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BARNES: It’s time for an Alberta Constitution

“Creating an Alberta Constitution gives us a real opportunity to defend our province’s interests, and protect Alberta’s citizens from its own government.”

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This is an interesting time in the history of Canada to be a constitutional scholar. As has been widely reported, on May 13th, the Government of Quebec introduced its controversial Bill 96 in the National Assembly. The Bill seeks to unilaterally amend Quebec’s constitution, as well as Canada’s Constitution. Since that time, both the prime minister and Alberta’s premier have indicated their support for the undertaking, so long as the amendments pertain only to Quebec.

This opens up a whole new avenue for our province to stand up for Albertans and defend Alberta’s interests. It also raises a key argument I have been making for some time: that Alberta needs its own constitution.

As many of you know, I was proud to serve on the government’s Fair Deal Panel. However, as I outlined in a letter to the premier at the time, the panel’s final report did not fully reflect the public’s frustrations, or provide enough in the way of immediate action.

I believe that the most important recommendation left out of the Panel’s final report was the creation of a constitution for the Province of Alberta.

While Alberta certainly does have a constitutional framework – first outlined in the Alberta Act of 1905 – this does not go nearly far enough in describing Albertans’ shared values, or our unique culture and identity.

The creation of a formal Constitution, including the election of an independent constitutional convention, is an opportunity to engage with Albertans from every region and build a forward-looking vision for our province as the strongest and most free jurisdiction in North America.

Done correctly, the creation of an Alberta constitution does not lead directly down a one-way path to independence. However, it would send a strong signal to Ottawa that Alberta’s days of being treated as a colonial offshoot of Eastern Canada are now at an end.

When I first raised this idea, it was entirely disregarded and even ridiculed by Premier Kenney’s team of political insiders. Yet last week, the premier (when he wasn’t responding in my quires in question period with personal attacks) finally came around to the idea.

The premier said as much in an interview with Don Braid in the Calgary Herald. 

“We are plotting out a longer-term strategy to build a stronger, more resilient and more autonomous Alberta within the constitution. One idea could be in the future the codification of an Alberta provincial constitution. Formalizing that might be a way of expressing some of the unique values that unite Albertans.”

Yes, Mr. Premier, it is a good idea. That’s why I raised it to you more than a year ago. Here are a few reasons why it is necessary. 

• Constitutions control and constrain governments: While most legislation and regulation put in place by governments is designed to restrict the freedoms of citizens, constitutions are one of the best ways for citizens to effectively restrict the powers of governments. A year and a half into “two weeks to flatten the curve,” you can see the need to retain the power of governments to do whatever they like. 

Constitutions are durable: Laws passed in a legislature can just as easily be changed or eliminated by a legislature.

Take, for example, the Klein government’s balanced budget law. It was supposed to be a game-changing victory for those who seek to constrain the size of government, but the PC government killed it four years later and went on a spending binge that has still not ended. Alberta has spent most of its savings, and is now exceeding $100 billion in debt.The only way to effectively limit the size and scope of government over the long term is through a constitution.

We can’t trust Ottawa: One of the most important freedoms we (somewhat) enjoy is economic freedom, including property rights. We rightly believe that the individual should be the primary beneficiary of their own labour and skills, and that individuals have the right to own and use their private property. Ottawa’s willingness to cede jurisdiction to international organizations that do not recognize these rights is cause to entrench them in our own constitution. 

No really, we can’t trust Ottawa: Under the Canadian Constitution, provinces have the right to develop natural resources. Clearly, the federal government does not like this arrangement, and over the past 30 years it has looked for ways to alter the deal. If Ottawa is willing to so brazenly flout the Canadian Constitution, are we Albertans not obligated to defend our own rights through our own constitution?

There is no question that Alberta – like Quebec – has many of concerns when it comes to our province’s treatment within confederation. However, unlike Quebec, we have been fighting for a fair deal with one hand tied behind our backs. If Quebec can unilaterally make changes to the Canadian Constitution, then so too can Alberta. Creating an Alberta Constitution gives us a real opportunity to defend our province’s interests, and protect Alberta’s citizens from its own government. 

Isn’t that what fighting for a fair deal is all about?

Drew Barnes is the Independent MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Steven Ruthven

    June 21, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Rereading this article and what Premier Kenney said in an interview with Don Braid, Calgary Herald is concerning. Mr. Barns had raised this over a year ago with Premier Kenney.

