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WAGNER: The deck is stacked against the West in Tory leadership votes

Michael Wagner looks at how the “weighted” voting system makes every Quebec vote count 12 times more than one in Alberta.

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After months of campaigning, Ontario MP Erin O’Toole was elected the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) on August 23rd. Many of the best people in Alberta and the other Western provinces were actively engaged in the leadership selection process. Much was at stake because almost every Member of Parliament in Alberta and Saskatchewan is from the CPC, and it is perceived to be the best federal party to represent the West. But how many people remember that the leadership selection process adopted by the CPC was deliberately designed to thwart its Western base?

When the Canadian Alliance under Stephen Harper and Progressive Conservative Party of Canada under Peter MacKay were negotiating a merger in 2003, the leadership selection process was a key point of contention. This is all explained by Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson in his 2015 book, Stephen Harper. The Canadian Alliance had a “one member, one vote” system. The PCs under Peter MacKay absolutely refused to accept that system, because the large number of members in the West would dominate the new party. The Tories would never agree to form a new political party that would be predominantly controlled by Westerners.

The PCs developed a scheme to overcome the perceived Western problem. As Ibbitson writes, “the Tories proposed a system in which each member of the new party would cast a vote within his or her own riding. Each riding would be awarded a hundred points. If one candidate received 60 per cent of the vote in that riding, he or she would score sixty points in that riding. This meant that a riding in, say, northern Quebec, where only ten votes were cast, would have the same weight as a Calgary riding where thousands of votes were cast. On the one hand, the system would be less democratic; on the other, candidates would be forced to run a truly national campaign. And a candidate from the Progressive Conservative side of the party – Peter MacKay, for instance – would at least have a chance.”

At first, Harper rejected that idea. Harper then suggested compromise proposals, but MacKay refused to budge. So how was a deal reached? Harper gave in. Ibbitson writes that, “In essence, Harper had caved on everything. Leadership selection, convention votes – the Tories could have it all their way. MacKay was left with absolutely nothing to object to. If Paris was worth a mass, Harper had decided, acquiring the Progressive Conservatives was worth any concession he had to make.”

Henry IV had said that “Paris is worth a mass” when he saw that making an opportunistic change in his religious beliefs would enable him to obtain the French crown in 1593. In other words, the phrase justifies a sell-out for political gain.

Of course, the leadership selection process demanded by Peter MacKay is exactly what was used to select Erin O’Toole.

As Ibbitson pointed out, this means that – theoretically, at least – a Quebec riding with ten votes in the leadership contest carries the same weight as an Alberta riding with thousands of votes. How is that fair to Alberta or the West? It’s not. 

This year there weren’t any Quebec ridings with ten members outweighing Alberta ridings with thousands, but the disproportion was nevertheless very evident. Fifty ridings in Quebec contributed less than 100 votes each in the leadership contest, with the Bourassa riding registering just 28. In contrast, 24 ridings in Alberta had over 1000 votes each, with the Foothills riding registering 2079. Clearly, Quebec’s small CPC membership vastly outweighed Alberta’s large CPC membership in the leadership selection process. Alberta’s tremendous conservative strength was marginalized to a great extent.

As explained, the CPC’s leadership selection process was deliberately designed to provide an institutional mechanism to thwart Western influence within the party. How can a party with this sort of built-in unfairness to the West properly represent Western interests? 

It doesn’t. In fact, if the Tories had used a “one-member, one-vote” system that most political parties use at the provincial level, Leslyn Lewis would now be the party’s new leader. Lewis won the national popular vote, and carried all four Western provinces on the second ballot. But because the average Alberta constituency had 1,161 ballots cast and Quebec just 98, the vote of a Quebec Conservative was worth 12 times as much as an Albertan’s. This phenomenon also helped to propel Andrew Scheer to the leadership in 2017 over Maxime Bernier – who like Lewis – won most of the West. 

The Conservative Party of Canada might not be the “pro-West” organization many people consider it to be. Erin O’Toole will undoubtedly make some noise about the need to address “Western alienation” to shore up support in the West. But all of Alberta’s MPs save one, and all of Saskatchewan’s, are already Conservative, so he will be focusing on ways to win seats in places like southern Ontario and Quebec. This is the inevitable consequence of the current political structure and – as always – it will lead to the West taking a back seat to Central Canada in the electoral calculations of the CPC. 

The CPC already subordinates Western interests to Eastern interests in its own leadership selection process, so doing the same when developing policy and an electoral strategy will come naturally.

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

SLOBODIAN: Another blackface photo shows Trudeau the hypocrite

Do Canadians really want to again hand power to someone who relentlessly points a false accusing finger at them to achieve his sinister agenda but didn’t have the moral character to know blackface is a bad thing – until he got caught.

