Alberta: Separatism Then and Now was published in 2009. It’s a must-read history of the Alberta independence movement written by author and historian Dr. Michael Wagner who was not, in 2009, a Western sovereigntist, at least not publicly. The book was not intended to provide an explicit argument for Alberta independence; it served instead to place the pervasive feeling of Western alienation in its full historical context.
I personally reviewed this book when it was first released and made the point that Wagner documented an independence movement in name only, a movement that with few exceptions was frustrated by its self-proclaimed leaders who, when pressed, had very little enthusiasm for Alberta independence and certainly no appetite for the delightfully seditious and daring enterprise of secession and nation building.
Prior to 2009, most so-called Alberta sovereingtists could be described as free market advocates and frustrated nationalists nostalgic for a culturally conservative national identity that no longer exists in the post-national state that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls Canada.
I now set out to review No Other Option: Self-Determination for Alberta, Wagner’s latest contribution to Western secessionist thought, to answer this question: Are Albertans now ready to leave the rest of Canada behind for an independent, prosperous future?
Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien remarked last month that Alberta has “culture of complaining” with respect to its treatment within confederation, a statement that’s equal parts condescending and historically inaccurate. As former Liberal Member of Parliament David Kilgour explained in his 1988 book, Uneasy Patriots: Western Canadians in Confederation, “… history shows that Westerners have attempted within the framework of existing institutions to make our voices heard in Ottawa, yet have failed to achieve political and economic equality with Central Canada.” After documenting the decades of attempts to reform Canadian federalism, Wagner now concludes Alberta has “No Other Option” but to secede from Canada.
Wagner made his own journey from “uneasy patriot” to unapologetic sovereigntist, and he has made this journey with thousands of other Albertans. In fact, in his summary of past and present public opinion surveys on Western alienation, Wagner includes a 2019 Angus Reid poll showing “more than half of Albertans (52%) say they believe the West would be better off if it left Canada.”
Western alienation is as old as Confederation itself.
“Westerners have had complaints against the East going back to the earliest years of settlement. Indeed, Louis Riel led rebellions against the federal government twice, in 1869-70 and 1885. Later, farmers would create political organizations to represent their views to Ottawa. The Progressive Party of Canada was very popular in the West and elected a number of MPs from the region during the 1920s. Subsequent iterations of Western political dissent, such as Social Credit and the Reform Party of Canada are well known,” writes Wagner.
These complaints have, of course, been ignored by the Laurentian elite who believe Canada’s history is confined to that of Quebec and Ontario, and that Canada’s institutional structures must serve the mercantilist ambitions of these two provinces. Alberta was and is nothing more than a colonial outpost “opened to settlement to line the pockets of eastern pot and pan salesmen,” according to former Alberta Premier Harry Strom. Alberta independence is not, as Wagner meticulously documents, a new idea and nor is it a movement founded on trivial complaints from resource-rich Westerners unwilling to be part of any truly national agenda.
At its core, No Other Option starts and ends with Prime Ministers Pierre Trudeau and Justin Trudeau. Albertans have come full circle, from the National Energy Program of Pierre Trudeau to the destructive policies designed to meet Canada’s obligations under the Paris Accord signed by Justin Trudeau.
The mood in the province today, however, goes beyond simple frustration and those still committed to reforming confederation are losing their audience. The rallying cry of the Reform Party — “The West Wants In” — is scarcely heard among the rank and file who once fought tirelessly alongside Preston Manning for a renewed Canadian federalism. Today, many just want out or, at the very least, are prepared to speak more candidly about the independence option.
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose departure from federal politics has made room for the independence option, observed: “Alberta and much of the rest of Canada have embarked on divergent and potentially hostile paths to defining their country. Alberta has opted for the best of Canada’s heritage — a combination of American enterprise and individualism with the British traditions of order and co-operation … Canada [by contrast] seems content to become a second-tier socialistic country.”
While Alberta and Canada may be on divergent and hostile paths, most of the leading scholars on matters concerning Alberta’s place in confederation are still convinced against the evidence that Canada and the West can avoid a constitutional hot war. The respected Calgary School academics are not yet prepared to say good-bye to a country that is just not that into them. They have instead embarked on a strategy to flirt openly with independence hoping the Laurentian elite will realize they’ve taken the West for granted.
“This may be Alberta’s paradox: That we need to go half-way down a road to a destination we don’t want, in order to get the policy and constitutional changes necessary to stay in a Canada we love,” wrote Tom Flanagan, Jack Mintz and Ted Morton in their book Moment of Truth. I don’t think it is unfair to conclude from this statement that an independent Alberta would be a consolation prize for these authors.
