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CYR: Kenney has betrayed his ‘Grassroots Guarantee’ one too many times

“As a Wildrose MLA, I fought hard for the merger that created the UCP so that we could cast out the radical socialists and bring back better times to Alberta. It disheartening that time has proven that the new party we thought we created only turned out to be little better than a re-branded PC Party.”

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Would you even notice if your locally elected MLA was replaced in Alberta’s legislature by a Premier Kenney cardboard cut-out? If the answer is ‘no’, then your party has failed you.

Mainstreet Research conducted a poll in January 2018 where the UCP held 52 per cent support and the NDP just 25 per cent. Fast forward to January, 2021 and a new Mainstreet Research poll conducted for the Western Standard shows the UCP collapsing to just 26 per cent. In its place, the NDP have surged to 41 per cent, and the new Wildrose Independence Party has broken out to 9 per cent. What changed from three years ago?

The grassroots were abandoned.

The Wildrose Party had an unparalleled grassroots movement that we brought to the table before the merger, whereas, the Progressive Conservative Party (PC) held name recognition from 44 years of being in government. It made sense to combine both parties into one, the United Conservative Party (UCP). We had grassroots and name recognition and in return, were rewarded with record popularity to enact a mandate of throwing out the NDP to prevent further damage to Alberta.

Premier Kenney recognized early in his leadership campaign that putting the grassroots in charge was the answer, and rolled out his “Grassroots Guarantee”. This appealed to both parties’ members and led to resounding support. After successfully winning the leadership race, he rolled out the same narrative to Albertans and in 2019, the UCP grassroots platform walloped the NDP top-down platform.

What truly made the UCP successful had less to do with Premier Kenney being a battle-hardened politician and more to do with the party’s connection with the middle and working class. As a province, we all lived through the reigns of Alison Redford and the NDP, and saw first-hand how destructive top-down their leadership styles were. We found out that it inevitably leads to elitism and the disconnection of government from its citizens.

When Premier Kenney made the January 14 Facebook post to unilaterally eject the Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn from caucus, I was alarmed. Let’s set aside this MLA’s alleged transgressions and the fact that it was probably the right decision for the party. My concern is how it was done.

As a grassroots party, the caucus would normally be called together and the offending MLA would be given the opportunity to defend themselves. Once the caucus members received answers to their questions, they would hold a secret ballot to decide if the MLA is ejected or not. This is grassroots decision making at the highest level of the party.

Whereas, in a top-down party like the PCs of old and NDP, the leader ignores their caucus and makes the decision on behalf of the party.

If a leader has the unilateral power to eject caucus members, it gives them absolute power over the people’s elected representatives. What’s stopping the leader from ejecting the legislature speaker for not making a ruling they like, or an individual MLA voting with their conscience – or the worst offense of all – a conservative standing up for conservatism?

Leaders making the sole decision to eject caucus members is not grassroots. It’s authoritarianism.

But that’s not the most alarming part of the announcement Premier Kenney made in his post. It now appears that he usurped his own party’s board by taking complete control over the nomination process. For those that don’t know what this process is, it’s how the party chooses its candidates running in the next election. This means that your candidate likely won’t be chosen locally, but you will be told who represents your region by the Premier’s Office.

Presently, Premier Kenney has shown he doesn’t have enough respect for his fellow caucus members, his party’s board, UCP party members and their policies (he “holds the pen”), and the average Albertan who he promised with his “Grassroots Guarantee.”

What will be the result of this broken promise? Dave Rutherford put it best in a Facebook post, “Conservatives like me will never vote for the NDP, but when conservatives get angry, they don’t vote for the lefties, they stay home and don’t vote at all, or they find a non-threatening alternative to park their vote.”

These are powerful warning signs that shouldn’t be ignored. So again, I ask you, would there be any real difference between your MLA and a cardboard cut-out of Jason Kenney?

As a Wildrose MLA, I fought hard for the merger that created the UCP so that we could cast out the radical socialists and bring back better times to Alberta. It disheartening that time has proven that the new party we thought we created only turned out to be little better than a re-branded PC Party.

Scott Cyr is the former Wildrose and UCP MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake

Opinion

SPENCER FERNANDO: Imagine what the Tories would be saying if Trudeau had hired a former Huawei VP

Why would the CPC undermine their own messaging on China and put their supporters in a difficult position?

