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GUEST COLUMN, ROB ANDERSON: Independence if necessary

We must demand a new and equitable deal within the Canadian confederation under an updated constitution; or failing that, we must separate and form a new country with those of our neighbours who wish to join with us.

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Canada is failing Alberta. Period. 

Our province is under economic attack from the political leadership of our very own country. And let’s not just blame the politicians like we don’t understand how democracy works. The majority of Canadians voted for these individuals, who are, therefore, a mere reflection of the majority of the Canadian people.

How are we being attacked you ask?

Attacks on Alberta

We now have every major political party, other than the federal Conservatives, actively campaigning and implementing policies overtly designed to, as Mr. Trudeau put it, “phase out” Alberta’s primary industry and job creator. The only difference between these same parties regards how long that planned “phase out” of the oil sands will take. Some want it now (the NDP and Greens); the Liberals over the next 10 to 20 years; and ironically, wish to use the wealth created by that same industry during this period to facilitate its very demise.  

And this is no empty rhetoric.  The Liberals have commenced this phase out plan through the passage of Bill C-69 making it, as the Liberal’s newly elected star MP, Steven Guilbeault, bragged during the recent campaign, virtually impossible to build any further interprovincial pipelines after the TransMountain expansion is completed (if it is built at all). 

The Liberals have also passed Bill C-48, the “No Oil Tanker bill”, which effectively bans the transport of any Alberta oil to Asia or elsewhere from off the vast majority of BC’s coastline, thereby killing any hope of the Northern Gateway pipeline or meaningfully expanding our customer base to  Asian markets, and thereby ensuring our energy commodities are forever discounted to the Americans. 

The above two laws alone virtually guarantee that no new oilsands projects (and the hundreds of billions of investment that would otherwise flow to Alberta and Canada) are ever built, as no thoughtful company will make a 20 year investment with no guarantee they can even ship what they produce to market long term.

Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Yves-François Blanchet

It doesn’t end there. How about the fact Alberta has sent $600 billion in predominantly energy-sourced equalization payments, primarily to Quebec and Atlantic Canada over the last 55 years — and those same provinces won’t even let us build a pipeline to sell our energy to their provinces and Europe. But don’t worry, they’ll still take the equalization money. Do you think Alberta could have used that $600 billion for its hospitals, schools, roads, our current sky high deficit and debt, or the Heritage Savings Fund? 

There’s more…Alberta, with a population of 4.4 million, has as many seats as Atlantic Canada with a population of 2.4 million. Yup – the same Atlantic Canadians that have voted for predominantly anti-Alberta Liberal and NDP governments and policies while sending so many of their population to work in the Alberta oilsands and to send their earnings back home, with Albertans welcoming them all along the way.

And I won’t even get started on the carbon tax (aimed disproportionately at Alberta’s economy and businesses), the runaway tax increases to the middle class, the massive deficit and debt, etc, etc, etc. It just goes on and on and on. 

Do I need to continue to list the special kind of crazy this country has become? Quebec and Toronto would rather buy oil from countries that stone girls for being raped and don’t give a damn about any environmental regulation of any kind, rather than buying oil and gas from Alberta. Let that fact settle in for a moment.

Alberta is clearly under full assault from within its own country. And the Trans Mountain pipeline or a federal election victory here and there by a federal Conservative party kowtowing just enough to Ontario and Quebec that they slip into power, is going to change absolutely nothing as we have seen time after time.

This is where you and I must shoulder some of the blame and responsibility moving forward. If Albertans do nothing after all of the above, and we continue to watch our primary industry (and all the industries that stem or benefit from that industry) bleed out over the next 1 or 2 decades; if we sit idly by and allow hundreds of thousands of layoffs, and the broken families, crumbling infrastructure, moribund social services, and our children moving elsewhere for work; if we allow this to continue any longer, we can only point the finger in one direction…ourselves.

The time for talk and wrapping ourselves in the Red and White flag is long past. We’ve started reform movement after movement to let the West in. We’ve elected a prime minister from Calgary. We’ve elected an NDP Premier who uselessly spent billions on purchasing a so-called “social license” to develop our resources. Absolutely nothing has worked.

Preston Manning & Stephen Harper in the Reform Party

Albertans must stop asking nicely and take control of our destiny.

