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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: Hold Equalization referendum now, or never

Between a listening panel and an independence vote, Kenney has a middle option available to him: move up the Equalization referendum from fall 2021, to early 2020.

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The national press gallery finally seems to get it: Westerners are angry. Quite angry, actually. 

Since Monday’s Trudeau victory and a new parliamentary math giving the NDP and Bloc Québécois a veto over legislation, it has dawned on Canada’s professional navel gazers that something may be wrong in Fly-Over-Country. 

As Westerners begin to openly question continued membership in confederation, pressure is mounting on premiers Kenney and Moe to do more than talk. Both premiers issued letters to Trudeau the day after the federal vote with a list of suggestions that would help to smooth the waters, namely repealing anti-pipeline legislation and tweaks to Equalization payments. 

Neither are likely to happen. Trudeau has doubled down on his bills effectively banning all new pipelines after TransMountain, and even the federal Tories refused to broach the subject of Equalization, let alone pledge to reform it. There isn’t a single MP from any party elected to the new Parliament with a mandate to discuss Equalization. 

Scratch that. There are 32 Bloc MPs elected all committed to an additional new “Green Equalization,” designed with explicit intent to plunder the energy producing economies to enrich the others. Mostly Quebec. 

The very best Westerners can expect from Ottawa on Equalization is to maintain the status quo $19 billion program. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

In Alberta, Jason Kenney was elected on a popular pledge to hold a referendum on Equalization. This pledge became slowly watered down in the period between his run for the UCP leadership in 2017, and the general election in 2019. In that period, several caveats were attached. In contrast to the 2017 pledge to just hold the vote, by 2019 it would only be held if Alberta didn’t have another pipeline by then, and if the anti-oil bills passed by the Liberals weren’t repealed. The vote itself would be pushed off to be held in conjunction with the 2021 fall municipal elections, two years from now.

While the act of holding the vote would provide a relief valve for steaming Albertans, its success would almost certainly be to highlight Alberta’s impotence in confederation. Albertans’ support for the vote would send the issue as a constitutional reform to Ottawa where it will be quickly shot down, likely with the help of Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. From there, nothing happens. 

Many already see where this is headed, and are turning instead towards independence. WEXIT’s Facebook group (an admittedly unscientific measure of support) exploded from 2,000 members on Monday afternoon, to more than a quarter of a million two days later. 

Alberta Independence Party President Todd Beasley openly called for merger talks between his party and the sovereigntist Freedom Conservative Party, while WEXIT is collecting signatures to register as a federal party.

Kenney has pledged his support as a federalist for Alberta’s continued membership in confederation, but promised that he will appoint a panel to listen to the frustrations of Albertans. It’s a smart move, but is unlikely to succeed in doing what Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid put as “catch Alberta lightning in a bottle, and put a cork in it.”

Former Harper cabinet minister and Kenney ally Jay Hill urged the Alberta premier to cancel the 2021 Equalization referendum, and replace it with an immediate vote on independence. Hill believes that independence pressure can be kept within the confines of the Alberta United Conservative Party and the Saskatchewan Party, but only if they move quickly. I’m less convinced that the two federalist premiers will turn so abruptly. 

Between a listening panel and an independence vote, Kenney has a middle option available to him: move up the Equalization referendum from fall 2021, to early 2020. He would be wise to expand the scope of the vote beyond Equalization to include a package of constitutional demands highlighted in Project Confederation’s New Alberta Agenda. Namely, constitutional amendments for a triple-E Senate and renewed interprovincial free-trade, and implementing firewall provisions for Alberta’s withdraw from participation in federal programs like the RCMP, EI, and CPP.

A move this bold may not be enough for staunch separatists, but it would likely nip the movement in the bud. If Ottawa accepted. 

But Ottawa probably won’t. And that might be what Kenney fears most. Having put forward reasonable demands for fairness and equality in confederation and been rejected by Ottawa, Albertans may well conclude that the time for talk is over. 

Opinion

Nenshi’s threat to annex surrounding communities is petty bullying

Bruce McAllister writes that Nenshi’s is threatening to annex surrounding communities to sap competition.

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi isn’t happy to rule his meagre plot of land; he wants to extend his reach beyond Calgary’s borders over rural and small town Albertans not yet under his direct watch. He’s doing such a good job keeping taxes and spending under control in Calgary that he wants control of neighbouring lands as well. Y

You can’t make this stuff up. During discussions at the Priorities and Finance Committee meeting on October 19th, Mayor Nenshi dropped the bombshell that their intergovernmental affairs committee is preparing an annexation strategy to secure new industrial lands outside their borders for the next 30 years. 

He wants to “protect” agricultural lands from simpleton farmers who do not know how to use their own land. He’s read a book and he’s ready to make it a protectorate of his city. This from the same mayor that approved 14 new communities in Calgary last year and is eyeing up the approval of 11 more. This municipal government chews up land faster than the legendary Kobayashi chews through hot dogs. 

But while expansive development on rural lands is fine within Calgary city limits, Nenshi will go to any end to stop or retard it in neighbourling municipalities. 

