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FORBES REVIEW: The Prairie Populist

The major problems of their time were not always about “conservative” versus “liberal,” but about West versus East.

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Can a viable third-party emerge to fight for Western interests at the federal level? Can the left and right set aside their differences for the sake of Western solidarity? This historical biography offers some lessons from the 1920s-1940s.

In The Prairie Populist, Saskatchewan historian John Conway tells the story of George Hara Williams (1894-1945). Williams was a farmer, veteran, Saskatchewan MLA, and member of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF party) who helped propel Tommy Douglas to victory as premier in 1944.

The main figures in this book fall on the left side of the political spectrum, including Williams himself. However, the book also explores the possibility for regional interests to take precedence over political ideology.

Summer on the Canadian Prairie in the 1910s (Source: WikiCommons)
George Hara Williams (1894-1945) was a Saskatchewan farmer and MLA

As Conway explains, Western farmers of that era often “vacillated between the left and right of the political spectrum.” Many of the same farmers who voted for the leftist CCF were just as willing to vote for the right(ish) Social Credit Party. They understood that the major problems of their time were not always about “conservative” versus “liberal,” but about West versus East.

George Hara Williams was politically complicated. He was a democratic socialist because he believed it was the only way to combat the Eastern industrialists, bankers, and other big business interests that seemed all too willing to push Western farmers around. Strangely, he was also a staunch monarchist who was proud of his family’s loyalist heritage. He challenged the rise of Bolshevism within his own party, and he fought for Canada in both world wars.

The story begins with the rise of the populist farmers’ movement in the 1920s. Ottawa’s trade policy of high tariffs seemed to be designed to support the Eastern industrial centres at the expense of farmers. Rural voters in the West and in Ontario responded by forming the first successful federal third-party in Canadian history: The Progressive Party.

Through the lens of Williams’ story, we read about the challenges of starting a new third-party alternative to the establishment Grits and Tories. The Progressive Party became an impressive Western bloc after the 1921 federal election, surpassing even the Conservatives to become the official opposition; however, the party collapsed within a decade due to poor leadership and major divisions within the movement.

With the Great Depression came the steep decline of wheat prices in the 1930s. Facing the constant threat of bankruptcy and foreclosures, Western farmers were desperate for real alternatives to the existing political establishment. The time was ripe for democratic revolutions, such as the rise of the Social Credit Party in Alberta and the CCF in Saskatchewan. Leaders like Williams in Saskatchewan (and Aberhart in Alberta) offered hope at a time when Ottawa appeared unresponsive to the peoples’ needs.

William Aberhart and his Social Credit Party cabinet after their historic Alberta election victory in 1935 (Source: WikiCommons)

As with today, many Westerners in the 1930s came to believe that secession from Canada was necessary. In Saskatchewan, secessionists rallied around a document called the “Wilkie Charter.” Unfortunately, the book offers only passing mention of the Wilkie Charter.

George Hara Williams did not believe in secession, but he did believe in Western solidarity over party interests. In Saskatoon in 1931, Williams offered this advice in a stirring speech: “Have nothing to do with the people with a personal grouge who would drive you apart; forget your paltry partyisms. Stand shoulder to shoulder in demanding and getting those things to which you and your children are entitled.”

When Alberta’s charismatic Premier William Aberhart toured Saskatchewan in 1938, he attracted massive crowds everywhere he went – 5,000 in Saskatoon, 4,000 in Prince Albert, and 5,000 in Melville. Some in the CCF even began to talk about cooperation with Social Credit for the sake of Western solidarity.

Such cross-partisan hopes were short-lived, however. Facing this “Social Credit invasion,” Williams and other CCF members spent more time fighting their rival anti-establishment party than they did fighting the establishment itself. The two sides split the anti-establishment vote, and the Liberal Party won Saskatchewan’s 1938 provincial election.

The forces of “partyism” would ultimately be Williams’ undoing as well. The popular Tommy Douglas challenged him for leadership of the CCF in 1940 and won. It was a heated and divisive campaign, during and after which Williams was maligned by the Douglas wing of the party. Williams never regained favour among the party faithful.

Westerners interested in third-party politics can learn from George Hara Williams’ story. He was an effective grassroots organizer who was able to turn rural frustrations into tangible political results for his upstart party, which later went on to govern Saskatchewan for two decades. But he also got caught up with party in-fighting and allowed party interests to undermine regional interests, despite his earlier warnings against “partyism.” There’s a cautionary tale in here for all of us.

The Prairie Populist offers a detailed behind-the-scenes look at early third-party politics in the West. Readers without much familiarity with Canadian history may prefer to pick up a more introductory book (perhaps Conway’s Rise of the New West). But those who want a deeper dive into the political history of Saskatchewan in the 1920s-1940s will find this book compelling.

James Forbes is a columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in History and writes about the history of politics, culture, and religion in Canada.

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MAKICHUK: TOP SECRET – Meet the real-life James Bonds

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

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Like James Bond, they cross borders with fake identities and passports.

