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CAMERON: Ministers as Kings – Alberta’s Bill 10 a dangerous overreach

In our Debate Feature on Bill 10, Jay Cameron argues that it is an anti-democratic executive overreach, while the UCP declined to defend their bill.




EDITORS NOTE: The Western Standard asked Jay Cameron of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) and representatives United Conservative Party of Alberta (UCP) Caucus to participate in the “Duelling Columnist” debate feature on the province’s Bill 10.

The UCP Caucus declined to provide any column in defence of its Bill 10 legislation. As such, Jay Cameron of the JCCF has been given the space of both sides to make his argument.

On March 31, under cover of the sudden fog of coronavirus panic, and to a Legislature working with a skeleton crew of law makers that barely constituted a quorum, the United Conservative Party (UCP) government introduced the Public Health (Emergency Powers) Amendment Act, also known as Bill 10. Before bewildered lawmakers could read and understand the Bill, and before the locked-down public could raise an objection, Bill 10 had become law.  It took approximately 48 hours from the introduction of the Bill to its coming into force.  The vote in the Legislature Assembly of Alberta was 14-7 along party lines, and quorum for the Legislature is 20. 

Bill 10’s emergency powers included two key amendments to the Public Health Act, sections 52.1(2)(b) and 52.21(2)(b), and both are provisions which authorize government cabinet ministers to unilaterally create new laws and sidestep the Legislature when doing so. Today, Alberta’s cabinet ministers can individually write laws on the fly, as though the Legislature’s majority was personally invested in each minister. Interestingly enough, it was the UCP’s Health Minister, Tyler Shandro, who introduced Bill 10, and it is Minister Shandro who — more than anyone else— obtained profound and sweeping individual powers from its passage.

No one in the Alberta public voted to give Mr. Shandro, or other ministers, the awesome power of the people’s elected legislature. The Tories usurped that power in an act of calculated opportunism. 

The constitutional foundations of western democracies developed out of the hard and bloody lessons of history, and centuries of unilateral rule by both monarchial and religious despots. Democracy, coupled with the codification of rights and checks and balances in a constitution, exists as a safeguard against authoritarianism. But Canadians have become alarmingly complacent about the security which the rule of law and constitutionalism have provided for them. The case was similarly dangerous when Prime Minister Trudeau attempted a parallel power grab in Ottawa. Our democratic safeguards are being eroded across the country, yet little outcry is heard. 

Esteemed French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, in his seminal work, The Spirit of the Laws, noted that “when the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty.”  Montesquieu’s observations on civil governance influenced great thinkers such as Alexis de Toqueville and the drafters of the U.S. Constitution.  Montesquieu’s views helped shape the existing system of checks and balances in Canada. 

In Canada, elected representatives introduce laws which are studied, debated, amended, and often submitted for public consultation and feedback. Those laws, if passed, are implemented by a separate branch of government, called the executive (or cabinet). This separation of powers exists to provide a check on the executive unilaterally making self-serving laws for its own ends.  Bill 10 abolishes this barrier when a declared public health emergency is in effect, and unifies the legislative power during a pandemic in the executives’ cabinet ministers.  

Bill 10 is unconstitutional for a number of reasons, but one primary reason is that the Constitution Act, 1867 bestows power on the provincial legislature (not on individual politicians or on cabinet) to make laws. The delegation of this power away from the legislature as a whole is an infringement of the written and unwritten principles which safeguard citizens from abuse. 

When Albertans began to ask questions about Bill 10, the UCP’s first response was to deny the obvious fact that Bill 10 gave cabinet ministers a new power to write laws and create new offences and penalties unilaterally, without any oversight from the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. The UCP told Albertans that Bill 10 was merely “clarifying” powers which already existed.

