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ANDRUS: Trudeau has bet double-or-nothing on Freeland to pacify with West

If we want a fair deal, the Prime Minister simply sending subordinates to “listen really really hard” is not going to help.

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In a statement responding to the announcement of Justin Trudeau’s new cabinet, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said, “We have much to discuss with the prime minister and his new cabinet on these and other items we have already set out in letters and public communications since the federal election.” 

No kidding. 

Justin Trudeau is putting former foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland – his star diplomat – in perhaps her most difficult role yet: intergovernmental affairs. It’s a fitting appointment, as the West has apparently become foreign territory to a Liberal Party that elected a total of zero MP’s between Winnipeg and Vancouver. 

The rise of Wexit, as well as Kenney’s landmark Firewall Speech, have shifted the political narrative in recent weeks away from climate change and blackface into the dangerous realm of national unity. Western alienation has become the front-page storyline across the nation. 

Freeland comes to the table with plenty of experience as Trudeau’s go-to minister, navigating dangerous diplomatic waters in negotiating the new NAFTA agreement. Her performance must have impressed Trudeau, as she now holds the portfolio that seems to be the most treacherous for the Liberal Party – bridging a growing divide between Alberta, Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada.

Premier Jason Kenney and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (source: Justin Trudeau/Flickr)

 “Today, in 2019, I think Canadians understand that our most important challenges are more domestic,” Freeland said. “It’s a moment when we must work to be a united country and a country that can work in a united manner.” 

“The election sent a message from the West,” she told reporters, adding, “Now is a moment when we need to respond, to begin with, by listening really, really hard.” 

The rest of the cabinet appointments, at least at first glance, don’t seem to make her job much easier.  Noticeably, of the 36 cabinet ministers, 10 were from Quebec. An over-representation of Quebecers could prove to be a bane for Freeland, especially as Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet and Premier Kenney are locked in a fiery battle of words over Alberta’s energy sector and Equalization. 

Newly appointed Natural Resource Minister Seamus O’Regan brings a lack of experience to the portfolio, and his strong ties to Newfoundland could add another obstacle in the way of resource development in the West.

“What it looks like the Liberals are trying to do is to just piece together a semblance of a national cabinet that includes people that can at least claim that they have a Western voice — that they’re not tone deaf,” said pollster Nik Nanos.  “The fact of the matter is, when you’re looking at individuals like Freeland and [environment minister Jonathan] Wilkinson, they can say that they’re from the Prairie provinces.”

Freeland was born in Alberta, but spent most of her life in the East, and represents a Toronto constituency. The Liberals seem to believe that the soil of her birth will add to her credibility with Westerners.  

Whether the strategy pays dividends is another question.  What is needed to bridge the divide between the West and Ottawa are structural changes. Western alienation is not an issue in which a band-aid and simple recognition can fix.  

Kenney’s recently announced “Fair Deal Panel” now have a clearer picture of what kind of a federal government they are working with. Granted, just because Trudeau has signalled that he is listening, the centralized manner in which he has operated his government means that those making decisions lie in the Prime Ministers office. 

If we want a fair deal, the Prime Minister simply sending subordinates to “listen really really hard” is not going to help. It’s going to come down to Albertans to make sure that we are heard. 

It’s time to fight for a fair deal. A fair deal that abolishes an equalization program that has deepened an already devastating recession in Alberta. A fair deal that upholds the constitutional right to free trade across provincial borders for goods, services, and infrastructure such as pipelines. A fair deal that builds into government regional representation, rather than hoping that the federal government is actually listening. 

The ball is back in Kenney’s court now.

Opinion

NAVARRO-GÉNIE: The Lockdown failed our most vulnerable

In the long-term, a variety of small-scale alternatives that uphold the dignity of residents as a high priority is the best way to atone for the current failures.

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The COVID-19 lockdown sought to protect the healthcare system and the most vulnerable. Health authorities quite early identified that the elderly and those with chronic conditions were most vulnerable. 

Many leaders reminded us that among those most at risk were members of the Greatest Generation, the Canadian men and women who defeated the Nazi scourge. They sacrificed much to keep us from tyranny, and this was our turn to protect them, we were told. 

