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TERRAZZANO: Alberta needs recall legislation now

“Recall rules would be a big step towards reaffirming the role of citizens as boss. It’s time for Kenney to make good on his promise and pass recall legislation during the upcoming fall legislative session.”

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When most of us stink at our jobs, we get sent packing. That standard doesn’t apply to politicians, who don’t need to worry about impressing their boss, taxpayers, outside of an election every four years. 

Fortunately, Premier Jason Kenney promised to change that by introducing recall legislation. 

“Albertans want their MLAs to be accountable to them. That’s why a United Conservative government would introduce a Recall Act allowing voters to fire their MLA in between elections if they have lost the public’s trust,” Kenney said while on the campaign trail ahead of the 2019 provincial election.

“Empowering citizens to hold their MLAs to account will strengthen Alberta democracy.”

The most obvious benefit of recall legislation is allowing voters to hold misbehaving politicians accountable more than once every four years. Recall legislation in British Columbia helped citizens give former MLA Paul Reitsma the bootwhen he got caught sending fake letters to the editor. 

There are several examples where recall could have been used by Alberta voters. 

Take the case of former premier Allison Redford. It took months of mounting political pressure over expense scandals, including the infamous $45,000 South Africa trip, for internal political machinery to finally force her to step down. Or consider former Lethbridge coun. Darlene Heatherington, who refused to step down after being charged with fabricating a story about a stalker. In both cases, recall could have been a handy accountability tool for voters, who should be the ones making these decisions.  

The on-going scandal over Calgary’s Coun. Joe Magliocca’s expenses is another example where citizens should have the ability to hand out a pink slip through the recall process. 

Ensuring citizens can hold their elected officials accountable is crucial, but just as important is the role that recall rules could play in discouraging politicians from messing up in the first place. It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to understand that a politician will think twice before blowing tax dollars on steaks and martinis if there’s a chance they could have to face the voters immediately rather than in four years.

Alberta’s recall rules must be extended to the local level, so voters have the same ability to hold local councillors and mayors accountable as they will with MLAs. Fortunately, the government’s last throne speech promised exactly that. 

“To further make life better for Albertans, my government will undertake significant reforms to strengthen democracy in Alberta, including the tabling of … a recall act, allowing constituents to remove their MLAs, municipal councillors, mayors,  and school board trustees from office between elections,” reads the speech.  

When designing recall legislation, Kenney must make sure the requirements to force a by-election aren’t too onerous. Beyond the Reitsma example, there hasn’t been any successful recall campaigns in B.C. This is partly because of B.C.’s onerous requirement to collect signatures for more than 40 per cent of eligible voters in that district in 60 days. 

This threshold puts B.C. at the upper limit when compared to American states, where the most common requirement is to have 25 per cent of votes cast in the last election to sign the petition to trigger a byelection. A 25 per cent threshold would be a good starting point for Alberta’s recall rules to balance political stability with accountability, and is what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation recommended in our presentation to the Alberta government’s Democratic Accountability Committee. The most important thing to remember when thinking about signature thresholds, however, is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Albertans need recall now, and politicians can always tinker with the requirements down the road to make improvements. 

Recall rules would be a big step towards reaffirming the role of citizens as boss. It’s time for Kenney to make good on his promise and pass recall legislation during the upcoming fall legislative session. 

Franco Terrazzano is the Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. This column is an abbreviated version of the presentation he made for the Alberta government’s Democratic Accountability Committee.

Franco Terrazzano is a guest columnist and the Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Opinion

SELICK: If the gov’t wants to kick the unvaccinated off healthcare, then give us back our taxes & let us pay for our own

If the unvaxxed are to be excluded from government services, refund their taxes.

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The Ontario Vaccine Contact Centre phoned me bright and early Monday morning to ask whether I’d like information on where I could get vaccinated.

I wanted information, all right — but not about where I could get vaccinated. I wanted to know where they had got my phone number, and what made them select me for such a phone call. My family doctor had retired in March and I didn’t think it was anyone else’s business to keep track of what medical procedures I had undergone since then.

The young lady never got her question answered, but she did answer mine. Her phone call resulted from a project of the Ontario government to correlate vaccination records with OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) coverage. As an Ontario resident, I am of course covered by the government-owned health insurance plan.

