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MORGAN: Calgary Economic Development Corp. must go

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How would you like it if the government doubled taxes over a single year on your struggling business and then used those funds to subsidize your competitors? This is what the City of Calgary has been doing for years as they have raised business property taxes by as much as 400 per cent in some cases while tossing $100 million to Calgary Economic Development (CED) to use as a corporate welfare fund to try and draw new businesses to the city. 

Business organizations, economists and taxpayer groups have been warning Calgary city council for decades that their high-spending habits coupled with a dependence on business taxation are unsustainable. Through a combination of cowardice, terrible leadership and outright incompetence, city council kicked this can down the road until it erupted into a business tax catastrophe last spring.

Local business owner, Kelly Doody, organized a rally of Calgary entrepreneurs outside of Calgary city hall last June. Hundreds attended and demanded answers. 

In a panic, council members scrambled to find a solution. Ten of them brought forward a plan which called for $131 million to come from savings and modest spending cuts in order to provide short term tax relief to business owners. Mayor Nenshi, of course, opposed this plan, which was admittedly a Band-Aid solution covering a bigger problem.

Kelly Doody is again speaking up. Her business appealed the absurd tax increase imposed upon it by city hall – and won. That took four months of effort, however, and she still saw a large tax increase to add to a $7,000 legal bill. This appeal also meant that her business got no part of the one-time tax relief package. 

The City of Calgary hits businesses at a property tax rate five times higher than residential rates. For decades, city councils have been spoiled by energy companies in downtown Calgary who have essentially been overpaying in taxes. With the flight of these energy companies, we are left with a gross spending problem and a tax imbalance neither of which the current Mayor nor city council have the courage to deal with.

Calgay Mayor Naheed Nenshi (source: Wiki Commons)

Spending cuts won’t be easy, but there is one large piece of low hanging fruit that the city can pluck to save money: the pool of patronage and waste is called Calgary Economic Development.

In a huge slap in the face to struggling Calgary businesses, Calgary city hall gave $100 million dollars to CED so that they may offer corporate welfare to outside investors who may choose to locate their enterprises in Calgary. What a feeling it must be to have to lay off employees in order to pay tax increases only to have the city dole out those funds to other businesses, often competitors.

Calgary Economic Development is not a business organization. They are simply a branch of Calgary city hall and their record in guiding or encouraging economic development in Calgary is nothing less than abysmal. CED was formed in 1999 and under its watch we have seen Calgary’s downtown business core reach a vacancy rate of nearly 30 per cent. I understand that this was due to a flight of energy capital from the province, but CED’s mandate for the last 20 years has been to diversify the city economy so that precisely such an event doesn’t happen. They failed.

Let’s look at Mary Moran who was appointed to lead Calgary Economic Development. You may remember her name from when she took a 5-month leave from CED for a salary of nearly $300,000 per year in order to lead the $30 million dollar Calgary Olympic Bidco to a crushing rejection at the hands of tired Calgary taxpayers in last year’s plebiscite. While Moran was on leave to promote Nenshi’s Olympic vanity project, Steve Allen sat at the head of CED. Allan’s name may sound familiar as he is currently immersed in a nepotism scandal where he appears to have handed a nearly million-dollar sole-sourced contract to a law firm where his son is a partner only 11 days after having been appointed to head a commission by Jason Kenney.

There is a sub-industry of government organizations where the well-connected find themselves appointed to cushy six-figure jobs without any real accountability. Calgary Economic Development is one of those organizations. It seems the most noteworthy effort of Moran in recent years was the campaign to promote Calgary in Seattle in hopes of drawing Amazon to the city by putting out cute sidewalk chalk ads. It failed, of course, but some folks had a fun expense-paid trip to Seattle where they could play with chalk, so perhaps it was worth it.

The great travel opportunities are one of the best benefits of being appointed to a Calgary Economic Development role. In their annual statement – which shares next to nothing on how they spend their millions in tax dollars – they do like to brag about all the places they have flown to in order to ineffectually draw enterprise to Calgary.

Hell, CED even appointed Jason Ribeiro to a “Director of Strategy” role within their organization. Ribeiro dedicated months to act as a social media attack dog for the failed Olympic bid last year. He constantly liked to point out how he was simply a volunteer. It looks like his volunteer work led to a nice position in the long run though. It can be lucrative doing side-gigs for folks such as Ms. Moran.

It is tough digging through the City of Calgary documents to figure out just how much Calgary Economic Development costs and what they do with that money. They do spend well over $5 million in salaries. On top of that, they spend over $7.5 million on contracted services.

One expense that stood out to me is that the $326,000 spent on interest charges in 2017.

As of 2017, Calgary Economic Development was carrying $12 million in debt. Already receiving tens of millions in tax dollars, why are they borrowing money?

