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The numbers are in: Western Standard is the #3 news site in Western Canada

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This will be far from the most objective story I’ve written for the Western Standard, so reader beware of my evident self-interest in its contents, but it’s hard for me to resist sharing the news.

When we re-launched the Western Standard on October 21st, we projected a monthly readership of 5,000 pageviews for November. We quickly threw that number out the window as we realized that what we were offering had a demand much greater than what we expected. In the end, we closed our first full month (November) with more than 760,000 page views, and 233,000 individual readers.

We crunched the numbers against our competitors, and results have me scraping my lower lip off of my keyboard: the Western Standard ranks number three across all four Western Canadian provinces.

Western Standard’s November pageviews (source: Google Analytics)

To get these numbers, we took publicly available data on the pageviews of other major news websites and subtracted the bounce rate (viewers that immediately leave), and compared it with our own Google Analytics.

Using this metric, the Western Standard had a 639,000 pageviews in November, beat only by the Vancouver Sun (1,068,000) and the Calgary Herald (839,000).

Closest on our tail was the Winnipeg Free Press (540,000) and the Edmonton Journal (532,000).

This isn’t to say that the data is ironclad. Not all major news websites were available to compare against (CBC, Star Metro, Global and the Victoria Times Colonist). In some cases, we asked competitors for their web traffic stats, but were refused in every case. For transparency’s sake, I have included a screen shot of the Western Standard’s raw data here.

Why, How?

Even more difficult than giving an objective analysis of the data in the Western Standard’s success, is giving an objective reason for our early success. But I’ll try.

The original WS team saw an opening in the media market, like any disruptive business. We saw a media landscape with a few old, establishment players that tried to service the entire market as they have been consolidated behind a few big players. For Westerners in particular, this meant a media dominated by corporate and government interests in Eastern Canada and the United States.

We didn’t just want to fill the void with right-wing, angry columnists (like yours truly), but provide a genuine news and opinion platform that could be trusted. That is why we brought on not just great opinion columnists, but fair, strait-laced news reporters. As those who read the WS regularly can attest, there isn’t any ideological slant to our new coverage. The only difference in our news from the fair reporters in the mainstream media (there are a few) is that we focus on and follow issues that they largely ignore, or dismiss.

In doing so, we have built a readership that isn’t what most would expect of a platform that openly discusses hard-libertarian and conservative issues, and questions the West’s status in confederation.

Traditional wisdom would have us expect that the WS’s readership should be old men. While they undoubtedly count for some of our readership, we are nearly gender balanced (46 per cent women), and young (61 per cent under age 35).

We still have a long ways to go to make the Western Standard a success. While we have huge readership numbers, we still need to build out the business-side of the WS to secure advertisers to make it financially viable.

We have had early success in building our membership however. In the absence of a paywall subscription, large numbers of readers have decided to generously open their wallets to make small, monthly contributions to help us make ends meet. If you haven’t done so already, please consider becoming a member.

None of this would have been possible without our early members, and our dedicated team of staff and contributors, who have thus far done this as a labour of love.

To our Members, staff, and contributors, thank you for helping to make the Western Standard such an early success.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. publisher@westernstandardonline.com

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Features

Unconditional: The Japanese Surrender in World War II

Clayton Trutor reviews “Unconditional”, dealing with the American/Allied politics in how to deal with Japan after the war.

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Book Review:
Oxford University Press. 288 pages. $27.95.
Marc Gallachio

As the Allied Powers approached victory in World War II, the foremost questions on their leaders’ minds centered on the particulars of the postwar settlement. These questions included the nature of surrender by the Axis powers, how would governments in these countries be constructed, and who would oversee their creation. This litany of concerns persisted well after the conclusion of hostilities. It was a source of intrigue both on the international front as well as inside the beltway in Washington. In Unconditional, Marc Gallachio describes in detail the intense debates within Washington’s corridors of power on how the United States ought to end its war with Japan. 

Unconditional is a particularly timely account, published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II—the response to this milestone anniversary has been decidedly muted in both the United States and Canada. It is also timely considering the shifting winds of foreign policy in Washington. The traditions of liberal internationalism (as embodied in this book by Truman and his allies) and conservative anti-interventionism (as embodied by his political opponents) have once again become the standard positions of the Democratic and Republican Parties, respectively. Gallachio, quite clearly, aligns himself with the interventionist tradition of Woodrow Wilson, which, at least until Election Day, will be the consensus view of foreign affairs among American progressives.  

Gallachio focuses on the final two years of the war in the Pacific, tracing a path from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s promise at the January 1943 Casablanca Conference to bring about the unconditional surrender of the Axis Powers to Japan’s final surrender on the decks of the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.  In this briskly-paced narrative, the author delves both into the debates within the White House as well as those on the editorial pages of the nation’s newspapers.  

