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FROM: Carbon tax ruling has opened up a constitutional Trojan horse

“The SCC seems to imply that just as Alberta’s sovereignty must give way to the federal government, Canadian sovereignty must eventually acquiesce to international governance. And this seems to be foreshadowing troubling things to come.”

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With the recent Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) decision, Alberta’s position within confederation has fundamentally and permanently shifted from bad to worse. Effectively, the SCC has redrafted the constitutionally enshrined relationship between Ottawa and Edmonton from distinct-but-equal orders of government, to that of a master and servant.

Sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867 assign nearly every possible legislative matter between the federal and provincial governments. Alberta’s argument on appeal was that the GGPPA concerns all sorts of matters that naturally fall within the exclusive authority of the province. But the feds had a trump card. Section 91 also says that any matter not specifically addressed resides within the federal government’s jurisdiction by default. This is the so-called “residual clause.”

Relying on this clause, the SCC exclusively and permanently conferred on the federal government the authority to legislate over greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and perhaps all environmental matters that span provincial borders. It no longer matters that GGPPA greatly impacts all sorts of matters within Alberta’s exclusive jurisdiction. GHG emissions are of national concern and are therefore forever a federal matter. This is simultaneously an unmitigated disaster for Alberta’s rights and a grand rewriting of our constitutional order.

But this result was both foreseeable and inevitable. The SCC has been amending the constitution piecemeal for quite some time. Two facts alone make this decision unsurprising. First, the topic of cross-border GHG emissions is nowhere addressed in the constitution, so it seems to naturally fall under the federal government’s residual clause. And second, years of court decisions have eroded the constitution’s clear demand of exclusive jurisdiction under the guise of “cooperative federalism.” 

But there are other concerns too.

The SCC said, “The provinces, acting alone or together, are constitutionally incapable of establishing minimum national standards of GHG price stringency to reduce GHG emissions.” 

Contrary to how this statement reads, there is no legal barrier prohibiting all of the provinces and territories across Canada from individually and simultaneously treating GHG emissions in precisely the same way as the federal government has done in the GGPPA. What the SCC seems to be saying is that the provinces would not enact such regulations, thereby creating an ineffective patchwork of differing standards and treatments across the nation. 

The SCC then goes on to say, “The provinces would be able to enact legislation to address national goals relating to systemic risk but could not do so on a sustained basis, because any province could choose to withdraw at any time.”  But if these two statements are both true, how is it that Quebec, for instance, enjoys special status to deal with GHG emissions on its own?

But, most importantly, isn’t the SCC’s statement self-referentially absurd? 

Consider this. By the federal government’s own admission, GHG emissions are not merely a Canadian concern, they are an international concern. And just as GHG emissions span provincial borders, they also span international borders. So using the SCC’s reasoning, if the provinces working together are incapable of effectively addressing the problem, how is it that Canada is capable?

Although the SCC doesn’t have jurisdiction over what other nations choose to do, the Court’s argument also seems to undermine the federal government’s capability to work collaboratively with other nations. It seems to imply that just as Alberta’s sovereignty must give way to the federal government, Canadian sovereignty must eventually acquiesce to international governance. And this seems to be foreshadowing troubling things to come.

It’s difficult to know at this point what Alberta’s response should be, but promises of “reviewing the decision” and exploring ways to work with or negotiate with Ottawa should be viewed sceptically. Generations of Albertans have kicked at the goads trying to carve out a tolerable relationship with the federal government. It seems pointless to once again employ these same strategies that have failed us time and time again. 

It is time for Albertans to acknowledge that the rules of engagement are skewed heavily against us. Working within the rules is simply never going to produce the results we want or need. We must not commit the sunk costs fallacy.

Derek James From is a Columnist for the Western Standard

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Left Coast

    March 27, 2021 at 9:47 am

    The “Supremes” have been making it up for decades now . . . they have become their own Legislative Branch and a danger to the welfare & freedom of every Canook !

  2. dwood439@protonmail.com

    March 27, 2021 at 9:04 am

    Our constitution is not worth the paper it is written on, it is a very obvious the supreme court is a political force not an independent legal one. It is no surprise that the Pierre Trudeau constitution is crap.
    Alberta separation would be a positive outcome.

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Opinion

Poll shows Tories led the pack into Monday Senate election, but PPC support doubles from September

42% said that they plan to vote for the Tory slate, 18% for the PPC slate, 24% for independent candidates, and 17% for a combination of candidates across parties and independents.