    Quote from Kenney
    “We are plotting out a longer-term strategy to build a stronger, more resilient and more autonomous Alberta within the constitution. One idea could be in the future the codification of an Alberta provincial constitution. Formalizing that might be a way of expressing some of the unique values that unite Albertans.”

    Is this quote from Premier Kenney just another Bait & Switch? Pacification of Albertans with what we want to hear, but he has no stomach to push it through.

    I DON’T trust Jason Kenney & from past experience I don’t think Albertans should either. Vote Wildrose for a conservative party who will listen to Albertans. Do give your vote to the Marxist AB NDP again.

  2. Douglas Hendrickson

    June 9, 2021 at 5:33 pm

    I disagree with Barnes on one point:
    Done correctly, an Alberta Constitution DOES lead directly down the path to Independence.
    That is, it should be the CONSTITUTION FOR A FREE ALBERTA.
    To give the people what they need DIRECTLY AND FULLY to simply sign onto in a referendum and the FEDS would have NOTHING more to say about anything in Alberta.

    Those working to construct a New Constitution could at least try for two versions – one like that proposed by Barnes, and another for a totally free Alberta. Perhaps present TWO ACTUAL CHOICES for the people’s discussion and approval.

  3. Steven Ruthven

    June 8, 2021 at 7:49 pm

    Would send a strong signal to the UCP & other former Wildrose members, if MLA Barnes made an overture to the WIPA.

    I can’t stand the UCP & I voted for Minister Savage, Calgary.

    MLA Savage is as quiet as a mouse on the BS going on. So why would I vote for her again? Sickening how Jason Kenney rules with his totalitarian style of leadership. That’s NOT Alberta – more like an Easterner dictating to Westerners again. Grrrrrr.

  4. Debbie Lawrence

    June 8, 2021 at 3:11 am

    We need to get this done. The door has been opened by Quebec’s demands. Clearly the need has never been greater. Mr. Barnes you are spot on.

  5. Baron Not Baron

    June 7, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    Mr. Barnes,

    Please join WIPA !

  6. John Lankers

    June 7, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    Right, Alberta has been financing Quebec’s surpluses for the last 5 years and counting but equally notable is the fact that Alberta’s government spending is ~30% above the national average. Both factors must be equally addressed and it takes a real leader to do this.

  7. berta baby

    June 7, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    Doesn’t matter , I won’t happen cause the UCP MLA’s like the true minions they are stand quizzering aside and continue to support the blunder we call premier Jason kenney.

    He will lose the party’s government and hand it to the socialists the UCP will be reduced to nothing and kenney will write a book that I will not read but will go to his senior citizen book signing to point and laugh

  8. Seven-Zero-One

    June 7, 2021 at 5:25 pm

    Since Justin won election in 2015.
    Quebec haves Budget surpluses 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020… Albertans are financing it’s our poverty.
    Seriously people look at mirror.Ask yourself.Why Alberta is part of this ?

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Former general slamms Trudeu ‘stupdity’

Canadian taxpayer’s millions go directly into the Taliban’s blood-soaked hands. No one’s on the ground to ensure it helps Afghans they terrorize and slaughter.

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There’s truth, duty, and valour — the Royal Military College (RMC) of Canada’s motto the honourable live by as they strive to keep promises made.

Then there’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s broken promises to thousands of Afghans stuck in a potential death trap, as hopes of evacuation to safety rapidly fade.

Afghans helped the Canadian military during their 2001-2104 Afghanistan mission, believing Canada’s promise to bring them here to safety if necessary. 

It’s years past necessary. Promises broken. They’re hiding in terror with their children — Lord help the little girls — from Taliban predators. 

“There’s a bunch of people running around with sharp knives looking for them. They wouldn’t be brought before a court. The Taliban would take their heads off,” retired Maj.-Gen. Clive Addy, former Land Force Western Area commander, told the Western Standard.

Faithful translators proved invaluable. 

“They were very good at passing information to soldiers to prevent them from getting bombed out, or things like that. There’s a myriad of human services they provided. It required a heck of a lot of skill, camouflage, truth. It was that kind of courage they showed on our behalf that we must show for them,” said Addy.

“Truth, duty, and valour. The truth is, the Taliban took over. They’re criminals. Now they’ve got the place. The people to whom we made a vow, we have the duty to fulfill it. And valour, we’ve got to have the guts to do it.” 

“I cannot, having served my country, sit here and watch us walk away from such an important commitment. We’re walking away.”

