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Calgary Wexit rally draws 1,700

Nearly 1,700 people attended Saturday’s Wexit rally. Some wanted clear independence, while others wanted leverage against Ottawa.

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CALGARY, AB: The parking lot of the Notre Dame High School in Calgary began to fill one hour prior to the official start of the Wexit rally Saturday evening. By 7:00 p.m., late-comers were forced to find space on the lawn of the school or head home disappointed. Inside, the gymnasium had filled beyond its 1,500-person capacity.

You didn’t need to go inside to understand the movement called Wexit. Supporters arrived in vehicles adorned with anti-Trudeau, pro-oil and gas bumper stickers and a 3-meter display just outside the entrance to the venue read “Wanted for Treason” with a smug-looking picture of Canada’s prime minister. The battle cry of Twisted Sister’s hit song We’re Not Gonna Take It played on a loudspeaker to set the mood and welcome quests.

The nearly 1,700 people who attended the rally in Calgary seem to agree on one thing: Alberta is not being treated fairly by Ottawa and it’s time for serious action to fix the political situation or exit confederation. While there was agreement on the problem, the path forward for Wexit supporters remains less clear.

Wexit lawn signs available at a Calgary rally (source: Western Standard)

I joined former MP Rob Anders in the bleachers of the gymnasium before the speakers began. While Anders is not a sovereigntist, he calls himself a “sympathizer” and thinks the economic case for Alberta independence is “rock solid.” Anders – like many Albertans – is watching Wexit closely but not yet ready to join the movement.

Speaking to those around us, I heard heartbreaking stories of unemployed and underemployed parents worried about making ends meet, and wondering if the prosperity they’ve enjoyed will ever again be available to their children.

UCP activist Craig Chandler (source: Western Standard)

Long-time conservative activist and Jason Kenney ally, Craig Chandler, was the first speaker of the evening and encouraged the audience to support local Alberta businesses and conservative candidates running for municipal office. It was a tepid speech that made no reference to independence. In an interview with the Western Standard prior to the event, Chandler was less cautious.

“I believe we need to have a referendum on separation; not a useless referendum on equalization. We will get a ‘Yes’ vote and then we will have real negotiating power. We get the ‘Yes’ vote and put that vote in our back pocket and then sit down with the rest of Canada,” Chandler said.

There were a number of speeches before Wexit founder Peter Downing took the stage. Callie Temple with Women for an Independent Alberta (AFIA) said people have been “pushed to the brink.” Zuzana Janosova Den Boer, who survived communist rule in Czechoslovakia before immigrating to Canada, warned of growing socialism in her adopted country. Kathy Flett, a Wexit leader, spoke of the need to work with First Nations and said of the movement:  “We’re not left. We’re not right. We’re Albertans.”

Downing opened his speech declaring “Justin Trudeau, you are not pushing us around anymore,” and closed by leading attendees in a chant of “the West wants out!”

A lone anti-Wexit protester showed up dressed in black and wearing a ski mask and told the Western Standard that the Wexit movement “has too many Christians” in it.

An anti-Wexit protestor says the movement “has too many Christians” (source: Western Standard)

While Wexit supporters are ready for a fight with Ottawa, many are cautiously optimistic that newly-elected Premier Kenney will keep his promise to implement the Alberta Agenda and fight for a better deal for Alberta within confederation, making independence unnecessary. The Alberta Agenda – also known as the Firewall Letter – was co-authored in 2001 by future Prime Minister Stephen Harper and outlined a strategy for Alberta to protect itself against interference from Ottawa by asserting its constitutional authority over areas like policing, pensions, and tax collection.

Carmen Lasante, the volunteer organizer for the event, said the threat of separatism is “going to be used as leverage, but, if that leverage doesn’t work, we’re gone. Separation if necessary, but not necessarily separation.”

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Calgary mayor says Buffalo Declaration authors ‘need to calm down’

Calling the rhetoric of the Buffalo Declaration “overheated”, Nenshi said he wished politicians would focus on the need for job creation.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the authors of the Buffalo Doctrine need to “calm down.”

Nenshi said the type of rhetoric in the 6,000-word essay “doesn’t create jobs” – purportedly the number one priority for Calgary, the province, and all elected representatives of Alberta.

Nenshi said he was “one hundred per cent focused… on rebuilding the economy in Alberta and building up quality of life for Calgarians,” intimating that other politicians were not as similarly inclined – but should be.

Alberta CPC MPs Michelle Rempel Garner, Blake Richardson, Arnold Viersen, and Glen Motz, released a declaration Thursday about Alberta’s future in Confederation.

Calling the rhetoric “overheated”, Nenshi said he wished politicians would focus on the need for job creation.

Premier Jason Kenney refused to back the declaration when pointedly asked by reporters at a media scrum after Kenney announced $40 million in funding for Calgary’s Glenbow Museum on Friday February 21.

Admitting that he had not read the declaration “in detail”, the premier said the Declaration “underscored the depth of frustration” in the province.

The premier then went on to detail what his government was doing to address the concerns of Albertans – namely, with the government’s Fair Deal panel.

Deirdre is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard

dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com, @Mitchell_AB on Twitter

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Kenney, Scheer won’t back Buffalo Declaration – Wall and Barnes come out in support

Barnes, who is also a member of the Fair Deal Panel, said the Buffalo Declaration echoes what he’s been hearing at the consultations around the province.

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The Buffalo Declaration issued by four Alberta Conservative MPs caused quick public reaction soon after it was released, but while some prominent Westerners have come out in support, others have been less enthusiastic.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney gave a tepid response when asked about his reaction to the Buffalo Declaration at a Glenbow Museum funding announcement on the morning of February 21st. In fact, the premier didn’t mention it at all when asked about it.

