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Calls for Alberta’s fiscal balance fell on deaf ears, says Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The CTF estimates this year’s debt is expected to reach $116 billion. Interest on the debt will total $2.8 billion, which will cost each Albertan $600.

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Despite calls to return fiscal balance to Alberta’s finances, the UCP has left a lot to be desired – with fiscal conservatives disillusioned by the government’s spending habits, bracket creeps on income taxes, corporate welfare on Keystone XL, and higher deficit spending.

Grassroots conservatives are skeptical Premier Jason Kenney can right his administration moving forward, as Budget 2021 has the government outspending the NDP in its final year.

Franco Terrazzano, the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, called Finance Minister Travis Teows’ top-line spending figure a headscratcher. 

Despite praiseworthy cuts to Advanced Education, the CTF discovered more than 900 management bureaucrats on Alberta Health Service’s sunshine list in 2019 because they made more than $132,924. 

The list included no frontline workers — only 11 vice presidents, 571 directors, 204 managers, and other management-type bureaucrats.

Given the extent of the spending problem, the Alberta government should find significant savings in every department outside of health care, he said.

For example, the Executive Council’s budget — the premier’s shop — will increase by $2 million this year. 

Albertans need to see Kenney’s leadership on savings because big-spending means more debt that will need to be paid back, he said.

The CTF estimates this year’s debt is expected to reach $116 billion. Interest on the debt will total $2.8 billion, which will cost each Albertan $600. 

Terrazzano said Albertans should be concerned if the government doesn’t get serious about finding savings because it will start looking to families to cover its tab. 

“It’s inefficiencies like this that led the Blue Ribbon Panel to conclude that Alberta would spend $10 billion less every year if our per-person spending matched spending in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec,” he said.

“In 2021, the government is expected to spend $62 billion. For comparison, the New Democrats spent $56 billion in its final year. Even after accounting for inflation and population growth, the United Conservatives are going to outspend the NDP.”

During his time in Opposition, Premier Jason Kenney called the NDP’s 2018 budget a “fiscal train wreck.”

“You can’t tax your way out of a spending problem,” said Terrazzano.

“Families and businesses have been tightening their belts for years, and it’s time for our politicians to finally roll up their sleeves and address more than a decade of runaway spending.”

In February, Kenney took tax hikes off the table and publicly stated his commitment again not to institute a provincial sales tax.

However, Toews again alluded to forming a tax panel in his budget speech.

“This would be the worst possible time to sink government’s hand deeper into the pockets of taxpayers who are already coping with huge financial stress,” said Kenney.

Leading up to the 2019 budget, the premier promised not to raise taxes. 

“It will be a credible path to bring our finances back to balance without raising taxes,” said Kenney, a month before the budget was tabled.

But the 2019 budget did increase taxes through an income tax hike known as bracket creep.

Albertans will also pay higher income taxes this year unless the government stops bracket creep by moving the tax system with inflation, said Terrazzano.

The finance department estimates that the income tax system’s de-indexation will cost Albertans $196 million this year. By the end of 2022, de-indexation is expected to have cost Albertans more than $600 million.

The CTF rejected the idea that the Alberta government should consider a sales tax. 

“We can’t ask families who are struggling to put food on the table to pay higher taxes for a bloated provincial government,” said Terrazzano, who noted the long history of Albertan politicians to blow tax dollars on corporate welfare. 

“When politicians are risking tax dollars instead of their own money, we might as well be sending them to the casino,” he said.

Kenney previously told Albertans that he would “get the Alberta government out of the business of business, out of the losing business of picking winners and losers.” Still, the province announced billions of dollars in corporate welfare, similar to the NDP’s taxpayer investment into crude-by-rail.

With President Joe Biden’s decision to pull the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline, the need to alleviate Canada’s pipeline bottleneck requires businesses to build pipelines in Canada. 

“Taxpayers are being dragged further into debt because politicians are roadblocking pipelines in Canada, and that’s wrong,” said Terrazzano, supportive of Alberta’s legal fight against Ottawa’s No More Pipelines Law.

The CTF calculated that the pipeline deficit could cost taxpayers $12.8 billion between 2013 and 2023 by reducing the federal government’s revenue. That means a lack of pipelines could cost each province and territory at least one new hospital between 2013 and 2023.

A pipeline deficit could cost Alberta taxpayers up to $4.5 billion between 2020 and 2022, according to the provincial government’s 2020 budget.

“Taxpayers are being dragged further into debt because politicians have been roadblocking pipelines in Canada, and that needs to stop,” said Terrazzano. 

“We applaud Premier Jason Kenney for sticking up for Albertans and allowing taxpayers to defeat Ottawa’s No More Pipelines Law.”

Dhaliwal is the Western Standard’s Edmonton reporter.

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Kenney leadership review to be held April 9 in Red Deer, in convention-style vote

The UCP board decided not to listen to demands from 22 constituency associations that wanted a review by March at the latest, said a Western Standard source close to the board.

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Editor’s note. Due to a typo, the initial version of the story said the review would be April 6. Sources say the vote will take place April 9.

A pay-to-vote leadership review of United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney will be held April 9 in Red Deer, the Western Standard has learned.

The UCP board decided not to listen to demands from 22 constituency associations that wanted a review by March at the latest, said a Western Standard source close to the board.

The source said the board felt it was “being generous” to the 22 rebel ridings by holding a review in April.

Details on how much it will cost to go to the conference are still being worked out, but it will be a system where you have to pay to vote, the source said.

Those details are expected to be announced in January.

