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WAGNER: Alberta exceptionalism and a distinct political culture

Alberta culture may not be as obviously distinctive as Quebec’s, but it is unique in Canada for several strong reasons.

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There are a number of factors that provide evidence for Alberta being “a culturally distinct region”, as the Buffalo Declaration puts it. This distinctiveness is not as obvious as that of Quebec – which has its own language, culture, and even law (i.e., the civil code rather than the common law). Alberta broadly shares the language, culture and legal system of the broader Anglosphere, but it is nevertheless unique within Canada.

Alberta’s political culture differs to some degree from the rest of Canada. Alberta has long had a reputation for political conservatism, and its historical voting record has overwhelmingly favoured parties on the right. At the provincial level, the Social Credit Party and then Progressive Conservative Party held power from 1935-2015. The United Conservative Party picked up this torch again in 2019. With the exception of the brief NDP interregnum, left-leaning politicians had to take power within the governing conservative parties, as Allison Redford did from 2011 to 2014. Federally, right-leaning parties (Social Credit, Progressive Conservative, Reform, Canadian Alliance, and Conservative) have held the overwhelming majority of seats over that same period. 

Even the 2015 provincial election which resulted, sadly, in an NDP government, saw the combined vote of the two main right-leaning parties at about 52 per cent verses 40.6 per cent for the socialists. In the 2012 election, the combined PC-Wildrose vote totalled nearly 80 per cent. Only the temporary collapse of the Wildrose following the mass floor crossing in December of 2014 made an NDP government possible.  

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and PC Leader Jason Kenney announce an agreement to merge into the new UCP

How can Alberta’s unique political culture be explained? In my view, the best single explanation is offered by political scientist Clark Banack in his book, God’s Province: Evangelical Christianity, Political Thought, and Conservatism in Alberta, which was published in 2016 by McGill-Queen’s University Press. This book surveys Alberta’s political history and notes that evangelical Christian leaders have played a leading role in the province’s politics.

Christian leadership of this sort goes back to the early days of the farmers movement. The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) was founded as a lobby group in 1909 but subsequently decided to run candidates for election. It won the provincial elections of 1921, 1926 and 1930, but after losing the 1935 election it withdrew from electoral politics. The UFA lingers on selling gasoline and farm tractors today. 

From 1916 until 1931, the president of the UFA was Henry Wise Wood, and was the Alberta farmers movement’s most respected and influential leader. Wood had a much more conservative perspective than most other agrarian leaders in the West, many of whom were influenced by socialism to one degree or another. 

Wood believed that an ideal society could only be realized by the voluntary cooperation of godly citizens. Since socialism is based on government coercion rather than voluntary association, it could not lead to the best form of society. 

The agrarian movement in Saskatchewan was dominated by leftist thinking that favoured government action and socialism. Alberta had many farmers movement leaders who shared that perspective. But Wood actively fought against socialist solutions and – because of his popularity among Alberta farmers – he prevailed.

According to Banack, Wood’s efforts to derail support for socialism among Alberta’s farmers had a long-term impact on Alberta’s politics: “Wood rejected both the secular intellectual solutions of Marx and the Christian-based social gospel calls for socialism and placed the onus squarely on the individual to bring about the perfect democratic and economic system. In doing so, Wood helped to steer early Alberta society in a decidedly anti-socialistic and more individualistic direction by harnessing the Prairie-wide utopian and co-operative hopes of Alberta agrarians to a stern emphasis on individual responsibility.”

Thus, the origin of Alberta’s generally anti-socialistic perspective goes back at least 100 years to the leadership of Henry Wise Wood. 

Around the time that the UFA’s political efforts were falling apart, William “Bible Bill” Aberhart of Calgary was starting the Alberta Social Credit Party. Aberhart was a public school principal who was best known as a popular Christian radio broadcaster with a huge listening audience in the province. When the Great Depression caused widespread hardship and despair, Aberhart began to use his radio program to promote social credit economics as the solution.

In short, the idea of social credit economics was to replace credit issued by private banks with credit issued by the government. In this way – it was believed – the financial system could be orchestrated for the benefit of all citizens rather than for rich bankers. Unsurprisingly, government control of credit, as well as certain other aspects of Social Credit, appeared socialistic to some people. Indeed, the Social Credit Party was not obviously conservative in its earliest years, but a more clearly conservative perspective emerged later.

