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ANDRUS: One shot to save confederation

Albertans may disagree on whether or not the ultimate goal should be independence, but there is one common element to this entire equation: the status quo is not acceptable.

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Confederation is broken.

That is an undeniable truth that now lies exposed at the bitter end of an election campaign that saw Alberta used as a punching bag by four of the five parties that now comprise membership in the House of Commons.

“We’re shutting down the oilsands by 2030,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of a New Democratic Party that lost 15 seats, has vowed to continue to fight against development of the TransMountain pipeline, a vital piece of infrastructure needed for resource development in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Justin Trudeau – still the Prime Minister – has done more to ignite western alienation with Bill C-69 and C-48 than any other prime minister in recent memory.

And don’t forget Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, who proposed revisions to the equalization system that would further cripple the Western economy, deepening a recession that has left the region reeling.

Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Yves-François Blanchet

The electoral map shows a clear regional fault line in our country. Anger continues to simmer, remaining ever present like tension after a dramatic and intense argument that cuts deep into the soul.

Emotion is a part of politics – that’s natural – but in order to build a successful movement, individuals must be persuaded with rational, intelligent arguments and a message that doesn’t just spread fear and hate, but is built on hope.

There is one thing that is missing in all this madness.

A plan.

It was almost twenty years ago that six prominent Albertans penned what would become universally known as the ‘Firewall Letter’. The letter outlined several key points that would create a semi-autonomous Alberta within confederation.

Twenty years later, none of the suggestions made by Stephen Harper, Ted Morton, Tom Flanagan, Rainer Knopff, Andrew Crooks and Ken Boessenkoel have been put into place.

They were dismissed at the time as too radical, despite being written in the shadow of Jean Chretien’s third consecutive majority government. At the time, “The West Wants In” was still driving the Reform/Canadian Alliance movement.

But the political climate has shifted. Never before has one region become so singularly outcast by the political elites, and Westerners have never been the favoured sons of the Laurentian Elite in Ottawa.  

As investment capital has shifted out of the country and layoffs continue to roll through downtown Calgary, talk of Western independence has dominated the provincial landscape in the post-election fallout. With it, questions as to an exit strategy, vision and a clear lack of leadership litter the comments of the WEXIT Facebook group – 261 thousand members strong.

Source: Scott Moe twitter account

Too many questions, too few answers. There’s one missing ingredient.  

A plan.

Albertans may disagree on whether or not the ultimate goal should be independence, but there is one common element to this entire equation: the status quo is not acceptable.

There are concrete steps that the Alberta government could take immediately in order to wrest power back from Ottawa.

The proposals in Project Confederation’s Open Letter to Premier Kenney include three immediate referendum questions: one to abolish Canada’s equalization program; another to clarify Section 92 and Section 121 of the Constitution Act – allowing for unrestricted movement of goods, services and infrastructure across provinces. And third, to reform the Senate to include an equal number of elected senators per province while giving the upper chamber effective powers in order to act as a check on any federal government bent on encroaching in provincial jurisdiction. 

Also included in the letter are initiatives to collect our own revenue from personal income tax; creating an Alberta Pension Plan and withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan; establishing a provincial police force at earliest convenience; establishing an independent Alberta immigration system (as Quebec has already done); and resuming provincial responsibility for health care, social policy, and infrastructure.

It is time for Albertans to boldly stand up for our own future and seek – as much as possible – to be the masters of our own destiny.

This means resuming control of the powers that we possess under the Constitution of Canada but which we have allowed the federal government to exercise for too long.

Sign the letter HERE.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Paul Graham

    November 4, 2019 at 6:49 am

    You hit the nail on the head, no plan? Everyone is screaming out here, but, without a solid plan, it’s just blowing smoke! Perhaps this time, we can find a leader, I mean a real leader, who can bring together the movement! Until then, we will continue to get pummelled by the east, yes, we are sick and tired of it, but until all these different groups, can join to make one solid voice, we are just beating our heads against the wall!!

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Opinion

LOGAN: It’s time to divest from Suzuki

“It’s time to send a message to Suzuki where it will hurt the most – his donors.”

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Eco-alarmist David Suzuki has become more than just your everyday environmental activist — he’s become a well-known Canadian brand.

And it’s a brand that helped create the David Suzuki Foundation, which in 2020 raised more than $13 million for various environmental causes.

