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JAY HILL: What the independence movement desperately needs

I believe there is a leader among us, but it is unlikely they will step forward until a lot more work has been done.

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According to the Canadian Encyclopedia “the Senate of Canada was created in 1867 primarily to protect regional interests, but also to provide a power of resistance to oppose the democratic element of the House of Commons.”

More than 150 years later, most Canadians residing outside of the Toronto-Montreal-Ottawa ‘middle east’ should agree it has been an unmitigated failure. All attempts to reform the upper chamber to provide even minimal oversight and protection for the less populated regions of our nation have been unsuccessful. 

It is our evolution as a de facto and ruinous unicameral system of government that has produced laws like C-48 (Pacific coast tanker ban) and C-69 (no new pipelines) and a continuation of the flawed so-called Equalization formula. To say nothing of the economy-crippling effects of the nationally imposed carbon tax.   

While it’s laudable that Alberta has taken out a full, front page newspaper ad detailing a list of ‘fair deal’ demands, and Premier Kenney has said that the next few weeks (over the Christmas parliamentary break) will be a test for Alberta-Ottawa relations, what isn’t clear is how low the threshold for progress has been set.

Fair Deal Panel meeting in Calgary, Alberta

Will Alberta declare success if Trudeau (re)commits to completing the TMX pipeline expansion by a particular date, and cuts a cheque of borrowed money for two or three billion? Are we destined to be once again bought off with our own money?

At a minimum, prairie Westerners should be truly fed up by this type of incremental pacification of their legitimate grievances. It will soon be 2020, and we have endured this disrespectful treatment by successive federal governments for far too long.  

Most of us know what we’re angry about, and why we’re convinced confederation doesn’t work. Less – but still many – know that in the end, we’ll never get a ‘fair deal from this abusive relationship. We know what we’re against; but what are we for?

For the Western independence movement to really build a head of steam, two main things are required.

Firstly, what is the positive vision for this proposed new country that can be easily, and passionately, articulated? It must be an image that the vast majority can associate with. That they can envision themselves being a part of, regardless of their status, ethnicity, age, occupation or background. 

On any given day in general conversation, they must be able to call upon this vision to rally family, friends and colleagues to the cause. In short, when they imagine their new nation, what core democratic principles, morals and truths would it be built upon?  What fundamental beliefs will attract and make all citizens feel welcome?  

Rather than committed sovereigntists wasting time, energy and resources organizing to run provincial candidates in opposition to the UCP in Alberta or the Saskatchewan Party next door, they should stay focussed on the national level and build a positive platform to attract dispirited federal conservatives to their cause.  

Just as the passage of time will prove there will be no ‘fair deal’ forthcoming from Ottawa, time (and the expressed will of the majority) may convince Premiers Kenney and Moe to hold independence referendums. If they still refuse to accept that confederation continues to be dysfunctional, impracticable and unfair, that will be the time to organize provincially to run against them. 

Secondly, once a vision has been fleshed out that unites rather than divides us, perhaps we will have a chance to attract the right leader to communicate the message and build the movement. 

A leader who can carry that message to all, thoughtfully and passionately, but humbly. This leader should be young enough to relate to the millennials, but old enough to have developed maturity and sound judgement. A good political antenna would be a definite asset. A powerful and passionate orator capable of consistently communicating positive reasons as to why Westerners would be better off, and have a brighter future, in a new country. A person of the highest integrity with an unblemished past. Nary a blackface photo to be found.

As an old Reformer, I’m reminded of Preston Manning and the birth of the Reform Party. But unlike Preston, this leader would not be undone by the need to master French.

I believe there are people among us who have these qualities and abilities, but it is unlikely they will step forward until a lot more work has been done.

Hon. Jay Hill, is a Columnist for the Western Standard. He was the Member of Parliament for Prince George – Peace River for 17 years, held the position of Whip of his party four times, and served twice as House Leader.

Opinion

NAVARRO-GENIE: Trudeau’s failed power grab an attack on democracy

Government without limitations is very rarely good government. The lack of limitations always opens greater avenues for abusing power.

