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MORGAN: So, you want an Independent West?

If you want to set Western independence back another 20 years, hold a referendum tomorrow and take a double digit loss. We need to do a lot of groundwork first.

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Welcome to the club. I have been here a long time and since leading the Alberta Independence Party into the 2001 provincial election I have never seen regionalist sentiment explode like it has today. If a lasting movement is going to form which will eventually lead to the secession of Alberta and/or other Western provinces & territories it has to be done right. I have learned some things while running in separatist circles these last couple decades. 

To begin with, you need patience. I know. You’re done. You’re furious. You’re done with confederation and you want out yesterday. You have to remember though that despite the general fury of Albertans right now, most still will not be ready to pull the trigger to go when push comes to shove. I see people demanding a referendum on secession right now. People will vote yes in internet polls and formal polls in great numbers but I can assure you that if the real question was before them in a voting booth today, support would be 25% at best. If you want to set Western independence back another 20 years, hold a referendum tomorrow and take a double digit loss. We need to do a lot of groundwork first. 

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you really mean it. Are you just raging today or are you in this for the long game? If you try to keep one foot on either side of the line, you will simply damage the movement. When the Alberta Independence Party of 2001 embraced the mantra of “separation if necessary, but not necessarily separation”, they neutered themselves right out of the gate. Set the goal as independence and keep your eye on the prize. Be honest about it. If you just want to use the threat of secession as a tool to express rage, you will only damage the movement.

Preston Manning & Stephen Harper in the Reform Party

Understand and spread the word that it is the system of confederation that is broken rather than just the party which is at the head of it today. The realization that we are hamsters on a wheel and will always remain the lapdogs of confederation no matter which party is at the top is what creates true and permanent secessionists. Trudeau will be gone one day but will Alberta’s fate be any better in the long run? How did we do under Mulroney? Harper was less damaging than a Liberal Prime Minister would be but did he reform equalization? Did he end supply management? Did he cut the massive subsidies poured into Quebec in so many ways? Did he implement or even encourage even one element of the “Alberta Agenda” which he co-authored? Of course not. To do so would be political suicide. The system forces Prime Ministers to cater to Central Canada at the expense of the West no matter what. 

For an independence movement to gain popular support, it has to begin by weeding out and isolating the crazies. Vocal nutbars have killed countless nascent movements of all types. Conspiracy theorists, religious extremists, racists and pretty much every other type of fringe lunatics are always drawn to small movements. They like to feel like a big fish in a small pond and independence groups and parties have provided a home for them for some time now. Oh I know the vast majority of independence supporters are genuine and sane people. They always have been. Given a platform though, a tiny minority of lunatics can drag down a large majority of rational people in a movement quickly. The wackos need to be sidelined ASAP.

We need to clean up our own back yard first if we want to build a realistic secessionist movement. I didn’t bother calling openly for secession for the last 12 years or so because I knew that it was hopeless unless we could demonstrate that we would act better on our own. How could we do that when our provincial governments run massive deficits and infringe upon individual rights? We have finally shed the NDP government which is a great step. Now lets see some movement towards responsible provincial management so that we can climb upon the high horse that we need. My response to folks pushing secessionism in the last four years has been “Would you want to separate and have to say ‘President Notley’”?

We have to build the foundation of an independent Alberta before we put it to the question. Let’s dig up and implement that “Alberta Agenda”. Form that provincial pension plan. Form a provincial police force. Collect our own taxes. Take solid control of every tool within provincial jurisdiction without apology. Want to create permanent secessionists? There are few better ways than walking down the path towards provincial autonomy within confederation only to be attacked and possibly shut down by the federal central powers. Rest assured central Canada will not take kindly to Alberta trying to distance itself from their control in any way. 