They got my phone number from my OHIP records. They’ve been combing through those records looking for individuals who aren’t also in the COVID vaccination database, and that’s why they chose to call me. It’s official now: all unvaccinated Ontarians  can expect such a call eventually.

She had a prepared script for dealing with recalcitrant refuseniks like me. The statutory authority for this intrusive data transfer, she read, is paragraph 37(1)(c) of the Personal Health Information Protection Act. That’s a misnamed statute if ever there was one. I’d call it the Personal Health Information Invasion Act. She even volunteered the phone numbers of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in case I wanted to lodge a complaint.

But she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) tell me whether the intrusions would escalate if I continued to defy the government’s wishes that I be vaccinated.

My suspicion is that my OHIP coverage will eventually be suspended or canceled if I fail to comply. Twitter is already rife with such suggestions, and CTV news seems to be drumming up support for this by commissioning a public opinion poll in which almost two-thirds of Canadians supported the idea of refusing treatment to “threatening or disrespectful patients who are unvaccinated against COVID-19.” CTV apparently believes all unvaccinated patients are by definition threatening and disrespectful, because they didn’t ask how respondents felt about providing treatment to respectful, non-threatening unvaccinated people.

Already, Alberta residents have reported incidents of being denied health care due to their unvaccinated status.

In Colorado, people awaiting kidney transplants were recently notified their applications are being “inactivated” if they’re unvaccinated.

My concern, therefore, is not an idle one. There are many people who’d like to see unvaccinated people denied health care, and they’re pushing governments to implement such policies.

Personally, I’d be willing to forego OHIP coverage under two conditions. First, I shouldn’t have to pay taxes for something I’m not getting. Ontario’s 2020-21 budget shows health care outlays constitute 42% of the province’s base program expenditures. Therefore, if they’d refund 42% of my provincial taxes (income tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, property tax, etc.) plus 42% of the federal transfer payment that came out of my federal taxes, that would provide a tidy sum out of which to pay privately for direct health services and private health insurance.

But condition two would have to be satisfied as well: the government would have to eliminate its monopoly on the provision of health insurance, hospitals, and medical licensure.

Let the unvaccinated have our tax money back to purchase goods and services in a free market, and I’ll gladly let the vaccinated wallow in their decrepit socialist system without troubling them for help. Let dissenting medical doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors and other complementary practitioners practice according to their professional judgment without fear of de-licensing and I’ll take my chances.

In truth, I already do. I hadn’t actually seen my former doctor since June 2019, and I didn’t usually go more than once a year. OHIP was already spending far less on me than on the average person, who makes 2.8 doctor visits per year. As a senior, I’m theoretically entitled to have government-paid prescriptions for any of 4,400 different drugs — but I don’t use a single one of them, unlike the average person in my age who reportedly fills 8.3 drug prescriptions annually.

It’s not mere happenstance that I have fewer ailments than average. I spend my own after-tax dollars on organic food, nutritional supplements, exercise equipment and more exotic health maintenance devices such as infrared light therapy. I also spend many hours keeping informed about the science of wellness and life extension.

I have long resented paying taxes to provide obsolete and often counterproductive “health care” to those less conscientious than I am about their own well-being. My resentment is now reaching new heights, as the ignorant accuse me of causing sickness by not taking an injection which even the CDC now admits doesn’t live up to its promises of near-total prevention of either viral transmission or infection.

Let’s go our own separate ways— vaxxed and unvaxxed. Time will tell who made the smarter decision.

Selick is a Western Standard columnist

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Opinion

NAVARRO-GENIE: Trust is the foundation of authority — and governments are losing both

There is no forgiving how Alberta Health appallingly used a child’s death to promote yet more COVID-19 fear.

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The heartbreaking death of Nathanael Spitzer, the cancer-stricken boy from Ponoka, exposed a most callous streak in Alberta’s medical bureaucracy. There is no forgiving how Alberta Health appallingly used a child’s death to promote yet more COVID-19 fear.

However, one should dismiss Deena Hinshaw’s empty promise to process deaths of minors scrupulously before reporting in future. It’s empty because the percentage of COVID-19 deaths among children is almost zero in Alberta, and all other reporting remains the same.

