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NAVARRO-GENIE: Computer modellers are still driving the COVID-19 fear wagon

“Meanwhile, we can hope that media learn to treat #COVIDzero experts the same way they treat those claiming the virus doesn’t exist.”

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Renewed calls for prolonged lockdowns to deal with the new SARS-CoV-2 mutations are wrong headed. It has been a year since emergency measures were declared. Yet, the policy response to the COVID-19 crisis has been and continues to be moved by fear that is in turn propelled by statistical models incapable of accounting for risk and of pondering consequences. SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the disease identified as COVID-19, is a reality. It poses health risks to a well-defined segment of the Canadian population. And while SARS-CoV-2 can infect everyone, the models and responses largely pretend everyone can equally suffer and die from COVID-19. The logic of this pretense points toward lockdowns and heavy restrictions for all instead of carefully-designed protection of the vulnerable. 

The initial reaction to this logic may have been reasonable in mid-March 2020, were it not for the fact that the panic-prone politicians discarded existing pandemic plans designed precisely to prevent panic. Their lockdown strategy, they argued, would bend the curve to protect the integrity of the medical system until it could be reenforced. Such reinforcement would help to save lives. 

The system did not become more resilient and the infections did not stop after nearly two months in lockdown: the strategy was a failure. But such failure has not prevented the continuation of wrongheaded policies and restrictions. There are now misguided calls for #COVIDzero (or #zeroCOVID), which pretend to drive COVID-19 cases to zero by wiping out the virus and all its variants, if only we locked down hard again for another seven weeks. Like the previous failed strategy, this one also is driven by modellers and their flawed mathematical models.

In March 2020, the world seemed gripped by images from Italy, Iran and China, and one model stampeded policy-makers into various forms of lockdowns. It was the work that College of London theoretical physicist Neil Ferguson led. Their “Report 9: Impact of Non-pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) to Reduce COVID-19 Mortality and Healthcare Demand,” called for 510,000 deaths in Great Britain and 2.2 million in the US. Ottawa’s model version “showed deaths would easily top 300,000 (but only 46,000 with a lockdown) in Canada, while Edmonton said 32,000 Albertans could die here and 1.6 million could be infected. World-wide, Ferguson and his team expected seven billion infections and 40 million deaths. None of that has happened.

Ferguson’s model raised troubling questions. First, Ferguson refused to publish the original source code and Imperial College refused a British Freedom of Information Act request. Writing in the Financial Post in June 2020, Peter St. Onge remarked that Ferguson’s code was unreliable and fragile, “giving different answers depending on the processing speed of the computer running the model.” Similarly, Chris von Csefalvay noted that the code was practically antique (13 years old), and it was written to model an influenza pandemic. Moreover, thousands of lines of code were “undocumented,” making impossible to take it apart and examine for errors — or to correct them. In his view, the code was “a tangled mess of undocumented steps.” Accordingly, von Csefalvay wondered how the British government assessed and validated the model. He concluded that only Ferguson’s reputation made the Imperial College model authoritative. 

Except that there was no reason to hold Ferguson’s work in high esteem. Ferguson’s “apocalyptic” predictions were gross exaggerations. An earlier model of his predicted 150,000 deaths from mad-cow disease in 2002 (the number of fatalities was 2,704). In 2005, Ferguson’s model predicted 200 million deaths from avian flu (455 persons died). Eventually, Ferguson resigned from the British Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), not because his COVID-19 model was so inaccurate as to be worthless but because he was found violating the lockdown that he so vocally supported for everyone else by entertaining someone else’s wife in his London residence. After the fact, commentators wondered why anyone listened to Ferguson in the first place. 

As if modellers were not discredited enough after Ferguson’s exaggerated predictions, CBC’s Laura Glowacki promoted Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his name) in September 2020. Smith? is a mathematician at the University of Ottawa. He builds models for infectious diseases. As case numbers rose at the time, Smith? called for a “ruthless” and “draconian” return to a full lockdown “for a few months … [that] … could bring numbers down to zero new infections.” There was no mention of previous model failure. The country had already locked down hard for a couple of months, and close to 10,000 people had died, mostly in Ontario and Quebec where the vast majority were vulnerable people whom policy makers had vowed to protect and save. Alarmist modelling like Smith?’s pushed the second round of bullying restrictions. Smith? is not among the experts who see a tension between health and economy. In his opinion, the economy would be ruined without a full lockdown.

