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FILDEBRANDT: The Great Snowbird Scandal is about to get a lot worse

As questions swirl as to whether Kenney told the truth about not knowing of his minister and chief of staff, he will be faced now with extending the lockdown while he has zero political capital.

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There is blood on the floor of the Alberta Legislature as Premier Jason Kenney hoisted the severed political heads of his former Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracey Allard and Chief of Staff Jamie Huckabay and placed them gracefully upon a pike. But six other UCP snowbird MLAs and several senior staffers remain mostly unpunished and sitting comfortably in the UCP caucus benches.

The punditocracy are divided as to whether this will be enough to satisfy Albertans’ political blood lust or not, but the big question remains: was Jason Kenney telling the truth when he said he knew nothing about his sun-bound ministers, MLAs, and staff during his lockdown, or not? 

We are getting closer to the hard truth as we keep digging. While Kenney says that he was only made aware of Allard’s travels on December 29, we have obtained a memo showing that 13 days earlier, he was informed that she would be away. The memo doesn’t show where she was headed, however Kenney is on the record as saying that he had virtual cabinet committee meetings with her while she was avoiding the Kenney government’s own lockdown and non-essential travel restrictions. 

After we published the story, the premier’s spokesman claimed that Kenney never saw the memo. Believe it if you like.

The government is asking us to believe that avowed workaholic Premier Jason Kenney did not read a memo from the Minister that chairs Alberta’s COVID-19 emergency response committee.

Read that last sentence back to yourself out loud.

One key Kenney insider doesn’t believe any of it. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former Tory minister and Kenney ally told the Western Standard’s Dave Naylor that it was “inconceivable” that Kenney did not know where one of his ministers – and especially his chief of staff – was.

“It is inconceivable [Kenney] wouldn’t know Allard was travelling,” the source said.

For the record, this source is not Thomas Lukaszuk, a well-known Kenney critic. It is an ally close and generally supportive of the premier.

In my own experience in politics, a politician who has a chief of staff speaks to them at least once a day, often even on weekends. And they always know where they are. It beggars belief that a seasoned, control-freak senior politician would have no idea that his chief of staff was vacationing overseas for weeks.

Believe it if you like.

Kenney may have presented the political corpse of Allard and his chief of staff, but the other six MLAs and numerous senior staffers have made it through relatively unscathed. The pundits will sift through the entrails of the sacrifice. What will they find?

My modest prediction is the the hardest-core of the hardcore Tory partisans will say that this is enough. They got a head. It bleed. It rolled down the pyramid. The gods are appeased.

But the wider political consequences could be much more damaging. Alberta Institute President Peter McCaffrey put is succinctly in Twitter’s narrow contains:

“I don’t think the UCP realize how bad this is yet. ~35% of AB (mostly WRP) already think the restrictions go too far. ~35% (mostly NDP) think they hadn’t taken away enough freedoms. ~30% (mostly PC) were grudgingly accepting them as the best of all bad options.”

McCaffrey summed up Alberta’s political tribes roughly, but more-a-less accurately.

The collectivist tribe (led by the NDP) can rightfully (in their view) claim that the UCP has undermined the lockdown through their actions.

Similarly, the Wildrose tribe (for now, officially a part of the UCP flag) can claim that the authoritarian lockdown and restrictions went too far, and aren’t even upheld by the politicians responsible for imposing them. How could the government not respecting their own lockdown possibly justify continuing it?

The third tribe of Alberta – the Progressive Conservatives – have gone along with their government, grudgingly. It’s all a mess, and it’s best to trust the man in charge.

But the Great Snowbird Scandal of 2021 has shaken even that faith. Many centrists willing to tow the government line have now lost faith in that government. Expect some who support the lockdowns to continue doing so, but believe that the UCP no longer has the moral authority to be the ones imposing it; while other centrists are likely to move into the anti-lockdown camp.

This all serves to leave Kenney with an increasingly narrow base of loyal supporters.

