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Opinion

ANDRUS: We are not all in this together

While he was Calgary mayor, Ralph Klein famously said, “let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark.”

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The refrain from Ottawa this year has been that “we’re all in this together.” Three stories from last week make it clear that this is not the case.

First, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government made some changes to the “fiscal stabilization” transfer program that will give Alberta slightly more than $1 billion in back payments. This means that Alberta will be shortchanged by $4.6-billion, compared to even Premier Jason Kenney’s tiny rebate request, in lieu of any reform to Equalization.

Then, a University of Ottawa professor stated that “greedy” Alberta should have federal health care funds held back if the provinces doesn’t “follow [the] personal, prescribed, pandemic response model.” These comments caused a wave of anger to spread across Alberta, as Western alienation once again became relevant in the midst of a global pandemic.

Finally, the federal government confirmed that a second carbon tax – also known as the Clean Fuel Standard regulations – will be imposed on Albertans and other Canadians starting next year. Alberta’s constitutional challenge over the first carbon tax hasn’t even been heard by the Supreme Court yet, and Ottawa is already planning a second one.

I understand that this year has been a difficult year for everyone. And I apologize to anyone who feels like they’ve read this column before, because I feel like I’ve written it before.

But at what point do our political leaders start to stand up for us, and say what has now become obvious – we are clearly not all in this together.

The fact that our province is being ravaged by both a pandemic and a financial meltdown while the media and the intellectual establishment in the East openly mock Albertans is evidence that the path to a fair deal will not be an easy one. Our politicians can’t just skip down to Ottawa, sing kumbaya, and get a fair deal. Lines will need to be drawn.

Alberta has contributed a net $600-billion to Ottawa since 1957, and during the biggest economic crisis since equalization was introduced, all we get back is a few crumbs. As much as I would like a $600-billion refund, that’s not going to happen; but if any line needs to be drawn, it’s on ending any future payments to the equalization program.

Central and Eastern Canada are perfectly willing to milk Alberta for all we’re worth, while simultaneously try to shut down the very industries that generate that “milk” and insulting us when we point out the contradiction. Never mind the reaction when we have the temerity to ask for even a tiny bit of our own money back.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Alberta will find itself in a country saddled with a massive debt, that makes the debts and deficits of the last decade look tiny by comparison. You can bet that Ottawa politicians and professors alike will expect Albertans to contribute more per capita to pay back that debt than any other province.

Premier Kenney has failed at every attempt to “negotiate” with Ottawa, and his latest “fiscal stabilization” request has resulted in next to nothing. Don’t forget, fiscal stabilization is just a drop in the bucket compared to the $20-billion plus per year we ship to the rest of the country through equalization and other transfer programs. 

It has become clear that there can be no deal as long as equalization continues to exist. It’s time to draw that line.

A famous bumper sticker adorned with the phrase “let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark” became a rallying cry during the original National Energy Program.”

How much more can Albertans take before they reach a breaking point, and that becomes the rallying cry for another political revolution?

Josh Andrus is a columnist for the Western Standard

Editor’s Note: This column has been corrected for misattributing a quote to Ralph Klein

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. David Elson

    December 8, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    There will be no “fair deal” until Alberta opts out of confederation and closes it’s east/west borders. Only then will the rest of Canada sit down for a real conversation about our national governance.

    It will be difficult, but ten years from that moment, every Albertan will be better off. Every single one!

    • Charles Martell III

      December 11, 2020 at 5:06 pm

      It won’t take 10 years . . . could be much shorter.

      I remember when Ralph told them all to freeze in the dark . . . laughed my ass off !

  2. godot

    December 7, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    WEXITNOW

  3. warrenzoell

    December 7, 2020 at 3:47 pm

    I say greedy Alberta should demand that the rest of Canada join them. And for the ones that don’t, declare war on them. I think Alberta could beat them easily.

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Opinion

WELLWOOD: Try as he might, Kenney’s crackdown is encouraging greater defiance

“The more Kenney tightens his grip, the more control will slip between his fingers.”

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Despite an unprecedented court injunction outlawing protests, the Whistle Stop Café saw 1,500 Albertans come out in support of owner Chris Scott over the weekend. The spark moving Scott from merely refusing to close his café, to protesting, was a move by the Alberta government to seize his private property. It was a decision that left him and his family without an income or livelihood.  

Outlawing protests on private property, arresting peaceful demonstrators, and anonymous identities of court prosecutors. Welcome to the ‘new’ Canada, and the Alberta government’s enthusiastic embrace of it.

John Carpay of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedom warns, “By way of this injunction, Alberta Health Services now has the court acting as a police force, rather than as the protector of citizens’ Charter rights and freedoms.”

The severe reactions and responses of the political class toward peaceful demonstrators exercising their protected Charter freedoms shows a lack of empathy for their plight, and a disregard for ancient rights. 

