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Westerners shouldn’t sell their votes too cheaply to Tory leadership candidates

Unlike national elections when the Tories can take the West for granted, Tory leadership candidates need Western support. Don’t let them have it at such a low price.

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Westerners have a rare opportunity to finally have themselves heard as the federal Tories prepare to select their next leader. Unlike in national elections, their votes will make a material difference in the Tory leadership race. To make this voice count however, Westerners should be prepared to boycott the race unless one or more candidates is willing to work as hard for their vote, as they are for votes in the East.

Within weeks, Tory leadership candidates will come parading through the West vote-hunting. There will be much tut-tutting about their support for the Western energy sector and rhetoric about how Westerners aren’t treated fairly in confederation, but a big question mark hangs over what the likely candidates will actually do about it.

With wildly high barriers to even getting on the ballot, the field of potential candidates appears to be exclusively from the East: Peter Mackay, Erin O’Toole, Pierre Poilievre, Marilyn Gladu, and potentially Jean Charest. For a party with its roots and base in the West, it’s a strong sign that the party’s braintrust will pivot even further towards the East.

This doesn’t mean that an Eastern candidate cannot work to deserve the support of Westerners though.

Here are five concrete policy commitments that candidates can make to demonstrate that their support for the West goes beyond donning “I love Canadian oil and gas” sweaters.

One: Equalization

In the 2017 CPC leadership race, Maxime Bernier became the first francophone to win a major electoral contest in Alberta since Sir Wilfred Laurier (before the First World War). This was in large measure due to his commitment to reform the Equalization program. Largely out of fear of “vote-splitting,” Westerners held their nose in the national election and remained in the Tory camp despite Andrew Scheer’s refusal to even whisper in public about Equalization. This is a clear example of how Western votes are important in internal leadership races, but are nearly irrelevant in national general elections.

Since 2017, Western attitudes towards Ottawa, Equalization, and even federalism have became more militant. Loud cheers of frustration could be heard at a conference in Calgary over the weekend when Prem Sigh of ‘The West Can’t Wait’ demanded that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney move up the date for his promised Equalization referendum. While Bernier pushing modest Equalization reform may have been viewed as radical in 2017, it is considered a moderate position in the West today.

Source: Scott Moe twitter account

Without a clear commitment to reform – if not outright eliminate – the $20.5 billion Equalization program, Westerners should dismiss outright any pretenders to the Tory crown.

Two: Senate Reform

Since the Supreme Court shot down Stephen Harper’s attempts to introduce the mildest of reforms to the Senate, politicians previously zealous on this front have given up entirely. Their reasoning isn’t unreasonable: any reform of the Senate will require reopening the constitution. As students of Brian Mulroney can attest, the constitution is Pandora’s Box, and will unleash the ghosts of Quebec nationalism and Western reformers.

But the pains of constitutional reform are required if the federalists are to make any credible case to the growing ranks of Western sovereigntists ready to exit Canada altogether. There is no functioning, large federation in the democratic world without a credible, regionally balanced, and democratically legitimate upper legislative chamber. The United States, Australia and Germany all provide reasonable and applicable templates.

The Canadian Senate Chamber (source: Flickr/The Canadian Senate)

In no democratic country on Earth – outside of Canada – is there a powerful legislative chamber that awards nearly twice as many seats to a jurisdiction (like New Brunswick) with less than one-fifth the population than Alberta. If Quebec faced anything like this, it would have voted to leave many decades ago.

Electing Senators (or having them appointed by provincial legislatures) without radically re-balancing their seat distribution, would create a Senate even more unfairly pitted against the West.

With good reason, Tory leadership candidates will be afraid of reopening the constitution, but without a radically reformed Senate, none of them can claim with a straight face to support an equal West in a fair Canada.

Three: Free Trade

Few functioning countries require its subnational jurisdictions to sign free-trade agreements among its provinces or states, but this is one of those curious Canadian quirks. The British North America Act (BNA) that created the Dominion of Canada was crystal clear about goods moving between provinces in 1867, but since then has been crippled by myopic provincial politicians, cowardly federal politicians, and bad Supreme Court decisions.

From beer, to milk, to oil, Canadian goods have more difficulty crossing the Ottawa River from Ontario to Quebec, than European goods crossing the Rhine from Germany to France. Without genuine free-trade, Canada cannot claim to be a functioning 21st Century economy.

Milch Cow (source: Glen Musem)

Liberals and Conservatives alike both pay lip service to internal free-trade, but when the rubber hits the road are too afraid to anger provincial politicians and industry lobbyists with the action required. Prairie Westerners shouldn’t have to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to nationalize a pipeline, and a decade in court and NEB hearings just to exercise their constitutional right to trade freely.

Internal free trade is a natural right of any citizen in a free country, and this right must be retrenched powerfully in the constitution.

Four: Supply Management

There is no more potent a symbol of the weak and pandering leadership of Andrew Scheer than his subservience to the supply management dairy cartel. His deal with the devil may have helped him clinch the Tory leadership in 2017, but outside of the Beauce, most of these newfound friends provided little political payoff in the general election.

Supply management is not just terrible Soviet-era economy policy; it is highly discriminatory towards the West. With hard quotas, supply-management artificially props up Quebec’s dairy industry, and makes it illegal for Western dairy farmers to produce enough to meet even their own domestic needs. It’s hard to imagine the federal government putting in place a quota system to prop up any Western industry at the direct expense of consumers and Eastern interests.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer featured in a social media image created by the Dairy Farmers of Canada lobby group.

Committing to end supply management would prove that a candidate is both a real economic libertarian, and Western friendly.

Five: Separation of Powers

Like internal free-trade, the 1867 constitution was clear on the separation of powers between the federal and provincial governments. Trade, currency, criminal law, and national defence were exclusively federal. Healthcare, education and social services were exclusively provincial. Since 1867, provincial politicians have meddled in most areas of federal jurisdiction (short of national defence), and federal politicians have laid claim to areas of clear provincial jurisdiction.

In 2020, Ottawa will collect $57 billion from the provinces, and hand it back to them with strings attached so that it can dictate health and social policy. It is a wild violation of clear provincial jurisdiction as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and goes unquestioned by the Liberal and Tory establishments alike. Supporters of these provincial transfers say that this is to ensure uniformity of services across Canada, but the constitution says that the entire point of separate jurisdiction, is so that they can be different.

We can expect every last Tory leadership candidate to proclaim their “respect for provincial jurisdiction,” but to date, that has been only words. Provincial transfers are the single largest item in the federal budget, and are almost entirely in direct contradiction of the original intent of the constitution.

Six: Gun Rights

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce the details of his gun confiscation program in the spring. He has been intentionally vague about what kinds of firearms he intends to seize from lawful gun owners, but every plan floated by them to date amounts to little more than legalized theft.

Gun rights – like free trade and supply management – is a national issue, but disproportionally effects Westerners.

Conservative leadership candidates should commit to repeal any gun confiscation, provide compensation for any government theft, and a full pardon for anyone charged with not complying.

Don’t sell your vote too cheaply

Westerners should demand more than rhetoric from would-be Tory leaders. They should demand firm, written commitments before giving them their votes.

Unlike national elections when the Tories can take the West for granted, Tory leadership candidates need Western support. Don’t let them have it at such a low price.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and the President of Wildrose Media Corp.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher, President & CEO of Western Standard New Media Corp. He served from 2015-2019 as a Member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly in the Wildrose and Freedom Conservative parties. From 2009-2014 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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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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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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