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LITTLEJOHN: We don’t have to flatten the economy to flatten the curve

It is time to stop viewing options as binary and look for solutions which protect health and the economy.




The Coronavirus pandemic raises many ethical dilemmas. One question posed relates to the rationing of scarce medical resources.  

If there are two patients with Coronavirus – but only one ventilator – who should receive the lifesaving treatment? Another dilemma faced by politicians is the purported choice between the health of the economy, or the health of Canadians.

In recent weeks, the U.S., U.K. and Canada were confronted with an Imperial College report laying out dire consequences if extreme action was not taken to halt the spread of the virus. The Imperial College team used infection and death rates from China, South Korea, Italy and ran a simulation. If no action was taken, 80 per cent of people would get the disease and 0.9 per cent of them would die. In Alberta alone, that would mean a staggering 31,000 deaths. It’s worse if the country runs out of ventilators. 

Alternatively, if schools, gyms, restaurants and all large gatherings were shut down, the health care system would remain functioning and fewer people die. However, if the lockdown was lifted before a vaccine is widely available – potentially one year to 18 months from now – there is risk of resurgence. 

On the basis of this report, countries around the world have locked down. But, many people – including Bill Gates and Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis – have criticized the report as too pessimistic. Ioannidispoints out that the only situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship. Of seven hundred passengers and crew members, seven died. This is a one per cent mortality rate, which is low given the close and prolonged exposure among the passengers as well as the more elderly mean age. Ioannidis believes it’s quite possible the infection rate is substantially lower than 80 per cent, and a reasonable fatality estimate could range from 0.05 per cent to one per cent. This dramatically reduces the number of potential deaths. 

On the other hand, shuttering businesses has massive economic repercussions. This isn’t merely a question of saving lives versus alleged greed. Either way, lives are at risk. In one week alone, half a million Canadians filed for Employment Insurance. That number will climb to astronomical proportions before the lockdown can be lifted. When nearly half of Canadians are already living paycheck-to-paycheck, we can anticipate record numbers of bankruptcies and devastating consequences that will last far longer than the virus. The deaths of millions to a virus is horrifying, but so are millions of people losing marriages, homes, livelihoods, increased substance abuse and suicide. Not to mention the unprecedented powers blithely handed over to governments – unheard of in peace or sometimes even war. Sweeping new powers are being handed to governments, with little evidence or debate, and even less assurance that these powers will ever be handed back.

These ethical dilemmas of economy versus health or granting one patient a ventilator assume that the choices are binary, but this is a false assumption. When there is only one ventilator, the answer isn’t necessarily to choose one patient, but rather to jerry-rig the ventilator to save both – as doctors are doing. Likewise, we needn’t choose between destroying the economy or saving lives. 

Taiwan has kept shops, restaurants and schools open, yet is doing much better than Canada at containing the virus. Some steps Taiwan took – such as testing all passengers arriving from China – are too late, but others could still be implemented.  Taiwan could easily have been decimated by Coronavirus as many Taiwanese live and work in China. If you believe the CBC, Taiwan is actually a province of China.

Both Canada and Taiwan discovered their first case within days of each other, but as of March 23rd Canada had 2,091 cases and 23 deaths. Taiwan had only 195 cases and two deaths, 

One aspect of Taiwan’s approach Canada should copy is widespread testing. Canada’s draconian policies have removed the big advantages that democratic societies posses. Namely, large datasets, entrepreneurial experience and creative thinking. By shutting everything down we have effectively eliminated our greatest advantage – access to the great hordes of people who need to be tested and reported. Those at high risk or already infected should be locked down while stores, restaurants and places of worship should be opened on condition they take the temperature of all who come in the doors. Business owners would be highly motivated to comply. 

It is time to stop viewing options as binary and look for solutions which protect health and the economy. Widespread testing and quarantine of individuals at risk and those infected would be the best way to do this.

Tessa Littlejohn is a columnist for the Western Standard 


MAKICHUK: Alberta is in dire need of a Rene Levesque boost

“A tough journalist turned politician, a confident driving force who would guide us through the maelstrom of autonomy and ultimately new freedom to come. Someone to halt the twisted Kabuki theatre of Ottawa.”




He was a man I both admired and feared.

His name, was Rene Levesque, and he wanted to split Canada apart.

I was young and naive, drinking all the Liberal Kool-Aid of the day. And, I was afraid.

I didn’t want Canada to break apart — foolishly thinking in hindsight this would be the best for everyone.

At St. Joe’s school in Windsor, I sang O’ Canada every damn morning. It was drilled into me. How could I possibly act any different?

When the FLQ kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross and Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte, we were all shocked — we had no idea, no clue. 

