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FILDEBRANDT: Ottawa is at war with Alberta, and There’s no “Fair Deal” to be had

Ottawa isn’t just unfriendly towards Alberta. It is a colonial government at war with it. And the sooner we realized it, the fast we can begin to fight back with equal force.

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On February 6th, I wrote on these pages that “If Trudeau kills Teck, It’s War“. Now, on February 23th, it’s war.

This marks the day when many at the Western Standard and elsewhere predicted, the Liberals would kill the $20 billion Teck oilsands mine investment, eliminating 7,000 jobs in the process. As predicted, the Liberals would not risk the political backlash of stabbing the Teck project in the heart. Instead, they would put it in a torture chamber of a thousand regulations and political hurdles that would be impossible to meet, forcing Teck to kill itself.

While the Liberals were not found standing over the body, they have been stalking it for months, warning that it would not be approved, and floating the prospect of an “economic aid” package to pacify angry Albertans once it was dead.

Teck Resources President and CEO Don Lindsay, explained in the politest language he could find why the project was being shelved.

“Global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products. This does not yet exist here today and, unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project.”

In short, warnings that the federal government’s butchering of Canada’s once sane energy approvals process is politicized, and there is no path forward without being required to meet unreasonable demands.

Lindsay continued, “Frontier, however, has surfaced a broader debate over climate change and Canada’s role in addressing it. It is our hope that withdrawing from the process will allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward. Ultimately, that should take place without a looming regulatory deadline.”

That is, it is no longer about the merits of a given energy project, but about the global crusade against fossil fuels, and Teck Frontier is public enemy number one. The “looming regulatory deadline” which the Liberals dragged to the last minute, made the decision politically explosive.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement after word seeped out. He laid blame at the federal government’s feet, and was none-to-happy about it, but he shied away from more heated language. He refrained from calling out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by name – something he did daily before winning the 2019 election – and went to pains to emphasize how cooperative he has been with Ottawa on the Teck front.

“The Government of Alberta agreed to every request and condition raised by the federal government for approving the Frontier project, including protecting bison and caribou habitat, regulation of oilsands emissions, and securing full Indigenous support.”

It’s surprising that Kenney would admit openly that his government largely capitulated to many of Ottawa’s demands in an area of Alberta’s clear domain of interest, but he must believe that it is better to have appeared the victim that tried, than the victim that resisted compromise.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley took a different approach, blaming the entire thing – lock, stock and barrel – squarely on Kenney.

“The heated rhetoric and constant conflict generated by Jason Kenney and the UCP is the primary reason for withdrawal of Teck’s application.”

It is a bizarre line of attack most likely written by an over-caffeinated NDP staffer drinking the bathwater of the “Kenney is a crypto-fascist” cult.

If Keneny has any fault in the matter, it is for not taking a much harder line in forcing Ottawa’s hand. Since the October federal election, Kenney has radically changed his tone with the Trudeau government, and has gone out of his way to deescalate the rising tide of sovereigntist support in Alberta. While he has commendably commissioned the Fair Deal Panel to explore ways in which Alberta might better assert its autonomy within confederation, he has shied away from drawing a line in the sand.

Michelle Rempel Garner and three other federal Conservative MPs took up that challenge last week, when they issued the Buffalo Declaration. Not content to merely withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan and RCMP, the Buffalo MPs demanded constitutional reform to make Alberta – and the West – equal partners in Confederation. The strong implication of their declaration, was “or else”.

While not quite coming out for independence themselves, they made clear where things are headed if things don’t change: “they [Albertans] will be equal or they will seek independence.”

This is the clear and unmistakable line in the sand that many Albertans believe it is past time to draw. Justin Trudeau being nicer, or Peter MacKay reversing some of the most explicitly anti-Western policies is no longer enough. The constitution must be reformed to stop federal governments in Ottawa from attacking Alberta, or Alberta must take matters into its own hands.

Kenney would serve Alberta well to take up this call. UCP MLA and Fair Deal Panel Member Drew Barnes already has, coming out in support of the Buffalo Declaration.

