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FILDEBRANDT: Hold Equalization referendum now, or never

Between a listening panel and an independence vote, Kenney has a middle option available to him: move up the Equalization referendum from fall 2021, to early 2020.

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The national press gallery finally seems to get it: Westerners are angry. Quite angry, actually. 

Since Monday’s Trudeau victory and a new parliamentary math giving the NDP and Bloc Québécois a veto over legislation, it has dawned on Canada’s professional navel gazers that something may be wrong in Fly-Over-Country. 

As Westerners begin to openly question continued membership in confederation, pressure is mounting on premiers Kenney and Moe to do more than talk. Both premiers issued letters to Trudeau the day after the federal vote with a list of suggestions that would help to smooth the waters, namely repealing anti-pipeline legislation and tweaks to Equalization payments. 

Neither are likely to happen. Trudeau has doubled down on his bills effectively banning all new pipelines after TransMountain, and even the federal Tories refused to broach the subject of Equalization, let alone pledge to reform it. There isn’t a single MP from any party elected to the new Parliament with a mandate to discuss Equalization. 

Scratch that. There are 32 Bloc MPs elected all committed to an additional new “Green Equalization,” designed with explicit intent to plunder the energy producing economies to enrich the others. Mostly Quebec. 

The very best Westerners can expect from Ottawa on Equalization is to maintain the status quo $19 billion program. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

In Alberta, Jason Kenney was elected on a popular pledge to hold a referendum on Equalization. This pledge became slowly watered down in the period between his run for the UCP leadership in 2017, and the general election in 2019. In that period, several caveats were attached. In contrast to the 2017 pledge to just hold the vote, by 2019 it would only be held if Alberta didn’t have another pipeline by then, and if the anti-oil bills passed by the Liberals weren’t repealed. The vote itself would be pushed off to be held in conjunction with the 2021 fall municipal elections, two years from now.

While the act of holding the vote would provide a relief valve for steaming Albertans, its success would almost certainly be to highlight Alberta’s impotence in confederation. Albertans’ support for the vote would send the issue as a constitutional reform to Ottawa where it will be quickly shot down, likely with the help of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. From there, nothing happens. 

Many already see where this is headed, and are turning instead towards independence. WEXIT’s Facebook group (an admittedly unscientific measure of support) exploded from 2,000 members on Monday afternoon, to more than a quarter of a million two days later. 

Alberta Independence Party President Todd Beasley openly called for merger talks between his party and the sovereigntist Freedom Conservative Party, while WEXIT is collecting signatures to register as a federal party.

Kenney has pledged his support as a federalist for Alberta’s continued membership in confederation, but promised that he will appoint a panel to listen to the frustrations of Albertans. It’s a smart move, but is unlikely to succeed in doing what Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid put as “catch Alberta lightning in a bottle, and put a cork in it.”

Former Harper cabinet minister and Kenney ally Jay Hill urged the Alberta premier to cancel the 2021 Equalization referendum, and replace it with an immediate vote on independence. Hill believes that independence pressure can be kept within the confines of the Alberta United Conservative Party and the Saskatchewan Party, but only if they move quickly. I’m less convinced that the two federalist premiers will turn so abruptly. 

Between a listening panel and an independence vote, Kenney has a middle option available to him: move up the Equalization referendum from fall 2021, to early 2020. He would be wise to expand the scope of the vote beyond Equalization to include a package of constitutional demands highlighted in Project Confederation’s New Alberta Agenda. Namely, constitutional amendments for a triple-E Senate and renewed interprovincial free-trade, and implementing firewall provisions for Alberta’s withdraw from participation in federal programs like the RCMP, EI, and CPP.

A move this bold may not be enough for staunch separatists, but it would likely nip the movement in the bud. If Ottawa accepted. 

But Ottawa probably won’t. And that might be what Kenney fears most. Having put forward reasonable demands for fairness and equality in confederation and been rejected by Ottawa, Albertans may well conclude that the time for talk is over. 