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The Trudeau government’s effort to transfer power temporarily from the House of Commons to the Office of the Finance Minister was an unconstitutional attempt to bypass the will of Canadians as expressed in the 2019 election. By stopping them, the opposition parties have done great service to the country.

The effort is puzzling because no such move is contemplated in the Emergencies Act. The Act was designed to transfer enormous ability to the federal sphere, including powers from exclusive provincial jurisdictions, for renewable periods of 90 days. But no previous Parliament considering emergencies had contemplated what Prime Minister Trudeau wanted: to relieve the House of Commons of one of its most significant constitutional features, and for along period of time.  

Why would the House of Commons delegate to the finance minister the most important power it holds for a period that is seven times longer than the time the Emergencies Act contemplates for the transferring of lesser powers? 

The 90-day requirement in the Act is a deliberate limitation on government power, placed in the understanding that power can be abused, and concentrated power can be abused the more. 

Let’s ask what about the present situation is so radically unusual to warrant the deviation? What is so different about this government that Canadians should trust them seven times more than they have contemplated to trust previous governments with emergency powers in the past? 

The wish to augment its influence was not about taxes and spending. This was about removing constitutional restrictions and a government wishing to free itself from limitations that voters recently placed on it. 

To limit government power and to protect our individual liberties and property, our constitutional traditions place the power to spend and tax in the House of Commons. The lion’s share of the obligations to limit power and protect citizens falls on the shoulders of the House of Commons as a check on the executive power. 

Emanating from the same tradition – and going as far back as Magna Carta in 1215 – governments may not appropriate the fruits of their citizen’s labour – of which taxing is one manifestation – without their consent. In our parliamentary democracy, only the House of Commons may grant such consent. What the Trudeau government wanted to do is not contemplated in the Emergencies Act because it is unconstitutional.  

Nor can the consent to tax be farmed out. In Eurig Estate (1998), the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the principle that taxation must originate in the House of Commons and cannot constitutionally be delegated to any one government officer or department. 

The full consent of the House of Commons to tax and spend is so crucial a piece in our constitutional tradition that losing the confidence of the House may trigger the demise of a government (and therefore an election). 

And here is the core of the matter. 

We have a minority government, intending to shield itself from the cornerstone principle of responsible government by dispensing with the confidence of the House, circumventing the oversight of Parliament for 21 months.

But why? Not many will believe that Justin Trudeau stealthily intended to start paving a road for Canada to become a banana republic.

The move simply sought to take advantage of a crisis to gain self-serving political convenience. It would have insulated the minority government from all possibility of losing a vote on a money bill for the subsequent 21 months, turning a minority government into an invincible super minority. In fact, Trudeau’s minority government would be even more powerful than the majority government he led before that.  

It would have entirely freed the Liberal government from the annoyance of opposition, allowing them to govern in minority without having to satisfy the House on financial matters, and without having to make the compromises that are typical of regular politics.  

The opposition parties (less the Bloc which rolled over) deserve good credit here. Government without limitations is very rarely good government. The lack of limitations always opens greater avenues for abusing power. And this government has already been repeatedly reluctant to follow rules and respect the law.

Last fall – with scant representation from Western Canada, and second place in the popular vote – Canadians sent the Trudeau Liberals back to Parliament to form a minority government, thus placing greater limitations on their power than before.  

This week, we saw an attempt to shake lose from the inconvenience of that electoral outcome. What we witnessed was a bold attempt at usurping popular power. 

Marco Navarro-Génie is a columnist for the Western Standard, the President of the Haultain Research Institute and Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Opinion

LETTER: MP pay hike during crisis is shameful

They are a shameful and embarrassing lot.

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RE: CTF calls on MPs to reject pay hike

On April 1, 2020, the Members of Parliament and the Senators will be receiving an annual pay raise of 1.7 per cent, to give MPs $181,900/year, Senators $ 156,500, and the Prime Minister $363,900. 