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With the Conservatives struggling in the polls and growing reports of internal divisions within the CPC on the issue of Erin O’Toole’s leadership, one bright spot for the Conservatives has been their courageous approach to confronting China.

The messaging from the party has been strong, with them warning of the threat of Huawei, pushing back against China’s attempts to intimidate people in Canada, and calling out China’s genocide of the Uyghurs, leading to a moment of moral clarity in the House of Commons that exposed the cowardice of the Trudeau cabinet.

The Conservatives managed to fully line up with Canadian public opinion, take a stand for Canadian values, and bring other parties along in that noble endeavour.

And yet, they have since partially undermined themselves.

A few days ago, it was revealed the Conservative Party hired Jake Enwright to be their director of issues management.

Now, Enwright has a history in the Conservative Party, having worked for Andrew Scheer and Rona Ambrose when she was interim CPC leader.

However, he also spent about a year working for Huawei Canada, including as their vice-president of corporate affairs.

While it was a short portion of his overall career, the hiring of someone with Huawei connections is an odd move for a party that had made anti-Huawei rhetoric such a strong feature of their messaging.

Notably, Erin O’Toole has accused Huawei of industrial espionage and facilitating the destruction of Nortel.

“The rise of Huawei was itself facilitated by years of industrial espionage conducted by China against Nortel. Intellectual-property theft, counterfeiting and digital piracy are not exceptions to our dealings with China. They are the reality, and it’s high time our government and many corporate leaders realize that. We may have lost Nortel to Huawei but we can and must learn from it. Because if we don’t, we have to accept that another company will be next,” O’Toole said.

Additionally, a top Conservative MP was very critical of former Liberal Operative Morgan Elliott working for Huawei:

This raises the following question:

If Huawei is committing industrial espionage in Canada, if Huawei is a threat, and if a past Liberal political operative should be condemned for working for Huawei, then why should the Conservatives get a free pass when they hire a former Huawei executive to be a political operative for them?

If it’s wrong when the Liberals do it, it’s wrong when the Conservatives do it.

Just imagine what the Conservatives would be saying if Trudeau had hired a former Huawei executive?

We would be hearing how “this further shows how Trudeau is in bed with the Communist State,” how Trudeau is “betraying Canada,” how he is “selling us out to China,” how he “can’t be trusted on China,” etc…

And the Conservatives would have had immense credibility in saying this, because under O’Toole they have been much tougher on China than the Trudeau cabinet.

However, much of that credibility is wasted when they hire a former Huawei executive and just expect everyone to go along with it.

It’s also an insult to Conservative Party supporters, who are being forced to defend something that puts them in the embarrassing position of trying to justify something they would be condemning the Liberals for.

With much of the Conservative base already seemingly demoralized, the party’s strong position and sense of values on China was something to hold onto, but hiring a former Huawei executive takes even that away.

Now, the point here is not that Enwright is some sort of evil dude, as I’m sure he’s not. And I’m not a fan of cancel culture. After all, given my past involvement in different political parties, there are lots of people who see me as a hypocrite. That’s just how things go.

However, it is simply absurd that the Conservative Party can’t see how terrible it looks to make an anti-Huawei, anti-CCP message a huge portion of their offering to voters, slam the Liberals for Huawei ties, position Huawei as a serious threat to Canada, and then hire someone who held a high-level position with Huawei in Canada.

It looks like the same arrogance we so often see from the Trudeau government, who expect everyone to ignore how their words and actions rarely ever match up.

The Conservative base, made up of committed, hardworking, patriotic Canadians, deserves better than a party brass that takes them for granted and forces them to defend absurd and hypocritical decisions.

And all Canadians deserve better.

With surveys showing a clear consensus among the Canadian people on Huawei and China, all of our political parties should be reducing their connections to the Communist state and distancing themselves from companies connected to China.

When it comes to China, Canadians have spoken, and our leaders need to listen.

Spencer Fernando s a columnist for the Western Standard and the owner/author of spencerfernando.com from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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Opinion

NAVARRO-GENIE: Joe Biden has killed the Alberta-51 option

“The AB51 option was always a long, long shot, but Joe Biden’s arrival may have driven a stake through its heart.”

