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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.




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

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 2009-2014 he was the National Research Director and Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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  1. David Elson

    January 6, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    How can this scandal get any worse?

    You have police dragging people out of private dwellings in Quebec for the “crime” of having more than six people in a private dwelling. You have police in Calgary arresting people for the “crime” of playing hockey outdoors.

    And you have your Alberta UCP masters taking foreign holidays to escape the madness they helped create by grossly over reacting to a so called pandemic that cannot show a statistical increase in the year on year death rate. More people died in Canada during the first 8 months of 2019 than died in the first 8 months of 2020, but you have to suffer ae home while the UCP snow birds flock off to warmer climates.

    Wake up. It’s time to say enough is enough. Alberta needs to write a new constitution that gets rid of Ottawa and limits the scope of governmental power in Edmonton. The UCP won’t go anywhere near independence. They don’t care that Canada is breaking Alberta.

    • Joan

      January 7, 2021 at 5:28 pm

      its not a crime to play hockey and thats not what they were arrested for, it was for too many people not paying attention to the restrictions of groups , and the Quebec situation…well they go to extremes anyway, but if the rules say no more than 6 people then abide by it. The longer you fight it the longer it will last.

  2. That's Dr. #SAND to you...

    January 6, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Are you suggesting that lying to the public shouldn’t be tolerated?

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LANDAU: Ontario Human Rights Commission seeks to pre-ban ‘offensive’ statues and street names

We should be alarmed at how some human rights bodies have strayed into the weeds in recent years, not driven by their mandates, but swayed by prevailing and contemporary political sentiments.




The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has announced it is in the process of developing “a new policy statement on the discriminatory display of names, words and images, and wants to hear from the public about this quickly-evolving issue.”

The OHRC is contemplating the expansion of “human rights” violations to include such names as “Sir John A. Macdonald,” “Sir Egerton Ryerson,” for example, because these names might offend or trigger some people. Controversy around these historical figures from two centuries ago is ironically “quickly evolving.”

I’ve re-read all 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) – drafted by McGill Law Professor John Peters Humphrey in 1948 — upon which most human rights commissions are founded. There is no human right for protection against being offended. If there was, rappers like Cardi B — or almost any rappers for that matter — wouldn’t have careers. Should freedom of speech and expression now be trumped by someone’s hurt feelings?  We agree tyrants need not be honoured, but do we need to go full-Jacobin and expurgate any evidence our offending founders and culture existed?

With this attempt by the OHRC to institutionalize “right thinking,” we are squarely in an era of revisionism. Is someone being “disturbed” by a team name or place or historical fact — in and of itself — proof of anything? In fact, what is the burden of proof? If human rights challenges will now be decided by what offends people, will we return to removing D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Arthur Miller’s Tropic of Cancer from all public view?

We should be alarmed at how some human rights bodies — not driven by their mandates, but swayed by prevailing and contemporary political sentiments — have strayed into the weeds in recent years. The OHRC is thrashing about seeking a purpose. It’s a classic case of organizational mandate creep.

Literature students have long known technical and stylistic brilliance are not always accompanied by opinions we respect. Poet Ezra Pound was an admirer of fascists. Talented writers Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Bertolt Brecht were mouthpieces for totalitarian communism. Wunderkind record producer Phil Spector was a convicted murderer and wife beater. The personal lives of Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and Pablo Picasso offend many, for good reason. Even such historic luminaries as Winston Churchill, Mohandas K. Gandhi, biblical King David all had spotty records as paragons of virtue. Do we cancel them all?

You can’t whitewash or cleanse history. There are going to be streets and buildings and institutions named after people whose behaviour and opinions may offend some among us. Censuring their mention is not how you defend or advance human rights.

Meddling human rights commissions have become the land of groupthink. Tearing down statues and changing street names is no answer. We cannot replace the ‘N-word’ with the word “slave.” In fact, we need that word as a record, in the mouths of haters, and in the history books to remember its dehumanizing intention. 

The answer may be to erect more statues and name public places after others.  Until September 2021, there was no US statue of Nat Turner, the brave leader of the first slave uprising. How about more statues of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, or the three brave women on whom the film Hidden Figures was based? Why not celebrate with more projects like the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota? Or Windsor Ontario’s joint monument to War of 1812 leaders Tecumseh and Brock. Manitoba is considering a monument to Chief Peguis. In a Saskatoon park, Métis hero Gabriel Dumont is honoured.

