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SELICK: Premier Ford, it’s time to fire your chief medical officer

“The public, like the premier, have by and large been willing to accept as gospel whatever the CMO has said, no matter how lacking in corroborative science.”

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Roman Baber is an Ontario MPP first elected in 2018 to sit as part of Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government. He was kicked out of caucus unilaterally by Ford in January 2021 after publishing an open letter stating his opposition to Ontario’s continued lockdowns and extreme COVID-19 restrictions. 

Baber’s Twitter feed contains a riveting 13-second video of Premier Ford, published on March 21, 2021. Apparently unaware that the cameras were rolling, Ford delivers the following blunt comment: 

“I’m gonna be very frank. There’s no politician in this country who’s gonna disagree with their chief medical officer. They just aren’t gonna do it. They might as well throw a rope around their neck and jump off a bridge. They’re done. I’m telling you the facts. It’s very simple.” 

For once, Ford looked like a real person who was actually saying what he believed. To my eyes, he has appeared throughout this pandemic as a paradigm of hypocrisy, shedding crocodile tears for Ontario voters while mercilessly imposing onerous restrictions on them. He has always looked strained and insincere. 

Maybe deep down, he suspects that Roman Baber and another former MPP of his, Randy Hillier, are correct when they allege that lockdowns have done more harm than good. However, he apparently thinks he has to endorse whatever program his chief medical officer (CMO) comes up with – no matter how bizarre or unscientific – or he won’t be re-elected.

Premier Ford needs to examine his underlying premise. It’s actually false. 

He has reversed in his mind the proper roles of elected officials and their appointees. He has bestowed upon a provincial employee (CMO Dr. David Williams) dictatorial powers to make sweeping societal decisions that exceed anything reasonably within the scope of medical knowledge. Meanwhile, the premier and his MPPs have assumed the role of servile flunkies, there to implement – but never question – the boss’s orders.

That’s backwards and unnecessary. Dr. Williams is not the only man on earth who could fill the role of CMO. Ontario could actually fire its current employee and hire one with different views. The amount it might have to pay to settle Dr. Williams’ severance claim would be peanuts compared to the harm it’s inflicting upon taxpayers by implementing his dictates. 

Here are some examples of doctors with public health training and experience who have publicly disagreed with Dr. Williams’ prescription of lockdowns, lockdowns, and more lockdowns. 

Dr. Joel Kettner – a former CMO for the Province of Manitoba – made headlines a year ago when made precisely the same point that MPPs Baber and Hillier have been making on a CBC radio show. He then wrote this July article making the point again. 

Dr. Richard Schabas was Ontario’s CMO from 1987 to 1997. He came out publicly in support of MPP Baber in this letter to Premier Ford in January, 2021. Dr. Schabas had first published his opinion on this in The Globe and Mail in early March, 2020. 

Dr. Karim Kurji, the Medical Officer of Health for York Region (a suburb of Toronto with a population of more than a million people) came out publicly just two weeks ago as opposing further lockdowns. 

Experts from around the world have been expressing similar views for over a year. The Great Barrington Declaration,published in October 2020, has now been signed by 41,890 medical practitioners and 13,796 medical and public health scientists. It likewise calls for allowing the vast majority of the population to resume normal life instead of being locked down. 

If Premier Ford sought a replacement for Dr. Williams and let it be known that he was looking for someone with different views of the merits of lockdowns, he’d probably find sufficient qualified candidates. While he’s at it, he could replace Dr. Williams’s second-in-command Dr. Barbara Yaffe, who was notoriously caught on tape prior to a news conference saying, “I don’t know why I bring all these papers with me. I never look at them…I just say whatever they write down for me.” Dr. Williams, also present in the video, mumbles something that sounds like “I do the same.” 

Indeed. Throughout this entire pandemic, Williams and Yaffe have been flying by the seat of their pants, or at least, the seat of someone’s pants, and we don’t even know whose. There are no placebo-controlled, double-blind studies saying that any particular number of “cases” of coronavirus constitutes sufficient reason to enter lockdown, or to move from one colour-coded lockdown state to another. There are no studies saying that churches or restaurants operating at 15% capacity are safe while those operating at 20% are unsafe. These formulas have simply been made up out of thin air. They’re not science. 

Aggravating the problem is the fact that PCR testing generates many false positives, so that the increase in “cases” may be merely a function of increased testing or excessive amplification rates used in the tests. 

Sweden never locked down its economy. The state of South Dakota never did either. The states of Florida and Texas have re-opened and rescinded their mask requirements. None of these places have suffered significantly higher death rates than locked-down, double-masked Ontario. 

Would Ontario’s electorate cry foul if Dr. Williams and Dr. Yaffe were replaced by a new CMO who declared that it was now safe to reopen and unmask? The public, like the premier, have by and large been willing to accept as gospel whatever the CMO has said, no matter how lacking in corroborative science. They appear awestruck by the title – Chief Medical Officer – and have overlooked blatant contradictions and about-face turns. They would undoubtedly follow like good little sheep the dictates of a new CMO who told them it was safe to reopen and unmask. 

