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SLOBODIAN: Gay Alberta NDP MLA openly mocks believers of God

And she sported a huge grin during a stunning display of reprehensibly rabid intolerance on Friday.

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Edmonton NDP MLA Janis Irwin mocked Jesus and the Bible, used bully tactics, interfered with a citizen’s right to free speech, and encouraged vigilantism against a street preacher.

And she sported a huge grin during a stunning display of reprehensibly rabid intolerance on Friday. 

In a climate where Christians are perceived as fair targets and churches are being burned and vandalized, a politician promoting this appalling behaviour shows pathetically poor judgment at best.

This is Alberta’s Official Opposition Deputy Whip, critic for women’s and LGBTQ2S+ issues, someone who peddles herself as committed to social justice (apparently only for whom she agrees with).

Irwin proudly tweeted and posted a photo on Facebook of herself intimidating a street preacher. She included childish emojis and an invite for others to join in the harassment “every Friday” at Pride Corner, located on Whyte Avenue and Calgary Trail, not even in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood riding she represents.

Irwin in street protest

She posted these comments:

“On my way back home and I couldn’t possibly drive past Pride Corner without stopping.”

“Stayed just long enough to hear about my sins and dance a little too.”

“Stop by! They’re there every Friday night til late, drowning out the hate.”

Stop by to do what exactly? Sounds like an invitation to harass, or possibly worse, a street preacher. 

Mission accomplished. Several fuming people promised to head on down to do just that.

The photo shows a male holding a sign saying: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be Saved.’

A female, attempting to block him, holds signs saying: ‘Respect my existence or expect my resistance’ and ‘Keeping YEG hate free.’

Fine. Two people expressing their views.

The problem is the other person in the photo, that being Irwin, holding signs saying: ’This is homophobia disguised as Bible quotes’ and ‘Hate speech is not welcome here.’

A politician inserting herself into this is a pure intimidation tactic against someone she disagrees with.

It takes imagination to conclude the male’s sign spews hate.

One person who commented on Facebook was hardly impressed.

“The Christian has every right to be there – freedom of speech – preaching what he genuinely believes. You are the ones invading his space to make a scene and to provoke a reaction.”

Amen, brother!

Another person wrote: “I am confused, the scripture on the sign has no reference to homosexuality. How is that hate speech?”

Irwin retorted that the preacher says “hateful and harmful” words but neglected to elaborate.

“His preacher friend across the street confirmed to me that I am, in fact ,going to hell,” she claimed, not elaborating on how that alleged encounter transpired.

“I can laugh, but it’s not about me. It’s about that young kid struggling with their sexuality,” she added.

Oh, save it. That young kid deserves a role model who doesn’t condone double standards.

Irwin’s openly gay. 

Yeah, about that…don’t care. The concern here is character and actions, not where one’s affections lie.

When a politician promotes tolerance for me, but not for thee, there’s a serious problem.

Irwin’s Facebook page is saturated with selfies, promoting LGBTQ2S+ issues, and condemnation of Kerry Diotte, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach, who defeated her in the 2015 federal election.

A red flag about her credibility with facts swirls around false accusations that Diotte promotes conversion therapy.

He has stated that “conversion therapy is a harmful practice and should be banned.”

But he voted against a final “flawed” Liberal Bill C-6 failing to address what would be considered conversion therapy on the grounds that it could “jeopardize or even criminalize some conversations with religious leaders and others when counselling someone.”

The point is Irwin has dishonestly, relentlessly portrayed Diotte as an intolerant hater.

Having known Diotte for many years, it can be stated with absolute surety that he is decidedly not intolerant of gays or anyone, regardless of skin colour or religion.

A new attack appeared Friday on Irwin’s Facebook page spewing the same lies.

When contacted to get his take on whether Irwin crossed a political line, Diotte wondered what her performance has to do with provincial politics.

“People have a right to free speech no matter who they choose to worship. If somebody is fomenting hatred, we have laws against that. The correct thing to do is call the police and make a complaint. If a person is saying something hateful, it is your duty to report, not to incite,” said Diotte.

“What on earth is wrong with spreading the word of God? What kind of world do we live in when people are mocked for that? It’s seriously a sick world when that happens,” he said.

