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McALLISTER: Nenshi’s regional board is at war with rural development

Bruce McAllister writes that a radical move by the Calgary Regional Metropolitan Board will kill development in huge areas surrounding the city. And the province is letting it happen.

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With the stroke of a pen arbitrary drawn across a map, many thousands of acres of rural lands surrounding Calgary are about to be sterilized of their economic potential. Land that owners intend to develop – creating thousands of jobs – has been rendered useless.

We used to take pride in the ‘Alberta advantage’. The record shows that when we let good people use their land, they return the favour with growth, jobs, and wealth that build our schools and hospitals. Alberta’s innovation has done even more. It has produced enough wealth to share with those provinces with more limited opportunities. But it seems this is coming to an end.

The Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) has been plodding along since Rachel Notley created it to impose a growth plan for the entire region that is highly prescriptive and anti-competitive. The central planners in urban municipal think-tanks and lobby groups in Calgary and Edmonton think they can build Alberta from behind a one-way-mirror at a focus group. They’ve had their chance, and they’ve failed.

Last week all the warning shots that we have been firing hit the target. The hammer dropped, the shoe fell, the truth was revealed. The CRMB made public the maps they are working on to plan the region, and what they reveal is very telling about what the future holds if the central planners at Calgary City Hall and the CMRB get their way. 

In short, there is a good chance that if you own land in the areas surrounding Calgary, it was just sterilized by this unelected fourth layer of government. They have just dictated from behind closed doors that you will now be severely restricted from building your business and contributing to the economy. You’re out.

The Board’s consultant – an urban planner from San Francisco – included three future development areas for the region, two in Rocky View and one in Foothills County. If you own land in one of those, you have a chance of moving something forward, but there’s a catch.

The CMRB growth plan will take precedent over any other land-use. That means that if a developer wants to amend his current plan and add units or do anything to remain nimble and adjust to the marketplace, they will have to do it according to the CMRB’s plans. 

But the most egregious act of this plan is what happens to lands outside these designated joint planning areas. Effectively, that land is frozen to any business or future development. 

Future development potential will now be restricted to urban locations, period. Their plan is to eliminate the competition. They did not present a better service or product. They just lobbied hard enough to change the master plan. It’s a toxic turn for southern Alberta’s economic future. 

We have been warning for some time that Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been using this Board and his allies from urban municipalities (not coincidentally those who buy their water from Calgary) to stifle growth in competing rural districts. 

If you own land near Calaway Park and you had a good idea for a business to serve families out for some fun on Sunday afternoon, you can forget about it. 

If you had a project on Highway 8 that would provide housing choice in the region, and competition for the marketplace, forget about it. That’s not on the map. But what about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that’s been spent getting projects through the approval process in neighbouring municipalities? It doesn’t matter. The Board has spoken. Well technically, not yet, but it’s about to. These draft plans move forward to the province for approval on March 1st.

Before we hold out hope that the province won’t approve the plan, we have to look at their track record on the CMRB. They have caved to the lobbyists at every turn. They prop up the CMRB when they should be dismantling it. The simple fact is that they need the votes and rural Alberta makes an easy loser in their eyes. 

It’s not like the UCP hasn’t been made aware of this. They appear to have other priorities.  Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, you can understand why they are distracted. But the Minister of Municipal Affairs, or Jobs and Innovation, or Red Tape, or somebody who even remembers what the Alberta advantage is all about had better act before it is too late.

If this land-use plan gets implemented there are thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment that will go with it.

Gone will be the Gardner project and its $3 billion investment along Highway 8. Gone will be the Qualico Elbow View. Gone will be any potential to amend the Glenbow Ranch project along Highway 1A. Anything near Calaway Park: gone. The second phase of The Omni by Genesis and its 4,000 jobs east of Calgary: gone. 

The central planners may think that nothing stands in their way as they begin to mount their master plan in Mayor Nenshi’s office and pour a round of drinks. They know that between a pandemic and a deadline of March 1st, so few eyes will see their plan. They know the development industry and landowners’ lobbying efforts to the province have failed, and they know that while eyes are turned elsewhere their master plan can take effect. They know that the CMRB is stacked in their favour, it was designed that way. But we can sound the alarm. 

What happened to the Premier Jason Kenney’s rallying cry to “make Alberta the best place to do business in North America”?

The UCP, Jason Kenney, and his ministers can stop this madness. The only question is, will they?

Bruce McAllister is a columnist for the Western Standard, Executive Director Rocky View 2020 & is the former Wildrose and PC MLA for Chestermere-Rockyview

Opinion

FROM: Why the secular mind cannot understand Pastor Coates’ civil disobedience

“Until the secular mind acknowledges that other coherent worldviews exist, the divide between it and the religious mind will remain intractable.”