Hinshaw’s apology raises the question of trust in public authority: Do Albertans trust health bureaucrats and their elected bosses? The question of trust is important. Trust is a key link between rulers and the ruled. When the population has no trust in public officials, such officials govern without support. Without trust, rulers rule by imposition, merely enforcing and punishing; and when support is lacking, harsher enforcement becomes necessary for compliance.

As governments coerce more, their authority is further undermined. Coercion signals an absence of authority. The harsher use of coercive power is what happens when consent and trust are low.

Trust was an early casualty when governments in Canada reacted to the COVID-19 threat by immediately copying Beijing in imposing draconian lockdowns, but without protecting the most vulnerable. The harsh confinement rules are condescendingly undemocratic. They showed from the start that governments don’t trust their citizens to do what is right without pressing them with fears and power.  

People will respect rulers because they trust the sources of their authority: 1) the constitution and laws, 2) knowledge and competence, and 3) sound decision-making. Since March 2020, these three authority sources have been battered in the handling of the COVID-19 threat. Ottawa and the provinces seem unaware as to how they have consistently undermined their own authority.

First, our constitution and laws have been repeatedly bruised with an unchecked and unwarranted expansion of government powers: with the disregard for due process, with the weakening of Parliament, with persecutions — and at times brutal police arrests — with the choking of free expression and assembly, with the trampling of mobility and workers’ rights, with the violations of medical privacy and the not so veiled defilement of bodily sovereignty, with the dismissal of the emergency management authority, and with the domination of a kind of medical-industrial complex.

Second, one expects government to have knowledge and competency about governing emergencies.  Despite the early panic, Canadians hoped their governments would be competent in rolling out pandemic action plans, clearly executing objectives, and to have exit strategies for the crisis. Instead, the policy became the crisis. Governments quickly dismissed existing emergency plans and hatched new ones in panic and on the fly. They had no (and 19 months later still do not have) reasonable objectives or exit strategies. Reaching herd immunity all hinged on vaccination. Sadly, the vaccines don’t immunize and cannot lead to herd immunity. So, governments choose to force vaccination and to marginalize those who refuse it instead of tackling the growing gap in trust.

The key to good government, when all else is in place, is good judgement. But good judgement has been absent almost uniformly across the country. (For a brief time, it seemed Alberta might be the exception). There has been poor judgement in the choices and adhockery of policy response to the virus. Erratic decisions never signal sound judgement. Let’s grant that things change quickly during crises, but the crass imposition of tenuous things, although presented as absolute science, time and time again, can never inspire confidence. To the contrary, the flip-flopping increases the confusion among most and defiance among many. There has been even poorer judgement in the divisive blaming, the thoughtless name-calling, and the gaslighting lies, primarily against those who dare to question or protest the haphazard decisions.

Always playing to the crowd, Premier Jason Kenney says he cannot understand why some persist about Ivermectin or why they won’t vaccinate. But that crowd is volatile. While the fears in which governments are foraging for support will eventually cease, the divisive abuses heaped on the vaccine recalcitrant will continues to erode public trust — and the trust lost about competence and judgement won’t likely be regained.

In the first week of October alone, the executive, the judicial and the medical bureaucracy failed Albertans again. The torqued blaming and punishing of the unvaxxed, Justice Germain’s offensive decision compelling speech to preacher Pawlowski, and the naked attempt to manipulate the tragic death of young Nathanael Spitzer are all bold demonstrations of power still eroding trust.

Editor’s note: The original post had Alberta Health Services. It was changed to Alberta Health.

Marco Navarro-Génie is president of the Haultain Research Institute and senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. With Barry Cooper, he is co-author of COVID-19: The Politics of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2020).

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: WATCH: Pastor remained jailed while maskless Manitoba ministers escape sanctions

Gordon’s apology for posing in one photo with her cabinet colleagues and three other women — all maskless — seems disingenuous.

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Manitoba Pastor Tobias Tissen, who didn’t abide by public health rules, is sitting in a Winnipeg Remand Centre jail cell.

Three provincial cabinet ministers, including Health Minister Audrey Gordon, who didn’t abide by public health rules, will sit in the legislature and anywhere else they please.

