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MORGAN: When Kenney keeps moving the goalposts, ‘benchmarks’ mean nothing

“Businesses need to push back and it’s time for UCP caucus members to stand up. There is nothing left to lose now, and threatening fines for businesses going bankrupt means little.”

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When I was a kid, I had a cousin who used to invent new card games. I would play by his rules and the game would go smoothly, unless I began winning. Whenever I would try to play a card which would win the game, he would suddenly invent a new rule and explain why that card could not be played. The only answer was to stop playing his games.

The Alberta government is playing the same same game with its citizens and businesses, and it is time that we stopped playing by their rules.

As infections plummeted this year, desperate businesses began opening in open defiance of government regulations forbidding it. It was clear that the second coming of the plague was not materializing, but the very real possibility of bankruptcy was looming and businesses could no longer afford to wait for the government to let them open. It began with the Whistle Stop Diner in Mirror, Alberta and the rebellion began to spread like wildfire as food service establishments across the province joined the Restaurant Revolution.

This rebellion put Premier Jason Kenney in a tough spot. The optics of having police enter and arrest dozens of desperate small business owners in Alberta would be terrible, but if he let the revolt continue, it would be clear that his government had lost its authority to impose continued COVID-19 restrictions.

In a rushed Friday afternoon press conference, a clearly upset premier announced a plan for reopening businesses in Alberta. It was clear that nothing would stop businesses from flaunting laws if the owners couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. People needed to see a plan and Premier Jason Kenney provided it.

Step one of the plan came into effect on February 8th and allowed for very limited restaurant dine-in options along with allowing some outdoor children’s sports activities and some one-on-one fitness training in gyms. More important than these small reductions in restrictions was the clear establishment of benchmarks for further reopening. Businesses could see where things had to be before reopening and they could see which businesses would finally be able to reopen.

This plan bought peace from rebellious business owners as they saw a route to reopening. If hospitalizations stayed below 450 cases after three weeks of step one of the plan, they would be to step two. Retail restrictions would ease, conference centers, hotels and banquet halls would see the ability to host limited gatherings and gyms would see restrictions reduced. People trusted the government and settled down to wait and see if hospitalizations would remain low.

On the morning of March 1, business owners were jubilant. We hadn’t just met the benchmark for reopening, we had crushed it. Hospitalizations were at 250 and dropping. We had reached the benchmark for step three opening. Surely, the government would keep its promises to move to step two.

It didn’t. Instead, the UCP government changed the rules of the game at the 11th hour and moved the goalposts yet again.

As can be seen in the image below, the government changed its plans at the last minute. Eager businesses were left to languish in an indeterminate state of limbo yet again.

At a press conference attended by Premier Kenney himself, he proudly announced that gyms could allow low-intensity activities such as pilates, while libraries would be able to open to with 15% of their capacity. This watered-down step two helps nearly nobody, and makes little sense. Why did they shut out all the step two businesses, while adding library openings (which were supposed to be part of step three)?

What is wrong with these people? What are they thinking? Did they just change their minds at the last minute, or was this phased reopening a lie only designed to keep rogue businesses from defying their rule?

Support for the UCP is already low. This betrayal of small business owners is only going to bring it lower still.

Infections are low, hospitalizations are low, and the ICU levels are outright tiny. There was no need to back off on the reopening plan. Is it only that the government has fallen in love with its new powers so much that they just can’t let it go? Nothing much else makes sense.

What hope is there now for business owners? Clearly none of the benchmarks and paths to reopening set out by the government mean anything. Any of the plans can – and clearly will – be changed arbitrarily. How can this government be trusted? They are either completely dishonest with their reopening benchmarks, or are completely incompetent. Neither scenario lends confidence to struggling small business owners.

It is time for the rebellion to begin again. It appears that this is the only way to get the government to relinquish the control over people’s lives that they so relish. Economic and health statistics clearly don’t matter.

This government is making its decisions in a bubble, and only through pending mass civil disobedience are they willing to back off. Businesses need to push back and it’s time for UCP caucus members to stand up.

There is nothing left to lose now, and threatening fines for businesses going bankrupt means little.

Cory Morgan is the podcast editor and a columnist for the Western Standard

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Left Coast

    March 5, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    You have sure managed to completely screw up this site . . .

    ANd you want money for this JOKE ? ? ?

  2. BabyItsColdOutside

    March 4, 2021 at 7:34 pm

    What can we do?
    Edmonton has the Saturday anti mask rally, but that’s it. Few busineses seem to be taking a stand.

    As matter of fact, the psychosis is increasing, more people are walking around with double masks downtown.

  3. northisland51@yahoo.com

    March 3, 2021 at 5:06 am

    I have been blocked from reading the articles. Please advise

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Opinion

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.

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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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Opinion

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. 

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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
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

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.

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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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