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REDMAN: Canada has failed to properly manage COVID-19 emergency

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Guest column from David Redman, retired Canadian Army Lt. Col and former head of Emergency Management Alberta. 

Emergency management

Pandemics happen continuously. Since 1955, this is the world’s fifth pandemic. In the next fifty-five years there is going to be five more. We have never responded to a pandemic like we have over COVID-19. 

Also, it must be clear that a pandemic is not a ‘public health emergency’; it is a public emergency. All areas of society are affected – public sector, private sector, not-for-profit – and all citizens.

In Canada, we have an emergency management process that we normally use in a pandemic. We have pre-written pandemic response plans. These plans were written incorporating the hard lessons learned from previous pandemics. The aim of these plans is to allow our leaders to rapidly minimize the impact of the new pandemic on our society. The four goals of the pandemic plans are clearly defined:

• Controlling the spread of influenza disease and reducing illness (morbidity) and death (mortality) by providing access to appropriate prevention measures, care, and treatment.
• Mitigating societal disruption in Alberta through ensuring the continuity and recovery of critical services. 
• Minimizing adverse economic impact. 
• Supporting an efficient and effective use of resources during response and recovery 

The purpose in writing these plans in advance is to ensure the government could rapidly advise the public of the scope of the new hazard, and publicly issue a complete written plan to address it. That way, the public can see the entire plan, see the phases of the plan, and all steps that will be taken. The public then understands their role in the plan.

The response to the pandemic would then be coherent. This has not happened.

The Canadian response 

The Canadian response to COVID-19 has been incoherent, and constantly changing, with no plan.

The focus on only COVID-19 case counts led to a completely flawed response, trying to deal only with the first pandemic goal, and failing.

In February we knew that over 95 per cent of the deaths in China and Europe were in seniors, over the age of 60, with multiple co-morbidities. 

Chart: Study: Elderly Most At Risk From The Coronavirus | Statista
Figure 1

We should have immediately developed options for the protection of concentrations of our seniors over 60 with co-morbidities. Our long-term care homes should have been placed into quarantine, for both the residents and the staff.

To date in Canada, over 96.2 per cent of our over 21,760 deaths have been in seniors, over the age of 60, with multiple co-morbidities. 

That is over 20,930 deaths. It is likely thousands of these deaths could have been avoided, as over 80 per cent of the deaths in the first wave occurred in long term care homes.

In June 2020, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that Canada had a higher proportion of COVID-19 deaths within long-term care (LTC) settings than other OECD countries included in its comparison. At that time, deaths in Canadian LTCs from COVID-19 were at 81 per cent of the total, while OECD countries reported LTC COVID-19 deaths of 10-66 per cent (average of 38 per cent) of their totals.

This may have cost $2 billion, but could have saved over 15,880 lives, as to date 73 per cent of Canadian deaths have been in LTC homes. This should have stopped the need to lock down business, and spend over $240 billion to force over 8 million healthy Canadians to stay at home. 

The CBC News analysis has tracked $106 billion in federal payments to individuals; $118 billion that has gone to businesses, non-profits and charitable organizations; and a further $16 billion in transfers to provinces, territories, municipalities and government agencies. 

We did not need to follow the failed lock down practice of China or Europe. We knew who was most at risk and had time to quarantine our seniors in LTC homes. Instead we sacrificed our seniors.

Our leaders and doctors daily tell us we are in danger of overwhelming our medical system.

If we had acted to quarantine our senior’s long-term care facilities, our hospital capacity would not have been challenged, as 71 per cent of our hospital beds and 64 per cent of our ICU capacity continue to this day to be filled with seniors. 

We would not have needed to stop other medical procedures

We should never have forced healthy medical staff to self-isolate. We should have made rapid testing a priority for all orders of government. It still is not.

We ignored the other three goals of our pre-existing pandemic plans.

• Mitigating societal disruption in Alberta through ensuring the continuity and recovery of critical services. 
• Minimizing adverse economic impact. 
• Supporting an efficient and effective use of resources during response and recovery 

Ignoring these three goals and following a failed lockdown response has caused massive collateral damage in terms of deaths and long-term effects on our population. Collateral damage – largely ignored by mainstream media – includes but is not limited to, massive damage to: our social fabric, our mental healthother health conditions, our children’s education, and of course, our economy. 

