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MCCOLL: An Elected Senate Should Include Electoral Reform

In our early history, Albertans were electoral reform innovators. Let’s recapture that boldness in building a fair deal for all Canadians with a Triple-E Senate.

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In 1984, Alberta farmer Bert Brown plowed four famous words (and a letter) into his field: “Triple-E Senate or Else”. “Elected, equal, and effective”, was the rallying cry for many in the West who believed that a radically reformed Senate would be the key to protecting provinces against an often-hostile federal government. Brown would eventually run for the Reform Party and be elected as a Senator-in-Waiting, but would not enter the red chamber until his appointment by Stephen Harper in 2007.

The fight for Senate reform has continued, and has renewed importance today. Many Western-based groups and political parties in the last three decades pushed for it. The need for fair representation in the upper house is obvious to most Albertans, and Project Confederation includes Senate reform in its “New Alberta Agenda.”

While many groups demand senate reform, most are vague on the details. As the resident electoral reform wonk at the Western Standard, I’d like to propose a specific plan inspired by the proportional representation system Albertans used to elect urban MLAs between 1926 and 1955: The single transferable vote (STV).

Before diving into how to vote for the Senate, it’s important to understand the makeup and ideology behind the Senate. The current framework is based on the idea of dividing the nation into four regions, each with equal representation provided by 24 senators. The regions are Ontario (24), Quebec (24), Western Canada (6 each for British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), and the Maritimes (10 each for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, 4 for Prince Edward Island). When Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949, the new province was granted 6 senators. The territories gained a single senator each in 1975 – and another for Nunavut in 1999 – bringing the total to 105 today.

Senate seats by province (source: WikiCommons)

A reformed Senate should move from one of arbitrary “equal” regions, to one of equal provinces. In this, each province has 12 senators. With an equal senate, there is no longer a need for small provinces to be overrepresented in the House of Commons, and the rule of having no fewer members of parliament than a province has senators could be repealed. 

Prince Edward Island would be reduced from four MPs down to two, while Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador would each lose a single MP. Alberta would gain three MPs, Ontario would gain two, and B.C. would gain one. 

To make senators responsible to someone besides themselves and the prime minister, senators should be elected during provincial elections, and mandate that senators run as members of provincial political parties. This is partly inspired by how German Länder (state) governments appoint representatives to their upper house after each state election, under their Länder party banners. 

It has been 65 years since the last Alberta STV ballot was cast – although Calgary City Council used a form of STV between 1917 and 1971 – so I doubt there are many readers with firsthand experience marking an STV ballot, save for recent immigrants from Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Using STV to elect senators would involve creating three large electoral districts per province where voters use a ranked ballot to elect four senators under the Droop quota. As there will be multiple winners in each district, the major political parties will run multiple candidates. This empowers voters and eliminates the need to vote strategically – no more “vote splitting” boogieman or “throwing your vote away” – as voters can choose the ranking of individual candidates. To save you some math, to win a seat, a candidate needs 20 per cent of the vote plus 1. 

Thanks to computers and scannable ballots, counting the ranked votes is simple and painless. The first step is to redistribute extra votes from any candidate who received more votes than required to win – 20 per cent plus 1 – to the second-place candidates. Next, we start from the bottom and eliminate the most unpopular candidates – one at a time – while redistributing their votes based on the voters’ ranked preferences until we have four winners. Still confused? A seven minute video on STV can be found here and – for the math keeners – a three minute video on Droop can be found here

It’s more straightforward than defenders of the status quo claim, but it does require voters to pay attention.

The three remaining senators from the territories would be elected using a simple ranked ballot as there would still only be one senator per territory. With 12 senators per province and one per territory, the new Canadian Senate would have 123 equal and elected senators. Knowing they’ll face a hotly contested re-election battle under STV, there’s plenty of motivation to be effective.

In our early history, Albertans were electoral reform innovators. Let’s recapture that boldness in building a fair deal for all Canadians with a Triple-E Senate.

Alex McColl is the National Defence Columnist with the Western Standard and a Canadian military analyst

Energy

KAY: Green extremists ignore indigenous voices that don’t fall in line

Barbara Kay’s debut column with the Western Standard.

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In mid-November, a handful of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in BC spearheaded yet another attempt — thwarted by the RCMP — to scuttle Coastal GasLink’s $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline. The half-completed pipeline will run 670 km from Dawson Creek in northeast BC to Kitimat on the west coast, there to be processed in an $18-billion terminal financed by LNG Canada’s joint partnership, then exported as low-emission liquified gas to replace high-emission coal-based energy in client Asian countries.

In their latest act of mischief earlier this month, the scofflaws blockaded a workers’ camp, trapping up to 500 workers without food or water before the blockage was dismantled; they stole or vandalized heavy machinery, and they caused destruction to forestry roads sufficient to bring the movement of police and industry personnel to a halt. 

