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HARDING: It might be a joke to the CBC, but Washington would treat Alberta better than Ottawa

It’s unlikely a real-world Trump will add Alberta and Saskatchewan to make the United States into a 52-state deck of cards. But there’s reasons to wish he would.




“Today I’m excited to announce that I am going to make Alberta the 51st state, I really am,” said President Trump. 

Okay, actually that was a parody news article from the CBC. But, to continue with the This Hour Has 22 Minutessketch…

“Alberta, come with us, come be the Hannah to our Montana. I’d like to congratulate Alberta on its decision to separate from Canada. Face it, Canada’s best days are over. It’s time for Alberta to get a divorce and move on to a hotter country, it really is.”

That joke just got real with the latest employment stats.

The United States picked up 266,000 new jobs in November, including 54,000 ones in manufacturing. Average hourly earnings were up 3.1 percent. Unemployment was at 3.5 per cent, a mark not seen since 1969. 

“This is the best number I’ve ever seen in my life!” Jim Cramer told CNBC.

And Canada? Canada lost 71,000 jobs in November. That’s the worst since the “Great Recession” of 2009! 

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “For perspective the US is about 10X the population of Canada so this would be the equivalent of America shedding 700,000 jobs. Yikes! Maybe Justin should watch @realDonaldTrump & learn how to create jobs… or go back to being a substitute drama teacher. Either way Canada wins!”

So what’s happening now?

Sean Hannity thinks he knows. “Under the far-left leadership of that two-faced Trudeau, our friends to the north in Canada, their economy is declining in a massive way.”

The truth hurts. Unemployment is 5.9 per cent nationally, and 7.2 per cent in Alberta – the worst anywhere west of the Maritimes.

“Now Trudeau, you might want to take note,” Hannity says. “President Trump, he lowered taxes in this country, got rid of burdensome regulation, fought for better trade deals—yeah, you have to pay more, and empowered America and its energy sector. We are not for the first time in 75 years a net exporter of energy. And by the way now Canada, you’re suffering. This economy in America is the envy of the world.”

Yeah, we know.

Canada could do the right thing to make Alberta and all the provinces strong, but it doesn’t. The best that Ottawa offers Alberta is more socialism to compensate for the socialism and stupidity that created the low performance in the first place.  

For example, when job losses hit the oil patch in 2016, Trudeau gave effected workers an extra 5 weeks of Employment Insurance. Almost $9 billion vanished from the Alberta budget, but Equalization and other programs continued to drain a net $20 billion from Alberta to Ottawa. Now all Premier Kenney can do is smile about a chance at more a billion dollars and change it might receive from the Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which he has renamed the “Equalization Rebate,” which it most certainly is not. 

Alberta and Saskatchewan don’t need a federal government that punches it in the gut, and then walks alongside while it tries to catch its breath. It wants to prosper by its own labour. Canada ties up the west with cords and strands, while the United States is letting industry be. . . industrious.

Compare the two country’s approach to regulation. Canadian oil country braces for the “no pipelines” Bill C-69. All they can do is beg Ottawa to let them have purely provincial in-situ oil development left alone.

Trump took a hatchet to red tape. He cut 22 regulations for every new one introduced. Whereas Trudeau banned the Northern Gateway pipeline and oil tankers from northern B.C., Trump repealed Obama-era regulations for resource development in domestic waters. 

When a Montana court blocked Keystone XL claiming that environmental consultation was inadequate, Trump took only two days to respond. He cancelled the old approval and made a new one by executive order. Trudeau was less than feisty in similar circumstances. When a judge in B.C. quashed the TMX pipeline expansion over apparent First Nations and environmental consultation issues, the Trudeau government didn’t even challenge it. It started new consultations, ones that environmental groups are already challenging in court for their supposed inadequacy.

The Liberal government signed us onto the Paris Climate Accord and the Conservatives supported it. Trump revoked Obama’s signature. There’s no federal carbon tax there, unlike in Canada, where it is set to rise through 2022—and probably again thereafter to meet those aggressive climate targets.