In southern Ontario, everyone got along well, whether it was French, Italian or Ukrainian like me. We were all proud to be Canadian and this wasn’t our fight.

Getting back to Levesque.

A tough, chain-smoking journalist and politician who served as the 23rd premier of Quebec from 1976 to 1985, he was the first Québécois political leader since Confederation to attempt, through a referendum, to negotiate the political independence of Quebec.

As a youthful student of politics at the time I was fascinated by this man and I wanted to know more about him. 

Was he an evil man who wanted to destroy us? What made him tick? I wanted to know.

I remember there was a documentary at the time, possibly by the CBC, which tried to paint a picture of this man. From this, I walked away thinking he’s not really a bad guy.

In fact, he seemed quite true to himself and his cause and spoke his mind. I liked his casual, self-effacing manner. 

I was also surprised to find out he was among the first war correspondents with the US Army to see the horrors of the Dachau concentration camp following its liberation.  This was a man who had seen and experienced a lot, and wherever he could, fought corruption.

It made me think, maybe it was us, the rest of Canada that had it all wrong?

Unfortunately, for Levesque, he came across a fellow by the name of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, one of the greatest statesman in Canadian history.

Trudeau would make only four speeches during the referendum campaign — but they would be well spaced, well timed, and devastatingly effective, according to Graham Fraser, author of Rene Levesque & the Parti Quebecois in Power.

The goal of Lévesque and his Parti Québécois government was the independence option termed “sovereignty-association.” 

According to Britannica, the concept envisaged Quebec enacting its own laws, collecting taxes from its people, and establishing relations with foreign countries. Simultaneously, it would form an economic union with the rest of Canada based on a common currency.

This plan was rejected by 59.6% of the Quebec electorate in a popular-referendum vote on May 20, 1980, amid one of the highest voter turnouts in Quebec’s history. 

And thus the idea of separation died. Only to be reborn in the province of Alberta in 2022. A year of much trepidation for all Canadians — for entirely different reasons, of course. This has nothing to do with language or culture and will not lead to corporations departing in droves, as happened in Montreal.

If anything, the economic environment could improve.

This has to do with decades of immoral colonial exploitation in the name of federalism. This wasn’t about having French on the back of a cereal box, this was about right vs. wrong.

Case in point — the well-meaning folks who are campaigning to keep the RCMP in Alberta, rather than establishing a provincial police force.

This is not about the job the Mounties did over the years — nothing to do with that, at all. We must commend them for all they have done.

This is about sending a message of independence to the federal government in Ottawa, loud and clear — the bigger picture, so to speak.

To maintain the PMO’s strong arm men as our over-seers is a colossal mistake. We have to break free, politically and otherwise.

For this very reason, I wish Alberta had its own Rene Levesque.

A tough journalist turned politician, a confident driving force who would guide us through the maelstrom of autonomy and ultimately new freedom to come. Someone to halt the twisted Kabuki theatre of Ottawa.

The Mounties tried to find dirt on Levesque, even accusing him of being a communist in a 2,500-page RCMP dossier released by Library and Archives Canada under the Access to Information Act.

None of it stuck. It was nothing more than a communist witch hunt sparked by their CIA pals obsessed with Soviet moles, with no basis in fact.

I suspect illegal wiretaps, which have been kept classified, revealed nothing either.

Often seen with a cigarette dangling from his lips, Levesque was a good man, who just wanted independence for his province — the same thing a growing number of Albertans want.

How ironic then, that as the idea of Alberta separation is now being tossed around yet again, we face a Trudeau in opposition.

This time, might be different, however. In no way is the son a reflection of his powerful father. In fact, since becoming prime minister, he has probably done more to advance Alberta separation than stop it.

In 1968, Levesque released his famous manifesto, An Option For Quebec, which set the stage for an in-depth discussion on Quebec separatism.

The essay presented the constitutional proposal of a group of progressive liberals who, after leaving the Liberal Party of Quebec, formed the Sovereignty-Association Movement, the forerunner to the Parti Quebecois.

Before anyone decides to broach the idea of separatism on the prairies, Albertans need to know every aspect of what this entails. 

It’s for this reason I believe the current Alberta government, or even future governments, launch a major study to tackle this issue followed by a non-binding referendum, as we did with transfer payments.

It’s one thing to shout and make demands, quite another to study the matter peacefully and democratically. I believe we have reached that stage.

Let’s give it an honest look and see what’s feasible, and what is not. It’s all about pushing the envelope, to give our children the future they rightly deserve.

The 2020 Fair Deal Panel, which consulted tens of thousands of Albertans through in-person town hall meetings, an online survey and stakeholder interviews was a good start toward seeking a stronger voice in Confederation.

