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LITTLEJOHN: A provincial Alberta is landlocked. A national Alberta not so much.

Albertans need to decide if they want to be a landlocked province without the ability to do much about it, or a nation with the leverage to reach our potential.

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Opponents of Alberta independence believe that they have a trump-card in convincing Albertans to remain a subject of the federation: it would be landlocked.

On the surface of it, they have a point. It doesn’t require a cartographer to look at a map to realize that an independent West without BC would lack a coastline.

The argument goes that without direct coastal access, a vengeful rump-Canada would have a veto over all of Alberta’s affairs, and energy exports in particular. As difficult as it is to deal with other provinces now, it would be virtually impossible if Albertans were foreigners without recourse to the courts. This side claims that British Columbia’s leverage would grow, along with their ability kibosh pipelines.

Unlike rich landlocked nations like as Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg – whose commodities can be transported without pipelines – Alberta’s economy would tank, rendered subject to the whims of our neighbors. This is a major reason why many Albertans believe that their standard of living would suffer as an independent state.

Premier Jason Kenney shares this view.

“Landlocking ourselves through separation is not a solution. The green-left has been leading a campaign to landlock our energy. Why would we give them what they want?”

Kenney and the federalists ignore the elephant in the room: Alberta is already landlocked. 

After the passage of bills C-69 and C-48, it is highly unlikely that any private investors will bother to even attempt to build a new interprovincial pipeline. The Trans Mountain Expansion appears likely to proceed, but it is hardly a ‘future’ pipeline, given that it has been pumping oil since 1953. 

As a province, Alberta is bound by the constitution to respect the federal government’s powers over interprovincial trade. From milk, to beer, to oil, Ottawa has proven itself highly reticent to exercise these powers against offenders, giving an effective veto to politicians in Quebec and British Columbia. Even without a formal veto, these politicians have successfully intimidated potential investors with their pernicious rhetoric and threats of endless lawfare.

Alberta may eventually win long, dragged out fights in the courts, but the victory is a pyrrhic one. 

Without the ability to inflict real damage on other jurisdictions blocking its right to trade freely, Alberta is bringing a spoon to a gunfight. 

As a country, Alberta would have its hands untied, with the ability to retaliate in kind. Trade wars are almost always harmful, but the real threat of one is necessary. As Lawrence Solomon points out, “If Alberta were independent, its newfound bargaining power would certainly cause the Rest of Canada to capitulate, and speed to completion any and all pipelines Alberta needed to either ocean.”

An independent Alberta would indeed rely on imports and exports crossing foreign borders, but not without hugely expanded leverage. Threats of cutting Alberta off are hollow for the simple reason that Alberta would have an even greater ability to cut British Columbia off from the rest of Canada, and vice-versa. 

If B.C. attempted to landlock an independent Alberta, she would quickly find herself a modern East Prussia, cut off from access to the mother country. All the trucks, trains and planes carrying Eastern commodities to and from B.C. ports, and Toronto-Vancouver flights, would be forced to route either through the United States, or the Arctic.

The vast majority of Alberta’s energy trade is north-south. While it would hurt, Alberta could survive even a total embargo from a rump Ontario-Quebec state.

By contrast, the vast majority of British Columbia’s trade is with the rest of Canada. Those keen to point out that Alberta has no costal access on the map, should also note that standing between British Columbia and Ontario, is Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. A trade war would cut B.C. off from the Rest of Canada, and the Rest of Canada off from the Pacific. 

B.C. would have little incentive to turn off Alberta’s pipelines, knowing that Alberta could shut down the roads, railways and airways that keep B.C. alive. 

A war of tariffs and tolls would hurt everyone, but not equally. Alberta would be injured, but British Columbia risks being decimated. More realistically, British Columbia and the federal government would opt for a genuine free-trade agreement with Alberta than a devastating trade war. 

A vengeful rump-Canada might wish to wound Alberta, but doing so would punish British Columbia, and potentially drive it into the hands – oddly enough – of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Out of mutual self-interest, it’s most likely Canada would negotiate. 

Canadian provinces hardly have free trade as it is. Just as it is easier for sovereign nations in Europe to trade with each other than for Canadian provinces, a Canada-West trade agreement might actually free our economy to a greater extent than it is right now. 