Alberta has its own ideas for 2022. It will continue its corporate tax reductions until then. At that point, the provincial portion will be 30 percent lower than its closest provincial rival. Yet, six U.S. states will have a better state-federal combined rate, including Texas. Alas, Alberta can’t do anything about federal taxes. It’s one of many reasons that business is leaving Alberta to go stateside.

Additionally, everyone working south of the border will pay less personal income taxes. Whereas Trudeau created new tax brackets for those making more than $200,000 (a group disproportionately found in Alberta), Trump reduced taxes across the board at both personal and corporate levels. Keeping what you work for—that’s the Alberta ethic. Constant theft by Ottawa, then begging for a little back is not.

When Gwyn Morgan left his role as Encana’s CEO in 2006, it had the highest stock value of any Canadian-headquartered company. Now it’s an American company with a new name. Last month, he wrote, “the re-election of a national government ideologically opposed to the oil and gas industry’s very existence . . . struck the final blow to Encana as a Canadian headquartered company.”

It’s enough to make some wish that Trump comedy skit was real.

“America is going to wear Alberta like a tiny little MAGA hat. It’s time to make MAGA stand for: Make Alberta Great Again,” said the parodied Trump.

“And if they’re not careful, I’m gonna grab Saskatchewan right by the Regina! When you’re famous you can do that, you really can, they let you.”

Or not. It’s unlikely a real-world Trump will add Alberta and Saskatchewan to make the United States into a 52-state deck of cards. But there’s reasons to wish he would.

In 2016, Trump told his supporters, “You are going to be so proud of your country. And we’re going to start winning again . . . we’re going to win so much, you may even get tired of winning!”

By now, winning is America’s reality. Canada, not so much. 

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Affairs Columnist for the Western Standard. He is also a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and is the former Saskatchewan Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.


MORGAN: Alberta needs less talk, and more action from Kenney

“Premier Kenney needs to pick a lane and to stick to it with authority.”




Support for the United Conservative Party under Premier Kenney’s leadership has collapsed. Exclusive polling for the Western Standard has the UCP languishing at an abysmal 26 percent support while the NDP is at 41 percent while the new and still leaderless Wildrose Independence Party has climbed to 9 percent province-wide. This trend is nothing less than catastrophic for the UCP and they will need to make some major changes if they hope to be re-elected in 2023.

With nearly two years in power now, it is tough to point to any concrete changes or policies from the Kenney government. While Jason Kenney talked a great game at campaign time, we have seen little follow-through. Where is the promised democratic reform through citizen’s initiated referenda and recall legislation? Where is the fiscal conservatism and moves to get the budget under control? When will the government act on even one of the Fair Deal panel recommendations?

While Premier Jason Kenney continues to try to be everything to everybody, he is losing support on all fronts. The NDP-left will never learn to love the UCP, yet Kenney remains reticent to take on the government unions which are opposing all efforts at fiscal reform or efficiencies. Kenney has talked tough with unions, but won’t act. It’s time to take a stand and start cutting spending, not just haircuts. We are running out of money and taxpayers are running out of patience. It won’t become any easier for waiting.

On the democratic reform front, Kenney needs to implement the promised referenda and recall legislation. It has been nearly two years and this doesn’t need to be studied any longer. We know what we need and we know what we voted for. Give it to us already.

On the Western alienation front, Kenney has been at his most disappointing. This again has been clearly indicated in the recent polling commissioned by the Western Standard. Support for independence is exploding to new records in Alberta. While the UCP was not elected with a mandate to pursue independence, they were elected as a party expected to stand up to Ottawa. It is time that they did it.

Ottawa has more control over Alberta today than when Jason Kenney came to office. Tough talk is clearly not working.

No more panels. No more “expert” studies. No more kicking the can down the road. Albertans want some leadership and they want somebody to protect Alberta’s interests from an increasingly hostile federal government.

We have made it clear that we want a provincial pension plan. I doubt that I will see it implemented before I am old enough to collect it, and I am only 49 years old.

Why more study on whether or not we want a provincial police force? We know we want it. Now start working on what it will take to create it. What did we get? The province commissioned yet another study.