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My scissors don’t work very well. The rivet at the centre has fatigued and loosened over time so that the blades no longer meet. To my chagrin, almost anything I try to cut merely passes between the blades unmarked and unscathed. It appears to be a pair of scissors, but it’s incapable of functioning as one.

Recent criticisms of Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church by our politicians and those in the mainstream media are just like my scissors. They have failed to meet at an intersection. A grand missing-of-the-point. Even politicians and media outlets that I assumed would be receptive to Pastor Coates’s plight have demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of his position, and, presumably, of those in his congregation. Until these critics sincerely consider Pastor Coates’s arguments and acknowledge the worldview that compels him to behave as he has, these criticisms will continue to completely and utterly fail.

Premier Jason Kenney – whom I’m told once considered entering the priesthood – provided an unsolicited and backhanded homily to Pastor Coates, on the final day of Danielle Smith’s radio show, by outlining his view on what being a Christian means for the rest of us.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw – whose mandate concerns the maintenance of the public healthcare system, not theological matters – advised Pastor Coates to be “compassionate.” (This term seems to be eclipsing “we’re all in this together” as Dr. Hinshaw’s favoured bromide.)

Then there’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi who believes it is within his expertise to lecture Pastor Coates – a graduate of The Master’s Seminary – on the “tenets” of Christianity.

Even Sun Media’s Lorne Gunter joined the chorus of those admonishing Pastor Coates on his ethical responsibilities.

None of these critics has sincerely engaged Pastor Coates’s position, but it’s not their fault. There’s a crucial divide between them because their worldviews are so fundamentally different. This is an example of a secular mind being unwilling to acknowledge or understand the religious mind. And just like my failed scissors, Pastor Coates’s critics have not addressed his position, and so it remains unmarked and unscathed.

On the Sunday before his incarceration, Pastor Coates thoughtfully and eloquently surveyed his view on ecclesiology; a term for the theology of the Church. The biblical Church (notice the capitalization?) is commanded to be obedient to Christ and to submit to the state. If the state oversteps its God-given jurisdiction and requires believers to be disobedient to Christ, civil disobedience becomes their moral imperative.

Historically, the Bible has been held to command Christians to meet together for the important religious ritual of corporate worship. Can you see the dilemma yet? Obedience to Christ conflicts with what the Alberta government demands. And just as our constitution is superior to ordinary statutes, Pastor Coates views his moral duty to obey Christ as superior to obedience to the state.

Now, if you scoff and say, “obedience to Christ” is a meaningless and hopelessly vague moral directive either because one, it’s impossibly idiosyncratic or two, Christ is fiction, then all you’ve done is demonstrate my thesis. Until you sincerely consider Pastor Coates’s arguments and acknowledge the worldview that compels him, you lack even the capacity to understand his actions.

Pastor Coates’s actions stem from a view of the world where Christ is a real person that places real demands on the lives of those claiming to be his followers. If you reject this – and many people reasonably do – you cannot criticize Pastor Coates as an intellectual charlatan or, worse yet, someone lacking in compassion. All you’ve done is reject his faith in Christ. And, quite frankly, that’s boring.

Notice that Pastor Coates’s religious convictions do not mean that the state has no jurisdiction within the Church. The state has outlawed murder, rape and assault. So has Christ. There is no conflict. If the state wants to punish a congregant from GraceLife Church for unlawful violent actions, I do not doubt that Pastor Coates would recognize the authority of the state. It’s only when there is a conflict between Christ and the state that the state must be opposed through civil disobedience.

Until the secular mind acknowledges that other coherent worldviews exist, the divide between it and the religious mind will remain intractable.

Derek James-From is a columnist for the Western Standard and a constitutional lawyer

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Energy

OUELLETTE: To save Canada’s energy industry, we need to end dependence on the US market

“The construction of new Canadian pipelines would maximize the volume of fuels transported by the safest, greenest means, and allow us to seize a golden opportunity to diversify the markets for our oil.”

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Guest column from Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

Oil: Let’s put an end to our dependence on the United States

By Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

Imagine for a moment that you are the head of a popcorn company. You know that the demand for popcorn is strong, and that contrary to what anti-fast food lobby groups say, demand will continue to increase in the coming years. But you have a problem: 98 per cent of your popcorn is purchased by one single cinema, because you didn’t diversify your client base. This cinema, however, has just named a new CEO who, to please some nutritionist friends, wants to keep your popcorn out. What do you do? Would it maybe be a good idea to try to sell your popcorn in other cinemas in order to save your company, and all its associated jobs?