We must demand a new and equitable deal within the Canadian confederation under an updated constitution; or failing that, we must separate and form a new country with those of our neighbours who wish to join with us. 

I don’t know of one Albertan that wishes this to be the case. We desperately want Canada to include Alberta. But the economic tyranny over our province by the majority of Eastern Canada…and that’s exactly what it has become…cannot be allowed to continue. 

If it does, what other reasonable choice do we have? The answer: None. 

The Renewed Alberta Agenda

We, as a people, must call on the Federal Government to immediately implement the following reforms. These are the non-negotiable terms Canada must concede to should it wish to keep Alberta as a provincial member of a reformed confederation:Repeal and make unconstitutional all federal and provincial legislation that specifically targets and taxes, limits or otherwise restricts the production or movement of Alberta’s resources to both interprovincial and international markets. This includes the immediate repeal of the federally imposed carbon tax, oil tanker ban and ‘no new pipeline’ laws. 

One: Amend the constitution to end all equalization payments between provinces…full stop. It’s a failed program that rewards poor government and penalizes growth. It is unjust in every way imaginable. It must end.

Two: Alter representation in the House of Commons to be entirely proportional to the population of each province.

Three: Establish a national resource corridor that allows for the construction of any pipelines, electrical lines and other infrastructure required for the complete free flow of Canada’s resources and energy to the east, west and northern coasts and to our southern border. Other than ensuring safe and proper construction, no further regulatory approvals should be necessary to undertake these projects. 

Four: Transfer Alberta’s proportional share of all federal transfers and spending in provincial areas of jurisdiction (such as for health, education, infrastructure, social spending, etc) directly to our province through the transfer of a portion of federal taxation rates into Alberta’s provincial tax rate.

Here at home, we must require our Provincial Government to immediately undertake all of the following 5 initiatives to protect the current constitutional rights of our province and prepare us more fully for the option of separation should the Federal Government fail to implement the previously outlined demands.

One: Withdraw from the Canadian Pension Plan in favour of a newly established Alberta Pension Plan just as Quebec and Ontario have done, and guarantee Albertans that their pension benefits earned under the CPP shall be fully transferred to the new APP.

Two: Just as Quebec and Ontario have done, establish an Alberta provincial police force to replace the RCMP and offer our Alberta located RCMP officers an opportunity to take positions therein.

Three: Just as Quebec has done, have Alberta immediately begin the collection of its own provincial taxes.

Four: Just as Quebec has done, establish our own immigration protocols to attract the skilled workers from other countries that we need to meet the specific and unique needs of our economy, while ensuring current unemployed Albertans are offered first crack at new employment opportunities.  

Five: Commence immediate outreach to our provincial and territorial neighbours and the United States, in order to facilitate trade agreements that shall be enforced whether Alberta remains a province within confederation or not.

When Alberta completes the above initiatives, and if the Canadian Government continues its failure to implement the previously outlined federal reforms necessary to Alberta’s continued participation within Canada, the next step is obvious; the Province of Alberta must hold a referendum on separation from Canada and the formation of a new and independent nation.  

Taking Action

The above renewed Alberta Agenda plan is obviously a large undertaking and many will have to be involved to have it successfully implemented. So how can you help being as busy as you are?

I would suggest that you (and any of your interested friends and family) join both the federal Conservative and provincial UCP parties and become a member of their local constituency associations. Attend those parties’ AGMs and local meetings. Meet with your elected Conservative and UCP MPs and MLAs. Be vocal. Don’t apologize. Don’t take no for an answer. These policies, as outlined above, need to be the official policies of these parties moving forward if they aren’t already. If they are rejected or ineffectively pursued by those parties, new political parties will be necessary. Let’s hope our conservative parties and leadership don’t make us go down that road. There are great leaders within those parties, and ideally, they would form, and even lead, this movement.

It is also incumbent upon those of us with political experience, business acumen and financial means to come together and organize at a grassroots level a political action group that organizes efforts towards the above plan in all 87 provincial and 34 federal ridings. 

This Alberta Agenda Action Group should raise funds for the purpose of performing any necessary public policy research furthering this agenda and to influence all levels of government to implement the renewed Alberta Agenda. It should act to hold our provincial and federal conservative parties to be accountable and strong in the face of the opposition they will face from the plethora of anti-Alberta, anti-oil, pro-socialist and special interest forces that have been attacking our province for most of the last 30 years.