This is the problem with a government implementing policies that many of them never really believed in to begin with. I’ve given Kenney his due in this space previously for at least being more hesitant than others to impose lockdowns, but ultimately caving to pressure from the media and NDP.

Many UCP MLAs will quietly say behind closed doors they don’t believe that a second lockdown was the right answer, but are too afraid to take a stand against their own government publicly. Without belief in the lockdown – or the courage to fight it – they simply didn’t see much wrong with hopping on a jet they tell others not to.

As bad as it is right now, it may all be about to get worse. The UCP cabinet will be faced in just a few days with the renewal of the lockdown as the cabinet order of December expires.

Kenney and his cabinet will be forced to make a very public decision on the most volatile policy issue of our time, with zero political capital left.

It would be an understatement to say that they have any goodwill left with those who already oppose the lockdown right now. Renewing it will almost certainly trigger a tidal wave of backlash at a time when they can least afford it. It is hard to imagine a scenario that doesn’t result in mass non-compliance, rendering the lockdown useless.

If Kenney decides that he simply doesn’t have the political capital to extend the lockdown under these circumstances, he will be speared from the NDP and media for letting his scandal get in the way of what they believe to be an essential public health measure.

It is a lose-lose either way.

If 2020 was the worst year on record for most Albertans, 2021 looks to be even worse for the UCP.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard
dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher, President & CEO of Western Standard New Media Corp. He served from 2015-2019 as a Member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly in the Wildrose and Freedom Conservative Parties. From 2009-2012 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Opinion

WAGNER: Coming federal election could drive support for Alberta independence

“The election results may very well convince enough Albertans that independence is the only alternative to a future of continued economic decline and impoverishment.” – Michael Wagner

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Many commentators have speculated that there will be a federal election this year, quite possibly in the spring. Early in February, Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star wrote a column entitled, Trudeau’s strategic plans aimed at June election. A few days later, Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun contributed a similarly-themed column, Spring election could still be in Trudeau’s cards. And on March 1, Lilley’s Toronto Sun colleague Lorrie Goldstein added another, Liberals looking for excuses to call an election.  

These columnists are speculating, of course, but they offer strong reasons why an election may not be too distant in the future.

The outcome of the impending election will have a very big impact on Alberta. If Justin Trudeau is re-elected with a majority government – as some polls seem to indicate – his climate change policies designed to phase-out Alberta’s oil industry will be locked in place for at least four more years. Alberta will continue to suffer job losses and other fiscal and economic hardships. The provincial outlook will be truly bleak.

Many Albertans realize that the stakes in the election will be very high. The future of their livelihoods is in jeopardy. For them, a Trudeau majority government would be the last straw. Government-imposed financial suffering will be impossible to endure any longer. A new path forward will be needed. For a growing number of us, that means independence 

In other words, if Justin Trudeau wins the upcoming election, expect to see the Alberta independence movement experience unprecedented growth. Large numbers of people will be desperate and willing to consider previously unthinkable options. 

This kind of thing has happened on a smaller scale before. It was due to widespread anger after the February 1980 re-election of Pierre Trudeau that Elmer Knutson formed West-Fed and began holding large meetings around the province. In the wake of the November 2000 re-election of Jean Chretien’s Liberals, province-wide anger propelled support for Cory Morgan’s Alberta Independence Party, while Stephen Harper and some of his colleagues published the famous “Firewall Letter.” 

More recently, immediately after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected with a minority government in October 2019, well-attended Wexit meetings were held around Alberta, including one with 1700 people in Calgary. The Wexit organization formally merged with the Freedom Conservative Party in June 2020 to form the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta. 

Indeed, the existence and growth of the Wildrose Independence Party and the federal Maverick Party can be attributed in large measure to the outcome of the 2019 federal election. It seems clear then, that federal election results have been a major factor in the development of Alberta’s (and Saskatchewan’s) independence movement.