In November, CTV Infectious Disease Specialist Abdu Sharkawy expressed similar alarms. “We need the hammer, and that hammer needs to be applied with conviction. It needs to be applied with some assertiveness, and we need to apply the support that’s necessary from an economic point of view to the people that would suffer if that hammer is laid down,” he said partially conceding to economic harm. Earlier, with some awareness of greater harm, he said: “You can call it authoritarian, you can call it dictatorial. The fact of the matter is, there’s no more room right now for a balanced approach. It’s simply too late.” Medical experts calling for the confinement of entire populations a new tyranny of “expert opinion” passing for scientific advice. No matter how one slices it, the forced confining of entire populations is not a medical measure.

What is worse, achieving zero infections by locking people down is impossible. If that was not clear in March 2020, it is clear now. The virus cannot be made to disappear at will, and no amount of hiding will eliminate it. But model builders keep driving up the fantasy. In Alberta, for instance, there are dreams of creating a zero-infection zone, in the same way the province is rat-free. Last October, CBC found Malgorzata Gasperowicz, an assistant researcher in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Calgary. She studied biotechnology at Gdansk and has a doctorate in biology from Freiburg. 

From a series of tweets based on her personal calculations, Robert Brown of CBC News Calgary gave her a platform for her alarmist prognostication of rising cases, warning of disaster is nothing was done “right now.”  Gasperowicz’ motivation appears in a pinned Tweet from July 2020 (@GosiaGasperoPhD). It announces “we can achieve COVID-19 elimination in Canada.”  She advocated turning Canada into a new New Zealand.  Her October 29, 2020 tweet caught the attention of people looking for scary materials and warnings of impending disaster: “It’s too late for soft measures. We need strong decisive measures + $$ support for businesses and people ASAP, in order to substantially [sic] *reduce the scale* of the upcoming disaster. It takes 3-4 weeks from the shutdown date till the peak in cases and hospitalizations[,]” it read.  Note the alignment of language with Smith? andSharkawy. Note how the tweet implies that there will be disaster regardless, but only strong medicine can reduce its scale. 

Gasperowicz pointed out that the number of cases in Alberta was doubling every 16.9 days. Nothing was said about what hospitalisations or ICU cases would be.  Nothing was said about the rate of hospitalizations being a fraction of what it was in the Spring. No extrapolations were offered, except to mention that there would be more “upticks,” as Brown called it. It was all about cases. Modelling for actual illness, hospitalization rates and ICU interventions may have proven far too complex.  

While Gasperowicz predicted 2400 cases for December 5, there were 1765 cases at the peak of the case curve on December 8. The predictions were off by 27 percent, but it did not stop Calgary Herald’s Jason Herring from qualifying her projections on 12 December with “impressive precision.” Gasperowicz described the accelerating rate of cases each 2.5 weeks in an ominous-sounding calculus category no calculus professor is likely to teach: “über-exponential.” Predictions for thereafter were even worse, and were adorned with a catchy slogan: “If we shut down on Nov 15, we will reach 3000+ daily new cases before numbers start to decrease. Either we control the virus, or the virus controls us.” Alberta did not shut down on November 15th and the predicted onslaught for early December 2020 never materialised. Robert Brown did not once ask questions about the origin of the data Gasperowicz crunched, the methodology she used, the assumptions built into the calculations, why the model stopped at calculating case numbers, or any shortcomings the calculations might have. Her “results” were all taken as Gospel. If all one wanted was to drive up fear, there was no need for additional information. 

With no mention of the significant error spread in her October calculations, in January 2021 Gasperowicz tweeted new warnings about the new SARS-CoV-19 strands, which she finds “terrifying.” She particularly worries about B117, the British strand, claiming it is “60 percent” more virulent. Elsewhere, she claimed its virulence is 30-50 per cent higher, and constitutes a “super-danger” Presenting freshly raised fears of the mutations, her model predicted that B117 will spread in Alberta above 2,000 daily cases by the third week in April, 2021, unless Jason Kenney implements another full shut down for 7 weeks. Seven weeks!  