If those same provincial and federal parties refuse to implement and fight for the above policies, or are defeated in their efforts to do so but refuse to take the next logical step of holding a referendum on separation, it may be necessary to transform this Alberta Agenda Action Group into federal and provincial parties. 

Again, let’s hope that doesn’t have to happen and that our current leaders in these parties are up to the challenges ahead. We should support them in a united effort until we have no other choice. But time is limited – and we can’t postpone what needs to be done any longer.     

As for me personally, I’ll be working locally in Airdrie, and with like-minded Albertans across the province, to move this renewed Alberta Agenda forward. Let me know if you would also like to be involved.

Enough anger and talk. It’s time to get to work. The very economic survival of Alberta and the future of our people hangs in the balance. I hope you’ll join me and hundreds of thousands of your fellow Albertans in this fight!    

Rob Anderson is the former MLA for Airdrie and served as the Wildrose Finance critic and in the PC

Opinion

WAGNER: Don’t make the tent too big – the independence movement must be conservative

Michael Wagner writes that there is little point in pursuing Western independence if the new country looks like the old.

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In recent years some people have argued that the Western independence movement should encompass people from the entire political spectrum. Support for independence, they argue, is not a specifically conservative or right-wing phenomenon. To generate enough political support to achieve Alberta’s independence, people of all sorts of ideological positions will be needed.

For example, early in 2018, one well-meaning independence activist posted a message on Facebook stating, “We all need to remember that you don’t have to be a conservative to be a separatist. We will need people from all sides in this.”

Similarly, in a conversation at a meeting, one person seriously suggested to me that independence supporters could bring Millennials on board by telling them that the money Alberta saved from cancelling transfer payments to Canada would be used to offer free university tuition and free dental care for all Albertans. This is essentially the Bernie Sanders appeal – support Alberta independence so that you will get “free” stuff from the government. 

If that’s the direction the independence movement were to take, it would become empty and meaningless. Proposing an even greater role for government – that is, even more socialism – as the antidote to Eastern Canadian “progressive” liberalism, entirely defeats the purpose of a free West. If socialistic policies are acceptable, then Canada is already suitable and getting better every year. An Alberta version of Bernie Sanders is not an improvement on Justin Trudeau. In attempting to widen their appeal to the left, support for independence would likely shed far more fertile and dedicated support on the right.

Instead of offering socialistic goodies or opting for flimsy policies in an appeal to people from across the political spectrum, the independence movement should be clearly grounded in small-c conservative thinking that values free enterprise, private property, the family, respect for first peoples, and the historic virtues of Western civilization. That is, after all, Alberta’s heritage.

An independent Western Canada must protect property rights, and the protection of property rights will not appeal broadly to the left. An independent Western Canada must allow for the genuine freedoms that modern “progressives” too often to despise. Progressives often view conservative viewpoints and traditional Christian perspectives as “hate” that should be banned. An independent West that embraced such progressivism would be no better than the existing Canadian federation, and might even become worse.

When the Alberta independence movement first appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no doubt that it was a right-of-centre phenomenon. In the early 1980s, the Western Canada Concept Party of Alberta – the Alberta WCC – produced a four-page document entitled, “Our Statement of Principles.” It contained 24 points. The first point was, “We believe in responsibility and self-reliance.” The second was, “We believe in private enterprise.” Thirdly, it declared, “We believe in smaller government.” 

The fifth point stated, “We believe in the right to own property.” The explanatory paragraph for this point was as follows: “The power of the state to occupy, seize or expropriate private property is a violation of personal freedom. Any limitation of the freedom of the individual to own what he or she acquires, reduces the freedom and prosperity of the whole society.”

Many of the initial points in the statement focus on individual freedom and entrepreneurship, whereas the subsequent points tend to focus more on the specific role of government.

The twelfth point is noteworthy: “The strength of the family is the strength of the nation.” The explanatory paragraph for this point states: “Healthy, close-nit, nurturing families assure the future of a society by molding responsible, self-reliant, hard-working citizens. Healthy families transmit healthy values – which strengthen the community and the nation.”

