Brexit – What’s this “backstop” they keep talking about? 

My appologies to you non anglophiles out there another post on Brexit. I keep hearing the word “backstop” in regards to  Brexit so I decided to look into the meaning of it. The following is what I found out

As you all know mainland Britain is an island so the mechanics of separating from the customs union of the EU,  although inconvenient, will be fairly easy, because all cars, trucks and containers have to be ferried, “chunneled” or shipped across the English Channel or the Atlantic. So there is, by geography, a “hard” border between mainland UK and Europe. That does not apply across the Irish Sea on the Island of Ireland, there is a land border there between Northern Ireland and Eire. Northern Ireland consists of 6 of the 9 counties of Ulster. Its demographic is made up these days by roughly 45% Catholic, 50% Protestant, 5% other faiths. The Protestants are fiercely loyal to Britain and the Queen, the Catholics would mostly like to see a united Ireland as one country (run by eurocrats in Brussels strangely enough). The border between the two countries had always been a bit of a problem. The British created a “hard” border in the 70’s to try and stop arms being brought into N. Ireland. So stringent checks by British soldiers every time people crossed the border which was hated by Catholics and Protestants alike. 

At the conclusion of the”Troubles” after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the border between the 2 countries disappeared, both countries were part of the European Economic Community (EEC) a tariff free customs union, so trade could happen unhindered. This proceeded the EU which is a customs and political union.

The “backstop” is part of the negotiations that have occurred between Theresa May and Hans Juncker European Commissioner. 
In the thwarted leave agreement reached between Theresa May and the EU, N. Ireland would stay within the European customs union separate from Britain. Most Protestants believe that this would be the first step to N. Ireland becoming part of Eire. The right of centre Protestant DUP has 12 MPs from N. Ireland and after the last election are propping up Theresa May’s conservative majority government in the House of Commons. They will never agree to the “backstop”. The EU has dug its heels in on this point and will not agree to a deal without it. The EU has threatened to create a hard border between the 2 countries again after Brexit which is not acceptable to anyone in Ireland. Britain’s Leavers either want a free trading zone between the 2 countries free of European interferance or WTO rules until a trade deal is sorted out.

Nothing is simple in this divorce.

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Brexit – A View from an Expat:

Most of you that read this blog or know me, are probably aware that I am originally from Britain.

At the time I didn’t really pay much attention to the Brexit campaign prior to the vote on 23rd June 2016. All the polls, talking heads and political establishment in the UK were saying that Remain was a shoe in. In fact the reason why conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and rest of the UK political establishment allowed such an important vote to be carried by a simple 50% plus 1 majority was because nobody thought the people would actually vote to leave. When I first heard the result I was somewhat shocked, but mainly a little disappointed. I have a brother in Germany, who I visit quite often. I rather enjoyed going over to Europe on my British passport (I have both British and Canadian) and sailing through immigration and customs in Frankfurt or Munich. I have three brothers, two that live in England who are solid Brexiteers and the one who lives in Germany, who is obviously a Remainer (he will now have to get a German passport).

Since the Brexit vote and after a lot of reading and studying Britains place in the EU, I am now firmly on the Brexit side of the equation. The part of the EU which most Brexiteers have a major problem with is the EU branch of governance called the European Commission, it is similar to the US Senate, but is unelected. It is responsible for the 30,000 page set of rules and laws that govern every aspect of European life from the dimensions of the stairs in your house, to the size and shape of apples sold in the supermarket. Places like Italy, Greece and Portugal which have a culture of ignoring governance and rules just ignore most of the EU’s petty rule book and go about their business. But Britain with its history of order and empire follows every single European law with minutiae. and zeal, making life in modern Britain mind crushingly regulated by foreign unelected bureaucrats.

Britain is the second largest economy and contributor to the EU after Germany. For every £2 it sends to the EU it gets £1 back. It imports £75B worth of products from EU more than it exports, on close to half a trillion pounds sterling in trade. By comparison with the US, the loss of GDP by Britain leaving EU would be similar to Texas, Arizona and New Mexico combined leaving the US. In short the EU needs Britain a lot more than Britain needs the EU. Late last year British PM Theresa May went to Europe to negotiate the terms of the divorce. She was hot on the heals of treacherous Remainer ex PM Tony Blair, who had been serepticiously advising the EU on the best way to keep Britain in the EU.  May is also a staunch Remainer, so her heart wasn’t in negotiating something she fundamentally disagrees with and it showed with the  deal that she came back with, a deal that basically kept Britain in the EU without a vote or a say in what goes on. That’s why it was defeated in the British parliament by the highest margin in British parliamentary history (and that is some history).