When the Alberta Social Credit Party won the 1935 provincial election (ousting the UFA which had by then abandoned Wood’s anti-socialism), Aberhart became premier. He remained premier until he died in 1943. Throughout his term as premier he continued preaching the gospel on his radio broadcast.

After Aberhart’s death, his chief lieutenant Ernest Manning became Alberta’s premier and head of Aberhart’s radio ministry. Manning – like Aberhart before him – continued the vital work of radio evangelism throughout his tenure as premier. 

The Social Credit Party under Manning was decidedly opposed to socialism and this reinforced the free enterprise spirit of the province. According to Banack, “working from a distinctly religious position that guided their thinking about politics, Aberhart and especially Manning did much to guide Alberta on an anti-collectivist trajectory that is largely unique among Canadian provinces.”

Manning retired as premier in 1968 after serving one of the longest premierships in Canadian history. Five years later, Ted Byfield founded a weekly news magazine called the St. John’s Edmonton Report that would evolve into Alberta Report, the spiritual predecessor to today’s Western Standard. Although he was not a political leader as such (or even an evangelical, for that matter), Byfield became one of the most influential Alberta opinion leaders during the latter part of the 20th Century. His magazine, which was published in one form or another until 2003, had a distinctly conservative and generally Christian perspective. 

Due to its popularity and large circulation, the Alberta Report had a substantial impact on Alberta society and politics. Referring to the days before the internet, Ted Morton – the University of Calgary political scientist and former provincial finance minister – is quoted by Banack as saying, “Alberta Report was our Internet, it was our website, Facebook and Twitter…in those early years [of conservative activism], almost all roads passed through Alberta Report.”

Stephen Harper and Preston Manning in the Reform Party era (source: Vancouver Sun)

Besides his work with the Alberta Report, Ted Byfield played a key role in the creation of the Reform Party of Canada in 1987. However, Preston Manning (the son of former Premier Ernest Manning) was the first and only leader of the party. Like his father, Preston was an evangelical Christian and his religious views influenced his political views.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, governments at both the provincial and federal levels were accumulating massive deficits. Preston Manning correctly argued that high, deficit-fuelled spending was unsustainable and would lead the country into financial disaster.

The Reform Party elected 52 MPs in the 1993 federal election, and later became the official opposition after electing 60 MPs in the federal election of 1997. Although it never formed the government, the Reform Party’s arguments for reduced government spending were so sensible that even the Liberal government of the time brought federal finances under control. It’s unlikely that would have happened without the Reform Party’s strong showing in the 1993 and 1997 elections.

Summarizing the overall conservative influence on Alberta’s political history, Banack writes, “It is quite significant to note that a certain religious interpretation has undergirded this populist, pro-market sentiment from Wood, through the thought of Aberhart and Ernest Manning, and into the thinking of Preston Manning in contemporary Alberta.”

Alberta has rightly been seen as having a generally more conservative political culture than the other provinces. Clark Banack’s book does an excellent job of explaining why this has been the case historically. The most significant factor in his view, is the strong influence of conservative Christian political and opinion leaders. 

There is much more to Alberta than conservative political and religious influences, of course. But God’s Province provides an excellent introduction to the political and religious factors that have contributed to Alberta’s status as “a culturally distinct region.”

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

Energy

VENKATACHALAM & KAPLAN: Oil and gas production is essential to BC’s economy

Here’s another slice of statistical bread to consider: In 2017 the BC oil and gas industry purchased $5.6 billion worth of goods and services from other sectors.

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Guest column by Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan of the Canadian Energy Centre

British Columbia has been producing oil and natural gas since 1952. In fact, as of 2018, BC produced 32% of Canada’s natural gas production and 2% of Canada’s conventional daily oil production. British Columbia collects royalties from oil and gas development, supporting the economic prosperity in the province.

Want to know how important the oil and natural gas industry is to the BC economy? Using customized Statistic Canada data from 2017 (the latest year available for this comparison), it turns out oil and gas in BC  generated about $18 billion in outputs, consisting primarily of the value of goods and services produced, as well as a GDP of $9.5 billion.

As for what most of us can relate to — jobs — the BC oil and gas industry was responsible for nearly 26,500 direct jobs and more than 36,100 indirect jobs (62,602 jobs in total) in 2017. Also relevant: The oil and gas sector paid out over $3.1 billion in wages and salaries to BC workers that year.

Here’s another slice of statistical bread to consider: In 2017 the BC oil and gas industry purchased $5.6 billion worth of goods and services from other sectors. That included $600 million from the finance and insurance sector, $770 million in professional services, and $2.8 billion from the manufacturing sector, to name just three examples.