But what happens when the namesake of your charitable foundation not only feeds into, but repeats the dangerous rhetoric being employed by extreme environmental groups like Extinction Rebellion?

It was at an Extinction Rebellion event in Victoria in November that Suzuki crossed the line between peaceful activism and extremism.

“There are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on,” vowed the 85-year-old activist, best known for hosting CBC’s The Nature of Things.

And he wasn’t ready to back down following the outrage sparked by his comments, telling Victoria’s CHEK News it was “absurd” for people to think he was inciting violence and didn’t regret his comment.

“I meant it. I said it. I regret that the media … would take the context of that article, which was a fine report, and put the headline that totally slants it as if I’m inciting violence,” Suzuki said.

The Foundation that bears his name was quick to distance itself from the co-founder’s comments, saying Suzuki wasn’t speaking on their behalf.

Suzuki eventually apologized for his remarks, saying they were said out of “extreme frustration,” and not meant to support violence.

But despite the apology, Suzuki refused to condemn Extinction Rebellion’s defense of his own comments, which only further raised the temperature.

“Not only will pipelines be blown up, but we can be certain that world leaders will be put on trial for treason or worse — be killed,” said Extinction Rebellion’s National Action & Strategy Coordinator Zain Haq, doubling down on Suzuki’s comment.

It’s time to send a message to Suzuki where it will hurt the most — his donors.

You can send a letter today to the David Suzuki Foundation’s largest donors telling them that his violent rhetoric is unacceptable. Just click on this link.

If activists like Suzuki won’t hold themselves accountable, you can do your part to make them accountable to the people who write their paycheque.

Let these companies and foundations know that it’s time to divest from Suzuki!

Guest column by Shawn Logan with the Canadian Energy Centre

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Opinion

MORGAN: Prepare for National Energy Program 2.0

“Justin Trudeau has never held much love for the prairie provinces and don’t think for a second he wouldn’t repeat the actions of his father with another federal cash grab.”

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Few people remember the history of Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program (NEP) anymore, but we may be doomed to repeat it.

The parallels between the political circumstances leading to the NEP of 1980 and the those of today are chilling.

The most obvious, is that we have another Trudeau at the helm of Canada.

Prior to the mid-1970s, Canada had little interest in Alberta’s oil and gas. While Alberta premiers and business leaders had tried to make a case for Central-Eastern Canada to embrace Albertan hydrocarbon products for decades, they were invariably turned away. We were told our oil was too expensive and impractical to serve the needs of the East. We were instructed to find other investors, and we did.

Alberta oil and gas field development was carried out mostly by American companies in the 1950s and 1960s. Most of our products were sold to American markets including oil shipped through the Transmountain pipeline constructed in 1951. Eastern Canada got their energy products predominantly from foreign tankers and ironically from American sources in the east.

In 1974 everything changed as OPEC imposed an oil embargo in retaliation against countries that supported Israel during the Yom Kippur War. North America was thrown into a prolonged energy crisis as oil shortages hit and costs skyrocketed. While the embargo ended after a few months, OPEC quotas and energy supply manipulations made insecurity a problem for years to come. By 1978 the world price for a barrel of crude oil had risen 700% to $13.54 USD per barrel. The Iran-Iraq war in 1979 cause the price of oil to peak at $40 USD per barrel.

Canadians suddenly discovered the price of oil does indeed impact the price of everything. Inflation that had been problematic became a crisis. The standard of living for Canadians was being impacted and citizens demanded Trudeau (The First) do something, so he did.

With the implementation of the National Energy Program (NEP) in 1980, Alberta’s oil suddenly became Canada’s oil.

Massive tariffs were placed upon oil exports while Alberta was forced to sell oil to the rest of Canada at a mandatory discount. An 8% pre-royalty tax was placed on petroleum and gas revenues and the federal share of petroleum revenues was slated to increase while provinces (mostly Alberta) were to decrease their take. A Canadian ownership levy was applied to multinational companies to try and increase Canadian ownership to 50%. Again, we can’t forget it was Eastern indifference to Albertan oil and gas that created a large amount of foreign ownership in the first place.

The impact on Alberta’s oil and gas sector was immediate and devastating. Companies went bankrupt or fled under the new restrictions. Petro Canada was created as a state-capitalist crown corporation. They couldn’t fill the void left by the companies ruined by the NEP.