“There are many homeless people in the market with various addictions and maybe the preacher will reach even just one of them and turn their lives around,” said Diotte.

Irwin is obliged to fairly represent Christians in her constituency. With her intolerant bias, can she?

Christians leaders must step out from behind the safety of their pulpits and tell this MLA to respectfully stop mocking Jesus and those who, in Irwin’s view, have the audacity to worship Him.

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

Linda Slobodian is the Manitoba Senior Columnist for the Western Standard. She has been an investigative columnist with the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, and Alberta Report. lslobodian@westernstandardonline.com

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Left Coast

    July 21, 2021 at 11:23 am

    @ Ostbear . . . .

    Last time I checked the Street Preacher was NOT a Politician . . . and for a little while yet Free Speech is still lawful in Canada . . . yes?

    Irwin IS a Politician and represents ALL the people of her district, not her own personal hobby horse. She like many on the far-left is not bright enough to understand this obviously.

    Like is so often the case . . . these same-sexers become unhinged . . . here’s a perfect example.

    Author of the world-famous Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, is one of the few celebrities calling out the hypocrisy of the left’s so-called equality. Rowling, who has been in the “woke” movement’s crosshairs before, fired back against trans activists who have made deadly threats against her.

    Rowling retweeted the thread, responding, “Judging by the tsunami of supportive emails and letters I’ve received, if women learned anything from the response to my post it wasn’t that they should sit down and shut up. Solidarity to the brave and fabulous @millihill (and I love your books, by the way!).”

    Another trans activist user then Tweeted to Rowling, “I wish you a very nice pipebomb in mailbox.” It’s doubtful Twitter will suspend the activist’s account for inciting violence, but we digress. One user responded to the discussion asking, “Is this still because of her comments about the safety of women in toilets/changing rooms if men can use them by simply saying they identify as a woman?”

    Rowling screenshotted the condescending tweet and laid out the reality of these “loving activists” who just want equality. “Yes, but now hundreds of trans activists have threatened to beat, rape, assassinate and bomb me I’ve realized that this movement poses no risk to women whatsoever.”

  2. OSTBear

    July 20, 2021 at 11:39 pm

    Help me understand the logic here: That street preacher can stand out there and yell condemnations — she didn’t need to elaborate. I’ve been down Whyte, I know EXACTLY the kind of things they yell at people — but she can’t go there, hold a sign… and dance? This really has my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ up in arms? Who cares that she’s a politician, that means she’s a guardian of the very freedoms we enjoy… So why is she not allowed to enjoy them?

    If the issue is a power dynamic, might I remind you the same kind of power dynamic exists for the priest as well; As an anointed clergyman he’s intimidating children of God and, apparently, condemning them to hell.

    If you’re going to attempt to call Janis a hypocrite here, I think you yourself need to own your hypocrisy.

  3. Fred

    July 20, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    Wow she is just a wonderful human. Standing up to the intolerance that that man puts up every day. Bravo Janis you are the real hero.

  4. liarspeaksthetruth

    July 20, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    You didn’t even have the gonads to publish an actual comment from an actual long-time conservative.

    I’ve been cancelled. How ironic.

    Thank you, but no, your journalism is skewed, vapid, and blind to the circumstances real people face.

    In turns, we’ll do the same. I won’t expect anyone to reach out – I’ve been cancelled by you, after all. It’s no real comfort that no one on staff possesses the intellectual aplomb or emotional depth to write serious journalism.

    Fringe radicals are as fringe radicals do. The Western Standard is where unemployed journalists go to die.

    Cheers.

  5. Ken Durham

    July 20, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    Dear Linda Slobodan,

    Mocking the Bible, Jesus, and every single other aspect of your batshit crazy beliefs is the very epitome of the right to Free Expression.

    Your religion does NOT have rights.
    It’s an idea and ideas don’t have rights.
    People do.

    Fucking moron.

  6. Mary

    July 20, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    More people should stand up to the bigoted street preachers on Whyte Ave. Way to go Janis! We need more politicians like Janis!