I’m disgusted with some of the people from the country of my birth these days. I have been watching the panic stricken politicans like staunch remainer Anna Saubry talk about leaving the EU saying it will be single biggest disaster to blight Britain since the second world war. The most panic sets in when they talk about a “hard Brexit” on 29th March 2019, meaning leaving the Europe with no trade deal with the EU in place and having to trade on the world stage…….wait for it…..shock, horror……..under world trade organization rules, like 90% of the countries in rest of the world. The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world and countries like Canada, US and Australia will be lining up behind the EU (after Brexit) to trade with it, without the mind crushing EU trade regulations that limit every aspect of UK trade. I heard one economist say that when everything settles down prices of food and goods in Britain will drop by 10 to 15%. Even now with the uncertainty of the current political situation the FTSI is up at record levels and the pound sterling is starting to rebound.

On a side note I find it highly amusing that the Republic of Ireland which spent centuries  and revolution removing itself from the yolk, austerity and  laws of the British Empire and the outrage of being ruled by politicians in London. Have now quite happily handed its sovereignty over to unelected eurocrats in Brussels. The same applies to Scotland.

But I digress. The worst possible thing that can happen now would be for the British parliament, who  are two thirds Remainers, will be to renege on the original referendum and have another vote. I heard one Remainer Labour MP, in justification for a vote redo, say that 1.4M people had died since the referendum and most of those people voted to leave, while 1.3M young people are now over 18 and would vote to stay. If Britain does have another vote it will prove that it is no longer a serious country on the world stage. It will also be a huge negative on every aspect of British life as it has already pitted neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. 

There are now less than 70 days to go until Brexit, get the popcorn out this will be interesting.

Finally some clarity……..

I was having a great deal of trouble trying to find out the ramifications of Bill 66, so I went to my good friend Chris Carrier for some clarity and insight. The following is our conversation yesterday, it’s not verbatim but close enough.

VFAN: So what’s all this about Bill 66? Am I correct with my assertions in my blog yesterday?

Chris Carrier: No VFAN you’re not, as per the legal opinion that I emailed you. Have you read it yet?

VFAN: I’ve been in a crawl space all morning and haven’t had a chance.

CC: It explains the ramifications of this bill quite nicely.

VFAN: Well what about the subsections that I mentioned in my blog, they seem to exclude the areas of concern?

CC: I agree that the bill’s wording is confusing, but in the instances you have pointed out you have to go to each of the separate pieces of legislation to get its full impact. When researching these types of things I usually go to actual legal opinions and avoid the left wing hyperbole.

VFAN: OK then, you were Mayor of Collingwood isn’t it a good thing for a municipality to have more control over environmental and clean water issues?

CC: When I was Mayor yes and with this current administration yes. But what about a town council that has Sandra Cooper as Mayor and Rick Lloyd as Deputy Mayor? With Paul Bonwick in and out of the Mayors office on a daily basis?

VFAN: ………long silence……. I see your point.

CC: You have a short memory my friend.

VFAN: I guess so.

CC: There are many good parts to this Bill, but in my mind they should have divided it into four different pieces of legislation instead of including twelve in one. Schedule 10 is particularly onerous and was bound to have everyone who already dislikes this government up in arms.

VFAN: I agree they need to slow down, but I think they are worried about not following through on campaign promises.

Then the conversation goes off to other subjects irrelevant to this blog.

So there you have it VFAN was schooled again by bigger and brighter minds than my own. Beyond the above conversation if someone wanted to send the cement trucks into Silvercreek wetlands, the Ontario environment minister still has to approve the project and I believe the ammendment that Farid and Brian drafted  dealt with that and the bill is only at first reading, so it’s a tad early to be getting our knickers in such a knot.