Ottawa’s strangulation of the Teck Frontier oilsands mine isn’t just another injury that Alberta can abide. It is a clear and unmistakable sign that Ottawa means to “phase out” Alberta’s oil and gas industry, as Trudeau himself has put it. This isn’t a policy that would be tolerated towards any other region of Canada, but was welcomed with joy by throngs of eco-radicals in the East, and by a large segment of the minority federalist-left in Alberta.

Left powerless for all their tough talk, is Alberta’s federalist-right.

Alberta can no longer afford to brace itself and keep skating after hits from Ottawa. These attacks are deliberate, and in the long term, fatal to our exsistence.

Ottawa isn’t just unfriendly towards Alberta. It is a colonial government at war with it. And the sooner we realized it, the faster we can begin to fight back with equal force.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard and President and CEO 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

Opinion

BRADLEY: No Central Bank Digital Currency can stack up to Bitcoin

Why Bitcoin will always be the superior digital currency.

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These days, many countries are considering introducing their own Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs).

The Bank of England recently released a research paper discussing the possibility of creating its own digital currency, saying it has “not yet made a decision on whether to introduce CBDC”.

In July 2021, the Bank of Canada issued a discussion paper called “The Positive Case for a CBDC”, citing it “could be an effective competition policy tool for payments” and “could also support the vibrancy of the digital economy.”

But no country is moving faster on this front than China.

The Central Bank of China has already introduced a digital yuan, which is expected to eliminate physical cash and provide a centralized payment-processing network.

As China continues to expand its CBDC implementation beyond its trial run in some cities, more of its citizens will be forced into using the government’s app to identify themselves, store their wealth and make everyday purchases. That means the Chinese government will be able to track purchases and even freeze or close personal accounts, for whatever reason they see fit.

That is a terrifying prospect – and it highlights one of the many reasons bitcoin will always be superior to any currency issued and controlled by any government.

The Bitcoin network uses blockchain technology to track the status of the network, including user balances and transactions. This allows transparency and decentralization by nature. Perhaps most importantly, this means that the system cannot be controlled or influenced by any one person, company or government.

China’s digital yuan – and any CBDC under consideration – have the complete opposite fundamentals. With a CBDC, one central bank has ultimate control and power over the currency, not to mention the ability to track and even reverse everyday purchases.

It’s a particularly worrisome situation in China, where its government has been pushing a social credit system that, at its core, rewards or punishes people for their economic and personal behaviours. As the country implements its digital yuan more broadly, there are fears China could use its CBDC to extend control over even more of its citizens’ rights and freedoms.

We don’t face that threat in western countries yet, but that’s not to say we are immune from the possibility. If Meta’s recent announcement that it’s shutting down the face recognition system on Facebook is any indication, our society is definitely not keen on being monitored, controlled, or surveilled in any way.

From 2013 to 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice ran Operation Choke Point to monitor and crack down on payments for what the government deemed “high-risk activities”, ranging from online gambling and payday loans to pornography and surveillance equipment sales. These activities were not illegal but they offended the government’s moral compass – a slippery and scary slope.

Most recently, in October 2021 U.S. President Joe Biden and his government backed down from requiring the IRS to collect data on every bank account with more than $600 in annual transactions. 

Infringements like these on our privacy are unacceptable. But the likelihood of them happening will grow exponentially if, and when, western governments introduce their own CBDCs.

Aside from a potential loss of personal freedom and privacy, CBDCs would introduce another undesirable outcome: even greater inflation than we’re experiencing today. Governments, including our own here in Canada, are printing money faster than ever, which simultaneously drives inflation and devalues personal wealth.

As Saifedean Ammous writes in his fantastic book, The Fiat Standard: The Debt Slavery Alternative to Human Civilization, “CBDCs would allow for the implementation of…inflationist schemes with high efficiency, allowing for increased central planning of market activity. Government spending would proceed unabated by whatever little discipline credit markets currently exert. Real-world prices are likely to rise, which would lead to more control over economic production to mandate prices.”

To sum this up, CBDCs could lead to higher inflation, less personal autonomy, and more government meddling. For those reasons, whenever I’m asked if the introduction of CBDCs will kill bitcoin and its relevance, my answer is a resounding, “No.”