While the board meeting was “friendly,” pro-Kenney factions later held long discussions to plan strategy, said the source.

A convention-style review appears to favour Kenney as opposed to a one-vote-per-party-member system as Kenney is famed for his political organizing power.

His office came under fire last month for allegedly using money from third-party political action committees (PACs) to send people to the UCP AGM which turned into a Kenney love-fest that left the leader smiling.

Kenney denied knowledge of the PAC money.

“I’m not involved in third party organizations, but third party political organizations are free, within the law, to be involved in politics,” said Kenney.

Prior to the AGM Airdrie-Cochrane UCP MLA Peter Guthrie sent Kenney a letter which said the party was on the verge of collapse. 

“Public opinion continues to wane, and we may be at a point where this party cannot be salvaged,” writes Guthrie, in the letter obtained by the Western Standard.

“Membership has fallen from 150,000 to less than 10,000 and fundraising is evaporating along with our credibility.”

Much of the UCP grassroots frustration has come on the heels of controversial COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Kenney also brought in a vaccine passport scheme he vowed never to introduce.

Another scandal that infuriated UCP members was when the infamous pictures were published of Kenney holding an outdoor dinner on the balcony of the “Sky Palace” in contravention of the government’s of laws, regulations, and guidelines.

In April, a UCP MLA told the Western Standard they are “100% certain” Kenney would be the subject of an early party leadership review.

“Caucus is in total chaos,” said the MLA, who spoke with the Western Standard on the condition of anonymity.

But the expected caucus revolt failed to materialize.

At one point the caucus booted MLAs Todd Loewen and Drew Barnes for dissension.

Editor’s note. Due to a typo, the initial version of the story said the review would be April 6. Sources say the vote will take place April 9.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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YouTube cancels Western Standard for reporting news story

“Your channel now has one strike,” said YouTube in the e-mail, adding Western Standard’s account has been suspended for one week.

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YouTube issued one strike against the Western Standard for reporting on a Calgary police officer who was put on leave for refusing the COVID-19 vaccinations.

YouTube sent the notification via e-mail to Derek Fildebrandt, president and CEO of the Western Standard, on Wednesday, and stated the video included in the story violates YouTube’s “medical misinformation policy.”

“YouTube doesn’t allow claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradict expert consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO),” said the e-mail.

“YouTube banned our account for sharing content that contradicted the advice of the WHO and local health authorities,” said Fildebrandt.

“But the WHO and local health authorities contradict themselves. One such health authority, Alberta Health Services (AHS), had to contradict itself after the Western Standard caught them lying to Albertans about which they falsely claimed was a COVID-19 death of a child.”

The notice indicated YouTube had removed the video stating, “We know this might be disappointing, but it’s important to us that YouTube is a safe place for all.”

In the video, an emotional Const. Brian Denison, a 24-year veteran with the Calgary Police Service (CPS), explained the turmoil he has faced for refusing to be vaccinated by the December 1 deadline set out by the CPS.

Denison, one year from retirement, called the vaccine policy a “farce” and said the CPS is “bullying” staff. He also described the segregation of society into the “vaccinated and unvaccinated” as similar to Hitler’s Nazi regime.

The Western Standard’s News Editor Dave Naylor covered the story in an unbiased fashion and included the video of Denison.

“Your channel now has one strike,” said YouTube in the e-mail, adding Western Standard’s account has been suspended for one week.

The YouTube team further warned a second strike will result in a two-week suspension and three strikes within a 90-day period would result in the channel being permanently removed.

“YouTube — like other big tech and big social corporations — is so terrified of being regulated by the government that it over-regulates itself,” said Fildebrandt.

“In time, these monopolies will destroy themselves.”

The Western Standard has already submitted an appeal to YouTube and contacted their press department, as well as moved the video in question to Rumble.

“Of all the social media giants, YouTube has the weakest monopoly,” said Fildebrandt.

“They can ban the Western Standard and other media from posting legitimate news content all they like, and we’ll just put it on other platforms. That’s why we’ve been making a concerted effort to utilize platforms with a greater respect for free speech, like Rumble.”

The Western Standard did not receive a response from YouTube’s press department in time for publishing.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Canada joins growing diplomatic boycott of Chinese 2022 Olympics

The countries say the move is to protest the human rights record of the Chinese government, especially when it comes to the minority Uyghur Muslim community.

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First, it was the US. Then Australia. Now Canada has joined the list of countries refusing to send diplomats or high-level officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics next year.

The countries say the move is to protest the human rights record of the Chinese government, especially when it comes to the minority Uyghur Muslim community.

Canadian athletes will still be allowed to compete.

“For months, we have been coordinating and discussing the issue with our allies,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Wednesday.

“As many partners around the world, we are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government.

“This should not come as a surprise” to the Chinese regime, said Trudeau.

“(The athletes) need to have one thing in mind and that’s representing the country to the best of their ability and winning a gold medal for Canada,” he said.

Earlier this year, the House of Commons passed a motion calling the violence directed at religious minorities in China’s Xinjiang province as “genocide.” Trudeau and his cabinet were absent for the vote.

In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) said it “understands and respects” the decision and applauds the effort to “draw an important distinction between the participation of athletes and the participation of government officials.”

Canada’s last Olympic boycott was in Russia in 1980, protesting that country’s invasion of Afghanistan.

The US announced its decision on Monday.

“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the [People’s Republic of China]’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing.

Chinese officials have already said the US will pay for its boycott.

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We the undersigned call on the Canadian government to immediately cease all payouts to media companies.

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