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QUESNEL: A Reformed Senate is Needed to Keep Alberta in Canada

There is no silver bullet to repairing the fabric of Canada’s union, but creating a democratic and regionally representative Senate is a critical ingredient if it is to be saved.

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John Hamilton Gray was a Father of Confederation from Prince Edward Island.  He served as chairman of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which laid the groundwork for the British North America Act. In supporting federal union and opposing its critics, Gray asked: 

“Is it necessary that we should go into this Confederation with our hearts and minds filled with suspicions? Is it a foregone conclusion with us that all the other provinces will unite to do injustice to one particular section of our common country?” 

Gray went on to declare that these suspicions could not be held by “liberal and enlightened men.”

But with all due respect to Gray, he was not living in Canada in 2020 under the present Liberal government. He did not know Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet who don’t care about jobs in the West, or the long-term health of its energy sector. Gray was speaking from his time and place where good was more plentiful than it is now. 

Canada is in trouble when one region seeks to undermine another region. 

People from the Prairie provinces have reasonable reasons to harbor suspicions. The Liberal government is funding a B.C. group opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion project. An Ontario Liberal MP is using his office to promote an electronic petition aiming to stop the Teck oilsands mine. Finally, the Bloc Quebecois has tabled a motion to kill the Teck mine

If Gray was alive today, he would see how one region of this country is seeking to do clear harm to another one. 

During the confederation negotiations, many framers saw an appointed Senate as a check against such action. The Senate was designed to assure regional equality, especially for regions prejudiced by the rep-by-pop formula of the House of Commons. 

The original distribution of Senate seats involved the four colonies that joined confederation at the outset, and obviously did not include later B.C. and the Prairie provinces. Thus, the four Atlantic provinces, with seven per cent of Canada’s population, have 30 senators. The four Western provinces, with more than 30 per cent of the population, have 24 senators. Alberta alone has twice the population of the four Atlantic provinces, but barely more than half the senators of New Brunswick. 

Sir John A. Macdonald spoke of an active Senate possessing independent power and ability to affect legislation. He argued: 

“There would be no use of an upper house if it did not exercise, when it thought proper, the right of opposing or amending or postponing the legislation of the lower house.” 

“It must be an independent house, having a free action of its own, for it is only valuable as being a regulating body, calmly considering the legislation initiated by the popular branch and preventing any hasty or ill-considered legislation.”

Bills C-69, C-48 and C-242 could easily be added to the list of “hasty or ill-considered legislation.” 

Individual senators played a prominent role in speaking out against legislation counter to the West’s economic interests. 

Independent (and elected) Alberta Senator Doug Black introduced S-245, a bill declaring the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in the national interest. The Senate – through Western members – played a significant role in introducing amendments to Bill C-69, a bill seen by the energy sector as introducing onerous requirements to major projects by adding nebulous criteria to approve future projects. Western Senators – including independent ones – were very vocal in opposing Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium bill. Although the Senate committee studying the bill came out opposing the bill – calling it discriminatory – the full Senate voted to pass it, albeit narrowly. Still, many Liberal-aligned Senators (including nominal “independents”) toed the government line.

The only bill that senators were also able to successfully kill was Bill C-242, legislation designed to harmonize laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (U.N.D.R.I.P.). Significant concern was raised over the flaws of the bill, including the lack of a working definition of the right to “free, prior, and informed consent” that appears in U.N.D.R.I.P. itself. This lack of definition concerned senators enough that they allowed the bill to be defeated. 

If the Senate saw its role differently, perhaps Bill C-69 and C-48 would have also been dead in the water. An emboldened Senate focused solely on regional equality could secure a fair deal for the West, or at a minimum act as check against anti-Western legislation. 

Prime Minister Trudeau’s goal of a more non-partisan Senate is positive in theory, but in practice, he has appointed individuals that are ideologically aligned with his liberal agenda, thus explaining why these senators overwhelmingly side with government legislation, even against the interests of their provinces.

The Supreme Court ruled that changing the composition or selection of the Senate would require the consent of the provinces and territories; in short, a verboten constitutional amendment.

However, the Senate can adopt a “gentleman’s agreement” to change their role to one of stronger regional equality. This would involve a joint resolution affirming a suspensive veto. Right now, a gentleman’s agreement is what allows the Senate to delay, but not defeat, legislation.

For the sake of the continuation of the federation, we need political will to reform the Senate into a serious deliberative body that will protect regional equality. An encouraging sign was the announcement of the formation of a Senate caucus to represent regional interests, made up mostly of conservative, Western Senators. 

But real change in the Senate inevitably means reopening the constitution, something that every national politician has been loath to do since the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords of Brian Mulroney. Since then, there has been an unofficial cross-party rule that the constitution is off-limits, but this political consensus only cements the place of the West as a second-tier region. In the name of repairing national-unity, it’s time to break the consensus. 

