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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

MORGAN: We can no longer trust the government’s COVID death statistics

“After the Alberta government lied about the cause of death of young Nathaneal Spitzer, we have good reason not to trust what they are telling us.”

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When it was announced a 14-year-old boy had succumbed to COVID-19 in Alberta, the tone from Dr. Deena Hinshaw was somber. The mainstream media dutifully reported the death of a child and how this means the virus clearly threatens us all, not just the old and vulnerable.

The response from COVID-19 lockdown proponents and the NDP was morbidly welcoming, in a sense. None of them would celebrate the death of a child, but they could not contain their excitement they now had evidence to indicate that COVID-19 was deadly to children. Their moment of glory was short-lived.

Simone Spitzer is the older sister of the child who passed away. She was horrified her brother’s death was being used as a political football and she took to Facebook to call it out. Spitzer exposed her brother Nathanael had been in the hospital for months and had passed away from terminal brain cancer, not COVID-19, as had been reported by government and media alike.

Spitzer’s post went viral on social media, but remained entirely ignored by the mainstream media. When the Western Standard began reporting on the AHS misrepresentation of the cause of Nathanael’s death, Hinshaw was forced to apologize and retract the statement.

The apologies, tweet deletions, and retractions then began to come in fast. NDP leader Rachel Notley had ghoulishly used Nathanael’s death as a hammer with which to attack the UCP. Notley had even attacked AHS for their daring to have mentioned “other complicating factors” when they announced the death. She dismissed those “other complicating factors” as an excuse from the UCP as a way of cleaning the blood off of their hands. She wanted to make it sound as if a perfectly healthy child had been killed by COVID-19, and Jason Kenney was directly responsible. Notley deleted her tweets and apologized to the Spitzer family, but the damage has been done.

As we near the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t pretend any longer we don’t know much about the virus. We should recognize and be thankful healthy children are almost entirely immune to the effects of COVID-19. While kids have tested positive for the virus leading to virtual evacuations of schools, they usually demonstrate no symptoms and suffer no ill effects. Rarer still are healthy children suffering severe effects.

Since the beginning of the pandemic — out of hundreds of thousands of Albertans under the age of 19 — only one has been listed as having died of COVID-19. In light of the Spitzer debacle, the cause of that lone death has now become a legitimate question of the government.

We have to thank the Spitzer family for speaking up in this time of tragedy and mourning to call this out. We should let them grieve in peace now, but media must also pick up and carry on with the issue this brave family has exposed. We can’t trust AHS’s numbers when it comes to COVID-19 death statistics.

How many times has this happened?

Almost 3,000 deaths in Alberta have been attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. With a population of 4.6 million and during nearly two years, that is a long way from the sort of numbers the Spanish Flu posted, though our governments are acting as if today’s pandemic is just as lethal. Now we have to ask ourselves: how many of those 3,000 deaths were actually caused primarily by COVID-19?

We do know 86% of the COVID-19 deaths in Alberta had comorbidities. That statistic needs some more detail filled in if we are to interpret the data correctly. Diabetes, obesity, and asthma are serious comorbidities, but they’re also manageable conditions. COVID surely robbed people of years of life despite their having serious conditions already. We want to prevent this as much as possible of course. What we need to figure out is how many of the people who died of COVID-19 were going to die at approximately that time anyway.

How many fatalities that had been attributed to COVID-19 were cases such as Nathanael’s, where he was about to pass away regardless of a positive COVID-19 test? How many cancer patients, people with heart conditions, or pending renal failure died and were added to the list of COVID-19 deaths, despite the virus actually being a secondary or even tertiary contributor to the person’s death?

The average age of a person dying from COVID-19 has dropped from 82 years, to 79 years. This is not a disease that is prone to taking people long before their time in most cases.

We need accurate numbers as we model government responses to the pandemic. We have set aside critical rights under the Charter and have justified this based on the risk the pandemic presents to the general public. Every restriction comes with costs – both social and fiscal. We need to do a cost-benefit analysis when making policies, and we can’t do it accurately if we are not getting truthful numbers.

We have to get realistic about who’s at risk from COVID-19, as well. The fearmongering with regards to risks presented to children is reprehensible. Not every disease puts everybody at risk equally, and we can’t properly model policies to battle the disease if we don’t use accurate facts. When I finished high school at the end of the 1980s, we were all taught HIV was going to spread rapidly throughout all communities and that we would all be losing loved ones to the disease. In reality, HIV remained contained almost exclusively among the gay male and IV drug-using communities.

HIV is now considered a manageable condition and its spread is well under control. How many more could have been saved had we targeted the truly vulnerable communities rather than pretending for years the virus put everybody at risk?

