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FILDEBRANDT: Kenney moves to firewall off growing sovereigntist movement

Firewallers – lonely or consigned to the fringe for so long – are now squarely in the centre of gravity.

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Something that’s become increasing apparent since the federal election became official in Red Deer Saturday: the “Firewallers” are the new moderates.

In 2000, Stephen Harper and five other prominent conservatives signed what they called the “Alberta Agenda,” but which its detractors quickly labelled the “Firewall Letter.” After a federal election in which the West – and Alberta in particular – was used as a whipping boy – by a corrupt Liberal government seeking re-election, the authors sought for Alberta to strengthen it’s control over areas within its own constitutional jurisdiction, and build “firewalls” against federal intrusion.

At the time, they were dismissed even by Ralph Klein, and consigned to the crank fringe. As prime minister six years later, Stephen Harper declined to act on a single item in the letter.

At the Manning Centre’s Alberta conference in Red Deer, former Alberta finance minister and signatory to the famous “Firewall Letter”, Ted Morton spoke in the morning of the rising independence movement and its growing ability to tear the UCP asunder.

“If he [Kenney] goes too fast, he losses moderates. But if he goes too slow, he risks Wexit and other groups rising up.”

In short, the centre of political gravity in Alberta has shifted radically.

Manning Centre panel discussion in Red Deer, Alberta

Where an Ottawaphilic NDP was elected without federal concerns in 2015, a UCP promising a confrontation with Trudeau on Equalization and pipelines came to power in 2019.

Parties campaigning for independence (AIP) or firewalling (my own FCP) faired poorly.

On October 20th, the centre of Alberta’s politics was comfortable with fist-shaking at Ottawa.

Post-October 21st, the firewallers – lonely or consigned to the fringe for so long – are now squarely in the centre of gravity. It’s likely that in this world, sovereigntists outnumber status-quo federalists.

As Morton warned earlier in the morning, Kenney has to walk a fine balance in not spooking federalists, but not appearing overly timid in the face of the growing independence movement.

Kenney did his best to walk that rope when he took the stage that evening.

In a relatively long speech, Kenney laid out his government’s grievances with Ottawa. They were familiar themes: Equalization, pipelines, tanker bans.

He then proceeded to lay out his actions against Ottawa thus far. Mostly, proclaiming the NDP’s Bill 12 into law, and talking to federal Senate committees. He didn’t say as much, but Kenney knows that in today’s explosive enviornment, it didn’t amount to much. He was going to have to do better to win this crowd over.

The crowd was polite, but surprising reserved in its adulation until he came to next steps.

Kenney announced the members of his new “Fair Deal Panel,” including Preston Manning and several of his MLAs. It was the panel’s mandate – rather than its members – that attracted the most attention.

The panel will be tasked with making recommendations to the government on implementing several key planks of the until recently anathema, Firewall Letter.

Should Alberta establish its own revenue collection agency, and stop allowing Ottawa to collect provincial taxes? If so, should Alberta emulate Quebec and request that it also be allowed to collect federal taxes in Alberta? The Fair Deal Panel will tackle it.

Should Alberta withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan, and like Quebec establish its own? The Fair Deal Panel will tell us.

Should Alberta end its contract with the RCMP and establish its own provincial police force? Fair Deal Panel.

Should Alberta withdraw from the Parol Board of Canada and establish its own? FDP.

Should Alberta directly appoint its own Chief Firearms Officer to administer the federal Firearms Act? FDP.

Should Alberta establish its own Alberta constitution and charter? FDP.

The FDP’s mandate read like the platform of my own Freedom Conservative Party’s platform from the last election, (for all the good it did me), less the threat that if Ottawa did not agree to a fair deal for Alberta, that an independence vote would be held.

It was likely a tough call for Kenney to make as an ardent federalist, but it was likely the least aggressive move he could make right now.

While Kenney’s move to firewall off federal intrusions can largely succeed without any thumbs up from Ottawa, several key items for provincial equality like Senate reform, Equalization, and free trade, require federal consent. No matter how many referendums Alberta holds, they will never give it.

While Kenney shifted to stake out the middle ground on the Western question, Notley stayed pat where she was: Ottawaphilic.

“Instead of getting to work on the priorities of Albertans; getting the pipeline built, growing our economy, and creating jobs, he [Kenney] is exploiting the real frustrations of everyday Albertans by sowing the seeds of separation with tired ideas from decades ago. Alberta is part of Canada, and Jason Kenney needs to accept that. “

Notley’s position seems wildly tone-deaf to the frustrations that have many Albertans ready to throw tea into the Bow River.