Conservatives within Truman’s administration, in Congress, and in the American press corps discouraged the new president from occupying Japan, removing the Emperor from power, or dismantling his Empire. In Truman’s cabinet, Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, a veteran of several Republican administrations, argued that the preservation of the emperor and a semblance of empire would serve as a stabilizing force in Japanese society. Moreover, he argued that the acceptance of a conditional surrender would enable the remains of the Japanese Empire to serve America’s interests as a counter to the Soviet Union’s suddenly aggressive pursuit of territory in the far-east.       

New Dealers within the administration helped shape Truman’s approach to winning the peace with Japan. Then-assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson and U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Marshall persuaded Truman to push for an unconditional Japanese surrender, which would serve as the starting point for full-on nation-building in the former empire. The author is clearly sympathetic to Truman’s decision. While empathizing with the gravity of the new president’s decisions to drop the atomic bombs, Gallachio endorses Truman’s choice to seek unconditional surrender, which kickstarted a process that remade Japan into a democratic county and durable American ally. Gallachio has little time for historians of the anti-interventionist left which arose in response to the Vietnam War, particularly those who have in retrospect called into question the wisdom of Truman’s approach to finishing off Japan. He even calls out Oliver Stone for having the gall in The Untold History of the United States (2012) to invoke Herbert Hoover’s assertion in May 1945 that Japan was ready to negotiate a settlement to the war, dismissing the former president as a mere “Roosevelt hater.” 

Gallachio, who won the prestigious Bancroft History Prize in 2018 for co-authoring Implacable Foes: War in the Pacific, 1944-1945, is the perfect author for this account of the defeat of the Japanese Empire and its aftermath. He navigates the web of military and diplomatic maneuvering in this densely-packed historical moment with great know-how. Gallachio has a genuine knack for turning the secrets of the archives into a story.  

Unconditional also offers a window into the making of Canada’s postwar foreign policy.  Canada’s own nation-building, peacekeeping, and internationalist impulses are in large part a product of the historical moment described in Gallachio’s book. The decisions by the Liberal governments of Mackenzie King and Louis St. Laurent to ally strongly with the United States and play an active role in global affairs reflects their shared vision with Truman and his allies. Through active participation in pro-democracy international institutions, both America and Canada’s leadership class sought to bring to stability to the emerging Cold War world. It also makes more striking in retrospect the nerve shown by the subsequent Diefenbaker government in asserting Canadian sovereignty and independence from the United States in its foreign relations.

Clayton Trutor holds a PhD in US History from Boston College and teaches at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. He’d love to hear from you on Twitter: @ClaytonTrutor

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Features

Cabinet Sizes: Which provinces & parties have the biggest?

Germany has a cabinet the size of Manitoba’s, and the United States’ is smaller than those in Ontario, Quebec, B.C., and Alberta.

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When it comes to cabinet size, biggest doesn’t always equal better. Truth be told, it appears to have little to do with public policy outcomes, and mostly to do with pure politics.

The Western Standard has compiled the cabinet sizes of all 10 Canadian provinces, the current Trudeau federal government, the previous Harper and Martin governments, and several other comparable countries.

The smallest cabinet in Canada – by several orders of magnitude – is Prince Edward Island. With Just 157,000 residents, it shouldn’t come as a shock that Islanders have fewer cabinet members than the City of Calgary has councillors: just 10. Because PEI’s population makes it such an outlier, we have excluded it from the provincial averages when comparing across Canada. This isn’t a dig at our green-gabled friends, but a compliment.

Small government ≠ small cabinets

First off, lets disabuse ourselves of any notation that “Conservative” governments – ostensibly believing in small government – practice small cabinets. Quite the opposite in fact.

The average provincial cabinet in Canada (less PEI) has 21 members sitting in it, driven by the two largest provinces, Ontario (28) and Quebec (27). This puts “conservative” governments exactly on the average, at 21, or 22 if we include the ill-defined Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ).

Liberals by contrast, have markedly smaller cabinets at 16 member. However this is due in large part to the only two nominally “Liberal” governments in Canada residing in relatively small Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (and Labrador).

Technically, the NDP score the largest average cabinet size at 24. But with just one provincial government, and located in populous BC, this is a difficult indicator to use as any kind of broad trend.

And again, technically the Conservatives have both the largest cabinet in Ontario (28), and the smallest in Prince Edward Island (10).

A more useful comparison than among parties is among regions and comparable populations.

Among the four largest provinces, cabinets average 26 members, putting Alberta and B.C. slightly below Ontario and Quebec. By that comparison, the “conservative” large provinces (including Quebec’s CAQ), score at the top, while the B.C.’s NDP comes in below at 24.

