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EDITORIAL: Conservative platform long on details, short on change

The Western Standard analyzed the entire Conservative platform in detail. Read about the hottest items here.

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This Editorial was jointly written by the Editorial Board of the Western Standard

As Canadians are sent to the polls more than two years before the fixed election date prescribes in legislation, voters must decide if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deserves a third term, and if so, if he has earned a return to a majority government.

The Western Standard believes that the answer to both of these questions is an emphatic “No”.

But elections are supposed to be about more than simply judging the record of the incumbent government. They are supposed to be about judging who – if anyone – deserves to take the reins.

To their credit, the Conservative Party of Canada laid out its entire platform for all to see on the first full day of the campaign. Rather than earn media coverage with dribs-and-drabs over four weeks, they presented the entire 160-page document in considerable detail. Voters don’t have to wait to see everything a Prime Minister Erin O’Toole says he would do.

That is, everything except for how much it will cost.

Balanced Budgets (D+)

For the first time in the party’s modern history, it has declined to release any costing of their promises, nor any accounting as to how the two sides of the ledger will add up. Only a vague promise to “balancing the budget over the next decade.”

This should be more than disappointing for fiscal conservative voters. O’Toole’s promise to simply start spending less than the government brings in would require him to win three back-to-back majority governments. It is a political feat accomplished only once in Canadian history by a Conservative leader: Sir John A. MacDonald. Without a single poll showing the Conservatives even in minority government territory as yet, Mr. O’Toole’s optimism for his new dynasty is premature to say the least.

No government at the federal level – and extraordinarily few at the provincial – has ever successfully executed a balanced budget plan across two terms in government, and certainly never across three.

While the details of the Conservative platform costing are to be released soon by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, they will simply not hold any credibility in light of the political Act of God required to even attempt them.

The platform itself is a mixed bag of good and bad that the Western Standard has analyzed in detail.

Child Care (C)

Alarmingly for parents that favour choice, the platform looks to Trudeau and Quebec’s $10/day government-run daycare plan for inspiration.

“As the Quebec example has shown, increasing child care affordability increases the number of women who choose to work outside the home” it reads.

The document itself is silent on if the Tories would scrap the hugely expensive $10/day program, and requests for clarification to the party have gone unanswered.

Most mothers and fathers prefer choice in childcare, not a one-size-fits-all program run by a distant government. In the absence of any clarity on the issue, we fear O’Toole considers this program untouchable.

Taxes (C-)

The platform includes a nod to how overly complex Canada’s tax code has become and commits to reviewing it with an eye toward simplifying it. Unfortunately, the same platform contains at least 24 new complications to the tax code, many of them gimmicky vote-buying schemes.

Speaking of taxes, the party is promising more of them. Big media laughed at Stephen Harper in 2015 when he warned of Trudeau imposing a “Netflix tax”, before Trudeau went ahead with just that. O’Toole has jumped on the bandwagon, promising to “[Make] foreign tech companies pay their fair share of taxes, including sales tax and a digital services tax representing 3% of the gross revenue in Canada if they don’t pay corporate income tax here.” These are costs that will get passed on to consumers relaxing with their favourite show.

Carbon Tax (F-)

O’Toole also repeated his commitment to a large new carbon tax that he refers to as a “pricing mechanism.” This is a clear betrayal of the Conservative Party, its members, and its voters. While seeking the party’s leadership, he signed a written pledge in large blue ink promising to “immediately repeal the Trudeau carbon tax” and “Reject and future national carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme.”

Once O’Toole was safely elected leader, he tore up this promise and devised a hyper-complex and expensive new carbon tax of his own. It is in many ways even worse than Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax.

O’Toole’s carbon tax betrayal – repeated in the platform – should not be forgotten by conservatives or by Westerners.

CBC (C+)

Speaking of broken promises to Conservative members, O’Toole promised during the leadership campaign to defund the CBC. His platform commits to reviewing the mandate of English CBC, but won’t touch the French half, and certainly doesn’t mention anything about defunding it. All this is likely to do is provoke the CBC to continue acting as Trudeau’s media hitman, without any real gain.

O’Toole says will also allow the Government of Quebec to directly appoint members to the board of the French CBC, although no such consideration is made for the governments of Alberta or Saskatchewan with English CBC.

Quebec (D)

The platform also commits to not challenging or intervening in the courts against Quebec’s Bill 21, a notoriously racist piece of legislation that would have the country up in arms if ever implemented in the West.

