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FILDEBRANDT: After a week of strong hits on the Tories, NDP score on their own net

The NDP have shot a hole through their own credibility in attacking the Tory government on these issues at precisely the time that we need a strong opposition.

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If Andrew Scheer failed to score on an empty net on a breakaway, Rachel Notley just fired a slapshot on her own goal. The former Alberta premier’s strong performance as opposition leader over the last week against Tory boogiemen, both real and imagined, came to an embarrassing halt Tuesday as she just couldn’t help herself from taking a shot too many.

Notley thought that she had Kenney by the shorts when she claimed that his government had expensed $35,607.77 in booze from a Tory-donor business. Without any context, she went for the kill.

“Well, the corruption keeps coming.” She tweeted. “A government ministry purchased $35,608.77 worth of alcohol from a company named Prestige Liquor, owned by a long-time conservative donor and financial supporter of Premier Jason Kenney’s leadership campaign.”

Following on the heals of actual Tory wrongdoing, this would be a powerful argument, if it was true. The liquor purchase was actually made in February 2019 under her own watch. The very act that she denounced as “corruption” was undertaken by her own government. It was a brutal turnaround.

Source: Twitter

In addition to any political fallout, the NDP realized that they were now open to legal recourse from Prestige Liquors, the firm they maligned as the dirty-money corruption machine. The NDP Caucus – not Notley – issued a statement apologizing to Prestige Liquors for the slander. It was a cop-out. The person doing the slandering – Rachel Notley – was too important to have her own name attached anywhere to a statement apologizing for her own words. Adding to it, the apology didn’t make any concession that they were incorrect about Kenney or the UCP.

Kenney was smart not to respond with angry snark. Instead, he posted a picture of him stocking up his liquor cabinet in front of, you guessed it: Prestige Liquor. It was a smart trolling move that left NDP partisans sputtering with hapless indignation.

Most importantly, the NDP have shot a hole through their own credibility in attacking the Tory government on these issues at precisely the time that we need a strong opposition.

In an act of gross and genuine conflict of interest, the Tories rammed through Bill 22, a piece of legislation that effectively fired the Elections Commissioner while he was investigating them for a long series of Elections Act violations. Tories insist that this was merely a cost-cutting operation, but no one but the most blindly loyal partisan really believes it. In private, most Tories admit it is exactly what it looks like, but that it is “OK” because its for the home team.

To add insult to injury, the Tories invoked debate closure on the bill even before it was introduced, a practice used by the NDP in cooperation with the Tories against smaller parties before the last election. It might be wrong for the Tories to allow for next-to-no debate, but it’s a taste of the NDP’s own medicine.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley (source: Daveberta.ca)

Notley was in top form as opposition leader, roasting the Tories for a bill with such a brazen conflict of interest. Whatever one thinks of the NDP’s peculiar worldview, somebody has to be the opposition.

Without excusing the NDP for being trigger-happy, there are a few important points to make in understanding the blunder.

Opposition parties are starved for media attention. While every utterance of a government minister is printed verbatim in tomorrow’s Edmonton Journal, opposition parties have to fight hard just to get a mention.

While ministers’ offices have large staffs and enjoy virtually unlimited resources, opposition caucuses have limited resources and are staffed by overworked and often underpaid twenty-somethings looking to leave a mark. They’re eager for battle and to score points now, sometimes leading them to not do their homework sufficiently.

This all combines to create an environment where they can pull the trigger too early.

Today’s advertising and subscription starved media also fall into this trap more often than it should. With skeleton staff compliments, and an economic need to beat their competitors to the punch, reporters too often hit “publish” on a story before it’s been properly fact-checked, or given appropriate context.

As yet, the Western Standard hasn’t fallen into this trap, but we inevitably will at some point. But when that day comes, we will take responsibility and own it. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it may help maintain the credibility of a news outlet that gets it wrong.

Notley’s clumsy use of the scandalette and her refusal to appropriately take responsibility might be consistent with how politics is done now, but it hurts her ability to do her job as the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Opinion

BARNES: Albertans deserve the right to make the big decisions in referenda law

Guest column from Drew Barnes says that Alberta’s referendum law should be expanded to allow votes on big constitutional issues.

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Guest opinion column from Alberta MLA Drew Barnes

“I am and I will remain a populist, because those who listen to the people are doing their job.” Matteo Salvini.

At its core the word populism is the action that government policies should be determined by the will of the people, not the will of the elite. Direct democracy is the institutional populism in action.

There is debate over whether populism should be termed as a movement or an ideology. Since the actions of populist engagement can transcend the ideological spectrum, I believe it should be viewed as a movement, that can sometimes manifest itself ideologically. As a movement, populist participation can take place on all points of the spectrum. Ultimately, that is what is wanted from a democratic society – engagement from all points of the spectrum.