There are likely a not an insignificant number of cases of mislabeled COVID-19 deaths out there. Not every family is as brave as the Spitzer’s have been and they can’t be blamed. Upon losing a loved one, nobody is eager to jump into a political hornet’s nest. Alberta needs to do a full audit of the fatalities that have been attributed to COVID-19 so far. We can release a great deal of the medical details without compromising the privacy of the victims and their families.

We already have enough distrust of the government and its motivations in this pandemic. True and full transparency in the fatality statistics will help regain some of that trust. We can then start modeling our policy responses to the pandemic based on the real risks, rather than what clearly appear to be exaggerated ones.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Alberta nurse quits in disgust the job she loved

“I lay the blame solely at AHS’s feet. They’ve created a system that will damage patients. If you take out nurses and doctors who are against this — they’re going to leave, be kicked out — especially in the rural areas, it’s going to affect access to care.”

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Johnson when she worked in Sierra Leone

Julianne Johnson says being a registered nurse is a “profession that runs deep in my veins” and is “part of my core identity.”

She quit anyway.

Johnson knew her October 8 resignation letter — that ripped into Alberta Health Services (AHS) rebuking its betrayal of health care workers with a vaccine mandate and raising alarms about patient care — could result in her licence being yanked. 

She submitted it anyway — then posted it on her Facebook Page.

“They could take away my licence accusing me of spreading misinformation,” Johnson told Western Standard.

“Am I afraid to speak out? Yes. I’ve been attacked by some previous coworkers. I fear more what will happen to a country I love if I don’t speak out,” said Johnson, who worked as a casual RN since 2013 in five Alberta hospitals, the last being Grande Prairie’s Queen Elizabeth 11.

“It’s about the ethic of not only forcing the vaccine on all employees, but also the ethic of tolerating physicians forcing it on their patients. They claim equitable access for everyone, but that’s not happening. While AHS may not agree with it on paper, they’re tolerating it.”

A firestorm erupted over her letter to AHS officials. Johnson was praised for having courage to express widespread fears and frustrations. She triggered “outrage and backlash” from others who viewed her concerns as a personal affront and bullied her with “unfounded” accusations. 

Johnson refused to get into a “catfight” distracting from her intended message.

Johnson when she graduated nursing school

“I lay the blame solely at AHS’s feet. They’ve created a system that will damage patients. If you take out nurses and doctors who are against this — they’re going to leave, be kicked out — especially in the rural areas, it’s going to affect access to care.”

AHS employees, including frontline health care workers must get their second COVID-19 dose by October 16 or be placed on unpaid leave. Many refuse for religious or medical reasons

“I’m a person of faith and my faith affects every aspect of my life, but I’ve received many vaccines in my life.”

Johnson, who contracted COVID-19 in April, won’t get the COVID-19 vaccination and explicitly told AHS why she resigned.

“I cannot ethically work for a company that tells the public they’re facing an unprecedented crisis necessitating lockdown measures, while simultaneously threatening to place thousands of health care workers and doctors on unpaid leave of absence,” she wrote.

“We have all safely worked, unvaccinated, for the duration of this pandemic, but now we will all be prohibited from providing care to our province, simply because of our vaccination status. What blatant disregard for our work dedication, skill, and education.

“I am genuinely appalled at AHS’s incredibly hypocritical treatment of its employees and physicians. Therefore, I cannot and will not work for AHS so long as they mandate the COVID-19 vaccine to all their staff with such complete and utter disregard for personal choice, medical freedom, and informed consent.”

Being coerced under duress and threat of job loss violates patient autonomy, informed consent, and right to refuse.

She claims AHS moved away from patient-centred care, patient autonomy, and informed voluntary consent.

“Nursing has always been a way for me to help people make the best decisions possible for their own bodies and their own situations. We were taught over and over again in university to give our patients all the information, and support whatever decision THEY made,” she wrote.

“Many nights I have sat down on the edge of a patient’s bed, or on a chair on a dark room, and answered question after question that they didn’t have time to ask their doctor(s) during the morning rounds. Countless times I have countered false assumptions … and offered possible solutions to situations that simply had not been previously addressed for that person. We called in patient-centred care.”

“Now we can only say what one side of the issue believes. Now everyone is forced to have the SAME treatment, regardless of whether it endangers their life, is statistically useless to them, or could actually help them … That’s not what I signed up for,” she wrote.

Until now, sharing information has been required in the nursing profession.

“Imagine a health care system where new information is stifled if it doesn’t conform to previously held beliefs/information. Pretty stagnant at best. Deadly at worst,” she wrote.

“Now imagine that all professionals who have the courage to ask unpopular questions, and who are all curious enough to look at the other side of the coin, are all gone. Only those who agree with every AHS mandate are allowed to remain. Now you have totalitarian healthcare. Deadly at best. Genocidal at worst.”

Johnson claimed unvaccinated family members are being refused care and chastised AHS for it.

“I cannot ethically practice nursing for a company/government that has such disdain (for) patient autonomy,” she wrote.