Spending by the oil and gas sector in BC is not the only way to consider the impact of the industry. Given that a large chunk of the oil and gas sector is next door in Alberta, let’s look at what Alberta’s trade relationship with its westerly neighbour does for BC.

BC’s interprovincial trade in total with all provinces in 2017 amounted to $39.4 billion. Alberta was responsible for the largest amount at $15.4 billion, or about 38%, of that trade.

That share of BC’s trade exports is remarkable, given that Alberta’s share of Canada’s population was just 11.5 percent in 2017. Alberta consumers, businesses and governments buy far more from BC in goods and services than its population as a share of Canada would suggest would be the case. Alberta’s capital-intensive, high-wage-paying oil and gas sector is a major reason why.

If Alberta were a country, the province’s $15.4 billion in trade with BC would come in behind only the United States (about $22.3 billion in purchases of goods and services from BC) in 2017. In fact, Alberta’s importance to B.C. exports was ranked far ahead of China ($6.9 billion), Japan ($4.5 billion), and South Korea ($2.9 billion)—the next biggest destinations for BC’s trade exports.

BC has a natural advantage for market access in some respects when compared to the United States. For instance, BC’s coast is near to many Asian-Pacific markets than are U.S. Gulf Coast facilities. The distance between the U.S. Gulf Coast and to the Japanese ports of Himeji and Sodegaura is more than 9,000 nautical miles, compared to less than 4,200 nautical miles between those two Japanese ports and the coast of BC.

The recent demand for natural gas in Asia, especially Japan (the largest importer of LNG) and price increase for natural gas, presents an exciting opportunity for BC oil and gas industry. The IEA predicts that by 2024 , natural gas demand forecast in Asia will be up 7% from 2019’s pre-COVID-19  levels. 

Be it in employment, salaries and wages paid, GDP, or the purchase of goods and services, the impact of oil and natural gas (and Alberta) on BC’s economy and trade flows is significant.

Guest column by Ven Venkatachalam and Lennie Kaplan are with the Canadian Energy Centre

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Schuler the black sheep of the Manitoba Tory family

While piously bleating about responsibility in a pandemic, these sheep are cleverly deflecting from their sinister stand on something they don’t support — one’s right to medical privacy.

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One Manitoba MLA — the only one of 57 — has the courage to fight for the right to protect private health information. 

The rest are either timidly silent or scampering to microphones to vilify this flock member for daring to not run with their sheep in-crowd. 

Progressive Conservative Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler is on the verge of getting ousted from Premier Heather Stefanson’s cabinet and banned from the legislature for refusing to reveal his COVID-19 vaccination status.

Stefanson decreed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate effective December 15 for everyone entering the building.

Years of hard work — Schuler was first elected in 1999, won five subsequent elections, and has held impressive posts — suddenly matter not. 

What about the constituents who democratically elected him to represent them? Pfft. Nobody cares.

Like health workers, teachers, oil workers, police officers, firefighters, restaurant employees, Manitobans from all walks of life who won’t comply with questionable, harsh forced mandates, Schuler may be deprived of a right to earn a living

And the lone elected voice of reason in perennial COVID-19 hysteria will be muzzled. 

The right to work is now taken away just because something irks elected officials. Not providing proof of COVID-19 vaccination irks them so much they casually destroy careers and lives.

Maybe Schuler’s vaccinated. Maybe he isn’t. He says it’s nobody’s business but his.

“As stated in the house, no one in Caucus is opposed to vaccinations, however, my personal health information is a private matter and I do not discuss my personal health information publicly,” said the Springfield-Ritchot MLA in a written statement to Western Standard.

He refuses media interview requests. Can’t blame him.

The Winnipeg Free Press polled all MLAs about their vaccination status. Aha! Schuler and Seine River PC MLA Janice Morley-Lecomte were outed for refusing to cough up personal information. Morley-Lecomte buckled to pressure and confirmed she’s vaccinated.

No one appears to have a problem with media infringing on liberty and freedom by giving itself licence to poke into something that — until COVID-19 was sacred — an individual’s right to keep health information private. 

In this COVID-19 madness, the obliging media increasingly oversteps boundaries it’s supposed to protect.

Angus Reid recently found 70% of 1,000 Canadians surveyed believe employees should be fired if they refuse to be vaccinated. That means they must reveal vaccination status which is private health information.

Would those surveyed feel the same way if a reporter chasing a story asked them about that embarrassing rash in private places, an abortion, reliance on anti-depressants, or any other medical conditions?