This should not be surprising. It is the same language of those who have his ear. Trico homes vice-president Wanda Palmer believes that rural Albertans east of Calgary represent a market loss to Calgary. These “smaller satellite communities outside Calgary” are merely a barrier to be overcome in the great Calgary sprawl experiment.

These are not protectors. They are preventers. Preventers of their neighbours from working their own land as they see fit. If you can’t beat them in the market, take control of their land, regulate it, and ensure that it does not have the same opportunities for development.  

Calgary’s mayor wants to protect agriculture lands about as badly as the rest us want to hear about a second and third COVID lockdown. This is the same mayor that loves agriculture so much that he threw a tantrum trying to stop Harmony Beef from setting up in Rocky View. In this, he attempted to quash development of a facility that have allowed ranchers and farmers excellent access and employ 500 Albertans within sight of his city. But because it would not pay taxes into his coffers, Nenshi tried to can it. Hardly the great agriculture protector in the region.

This mayor is creating one thing: economic uncertainty in the region. Investors are pulling out. This should come as no surprise to those of us following the going’s on of the Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board (CMRB). This board was set up for one reason; to quash competition and limit growth in the rural regions around Calgary. Municipalities should compete because we all win when there is choice and competition in the marketplace. If the “smaller satellite communities outside Calgary” offer better tax rates, a better way of life, and better business environments, so be it. Compete. But the CMRB eliminates this competition and NEnshi gets to decide what goes where and who gets water and servicing. It’s downright un-Albertan.

There is a way to stop this, but it requires the UCP and Premier Kenney to show renewed courage and end the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board. The premier will have to do some of the things he told us he stood for during the election campaign: enable free enterprise, protect the autonomy of local governments, defend property rights, and eliminate government systems and unnecessary boards that stop up progress. The premier can still do this by putting principle ahead of politics on this issue and stand up for rural and small-town Albertans facing Mayor Nenshi’s latest land grab.

In 1995, Premier Ralph Klein and Municipal Affairs Minister Steve West had the wisdom to eliminate central planning boards. So far, Premier Kenney, former Minister Kaycee Madu and current Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard seem incapable of doing the right thing. They’re turning a blind eye while the mighty mayor is eye-balling the land rights of rural Albertans.

Bruce McAllister is a columnist for the Western Standard, Executive Director Rocky View 2020 & is the former Wildrose and PC MLA for Chestermere-Rockyview

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Opinion

It’s time for a “Made in Alberta” economic strategy

Guest columnist CW Alexander writes that independence gives Alberta the ability to decide its own trade and economic development.

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It’s time to end the economic surrender of Alberta’s interests to foreign and Eastern interests in favour of a “Made in Alberta” strategy.

Career politicians – both federally and provincially – are quick to jump on any bandwagon, as they are “front run” by foreign jurisdictions years ahead of their own narrative, as geopolitical decisions are made, all putting international interests ahead of Alberta’s interests.

The Chinese own over 136 Alberta companies, most of which are fronts by state-owned corporations controlled by that country’s communist dictatorship. They do this to steal Albertan-developed technology, then covertly block pipelines like Northern Gateway to prevent access to competitors like Japan in the growing Taiwan-Asia border disagreements.

The Saudis buy depressed shares in Alberta’s energy companies, as Alberta’s energy businesses are crushed by sabotaging federal policies like C-48, C-69 and carbon taxes, while supplying Eastern refineries with foreign oil using shipping lines owned by Eastern Liberal family businesses.

The USMCA trade agreement maintains Quebec and Ontario’s interests while the Americans strip $25-35 billion annually in lost differentials from Alberta’s energy sector. 

U.S. President Donald Trump has backed the proposed Alberta to Alaska (A2A)rail line. If completed, this line will see commodities like grain, sulphur and potash moving in part through Alaskan ports, rather than Vancouver; another reason for Trudeau to threaten to block it

The Americans operate an under-utilized, high-cost heated pipeline in Alaska, and are looking to fill it with Alberta bitumen. The Americans will use A2A to secure their long-term position in the oil sands, as it consolidates under the stress of regulatory strangling from Ottawa.

The Chinese strip coal from Alberta to power plants in China (that have no carbon tax) for a low-cost competitive edge, and the Americans strip low valued bitumen by rail to process in similarly un-carbon taxed U.S. refineries.

Are either any different or acting in the sole interest of Alberta? They are acting in their own interests, as rational states do. 

While Canadian conservative federalists and their support for an energy corridor across Canada is 20 years behind, and the Liberal-Green-NDP alliance touts no pipelines at all. Both the Tories and the leftist bloc are either too far behind the geopolitics to make a corridor ever happen in time, or have outright disdain for Alberta respectively.

Albertans have been ripped off for decades. It’s time to get Ottawa’s, the Chinese, and at times even the Americans, out of Alberta’s proverbial cookie jar. It’s time for a made in Alberta resource strategy.

An independent Republic of Alberta would no longer be subject to federalist trade deals that sacrifice Alberta’s energy industry; freeing Albertans to maximize value of our resource wealth.