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About a solid third of Albertans steadily favour breaking away from Canada. That number has recently been as high as 50% (February 2020, Angus Reid). A minority among them believe that joining the US as a 51st state is the best option. But that’s not likely the case anymore. 

The impulse to reject Canada is not new. It is as old as British North America and it is rooted in issues that flare time and again. Those issues have not been addressed to the satisfaction of most Albertans. One of these is natural resources. It took Alberta and Saskatchewan 20 years to wrestle from Ottawa the lawful ownership of the natural resources that Wilfred Laurier refused to them at birth.

Resources were then a source of dispute with the federal government, and that conflict continues today. It has become even more acute with Justin Trudeau’s desire further to subjugate Alberta to Central Canadian interests.  

Trudeau’s energy and environmental policies have become new instruments through which Ottawa seeks to exert control of Alberta’s hydrocarbon energy resources. Under the alarmist guise of saving the planet, the federal government manipulates and chokes the development, extraction and commercialization of Alberta’s oil and gas through federal taxation, tanker and infrastructure legislation, and development regulations. Creating laws and regulations that do not apply to similar industries or even to the energy industry in other parts of Canada, Ottawa has blocked the further development of oil sands projects, the construction of more pipelines to distribute production, and the construction of new terminals to sell Alberta hydrocarbons in national and international markets. In short, these Laurentian controls attack Alberta’s wealth, and prevent its growth and development. 

Conversely, Ottawa is happy to syphon Alberta’s wealth and distribute it in Laurentian Canada and in its policy-induced poorer vassals in Maritime Canada. Adding grievous insult to haemorrhaging injury, the Laurentian province most committed to killing Alberta’s oil industry – Quebec – benefits the most from the wealth transfers. They have received an average of $15 billion per year in the last 20 years. The federal government generously distributes money from the very industry they mean to kill to those working hard to kill it. 

There is no shelter from this scheme for Alberta. The institutions of the federation have been rigged to make “the regions,” as Ottawa bureaucrats refer to the periphery, subjects and suppliers of wealth and resources. 

Ottawa and its institutions set the rules by which the Laurentians exact their tribute. Multiple reform attempts have failed to balance the tilted equation, and these failures have convinced many Albertans that abandoning the abusive arrangement is the sole path to a better future.

The AB51 hope is that as an American state, Alberta would be clear to manage its own resources, pursue their development, build infrastructure to get its resources to market and keep a larger chunk of its wealth. The elected US Senate would guarantee equal and maybe better representation. 

However, this option was largely predicated on the affinity of Alberta’s interests with the now extinct Trump administration. The Biden Administration’s affinity for a Green New Deal and a Great Reset shows the same hostility for hydrocarbon energy that Justin Trudeau’s Ottawa does. Immediately on arrival to the White House, President Biden shut down Keystone XL pipeline, reaffirming a commitment to adhere to the Paris Accord. The Green New Deal is yet to unfold, but whatever it may be, it does not spell good news for the Alberta energy sector. As a 51st state, Alberta would be subject to similar treatment from Biden’s Washington, or any other such administration with similar goals, as it does from Ottawa. 

Alberta’s democratic representation might improve as a member of the southern federation, but the fortunes of its energy resources would only improve marginally. The American energy market would become a domestic market for Alberta. That would be good for the currently discounted sales into it, but that market’s expansion is highly threatened by the doomsday ideology of the Green Tzars who rule it. We have not yet seen the litany of barriers and restrictions that Green ideologues are capable of inflicting on the industry. 

A future Republican administration might once again be friendly to hydrocarbon energy, but that would only offer limited reprieve. The industry would be just as politicised and subject to the same political ups and downs under which it currently lives in Canada.  Alberta would still be subject to a faraway federal government, largely out of its control. 

The AB51 option was always a long, long shot, but Joe Biden’s arrival may have driven a stake through its heart. 

Marco Navarro-Genie is a columnist for the Western Standard, President of the Haultain Research Institute and Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He is author, with Barry Cooper, of COVID-19: The Politics of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2020). 

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Opinion

WAGNER: The struggle for conservative & libertarian ideas in North America’s universities

“Progressives like to talk about the need for “diversity,” but do students in the social sciences really get exposed to a diversity of intellectual opinion on controversial topics?”