Premier Ford, you needn’t commit political suicide to save Ontario’s economy. Please just replace Dr. Williams and Dr. Yaffe with someone who thinks differently. There’ll be a line-up to apply for the job. And once you start singing a new tune because your new CMO said to, other provinces might start singing it too.

Karen Selick is a Columnist for the Western Standard

Karen Selick is a Columnist for the Western Standard. She has previously written for the original Western Standard, the National Post, and Canadian Lawyer Magazine. She is the former Litigation Lawyer of the Canadian Constitution Foundation and is the owner of KeenEyesEditing.ca.

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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Opinion

HARDING: Saskatchewan budget could have been worse

“It should be a disappointing budget for fiscal conservatives, but compared to the plans laid out in Ottawa and Alberta, it could be a lot worse.” – Lee Harding

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As lockdowns return with a vengeance, the backlash in the West is markedly stronger than in the East. Saskatchewan’s crackdown has been a bit lighter than in most provinces, and was the first last year to have a plan for how and when lockdowns would be lifted. While residents of so many provinces are under virtual house arrest, Saskatchewan is not quite so bad. 

That’s the same assessment we can give the budget. It’s the province’s highest deficit ever, but it could be worse.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer forecasts $14.5 billion in revenues, a 6.1% increase from last fiscal year. Meanwhile, expenditures will rise to $17.1 billion, a 6.3% increase from 2020-21. Although that gap is ‘only’ $2.6 billion, that’s government math at work. In reality, provincial debt will rise by $4.2 billion this fiscal year, bringing the all-time debt total to $27.8 billion. 

COVID-19 lockdowns, of course, are the elephant in the room, shrinking revenues and adding expenses. The budget listed $1.5 billion in spending as “COVID-19 supports.” This includes $90 million more for the health sector response, $20.7 million for Saskatchewan schools, and $6.8 million for the northern isolation program. To call the rest of the list a pandemic response is a bit of a stretch:

  • $488 million in capital spending;
  • $285 million for the SGI rebate;
  • $200 million to clean up inactive oil wells;
  • $174 million in SaskPower rebates;
  • $66 million for the home renovation tax credit;
  • $64 million for the small business tax reduction.

Inactive oil wells have nothing to do with COVID-19, nor does handling them address any pandemic-related problem. The small business tax reduction might be welcome, but businesses that took losses or went bankrupt during the pandemic will not benefit whatsoever. The government is loading its “pandemic response” spend with mostly non-pandemic related items to justify its large deficit. 

On the positive side, capital spending might provide a few jobs, but it would have been required anyway. Home renovations have at least a little relevance, given the lockdowns have given people more reason to spend time there, or even cause to carve out a home office. The tax break will come in handy given that current lumber costs are through the roof (pardon the pun).

Other initiatives are low-key – a little more for this – a little more for that. In this respect, Moe is following in the Brad Wall tradition of a steady-as-she-goes approach where the government refuses to make large promises or grandiose ideas doomed to fail in a bureaucracy’s reverse-Midas touch; one where things turn to lead, not gold, as government gets bigger.

NDP leader Dr. Ryan Meili used terms like “half-measures” and “uninspiring” to describe the budget. He wants a jobs plan and more government money for those affected by the pandemic. The problem is that everyone has been affected by the pandemic. More government responses would only recycle taxpayers’ money through inefficient intrusions. Besides, one could argue that most government responses to the pandemic have been worse than the disease itself. 

Meili’s NDP, some unions, and the media have left some unduly afraid of the coronavirus. This provides a small political alibi for why the province has not lifted the lockdowns altogether. In Montana, Texas, Florida and many other states, gathering limits have vanished altogether, business curfews have stopped, and the mask mandate has expired. In North Dakota, restaurants are allowed 80% capacity, up to 300 people. Ballrooms have 75% capacity. Mask mandates expired in January.

If Saskatchewan acted like these neighbouring border states, it would become a haven of freedom and a place of sensibility in a country full of senseless restrictions. Ask what someone could do in a Saskatchewan springtime, and the answer “normal life” would be enough. Heck, even religious conventions could draw outsiders in to spend money (but maybe not much on liquor). By contrast, Alberta is building fences around churches and sends in the armed police, measures normally reserved for radical theocracies or authoritarian regimes.

Most citizens have a measure of respect for governments that keep their promises, regardless of what they are. By this measure, the Saskatchewan Party delivered, following through on commitments made in last fall’s election. The primary exception is that balanced budgets originally slated for 2024 have been pushed back to 2026-27. 

There is hardly a government on the planet – let alone Canada – that has stuck to a balanced budget plan over more than a four-year term in government. The political discipline just doesn’t exist. Moe might get to it eventually if the NDP remain relatively uncompetitive; maybe.   

It should be a disappointing budget for fiscal conservatives, but compared to the plans laid out in Ottawa and Alberta, it could be a lot worse. 

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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