  7. David Ross

    July 20, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    Linda Sobodian, for someone who “doesn’t care” that Janis is gay, you sure like to bring it up and discredit her for it in every other sentence… Seems fishy

  8. Clash

    July 20, 2021 at 11:43 am

    This is obviously a “Media Stunt” to garner some notoriety, and some press. The worse thing in the World is happening to the Gays and the LGBTQ2S community, The public no longer care!! Go live your lives as you wish, “BE HAPPY” with your chosen life. “NOBODY CARES”!!!

  9. JamesHaIifax

    July 20, 2021 at 10:40 am

    What a singuIarIy ugIy individuaI; both outside and in.

    Based upon what I couId see, the onIy Iesbian who wouId be interested in her huge ugIy moutch and bad skin….wouId be a woman who wanted to date a guy…but hates penises.

  10. Desiderius Erasmus

    July 20, 2021 at 9:54 am

    What good Christians we have here. “Vile c*nt.” “I wouldn’t believe in God either if I was born with a face like that.” “horse-face” I’m sure those are the exact words Jesus would have used in this situation. You don’t have to like her or believe in what she’s doing, but attacking her based on her looks is pathetic. Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” You really think Jesus wants people like you in heaven? I don’t think so.

  11. Left Coast

    July 20, 2021 at 9:43 am

    One look at Irwin and you can see that the Elevator does not go all the way to the TOP!

    This marxist Heterophobe is one of many who have infiltrated our Politics, Media, School System and all areas of Govt. They have an Agenda . . . as some of their more radical members like Irwin are happy to announce.

    When the left calls for “tolerance,” are they asking parents to “tolerate” pedophilia and sexual abuse? Are they asking parents to “tolerate” others teaching their children about sex? What is it that the left themselves are required to “tolerate”?

    Anyone who was old enough in the early 80s & the Aids outbreak surely remembers the Bath Houses in San Fran that were closed down by the City because they were a transmission vectors. The “gay” community would hand out memberships at the local High Schools . . .

    “Hundreds of homosexual activists rushed out of bars and swarmed a group of Christians who were singing songs in San Francisco’s Castro District – and some even threatened to kill the worshippers.”
    https://www.wnd.com/2008/11/81310/

  12. Dennis

    July 20, 2021 at 9:26 am

    Wildrose.party 2023

  13. Josh

    July 20, 2021 at 9:10 am

    Does seeing the sign “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” convict this person?

  14. Wesley

    July 20, 2021 at 8:48 am

    This is only one reason I could never support the NDP. Although they spout that they are the tolerant ones these social warriors are the most intolerant!

  15. Olwyn

    July 19, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    That street preacher is NOTORIOUS for spewing hate at people on Whyte Ave and if you’ve ever been on Whyte in the evenings or at night you’ve liked heard some of the bigoted and disrespectful things they’ve said to passersby unprovoked. People like that make me embarrassed to be a Christian. I don’t blame these people for trying to fight back after all these years. Bright signs and smiles are hardly a violent response.

  16. Baron Not Baron

    July 19, 2021 at 9:16 pm

    Marxism = Marc6sm = Mark 6(ism) = Mark 666. Choose wisely.

    WIPA !!!

  17. Baron Not Baron

    July 19, 2021 at 7:49 pm

    Gordo the weirdo!

  18. Concerned Christian

    July 19, 2021 at 7:48 pm

    Does anyone else see the hypocrisy here? I do and it’s probably not what most of you are thinking. As a practicing Christian I have been the target of street preachers in Edmonton who told me that I was a sinner and going to hell. Why? I had just exited a pub…. exiting a pub = eternal damnation? You claim the right to free speech but tolerate attacks on others in the name of Christianity? These two individuals are called out for their behavior but are viciously attacked on social media and even in the comments of this article? I choose to stand with the God of love, grace, forgiveness and understanding because I believe that was and continues to be the example of Jesus.

  19. Brent Altheim

    July 19, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    You conveniently left out the fact that the ‘street preacher’ in question regularly spews intolerance and thinly veiled misogyny and homophobia as part of his ‘sermons’. Listening to his words have made me, a straight white christian male, uncomfortable. It would be 100x worse for someone who looked different. Freedom of speech is different than freedom from consequences. The action taken to counter his ‘preaching’ is perfectly appropriate. Of course, I don’t expect you to consider anything the NDP does as appropriate, since it would be bad for your bottom line, and that is all that really matters, isn’t it?