A new Canadian Senate should first and foremost, rebalance its provincial and regional representation. One option is the American and Australian model, where each state has an equal number of senators, regardless of population. 

More suited to Canada however might be Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat (federal council). Rather than be appointed by the federal government (as in Canada) or directly elected (as in the U.S. and Australia), they are delegates of the länder (state) governments. The number of seats each state receives is based on “degressive proportionality.” That is, that smaller provinces receive more seats than their population would otherwise grant, but not an equal share. This would solve Ontario and Quebec’s objection to having equal Senate representation as Prince Edward Island. 

A reformed Senate may also include representation for First Nations. In New Zealand, its Maori indigenous people have their own seats in parliament, serving as a kind of quasi constituency. Including First Nation seats alongside provinces could be an important component of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. 

Alberta is the only federation in the democratic world without a democratic upper house to represent the regions, and the only country in the world where smaller areas can have much greater representation that larger regions. 

There is no silver bullet to repairing the fabric of Canada’s union, but creating a democratic and regionally representative Senate is a critical ingredient if it is to be saved. 

Joseph Quesnel is the Indigenous Issues Columnist for the Western Standard

Joseph Quesnel the Indigenous Issues Columnist for the Western Standard. He is a Metis policy analyst and commentator who writes on Indigenous issues as well as energy and resource development policy.

Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Kenney needs to stop ‘criminal’ searches of doctors’ offices

“Unless criminal charges are laid against those two so-called investigators, the CPSA itself is a criminal organization,” said lawyer Jeff Rath.

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Do not relent on the demand for a criminal investigation and sue their sorry asses off.

Accessing medical files under allegedly false pretenses while a legal challenge is underway is despicable and can’t be legal. 

This kind of medical “fascism” has no place in Canada. 

Investigators for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) went too far with what could be interpreted as either a shut-up tactic or dirt-digging hunt against Jeffrey Rath, a lawyer acting on behalf of several clients involved in litigation against the CPSA.

If the two CPSA investigators who raided a doctor’s office Thursday get away with this shockingly unethical stunt, then no one — vaccinated or unvaccinated — will be safe from these tyrants who think they have the authority to do whatever they want, rights and freedoms and privacy be damned.

This is utterly chilling. Jeff Rath, of Rath & Company, called it “medical fascism.” He’s right. 

CPSA investigators Dr. Jeff Robinson and Jason MacDonald searched the files of Calgary family practitioner Dr. Dan Botha for patients he granted COVID-19 medical exemptions. 

One of the few files — out of about 10,000 — they suspiciously accessed was Rath’s. 

“We’re in active litigation with these people and they think they can send investors in to access my medical files,” Rath told Western Standard.

“I wonder how a judge would feel if a judge found out these people could go through a judge’s medical file while a hearing with regard to the College’s conduct was before that particular judge.”

You can bet Alberta Health Services (AHS) — which pushes the boundaries of its authority beyond acceptable limits — had its mitts on this. 

Apparently, AHS didn’t let Premier Jason Kenney in on the plot.

“Neither the premier nor the Premier’s Office has any knowledge of the alleged events you describe. You’d need to contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons directly,” said spokesman Christine Myatt.

The investigators searched Botha’s files under the guise of a benign practice review they alleged was part of normal oversight procedures under the Health Professions Act.

Botha told Western Standard’s Melanie Risdon he was handed a one-page letter requesting he provide access to his patient files for the inspectors “under section 53.1 of the Health Professions Act (HPA).” It indicated the inspection was to “ensure the issuance of medical exemptions for vaccination against COVID-19 are in adherence to the provincial vaccination exemption program, medical exemptions for face mask are in adherence to provincial public health orders and the prescribing of Ivermectin is in adherence with CPSA Standards of Practice.”

This raid came from the CPSA, said Rath.

“I’ve sent several letters to the College of Physicians and Surgeons regarding concerns that my clients have with the CPSA basically interfering in doctor/patient relationships in Alberta. They’re telling doctors what they can and can’t prescribe, telling doctors what exceptions they can and can’t write,” said Rath.

“A week or so ago I wrote the College a letter saying how dare you tell doctors what medical exemptions they can’t write or threaten doctors with misconduct because they’ve written medical exemptions.

“The College replied: ‘Oh no, no, no, we’re not the ones coming up with these medical exemption restrictions, that’s coming from AHS.’ I said there’s an inherent conflict of interest in AHS setting out what the criteria are for medical exemptions to the vaccine and then having the College enforce it after the fact.”

On the heels of the raid, Rath fired off a letter demanding Robinson have his medical license suspended and that a criminal investigation be opened against both Robinson and MacDonald.

“As far as I’m concerned, they were illegally accessing my files under false pretenses that they were acting appropriately under the Health Professions Act.”