The federal deficit for the year ending March 31, 2020 is projected to be some $26 billion, excluding the emergency budgeting of $82 billion for the current crisis. Their provincial counterparts have either had a freeze for several years, or have taken a decrease. But, too many of our uninformed, underproductive MPs just can’t keep their grubby hands out of the public purse, even at a time of a national devastating crisis. They are a shameful and embarrassing lot.

Larry Samcoe

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Opinion

MCALLISTER: Drug overdoses fill our ER spaces needed for COVID-19

Our emergency rooms have become the detox room for drug users.

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Walk through an Alberta hospital emergency department these days and you might be surprised. It is not the Covid-19 virus that is taxing our system and its resources. We have another problem on our hands, one that has been brewing for a long time.

 Our emergency rooms have become the detox room for drug users.

You name the drug and you will meet it there: meth, crack, alcohol, and more. Drugs and alcohol are wreaking havoc in people’s lives, and as they turn to a substance to turn off the noise and voices, they are turning up in droves at Alberta emergency rooms.

Drugs are brutal. Drugs take over and come out in rage.  People are out of control, incomprehensible, and it is our health care workers – not professional drug addiction counsellors and police officers -who are first in line to take the brunt of the black out.

On any given night, many of the patients who show up to the hospital for treatment have overdosed. They are real problems and real people and they need help, but there must be a better way. They are taking up valuable space and capacity when our ER’s and staff have precious little to spare.

One nurse I know works on those front lines. She and her colleagues are no strangers to being kicked, punched, spit at, sworn at, and threatened by drug users, and that’s only this week. ER nurses and doctors are miracle workers, keeping truly sick people alive. Yet they are often stuck baby-sitting high or drunk entitled teenagers screaming and demanding care after their latest drug experiment.

Drugs make people unpredictable, and it is our ER nurses and doctors who face that unpredictability. Nurses have the bruises to show for it. In fact, nurses face among the highest workplace violence rates in Canada, and that’s not including the viruses and diseases.

This drug-use epidemic has been taxing our ER system for too long. Our emergency rooms and hospitals have become the default catch-all for those using drugs and alcohol to the detriment of themselves and others. While our nurses and doctors are doubling up and prepping for an onslaught from a virus to which we have no cure and expect to impact the lives of millions, drug abuse is a costly drain on our system. If we want to save a few dollars and save lives, we need to get creative and do something about it.

While some drug users do need acute care and psychiatric interventions, help perhaps as they choke on their own vomit, or emergency NARCAN injections for opioid overdoses, most do not.

A kicking and swearing teenager who got high after a fight with her boyfriend is not an emergency. Under current laws, the ER cannot turn anyone away. The drunk teen can take up a bed any day of the week until they sleep it off, and they know it. Despite their belligerence, they are even provided a warm blanket and ice water. Sleep tight little angel while others wait in line. Some have even made these cozy ER stays a regular part of their week. It’s downright selfish.

Alberta has something to learn from this crisis, something we should have done long ago. We should have designated places for drug users to turn to when they have overdosed – places where they could recover and seek the mental health care that their disease requires. Social workers and other services have long been in place to help addicts and troubled people in our society, but ER rooms should no longer be the primary place where they seek help. As we face something much bigger, it might be time we make the changes that make sense for our emergency health services. Let’s create a place where this problem can truly be addressed and these addicts can be helped to get off the substances wreaking havoc on their lives.

We are on the verge of a major health care crisis. We need our health care workers, every doctor, and nurse to be at the ready for whatever Covid-19 brings our way. These are the best our province has and while most of us shelter in place, these workers don’t. They will not only be fighting a virus that they don’t have immunity over, but many this week will be spat on by drug users who simply don’t care.

These are some of Alberta’s heroes and as Albertans it is time we stand in their corner and give them the advantage in this fight for our lives.

Bruce McAllister is Executive Director Rocky View 2020 & is the former Wildrose and PC MLA for Chestermere-Rockyview

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