The virus is far from extinguished and there could still be subsequent waves, so final assessments of the COVID-19 lockdown will have to wait. But now that the infection has partially slowed down and restrictions are beginning to loosen, let’s acknowledge with honesty that we failed the most vulnerable so we can begin to find effective solutions. 

Quebec officials won’t stop boasting they have a lower fatality rate than some Western countries, as if comparing with Belgium (which has the worst death record among Western countries) is better than comparing Quebec with Ontario or BC. Political spin seeking to distract from the disaster in care centers for the elderly will solve nothing. The disaster has been roughly spread out in Canada, but is most prevalent in Central-Eastern Canada. 

The numbers show how dreadful things are. About 4 out of 5 Canadian COVID-19 victims (double that of the United States) lived in a long-term facility. From the 5 million Canadians over age 65, about 400,000 live in long-term facilities. Current Canadian figures (May 28) show a national death rate of less than 0.02 per cent. But it increases 75 times to roughly 1.5 percent when looking at deaths among seniors. And for more precision, when we isolate the number of seniors living in care centres, the death rate jumps up 12 times to 17.5 per cent (almost the general death rate in Belgium). In some centres, every resident was infected and about 1 in 5 were fatally infected. 

A death rate for the vulnerable that is 875 times greater than the general population’s is appalling. The terrible conditions plaguing some centres are only indirectly connected to the failure to protect the vulnerable. But it is the industrial warehousing model itself that must be questioned. 

The atrocious infection/death rates demonstrate the high risk among concentrated populations, but the risk precedes and does not originate with the mismanagement and abuses now documented in the Canadian Forces reports for Ontario and Quebec. To find appropriate solutions, the question of abuses needs to be separated from the inherent risk in centralization and concentration. 

We need more than platitudes to solve this complex issue. The prime minister’s proposed solution is to throw money at it, and there is talk of imposing federal standards. Alberta and Saskatchewan must resist Ottawa’s desire to yet again to encroach on provincial jurisdiction. Undoubtedly, people in these facilities need better pay and better work conditions, but Albertans would deceive themselves in accepting federal money as a solution. 

However, the heart of it is that elderly people choose – and some have no other option but – to live in near-industrial human warehouses. The options to place care facilities under federal regulation, installing better protocols, better ventilation, with more and better paid staff will not fully mitigate the massive risk of warehousing people in large numbers. As long these care factories exist, disaster will follow when infectious pathogens enter them.

Nor will tighter constraints inside such centres to prevent high death rates during pandemics improve the quality of life for residents. On the contrary, they will erode it. 

And whatever the potential solutions, governments should not take over. That would create greater problems because bureaucracy is the poorest guardian of human dignity. Besides, the public is now wiser and many would rather succumb to a virus than be subjected to isolating oppression, robbed of all indignity during one’s last days.

That leaves us with a crucial opportunity to phase out the warehousing as the demand for long-term care spaces triples over the next couple of decades. Would-be users should demand better alternatives and push the market to offer better and more varied choices. Public policy can provide incentives (not subsidies) for small-scale alternatives, away from industrial models. Sweden and Denmark offer viable and adaptable examples, variants of which were piloted in Alberta in the mid-90s.

In the shortest term, there needs to be safer solutions in the event of a COVID-19 second wave. But long-term, a variety of small-scale alternatives that uphold the dignity of residents as a high priority is the best way to atone for the current failures. 

Marco Navarro-Génie is a Columnist for the Western Standard, President of the Haultain Research Institute, and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Opinion

LETTER: Western Standard is wrong to call vandals “bigots”

You are just like the lamestream news: Go for the Headline not the substance.

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RE: Bigots deface French signs in historic Calgary neighbourhood

Editors note: The following Letter to the Editor has been published as it was received and has not been edited for spelling or grammar

No, I do not condone this childish behavior.