The common refrain of “independence if necessary but not necessarily independence” is, however, a self-defeating strategy that lacks the bold vision required to build a new nation. It’s a desperate and uninspired reform-minded strategy born out of a prolonged and enervating colonial subjugation. We are long past realizing the benefits of this sort of posturing. It is, quite frankly, embarrassing.
Albertans can’t save Canada, but they can save the West. Canada is already gone. It is now nothing more than a bureaucratic administrative body with no distinct national character whose history is to be acknowledged only as a source of shame for ritual self–flagellation during national holidays. Justin Trudeau passes by the toppled statues of our country’s founders without notice as his attention is now squarely focused on global political governance.
So are Albertans now ready to leave the rest of Canada behind for a more prosperous future? Sadly, not yet, but we are getting closer. As Wagner writes, “a particular kind of charismatic and high-energy leader is likely essential for taking the independence movement to the next level.” I don’t see that leader yet, which is not to take away from the important and heroic work currently being done by Alberta patriots.
Long live a free and prosperous Alberta.
Matthew Johnston is a contributor to the Western Standard
MORGAN: 10 days of living free south of the border
“Canada remains in a state of absurd regulation and induced panic.”
Back in 1987 I had the opportunity to tour parts of the Soviet Union during its waning days as an empire. The experience contributed greatly to the political outlooks I hold today. There is nothing like a good dose of seeing extreme socialism firsthand to develop an aversion to that broken ideology.
The creaking, groaning Aeroflot jet deposited us on the Moscow airport runway with a slam. While the jet was serviceable and Aeroflot’s safety record was safe — as far as we were allowed to know — it was truly a no frills ride. The service was gruff, the interior dilapidated, and the flight rough. It was much like everything else in the Soviet Union. You got the bare basics in service and had no other provider to compare the service to.
Customs were typical and thorough as all of our bags were searched. What was unusual was the contraband the customs agents were searching for. Rather than drugs or weapons as is typical at borders, what the Soviet agents sought were books, magazines, and cassette tapes.
The top priority for Soviet customs agents was the prevention of outside information getting to the eyes and ears of the citizenry.
Citizen defections were growing along with general unrest against the state. As news from the outside world trickled in, people in Soviet Russia began to realize they didn’t need to live as they had been.
Nobody was starving when I toured Russia. People weren’t homeless or unemployed. It was indeed a socialist paradise as far as providing basic human needs was concerned. Life was drab and miserable though. Everything from the endless rows of apartment towers to the dull standardized clothing was unremarkable and depressing. Food was plentiful but it was bland and without variety. You ate to survive, not to enjoy yourself.
People in Soviet Russia had become accustomed to having their lives controlled. They accepted the reality that the state would tell them where to work, how to live, and where they could travel. They all shared fear of all authority figures. Police carried no weapons as nobody would dare defy them for fear of the repercussions from the state later.
People in the Soviet Union were not living; they were surviving. The only thing keeping the empire from crumbling was the maintenance of the illusion it wasn’t better anywhere else. As long as citizens didn’t know how life was outside of the Communist Bloc, they remained content, though unhappy. This was why the government worked so hard to ensure the populace never knew any better. In the German “Democratic Republic” (East Germany), the regime did its best to block the radio and television signal from just a few blocks away.
Eventually, the dam broke. Information and consumer goods continued to leak into the Soviet Union despite the best efforts of the government. Pressure from within finally brought the USSR to an end as citizens realized they no longer had to live this way and a better world existed outside of their borders.
While Canadians are hardly living in conditions as miserable as those of the Soviet Union, we are living under severe restrictions and within a fear-filled and unhappy existence right now while many, if not most, don’t realize it doesn’t have to be this way.
I just returned from a 10-day road trip throughout the United States. Aside from seeing the sporadic and voluntary use of masks, it was hard to tell that to the north governments acted as if it was a wartime emergency. People were relaxed while dining together, events were at full capacity and conversations are actually being held on matters unrelated to COVID-19. Life is damn near how it was two years ago down there and their world isn’t ending because of it, at least in the states I visited.
COVID-19 still exists in the United States and they are still experiencing challenges due to it. Infections are being watched and health care facilities are under pressure. Political battles between authoritarians and libertarians are going on and some people are still fearful of the virus. Overall though, people in much of the United States have moved on with their lives and are no longer letting the COVID-19 pandemic dominate every aspect of their existence. It was so refreshing to live like that again, if only for a scant 10 days.