“Our government was elected on a mandate to fight for Alberta – that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Kenney said…It’s exactly why we’re in court challenging the federal carbon tax, challenging the ‘no more pipelines law’ – Bill C-69. It’s why we launched the Fair Deal Panel, and it’s why we are prepared to go to Albertans with a number of ideas to maximize our autonomy as a province.”

Taking a different route, UCP MLA and Fair Deal Panel member Drew Barnes said the Buffalo Declaration echoes what he’s been hearing at the consultations around the province.

“We could lose it all if we don’t get equitable representation – the fact is our voice is so often not heard”, he told the Western Standard.

“A lot of people support Alberta and what we do here and we need to get the word out that our economy, our families, and communities are hurting. When people with a platform, MPs and MLAs, talk about that, it helps,” he said.

“For those that don’t believe in Albertans having the opportunity to live in the freest and the richest province and contribute to Canada and Albertans have the opportunity to live life to the fullest – we have to push back. We’re in a situation where we have unequal representation in the house and, senate and the Supreme Court – nothing moves unless it’s pushed and it’s our job to push.”

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer issued a statement acknowledging that four of his MPs had issued the declaration, but said that he will not comment on it because there was an ongoing leadership race to replace him. Instead of addressing the declaration directly, Scheer said that his party has long advocated for democratic reform to “ensure Western Canadians have an equal voice in Canadian politics…The frustration and anger in Western Canada is very real and should not be ignored.”

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said the four MPs deserved credit.

“There needs to be national attention to and action on the abiding unfairness in the confederation toward Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the west in general,” he wrote on social media.

“You and your colleagues deserve credit for this Michelle [Rempel-Garner]. There needs to be national attention to and action on the abiding unfairness in the confederation toward Alberta, Saskatchewan and the west in general.”

Deirdre is the Senior Reporter for Western Standard.
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
@Mitchell_AB

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Trudeau says barricades must come down now

Saying Canadians have “run out of patience”, Justin Trudeau on Friday called for Indigenous protesters to remove their rail barricades immediately.

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Enough is enough, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Saying Canadians have “run out of patience”, Trudeau on Friday called for Indigenous protesters to remove their rail barricades against the Coastal GasLink pipeline immediately.

“We have exhausted our capacity to engage… to resolve this. The onus has shifted to the Indigenous leadership,” Trudeau told a press conference in Ottawa Friday afternoon.

“All Canadian are paying the price. Some can’t get to work, others have lost their jobs.

“Canadians have been patient. The government has been patient.

“The barricades need to come down. The injunctions must be obeyed and the law must be upheld.”

• What the Western Standard says

Trudeau noted the barricades have been up for two weeks and said his government has been in dialogue with the Indigenous groups since the start.

“Every attempt at dialogue has been made, but discussions have not been productive. We can’t have dialogue when only one party is coming to the table,” Trudeau said.

But Trudeau’s message was met with a less-than-enthusiastic response from Indigenous leaders.

At a press conference in Tyendinga, Ont. near one of the rail blockades, Wet’suwet’en and Mohawk leaders repeated calls the barriers would stay until the RCMP have completely retreated from Wet’suwet’en territory.

Wet’suwet’en leaders stood by another condition that all work on the CGL pipeline stop in their land.

• In other developments, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was worried about more citizen vigilantism.

Last Thursday,  CN Rail announced it was closing down operations in eastern Canada while Via Rail shuttered its entire network because of a Mohawk rail blockade near Brockville, Ont.

Tory leader Andrew Scheer said enough is enough and it’s time for Trudeau to call in the RCMP to clear the blockades.

“Quite frankly, this is getting ridiculous. Radical activists, many of whom have no connection to theWet’suwet’en people, are holding our economy hostage. Meanwhile our prime minister has been out of the country on a vanity project to win a vote at the UN, neglecting his duties here at home,” Scheer said, referencing Trudeau’s jaunt to Africa.

“Do the right thing, Prime Minister Trudeau. We can’t allow a small number of activists to hold our economy hostage and threaten thousands of jobs. I believe it’s time for the law to be enforced. Law enforcement should enforce the law. We have court orders, court injunctions, they need to be respected.”

The protests have been growing across Canada for two weeks since the RCMP raided and tore down an Indigenous camp near Smithers.

Last Thursday, the protesters at the main camp released a new video of RCMP action at the site.

COURTESY GIDIMT’EN CHECKPOINT





RCMP officer seen at Indigenous camp near Smithers, B.C.

The pipeline has the support of all First Nations along the route, but hereditary chiefs of Wet’suwet’en Nation, through which 28% of the 670-km route passes, oppose it.

A group of unelected hereditary chiefs had set up a camp near Smithers and have kicked out Coastal GasLink workers.

Courtesy Twitter

The RCMP said they have found traps like felled trees and three stacks of tires along with flammables along the access road.

On Jan. 7, 2019, RCMP arrested 14 protesters along the B.C. logging road. 

International attention was drawn to the issue when a British newspaper reported RCMP were ready to shoot protesters when they broke up the camp. The RCMP denied the story.

On Dec. 31, the B.C. Supreme Court granted CGL an injunction against members of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation from blocking the pipeline route near Smithers, B.C.

But the situation has been further complicated after a Jan. 3 edict by the Unist’ot’en, a smaller group within the First Nation, that they intend to terminate an agreement that had granted the company access to the land.

The RCMP checkpoint had been set up at the 27-km mark of the forest service road “to mitigate safety concerns related to the hazardous items of fallen trees and tire piles with incendiary fluids along the roadway.”

The $6.6 billion pipeline, to be operated by TC Energy Corp, would transport gas from near Dawson Creek in northeast B.C. to Kitimat on the coast and supply Canada’s largest liquefied natural gas export terminal, called LNG Canada, which is under construction.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: Nobby7694

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