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HARDING: Saskatchewan is still struggling to overcome 70 years of socialism

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

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Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has a vision: a province with 1.4 million people by 2030. It’s a worthy goal, and certainly achievable. The sad part is, it could have—and should have, happened a long time ago. The province grew like a weed from the start, and was already Canada’s third most populous province in 1911. But that growth flattened like its prairie landscape from the 1930s until early in the 21st Century. Socialism strangled Saskatchewan in the cradle, and the prosperity it exiled to Alberta only adds to the proof.

Both provinces had every reason to grow, blessed with a large land mass, abundant resources, and good farm land. The pioneers who settled Alberta and Saskatchewan were inherently entrepreneurial. The only handout the government gave them was a quarter-section of land. The rest was up to them. Faith, family, and a strong work ethic were combined with co-operation and interdependence. It was the winning combination necessary to survive, and later, to thrive. 

In 1920, Regina became the first Canadian city to have a licensed airport. As the decade ended, it even had a General Motors plant. Saskatchewan took the Western lead, with Alberta taking a similar course until the 1930s. At that point, Saskatchewan took the path less travelled – and that made all the unfortunate difference.

Fourteen years after the Winnipeg General Strike, Marxism staked its ground in Saskatchewan’s capital. In 1933, the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) penned the Regina Manifesto. It read,

The principle regulating production, distribution and exchange will be the supplying of human needs and not the making of profits.

We aim to replace the present capitalist system, with its inherent injustice and inhumanity, by a social order from which the domination and exploitation of one class by another will be eliminated, in which economic planning will supersede unregulated private enterprise and competition, and in which genuine democratic self-government, based upon economic equality will be possible.

The CCF radicals didn’t catch on at first. Tommy Douglas failed to get a provincial seat when he ran for the party in 1934. Decades later, he reminisced about early campaign stops at country schools. 

“We encouraged questions, and people asked us if it was true we were going to take their farms, like the Soviets in Russia, and did we believe in God.” 

One year after losing the provincial election, voters made Douglas a CCF federal Member of Parliament. 

That same year of 1935, the Regina riot took place. Spurred by the Communist-affiliated Relief Camp Workers’ Union, hundreds of men left those camps and assembled in Vancouver to demand more from the government. Led by Communist Arthur “Slim” Evans, they decided to take their grievances to Ottawa. They rode east on boxcars. After they spent two weeks in Regina, the police decided to crack down. When the Mounties tried to arrest the ringleaders on July 1, a riot ensued. The police opened fire, injuring hundreds.

The CCF continued to gain momentum. Douglas resigned his federal seat in 1944 to run provincially again. This time, he was elected premier, a position he would hold for 17 years. He was also the first leader of an explicitly socialist government in North America.

“People thought the world was coming to an end,” Douglas said, “that this was the beginning of a Communist revolution and we were going to wreck the province, ruin the finances, repudiate all our debts. Imperial Oil were doing some small amount of drilling in Saskatchewan. They just picked up their drilling rigs and went home.”

Awhile later, Imperial Oil offered $20 million a year (two-thirds of the Saskatchewan budget) for an oil monopoly in the province. Douglas recalled, “I remember what I said to Imperial Oil: ‘Get lost’.”

Tommy Douglas and Thérèse Casgrain (Source: Wiki Commons)

Saskatchewan’s loss was Alberta’s gain. Imperial Oil was determined to strike oil in Wild Rose Country no matter what. They spent millions of dollars in 133 desperate and unsuccessful attempts. Finally, they decided if nothing was found in another half-dozen attempts, they’d just stop trying.

Then, early in 1947, Vern Hunter made a find near Leduc, Alberta that looked promising. Imperial Oil asked him to set a date for a well to be dug. “The crew and I were experts at abandoning wells but we didn’t know much about completing them. I named February 13 and started praying,” Hunter said. Five hundred people watched as the well brought up oil.

Edmonton and Calgary doubled their population in a short time. Dan Claypool worked at Leduc #1 in the early years. 

“You couldn’t get a hotel room … roughnecks were living in granaries, and even the energy regulators from the government had no place to live. So Imperial Oil lent them a skid shack. It was crazy, trucks were coming and going day and night on the highway. It was the greatest economic event to ever happen in Canada. It was really a boom.”