In regards to my blog on Monday, I got a bit of push back (privately) on my treatment of Deb and Steve. I was accused of “muck raking” and being like Chadwick. 

I have spoken to Steve at length and now have an understanding of his issues of public speaking. It’s due to a medical condition which I am not at liberty to discuss here. My apologies to Steve, I was not aware of this fact and will leave it alone in future posts.

In terms of Deb, I have the utmost respect for her and obviously voted for her. I maintain that if she is going to hold up council for close to an hour getting the Mayor and CAO to draft up an amendment to a motion, the least she can do is support it when it’s done. She had no intention of supporting this from the start and should have said that instead of the big show. I’m quite happy to discuss this with her if she calls me on it.

Lastly, now that we have a council that most of us are happy with I’ll have to find my feet with this blog. I will always call things as I see them even if that upsets some people. I will not just be the cheering section for this town council. I can gauge the relevance of what I have to say by the amount of views I get, so far I seem to be a relevant voice.

Collingwood Town Council Meeting 14/1/19 (Blazing Blunts Addition):

1. Following on from my observation in yesterdays post regarding Paul Bonwick’s sidekick Abby Stec. It all came together tonight at the town council meeting, it seems she now works for the Collingwood Youth Centre and was at the Mayors Levee in support of Ray Smith, Order of Collingwood and benefactor of The Collingwood Youth Centre. They had a presentation at tonight’s council meeting. (I hope Abby can get some time off for judicial inquiry duties).

2. Tonight was the night when the Cannabis vote happened. Municipalities have the option to opt in or out of allowing the sale of Maryjane within its boundaries. It was almost a full house,  and judging by the preponderance of Twinkies and Doritos being consumed by some of the audience members most were there to witness the vote.

3. Oddly, Steve Berman asked whether the dilapidated and soon to be condemned previous Macs Milk store at 6th and Oak St. would be suitable as a pot emporium. I’m not sure why Steve asked this question, maybe he was  hoping that it would be, it’s fairly close to his house. (I’m not suggesting Steve endulges, I have no idea). Anyway, it’s not the type of location that would get the thumbs up to peddle weed.

4. Keith Hull voiced what most of us already know; that this pot legislation and implementation is “half assed” and has not been given any serious thought by both levels of government. We all know that Justin wanted this in place to appease the stoner portion of his base. The Ford government would rather not have to deal with it, but they were not handing it over to more unionized public sector workers per the LCBO model.

5. Bob Madigan made a good point stating that it is more important where pot is smoked not where it is sold. Then promptly went back on what he said by supporting Kathy Jeffery’s failed bid to have Eddie Bush arena as another “safe zone” meaning no pot to be sold within two hundred meters of the arena, also meaning that if passed the whole of downtown would be cut off from selling Bud. Calmer heads prevailed and the motion was defeated 5 – 4 Jeffery, Madigan, Doherty, McLean voted for no pot downtown. 

6. They showed a map with all the areas that had all the no pot shops on it. Obviously not within two hundred meters of schools (that’s Blazing Barneys turf). Plus parks, soccer fields, YMCA, baseball diamonds, swimming pools etc. But it seems smoking a dube will be allowed in the same places as  cigarettes, which is literally nowhere except your basement bathroom with the fan on.

7. In an online poll 77% of residents voted in favour of our town opting in to allow the sale of pot. As a side note Clearview Township recently voted not to allow it to be sold in its municipality. They just grow it and smoke copious amounts of it.

8. Finally after much back and forth, we came to the part of the evening everyone had been waiting for – the big vote. Which passed unanimously. At that point most of the audience disappeared like the end of a blunt between a pair of tweezers. I didn’t go and look but I bet there was some celebratory blazing happening in the parking lot afterwards.

9. They may have been celebrating a tad too soon, there will be no more pot shops awarded in Ontario until December of this year. So it’s back to Blazing Barney you go.

10. Ok, now that I have run out of colloquialisms for the word Cannabis, it’s time to move on. The town has a slick new promo video on YouTube and soon to be on the upcoming new revamped town website, which can’t come too soon as the current one looks like Sandra Coopers Twitter feed. It is very slick with the exception of Bob Madigan looking like a complete dork in it (he said it, I never even noticed) and the Mayor looking and talking like Lurch from the Adams Family.