They operate in small isolated teams and have access to the full array of 007 gadgets designed by the spies’ Q section.

Its members are famed for not always looking like soldiers. Some speak different languages and can pass as foreign nationals.

The standing joke is that they could fit in at an embassy party or a whorehouse in Istanbul.

And just like Bond, they are all highly trained in firearms and hand-to-hand combat.

In fact, their training is considered “amazing even by SAS standards.”

But unlike the fictional 007 character, these assets don’t work for MI6, the famed British Secret Intelligence Service.

They are an elite section of the SAS, known as “The Increment.”

According to a report in the UK’s The Sun, the existence of the secret unit, “E Squadron,” was inadvertently confirmed this week when bungling Army top brass leaked the personal details of more than 70 Special Forces troops.

Buried deep in a spreadsheet of 1,200 soldiers’ names, trades and military units was a single reference to “22 SAS E SQN.”

It was the first written proof that the unit exists.

E Squadron is the fifth and newest limb of 22 SAS, the world’s most famous Special Forces regiment, whose motto is Who Dares Wins.

But its work is so secret that its troops are kept apart from the other four Sabre Squadrons, A, B, D and G, at their headquarters in Hereford, the Sun report said.

The squadron’s main task is to work with MI6 on top missions all over the globe.

SAS legend Andy McNab spent three years with the unit from 1991 to 1993, after his patrol in the first Gulf War which he wrote about in his book Bravo Two Zero.

He said the unit — which was hand-picked from the SAS — was “the closest to what James Bond does” of any British secret service.

But almost 30 years after he left, he said his work was still too secret to reveal, the Sun report said.

Another former member, who asked not to be named, said: “We were moving in and out of countries on different passports. Always in civvies, overseas all the time. It was busy.

“It was the James Bond stuff — use your imagination.”

The ex-member added: “You had to be able to blend in. People were picked for their ability to do undercover work.”

While some MI6 officers are firearms trained, it is never to the same level as their counterparts in E Squadron.

The former soldier said: “MI6 and MI5 are always distancing themselves from James Bond, saying they aren’t really like that. It’s true — spies aren’t like James Bond, they’re eggheads. Give them a gun, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

“E Squadron solves that problem but they do a lot more as well.”

The places where they often have to work, using civilian cover identities, make it impossible to be armed, so they are all trained in deadly hand-to-hand combat, the Sun report said.

SAS author Chris Ryan served with Andy McNab on the 1991 Bravo Two Zero mission, in which a SAS patrol was deployed into Iraq during the first Gulf War to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s war strategy.

Says Ryan: “To be in the Increment is to be the best of the best.”

According to SOFREP.com, The Increment are strictly black ops — deniable missions that would be disavowed by the British government if compromised.

These could include:

  • Secret military assistance to foreign powers
  • Clandestine insertion and extraction of intelligence agents
  • Covert reconnaissance/intelligence gathering

Today E Squadron’s members are drawn from the three Tier One Special Forces units — the SAS, the SBS and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the Sun report said.

The SBS provides specialist frogmen and mini-submersibles which can be used to insert teams undetected on foreign shores.

The SRR, whose soldiers specialize in plain-clothes surveillance operations around the world, provides a large number of women.

The unit was formed out of 14 Intelligence Company, which was known as the Det, and operated undercover in Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles.

A source said: “Women are often the best at this sort of work. If a group of blokes turns up, it always looks suspicious.

“We haven’t had a female Bond in the films, but there are already lots in real life.”

The Increment’s troops were among the first British soldiers in Afghanistan, ahead of the US invasion in 2001.

They were also involved in the 2011 uprising in Libya which toppled Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Sun said.

A former E Squadron soldier said the unit was heavily involved in Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.

He said: “E Squadron are military people. They have rules of engagement.

“Is it a licence to kill? It is certainly not carte blanche. But the nature of soldiering means it’s sometimes necessary to take life. Everyone is trained in deadly force.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the military editor for the Asia Times.
makichukd@gmail.com

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Features

Why does this BC area have the rudest postal code in Canada?

The area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

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A U.K. online business — apparently with buckets of time on its hands — has researched and unveiled what it calls “Canada’s rudest” postal codes.

Research by Money.co.uk shows the most unusual and awkward postal codes (the wacky Brits called it a “postcode”) in Canada and the UK and looked at the potential it can have on house prices.

As every maple-syrup blooded Canuck knows, Canadian postal codes contain a six-digit string of numbers and letters to create the final outcome, if one ignores the hyphen that splits the codes 

Using numeronyms —words where a number is used to form an abbreviation — the Brits discovered some odd pairings.

For example, in Timmins, Ont. you’ll find the postcode P4N-1C5. Nothing too eye-popping there until you dissolve the hyphen and are left with P4N1C5 (PANICS).

M4X1M5  (MAXIM) is more associated with a mens’ mag, not a vibrant area of downtown Toronto.