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher, President & CEO of Western Standard New Media Corp. He served from 2015-2019 as a Member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly in the Wildrose and Freedom Conservative parties. From 2009-2014 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Danny Hangartner

    November 3, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    There’s so much more than this mentioned Equalization referendum to address concerning Alberta’s loss of money. It’s a deflection!

    We deserve the whole picture. Not a different pile.

    We need someone such as an Armed Forces Veteran to keep Albertans calm. https://www.facebook.com/norman.wiebe/ Norman is such a person and born and raised in Alberta.

  2. CanadianReport

    October 28, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you, we’ve shared this article, the 1st of many, here … https://thecanadianreport.ca/

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Opinion

MORGAN: Albertans need real recall legislation now

“The UCP needs to bring their recall legislation back to the legislature, correct the flaws in it, and proclaim it into active law as soon as possible.”

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Nobody should have the ability to remove an elected official from office aside from the electors who put them there in the first place. Recalling a politician should never be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible either.

If some of the allegations against embattled Calgary City Councilor Sean Chu prove to be true, there will be little the constituents of Ward 4 will be able to do about it, other than ask him to step down. Chu doesn’t face any criminal charges nor has he been convicted of any, which would be required for any legal by other councillors to expel him. It would be up to Chu to decide if he wants to continue to sit as city councilor until the end of his term or not.

Even if Chu can provide proof exonerating himself of the acts he has been accused of, a terrible flaw in our electoral system has been exposed. Alberta needs viable voter recall legislation. Citizens need to be empowered to fire elected officials before the end of their term in exceptional circumstances.

Recall legislation was a key promise made by Jason Kenney and the UCP in the last election. While the government did table a form of recall legislation in the last legislative session, it was an anemic, nearly useless bill, and the government hasn’t bothered itself to formally proclaim it into active law yet.

Even if the new recall legislation was active right now, it couldn’t be applied in Chu’s case. The legislation doesn’t allow a recall to be initiated until at least one and-a-half years after the most recent election. While this clause was built in to prevent people from trying to frivolously recall politicians the day after an election, it leaves a gaping hole in the intent. In both Chu’s and Liberal MP George Chahal’s cases for example, allegations of wrongdoing surfaced literally within days of their having been elected.

While the need to recall elected officials is thankfully rare, it happens often enough to demonstrate a need for viable legislation. The Alberta Party had not one, but two of its former candidates convicted of child sex crimes. What would have happened if they had been elected? In 2018, former Wildrose MLA Don MacIntyre was charged with heinous child sex crimes. MacIntyre resigned and was subsequently convicted of sexual interference. Had MacIntyre refused to resign however, the constituents of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake would have had to endure being represented by a convicted and imprisoned child sex predator until the 2019 election.

Many Albertans can remember the bizarre saga of Lethbridge city councilor Dar Heatherington. Heatherington made international headlines when she disappeared from a conference in Montana. She later surfaced in Las Vegas and claimed she had been abducted and raped. An investigation later found Heatherington had fabricated the entire episode along with other stories of a fictional stalker. Heatherington was eventually convicted of mischief which allowed the Lethbridge city council to have her removed from her seat. The issue began with rage, but later turned into pity as it became evident Heatherington was suffering from serious mental illness. Recall would have been an act of mercy for her and her family were she not convicted.

Kenney’s recall legislation is an unworkable bill modeled to pay lip service to the principle of recall but is built in such a way it will likely never be used. The bar for petitioning is set too high, and the timelines for petitioning are far too tight. Even in the most egregious of cases, it would be exceedingly difficult for any elected official to be recalled.

Kenney’s reticence in providing viable recall legislation to Albertans has managed to come back to haunt him. Pressure is being put upon both Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver to intervene and somehow block Chu from taking his seat on council. There likely is little the provincial government can do in this case since Chu hasn’t been criminally charged, much less convicted of anything. Chu’s sanctions were from within the police force, not the justice system. Kenney could have taken the pressure off himself if he had given Albertans recall legislation as he had promised. Kenney could have pointed to it today and said the issue was in the hands of the voters of Ward 4.

Adding salt to the wound, is the fact that Kenney has allowed the Recall Act it sit in legislative limbo, unproclaimed into active law despite being long ago passed by the legislature. The cynics among us may suspect he may fear its use against him and his caucus.