It certainly doesn’t help matters when prominent voices on the left egg on the activists. Longtime political gadfly David Suzuki was roundly criticized when he opined, at an Extinction Rebellion event, that “there are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on.” This was a shockingly imprudent impulse. Most of Canada’s energy and transportation hubs run through native lands that cannot be adequately policed against sabotage. (He has since apologized, but the unfiltered instinct to say it remains “problematic,” a word frequently trotted out by progressives when critiquing the manifold perceived sins of conservatives.)

It also doesn’t help when our political and cultural elites continually harp on Canadians’ inherent shame as collective genocidaires, not to mention endless land acknowledgements that beg the question of why we seem to admit the land was “stolen,” but don’t give it back. 

Instead of inviting reconciliation, our various forms of breast-beating are inspiring revanchism. The mantra one hears with increasing frequency amongst indigenous activists these days, “Land Back,” means exactly what it says. Those chanting it have been encouraged to believe, by non-indigenous allies in government, academic and environmental-activist circles, that their hunting and gathering ancestors understood the concept of land “ownership” as we do today, and that consequently, 3% of the Canadian population deserves legal title to a third of our land mass. 

That is not going to happen, and such lines of thought should be discouraged by everyone with political and cultural influence. The 1997 Supreme Court Delgamuukw ruling made clear that Wet’suwet’en land title is limited, and that the Crown has use of the title land for the public good.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault recently tweeted: “Indigenous peoples have been stewards of this planet since time immemorial. The fight against climate change is not possible without their knowledge and leadership.” But whose leadership exactly? Elected band council leaders who signed on to the pipeline project, or a small group of unelected hereditary chiefs who do not enjoy support from more than a tiny fraction of their people? There is little clarity on this important distinction from government officials.

And whose “knowledge”? The CGL met the highest environmental standards in planning its project. They complied with all provisions set out in eight provincial and federal regulatory environmental Acts. They requested meetings with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en (which represents the hereditary chiefs) to discuss issues related to the project over 40 times, with no response from them. If the hereditary chiefs had “knowledge” it was important for CGL to know, they had ample occasion to share it and chose not to.

None of our climate-obsessed progressive elites ever emphasize what an economic boon and lifeline to independence this pipeline and other eco-responsible projects are to indigenous peoples (a far greater boon than government handouts). While indigenous Canadians make up 3.3% of our general workforce, they represent 7.4% of the country’s oil and gas sector workforce. 

As for indigenous peoples being “stewards” of the planet: Even if we all agreed that indigenous people are “stewards” of the land, why should we assume that all indigenous people are of the same mind as Steven Guilbeault in his opposition to resource development? There is plenty of diversity amongst stakeholder populations, including amongst the hereditary chiefs. Yet the establishment media rarely draw attention to this diversity, preferring, as befits the modern, culturally self-loathing progressive spirit, to romance the anarchic dissenters.

Majority Wet’suwet’en opinion is pro-resource development, and it is time their voices were heard and respected. I, therefore, recommend a visit to the Canada Action site, where you will find many strong statements such as these below: 

  • “There’s quite a bit of support for this project,” says Bonnie George, Witset First nation, Wet’suwet’en. “But people are afraid to speak up because, in the past few years, people that [have] spoken up were either ostracized…[or] ridiculed, bullied, harassed, threatened, and being called a traitor – a sellout….There’s a small group of members from the Wet’suwet’en Nation that doesn’t support the [CGL] projects.”
  • “Twenty First Nations participated extensively during five years of consultation on the pipeline and have successfully negotiated agreements with [CGL]. This is on the public record,” says Karen Ogen-Toews of the First Nations LNG Alliance.
  • Theresa Tait-Day, a hereditary chief of Wet’suwet’en Nation, says the voices of female hereditary chiefs “are not being heard. “We have been working particularly with LNG and [CGL]. Our people wanted a benefit and they wanted to be able to make a decision on a positive note. However, we’ve experienced lateral violence and coercion since then by the five chiefs who claim to represent the nation” (since then, two chiefs of the five have dropped out of activating)…The protest organizers are conveniently hiding beneath our blanket as indigenous people, while forcing their policy goals at our expense.”
  • The Haisla Nation are associated with the Kitimat terminal project. Speaking for them, Crystal Smith says, “I’ve seen the impacts first hand. I’ve felt the impacts firsthand. The focus for us is the long-term careers. For the first time, we’re funding culture and language programs…This independence is what we want. This is what we need more of in our community. We need to heal our people. No other government…has been able to heal our people the way they need it.”
  • Also for Haisla Nation, former chief councillor Ellis Ross: “Professional protesters and well-funded NGOs have merely seized the opportunity to divide our communities for their own gains…and ultimately will leave us penniless when they suddenly leave.”
  • “This is one of the biggest projects in Canada, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?” asks Derek Orr, former chief, McLeod lake Indian Band.