The concept envisaged by Levesque, of enacting and enforcing our own laws, collecting taxes and establishing our own pension, while forming an economic union with the rest of Canada, is not that far-fetched.

Time and time again, Albertans have shown themselves to be innovative and resilient, no matter the economic headwinds. We can do this.

Perhaps it’s time for another Quiet Revolution.

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

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SLOBODIAN: Singh’s big, comfy rocker shows his true stripes

“Pure democratic socialism doesn’t exist. Never has. Never will. It’s a myth like unicorns, government transparency, keeping campaign promises, and equality for everyone.”




The federal NDP says it is committed to democratic socialism that will deliver Utopia for me and thee.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh breathlessly preaches equality for all when it comes to wealth, income, and the distribution of limitless goodies. 

So, going by this equal distribution doctrine Singh embraces, we can all expect to get a free $1,895 rocking chair. Right? 

One just like the Grand Jackson Rocker Singh’s wife Gurkiran got from Monte Design, a Canadian furniture company that rewarded her for promoting the chair on her Instagram account in December.

Hold on. Isn’t that a violation of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons? It states MPs or “any member of a member’s family” may not accept gifts that “might reasonably be seen to have been given to influence the member in the exercise of a duty or function of his or her office.”

Gifts valued under $200 are permitted with conditions. Anything of greater value must be reported to the office of Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion within 60 days with an explanation of the source of the gifts and why they’re given. If an MP is deemed to have violated the code, a sanction can be recommended to be levelled at the discretion of the House of Commons. 

Don’t hold your breath.

But Gurkiran got the rocker. It’s not like hubby Singh planned to sit in it, promote it, or anything so brazen as that. 

MPs surely attend Ethics Class 101 and are expected to be astute enough to know advertising a gift from a company would be a big dumb no-no. 

Uh-oh. Singh published a photo Sunday on his Instagram page of him holding his infant daughter while parked in the comfy freebie chair. The name of the furniture company was tagged in the image. 

Maybe Singh was so busy plotting how to dole out buckets of free stuff on the taxpayer dime, he skipped ethics class.

Anyway, it’s all good now — after Singh got outed. 

“The NDP says it is working with the ethics commissioner and intends to file a formal disclosure report on a $1,895 rocking chair given to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s wife in exchange for posting about the item on her Instagram account,” NDP spokesperson Mélanie Richer said in a statement to CBC.

“The chair was given to Gurkiran with an expectation that she would promote it on social media. There was no expectation that Jagmeet would post about it.” 

That the code clearly mentions family members escaped the attention of the noble NDP. Details.

The Singhs have “realized their error and will be paying for the gift,” said Richer.

Saskatoon West Tory MP Brad Redekopp didn’t feel like overlooking the error.

“The average Canadian is worrying about how they are going to pay their bills, while Jagmeet Singh and the NDP worry about making online influencer deals to get expensive gifts,” he tweeted.

He also tweeted a picture of a laughing Singh and a chair asking: “Are you a NDP Champagne Socialist that can afford $1,900 rocking chairs?” 

“Socialists make the best capitalists,” tweeted the Western Standard’s Cory Morgan, assistant opinion and broadcast editor and host of Triggered.

They do. With his expensive Rolex watches, custom made suits, and BMW, flashy Singh’s no exception.

Wealth isn’t a bad thing. The Bible’s full of scripture endorsing prosperity. Hypocrisy? Heavily frowned upon.

Socialists are masters of manipulating fear and greed of voters by making big promises that never materialize.

Some argue that in Singh’s case, it’s only a chair. Perhaps. 

But socialism is a slippery slope. Where does it end? A rocking chair one day, a dacha the next?

Socialism is communism with lipstick that leads to a two-tiered society — the elite and the wanting, duped poor.

In Russia, the elite peddle communism whilst munching on black caviar in well-furnished seasonal dachas. 

Meanwhile, the masses head to the markets hoping the potatoes in the bins won’t be too blackened from blight or mold. 

How’s socialism working out for the suffering people in Argentina — once prosperous and plentiful like us?

Socialism attracts two kinds of supporters. Those too stupid to know it’s a curse. And those in power who bank on their stupidity by preaching its merits while cashing in on the fruits of capitalism.

Singh peddles hardcore socialism while wringing his hands over the increasing plight of the poor brought by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s destructive and crushing policies he unfailingly supports.

“Increasingly, we’re seeing two worlds in Canada,” he once said.

“The world for most Canadians is increasingly unaffordable, involves more precarious work, and is a harder place in which to get by. The second world is an exclusive club for the wealthy and well-connected who get special access and are exempt from rules the rest of us play by.”

Us? Really?

