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HARDING: It might be a joke to the CBC, but Washington would treat Alberta better than Ottawa

It’s unlikely a real-world Trump will add Alberta and Saskatchewan to make the United States into a 52-state deck of cards. But there’s reasons to wish he would.

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“Today I’m excited to announce that I am going to make Alberta the 51st state, I really am,” said President Trump. 

Okay, actually that was a parody news article from the CBC. But, to continue with the This Hour Has 22 Minutessketch…

“Alberta, come with us, come be the Hannah to our Montana. I’d like to congratulate Alberta on its decision to separate from Canada. Face it, Canada’s best days are over. It’s time for Alberta to get a divorce and move on to a hotter country, it really is.”

That joke just got real with the latest employment stats.

The United States picked up 266,000 new jobs in November, including 54,000 ones in manufacturing. Average hourly earnings were up 3.1 percent. Unemployment was at 3.5 per cent, a mark not seen since 1969. 

“This is the best number I’ve ever seen in my life!” Jim Cramer told CNBC.

And Canada? Canada lost 71,000 jobs in November. That’s the worst since the “Great Recession” of 2009! 

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “For perspective the US is about 10X the population of Canada so this would be the equivalent of America shedding 700,000 jobs. Yikes! Maybe Justin should watch @realDonaldTrump & learn how to create jobs… or go back to being a substitute drama teacher. Either way Canada wins!”

So what’s happening now?

Sean Hannity thinks he knows. “Under the far-left leadership of that two-faced Trudeau, our friends to the north in Canada, their economy is declining in a massive way.”

The truth hurts. Unemployment is 5.9 per cent nationally, and 7.2 per cent in Alberta – the worst anywhere west of the Maritimes.

“Now Trudeau, you might want to take note,” Hannity says. “President Trump, he lowered taxes in this country, got rid of burdensome regulation, fought for better trade deals—yeah, you have to pay more, and empowered America and its energy sector. We are not for the first time in 75 years a net exporter of energy. And by the way now Canada, you’re suffering. This economy in America is the envy of the world.”

Yeah, we know.

Canada could do the right thing to make Alberta and all the provinces strong, but it doesn’t. The best that Ottawa offers Alberta is more socialism to compensate for the socialism and stupidity that created the low performance in the first place.  

For example, when job losses hit the oil patch in 2016, Trudeau gave effected workers an extra 5 weeks of Employment Insurance. Almost $9 billion vanished from the Alberta budget, but Equalization and other programs continued to drain a net $20 billion from Alberta to Ottawa. Now all Premier Kenney can do is smile about a chance at more a billion dollars and change it might receive from the Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which he has renamed the “Equalization Rebate,” which it most certainly is not. 

Alberta and Saskatchewan don’t need a federal government that punches it in the gut, and then walks alongside while it tries to catch its breath. It wants to prosper by its own labour. Canada ties up the west with cords and strands, while the United States is letting industry be. . . industrious.

Compare the two country’s approach to regulation. Canadian oil country braces for the “no pipelines” Bill C-69. All they can do is beg Ottawa to let them have purely provincial in-situ oil development left alone.

Trump took a hatchet to red tape. He cut 22 regulations for every new one introduced. Whereas Trudeau banned the Northern Gateway pipeline and oil tankers from northern B.C., Trump repealed Obama-era regulations for resource development in domestic waters. 

When a Montana court blocked Keystone XL claiming that environmental consultation was inadequate, Trump took only two days to respond. He cancelled the old approval and made a new one by executive order. Trudeau was less than feisty in similar circumstances. When a judge in B.C. quashed the TMX pipeline expansion over apparent First Nations and environmental consultation issues, the Trudeau government didn’t even challenge it. It started new consultations, ones that environmental groups are already challenging in court for their supposed inadequacy.

The Liberal government signed us onto the Paris Climate Accord and the Conservatives supported it. Trump revoked Obama’s signature. There’s no federal carbon tax there, unlike in Canada, where it is set to rise through 2022—and probably again thereafter to meet those aggressive climate targets.

Alberta has its own ideas for 2022. It will continue its corporate tax reductions until then. At that point, the provincial portion will be 30 percent lower than its closest provincial rival. Yet, six U.S. states will have a better state-federal combined rate, including Texas. Alas, Alberta can’t do anything about federal taxes. It’s one of many reasons that business is leaving Alberta to go stateside.

Additionally, everyone working south of the border will pay less personal income taxes. Whereas Trudeau created new tax brackets for those making more than $200,000 (a group disproportionately found in Alberta), Trump reduced taxes across the board at both personal and corporate levels. Keeping what you work for—that’s the Alberta ethic. Constant theft by Ottawa, then begging for a little back is not.

