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WAGNER: A 1982 by-election win by a sovereigntist that shook the country

“The WCC’s brief moment in the sun is worth remembering as the time an Alberta riding sent Pierre Trudeau a resounding message he would never forget.”

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Most by-elections are not particularly important. They usually occur to fill a seat in the legislature or parliament between general elections, often due to the resignation of the sitting member. Frequently, the opposition party will pick up the seat, indicating dissatisfaction with the governing party, but rarely does the outcome have much effect.

In certain cases, however, a by-election can create a shockwave. This was the case in 1982, when Gordon Kesler won a by-election in the Olds-Didsbury riding for the Western Canada Concept Party of Alberta (Alberta WCC). Kesler’s victory was like a shot heard around the country. It was the first time a member of an independence party was ever elected in Western Canada. Clearly, many Albertans were extremely concerned about the threat posed by Pierre Trudeau’s federal government and were willing to consider radical options.

Although there had been organizations advocating Alberta independence during the 1970s, support for that option did not become widely popular until Pierre Trudeau was re-elected in February 1980, after the short-lived Joe Clark minority government. Support for independence subsequently exploded when the Trudeau government announced its devastating National Energy Program (NEP) in October 1980. Several large independence meetings were held in the aftermath of that announcement – at least one with over two thousand people. 

At this time the movement was dominated by two rival organizations: a non-party association called West-Fed, and a brand-new political party, the aforementioned Alberta WCC. However, during 1981, support for both groups began to cool off and some observers believed that the independence movement had already peaked. 

In his 1984 article, “Western Separatism: Counter-elite of the marginalized”, University of Calgary political scientist Don Ray wrote about the apparent demise of the independence movement during 1981. As he put it, “At times it seemed that the movement was dying.”

During 1981, major internal problems became evident within the independence movement, especially involving leadership squabbles. As Ray explains, “This issue of leadership credibility bedevilled both organizations. The West-Fed of Calgary had three changes in leadership between September 1980 and December 1981. The fourth group of leaders went over to the WCC in December, which had also been having its own problems.”

As a result, the independence movement essentially discredited itself in the eyes of the public. The mass support evident in late 1980 seemed to fade away, and both organizations lost much of their public profile. It looked like excitement over independence had been just a flash-in-the-pan. 

According to Ray, because the movement was at such a low point, “Commentators dismissed western separatism as being dead, burnt-out.” But they were in for a surprise. For as Ray goes on to explain, “On Wednesday, February 17, 1982, Gordon Kesler took western separatism out of the museum of Canadian oddities and planted the WCC banner on the ramparts of a shocked Canada.”

On November 30, 1981, former Alberta Social Credit Party leader and MLA for Olds-Didsbury, Bob Clark, resigned his seat in the legislature. This created a vacancy requiring a by-election. The territory within that riding had been held by the Social Credit Party for most of the 46 years since William Aberhart’s stunning election victory of 1935. However, Social Credit had been in decline for at least ten years, and Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservatives dominated Alberta politics.

The WCC chose Gordon Kesler as its candidate for the impending by-election. As Ray writes, “Kesler owned his own oil scouting firm, was involved in farming and had been a rodeo cowboy since the age of eight. The WCC used his background shrewdly, showing Kesler as having his feet planted in both agriculture and oil. They also displayed him as a religious man.” 

The upstart WCC was not expected to win. In contrast to that party, both the Tories and Socreds had strong organizations in the riding. As Ray explains, the WCC’s by-election victory was especially remarkable because the party “had been registered in Alberta for only eight months. Its organized constituency association in Olds-Didsbury was less than seven months old at the time of the election call. In only four weeks the Olds-Didsbury WCC grew from barely forty-five members to be the winning party. Kesler was given 4,015 votes, representing 42.16 per cent of the vote.”

The impact of Kesler’s victory was significant. For one, it led to a consolidation of the independence movement behind the WCC. West-Fed disbanded and recommended that its members join the WCC. 