  20. berta baby

    July 19, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    what a hate filled bigot…. just sad how angry she comes off, why does she feel so much blatant rage by a human holding a sign ? I think she has mental problems to be so intolerant of other people.

    Notley obviously embraces this kind of hate because she hasn’t condemned this intolerance

  21. NeverKerry

    July 19, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    As a long time born again Christian I am appalled by the unloving, unkind, un-self-controlled, impatient, unfaithful comments on this article (fruit of the Spirit anyone?) and shake my head at the writer of this article. My representative, Janis Irwin, is certainly not bullying or intimidating. In fact she is positively and kindly responding to what this “preacher” is doing. Shouting at people, saying “you are going to hell”, saying “God hates…” etc. This is not the approach Christ used with those who did not know Him. Christ treated the prostitute with compassion, the sinner with mercy, the doubters with patience. If Janis sins (in any way, for example by being overly proud of her cat Oregano lol) as we all do, it is primarily between her and God. If you are her friends or her community or her loving neighbour and you believe she sins or does wrong, then you have the relationship to suggest this to her in LOVE. At any rate I am pretty sure no one here including me has this right.
    And Kerry Diottes comment? Right. I’m sure he would be just as supportive of a extremist Islamic screaming on a street corner than “Infidels must die”. Right Kerry? Just as supportive of Christians as of Muslims? Doubtful. Because this guy on the corner is an extremist Christian who preaches not out of love but out of self righteousness and condemnation.

  22. Ray

    July 19, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    Oh you poor lil fragile loons. Anything to keep the truth from people. There is not a genuine bone behind anything you write. It’s pathetic. I have pics of my comment as I figured you’d censor it while approving men making fun of women’s’ appearances (very on brand)🙄🙄🙄🙄 You truly are so weak, that’s why no one is worried. Take care out there.

  23. Ray

    July 19, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    You all are so easily duped!! Not even a Google search, just straight up full blind belief in a propaganda opinion section😂😂😂😂 That dude with god sign, who you all seem to be running to their defense, has been out on that corner of Whyte Ave day and night for years calling queer life an abomination and using slurs any chance he can. People fight back with love and you loose your minds. Y’all are simple.

  24. Steven

    July 19, 2021 at 4:03 pm

    That’s a very good point Willian. I wonder what former Premier Notley would have to say if she attacked the Muslim faith & mocked them? Hmmm?

  25. Steven

    July 19, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    She’s exposing herself as a gay bigot with no tolerance for others whom don’t fit her lifestyle. Her lifestyle isn’t under attack like it was years ago, but what she needs to remember is, now she is now doing the dirty work of which the church use to be so hated for. Crazy world we live in.

    I say live and let live because in the end we will all meet the maker; one way or the other. Not her job to condemn or judge. One of the hardest things I have to work at also.

  26. Penny4YourThouhts

    July 19, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    Shame is as powerful as fear and this MLA is carrying around a TON of shame. Perhaps if she actually took the time to learn the teachings of Jesus Christ she would learn how to accept herself and quit projecting her shame onto Christians.

  27. Gloria Bult

    July 19, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    I pray for her conversion.

  28. William

    July 19, 2021 at 12:38 pm

    What would be the NDP reaction if she was mocking Muslim?

  29. Adam Bartlett

    July 19, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    I wouldn’t believe in God either if I was born with a face like that.

  30. Andrew

    July 19, 2021 at 11:49 am

    She needs to be voted out of office. I encourage everyone in the riding she is elected to get it done! Wildrose!

  31. K

    July 19, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Pathetic and reprehensible behaviour, but not shocking coming from that horse-face. The more they engage in acts like this, the stupider they look. I say, bring it on. The best way to bring attention to your mental illness is to show it off for all to see. God will not be mocked.

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Pickup trucks are a plague on Canadian streets — Gee, did he get it wrong?

Nasty pickup-driving soccer moms rolling coal in mall parking lots are the ones killing the planet!
At least, that’s how Globe and Mail writer Marcus Gee sees it.