Let’s get on with that referendum on equalization. This will be a great referendum practice run for us. It will also bring out and expose the vitriol and anti-Alberta sentiment from central Canada as they will attack us for daring to stand up for ourselves and attacking the status-quo which serves them so well. Even if an overwhelming majority of Albertans vote to dump equalization, it is very unlikely that the divisive program will be ended, much less reformed. That builds the support for the next referendum though which will be based on the Clarity Act. 

When Alberta has tried to use every tool within confederation to take care of itself only to find itself remaining in an abusive relationship, we will reach that tipping point where an independence vote becomes truly viable. The final tool is a referendum on independence and we have to be careful not to invoke it before it is time. When we see a Facebook page such as Wexit go from 20,000 members to over 220,000 members in a matter of two days, we are indeed seeing a groundswell of secessionist sentiment unlike any seen before. Bear in mind though that secession will need the support of millions in order to happen and that support will have to run deeper than clicking “like” on a Facebook page. We are well on our way today but we have to tread with care if we want to turn this into a lasting movement rather than an enraged flash in the pan. 

Opinion

PARKER: Kenney is the wolf in sheep’s clothing

“Alberta conservatives were deceived by one of Canada’s greatest political showmen. He bought a new blue truck, put on a cowboy hat, and sang us a Siren’s song.” – David Parker, Guest Columnist

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Guest Column: David Parker was the Regional Organizer for Central Alberta on the 2017 Jason Kenney Leadership Campaign and GOTV Membership Chair of the Wildrose Unity Campaign

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus gives his followers a warning, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Whether you are a Christian, follow another creed, or simply a person who cares about freedom, we should always pay attention to those who claim to be prophets. Jason Kenney came to Alberta as a kind of secular prophet. He claimed that he would unite the Wildrose and PC parties, restore the Alberta Advantage, defeat Ottawa, and lead his people back to the proverbial Promised Land. 

Now, he puts preachers in jail, destroys small businesses, takes on record levels of debt, and fills our province with fear. 

Even worse, he is not a leader. His true talents lay in being the right-hand man to a leader; but he has proven himself unable to make clear decisions or even adhere to any real comprehensive set of principles. He claims to be a conservative; but he has his government buy up and subsidize private businesses with record levels of corporate welfare. He says he is a man of faith (and he probably is); but he crushes those who wish to practice their faith in a manner that disagrees with his government’s authoritarian policies. 

This is evident from many angles; but the most obvious example of it is how he ran nominations. He is an authoritarian. I was the campaign manager for Rita Reich’s nomination race in Lacombe – Ponoka (one of Kenney’s staunchest supporters during both the PC and UCP leadership races). He disqualified her over a single Facebook post that said Hitler was actually a socialist. That was it, it did not praise Hitler, it just said that Hitler was a socialist based on the fact that he led something called the National Socialist German Workers Party, and repeatedly referred to himself as a “revolutionary socialist”. He did this to a woman who had him to her house for BBQs with hundreds of people and who sold hundreds of memberships in support of him. Why? It was easier for him to simply disqualify her than let her challenge a sitting MLA in a nomination. 

The list of loyal people that Jason Kenney has used and discarded is long and full of many very talented people. The worst case of this is perhaps the story of Caylan Ford, who Kenney praised as his, “political love at first sight” and who the UCP used in much of their campaign digital and visual messaging. When she encountered a targeted and malicious attack from a bad actor within the conservative movement, he dumped her as a candidate and left her to bleed out under the wrath of the SJW mob. Kenney folds to cancel culture like a cheap house of cards. Just like he bows to Rachel Notley when she calls for more lockdowns.

Alberta conservatives were deceived by one of Canada’s greatest political showmen. He bought a new blue truck, put on a cowboy hat, and sang us a Siren’s song. We don’t have to keep believing him. His actions have shown us who he truly is. 

The mask is dropped. We can now see as clearly as day that the sheep is truly a wolf. 

