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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.

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: ‘Angels with wings’ rescuing Manitoba cats, dogs, ravens from fires

But the exhausted heroes with Manitoba Animal Alliance (MAA) – volunteers with angel’s wings tucked under their T-shirts – refuse to stop putting their lives and health at risk in dense smoke with encroaching flames.

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Eighty-seven dogs – terrified, sick, coughing, hungry, and dehydrated – have been rescued after being abandoned since wildfires forced six northern Manitoba First Nations to evacuate this summer.

Several hundred dogs and cats, pets and strays, remain in the smoke engulfed communities. 

The fire is on their backs.

While 130 wildfires rage, a dozen out of control, more communities face evacuation.

And so, even more animals will be left behind because devastated owners aren’t allowed to take them with them on the planes.

But the exhausted heroes with Manitoba Animal Alliance (MAA) – volunteers with angel’s wings tucked under their T-shirts – refuse to stop putting their lives and health at risk in dense smoke with encroaching flames.

rescue dog. Photo courtesy Manitoba Animal Alliance

Some are working 18-hour days wearing breathing apparatus and goggles to save as many animals as possible. 

They’ve arranged for helicopters and planes to get dogs out and feed and water those they must leave behind.

“We have to triage. We identify who needs to come onto the transport based on what we see in front of us. We don’t know with some of them if they are owned or strays. We prioritize based on what we see in front of us. If you look healthy, you’re not going to get put on the plane,” said Debra Vandekerkhove, MAA’s managing director.

Some dogs placed in kennels had to be released back into the danger by heartbroken volunteers. There was no room on the aircraft.

“All we rescued were very sick, very infected eyes, a lot of them coughing. We have special inhalers to help them get by if any are struggling,” said Vandekerkhove.

Despite MAA’s best efforts, some dogs are only getting fed once a week. 

Monday eight dogs and a bat were airlifted out of Pauingassi First Nation, 280 km northeast of Winnipeg. The chief and council are arranging flights to get the remaining 27 dogs out.

“In Pauingassi, there’s nobody left in the community because the fire’s too close and too dangerous. There’s nobody there, just the dogs,” said Vandekerkhove.

“Custom Helicopters called us late Sunday to let us know that they had a bit of room on a helicopter to help animals.”

MAA sent volunteers to feed every dog. 

This isn’t the first time these champions, specialists in emergency evacuation, came to the rescue. Previously, Custom donated a helicopter with the company paramedic and two employees.

“These helicopters cost over $5,000 an hour…They took all of their emergency gear out of their main helicopter, the 12-seater. They helped us fill it with dog kennels,” said Vandekerkhove.

In Little Grand Rapids First Nation, 280 km north of Winnipeg, RCMP saved all dogs from certain death.

“The RCMP collected these dogs, just put them in the back of a pickup, filling it up and getting them out. It’s good they did. After the fire, we could not get up there.” 

Meanwhile, in one community people desperate to save their pets loaded them on an Amik Aviation plane that landed to drop off firefighters and supplies.

“People were so scared of the fire coming, they threw their animals on the plane. They didn’t know what the hell was going to happen to them. They ended at the airport. Amik messaged us and said: ‘We have these animals; we know who they belong to,'” said Vandekerkhove.

“I said ‘Don’t worry about, we’ll come and get them. When everything’s settled, they can pick up their animals.’”

MAA also rescued a raven and two cats.

“These poor cats. The cats can’t be outside because of the risk of being eaten by dogs. One cat was in the house for 10 days by the time this owner was able to connect with chief and council,” said Vandekerkhove.

“We said you’ve got to break into the house. You’re leadership, I’m not breaking into that house.”

Bless their hearts, they busted in.

Another cat survived 14 days.

“We have him. He’s under medical care. He’s not in very good shape but he’ll live. They’ll both live,” said Vandekerkhove.

The cost of feeding the abandoned animals is staggering. Amik charges $1.50 a pound to transport. Eagle Air charges $1 a pound.

“Eagle Air reached out to us to help us. They’re giving us a discounted rate to be able to get there with volunteers and to drop off food and pick up animals in Little Grand Rapids,” said Vandekerkhove.

Rescued dogs are loaded up for rescue. Photo courtesy Manitoba Animal Alliance

This year is exceptionally hard because pet food companies have not donated emergency pallets of food like in the past.

Monday, volunteers drove from Toronto to Winnipeg to deliver more than 100 bags of dog food donated by good-hearted people in Ontario, thanks to the combined efforts of small Toronto-based MUTTS Dog Rescue and Animal Care Zone.

“They’ll offload our donations then we will load up the dogs and the same two drivers will be doing that drive back to Toronto. In this operation, we’re hoping to bring back 15. It depends on who fits in the vehicle,” said MUTTS director and co-founder Ni Chen.

“There’s such a demand for rescue dogs in the Toronto area, southern Ontario really. People love their northern dogs. Manitoba has such a need. What MAA is doing is monumental. It’s amazing work.”

Some of the dogs are taken to the Winnipeg Humane Society. The rest are placed in MAA foster homes until adopted or their owners can retrieve them.

Evacuations continue. To date, more than 2,000 people have been moved to hotels from First Nations in Pauingassi, Little Grand Rapids, Red Sucker Lake, Berens River, Poplar River and Bloodvein.

“This is long-term,” said an exhausted, but determined Vandekerkhove.

“If it’s a bat, baby bear, a fawn, I don’t care, we’ll get them on the plane.”

Anyone wishing to help can contact MAA at www.manitobaanimalalliance.com

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

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Opinion

McAllister: Politics chasing jobs and investment from Calgary region

This is the kind of anti-free enterprise, red tape machination that the UCP promised to eliminate, but so far it seems that politics and the louder voices of the urban mayors and bureaucrats are still freely wielding their vetoes.