Where is the Alberta Chief Firearms Officer we were told we would get? How hard is it to appoint somebody? Instead, we got an Alberta Firearms Advisory Committee. More talk.

We are getting a referendum on equalization at least, but Kenney has made clear that there will be no ‘or else’ consequences if Ottawa and the other provinces fail to make reforms.

We are living in tough times. Citizens want to see leadership and that means seeing leaders making tough, definitive decisions. Wishy washy approaches to issues aren’t acceptable.

Premier Kenney needs to pick a lane and to stick to it with authority. If you oppose lockdowns, don’t impose them. If you support lockdowns, do it unapologetically and do it in full. Trying to appease both sides only alienates both sides.

Talk is cheap and we are tired of hearing it. If the current government can’t discover how and where they want to actually act on things, they will be replaced in the next election, and I fear for what that replacement may be.

Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a columnist for the Western Standard

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OUELLETTE & SHAW: Freedom of expression is under attack in Canada

“While Canada is a relatively free country, the pandemic has exacerbated our pre-existing shortcomings in terms of freedom of expression.”




Our freedom of expression is under attack. In recent years, there’s been a significant trend toward censorship in the media, in academia, and among the general population. The controversy at the University of Ottawa over the use of the N-word is one example among others. Why do we need to worry about this trend? For one thing, an attack on our freedom of expression is also an attack on our standard of living.

The virtues of freedom of expression are widely recognized: It improves the quality of our democratic institutions, facilitates the exchange of ideas, and leads to sounder, more transparent public policies.

But aside from these benefits, there is also a strong link between freedom of expression and economic growth. This is confirmed by the economic literature and by many academic papers from different researchers at Stanford UniversityDartmouth College, and the University of California, Berkeley, who all arrive at the same conclusion: The exchange of ideas stimulates innovation, and innovation is one of the main engines of economic growth and rising living standards.

Encouraging the exchange of ideas and the protection of freedom of expression is therefore intuitively beneficial, and this is confirmed by the scientific literature. But concretely, what would the average Canadian stand to gain if our governments put in place public policies encouraging greater freedom of expression?

According to our calculations and our econometric model, individual Canadians would be an average of $2,522 richer each year. Obviously, this amount wouldn’t be deposited directly into one’s bank account, but rather, a gradual increase in our living standards would result from the effects of more freedom of expression.

In the sample of 132 countries used in our study, Canada is among the top 15 per cent in terms of freedom of expression. But while it is true that we live in a relatively free society, taking this good ranking for granted would be a mistake.

Indeed, governments have a lot of room to grow when it comes to improving freedom of expression, especially if we compare ourselves to Norway, the top country in the ranking. There, it is standard practice for politicians to make constant efforts, encouraged by citizens, to better protect freedom of expression.

In contrast, in Canada, and especially in certain provinces like Quebec, the government can arbitrarily decide to subsidize one media outlet rather than another, which can potentially hinder media independence and lead to biased and less reliable information. Not to mention that it is increasingly difficult to obtain information from our governments through requests for access to information, which hampers proper public debate. This situation should alarm us.

In order to improve the country’s performance in terms of freedom of expression, thereby also improving our standard of living, we have three recommendations:

  1. Favour media independence from government by limiting arbitrary subsidies and, in their place, creating a regulatory and fiscal framework favourable to all media;
  2. Encourage Canadian public universities to protect freedom of expression in order to truly allow their researchers, professors, and students to express themselves freely without risk of reprisals;
  3. Increase the information and data available to the population by reducing the need to make requests for access to information, in order to facilitate public debate.

While Canada is a relatively free country, the pandemic has exacerbated our pre-existing shortcomings in terms of freedom of expression. We must not allow the current situation to become the new normal. For the sake of our standard of living and the wealth of our country, we must do more to promote and protect the freedom of expression of all Canadians.