Canadian oil is in a similar situation. His very first day in office, new US President Joe Biden revoked Keystone XL’s permit, and this project will likely not be his last victim. As in our hypothetical example, 98 per cent of Canada’s oil exports go to our southern neighbour. What should Canada and its industry do, then, to sell its product? The answer: Build new pipelines in order to reduce the risk associated with this one-client strategy and maximize oil export revenues.

According to the latest estimates, global oil demand will grow by 9 per cent by 2045, and by more than 40 per cent in a number of Asian countries. New pipelines would allow Canada to transport its oil to a larger number of refineries and terminals that could then export it to these new markets.

We therefore need more pipeline infrastructure to diversify our exports, and the Canadian government should do everything in its power to allow these projects to be completed. Putting all of our eggs in the same basket is a risky strategy. The Keystone XL cancellation alone represents over $50 million a day in potential exports for Canada that have fallen through.

Over the past five years, the federal government collected an average of $14 billion a year from the oil and gas industry. This tax revenue totals more than half of the sum of all provincial deficits during the pandemic. And the energy sector directly or indirectly employs over 830,000 workers, and accounts for around 10 per cent of our GDP. It’s therefore not just “Big Oil” that would benefit from such a strategy, but all Canadians.

Finally, it bears repeating: Pipelines are the safest and “greenest” method of transporting oil. New pipeline projects compromise neither our safety nor the protection of our natural environment. On average, over 99.99 per cent of the oil transported by federally regulated pipeline arrives without incident every year. Not to mention that transporting fuel by pipeline emits from 61 per cent to 77 per cent fewer GHGs than transport by rail.

In short, the construction of new Canadian pipelines would maximize the volume of fuels transported by the safest, greenest means, and allow us to seize a golden opportunity to diversify the markets for our oil.

So I ask you again: If you were the boss, what would you do?

Guest column from Miguel Ouellette, Economist and Director of Operations at the Montreal Economic Institute www.iedm.org

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Opinion

MORGAN: Sexual assaults & extortion just the latest reasons to shut down Trudeau’s prison-hotels

“We never should have begun locking up innocent citizens in quarantine facilities in the first place. In light of these alleged assaults, all forced-quarantine facilities should be closed immediately and people allowed to go home.”

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As if the incidents of law-abiding Canadian citizens being swooped away in unmarked vans from airports to be imprisoned incommunicado from concerned family members wasn’t enough, we are now learning of serious reports of extortion and sexual assaults on people forced into quarantine.

The time is long since past to shut down Trudeau’s prison-hotels.

In an all too familiar story; a woman had arrived from the United States only to be told that she had taken the “wrong” COVID-19 test and was forced to quarantine in a government-run hotel in Montreal. She was told that she was not allowed to disclose her location, even to close family. A neighboring “guest” in the hotel allegedly forced his way into her room and sexually assaulted her. Robert Shakory faces one count of sexual assault, one count of breaking and entering, and one count of criminal harassment in the incident.

In Oakville Ontario, a quarantine screening officer allegedly demanded cash from a woman before sexually assaulting her at her private home. Privately contracted government screening officers essentially are enforcing house arrest upon people under quarantine. Police have arrested a man they identified only as Hemant, 27, of Hamilton. He has been charged with sexual assault and extortion. Apparently, he only goes by a single name.

Canada should not be imprisoning law-abiding citizens in the first place. The least we could hope for and expect though is that the citizens being imprisoned for mandatory COVID-19 quarantines would be kept safe. It is horrifying to imagine a vulnerable loved one being assaulted while under quarantine, yet it appears that these cases are becoming increasingly common.

Whether in homes or in hotels, when a person is locked there by law and force, it is imprisonment. The prison power dynamics quickly take over. Prisoners are dejected and vulnerable while other prisoners and authority figures take advantage of them. It’s unthinkable that Canadian citizens are enduring this sort of experience for the crime of having traveled, as the constitution is supposed to guarantee is their right.

In Toronto at Pearson International airport, there are reports that returning travelers are refusing quarantine orders and walking out of the airport. Peel region police are now refusing to enforce the quarantine orders. As Martha Stuart says, “and that’s a good thing.” People refusing to comply with government-ordered quarantine orders whether at home or in a prison-hotel have a very real defence in saying that they fear for their safety.

We never should have begun locking up innocent citizens in quarantine facilities in the first place. In light of these alleged assaults, all forced-quarantine facilities should be closed immediately and people allowed to go home. If the state can’t keep citizens safe, it must release them. This is only going to get worse. Innocent people are being stripped of their liberties, harm is being down, and expensive lawsuits are pending.

When we look back on our pandemic responses, we are going to see a great many errors that were made. Locking up our citizens is by far our most egregious one. History will not look kindly at the leaders that forced it to happen.

Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a column for the Western Standard

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