Calgary is a city with a reputation for beating up on its businesses with massive tax increases while wasting the money gathered from these tax grabs. No cute chalk drawings on sidewalks or personal delivery of flashy brochures to nice international destinations by Calgary Economic Development folks will counter that reputation.

To draw diverse enterprise and investment to Calgary, the city needs to demonstrate stability and a reasonable tax regime. Right now Calgary is demonstrating neither. Who on earth would want to set up shop in a city that punishes its local businesses as Calgary does?

There are countless areas where the city can find efficiency and cut spending in order to provide tax relief to local businesses. In getting rid of Calgary Economic Development, the city can save tens of millions while ridding itself of an organization that uses tax dollars to create competitors to existing local businesses that are struggling to simply remain in existence. CED hasn’t yet frittered away the entire $100 million tax dollars they were given. Take what’s left back from them and apply it to immediate tax relief for businesses.Calgary needs a whole new culture and attitude along with spending and tax cuts. The city needs to look at its existing businesses as assets to be protected rather than tax cows to be milked in order to feed their myriad of wasteful organizations such as Calgary Economic Development. 

Opinion

KAY: Suzuki exposed as a fraud who pays lip service to his causes

The wonder is it’s taken so long for the halo to slip. On the evidence, Suzuki was never anything more than a shameless self-promoting huckster, a step-right-up-folks barker in the carnival of climate-change alarmism.

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Reader’s Digest used to do annual polls to discover which prominent Canadians were deemed most trustworthy by the public.

In first place in 2010 for the second year in a row: “eco-champion” David Suzuki, was described on the Reader’s Digest website as “honest, compassionate, and communicating a clear message.”

How could so many Canadians have been so gullible? Long before 2010, it was clear to engaged conservatives one would have to be drinking Suzuki’s own special brand of Kool-Aid to write such a description in good faith.

It may be the Kool-Aid finally lost its magical power. Denunciations of Suzuki poured forth over his recent mischief-making in a supportive address to radical, law-breaking environmental group Extinction Rebellion at the site of a pipeline protest in B.C. Suzuki told the group there “are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on.” Quickly realizing from the blowback he had gone too far, Suzuki attempted to walk the threat back with an apology. But unlike in the old days when he could get away with such nonsense, Suzuki’s apology was perceived as too little too late, and didn’t play well with responsible media.

The wonder is it’s taken so long for the halo to slip. On the evidence, Suzuki was never anything more than a shameless self-promoting huckster, a step-right-up-folks barker in the carnival of climate-change alarmism. He always talked like a selfless eco-warrior, but he has never walked the walk. On the contrary. Suzuki’s hypocrisy in all matters he engages with knows no bounds.

He urges us to cut our carbon footprint to near zero, while he enjoys the use of his multiple lavish homes, including one in Australia, which he visits regularly. He wants us to take personal responsibility in our reproductive choices for reducing the global population, while he permits himself the pleasure of five children. (In 2011, Suzuki took them on a visit to French Polynesia, a 25,000 km round trip from Vancouver, paid for by a climate change award’s prize money in 2011.)

He claims the David Suzuki Foundation is a charity, but what kind of charity has a dozen registered lobbyists in Ottawa and another eight in B.C.? He claims his foundation is funded by individual Canadians, but it takes funding from such fossil fuel companies as the Alberta natural gas company ATCO and the pension fund of Ontario Power Generation, which has operated both coal-and-gas-fired plants.

Suzuki wants politicians jailed for “denying the science,” but denounces police when they apply actual laws to eco-extremist blockaders. His family is of Asian provenance, but he complains of immigration from Asian and African countries. He spouts “scientific” nonsense — he once claimed “up to 90% of cancer is caused by environmental factors,” when in fact it is more like between four and 19%, according to the National Cancer Institute — and then admits to the CBC (2013), “I have a lot of personal opinions, but that’s not backed up by anything I know.”

His coarse language and open contempt for media are legendary. Suzuki’s narcissism is so comprehensive that he withdrew scholarship funding at Carleton University because a professor there wrote a tepid review of his books.

He’s the ultimate con man, whose rigid control over communications with audiences or media usually prevents people from learning how ignorant he actually is about issues he claims expertise in.

In September 2013, however, Suzuki was publicly humiliated when he participated as a panel member for the ABC TV program Q & A, in which exchanges were spontaneous and recorded. The audience was largely composed of scientific researchers in the field, one of whom politely, but insistently, rebutted his denial of the then 15-year hiatus in global warning since 1998, as well as falsehoods Suzuki had stated as factual regarding the Great Barrier Reef.

Suzuki was clearly flummoxed by his interlocutor’s question: “Yeah, well, I don’t know why you’re saying that…in fact, the warming continues…Where are you getting your information?” The questioner cited impeccable sources by their acronyms, inside jargon to a layperson that should have been instantly recognizable to anyone self-presenting, like Suzuki, as an expert. Suzuki’s complete bewilderment in the face of the data rebutting his own confidently stated but erroneous statements exposed him in all his inglorious quackademic nakedness.