Furthermore, as Ray explains, “after Olds-Didsbury the separatist movement in Alberta emerged for a short while as a consolidated force, with a sense of vitality and an expectation that perhaps it could win the provincial government. In the month after the WCC victory, even Tory sources were conceding as many as twenty seats to the WCC in the next election. Before Olds-Didsbury, voting for a separatist party was not publicly acceptable behaviour.” But due to the by-election win, the “WCC had been catapulted to national prominence.”

After the by-election, membership in the party grew rapidly. However, it once again descended into leadership conflicts and in-house squabbling. Faced with a party that was both growing as a threat but also mired by internal strife, Premier Lougheed smartly called an early provincial election for November. The Tories won 75 of 79 seats, with the NDP picking up two, and the remaining two going to independents who previously had been Social Credit MLAs.

The WCC was shut-out despite receiving 11.8 per cent of the provincial vote. This was a heavy loss. 

The subsequent history of the Alberta WCC is largely one of decline, and most of its supporters would later be absorbed by the Reform Party of Canada. However, its brief moment in the sun is worth remembering as the time an Alberta riding sent Pierre Trudeau a resounding message he would never forget. The Olds-Didsbury by-election had a national impact.

A future by-election in Alberta could potentially have the same kind of impact. What if a UCP MLA in a rural riding decided to resign in 2021 to “spend more time with his (or her) family”? No doubt the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta (WIPA) would run a candidate in the ensuing by-election. 

If the WIPA candidate won, Alberta’s concerns would immediately be front-page national news. Perhaps Ottawa would suddenly understand the need for more pipelines. Whatever the case, the effect would rock the country and give both Premier Kenney and Justin Trudeau a wake-up call about the need for immediate change.  

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Ken Browne

    December 9, 2020 at 10:10 am

    It should be worth noting that Gordon Kesler did not run in Olds-Didsbury for the November general election. He ran in High River instead. Big mistake.

  2. David Elson

    December 8, 2020 at 11:41 pm

    “The WCC’s brief moment in the sun is worth remembering as the time an Alberta riding sent Pierre Trudeau a resounding message he would never forget.”

    Trudeau likely laughed. His policies certainly didn’t change.

    Only Alberta leaving confederation and issuing it’s own currency would be a hard enough slap to get attention from the rest of Canada . And even then the sheeple will just change to the globalist conservatives as they do every time there is a severe economic downturn.

  3. YitzhakFinnegan

    December 8, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    The story is about the election of WCC MLA Gord Kesler, but your picture is of Doug Christie. Confusing.

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Opinion

NICOLA: Investment outlook: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Let’s separate apply these perspectives of positive and negative and consider how they may apply to today’s investing environment. 

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By JOHN NICOLA

We’ve just emerged from a tumultuous and challenging 2021 which provided good results financially for many investors while being a significant emotional and psychological drain as the fourth COVID-19 wave became a reality. 

As I was thinking about how we as investors want to approach 2022 and beyond. I’m reminded of the first lines from Charles Dickens classic about the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities.  To me it begs the question, “is the glass half full or half empty?” And the answer seems to be both. Let’s separately apply these perspectives of positive and negative and consider how they may apply to today’s investing environment. 

It’s imperative to understand the current investment and economic environment and then assess how existing factors will impact major asset classes. 

Glass Half Full

There are a number of factors that create optimal investment opportunities and give us reason to view the new year and investments in a positive light. The public markets and residential real estate are at all-time highs in a number of markets in Canada and across North America. COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and deployed in record time. The “fourth wave”/Omicron appear to have significantly lower levels of serious illness or death. 

In light of major issues such as climate change, investment opportunities pertaining to environment, social, and governance (ESG) are accelerating rapidly. The cost and evolution of renewable energy is improving exponentially.  

On a global scale, we have seen notable drops in levels of poverty, hunger, and illiteracy (Marian Tupy – 10 Global Trends.) Further, global population increases are slowing and likely to peak within 30 years at about 8.9 billion. 

