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WAGNER: Canada will never change unless Alberta is willing to leave it

Michael Wagner writes that Ted Byfield understood 20 years ago that nothing would change without a credible threat of independence.

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On June 17, the official report of Premier Jason Kenney’s Fair Deal Panel was made public. It recognized the widespread anger of Albertans towards the federal government’s unfair treatment of this province. In response, the panel recommended a number of measures to reassert Alberta’s jurisdictional powers within Canada, and to try to renegotiate the equalization program with the federal government and the other provinces.

The panel made clear however, that it completely ruled out any consideration of Alberta independence, even as a last resort. The report acknowledged that, “Some Albertans believe that the only way to get Ottawa and other provinces to pay attention to unfairness and misunderstandings is to use the threat of separation, implying that if Alberta does not get a fairer place within the federation, the province will pursue secession from Canada.” It quickly dismisses that option, stating: “But we do not believe the threat of secession is a constructive negotiating strategy.”

One panel member, MLA Drew Barnes, wrote a letter to Premier Kenney, publicly disagreeing with that conclusion. Barnes wrote, “While I appreciate that my colleagues on the panel do not believe that Alberta can or should raise the prospect of independence under any circumstance, I must respectfully disagree. A free people must be willing to at some point of injustice without rectification, to draw a line and make a stand.”

Barnes’ position is much like that of Ted Byfield, the influential publisher of Alberta Report magazine. In the aftermath of the 2000 federal election, Byfield wrote columns explaining that only the threat of Alberta independence would make Central Canada take the province’s concerns seriously.

In November 2000, Jean Chrétien’s Liberals handily beat the Canadian Alliance, leaving a large number of Albertans unhappy with their province’s status within Canada. Many wanted substantial change. 

It was within this context that the famous “Firewall Letter” written by Stephen Harper and other prominent Albertans was published. In a sense, that letter was a precursor to the Fair Deal Panel’s report. It proposed that the Alberta government maximize its use of the province’s constitutional powers, including collecting income tax, creating a provincial police force, initiating a provincial pension plan, and forcing Senate reform back onto the national agenda.

Byfield found the Firewall Letter to be defective on at least one point – there was no threat to back it up. In his January 22, 2001 column for The Report magazine (as it was at that time), Byfield wrote: “If Mr. Harper thinks that Alberta can merely proceed to exercise the same autonomy Quebec now does, he is dreaming. Quebec is a special case; it is, we are constantly told, ‘distinct.’ What makes it special? Its language? Its cultural heritage? Yes, but it always had those, and nobody outside Quebec gave a damn. Such autonomy as Quebec possesses was achieved in just one way: it made convincing threats to leave.”

“The lesson is plain,” Byfield continued. “If you really want change,” he wrote, you must “threaten to leave—and mean it. Period. If we fail to understand this, we are not being patriotic. We are being stupid. Crassly, arrogantly, blindly stupid.”

He resumed this theme in his subsequent column published February 5, 2001. The column’s title said it all: “The West’s paradox – the only way we can change Canada is by finding ways to leave it.”

In this column Byfield made his argument forcefully.

“Unless we make credible threats to set up on our own we will get absolutely nothing by way of constitutional change, or any other kind of change. We will be bashed down every time. If we threatened to leave and meant it, we would have enormous clout in Canada, more even than Quebec. By refusing to entertain such an idea, we have no clout whatever. That is the message of history.” 

A message – one might add – overlooked by the Fair Deal Panel.

Byfield went on to argue that Alberta needed to explore alternatives to being in Canada, such as becoming an independent country or joining the United States. Once it was understood that these were viable options, Alberta could then return to the negotiating table to discuss its place within Canada. He wrote, “If we go to the table without those options, we will come away with nothing whatever. All central Canada need do is stymie the negotiational process and we will have to slump back into the status quo as we always have.” Without practical alternatives, there is no reason why Central Canada would agree to any changes favourable to Alberta. 

Byfield referred to Alberta’s situation as “a paradox” because the “only way we can change Canada is to develop ways of getting out of Canada. We must possess other options.” This is undoubtedly true. By ruling out secession from the start, the Fair Deal Panel has thrown away Alberta’s only significant alternative to the status quo. Drew Barnes is absolutely right – if Albertans cannot obtain significant changes within Canada, then “we must seek another relationship, as a sovereign people.”

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.’