A short time later, however, Minister Shandro utilized Bill 10 to— unilaterally— create a new law exactly as warned.  Minister Shandro amended the Public Health Act to authorize the release of “information obtained by the Chief Medical Officer” to “any police service.” Ministerial Order 632/2020 states, “I, Tyler Shandro, the Minister of Health … do hereby order”. Shandro then proceeds to add sections 53(4.2) and (4.3) to the Public Health Act.  The Legislature was not consulted prior to this legislative amendment. No studies were conducted. No debate allowed. The public was not informed or consulted, or even warned in advance. For the first time in Canadian history, a law which was passed by a duly elected democratic legislature was unilaterally altered by a single politician, effectively overriding democracy in an act of executive authoritarianism. Shandro’s new law came into effect immediately upon signing on May 4, 2020. 

It turns out the new provisions of the Public Health Act added by Minister Shandro are broad and poorly worded, which underscores just one reason why legislatures should pass laws, not individual politicians. The new sections are broad enough to allow for the blanket release to police of the records of all Albertans who have tested positive for COVID-19, and probably even the medical records of those who have not. The new law contains no safeguards outlining the use, storage and retention of the personal data by police. 

It is unclear why the names of people who once tested positive for the virus and have recovered should be conveyed to police, or how long this information will remain in the police’s possession. There are no limitations on how the police may use this private and personal information. There is no clause that mandates that the information will be destroyed at a later date. Providing the personal information of patients to police, so that private and confidential medical records can be accessed at police discretion, is in effect a warrantless search without judicial checks and balances, and an alarming breach of privacy rights. Albertans typically have strong rights regarding their personal health data which are codified in the Health Information Act. But Minister Shandro’s new law simply bypasses the Health Information Act.  

In a democracy, the legislature would consider the impacts on privacy and constitutional rights implicated by a blanket release of health records to the police. In a dictatorship, no checks and balances exist on the use of executive power. Minister Shandro’s Order says he is “satisfied” that our medical records ought to be sent to the police, and so that is presumably where they are now.  

Some citizens are probably fine with Minister Shandro’s new powers. Maybe you yourself don’t have a problem with the police having your private medical records, without apparent restrictions on what they can do with them or how long they can keep them. Maybe it was your intention all along to just give your medical records to the police and you just hadn’t got around to it. Maybe you trust the government out of partisan loyalty. 

Perhaps you think Tyler Shandro is much wiser than all of the Legislative Assembly sitting together studying and debating new laws. You do not know him personally, of course, but you’ve seen him on TV, and he seems well spoken, so why should he be compelled to run each new law by the Legislature?  Yes, there are 86 other MLAs the Legislature, but you have the utmost faith that Mr. Shandro is smarter and more capable than all of them put together.  

But maybe, just maybe, you are one of these people who wants checks and balances on government power. You believe in democracy and the Constitution, and you think that should be the law in Canada (because it is), not whatever new rule Minister Shandro makes up.  And you’re upset.  

Who do you complain to? Your MLA? Bill 10 says Minister Shandro doesn’t have to check with MLAs before he changes the law during a pandemic. The Premier? He’s a very busy man who gets thousands of emails every day.The police? They enforce the law, and now Bill 10 says the Mr. Shandro can say what the law is. 

Perhaps you decide to protest the breach of you and your family’s privacy rights by demonstrating at the legislature because you are not sure what else to do. For your trouble, you receive one of those $1,200 tickets that have become so popular with law enforcement. The Sheriff informs you that Minister Shandro says you should be at home, quietly socially distancing. 

There is one last check on this extraordinary consolidation of power – short of the ballot box – and it lies in the third branch of government—the judiciary. The court challenge to Bill 10 is ongoing. 

Jay Cameron is a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms


The Pipeline: YouTube cancels Western Standard

This week a Calgary Cop suspended for refusing vax, YouTube cancels Western Standard and D-Day on Kenney’s leadership vote rules. Join us live at 12 PM!




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MORGAN: Free speech in comedy under siege

“What has happened to our society when a comedy festival may turn into a street battle? “




Standup comedians have always been on the front lines in battles over free speech and expression.