11. The following was the most frustrating part of the evening regarding Bill 66 or what I like to call the “Make Ontario Great Again Bill”, without the red hat. I intend to do a more detailed post about this bill in the near future, so I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it here. Section 10 of the bill deals with municipal governance and is designed to give control of certain aspects of governance back to municipalities. It should have been a rubber stamp unanimous vote to say to the Provs hell yeah we’ll take that back from Wynne’s nanny state thank you very much.

12. Deb Doherty had obviously been practicing her speech for weeks, because she went all “mother earth” on us and Tina Comi joined in for good measure. I’m not sure what Deb thinks will happen with this legislation the town still has environmental and health and safety standards that it has to adhere to, its not like we are suddenly going to start sending the cement trucks into Silvercreek wetlands. After about forty five minutes of drafting an amendment to go back to the Provs just for Deb. She snapped that she still couldn’t support the motion. Again calmer heads prevailed and it passed 7 – 2 with “Debs” amendment.

2019 Mayors Levee VFAN style:

1. I almost didn’t  write this blog today, because now at events like the Mayors Levee, with the absence of Cooper, Chadwick, Lloyd’s et al there is limited grist for the mill. In fact my good friend Bob Madigan offered to go and do something off the wall just to give me something to write about. The problem was we couldn’t think of anything he could do that would either get him arrested or have his wife not talk to him for most of next week.

2. There seemed to be a lot more people at the event this year. I wasn’t at the event last year, but every time I had attended prior to that Georgian Manor Resort had pulled the partition across two thirds of the way up the hall and the chairs ended around 20ft in front of that. This year the partition was open and the chairs were 10 rows past the partition (yes I counted). Standing room only prior to the event starting. Maybe it’s the absence of Sandra Coopers nails on a chalk board voice and stumbling speaking style.

3. I’m not trying to take anything away from the good people that recieved the awards today. I believe that volunteerism is the backbone of any small community, but the organizers should have put a time limit to the length of some of the award recipients speeches. I won’t mention any names, but I could feel the audience getting a little antsy at around the 15 minute mark of one of the folks speaking. Public speaking is an art form and it’s very difficult to hold an audiences attention for extended periods of time.

4. That did not apply to Dr. Farel Anderson a previous recipient of the Order of Collingwood (2009) and one of two recipients of Companion to the Order of Collingwood. I’m not really sure what that means, but needless to say I will never have to worry about it. I found Farel’s words timely and inspirational.

5. OK let’s get this one out of the way. During the election I was very hard on Tina Comi. By all accounts she is fitting into this new council very nicely and it looks like she will do a great job. My thought is that Tina did not know some of the nuances that were present in the local political scene. I offer my unconditional apology for the things that I wrote about her during the election.

6. I poked some fun at councilor Mariane McLeod and partner Charlie Rentner today.

Over the Christmas holidays they posted a picture, on Facebook, of the pair of them in matchy matchy one piece Hudson Bay jammies in front of the Christmas tree. When I first saw the pic I nearly threw up in my mouth it was so saccharine. That picture will definitely make a future VFAN candid camera.

7. In Brian Saunderson’s wrap up speech, he mentioned the money coming from the Collus sale, but conspicuously absent was any mention of the money from the sale of the airport ($4M). That got me asking some questions. A rumour that is floating around is that the flight school court action against the town, is being backed by none other than Mr. Paul Bonwick. You’d think he would have enough on his hands with the upcoming judicial inquiry.

8. Talking of Paul Bonwick. I noticed long term Compenso employee and someone that has been liberally mentioned in judicial inquiry documents Abby Stec was in attendance at the Levee. Very interesting!

9. Steve Berman needs to practice his public speaking. He has been a lion online and in his written word, but at council and at today’s event he seems timid and not comfortable in his own skin. I now imagine a bunch of you saying “How about you try and speak publicly Mr. VFAN know it all”. Well I didn’t run for public office did I, know it all blog reader.

10. Brian Saunderson was looking and talking very Mayoral today. Leadership, of the kind he brings to the table, is something that has been lacking in Collingwood for the past eight years. I take back my previous prediction that he would cut bait and try and climb the political ladder to the provincial level. I think Brian will be Mayor for many years.

