Justin Trudeau boiled the pot. Jason Kenney put a lid on it. But a rural county council 30 minutes east of Calgary just cracked the lid open.
Without any MLAs in the Alberta Legislature speaking openly on the issue, councillors in Wheatland County near Strathmore voted on Tuesday morning to adopt a resolution laying out a series of demands that Alberta should make to Ottawa – that if rejected – should trigger a referendum on independence on Oct. 18, 2021. If that comes to pass, my own birthday would also be that of the Republic of Alberta.
The resolution’s demands to Ottawa read like the Alberta Agenda, or “Firewall Letter” as it’s called by its detractors. They include Senate reform, ending Equalization, guaranteed market access and free trade. They also call on the Alberta government to replace the RCMP with its own police force, and replace the CPP with an Alberta pension plan. These demands are no longer the stuff of the hard-right, Alberta first fringe, but are broadly supported by the mainstream centre of Alberta politics, if not in any of its major parties. Openly at least.
But unlike the traditional Reformers or “Firewallers,” the county said that unless Ottawa accepts these demands, Alberta should hold a referendum on independence, following the formula laid down in the federal Clarity Act of 2000. This may put them at odds with hardline sovereigntists who want to skip the olive branch step and go straight to a vote on independence, but it is more likely to gain traction with mainstream voters.
The county councillor that put the motion forward is Jason Wilson. Wilson was a Kenney delegate to the 2017 PC leadership convention, and holds memberships in Alberta’s United Conservative Party and Freedom Conservative Party, and campaigned for his fellow councillor Tom Ikert, who ran for the People’s Party in the federal election.
Josh Andrus of Project Confederation has reworked Harper’s 2000 Alberta Agenda for an updated 2019 version, calling for a more sovereign Alberta.
“This is the kind of leadership Albertans need to be seeing from their elected officials.”
Andrus said that his organization will help to mobilize other municipalities to adopt the resolution.
Wheatland County’s move marks the first official governing body in Alberta to put the big question on the agenda, and is a curious tactic at getting around the big establishment parties in Edmonton.
The NDP will have nothing to do with the issue, but independence has the potential to tear at the fabric holding Kenney’s UCP together. Kenney has been clear that he is a committed federalist and won’t go down that road, but he has MLAs sympathetic to independence sitting in his caucus, and certainly a great many party members at the grassroots level. It’s unlikely that Tory MLAs would be allowed to speak openly on the topic without getting tossed from caucus. As a result, growing sovereigntist sentiment is not currently reflected in Alberta’s governing body.
The county’s decision to end-run the legislature forces the issue onto the agenda. The resolution will now go to the three regional meetings of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), and potentially to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA). Local politicians may not have envisioned themselves debating independence six months ago, but that is the position they find themselves in today. Even if the two municipal groups fail to support the resolution, it’s debate in the open by elected officials makes the issue impossible to ignore.
As local politicians begin to take sides, it will become increasingly difficult for provincial politicians to ignore. If what happened in Wheatland begins to happen in other counties, UCP MLAs may begin to feel the heat.
If these MLAs speak openly in the media and in the legislature, or keep it bottled up in the caucus room, remains to be seen.
JAMES-FROM: Excluding the non-vaccinated harkens to old discriminatory policies of Canada’s past
Derek James-From writes that governments that would penalize Canadians for not taking a vaccine are using discriminatory tactics once used against Chinese immigrants.
In the early 20th Century, Chinese immigrants to Canada faced considerable discrimination. The media of the era blamed this small minority for all kind of criminal activity, depicting the Chinese as luring innocent whites into gambling, prostitution and drug addiction. This threat, of course, was a contrived fiction, but many in the public believed it or chose to believe it. Ottawa responded to this so-called “yellow peril” with the Chinese Exclusion Act and a $50 “head tax.”
Fifty dollars was a lot of money at the turn of the century. This left many Chinese immigrants unable to openly participate in the economy or the social life of Canada until they paid up, so many went underground in places like Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. To this day, you can today still visit the tunnels where these industrious and persecuted people lived and worked for a while to avoid such unfair and discriminatory treatment.
Canadians today would not tolerate a Chinese Exclusion Act or “head tax” like we once did. But if those days seem distant, I assure they’re not. We’ve only gotten more sophisticated at concealing our prejudices behind veils of moral superiority.
Today it’s “if you want to be allowed to practice medicine, you must refer patients for medical assistance in dying,” or “if you want to be a pharmacist, you must prescribe these pills.” There are many other similar examples. And it’s always those most deeply steeped in their moral superiority who will respond that doctors and pharmacists enjoy special state-granted privileges and must therefore forfeit their personal moral beliefs for the greater good. How smug.