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Even if you knew it was coming, a kick in the teeth is still a kick in the teeth and that’s exactly what rural Albertans in the Calgary region got last week, courtesy of the central planning monstrosity known as the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB).

By all measures, it’s not too harsh to call this board a monstrosity. Made up of 10 municipalities in the Calgary Region and mandated by the Rachel Notley’s NDP to control land-use decisions and dictate investment for the area, the CMRB was set up under the guise of ensuring responsible development. That’s the mandate, however creating a voting structure that guarantees the urbans vote down the rurals is anything but responsible. The board is not about sound regional planning, it’s all about political protectionism and this was blatantly evident around the table last week.

At stake was the County of Rocky View’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and the Area Structure Plans (ASPs) for North and South Springbank. Calgary’s neighbours had a thoughtful path forward for their municipality and their economy. The plans were grounded in solid planning principles, and they were approved by the board administration and an outside and unbiased consultant. They paved the way for tens of billions of dollars in investment to the region over the next several decades with countless jobs, communities, and family amenities in the works from several investors and developers. But the urban municipalities hate any good idea that could be theirs for the taking. They have a super majority voting structure around the table, and this allows them to vote down anything that smells like competition on the other side of their fence. So, led by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, they voted Rocky View’s plans down, and just like that, years of planning and millions of dollars in studies including countless hours of community consultation was shot down by the big city, central planning protectionists. Do you see what they did there?

This is a bad precedent for Alberta and a terrible signal to outside investment that Alberta is not open for business. That landowners and municipalities can go through the entire planning process, following all the laws, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars planning projects in their own backyard only to have the selfish politicians and bureaucrats from other municipalities look over the fence and kibosh any plan that did not come from them. It is anti-free-enterprise, and anti-Albertan. 

Property rights just took a solid blow and rural landowners across Alberta should be ready to ask some pretty direct questions of their governments. If it can happen in the Calgary Region, what’s to stop this central planning philosophy from spreading to other regions: Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Medicine Hat? If you have a plan for growth and investment outside the urban municipality in today’s Alberta, forget it. Big brother next door will nix your plans thereby eliminating any competition from the marketplace.

This is the kind of anti-free enterprise, red tape machination that the UCP promised to eliminate, but so far it seems that politics and the louder voices of the urban mayors and bureaucrats are still freely wielding their vetoes over everyone else’s land while they continue to gladly spend Alberta tax dollars on themselves.

The UCP will have to make a decision on this board in the fall. They have been handed a growth plan for the region by the board they need to deal with. The rurals on the board all voted against it of course, but that doesn’t matter as they are consistently outvoted 7-3 by the “super majority” of the urbans. One must wonder if the UCP are waiting for the municipal election to play out and a change in the big chair at Calgary City Hall before dealing with this board. They may face less blow-back and criticism once Nenshi is gone. 

Kicking the can down the road on this one is not wise, however. This should be an easy decision. The board should be promptly shut down and each duly elected municipal government should have the right to plan for their own future under the laws of our province. That is exactly what former Premier Ralph Klein did with this central planning model in 1995. He knew a thing or two about free enterprise and wasn’t afraid to take criticism to do what is right. He got rid of the central planning, anti-competitive planning commissions and the Alberta Advantage came roaring to life.

Premier Klein did it because it was the right thing to do. He chose principle over politics. Will the UCP show the same courage? Albertans should expect nothing less.

Bruce McAllister is a columnist for the Western Standard, Executive Director Rocky View 2020 & is the former Wildrose and PC MLA for Chestermere-Rockyview

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Disgraced Catholic priest banned from Northern Manitoba reserves

Father Rheal Forest accused residential school survivors of fabricating abuse claims to cash in on settlement money.

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A Catholic priest could land himself in the back of an RCMP cruiser if he steps foot on a Manitoba First Nation he served and lived on for years.

Father Rheal Forest, who accused residential school survivors of fabricating abuse claims to cash in on settlement money, will be considered a trespasser in Bloodvein First Nation, located 210 km north of Winnipeg.

A Band Council Resolution (BCR) barring Forest from the community is being drafted and when signed this week by council will be given to RCMP to enforce, Bloodvein Chief Derek Cook confirmed.

“I know a lot of people are upset. It’s bringing back a lot of the stories they have to deal with and are continuing to deal with from residential schools,” Cook told CBC.

“I hope he abides by the process and respects our decision.”

Despite not having worked in Bloodvein for a few years, Forest continued to visit.

The Archdiocese of St. Boniface also banned Forest from all preaching and teaching for remarks he made about residential school survivors in sermons last month while filling in for a vacationing priest at Winnipeg’s St. Emile Roman Catholic Church.

The sermons that were live-streamed at the time to Facebook have been removed.

“If they wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes, lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” Forest told the congregation.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”

Forest also absolved priests and nuns from any abuse and blamed laymen.

Anywhere from $3 billion to $4.7 billion has been paid to thousands of people who claimed they were victims of abuse at residential schools.

Almost 50 churches have been burned and desecrated in Canada since unmarked graves were allegedly discovered on former residential school sites.

Foster also made controversial comments during one mass about the criminals responsible for the destruction.

He admitted to having “thoughts of anger” when he passed by a church that had been vandalized.

“If I had a shotgun at night and I’d see them, I’d go ‘Boom’ just to scare them and if they don’t run away, I’ll shoot them,” he said laughing.

He immediately added: “This would not help. It’s bad to do that. I’d go have a chat with them.”

Forest also made it clear he is not a fan of the “evil” media which he said is controlled by Freemasons. 

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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