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TUFTS: As small businesses sink, government debt is becoming a tidal wave

A painful day of financial reckoning is coming.

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Every day, governments are spending more tax dollars combating an economic collapse not seen since the Great Depression, largely blamed on the COVID-19 crises. Cracks are turning into canyons for those not inside the protected class, with several crises converging on Canadians and especially those from the oil patch.  For small businesses in the West, it is catastrophic and they will need ongoing support to weather the storm until the tide can turn.

As the federal government tries to keep the economy supported through the COVID-19 crisis by spending hundreds of billions in borrowed money, debt is compounded by the ongoing scandals such as the WE charity, the Gov.-Gen., etc. A painful day of financial reckoning is coming.

Some indicators showing just how challenging the recovery is for many small businesses are provided as Google Mobility tracks cell phones to find out where people are going and what they are doing. In Alberta, the January 22, 2021 report shows retail and recreation visits down by 36 per cent, transit station traffic down 58 per cent and workplaces down 32 per cent, an indication of very slow economic activity and that many industries are at a point where recovery is nearly impossible, even with supports.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Canada’s largest business organization, recently reported up to 181,000 small businesses may close, become solvent or go bankrupt in 2021. Add to this another 58,000 businesses that closed their doors in 2020. In Alberta, the expected numbers are even higher, with 22 per cent of businesses considering bankruptcy or winding down operations, putting at the high range 39,900 businesses in danger of closing, meaning up to 724,000 jobs lost within the province.

The Financial Post recently calculated the federal deficit for 2020 at $346 billion or 16 per cent of GDP. They estimated the total GDP of Canada at $2.16 trillion. In 2018, local government, cities and municipalities spent $178 billion, and the provinces $354 billion. The federal government is estimated to have spent $621 billion with $346 billion being finances by debt in 2020. A total of $1.15 trillion in government spending means that government accounted for 55 per cent of our total GDP, meaning the real economic collapse for Canada was in the range of negative 21 per cent.

The employment numbers are grim and in a report late last week StatsCan reported, “According to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), a total of 1.7 million Canadians were unemployed during the week of November 8 to 14 “. Many of these will be permanently unemployed, as this was reported before recent lockdowns in Alberta started up in the first week in December. The Labour Force Survey also showed that in its latest report that federally, 94,000 jobs were created in government but overall 571,000 jobs were lost. That puts overall job losses, in the private sector in excess of 650,000 as of the end of December 2020.

Some industries have been more severely affected than others; tourism, restaurants and airlines, the hardest. Banff’s ghostly streets are empty during the peak holiday season, and air traffic down about 80 per cent over the holiday season provide a stark reality, impacting the value of businesses and take a huge toll on employees. Thousands in the airline industry have been laid off with no end in sight, and the trickle down to small businesses is devastating.

Most business owners see their business not only as a way to earn their living, but as a way to fund their retirement. For many that is now gone.

Contrast with some government workers who had many months where they did not work but continued to collect salaries and pension credits based on 70 per cent of their final working salaries. Adding insult to injury are pro-lockdown politicians jetting off to warm destinations where their restrictions don’t apply.

The winter of our discontent is about to become a decade of fiscal and economic reckoning.

Bill Tufts, is an author and politician commentator
bill.tufts@gmail.com
TWITTER: @BillTufts

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Allen

    January 28, 2021 at 8:25 am

    All by design, and not for your health.

  2. GonadTheRuffian

    January 27, 2021 at 10:11 pm

    By the time the brain-dead Soviet Canucks wake up The Village Idiot will have bankrupted the country at the request of his Globalist masters. It is almost too late now. The BIG question is; will Albertans have the guts to leave the dying nation of Canada before its too late.

  3. David Elson

    January 27, 2021 at 11:15 pm

    Independence is one option.

    Government slavery, starvation, and death is the alternative.

    If you can’t see the handwriting on the wall, please adjust your vision by hitting your head against the bricks.

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Opinion

ANDRUS: A change in governance, not just a change in government is needed

Canadian democracy is one-person-one-vote, but votes are worth much more in some parts of the country than in others!