When Gwyn Morgan left his role as Encana’s CEO in 2006, it had the highest stock value of any Canadian-headquartered company. Now it’s an American company with a new name. Last month, he wrote, “the re-election of a national government ideologically opposed to the oil and gas industry’s very existence . . . struck the final blow to Encana as a Canadian headquartered company.”

It’s enough to make some wish that Trump comedy skit was real.

“America is going to wear Alberta like a tiny little MAGA hat. It’s time to make MAGA stand for: Make Alberta Great Again,” said the parodied Trump.

“And if they’re not careful, I’m gonna grab Saskatchewan right by the Regina! When you’re famous you can do that, you really can, they let you.”

Or not. It’s unlikely a real-world Trump will add Alberta and Saskatchewan to make the United States into a 52-state deck of cards. But there’s reasons to wish he would.

In 2016, Trump told his supporters, “You are going to be so proud of your country. And we’re going to start winning again . . . we’re going to win so much, you may even get tired of winning!”

By now, winning is America’s reality. Canada, not so much. 

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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MORGAN: Free speech in comedy under siege

“What has happened to our society when a comedy festival may turn into a street battle? “

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Standup comedians have always been on the front lines in battles over free speech and expression.

In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, most of the pearl-clutching busybodies came from the ‘moral majority’ religious right. They feared obscenity within comedy acts would degrade the moral fabric of the nation and for a while, the law agreed. Comedian Lenny Bruce was convicted and sentenced to four months in a workhouse in 1964 for the crime of spreading obscenity in his act. George Carlin was arrested seven times during the 1970s for his famous “Seven Dirty Words” routine.

Bruce died before the appeal of his sentence was completed. He was posthumously pardoned in 2003. Charges against Carlin were all dropped before he could be convicted. Carlin and Bruce refused to back down and in the end, the state couldn’t win. We will never know how many comedians allowed themselves to be cowed into changing their acts due to state and social intimidation in those days. Not all of them had the will or support bases Carlin and Bruce enjoyed.

The ability for comedians to freely express themselves is just as threatened today as it was 50 years ago. The source of puritanical outrage against comedy routines has changed, though. These days the prigs demanding the curtailment of free speech in comedy acts are the snowflakes of the politically correct left.

Canadian comedian Mike Ward found himself dragged before human rights tribunals and the Canadian courts for nearly a decade over a routine in which he mocked a disabled young Canadian performer. The case ultimately went to the Canadian Supreme Court where it was ruled in a tight 5-4 split decision Ward’s right to free speech was to be protected, and jokes were not subject to judicial review. We came dangerously close to having a comedian convicted for his routine during this decade. The threat to free expression is real and it’s ongoing.

The prime target of the cancel-culture mob lately has been American comedian Dave Chappelle. Chappelle has long enjoyed poking fun at the hypersensitive underbelly of the LGBTQ activist community and has never backed down in the face of the enraged blowback following one of his acts. In Chappelle’s most recent Netflix comedy special he went out of his way to antagonize the usual suspects as he made jokes about transgender ideological orthodoxy. The response to his act was immediate and predictable. Activists demanded Netflix pull the special down and small groups of Netflix employees staged widely publicized walkouts in protest of Chappelle’s act.

Netflix never pulled Chappelle’s special down and Chappelle has remained unapologetic for it. The controversy generated by apoplectic snowflakes in response to Chappelle’s act likely only increased viewership of the special.

It has just been announced Dave Chappelle is going to be headlining a Netflix comedy festival this coming April in Hollywood Bowl. This signals Netflix has done well with Chappelle’s routine despite or perhaps even because of the controversy it generated. In having a set date at a large outdoor venue and in such a populated area, Netflix is upping the ante in their battle with cancel-culture activists. Not only are they saying they won’t pull Chappelle’s older content, but they are also expanding the reach for his next act.

American and Canadian courts have proven they will protect the rights of free expression for controversial comedians, albeit grudgingly. Anti-free speech activists will have to take their case to the streets now and I suspect they will. With as many as 17,000 attendees arriving for a comedy festival being potentially greeted by a sizable number of protesters, things may get ugly.

What has happened to our society when a comedy festival may turn into a street battle?

Chappelle’s showdown this spring could be a turning point for comedy. Will he and Netflix stand their ground in the face of protests? Will local authorities ensure the show can go on even if activists vow to shut it down? This comedy event is going to be an important one.