Forget censorship. This is how you honour and reflect history accurately.

Landau is a contributor to the Western Standard

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SLOBODIAN: The insansity of families being asked to care for seniors in Manitoba LTC

Clean? What does that mean? Clean their rooms? Clean them? Surely, these seniors wouldn’t be stripped of dignity having family members give them the widely practiced standard one — yes only one — bath per week. 




Planning to ensure there’ll be enough staff on shift at the lodge to help grandma dress in the morning or dip her dentures in Polident for a night-time soak seems kind of important.

It’s not like Monday’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and testing deadline for frontline workers in Manitoba arrives as a colossal shock.

Yet two Manitoba personal care homes seem to have suddenly realized a staff shortage, created by employees exercising their right to opt-out of the requirements, might occur. How many? They probably know by now but claim they’re not quite sure.

They scrambled to alert family members of a worst-case scenario contingency plan to care for their elderly loved ones. 

It’s them. Family members are the contingency plan. They’ll likely be called upon to step up this week and do the work they’re paying the province to do. 

Family members only found this out in a letter sent October 13.

Cleaning grandma’s teeth — be it brushing or soaking — would hardly be the only caregiving task at Salem Home in Winkler and Taber Home in Morden. Volunteers will be asked to pitch in to do laundry, plan entertainment activities, feed, dress and clean residents.

Clean? What does that mean? Clean their rooms? Clean them? Surely, these seniors wouldn’t be stripped of dignity having family members give them the widely practiced standard one — yes only one — bath per week. 

The alternative to volunteering at the facilities? Family might be asked to take seniors off the home’s hands.

“If we do not have staff, we may have to go one step further and ask that you would take your loved one home to look after them,” says the letter.

Public health orders dictate that as of October 18 unvaccinated staff are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result 48 hours prior to each shift. Officials are concerned some workers will refuse the test.

Salem Home, in the Southern Health Region, is in an area with the province’s lowest vaccination rates. The health districts of Winkler and nearby Stanley have rates of almost 43% and 25% respectively.

The region, under more restrictions than elsewhere in the province, claims to have a high number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Last month there was a COVID-19 “outbreak” at Salem — two residents tested positive — and isolation was mandated even though vaccinated visitors were allowed in.

Despite all this, health officials think the solution to staff shortages is a parade of volunteers — even vaccinated volunteers pose a risk — traipsing in. 

Or, as an alternative, shove vulnerable residents out into the community.

That’s insanity.

Manitoba’s Health Minister Audrey Gordon couldn’t provide the number of unvaccinated health care workers. She met with health representatives in the region Friday to discuss other contingency plans.

Think about that. Friday. How long has this mandated vaccination deadline been anticipated?

Seniors shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Deploying staff on standby from elsewhere is one Hail Mary someone pitched. From where exactly? These two homes won’t be the only ones left short-staffed. 

To be fair, Gordon was left with the train wreck that unfolded under the watch of the previous health minister Heather Stefanson, who bailed to run for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Manitoba. The vote is October 30.

But back to what is being asked of families.

They have placed fragile senior family members in homes to be cared for by trained professionals. Care and accommodation are not free. They pay for it. Handsomely.

Many of these family members are seniors themselves, also fragile and struggling with health issues. 

What stress that ridiculous letter must place on many of them.

And what about family members who threw dad or Uncle Bob in a home and forget to visit? Oh sure, they’ll get right on that volunteer gig.

One certainly feels sympathy for health care workers in senior’s facilities who will carry extra workloads on top of already heavy workloads. These facilities are rarely adequately staffed.

One almost feels sympathy for health officials who have been at the mercy of, and struggling though, provincial planning that has proven erratic and abysmal.

Until then one of them proposes this as a contingency plan…

“We’re looking at things as simple as our menus and ramping down some of our menus, so they are easier recipes to produce,” Jane Curtis, CEO of the Southern Regional Health Authority, told CTV News.

What exactly does that mean? Mealtime is one of few highlights in the day at the lodge. Residents don’t like change. 

Don’t mess with their meals. Get in there and cook them yourself if you must!

Seniors deserve the best. The best! Yet it seems their care might be a casualty in this COVID-19 mess the province created.