Present-day media is little better than it was. Salacious news titillates the public, brings clicks and sells ad space. Soon it will be clearer that Canada’s contemporary “yellow peril” are those Canadians who are not convinced of vaccine efficacy or safety. We call “anti-vaxxers”, “science deniers” and other such things.
But in the age of COVID-19, there’s a new, subtly different group emerging. They are those who would happily take a vaccine under normal circumstances once it’s been proven safe and effective, but in the midst of a highly charged and politicized pandemic, they won’t consume medicine that has been rushed to production, skipping animal trials, in less than one year. These Canadians have assessed their personal risk and appreciate what it could mean for the development timeline to be without precedent.
There are highly credentialed vaccine specialists adding their names to the list of people raising serious concerns or taking this wait-and-see approach. Doctors Mike Yeardon, Wolfgang Wodarg, and Masayuki Miyasaka have each expressed concerns about the safety of these vaccines, as many others have about their necessity. Even the regulatory authority in Switzerland is currently withholding authorization because “important data on safety, efficacy and quality are still missing.”
Much of this will likely be cleared up in time, but the point is that currently, they are not. Despite this, some tone-deaf public health officials, like Ontario’s Dr. David Williams, are intimating that unvaccinated Canadians may be denied their legal right to fully participate in the economic and social life in his province. This is a terrible, illiberal and totalitarian response. Yet, it’s a typical smug made-in-Canada authoritarianism that needs to be dismantled permanently.
Those hiding behind their veils of moral superiority will quibble that unvaccinated Canadians are making a personal choice. There’s a real peril, they opine, it’s about safety, after all. All they need to do is pay their “head tax” and move on with their lives. Don’t be deceived by these bait-and-switch assurances. I don’t remember such conditions being placed on living as a free Canadian, or that personal choices must be subjected to the will of the collective. What we are witnessing is the ongoing incremental growth of authoritarianism.
Let’s tear away this veil of moral superiority and expose the authoritarians it hides. It should be an enormous concern to all of us that any public health official even dares to appear tolerant of discriminating against those with a different view of the world, or whose instincts towards self-preservation have compelled them to decline vaccination.
If your goal is to divide a country, this is the path you take. Discriminating against Canadians for exercising their constitutionally protected right to make decisions of fundamental personal importance would deeply scar our already damaged social fabric.
Derek James-From is a columnist for the Western Standard and a constitutional lawyer
NAYLOR: My CTrain ride from Hell
The series of disturbing incidents began after I left the downtown Western Standard office and jumped onto a southbound LRT train about 2:10 p.m.
Alberta health officials often say people should be taking extra precautions because they don’t know how a large percentage of COVID-19 cases are being transmitted in the community.
Well, after my CTrain ride from hell on Wednesday, I know one place they can start.
The series of disturbing incidents began after I left the downtown Western Standard office and jumped onto a southbound LRT train about 2:10 p.m. MST.
Unfortunately, there was a gentleman – and I use that term loosely – who had been on the platform yelling obscenities at the top of his voice.
I’m not sure what his anger was directed at, but he was obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Quite possibly both.
I watched with unease as the man also boarded my train. He sat down momentarily, then got up and continued with his loud verbal diatribe.
All without wearing a mask.
Current Calgary bylaws say you must have a mask on while taking transit.
Fortunately, the screamer got off a couple of stops later and was last seen stumbling and trying how to figure out how to open the door to get into the downtown Bay.
But the ride from hell was just beginning.
Taking his place in the seat across from me was a young woman in her early 20s, wearing jeans with no knees in them and running shoes with no laces. If I had to guess, I would say she was from the city’s vulnerable population.
And she was visibly quite ill.
For the first few stops she was content with brushing her hair and shaking it all over the place.
Then the coughing began. And she couldn’t stop. It sounded like a very bad chest or lung infection. Her repeated coughs sounded almost guttural.
And she wasn’t wearing a mask.
The eyes of the man sitting next to her literally widened in terror. He tried to slide down the seat as far away as he could. But there really was no escape.
I saw all my already-reduced Christmas plans going “poof.”
Apparently tired out from her coughing fits, the woman then laid out on her portion of the seat, using her knapsack as a pillow. But she couldn’t sleep because of the continuing coughs wracking her.
The easiest option would have been to get up and move. But the car was crowded and I’m not sure there were seats available.
The other question I asked myself was why myself, or the gentleman next to her, didn’t confront either of these people, asking them to put on their masks?
The only answer I could come up with was that I didn’t want to aggravate someone who was already under the significant influence of booze and/or drugs. We’ve all seen the violent actions which this can provoke.
The ride from Hell was completed by another man in the carriage who was obviously developmentally delayed.
