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BARNES & LOEWEN: Taking a lesson from Redford, Kenney appoints half of caucus to plum jobs

“With this shuffle, Kenney has increased the size of government while forcing a chosen few to pay a political price for his own failures. That fits a pattern of behaviour that Albertans have come to expect from a premier more concerned with his own scandals than Albertans’ interests.”

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With this week’s cabinet shuffle, Premier Kenney is going to great lengths to put his selfish short-term political interests first.

The premier increased the total size of Cabinet by 15%, up to 26 ministers and associate ministers. If you include parliamentary secretaries and other non-cabinet officers, the total number of the premier’s direct appointments now accounts for 50% of the UCP caucus.

It’s abundantly clear this shuffle has nothing to do with strengthening our province or helping Albertans. It was a crass attempt to buy the loyalty of disheartened and frustrated MLAs. 

It is also reminiscent of the tactics of another deeply unpopular premier from Alberta’s past. As Premier Alison Redford’s administration slipped into scandal, she also handed out 30 appointments, representing half her caucus. While most Albertans take Redford’s failed leadership as a cautionary tale, Premier Kenney seems take it as an instructional manual.

When you take a closer look at Premier Kenney’s new cabinet, things only get worse. Here are a few issues that stand out:

No change at the top

While cabinet shuffles are typically used to reset unpopular government policies, Premier Kenney obviously believes his policies are fine, and has made to no changes at the top of his cabinet. 

Notably, Premier Kenney remains his own minister of intergovernmental relations. Since taking on this post in April of 2019, the premier has achieved next to nothing on this file. He has outright failed to influence federal policy on the carbon tax, the tanker ban bill C-48, or Bill C-69, the no more pipelines bill. The federal government has not offered to address Alberta’s concerns on Equalization, and its minor tinkering with the Fiscal Stabilization program is little more than an insult.

To this day, federal government repeatedly meddles in provincial jurisdiction with regard to resource development, and when the Keystone XL pipeline was cancelled, the premier couldn’t get the prime minister to lift a finger. No minister in this government has a worse record than the intergovernmental relations minister, and he should be replaced.

No regional balance

Of the 26 people with seats at the cabinet table, 17 are from Calgary, making up 65% of the total.

Of Alberta’s 41 rural constituencies, only eight (less than 20%) are represented at the cabinet table. With the departure of MLA Grant Hunter from cabinet, there is now effectively no representation at the table for Albertans from the rural south. In fact, there isn’t a single MLA in cabinet south of Calgary’s city limits.

If you want to be in Jason Kenney’s cabinet, the obvious first step should be winning a seat in Calgary. Of 23 Calgary ridings won by the UCP, 17 (74%) are represented in cabinet.

Wildrose purge

Of the 13 former-Wildrose MLAs elected under the UCP banner in 2019 (each with a minimum of four years’ experience), there are only three in cabinet. Two former Wildrosers (Hunter and Aheer) were expelled from Cabinet, and two others (Loewen and Barnes) have been expelled from caucus altogether. 

No accountability

One of the biggest political scandals of the year (the Sky Palace patio party) featured several senior ministers including the premier himself violating their own health restrictions. Earlier in the year, the premier threatened any restriction violators with expulsion from the UCP caucus. In January, MLAs who did not break health restrictions were all punished. However, none of the Sky Palace ministers were demoted in this cabinet shuffle. Meanwhile, the lone minister who dared to question the premier’s claims that he followed the rules (which he later recanted) was dismissed from cabinet.

The bottom line is it’s hard to take this premier seriously when he talks about finding efficiencies or improving government accountability. With this shuffle, Kenney has increased the size of government while forcing a chosen few to pay a political price for his own failures. That fits a pattern of behaviour that Albertans have come to expect from a premier more concerned with his own scandals than Albertans’ interests.

Guest Column from Drew Barnes and Todd Loewen.
Drew Barnes is the Independent MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat
Todd Loewen is the Independent MLA for Central Peace-Notley

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Steven

    July 15, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    I agree with WESTCANGUY. Kenney is out of touch with Albertans; especially if former Prime Minister is giving Kenney advice now. Shows the UCP has a leader/Premier who’s hitched his ride to the CPC & O’Toole’s camp. Shows Albertans are second to the overall CPC drive to obtain power. That’s not what we voted for Jason Kenney, but you lied to Albertans with your pre election campaign. Now you enjoy your just rewards from the grassroots who left the UCP & joined the Wildrose Independence Party. Wildrose for me.

