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FILDEBRANDT: Firing its own investigator, UCP looks a lot like Toryland

The government insisted it was just a routine cost-cutting measure. In this case, trimming 0.0003448% of the budget.

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Parties tell themselves lies all the time. Practical, big-tent politics would nearly be impossible without them. They are the corks in the dyke of inconsistency that large, brokerage parties must use to keep the whole edifice together. The NDP certainly had their share of them, and the Tories have been racking up the score in its first seven months in office, but the bombshell dropped Monday afternoon isn’t a cork in a small hole. It’s a boulder wedged in a gaping wound. 

Finance Minister Travis Toews introduced Bill 22 with the casual title ‘Reform of Agencies, Boards and Commissions and Government Enterprises Act, 2019,’ a bill that theoretically could do some good in streamlining the Byzantine network of quasi-government bodies. Whatever good the bill was intended to do – slipped in like a single film frame in Fight Club – is a section to abolish the Office of the Alberta Election Commissioner. 

The Election Commissioner has been doggedly investigating events around the 2017 Tory leadership race and has thus far levied more than $200,000 in fines for illegal donations. Those investigations are not yet over, and have been expanded to include voter fraud and identity theft. All of it swirls around the highest ranks of the party, but has not yet landed directly on Premier Kenney himself. 

Of course, the Tories will claim they are innocent no matter what, while the NDP will claim that the Tories are guilty as sin regardless of the facts. That is why the independent Election Commissioner’s office exists. Like any human organization, it is capable of making mistakes; but if mistakes are made, they can be appealed to the courts. Thus far, the Tories have filed no such appeal. 

Their appeal is not to the courts, but to the raw political muscle of a majority government. With their majority, they intend to abolish the office and move its functions into Elections Alberta. For good measure, they pre-emptively invoked closure on all three stages of debate.

The NDP rightly called this grossly anti-democratic, but had to plug a cork into one of their own holes of inconsistency. They routinely invoked debate closure against the Wildrose and PCs. They even teamed up with the UCP to invoke for the first time in Alberta’s history “pre-closure” of all debate whatsoever on a motion to expel independents and small parties from many committee positions. 

In Alberta’s two-party legislature, neither party has a monopoly on consistency or the truth. 

With Kenney out of the country, Toews was left to stickhandle the controversial bill. It had nothing to do with chilling investigations into his party or discouraging future ones, he insisted. Just a routine cost-cutting measure. In this case, trimming 0.3448 per cent of the budget.

“Bill 22 ensures publicly owned enterprises and agencies, boards and commissions provide the best value to the taxpayer and deliver the results Albertans expect.”

The government’s official press release on the bill invoked the MacKinnon Panel’s recommendation to consolidate agencies, boards, and commissions. Unfortunately for the government, it made no such recommendation about the Election Commissioner’s office. 

Even if the Tories were entirely innocent in their intentions, it’s extremely difficult to see how this cannot look like a cover-up. 

All parties have blind partisans who swallow whatever they are told by their own team, and who believe everything done by the other side is wrong or corrupt. Surely, words in this column are unlikely to please either New Democrat or Tory; but to conservative-minded people with a critical eye, this cannot simply be swallowed. Unfortunately, all we have to rely on is an NDP opposition caucus that lacks both the numbers, or the moral credibility to stand up to it. 

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and the President & CEO of Western Standard New Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Energy

ANDERSON: If Ottawa Won’t Sanction the US, Alberta Must Sanction Ottawa

“Kenney now has a clear decision to make: accept Alberta as a second-rate colony under the ungrateful boot of Ottawa, or fight back with the tools at his disposal.”

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Within hours of taking office, newly elected US President Joseph R. Biden Jr. withdrew the US federal permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, effectively killing the project on the spot. 

Biden is of course, likely clueless as to the facts surrounding Keystone. He likely has no idea, nor does he care about the tens of thousands of jobs he just terminated, the financial opportunities for indigenous groups he just destroyed, and the children he just introduced to welfare. 

