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MORGAN: Bring on the equalization referendum

“I expect that opponents to a yes vote on the referendum will try to paint the referendum as being a proxy vote on Alberta independence. This simply isn’t true. The referendum on equalization is a dress rehearsal for a referendum on independence.”

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Whenever the issue of equalization comes up in Alberta, we are predictably greeted by a chorus of academics chiding everyone for not understanding how the program works. While most Albertans might not understand every bizarre detail of the program, they understand its principles. That’s why we so vociferously oppose it in overwhelming numbers.

We oppose the entire concept of a central government taking our tax dollars and doling them out to provinces based on political goals, rather than actual economic needs. We want the ability to express our opposition to the constitutionally entrenched equalization in no uncertain terms and a referendum is an ideal tool with which to do it.

Spending a few months within a referendum campaign on equalization will provide us with a great opportunity to clear up misconceptions on the program. Provinces do not cut cheques directly to the federal government for equalization. We have our funds taken through federal taxes and fees, they are put into general revenue, and then redistributed back to select provinces through a number of transfers and services.

Between 2007 and 2018, Quebec sucked $171.3 billion more out of Canada than it had put in, while Alberta put in $240 billion more than it got back from the rest of Canada. Equalization transfers made up $107.5 billion of what Quebec took in. While Alberta never wrote a cheque directly to Quebec, let’s not pretend that Alberta isn’t contributing billions to them through equalization. We can clarify that as the campaign progresses.

Critics of tackling equalization point to the lack of a direct province-to-province cheque as evidence this is much ado about nothing.

Let’s put this in simpler terms: If a community association collected homeowners fees from everyone in a neighbourhood and gave all of the cash back to just 50% of the households, the remaining 50% would be losing money. It would be little different than Canada’s equalization formula, except those receiving the money often get to block the driveways of those paying, but not receiving.

Some tall foreheads are telling us we are wasting our time having a referendum on a constitutional issue. There is a formula for constitutional amendments and it would take much more than an Alberta referendum result to trigger it.

In trying to change the constitution through conventional means, Alberta would need to get a super majority of provinces to sign on. Since the majority of provinces enjoy a parasitic benefit from the current equalization setup, it’s unlikely they would ever consent to change it.

While equalization as a concept is constitutionally mandated, the formula for the distribution of it is not. Equalization legislation has seen a number of changes over the decades. Usually, they are done so in order to maximize dollars taken from Alberta and maximize those given to Quebec and to the Atlantic provinces. This was done when non-renewable revenues such as those from oil and gas were factored into provincial income, while hydroelectric revenues in Quebec were exempt. This helps Quebec maintain its perpetual state as a “have-not” province despite having enough economic ability to stand on its own two feet. The formula can be changed legislatively to increase or decrease equalization to any degree. If a large majority of Albertans expressed their discontent with the way equalization is right now, perhaps enough federal politicians will be inspired to change the formula into something a little fairer.

As with most welfare programs, equalization is purportedly supposed to be a program that lends a hand up, rather than a handout. It is supposed to help a province weather bad economic periods in a temporary manner rather than become a permanent entitlement. Quebec has been a recipient of equalization transfers since the inception of the program in 1957. I think we can safely say after 64 years of trying, the equalization program has failed to help Quebec find its way towards economic independence within Canada. While Alberta has seen many economic ups and downs, it has never managed to qualify for a payment in the program’s modern history. No matter how hard times get for Alberta, it is pretty clear that the equalization formula won’t help them out as it sits. It will be difficult to try and paint equalization as a successful national program during the Alberta referendum campaign.

The cost of holding a referendum is negligible in light of the number of dollars being debated. With the entire province holding municipal elections at the same time as the referendum, adding another ballot is hardly an overwhelming task. Direct democracy is valued in Alberta and this example of it will be welcomed by most.