  2. Susan Grant

    July 15, 2021 at 10:21 am

    Disgusting! Kenney and the UCP over bloated fat cat crowd of self entitled scummy politicians!

  3. Left Coast

    July 15, 2021 at 8:32 am

    Kenney’s actions are the product of a “Demented” Mind . . . he has proven he is NO Conservative over & over. The man is incapable of leading anything but a Parade!

  4. Westcanguy

    July 14, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    Increased cabinet by 15% but wants nurses to take a cut from lump sum payments and shift premiums. Just shows you just out of touch Kenney is. UCP doesn’t get my vote next time.

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Manitoba response to Freedom Convoy has politicians cowering

“Truckers rolling down the highways — determined heroes in thousands of rigs, trucks, and cars — have unleashed a righteous beast in Canadians fed up with bullies messing with their freedoms and livelihoods and treating the unvaccinated as second-class lepers.”

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Federal politicians and bureaucrats will probably be hiding in their closets or under their desks, frozen in fear, when the massive Freedom Convoy arrives in Ottawa.

And they should hide in shame until they get it straight — that they were elected to carry out the will of the people; that it’s long past time to start listening.

Maybe a crescendo of blaring horns in the capital will improve their hearing.

They’ve created a big COVID-19 mess, underestimated the Canadians they’ve tormented and tried to crush, pulled cheap stunts, and delivered fancy, empty condescending lectures.

Few are listening to them anymore. Truckers have taken the wheel and won the trust and respect and hearts and minds of countless Canadians who oppose vaccine mandates and freedom of speech being trampled on. 

Elected pooh-bahs who’ve lost any esteem they may have had just don’t know what to do about that. 

Truckers rolling down the highways — determined heroes in thousands of rigs, trucks, and cars — have unleashed a righteous beast in Canadians fed up with bullies messing with their freedoms and livelihoods and treating the unvaccinated as second-class lepers.

That’s why hundreds of freezing supporters braved -30C temperatures to greet the convoy when it blared into Brandon, Man., population 60,000, around noon Tuesday.

A driver going the other way told the Western Standard the convoy was 100 km long.

It was a magnificent, electric scene that has, and will continue to repeat itself along highways, roads and overpasses in towns and cities across Canada until convoys coming from several directions converge on the capital January 29.

The cheering Brandon supporters didn’t come empty-handed. They brought more than 1,000 bagged lunches — sandwiches, homemade cookies, muffins, puffed wheat cakes — prepared in kitchens throughout the province. 

Someone even very thoughtfully hauled in porta-potties.

These regular Canadians don’t have much use for most politicians (Of course, Carlton MP Pierre Poilievre is an exception).

But Canadians love, love, love the truckers!

“People have been dropping food and drinks off all morning,” said Virden’s Ingrid Wilkinson, who organized the bagged lunches served at several stations.

“I’m doing it for all the harm that’s been caused. I personally know many people who have been greatly harmed. I’m doing this for our parents who had to live through Nazi occupation. Thankfully, they’re not in this world now. I do it for the kids, their future,” said Wilkinson.

“This is not sustainable. It’s a big lie.”

Virden menu for truckers

The Virden group had $825 left over from money raised to buy food to donate it to the trucker’s GoFundMe which stands at $4.6 million and counting. This amazing feat was accomplished in just 10 days.

About 193 km away in Headingley, more food and support awaited the convoy where Hutterite communities prepared for the arrival of the “dear” truckers.

“We are setting up kitchens n gonna feed you all. We are with you, and we fully support this massive convoy for freedom,” tweeted Paul Kleinsasser. “May God protect you on your journey, keep on going, we are praying for you. God bless.”

The convoy was expected to arrive in Winnipeg a few hours later.

The truckers oppose the cross-border vaccine mandates that severely impact their livelihoods.