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A Mainstreet Research poll conducted exclusively for the Western Standard shows the three Conservative Party of Canada candidates for Alberta Senate nominee are on track to win Monday’s election, but the PPC vote share set to double its Alberta results from the September federal election.

Among decided respondents to the poll who said that they intended to vote, 42% said that they plan to vote for the Tory slate, 18% for the PPC slate, 24% for independent candidates, and 17% for a combination of candidates across parties and independents.

Albertans can vote for three candidates on their Senate nominee ballot across all parties. Of Albertans surveyed in the poll, 67% said that they intended to vote.

Source: Mainstreet Research, Western Standard

Including undecided voters however, the Tory lead is less daunting. Fully 28% of respondents indicated that they didn’t know how they would vote.

Mainstreet President and CEO Quito Maggi said while he “expects a slate of Conservatives to be elected”, he “was surprised at the number of people who were going to select a mix.”

The poll was conducted between October 12-13, 2021, among a sample of 935 adults with automated telephone interviews using both landlines and cellphones. The results are weighted for demographic and geographic balance and contains a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.2% at a 95% confidence level.

In addition to the full CPC and PPC slates, seven independents are on the ballot, some with ties to leftist parties.

The Liberals and NDP have not traditionally contested Senate elections, however the Liberals did run a candidate in Alberta’s first race for the upper chamber in 1989, which was won by the Reform Party’s Stan Waters.

Until 2021, all previous Senate votes were held between provincial parties, however the Alberta UCP government changed this practice in recent legislation, making it a federal contest.

Stan Water’s win in 1989 was actually fought under the banner of the “Reform Party of Alberta”, which was registered for the sole purpose of allowing the Reformers to contest the race against the Progressive Conservatives.

The change from provincial to federal parties for the Senate election excluded the Wildrose Independence Party and Alberta Party from the ability to run candidates.

The change is likely to buoy Tories fortunes, with the federal Conservatives vastly ahead of the Alberta UCP in all opinion polls.

The winners of the Senate election are unlikely to take their seats in the red chamber anytime soon however, as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has indicated that he will continue fill vacancies with his own handpicked appointments to sit as largely unofficial liberal independents.

Federal Senate voter intention falls largely along provincial party allegiances with some notable exceptions.

Among provincial UCP supporters, 75% intend to vote for the federal Tories, 7% for the PPC, 3% for independents, and 4% for a combination of candidates.

Among Alberta NDP supporters, 5% plan to vote for the Tory slate, 2% for the PPC, 34% for independents, and 16% for a combination, with a huge 44% undecided.

Without a federal cousin party, 43% of Wildrose voters plan to vote for the PPC slate, 20% for the Tories, 6% for independents, and 12% for a combination. A relatively high proportion of 19% are still undecided.

The Tory slate is strongest in Calgary (33%) and in the rural north (36%), and weakest in Edmonton (20%) and the rural south (32%).

The PPC slate was strongest in the rural north (20%), rural south and Edmonton (both 15%), and weakest in Calgary (7%).

There are two Alberta vaccancies in the Senate.

Hoping to fill those positions are the Conservative Party of Canada’s Erika Barootes, Pam Davidson, and Mykhailo Martyniouk, and the People’s Party of Canada’s Kelly Lorencz, Nadine Wellwood, and Anne McCormack.

Independents on the ballot are Rick Bonnett, Doug Horner, Duncan Kinney, Jeff Nielsen, Karina Pillay, Chad Jett, and Sunil Sookram.

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Opinion

EDITORIAL: On Monday, vote ‘Yes’ to end equalization

“A big ‘yes’ vote to kill equalization will not end those payments overnight, and frankly, they are unlikely to yield any reform whatsoever without a clear “or else” option for Ottawa and Quebec to ponder; but without it, we are endorsing the status quo of an exploitative federal system that is unworthy of Canada’s history.”

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Jointly written by the Editorial Board of the Western Standard

Albertans are a generous and patriotic people, but the exploitive nature of Canada’s fiscal federalism is turning many away from an unquestioning salute of the maple leaf. 

Since Canada’s centennial year in 1967, Alberta has contributed a net $600 billion more to the rest of Canada than it has received back in transfers and spending, despite our relatively small size.

Albertans make a net contribution of $15-27 billion in an average year, over $3 billion of which goes toward the $20 billion equalization program. Albertans pay another$3 billion (net) in the Canada Health Transfer and Canada Social Transfer more than is returned back to the province. 

All in, the average family of four in Alberta pays $20,000 a year in extra taxes that are sent directly to Quebec and other recipient provinces, after being laundered in Ottawa.