Now more than ever, we need a new grassroots-populist approach to politics. Grassroots politics by its nature suggests that it is a movement that is sparked from the bottom-up. Politicians who came from grassroots movements must never forget where they came from, or lose sight of what they came to do. We need more of the bottom-up approach to politics, and make listening to the people that elected us a priority.

This is taking place in some measure here in Alberta. Political party policy processes allow for constituency associations to generate policy proposals for conventions, where they are voted on by the membership. Every party in Alberta – with the exception of the NDP – uses a ‘one member, one vote’ system.

Another grassroots/populist tool is referenda, that when used the right way are a valuable democratic tool. Referendums however, must stay true to their purpose, and the process for bringing them forward must allow for citizens to craft their own – fair – wording on a question. This is not to say that any question – however subjectively worded – that anyone wants to ask should be put to a referendum. Therefore, the rules on the use of referendums must not be overly onerous, nor overly temperate.

Switzerland is a prime example of a country that takes full advantage of referendums, including citizens’ initiative. In their democratic system, referendums can occur up to four times annually. All citizens registered to vote can cast their ballot on issues affecting decisions within both their federal government and their cantons (autonomous provinces). Before each vote, all registered voters receive a package of booklets in the mail which provide details on the coming referendums. Since these referendums began in 1848, just under half of the referendum proposals have passed. Even if they don’t always pass, the process is crucial to starting conversations and keeping citizens involved in debate. Referendums also force political parties to reach beyond partisan lines to reach consensus.

Alberta’s legislature recently passed a bill that guides referendums on non-constitutional matters. While this is a positive step forward, there are issues in this bill that need improvement. 

For example, Albertans initiating a referendum might go through the process of collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, only to have the cabinet alter the wording the question. While fair wording of the question is critical to the integrity of direct democracy, that issue is not best dealt with by politicians who may have a stake in the result. Instead, clear guidelines should be established in law on question wording, and left to non-partisan officials at Elections Alberta. 

And while the new referendum legislation is a big step forward over the status quo (that is, nothing), it deliberately bans citizens-initiated referendums on constitutional questions. This means that if Albertans wished to force a vote on adding property rights to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that they would not be allowed. Similarly, Albertans are barred from forcing a vote on reforming the Senate, equalization, or internal free trade. Ominously, Albertans have no right to force a vote over the heads of the legislature on independence or other forms of sovereignty. 

I believe that Albertans can be trusted with the right of citizens’ initiative on all questions, both constitutional and non-constitutional. 

We trust the people to elect a government to run our systems, so why can’t we trust them to bring their own questions forward? 

Drew Barnes is the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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Opinion

LETTER: Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East

A reader says that Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East.

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In this ‘Era of Wokeness” along with the ascension of Black Lives Matter into the public consciousness, I believe that it would be detrimental to the Conservative Party of Canada to have Erin O’Toole as
it’s leader.

Mr O’Toole recently refused to use the word ‘racism’ and did not answer clearly when pressed on whether he believes it even exists. Erin O’Toole will hand the Trudeau Liberals an easy victory during the next election, should he become Tory leader. Canada cannot afford another four years of Justin Trudeau. 

Like it or not, most people in Ontario and Quebec (where all federal elections are ultimately decided owing to their number of allotted seats), are very much ‘woke’ on the issue of racism, as well as
sexism, homophobia, ect. In my experience, this also includes most Conservative Party of Canada voters in Eastern Canada.

Right-wing populism and social conservatism does well in Western Canada – but centrist Red Toryism is all they are prepared to accept in most of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. CPC members in Western Canada need to keep this in mind when voting for their next leader. 

CPC members need to be sensible and realistic if they want to win the next federal election. 

Gila Kibner 
Edmonton, Alberta

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Opinion

LETTER: While Trudeau mislabels regular guns “military-style”, he is handing real assault weapons to the police

A reader says that Trudeau is militarizing the police while disarming Canadians.

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RE: Canada’s cops worried Liberal gun ban will hamper training

I enjoyed your article on the gun ban and how it will affect cops. A point of view the CBC would never share.

Perhaps another topic should be brought to the public is this: Although Justin Trudeau said there is no place for these weapons in Canada and Bill Blair said these  weapons have only one purpose – and that is for one soldier to kill another soldier – they gifted more deadly weapons to our local police forces through the Canadian Armed Forces., as was done recently in my hometown of St Thomas, Ontario.

What is the government’s agenda in giving true military assault weapons to the police and banning “military-style” (no legal definition) weapons from civilians. 

John Siberry
St. Thomas, ON

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