In having a referendum on equalization, Alberta will bring the issue to the table for national discussion. Many Canadians seldom even think about equalization, much less dwell on the inequity of it. That’s a luxury one can have when the program hasn’t been robbing them for decades. Perhaps with a national debate on the merits of the program, we will see support for it declining in other regions as people realize just how odious it is. National discourse is a good thing.

Whether one opposes or supports equalization, they shouldn’t oppose a referendum being held on it. In letting Albertans debate and vote upon this issue, many myths can be put to bed and we can come closer to a resolution on what has been a divisive issue for decades.

I expect opponents to a yes vote on the referendum will try to paint the referendum as being a proxy vote on Alberta independence. This simply isn’t true. The referendum on equalization is a dress rehearsal for a referendum on independence. How the rest of Canada reacts to the outcome of Alberta’s equalization referendum will determine if there is to be another referendum and how Albertans choose to vote in it. The referendum on equalization won’t be a waste of time by any measure.

Cory Morgan is the Alberta Political Columnist for the Western Standard and the Host of the Cory Morgan Show

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. David

    June 20, 2021 at 9:13 am

    Kenney is a political imbecile. Calling this referendum will have exactly the same effect David Cameron enjoyed when he ran on a promise to get a new deal for the U.K. within the EU.

    Oh, by all means Alberta, vote to end or change equalization, and then watch Kenney posture about getting “change”. It will end in political humiliation for him, and more anger for Albertans.

    This referendum, I think, may turn out to be not so much a dress rehearsal for a referendum on independence but a launching platform.

    I hope so too.

  2. Rose

    June 9, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    I’ve no doubt the referendum question will receive massive public support. However, I have little faith Kenney can make it happen. He’ll just half-attempt to cut a deal & negotiate, but compromise the whole thing, getting only a slight wording change (maybe). But in the end, we’ll be no better off.

    But globalist elitist Kenney will still claim a fake victory lap, with one of his bogus “Promises made, promises kept” speeches, of course.

    But Albertans have little patience for blow-hard politicians, and will be even more furious with him by then. This will all coincide with the next election, so UCP will be reduced to dust.

    Thankfully, WIPA will sweep up all the broken pieces to win an overwhelming majority, so true freedom & independence will finally be within our grasp.

  3. Barbara

    June 9, 2021 at 10:53 am

    This referendum is more obfuscation to pacify the masses. To create the illusion we have choices and to boost the UCP.

    We can’t let them divert our attention , our goal to have the same powers, the same control that Quebec has over it’s own Province.

    This referendum needs to be about us HAVING THE SAME RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES AS QUEBEC.

  4. K

    June 9, 2021 at 10:35 am

    This entire landmass is a parasite. We need to get OUT, like, yesterday.

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CLEMENT: No reason to toast federal tax on non-alcoholic beer

Across the board, we should expect better from Ottawa, and the tax on non-alcoholic beer is yet another example of where they’ve gotten it wrong.

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Sin-taxes, across all sectors, are fairly excessive in Canada. At almost every turn the government sinks its tax teeth into the process of you purchasing the products you like. This is true for cannabis products, alcohol, tobacco, vaping, gas, and annoyingly so, non-alcoholic beer. Yes, non-alcoholic beer in Canada is not exempt from federal excise taxes.

You read that right. The federal government also extends its sin-tax regime for non-alcoholic beer, at a rate of $2.82/hectolitre.

The application of excise taxes for non-alcoholic beer is problematic for a variety of reasons. The first, and most glaring, is that it is hypocritical given that the federal government has exempted non-alcoholic wine and spirits from the excise tax. Why apply it for beer, but not wine and spirits? Obviously, a more consistent approach would be to simply exempt all non-alcoholic beverages from the excise tax, because the purpose of the sin tax is to recover alcohol-related healthcare costs. That said, there are no alcohol-related healthcare costs at all from non-alcoholic beer, which immediately shows the lunacy of sin-taxing these products.