By then it was impossible for any entrepreneur in Saskatchewan to boom – the government owned everything. Tommy Douglas told the House of Commons in 1943, “We believe there should be government ownership of monopolistic enterprises.” When he became premier, he made that happen. When he opened the legislature on October 19, 1944, he introduced 76 pieces of legislation that put the government’s fingers on everything. It brought in mandatory health insurance, a provincial bus company, SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskWater, SaskEnergy, regulations galore, and the highest taxes in Canada.

“We told people,” Douglas said, “if you’re going to build schools or hospitals or roads, you’re going to pay for it. Now!”

In 1951, Douglas told the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, “The inescapable fact is that when we build a society based on greed, selfishness, and ruthless competition, the fruits we can expect to reap are economic insecurity at home and international discord abroad.” 

The CCF brought economic security all right – a constant, stifling government presence everyone could count on to bring mediocrity – or worse. Even a government-run shoe factory and woolen mill in Moose Jaw went broke. And the army of civil servants hired for this massive socialist experiment became better paid than the taxpaying residents.

Douglas declared in 1960 that laissez-faire capitalism had ended in Saskatchewan, just as the Regina Manifesto had envisioned. The Berlin Wall was built a year later, and Saskatchewan would have needed a similar structure to keep its own. 

“Our best export is our people,” residents came to say. Others joked, “Will the last person to leave please turn out the light?”

Canada’s breadbasket – which had 921,000 people in 1931 – still had just 968,000 in 2006. Meanwhile, Alberta grew from 731,000 people to nearly 4.4 million today. Saskatchewan ex-pat oil executives in Edmonton and Calgary jokingly called their former province, “the old country.” Proof of the Saskatchewan diaspora was made evident by fans wearing green at Roughrider games in every city. Some still left in the homeland, drove with novelty license plates which read, “Soviet Saskatchewan Smothered in Socialism,” complete with a hammer and sickle.

Then, less than fifteen years ago, the socialist chokehold lost its grip. 

In December 2006, public opinion polls showed over 50 per cent support for Brad Wall’s right-leaning Saskatchewan Party. Investors realized that a more business-friendly government was imminent and started investing their money. By the time Wall’s Sask Party ended sixteen years of NDP government in November of 2007, the boom was already underway. The average price of a home in Regina rose from 131,000 in 2006 to 228,000 in 2008—a telltale sign that the province had escaped a cocoon it had been stuck in for far too long.

Saskatchewan has grown substantially during the Sask Party era, and now boasts 1.17 million people. Moe’s ambitious goal of 1.4 million people by 2030 seems ambitious but well within reason, especially if the province can meet its other target: 600,000 barrels of daily oil production. Of course, Alberta is already there. It drills nearly eight times as much crude oil as Saskatchewan, above and beyond its oil sands.

Had Saskatchewan never embraced socialism, would Alberta have ever become what it is today? Would it have had two NHL teams, and a long line of Stanley Cup winners? Or would those teams have been based in Saskatoon and Regina instead?

If Saskatchewan’s pain was Alberta’s gain, what’s left for the lesser of two provinces? Potentially quite a bit. While it may be true that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, Saskatchewan seems to have undergone a permanent change in its attitude and political stance. Residents can only hope that Victorian novelist George Eliot was right: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Joe

    January 25, 2020 at 11:33 am

    What a retarded article. I think my nine year old can write a better essay than this.

  2. Godot

    January 24, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    In spite of Scott Moe complaining bitterly about his fruitless meeting with Trudeau recently, he remains steadfastly in the federalist camp.
    He has recently cut a deal with the NDP to raise the bar for provincial party registration. Given the timing, Moe is clearly rattled by Wexit Saskatchewan. Unsurprisingly, this new legislation has been counterproductive. Numerous volunteers have come forward to campaign for Wexit Saskatchewan.
    #WEXITNOW

  3. Godot

    January 24, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    In spite of Scott Moe’s bitter complaints about his fruitless meeting with Trudeau recently, he remains steadfastly in the federalist camp.
    He has just cut a deal with the NDP to pass legislation to raise the bar for provincial party registration. Given the timing of this move, Moe is clearly rattled by Wexit Saskatchewan. Unsurprisingly, Moe’s action has been counterproductive. Numerous volunteers have come forward to campaign for Wexit Saskatchewan.
    #WEXITNOW

  4. Dale Masse

    January 24, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Where was grant Devine in this story. I see he wasn’t mentioned. Lol

  5. Millie Woods

    January 24, 2020 at 6:22 am

    How does Scott Moe plan on reducing Saskatchewan’s population from it’s current 1.7 million to 1.4 million by 2030? I need to know because I’m planning to move to Saskatchewan later this year.