Guest Column: David Parker was the Regional Organizer for Central Alberta on the 2017 Jason Kenney Leadership Campaign and GOTV Membership Chair of the Wildrose Unity Campaign

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Opinion

SCOTT: Supreme Court injustice allows Ottawa to rule all

“In one fell swoop the Supreme Court of Canada has gutted any meaningful provincial jurisdiction, creating an untenable situation that, if left to stand, will add unbearable tension to the federation.” Mike Scott

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Guest Column from Mike Scott, Reform MP for Skeena, BC from 1993-2000.

The recent Supreme Court decision, which provides legal cover for the Trudeau government’s usurpation of provincial jurisdiction on carbon taxes, should be of immense concern to all Canadians.

In essence, the Supreme Court did not take issue with the argument put forward by three provinces that the federal government’s carbon tax is an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. 

What the majority on the court did accept is the Liberal government’s argument that such an intrusion is justified under the rubric “Peace Order and Good Government (POGG)”.

On the face of it, this is an astounding conclusion.

POGG was never intended to be a substitute for clear, constitutionally delineated jurisdictions, nor a tool for constitutional monkey wrenching.

This is a clear case of an activist court seeking justification – no matter how thin – to endorse a progressive political agenda.

First, the court is clearly taking sides in a public policy debate and the reasons for judgement underscore this. Public policy arbitration was never intended to be the purview of the court and, by venturing into this highly charged political debate, it is signaling a willingness to take ever more activist positions.

Citizens don’t get to vote for judges – the prime minister appoints – but it is vital to the credibility of the institution that the court remains assiduously neutral. Jurisdictional disputes must be weighed against the metric of the constitution and adjudicated based on longstanding principles of law – jurisprudence – not creative or specious arguments.

Secondly, by accepting the federal government’s “POGG” argument, one can see the door has now been swung wide open for future intrusions. This is the slippery slope the Supreme Court’s decision has set us on. Going forward, all the feds need to do is invoke “POGG” – there will be no judicial recourse for the provinces.

This is exceedingly dangerous for confederation. As the provinces come to understand that their constitutional jurisdictions are trumped by POGG – with the collusion of the high Court – what recourse do they have?

There is already far too much political power concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. Adding the Supreme Court to the list of institutions lined up against the country’s regions is exceedingly provocative. When, on this continuum, do we reach a tipping point?

It is worth quoting the dissenting voice of Supreme Court Justice Russel Brown who brilliantly spells out the ramifications.

“It is not possible for a matter formerly under provincial jurisdiction to be transformed, when minimum national standards are invoked…This would open up any area of provincial jurisdiction to unconstitutional fedreral intrusion once parliament decides to legislate uniform treatment”

Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Rowe, also in dissent, cogently adds; 

“Canada’s proposed doctrinal expansion of national concern should be rejected because it departs in a marked and unjustified way from the jurisprudence of the court and, if adopted, it will provide a broad and open pathway for further incursions into what has been exclusive provincial jurisdiction. (the act) is not an exercise in cooperative federalism; rather, it is the means to enforce supervisory federalism”

The Supreme Court’s willingness to allow POGG as a means to justify abrogating a clear provincial jurisdiction, is a threat to the regions of Canada that is unprecedented. It is an egregious assault on one of the very foundational principles of our constitution – the division of powers between the provinces and the federal government. 

In one fell swoop the Supreme Court of Canada has gutted any meaningful provincial jurisdiction, creating an untenable situation that, if left to stand, will add unbearable tension to the federation.

All provinces – particularly those in the West with significant energy resources – should see the writing on the wall.

Guest Column from Mike Scott, Reform MP for Skeena, BC from 1993-2000.

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Opinion

HARDING: Saskatchewan budget could have been worse

“It should be a disappointing budget for fiscal conservatives, but compared to the plans laid out in Ottawa and Alberta, it could be a lot worse.” – Lee Harding

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As lockdowns return with a vengeance, the backlash in the West is markedly stronger than in the East. Saskatchewan’s crackdown has been a bit lighter than in most provinces, and was the first last year to have a plan for how and when lockdowns would be lifted. While residents of so many provinces are under virtual house arrest, Saskatchewan is not quite so bad. 