Michael Wagner is a Senior Alberta 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.' mwagner@westernstandardonline.com

Opinion

MORGAN: Trudeau’s radical new environment minister prepares to kill the West’s energy sector

“Justin Trudeau never made a secret of his ambitions to be known to posterity as The Prime Minister Who Saved The World from Climate Change.”

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The world is in the grips of an energy crisis.

Decades of well-meaning but naive energy transition efforts in developed nations have created a fragile world energy grid that is now faltering.

While Germany was once celebrated as a world leader in renewable green energy, coal has returned to the top spot as their source of electricity generation, while electricity prices have risen 500% in Europe. India and China are increasing coal production and are in a bidding war for Russian natural gas. Energy price spikes are feeding a rising cost of living, which in turn is impacting the standard of living for the entire planet.

It’s not even winter yet.

So how is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responding to this looming energy catastrophe? Will he help facilitate the production and export of ethical Canadian energy products in order to ease the burden on our European and Asian customers? Will he ease regulations on Canada’s petrochemical sector in order to mitigate domestic inflationary pressures as energy production increases? Will Trudeau applaud Western Canadian energy production as a means of employing Canadians while paying for COVID-19 measures?

Of course not.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his new cabinet appointments to signal that he is declaring an all-out war upon conventional energy generation in Canada. In appointing radical enviornmentalist Steven Guilbeault to the position of environment minister, Trudeau is making it clear he has no interest in allowing Canada’s petrochemical sector to continue upon its path to net-zero emissions. The prime minister wants to shut down the fossil fuel industry altogether — and he wants to do it soon.

For those unfamiliar with Steven Guilbeault’s history, he has been involved in extreme environmental actions for decades. In 2001, Guilbeault was arrested and charged for hanging from the CN Tower in Toronto in a Greenpeace protest. His act put emergency responders in real danger. Guilbeault was involved with a group of protestors who terrorized then Alberta Premier Ralph Klein’s family as they climbed upon the roof of the premier’s home as a protest stunt in 2002. Guilbeault is not a run of the mill environmental activist; he is from the extreme fringe of activists.

Government cabinets are very carefully selected. The people chosen to fill cabinet roles represent the direction the government plans to go in. Justin Trudeau never made a secret of his ambitions to be known to posterity as The Prime Minister Who Saved The World from Climate Change. The cabinet selections of Tuesday make clear that Trudeau no longer wants to just talk and tax about climate change; he wants to act. Westerners had best take heed.

With six years in office as prime minister, Trudeau has little he can point to as an established legacy besides a crippling debt that will last generations. The clock is ticking and if nothing changes, he will be remembered as being little aside from a vacuous placeholder with a famous name in the Prime Minister’s Office. Justin Trudeau’s almost debilitating vanity is well established. He does not want to go out that way, and he plans to make battling climate change his legacy.

While battling climate change could be accomplished though mitigating efforts such as carbon-capture and selling clean burning natural gas to the world, in appointing Guilbeault as Canada’s environment minister Trudeau made it clear he wants to fight climate change through shutting down Canada’s fossil fuel and petrochemical sector. Guilbeault has expressly stated that it is is goal, and it was no mistake that Trudeau gave him the authority to do it.

Trudeau has been candid in stating he doesn’t pay attention to monetary policy and fiscal issues. He doesn’t care that the world is in an energy crisis and doesn’t understand what shutting down Canada’s petrochemical industry will do to the economy. Trudeau’s foresight doesn’t extend beyond his own nose and all he’s envisioning is being enshrined as the crusader who defeated the hated oil industry.

Alberta should be the leading province standing up for and defending the energy sector against an ideologically driven federal government. Unfortunately, Premier Jason Kenney has proven himself to be long on talk and short on action when it comes to standing up to Ottawa. Kenney is also now distracted with a breaking sexual harassment lawsuit against one of his cabinet ministers. He won’t have the time to mount a spirited defense of Alberta’s industries, nor does he have the public support to be taken seriously in such a defence. Western Canadian energy companies and workers are vulnerable and Trudeau knows it.

There will be no help coming from our new federal natural resources minister either. Minister Jonathan Wilkanson comes from a history of renewable energy development. He will be tickled pink to see petrochemical companies driven from Canada’s economy.