On January 22, Gasperowicz tweeted: “#COVIDzero (aiming to eliminate all community transmission of Sars-CoV-2 as fast as possible) is the solution: 7 weeks of effort and AB can be like NZ.” And on January 27, she said: “B117 is in the community[.] Current restrictions are not enough to prevent its spread. Assuming 10 cases on Jan25 & 50% transmissibility of B117, we can have: 1000+ daily cases on Mar 23 2000+ daily cases on Mar 31[.] This model does’t [sic] include the effect of schools reopening.” We’re a month away from March 23rd, Kenney has relaxed some of the restrictions, and the number of cases is not growing. One can guess that April 23 will not likely bring “disaster,” if we go by previous predictions but Global News was sufficiently impressed to make the claim that Gasperowicz’ modelled projection “shows how a seven week lockdown will drop new COVID-19 cases to zero in Alberta.”

Gasperowicz has not described what the lockdown she recommends for seven weeks looks like, but given her intention to eliminate the virus from circulation, one can assume that it includes stringent stay-at-home directives, shutting down most economic activity and government services.  She also wishes to stop all travel, and published a co-authored column in the Calgary Herald in February 2021 arguing that if Alberta can keep rats out of its borders, it could certainly keep the coronavirus out. Although the column mentioned New Zealand as a model jurisdiction that had kept virus-free, they do not mention re-infecting flare ups. New Zealand had declared itself victorious over SARS-CoV-2 twice by mid-February 2021, only to call for another one in Auckland for three days. There was no thoughtful consideration of the spin-off and collateral damage of stopping and starting time and time again every time cases pop up. By the end of February 2021, with no explanation for the change in the face of the “super danger,” Gasperowicz’s recommendation for total confinement in Alberta, reportedly, was now only 6 weeks.  

According to Global’s Jacqueline Wilson, Gasperowicz says “all non-essential businesses would need to close and all international and inter-provincial travellers would have to quarantine.” That most jurisdictions in Canada, including Alberta, have made a monumental mess in imposing what is “essential” for everyone was not part of the discussion. 

A glance at the New Zealand case charts shows that the country has been at zero cases but for a few consecutive days here and there. Given that their standard reaction to reappearing cases (“outbreaks”) is locking down, chances are they will have more lockdowns. We have seen the same with PEI in early March, 2021. As Sweden’s ranking epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, puts it: “fighting Covid-19 is a long-term undertaking, meaning temporary lockdowns will ultimately backfire. …once they’re lifted, infection rates will again rise.” And vaccines will not get us there by incantation either. Even with the vaccines, serious scientists do not expect the elimination of the virus. “Even if you vaccinate, you’ve still got a fairly large number of susceptible people there,” says Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton. “So, we will still see outbreaks happen. Viruses simply aren’t rats. And when cases keep popping up, #COVIDzero is a misnomer or a deceitful expression, if zero means zero.

Alberta’s economy is plugged into the world’s and depends on its ties to the rest of the world, whether in agri-foods, tourism, energy or mining.  It could not easily close its borders, airways, highways and railways, much less for another 6-7 weeks without returning to the enormous damage to human lives and to the economy already caused by the first and second rounds of confinement.  Alberta is no island, making the virus here much more difficult to contain. Not that the issue is geography. The reason PEI has had so few cases is because not many people go to or through PEI. Conversely, Manhattan has been one of the most disastrous COVID-19 areas in the world.  The difference is many people want to go to, or need to go through, Manhattan.   

Although PEI and New Zealand are hailed as lockdown successes, they demonstrate the opposite point: it is impossible to hide from the virus, let alone make it disappear. #COVIDzero is a well-intended but irresponsible fantasy posing as medical advice that, if instituted, will again bring greater social and economic harm. So, let’s say no to #COVIDzero and to the fear it inadvertently peddles with the fantasy of virus elimination. Meanwhile, we can hope that media learn to treat #COVIDzero experts the same way they treat those claiming the virus doesn’t exist. After all, denying the existence of the virus seems as detached from reality as it is claiming that it will disappear if we hide from it. 

Marco Navarro-Génie is a columnist for the Western Standard, president of the Haultain Research Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He is co-author, with Barry Cooper, of COVID-19: The Politics of Pandemic Moral Panic (2020).

Marco Navarro-Génie is a Columnist for the Western Standard. He is President of the Haultain Research Institute and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Opinion

GARYK: The activists are coming for Arctic oil shipping next

Garyk writes that below the radar, anti-oil activists are ramping up for their next big fight: arctic shipping

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Canada’s oil and gas industry has taken a beating over the last six years. A federal government that’s hostile to development spurred on by anti-development activists has resulted in the blockage of new energy infrastructure projects and protests to shut down those already in operation.

All of this has not stopped the resilient, innovative, tenacious Western Canadian energy sector from doing what it needs to get business done.