That’s the same assessment we can give the budget. It’s the province’s highest deficit ever, but it could be worse.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer forecasts $14.5 billion in revenues, a 6.1% increase from last fiscal year. Meanwhile, expenditures will rise to $17.1 billion, a 6.3% increase from 2020-21. Although that gap is ‘only’ $2.6 billion, that’s government math at work. In reality, provincial debt will rise by $4.2 billion this fiscal year, bringing the all-time debt total to $27.8 billion. 

COVID-19 lockdowns, of course, are the elephant in the room, shrinking revenues and adding expenses. The budget listed $1.5 billion in spending as “COVID-19 supports.” This includes $90 million more for the health sector response, $20.7 million for Saskatchewan schools, and $6.8 million for the northern isolation program. To call the rest of the list a pandemic response is a bit of a stretch:

  • $488 million in capital spending;
  • $285 million for the SGI rebate;
  • $200 million to clean up inactive oil wells;
  • $174 million in SaskPower rebates;
  • $66 million for the home renovation tax credit;
  • $64 million for the small business tax reduction.

Inactive oil wells have nothing to do with COVID-19, nor does handling them address any pandemic-related problem. The small business tax reduction might be welcome, but businesses that took losses or went bankrupt during the pandemic will not benefit whatsoever. The government is loading its “pandemic response” spend with mostly non-pandemic related items to justify its large deficit. 

On the positive side, capital spending might provide a few jobs, but it would have been required anyway. Home renovations have at least a little relevance, given the lockdowns have given people more reason to spend time there, or even cause to carve out a home office. The tax break will come in handy given that current lumber costs are through the roof (pardon the pun).

Other initiatives are low-key – a little more for this – a little more for that. In this respect, Moe is following in the Brad Wall tradition of a steady-as-she-goes approach where the government refuses to make large promises or grandiose ideas doomed to fail in a bureaucracy’s reverse-Midas touch; one where things turn to lead, not gold, as government gets bigger.

NDP leader Dr. Ryan Meili used terms like “half-measures” and “uninspiring” to describe the budget. He wants a jobs plan and more government money for those affected by the pandemic. The problem is that everyone has been affected by the pandemic. More government responses would only recycle taxpayers’ money through inefficient intrusions. Besides, one could argue that most government responses to the pandemic have been worse than the disease itself. 

Meili’s NDP, some unions, and the media have left some unduly afraid of the coronavirus. This provides a small political alibi for why the province has not lifted the lockdowns altogether. In Montana, Texas, Florida and many other states, gathering limits have vanished altogether, business curfews have stopped, and the mask mandate has expired. In North Dakota, restaurants are allowed 80% capacity, up to 300 people. Ballrooms have 75% capacity. Mask mandates expired in January.

If Saskatchewan acted like these neighbouring border states, it would become a haven of freedom and a place of sensibility in a country full of senseless restrictions. Ask what someone could do in a Saskatchewan springtime, and the answer “normal life” would be enough. Heck, even religious conventions could draw outsiders in to spend money (but maybe not much on liquor). By contrast, Alberta is building fences around churches and sends in the armed police, measures normally reserved for radical theocracies or authoritarian regimes.

Most citizens have a measure of respect for governments that keep their promises, regardless of what they are. By this measure, the Saskatchewan Party delivered, following through on commitments made in last fall’s election. The primary exception is that balanced budgets originally slated for 2024 have been pushed back to 2026-27. 

There is hardly a government on the planet – let alone Canada – that has stuck to a balanced budget plan over more than a four-year term in government. The political discipline just doesn’t exist. Moe might get to it eventually if the NDP remain relatively uncompetitive; maybe.   

It should be a disappointing budget for fiscal conservatives, but compared to the plans laid out in Ottawa and Alberta, it could be a lot worse. 

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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