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FILDEBRANDT: The Singh-Trudeau deal is an unconstitutional attack on provincial rights

If the Buffalo provinces are at all serious about getting a “fair deal”, they will draw a line in the sand here.

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When Canadian voters reduced Justin Trudeau’s majority government to a minority in October of 2019, they could be forgiven for believing that they had curtailed his powers and put him on a leash. Having a minority of seats in Parliament, the prime minister would be forced to work with other parties to pass legislation. But – my sweet summer child – that would require Parliament to have much in the way of power to exercise. In reality, the House of Commons has devolved into an electoral college for selecting the prime minister, and which gets to ask questions from time-to-time.

The concentration of most power in the executive has left the legislative branch of government with little role other than for show. This allowed the Liberals to impose their sweeping gun confiscation without even bringing it before parliament. It was done without legislation, but through a simple “order in council” (cabinet decree).

Not content with already anemic legislative oversight, the Liberals moved to shut down parliament for nearly two years, and relieve MPs of the burden of passing budgets. The move was designed to concentrate all powers over spending and taxes in the cabinet. No Westminster parliamentary system has concentrated this much power in the executive since Magna Carta in 1215 England.

This was a bridge too far even for Trudeau’s Bloc Quebecois and NDP allies in Parliament, and he was forced to back off. Since that time, the prime minister has been trying to strike a bargain to shut down Parliament and reduce oversight to a politically acceptable minimum. On Monday, he got that.

Jagmeet Singh’s NDP agreed to back the Liberal plan to effectively shut down Parliament until the fall in exchange for a commitment from Trudeau for a federal sick leave program.

In its usual deferential manner, the Toronto Star’s headline ran, “Liberals, NDP work on sick leave to secure deal on future of Parliament”. One could be forgiven for believing that the Liberals and NDP had struck a bargain to save democracy.

The Trudeau-Singh deal will see Ottawa try to rope the provinces into an additional 10 days guaranteed sick leave, ostensibly due to Covid-19. With a majority of workers either covered by their employers, unemployed, or working from home, the urgency of the policy escapes me.

More importantly though, it would see Ottawa blow its way into another area of exclusive provincial jurisdiction: labour law.

Outside of a few federally regulated industries, sick leave, union laws, and minimum wage, all belong exclusively to the provinces. The Singh-Trudeau agreement seeks to bring them in line with federal oversights, as Ottawa already has done with healthcare and social policy.

While the Liberals have traditionally paid lip service to constitutionally protected provincial jurisdiction, the NDP has, since its inception, disregarded it as a needless barrier to socialism on a national scale. That is, except in Quebec.

To do this, Ottawa has several tools at its disposal, all of which violate the spirit of the division of powers set out in the British North America Act, 1867. The most likely tool, is with money. As it does with the Canada Health Transfer ($42 billion) and Canada Social Transfer ($15 billion), it can collect taxes from Canadians, and recycle some of that money back to provinces that agree to fall in line with its policy directives.

This means that if Ottawa cannot convince the provinces to go along with its policy voluntarily, it has the option of imposing major fiscal penalties on the taxpayers in the less cooperative provinces. If for instance, all provinces agree to fall in line except for Alberta and Saskatchewan, the federal government will continue to collect taxes from all 10 provinces, but only transfer some of it back to provinces that comply. In short, Alberta and Saskatchewan taxpayers would pay into the program, but receive nothing back; not unlike Equalization.

The result would be to accentuate the already acute fiscal gap between what Ottawa collects in taxes from Alberta and Saskatchewan, and what it sends back.

But this doesn’t mean that provinces should surrender their exclusive constitutional jurisdiction to avoid being further shortchanged. On the contrary, the provinces should refuse to even discuss areas under their jurisdiction with Ottawa. Ottawa has no more right to impose its labour policies on Alberta, than Alberta has the right to dictate naval defence policy to Ottawa.

If Ottawa opts to use the fiscal carrot and stick approach, its a good bet that poorer, “have-not” provinces will quickly fall in line. Quebec and the Maritimes are simply too reliant on federal largess to say “No” when push comes to shove. But provinces that pay the bill – BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and sometimes Ontario – must draw a line in the sand.

While BC Premier John Horgan will feel a partisan and ideological obligation to follow Singh’s lead, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe have more freedom of action. They have an easy opportunity to give an unshakable “No” to any additional federal intrusion.

This will further the gap between what Albertans and Saskatchewanians send to Ottawa and what they get back, but the blame will rest with Trudeau, not Kenney and Moe.

The federal NDP’s sick leave-for-Parliament trade won’t be the last of its kind. So long as this minority government lasts, the NDP will be in a position to trade its support for trinkets, most of which involve provincial jurisdiction.

If the Buffalo provinces are at all serious about getting a “fair deal”, they will not give an inch.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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

MAKICHUK: Welcome to the age of the scaremongers

“Should we be afraid of it? How worried should we be? Will it soon be on or shores? Should I get a booster shot? Should I blame Jason Kenney?”

