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FILDEBRANDT: It’s time for the West to put up, or shut up

The time has come to end the West’s position of purgatory. Western governments should come together to assemble a list of concrete constitutional demands to Ottawa and put them to a referendum as a final and genuine attempt at reconciliation. In the event that this attempt at reconciliation is rejected, we would have little choice left but to hold a second vote; this time on independence.

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The Liberals – second place in the popular vote – form a strong minority government without a single seat between Winnipeg and Vancouver. 

The Bloc Québécois and NDP – fanatic opponents of pipelines and the energy industry – hold the balance of power required for Justin Trudeau to govern. 

The Conservatives – having pandered to Ontario and Quebec – won the popular vote but came nowhere close to forming even a minority government. 

The People’s Party – the only party to even discuss Western issues like Equalization – rolled snake eyes, winning not a single seat. 

The Greens – singularly devoted to stopping Alberta and Saskatchewan from bringing about the apocalypse, tripled their seats from the last election and will serve as a loud and radicalizing voice in Parliament. 

For conservatives broadly – and Westerners in particular – the 2019 federal election was a disaster. 

Preston Manning & Stephen Harper in the Reform Party

In 1988, Preston Manning and his Reformers began to channel Western alienation from turning towards Western independence with their call, “The West Wants In,” but after a decade in opposition, the movement threw in the towel in hopes of gaining a seat at the table, giving birth to the Conservative Party of Canada. 

In government, the Western-friendly Conservatives failed to implement a single point of the famous Alberta Agenda (better known as the Firewall Letter), out of political necessity. The West was content merely having a federal government not out to get them. 

That low bar of expectations was lowered further still when Justin Trudeau swept to power in 2015. Since then, many Westerners put their faith in retaking Ottawa under the Conservatives. 

The Conservatives offered little to Westerners besides promising to repeal Trudeau’s pipeline-ban legislation, but it was better than what the Liberals or NDP had on offer. Scheer ran a campaign with no promise of a balanced budget in the foreseeable future, keeping half of the carbon tax in place (but calling it something else), and not touching the sacred Equalization formula. 

But the Tory’s watered-down, pabulum of a platform was not enough. Trudeau will continue to govern, and will now have to rely on parties even more radically opposed to the existence of the West’s energy industry than his own. 

Beyond the usual naval-gazing academia and punditocracy, it was not hard to predict that Monday night’s election result would lead to widespread revulsion across the West.  

The anger is there, but where will it go? 

Reforming Canada on a basis of equality for the West had been tried before, and gotten nowhere. Independence parties have to date lacked organization, credibility, and a strong enough casus belli for such a radical action. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has promised – more a less – a referendum in 2021 if the Liberal’s anti-energy legislation isn’t repealed. Chances of those bills being repealed are now next to none, and the results would be thrown back in Alberta’s face nonetheless. 

The West’s position in confederation is untenable.

A non-binding referendum without teeth, two years from now will no longer due. It will accomplish nothing, and simply delay the reckoning. 

It’s time for the West to put up, or shut up. Either the West must decide on a concrete path forward, or the West must accept its current place in confederation. 

Reform has become a dead-end, because Ottawa and several provinces hold a veto. Quebec will never allow for a reformed Senate, guaranteed pipeline access, and even minor tinkering with Equalization. Ottawa will never agree to seeing its bottom line threatened by allowing the West to keep more of its own wealth at home. Even if the federal Conservatives were sympathetic, they cannot act on any of these points because they will lose votes elsewhere. 

Westerners are for the most part still proud Canadians, and wish to remain so if possible, but they are being pushed out faster than they can make up excuses to stay. 

The time has come to end the West’s position of purgatory. Western governments should come together to assemble a list of concrete constitutional demands to Ottawa and put them to a referendum as a final and genuine attempt at reconciliation. In the event that this attempt at reconciliation is rejected, we would have little choice left but to hold a second vote; this time on independence.

Without a credible threat of independence hanging over Ottawa, there is little hope that Ottawa will listen. Sadly, it is unlikely that they will listen even with such a threat, but it is worth trying. Canada is a great nation that is worth at least attempting to salvage.

Simply yelling at Ottawa is no longer enough. Simply voting for a party less enthusiastic about the plunder of the West’s wealth is no longer enough. Either we do something about it, or we accept our place and be quiet. 

Opinion

The NDP have become a branch of the Liberals. They may as well make it official.

“At least the Liberals got something out of it; covering up their own misdeeds. The NDP are just helping to burry the body in the woods.”

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Mark Oct. 21, 2020 on your calendars. It is the day when the federal NDP ceased to be an independent political force of any consequence in Canada. The party might hold 24 seats in the House of Commons, but it has become little more than branch plant of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals after propping his government up over an anti-corruption vote.