We need a mechanism to remove elected officials from office before their term is up if they prove to be unfit for office. We can’t put that power into the hands of other elected officials who would inevitably abuse it. Do we really want to see the premier able to fire elected mayors and councils in Alberta? In looking at how vitriolic and tribal some municipal councils are, could you imagine what would happen if these councils and mayors had the ability to fire each other? Former Calgary Mayor Haheed Nenshi and his gang on Calgary city council likely would have had Jeromy Farkas kicked out of city hall within his first year in office for being a nuisance.

The UCP needs to bring their recall legislation back to the legislature, correct the flaws in it, and proclaim it into active law as soon as possible. The wheel does not need to be reinvented here. Workable recall legislation exists in many jurisdictions. Electors deserve nothing less.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Maskless Maintoba ministers get free pass from top health doc

However, since 99.999% of Manitobans don’t get to go to a ball, let’s look at other indoor situations they regularly find themselves in. 

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Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin essentially leapt to the defense of three cabinet ministers — including the health minister — who appeared maskless at a recent ball.

Roussin gave the ministers a pass for taking a photo wearing no masks at last weekend’s event held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

“For the most part, that mask should be on. There are brief periods where it’s reasonable for it to come off,” said Roussin. “If it was simply to remove a mask for the purposes of getting a photograph, and then you put it back on, then … that’s in keeping with advice we’ve provided.”

Well, it wasn’t quite ‘simply’ that. 

Unmasked Health Minister Audrey Gordon, Minister of Families Rochelle Squires and Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage Cathy Cox posed for a photo with three other women. 

Squires posted it to her Instagram page. (Do you think the other two are still talking to her for outing them? Maybe eating at different lunch table at the legislature shooting glare darts in between bites?? Did they unfriend her on social media yet?)

Yes, yes, Gordon and Squires said they were really, very sorry. Gordon and Cox adamantly said they had removed their masks to eat, then spontaneously jumped up only to take the photo. 

Hmmm … is that really the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

It isn’t.

Manitoba COVID-19 public health orders require mask use in all indoor public places, with some exemptions, including temporarily removing masks to eat, drink, give a speech or receive a service that requires them to be removed.

On Monday, Roussin issued a dire prediction that all harsh rules will likely remain in place through to spring.

Roussin said he wasn’t familiar with all of details of what transpired at the ball, so let’s enlighten the good doctor.

Squires posted another photo. She was seated at a table. Gordon and Cox, Winnipeg city Councilor Marcus Chambers, and several other people were standing behind her. No masks. No social distancing. None of that.

Roussin didn’t specifically elaborate on mask protocol while standing and socializing at balls. 

Thankfully, Manitobans can follow the health minister’s lead on acceptable guidelines.

However, since 99.999% of Manitobans don’t get to go to a ball, let’s look at other indoor situations they regularly find themselves in. 

An indoor venue is an indoor venue, right?

Surely the same rules apply to both politicians and regular folk in all indoor situations.

So, go ahead, be like Gordon. If you’re at the grocery store and see people you know, or even people you don’t know, by all means, rip off those cumbersome masks, stand really close, and visit — chat up a storm as long as you like. 

Same applies for acceptable mask protocol in Walmart, Home Depot, the gas station, school hallways, drug stores, the kid’s hockey game, etc.

And if the mask police descend and try to give you a $298 ticket — just whip out a copy of the photo of the health minister doing exactly that at an indoor event when tough COVID-19 mask restrictions are in place.

Remind them in a reasonable, calm manner the ministers have not been slapped with such silly fines. So, you shouldn’t be either.

And go ahead, post photos of the visits on Instagram, Facebook, wherever. Squires did that. So, there’s apparently nothing to hide.

The defense rests, your Honour. 

The only problem is — unlike the cabinet ministers — you probably wouldn’t get a pass.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

SELICK: If the gov’t wants to kick the unvaccinated off healthcare, then give us back our taxes & let us pay for our own

If the unvaxxed are to be excluded from government services, refund their taxes.