In addition to correcting hypocrisy, removing the excise tax for non-alcoholic beer would put federal policy in line with how the provinces treat these products. Provincial regulators, including Alberta, don’t require non-alcoholic beverages to be sold at licensed alcohol retail outlets, because they’ve accepted the obvious that these products don’t have alcohol in them and thus shouldn’t be strictly regulated. That is why in Alberta these products are often sold alongside carbonated water and pop. Removing the excise tax would be the federal government following the lead of the provinces in treating non-alcoholic beer differently than beer, because they are in fact different.

On the industry side, the federal excise tax acts as a barrier for product development in Canada, mostly because other beer producing jurisdictions (US,EU,UK) don’t tax non-alcoholic beer. Because of this the domestic industry in those jurisdictions has flourished, offering consumers more choice and at better prices. Their sane tax policy, coupled with increased consumer demand, is in large part why the non-alcoholic beer market is expected to grow to over $4 billion by 2025. These drinks aren’t just for hipsters, designated drivers and pregnant women anymore.

Lastly, and most importantly, is how non-alcoholic beer is yet another example of new products reducing harm for consumers. And while I don’t personally enjoy these drinks, I can see why someone would still want to enjoy a beer with their friends, or at a bar, without the alcohol that comes along with it.

From a harm reduction perspective, it makes perfect sense to have different tax strategies for products that vary in risk. The Trudeau government, at times, has championed harm reduction for illegal drugs but appears to have a blind spot when it comes to legal substances. This is an uncomfortable trend from Ottawa that is perfectly exemplified by the excise tax on non-alcoholic beer. Ottawa has kept the excise tax system for non-smokable THC cannabis products, like edibles and beverages, despite the fact they are significantly less harmful. They’ve sought to ban vape flavours, despite the fact that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, and flavours are an incredibly useful tool for adult smokers trying to quit.

Across the board, we should expect better from Ottawa, and the tax on non-alcoholic beer is yet another example of where they’ve gotten it wrong. Hopefully, come Budget 2022, they can correct this mistake and remove the excise tax from these products entirely.

David Clement is a columnist for the Western Standard and the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center

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EXCLUSIVE: 2003 hearing ruled Chu’s accuser ‘not to be believed’

“I find her evidence not to be believed and I was not able to consider her evidence when deciding a sentence.”

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The accuser at the centre of the embattled Calgary Coun. Sean Chu controversy told a hearing he sexually assaulted her while holding a gun to her head, according to documents obtained by the Western Standard.

But the presiding officer at the police disciplinary hearing, Insp. Debbie Middleton-Hope, said the then 16-year-old minor’s testimony was not credible and not to be believed.

The sentencing hearing took place Jan. 31, 2003 and lasted eight minutes.

Chu did admit to caressing the woman’s leg while in uniform at the King’s Head pub on Macleod Tr. after meeting her while conducting a walk-through patrol in August of 1997.

After his shift, Chu went home to change into civilian clothes before returning to the pub to meet the girl.

Middleton-Hope said in her statement that Chu provided investigators with intimate details of sexual contact the pair had when they returned to his home.

“I find Const. Chu to be forthright in his description of the details and I find his evidence to be believed,” said Middleton-Hope, a long-serving, well-respected Calgary policewoman, now retired.

The woman, in turn, denied Chu had caressed her leg.

“… her evidence was directed on an aggressive, physical struggle at which time a gun was held to her head,” said Middleton-Hope.

But Middleton-Hope said she found the woman’s testimony “inconsistent.”

“Under cross-examination (the woman) had difficulty in recalling pertinent details,” said Middleton-Hope.

“I find her evidence not to be believed and I was not able to consider her evidence when deciding a sentence.”

Middleton-Hope also addressed the age of the woman, who was 16 at the time.

“I have no evidence before me Const. Chu was aware of this fact. Several witnesses said [the girl] appeared to be 19 to 21 years old,” she ruled.

The accuser also testified she had an interaction with Chu two years previous after an altercation at school. Chu wasn’t the investigating officer, but did speak to the girl on the phone.

