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HARDING: Buffalo Party, PCs Should Consider Merger

Harding writes that the two parties have strong reasons to join forces.

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To the surprise of most, the Buffalo Party debuted as Saskatchewan’s third most popular party. As leader Wade Sira said recently, “The buffalo is in the room”—something that obviously cannot be ignored.

Although the Buffalo Party ran in only 17 of 61 ridings, the party took 2.9 per cent of the vote. This trailed the NDP’s 29.3 per cent and the Sask Party’s 63.3, but still beat the Green’s 2.4, the Progressive Conservatives’ 2.1, and the long-past-dead Liberals’ 0.1.

The BP finished second to the Sask Party in four southeast and southwest ridings. In Estevan, former PPC candidate Phil Zajac received 25.5 per cent of the vote. He was far behind Sask Party incumbent Lori Carr’s 61.9 per cent, but also left the NDP in the dust at 5.9. Just east in Cannington, BP candidate Wes Smith got 16.2 per cent of the vote, and the NDP just 8.2. 

It was the same story along much of the Alberta border. In Cypress Hills, which also borders the United States, Crystal Tiringer snagged 19.8 per cent, while the NDP got 8.7. Just north in Kindersley, Jason Cooper’s 15.2 per cent was well ahead of the NDP’s 6.3.

These accomplishments are remarkable for a party that started from almost nothing one year ago, and is officially just seven months old. The Wexit Facebook page exploded after the Justin Trudeau Liberals won the federal election on October 19, 2019 without MPs in Alberta or Saskatchewan and 200,000 votes less than Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

Wexit Saskatchewan became the province’s sixth official party in March, following a petition drive that gained 3,599 signatures. More changes came in July when Wade Sira was appointed interim leader and the party changed its name to the Buffalo Party. The name recalled the vision of Northwest Territories premier Sir Frederick Haultain, who advocated for one giant western province before Liberal Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier carved up Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The election was called on September 29th, but two days later, the party cut off ties with Calgary-based Progressive Group of Independent Business. This left the party somewhat flat-footed in its campaign. On October 13, PGIB launched lawsuits for breach of contract against the party, Sira, and Humbolt-Watrous candidate Constance Maffenbeier.

None of these growing pains, limited funds, and inexperienced candidates and volunteers prevented the party from taking a respectable 9.3 percent of the vote in constituencies it vied for.

BP beat the Greens every time and took six of seven head-to-head battles against the PCs. That’s impressive because the PCs fielded 31 candidates and only trailed the Greens in three ridings, making this their best showing in 25 years. The PCs also still sit on a large legacy fund left to them from before the creation of the Saskatchewan Party. It might be time for the PC’s to say, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

It was only four months ago that two small right-leaning parties merged in Alberta. The Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta officially began as the Alberta First Party in 1999. Despite being a far older organization, FCP members gave a 97 percent endorsement to merge with Wexit Alberta to form the Wild Rose Independence Party of Alberta.

Pre-merger, the pending party polled at 10 per cent in third place behind the UCP and NDP. Since then, it has attracted a credible interim leader in Paul Hinman

The synergy of a Saskatchewan merger would be just as advantageous. The PCs push for more social and fiscal conservatism, but lack a big idea to rally behind that would clearly distinguish them from the Sask Party. The western independence the Buffalo Party seeks is the biggest of big ideas and addresses a wide set of legitimate and heartfelt grievances.

BP should also be interested because it has what the BP lacks: money. The PC’s may have nearly a million dollars saved up from its glory days. Given that the Sask Party raised $3.4 million last year, and the NDP $1.35 million, it would probably take the Buffalo Party the next four years just to get as much money as the PCs already have.

A merger would also speed up the Buffalo Party’s groundwork in the cities. The PCs ran in two of Saskatoon’s 14 ridings, 10 of Regina’s 12 ridings, both of Prince Albert’s and one of Moose Jaw’s two. In these 28 ridings, the Buffalo Party only ran one Saskatoon candidate. A merger would leave only 20 of the 61 ridings without representation.