In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, most of the pearl-clutching busybodies came from the ‘moral majority’ religious right. They feared obscenity within comedy acts would degrade the moral fabric of the nation and for a while, the law agreed. Comedian Lenny Bruce was convicted and sentenced to four months in a workhouse in 1964 for the crime of spreading obscenity in his act. George Carlin was arrested seven times during the 1970s for his famous “Seven Dirty Words” routine.

Bruce died before the appeal of his sentence was completed. He was posthumously pardoned in 2003. Charges against Carlin were all dropped before he could be convicted. Carlin and Bruce refused to back down and in the end, the state couldn’t win. We will never know how many comedians allowed themselves to be cowed into changing their acts due to state and social intimidation in those days. Not all of them had the will or support bases Carlin and Bruce enjoyed.

The ability for comedians to freely express themselves is just as threatened today as it was 50 years ago. The source of puritanical outrage against comedy routines has changed, though. These days the prigs demanding the curtailment of free speech in comedy acts are the snowflakes of the politically correct left.

Canadian comedian Mike Ward found himself dragged before human rights tribunals and the Canadian courts for nearly a decade over a routine in which he mocked a disabled young Canadian performer. The case ultimately went to the Canadian Supreme Court where it was ruled in a tight 5-4 split decision Ward’s right to free speech was to be protected, and jokes were not subject to judicial review. We came dangerously close to having a comedian convicted for his routine during this decade. The threat to free expression is real and it’s ongoing.

The prime target of the cancel-culture mob lately has been American comedian Dave Chappelle. Chappelle has long enjoyed poking fun at the hypersensitive underbelly of the LGBTQ activist community and has never backed down in the face of the enraged blowback following one of his acts. In Chappelle’s most recent Netflix comedy special he went out of his way to antagonize the usual suspects as he made jokes about transgender ideological orthodoxy. The response to his act was immediate and predictable. Activists demanded Netflix pull the special down and small groups of Netflix employees staged widely publicized walkouts in protest of Chappelle’s act.

Netflix never pulled Chappelle’s special down and Chappelle has remained unapologetic for it. The controversy generated by apoplectic snowflakes in response to Chappelle’s act likely only increased viewership of the special.

It has just been announced Dave Chappelle is going to be headlining a Netflix comedy festival this coming April in Hollywood Bowl. This signals Netflix has done well with Chappelle’s routine despite or perhaps even because of the controversy it generated. In having a set date at a large outdoor venue and in such a populated area, Netflix is upping the ante in their battle with cancel-culture activists. Not only are they saying they won’t pull Chappelle’s older content, but they are also expanding the reach for his next act.

American and Canadian courts have proven they will protect the rights of free expression for controversial comedians, albeit grudgingly. Anti-free speech activists will have to take their case to the streets now and I suspect they will. With as many as 17,000 attendees arriving for a comedy festival being potentially greeted by a sizable number of protesters, things may get ugly.

What has happened to our society when a comedy festival may turn into a street battle?

Chappelle’s showdown this spring could be a turning point for comedy. Will he and Netflix stand their ground in the face of protests? Will local authorities ensure the show can go on even if activists vow to shut it down? This comedy event is going to be an important one.

As with any art, the enjoyment of comedy is subjective. Some people like simple clean humour, some like complex satire, and some like vulgarity-laden shock comedy. The only people who can judge good comedy are the audience and they should only be able to render judgment through voting with their feet (and wallets). In other words, if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.

Comedians ply their trade by observing the world and poking at sacred cows. They dig into subjects people commonly avoid and force us to think about them through the lens of humour. They provide a public service by pushing the boundaries of free expression and ensuring no subjects are ever out of bounds. They often make us laugh and we need a whole lot more of that these days.

Comedians will not be able to effectively practice their art if they fear censors or legal repercussions. They will be restrained and they will leave subjects that need to be brought before public scrutiny untouched.

If the speech and expression of comedians are allowed to be suppressed, no speech is safe. We need to stand up for our comics for both their sake and our own.