Since this episode occurred in Australia, the Youtube of the event might never have reached more than a handful of Canadians. It was only because Rebel News made unmasking Suzuki’s charlatanism a priority that interest surged and the episode went viral. Thanks to their relentless, but often entertaining public pursuit of Suzuki, people came to understand that the man they had once deemed “honest, compassionate and communicating a clear message” was in fact dishonest, misanthropic and untruthful. Not to mention more than a little creepy in his open, overtly sexist fascination with young women on college campuses.

I’ve only scratched the surface of Suzuki’s self-serving fecklessness. For a full picture of this mountebank’s abuse of Canadians’ goodwill, from which several of my examples above have been taken, read Sheila Gunn Reid’s meticulously annotated 2018 book, The Case Against David Suzuki: An Unauthorized Biography (free on Kindle).

Reid’s book was published by Rebel Media (full disclosure: Rebel Media also recently published a book I co-authored with Linda Blade.) I promise the indignation aroused by Reid’s continually amplified proof of Suzuki’s cynical disregard for truth or honour, conveyed in crisp, cheeky and wit-filled prose — she describes Suzuki as “the Bernie Madoff of the anti-oil crusade” — will hold you riveted for the few hours required to read from the first page to the last.

Read it, consider the unnecessary fear and self-loathing this feckless shaman has instilled in so many vulnerable Canadian children’s minds, and weep for the naiveté of those Canadians in their millions who have, through their adulation and material contributions to Suzuki’s snake-oil empire, helped build and sustain this hollow man’s ill-gotten fortune and prestige

Barbara Kay is a senior columnist for the Western Standard.
kbarb@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter: @BarbaraRKay

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Opinion

WAGNER: Alberta’s social conservatives should be afraid of an NDP return to power

When it comes to education policy in Alberta, the NDP is adamant that only one view of sexuality will be represented – and it’s not the traditional Christian view – even in schools that were founded with a specifically Christian purpose.

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The increasing possibility of a NDP electoral victory in 2023 should keep conservatives in Alberta awake at night. Much will be at stake if the ‘progressives’ come back to power.

Social conservatives in particular have a lot to lose, especially with regards to education policy. One of the most acrimonious issues during the NDP’s term in government concerned gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in schools. Most noteworthy, a number of private religious schools were on the verge of losing their government funding and accreditation for failing to explicitly embrace GSAs within their school policies. Only the election of Jason Kenney’s UCP saved these schools. On this file, the NDP is likely to pick up where it left off once back in office.

Discussions of this issue have been fraught with misinformation. The NDP and its supporters have portrayed their GSA policies as the one and only way to keep vulnerable students safe in schools. Thus, they imply, anyone with a different view is malevolent, is homophobic, and obviously wants to hurt kids. There’s a strict binary choice at work in the messaging: endorse the NDP’s solution or be labelled a very nasty person. There’s no other possibility. Most of the mainstream media has followed this NDP talking point to the letter.

The fact is, though, private Christian schools are formed and maintained only at great sacrifice by those involved. The parents pay extra fees to have their children attend these schools, and school employees often take lower salaries in order to serve in a religious educational mission. These are people who are making extra sacrifices — often at great personal cost — because they believe a particularly religious environment is what’s best for their children. The idea that they do all this and yet want to hurt kids is absurd.

But according to NDP propagandists, private schools with openly Christian statements on the nature of marriage and sexuality are harmful to vulnerable children. This was the basis of their demand to remove Christian doctrinal statements from school policies. Naturally, such doctrinal positions did not align with many of the social-justice identity politics of the NDP’s ideological makeup. Thus, they had to be forcibly removed.

When it comes to education policy in Alberta, the NDP is adamant that only one view of sexuality will be represented — and it’s not the traditional Christian view — even in schools that were founded with a specifically Christian purpose. The message was explicit: conform to the NDP’s ideology, or close. No diversity of opinion allowed.

As Donna Trimble put it so well at the time: “These schools have two choices. One is they strip their schools of any faith-based perspectives in their safe and caring policies in order to satisfy the government’s demands, and then they are giving up the very foundation and reason for their existence, or, two, they are shut down for their refusal to do so.”

And as Calgary Herald columnist Licia Corbella added, “Perhaps that’s the NDP’s ultimate goal? No choice, no diversity. Just NDP beliefs taught in Alberta.”

Of course, Jason Kenney put an end to the imposition of NDP ideology onto private Christian schools once he took power by passing Bill 8 — the Education Amendment Act — which rolled back the most authoritarian aspects of the NDP’s GSA program.