Canada remains in a state of absurd regulation and government/media induced panic. Legacy/mainstream media continues with the most negative of headlines and works its hardest to maintain a state of induced terror. Governments jealously cling to the control they have taken in the name of controlling COVID-19 and maintaining the narrative of doom and gloom. They cling to the fiction COVID can be defeated like an enemy state signing a treaty of surrender.
The dreaded Omicron variant has thankfully turned into a dud. It hasn’t overwhelmed hospitals and fatalities are at a level akin to the common flu. The way Canada is responding, though, one would think leprosy is making a reappearance among the public. The population is divided while the hysteria, prejudice, and even hate against the unvaccinated have reached appalling levels.
Much of why the government and its authoritarians backers are getting away with this in Canada is because the public doesn’t know any better. They don’t realize a free, enjoyable world exists but a short distance away.
Border restrictions at this point are downright useless. Omicron is spreading like wildfire and no restrictions or vaccinations are doing a thing to hinder the transmission. What the border restrictions do accomplish, however, is keeping Canadians from bothering with traveling outside the country. The testing requirements are a pain the ass and a person could find themselves quarantined at their own expense for a variant that has proven itself to be quite mild. What information Canadians do receive from south of the border, is framed by the government’s proxies in the media as a selfish frenzy built atop a mountain of dead bodies.
There were no restrictions going into the USA by the way. That exchange at the border only took a couple of minutes and vaccinations or testing never even came up. It’s only in coming back to Canada where all the grief is occurring.
So why haven’t the border restrictions been lifted?
I suspect the government wants to keep the number of Canadians going into and returning with news of the outside world as limited as possible. Yes, we can see the packed football stadiums in the USA and can find out just how unrestricted they are down there with even some cursory internet research. Nothing beats having a friend or family member tell you directly how nice it is to live free again though. Those sorts of exchanges between people foster discontent.
Things won’t change until Canadians stand up for themselves. Governments never willingly relinquish the control they have taken. We can’t allow ourselves to fall into a docile existence plodding along through a mediocre life under government control as people in the former Eastern Bloc did.
Canadians need to know it’s better outside of the borders. Even the UK is dropping restrictions while we aren’t even discussing easing our own.
Ignore the government statements. Turn off the mainstream media and reach out to a family member or friend who is or has been outside of Canada lately. You will hear the same story I’m telling.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
As soon as enough Canadians get that message, we will be able to start fighting our way back to normal living again.
Cory Morgan is Assistant Opinion & Broadcast Editor for the Western Standard
MAKICHUK: Russia’s ‘ball of hate’ is rolling toward Ukraine
“A normal exercise requires notification 42 days in advance if you’re talking about 9,000 troops, right? Normal – and 13,000 requires international observers. That’s what normal looks like. What this is, is something entirely different.”
The ball of hate.
That’s what they called, NHLer Pat Verbeek.
Let me say that again. The ball of hate.
Trust me, when he was on the ice you didn’t want to be there. He made your life a living hell.
He shoved sticks into your teeth, he shoved elbows at your jaw, he slammed you into the boards, he did anything he could to defeat you, and then some.
Strangely enough, the man spent as much time celebrating goals as sitting in the penalty box.
Think Gordie Howe was tough?
According to NHL.com, the native of Sarnia, Ont., finished his 20-season NHL career with 522 goals and 2,905 penalty minutes, by far the most of any member of the league’s 500-goal club.
And get this … the New Jersey Devils selected Verbeek in the third round (No. 43) of the 1982 NHL Draft.
He made his NHL debut against the New York Rangers on March 21, 1983 and scored his first goal three nights later against the Washington Capitals.
Bang! Not only could he score, but he could also run your head into the boards and leave you wondering WTF happened.
He played “on the edge” and made no apologies for his chippy style.
The Zebras didn’t like this, of course and did what Zebras do.
You can’t play like that anymore in today’s NHL. The bleeding hearts have changed the game.
The same goes for politics and foreign affairs — we have become soft. Very, very soft. And by we, I mean the West.
We are so busy trying to be politically correct, we forgot how we got here in the first place.
And this is exactly why another ball of hate, a far more infamous one — an iron-handed dictator who calls himself a president, Vladimir Putin — is exploiting those Western weaknesses as I pen this.
I mean, it couldn’t be more obvious, could it?