Two groups are actively working on creating an energy corridor to Hudson Bay.

With the assistance of the Saskatchewan government providing funding of $500,000, the Peacemaker Project, led by the First Peoples Pipeline, is actively pursuing a project to the Port of Churchill, Manitoba.

The second is the ambitious NeeStaNan Utility Corridor Project that will be led by First Nations and will connect Western Canadian oil to new international markets from Port Nelson, Manitoba. Its vision also includes connecting hydroelectric power from Manitoba to the oil sands in Alberta by building a new transmission system, and building a rail line through the utility corridor that will connect Canada’s agricultural products and minerals to international markets.

Unfortunately, there are those with an agenda to stop development and curtail shipping in the Arctic, which would impact the Port of Churchill or Port Nelson.

In December 2016, Canada issued a joint statement with the United States to limit development in the Arctic. Identified in the United States-Canada Joint Arctic Leaders’ Statement is a group called the Arctic Funders Collaborative, consisting of a number of well-known, domestic and internationally-based Environmental Non-governmental Organizations (ENGO), along with smaller groups. The Arctic Funders Collaborative is leading the push for Arctic protection by working closely with the governments of Canada and the United States.

In 2020, members included: MakeWay (Formerly Tides Canada), Alaska Conservation Foundation, Windrose Fund, Pathy Family Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Foundation, Oak Foundation, NoVo Foundation 5, Trust for Mutual Understanding, 444S Foundation, Metcalf Foundation, Tamalpais Trust, Lush, and Climate Justice Resilience Fund.

While not a member of the Arctic Funders Collaborative, the World Wildlife Fund is also actively involved in Arctic initiatives, in part through funding from the Collaborative.

The Switzerland-based Oak Foundation gave the World Wildlife Fund – the organization where Gerald Butts held the position of President and CEO before becoming political advisor and staffer to Prime Minister Trudeau – US$881,000 with the purpose “to protect Arctic coastal and ocean ecosystems and the Indigenous peoples and wildlife that rely on them by empowering Indigenous rights holders. This will be done by: implementing a network of marine protected areas to protect critical habitats; developing regulations that constrain the cumulative impacts of shipping within sustainable limits; and establishing small-scale fishing opportunities that support sustainable livelihoods.”

The goal of these groups is to prevent development, and disrupt and constrain shipping in the Arctic by implementing legislation and regulations, such as Marine Protected Areas, marine refuges, Culturally Significant Marine Areas, or low-impact shipping corridors. Additionally, a ban on heavy fuel oil in Arctic shipping is being proposed and is being considered by the Government of Canada.

There may be an attempt to implement another tanker ban similar to Bill C-48 that could impact egress out of the Port of Churchill or Port Nelson, rendering the need to create a new energy corridor futile.

The Liberal government has proven their cavalier attitude toward policies that are destructive to Canada’s resource sectors when they implemented Bills C-48, the West Cost tanker ban, and Bill C-69, the National Energy Board modernization and impact assessment bill, despite significant opposition.

It’s imperative the energy industry become aware of how the activist groups are influencing all levels of government to ensure that adequate representation is at the table every time there’s a meeting. Not acting in a timely manner or hoping that our governments will make sound policy decisions hasn’t worked so far. It’s time to take the anti-development activists seriously and oppose the continued destruction of Canada’s oil and gas sector.

Deirdra Garyk is a Columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

CLEMENT: O’Toole’s carbon tax is a bureaucratic mess

“It’s puzzling why O’Toole is reinventing the wheel, when Michael Chong’s proposal of using the revenue to reduce income taxes would be appreciated from taxpayers. If we are going to have a carbon tax from Conservatives, should it at least not be a conservative one?”

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It’s official: the Conservative Party of Canada would implement its own version of Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax. The announcement was met with praise and condemnation from both sides of the political aisle. There is a lot to unpack in CPC Leader Erin O’Toole’s plan, but at face value, there isn’t much to celebrate. That is, unless you love taxes, and have a problem with personal choice. 

Optics wise, having a progressive climate plan is a no-brainer. The CPC was plagued by developments at its recent policy convention over a vote on the reality of climate change. For outsiders to the party, such a vote left many scratching their heads (as I was). Climate change is real, and it is something that needs to be addressed, so a vote on “if climate change is real” felt like it was a policy vote from decades ago and not from 2021.