“I cannot ethically work for a company/government which will refuse pacemaker surgery to a patient simply because of their vaccination status.

“I cannot ethically work for a company/government that tolerates obstetricians refusing care to pregnant mothers and their babies who choose to wait until after birth/breastfeeding to receive a vaccine that is NOT Category A in pregnancy,” she wrote.

Johnson, who comes from a medical family — her father is a physician — has volunteered on medical missions in Sierra, Leon, Congo, and Iraq.

“I’m concerned about the future of health care and where it will go if people aren’t willing to stand up and don’t recognize the ethical landslide that we are stepping in.”

An AHS director of patient care offered to meet.

“I’m considering a meeting. It’s good to tell people face-to-face what you believe.”

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: Alberta’s government lied about the death of young teen Nathanael Spitzer, and the media buried it

As much as I may take glee in sticking it to our mainstream competitors, I write this at the end of my regular workday genuinely depressed about the state of government communications and media.

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On October 8, Nathaneal Spitzer — just 14 years old — died.

The death of a promising child so young in this world is every parent’s nightmare. My heart — and that of every Albertan hearing the news — was broken.

On Tuesday, Alberta Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw reported that a 14-year-old had died in Alberta as a COVID-19 case, although there were “pre-existing conditions”.

As it turns out, Nathaneal didn’t die from COVID-19 at all. Those “pre-existing conditions” were in fact Stage 4 terminal brain cancer. He was on his deathbed in palliative care when he tested positive for COVID-19.

He died days later of brain cancer, but Alberta Health labeled his death a COVID-19 fatality, which Hinshaw reported to the media.

The media dutifully reported on the death, a case that showed COVID-19 doesn’t just kill the elderly and sick, but the young.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley took to Twitter to express her outrage the government would even mention “pre-existing conditions.” Better that his death be counted among those lost to COVID entirely. Better to lay his death at the feet of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

“Telling their loved ones that there were other health complications that contributed to their death offers no comfort whatsoever,” tweeted Notley.

“No matter what ‘pre-existing conditions’ they had, this child died during a fourth wave that was preventable. This shouldn’t have happened. We need to know what will be done to stop it from happening again.”

But Nathaneal’s death had nothing to do with the “fourth wave that was preventable.” In fact, his death was entirely due to what Notley called “other health complications.”

This is the morbid state of pandemic politics in 2021.

As of publishing, Notley has not apologized or removed her tweets.

Nathaneal’s sister Simone was devastated by the government and media falsely reporting her brother’s death as a COVID-19 case. She took to Facebook, to tell the truth about what happened.

“He died from Stage 4 brain cancer, not from covid. This is fake news,” she wrote.

“He was diagnosed in January 2021, and hospitalized in August. Two days before his death he was tested for covid and it turned out positive.”

This clarification came to the Western Standard’s attention not long after it was posted. Our reporters investigated and confirmed that Simone was in fact the sister of Nathaneal.

Western Standard correspondent Melanie Risdon published the story Wednesday afternoon.

And unless I’m mistaken, every single last mainstream, government-funded media outlet in Alberta ignored the family’s story entirely. The family — who might just know something about the fate of their lost loved one — were ignored. Their story didn’t fit with what was already in print and on the TV. Their story didn’t fit the narrative. Their story was best forgotten.

This was not an inconsequential story. This was not sensationalist click bait. This was not some Q’Anon conspiracy theory.

This was the Government of Alberta inflating the COVID-19 death statistics. This was mainstream media ignoring the facts from the family that contradicted the official government story, which had already been dutifully reported.

This did not come out of left field — we know there have been bogus government reporting on what constitutes COVID-19 deaths in many jurisdictions.

The Western Standard kept at this story. At our morning editorial meeting today, I instructed that this story remain our focus, and that we tell their story until someone listened.

By the afternoon, someone had. Hinshaw took to her podium to apologize for misidentifying Nathaneal’s death as a COVID fatality. She promised fatality numbers would be better classified for young people under 18 going forward. From now on, only actual COVID-19 deaths would be labeled COVID-19 deaths – for those under 18.

At last, the MSM could report on what really happened. Long after the Spitzer family publicly told the truth on social media for the world to see, the legacy media felt comfortable enough to report on the issue. It was now a part of the official story, as the government tells it.

As much as I may take glee in sticking it to our mainstream competitors, I write this at the end of my regular workday genuinely depressed about the state of government communications and media. Errors happen (we’ve made them.) Newsrooms can be short-staffed, and stories missed (we have.) But this was different. This was mass omission of a key and indispensable element of a story that everyone had already published when the information was there for all to see (we had already reported on it).

The only part of the story more important than government lying about a child’s cause of death, was that a child died before his time.

Our politicians need to stop playing football with life and death. Our media need to stop trusting everything they are told by the government, and the public needs to stop trusting everything they are told by the media.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard
dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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