Central bank digital currencies are not the same thing as bitcoin. They aren’t even competitors with bitcoin, nor will they ever replace bitcoin. They are a distraction. In my opinion, CBDCs will only create greater demand for bitcoin and its many advantages.

Bitcoin offers individuals the profound ability to own sound money, protect their wealth from inflation and keep governments from micro-managing their finances. That is certainly not what CBDCs will do, and it’s why we should all be very apprehensive about giving central banks the ability to issue, oversee and control digital currencies.

No CBDC can, or ever will, stack up to bitcoin.

Guest Column from Dave Bradley, Chief Revenue Officer at Bitcoin Well
@bitcoinbrains on Twitter

Sponsored by Bitcoin Well

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Opinion

ROYER: Canada ignores Alberta. Because it can

The only conclusion is that Canada is not a functioning, modern federal democracy. It caters almost exclusively to the needs of the two primary provinces.

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Crickets. That is the sound of Canada’s response to Alberta’s request to consider revisions to the equalization program over a month ago. What does the deafening silence say about Canada?

Trudeau brushed off the referendum saying that he couldn’t unilaterally address the issue, although he clearly can. His government has several bilateral agreements with provinces other than Alberta.  He can agree to change the equalization formula to drain less wealth from Alberta and Saskatchewan in the first place.

The federal Conservative Party’s silence is due to their leader Erin O’Toole’s decision to pander to Ontario and Quebec, taking the West for granted.

The silence has made one thing absolutely clear: Alberta has no voice in Canada. Voting against the Liberals hasn’t worked. Voting in a couple of Liberal MPs hasn’t helped. Relying on protection provincial sovereignty under the constitution has proven to be useless; Trudeau’s government intercedes into those defined powers with impunity.

All that remains is to look at the big picture. Alberta had no democratic input into decisions that dramatically diminished its economy. Wealth continues to be drained from the province and it has no means to stop it. A referendum — the ultimate expression of democratic rights — is ignored. What does this make Canada?

First, it clearly is not a modern democratic nation. Modern democracies give voice to minorities and seek compromise.

We do not have a federal government. There is no structural input from the far reaches of the country in the nation’s decision-making process. It is a central government, serving only the centre.

We are not really a federation either. Rights of the lesser provinces are extinguished at the whim of the central government. Those intrusions are dutifully upheld by the Supreme Court, an institution with a majority of judges from central Canada. The Senate is completely ineffective in protecting the federation. It over-represents Quebec and Atlantic Canada, is appointed at the sole discretion of the prime minister and has very limited powers to disagree with him. Alberta’s attempt to introduce democracy into the selection of Senators has been ignored by the prime minister.

Power is extremely concentrated. Trudeau’s emissions cap on hydrocarbon production is just the most recent example. No discussion with Parliament or the provinces was taken; he just made the decision with his personal staff, and announced it

He has this power because hyper-partisanship, strict party discipline and the overly centralized government concentrates power. We’ve abandoned our historic Westminster Parliamentary system of government and taken on an American style constitutional system with judicial supremacy, but with an all-powerful prime minister that lacks the checks-and-balances placed upon an American president.

The only respectful response to Alberta came from Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe. He called for his province to become a nation within a nation, a status effectively granted Quebec. Neither the federal structure nor the national parliament protect the outlying provinces. They now need to gain near national powers in order to protect themselves from the central government.

The only conclusion is Canada is not a functioning, modern federal democracy. It caters almost exclusively to the needs of the two primary provinces: Ontario and Quebec. The concentration of power and the malleability of federal sovereignties has makes the prime minister effectively an elected dictator. The only check on the prime minister’s power is in an occasional national election, the results of which are determined almost entirely in Ontario and Quebec.

So, what is Canada? It is a country in which the central provinces in conjunction with the central government have dominion over the outlying provinces, and those central provinces elect a prime minister who is given near royal prerogative.

Our country is called (at least officially) the Dominion of Canada, a constitutional monarchy. By the word dominion are we saying that the centre has dominion over the rest of the country? And does constitutional democracy say that the constitution concentrates power into the hands of a single person?

We can do better.

Randy Royer is a Western Standard columnist

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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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