The death of over 15,880 of our seniors and all these collateral lockdown-caused damage never needed to occur.  

As an emergency manager I am horrified. Every day the number of deaths in LTC homes grows, in spite of the society-wide lockdowns. The public is blamed for not locking down hard enough. In fact, the deaths mount because our leaders continue to choose not to quarantine our LTC homes.

We have massively impacted all the rest of our citizens for generations to come, who have extremely little risk of dying of COVID-19

Why? 

A science-based path forward

Canada and her provinces need a science-based path forward that follows the guidelines set down in our emergency management processes. This is how I propose we move forward. 

  1. Release a comprehensive, ‘four goal’-based pandemic plan, showing what is to be done phase-by-phase, and what the public’s role is in each.
  2. Vigorously enact a plan to protect our most vulnerable (those over age 60 with multiple co-morbidities).
  3. Ensure all critical infrastructure (including, but not limited to, hospitals) is ready for people who get sick and who need to take sick days.
  4. Remove the fear campaign from the media. This needs a real plan, and will not be easy.  Governments and the health ministry daily facts must be given with context. There is no need to focus on how many people have tested positive from COVID-19 each day. 
  5. End all talk of future lock downs and loosen social distancing rules. Making people fear each other is always the wrong approach to any challenge.
  6. Guarantee to keep schools and day cares open, with relaxed social distancing like in Sweden. 
  7. Get everyone under 65 without pre-existing compromised immune systems, who can and want to work, fully back to work.
  8. Continue to vaccinate as vaccines become available, for the current strain of COVID-19.

Much damage has been done. Lives and livelihoods have been lost unnecessarily. Our leaders make mistakes, and when they recognize those mistakes, we can consider forgiving them. But when they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, we have a right to ask why they are charge.

Guest column from David Redman, retired Canadian Army Lt. Col and former head of Emergency Management Alberta. 

Opinion

WAGNER: Coming federal election could drive support for Alberta independence

“The election results may very well convince enough Albertans that independence is the only alternative to a future of continued economic decline and impoverishment.” – Michael Wagner

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Many commentators have speculated that there will be a federal election this year, quite possibly in the spring. Early in February, Bob Hepburn of the Toronto Star wrote a column entitled, Trudeau’s strategic plans aimed at June election. A few days later, Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun contributed a similarly-themed column, Spring election could still be in Trudeau’s cards. And on March 1, Lilley’s Toronto Sun colleague Lorrie Goldstein added another, Liberals looking for excuses to call an election.  

These columnists are speculating, of course, but they offer strong reasons why an election may not be too distant in the future.

The outcome of the impending election will have a very big impact on Alberta. If Justin Trudeau is re-elected with a majority government – as some polls seem to indicate – his climate change policies designed to phase-out Alberta’s oil industry will be locked in place for at least four more years. Alberta will continue to suffer job losses and other fiscal and economic hardships. The provincial outlook will be truly bleak.

Many Albertans realize that the stakes in the election will be very high. The future of their livelihoods is in jeopardy. For them, a Trudeau majority government would be the last straw. Government-imposed financial suffering will be impossible to endure any longer. A new path forward will be needed. For a growing number of us, that means independence 

In other words, if Justin Trudeau wins the upcoming election, expect to see the Alberta independence movement experience unprecedented growth. Large numbers of people will be desperate and willing to consider previously unthinkable options. 

This kind of thing has happened on a smaller scale before. It was due to widespread anger after the February 1980 re-election of Pierre Trudeau that Elmer Knutson formed West-Fed and began holding large meetings around the province. In the wake of the November 2000 re-election of Jean Chretien’s Liberals, province-wide anger propelled support for Cory Morgan’s Alberta Independence Party, while Stephen Harper and some of his colleagues published the famous “Firewall Letter.” 

More recently, immediately after Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected with a minority government in October 2019, well-attended Wexit meetings were held around Alberta, including one with 1700 people in Calgary. The Wexit organization formally merged with the Freedom Conservative Party in June 2020 to form the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta. 