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Across Canada’s untamed urban frontier, when pickup truck drivers aren’t wrestling wild hogs, they’re on the road tailgating electric cars and cyclists for sport.

And the biggest polluters aren’t factories in China, India and elsewhere ceaselessly spewing smoke and chemicals into the air.

Nasty pickup-driving soccer moms rolling coal in mall parking lots are the ones killing the planet!
At least, that’s how Globe and Mail writer Marcus Gee sees it.

Thank goodness he ventured out of his urban bubble to set people straight on the devastating impact of the vile permeation of pickup trucks in North America.

Hopefully, Gee’s Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, with a heaping topping of utter contempt, didn’t dribble down his elitist chin whilst he penned a recent snobbish attack on the character of pickup truck drivers.

It doesn’t take long for the initial surprise at the absurdity of his sanctimonious reasoning to turn into laughter.

Gee lamented that last spring – in the midst of a pandemic yet – Americans bought more pickup trucks than cars. And, if you can imagine, for years, Canadians have had the audacity to make Ford’s F-150 a best-selling vehicle.

“For heaven’s sake why? Most people no longer use pickups to haul bales of hay. They drive them to the mall to shop or the soccer field to drop off their kids. Why anyone thinks they need to do that is an abiding mystery,” anguished Gee.

“Once the vehicle of the cowboy, the contractor, and the good old boy, pickups have become the continent’s mainstream ride,” wrote Gee.

“A vehicle that started as a practical tool for hard-working people has become, for many, an obnoxious assertion of dominance and division,” wrote Gee.

What a clever ploy! Pretend you’re purchasing pickup trucks to haul things, make a living, or for safe driving in brutal weather conditions, when the real intent is to achieve dominance and create division.
Do pickup truck drivers hold super-secret meetings like the Illuminati or the Bilderberg Group to achieve this nefarious goal?

Gee referred to a survey – no, he didn’t identify it – that claimed three-quarters of pickup drivers use their trucks only once, or not at all, for hauling each year.

That would come as a shock to farmers, contractors, tradesmen, delivery companies, utility repairmen, movers, people who haul loads to the dump or the whole team’s gear to regular sports events, and a host of other pickup truck drivers.

“Buyers can drop $100,000 on luxury models, which most will spend more time polishing than loading,” he wrote.

“Even if they weren’t polluting and dangerous, the parade of pickups would be a blight on the roadscape and a finger in the eye of other drivers – a way of saying to everyone else: ‘I am bigger, badder and richer than you.”

No, Gee didn’t say what message is sent by purchasers of the $93,000 Audi e-tron Sportback or the $170,000 BMW i8 Roadster, or other expensive electric or hybrid vehicles he prefers.

Gee’s entitled to his opinion. But it evolved into a personal attack on people who drive vehicles he doesn’t like. He portrayed them as reckless bullies on the hunt for targets.

That’s inexcusable.

“In the charming practice known as rolling coal, some pickup drivers blow past cyclists and electric vehicles and deliberately spew black smoke at them,” claimed Gee.

Yup, those hordes of pickup truck drivers – even the soccer moms – spend their spare time modifying diesel engines so they can hunt down targets to spew sooty exhaust fumes on. Great fun!
Can anyone possibly be so detached from reality?

But Gee wasn’t finished flinging wild accusations: “Then there is safety. Anyone who has travelled a Canadian highway lately has been tailgated by a speeding pickup driver. Being up there in that big cab over the huge engine seems to make the drivers think they own the road; lesser vehicles be damned.”
Now that’s a fabricated, irrational fear, right up there with monsters hiding under the bed or in the closet.

And the good old boys Gee mocked still drive pickups. They’re everywhere. They’re the first to stop on the highway in frigid, stormy weather to pull vehicles that jackknifed and slid off the road out of the ditch, never expecting more than a thank you.

He’s right about farmers not using pickups to haul bales, particularly in Manitoba now. That’s because there are no bales to haul to feed the cattle they’re forced to sell because of drought and grasshoppers.
Meanwhile, many people, especially in Alberta, are using their pickup trucks to move their possessions out of the homes they’ve lost because clueless and destructive environmentalists successfully campaigned against the energy industry.