It’s not that Trudeau isn’t shovelling money into Afghanistan. He pledged an initial extra $50 million for humanitarian aid, topping $27.3 million allocated for 2021.

Recently, Trudeau gave $1.7 million to the Afghanistan Strategic Evacuation Team (ASET), a group of Canadians and Afghans overseen by the Veterans Transition Network (VTN), helping Afghan interpreters.

Of the 10,000 Afghan translators and their families they’ve identified, 1,760 are hiding in safe houses used since the U.S. withdrawal in August. 

The $3 million spent to date, at $20,000 a day, was donated by private citizens and corporations. 

Funds run out November 5. 

Shockingly, Trudeau stipulated the $1.7 million couldn’t be used for safe houses, only logistics.  

ASET is overseen by three retired Canadian major generals — Dean Milner, David Fraser, and Denis Thompson — all RMC graduates.

Bureaucrats, obediently wagging their tails for Trudeau, tell these military greats, all former task-force commanders in Afghanistan, where to spend money.

Canadian taxpayer’s millions go directly into the Taliban’s blood-soaked hands. No one’s on the ground to ensure it helps Afghans they terrorize and slaughter.

Trudeau’s foolishly hoping the devious Taliban — seeking cash and recognition as a legitimate government — will be good little terrorists keeping a promise to behave.

“I’m just shaking my head. I don’t know how they come up with this stupidity. The Taliban asked for support, and we’ve got immigration going through the UN prepared to give them money. But they’re not prepared to give money to people under threat,” said Addy.

“The Taliban have the gall to say ‘Our people are hungry, send money to the UN.’ We’re supporting that. I’m sure there’s some hungry Taliban that Canada might help. The rest of the people are starving.”

On the campaign trail, Trudeau said Canada would welcome 20,000 Afghan refugees. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau, a former Navy commander, doubled it to 40,000 at the UN General Assembly in September.

At an October G20 meeting, Trudeau proclaimed humanitarian assistance must continue, but urged the Taliban to respect rights of women and children. Urge away, it’ll never happen.

Trudeau also urged other countries to take in more refugees.

So far, Canada says it welcomed 3,700 Afghans. That disputed number’s likely 3,000. Many had already left Afghanistan and were ‘evacuated’ from safe countries. Less than 20% were interpreters and families.

Addy recently penned a letter to ministers and MPs to be signed by RMC alumni, outlining a blueprint of what Trudeau must do.

It stated the need to expedite funds to ASET; remove barriers restricting funds from being used for safe houses; remove documentation obstacles eliminating the need for passports by issuing single use travel documents to valid resettlement applicants allowing them to obtain Pakistan e-visas; issue facilitation letters to support the travel documents; and fund air charters for evacuation.

Addy, Milner, Fraser and Thompson aren’t the only retired commanders criticizing the government.

In August, retired general and former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier told CBC the evacuation operation is “cluttered” by bureaucratic clumsiness, inefficiency, and paperwork. Former lieutenant-general and Liberal MP Andrew Leslie echoed concerns.

Trudeau said the Taliban seized power so quickly, Canada couldn’t evacuate more people. Nonsense.  Military personnel and NGOs have fought for years to get interpreters out.

“I spent three years trying to bring in one of my good Afghans and family members. His file was in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada longer. No movement. Zero, with me picking on them daily, getting lawyers to help,” said VTN’s Milner.

“He was almost killed. The Taliban had his phone. He was a fighter. The Taliban wanted him big-time. We were able to sneak him and his seven lovely children out…They’re in Canada.”

The government, rightfully, says Afghans must be vetted. Hence, the delay. 

The VTN already vetted thousands, people they know well.

Who better to vet? A bureaucrat perusing applications? Or Canadians these Afghans fought beside?

The clock’s ticking Trudeau. 

It’s about truth, duty and valour, right Garneau? Being a RMC graduate, did you forget that part? 

Get them out.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Canada dithers while girls get beheaded for playing volleyball

If Taliban thugs unleash demonic rage on a girl because she was involved in sports, imagine what awaits Afghans who helped Canadian soldiers — keeping many alive — during the 2001-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

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Mahjabin Hakimi was beheaded by the Taliban who then posted gruesome photos of her severed head on social media as a menacing warning to others. 

Why? The girl played volleyball.

Hakimi, a star player on the girls’ national team, was slaughtered in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul.

If Taliban thugs unleash demonic rage on a girl because she was involved in sports, imagine what awaits Afghans who helped Canadian soldiers — keeping many alive — during the 2001-2014 mission in Afghanistan.