This pattern is likely to be repeated when the next federal election is held later this year. Unless Erin O’Toole can engineer a miraculous turn-around in Conservative Party support, Trudeau will be back and Alberta will be trapped within a country whose government is determined to destroy its primary industry. In that case, expect many Albertans to fight back. Expect big meetings around the province with impassioned speakers advocating independence to preserve our future. Memberships in Wildrose and the Maverick Party will sell briskly and new volunteers will step forward.

If O’Toole can pull a rabbit out of the hat, the initial response in Alberta will be celebratory. Trudeau would be gone. What could be better than that? But O’Toole’s commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change would tie his hands and limit his enthusiasm for developing Alberta’s rich energy wealth. 

O’Toole has also been a defender of the current Equalization formula and supply management, policies meant to win votes in other parts of Canada. 

After voting overwhelmingly for the Conservatives, Albertans would justifiably anticipate some payback. If O’Toole didn’t deliver, there would be severe consequences for him and his party. A betrayed electorate would look to its only remaining option: independence.

The upcoming federal election will likely be a key event for Alberta’s future. Another term for Justin Trudeau would be an existential threat to the province. A victory for Erin O’Toole would be somewhat better, but would hold no guarantees for Alberta’s well-being. Pro-fossil fuel policies are very much out-of-favour in Central Canada where both parties are eager to please the voters. 

The election results may very well convince enough Albertans that independence is the only alternative to a future of continued economic decline and impoverishment. For Alberta, it seems that there is no way forward except out. 

Michael Wagner is a Senior Columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

PARKER: Kenney is the wolf in sheep’s clothing

“Alberta conservatives were deceived by one of Canada’s greatest political showmen. He bought a new blue truck, put on a cowboy hat, and sang us a Siren’s song.” – David Parker, Guest Columnist

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Guest Column: David Parker was the Regional Organizer for Central Alberta on the 2017 Jason Kenney Leadership Campaign and GOTV Membership Chair of the Wildrose Unity Campaign

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus gives his followers a warning, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Whether you are a Christian, follow another creed, or simply a person who cares about freedom, we should always pay attention to those who claim to be prophets. Jason Kenney came to Alberta as a kind of secular prophet. He claimed that he would unite the Wildrose and PC parties, restore the Alberta Advantage, defeat Ottawa, and lead his people back to the proverbial Promised Land. 

Now, he puts preachers in jail, destroys small businesses, takes on record levels of debt, and fills our province with fear. 

Even worse, he is not a leader. His true talents lay in being the right-hand man to a leader; but he has proven himself unable to make clear decisions or even adhere to any real comprehensive set of principles. He claims to be a conservative; but he has his government buy up and subsidize private businesses with record levels of corporate welfare. He says he is a man of faith (and he probably is); but he crushes those who wish to practice their faith in a manner that disagrees with his government’s authoritarian policies. 

This is evident from many angles; but the most obvious example of it is how he ran nominations. He is an authoritarian. I was the campaign manager for Rita Reich’s nomination race in Lacombe – Ponoka (one of Kenney’s staunchest supporters during both the PC and UCP leadership races). He disqualified her over a single Facebook post that said Hitler was actually a socialist. That was it, it did not praise Hitler, it just said that Hitler was a socialist based on the fact that he led something called the National Socialist German Workers Party, and repeatedly referred to himself as a “revolutionary socialist”. He did this to a woman who had him to her house for BBQs with hundreds of people and who sold hundreds of memberships in support of him. Why? It was easier for him to simply disqualify her than let her challenge a sitting MLA in a nomination. 

The list of loyal people that Jason Kenney has used and discarded is long and full of many very talented people. The worst case of this is perhaps the story of Caylan Ford, who Kenney praised as his, “political love at first sight” and who the UCP used in much of their campaign digital and visual messaging. When she encountered a targeted and malicious attack from a bad actor within the conservative movement, he dumped her as a candidate and left her to bleed out under the wrath of the SJW mob. Kenney folds to cancel culture like a cheap house of cards. Just like he bows to Rachel Notley when she calls for more lockdowns.