Among the mid-sized provinces (everything smaller than Alberta and larger than PEI), the cabinets average 17 members. In this club, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia all come in above, while Newfoundland is the outlier at just 14.

Federal cabinets

Conservatives also tend to score large cabinet numbers at the federal level as well, compared across administrations.

Justin Trudeau’s federal cabinet has a massive 36 members. What they all do, is anybody’s guess. But while Conservatives regularly define the Trudeau government as bloated, the last Harper cabinet totalled an eye-watering 39 members. While it was short-lived, Paul Martin’s final cabinet was – by Canadian standards – a trim 26 bodies.

But this is less about party, and more about a strange Canadian tradition. Canada’s cabinets – regardless of party – are traditionally out of all proportion compared internationally.

Cabinet size across countries (source: Western Standard, Derek Fildebrandt)

U.S. President Donald Trump manages his country – with 10 times Canada’s population – with just 21 cabinet members. Put another way, The United States of America functions with a smaller cabinet than Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta.

U.S. Presidents – unlike Canadian prime ministers and premiers- cannot simply conjure up new ministerial portfolios on a whim. New cabinet departments in the U.S. require the express consent of both houses of Congress, and so are much more stable in their number. Additionally, U.S. cabinet members are not drawn from the House of Representatives, and so there is less of a need to pay debts, placate factions, or satisfy troublemakers.

But even when compared with other similar parliamentary systems, Canada’s cabinets are bloated. The U.K. – with a population twice Canada’s – has a cabinet of 22 (or 26 depending on how it is counted). Germany – with two and a half times Canada’s population – has just 16 members of the cabinet. In Germany’s case, their government is made up of a grand coalition of three parties (centrists, moderate socialists, and Bavarian conservatives), which would create the political conditions for a larger cabinet to keep all sides happy. Even with such a larger population, a coalition government, and a parliamentary system, it’s cabinet is less than half that of Canada’s. Put another way, the most powerful nation in Europe makes do with a cabinet the size of Manitoba’s.

Bringing it back

The most remarkable conclusion to be gleaned from comparing Canada’s federal and provincial cabinets is their incredible size when compared with others outside of Canada. This goes back to the very foundations of confederation as Sir John A. MacDonald built his first cabinet.

When criticized for the weak composition of his front bench, he famously quipped, “Give me better wood, and I will make you a better cabinet.”

But MacDonald likely didn’t mean this. His cabinet – and all since – have had political necessity – not competence – as their primary determinant. In the political patchwork that was the early Dominion, MacDonald built his cabinet almost entirely based on ethnic, religious, and geographic considerations. A few spots for Upper Canada loyalist WASPs. A few spots for French Catholics. A little English-Catholic here, and little Irish-Catholic there. And don’t forget the regional kingpins.

Cabinet’s in Canada may look different today, but they are built the same way. Despite having a clear male-majority Liberal Caucus after being elected in 2015, Justin Trudeau appointed half of his cabinet to be women. When asked why, he did not say it was because the women in his caucus were proportionately more competent than his men. He said only, “Because it’s 2015.”

Liberals might read this as meaning that because it’s 2015, women should have equal representation as men. Conservatives mostly read into it that it was because the prime minister is an avowed feminist. More historically attuned critics would see it as the natural evolution of Canada’s hyper-demography focused cabinets.

Progressives regularly argue that Canada’s parliament should be a near-perfect demographic representation of Canada at-larger. That is, 50 per cent women, X per cent of Religion A, Y per cent of Race B. Ect.

While parties of all stripes manipulate nominations to achieve some level of artificial diversity, ultimately voters decide who goes to parliament, at least outside of safe seats. This leaves it to party leaders to fashion the demographically representative focus groups that we call cabinets.

The growing diversity of Canada has required prime ministers and premiers to concoct an ever greater list of ministerial portfolios to meet the demand of demographic mirroring. This often happens by splitting large ministries with clear mandates into much smaller ministries, often with little real power.

The political necessity of demographic mirroring also exists in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and most of the democratic world, but Canadian leaders make it an obsession.

In Alberta’s case, the social policy ministries could easily be folded into a single role. Instead, we have ministers for: Community and Social Services, Seniors and Housing, Children’s Services, Indigenous Relations, Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women, Mental Health & Addictions.

Less extreme, but still relevant, is the Minister of Natural Gas, despite already having a Minister of Energy, or the positions of Red Tape Reduction, Jobs, Economy and Innovation, when there is already a Minister of Finance.

The list is even longer at the federal level, but you probably get the point.