GUEST COLUMN: By Miguel Ouellette, Director of Operations and Economist, and Maria Lily Shaw, Economist, Montreal Economic Institute

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FILDEBRANDT: Kenney culls Rehn from the herd, but none of it adds up

“If Rehn was the sacrificial lamb, it raises even bigger question about why his head was on the block, and not the other six.”




The Great Snowbird Scandal has finally claimed its first real political victim. On Thursday morning, Jason Kenney fired Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn from the UCP Caucus. But none of it adds up.

Rehn – for all his political sin of travelling to Mexico during his own government’s lockdown – was just one of seven snowbird MLAs.

Former Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard was forced to resign from cabinet –a demotion to be sure – but she still remains comfortably in the UCP benches. Jeremy Nixon, Jason Stephan, Tanya Fir, and Tany Yao all still enjoy full membership in the UCP Caucus.

Why is Pat Rehn the only one to be exiled to northwest corner of the legislature – otherwise known as ‘Siberia’?

Publicly at least, Kenney’s statement on the unilateral firing did not mention the Snowbird Scandal at all.

“The most important job of an MLA is to represent his or her constituents,” Kenney wrote in his statement. “It has become clear that Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn has failed to do so. He has made no meaningful effort to work in his constituency, or properly to represent his hard-working constituents.”

“I have repeatedly asked Mr. Rehn to be more present in his constituency. He has ignored calls from me, UCP Caucus leadership, and his constituents to do so.”

So the Snowbird Scandal had nothing to do with it, on paper at least. He was fired because he was an absentee MLA not working very hard, according to Kenney. It’s a curious reasoning that requires some scratching below the surface.

The Slave Lake Town Council issued a scathing letter on January 5 with a laundry list of sins committed by Rehn, including their claim that he doesn’t live in Slave Lake. In fact, they allege that he mostly lives in Texas, something Rehn denies.

While Texas would be a bit far aboard, I have a spoiler for readers: many, many MLAs and MPs do not reside full-time in their constituencies.

Even Jason Kenney himself does not live in his Calgary-Lougheed constituency. In fact, there is pretty strong evidence that he didn’t quite live in Alberta for much of the time that he was a Calgary MP.

It doesn’t really matter, so long as an MP or MLA works hard for their constituents, and earns their support come election day. At the end of the day, constituency boundaries are largely arbitrary lines on a map, drawn up by political appointees.

But for Pat Rehn alone, it appears to have mattered to Kenney.

Kenney official reason given – that he wasn’t working hard or around the constituency – holds no water.

Most backbench MLAs – especially those on the government side of the house – have remarkably little of importance to do. They read cue cards with pre-scripted puffball questions and pablum speeches written by staffers when the legislature is in session. When the legislation is not in session, their biggest job is to show up and be seen kissing babies at their local legion.

Most complaints about Rehn from his constituency is that he wasn’t kissing enough babies. Is that alone really cause to fire an MLA from the caucus?

For those not born yesterday, something clearly doesn’t add up.

So why was Pat Rehn really fired by Kenney?

Western Standard reporters have obtained some interesting documents that appear to cast a new shadow over Rehn. Our reporters will do their due diligence with these documents before we discuss them publicly, but if they are what they appear to be, then this is the real reason that Kenney sacked Rehn.

We can only hope that Kenney did his due diligence with these documents first.

But even if these documents prove the worst possible scenario, Rehn deserves a chance to explain himself fairly.

If the UCP had kept its promise to pass recall legislation, then his constituents could judge for themselves. But, they could also decide to pass judgement on the other six snowbirds.

Was Rehn just a sacrificial lamb for the other six Snowbird MLAs? A Mainstreet Research poll conducted for the Western Standard found 68 per cent of Albertans want Kenney to fire all seven (known) Snowbirds. Alarmingly, 41 per cent even wanted Kenney himself to resign over the matter, including 21 per cent of those who voted UCP last time.

If Rehn was the sacrificial lamb for this scandal, it raises even bigger questions about why his head was on the block, and not the other six.

Perhaps Rehn was a rogue and this was a convenient opportunity to cull him from the herd.

One way or another, we don’t know the whole story. I’d be surprised if we know half of it yet.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard

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