The NEP remained in place until 1986. During that period it drained upwards of $100 billion from Alberta while businesses and citizens suffered. Coupled with the high-interest rates of the day, many Albertans were literally forced to walk away from their homes.

Brian Mulroney promised to end the NEP when he successfully campaigned to become prime minister in 1984. Mulroney waited two years before dismantling the program. He only followed through on his promise to Westerners when the price of oil collapsed. And he had devious reasons for it.

Under the NEP, Ottawa placed a ceiling on oil prices, capping how much money Alberta could make. To add a little honey to the vinegar, Ottawa also placed a theoretical price floor, whereby Canada would pay artificially high prices for Alberta oil if prices collapsed.

Mulroney was happy to keep the NEP while prices remained high. As soon as prices fell and Ottawa would have to pay a net-loss for Alberta oil, he got around to keeping his promise.

Alberta was left drained, humiliated, and broke. It took nearly a decade to financially recover.

Fast forward to today and we have another Trudeau in power as world oil prices are spiking. Inflation is reaching levels not seen in generations and the cost of living for Canadians is on the rise. OPEC is actively working to keep oil prices high. Europe is in the midst of an energy crisis while President Biden is begging OPEC to increase oil production in order to bring down world prices. Canadians are starting to raise concerns about the rising cost of living and the government is looking for a source of cash. Carbon-tax happy politicians like Trudeau and BC Premier John Horgan bemoan the high price of gas at the pump, without a hint of irony.

The federal government has been signaling for years they don’t want the West’s “dirty” oil. The Energy East pipeline was and the Teck Frontier oilsands mega-mine regulated to death while Northern Gateway was outright killed. Biden killed the Keystone XL line with nary a peep of opposition from Trudeau while we are being told we must transition away from producing hydrocarbons. Prices for oil and gas were low and we were told demand wouldn’t be returning. That tune may suddenly change.

While rising oil prices are putting pressure on other jurisdictions, they are greatly improving Alberta’s financial outlook. Total government revenue for 2021-22 is forecast to be $14.2 billion higher than initial budget estimates. While the UCP is understandably celebratory with this budget windfall (despite a large deficit remaining), they should keep their celebrations muted. Alberta’s good fortune is also painting a big red target on our back as the federal government desperately seeks revenue sources.

Justin Trudeau has never held much love for the prairie provinces and don’t think for a second he wouldn’t repeat the actions of his father with another federal cash grab.

They won’t call it a national energy program again, but we can expect much the same thing. Western oil and gas producers will be drained in the name of the national interest. Anybody in the West who dares complain of this depredation will be accused of being selfish and heartless.

If and when oil and gas prices return to lower levels, Ottawa will back off and leave the West alone. We will lay besmirched and used again.

This fate doesn’t have to befall us though. We can be proactive rather than reactive for a change.

Western provinces need to demonstrate they won’t take unprovoked attacks from Ottawa any longer. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe was mocked for saying Saskatchewan must become a nation within a nation, but he is right and is asking for nothing that hasn’t been given Quebec a dozen times over. Nobody is going to look out for the interests of the Western provinces aside from ourselves, so let’s get on with it.

No more talk. It’s time for action. Form provincial pension plans as we withdraw from the CPP. Create provincial police forces as we withdraw from Ottawa’s RCMP. Bring in real citizens’ initiated referenda legislation and don’t be afraid to talk about full sovereignty for provinces as free states. It has to be made crystal clear to Ottawa that another NEP-style incursion upon Western resources will lead to nothing less than the dissolution of confederation. Nothing short of this will stop the federal government from pillaging us again.

If Premier Jason Kenney wants a path to restoring respect for his leadership, it’s right in front of him. Peter Lougheed’s time in office likely would have been somewhat forgettable had it not been for his battles with Ottawa. Alberta wants a leader who will put Alberta first. Kenney has been less than solid on that front and it is indicated in his abysmal support numbers. So far, he has had little but words and failed court challenges for Ottawa.

Demand Kenney either stands up with strength for Alberta, or make it clear he will be replaced by a leader who will.

Otherwise, we will indeed be doomed to repeat history.

Cory Morgan is Assistant Opinion & Broadcast Editor for the Western Standard
cmorgan@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Manitoba’s Keystone Party to focus on grassroots

Now that’s a refreshing concept for Manitobans who got bitterly fed up with the iron-fisted approach of former premier Brian Pallister a.k.a. dictator.