Is it because they are the last to complain? Or are so fragile, they can’t?

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

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WAGNER: Isabel Paterson – Alberta’s link to the founding of libertarianism

It’s possible — even likely — that her political views took shape while she lived here.




Three women are often credited with laying the foundations for the modern libertarian movement: the well-known philosopher and author Ayn Rand, Rose Wilder Lane — daughter of Laura Ingalls of Little House on the Prairie fame — and Isabel Paterson, the author of the book The God of the Machine, one of the founding texts of libertarianism.

What is notable from an Alberta perspective is Isabel Paterson — although born in Ontario — was raised in southern Alberta. She is a powerful Alberta link to the origin of libertarianism.

Paterson’s The God of the Machine was republished by Transaction Publishers in 1993, and it contains a new introduction by Stephen Cox, a literature professor at the University of California, San Diego. Cox’s introduction provides a brief biography of Paterson that highlights her contribution to the modern libertarian and conservative movements.

Paterson was born Isabel Bowler on Manitoulin Island in Ontario in 1886. While still very young, her family moved to southern Alberta where she grew up on a cattle ranch. In her late teens, she moved to Calgary where she worked at various odd jobs and eventually became a secretary for lawyer R. B. Bennett who would later become prime minister of Canada. Bennett saw potential in Bowler and offered to have her article as a law student in his office, but she declined.

She married Kenneth Birrell Paterson in Calgary in 1910. It was a short-lived marriage, but she nevertheless kept his surname. During the 1910s she moved a number of times to different cities, mostly in the United States, writing for a number of periodicals. She also began to write novels. Her first, The Shadow Riders, appeared in 1916. The story is set in Alberta and involves intrigue between businessmen and government.

Paterson became the literary editor for the New York Herald Tribune in 1924 and remained there until 1949 when she was fired due to her political views. The Herald Tribune was a prestigious periodical with a national circulation, and due to her position there, Paterson became a well-known and influential writer.

It was during this period that she became friends with Ayn Rand, who Cox describes as Paterson’s “protégé.” Indeed, Cox writes that Paterson “exerted a substantial effect on the individualist philosophy that Rand was evolving; no one else, certainly, had so great an influence on it as Paterson.”

When Rand wrote The Fountainhead, a work of philosophical fiction, Paterson used her column to promote it. Eventually, however, Paterson and Rand fell out. As William F. Buckley later remarked, “Paterson fought over principles; and she had a lot of principles to fight over.”

Paterson’s greatest work, The God of the Machine, was published in 1943. Cox writes that it emphasizes two principles: “an ethical and economic individualism based on the concept of inherent rights, including property rights; and the institutional complement of individualism, limited government.”

Cox further explains that the “individual’s right, in Paterson’s terms, is the right to be left alone, to develop in his or her own way; government should act to protect this right, not to pursue its own schemes of social betterment.” That’s a message that needs to be heard again.

Unlike a great many other journalists of her time, Paterson was not enthralled by the Soviet Union. While many viewed communism as the wave of the future, she wanted people to know that the communists were using starvation and slavery to advance their self-proclaimed  “humanitarian” goals.

As Cox notes, Paterson rightly believed that the “real danger to liberty and prosperity is intellectual, not military.” For this reason, K-12 education is a key battleground for the future, and Paterson forcefully opposed public (i.e., government) schooling which she considered to be “a system of state compulsion.”

In the end, The God of the Machine “made a significant contribution to a significant group of people, an isolated band of intellectuals, far outside the mainstream, who were seeking alternatives to collectivist ideals.”

Albert Jay Nock, one of the best-known early twentieth century individualists, stated The God of the Machine and Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom (also published in 1943), were “the only intelligible books on the philosophy of individualism that have been written in America this century.”

When William F. Buckley founded National Review in 1955 — the flagship magazine of modern conservatism — he eagerly pursued Paterson to write for it. She did for a few years before falling out with Buckley.

The point, though, is that one of the founding intellectuals of the libertarian and conservative movements grew up in Alberta. It’s possible — even likely — her political views took shape while she lived here. No doubt her philosophy would still find wide appeal with many people in the province, especially readers of the Western Standard. Perhaps a new generation of Albertans will read The God of the Machine and benefit from its advocacy for individualism and limited government.

Wagner is a Western Standard columnist

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