The truckers also oppose vaccine mandates inflicted on everyone else — nurses, police, military, worshipers, children, students — everyone. 

Canadians embrace and are emboldened by their courage and stamina. 

So yes, they are well fed, dearly loved, and, it appears, to be shunned by most politicians.

However, Conservative MPs Andrew Scheer and Warrant Steinley did show up to greet the convoy in Regina Monday night.

Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen blasted the Liberal government and threw her support behind truckers.

“I support peaceful demonstrations against these mandates, and our truckers from Portage-Lisgar and from across Canada,” the Portage-Lisgar MP tweeted Tuesday.

Bergen said Trudeau “dealt our crumbling supply chain another blow” when he implemented mandates making 26,000 truckers unable to transport of goods across the Canada-U.S. border “which will only drive inflation higher than it’s been in over 30 years.

“Conservatives have been opposed to federal mandated vaccines since Trudeau introduced them: and we oppose the mandatory vaccine on Canadian truckers.”

Bergen noted that truckers bring much-needed supplies to Canada and “worked tirelessly over the pandemic” to keep supplies moving.

“Hamstringing this essential industry is nothing more than a political move to further divide Canadians.”

As for the main event in Ottawa, count on People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier to be there.

But hell will freeze over before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finds the courage or respect to greet the convoy that speaks for a huge segment of the country.

Opposition Leader Erin O’Toole repeatedly dodged questions Monday about whether he supports the truckers offering a wishy-washy non-committal word salad. So no, he’ll be absent. Lord help the Conservative party while he’s at the helm.

Let these two ‘leaders’ hide in the closet from the big rigs, blaring horns, and burly truckers headed their way.

Time has passed for them to speak. Nobody cares about what they have to say anymore.

The people have spoken. 

It’s time for the politicians and unelected bureaucrats to listen.

And with every blaring horn, the message gets stronger and clearer: Enough!

Exciting times.

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

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Opinion

SELICK: Ontario’s health minister should get a second opinion

“In normal times, doctors frequently disagree with one another. That’s why patients often do seek out second opinions. “

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Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott is apparently unfamiliar with the concept of getting a second opinion from a different doctor when the first doctor’s advice doesn’t seem to be producing the desired results.

In a widely publicized speech she made on January 19, Elliott said: “I want to respond to some extremely concerning reports that some doctors are spreading misinformation about vaccines. At a time when it’s never been more important for Ontarians to have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, this [dissenting advice] is unacceptable. I will be sending a letter to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) urging them to do everything that is possible to put an end to this behaviour. They should consider all options in doing so, including reviewing the licenses of physicians found to be spreading misinformation.”

It is certainly true that some Ontario doctors have departed from the “must-vaccinate” narrative of the majority and the CPSO. However, it is not a mere handful that are creating such stress for the health minister. Forty MDs were already under investigation by the CPSO before Ms. Elliott expressed her wish for an even broader witch hunt.

There are many other dissenters that the CPSO has not yet targeted. For instance, a group calling itself Canadian Physicians for Science and Truth posted a declaration on May 9, 2021 responding to the CPSO’s April 30th threat to impose disciplinary action on any physician who questions or debates COVID-19 orthodoxy. The declaration has garnered 718 signatures from healthcare professionals (many of whom have shown their credentials as “MD”), as well as 20,171 signatures from ordinary citizens. Those signing the declaration accuse the CPSO of ordering physicians to depart from the scientific method by shying away from debate on scientific subjects.

Another group, the Canadian Covid Care Alliance, is more protective of the identities of its members but indicates that it is an “alliance of over 500 independent Canadian doctors, scientists, and health care providers…committed to providing quality, balanced, evidence-based information to the Canadian public about COVID-19 so that hospitalizations can be reduced, lives saved, and our country safely restored to normal as quickly as possible.”

Health Minister Elliott must surely share those goals, so why has she moved so pre-emptively and harshly to demonize a contingent of her fellow travelers? She herself is not a doctor or scientist, and not independently qualified to determine which group of doctors really does have an accurate view of the facts.

Rational people – when faced with a choice between two opposing scientific opinions – examine both of them closely and give due consideration to the viewpoints of all the people more highly credentialed than themselves. They don’t behave like Ms. Elliott did – pretending to know that one group is wrong while the other has a monopoly on truth.