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The results are in, another federal election is over, and what does Alberta get?

Nothing.

I wrote last week about how Alberta is left out of most federal election debates and discussions because of the need for politicians to appeal to the vote-rich centers of Quebec and Ontario.

Some of you quite fairly asked what should be done about this and, while Project Confederation spent considerable time discussing these challenges since we launched two years ago, we also have many new supporters who have joined us recently.

So, now the federal election results are known, a recap is perhaps in order.

There are two major issues with how federal elections work in Canada.

First, seats in the House of Commons are not distributed proportionally to population.

The Maritimes, representing Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have a combined 32 seats for 2.3 million people, or one seat for every 73,000 people and Quebec has 78 seats for roughly 8 million people, or roughly one seat for every 100,000 people, while Alberta has 34 seats for four million people, or about one for every 120,000 people.

Canadian democracy is one-person-one-vote, but votes are worth much more in some parts of the country than in others!

The second issue is the relative sizes of Canadian provinces.

The truth is, even if seats were perfectly distributed according to population, Ontario and Quebec would continue to dominate Canadian politics.

There are roughly 30 seats in the “905” region of Ontario — which represents Durham, York, Peel and Halton — plus another 25 seats in Toronto proper. Add in another 78 in Quebec, and a party can almost win a majority in just those two provinces alone.

One solution to this is to grow the West.

As more people move to the West to create lives and earn livelihoods made possible by our superior public policies and freedoms, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the West in general will increase in population and influence compared with the rest of the country.

This isn’t some fanciful dream, it’s already been happening for years, the West now has much more influence than it used to, and the trend is continuing.

But that is a long-term change.

For the foreseeable future, Ontario and Quebec will continue to have an outsized influence.

The policies causing Alberta the most harm, such as equalization, are designed to benefit eastern Canadians at the expense of voters in Alberta, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.

So, how is it that Alberta — the economic engine of the federation — has such little representation in Ottawa?

We contribute $20-plus billion per year to the rest of the country through equalization and various other transfer programs and yet election after election we are treated as the doormat of Ontario and Quebec.

Other countries solve this problem by having a second house of parliament — a Senate — explicitly designed to protect the interests of their provinces or states.

The House of Commons should represent, and protect the rights of us commoners while the Senate should represent and protect the rights of the provinces.

Instead, in Canada the Senate is appointed by the prime minister, and acts as a tool to help consolidate power, not distribute it.

In 1993, the Reform Party dominated Western Canada, sweeping the West on a platform centred around a Triple-E (equal, elected, and effective) Senate.

A Senate with effective powers, an equal number of senators per province, and chosen by popular vote would provide a regional balance to parliament, one that could allow for the Senate to act as a check on the House of Commons that is dominated by eastern interests.

Without regional representation in Ottawa, the federal government will continue to take advantage of Alberta and our economy.

The constitutional structure is rigged against us, an institutional problem caused by an unfair separation of powers between the federal government and the provincial government.

This is why systematic changes, not just tinkering, are absolutely necessary.

Albertans will be going back to the polls October 18 to vote in the municipal elections, along with a referendum to abolish equalization from the constitution.

Premier Jason Kenney’s equalization referendum is a good first step, but it must lead to significant reforms to the constitution — otherwise anything that changes with equalization can be undone with ease by the federal government in Ottawa.

Next month’s vote also includes elections for Senators-in-Waiting.

While not quite a Triple-E Senate, it’s a move in the right direction, though the likelihood of any elected senators being appointed by Canada’s current prime minister is low.

If the West wants a “Fair Deal,” then next month’s equalization referenda and senate election must be seen as the first step on a long journey, not the destination itself.

We need a change in governance, not just a change in government.

Josh Andrus is a Columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

EDITORIAL: Kenney must resign, now

“For the good of the conservative movement, for the good of the United Conservative Party, for the good of Alberta, and for the good of restoring our freedoms, Kenney must resign. Now.”

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Premier Jason Kenney has so badly bungled his responsibilities to Alberta that the time has come for him to resign. 