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Interim leader Kevin Friesen understands why the Keystone Party of Manitoba is perceived as far right-of-centre.

“The parties in Manitoba have moved so far to the left that everybody’s going to see us as a rightwing party.

“We like to call ourselves centre,” Friesen told Western Standard.

He’d like to clear up a misconception promoted by left-wing professors some media tend to breathlessly run to for biased opinion. 

“We’ve been labelled as an unvaccinated, anti-mask party and that’s totally wrong.”

Another thing, Keystone is not affiliated with the federal People’s Party of Canada.

“We we’re getting confused with the PPC and we didn’t want that to happen.”

For some, the confusion stemmed from both party logos sporting the color purple.

So then, what is Keystone all about?

“This is a true grassroots party. Everyone says they want to be grassroots, but nobody’s been that yet. That’s our real focus.

“The real problem is that the accountability from our leaders isn’t being respected. We need someone who is more transparent, more accountable. We’ve always looked for honesty and that seems to be an impossible thing to find in politics nowadays. I hope that’s something that we can bring to the province.

“We need to create a stronger, united Manitoba. But most importantly, we would lead our province and not rule it.”

Now that’s a refreshing concept for Manitobans who got bitterly fed up with the iron-fisted approach of former premier Brian Pallister, a.k.a. dictator.

Although his replacement, Premier Heather Stefanson, promised a change in management style and a more “collaborative approach,” she has yet to convince Manitobans — who call her as ‘Pallister in a dress’ or ‘Pallister in pantyhose’ — that their voices will be heard.

Reeves, mayors, business people, union leaders, indigenous leaders, and Manitobans from diverse backgrounds disenchanted with the Progressive Conservatives fiscal and COVID-19 policies are paying attention to and signing on with Keystone which got started in early 2021.

“I’m the only farmer on the board,” says Friesen from south-central Manitou. 

“We’re finding there are a lot of people from the extreme left, from the NDP and Liberal community, that are interested in what we’re doing and are signing our petition and are saying ‘We’ll support you.’

“It’s not only one area of Manitoba. We’re pretty spread out from Winnipeg to Brandon, north of Dauphin to Southern Manitoba.”

Several Keystone supporters started out backing Manitoba First, formerly the Manitoba Party, and “learned early on it was on a mission to be a top-down party.”

They explored trying to “fix the PC party from within,” but doubted that would work considering “what goes on behind closed doors,” said Friesen.

Keystone is gearing up to field candidates in the 2023 provincial election. But first, it must gather the 2,500 signatures required to register as a political party.

“It would be an awesome Christmas gift to be registered. We’d like to go to Elections Manitoba, not with 2,500 signatures, but 10,000 would be our goal.” 

Keystone’s website promotes fiscal conservative policies and a reduction in the size of government.

In an October 30 video address, Friesen took aim at the PC’s destructive COVID-19 measures. He stipulated Keystone was not formed because of these policies, rather because of the way they were developed and enforced.

“This government has promised to deliver, but it has only mandated. It has stopped businesses from paying their bills to the point of bankruptcy.

“It has divided marriages to the point of divorce and broken relationships of every friend, neighbour, and business partner to the point of tattle-taling and ultimately suicide.”

The immediate goal is to get registered. 

“Then we’ll need to hold a leadership race. I’m not sure Kevin Friesen will be part of that race. The last step would be to have a convention and make sure we do exactly what the members want. We’re gathering a lot of information on what we think Manitobans want.

“This party’s going to lead and not rule and we’re going to do that with integrity.”

One thing that sets Keystone apart from other parties now is the recall clause in its constitution.

“The steering committee made a recall clause in the constitution to hold a leader in check. That creates a prolific new attitude in leadership. It changes the whole way a leader of a party leads his or her team.

“I don’t know of any other party in Manitoba that has a recall clause on their leader. That makes us 100% grassroots and different.”

Friesen knows new provincial parties start up all the time and get nowhere fast because they forget the grassroots.

But he’s convinced, based on the growing and diverse support Keystone is gaining, that the PCs, NDP, and Liberals have something to be very concerned about.

It’s possible. There is no question Manitoba voters are an increasingly disenchanted lot.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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