Cory Morgan is Assistant Opinion & Broadcast Editor for the Western Standard

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WAGNER: Hydrocarbon based fuels are here to stay

“Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”




Alberta’s future is threatened by a national campaign to dramatically reduce the production of hydrocarbons.

The political and media elite repeatedly assure everyone that such fuels can be replaced by new “green” energy sources such as wind and solar power. People currently employed in the oil and gas industry will supposedly transition into green energy production and life will continue on as before, except with fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Indeed, Justin Trudeau’s federal government has committed to transitioning Canada’s economy to producing net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Trudeau’s scheme is a fairy tale. Hydrocarbons are going to be required for a very long time because current green energy technology is nowhere near where it needs to be to replace them. Currently, there are no realistic alternatives to oil and gas, so reducing their production will only lead to energy shortages.

As Dr. Henry Geraedts put it recently in the Financial Post, “The ultimate goal of net-zero politics is to impose a radical energy transition that demands a top-to-bottom physical and social-economic restructuring of society, with no credible road map in sight. Think of it as telling people to step out of a perfectly serviceable airplane without a parachute, with assurances that politicians will work out alternatives on the way down.”

Geraedts’ Financial Post column is a brief description of a policy report he produced in June 2021, and how it was ignored because its conclusions contradict the ideological perspective that university professors are expected to support. He didn’t toe the party line, in other words, and therefore got the cold shoulder.

Geraedts’ report, Net Zero 2050: Rhetoric and Realities, is available online at the website of the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy which is affiliated with both the University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina. It’s a very credible piece of work.

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons and Geraedts points out “hydrocarbons are nature’s most efficient embodiment of primary energy: the combination of high energy density, abundance, stability, safety, portability and affordability is unmatched by any other source of energy.”

Currently, hydrocarbons comprise about 80% of global primary energy. This is essentially the same percentage as 30 years ago, when the global warming craze began. Despite years of favourable government policies and billions of dollars in government subsidies, green technology such as wind and solar energy remain relatively small contributors to the world’s energy supply.

Geraedts also describes the negative environmental impacts caused by so-called green energy technology. Among the most interesting details he mentions is: “Neither turbine blades nor solar panels nor lithium-ion batteries are physically or economically recyclable. They are instead, at an alarming rate, ending up in landfills leaching toxic chemicals — an estimated 10 million tons/year of batteries by 2030 alone.” So much for protecting the environment.

Geraedts is not a so-called “denier.” He points to data from reliable sources indicating global temperatures have increased by one degree Celsius since 1900. But he also explains “the projections used to justify net zero policies and the Paris Accord, are based on fundamentally flawed computer climate models that overstate warming by some 200%.”

Not only that, but “observational, empirical evidence remains agnostic as to what, with requisite confidence levels, is attributable to anthropogenic influences vs. natural variability.” In other words, it cannot be determined with certainty to what degree the gradual temperature increase is the result of human activities.

But climate change worries aside, there is still a fatal lack of realistic alternatives to hydrocarbons. The International Energy Agency forecasts that even if all countries fulfill their Paris Accord commitments — an unlikely prospect — hydrocarbons will still account for 60% of primary energy in 2040. With accelerating energy demand in Africa and Asia, Geraedts expects hydrocarbons will remain the dominant energy source for decades to come.

This is what it all means: If we put progressive ideology aside and take a hard, honest look at the energy situation, hydrocarbons are here to stay for quite a while. Knowing the ingenuity of human beings in a free society, the discovery of new energy sources is likely at some point in the future. For now, though, we need oil and gas, and Alberta has lots of both.

With strong international demand for hydrocarbons forecast to last for decades, there is no reason why these resources cannot continue to provide the foundation of economic prosperity for the province. The biggest obstacle to such prosperity, of course, is the federal government. Due to its determination to prevent the development of hydrocarbons, independence may be the only way to maintain and increase the resource-based wealth that is Alberta’s birthright.

An independent Alberta could implement policies maximizing economic growth and avoid the suffocating policies of Canada’s central government. A free Alberta would be a prosperous Alberta.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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