However, there were other facets to the GSA issue that he left in place, contrary to the wishes of many UCP members. At the UCP convention in Red Deer in May 2018, 57% of delegates voted in favour of parents being notified if their children joined a GSA. But Kenney opposed the resolution and said, “Guess what, I’m the leader. I get to interpret the resolution and its relevance to party policy…I hold the pen.” It did not become policy.

Some parental rights activists have not given up on this issue, however. One group, Bill 10 Court Challenge Organization, has continued to lobby UCP MLAs to strengthen parental notification provisions. It also promotes a petition encouraging the government to amend legislation so that children under 16 must obtain parental permission to join a GSA.

If and when the NDP comes back into power, the GSA issue will once again become front-page news. The acrimony of the NDP’s previous term will return with a vengeance — not because kids are being harmed — but because the NDP cannot tolerate any private Christian schools upholding a traditional perspective on sexuality. Ideological conformity is a central principle of “progressive” thought. This time, the non-government schools will not escape defunding and loss of accreditation.

With most of the mainstream media cheerleading the NDP on this issue as before, social conservatives will again be widely portrayed as sinister throwbacks of the Dark Ages, and their influence in Alberta society will decline even further. The election of an NDP government will not be pleasant for any segments of the province’s conservative/libertarian coalition, but the social conservatives have the most to lose.

Looking towards 2023, it seems like darkness is approaching.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

SELICK: AHS says it has no documents for its policy of disregarding natural immunity

The firefighters believe once they’ve recovered from COVID-19, they’ve got broad and long-lasting immunity — possibly even superior to that imparted by the vaccine.

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Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have long been a useful tool for journalists, lawyers, and ordinary citizens to gain access to documents the government might prefer them not to see. 

Sometimes, however, there is even greater value in finding out the government doesn’t have a single document in its possession to back up what it’s doing. 

A case in point is the recent FOI request sent to Alberta Health Services by lawyer Derek From. From is counsel for several Alberta firefighters and paramedics who wish to decline, for various reasons, mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. Their application challenging the constitutionality of Alberta Health Services (AHS) policy will be filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench imminently. 

Some of the firefighters have already acquired natural immunity to COVID-19 by virtue of having been sick with the illness and then recovering from it. However, the AHS document entitled Immunization of Workers for COVID-19 Policy 1189, makes no reference whatsoever to individuals with this medical history. Like everyone else, they are required to be “fully vaccinated” by November 30 or lose their jobs. 

The firefighters believe once they’ve recovered from COVID-19, they’ve got broad and long-lasting immunity — possibly even superior to that imparted by the vaccine. They’re therefore extremely unlikely to get COVID-19 again for a long time, and consequently wouldn’t be able to spread it to anyone else. They argue they’ve never seen any evidence indicating an unvaccinated person who has recovered from COVID-19 can actually spread the virus. 

Therefore, they wanted to know exactly what evidence AHS relied upon when preparing its policy. AHS seemed to presume people with natural immunity could pose a danger to others, but did it have any facts to back up that presumption? 

Lawyer From submitted a Freedom of Information request on November 21 asking for “all records of the scientific evidence that AHS relied upon in the development of the policy.” 

The answer came back within a few days: after conducting a comprehensive search, AHS could find no such records in its possession. 

There must be thousands of Albertans by now who are in the same position as the firefighters, having recovered from COVID-19. AHS has never even investigated whether there’s any need for them to be vaccinated. It appears to be oblivious to their condition, their concerns and their wellbeing. 

What’s worse is emerging evidence shows people who’ve developed natural immunity are more likely than other people to experience adverse reactions to vaccination, just as vaccinated individuals are more likely to experience adverse reactions after two doses than after one. The AHS policy of mandatory vaccination therefore puts those with natural immunity at greater risk than the rest of the population, when they are in fact the people who pose the least threat to others. 

It must be apparent to AHS executives that their policy arguably infringes on the constitutional rights of individuals to life, liberty and security of the person under Sec. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They must know they will be called upon eventually to justify their policy under Sec. 1 of the Charter — in other words, to show the policy is “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

But their cupboard is bare. They don’t possess a single document showing the necessity of vaccinating people who have natural immunity, if their response to the Freedom of Information request can be believed. 

In other words, the policy is a huge bluff on the part of AHS — a despicable pantomime acted out for some unknown purpose, that will wreak havoc on the lives of thousands of Albertans as they scramble to replace their jobs and income, and simultaneously to bring their constitutional challenges before the courts. AHS displays shocking arrogance in continuing to inflict such burdens on the province’s residents when it must know that the policy will likely, eventually, be found unconstitutional.

The AHS is headed up by Chief Executive Officer Dr. Verna Yui, who reports to a board, which in turn is governed by the Alberta Ministry of Health. They proclaim their values include compassion, accountability, respect, excellence and safety. 

In my view, they are failing on several counts. 

Fire them all. 

Karen Selick is a columnist for the Western Standard

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