    • Millie Woods

      January 24, 2020 at 6:24 am

      I see it was corrected. Thanks

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Opinion

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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Opinion

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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Opinion

Stirling: Suzuki is a superspreader of alarmism

By actively denigrating people who hold rational, dissenting views on climate change, Suzuki and his fellow travelers have created a very dangerous situation today.

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Guest Column by Michelle Stirling, Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society

In 2015, Reader’s Digest counted David Suzuki as the number one most trusted influencer in Canada. He had already lost his shine with the oil patch working people of the West thanks to his performance in the appalling 2011 CBC co-production shlockumentary, “The Tipping Point: Age of the Oil Sands.” Others recoiled at the equally dreadful, “Where Will Santa Live?” fundraiser which suggested to kids Santa will drown unless your parents send cash. Yet for many, he still resonates as a kind of wise elder.

People of influence should be very careful about what they say.

For decades, Suzuki has been calling scientists and scholars who challenge his climate catastrophe narrative ‘deniers.’ He’s called for them to be silenced and censored, despite the fact when interviewed in Australia on television, the self-styled king of climate change was unable to understand a question from the audience that referred to the commonly known temperature data sets used in climate science. It seems he’d never heard of them.

By actively denigrating people who hold rational, dissenting views on climate change, Suzuki and his fellow travelers created a very dangerous situation today. There are many people who are genuinely frightened there might be only “10 years left” as Suzuki claims and they are like a tinderbox looking for a flame. Suzuki lit a spark for them a couple of weeks ago with his irresponsible musing about pipelines being blown up. His tepid apology will not put that genie back in the bottle.

Imagine if we had had open, civil debate on climate change in the media for the past 20 years. Imagine if, when Suzuki claimed there was a climate crisis, an atmospheric scientist like Dr. Richard Lindzen could show him why this is imaginary and how claims of a climate emergency are just a means for renewables promoters to push their wares.

Imagine if when Suzuki claimed Santa would drown and take the polar bears with him, an expert like geoscientist Dr. Ian Clark, who actually hikes the Arctic for his research, could show him that during the Holocene Hypsithermal of about 8,000 years ago, the Arctic was ice-free, rather balmy, and the polar bears were all fine.

Imagine if when Suzuki invokes “consensus,” (which forms the basis of the Toronto Star’s refusal to run any report that conflicts with the alleged 97% consensus), if someone like astrophysicist Dr. Nir Shaviv could have been invited to explain that science is not a democracy, it’s about evidence. While all scientists agree climate does change, they disagree on what ratio is human-caused versus natural influences like the sun and oceans. Scientists don’t all agree that taxing people will stop climate change, and most scientists are not convinced anymore that carbon dioxide is the control knob on climate.

This kind of open, civil debate, based on facts and evidence rather than emotional hyperbole would take society a long way toward more rational responses on climate and energy policies.

Unfortunately, it looks like things will get much worse as “The Climate Coverage in Canada Report” has run a consensus survey of its own, and Canadian journalists concluded that “large majorities … somewhat or strongly agree there is a climate crisis and the news media should report on it that way.”

In the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (AR6), the word “crisis” is only used once, and only in reference to media coverage on climate. Otherwise, there’s no crisis stated in that 4,000-page science report.

The mainstream media in Canada has been parroting Suzuki’s hyperbolic words, republishing his op-eds posted by the David Suzuki Foundation and obligingly blocking any dissenting views for decades.

Canadian media have made his incendiary words go viral — making him a super spreader of a contagious social disease called anarchy. Suzuki began this soft incitement years ago asking people if they were “radically Canadian” or not.

It’s time the media and Suzuki stopped the spread of alarmism and incitement and asked people to be rational instead.

Guest Column by Michelle Stirling is Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society. This op-ed expresses her personal opinion.

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