He just walked from end to end of the car. He would get to the end, stare out a window momentarily, turn around and walk back again. He ended up passing in front of me every 15 seconds, all the time muttering under his breath.
And not wearing a mask.
I finally escaped at the Canyon Meadows station, gulping in the crisp, fresh air. I thought to myself that if I didn’t catch coronavirus on that trip, I wouldn’t catch it anywhere.
I don’t claim to know what the solution to this problem is. We can’t have Transit staff on every train to make sure the rules are followed in an enviornment that is clearly ripe for infections.
But in my many rides downtown since the start of fall, I haven’t seen a single visit by a peace officer. They must be preparing to raid small family Christmas gatherings.
If health officials want an answer to where the community transmission is coming from, they might want to start with Calgary’s CTrain.
MORGAN: Kenney may have been politically incorrect, but he was right about infections in some communities
“Premier Kenney may have been somewhat insensitive in how he said it, but he didn’t say anything untrue when he spoke to the issue of the outbreak in the South Asian community.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stepped in it. He dared to address the exploding infection rates of COVID-19 within Calgary’s South Asian community and of course, is now being called a racist, with demands for an apology. Caught between libertarian-minded Albertans resisting lockdowns and statists demanding ever-more paternalistic restrictions, the blows are coming at the premier from all sides.
Kenney’s opponents smell blood, and they would love nothing more than to try to tie Kenney’s policies to racism, as they try with anything mildly conservative. Unfortunately, this political reaction and opportunism may increase the infection risks in vulnerable communities as public figures fear to address them frankly.
We need to be blunt about the numbers. Infection rates in Calgary’s South Asian community are rising at triple the rate of other communities. Shouting down and deriding leaders for daring to address this issue as being racist is absurd, and damaging. How can we find out why the infection rates are rising so quickly in these communities, and how can we bring those rates in line if we can’t openly talk about it?
I spoke with Calgary cardiologist Dr. Anmol Kapoor about this sticky issue.
Dr. Kapoor created an initiative called “Dilwalk” which was modelled to bring awareness to some of the health consequences that can come with South Asian dining. While Indian food is indeed fantastic, like so many things it can be harmful for people if not consumed in moderation. With food being so tightly tied to our cultural fabrics, it takes an approach with sensitivity and understanding in order to communicate to the South Asian community on these concerns. Dr. Kapoor has worked hard to bridge that gap.
“Premier Kenney could have used different words.” said Dr. Kapoor, referring to the now-infamous radio interview. The South Asian community is proud, but can be sensitive. Things need to be presented in a “culturally appropriate” manner.
I asked Dr. Kapoor why case counts were so disproportionately high in Calgary’s Northeast district where a large portion of the city’s South Asian community live. He explained that there are a number of cultural factors at play.
Many people in the South Asian community live in multi-generational households for both cultural and economic reasons. Because of this, it can be difficult for any member of a family unit to isolate within their own household, even if they feel they may have been infected. It is difficult to find personal space and this makes family transmission difficult to avoid.
There is a language barrier for many new Canadians from the South Asian community. While Dr. Hinshaw has been communicating regularly and in detail on how we can work to get the pandemic under control, there is a lag in communications getting down to people who may need to get the messaging in a different language. More efforts should to be made to get resources to the community in different languages and in a timely manner. If it takes weeks for messaging to get out, the impact of the messaging is often lost.
Many people in the South Asian community work in jobs which can’t be done from home and often involve a lot of public interaction. This puts them at a higher risk of catching and transmitting the virus. Many people in these workplace situations either don’t have supports should they need to take time away from work, or don’t know what supports are available. People need to be reassured that they aren’t risking bankruptcy by self-isolating. It’s not so simple as closing the doors of your business or walking away from work for a couple weeks. Social supports are required and if they already exist, they need to be effectively communicated to people.
The common theme I heard was that communications need to be better and that they need to come from trusted sources. Community leaders should be tapped to help reach out to the impacted zones and get health messaging out there. Compliance with health measures and suggestions will be much higher when the suggestions come from familiar and trusted voices.
Dr. Kapoor expressly offered to take part in just such a role. If any UPC MLAs or AHS members are reading this, just reach out.
The pandemic is a nightmare for all of us in every possible way. It is a battle with multiple fronts which needs actions on the part of government which are clear and unhesitating. Clear communications are key and we can’t hesitate in targeting areas where outbreaks are occurring for fear of political backlash.
Premier Kenney may have been somewhat insensitive in how he said it, but he didn’t say anything untrue when he spoke to the issue of the outbreak in the South Asian community. If we want to knock this thing down, we need to be able to identify and target the hot spots. Along with the many other things the government needs to do, they need cultural ambassadors to help speak to impacted communities on their behalf. We can’t let political correctness put people at risk.
Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a columnist for the Western Standard
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