Albertans could immediately build strategic oil reserves, paid for by an Alberta military budget out of the net $41 Billion per year saved in federal taxes no longer paid to Ottawa, eliminating “end of pipe” spot pricing. This will create improved returns for Alberta businesses and the Alberta treasury, attracting additional resource investment.

Our new borders would unlock access to tidewater as we provide permission to international interests, such as China, B.C., the U.S. and the rest of Canada to cross our strategic boundary both by land and air. As others have discussed, Canada and B.C. need to cross Alberta’s borders much more urgently than Alberta need to cross theirs. 

Our energy deals will no longer be one-sided as we choose to ally with the U.S. as a logical market proximate to our borders, while remaining cognisant of the need to cultivate an international market to maximize resource value.

We will acquire strategic international assets to secure a home for our bitumen and upgraded products as we refine our own bitumen at home to the best fuel standards on Earth, building a vast hydrogen network for the future from abundant natural gas and renewable biomass. 

The economic fortune of Alberta will shift course in Albertans’ favour once a united independent Alberta is achieved. Only then will our future be in our own hands. 

CW Alexander is a guest columnist and the Executive Director of Alberta4All

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Opinion

After today’s murder, the Western Standard is republishing the “Muhammad cartoons”

In 2006, the Western Standard was one of the only media outlets on the planet to publish the blasphemous cartoons. After another murder for showing them, we are pleased to republish them again.

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In 2006, radical Islamists around the world launched a long series of riots in response to a cartoon from Denmark portraying Islam’s founder Muhammad. Most Westerners in the advanced world were left bewildered at how so much violence and death could erupt over a mere cartoon. 

Despite the widespread curiosity, nearly every single media outlet on the planet refused to reprint the blasphemous cartoons that were at the heart of the biggest story in the world for months on end. 

Every single media outlet in Canada – and almost globally – except for one: The Western Standard

While the Toronto Star and CBC were cowered by “cultural sensitivity” (sensitivity that they showed for no other group), the Western Standard ran an entire special edition on the cartoons, including the front cover. 

Rioters burn the Danish flag in protest of cartoons

This simple act of journalism landed the Western Standard in the courts, as the Canadian Human Rights Commission tried to enforce what amounted to a medieval blasphemy law under the guise of “inciting hate”. 

The cartoons were perhaps offensive to some, but they hardly constituted “hate”. In reality, this was the Canadian justice system enforcing Islamic law’s forbidding of any portrayal of their prophet.

I was a chirpy student at the radical-left Carleton University at the time. I remember proudly posting a few of the cartoons clipped from the magazine on a wall, just to see what happened. 

Since then, there have been a long string of murders related to these cartoons, and others, like the mass murder of Charlie Hebdo staff in 2015. 

In October 2020, the cartoon-blasphemy murders continue.

Reuters wire service is reporting that a Paris-area school teacher was brutally beheaded by an Islamist extremist. His crime? During a class on freedom of speech, he showed his students the cartoons forbidden by God. 

The man is believed to have screamed the traditional battle-cry, “Allah Akbar!” before beheading the blasphemer. 

The alleged killer’s Twitter account posted, “o Macron, the leader of the infidels, I executed one of your hellhounds who dared to belittle Muhammad.”

Several reports out of Europe claim that the attacker managed to upload a picture of the beheading to his Twitter account before it was taken down.

He was apprehended by police, and resisting while still armed with his knife, was shot dead. 

Blasphemy murders happen more frequently than we in North America know, because most of them are in Europe. Only when the body count reaches toward the double-digits (like the Charlie Hebdo massacre) do we read about it here.

The 2006 blasphemy charges against the Western Standard were dropped in a humiliating retreat for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and since then, there is reason to hope that at least segments of the Canadian (and Western world’s) media have been shamed out of their complacency. The coming days will tell. 

But we owe it to the victims of these murders, and to our own fundamental freedoms, to openly defy threats from medieval thugs that would take would take them away. Media outlets that claim to defend freedoms of speech and of the press, have a duty to publish them; or in the case of the Western Standard, republish them. 

Understandably, some media outlets will fear for the lives of those working there. This is a very real threat. And I can understand not publishing the cartoons on those grounds. It isn’t the right thing to do, but it is understandable. 

But media that refuse to publish these cartoons – that continue to reverberate around the world – on the grounds of sensitivity, should hand in their “free press” credentials now, and apply for a government media license

In honour of the victim of today’s blasphemy murder, and in defence of a free press, I have decided that the Western Standard will again publish some of the cartoons that have motivated the murder of so many. 

This has nothing to do with Islam, or religion for us. If anyone was murdered for displaying Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, we would would publish it as well. Allas, 33 years and counting, nobody has.

So sit back, lock your doors, and enjoy some blasphemy.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Muhammad cartoon
Muhammad cartoons
Muhammad cartoon from Charlie Hebdo
Muhammad cartoon from Charlie Hebdo after the mass-murder of its staff
Muhammad with Jesus and the Buddha in South Park

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