Tobias, whose arrest in front of his family Monday night was captured in a heart-wrenching video, has never tried to downplay what he’s doing.

It appears Gordon did. 

So much about this is offensive to any clear-thinking person’s sense of justice.

Gordon, along with Minister of Families Rochelle Squires and Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage Cathy Cox were maskless at a weekend fundraising ball at Winnipeg’s Art Gallery. 

The proof lies in photos Squires posted to her Instagram page. When outed, Gordon and Squires said sorry for violating health orders dictating people in public places must wear a mask which can be removed when seated and eating or drinking. 

Oh well then, move on now. Crickets from interim Premier Kelvin Goertzen’s office and the PC party.

“I got up and joined the group in the photo, neglecting to wear my mask. It’s unfortunate and it was wrong, and it should not have happened and for that, I deeply apologize,” said Gordon. “I do believe as minister of health, I should be held to a higher standard, and I have always upheld that standard.”

Gordon’s apology for posing in one photo with her cabinet colleagues and three other women — all maskless — seems disingenuous. 

Proof lies in another photo posted by Squires showing her seated at a table with former Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson. 

In the background, several people stand socializing, including Gordon. All but a couple of them, including Gordon, are maskless.

Obviously, Gordon doesn’t believe wearing a mask in public is necessary to avoid contracting COVID-19. That’s her right — one I’ll fiercely defend. 

The problem is, her government’s mandated masks and double vaccines are denying others their rights, costing them jobs and, like Tissen, freedom.

Gordon said she hasn’t been fined or reprimanded.

Tobias and his Church of God Restoration in Steinbach face $53,000 in fines on 16 tickets for violating health orders during protests and both in-person and drive-in services.

Steinbach, a city of 16,000, has had a high rate of COVID-19 test positivity. There’s never been an outbreak among Church of God members.

Yet they, as Christians, have been relentlessly hounded. 

It’s called persecution from egos in the province who appear to dislike taking a backseat to God. 

Why is it we never hear of non-Christian worship places where crowds freely gather getting fined?

“We have boldly and unashamedly proclaimed Christ as head of the Church, not (former premier) Brian Pallister or Kelvin Goertzen,” Pastor Heinrich Hildebrandt told Western Standard

“The state does not have jurisdiction to order churches to place limits on how the Gospel is preached. We have not been silent on that topic, and they are trying to suppress that.”

“Canada’s on a very dangerous path right now. Our leaders are abandoning the foundation of our nation ‘whereas Canada was founded on principles that recognize the supremacy of God’ that are codified in our Constitution. The Dominion of Canada was founded with the inherent knowledge that’ He shall have dominion from sea to sea’ not petty tyranny, kings or queens.”

“As we drift from that we are seeing the grave effects of that in our society. May we withstand the forces of evil that want to rob us of our God-given freedoms.”

Tobias was robbed of his freedom when picked up on an outstanding warrant when the family arrived at their home. His crying mother and wife Elizabeth, holding their sons aged four and two in her arms, helplessly watched.

The pastor offered no resistance, only repeatedly asked to hug his mother, who is moving to Austria, goodbye. He was denied. They kissed through the glass of the cruiser.

How do you explain to frightened children why dad’s up against a cruiser, being searched, handcuffed, then taken away?

“Tell papa goodbye,” said a sobbing Elizabeth. “It’s OK Silas, it’s OK. The Lord will take care of papa.”

Thank goodness for that. Few have stepped up to support him. 

Other church leaders? Mostly meek mouses, except for a mere seven Manitoba churches that united to fight Manitoba’s health restrictions curtailing the freedom to worship. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms argued in court the restrictions requiring vaccinated attendees and severely reduced capacity are unjustified violations of charter-protected freedoms. 

The Church of God has long warned: Today it’s our pastors, tomorrow it’s you.

Politicians? Some quietly expressed support. Others who staunchly stand behind enforcing health mandates traipse about the ball maskless.

To obtain his release, Tissen must sign conditions that violate all he’s been fighting for.

“We ask that Christians would pray for Tobias’ strength, wisdom, and release, as well as for his wife and sons,” said Hildebrandt.  “May God bless this situation unto His own glory, as the heathen rage.”

Amen to that.

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

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