According to Joseph Trevithick at The Drive, the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that six amphibious warfare ships that left the Baltic Sea this week are heading to the Mediterranean Sea, where they say these vessels will take part in “naval exercises.”
Clearly, this amphibious flotilla could potentially swing north into the Black Sea, which would put them in a position to support a possible large-scale Russian intervention into Ukraine.
The language the Russian ministry of defense used to describe these naval drills is similar in many respects to how the Kremlin has described the nature of large-scale exercises in Belarus that are scheduled to start next month.
The massive deployments of troops and materiel, including Iskander short-range ballistic missiles and combat aircraft, associated with those drills have drawn concern.
Speaking to reporters this week, a senior US State Department said: “What concerns us is the total picture, right? [Russia] is … amassing 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders combined with moving forces into Belarus over the weekend, it is — it is — these numbers are beyond, of course, what we would expect with regard to a normal exercise, right?
“A normal exercise requires notification 42 days in advance if you’re talking about 9,000 troops, right? Normal and 13,000 requires international observers. That’s what normal looks like. What this is, is something entirely different.”
As part of the build-up, Russia deployed more aircraft closer to the border, which raised fears of a significant air component. Two to three dozen Sukhov-34 fighter jets have joined helicopters positioned near Ukraine, CNN reported.
As if to confirm this action, Britain’s capable MI6 intelligence service revealed it has discovered a plan by President Putin to install a pro-Moscow puppet leader in Ukraine, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said this weekend.
As Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of a ‘”large-scale war,” Truss said that Yevhen Murayev was being lined up to run the country as a satellite of Moscow.
Murayev, a media owner, lost his seat in the Ukrainian parliament when his party failed to secure 5% of the vote in the 2019 elections, BBC News reported.
He has roundly denied the report.
“It isn’t very logical. I’m banned from Russia. Not only that, but money from my father’s firm there has been confiscated,” Murayev told The Guardian.
There are other troubling indicators:
Diplomatic talks between the US, European allies and Russia ended last week without a clear path to de-escalate tensions, media outlets reported. Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, called the talks a “dead end.”
Some military experts believe this was what Putin wanted all along — setting it up to fail by making unrealistic demands, beyond just keeping NATO out of Ukraine. All it did was buy time for the Russians to set up their “false flag” invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
Canadian special forces operators have also been deployed to Ukraine as part of an attempt by NATO allies to deter Russian aggression and to identify ways to assist the Ukrainian government, Global News reported.
The unit has also been tasked with helping to develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event of a full-scale invasion, sources said.
They wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t have good intelligence from the US.
To staunch the inevitable bloodbath, the defense ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania announced they received approvals from Washington to send US-made anti-tank weaponry to Ukraine, BreakingDefense reported.
Estonia will provide Javelin anti-armor missiles, while Lithuania and Latvia will provide Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and adjacent equipment. Latvia will also send military meals ready-to-eat for the Ukrainian forces.
While Ukraine has already been building a stockpile of Javelin weapons, the inclusion of Stingers represents a new capability for the Ukrainian military, one that could take out Russian helicopters if needed.
Britain also said this week it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons, along with a group of around 30 elite British troops, Sky News reported.
The members of the Ranger Regiment — part of the army’s newly-formed Special Operations Brigade — flew out on military planes that also airlifted a total of some 2,000 anti-tank missile launchers to the country.
The US State Department has also approved the transfer of five Russian-made Mi-17 Hip helicopters that had belonged to the now-defunct Afghan Air Force to the Ukrainian armed forces, according to CNN.
The CIA continues to operate an intelligence collection training program for Ukrainian special operators and intelligence officials, current and former officials familiar with the program said. The program was first reported by Yahoo News.
The threat of further sanctions — in fact, a green light for the Russians, if anything — has forced the Biden administration to weigh new options, including providing more arms to Ukraine to try to raise the costs for a potential invasion.
The recent confusion over statements made by President Joe Biden on Ukraine haven’t really helped either.
Is it a price, Putin is willing to pay? We shall know, soon enough.
For their part, Ukrainian officials are vowing to fight.
“We prepared a response for each scenario,” an official told CNN.
“We are going to fight if something happens. Our people are ready to fight. Every window will shoot if [Russians] go [in].”
God help them.
Dave Makichuk is a Western Standard contributor.
He has worked in the media for decades, including as an editor for the Calgary Herald. He is also the Calgary correspondent for ChinaFactor.news and has written about military affairs for decades
NICOLA: Investment outlook: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — is the glass half-full or half-empty?