Time is running out for 1,760 Afghan translators and their families who’ve been kept safe only because of an effort led by retired Canadian top military commanders and carried out by non-governmental agencies and others.

For courageously risking their lives, Afghans were promised refuge in Canada if needed. They remain indefinitely trapped, betrayed by the Trudeau government. 

Despite endless political platitudes and promises, it isn’t the government doggedly working to get them out. 

About 10,000 Afghans who helped Canadians, identified by the Veterans Transition Network (VTN), are targets of vengeful marauding medieval assassins hunting for them.

The VTN oversees the provision of emergency funds for shelter and support of the 1,760 during an agonizing wait for evacuation through the Afghanistan Strategic Evacuation Team comprised of Canadians and Afghans.

The $20,000 a day cost since the Taliban seized power in August when the U.S. pulled out, has been manageable due to private and corporate donations.

Funds are running out. The lifeline’s gone in two weeks. 

Aman Lara, a Canadian non-governmental organization, works closely with the VTN. 

Retired Canadian lieutenant-colonel Eleanor Taylor, who is chief of staff, notified the Afghans Friday: “Due to the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan, Aman Lara regretfully has to scale back accommodation support to Afghans in need of evacuation by November 5.

“We had expected that applications would be processed in a timely manner and evacuations would be swifter. Unfortunately, our ability to finance the accommodations has diminished and time has run out.”

Three retired major-generals — Dean Milner, Denis Thompson and David Fraser — have been working feverishly since July to evacuate these Afghans. They’re all former task-force commanders in Afghanistan.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau assured Fraser the government is working on air charter evacuation flights to Pakistan and elsewhere and will investigate the problematic documentation process. 

He intends to pass along the VTN’s concerns to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino.

However, not much can be done until the October 26 cabinet shuffle, said Garneau. Then the new cabinet must settle in and Parliament won’t resume until November 22.

So, the federal government — and its cumbersome bureaucratic process that creates obstacles — continues along its useless path going nowhere.

Despite grand promises from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet ministers evacuation efforts are sluggish.

“They all keep saying they’re going to support us. When?” asked Milner.

Months ago, Trudeau pledged to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees.

“Where are they coming from? Tell me. The Afghans that need to be supported are those in Afghanistan.”

The government claims it has evacuated 3,700 Afghans. 

“I think it’s over 3,000. Anything they said, I take it with exaggeration. No more than 20% were interpreters and their families,” said Milner.

That leaves embassy staff and Afghans already safe in other countries. 

“We don’t want the low-hanging fruit of other countries. The ones that did the work for us, that worked closely alongside us, are still stuck in miserable Afghanistan,” said Milner.

“We have over 10,000 Afghans in our group who still need to be evacuated. We’ve managed to bring a little over 300 through the border into Pakistan. We have a lot more to do,” said Milner.

That would include finding money to keep Afghans in safe houses. VTN asked the government for funding.

“We’ve been asking constantly. We’re getting support from many people. But the government still hasn’t bitten. They gave $1.7 million two weeks ago to keep us quiet. We couldn’t use that for safe houses. That was actually part of the policy.”

That money must be used to cover other expenses.

“That’s a drop in the bucket when you’re taking care of this many people. We’re paying to transport people across the country to Pakistan. We’re paying for buses. We’re paying for Afghans that are supporting us. We’re supporting a team trying to operationalize this and make it work. It doesn’t take much to eat up money.”

“Volunteers like me, I don’t need money,” said Milner.

Individual Canadians and “outstanding” companies like McCain Foods and Sobeys, donated nearly $3 million racked up in expenses so far.

“It has cost $20,000 a day since August for the safe houses. That’s not counting other life support and transportation costs.”

VTN is exploring ways to evacuate Afghans by land and on charter flights from Mazar-i-Sharif Airport, in Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city.

“We’d like to get going with charter air flights. The Taliban are now allowing flights into Afghanistan.”

But the $750,000 cost of one charter would “eat up” the safe house money left.

Why isn’t the government running charter flights?

No one’s flying out yet and the Taliban’s on the prowl. 

“There’s still an absolute danger. The Taliban are unpredictable. You can’t trust them. That’s why we fought them. Here they are now in power. They don’t like fun, they don’t like women, they don’t like school, they don’t like sporting activities.” 

“We get absolutely awful stories. We’re not going to stop until we get these Afghans out. We see it as a moral obligation. They supported us over there. They’re great people.”