Alberta’s politics are still defined broadly across a left-right axis, but are quickly transforming into three camps: federalist, reformist, and sovereigntist. The federalists as represented by Notley seem to have almost nothing in common with the other two. Kenney has now clearly grasped the reformist torch. If it’s enough to pacify the sovereigntists or not is still to be played out.

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 2009-2012 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Opinion

WAGNER: Coming federal election could drive support for Alberta independence

“The election results may very well convince enough Albertans that independence is the only alternative to a future of continued economic decline and impoverishment.” – Michael Wagner

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Many commentators have speculated that there will be a federal election this year, quite possibly in the spring. Early in February, Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star wrote a column entitled, Trudeau’s strategic plans aimed at June election. A few days later, Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun contributed a similarly-themed column, Spring election could still be in Trudeau’s cards. And on March 1, Lilley’s Toronto Sun colleague Lorrie Goldstein added another, Liberals looking for excuses to call an election.  

These columnists are speculating, of course, but they offer strong reasons why an election may not be too distant in the future.

The outcome of the impending election will have a very big impact on Alberta. If Justin Trudeau is re-elected with a majority government – as some polls seem to indicate – his climate change policies designed to phase-out Alberta’s oil industry will be locked in place for at least four more years. Alberta will continue to suffer job losses and other fiscal and economic hardships. The provincial outlook will be truly bleak.

Many Albertans realize that the stakes in the election will be very high. The future of their livelihoods is in jeopardy. For them, a Trudeau majority government would be the last straw. Government-imposed financial suffering will be impossible to endure any longer. A new path forward will be needed. For a growing number of us, that means independence 

In other words, if Justin Trudeau wins the upcoming election, expect to see the Alberta independence movement experience unprecedented growth. Large numbers of people will be desperate and willing to consider previously unthinkable options. 

This kind of thing has happened on a smaller scale before. It was due to widespread anger after the February 1980 re-election of Pierre Trudeau that Elmer Knutson formed West-Fed and began holding large meetings around the province. In the wake of the November 2000 re-election of Jean Chretien’s Liberals, province-wide anger propelled support for Cory Morgan’s Alberta Independence Party, while Stephen Harper and some of his colleagues published the famous “Firewall Letter.” 

More recently, immediately after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected with a minority government in October 2019, well-attended Wexit meetings were held around Alberta, including one with 1700 people in Calgary. The Wexit organization formally merged with the Freedom Conservative Party in June 2020 to form the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta. 

Indeed, the existence and growth of the Wildrose Independence Party and the federal Maverick Party can be attributed in large measure to the outcome of the 2019 federal election. It seems clear then, that federal election results have been a major factor in the development of Alberta’s (and Saskatchewan’s) independence movement.

This pattern is likely to be repeated when the next federal election is held later this year. Unless Erin O’Toole can engineer a miraculous turn-around in Conservative Party support, Trudeau will be back and Alberta will be trapped within a country whose government is determined to destroy its primary industry. In that case, expect many Albertans to fight back. Expect big meetings around the province with impassioned speakers advocating independence to preserve our future. Memberships in Wildrose and the Maverick Party will sell briskly and new volunteers will step forward.

If O’Toole can pull a rabbit out of the hat, the initial response in Alberta will be celebratory. Trudeau would be gone. What could be better than that? But O’Toole’s commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change would tie his hands and limit his enthusiasm for developing Alberta’s rich energy wealth. 

O’Toole has also been a defender of the current Equalization formula and supply management, policies meant to win votes in other parts of Canada. 

After voting overwhelmingly for the Conservatives, Albertans would justifiably anticipate some payback. If O’Toole didn’t deliver, there would be severe consequences for him and his party. A betrayed electorate would look to its only remaining option: independence.

The upcoming federal election will likely be a key event for Alberta’s future. Another term for Justin Trudeau would be an existential threat to the province. A victory for Erin O’Toole would be somewhat better, but would hold no guarantees for Alberta’s well-being. Pro-fossil fuel policies are very much out-of-favour in Central Canada where both parties are eager to please the voters. 

The election results may very well convince enough Albertans that independence is the only alternative to a future of continued economic decline and impoverishment. For Alberta, it seems that there is no way forward except out. 

Michael Wagner is a Senior Columnist for the Western Standard

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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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