Gee was applauded by his colleague Gary Mason who tweeted: “This is a column I wish I’d written.”

These Uber boys are so sadly out of touch.

Most Canadians are fed up with condescending so-called elitists who look down on them believing they have the right to tell them how to live and what to buy.

Rev those engines, folks!

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

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Opinion

WAGNER: Election of Maverick MPs would send a clear message of Western defiance

But what if – instead of business as usual – the Mavericks picked up a few Alberta seats?

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The May poll showing emerging support for the Maverick Party is good news for Alberta. The party is beginning to build its profile and may become competitive in some ridings. As time goes by, more and more Albertans will hear about the party and see it as a viable alternative worthy of their vote.

A federal election will likely occur this year (very soon, according to Brian Lilley in the Toronto Sun), and almost all of Alberta’s seats are currently safe havens for Conservative MPs. A result like 2019 where every seat except one goes Conservative will be met by a shrug in Ottawa. That’s just business as usual. 

But what if – instead of business as usual – the Mavericks picked up a few Alberta seats? A result like that would set off a firestorm. Nothing would catch the attention of people in Central Canada more abruptly than Albertans sending some so-called “separatist” MPs to Ottawa. Bloc Quebecois MPs don’t raise too many eyebrows down there. They are, after all, from Central Canada too, and share the same “progressive” values and anti-oil sentiment exhibited by most of the other parties. But sovereigntist MPs from Alberta? That would be something else altogether.

There are many good Conservative MPs from Alberta who undoubtedly do their best for their constituents. But right now, the West needs MPs who can speak out publicly without the fear of retribution by party leadership whose ambitions are always to please Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal – MPs, that is, whose only loyalty is to Alberta and the West.

From a Western regionalist perspective, a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the status quo. Alberta needs something different now, something that offers a full-frontal challenge to Central Canada’s political elite. Electing politicians from the old-line parties just won’t do it. But electing Maverick candidates might.

The ridings most likely to show support for Maverick candidates are in rural Alberta. Ridings like Battle River—Crowfoot and Red Deer—Mountain View are unfamiliar to people in places like Toronto. But if those ridings sent Maverick MPs to Ottawa, people in Central Canada would suddenly hear about them, for all the right reasons. 

The large Wexit meetings that were held in the wake of the October 2019 federal election generated some attention down East. A prominent Toronto-based magazine, The Walrus, even produced a cover feature on Wexit with two major articles, The New Separatists and Meet the Albertans Who Want to Start Their Own Country. But as the Wexit meetings dissipated due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and perhaps declining enthusiasm, Central Canada once again forgot about Western discontent.

Having a Maverick presence in the House of Commons would ensure Western concerns would not be forgotten or ignored. Maverick MPs would be a continual reminder that things are not okay and big changes are needed. 

It’s true that only a provincial government can hold a referendum on independence. Even with elected MPs, a federal party cannot initiate any measures that would lead to Western independence. As a result, some people question the necessity of a federal sovereigntist party. However, if a referendum on Alberta independence were held under the Clarity Act, the House of Commons would determine whether the referendum question on independence was “clear.” The presence of MPs whose only loyalty is to the West could be crucial in getting a fair judgment on that point. 

Maverick MPs would represent the West’s interests in other important matters as well, of course. We know that Quebecers believe there are advantages to sending committed sovereigntist MPs to Ottawa because they repeatedly elect candidates from the Bloc Quebecois. The West can do likewise.

If Alberta and Saskatchewan send full slates of Conservative MPs to Ottawa after the next election, no one will be surprised and Canadian politics would continue as usual. However, if Alberta – and perhaps the other Western provinces – send some Maverick MPs to Ottawa, that would convey an unmistakable message of defiance.

It would be a clear signal that the West has had enough.

Michael Wagner is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Help too little, too late for Manitoba farmers

Severe drought and a grasshopper invasion have left parched watering holes and destroyed crops and pastures, forcing producers to sell cattle they can’t feed at emergency auctions.

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A disaster relief program announced Thursday for drought-stricken Manitoba farmers is too little too late to save too many.

And the package, although welcomed, doesn’t address other critical problems.