Many Albertans may not have minded this kind of charity in good times, but in tough times, Canada has not been there for Alberta beyond token trinkets. When Alberta needs to build pipelines to tidewater in order to keep producing the wealth that gets sent to others, many of those others stand in the way. 

Quebec – which receives more than $12 billion a year – has rejected the construction of pipelines that would transport what its premier calls “dirty oil” across her territory. The federal government – which is supposed to be the guarantor of the free movement of goods, services, and capital across all of Canada – has barely lifted a finger. In fact, the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois leaders have all promised voters in Quebec that no pipeline would be constructed there without their support. 

And what constitutes support? In British Columbia, the clear majority of people support pipeline construction, but governments have kowtowed to a vocal, radical minority. 

This is because Alberta simply doesn’t matter politically. Our economy is big enough to pay the bills, but our population is too small to decide elections. 

Alberta is underrepresented in the House of Commons and wildly discriminated against in the Senate, where we hold almost half the seats of tiny New Brunswick, but have twice the population of all four Atlantic provinces combined. When we try to elect our own senators, the federal government more often-than-not ignores the democratic will of Albertans. 

It’s time to fight back. The first big step in this is voting ‘yes’ to remove equalization from the Canadian constitution on October 18. To be clear, this will not actually result in the removal of equalization from the constitution on October 19. What it will do, however, is trigger a constitutional obligation on the part of the federal and other provincial governments to negotiate the issue, as the Supreme Court ruled in the Quebec Secession Reference case of 1998. 

In that case, the court ruled that if a clear majority of Quebecers voted ‘yes’ on a clear question of independence, then the rest of Canada would be constitutionally obliged to negotiate in good faith. Unspoken however, was the threat that in the event that the rest of Canada did not negotiate in good faith, that Quebec could make a unilateral declaration of independence; something that could only be circumvented by a military invasion of the province and the forceful deposition of its government; a prospect laughable in its improbability.

Alberta is not voting on independence however. It is voting on removing a confiscatory policy principle from the constitution. But what unspoken threat does Alberta have if the rest of Canada fails to negotiate in good faith? As yet, there is none. The Alberta government has pre-emptively taken more dramatic options off the table. This is a mistake. 

There are several organizations across Alberta that have done excellent work making the case for abolition, reform, and alternatives, including Fairness Alberta, the Alberta Institute, Project Confederation, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, FightEqualization.ca, and others. 

Missing in the campaign was Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. He has wisely decided to keep a low profile, knowing that his unpopularity could jeopardize a successful ‘yes’ vote. While some Albertans may wish to send the premier a message by voting ‘no’ to what they perceive as his pet project, this would be a grievous error. It would be cutting off our nose to spite our face. 

The project of an equalization referendum goes back well before Kenney even considered going into provincial politics, to a report from the old Wildrose Party’s Equalization Fairness Panel in 2016. 

There are positive signs that Albertans are putting the fight for a fair deal above partisan politics. A Mainstreet Research poll conducted for the Western Standard found that a 66% majority of Albertans intend to vote ‘yes’ on October 18. That poll saw that a majority in every region of Alberta – Edmonton, Calgary, rural north, and rural south – all intend to cast a ballot for change to the status quo. And while a majority of NDP voters intend to vote for the status quo, a sizeable minority of them intend to break ranks and vote with the rest of Alberta. 

A big ‘yes’ vote to kill equalization will not end those payments overnight, and frankly, they are unlikely to yield any reform whatsoever without a clear “or else” option for Ottawa and Quebec to ponder; but without it, we are endorsing the status quo of an exploitative federal system that is unworthy of Canada’s history. 

On October 18, we encourage Albertans to send Ottawa a message. On October 19, we encourage Albertans to make sure that our provincial government doesn’t let Ottawa forget it. 

Jointly written by the Editorial Board of the Western Standard

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Opinion

MORGAN: We can no longer trust the government’s COVID death statistics

“After the Alberta government lied about the cause of death of young Nathaneal Spitzer, we have good reason not to trust what they are telling us.”

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When it was announced a 14-year-old boy had succumbed to COVID-19 in Alberta, the tone from Dr. Deena Hinshaw was somber. The mainstream media dutifully reported the death of a child and how this means the virus clearly threatens us all, not just the old and vulnerable.

The response from COVID-19 lockdown proponents and the NDP was morbidly welcoming, in a sense. None of them would celebrate the death of a child, but they could not contain their excitement they now had evidence to indicate that COVID-19 was deadly to children. Their moment of glory was short-lived.