In short, cabinets in Ottawa and in the provinces have little to do with party, a bit to do with population, nothing to do with parliamentary system, and everything to do with the political necessity of demographic mirroring.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

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McCOLL: Canada’s airforce replacement program getting it half right, half wrong

Alex McColl on how the very mixed bag of Canada’s airforce replacement programs.

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On June 6, the Department of National Defence (DND) announced that the two oldest 1980s-era Bombardier VIP jets (the Challenger 601) would be replaced with a pair of new sole-sourced Bombardier Challenger 650 jets. The old Challengers no longer meet international civil aviation standards nor could they be affordably upgraded. 

While some have criticized the Challenger fleet, Canadians should be proud of how much money the affordable Challengers have saved the taxpayer.

The United States Air Force (USAF) spends more on a single 8-hour Air Force One (a Boeing 747) flight than the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) spent on the governor general’s 109 Challenger flights between April 2011 and February 2014. That said, the Liberal government has taken a step backwards on the VIP jet file by missing an opportunity.

The Bombardier Global VIP jet can carry more people, can fly farther (over 11,000 km), and is a proven military platform. Finland is currently evaluating the new Bombardier/Saab GlobalEye as a component of Saab’s bid to replace Finland’s F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets. The Global is also the basis for the Bombardier/Saab Swordfish maritime patrol jet that is the leading contender to replace Canada’s aging CP-140 aircraft.

Canada needs to keep RCAF operating costs affordable while adding capabilities. A proven way to save money is to reduce the variety of jets in service. It would be better to replace all four Challengers with new sole-sourced Bombardier Global jets and six Bombarder/Saab GlobalEye airborne radar jets. The government should also announce that the CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft will be replaced in the 2030s by Bombardier/Saab Swordfish jets. This would both enhance our military capabilities while reassuring potential export customers that militarized Global jets are a safe investment.

On Tuesday June 16, the United States Government announced the approval of a foreign military sale to Canada of approximately $862.3 million (USD) worth of CF-18 upgrades and weapons. Phase one of Canada’s Hornet Extension Project will upgrade avionics and mission systems to extend the life of up to 94 CF-18s until 2032. Phase two will use the upgrades to enhance the combat capabilities of up to 36 CF-18s.

The upgrades quote includes fifty of the latest AIM-9X sidewinder missiles, twenty AGM-154C glide bombs, thirty-eight APG-79(v)4 AESA radars, thirty Improved Tactical Air Launched Decoys (ITALD), and a host of other upgrades to bring Canada’s CF-18A jets to an equivalent standard with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) F/A-18C Hornets. The Marines plan to upgrade 98 of their Hornets – 7 squadrons worth – with these systems between 2020 and 2022. The new radar is nearly identical to the APG-79 AESA radar found in the Super Hornet.

Phase one and the addition of the AIM-9X missile should be considered the bare minimum required to keep the CF-18 fleet flying to 2032, when Canada’s next fighter is scheduled to reach full operational capability. Phase two will offer significantly enhanced combat capabilities and give RCAF pilots some valuable experience with modern radars. The Department of National Defence (DND) released a budget estimate of $500 million for phase one of the Hornet Extension Project and a total cost – including phase two – of $1.3 billion.

All four of the candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada have promised to increase military spending. During the June 18th leadership debate, Dr. Lewis – the only candidate to not commit to a 2 per cent of GDP spending target – questioned the commitment of MacKay and O’Toole by pointing out that the Harper Government didn’t get it done despite its own commitment.

Even proponents of sole sourcing the F-35 – like Peter MacKay – should support the CF-18 phase two upgrade. The May 2020 United States Government Accountability Office report on the F-35 outlined issues and cost overruns that have delayed the availability of fully capable Block 4 F-35s until 2026. 

This delay – combined with the fact that allied nations are already in the order queue – casts serious doubts on if Lockheed Martin could even meet Canada’s CF-18 replacement timelines. Lockheed Martin could deliver Block 3 aircraft, but that would impose considerable future upgrade costs on Canadian taxpayers. The rational course of action would be to delay an F-35 purchase until Block 4 jets are available. 

If Conservatives are serious about rearming the RCAF and reaching Canada’s NATO spending targets, then they should demand that phase two of the Hornet Extension Project is fully funded and delivered on time. Conservatives should also push the Liberals to do more and replace the aging Challenger and CP-140 aircraft with a combined fleet of Bombardier Global based VIP, airborne radar, and maritime patrol jets.

Canada’s airforce fleet replacements – and the fighter replacement in particular – have been a morass of bureaucrat inertia and political interference, but the there is finally a glimmer of hope that they might get it right.

Alex McColl is the National Defence Columnist with the Western Standard and a Canadian military analyst

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