Egos can be large in politics. That said, Sira is only the interim leader, and Grey is no bully. Sira placed 8th of 17 and Grey 15th of 31 in a rank of vote percentage against their respective parties’ other candidates. Although it’s true that leaders lose campaigning time as they spin plates for the party effort, their mediocre results at the local level leave neither in a position of dominance.

Both leaders and their parties recap their election experience and consider next steps, they should also look to each other. They can do much more together than they can apart.

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Correspondent for the Western Standard

Opinion

MORGAN: Albertans need real recall legislation now

“The UCP needs to bring their recall legislation back to the legislature, correct the flaws in it, and proclaim it into active law as soon as possible.”

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Nobody should have the ability to remove an elected official from office aside from the electors who put them there in the first place. Recalling a politician should never be easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible either.

If some of the allegations against embattled Calgary City Councilor Sean Chu prove to be true, there will be little the constituents of Ward 4 will be able to do about it, other than ask him to step down. Chu doesn’t face any criminal charges nor has he been convicted of any, which would be required for any legal by other councillors to expel him. It would be up to Chu to decide if he wants to continue to sit as city councilor until the end of his term or not.

Even if Chu can provide proof exonerating himself of the acts he has been accused of, a terrible flaw in our electoral system has been exposed. Alberta needs viable voter recall legislation. Citizens need to be empowered to fire elected officials before the end of their term in exceptional circumstances.

Recall legislation was a key promise made by Jason Kenney and the UCP in the last election. While the government did table a form of recall legislation in the last legislative session, it was an anemic, nearly useless bill, and the government hasn’t bothered itself to formally proclaim it into active law yet.

Even if the new recall legislation was active right now, it couldn’t be applied in Chu’s case. The legislation doesn’t allow a recall to be initiated until at least one and-a-half years after the most recent election. While this clause was built in to prevent people from trying to frivolously recall politicians the day after an election, it leaves a gaping hole in the intent. In both Chu’s and Liberal MP George Chahal’s cases for example, allegations of wrongdoing surfaced literally within days of their having been elected.

While the need to recall elected officials is thankfully rare, it happens often enough to demonstrate a need for viable legislation. The Alberta Party had not one, but two of its former candidates convicted of child sex crimes. What would have happened if they had been elected? In 2018, former Wildrose MLA Don MacIntyre was charged with heinous child sex crimes. MacIntyre resigned and was subsequently convicted of sexual interference. Had MacIntyre refused to resign however, the constituents of Innisfail-Sylvan Lake would have had to endure being represented by a convicted and imprisoned child sex predator until the 2019 election.

Many Albertans can remember the bizarre saga of Lethbridge city councilor Dar Heatherington. Heatherington made international headlines when she disappeared from a conference in Montana. She later surfaced in Las Vegas and claimed she had been abducted and raped. An investigation later found Heatherington had fabricated the entire episode along with other stories of a fictional stalker. Heatherington was eventually convicted of mischief which allowed the Lethbridge city council to have her removed from her seat. The issue began with rage, but later turned into pity as it became evident Heatherington was suffering from serious mental illness. Recall would have been an act of mercy for her and her family were she not convicted.

Kenney’s recall legislation is an unworkable bill modeled to pay lip service to the principle of recall but is built in such a way it will likely never be used. The bar for petitioning is set too high, and the timelines for petitioning are far too tight. Even in the most egregious of cases, it would be exceedingly difficult for any elected official to be recalled.

Kenney’s reticence in providing viable recall legislation to Albertans has managed to come back to haunt him. Pressure is being put upon both Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver to intervene and somehow block Chu from taking his seat on council. There likely is little the provincial government can do in this case since Chu hasn’t been criminally charged, much less convicted of anything. Chu’s sanctions were from within the police force, not the justice system. Kenney could have taken the pressure off himself if he had given Albertans recall legislation as he had promised. Kenney could have pointed to it today and said the issue was in the hands of the voters of Ward 4.