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Yet another photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface emerged on the eve of today’s federal election.

He appears to be having a fantastic time all dressed up in a fancy Arabian costume with a crazed look in his eyes, tongue hanging out to his chin, cozied up to some guy.

It’s just more evidence (as if we even need more) that something is really, very wrong with that man who yearns to lead a 2021 majority government — both morally and in his ability to exercise good judgement. 

But there’s something else about the photo that’s telling. Two men behind him are wearing tuxedos. Their tongues are tucked in their mouths where they belong. Unlike Trudeau, they look normal, dignified, like they know how to behave out in public, like they don’t disrespect black people. 

Obviously, dressing up in this offensive manner wasn’t mandatory to attend the soiree. And obviously, Trudeau didn’t care. He was having such fun mocking a racial minority he now claims to be deeply concerned about.

Apparently, this photo was taken at an Arabian Nights-themed event held in the spring of 2001. Multiple photos of Trudeau in blackface have emerged in the past from this event and others. 

Oh, he has apologized profusely being “deeply sorry” for the bad behaviour he so passionately seemed to enjoy. But no, he never could remember how many times he behaved in this childish, offensive, racist manner.

Trudeau wasn’t some dumb, naive kid. He was a dumb, insensitive, arrogant gown man, a teacher pushing 30 who made sport of a racial minority.

And then, four years shy of 50, in 2018, he got all dressed up again, humiliated Canada and was ruthlessly mocked on the world stage when he traipsed through India, hands clasped in prayer or whatever, in blinding colourful, inappropriate Bollywood costumes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in India

Of course, the timing of this latest blackface photo was leaked with the intent to inflict the most damage to Trudeau as Canadians head to the polls.

Good! Too many Canadians are still blinded to his incompetence, to the disastrous path he’s leading Canada down, to his hypocrisy.

He plays Canadians like a fiddle, never missing an opportunity to create division and shed fake tears while preaching advocacy for equality and inclusion.

Trudeau can’t stop telling Canadians how racist they are. He shamelessly panders to the black community that his blackface antics insulted.

When protests lit U.S. cities on fire after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, instead of pointing out accusations of widespread police brutality were inflated, Trudeau jumped on the bandwagon declaring anti-black racism is alive in Canada.

He neglected to mention he was largely speaking from personal experience.

“We need to do better in Canada. Even though we’ve made strides forward in the fight against racism and discrimination, racism still exists in Canada. To young, black Canadians, I hear you when you say you are anxious and angry.”

The problem is statistics didn’t support his claims. And they still don’t. In fact, Trudeau neglected to note that the largest targeted group on the receiving end of hate crimes in Canada is the Jewish community.

Trudeau is using racism as a pretense to assault the right of Canadians to freedom of expression. If he gets his majority, Bill C-36 — an anti-hate propaganda and hate crime bill — will sail through. He tries to sell it as means combat online hate, which he vaguely defines. It is a dangerous tool to shut up whoever Trudeau and his minions disagree with or don’t like.

Someone merely fearing another person may commit a hate propaganda offence or hate crime can anonymously have their target hauled before a judge to potentially lose their freedom or face financial ruin.

Do Canadians really want to again hand power to someone who relentlessly points a false accusing finger at them to achieve his sinister agenda but didn’t have the moral character to know blackface is a bad thing — until he got caught?

How many passes is this power-hungry, divisive, costume-wearing fraud going to get? 

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

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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: While the big parties have never agreed on more, Canadians have never agreed on less

“The Great Canadian Consensus of 2021 is a mirage however. The old parties may agree, but Canadians do not.”

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Canada has had divisive elections before, but those elections typically had something to be divisive about: free trade (1988), conscription (1917), etcetera.

But if we’re going to lump 2021 into the club of particularly divisive elections, it would be difficult to add any text before the bracket. That is, I don’t know what this election was about, at least as far the the big parties go.

Certainly COVID-19 and how government should handle it has been discussed a lot, but with the exception of Maxime Bernier and his PPC, the major parties have been in remarkable consensus on all of the big issues.

The five older parties all agree with rotating lockdowns and a forced vaccine passport, with minor variations at the margin.

The five major parties all agree with perpetual deficit spending, although O’Toole’s Conservatives promise some day far into the distant future that the budget will balance itself.

The five major parties all agree with a large carbon tax on both industry and consumers.

All five major parties agree that equalization is working just fine and the West should keep paying, although O’Toole says the West deserves a little respect for its contributions.

The major difference between the five major parties mostly boils down to: “We can do what the other guys promise to do better.”

The Great Canadian Consensus of 2021 is a mirage however. The old parties may agree, but Canadians do not.

Roughly half of Canadians oppose a carbon tax, but 100% of the parties in Parliament support one.