“…and [received] a Christmas card from her as a result of that phone call,” Middleton-Hope said.

“No evidence was presented that Constable Chu was aware of her age from this verbal contact.

“I believe Constable Chu to be sincere when he indicates he was unsuspecting of [the accusers] exact age.”

Middletin-Hope then ordered Chu have a letter of reprimand on his file for discreditable conduct for caressing the accuser’s leg while on duty.

Chu was also ordered to undergo six months of ethics training.

Middleton-Hope noted performance reviews in his 10-year police career described Chu as “hard working” and “highly motivated.”

For the third time, Chu was elected on October 18 to be the councillor for Ward 4. He won by 100 votes, winning the advance poll, but losing on election day. Documents over the case had been leaked to the media just days before the election in what Chu called a “political assassination.”

There have been a chorus of demands from other politicians for Chu to resign and a byelection called. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, incoming Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek and most of the incoming council have demanded Chu resign.

Chu said he would be happy to meet with Mayor-Elect Gondek to discuss the situation.

Dueling protests — one for Chu and one against — are planned in front of city hall on Sunday.

Chu has vowed to not resign and wants to clear his name.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any harm,” Chu told the Western Standard in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

Chu admits there was “some touching underneath clothes” in the 1997 incident.

“She then said she wanted to go home and I drove her straight there.”

Chu denied media reports that a gun was produced during the evening at his home. He said he checked his service weapon in at the police’s traffic office when he signed off duty.

“If there had been a gun involved there would have been charges,” said Chu.

Documents obtained by the Western Standard and other media indicate that the woman claimed the whole process was a “cover-up.”

Chu served as a Calgary police officer from 1992 until he was elected in 2013.

Now Chu said he is looking at his legal options and a possible defamation suit over some of what he called the false reporting.

“I have always told the truth. My reputation is important to me and now my family is hurting,” said Chu.

Chu said he wouldn’t comment on remarks made by Gondek that she will try and remove him from council.

“I will continue to tell the truth at council and will be a fiscal hawk,” he said.

“The most important thing is I told the truth and the truth will prevail.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter.com/nobby7694

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TV news mistakes leads to censure

“The details were clearly inaccurate and related to historical facts,” wrote the Canada Broadcast Standards Council.

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A St. John’s TV station breached newsroom ethics when it put out a report containing mistakes, says Blacklock’s Reporter.

The TV station was censured for garbling a handful of facts in a local story.

“The details were clearly inaccurate and related to historical facts,” wrote the Canada Broadcast Standards Council.

Correct information “could have been easily verified by the reporter prior to airing the news segment,” wrote the Council.

NTV on its flagship suppertime newscast last April 26 broadcast a story on a local parole case that misstated the year of the crime, the date the killer was convicted, and the number of years the murderer served in the penitentiary.

“This whole story was riddled with inconsistencies,” complained one viewer.

“He was charged and convicted in 2003. They reported 2002.

“These facts were not factual. There were four mistakes in the story.”

NTV management apologized and acknowledged errors were made as the story was “rushed to air” but denied any breach of newsroom ethics.

“Although we do not believe our coverage of this story was in breach of any industry guidelines or codes, we understand every individual may view news material or programming from a different perspective,” wrote station managers.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code Of Ethics states, “It shall be the responsibility of broadcasters to ensure that news shall be represented with accuracy.”

A similar Code Of Journalistic Ethics by the Radio Television Digital News Association states: “We are committed to journalism in the public interest that is accurate and reliable.”

“There was no deliberate attempt by NTV to change the narrative of this story which focused on the revocation of the parole of the convicted murderer,” wrote the Standards Council.

“It is understandable that in a rush to get the story to air, incorrect pieces of information were used.”

“Journalists should strive to verify facts and put them in context. These inaccuracies constitute breaches.”

There are no fines for breaching TV codes. The station must announce the violation on its newscast.

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