Adding salt to the wound, is the fact that Kenney has allowed the Recall Act it sit in legislative limbo, unproclaimed into active law despite being long ago passed by the legislature. The cynics among us may suspect he may fear its use against him and his caucus.

We need a mechanism to remove elected officials from office before their term is up if they prove to be unfit for office. We can’t put that power into the hands of other elected officials who would inevitably abuse it. Do we really want to see the premier able to fire elected mayors and councils in Alberta? In looking at how vitriolic and tribal some municipal councils are, could you imagine what would happen if these councils and mayors had the ability to fire each other? Former Calgary Mayor Haheed Nenshi and his gang on Calgary city council likely would have had Jeromy Farkas kicked out of city hall within his first year in office for being a nuisance.

The UCP needs to bring their recall legislation back to the legislature, correct the flaws in it, and proclaim it into active law as soon as possible. The wheel does not need to be reinvented here. Workable recall legislation exists in many jurisdictions. Electors deserve nothing less.

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

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Maskless Maintoba ministers get free pass from top health doc

However, since 99.999% of Manitobans don’t get to go to a ball, let’s look at other indoor situations they regularly find themselves in. 

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Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin essentially leapt to the defense of three cabinet ministers — including the health minister — who appeared maskless at a recent ball.

Roussin gave the ministers a pass for taking a photo wearing no masks at last weekend’s event held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

“For the most part, that mask should be on. There are brief periods where it’s reasonable for it to come off,” said Roussin. “If it was simply to remove a mask for the purposes of getting a photograph, and then you put it back on, then … that’s in keeping with advice we’ve provided.”

Well, it wasn’t quite ‘simply’ that. 

Unmasked Health Minister Audrey Gordon, Minister of Families Rochelle Squires and Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage Cathy Cox posed for a photo with three other women. 

Squires posted it to her Instagram page. (Do you think the other two are still talking to her for outing them? Maybe eating at different lunch table at the legislature shooting glare darts in between bites?? Did they unfriend her on social media yet?)

Yes, yes, Gordon and Squires said they were really, very sorry. Gordon and Cox adamantly said they had removed their masks to eat, then spontaneously jumped up only to take the photo. 

Hmmm … is that really the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

It isn’t.

Manitoba COVID-19 public health orders require mask use in all indoor public places, with some exemptions, including temporarily removing masks to eat, drink, give a speech or receive a service that requires them to be removed.

On Monday, Roussin issued a dire prediction that all harsh rules will likely remain in place through to spring.

Roussin said he wasn’t familiar with all of details of what transpired at the ball, so let’s enlighten the good doctor.

Squires posted another photo. She was seated at a table. Gordon and Cox, Winnipeg city Councilor Marcus Chambers, and several other people were standing behind her. No masks. No social distancing. None of that.

Roussin didn’t specifically elaborate on mask protocol while standing and socializing at balls. 

Thankfully, Manitobans can follow the health minister’s lead on acceptable guidelines.

However, since 99.999% of Manitobans don’t get to go to a ball, let’s look at other indoor situations they regularly find themselves in. 

An indoor venue is an indoor venue, right?

Surely the same rules apply to both politicians and regular folk in all indoor situations.

So, go ahead, be like Gordon. If you’re at the grocery store and see people you know, or even people you don’t know, by all means, rip off those cumbersome masks, stand really close, and visit — chat up a storm as long as you like. 

Same applies for acceptable mask protocol in Walmart, Home Depot, the gas station, school hallways, drug stores, the kid’s hockey game, etc.

And if the mask police descend and try to give you a $298 ticket — just whip out a copy of the photo of the health minister doing exactly that at an indoor event when tough COVID-19 mask restrictions are in place.

Remind them in a reasonable, calm manner the ministers have not been slapped with such silly fines. So, you shouldn’t be either.

And go ahead, post photos of the visits on Instagram, Facebook, wherever. Squires did that. So, there’s apparently nothing to hide.

The defense rests, your Honour. 

The only problem is — unlike the cabinet ministers — you probably wouldn’t get a pass.

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

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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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Petition: No Media Bailouts

We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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No Media Bailouts

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We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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