He made this decision simply because he is part of the Democratic Party, which is now at the mercy of eco-extremists, socialists and adherents to the Great Reset program.

Biden is advised and supported by these people. He owes them. And the deal was that if they got him elected, he would do their bidding. He has done so. 

Instead of slapping retaliatory tariffs on the US as he did when former President Trump placed tariffs on Canadian (mostly Quebec) aluminum, our prime minister decided to put out a press release stating he understood that President Biden had to keep his election promise to cancel Keystone and looks forward to working with him on climate change policy in the future. 

The people of Alberta and Saskatchewan should be grateful that their sacrifice of Keystone XL will allow the two liberal leaders to impose greater costs in the name of global warming. 

Most in the West now understand that the noose is being tightened around our necks. Between Trudeau’s massive hike to the carbon tax and the death of Keystone, the Alberta and Saskatchewan energy sectors are facing a total and permanent collapse.

Of course, there is a way out of this mess. We need Northern Gateway to double and triple exports to Asia, and we need Energy East to supply all of Canada and possibly parts of Europe. We need to diversify from having just one customer south of our border – and an unstable and undependable one at that. 

Alberta and Saskatchewan are once more alone. Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney seems lost, not knowing what to do as he has been asking so nicely, and people just keep being so gosh-darn mean to him. Maybe he should just ask nicely again?

Kenney’s calls on Trudeau to impose retaliatory trade sanctions on the US were met with silence by the prime minister, and laughter by the mainstream media. 

‘Who does Alberta think they are?’ is the gist of it.

The new US president doesn’t consider Alberta-Saskatchewan a diplomatically vital part of Canada, and the Canadian prime minister does not consider them to be worth defending. 

If Ottawa won’t place retaliatory sanctions on the US, then the prairie provinces must sanction Ottawa. 

What would that look like? 

Alberta and Saskatchewan could start by telling the governments of Canada and British Columbia that unless we are provided with full market access for our resources right across the country – including Northern Gateway and Energy East – we will be shutting down all energy supply to British Columbia and restricting goods transported by train and truck through Alberta from BC. 

If Manitoba participates, we can impose the same sanctions eastward from there. If not, the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border would be where we draw the line. 

Similarly, Alberta could set up check stops along its BC border, and require that every single lumber truck be offloaded for thorough pine beetle inspection. This ‘environmental protection’ measure would have a devastating effect on BC’s forestry industry. 

At the same time, Alberta and Saskatchewan should immediately begin withdrawing from the RCMP, CPP and EI, and begin collecting their own taxes. But these measures concerning provincial autonomy should be taken regardless, and not tied to any demands placed on Ottawa. They are good policies in their own right.

Economic sanctions are the middle ground between regular diplomacy, and force. They are designed to force governments to respond to demands when diplomacy fails. Canada’s diplomacy was never serious to begin with, and Alberta and Saskatchewan lack the political importance to Ottawa to matter. Our only option now is to make it matter, and force them to act.

Or, we can continue to whine about how we are mistreated and beg for fairness. 

Kenney has tried whining for a ‘fair deal’ since before he was elected, and has nothing to show for it. 

Kenney now has a clear decision to make: accept Alberta as a second-rate colony under the ungrateful boot of Ottawa, or fight back with the tools at his disposal.

Rob Anderson is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

McALLISTER: Nenshi’s regional board is at war with rural development

Bruce McAllister writes that a radical move by the Calgary Regional Metropolitan Board will kill development in huge areas surrounding the city. And the province is letting it happen.

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With the stroke of a pen arbitrary drawn across a map, many thousands of acres of rural lands surrounding Calgary are about to be sterilized of their economic potential. Land that owners intend to develop – creating thousands of jobs – has been rendered useless.

We used to take pride in the ‘Alberta advantage’. The record shows that when we let good people use their land, they return the favour with growth, jobs, and wealth that build our schools and hospitals. Alberta’s innovation has done even more. It has produced enough wealth to share with those provinces with more limited opportunities. But it seems this is coming to an end.