“Unless criminal charges are laid against those two so-called investigators, the CPSA itself is a criminal organization.”

Sadly, for the CPSA, there’s no dirt to be found in Rath’s medical file.

“There’s nothing in the damn thing anyway. It’s not like my doctor’s doing anything wrong regarding prescriptions. My privacy’s been violated. I feel personally violated. That invasion of my personal privacy is absolutely beyond belief.

“If they’re there — ostensibly conducting a random investigation of a doctor’s practice under the Health Professions Act to make sure that he’s conducting himself professionally with regard to mask exemptions or whatever — what business do they have targeting the medical file of a lawyer acting against the CPSA?”

“I grew up in a public health family. I’m watching what’s happening to the medical profession in this country and the complete lack of ethical conduct by the College of Physicians and Surgeons in this province. I don’t even recognize this to be my province anymore.”

Meanwhile, the family of a two-year-old whose file was seized is considering a lawsuit for the breach of privacy. 

Botha, treating the child with Rett syndrome, has provided a permanent mask exemption.

“Think about the poor mother. You can imagine how that family suffered already and you’ve got agents of the CPSA poking around in her poor little daughter’s medical file to decide if Dr. Botha appropriately granted this little girl a masking exemption. This family’s being terrorized by the College,” said Rath.

Time for the terrorizing to stop. It started with pastors and now has progressed to target little girls and lawyers. 

Who’s next? You?

Sue away.

What say you, Jason Kenney? Time to put a leash on these people.

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

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Opinion

ANDRUS: Time to stop appeasing activists

“Under the guise of “Build Back Better” and a “Just Transition” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning a deliberate and systematic elimination of all oil and gas development within Canada.”

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Winston Churchill famously criticized appeasers, saying “each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last.”

His point was that repeated compromise that allows your opponent to repeatedly shift the goalposts only delays your inevitable demise, rather than preventing it.

If the federal government and environmental radicals are today’s crocodiles and Alberta’s energy industry is the meat, why are we still feeding them?

Anyone who thinks these crocodiles intend to stop feeding after the first few bites are deluding themselves.

Under the guise of “Build Back Better” and a “Just Transition” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is planning a deliberate and systematic elimination of all oil and gas development within Canada.

The appointment of radical eco-activist, Steven Guilbeault as Minister of Environment and Climate Change was just the opening salvo in their war to “save the world” from climate change.

The government says that they only plan to cap oil and gas emissions but not total oil and gas production.

Some in the energy industry say this is fine because technological advances will ensure that they can increase production while remaining within the government’s cap.

You can almost hear the crocodiles chewing.

Or should that be ticking?

Another radical environmentalist, David Suzuki, recently warned at an Extinction Rebellion rally that “there are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on”.

While oil and gas workers have struggled to find work for years and many massive projects have been cancelled, blocked, or abandoned, thanks to government policy, the activists are so far to the left that they think our leaders aren’t even paying attention.

Which leads to the obvious question — what would our leaders paying attention look like to these guys?

The answer, of course, is the complete shutdown of Canada’s entire oil and gas industry, and violent protests if they don’t get their way.

Keystone XL.

Chomp.

Energy East.

Chomp.

Teck Frontier.

Chomp.

Coastal Gaslink and TransMountain.

Chomp chomp.

How many more projects, how many more jobs, how many more livelihoods should we feed to the crocodiles before we wake up and realize that they don’t plan on stopping and appeasement doesn’t work?

How about zero.

Let’s stop feeding the beast and start protecting Albertans instead.

Josh Andrus is the executive director of Project Confederation (https://www.projectconfederation.ca), a non-profit fighting for a better deal for the west within the Confederation of Canada.

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Opinion

MAKICHUK: Seeking economic diversity when it’s all going to hell

“Let’s keep it simple. Let’s do what we do best and absolutely, let’s expand our tech footprint in any way we possibly can — and it doesn’t just have to be in a green, eco-direction, as the esteemed Mr. Dhaliwal suggests.”

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On Nov. 16, the year 2021, Calgary city council voted 13-2 to declare a climate emergency, with only Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu and Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean opposed.

The notice of motion was initially brought forward by Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal and calls for the city to take action on climate change through various initiatives that will help limit global warming.

It includes calls for the city to accelerate its emissions reduction targets to net-zero by 2050, collaborate and engage with First Nations communities to ensure intersectional climate change strategies, and develop a carbon budget to guide future council decisions.

“People who think it’s a war against our oil and gas … it’s not about that. It’s about how we produce, and how we consume our hydrocarbons, and supporting our oil and gas or energy sector,” Dhaliwal said.

“And on top of that, we also have an opportunity to bring this monumental and transformative change.”

Sorry Mr. Dhaliwal, but you’re so out to lunch, so out in left field, so out of touch, so out of … well, you get the point.