Finally, any rises in interest rates are likely to be measured and spread out over time. If that occurs, does that mean that any negative impact on asset prices would be modest?

Glass Half Empty

In the interest of seeing the whole (objective) picture, it’s important to observe and assess the other side of the coin. The new year does not come without challenges. 

We’ve seen massive increases in corporate and government debt to weather the pandemic and finance acquisition of assets (Evergrande as an example.) The end result is a combination of higher inflation and corporate defaults. 

Dysfunctional politics are a concern across the globe. We continue to witness geo-political tensions such as China/US and Russia/NATO, and the rise of populism in the US, in particular. 

Equity prices (primarily in the US) are at near record valuation levels which has many questioning their sustainability. Higher interest rates and inflation could create a significant impact on residential housing.

Finally, the pandemic rages on. Faster infectious rates for Omicron lead to increased and extended lockdowns, globally. 

Asset allocation is the key

Whether you are leaning to one perspective or another, or somewhere in the middle, how you invest and diversify your capital is going to play a vital role in helping you mitigate any volatility 2022 may bring. 

The asset allocation model that we recommend to most of our clients is roughly divided into three major classes: Public/Private Equities, Real Estate (income and development), and Fixed Income (private and public). 

Typically, we distribute 35% to fixed income assets (public and private), 35% to equity (public and private), and 30% to real estate (hard asset properties). Depending on views of both the opportunities and the valuation levels each of these asset weights could change plus or minus by 5%.

There have been a number of studies to support this type of asset allocation. Perhaps the strongest endorsement of this model is that the asset mix of some of the largest pension plans in Canada (considered by many to be amongst the best institutional investors in the world) which choose to allocate their capital in this way. If you look carefully you’ll see the pensions such as OMERS, CPP, BCIMC, AIMCO, and Ontario Teachers use some variation of the model above.

We subscribe to a similar approach. A chart on the Nicola Wealth site (Nicola Wealth vs. The Marketplace) demonstrates if you compare our average client returns since January 1, 2000 with other indices such as the S&P 500, TSE, and a compilation of balanced portfolios aggregated by Morningstar. In all cases our clients have had better results with less volatility (considerably less than any of the equity indices).  

The acid test for a good asset allocation model is how well it performs during bear markets for public equities (which themselves are usually connected to a crisis or a recession or both.) The last two bear markets were the Great Financial Crisis of 2008/2009 and, of course, the COVID-19 market meltdown in the spring of 2020. In both cases, stock prices dropped in most public markets by 35% or more from their prior peaks.

Employing the balanced model above meant the drop in value of our client portfolios was 7.5% in 2008 and about 5% in 2020. That reduction in volatility fosters for far better investor behavior (another great topic we will explore in a future column.)

Notwithstanding that the right asset allocation model can make a big difference in risk-adjusted returns, each of these asset classes will be impacted in some way in a rising inflation and interest rate environment. In our next column we will explore how we believe that might unfold.

John Nicola, CFP, CLU, CHFC is a financial columnist for the Western Standard and is the Chairman of Nicola Wealth

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Butts attempts to pit East vs West with anti-trucker tweet

He wrote what amounts to a hit job on Medicine Hat’s Lich, by listing her “association with radical groups” — the Maverick Party in Alberta and Wexit Alberta. Really.

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A fool pokes a stick into a hornet’s nest.

A bigger fool pokes at a massive convoy of truckers — hailed coast to coast as Canadian heroes — by levelling cheap shots and promoting unfounded accusations against the organizer of a fund supporting their Ottawa-bound protest of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.

Gerald Butts, the acidic best buddy and former principal secretary of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, took a run at Tamara Lich in an attempt to cast doubt on the integrity of Convoy For Freedom 2022.

“An Alberta separatist has collected almost a million bucks on a GoFundMe page to ‘support’ trucker protests. Where will the money go?” asked Butts in a tweet. 

Almost $2 million has been raised to date.

Convoys are starting to roll cross-country to protest Liberal government vaccine mandates, including one imposed on January 15 that threatens both the livelihoods of truckers and the supply chain.