The NDP have long been described as Canada’s “Liberals in a hurry”. That is, that they share the Liberal Party’s fundamental convictions, but that they are more aggressive and less politically cautious in getting there. This has been true at times, as Jack Layton would use his party’s balance of power between 2004 and 2006 to exact concessions out of Paul Martin’s Liberals for more generous spending programs. It was true in much of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when the threat of the NDP would force the Liberals to take more ardently leftist policy positions, thereby shifting the centre of political gravity.

Thomas Mulcair tried to usurp the Liberals as the dominant force on the centre-left of Canadian politics, leading to his disastrous outflanking by Justin Trudeau in 2015. Since then, the NDP has retreated to an ever more narrow brand of green-socialist purity in hopes of staying relevant in the face of a Trudeau-led Liberal party occupying most of the political space that they have traditionally settled.

What differences that now exist between the Liberals and NDP are mostly rhetorical; that the NDP sounds slightly more strident than the Liberals because it is in opposition, and does not need to govern.

Because the NDP have never formed government federally, they have never been tarred by the brush of corruption or major scandal. This has allowed them to present themselves as the “left without corruption.” Even when Paul Martin tacked left, Layton was successfully able to make this case as the Liberals melted down over the Sponsorship Scandal. Voters on the left could still vote for a party that shared their values, without being complicit in the graft of the Liberal establishment.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh put an end to that for his party on Oct. 22, 2020. A Conservative motion to create an all-party “Anti-Corruption Committee” to dive into the WE corruption scandal had the support of all opposition parties until the Liberals made the unprecedented move of declaring that if the House of Commons voted to create it, that they would consider the matter a vote of non-confidence in their government, and therefore trigger an election.

Normally, only financial matters (like the budget) and explicit motions of non-confidence, are considered confidence votes. This re-writing of constitutional convention by Trudeau now means that the Liberals can demand that Parliament – despite its minority status – pass all of their bills or else face an election.

The Conservatives as official opposition are naturally expected to oppose the government. They also have money in the bank, have completed their leadership election, and actually have at least some ideological distinctiveness from the Liberal government. They aren’t confident of winning the next election, but they can fight one in reasonable shape.

The Bloc Québécois play a different role in Parliament. They present themselves as Quebec’s home team, and have more freedom of maneuver to protect their constituent’s interests. While they (obviously) have never formed the federal government, they have consistently opposed corruption at the federal level, except in cases where it presents Quebec in a negative light (see SNC-Lavalin scandal). They don’t want a federal election, but they can likely come through one intact.

The NDP however are not election-ready. They have little money in their war-chest, and they know well that voters might not see much point in “splitting the vote” for a party with little ideological difference from the Liberals at this point. If serial “black face” photos and videos of Trudeau wasn’t enough to move woke progressives in their direction, then little will.

But by backing the Liberals in voting against the creation of an Anti-Corruption Committee, they have surrendered the last major point of distinction between themselves and the Liberals: ethics.

At least the Liberals got something out of it; covering up their own misdeeds. The NDP are just helping to bury the body in the woods.

Going back to the NDP’s roots in the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the party has had a real cultural difference from the Liberals, apart from matters of ideology. While the Liberals were the party of Laurentien bourgeois interests, the NDP/CCF began as a genuinely (if misguided) working-class party, with its base on the Prairies.

As the left became more urbane and “green”, and rural voters identifying more with the right, the party’s base shifted from a party of class warfare, to a party of urban social progress. The typical NDP voter in 1970 may have been a Saskatchewan farmer named Hank, but the typical NDP voter in 2020 is a Vancouver anti-oilsands activist named Zoe.

The NDP may still have close ties to established labour-unions, but most working-class people no longer belong to these unions, and are mostly uninterested in class warfare.

Much of this is also less to do with ideology, than to do with populist and regional politics. Until 1993, the NDP was a major player in Western Canada, and often dominant in BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. It’s often forgotten that the the Reform Party didn’t just destroy the PC Party in the West, but also the NDP. In the West at least, the NDP held the banner of anti-establishment populism, but was usurped by the Reform Party. And while the Conservative Party is a long ways away from the anti-establishment chip on the Reform Party’s shoulder, it has effectively established itself as the party of the West.

After the 2011 election, the NDP looked poised to become the party of Quebec nationalists, but found that Quebec’s ethnic politics were incompatible with its secular-egalitarian politics in Anglo-Canada. Their Quebec gains quickly melted down to the advantage of the Liberals and Bloc.

In 2020, the NDP is no longer the party of the populist anti-establishment. It is no longer the party of the West. It blew its chances at becoming the party of Quebec. It is no longer the party of the working class. It shares most of its ideological space with the Liberals and Greens. And critically, it no longer has a claim on being untrained by corruption.

In short, there is no longer a compelling reason for the NDP to continue as an independent political entity, separate and “splitting the vote” from the Liberals. The NDP would best be served at this point in making their absorption with the Liberals official.

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

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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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