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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only be held if Alberta didn’t have another pipeline by then, and if the anti-oil bills passed by the Liberals weren’t repealed.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

GRAFTON: Trudeau cannot lead a nation that he doesn’t believe in

“Distrust in government, a disproportional electoral system, mass immigration, and other factors are poised to meet at the polls next election in a perfect storm of disunity.”

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In November 2015, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave an interview to the New York Times. It was an historic interview, during which the Prime Minister signaled his disdain for Canada as a nation with any kind of unique cultural identity. He said that Canada has no core identity, and that it is “becoming a new kind of country, not defined by our history or European national origins, but by a pan-cultural heritage”. He went on to say that he sees Canada as the “first post-national state”. 

Almost six million Canadians – mostly east of Manitoba – supported his vision at the polls in 2019.

The critical take-away here is the clear statement of a “post-national” goal. Post-nationalism involves the global replacement of national identities and nation-states with multicultural supranational entities such as NATO, the UN, the EU, and multi-national corporations.

Disunity now threatens Confederation.

DART poll conducted on February 24th shows that an alarming sixty-nine percent of Canadians believe “Canada is broken”. Eighty-two percent of Canadians believe that politicians represent their own partisan interests rather than those of Canada. 

The Electoral Map resembles a cancerous MRI scan, vividly coloured tumours highlighting patches of tribal discontent from coast to coast. 

poll conducted for the Western Standard in May found that between 45 and 48 of Albertans back independence, depending on how the question was put. Soon after, Wexit Alberta and the Freedom Conservatives merged to form the Wildrose Independence Party, also with a credible leader in the original Wildrose’s first leader, Paul Hinman. 

The Bloc Quebecoise holds 32 seats in the House of Commons, giving it the balance of power on national legislation. 

What led to this great divide?

We could attribute it to a lack of national leadership, however blaming it all on Trudeau would be too easy. There are other causal and contributing factors.

One is the electoral system. The “plurality system”, also known as “first-past-the-post”, is responsible for the 2019 re-election of the Trudeau government, with only a third of the popular vote. More Canadians voted for Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives. This marginalized the West – which had voted solidly Conservative – and contributed immediately to the formation of the Wexit Party federally, the Wildrose Independence Party in Alberta, and the Buffalo Party in Saskatchewan. Trudeau had campaigned in 2015 on a platform promising electoral reform, but abandoned his promise after taking office. Of course, had he followed through with electoral reform, he would have lost to Scheer in 2019 and we would have a Conservative government in Ottawa, or at the very least, a Conservative plurality of seats. 

The reality of the first-past-the-post system is that Ontario (121 ridings) and Quebec (78 ridings) can  determine who wins an election. With 338 ridings across the country, a plurality of 199 seats invalidates the other eight provinces and three territories (with only 139 seats combined). The electoral system therefore sows disunity.

Another causal factor may be found in demographics. A 2019 poll conducted for CBC showed that while indigenous voters were abandoning the Liberals, immigrants overwhelmingly support Trudeau and the Liberals. According to the poll, “Forty-five per cent of new Canadians polled say they voted for the Liberals in 2015 and 39 per cent say they currently intend to vote for the party in 2019.” Under the Trudeau government, immigration levels have soared to record high levels, with the 2022 annual target set at 361,000 (comparable to adding a city the size of say London or Halifax every year). Using the CBC numbers, that represents an influx of 141,000 to 162,000 new Liberal voters annually to Canada. 

The 2011 National Household Survey revealed that most immigrants (86 per cent) are from non-European countries, and that 20 per cent of the population (6.8 million) were born outside of Canada. Almost all (95 per cent) move to Ontario, BC, Quebec, and Alberta; most (91 per cent) in large cities, and most of these in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Unfamiliar with Castor canadensis, new immigrants are a large voting block inhomogeneous with national voting trends. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver voted Liberal in 2019. Forty-five of fifty ridings in the GTA alone elected Liberal members. For comparison, there are only thirty-four ridings in all of Alberta. This trend will continue to marginalize the West.

Contributing to national disunity is an erosion of trust in the democratic process. Globally, voters are disengaging from mainstream politics and polarizing toward niche parties serving special-interests (Bloc Quebecoise, Green Party, and Wexit

Distrust in government, a disproportional electoral system, mass immigration, and other factors are poised to meet at the polls next election in a perfect storm of disunity.

 It may be a tipping point for Canada’s future.  

Canadians awoke on the morning of October 22nd, 2019 to a crisis of disunity. The prime minister cannot recognize a national crisis if he does not recognize the nation. 