Why the term “Bigots”? When in our own country the very same fench people that we are appeasing have LAWS in their OWN Province that forbade English even being on any of thier signs. Nobody calls them bigots, or anything else for that matter. Yet you fail to mention that for balance in your article against the Bigots terminology.No, I do not condoe this vandelism, it is stupid and just looking for attention, Makes me wonder if a Franco-phone or someone, anyone else, got bored  and decided to ignight a contoversy. I do not know and NEITHER DO YOU.  You went with Bigot not just in the article but as the first word of your Headline. So much for balance reporting eh!?Of cours we ALBERTANS are “committed to ensuring the French language and culture flourish in Alberta. That is reduntant for your article as we have right in our own beautiful city an excellent French Immersion school funded by Alberta Taxpayers. 

I thought as a Conservative news site I would see more Conservatism, Nope you are just like the lamestream news: Go for the Headline not the substance. 

Plus I read your quick Bio before sending this email and am disappointed that you are/were part of the “mainstram media” for decades.  You may think you are a free thinker, but your paychecks tell a different story. I quite reading the Calgary Sun when I realized that they were getting their orders of what to write in Calgary from Toronto. 

Ray Jeffrey

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Opinion

ROYER: Alberta & Saskatchewan have got enemies, but more friends than we might think

3-in-10 Quebecers views their province as getting a raw deal in confederation.

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Albertans are seeking solutions to the mounting difficulties. Policies of the federal government hurt our economy and we seem to have few friends. However, Alberta is viewed more positively in most of Canada than the media portrays. That positive view of the province may mean that it can lead the country to a much needed change of direction.

Alberta champions change like nowhere else. It comes together, throws out the old and builds something new.  Homegrown solutions from new parties such as the United Farmers of Alberta, the Social Credit, the Progressives, the CCF and Reform all had roots in the province. 

Political reform – unconstrained by old partisanship – is part of Alberta’s DNA and much of the country is poised to listen

Saskatchewan, BC, Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces all chose Alberta as the province most friendly to their own in a recent Angus Reid survey (Fractured Federation, Jan 2019). Manitoba ranked Alberta close behind Saskatchewan. 

Alberta was seen by respondents in each of these provinces plus Manitoba as the province – other than their own – that contributes the most and benefits the least in confederation. 

Rather than Alberta, it is Quebec that is seen in English Canada as the outlier.  None of those provinces thought Quebec to be close or friendly toward it. Ontario was the highest where only 1-in-10 respondents see Quebec as a friend. In Alberta, that response was an astonishing 1-in-100.  

In fact, significant majorities in all English provinces but BC, view Quebec as unfriendly toward their province. BC was just under a majority with 4-in-10 seeing Quebec as hostile. 

Only 3-in-100 in the nine English provinces saw Quebec getting a raw deal. Significant majorities in those provinces thought that Quebec receives the most advantage from confederation.  

Quebec on the other hand, sees things a bit differently. To Quebec, Alberta is deemed the antagonist. A majority of Quebecers see Alberta as being unfriendly to it. No other province is considered anywhere near as unfriendly. And they do not see that Alberta is over-contributing. 

3-in-10 Quebecers views their province as getting a raw deal in confederation. No other is close. 

The country is of two very distinct perspectives. Nine provinces view Quebec as unfriendly, isolated and receiving disproportionate benefits from confederation, while Alberta is friendly and gets a raw deal. Quebec however views Alberta as an adversary and itself as getting the worst deal. The media and the national government generally assume the perspective of Quebec. Why?

There are two simple reasons; votes from Quebec are thought to largely determine electoral success and the national political structure leans in its direction. Both of these can and should change.

The nine other provinces are not divided. They don’t see Alberta as the antagonist. They see the excess contribution that Alberta makes. They see an isolated, unfriendly Quebec receiving undue preference and benefit. 

The chance to champion broad and positive political change is in Alberta’s court. There is more sympathy waiting in the country than the media and the political elite would lead us to believe. 

Alberta can propose a renewed country where all people are treated fairly; all voices are heard equally. We can offer a strong, unified country with one economy, free and open internal borders and a Canada first policy. We can propose a cohesive nation with wealth and power enough to stand up to China, and an increasingly xenophobic United States. 

It is possible to build a prosperous, united and independent Canada. If that isn’t acceptable, then Alberta needs to go its own way with whatever friends share its vision.

Randy Royer is a Columnist for the Western Standard, a Calgary businessman, and the author of ‘Alberta Doesn’t Fit.’

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