In fact, massive sections of his own party are demanding it.

His own caucus is rife with MLAs that have “no confidence” in his continued leadership. More than 30 party constituency association presidents have agreed to push for an emergency leadership review. The UCP’s vice-president (of policy) and a member of the party’s central board of directors says that he must resign now

Kenney has failed to live up to nearly all of his major election platform commitments: a successful fair deal fight with Ottawabuild pipelinesend corporate welfarekill the carbon taxbalance the budget, implement recall legislation, and most importantly: make Alberta “Strong and Free”. 

The premier was dealt a difficult hand with COVID-19, but his handling of it has been nothing short of disastrous. Rather than make Alberta “Strong and Free,” he has overseen an authoritarian growth in the power of the government over the private lives of Albertans. 

Acting on his orders, police attacked a kid playing hockey

Acting on his orders, police raided churches and erected barricades to keep worshipers out

Acting on his orders, police arrested pastors for refusing to stop preaching.

Acting on his orders, police jailed small business owners and seized their property

Acting on his orders, protests and rodeos were outlawed

Acting on his orders, Health Minister Tyler Shandro failed to build sufficient hospital capacity for a predictable surge in COVID-19 cases, to point where now the Alberta government is begging the Canadian military to intervene.

Acting on his orders, private businesses are now legally required to discriminate against citizens that do not have a mandatory vaccine passport

While Albertans suffered under the weight of a creeping tyranny, Kenney enjoyed a nice dinner on the rooftop of Alison Redford’s Sky Palace, in clear violation of his very own restrictions. In that dinner, he was joined by Finance Minister Travis Toews, Environment Minister Jason Nixon, Sandro, and a group of young staffers. 

Kenney is expected to make Shandro walk the plank this afternoon, and offer his political head up to appease his caucus and party that are demanding his own.

As terribly as Shandro has conducted himself as health minister, the buck does not stop with him; it stops with Kenney.

Shandro was not a rogue minister operating without supervision. He was following orders from his boss. 

Kenney is a well-known micromanager. Kenney and Shandro both are members of the Priorities & Implementation Cabinet Committee (PICC) that oversees all of the major COVID-19 decisions. The decisions to impose, rescind, and reimpose restrictions were made not just by Shandro, but by Kenney and the rest of this powerful cabinet committee. The decision to retract Kenney’s solemn pledge never to impose a mandatory vaccine passport was made not just by Shandro, but by Kenney as well. 

Shandro is to blame, but so too is Kenney and much of the inner circle around him. 

If Albertans are right in demanding Shandro’s resignation, then they are at least as right in demanding Kenney’s. 

It’s sad Kenney’s earlier, brilliant political career has degenerated to this. He was a smart and capable minister in the federal Harper government. He operated with boundless energy in his efforts to unite the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties. He triumphed in the UCP’s leadership race, and did Alberta a great service in dispatching Rachel Notley’s NDP after just a single term in office. He campaigned on a mandate of fighting for a fair deal for Alberta.

But Kenney’s continued presence in the premier’s office is now a grave threat to all of those accomplishments. 

He played a significant role in Erin O’Toole’s defeat at the hands of Justin Trudeau, leaving Alberta in weakened position. 

He risks splitting the United Conservative Party back up into its PC and Wildrose elements, something that’s already well underway with the growth of the Wildrose Independence Party. 

His continued leadership seems certain at this point to lead to a return of the Notley NDP to power. 

His presence creates the very real risk that Albertans will vote ‘no’ in the equalization referendum, as an opportunity to send him a message.

“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately … Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

For the good of the conservative movement, for the good of the United Conservative Party, for the good of Alberta, and for the good of restoring our freedoms, Kenney must resign. Now.

This editorial was jointly written by the Editorial Board of the Western Standard

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Opinion

NAVARRO-GENIE: The endemic path is the way out

“As a result, it is not people declining vaccination who are putting us in the gravest danger. It’s those who, perhaps fewer in numbers, continue to dream of, and push for, a global eradication of SARS-CoV-2.”