Alberta conservatives were deceived by one of Canada’s greatest political showmen. He bought a new blue truck, put on a cowboy hat, and sang us a Siren’s song. We don’t have to keep believing him. His actions have shown us who he truly is. 

The mask is dropped. We can now see as clearly as day that the sheep is truly a wolf. 

Guest Column: David Parker was the Regional Organizer for Central Alberta on the 2017 Jason Kenney Leadership Campaign and GOTV Membership Chair of the Wildrose Unity Campaign

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Opinion

SCOTT: Supreme Court injustice allows Ottawa to rule all

“In one fell swoop the Supreme Court of Canada has gutted any meaningful provincial jurisdiction, creating an untenable situation that, if left to stand, will add unbearable tension to the federation.” Mike Scott

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Guest Column from Mike Scott, Reform MP for Skeena, BC from 1993-2000.

The recent Supreme Court decision, which provides legal cover for the Trudeau government’s usurpation of provincial jurisdiction on carbon taxes, should be of immense concern to all Canadians.

In essence, the Supreme Court did not take issue with the argument put forward by three provinces that the federal government’s carbon tax is an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. 

What the majority on the court did accept is the Liberal government’s argument that such an intrusion is justified under the rubric “Peace Order and Good Government (POGG)”.

On the face of it, this is an astounding conclusion.

POGG was never intended to be a substitute for clear, constitutionally delineated jurisdictions, nor a tool for constitutional monkey wrenching.

This is a clear case of an activist court seeking justification – no matter how thin – to endorse a progressive political agenda.

First, the court is clearly taking sides in a public policy debate and the reasons for judgement underscore this. Public policy arbitration was never intended to be the purview of the court and, by venturing into this highly charged political debate, it is signaling a willingness to take ever more activist positions.

Citizens don’t get to vote for judges – the prime minister appoints – but it is vital to the credibility of the institution that the court remains assiduously neutral. Jurisdictional disputes must be weighed against the metric of the constitution and adjudicated based on longstanding principles of law – jurisprudence – not creative or specious arguments.

Secondly, by accepting the federal government’s “POGG” argument, one can see the door has now been swung wide open for future intrusions. This is the slippery slope the Supreme Court’s decision has set us on. Going forward, all the feds need to do is invoke “POGG” – there will be no judicial recourse for the provinces.

This is exceedingly dangerous for confederation. As the provinces come to understand that their constitutional jurisdictions are trumped by POGG – with the collusion of the high Court – what recourse do they have?

There is already far too much political power concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. Adding the Supreme Court to the list of institutions lined up against the country’s regions is exceedingly provocative. When, on this continuum, do we reach a tipping point?

It is worth quoting the dissenting voice of Supreme Court Justice Russel Brown who brilliantly spells out the ramifications.

“It is not possible for a matter formerly under provincial jurisdiction to be transformed, when minimum national standards are invoked…This would open up any area of provincial jurisdiction to unconstitutional fedreral intrusion once parliament decides to legislate uniform treatment”

Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Rowe, also in dissent, cogently adds; 

“Canada’s proposed doctrinal expansion of national concern should be rejected because it departs in a marked and unjustified way from the jurisprudence of the court and, if adopted, it will provide a broad and open pathway for further incursions into what has been exclusive provincial jurisdiction. (the act) is not an exercise in cooperative federalism; rather, it is the means to enforce supervisory federalism”

The Supreme Court’s willingness to allow POGG as a means to justify abrogating a clear provincial jurisdiction, is a threat to the regions of Canada that is unprecedented. It is an egregious assault on one of the very foundational principles of our constitution – the division of powers between the provinces and the federal government. 

In one fell swoop the Supreme Court of Canada has gutted any meaningful provincial jurisdiction, creating an untenable situation that, if left to stand, will add unbearable tension to the federation.

All provinces – particularly those in the West with significant energy resources – should see the writing on the wall.

Guest Column from Mike Scott, Reform MP for Skeena, BC from 1993-2000.

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