As with any art, the enjoyment of comedy is subjective. Some people like simple clean humour, some like complex satire, and some like vulgarity-laden shock comedy. The only people who can judge good comedy are the audience and they should only be able to render judgment through voting with their feet (and wallets). In other words, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

Comedians ply their trade by observing the world and poking at sacred cows. They dig into subjects people commonly avoid and force us to think about them through the lens of humour. They provide a public service by pushing the boundaries of free expression and ensuring no subjects are ever out of bounds. They often make us laugh and we need a whole lot more of that these days.

Comedians will not be able to effectively practice their art if they fear censors or legal repercussions. They will be restrained and they will leave subjects that need to be brought before public scrutiny untouched.

If the speech and expression of comedians are allowed to be suppressed, no speech is safe. We need to stand up for our comics for both their sake and our own.

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

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WAGNER: Hydrocarbon based fuels are here to stay

“Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”

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Alberta’s future is threatened by a national campaign to dramatically reduce the production of hydrocarbons.

The political and media elite repeatedly assure everyone that such fuels can be replaced by new “green” energy sources such as wind and solar power. People currently employed in the oil and gas industry will supposedly transition into green energy production and life will continue on as before, except with fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indeed, Justin Trudeau’s federal government has committed to transitioning Canada’s economy to producing net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Trudeau’s scheme is a fairy tale. Hydrocarbons are going to be required for a very long time because current green energy technology is nowhere near where it needs to be to replace them. Currently, there are no realistic alternatives to oil and gas, so reducing their production will only lead to energy shortages.

As Dr. Henry Geraedts put it recently in the Financial Post, “The ultimate goal of net-zero politics is to impose a radical energy transition that demands a top-to-bottom physical and social-economic restructuring of society, with no credible road map in sight. Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”

Geraedts’ Financial Post column is a brief description of a policy report he produced in June 2021, and how it was ignored because its conclusions contradict the ideological perspective that university professors are expected to support. He didn’t toe the party line, in other words, and therefore got the cold shoulder.

Geraedts’ report, Net Zero 2050: Rhetoric and Realities, is available online at the website of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy which is affiliated with both the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina. It’s a very credible piece of work.

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons and Geraedts points out “hydrocarbons are nature’s most efficient embodiment of primary energy: the combination of high energy density, abundance, stability, safety, portability and affordability is unmatched by any other source of energy.”

Currently, hydrocarbons comprise about 80% of global primary energy. This is essentially the same percentage as 30 years ago, when the global warming craze began. Despite years of favourable government policies and billions of dollars in government subsidies, green technology such as wind and solar energy remain relatively small contributors to the world’s energy supply.

Geraedts also describes the negative environmental impacts caused by so-called green energy technology. Among the most interesting details he mentions is: “Neither turbine blades nor solar panels nor lithium-ion batteries are physically or economically recyclable. They are instead, at an alarming rate, ending up in landfills leaching toxic chemicals — an estimated 10 million tons/year of batteries by 2030 alone.” So much for protecting the environment.

Geraedts is not a so-called “denier.” He points to data from reliable sources indicating global temperatures have increased by one degree Celsius since 1900. But he also explains “the projections used to justify net zero policies and the Paris Accord, are based on fundamentally flawed computer climate models that overstate warming by some 200%.”

Not only that, but “observational, empirical evidence remains agnostic as to what, with requisite confidence levels, is attributable to anthropogenic influences vs. natural variability.” In other words, it cannot be determined with certainty to what degree the gradual temperature increase is the result of human activities.

But climate change worries aside, there is still a fatal lack of realistic alternatives to hydrocarbons. The International Energy Agency forecasts that even if all countries fulfill their Paris Accord commitments — an unlikely prospect — hydrocarbons will still account for 60% of primary energy in 2040. With accelerating energy demand in Africa and Asia, Geraedts expects hydrocarbons will remain the dominant energy source for decades to come.

This is what it all means: If we put progressive ideology aside and take a hard, honest look at the energy situation, hydrocarbons are here to stay for quite a while. Knowing the ingenuity of human beings in a free society, the discovery of new energy sources is likely at some point in the future. For now, though, we need oil and gas, and Alberta has lots of both.

With strong international demand for hydrocarbons forecast to last for decades, there is no reason why these resources cannot continue to provide the foundation of economic prosperity for the province. The biggest obstacle to such prosperity, of course, is the federal government. Due to its determination to prevent the development of hydrocarbons, independence may be the only way to maintain and increase the resource-based wealth that is Alberta’s birthright.

An independent Alberta could implement policies maximizing economic growth and avoid the suffocating policies of Canada’s central government. A free Alberta would be a prosperous Alberta.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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