Simone Spitzer is the older sister of the child who passed away. She was horrified her brother’s death was being used as a political football and she took to Facebook to call it out. Spitzer exposed her brother Nathanael had been in the hospital for months and had passed away from terminal brain cancer, not COVID-19, as had been reported by government and media alike.

Spitzer’s post went viral on social media, but remained entirely ignored by the mainstream media. When the Western Standard began reporting on the AHS misrepresentation of the cause of Nathanael’s death, Hinshaw was forced to apologize and retract the statement.

The apologies, tweet deletions, and retractions then began to come in fast. NDP leader Rachel Notley had ghoulishly used Nathanael’s death as a hammer with which to attack the UCP. Notley had even attacked AHS for their daring to have mentioned “other complicating factors” when they announced the death. She dismissed those “other complicating factors” as an excuse from the UCP as a way of cleaning the blood off of their hands. She wanted to make it sound as if a perfectly healthy child had been killed by COVID-19, and Jason Kenney was directly responsible. Notley deleted her tweets and apologized to the Spitzer family, but the damage has been done.

As we near the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t pretend any longer we don’t know much about the virus. We should recognize and be thankful healthy children are almost entirely immune to the effects of COVID-19. While kids have tested positive for the virus leading to virtual evacuations of schools, they usually demonstrate no symptoms and suffer no ill effects. Rarer still are healthy children suffering severe effects.

Since the beginning of the pandemic — out of hundreds of thousands of Albertans under the age of 19 — only one has been listed as having died of COVID-19. In light of the Spitzer debacle, the cause of that lone death has now become a legitimate question of the government.

We have to thank the Spitzer family for speaking up in this time of tragedy and mourning to call this out. We should let them grieve in peace now, but media must also pick up and carry on with the issue this brave family has exposed. We can’t trust AHS’s numbers when it comes to COVID-19 death statistics.

How many times has this happened?

Almost 3,000 deaths in Alberta have been attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. With a population of 4.6 million and during nearly two years, that is a long way from the sort of numbers the Spanish Flu posted, though our governments are acting as if today’s pandemic is just as lethal. Now we have to ask ourselves: how many of those 3,000 deaths were actually caused primarily by COVID-19?

We do know 86% of the COVID-19 deaths in Alberta had comorbidities. That statistic needs some more detail filled in if we are to interpret the data correctly. Diabetes, obesity, and asthma are serious comorbidities, but they’re also manageable conditions. COVID surely robbed people of years of life despite their having serious conditions already. We want to prevent this as much as possible of course. What we need to figure out is how many of the people who died of COVID-19 were going to die at approximately that time anyway.

How many fatalities that had been attributed to COVID-19 were cases such as Nathanael’s, where he was about to pass away regardless of a positive COVID-19 test? How many cancer patients, people with heart conditions, or pending renal failure died and were added to the list of COVID-19 deaths, despite the virus actually being a secondary or even tertiary contributor to the person’s death?

The average age of a person dying from COVID-19 has dropped from 82 years, to 79 years. This is not a disease that is prone to taking people long before their time in most cases.

We need accurate numbers as we model government responses to the pandemic. We have set aside critical rights under the Charter and have justified this based on the risk the pandemic presents to the general public. Every restriction comes with costs – both social and fiscal. We need to do a cost-benefit analysis when making policies, and we can’t do it accurately if we are not getting truthful numbers.

We have to get realistic about who’s at risk from COVID-19, as well. The fearmongering with regards to risks presented to children is reprehensible. Not every disease puts everybody at risk equally, and we can’t properly model policies to battle the disease if we don’t use accurate facts. When I finished high school at the end of the 1980s, we were all taught HIV was going to spread rapidly throughout all communities and that we would all be losing loved ones to the disease. In reality, HIV remained contained almost exclusively among the gay male and IV drug-using communities.

HIV is now considered a manageable condition and its spread is well under control. How many more could have been saved had we targeted the truly vulnerable communities rather than pretending for years the virus put everybody at risk?

There are likely a not an insignificant number of cases of mislabeled COVID-19 deaths out there. Not every family is as brave as the Spitzer’s have been and they can’t be blamed. Upon losing a loved one, nobody is eager to jump into a political hornet’s nest. Alberta needs to do a full audit of the fatalities that have been attributed to COVID-19 so far. We can release a great deal of the medical details without compromising the privacy of the victims and their families.

We already have enough distrust of the government and its motivations in this pandemic. True and full transparency in the fatality statistics will help regain some of that trust. We can then start modeling our policy responses to the pandemic based on the real risks, rather than what clearly appear to be exaggerated ones.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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Petition: No Media Bailouts

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

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No Media Bailouts

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