That said, optics aren’t enough when evaluating the efficacy of a policy. Any good climate plan has to both produce better environmental outcomes, while at the same time not destroying the livelihoods of Canadians. The policy that delegates votes on included some odd (for conservatives) language about some rather ambiguous language about what to do about the issue (like subsidies, and a carbon tax). 

But the question remains, is O’Toole’s plan viable and worth pursuing?

In O’Toole’s plan, the CPC would implement a carbon tax of $20/mt on greenhouse emissions. In comparison to the Liberal carbon tax – which is currently at $40/mt – there is some temporary financial relief for Canadians. $20/mt is considerably lower than the current tax, which does mean that Canadians would ultimately have more money in their pockets, in the short term. 

But O’Toole plans to raise his carbon tax to $50/mt by 2022. It gets to where Trudeau currently is, just slower. 

That said, $20/tonne, or $40/tonne for that matter, seems more like the “mushy middle” than an attempt to seriously reduce emissions, not to mention keep his promise to repeal the carbon tax entirely. Many on the left – and some on the centre-right (like Michael Chong or Andrew Coyne) – have noted that serious reductions in emissions require a substantially higher carbon tax in order to shift consumer behavior to the point where we have better carbon reduction outcomes. Given that O’Toole’s proposal would have a cap at $50/tonne, it is likely that this policy will ultimately end up irritating everyone involved, both inflating prices for consumers while at the same time barely tinkering at the margins on emissions.

Another difference – beyond the carbon tax rate – between O’Toole’s plan and the current Trudeau plan is where the tax money will go. O’Toole stated that “Not a cent goes to Ottawa”. Sort of.

Right now, carbon tax revenues are redistributed to Canadians in the form of a rebate, but O’Toole’s plan would pivot from that approach and instead deposit the funds into a “low carbon personal savings account”, which could be used on government approved ‘green’ purchases like energy efficient appliances. From a consumer standpoint, I don’t think that restrictions on where the rebate can be spent is a worthwhile endeavor, and it is a system that is certainly ripe for abuse and cronyism. As flawed as the Trudeau carbon tax and rebate may be, O’Toole’s is much more bureaucratic. 

What counts as a green purchase? Who decides what is green and what isn’t? And why should it be the role of Ottawa to make that call? It certainly is appreciated that federal coffers won’t benefit from O’Toole’s carbon tax, but any benefit from that is immediately offset by Ottawa inserting itself into your decisions as a consumer. It’s one thing to put a tax on carbon, but its another to create a conservative version of the nanny state telling you what to do. At the end of the day, we should trust Canadians to make that call for themselves, without any intrusions from Ottawa. 

On top of that, it is puzzling why O’Toole is reinventing the wheel, when Michael Chong’s proposal of using the revenue to reduce personal income taxes would be appreciated from taxpayers coast to coast. If we are going to have a carbon tax from Conservatives, should it at least not be a conservative one? 

Lastly, the ugliest part of the CPC’s climate tax plan is its embrace of “carbon adjustments”, otherwise known as carbon tariffs, aimed at punishing “bad actors” and protecting Canadian jobs. As explained in The Financial Post, carbon tariffs attempt to punish foreign exporters for failing to meet Canadian environmental standards. The issue with this approach is that it isn’t foreign exporters who pay the tariffs; its Canadian consumers who pay for it. That means that incredibly important industrial imports like steel, fertilizer, cement and even finished goods from the developed world would become exponentially more expensive via inflated prices.

We saw this first hand when Trump’s tariffs on imported washing machines caused a 12 per cent increase in prices, around $88/unit, which created $1.56 billion in extra costs for consumers. Supporters of tariffs would argue – as O’Toole is – that inflated prices are worth it to expand domestic industry and create jobs. Trump’s tariffs did create manufacturing jobs in the United States — approximately 1800 new positions. The problem is that those jobs came at an enormous cost to U.S. consumers: $811,000 per job created, which comes nowhere near passing a cost-benefit analysis.

Tackling the issue of climate change is something that the Conservatives need to do, but the proposal put forward seems like it is the worst of both worlds. For consumers, we get drastically inflated prices, and Ottawa inserting itself into our purchasing decisions, while at the same time barely moving the needle on emissions. 

David Clement is a columnist for The Western Standard. He is also the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center

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HARDING: As Kenney fights a caucus revolt, will Moe face a similar uprising?

“Unlike Kenney, who has been wearied in endless battles (some worth fighting), Moe rests easier as a less polarizing figure in a less polarized province. Call it the Saskatchewan Advantage.” – Lee Harding

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has an anti-lockdown caucus revolt on his hands, so how long before Premier Scott Moe has one in Saskatchewan?