In normal times, doctors frequently disagree with one another. That’s why patients often do seek out second opinions. Sometimes the second doctor, or even the third or fourth, has a more satisfactory answer than the first did.

Ms. Elliott must surely realize by now that the experts she has been relying on for the past two years have not served the people of Ontario well. It’s high time she abandoned her arrogant attitude towards those who are offering a different opinion and started listening to them instead of threatening them with the loss of their livelihoods.

Karen Selick is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

WAGNER: The benefits of a federal Western independence party

“As long as Albertans continue to vote Conservative federally, Justin Trudeau knows that he has nothing to worry about.”

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For Alberta to become independent, there must be a provincial referendum on independence that receives a clear majority vote. For the referendum to take place, there must be a party in power willing to hold one. That requires the election of a provincial political party that favours asking Albertans whether they want to remain in Canada or choose a path towards self-determination and prosperity. The need for a provincial independence party is clear and easy to understand.

But some people ask: what about a federal Western independence party? What would be the point of that? It could neither mandate the necessary referendum nor pass federal legislation benefiting the West. Such a party therefore seems pointless, they suggest.

However, there are some clear benefits to a federal political party that should be considered.

For one thing, a federal Western independence party gives pro-independence voters an option besides the pro-federalist parties currently on offer. Patriotic Alberta voters who reject the Central Canadian parties would at least have someone they can conscientiously support. They could “vote their values,” so to speak, and send a message to Ottawa that voting for other parties doesn’t accomplish.

Right now, many independence-minded Albertans support Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party. The People’s Party has a unique and beneficial message that is attractive to conservative-minded Westerners, so that’s understandable. Bernier’s opposition to the Paris Climate Accord would mean that a Peoples’ Party federal government would eliminate the kinds of policies that prevent Western freedom and prosperity.

That is excellent, of course. However, because the People’s Party doesn’t restrict its focus to Western interests, it can’t represent the West in the same way that an exclusively Western party could. This is not to disparage the People’s Party, but simply to note that as a pan-Canadian party it must represent the interests of every region in the country, not just the West.

Having a federal independence party – such as the Maverick Party – does more than simply provide an option for Western regionalist voters. If it were to win a substantial number of votes (whether in a by-election or general election), that would alert Central Canadians to the increasing anger towards Ottawa in the West. 

As long as Albertans continue to vote Conservative federally, Justin Trudeau knows he has nothing to worry about. Conservative MPs from Alberta undoubtedly sympathize with the plight of the West, but their options to help are severely constrained by the need to appeal to voters in places like Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. The Conservative Party wants more than anything to achieve power, and the path to power runs through Central Canada. Thus, the interests of Alberta will always be a very low priority for the Conservative Party.

In contrast, were one or more Western independence MPs to be elected, Trudeau would see the West was not just going to lie down and let him run us over. He might finally understand that his anti-oil industry policies would be met by stiff resistance and that he was in for a real fight.

Most importantly of all, though, is that the election of one or more Maverick Party MPs would provide a significant morale boost for the entire Western independence movement. There would be lots of excitement that would lead to increased support, even at the provincial level.

There’s something about an electoral victory that generates credibility, even if power is not attained by the victor. That is, even though Maverick MPs would not form government or exercise power, the fact that they received voter support would provide credibility for the independence movement as a whole. In this kind of situation, quality leaders would likely emerge who could take the movement forward.

Some people point out that there have been Bloc Québécois MPs in Ottawa for years and they have done little for Quebec. Therefore, Maverick MPs from Alberta would be just as pointless.

However, everyone expects Quebec to send separatist MPs to Ottawa. They’ve been doing that for decades. Alberta sending independence-minded MPs to Ottawa would be entirely different. The election of Maverick MPs would constitute a political earthquake that would rock the nation. It would be the Canadian news story of the decade, and it would generate new interest and energy in the Western independence movement.

In short, a federal political party could potentially play a meaningful role in the move towards Alberta independence. A federal party is not as essential as a provincial party for the independence movement to succeed, but the potential benefits it could provide should not be overlooked.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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