TOMORROW: Truth Duty Valour vs. Trudeau’s broken promises.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard
lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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Opinion

WAGNER: The left ignores growing support for Alberta independence at its peril

Angus Reid released its poll showing that over half of Albertans believed the province would be better off if it left Canada. Were those results just another Postmedia trick?

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A recent poll conducted by Mainstreet Research for the Western Standard showed new heights of support for Alberta independence. This demonstrates the movement is alive and not running out of steam. Just because the issue is out of the headlines for the moment does not mean it’s far from the thoughts of a great many Albertans.

The poll found 40% support for Alberta independence with 45% preferring to remain in Canada, and another 15% undecided. If the undecideds are removed, support for independence rises to 47% versus 53% for the status quo.  

Previous Mainstreet Research polls commissioned by the Western Standard showed growing — but demonstrably weaker — support for independence. A July 6, 2020 story entitled “Alberta leads the West in wanting independence” found only 20% of Albertans favouring independence. Another story from Jan. 13, 2021, “Third of Albertans & majority of UCP voters back Western independence, shyer about going it alone,” found 25% favouring Alberta independence if the province struck out on its own, but 36% support for an independent country comprising other Western provinces.

The polling results seem to indicate a growing trend of support for independence. That’s obviously good news for those favouring that option.

It seems, however, that Alberta’s progressives have a blind spot when it comes to acknowledging popular support for independence. This has been evident in recent years, even as Justin Trudeau has driven many Albertans into the sovereigntist camp.

With Trudeau aggressively preventing pipeline construction and resource development, support for independence gained considerable strength towards the end of 2018. Indeed, early in 2019, the Angus Reid Institute released its own poll indicating independence sentiment was quite strong in Alberta. The article reporting the results stated: “More than half Albertans (52%) say they believe the west would be better off if it left Canada.”

Yet, just a few weeks earlier, prominent leftist blogger Dave Cournoyer wrote, “Reading the pages of the Postmedia newspapers or the #ableg hashtag on Twitter you might believe that Albertans from roughneck Fort McMurray to trendy Kensington are calling for Independence and rising up in arms against their political overlords in Ottawa. Nope.”

He went on to state that “… it is difficult to believe there is any real appetite for Albertans to leave Canada, and the consequences that would follow.” And he assured his readers that “support for separation remains consistently low.” The occasional demand for Alberta independence, Cournoyer wrote, “is the political equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum.”

Shortly after Cournoyer’s piece appeared, another prominent leftist blogger, David Climenhaga, also downplayed the independence movement. Climenhaga’s unique contribution to the discussion is his claim the Alberta independence movement is a smoke-and-mirrors trick perpetrated by Toronto-based Postmedia.

Writing of the surge in support for independence towards the end of 2018, Climenhaga claimed that, “The whole thing was almost entirely ginned up in a couple of weeks by a parade of political commentators at Postmedia’s newspapers, basically providing background music for the campaign of United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney.” That is, Postmedia was trying to create a political climate to aid Jason Kenney in his dispute with Justin Trudeau.

Climenhaga went on to assure his readers that by the beginning of 2019, “the Alberta independence ‘threat’ will be fading into history, again, worth a chuckle or two, like Ur-Western-separatist Gordon Kesler, and taken seriously by almost nobody – or perhaps I should say, nobodies.” Apparently, in his view, only “nobodies” take Alberta independence seriously. That would probably mean a lot of Western Standard readers would be “nobodies” by Climenhaga’s standard – like Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables.”

His main point, though, was public controversy over Alberta independence was just a big show that had come to an end: “But the squall is over, folks. Watch for Postmedia to start backing away as soon as they start to realize how little traction this partisan claptrap has.”

Yet, just a few weeks after he wrote that, Angus Reid released its poll showing over half of Albertans believed the province would be better off if it left Canada. Were those results just another Postmedia trick?

Albertans had grievances with the federal government for generations. These grievances are accumulating and generating increasing discontent with the province’s place in Canada. The support for independence revealed by the new Western Standard poll reflects the unhappiness of many Albertans. They are beginning to realize the status quo is not going to change and the only positive alternative is for Alberta to leave Canada.

Nevertheless, progressives appear to be blind to the legitimate concerns of these Albertans and dismiss them as “nobodies” who are throwing a “temper tantrum.” If support for Alberta independence continues to grow, progressives may have to do more than simply demean its proponents.

The causes underlying growth in sovereignist sentiment are not going away and as a result, the movement is here to stay.

Michael Wagner is a Western Standard columnist

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