The Alberta WCC Statement of Principles cannot be understood as anything other than a small-c conservative document, and it provides a shining example of the kinds of principles any future independence organization or party should embrace. The pioneers of the Western independence movement had this right.

The goals of the independence movement are self-determination and greater freedom for the West, and these goals only make sense from a conservative or libertarian perspective. Therefore, watering down principles in order to appeal for wider support from the political centre or left would ultimately defeat the purpose of the independence movement. Achieving an independent West that favoured political preferences resembling Toronto and Montreal would be an empty victory not worth the fight.

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

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Opinion

GRAFTON: Canada’s corruption rating falling under Trudeau Liberals

Guest columnist Ken Grafton writes that under Trudeau, Canada’s high rating on corruption is falling fast.

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Notwithstanding five investigations by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, and the potential of an RCMP investigation into possible criminal activity in connection with the Lavalin-Gate scandal, the ethically-challenged Trudeau government was re-elected last October. Despite holding the distinction of being the first prime minister to be found guilty of violating federal conflict of interest rules and then doubling-down with a second violation, a surprising 5,911,588 Canadian voters felt that Justin Trudeau should continue as the head of government for another four years.

In addition to the two key centres of Toronto and Montreal, large swaths of the Maritimes, Yukon and Northwest Territories cast their votes for a government wreaking of corruption. Astounding to many – especially in view of the fact that SNC-Lavalin had a history of bribery, was again up on bribery charges following an RCMP investigation into its actions in Libya with terrorist sponsor Muammar Gaddafi, and had been found guilty of illegal campaign contributions to the Liberal Party in 2016 – Lavalin-Gate didn’t appear to be an issue for Liberal voters at the polls.

Now the prime minister is being investigated yet again by Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion in connection with the WE Charity scandal. Conservative Shadow Minister for Ethics MP Michael Barret addressed an open letter to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki on July 10th, calling for a criminal investigation into the matter. 

While the Trudeau government may be awash in corruption, it doesn’t appear to be a concern to most Canadians. A July 27th poll by Angus Reid showed that only 16 per cent of Canadians choose ethics and corruption as one of their top three issues facing the country, and 56 per cent believe that WE-Gate will have little impact on Trudeau’s government.  

Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) is a non-governmental organization that monitors government corruption globally. It publishes an annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), rating 180 countries by perceived levels of public sector corruption, and defines government corruption as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.” The CPI is the leading global indicator of public sector corruption, rating countries on a scale of 100 (very clean) to 0 (bring cash). The 2018 CPI rates Denmark at the top of the list, with a score of 88; and the lawless war-torn state of Somalia at the bottom, with a score of 10. The US falls in 22nd place, with a score of 71 (down from a pre-Trump placing in 2015 at 16th, with a CPI of 76). Canada scored high in 2018 with a CPI of 81, placing a very respectable 9th out of 180. 

That number fell to 77 in 2019, moving Canada off the Top 10 List to number 12. As Transparency Canada explains, “Last year, issues surrounding corruption came to the forefront in Canada and grabbed international headlines that let the world know that our modest, polite country had nefarious dealings.” Lavalin-Gate was a major factor in the downgrade, raising concern from the OECD Working Group on Bribery in a March 2019 warning statement.

In addition to providing data to corporate compliance officers, TI is a reference point for leaders and journalists around the world. The Economist has stated “No country can ignore its reputation for corruption. That means that no country can ignore Transparency International.” 

It’s no surprise perhaps that Denmark and Germany enjoy the highest credit ratings possible, while lawless Somalia is at the bottom with a CPI of 180th. Although there are other considerations involved, many of the factors that determine a country’s CPI also affect credit ratings. The same factors can determine where a corporation chooses to locate or otherwise invest, contribute to wealth inequality (OECD), affect immigration patterns (with the least corrupt countries generally offering the best prospects for new immigrants), and impact tourism (as corruption and public safety are often linked). 

There are many arguments against corruption, and many reasons to embrace ethics and transparency. The UN has stated “Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability.” A 2016 OECD report “Putting An End To Corruption” sums up the threat to democracy. 

“Corruption undermines sustainable economic, political and social development, for developing, emerging and developed economies alike. Corruption endangers private sector productivity…hinders public sector productivity…and is a threat to inclusive growth by undermining the opportunities to participate equally in social, economic and political life and impacting the distribution of income and well-being. Corruption also erodes trust in government and public institutions, rendering reform more difficult.” 