The chill is already happening. Getting investment into Canadian conventional energy projects was already a tough task due to Ottawa’s hostility towards the sector. In light of the new federal cabinet in Ottawa, finding investment will be nearly impossible. Would you invest in a Canadian energy project when the prime minister has appointed a cabinet determined to shut down the industry?

The only advice I can offer to Canadians right now is to buckle in and get ready for a rough ride. Trudeau will be attending the 26th UN Climate Conference in Glasgow next week and he will be strutting. You can imagine Trudeau will be bragging to them all about how he will be setting up Canada as an example on how to battle climate change. Trudeau has always had trouble being taken seriously by other world leaders. He sees this as an opportunity to set himself up as a player on the world stage.

When Justin Trudeau gets back from the Glasgow summit, watch out. He has loaded the gun with his new cabinet. He will be fired up and ready to shoot and the first target will be Alberta.

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

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Manitoba Tory election about substance, not gender

Stefanson appears to be the favorite, having garnered the backing of the majority of caucus before Glover entered the race.

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Manitoba’s next premier will be named Saturday when the governing PC party’s new leader is chosen.

Candidates Shelly Glover, 54, and Heather Stefanson, 51, are both seasoned politicians.

Much breathless ado has been made over the fact the province’s next premier will be a woman; which is somewhat baffling considering that glass ceiling was already shattered with subsequent performances offering not a lot to boast about.

Think Alberta and Ontario. But that can be attributed to party affiliation and accompanying destructive policies, as much as abysmal leadership failure that harmed both provinces.

It’s about substance, not gender.

Roughly 24,000 Manitoba PC party members eligible to vote cast their ballots by mail or delivery to the party’s Winnipeg office.

The results will be announced during an in-person event at Winnipeg’s Victoria Inn, allowing limited attendees who all must be fully vaccinated. So, to be clear, unvaccinated votes are most welcome, but those who cast them, stay away.

And that brings us to a core issue the candidates differ on that is paramount in the minds of voting members: getting through COVID and mandates in place.

“I believe no one should lose their job because of their personal health decision,” said Stefanson — who served as health minister until she bailed to run for the leadership — in reference to vaccination requirements.

Yet she staunchly supports the strict COVID mandates and compulsory vaccinations she helped put in place that are causing people, including front-line health workers, to lose their jobs.

Glover said alternatives must be found to mandatory vaccinations because reducing the number of employees caring for patients isn’t an option.

Shelley Glover. Courtesy CBC

She promised no more vilifying or firing the unvaccinated, or blanket lockdowns for small and medium-sized businesses.

In fact, Glover said former premier Brian Pallister’s “tyranny is over” for both Manitobans and MLAs he kept on a tight leash.

Stefanson appears to be the favorite, having garnered the backing of the majority of caucus before Glover entered the race. However, political pundits opine Glover shouldn’t be counted out.

On the surface the race has been amicable. There was a wee back and forth over Stefanson’s claim that Glover would fire or try to oust MLAs who didn’t support her. Glover challenged her to prove it. She didn’t.

Stefanson, the establishment candidate, was first elected in Tuxedo in 2000. She has served as deputy premier, justice minister, minister of families, and most recently as health minister when appointed January 2021.

Glover, embraced as the grassroots candidate, is a 28-year Winnipeg Police Service veteran.

She was elected as a member of Parliament in the 2008 federal election and served the Saint Boniface riding until 2015. She was a member of the Privy Council of Canada and served as heritage minister.

The membership also weighed both candidate’s stands on strengthening the economy, education, and health care systems; building better relations with the province’s indigenous groups; and supporting business.

The winner, to be sworn in at a later date, will replace interim Premier Kelvin Goertzen who took over when Pallister resigned as premier September 1.

Whoever emerges victorious faces the formidable task of reviving support for a party losing ground to the NDP.

And regaining the trust of Manitobans.

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

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Opinion

MAKICHUK: Trudeau shows true colours with transfer slap in the face to Alberta

The Eastern Laurentian elites will continue to screw us over. It will never stop. 

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He mocked us.

He mocked us, he mocked us.

That Jack-in-Office at the PMO threw dirt as good, hard-working, God-fearing Albertans trundled off to the polls to have their say on transfer payments that have soaked us dry of billions of oil patch dollars for decades.

The very man who, in recent years, has spent more time in the ethics office than any other politician in Canada, had the absolute gall to marginalize our province, and our premier, by saying the issue was “incredibly political.”