Butts cited a nasty January 21 piece, The murky matter of protests and the donations that drive them on trucknews.com., by blogger James Menzies.

In doing so, did Butts label truckers as terrorists? Well, they took it personally. Social media lit on fire.

“You need to listen. You need to rise up. It turns out that Mr. Fancy Sox’ little best friend Gerald Butts put out a tweet calling us a bunch of terrorists. Now we’re terrorists… They’re trying to slander what we’re doing,” said The Real Pat King in a Facebook video.

In his blog, Menzies lamented a “disturbing trend” in reference to the amount of money being raised.

He wrote what amounts to a hit job on Medicine Hat’s Lich, by listing her “association with radical groups” — the Maverick Party in Alberta and Wexit Alberta. Really.

“She was also affiliated with the Yellow Vest movement, which was linked to death threats against our prime minister. Is that what we’ve become, Canada? To her credit, Lich attempted to distance her local chapter from those making the death threats … she was affiliated with an organization that threatened to kill our prime minister – and now has nearly $1 million of your money to distribute as she sees fit.”

He then crossed another serious line that a lawyer might want to peek at on Lich’s behalf.

“And where will that million or so bucks go? It will go into the organizer’s bank account, that we know… From there, who knows? Since the fundraiser is not an official charity or organization, there is no further accountability.

“The good news is funds will be dispersed via e-transfer “(preferred.)” Paper trail! Since GoFundMe wipes its hands of accountability once the dough is deposited into Lich’s account, we hope she will be forthcoming about how those funds are distributed.”

What evidence did he offer to indicate Lich wouldn’t be forthcoming? None.

Yet Butts endorsed this drivel, this character attack, this baseless accusation. 

By doing so, Butts was likely attempting to pit East against West, like the Liberals love to do. 

The problem is East and West, but for a few latte-swilling lefties, are united in support of the truckers.

One convoy leaves B.C. Sunday with truckers from other provinces joining in, including many from Manitoba who protested at the Canada-U.S. border Wednesday.

Two more convoys will set out January 27, one from Enfield, NS, another from Windsor, Ont. 

They will unite in Ottawa January 29.

Butts is likely less concerned about where the money will go than where it’s coming from — so many detestable (to him) Canadians rallying behind truckers standing up to the tyranny of the federal government.

To date, more than 25,000 Canadians have donated mostly small sums starting at $5. One donation of $10,000 was the exception.

Funds will help truckers pay for fuel, food, and lodging.

Unconfirmed reports claim any money left over will go to military veterans Trudeau abandoned, just like he abandoned our truckers.

The vaccine mandate could result in a loss of up to 26,000 cross-border commercial drivers, says the Canadian Trucking Alliance. 

Canadian truckers must now show proof of vaccination to avoid taking COVID-19 tests before reaching the border. They must also quarantine upon arrival from the U.S. 

Unvaccinated U.S. truckers are denied entry to Canada.

Menzies decided beforehand the convoy of trucks on the road will be “angering the motoring public.”

Maybe some. They’ll be a lot angrier when their fridges are empty because the Trudeau gang kept truckers from stocking grocery stores.

The likes of Butts will surely be gnashing their teeth when they see the anticipated huge welcoming committees greeting truckers rolling into towns and cities with cheers and bagged lunches gratefully prepared with love.

Our truckers have earned the kind of trust and admiration petty politicians will never, ever get.

Someone should tell Butts — who billed taxpayers $127,000 for a move — that not everybody squanders other people’s money.

Truckers have given hope and courage to Canadians crushed by pointless mandates, lost freedoms, and lost jobs. 

There’s excitement in the air, a strength-building momentum in hearts and minds across Canada.

“We are taking our fight to the doorsteps of our Federal Government and demanding they cease all mandates against its people,” wrote Lich on the GoFundMe site.

The anticipated arrival of all those great big loud trucks and determined drivers must terrify bully politicians and bureaucrats who have mercilessly beaten Canadians down with bad COVID-19 and other decisions. 