Who indeed? Only virtue-signalling enviro-alarmism obsessives, irresponsible disruptors who get a thrill out of “direct action” that sows chaos and disorder, and patronizing Nanny Statists who prefer that indigenous peoples continue to boil their drinking water than admit that responsible capitalism providing work, resources and human dignity is the way forward for Indigenous populations.

Barbra Kay is a Senior Columnist for the Western Standard

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Energy

Why oil and gas matters to Ontario

Many Canadians may not be aware that the first commercial oil production in North America started in Ontario in 1858.

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By Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan

The headline screamed: “The end of oil age” in the Economist in 2003. Fast forward 18 years and that still doesn’t make sense in many ways. The demand for oil is increasing across the globe. Even U.S. President Joe Biden is now asking OPEC to produce more oil.

You don’t have to go far to fill your gas tank to see the rise in fuel prices in recent months. Who says oil is dead? Just look at the growing global disconnect between supply and demand, where the need for natural gas threatens all sorts of shortages.

Many environmental groups have been calling for divestment from oil and gas, yet, they ignore the realities on the ground. Divestment from oil and gas harms not only the many energy companies that are creating jobs in the economy, but also investors, such as the middle-class and seniors, and other value chain sectors that depend on oil and gas.

Let’s look at Ontario, as a prime example.

Many Canadians may not be aware the first commercial oil production in North America started in Ontario in 1858. Since then, the oil and gas sector has played a significant role in the provincial economy. Though Ontario is not a major producer of oil and gas, there are still some 3,000 oil and gas wells active in the province.

There are many ways the oil and gas sector benefits the Ontario economy, in addition to reliable energy supply. Thousand of kilometres of pipelines in Ontario move oil and gas to the U.S., creating many jobs in Ontario. The refining industry also creates employment and contributes to the provincial economy. And many value chain sectors in Ontario supply goods and services to oil and gas companies.

Looking at the most recent (2017) comprehensive data available from Statistics Canada, it turns out the oil and natural gas industry was responsible for adding $7.7 billion in nominal GDP to Ontario’s economy and more than 71,000 jobs. Many of these jobs are indirect, but just as critical to the oil and gas sector. Think of oil and natural gas employment in Ontario as engineers and manufacturers hired to design and build oil and gas operating equipment and facilities, a building in Edmonton or in downtown Toronto, or an investment firm tasked with raising capital for a natural gas company operating in northern Alberta or B.C. Also think of an Alberta oil sands company whose local spending on office furniture results in jobs created in the Ontario firm that produces that furniture. 

In 2017, the oil and gas industry purchased $7.3 billion worth of goods and services in Ontario, including $4.3 billion from Ontario’s manufacturing sector alone. Other “big ticket” purchases include $700 million from the Ontario finance and insurance sector, $600 million from the professional, scientific and technical services sector, and $300 million from transportation and warehousing. Overall, $2.1 billion in salaries and wages were generated as the result of oil and gas industry spending in Ontario. 

Beyond the impact of the oil and gas sector, let’s widen the look at Alberta’s impact on Ontario’s economy. In 2017, Alberta’s population was 11.6% of the national total, while Alberta’s share of purchases from Ontario’s manufacturing sector was 21% of Ontario’s total interprovincial trade in manufacturing. That’s nearly twice Alberta’s share of Canada’s population. In fact, Alberta’s consumers, businesses, and governments were responsible for nearly 24%, or $32.5 billion, of Ontario’s total interprovincial trade in 2017. This was second only to Ontario’s next-door neighbour, Quebec.

Now consider Alberta’s share of Ontario’s interprovincial and export trade and how it compares to selected countries. Alberta’s $32.5 billion in purchases from Ontario in 2017 was behind only the United States ($197 billion), but ahead of the United Kingdom ($14.7 billion), China ($3.4 billion), Mexico ($3.2 billion), and Germany ($1.9 billion), among others. Add up the goods and services purchased by Alberta consumers, businesses, and governments from Ontario firms between 2012 and 2017, and the total value was about $193 billion.

Economies may be locally based, but local businesses and jobs are impacted by investment and trade flows from other places. Whenever someone says oil and gas doesn’t matter to Ontario, tell them to look at the “on the ground” realities. From Bay Street to Yonge Street to Main Street, people living across Ontario benefit from a thriving oil and gas sector.

Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan are with the Canadian Energy Centre, an Alberta government corporation funded by carbon taxes. They are authors of $193 billion and 71,000 jobs: The Impact of Oil and Gas (and Alberta) on Ontario’s Economy.    

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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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