About that rocker. Don’t start rearranging the furniture to make room for it. 

Pure democratic socialism doesn’t exist. Never has. Never will. It’s a myth like unicorns, government transparency, keeping campaign promises, and equality for everyone. 

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

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THOMAS: How Western Canada fared in the 2021 housing market

“That didn’t happen. By early summer, sales picked up, prices steadied and the industry hasn’t looked back since, with some markets setting sales records in 2021.”




When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, like many industries, the lockdowns and restrictions shut down housing industry operations.

Home sales and prices plummeted, adding to the fear of the virus that homeowners would lose their homes’ equity. 

That didn’t happen. By early summer, sales picked up, prices steadied and the industry hasn’t looked back since, with some markets setting sales records in 2021. 

Here’s how major markets in Western Canada fared last year.


It was the third year in a row with record-breaking sales and dollar volumes.

“Both 2020 and 2021 were remarkable years in delivering sales gains from the previous year,” said Kourosh Doustshenas, outgoing president of the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board. “Last year saw an increase of more than 2,500 sales compared to 2020 and 33% sales growth over the previous five-year average.”

Sales of existing homes in 2021 reached 18,575 units with the dollar sales volume reaching $6.25 billion, up 28% from 2020.

Single-family homes and condominiums were the most popular, with market shares of 68% and 14% respectively.


The Saskatchewan Realtors Association’s (SRA) report covers all sales in the province. 

A record 17,387 sales were recorded in 2021, surpassing the previous record in 2007 by 17%.

While the pandemic triggered disruptions in some sectors of the economy, housing boomed, said SRA CEO, Chris Guérette.

“Improved savings from those not financially impacted by COVID-19, combined with low lending rates have supported the strong sales environment we saw throughout 2021,” said Guérette, adding inventory levels in the province were 16% below long-term trends.

“This resulted in the MLS Home Price Index (HPI) composite benchmark price* gaining more than seven percent.”


Sales of existing homes in Calgary soared in 2021, reaching a record 27,686, nearly 72% higher than 2020 and more than 44% higher than the 10-year average, says the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB).

“Concerns over inflation and rising lending rates likely created more urgency with buyers over the past few months, said CREB’s chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie. “However, the supply has not kept pace with the demand, causing strong price growth.” 

The year-end benchmark price was $451,567, up 8% from 2020. 

“We enter 2022 with some of the tightest conditions in over a decade,” said Lurie. “In December, inventory was nearly 25% lower than long-term averages, which will impact our housing market in 2022.”


“2021 was an incredible year for the Greater Edmonton Area (GEA),” says Realtors Association of Edmonton chair Tom Shearer. “The year-over-year stats for sales and listings in the GEA were significantly higher than December 2020.”

Last December, single-family home sales rose 16.5% from December 2020.  Condo sales increased 25.6% from December 2020. Duplex/rowhouse sales increased 16.8% year-over-year.

The HPI benchmark price in the GEA came in at $410,900, a 5.2% increase from December 2020.

Metro Vancouver

Home sales reached an all-time high in 2021, with the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reporting a total of 43,999, a 4% increase over the previous record of 42,326 in 2015.

The HPI composite benchmark price at the end of 2021 was $1,230,200, a 17.3% increase from December 2020.

“While steady, home listing activity didn’t keep pace with the record demand we saw throughout 2021. This imbalance caused residential home prices to rise over the past 12 months,” said Keith Stewart, REBGV economist.

“Detached home and townhome benchmark prices increased 22% last year, while apartments increased 12.8%.”


There were 10,052 properties sold in 2021, close to the record of 10,622 sales in 2016.

“The theme of this year has been very consistent,” says Victoria Real Estate Board president David Langlois. “Each month a high demand for homes paired with record low inventory has put strong pressure on pricing and attainability.”

The single-family HPI benchmark price in the Victoria Core in December 2021 was $1,144,900, up 25.1% from $1,122,600 in November. The HPI benchmark price for a condominium in the area in December 2020 was $570,600 up from $487,100 a year earlier. 

Housing supply across the country is a concern, said Langlois

“We have spoken throughout the year about the need for new housing supply at all levels to help moderate prices and improve attainability,” he said. “Some of our municipalities have begun to look at ways to make it easier for new homes to be brought to market and we applaud and encourage any movement in this area.”

*The MLS® Home Price Index (HPI) is a measure of real estate prices that provides a clearer picture of market trends over traditional tools such as mean or median average prices. It is designed to be a reliable, consistent, and timely way of measuring changes in home prices over time.

Myke Thomas is a Western Standard contributor. He started in radio as a child voice actor, also working in television and as the real estate columnist, reporter and editor at the Calgary Sun for 22 years.

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