To our heroes in the convoy — drive safely and God speed. Know that countless Canadians are with you, proud to be the wind at your back.

Blare those horns. It’ll be the sweetest sound Canadians have heard in a long, long time. 

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

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Opinion

MAKICHUK: China’s Liaoning carrier an unworthy flagship

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, construction was halted and the ship was put up for sale by Ukraine. The stripped hulk was purchased in 1998 and towed to the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China.

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It’s the symbol of Chinese prestige and naval prowess.

It’s supposed to strike the fear of God into enemies — the US and its allies alike.

The flagship of the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy fleet. 

The mighty aircraft carrier Liaoning.

Oh my, have we ever heard a ton — actually, about 66,000 tons — of hype about this boat.

Originally laid down in 1985 for the Soviet Navy as the Kuznetsov-class aircraft cruiser Riga, she was launched on 4 December 1988 and renamed Varyag in 1990.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, construction was halted and the ship was put up for sale by Ukraine. The stripped hulk was purchased in 1998 and towed to the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China.

The ship was rebuilt and commissioned into the Liaoning on 25 September 2012, where it underwent major hull, radar and electronics upgrades.

Its Chinese ship class designation is Type 001. Then, on November 2016, the political commissar of Liaoning, Commodore Li Dongyou, stated Liaoning was combat-ready.

Indeed it was. But ready for what? Yet another stretch of the imagination from Beijing?

According to Medium.com, on at least one occasion during sea trials, Liaoning appeared to suffer a steam explosion that temporarily knocked out the carrier’s electrical power system. 

During the accident, hot water and steam began “spewing” out of the engine’s oven compartment, Sina.com reported. One cabin became “instantly submerged in water vapor,” the report added.

Much to the ongoing embarrassment of PLAN officials, last year the USS Mustin guided missile destroyer easily tailed the Liaoning, and was able to photograph and observe the carrier at length on China’s doorstep — the South China Sea.

While recounting the incident, Vice-Admiral Roy Kitchener, the commander of the US Naval Surface Forces, claimed the Chinese carrier was subject to “operating restrictions,” EurAsian Times reported.

A nice way of saying, PLAN readiness was one big joke.

Liaoning

Speaking at the annual Surface Navy Association conference, US crew members “realized that at some point all the Chinese escorts sort of backed off” because “there’s some operating restrictions that they had around the carrier,” said Kitchener.

“USS Mustin didn’t have those (restrictions),” he said. “They proceeded on in, found a good station, and sat alongside taking pictures and doing other things for quite a bit of time.”

The photo was extensively circulated throughout the world and it infuriated China.

Red-faced (pun not intended) Chinese authorities called the activities “very vile” and accused the US of threatening Chinese ships and troops. 

The PLAN had been caught with their naval pants down and, clearly, they didn’t much like it.

The ease with which US Navy personnel were able to photograph a Chinese aircraft carrier would become a key point of discussion. 

Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying, “The Liaoning may have been busy with a complicated drill, allowing US officers to take photos.”

Liaoning

Too busy to see a US Navy destroyer on its tail? One solitary missile could have sunk the Liaoning, and its crew of 1,960. Sent it to Davey Jones’ locker.

Song Zhongping, a former Chinese military instructor, argued that the PLAN followed pre-planned voyage routines, but the operational parameters of American crews were more flexible.

“It’s very common for warships to sail so close for parallel monitoring in unexpected encounters at high sea,” Lu said. 

“But it’s rare for the captain and his deputy to sit together, showing that the Liaoning gave the USS Mustin quite a lot of time to take the picture because of its operating restrictions.”

In an attempt to flip the propaganda coin, Beijing-based military expert/mouthpiece Zhou Chenming told the SCMP it highlighted America’s paranoia over a rising China.

Often called China’s “starter carrier,” the Liaoning does mark a substantial step forward in aerial capabilities for the PLAN, although it, like the carrier itself, has limitations.