Yes, even city councils in Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto and, even our brethren up north, in Edmonton — have done the same.

It’s all part of this new trend toward extremist activism, the so-called green signalling effect, and, accompanied by a heckuva lot of journalism that passes as journalism, but is actually an agenda unto itself.

Take a look at the eco-activist Narwhal online publication, and tell me if you think that’s journalism. Taxpayer-funded, by the way.

Rookie mayor Jyoti Gondek’s climate emergency declaration aside — a bit of a head-shaker, for sure — I think it’s time we start keeping things simple.

When it comes to the city hall budget, if we can’t afford it, we toss it. Simple as that. Every department in that massive bureaucracy should be read the riot act on how to do with less.

And I don’t care if it’s the Calgary Police Service or the guy who fines me for not shovelling snow off my walk … it’s time we tighten our belts. Mayor Farkas, may have broached that to some extent, Mayor “Greta” Gondek surely won’t.

She is Nenshi-lite scary and we are stuck with her for the next four years. Status quo, ladies and gents, status quo — just what you voted for.

Allow me to digress, slightly.

The US keeps a military liaison in Russia, just as the Russians keep a military liaison in the US. It’s an honoured exchange.

No big secrets are revealed but both observers get to see stuff we will never see and report back to their respective higher-ups.

Well, this particular American liaison had some interesting things to say to a friend of mine. And it involved how the Russians ingeniously keep things simple.

Take for instance fighter jet ejection seats. Which jet fighter would you rather eject from … an American fighter jet or a Russian fighter jet?

Ah … you don’t trust the Russian technology, right? Wrong.

The American ejection system, in any fighter jet, is made by hundreds, if not thousands of different contractors.

The Russians? One. Yes, just one manufacturer. They design it from start to finish. Chances are it will probably not fail as often as its American counterpart.

Again … not my opinion. The opinion of this US military liaison, who lived and worked in Moscow and saw things for himself.

Secondly, US jet fighters have high-tech titanium or other rare metal engine mounts — which, are probably good but expensive as hell.

What do the Russians use? Hardwood. That’s right, hardwood. Why? Because it works, it absorbs vibration, as it is supposed to and it’s cheap as hell.

That would never, ever happen at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif. 

Better to not tell the Pentagon this — better to make fun of them after work at the bar.

The lesson here, folks, is that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel to bring Alberta back on track following the devastation of COVID-19 and well-meaning health officials on our economy.

Let’s keep it simple. Let’s do what we do best and absolutely, let’s expand our tech footprint in any way we possibly can — and it doesn’t just have to be in a green, eco-direction, as the esteemed Mr. Dhaliwal suggests.

I recently read an interesting piece in Breaking Defense online, an excellent website for military news with top-notch writers, which quoted a new report from the Reagan Institute, titled “A Manufacturing Renaissance: Bolstering U.S. Production for National Security and Economic Prosperity.” 

The report called for a US “manufacturing renaissance” amid an intensifying economic and national security competition with China, which has openly stated it intends to displace the US as the world’s leading economy in coming decades.

The report’s four recommendations include: modernizing the Defense Production Act, enlarging the US workforce for high-demand trades, creating new public partnerships and financial incentives to strengthen economic sectors important to national security and facilitating new forums with G7 and Quad (US, India, Japan, and Australia) countries to coordinate on economic issues.

While we’re not so militarily inclined, it seems obvious that our province must also look at launching an economic “renaissance” if we are to compete with the world. We simply can’t do things the way we were, we must adjust our attitudes and fast.

And I’m not talking about destructive open-pit coal mines in the Eastern slopes, I’m talking about simple things such as establishing special economic zones to lure foreign investment — the so-called innovators, entrepreneurs and companies we seek.

This is going to impact rural areas in Alberta, like it or not.

We must also expand support for the industries that made our province strong in the first place, such as natural gas and crude oil, agriculture, forestry, mining, construction and tourism.

Alberta beef, for instance, is among the best in the world. It’s high time we let everybody know that. 

Reduce the taxes on small businesses in Calgary and Edmonton, offer incentives to tech startups and cut red tape for businesses. 

If we need more revenue, don’t cut from health, put a toll on Hwy. 2 (semi-trucks, not included). Find other innovative ways, such as the highly successful visitor fee for Kananaskis.

That was the best thing the Kenney government has done since it came into power.

We need to pour more dollars, into R&D, just like China is doing and to hell with the feds.

Six-figure green jobs and unicorns are not going to appear anytime soon — the oil industry is going to be around for many years and we should not be ashamed of that, no matter what the mop-haired man in the PMO says or does.

In short, we must improve the business environment and incentivize investment in innovation.

Alberta strong. Keep it simple. We can do this.

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news
makichukd@gmail.com

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