Ever since the Saskatchewan Party took power from the NDP in 2007, the culture of the province has become more like Alberta’s, only milder. The eastern neighbour (always a strange-sounding reference point for someone living on the flatlands) has a lot of oil drilling, only less. Saskatchewan has cowboys too, only less. It seems Saskatchewan is Alberta-lite.

An Angus Reid poll in 2019 showed just how similar the two provinces are provinces are. First of all, both Alberta and Saskatchewan people felt the friendliest towards each other (77% and 75%, respectively) – even more so than Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (71% and 57%).

Both Alberta and Saskatchewan felt Quebec didn’t like them, but Saskatchewan less so (81% and 74%). Both provinces felt Quebec got an extra advantage, but Saskatchewan not quite as much (83% and 73%). And both provinces felt they got a raw deal from Ottawa, but Saskatchewan a little less so (76% and 57%).

That ameliorating difference may not seem like much, but it is. There is also a substantial difference in the political DNA of the provinces. Saskatchewan is the birthplace of Canadian socialism, an historic reality that sent the oil business to Alberta and made it what it is today. Because Alberta has wandered in the post-Klein era and Brad Wall shifted Saskatchewan away from socialism, the two provinces find themselves closer than they’ve been in decades.

What Saskatchewan has never had – and Alberta has had many times through the decades – is a fragmentation of political allegiances on the right. In Alberta, Ernest Manning’s social credit era gave way to Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservative era. The Wildrose Party bloomed and faded as it cross-pollenated with the PCs. And so soon after its creation, the United Conservative Party is no longer united at all.

The Saskatchewan Party emerged as the union of Progressive Conservative and Liberal MLAs, a move that cast both former parties to irrelevance. It represents an approach somewhat more pragmatic than principled, sensible but not strident. Whereas Kenney’s Alberta has had a Fair Deal Commission, with (a weak version of) MLA recall legislation, Saskatchewan has made no such moves. Whereas Alberta has pondered firewalls, Saskatchewan lacks neither the clout nor the desire to go in such directions.

That moderation and sensibility is why Moe is in less trouble than Kenney. Arguably, Saskatchewan has had the lightest lockdowns of any province. They’re bad, but relatively speaking, they’re at least not so bad. Nor have Saskatchewan people loved freedom enough to defy the government’s limitations in the large numbers seen with its western neighbour. So far, there is no Pastor Coates in Saskatchewan forcing Moe to either back down or build a fence around a church. There aren’t dozens of restaurants refusing to close down again.

Nor is there a major political force to challenge Moe and the Saskatchewan Party. In rural areas, they are miles ahead of the NDP. They also have a decisive edge in Saskatoon and Regina, though it’s a fairer fight. If someone did want to break ranks with the Sask Party, the risk of the rival NDP regaining power is distant enough to be disregarded.

The Buffalo Party – barely a year old – is a rising force, but is a great distance away from unseating the NDP as official opposition. One would think these realities would make it easier to defy Moe over nonsensically locking down healthy people.

The thing is, Moe’s lockdowns are less nonsensical. And if an MLA broke ranks, some people would appreciate them, but would likely find their former colleagues too indifferent to join them. Maybe Moe has listened to those kinds of voices already by having a more relaxed response, and thus prevented the kind of revolt Kenney is facing. Recent polls put the new party at between 6% and 10%, even without any MLAs or elected leader. The kindling is there for a spark to light.

And while the Buffalo Party represents a distant, potential threat to the Sask Party in the long-term, the reborn Wildrose Independence Party presents a much more immediate, threat to Kenney’s UCP.

Moe has another advantage that Kenney does not, and that is that he was an organic creature of the party, rising through the ranks; unlike Kenney, who parachuted in to lead a new political entity that until recently, was made up of two warring camps. Although Moe beat some other candidates by small margins, the leadership debates were non-events. The prospective leaders responded to questions with short speeches and little clash, minimizing potential party division.

If Moe does not seem like a slick political operative, it’s because he’s not. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t savvy. He presents himself with an everyday man’s wisdom and approachability – and a rural one at that.

Although Kenney and Moe see eye-to-eye on many things, Moe’s political reality is completely different. Unlike Kenney, who has been wearied in endless battles (some worth fighting), Moe rests easier as a less polarizing figure in a less polarized province. Call it the Saskatchewan Advantage.

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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