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In 1981, preeminent American conservative political philosopher Harry Jaffa wrote an article entitled, “On the Necessity of a Scholarship of the Politics of Freedom.” In it, he bemoaned the fact that leftist thinking dominated the academic fields of history, political science, and the other social sciences. Deterministic theories like Marxism were prevalent. These theories deny mankind’s metaphysical freedom, and he added, “from the denial of man’s metaphysical freedom to the denial of any right to moral or political freedom, is but a short step.”

To counter leftist ideology in universities – “the scholarship of unfreedom” – Jaffa called for a new cohort of scholars to step forward in defence of Western civilization’s historic liberties: “there must be a scholarship of the politics of freedom, one that stands in as fundamental an opposition to the scholarship of unfreedom, as constitutional government stands in opposition to totalitarian tyranny.”

There is good reason to believe that leftist thinking dominates the fields of history and social science today as much as in 1981, if not more so. Therefore, “a scholarship of the politics of freedom” is needed now more than ever, if the Western world is to be delivered from the left’s statist agenda.

Although freedom-oriented thinkers are relatively rare in the universities, there are some noteworthy exceptions. Despite the dominance of ideological progressivism, there are yet some conservative and libertarian political scientists, historians, economists, sociologists, and others in academia. 

Although he died in 2015, Harry Jaffa himself was one of the most prominent conservative political scientists of the twentieth century. As a speechwriter for Senator Barry Goldwater – and Republican presidential nominee in 1964 – Jaffa wrote a famous line that got included in Goldwater’s convention speech of that year: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” That statement is still discussed today.

Generally speaking, freedom-oriented thinkers in the Anglosphere can be divided into conservatives and libertarians, then subdivided into particular kinds of conservatives and libertarians.

Some libertarian academics were very prominent in the 1980s, with professors Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman likely being the best known. Hayek’s 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom, is a libertarian classic. Also notable are his 1960 book The Constitution of Liberty, and his three-volume set Law, Legislation and Liberty, published during the 1970s. The title of the second volume is especially interesting today – The Mirage of Social Justice. Milton Friedman is particularly known for his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom and the more popular 1980 work Free to Choose.

Another significant libertarian is Julian Simon, a University of Maryland economist, who demonstrated in his ground-breaking 1981 book The Ultimate Resource – as well as in his subsequent work – that the single most important factor for economic progress is human ingenuity unleashed by individual liberty and free enterprise.

There are a number of libertarian think tanks that produce academic-level research. The Fraser Institute would be the best-known in Canada. The United States has many more, including the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., and for more radical libertarians, the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.

There are well-known conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, both based in Washington, D.C. And in 1979, four of Harry Jaffa’s students founded the Claremont Institute in California, which publishes one of the very best conservative periodicals in the English-speaking world, the Claremont Review of Books

Also noteworthy is the Intercollegiate Studies Institute or ISI. Its purpose is to help college and university students learn and defend the principles that underlie Western civilization. It too, publishes helpful periodicals such as Modern Age as well as scholarly books.

Even the much-maligned social conservatives have some academic champions. Likely the best-known would be Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University and Professor Hadley P. Arkes of Amherst College. Among George’s many books is his 2014 Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters (co-authored with Patrick Lee) which is a defense of traditional – i.e., monogamous, heterosexual – marriage. Arkes’ 2002 book, Natural Rights and the Right to Choose, articulates the pro-life position on abortion. 

In Canada, the “Calgary School” of intellectuals offers a conservative and libertarian perspective, and has been previously covered in the Western Standard.

Despite the tidal wave of progressive ideology overrunning college and university campuses throughout North America, some beacons of the scholarship of the politics of freedom remain. Their books and periodicals are essential reading for conservative and libertarian university students, as well as for parents and grandparents whose children or grandchildren are attending a post-secondary institution. Having academic-level material that refutes leftist views helps students to scrutinize issues more thoroughly and thereby develop a genuine critical thinking capacity, which is a key component of higher education.

Progressives like to talk about the need for “diversity,” but do students in the social sciences really get exposed to a diversity of intellectual opinion on controversial topics? They will if they encounter works by the scholars of freedom such as those mentioned above. 

There is a desperate need for Harry Jaffa’s “scholarship of the politics of freedom,” but it will only be able to flourish if young conservatives and libertarians avail themselves of current conservative and libertarian scholarship and build upon it. Hopefully readers of the Western Standard will encourage promising young people to take up this vital challenge.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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