The aircraft onboard the Liaoning are capable and modern, although they are limited largely by the ship’s aircraft-launching mechanism.

Liaoning

The carrier air wing includes 24 Shenyang J-15 fighters, six Changhe Z-18F anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters, four Changhe Z-18J airborne early warning helicopters and two Harbin Z-9C rescue helicopters.

By the way, the PLAAF’s J-15s are considered far inferior to US Navy and Marine fighters such as the FA-18-F Super Hornet, which can carry more weapons and fuel, and more importantly, see much farther with an advanced avionics package.

The Liaonings size also falls well below the US Nimitz-class carrier USS Ronald Reagan currently stationed with the US Seventh Fleet, the latter being over 60% heavier and 30 meters longer. 

China’s second carrier, the Type 002, was essentially a copy of the Liaoning, though it did feature some incremental improvements including upgraded radar and increased fighter capacity. 

Like the Liaoning, the Shandong features a large ski jump above the bow that helps launch jet fighters into the air. 

The Type 003 will be larger than both the Type 002 and the Liaoning, and have a steam catapult launch assist system similar to what the US uses on aircraft carriers — and thus will likely dispense with the ski-jump launch assist platform. 

A fourth carrier is also being built, the Type 004 — the first Chinese carrier to reportedly feature nuclear marine propulsion.

According to the US Department of Defense, the proficiency of Liaoning’s pilots, commanders, and support staff remains unclear, ChinaPower reported. 

As we all know, conventional fixed-wing carrier aviation is risky and dangerous: reducing the accident rate of US Navy and Marine Corps jet aircraft to the same level as the land-based US Air Force took almost 40 years and cost some 12,000 aircraft and 8,500 lives.

Although the Chinese have the benefit of learning from the experience of other countries, how the Liaoning’s air wing would actually perform under operational conditions remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the PLAN has something called the Ford-class carrier to deal with in the South China Sea. A carrier that so outclasses anything in China’s naval inventory, any resulting conflict would likely end badly for Xi Jinping and his comrades.

According to The National Interest, the Gerald R. Ford-class is the most advanced class of ships the US Navy has ever built and incorporates many new technologies. 

In addition to its more advanced weapons elevator — which are all now in working order — the Ford-class carrier is powered by a pair of smaller, more simple nuclear generators that provide approximately 25% more electrical power than previous designs.

The Ford also features a new electromagnetic airplane launch system that replaces the traditional steam-powered design and a new aircraft arresting system.

Years late, and costing billions more than anticipated, the 1,092-foot long and 252-foot wide carrier will do its job, and then some.

The most important metric of carrier lethality is how many sorties (flights) the carrier can generate each day. 

According to Forbes, the Navy’s goal is to achieve a 33% increase in sortie generation — 160 sorties per day under normal conditions, 270 during wartime surge operations. 

It will take time and practice to achieve those goals, but with each strike fighter carrying multiple smart bombs, it doesn’t require much imagination to see how lethal 200-plus sorties per day could be against most enemies.

So just how capable is China’s Liaoning

One expert actually labelled it a “boat-load of glaring weaknesses,” but let’s not subscribe to that. Surely, the PLAN has ironed out some of the ship’s problems — this is normal and par for the course for any vessel this size.

Chinese carriers are also believed to be slower and can only operate at sea for roughly six days before needing to refuel, whereas US nuclear-powered carriers can operate continuously for years, Task & Purpose reported.

However, it’s important to remember that China has a different mission in mind for its carriers.

“It has little to do with fighting Taiwan or even fighting in the East China Sea,” Timothy Heath, a senior defense researcher at the Rand Corporation, told Insider. “In both of those situations, carriers are probably not going to last very long.”

Rather, China is hoping to use its carriers to help secure the important Indian Ocean trade routes that are the maritime part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“That’s the real value of these, and it’s worth bearing that in mind when we start to question why they are willing to spend so much money on building carriers with limited air capacity,” Heath said. “For that mission, it may be enough.”

Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news and has covered Asian military affairs for years
makichukd@gmail.com

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