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The Ontario Vaccine Contact Centre phoned me bright and early Monday morning to ask whether I’d like information on where I could get vaccinated.

I wanted information, all right — but not about where I could get vaccinated. I wanted to know where they had got my phone number, and what made them select me for such a phone call. My family doctor had retired in March and I didn’t think it was anyone else’s business to keep track of what medical procedures I had undergone since then.

The young lady never got her question answered, but she did answer mine. Her phone call resulted from a project of the Ontario government to correlate vaccination records with OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) coverage. As an Ontario resident, I am of course covered by the government-owned health insurance plan.

They got my phone number from my OHIP records. They’ve been combing through those records looking for individuals who aren’t also in the COVID vaccination database, and that’s why they chose to call me. It’s official now: all unvaccinated Ontarians  can expect such a call eventually.

She had a prepared script for dealing with recalcitrant refuseniks like me. The statutory authority for this intrusive data transfer, she read, is paragraph 37(1)(c) of the Personal Health Information Protection Act. That’s a misnamed statute if ever there was one. I’d call it the Personal Health Information Invasion Act. She even volunteered the phone numbers of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in case I wanted to lodge a complaint.

But she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me whether the intrusions would escalate if I continued to defy the government’s wishes that I be vaccinated.

My suspicion is that my OHIP coverage will eventually be suspended or canceled if I fail to comply. Twitter is already rife with such suggestions, and CTV news seems to be drumming up support for this by commissioning a public opinion poll in which almost two-thirds of Canadians supported the idea of refusing treatment to “threatening or disrespectful patients who are unvaccinated against COVID-19.” CTV apparently believes all unvaccinated patients are by definition threatening and disrespectful, because they didn’t ask how respondents felt about providing treatment to respectful, non-threatening unvaccinated people.

Already, Alberta residents have reported incidents of being denied health care due to their unvaccinated status.

In Colorado, people awaiting kidney transplants were recently notified their applications are being “inactivated” if they’re unvaccinated.

My concern, therefore, is not an idle one. There are many people who’d like to see unvaccinated people denied health care, and they’re pushing governments to implement such policies.

Personally, I’d be willing to forego OHIP coverage under two conditions. First, I shouldn’t have to pay taxes for something I’m not getting. Ontario’s 2020-21 budget shows health care outlays constitute 42% of the province’s base program expenditures. Therefore, if they’d refund 42% of my provincial taxes (income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, property tax, etc.) plus 42% of the federal transfer payment that came out of my federal taxes, that would provide a tidy sum out of which to pay privately for direct health services and private health insurance.

But condition two would have to be satisfied as well: the government would have to eliminate its monopoly on the provision of health insurance, hospitals, and medical licensure.

Let the unvaccinated have our tax money back to purchase goods and services in a free market, and I’ll gladly let the vaccinated wallow in their decrepit socialist system without troubling them for help. Let dissenting medical doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors and other complementary practitioners practice according to their professional judgment without fear of de-licensing and I’ll take my chances.

In truth, I already do. I hadn’t actually seen my former doctor since June 2019, and I didn’t usually go more than once a year. OHIP was already spending far less on me than on the average person, who makes 2.8 doctor visits per year. As a senior, I’m theoretically entitled to have government-paid prescriptions for any of 4,400 different drugs — but I don’t use a single one of them, unlike the average person in my age who reportedly fills 8.3 drug prescriptions annually.

It’s not mere happenstance that I have fewer ailments than average. I spend my own after-tax dollars on organic food, nutritional supplements, exercise equipment and more exotic health maintenance devices such as infrared light therapy. I also spend many hours keeping informed about the science of wellness and life extension.

I have long resented paying taxes to provide obsolete and often counterproductive “health care” to those less conscientious than I am about their own well-being. My resentment is now reaching new heights, as the ignorant accuse me of causing sickness by not taking an injection which even the CDC now admits doesn’t live up to its promises of near-total prevention of either viral transmission or infection.

Let’s go our own separate ways— vaxxed and unvaxxed. Time will tell who made the smarter decision.

Selick is a Western Standard columnist

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