Alberta would almost certainly obtain better access to the American market than as an appendage of Ottawa. As an independent nation, Alberta could negotiate for its interests alone, instead of horse trading to protect Ontario steel and Quebec dairy. Alberta has no need for protectionist side-deals, and could negotiate the most radically open free-trade deal it wanted. If successful, the remaining leverage of B.C. and Ottawa to landlock Alberta evaporates. 

Alberta is already landlocked. Albertans need to decide if they want to be a landlocked province without the ability to do much about it, or a nation with the leverage to reach our potential. 

Energy

VENKATACHALAM & KAPLAN: Oil and gas production is essential to BC’s economy

Here’s another slice of statistical bread to consider: In 2017 the BC oil and gas industry purchased $5.6 billion worth of goods and services from other sectors.

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Guest column by Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan of the Canadian Energy Centre

British Columbia has been producing oil and natural gas since 1952. In fact, as of 2018, BC produced 32% of Canada’s natural gas production and 2% of Canada’s conventional daily oil production. British Columbia collects royalties from oil and gas development, supporting the economic prosperity in the province.

Want to know how important the oil and natural gas industry is to the BC economy? Using customized Statistic Canada data from 2017 (the latest year available for this comparison), it turns out oil and gas in BC  generated about $18 billion in outputs, consisting primarily of the value of goods and services produced, as well as a GDP of $9.5 billion.

As for what most of us can relate to — jobs — the BC oil and gas industry was responsible for nearly 26,500 direct jobs and more than 36,100 indirect jobs (62,602 jobs in total) in 2017. Also relevant: The oil and gas sector paid out over $3.1 billion in wages and salaries to BC workers that year.

Here’s another slice of statistical bread to consider: In 2017 the BC oil and gas industry purchased $5.6 billion worth of goods and services from other sectors. That included $600 million from the finance and insurance sector, $770 million in professional services, and $2.8 billion from the manufacturing sector, to name just three examples.

Spending by the oil and gas sector in BC is not the only way to consider the impact of the industry. Given that a large chunk of the oil and gas sector is next door in Alberta, let’s look at what Alberta’s trade relationship with its westerly neighbour does for BC.

BC’s interprovincial trade in total with all provinces in 2017 amounted to $39.4 billion. Alberta was responsible for the largest amount at $15.4 billion, or about 38%, of that trade.

That share of BC’s trade exports is remarkable, given that Alberta’s share of Canada’s population was just 11.5 percent in 2017. Alberta consumers, businesses and governments buy far more from BC in goods and services than its population as a share of Canada would suggest would be the case. Alberta’s capital-intensive, high-wage-paying oil and gas sector is a major reason why.

If Alberta were a country, the province’s $15.4 billion in trade with BC would come in behind only the United States (about $22.3 billion in purchases of goods and services from BC) in 2017. In fact, Alberta’s importance to B.C. exports was ranked far ahead of China ($6.9 billion), Japan ($4.5 billion), and South Korea ($2.9 billion)—the next biggest destinations for BC’s trade exports.

BC has a natural advantage for market access in some respects when compared to the United States. For instance, BC’s coast is near to many Asian-Pacific markets than are U.S. Gulf Coast facilities. The distance between the U.S. Gulf Coast and to the Japanese ports of Himeji and Sodegaura is more than 9,000 nautical miles, compared to less than 4,200 nautical miles between those two Japanese ports and the coast of BC.

The recent demand for natural gas in Asia, especially Japan (the largest importer of LNG) and price increase for natural gas, presents an exciting opportunity for BC oil and gas industry. The IEA predicts that by 2024 , natural gas demand forecast in Asia will be up 7% from 2019’s pre-COVID-19  levels. 

Be it in employment, salaries and wages paid, GDP, or the purchase of goods and services, the impact of oil and natural gas (and Alberta) on BC’s economy and trade flows is significant.

Guest column by Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan are with the Canadian Energy Centre

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Schuler the black sheep of the Manitoba Tory family

While piously bleating about responsibility in a pandemic, these sheep are cleverly deflecting from their sinister stand on something they don’t support — one’s right to medical privacy.

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One Manitoba MLA — the only one of 57 — has the courage to fight for the right to protect private health information. 

The rest are either timidly silent or scampering to microphones to vilify this flock member for daring to not run with their sheep in-crowd. 