Let’s separate apply these perspectives of positive and negative and consider how they may apply to today’s investing environment.
By JOHN NICOLA
We’ve just emerged from a tumultuous and challenging 2021 which provided good results financially for many investors while being a significant emotional and psychological drain as the fourth COVID-19 wave became a reality.
As I was thinking about how we as investors want to approach 2022 and beyond. I’m reminded of the first lines from Charles Dickens classic about the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities. To me it begs the question, “is the glass half full or half empty?” And the answer seems to be both. Let’s separately apply these perspectives of positive and negative and consider how they may apply to today’s investing environment.
It’s imperative to understand the current investment and economic environment and then assess how existing factors will impact major asset classes.
Glass Half Full
There are a number of factors that create optimal investment opportunities and give us reason to view the new year and investments in a positive light. The public markets and residential real estate are at all-time highs in a number of markets in Canada and across North America. COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and deployed in record time. The “fourth wave”/Omicron appear to have significantly lower levels of serious illness or death.
In light of major issues such as climate change, investment opportunities pertaining to environment, social, and governance (ESG) are accelerating rapidly. The cost and evolution of renewable energy is improving exponentially.
On a global scale, we have seen notable drops in levels of poverty, hunger, and illiteracy (Marian Tupy – 10 Global Trends.) Further, global population increases are slowing and likely to peak within 30 years at about 8.9 billion.
Finally, any rises in interest rates are likely to be measured and spread out over time. If that occurs, does that mean that any negative impact on asset prices would be modest?
Glass Half Empty
In the interest of seeing the whole (objective) picture, it’s important to observe and assess the other side of the coin. The new year does not come without challenges.
We’ve seen massive increases in corporate and government debt to weather the pandemic and finance acquisition of assets (Evergrande as an example.) The end result is a combination of higher inflation and corporate defaults.
Dysfunctional politics are a concern across the globe. We continue to witness geo-political tensions such as China/US and Russia/NATO, and the rise of populism in the US, in particular.
Equity prices (primarily in the US) are at near record valuation levels which has many questioning their sustainability. Higher interest rates and inflation could create a significant impact on residential housing.
Finally, the pandemic rages on. Faster infectious rates for Omicron lead to increased and extended lockdowns, globally.
Asset allocation is the key
Whether you are leaning to one perspective or another, or somewhere in the middle, how you invest and diversify your capital is going to play a vital role in helping you mitigate any volatility 2022 may bring.
The asset allocation model that we recommend to most of our clients is roughly divided into three major classes: Public/Private Equities, Real Estate (income and development), and Fixed Income (private and public).
Typically, we distribute 35% to fixed income assets (public and private), 35% to equity (public and private), and 30% to real estate (hard asset properties). Depending on views of both the opportunities and the valuation levels each of these asset weights could change plus or minus by 5%.
There have been a number of studies to support this type of asset allocation. Perhaps the strongest endorsement of this model is that the asset mix of some of the largest pension plans in Canada (considered by many to be amongst the best institutional investors in the world) which choose to allocate their capital in this way. If you look carefully you’ll see the pensions such as OMERS, CPP, BCIMC, AIMCO, and Ontario Teachers use some variation of the model above.
We subscribe to a similar approach. A chart on the Nicola Wealth site (Nicola Wealth vs. The Marketplace) demonstrates if you compare our average client returns since January 1, 2000 with other indices such as the S&P 500, TSE, and a compilation of balanced portfolios aggregated by Morningstar. In all cases our clients have had better results with less volatility (considerably less than any of the equity indices).
The acid test for a good asset allocation model is how well it performs during bear markets for public equities (which themselves are usually connected to a crisis or a recession or both.) The last two bear markets were the Great Financial Crisis of 2008/2009 and, of course, the COVID-19 market meltdown in the spring of 2020. In both cases, stock prices dropped in most public markets by 35% or more from their prior peaks.
Employing the balanced model above meant the drop in value of our client portfolios was 7.5% in 2008 and about 5% in 2020. That reduction in volatility fosters for far better investor behavior (another great topic we will explore in a future column.)
Notwithstanding that the right asset allocation model can make a big difference in risk-adjusted returns, each of these asset classes will be impacted in some way in a rising inflation and interest rate environment. In our next column we will explore how we believe that might unfold.
John Nicola, CFP, CLU, CHFC is a financial columnist for the Western Standard and is the Chairman of Nicola Wealth
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