The ineptitude and hypocrisy is astounding…..

I stumbled upon this post over the weekend and it succinctly puts into words what myself and, I think, a lot of people are starting to figure out:

John Feldsted Political Consultant & Strategist

With all the fuss over the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline project, one would think that British Columbia was under siege from petroleum interests. That is an epic fairy tale.

Our federal government should have the same approach to petroleum pipelines no matter where they are proposed or built.

Similarly, movement of oil by ship should be the same no matter what part of Canada movement is in.

The facts tell an entirely different story:

Few people are aware that the East Coast of Canada has about 4,000 inbound trips by oil tankers each year. Tankers account for about one fifth of the 20,000 inbound vessel trips on the East Coast.

Over 82 million tonnes of various petroleum and fuel products are moved in and out of 23 Atlantic Canada ports. Almost all the movement of crude oil and petroleum products in Atlantic Canada is through the following ports:

* Come by Chance, Newfoundland and Labrador

* Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia

* Saint John, New Brunswick

In Quebec, 25 million tonnes of crude oil and various petroleum products are moved in and out of 39 ports where cargo is loaded or unloaded.

Eighty-nine per cent of the shipments of crude oil and various petroleum products are through Quebec City and Montreal.

Over 4.1 million tonnes of oil products are moved from 29 marine facilities in and out of ports in the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway. Of this:

* over 1.8 million tonnes are shipped between Canada and the United States

* over 2.3 million tonnes are imported/exported in and out of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Seaway system.

The Canada East pipeline would have disrupted the vested interests who import and refine foreign crude.

The screaming of Montreal politicians over building the Energy East pipeline has nothing to do with protecting the ecology or preventing oil spills unless we overlook the hazards of marine shipping and ignore Montreal pouring a few million liters of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. It is all a smokescreen to allow investors in the current setup to continue to make money.

The screaming out of British Columbia has nothing to do with ecology. British Columbians are attempting to punish corporations and provinces that produce petroleum products for no better reason than they feel good about themselves as a result. Perhaps we should ban fishing, declare a moratorium on west coast vacations and ban passenger liners from west coast ports in retaliation.

British Columbians and their Premier don’t care about $ billions in infrastructure investment and the jobs created, the income to provinces and the federal government or lost tax revenues that can help pay for the services we need.


Please let me know if you can fathom why tanker traffic is barred from the coastline of British Columbia but not Quebec. The hypocrisy and double standards are blatantly obvious and unacceptable.

The notion that a pipeline company must account for downstream effects of product shipped is ludicrous. If we ship crude to a terminal on the west coast and it is bought by China or another Pacific Rim nation we cannot be held accountable for carbon emissions of the importing nation. That is where ideologues like McKenna and Trudeau are dangerous. They believe they can impose their utopian standards on other nation while their inane policies are strangling our economy at home.

Even worse, the environmental standards imposed on Canadian projects do not apply to foreign oil imports. Our government is making it harder for us to become energy self-sufficient. Why would we import oil rather than produce oil for our own use? Something stinks and it is not Alberta bitumen.

We need grownups at the federal helm; people who put the well-being of the entire nation and our society first. Our Prime Minister preaches diversity and inclusiveness while practicing exclusion and divisiveness. The BC Premier is behaving like a pampered and spoiled brat who does not want anyone else to touch his toys. There is sound reason why interprovincial works projects are under federal jurisdiction – to prevent the very sort of localized spanner-in-the-works behaviour by one province over the interests of others. The BC exclusivity is the exact opposite of the inclusiveness Trudeau preaches. The contradiction is palpable and emphasised by federal government inaction.

Trudeau is a laughingstock amongst world leaders. He arrives in foreign nations  preaching climate change, gender equality, progressive trade, diversity and inclusion. Some governments are politer than others in telling him to hit the road and mind his own business. He is not an emissary for the United Nations and does not speak for most Canadians.

More and more of us are fed up with his social engineering and attempts to change our society to reflect his personal beliefs. We are not his minions or mini-Trudeaus. We did fine without Justin for 148 years and will survive his ineptness.

John Feldsted

Political Consultant & Strategist

Winnipeg, Manitoba
Different strokes and divisive politics