The Conservatives seem intent on wooing La Belle Province at great cost. A word search of the platform finds the word “balanced budget” only once, where it promises not to cut any transfers to Quebec while it (slowly) attempts to do so.

The platform goes to extremes to win favour with the Government of Québec, with a promise to apply the French Language Charter to federally regulated businesses operating in Québec. This will effectively ban the public use of English in Québec, even under federally regulated businesses.

The platform also commits to “modernizing” the Official Languages Act, increasing the powers of the Official Languages Commissioner, and increasing francophone immigration outside of Québec.

The West (C)

On Western Canada, the platform rightly acknowledges the region – and Alberta in particular – has long paid disproportionately into confederation without getting much back.

O’Toole would repeal Trudeau’s ‘no more pipelines’ and ‘no more tankers’ bill. He will also respect provincially-held Senate elections. This is good news for Westerners.

But little is on the table for redressing the massive fiscal imbalance between what Alberta pays into confederation, and what it gets back. A commitment to amending the Fiscal Stabilization Fund is made, but that is a very short-term bandaid that will do nothing to address the longstanding fiscal imbalance.

Not a word in the platform even hints at changes to the Equalization formula. Westerners – who overwhelmingly vote Conservative – deserve more for their political allegiance.

Media Bailout (A+)

While O’Toole is disappointing on the CBC, he comes out strong against Trudeau’s (permanent) media bailout. His platform commits to killing the $600 million in annual extortion money full stop. If implemented, this might go some way in forcing Canada’s aging legacy media to respond to the new reality.

Firearms (B)

Firearms owners also have cause for celebration in this platform as well, with a commitment to repealing Bill C-71 and the May 2020 cabinet decree that banned many otherwise legal firearms because the Liberals believed that they looked scary.

Supply Management (F)

Also in the good news category is a commitment to crack down on food price-fixing, even with jail times. Unfortunately, the Conservative commitment to competition in agribusiness does not extend to Canada’s Soviet-style system of “supply management”, which they promise to defend just as stridently as the Liberals or NDP.

Immigration and Refugees (A+)

With the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, refugees are sure to become a hot political issue again, as desperate people flee the slaughter of 21st-century barbarians.

While not getting many pickups in the government-funded media, the platform proposes important and positive changes to Canada’s refugee system. It promises to “replace public, government-assisted refugee places with more private and joint sponsorship”.

Across the board, privately sponsored refugees are extraordinarily more likely to succeed in Canada than those sponsored by the government, with higher rates of employment and more successful assimilation, and lower rates of criminal activity and less chronic government substance. This is common-sense policy that will save taxpayers money, and create a brighter future for those reaching our shores.

Overall Platform (C)

“It’s a plan. A very detailed plan” reads the opening words of the platform, personally signed by Erin O’Toole. And that it is. At 160 pages, the Conservatives have laid it out for voters.

Unfortunately, the plan is much longer on details than it is on any real change from the essential policies of the Trudeau government.

Conservative voters, and Westerners in particular need more than a change of management in Ottawa.

This Editorial was jointly written by the Editorial Board of the Western Standard

Opinion

MORGAN: It’s time for municipal political parties in Alberta

Conservatives had an opportunity to get a slate of small-government representatives into office and we blew it.

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The union-backed coalition of candidates in Calgary’s civic election decisively won the day. With 27 candidates running for mayor and nearly 100 candidates vying for one of 14 council seats, it was a bewildering mix of candidates for voters to choose from.

Only one candidate out of all of the races won with more than 50% of the vote. In Ward 7, the vote was so diluted, Terry Wong won the seat with only 25% support. Union endorsed candidates took nine out of 15 spots, including the mayoral chair.

The 2021 municipal election offered the largest turnover of elected positions we have seen at city hall in a generation. Conservatives had an opportunity to get a slate of small-government representatives into office and we blew it. Rather than gripe about how the union coalition took city hall, we need to learn from it. If we don’t change how we approach civic elections, left-progressives will keep winning them.

Some people have been scratching their heads over why Calgary votes so conservatively federally and provincially while so progressively when it comes to their municipal elections. The difference is the party system. Conservatives need to form a municipal political party if they want to displace the union-progressive bloc dominating Calgary’s municipal government.