Severe drought and a grasshopper invasion have left parched watering holes and destroyed crops and pastures, forcing producers to sell cattle they can’t feed at emergency auctions.

Farmers are exhausted from hauling water to thirsty animals and a prolonged fight for survival.

An exodus from the devastated industry is underway. Forage livestock commodity producers – beef, sheep, goats, buffalo and horses – are planning, in some cases, permanent exit strategies.

“This could be the end of the industry here. By the time most people are forced out, they’re not going to have enough money to go back into it,” Orval Procter, a beef producer and councillor for the R.M. of Woodlands, just north of Winnipeg, told the Western Standard.

“These announcements are wonderful but there needs to be strong dialogue provincially, federally, with all the commodity groups to figure out as best a path as we can to benefit everybody.

“This is a small drop in what we need. Not all of what we need is money. We need good planning and regulations or restrictions to add some control to the marketplace.”

Agriculture contributes $7 billion a year to Manitoba’s economy and $1 billion of that is attributed directly to livestock. 

The ripple effect of an exodus would devastate communities and businesses within them.

Manitoba’s suffering its fourth year of drought. Areas where cattle production is prevalent are hardest hit.

“Livestock producers are unique in that we’re struggling, and we have live animals that we’re dealing with. Grain producers who are struggling aren’t putting animals at risk,” said Procter.

Over the past two years with feed in short supply, farmers have had to sell one-third of their breeding stock.

But for 11 years, the resilience of economically crippled farmers and producers has been severely tested by a string of blows including BSE (mad cow disease), flooding, drought, economic recessions, and the impact of COVID-19.

“Because we’ve had so many issues, nobody has the financial resources, and nobody knows where we can get enough feed. It’s dire,” said Procter.

Through it all, they’ve mostly had to go it alone because there was “minimal recognition” by the government of the crushing economic damage to the industry, said Procter. 

He helped organize a July 21 rally to call for immediate federal and provincial government help. Nearly 100 producers showed up. Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Ralph Eichler didn’t attend for health reasons and didn’t send anyone from the agriculture department in his place.

Federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau visited drought-stricken areas Thursday and announced federal/provincial relief programs.

Through the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s Hay Disaster Benefit, insured livestock feed producers will get an extra $44 per tonne to offset replacement feed and transportation costs. Changes to the AgriInsurance program allow some crops damaged by drought to be sold as feed.

“What they’re really announcing is a top-up to the insurance programs to make sure there’s enough money to increase benefits to producers for hay shortages based on the extra cost. That price is typically set almost on a national scale, so when you get in situations like we have, where the price is triple what it was last year and they pay you out on last year’s costs, it doesn’t let you buy much,” said Procter.

He’s concerned about the cattle.

“There’s about 450,000 cows in Manitoba. Most producers are being affected by this,” said Procter.

“One of the biggest things that scares me, and nobody’s talking about it, there’s obviously going to be a huge influx of cattle into the market. Where are these cattle going to go? Are we going to have days with 5,000 head showing up an auction mart with three days selling? How many days before they’re moved? Who’s going to want them?” 

Every bit of hay that comes into the system is desperately needed. Eight bales saves one cow.

But pleas for more Crown land and wildlife management areas to be opened for haying and grazing, appear futile.

“The department has let land out, but they’ve not let all of it out. Areas still aren’t open and that’s to no one’s benefit,” said Procter.

“There’s no engagement. We asked for a contact to meet with, it’s been three weeks and we haven’t been given that. We got a roundabout response that it probably wasn’t going to happen.”

Meanwhile, skyrocketing feed costs and negative sales returns have resulted in producers receiving up to $400 less per animal than the cost of raising it.

“We haven’t even been in a break-even position for some time. We get 19% of the final cost, feed lots get 19%, and the rest is taken up by slaughter plants and retail,” said Procter.

“I’ve got receipts from 2002 – $1.87 a pound for a 400-500-pound steer was pretty common. I got the same price a month ago.” 

Producers are demanding a “government-driven investigation into the system that prices meat products, from the farmer’s gate to the consumer’s plate.”

The price producers receive isn’t reflected in what consumers pay for meat products.

“What’s hamburger worth? That’s your cheapest cut,” said Procter.

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

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