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley delights in the actions taken by the RCMP arrests this weekend, tweeting “Finally, some enforcement of the public health laws … why did it take so long?”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi believes those who protest lockdowns are “thinly veiled white nationalists.” 

And Alberta Premier Jason Kenney dismisses legitimate questions, calling protestors “unhinged conspiracy theorists.”  

In The Law, Frederick Bastiat writes, “Individuality, liberty, property – this is man.  And in spite of the cunning and artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.  

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws.  On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

Governments do not grant rights and freedoms. Government itself is a creation of man for the sole legitimate purpose of protecting the individual rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Alberta’s ‘artful and cunning political leaders’ instead reject freedom as a superfluous nicety, and have embraced authoritarianism. 

Jason Kenney was elected premier in 2019 on a platform titled ‘Strong and Free’, dedicated to core conservative values. But when challenged to uphold these values by the voters who put him in the premier’s office, he “wants a new base.”

There is a growing anger and sense of betrayal amongst Albertans toward the Kenney administration, as evidenced over the last two weekends. The harder Kenney demands these individuals comply, the more they are willing to push back.

Henry David Thoreau, in his essay Civil Disobedience, wrote, “The right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. Must the citizen resign his conscience to the legislator? A people, as well as an individual, must do justice, cost what it may.” 

The government itself is equally liable to be abused and perverted. This weekend’s events are undeniable evidence of government abuse and the perversion of the law.

Mr. John Carpay wrote before the arrest of Scott, “Rather than relying on regular law enforcement, it’s far more effective, and far more efficient, to terrorize Albertans with an injunction like that issued by Justice Rooke on May 6, which leaves citizens unable to assert their Charter freedoms upon being arrested and imprisoned.”

The arrest of a small business owner, two pastors, and a multitude of fines issued to those defending their Charter protected rights and freedoms, is not freedom. It is authoritarianism. 

In The Law, Bastiat continued, “Socialists desire to practice ‘legal plunder’ and to make the law their weapon.  When socialism enters law, it does not fear courts or your prisons … in fact, it calls upon them for help. The choices that lay before us:

  1. The few plunder the many.
  2. Everybody plunders everybody.
  3. Nobody plunders anybody.” 

For all his rhetoric of a “strong and free” Alberta, premier Kenney has embarked on a dangerous path that is in direct confrontation with the values of a majority of Albertans. The more he tightens his grip, the more control will slip between his fingers. 

Nadine Wellwood is a Correspondent for the Western Standard

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Opinion

HARDING: Concerns about physician activism grow

In 1960’s Star Trek Original Series, Bones would have said, “I’m a doctor, not a politician!”

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Some doctors have become policy advocates and political actors during the pandemic, sparking concern they have overstepped the bounds of their expertise.

Marco Navarro-Genie, founder of the Haultain Research Institute (and Western Standard columnist), bemoaned how government health officials have turned their non-partisan offices into activist platforms—especially during the pandemic.

“Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, is the most politicized of them all. She’s just a lap dog for Justin,” Navarro-Genie said. “She’s just a voice piece because she’s inept.”

Some Tam statements especially incensed Navarro-Genie, who co-authored “COVID-19 the Politics of a Pandemic Moral Panic.”

“The job of doctors is to cure people, to look after their health. But more and more, they’re seeking to expand that fear. Tam has been giving advice [that] people should masturbate — instead of having sex with other people, for example. That’s not a health issue. And she’s been advising about socioeconomic disparities and making pronouncements, all kinds of things about that,” he said.

Last August, Tam said all options must be considered to deal with the opioid crisis, including, “moving toward a societal discussion on decriminalization.” In October, she wrote “From Risk to Resilience: An Equity Approach to COVID-19,” where she described how a “health equity approach” is crucial for recovery.

“We understand often racialized, often women, working in precarious situations, may be single parents, are trying to essentially look after our elderly and our most vulnerable populations,” Tam wrote.

Navarro-Genie said elected officials who would normally vigorously defend freedoms have stood down to doctors’ the pronouncements of increasingly partisan government health officials. 

“Legislators have grown more and more and more cowardly … their calculation is we have nothing to gain from standing up against the lockdowns because all the snowflakes have the high ground and they can accuse you of wanting to kill granny and what have you. So, I’m terribly disappointed with a bunch of MPs, some of whom are friends of mine.”

Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, and some nurses wanted Doug Ford to force private companies to offer paid sick leave at their own expense. After it appeared he might give in, Ford formally refused Monday.

Author and columnist William Gairdner told the Western Standard some doctors don’t recognize the limits of their knowledge.

“They begin to feel because they have prestige in one field, they have prestige in every field. And they start saying the stupidest damn things about political life or moral life,” Gairdner said.

Gairdner says James Watson provides a glaring example of a brilliant mind with a moral deficit. Watson won a Nobel Prize in 1962 for helping discover the structure of DNA. But in 2007, he told the Sunday Times he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because they were less intelligent than whites. He also defended infanticide, especially for handicapped children.