Progressives may be ideologically delusional, but they aren’t stupid. They know they won’t win as many municipal seats if they actually run on a left-wing platform. They run right and govern left. Once they are in office, they can rely on incumbency and an apathetic electorate in order to retain their seats. They don’t need a large number of voters in order to keep their seats, they can simply let conservatives keep splitting the vote in future elections. That tactic kept Druh Farrell in office for 20 years despite her only winning over 50% of the vote once.

A political party will solve many of the issues leading to the chronic defeat of conservative candidates in Calgary and to some extent, Edmonton.

A political party provides for a nomination system. Prospective candidates are vetted by members in a race for the right to run. This helps expose any past scandals or other issues making candidates inappropriate for office before election time. Nomination scrutiny will test conservative credentials. It is tough for progressive candidates to slide through party scrutiny. Some contenders for office may have fantastic resumes, but be terrible campaigners or fundraisers. A nomination is a dry run and the best prospective candidates will usually rise to the top.

The vote-splitting issue will be mitigated by a single party endorsing only one candidate per ward and for the mayor. There will surely be other conservative candidates running in every race — as is their right — but when name recognition is so difficult to attain in civic politics, they won’t be able to garner more profile than a party-endorsed candidate. There were multiple progressive candidates in many of the races in the last election, but none of them outperformed the union endorsed ones with the lone exception Richard Pootmans. Again, we need to learn from them.

A political party can provide the organization and training independent candidates lack. Some conservative candidates may have had excellent credentials but simply couldn’t put a cohesive campaign team together. A candidate may have a fantastic policy set but had never actually written a press release before. Campaigning is a unique set of skills. Parties provide standardized and shared campaign training to their candidates and volunteers. A party provides a support system and it allows the candidates to focus on important elements of their campaign without getting mired in electoral details party volunteers can handle.

A party can provide uniform branding for its candidates and offer a centralized advertising strategy. The union PAC in the last election had nearly two million dollars to spend on advertising for their chosen candidates. We can’t pretend the union spending didn’t make a difference on those races. A party can advertise the brand while all of their endorsed candidates benefit. TV advertising is a huge expense and is of little benefit to individual candidates for councilor. If the advertising is focused on a shared brand through a party though, it can benefit every party candidate. Only through strong and consistent advertising will candidates be able to defeat incumbents relying on name recognition.

Funds can’t be directly given to candidates by a party but there would be great cost savings in being part of a party. Candidates will be able to get together on orders for sign and literature printing which will bring the costs down tremendously due to the scale of the orders. Campaign office space could be potentially shared and many other cost-saving collaborations between candidates can happen as they work together under one banner.

There could be pitfalls with a political party as well of course. A new party would have to ensure it’s not tied in any way to federal or provincial parties. We’ve already seen how toxic branding from other levels of government can impact elections on other levels.

In bringing a slate together under one brand, not only could all candidates rise with the party, they could fall with it. If there are party missteps or candidate scandals, it could drag down every candidate in the party.

Candidates will also have to ensure they will be beholden to their constituents first and the party second. Importantly, candidates elected to council under a party banner should be free to vote however they choose, with no party whip standing over them. It can be a fine line to walk, but it has to be done. Local government is important and electors don’t want to think their representatives won’t have the ability to use discretion on issues not gelling with the party as a whole.

The only thing worse than an official political party in an election is an unofficial political party. Public service unions have created an unofficial party and it won Calgary’s civic election. If we want to change the status-quo, we will have to change the way we have been playing the game. We need a conservative party to contest the next civic election in Calgary and we need to get on organizing it soon. Otherwise, we will continue spinning our wheels while progressive councilors trot into re-election with ease.

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

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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: The unions bought city hall

It’s a clean sweep that puts Calgary on a course for a more interventionist government for at least the next four years and, with Calgary’s tendency to re-elect municipal incumbents in perpetuity, potentially much longer.

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Jyoti Gondek is Calgary’s new mayor-elect. She largely represents a continuation of Naheed Nenshi’s purple reign that has led the city’s council and government since 2010, although there are hopeful signs that personality-wise she has less of the outgoing mayor’s Jupiter-sized ego and petulance.

Gondek’s victory means not only that Jeromy Farkas will not be the mayor, but he will no longer continue in his role as the unofficial leader of the opposition on council. The size of the conservative bloc on council may end up relatively similar to its pre-election makeup, but it’s influence will be much diminished.