This should be required reading on Parliament Hill.

According to TI, the Corruption Perceptions Index is a composite index, a combination of different international surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions. The index draws on 13 surveys from independent institutions specialising in governance and business climate analysis covering expert assessments and views of businesspeople.

How will WE-Gate impact upon Canada’s international standing as a relatively corruption-free market environment? 

A glimmer of hope perhaps from Angus Reid. Trudeau’s approval rating has dropped to 44 per cent. Troublingly for Trudeau, this lost approval comes primarily from those who voted Liberal in the last election. Although four-in-five Liberal voters still approve of the prime minister, there has been a drop of nine points in two weeks.

Since the CPI – by definition – is a measurement of perceptions, it follows that the ethics violations by Prime Minister Trudeau must result in damage to Canada’s good standing. 

Look for a further downgrade in Canada’s CPI. Corruption is a slippery slope.

Ken Grafton is a freelance columnist

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Opinion

GEROW: Western Canada needs its own currency

Darcy Gerow writes that currency manipulation from Ottawa is a hidden tax on all Canadians, but robs the West more than others.

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With a united Wildrose Independence Party in Alberta and Jay Hill at the helm of Wexit Canada, the independence conversation has gotten serious. A May 2020 poll conducted for the Western Standard found that 45 to 48 per cent of Albertans supported independence. That’s real close to a 51 per cent tipping point. Though, for a lot of Albertans, independence is only an opportunity to lean into Ottawa for a fair deal on equalization and the constitution.

There is enough support for a fair deal to build a solid footing for Western independence, but that foundation will be useless if this house is framed using the Canadian dollar.

The Canadian dollar is consistently hitting new lows every year when measured against indicators like the consumer price index, which measures the price impacts of inflation caused by the Canadian government’s manipulation of the money supply. 

An independent West (or just Alberta) should reject a foreign government (in this case Ottawa) devaluing its currency. Unlike Quebec sovereigntists – who want to continue using the Canadian dollar – Westerners would be better off with their own currency, a Western dollar which is free of manipulation.

Junior high civics classes have conditioned Canadians to trust the government with the money supply as a noble endeavor, that the marketplace can’t provide a product sound enough to be used as a medium of exchange or a store of value. The federal government took that trust and printed up a trillion dollars in debt for all kinds of corporate welfare programs. Most recently, to give to their buddies in the mainstream media and WE charities, or to conduct the massive Covid-19 vote-buying welfare scheme, and they’ve done it at the expense of impoverishing those who trusted them with what little wealth they had. All while the marketplace has given us a product that is sound enough to be a medium of exchange and a far superior store of value – gold. 

The Canadian Dollar was backed by gold until 1914 when the Finance Act was passed. This allowed the dollar to be artificially devalued to fund the First World War. The dollar reached a new all-time low measured in gold at the end of 2019 from which it will never recover.

A fair deal on equalization, or better yet, the end of equalization is a great thing, but if the West keeps the Canadian dollar, the door to unfair treatment by Ottawa will always be open. The ability to manipulate the money supply is akin to a tax. Instead of confiscating the actual dollars – like they do with equalization – they are confiscating the value of a dollar. They are stealing purchasing power. As Western provinces have historically out-performed Eastern ones when it comes to productivity, a tax on purchasing power disproportionately affects the West.

If Albertans or the entire West succeed in achieving independence, it would be foolish to continue paying the inflation tax to Ottawa. 

While the West does not have the gold to completely back a currency yet, it isn’t necessary to get the ball rolling. The Western dollar can be pegged to the price of gold at a rate similar to the Canadian dollar and legislation will be required to restrict devaluation by Western governments. As Canada continues to devalue the loonie, our share of the Canadian debt – which would presumably follow us into independence – will be wiped out by inflation.

Here in the West, people are dumping dollars and turning to gold. Remember that Western Standard poll? Having a gold backed Western dollar on the table is enough to tip the scales towards independence.

Even for those not convinced that independence is the right course, Westerners should be demanding sound money as part of a fair deal with Ottawa. What’s the point of keeping those equalization dollars if the money itself is worthless?

Darcy Gerow is a columnist for the Western Standard

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