room. She began to live-tweet her ordeal, sharing her Twitter password with friends so they too could assist in spreading the message on social media, which attracted international attention. She said she had renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. She gained 94,000 followers in a few days and praised social media for helping her avoid deportation.


The UN's refugee agency had referred her case to Australia for possible resettlement before being granted asylum by the Canadian government. In a brief statement, Australia's Department of Home Affairs had said it would "consider this referral in the usual way" but hinted that her request would be accepted.


Key Quotes


"The Australians were prepared, as I understand it, to accept her as a refugee claimant. What we did is go one step further and accept her not as a claimant but as a refugee. And that's a process that in Canada typically requires an assessment of the claim, a vetting of the individual and a decision that typically can take as much as two years. What happens the next time a teenage girl or adult woman from Saudi Arabia flees her family and declares herself to no longer be a Muslim, does that mean automatic sanctuary?" said David Chatterson, Canada's ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2009-2011.


"Canada and Saudi Arabia are in a political battle currently, so because this woman is Saudi, my sense is that there was some political motive in promoting the 'rescuing' of a Saudi girl. Of course, the rescuing of oppressed people is a Western narrative in many different ways but the securing of a Saudi woman being oppressed by her family and her country sharpens this narrative in ways that may not have been possible otherwise." said Ryerson University professor Mehrunnisa Ali.


PM Theresa May expected to resign following the likely defeat of the Brexit vote Tuesday


The Story


On Tuesday, the United Kingdom’s (UK) House of Commons will hold a parliamentary vote between 7:30 and 9:30 pm on Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, which has been approved by the European Union (EU). A heavy loss is anticipated, with more than 100 Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) insisting they will oppose the deal. Gareth Johnson, a junior whip, resigned from the Government on Sunday in order to vote against the EU Withdrawal Agreement, taking the total number of declared Tory rebels to 112. Cabinet Ministers have suggested PM May would have to resign in the event of the deal being voted down.


Excluding the Speaker, that would leave a maximum of 204 Conservative MPs backing the deal, plus one Liberal Democrat defector and one Labour defector. The DUP has already said its 10 MPs will vote against the Government, and if they are joined by all Labour, LibDem, Scottish Nationalist, Green, Independent and Plaid Cymru MPs, that would make 435 votes against the Government, a defeat of 229. Sinn Fein’s seven MPs do not vote. PM May is on course to outstrip the current record of a 166-vote defeat suffered by Ramsay MacDonald in 1924.


Potential leadership candidates Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, and David Davis are all increasing their media engagements this week in case PM May falls. Boris Johnson has spoken for the first time of his regret at dropping out of the leadership contest with Theresa May over two years ago and will run for the leadership of the Conservative party once PM May resigns.


The Details


  • Labour said Jeremy Corbyn would call a no confidence vote in the Government “within minutes” of a defeat of PM May’s Brexit deal, with such a vote likely to proceed on Wednesday. If the Government loses the vote, a general election could follow.

  • In December, PM May survived a vote of no confidence from Conservatives, meaning the party cannot hold a leadership race for a full year. However, if she resigns, the party can hold a leadership election without calling a general election.




The United Kingdom has been a member state of the European Union (EU) since 1975, when it joined the European Economic Community (EEC, the EU’s precursor) in 1973. A referendum was held in 1975 with a 67% vote in favour of membership, despite objection from the Labour party.


In 2016, the UK held a referendum on whether to ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ the EU. ‘Leave’ won with a 51.9% vote in favour, with turnout at 71.8% and more than 30 million people voting. Despite the mainstream news media claims that Millennials voted overwhelming for ‘Remain’, no exit polling was conducted, so there is no evidence to support how Millennials voted.


The UK is scheduled to leave the EU at 11:00pm on Friday, March 29, 2019, with the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020.


Read More: Brexit Feature


Key Quotes


"When the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask: did we deliver on the country's vote to leave the European Union? Did we safeguard our economy, our security and our Union? Or did we let the British people down?" said PM May in the House of Commons.


My guess is she will resign on Wednesday. That is what would normally happen if you have lost your main policy,” said a senior Tory backbench MP.


Alberta’s new Conservative party boasts a nearly-full field of candidates ahead of the hotly anticipated spring election


The Story


Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) launched two television ads Monday that feature female candidates using the tag line “Alberta strong and free.” The 30-second ads show “some of the fresh new faces” in the party, tweeted UCP Leader Jason Kenney. Kenney ends both ads with the slogan “Let’s renew the Alberta advantage, and build an Alberta that’s strong and free.” The line is a reference to the provincial motto “Fortis et liber,” said the party.


The ‘Alberta Advantage’ is a term coined by the late Alberta Premier Ralph Klein in 2005 when his Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s policies eliminated the province’s debt and deficit. Alberta had the lowest tax rates in the country at the time and remains the only province in Canada without a provincial sales tax, a point of pride for many conservative Albertans.


Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s only response to the UCP ads was that the Alberta Advantage is what “got us behind,” referencing decisions such as not moving ahead on infrastructure projects, which does not accurately reflect prior government actions.


The Details


  • 25 of 79 UCP candidates are women.

  • Currently three of the 26 UCP MLAs in the Alberta legislature are women: Leela Aheer (Chestermere-Strathmore), Angela Pitt (Airdrie-East), and Laila Goodridge (Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche).

  • The first ad, dubbed Alberta Strong and Free, features Calgary-Peigan candidate Tanya Fir and Calgary-South East candidate Eva Kiryakos.

  • A second ad, titled Taking Alberta Forward, includes Calgary-Mountain View candidate Caylan Ford, Calgary-North West candidate Sonya Savage, Edmonton-City Centre candidate Lily Le and Calgary North East candidate Rajan Sawhney as well as Kiryakos.

  • Male candidates for Edmonton-South West and Grande Prairie Wapiti — Kaycee Madu, who is originally from Nigeria, and Travis Toews — also appear in the second ad.




The result of accidental strategic voting, Albertans voted against the 43-year Progressive Conservative (PC) government in favour of the New Democrats (NDP) in the 2015 provincial election. Individual Albertans thought they would stick it to the PC party, as opposed to a concerted effort to unseat the government, and vote for the only other party that had the full field of 87 candidates, the NDP. After the election, the Progressive Conservatives and the offshoot Wildrose parties folded and created the United Conservative Party (UCP). Legislation outlines the election must be held between March 1 and May 31, 2019


The economic engine of the country has suffered from poor federal and provincial policy since the 2015 crash in global oil prices. The UCP already has more than 150,000 members and will hold an election readiness conference from February 15 to 17 in the province’s capital city of Edmonton. The UCP is expected to form a majority government in the 2019 spring election.


Read More: UCP Nominated Candidates 

Key Quotes


If you look at these women who are running … most of them run in ridings where they have a really good shot at winning, and they will make up a significant proportion of caucus. If you want more women in government, if you want more women in cabinet, elect them,” said political strategist Dimitri Pantazopoulos.

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