In addition to Farkas, the conservative bloc lost Joe Magliocca, and while Sean Chu won the day, his scandal involving a minor in 1997 continues to deepen. CTV is reporting salacious new details that could make his continued position untenable. Chu denied the allegations in an exclusive interview with the Western Standard, but more evidence will need to be produced one way or another to determine who’s telling the truth. The jury is still very much out on this one.

Adding to the conservative bloc is Terry Wong, who replaced one of the most stridently leftist members of council, Druh Farrell, as well as Dan McLean, who unseated weather vane incumbent Diane Colley-Urquhart.

Centre-right former councillor Andre Chabot also returns to council, as does the swing vote Peter Demong (who was the only incumbent with no union candidate against him).

Taken together, the conservative bloc will likely be made up of four councillors — if Chu can hang on. If they can sway Demong, they can make up five votes, soaking wet, well short of the eight votes needed to win a majority on any given issue.

The union super-PAC (political action committee) Calgary’s Future swept the table. Their candidates took the mayor’s chair, and eight council seats, although their leftist bloc will likely be joined by the non-union endorsed Richard Pootmans. That brings the union-progressive bloc to 10 votes.

Ten union-progressives, four conservatives, and one swing. It’s a clean sweep that puts Calgary on a course for a more interventionist government for at least the next four years and, with Calgary’s tendency to re-elect municipal incumbents in perpetuity, potentially much longer.

Could Farkas have won?

It’s always an error to add up the votes of the “also ran” candidates and add them to the total of the runner up as if a party or candidate has any kind of ownership over them, but let’s just do it for the sake of the hypotheticals.

Since well before the official campaign period kicked off, Jeromy Farkas was the clear conservative standard bearer for the mayor’s chair. He led the conservative bloc on council, sometimes as a vote of one on more controversial issues. He led every poll in the race until the very end, and other centre-right(ish) candidates never came close to catching him. On election night, he polled 30% of the vote to Gondek’s 45%.

Jeff Davidson ran in the mould of a business conservative, promising a more enterprise-friendly environment, but not going to war with the city’s administration. The card-carrying Conservative polled a respectable 13% on election night.

Similarly, Brad Field ran a semi-conservative, business-friendly campaign, pulling down 5% of the vote.

Together, the 18% of the vote earned by these two candidates could theoretically have put Farkas over the top. Of course, that’s bad math. Just as federal Tories have no right to votes of the PPC, or the federal Liberals have no right to the votes of the NDP or Greens, Farkas has no inherent right to the votes of Davidson and Field. The only people with a right to someone’s vote, are voters themselves.

But it is worth asking why there were three credible centre-to-right candidates on the ballot, but only one credible left-progressive. In the absence of a municipal party system, big-money PACs have filled the void, effectively picking candidates with their war chest. On the union-progressive side, Calgary’s Future had an incredible $1.7 million to spend on its slate, effectively clearing the field of nuisance progressive candidates for clear front-runners to emerge for the mayor’s chair, and in most of the wards. Progressives like former federal Liberal cabinet minister Kent Hehr saw the writing on the wall soon after he declared. This effectively consolidated the vote behind a single candidate, allowing them to stand out from the pack, and in 10 of 14 races, win.

The conservative side of the fight was much less clean cut. There was no single, dominating super-PAC able to effectively bankroll a slate of candidates and clear the field. Until very late in the game, big business and the conservative establishment were hesitant to get behind Farkas. He may have been a conservative, but he was not their man. Farkas was a libertarian who hailed from the old Wildrose Party, and a protégé of Preston Manning. He opposed major corporate welfare projects often supported by much of the business community. They tended to prefer more moderate conservatives less likely to throw a hand grenade into the council chamber.

But Farkas had built up enough public profile and locked in a solid base of support before the conservative establishment could anoint their own candidate. As reported in a Western Standard exclusive one year ago, a party insider said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney himself was on the hunt for a more amenable conservative mayoral candidate, who’s name was not Jeromy Farkas.

The usual Tory establishment voices pleading for “unity” and to not “split the vote” were seldom to be heard beseeching Davidson and Field to get behind Farkas.

The outsized role of union money in the campaign is curious, not so much because they tried (and succeeded) in buying a majority on council to sign their contracts, but because it was allowed to happen at all.

The Alberta UCP government introduced stiff new legislation curtailing the ability of unions to collect money from their members for use in political purposes without their direct consent. The legislation would require that unions bosses obtain the sign-off of individual union members to opt-in to using their dues for political activity, rather than just spending it without their consent, as is historically been the case.