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And so it goes.

Another day, another thing to fear.

This time it’s an African COVID-19 variant called Omicron and the media is in its heyday, scaring the pants off you. Man how they love doing that!

Should we be afraid of it? How worried should we be? Will it soon be on or shores? Should I get a booster shot? Should I blame Jason Kenney?

Be afraid, be very afraid — we’re all gonna die, etc., etc.

Next thing you know, Dr. Anthony Fauci is being interviewed on CNN — Dr. Death himself. Again, be afraid, be very afraid.

Can you feel your blood pressure rising?

Welcome to the new world of the scaremongers. 

They come in the morning when you are still not awake, they come in the afternoon blindsiding your day, they come in the evening after you had dinner. But they come. They always come.

If it isn’t COVID-19, it’s climate change.

There she is, Glum Greta, in all her glory … plastered on magazines and on TV screens around the world as she bitch-slaps our generation for destroying the planet.

Arguably, a very strange child who seems to enjoy scaring everyone to death with her dire warnings of the looming end of the world.

Meanwhile, the Liberals tell us, “Our Earth is in danger.” Be afraid, be very afraid. We’re all gonna die, etc., etc.

These are like broken records that keep playing, over, and over, and over. Like a merry-go-round that doesn’t stop until it makes you barf.

And then we have the government’s ill-conceived gun buyback program.

Forget the fact that these gun owners were vetted by the RCMP and obtained their weapons legally.

We must buy back those guns, from prairie farmers … God forbid, they kill a deer or a moose, or a pheasant to feed their families over the winter.

Try explaining that to some Eastern dipsh-t politico.

According to a report from Public Safety Canada, the Liberals are increasing spending on that program to $8.8 million.

The real scary part of this? The costs are apparently soaring before a single gun has been purchased! Now that is scary.

“This is more evidence that the gun buyback is going to be a boondoggle,” Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) federal director Franco Terrazzano said in a blog post. “The feds haven’t bought a single gun yet and costs still continue to go up.”

The Ministry of Public Safety is looking at spending $1.6 million out of the $8.8 million on an advertising campaign to “increase awareness” about the gun ban and buyback. 

The Parliamentary Budget Officer said reimbursing gun owners could cost up to $756 million. And that doesn’t include administration costs, which could add billions more.

All for a program, that was never really needed — Canada already had strong gun laws.

Again, be afraid, be very afraid.

But as my friend Pete says, “the Liberals are a boondoggle!”

Ladies and gents, I have reason to believe that might be the case.

And just in case your blood pressure wasn’t off the dial enough, here comes Statistics Canada, highlighting Alberta’s soaring homicide rate.

According to the federal agency, the number of homicides hit historic highs in 2020, helping propel Canada to its highest homicide rate in nearly three decades. 

Alberta recorded 139 homicides, the highest number of homicides for the province since data collection began in 1961.

Also, another juicy tidbit for the media to trumpet — Edmonton and Calgary had the largest increase in homicides among all cities in Canada.

At least 29 of those slayings were tied to gangs, StatsCan said, who very likely obtained their weapons illegally.

Across the country, there were 743 homicides, including the 22 victims of the Nova Scotia massacre — the highest number of homicides recorded since 1991, the report said.

Now, I should mention at this point that being a kid who grew up in Windsor, across the river from the Motor City, where they sometimes hit or exceeded 1,000 homicides a year, while in Windsor, we sometimes had one or two — I’m not really phased by this.

Yes, it is a concerning trend, no question, and look I like the gun laws we have. If our laws were like our friends down south where you can buy a gun like buying a pack of gum, I’m not really sure that’s a good thing.

If I lived down there I would definitely have two or three guns, just because they’re cool. Again, this is probably not a good thing for me to have.

I don’t know how you feel about all of this but I sometimes wonder what happened to common sense and reasonableness. 

It seems to have been thrown out the window with the baby, the bathwater, and anything else within reach.

And I am dog tired, I really am, of the mainstream media trying to scare me to death every goddam day — instead of just reporting the news. Western media outlets are just as guilty as eastern media outlets, in this regard, by the way.

So anyway, here’s some news, that won’t scare you.

Last night, me and my good friends, Carrie and Faron, went to the Scotsman’s Well where we had a beer and a great steak sandwich. It was on sale for $12.99. 

Nobody got shot or killed. Nobody caught Omicron. Nobody tried to take our guns away (we didn’t really have any, anyway.) Nobody shouted at us for owning gas-guzzling cars. Seriously, none of this happened.

And then we all went home. 

Other things not to be afraid of? Sasquatch, werewolves, reptilian aliens, Green Bay Packers fans, Trumpsters, and anyone who likes Barry Manilow.

See, life ain’t so bad after all. 

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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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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