If so, it would be useless to run to one’s MLA for help. Readers revealed to me that one Manitoba MLA flippantly told an oil worker who refused the vaccine for religious convictions to just go get vaccinated. He lost his job. Another MLA coolly told a constituent to go hire a lawyer if she didn’t like the rules.

Schuler’s vaccination status commanded new attention when it was revealed that a 70-year-old assistant in his constituency office died of COVID-19. 

No details were provided on whether the assistant was vaccinated or where she contracted COVID-19. 

But NDP house leader and justice critic Nahanni Fontaine pounced, calling for Schuler to be booted from cabinet, saying it would be “unconscionable” if he remained.

To his credit, Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said it would be wrong to jump to conclusions about the tragic death, but yes, Schuler should be tossed.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon told media she’s a “vaccine ambassador.”

“I’ve always tried to lead by example in my life. I’m a vaccine ambassador, and if others want to follow my lead, I strongly encourage them to do so,” said Gordon, who with two other cabinet ministers was outed for violating mandates whilst frolicking at a gala sans masks and social distancing.

Schuler has been participating in question period virtually for a few months. The chamber already only allows MLAs in who have received two doses.

Nonetheless, Stefanson imposed a tougher rule — get vaccinated or get banished. 

Back to the NDP’s Fontaine who told the Winnipeg Sun MLAs must “step up.” 

“And if MLAs don’t stand up, who the heck is supposed to step up?”

Oh, the irony of chastising an MLA who is doing exactly that. Schuler is stepping up heroically, not only for himself but for all being bullied into sharing personal information.

Former Ontario privacy commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian recently told Blacklock’s Reporter she rejects vaccine passports in any form.

“You’re talking about people’s personal health information. That is between your doctor and yourself. Now all of that has changed … I find it abhorrent,” said Cavoukian.

“People’s health status is considered to be the most private, sensitive information they have … The problem is privacy protection measures, once they are lifted in an emergency, are seldom restored.” 

Schuler appears to understand the sinister ramifications of that. This is about more than him.

The premier and MLAs who choose to represent only Manitobans who dutifully obey them may silence him.

While piously bleating about responsibility in a pandemic, these sheep are cleverly deflecting from their sinister stand on something they don’t support — one’s right to medical privacy.

Baaaa….

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

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Opinion

LOGAN: It’s time to divest from Suzuki

“It’s time to send a message to Suzuki where it will hurt the most – his donors.”

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Eco-alarmist David Suzuki has become more than just your everyday environmental activist — he’s become a well-known Canadian brand.

And it’s a brand that helped create the David Suzuki Foundation, which in 2020 raised more than $13 million for various environmental causes.

But what happens when the namesake of your charitable foundation not only feeds into, but repeats the dangerous rhetoric being employed by extreme environmental groups like Extinction Rebellion?

It was at an Extinction Rebellion event in Victoria in November that Suzuki crossed the line between peaceful activism and extremism.

“There are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don’t pay attention to what’s going on,” vowed the 85-year-old activist, best known for hosting CBC’s The Nature of Things.

And he wasn’t ready to back down following the outrage sparked by his comments, telling Victoria’s CHEK News it was “absurd” for people to think he was inciting violence and didn’t regret his comment.

“I meant it. I said it. I regret that the media … would take the context of that article, which was a fine report, and put the headline that totally slants it as if I’m inciting violence,” Suzuki said.

The Foundation that bears his name was quick to distance itself from the co-founder’s comments, saying Suzuki wasn’t speaking on their behalf.

Suzuki eventually apologized for his remarks, saying they were said out of “extreme frustration,” and not meant to support violence.

But despite the apology, Suzuki refused to condemn Extinction Rebellion’s defense of his own comments, which only further raised the temperature.

“Not only will pipelines be blown up, but we can be certain that world leaders will be put on trial for treason or worse — be killed,” said Extinction Rebellion’s National Action & Strategy Coordinator Zain Haq, doubling down on Suzuki’s comment.

It’s time to send a message to Suzuki where it will hurt the most — his donors.

You can send a letter today to the David Suzuki Foundation’s largest donors telling them that his violent rhetoric is unacceptable. Just click on this link.

If activists like Suzuki won’t hold themselves accountable, you can do your part to make them accountable to the people who write their paycheque.

Let these companies and foundations know that it’s time to divest from Suzuki!

Guest column by Shawn Logan with the Canadian Energy Centre

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