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Marco Navarro-Genie a columnist for the Western Standard

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s plan to treat the coronavirus as endemic was the way out of the COVID-19 crisis. That he again adopted restrictions, lockdowns, and vaxports for the province does not vaporize the endemic approach. For those keeping count, this is Alberta lockdown number four. 

But his declaration, paraphrasing Joe Biden, that we have “a crisis of the unvaccinated” offers no solution. The newest health impositions reveal a “vaccine” that doesn’t act like traditional vaccine. Old vaccines simultaneously provided individual immunity and a barrier against the spread of infection. The COVID-19 shots do not all that well either. 

The COVID-19 shots are no infection barrier, especially among elders. Alberta Government statistics show comorbidities are a better predictor of infection than the absence of vaccination. For those older than 60 with pre-existing conditions, over the last 120 days the rate of infection is higher for vaccinated people than for the non-vaccinated. Among those aged 80-plus with pre-existing conditions, the vaccinated have acquired the virus at three times the rate of the unvaccinated. 

For all its risks and failures, the COVID-19 shot lowers the rate at which the infected end up in hospital or succumb to the illness. This is certainly good. But we should come clean on the abysmal infection result among the older cohorts, even among those with no comorbidities.

Medical bureaucrats, legacy media, and governments have made the pandemic out to be all about case numbers, and in this sense we continue to fail our elders despite the rhetoric about vaccination. Not surprisingly, instead of immunization or the risks, the debate has moved to how vaccines help avoid the harsher reactions to the virus.

The central question about how to exit the crisis, however, is this:  if everyone were vaccinated tomorrow, it’s clear now from existing data the spread of infection would not stop. Oscillating somewhere between 30 and 50%, those vaccinated still contract and spread the infection. Data from Israel show, and manufacturers now admit, the efficacy of the COVID-19 shot declines within months and the limited protection it offers may not last past six months.

The COVID-19 shot is not the promised silver bullet. Booster shots, we now hear, are the immediate and longer-term solution. But the rush impulse to give everyone boosters, already being indulged in the United States, bring us to significant ethical and practical problems.

In ethical terms, rich countries offering boosters further delays the first shot for half the planet’s population. The policy universalizes the Justin Trudeau approach: rob vaccines from the poor to give to the rich. 

On the practical side, more variants will arise in a world where half the population has not been “vaccinated” and in which a quarter to half the vaccinated can still transmit infection. The catalogue already includes more than 3,000 mutations of SARS-CoV-2, and there will be more. As the Brazil and India variants have shown, populous countries like Nigeria, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and so forth might, be ripe for generating more “variants of concern.”

These variants have great potential to find their way to Canada each time, challenging the efficacy of the shots and producing waves of new cases among vaccinated and unvaccinated. Given the speed at which medical bureaucrats make politicians panic, and given the speed at which healthcare systems are brought to the brink of collapse, new infection waves will push toward the only alternative leaders know: restrictions and lockdowns. 

All of this, let me repeat, has the potential to occur and likely will, even when every single person in Canada has been vaccinated. 

Therefore, a better exit strategy from leaders is needed than just relying on the limited ability of the vaccine. Failure to devise and implement such strategy will condemn us to live in a repeating cycle of clamping and reopening. It will continue to weaken economies, increase anxieties, family violence and mental health disorders, augment unemployment, keep deaths by overdose at rates as high or higher than we have had, continue school closures, bankruptcies, restrictions on elective and not-so-elective procedures for chronic and other diseases, and maintain the focus of fear on COVID-19 that has caused more death than the virus.  

As a result, it’s not people declining vaccination who are putting us in the gravest danger. It’s those who, perhaps fewer in numbers, continue to dream of, and push for, a global eradication of SARS-CoV-2. They drive the policies that subject us to lockdown cycles.

They are far more dangerous than the virus itself.

Marco Navarro-Genie a columnist for the Western Standard and is president of the Haultain Research Institute, a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. With Barry Cooper, he is co-author of COVID-19: The Politics of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2020).

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