Gairdner once challenged a medical foundation over concerns political correctness might play a role in award recipients.

“A new president took over and she decided the foundation should be advocating for equity, diversity and inclusion,” Gairdner recalled. 

“I just went nuts…I said that I’m not sure you understand what terms like ‘equity’ mean, which is locating an oppressed class and making up for some deemed oppression by an oppressor class. And I said, ‘That means you’re going to start giving … a wonderful reward to people you think would have won if they just hadn’t been oppressed ….

“You are automatically demoting every winner [chosen in the past] because you’re implying they only won because they were beneficiaries of an oppressive system. Is that what you intend to say?” 

Gairdner said his reasoning prevailed. 

“I’m happy to say there was a rethink.”

Elsewhere, politics continues to spill over into medicine. A 2018 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported: “The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada supports advocacy as a core competency of medicine” and “Ontario and Alberta’s regulatory colleges encourage advocacy as an important component of the doctor-patient relationship.”

In 1960’s Star Trek Original Series, Bones would have said, “I’m a doctor, not a politician!” In an interview, political science professor Nelson Wiseman said many health bureaucrats aren’t even doctors anymore.

“You can be a public health authority without having to have been a licensed medical doctor. Once upon a time we didn’t have such people. Doctors once treated lung cancer, but did not connect it with smoking or air quality. That has all changed. We now have experts on smoking who have never practiced doctoring,” Wiseman said.

The professor believes a balance is found when politicians and officials assume their proper roles.

“Handing over the reins is not the same as surrendering the reins. I see no ethical pitfalls or jurisdictional issues. Bottom line: politicians are responsible.”

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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Energy

WITTEVRONGEL: Regulatory quicksand holds back clean tech in Alberta

“Sitting on these abandoned and orphaned wells instead of repurposing them is a forgone opportunity, and a shameful waste.”

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Guest column from Krystle Wittevrongel, Public Policy Analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute

With Alberta’s economy still sputtering and not expected to rebound until 2023, the knowledge that we are sitting on an enormous economic opportunity is music to the ears of most Albertans. The fact that this opportunity not only addresses current financial and environmental issues but also helps diversify the energy sector is a veritable symphony.

According to a recent report by Energy Futures Lab and the Canada West Foundation, repurposing some of the inactive and orphaned wells in the province could yield substantial benefits in this regard. 

Currently there are about 95,000 inactive and orphaned wells across Alberta, and recent attention has been focused on cleaning them up. In fact, just last year the federal government committed $1 billion to the province in a bid to create jobs and support environmental targets in this area.

We now know, however, that there is more that can be done with this dormant infrastructure. Many of these sites could be repurposed by energy entrepreneurs for alternative energy uses, including geothermal, micro-solar, hydrogen, recovery of lithium or other minerals, or carbon capture and storage. Alberta is well positioned to benefit from such development. 

For example, developing geothermal energy could help put geologists, reservoir engineers, drillers, and other oil patch workers back to work by sharing and expanding oil- and gas-related resources. Repurposing these inactive sites and returning them to productive use also furthers the goals of environmentalists, Indigenous groups, and taxpayers, while eliminating a portion of the difficult (and expensive) problem of aging oil and gas infrastructure. It really is a win-win. 

However, for years, energy entrepreneurs have been unable to capitalize on this opportunity to create jobs and help diversify the energy sector. To blame are inflexible regulations that do not allow for site repurposing, as well as a lack of clarity and collaboration among regulators. 

As noted in the aforementioned report, it took over five years for the RenuWell Project to navigate the regulatory hurdles involved in repurposing legacy oil and gas infrastructure for community solar power. This project invests in new lower-carbon technologies for exploration, cleaner extraction, and reduced long-term environmental impacts.   

Another project, Alberta No. 1, attempted to repurpose existing infrastructure to generate geothermal energy. Instead, their economic and timeline advantages evaporated, and the murkiness of the regulatory waters has left the project in limbo. Ironically, if they had decided to break new ground rather than minimizing environmental disturbance and repurposing, they would be in a better position today.

As such stories illustrate, Albertans continue to miss out on economic and environmental improvement opportunities. All the while, the sites sit effectively abandoned and untouched.

The Alberta Energy Regulator has already committed to reducing red tape in regulatory processes, so they are well positioned to seriously consider the recommendations put forward in the report. But while Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage has acknowledged that the government is working on a number of these priorities, firm leadership will be required. 

Sitting on these abandoned and orphaned wells instead of repurposing them is a forgone opportunity, and a shameful waste. To develop alternative energy sources and help foster economic recovery in Alberta, the barriers that have prevented energy entrepreneurs from taking advantage of relevant expertise and assets from the oil and gas industry need to be removed.

And for a provincial government committed to cutting red tape, here is a prime example of where we can reduce costs, speed up approvals, and make life easier for hard-working Albertans and their businesses.

Guest column from Krystle Wittevrongel, Public Policy Analyst at the Montreal Economic Institute

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