In another example, one area of Winnipeg sports the R3L1C5 (RELICS) code. 

However, the area of Canada that easily takes the title for most unfortunate postcode has to be a street in Delta East Central: V4G1N4 (VAGINA). 

The Brit release noted with the average Canadian house price currently around $716,828, living in a postcode such as V4G1N4 may actually effect your house price. However, no proof of the claim was offered.

Here are the top 21 most unusual/amusing postcodes in Canada:
• B3G1N5 (begins) Eastern Passage, NS;

• B4N4N4 (banana) Kentville, NS;

• L1V1N6 (living) Pickering Southwest, ON:

• L3C3L5 (levels) Orilla, ON:

• L4G3R5 (lagers) Aurora, ON;

• M4G1C5 (magics) East York (Leaside), ON;

• M4L1C3 (malice) East Toronto (India Bazaar / The Beaches West), ON;

• M4R1N3 (marine) Central Toronto (North Toronto West), ON;

• P3N1L3 (penile) Greater Sudbury (Val Caron), ON;

• P4N1C5 (panics) Timmins Southeast, ON;

• R3J3C7 (reject) Winnipeg (St. James-Assiniboia SE), MB;

• R3L1C5 (relics) Winnipeg (River Heights East), MB;

• R3M0V3 (remove) Winnipeg (River Heights Central), MB;

• R3T1R3 (retire) Winnipeg (Fort Garry NE / University of Manitoba), MB;

• S3N1L3 (senile) Yorkton, SK;

• S7R0K3 (stroke) Saskatoon Northwest, SK;

• T1R1N6 (tiring) Brooks, AB;

• V1C4R5 (vicars) Cranbrook, BC;

• V1K1N6 (Viking) Merritt, BC;

• V1X3N5 (vixens) Kelowna East Central, BC;

V4G1N4 (vagina) Delta East Central, BC.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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What you need to know about new Alberta government restrictions

“Once a medical mask exemption is presented by an employee from a medical professional, an employer is well advised to accept the exemption at face value without further inquiry.”

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Guest contribution from Jonathan Denis, former minister of justice and solicitor general of Alberta.

COVID-19 is a very divisive subject, and the laws and regulations around it can be confusing as they are both complex and often changing.  Our office (Guardian Law Group LLP) has been receiving increasing inquiries about the restrictions reintroduced by the Government of Alberta.

In response to rising daily infection rates – the so-called “fourth wave” – Premier Jason Kenney announced the new restrictions are as follows:

  1. Masks – Effective September 4, 2021, masks are mandatory for all indoor public spaces and workplaces until further notice.  Schools are not required to impose forced-masking, but school boards will continue to set their own COVID-19 management policies.

There are further requirements and exceptions to the province-wide forced-masking regulations:

  1. Children under two-years of age are exempt;
  2. Individuals who have a medical exemption from masks are required to obtain a medical exemption letter from a doctor, nurse practitioner, or psychologist.  This medical exemption letter may be presented when in a public setting if requested by law enforcement, or in Court if a ticket is issued. A non-exhaustive list of medical conditions for which mask exemptions are granted include sensory processing disorders, developmental delay, cognitive impairment, mental illness, facial trauma, recent oral surgery, allergic distractions, or respiratory distress (I.e. asthma).
  3. Human rights legislation adds a further layer of complexity. Employers are not permitted to ask an applicant or an employee about current or past medical conditions. Therefore, once a medical mask exemption is presented by an employee from a medical professional, an employer is well advised to accept the exemption at face value without further inquiry.
  • Early “Last call” – Also on the same date, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs, night clubs, and other licensed establishments are required to end alcohol service at 10 pm MST. 
  • Voluntary recommendations – 
  1. Gatherings for unvaccinated people: The province is recommending (but not yet requiring) that unvaccinated Albertans limit their indoor social gatherings to “close contacts” of only two cohort families to a maximum of 10 people.
    1. In-person work: The province is also recommending that plans for in-person return to work be paused and that employers revert to work-from-home where possible.  

There is no legal requirement for mandatory vaccination.  Vaccination info can be found at ahs.ca/vaccine.

The province is also providing incentives for a $1 million draw for those who have two shots which will close on September 23, 2021.  You can enter this draw at alberta.ca/lotterty.  There is also a lottery to win an outdoor adventure which can be entered at alberta.ca/outdoor-adventure-vaccine-lottery.aspx.  Lastly, the province is now offering a $100.00 payment to persons who receive a first or second dose between September 3 and October 14, 2021.

Disclaimer: This column is for information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.  We recommend that you follow all laws and regulations.  If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities, please consult a private lawyer.

Jonathan Denis, Q.C. is a partner at Guardian Law Group LLP in Calgary.  He previously served as a two-term MLA and in five cabinet roles, most notably as Alberta’s 23rd Minister of Justice, Solicitor General, and Attorney General.  He has made the choice to be vaccinated twice.

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