The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) has been plodding along since Rachel Notley created it to impose a growth plan for the entire region that is highly prescriptive and anti-competitive. The central planners in urban municipal think-tanks and lobby groups in Calgary and Edmonton think they can build Alberta from behind a one-way-mirror at a focus group. They’ve had their chance, and they’ve failed.

Last week all the warning shots that we have been firing hit the target. The hammer dropped, the shoe fell, the truth was revealed. The CRMB made public the maps they are working on to plan the region, and what they reveal is very telling about what the future holds if the central planners at Calgary City Hall and the CMRB get their way. 

In short, there is a good chance that if you own land in the areas surrounding Calgary, it was just sterilized by this unelected fourth layer of government. They have just dictated from behind closed doors that you will now be severely restricted from building your business and contributing to the economy. You’re out.

The Board’s consultant – an urban planner from San Francisco – included three future development areas for the region, two in Rocky View and one in Foothills County. If you own land in one of those, you have a chance of moving something forward, but there’s a catch.

The CMRB growth plan will take precedent over any other land-use. That means that if a developer wants to amend his current plan and add units or do anything to remain nimble and adjust to the marketplace, they will have to do it according to the CMRB’s plans. 

But the most egregious act of this plan is what happens to lands outside these designated joint planning areas. Effectively, that land is frozen to any business or future development. 

Future development potential will now be restricted to urban locations, period. Their plan is to eliminate the competition. They did not present a better service or product. They just lobbied hard enough to change the master plan. It’s a toxic turn for southern Alberta’s economic future. 

We have been warning for some time that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been using this Board and his allies from urban municipalities (not coincidentally those who buy their water from Calgary) to stifle growth in competing rural districts. 

If you own land near Calaway Park and you had a good idea for a business to serve families out for some fun on Sunday afternoon, you can forget about it. 

If you had a project on Highway 8 that would provide housing choice in the region, and competition for the marketplace, forget about it. That’s not on the map. But what about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that’s been spent getting projects through the approval process in neighbouring municipalities? It doesn’t matter. The Board has spoken. Well technically, not yet, but it’s about to. These draft plans move forward to the province for approval on March 1st.

Before we hold out hope that the province won’t approve the plan, we have to look at their track record on the CMRB. They have caved to the lobbyists at every turn. They prop up the CMRB when they should be dismantling it. The simple fact is that they need the votes and rural Alberta makes an easy loser in their eyes. 

It’s not like the UCP hasn’t been made aware of this. They appear to have other priorities.  Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, you can understand why they are distracted. But the Minister of Municipal Affairs, or Jobs and Innovation, or Red Tape, or somebody who even remembers what the Alberta advantage is all about had better act before it is too late.

If this land-use plan gets implemented there are thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment that will go with it.

Gone will be the Gardner project and its $3 billion investment along Highway 8. Gone will be the Qualico Elbow View. Gone will be any potential to amend the Glenbow Ranch project along Highway 1A. Anything near Calaway Park: gone. The second phase of The Omni by Genesis and its 4,000 jobs east of Calgary: gone. 

The central planners may think that nothing stands in their way as they begin to mount their master plan in Mayor Nenshi’s office and pour a round of drinks. They know that between a pandemic and a deadline of March 1st, so few eyes will see their plan. They know the development industry and landowners’ lobbying efforts to the province have failed, and they know that while eyes are turned elsewhere their master plan can take effect. They know that the CMRB is stacked in their favour, it was designed that way. But we can sound the alarm. 

What happened to the Premier Jason Kenney’s rallying cry to “make Alberta the best place to do business in North America”?

The UCP, Jason Kenney, and his ministers can stop this madness. The only question is, will they?

Bruce McAllister is a columnist for the Western Standard, Executive Director Rocky View 2020 & is the former Wildrose and PC MLA for Chestermere-Rockyview

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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: O’Toole used the wrong excuse to expel Sloan

“If O’Toole had not defended Sloan in 2020, if O’Toole had not courted his support for down-ballot votes, if O’Toole had supported the move to expel Sloan when he first made his remarks, he might then have a leg of credibility to stand on.”

