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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: Could the Eastern Bastards actually freeze in the dark?

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The punchline from news headlines practically writes itself. “Quebec’s propane could run out in five days if CN strike lingers, premier warns” read the newswire from Canadian Press.” Rail strike could cause Quebec to run out of propane” headlined the Western Standard’s own story. Westerners stewing about the intransigence of Eastern – namely Quebec – politicians fighting against hydrocarbon pipelines couldn’t help but enjoy a little schadenfreude. Without coordinated effort, Westerners collectively recalled words from the 1980s bumper sticker: “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark.”

The crude slogan came into popular use during Alberta’s fight with Pierre Trudeau over the National Energy Program as a response to Easterners complaining about oil shipments being cut off. But the 1980’s fight with the East was very different from 2019’s. In 1980, Pierre Trudeau campaigned on a strategy of “Screw the West. I’ll take the rest,” promising Eastern voters booty paid for by extracting Western wealth, but not with the intention of disrupting the West’s ability to generate it. It didn’t turn out that way, as capital fled Alberta and the province began an economic depression. Outraged Western voters didn’t go far down the path to independence, instead pinning their hopes on Brian Mulroney to make things right, for all the good it did.

Post-1993, the federal government under successive Liberal and Tory administrations continued to plunder Western economies to subsidize the rest of confederation, but never so brazenly as under Trudeau I. Under Trudeau II, the attack on Alberta’s (and now Saskatchewan’s) economy is less focused on increasing the take it gets, but on gradually “phasing out” the oilsands, in the Dauphin’s own words.

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau & former Premier Peter Lougheed

Quebec’s hostility to the West – and Alberta in particular – has strained an already historically uncomfortable relationship. In an Abacus Poll released this week, a full 55 per cent of Quebecers said that they would be “happy” or “OK” if Alberta seceded from Canada, higher even than the number in Alberta itself. This Hour has 22 Minutes did a rarely well done skit on why “Quebec and Alberta need counselling,” portraying Alberta as an overworked and undersexed redneck upset with his sultry French wife, who gets her love from Ottawa. Predictably, it ends with both screaming that they want a separation from one-another.

The hostility between the two in the real world is palpable. While most Albertans suspect that Trudeau has it out for them, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet ran openly on a platform of strangling and plundering the Western provinces for the benefit of his home “état vert.”

After the tragic Lac-Mégantic oil-rail disaster in 2013, Quebecers should be more convinced than any in Canada of the value of transporting oil by pipeline. Alas, they most certainly are not. Even its ostensibly conservative premier, François Legault, has no time for Western oil that lacks “any social acceptability.”

A country in which one side feels glee at the suffering of the other is not long for this world. That Westerners are returning the feeling now that they have a fleeting opportunity to, shouldn’t be surprising.

Even Quebecers have to admit; the province that takes hydrocarbon money but opposes all hydrocarbon pipelines running out of a major hydrocarbon, is kinda funny.

Propane and hydrocarbon distribution is a complicated issue and cannot always be boiled down to pipelines in every case, but it’s difficult not to consider the possibility. It’s especially difficult not to laugh a bit.

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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