Most conservatives support a serious timeline to balance the budget, but none of the parties in Parliament do.

The overwhelming majority of Westerners — and especially Albertans — want to either reform or abolish equalization, but not a single party in Parliament wants to even discuss it.

A clear majority of Canadians — alas — support vaccine passports, but a significant minority do not. And I have difficulty believing it’s only made up of anti-vax conspiracy theorists as the legacy media would have us believe. There are rational skeptics, and folks, like yours truly, in the minority of the majority: that is, people who’re vaccinated, but do not believe in forcing others to do so.

The anti-passport/lockdown minority were left without any voice among the establishment parties. Into this fray, the PPC has played the contrarian, inserting itself into a populist-libertarian space where the other parties fear to tread.

The party’s rallies resound with chants of “Freedom! Freedom!” as Bernier plays the role of William Wallace juicing the peasant rabble up to charge the English lines.

O’Toole’s headlong rush to the nebulous ‘centre’ could well pay off in the GTA-905 belt, but it has left a not insignificant number of otherwise traditionally Conservative voters out in the cold. His only appeal to them is their obligation to vote Tory to stop the Liberals. It will work with some voters, but it’s weak. It reduces the election to a mere personality contest between Trudeau and O’Toole.

As the PPC began its rise from obscurity to 6-11% in the polls, the legacy media began to take notice. Most leftist media personalities dismissed it as an angry and dangerous fringe unworthy of Canada’s noble progressivism. Most establishment conservative media personalities dismiss it as a vane-glorious monument to Bernier’s ego. Only a handful have bothered to scratch the surface to ask “Who are these people, and what are these people so upset about?”

The lazy armchair consensus of the punditocracy is they are just angry, white, racist, rural, old, male, right-wingers upset about how wonderfully tolerant and progressive Canada has become.

But the PPC voter profile is more complex than this trope. Certainly, the PPC has taken a bite out of the Tories, but is engaging new groups that defy an easy left-right pinning of the tail on the donkey. Young people, former Green voters, and — most notably — non-voters make up most of the party’s polling gains.

PPC Freedom Rally in Strathmore, Alberta (Image Credit: Western Standard)

The party’s Freedom Rallies are a visible display of this, if the legacy media bothered to show up.

At a rally in the small town of Strathmore, Alberta — 30 minutes east of Calgary — Bernier attracted 1,000 attendees, give or take. It had the usual assortment of farmers and blue-collar conservatives; but it had the odd hippy wearing a poncho. A few punks wearing excessive eye-shadow. Some visible minorities. And young people. Lots of young people. It was not the typical small-town Alberta conservative town hall meeting of the usual suspects.

The PPC vote may well be too diluted across Canada to elect any MPs, but it will leave a mark.

Wednesday’s leader debate between federal heads of their parties was missing one candidate, and there was no sign of leadership, opines Slobodian. —photo courtesy CBC

Legacy media using a generic story image of the five other parties leaders, but exclude Bernier — despite him polling higher than two of them — will be a difficult illusion to maintain on Tuesday.

Canadians are by and large tired of the Liberals. Trudeau’s character is unbecoming of a leader of an advanced democratic country. There is a seething angry pool of voters who want change, but not just in the personality of the man or woman at 24 Sussex. Surely O’Toole can’t form a majority government by only appealing to cranks like me, but to win he’ll probably need to offer at least something.

Instead, he offers Trudeau without the blackface. I suppose it’s an improvement.

Like 2019, this should be the Conservatives election to lose. If he comes up short tonight, O’Toole will be tempted to blame others, namely Jason Kenney and Maxime Bernier.

Kenney is no doubt playing a less than helpful role, and will quite possibly be held responsible for flipping a few seats in Alberta to the Liberals and NDP. But his disastrous leadership of the province will not be the decisive factor if the Tories lose.

And Bernier himself is unlikely to be the primary spoiler. He’s the key driving force behind the PPC’s populist insurgency, but it was the polarization around vaccine passports — and O’Toole’s middling response to it — that has driven that party’s ascendance.

O’Toole may well pull this one out, but by squeezing the sunlight out of the space between himself and Trudeau, he has not helped his chances.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard

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Opinion

McNICHOLLS: The case for a Canadian quest for the Victoria Cross

It begs the question as to why we have a Canadian Victoria Cross if the standards required to receive it are apparently unachievable?

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Private Jess Larochelle of the Royal Canadian Regiment was manning an observation post in Pashmul, Afghanistan Oct. 14, 2006, when the post was destroyed in a rocket attack.

The violent impact rendered the young soldier unconscious and though he didn’t know it at the time, the blast had also broken his back.

When Larochelle came to, he tried to bring his C6 7.62-mm machine gun into action, only to discover the attack had rendered it unserviceable.