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On Wednesday afternoon, the federal Conservative Caucus made it official, expelling Derek Sloan into the political wilderness. He will now sit in the southeast corner of the House of Commons beside the Green Party, in Maxime Bernier’s old seat. Virtually at least. 

The party did have cause to boot Sloan. Unfortunately for them, it’s not the one they used in time to save face from the episode devolving into a farce. 

On Monday, O’Toole issued a white hot statement blasting Sloan for receiving a $131 donation to his leadership campaign from a neo-Nazi who sometimes goes by the name Paul Fromm. 

“Derek Sloan’s acceptance of a donation from a well-known white supremacist is far worse than a gross error of judgment or failure of due diligence.”

Well, that excuse held about as much water as a pasta colander. None of it added up

Very few people in 2021 know who Paul Fromm is. 

Paul Fromm made the donation under the name ‘Frederick P. Fromm’. 

The donation was for $131, and would attract the attention of precisely no one working for Sloan or O’Toole. 

The donation slipped not just by the CFO of the Sloan campaign, but also through the Conservative Party of Canada who took their own 10 per cent cut without question. 

The Conservative Party of Canada issued Fromm with a membership card and allowed him to vote in its 2020 leadership contest. 

Most reasonable people smelled a rat. Clearly, O’Toole wanted Sloan gone, and this was the trumped-up charge he would use to make it happen. 

It’s too bad, because O’Toole and his allies in caucus had cause to expel Sloan without the need for a farcical show trial. 

Sloan has made genuinely extreme statements that allow the Liberals to paint the entire party as intolerant. And they aren’t just the usual Liberal accusations that ‘everyone that disagrees with me is a: racist, homophobe, transphobe, Islamophobe’, ect, ect, ect. 

While seeking the Tory leadership in January 2020, Sloan told CTV: “Whatever the cause of sexual orientation, which I still maintain is scientifically unclear. That is the position of science right now.”

It’s not. Being gay is not a choice. For most of mankind’s history, those who were gay, wished that they weren’t. Even in broadly tolerant societies like Canada, many gay men and lesbian women still struggle with their innate identities. 

Claims that being gay is a choice – implicitly or explicitly – is meant to buttress long-discredited theories that we can “pray the gay away.”

Sloan is welcome to hold these views. But most Canadians, most Conservatives, and even most social conservatives, do not. 

His positions on other issues – abortion, child sex reassignment surgery – while controversial, are not necessarily extreme. They might go against the grain, but they should be a welcomed part of open debate in the political sphere, and within the Conservative Party. 

But claiming that being gay is a choice? The Conservatives need to draw a line somewhere, and that seems like a good place to start. 

Unfortunately, that’s not where O’Toole drew it.

After Sloan made these comments about gay-choice theory, O’Toole defended Sloan against attempts by mostly Peter MacKay-supporting MPs who were trying to expel him then. 

At the time, O’Toole needed third and fourth-place down-ballot support from Sloan to secure the Tory leadership. These views – while not his own – were welcomed in O’Toole’s “True Blue” coalition. 

Keen observers could see close parallels with Andrew Scheer courting support from social conservative Brad Troast in the 2017 leadership race, just to discard him once he had the job. 

O’Toole needed Sloan in 2020. He didn’t in 2021. 

Since 2020, Sloan has been mostly quiet, and hasn’t committed any political sin of note. O’Toole was grateful for the contrived scandal of a meager donation from a has-been hate monger made under another name. 

If O’Toole had not defended Sloan in 2020, if O’Toole had not courted his support for down-ballot votes, if O’Toole had supported the move to expel Sloan when he first made his remarks, he might then have a leg of credibility to stand on. 

Instead, he drummed up a fake scandal and played the self-righteous Liberal card.

And in the process, has made himself the bad guy, and Sloan the man who deserves justice. 

Now O’Toole looks like a man caught playing dirty backroom politics, and leaves the social conservatives in his party asking themselves if they are just there to hand over votes and money.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard

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