Ken Grafton is a freelance columnist

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Opinion

LETTER: BLM mural is expensive virtual signalling

A reader says that Calgary’s mayor and councillors that want the BLM mural can pay for it themselves, and shouldn’t paint over what’s there already.

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This BLM [Black Lives Matter] progressive virtual signalling by Calgary City Council has gone too far.  Look farther into BLM and you will see a well organized political movement. Now, funded by City Council to the tune of $120,000 of our taxpayers dollars for BLM murals in Calgary that helps this political movement. How does that help taxpayers Mayor Nenshi? 

 A respected Calgary artist, Doug Driediger, gave us (1995) Giving Wings to the Dream. Which in my opinion deserves respect from a virtual signalling city council. Our city is in a financial crisis, but city hall seems to find cash for pet projects that make little sense to hard working people who are just making it.  

Why are we, as a city funding this mural? It’s not public art, but it is a political statement from a BLM political movement! If BLM wants to paint murals, then BLM can fund that themselves and I hope not erase (paint over) a mural that may Calgarians have enjoyed over the years in downtown Calgary.  

Easy to virtual signal for a cause when it comes out of the taxpayers pockets Mayor Nenshi. You and city council want BLM murals then chip in and pay for it yourselves.  

It’s time for a change at City Council, time for a change from progressive virtual signalling councillors to fiscal responsible councillors who won’t get caught up in political movements and then pass the bill onto the taxpayers so they can pat themselves on the back. 

Respect of cultures all cultures.  

Steven Ruthven
Calgary, AB

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Opinion

CLEMENT: China’s Hong Kong crackdown comes to Canada

China isn’t just extending its iron rule over Hong Kong, but now charging non-Chinese citizens in the West for supporting the democratic resistance.

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Hong Kong’s National Security Law is just over a month old and the Chinese Communist Party is already wreaking havoc in what was once one of the freest places on earth. The law – which effectively silences almost all criticism of the government in Beijing – has quickly been used to arrest pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong.

What started with the rounding up of pro-democracy students and political leaders has now turned to arresting prominent Hong Kong business figures, including Apple Daily’s founder Jimmy Lai. Lai was arrested this week on charges of “colluding with foreign powers,” when in reality his crime is that Apple Daily is a wildly popular source of pro-democracy news and commentary in Hong Kong. 

To make matters worse, the National Security law is also being used to target anti-communist voices abroad. The CCP formally charged a handful of pro-democratic leaders who have successfully sought asylum abroad. In addition to that, the CCP extended itself to charge Samuel Chu, who has been a naturalized US citizen for over 25 years. When asked about the charges laid against him, Chu stated “I might be the first non-Chinese citizen to be targeted, but I will not be the last. If I am targeted, any American and any citizen of any nation who speaks out for Hong Kong can, and will be, too”.

A foreign power charging non-citizens for violating laws in a country they don’t live in shows that in the eyes of Beijing’s CCP, their reach knows no bounds. That overreach, and persistent threat, landed on Canadian shores just this week. Sing Tao – Canada’s largest Chinese language newspaper – rejected an advertisement that spoke out against Hong Kong’s National Security Law. 

While the paper is free (in Canada) to run whatever ads it likes, and reject whichever ads it doesn’t, it does raise questions as to why the paper would turn away several thousands of dollars in advertisement money. It isn’t baseless speculation to assume that the paper rejected the pro-democracy ad because it would put those involved on Beijing’s blacklist. The CCP has already signaled that it will charge US citizens for supposed crimes against the Chinese state, so naturally that same adventurism would extend to Canadians guilty of promoting democracy in Hong Kong.

This over-step by Beijing demonstrates that the CCP won’t just oppress their own citizens, which adds more fuel to the fire regarding how Canada should treat companies like Huawei or Tik Tok. Beijing’s 2014 Counter-Espionage law and their 2017 National Intelligence Law mandates that individuals and firms must support state intelligence work when asked, which pretty much guarantees that your data could be handed over to the Chinese government if Beijing were to ask for it. While these companies may claim that they are independent from the Chinese state, it’s incredibly unlikely that these companies wouldn’t comply if asked for data. If these companies didn’t comply, it is certain that the Chinese state would simply take what it requested, and reprimand those who didn’t comply. 

Regardless of what mainland owned firms want to be, their ties to the CCP are undeniable. Coupled with the fact that Beijing will not hesitate to charge non-citizens with crimes against the state makes for a toxic cocktail of privacy violations and state oppression. 

That’s why in liberal democracies, we must remain vigilant and support our fellow democratic voices who end up in the CCP’s crosshairs. Because at one point or another, this could affect people in our nations.

David Clement is a columnist for the Western Standard, a Director at 21Democracy and the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

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