Indeed, the existence and growth of the Wildrose Independence Party and the federal Maverick Party can be attributed in large measure to the outcome of the 2019 federal election. It seems clear then, that federal election results have been a major factor in the development of Alberta’s (and Saskatchewan’s) independence movement.

This pattern is likely to be repeated when the next federal election is held later this year. Unless Erin O’Toole can engineer a miraculous turn-around in Conservative Party support, Trudeau will be back and Alberta will be trapped within a country whose government is determined to destroy its primary industry. In that case, expect many Albertans to fight back. Expect big meetings around the province with impassioned speakers advocating independence to preserve our future. Memberships in Wildrose and the Maverick Party will sell briskly and new volunteers will step forward.

If O’Toole can pull a rabbit out of the hat, the initial response in Alberta will be celebratory. Trudeau would be gone. What could be better than that? But O’Toole’s commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change would tie his hands and limit his enthusiasm for developing Alberta’s rich energy wealth. 

O’Toole has also been a defender of the current Equalization formula and supply management, policies meant to win votes in other parts of Canada. 

After voting overwhelmingly for the Conservatives, Albertans would justifiably anticipate some payback. If O’Toole didn’t deliver, there would be severe consequences for him and his party. A betrayed electorate would look to its only remaining option: independence.

The upcoming federal election will likely be a key event for Alberta’s future. Another term for Justin Trudeau would be an existential threat to the province. A victory for Erin O’Toole would be somewhat better, but would hold no guarantees for Alberta’s well-being. Pro-fossil fuel policies are very much out-of-favour in Central Canada where both parties are eager to please the voters. 

The election results may very well convince enough Albertans that independence is the only alternative to a future of continued economic decline and impoverishment. For Alberta, it seems that there is no way forward except out. 

Michael Wagner is a Senior Columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

PARKER: Kenney is the wolf in sheep’s clothing

“Alberta conservatives were deceived by one of Canada’s greatest political showmen. He bought a new blue truck, put on a cowboy hat, and sang us a Siren’s song.” – David Parker, Guest Columnist

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Guest Column: David Parker was the Regional Organizer for Central Alberta on the 2017 Jason Kenney Leadership Campaign and GOTV Membership Chair of the Wildrose Unity Campaign

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus gives his followers a warning, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Whether you are a Christian, follow another creed, or simply a person who cares about freedom, we should always pay attention to those who claim to be prophets. Jason Kenney came to Alberta as a kind of secular prophet. He claimed that he would unite the Wildrose and PC parties, restore the Alberta Advantage, defeat Ottawa, and lead his people back to the proverbial Promised Land. 

Now, he puts preachers in jail, destroys small businesses, takes on record levels of debt, and fills our province with fear. 

Even worse, he is not a leader. His true talents lay in being the right-hand man to a leader; but he has proven himself unable to make clear decisions or even adhere to any real comprehensive set of principles. He claims to be a conservative; but he has his government buy up and subsidize private businesses with record levels of corporate welfare. He says he is a man of faith (and he probably is); but he crushes those who wish to practice their faith in a manner that disagrees with his government’s authoritarian policies. 

This is evident from many angles; but the most obvious example of it is how he ran nominations. He is an authoritarian. I was the campaign manager for Rita Reich’s nomination race in Lacombe – Ponoka (one of Kenney’s staunchest supporters during both the PC and UCP leadership races). He disqualified her over a single Facebook post that said Hitler was actually a socialist. That was it, it did not praise Hitler, it just said that Hitler was a socialist based on the fact that he led something called the National Socialist German Workers Party, and repeatedly referred to himself as a “revolutionary socialist”. He did this to a woman who had him to her house for BBQs with hundreds of people and who sold hundreds of memberships in support of him. Why? It was easier for him to simply disqualify her than let her challenge a sitting MLA in a nomination. 

The list of loyal people that Jason Kenney has used and discarded is long and full of many very talented people. The worst case of this is perhaps the story of Caylan Ford, who Kenney praised as his, “political love at first sight” and who the UCP used in much of their campaign digital and visual messaging. When she encountered a targeted and malicious attack from a bad actor within the conservative movement, he dumped her as a candidate and left her to bleed out under the wrath of the SJW mob. Kenney folds to cancel culture like a cheap house of cards. Just like he bows to Rachel Notley when she calls for more lockdowns.