Regardless of how they voted (Elections Alberta reported 61.7% of voters said “yes,” to ending Equalization, with 38.3% checking “no”), they had a fair, democratic right to choose.

“To eliminate equalization, which is what’s proposed in Jason Kenney’s referendum, is something that cannot be done by the federal government,” Justin Trudeau said with a sardonic smile.

“It needs to be done by the federal government working with seven provinces or territories representing over 50% of the Canadian population.”

Sorry pal, that’s not true and you know it.

If Alberta wants to opt-out, it can opt out … and praise God, someday that will happen. 

That Ottawa-based baboon can’t stop us if we wish to go our own way. Especially if we embark on a balanced journey of provincial autonomy over the next decade. 

To borrow a quote from his father — who had cajones — “Just watch (us)!”

The entire issue was summed up by the increasingly leftist Globe & Mail, with a disgustingly overbearing and insulting headline that read: “Don’t take Alberta’s referendum seriously.”

I won’t offer any further details, the headline was enough. 

Between the Globe and the federal freeloaders in Ottawa, it’s not hard to figure out the West will never, ever be taken seriously or treated fairly and equally with the bully boys: Quebec and Ontario and their media cronies.

The Eastern Laurentian elites will continue to screw us over. It will never stop. 

And you know as well as I do, with the rapidly increasing national debt, it ain’t gonna get better.

Not for you, me, or the generations to come.

Columnist Rex Murphy summed up Alberta’s plight very well, in a 2019 piece in the National Post:

The Suzukis, the Sierra Clubs, the always railing Greenpeacers, the fund-raising behemoths of the eco-industry, and the swarms of petty NGOs, self-appointed activists, and trippy climate celebrities — Bill Nye the Foolish Guy may stand for them all — have feasted on the portrayal of Alberta energy as world-damaging, nature-offending and planet-despoiling.

It was and is a gang-up on a global scale. One fragment, one singular project of an entire world industry in a little corner of Alberta has been painted as the villain of planetary disaster. Under the specious umbrella of “we must save the planet”  and “global warming is an existential crisis” the energy industry of a single province has endured a vicious, unfair and fanatic assault.

A while back, I was having a beer at one of my favourite establishments, the Border Crossing, down on 17 Ave. S.E.

They make an escargot dish with melted cheese and toast that is to die for and a nice deck in the back where a guy can enjoy a nice Cuban cigarillo in peace. 

Anyway, I was chatting with a fellow who did time in the “Big House.”

He seemed a good, hard-working fellow who made a mistake, paid the price and learned from it and then moved on.

I asked him what was it like in there?

‘You don’t wanna go there, man … you don’t,” he said. The serious look on his face added to that sentiment.

“But let me tell you something. If you ever do end up there, the biggest, toughest guy in the joint is going to come up to you and set you straight.

“And you can’t back down, you have to show no fear and stand up to him.”

Terrible images raced through my head.

“But what if he’s way bigger than me and tougher?” I pleaded.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you don’t stand up to him then, you are done for.”

The reality of that discussion never left me. Knock on wood, I don’t ever end up in the clink!

But this, my friends, is exactly how we must deal with the pin-striped snakes in Ottawa.

We can’t be afraid, we can’t back down … we look them in the eye, and fight back with every peaceful but effective, and hopefully legal means in our toolbox, and with every ounce of strength we can garner.

They are nothing but a bunch of overpaid federal nabobs, led by the trumped-up party boy himself and backed by Mountie strong arm men.

Recently, I was chatting with an esteemed friend of mine on Facebook — a man much more accomplished than I.

He told me that the mere mention of Alberta with Eastern friends conjures up vitriolic hate and derision as if we were the bad guys.

Other friends have told me the same.

Well, that’s just fine, I don’t mind playing the part of Jack Palance in Shane, I don’t give a damn if they hate us. I really don’t.

But damn it all to hell, one day they might just respect us and fear us.

Take our money in transfer payments but block our pipelines and demonize us? 

Sure, go ahead and embrace token Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s so-called Green restart. 

See where that gets you. See if it pays your mortgage, your car payment, your daycare and your groceries.

One day, mark my words, the West will rise. As forceful and beautiful as the early morning light on the Alberta foothills.

To quote the great Winston Churchill, “Without courage, all other virtues lose their meaning.”

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 military editor for the Asia Times.
makichukd@gmail.com

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