Most curiously, Kenney never proclaimed the legislation into law, even though it has long passed all stages of the Legislative Assembly. The union bosses took note, and raised more money than ever for their candidates.

In the place of political parties running our civic elections, Calgarians have woken up to a council bought and paid for by the government unions.

Who’s to blame is a debate that needs to be had in earnest.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard

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Opinion

SLOBODIAN: Manitoba cabinet ministers are maskless belles of the ball as pastor arrested

Is this like one of those cases where the criminal is crying to get caught?

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In a photo that surfaced on social media, Manitoba’s Health Minister Audrey Gordon looked lovely all dressed up for the ball. 

But something was missing in that photo snapped at Winnipeg Art Gallery’s annual fundraising gala held last weekend.

Pretty dress. Check! Earrings. Check! Big happy smile. Check! 

Hold on…big happy smile? Uh-oh. No mask.

Who was that other unmasked woman standing to her far right at the indoor public event? Why, it was none other than Minister of Families Rochelle Squires. 

And the other one? Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage Cathy Cox, also sans mask.

The damning photo outing them for violating a COVID mandate — masks must be worn at indoor public events — dictated by their PC party, was posted to Squires’ Instagram page. 

Is this like one of those cases where the criminal is crying to get caught?

Of course, after catching flak for the mask faux pas, the ministers were filled with remorse for violating one of the harsh mandates inflicted on other Manitobans, some of whom don’t get to go to work, never mind fancy balls.

Apparently, they were at the table, maybe munching on cake, when someone hollered something like “photo time.”

“I got up and joined the group in the photo, neglecting to wear my mask. It’s unfortunate and it was wrong, and it should not have happened and for that, I deeply apologize,” said Gordon. “I do believe as minister of health, I should be held to a higher standard, and I have always upheld that standard.”

Gordon said she’d “gladly” pay a fine should one be issued. 

Chances are zip of a motorcade of police and health officers showing up — like they do for other mandate violators — to hand the ministers hefty tickets.

The law’s too busy hunting down other delinquents. And they’ll be doing that for some time. It’s still too risky to wander around not wearing masks and such, says the province.

In fact, the gala barely wrapped up when Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin told Manitobans they’ll likely have to endure tough COVID-19 restrictions in place well into spring.

Hours later a Manitoba pastor was arrested for violation of health orders.

Tobias Tissen, minister at the Church of God Restoration in Steinbach, was picked up Monday night on an arrest warrant issued during the summer for defying health orders. 

“Tobias will be kept in custody overnight and is scheduled to appear before a magistrate tomorrow where he will most likely be asked to sign conditions to obtain his release,” it said on a Twitter account in his name.

Tissen and the church have been slapped with several fines for violating in-person gatherings.

If Tissen had just gone to the ball instead of standing in the pulpit trying to save souls, he wouldn’t have landed behind bars.

Meanwhile, the day before the ball Gordon met with health officials in the province’s southern region. They had to figure out a plan for looking after seniors at care homes in case of staff shortages when Monday’s vaccination deadline for frontline workers arrived. 

Whether Gordon wore a mask at the meeting remains unknown. 

Two personal care homes scrambled last week to alert families they might have to come in and care for their loved ones or take them home, as part of a worst-case scenario contingency plan when unvaccinated workers were shut out and suspended without pay.

Family members were told only days before they might be called upon to do laundry, brush teeth, feed, dress, and clean their elderly relatives in care at Salem Home in Winkler, and Taber Home in Morden.

Apparently staffing levels at these homes were fine the first day of the crackdown. Things may change when more unvaccinated workers can’t work shifts. 

However, the province said 30 health care workers were sent home for not being vaccinated and refusing to comply with COVID-19 testing. Expect that number to rise. More than 1,800 health workers have refused the jab based on religious, medical, or freedom of choice concerns.

No one should begrudge ministers Gordon, Squires and Cox for wanting to doll up and head out on the town. People need to have a little fun.

People need their jobs, too.

People need the right to freedom of choice. 

You don’t get to violate provincial orders when others are punished by being thrown in jail or forced to choose between a paycheck and being injected with a vaccine they oppose.

The ministers are really, very sorry for not wearing masks. They apologized. Their remorse is misplaced. Perhaps they should reflect more on the lives the province is callously messing with, instead of what they didn’t wear at the ball.

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

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