Progressive Conservative Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler is on the verge of getting ousted from Premier Heather Stefanson’s cabinet and banned from the legislature for refusing to reveal his COVID-19 vaccination status.

Stefanson decreed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate effective December 15 for everyone entering the building.

Years of hard work — Schuler was first elected in 1999, won five subsequent elections, and has held impressive posts — suddenly matter not. 

What about the constituents who democratically elected him to represent them? Pfft. Nobody cares.

Like health workers, teachers, oil workers, police officers, firefighters, restaurant employees, Manitobans from all walks of life who won’t comply with questionable, harsh forced mandates, Schuler may be deprived of a right to earn a living

And the lone elected voice of reason in perennial COVID-19 hysteria will be muzzled. 

The right to work is now taken away just because something irks elected officials. Not providing proof of COVID-19 vaccination irks them so much they casually destroy careers and lives.

Maybe Schuler’s vaccinated. Maybe he isn’t. He says it’s nobody’s business but his.

“As stated in the house, no one in Caucus is opposed to vaccinations, however, my personal health information is a private matter and I do not discuss my personal health information publicly,” said the Springfield-Ritchot MLA in a written statement to Western Standard.

He refuses media interview requests. Can’t blame him.

The Winnipeg Free Press polled all MLAs about their vaccination status. Aha! Schuler and Seine River PC MLA Janice Morley-Lecomte were outed for refusing to cough up personal information. Morley-Lecomte buckled to pressure and confirmed she’s vaccinated.

No one appears to have a problem with media infringing on liberty and freedom by giving itself licence to poke into something that — until COVID-19 was sacred — an individual’s right to keep health information private. 

In this COVID-19 madness, the obliging media increasingly oversteps boundaries it’s supposed to protect.

Angus Reid recently found 70% of 1,000 Canadians surveyed believe employees should be fired if they refuse to be vaccinated. That means they must reveal vaccination status which is private health information.

Would those surveyed feel the same way if a reporter chasing a story asked them about that embarrassing rash in private places, an abortion, reliance on anti-depressants, or any other medical conditions?

If so, it would be useless to run to one’s MLA for help. Readers revealed to me that one Manitoba MLA flippantly told an oil worker who refused the vaccine for religious convictions to just go get vaccinated. He lost his job. Another MLA coolly told a constituent to go hire a lawyer if she didn’t like the rules.

Schuler’s vaccination status commanded new attention when it was revealed that a 70-year-old assistant in his constituency office died of COVID-19. 

No details were provided on whether the assistant was vaccinated or where she contracted COVID-19. 

But NDP house leader and justice critic Nahanni Fontaine pounced, calling for Schuler to be booted from cabinet, saying it would be “unconscionable” if he remained.

To his credit, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said it would be wrong to jump to conclusions about the tragic death, but yes, Schuler should be tossed.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon told media she’s a “vaccine ambassador.”

“I’ve always tried to lead by example in my life. I’m a vaccine ambassador, and if others want to follow my lead, I strongly encourage them to do so,” said Gordon, who with two other cabinet ministers was outed for violating mandates whilst frolicking at a gala sans masks and social distancing.

Schuler has been participating in question period virtually for a few months. The chamber already only allows MLAs in who have received two doses.

Nonetheless, Stefanson imposed a tougher rule — get vaccinated or get banished. 

Back to the NDP’s Fontaine who told the Winnipeg Sun MLAs must “step up.” 

“And if MLAs don’t stand up, who the heck is supposed to step up?”

Oh, the irony of chastising an MLA who is doing exactly that. Schuler is stepping up heroically, not only for himself but for all being bullied into sharing personal information.

Former Ontario privacy commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian recently told Blacklock’s Reporter she rejects vaccine passports in any form.

“You’re talking about people’s personal health information. That is between your doctor and yourself. Now all of that has changed … I find it abhorrent,” said Cavoukian.

“People’s health status is considered to be the most private, sensitive information they have … The problem is privacy protection measures, once they are lifted in an emergency, are seldom restored.” 

Schuler appears to understand the sinister ramifications of that. This is about more than him.

The premier and MLAs who choose to represent only Manitobans who dutifully obey them may silence him.

While piously bleating about responsibility in a pandemic, these sheep are cleverly deflecting from their sinister stand on something they don’t support — one’s right to medical privacy.

Baaaa….

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

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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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