Alberta conservatives were deceived by one of Canada’s greatest political showmen. He bought a new blue truck, put on a cowboy hat, and sang us a Siren’s song. We don’t have to keep believing him. His actions have shown us who he truly is. 

The mask is dropped. We can now see as clearly as day that the sheep is truly a wolf. 

Guest Column: David Parker was the Regional Organizer for Central Alberta on the 2017 Jason Kenney Leadership Campaign and GOTV Membership Chair of the Wildrose Unity Campaign

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Opinion

SCOTT: Supreme Court injustice allows Ottawa to rule all

“In one fell swoop the Supreme Court of Canada has gutted any meaningful provincial jurisdiction, creating an untenable situation that, if left to stand, will add unbearable tension to the federation.” Mike Scott

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Guest Column from Mike Scott, Reform MP for Skeena, BC from 1993-2000.

The recent Supreme Court decision, which provides legal cover for the Trudeau government’s usurpation of provincial jurisdiction on carbon taxes, should be of immense concern to all Canadians.

In essence, the Supreme Court did not take issue with the argument put forward by three provinces that the federal government’s carbon tax is an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. 

What the majority on the court did accept is the Liberal government’s argument that such an intrusion is justified under the rubric “Peace Order and Good Government (POGG)”.

On the face of it, this is an astounding conclusion.

POGG was never intended to be a substitute for clear, constitutionally delineated jurisdictions, nor a tool for constitutional monkey wrenching.

This is a clear case of an activist court seeking justification – no matter how thin – to endorse a progressive political agenda.

First, the court is clearly taking sides in a public policy debate and the reasons for judgement underscore this. Public policy arbitration was never intended to be the purview of the court and, by venturing into this highly charged political debate, it is signaling a willingness to take ever more activist positions.

Citizens don’t get to vote for judges – the prime minister appoints – but it is vital to the credibility of the institution that the court remains assiduously neutral. Jurisdictional disputes must be weighed against the metric of the constitution and adjudicated based on longstanding principles of law – jurisprudence – not creative or specious arguments.

Secondly, by accepting the federal government’s “POGG” argument, one can see the door has now been swung wide open for future intrusions. This is the slippery slope the Supreme Court’s decision has set us on. Going forward, all the feds need to do is invoke “POGG” – there will be no judicial recourse for the provinces.

This is exceedingly dangerous for confederation. As the provinces come to understand that their constitutional jurisdictions are trumped by POGG – with the collusion of the high Court – what recourse do they have?

There is already far too much political power concentrated in Ontario and Quebec. Adding the Supreme Court to the list of institutions lined up against the country’s regions is exceedingly provocative. When, on this continuum, do we reach a tipping point?

It is worth quoting the dissenting voice of Supreme Court Justice Russel Brown who brilliantly spells out the ramifications.

“It is not possible for a matter formerly under provincial jurisdiction to be transformed, when minimum national standards are invoked…This would open up any area of provincial jurisdiction to unconstitutional fedreral intrusion once parliament decides to legislate uniform treatment”

Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Rowe, also in dissent, cogently adds; 

“Canada’s proposed doctrinal expansion of national concern should be rejected because it departs in a marked and unjustified way from the jurisprudence of the court and, if adopted, it will provide a broad and open pathway for further incursions into what has been exclusive provincial jurisdiction. (the act) is not an exercise in cooperative federalism; rather, it is the means to enforce supervisory federalism”

The Supreme Court’s willingness to allow POGG as a means to justify abrogating a clear provincial jurisdiction, is a threat to the regions of Canada that is unprecedented. It is an egregious assault on one of the very foundational principles of our constitution – the division of powers between the provinces and the federal government. 

In one fell swoop the Supreme Court of Canada has gutted any meaningful provincial jurisdiction, creating an untenable situation that, if left to stand, will add unbearable tension to the federation.

All provinces – particularly those in the West with significant energy resources – should see the writing on the wall.

Guest Column from Mike Scott, Reform MP for Skeena, BC from 1993-2000.

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