He was badly injured, under heavy fire and alone.

Beside him were 15 M72 rocket launchers, which fortunately had not detonated, and he immediately put those to use.

During the fight, which saw two members of his unit killed and three wounded, his use of the rocket launchers effectively brought the insurgent’s attack to a halt and prevented his unit from being overrun.

On March 14, 2007, Larochelle was awarded the Star of Military Valour, one of 20 awarded to Canadian forces members during the Afghan conflict.

Many readers will be familiar with the Victoria Cross, which has been around since the Crimean War, having been introduced by Queen Victoria in January of 1856. It is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry that can be bestowed on a member of Britain’s armed forces and was previously open to members of the British Empire and Commonwealth.

The Afghanistan Veterans Association of Canada has petitioned the Governor-General of Canada to award the Victoria Cross to former Pvt. Larochelle, Nipissing, Ont. man who is in poor health.

“I was in the same company with Jess,” said Bruce Moncur, founder of the Veterans Association.

“The guy had a broken back and single-handedly fought off 40 Taliban.”

The petition has the support of Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole.

“(Jess Larochelle) is worthy of consideration for Victorian class,” said O’Toole, himself a former commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

“I’m very proud of the men and women who serve in our Canadian Armed Forces and those (who) served in that mission with distinction and unparalleled courage,” he said Sept. 17.

Retired General Rick Hillier is also backing the group, and said Larochelle was at the “point of the spear.”

“This young man, this baby-faced soldier, this awesome Canadian, kept the Taliban attack away and behaved in a way that was incredible,” Hillier told the CBC.

Throughout its history, 1,358 Victoria Crosses have been awarded to 1,355 individuals. Three men received a VC and bar, meaning they won it twice. Ninety-nine were Canadian, or had a close association with Canada.

While early recipients most certainly demonstrated extreme acts of gallantry, there is little doubt the criteria for consideration for the award of a VC has, over time, become decidedly more stringent.

The rules were before consideration could be given, there had to be three reports of the incident. Assuming three had their heads above ground to notice, they then had to survive the action themselves. It then had to go up the chain of command where it was frequently downgraded. In other words, lots of very brave men did not receive consideration or received lesser medals.

Unsurprisingly, the war in which most were awarded was the First World War.
Probably more surprising is the Indian Rebellion beginning in 1857 is in second place.
What will likely surprise a great many is the Second World War is in third place.

There’s no question the British VC became harder to win as its history evolved. By the time of the Second World War you almost literally had to be killed to be considered for one. I have a recollection of reading about one Second World War Bomber Command group commander who decreed there would be no live VC recipients in his command.

Nevertheless, VCs were awarded for extreme acts of courage and 16 Canadians were so honoured during the conflict. Many, including a man from the City of Duncan on Vancouver Island, my hometown for 20 years, paid with their lives.

The last Canadian to be awarded a VC was Robert Hampton Gray of Trail, BC in 1945.
‘Hammy’ Gray would also make the supreme sacrifice for the act of bravery for which he was recognized.

In 1967, it was determined Canadians would no longer be eligible for the Victoria Cross and, in 1993, a Canadian VC was created.

The Star of Military Valour, which was awarded to Larochelle, is Canada’s second-highest award for courage in the face of the enemy.

Since the Second World War, 15 British VCs have been awarded, although four of those went to Australians serving in Vietnam before Australia also created its own Victoria Cross medal.

Of the 11 British awards, four were in Korea, two in the Falklands, three in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.

Admittedly, I have not carried out a study to compare how the most recent British awards stack up against those of the 20 Canadian Star of Military Valour recipients.

We are advised by Canada’s director of Military Honours and Recognition no actions have taken place that meet the requirements for the award of a Canadian VC. However, as one of the stated criteria was to be willingly or knowingly drawing fire onto oneself to relieve others, that seems very much the description of the action involving Pvt. Larochelle.

For argument’s sake, let’s say it does not meet the Canadian military’s criteria; I am left pondering the fact that in the history of the Canadian Victoria Cross, precisely zero have been awarded.

Since creating its own Victoria Cross medals, Australia has awarded four and New Zealand one.

There is campaign underway to have Larochelle’s medal upgraded to a VC, but this has so far not met with success.

It begs the question as to why we have a Canadian Victoria Cross if the standards required to receive it are apparently unachievable?

Paul McNicholls is an author and historical researcher on Vancouver Island. His first book, Journey Through the Wilderness, was published in 2019. He’s currently working on two projects. Canada’s Monty, the story of Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery’s brother, Donald, who served with the Canadian Corps during the First World War. The second work-in-progress is Canada and the Boer War. McNicholls is the recipient of the 2021 Howard Browne Medal from the Victorian Military Society.

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