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FILDEBRANDT: Rempel should run

Rempel-Garner would be well advised to take up the mantel of Maxime Bernier and run with a clear and principled platform on immigration reform, Western alienation, and scrapping supply management.

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The federal Conservative leadership race has a massive vacuum as Peter Mackay moves down an open and easy road to the Tory crown. With Rona Ambrose and Brad Wall out, there is no big Westerner in the race. With Pierre Polievre out, there is no big conservative or libertarian in the race. Unless Erin O-Toole can reinvent himself as the standard bearer of both, the top job will be Mackay’s by default.

For a party with its core in the West and on the right, it’s more than a bit curious that there isn’t a major candidate from either. In this wide-open field, Michelle Rempel-Garner has a rare opportunity.

In the 2017 race, Rempel-Garner (then just Rempel) sat it out not just as a potential candidate, but refused to even endorse anyone. Since then, she has fashioned herself into a unique and adventagous position.

She has staked out clearly and unambiguously that she supports gay rights and has zero interest in re-litigating issues that even most social conservatives have moved past. But she has not pushed herself into social-justice warrior, social progressive territory. She has been a champion of gun rights, a more rational immigration policy, and most notably, the West.

Rempel-Garner has the opportunity to put herself forward as the libertarian candidate à la Maxime Bernier (who would be in pole position to win if he were still in the party). Like Bernier, she has the ability to be an open champion of gay rights without falling into the trap of condescendingly lecturing everyone with more traditional views.

That said, if this is her plan, she isn’t off to a great start.

Richard Décarie emerged from the wilderness in Quebec to proclaim on national television that being gay was a “choice,” and that “LGTBQ is a Liberal term.” Nobody outside of this man’s village had ever heard his name before, but he successfully managed to grab headlines with his best caveman impression.

Rempel-Garner rightfully came out against him, but went too far in calling for the party to ban him from even running as a candidate. As repugnant as his views might be to even many reasonable social conservatives, barring him from running is an authoritarian approach to a man best dealt with at the ballot box. A more democratic and libertarian approach would have been to declare that she will wipe the floor with him as a canidate. He likely wouldn’t exceed much more than one per cent of the vote in any case.

But this was all in one of Rempel-Garner’s famous Twitter rants, which are surprisingly unrehearsed and genuine. One can hold out hope that calling to ban him from running was more akin to one of Trump’s impulsive tweets than deliberately thought-out policy.

The gay rights quagmire aside, Rempel-Garner has built strong bridges with the firearms community. While most Canadians don’t own guns, Canada still has one of the most heavily armed civilian populations in the world, and they are overwhelmingly CPC and PPC voters.

Rempel-Garner would be well advised to take up the mantel of Bernier and run with a clear and principled platform on immigration reform, Western alienation, and scrapping supply management.

Bernier came within a hair of winning the 2017 leadership race, and earned nearly 300,000 votes nationally, despite fears of “vote splitting”. Voters in a general election do not translate one-for-one into voters in an internal party leadership race, but PPC voters were an unconventionally ideological electorate willing to risk the “vote-splitting” boogieman based on policy principles. With the PPC now in limbo after the election, a candidate serious about appealing to them could bring many into (and back into) the fold.

While Bernier did remarkably well in the West, he had a glass ceiling on account of being an accented Quebecer. Bernier became the first francophone since Sir Wilfred Laurier to win Alberta in a major electoral contest, but that glass ceiling stymied his ability to run up the score in compensation for his weaknesses elsewhere.

Rempel-Garner doesn’t face this. As the only notable Westerner in the race, she would have home field advantage from Victoria to Winnipeg. Bernier’s leadership campaign was the only one to champion Equalization reform with a direct eye to winning over Westerners. While that was seen as radical at the time, it is probably the bare minimum that many Westerners will demand from leadership candidates this time – if the race is competitive.

It’s difficult to name anyone elected in Ottawa right now who has spoken more passionately and openly about the Prairie fire of discontentment with federalism right now. With an ear close to the ground in her Calgary constituency, she knows that it will take more than politicians donning “I love Canadian Oil & Gas” sweatshirts to make Westerners feel at home in their own country right now.

Rempel-Garner has built considerable public profile and would be an instant big name, but a run as a conventional establishment Tory would most likely be fruitless. The race already has those. In the absence of a candidate able to energize the conservative, libertarian and Western wings of the party, Mackay will waltz to an easy victory.

Only Rempel-Garner knows what’s in her heart. If it aligns with the leadership vacuum, she should run. And she just might win.

Derek Fildebrandt is the Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp.

Opinion

QUESNEL: A Reformed Senate is Needed to Keep Alberta in Canada

There is no silver bullet to repairing the fabric of Canada’s union, but creating a democratic and regionally representative Senate is a critical ingredient if it is to be saved.

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John Hamilton Gray was a Father of Confederation from Prince Edward Island.  He served as chairman of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which laid the groundwork for the British North America Act. In supporting federal union and opposing its critics, Gray asked: 

“Is it necessary that we should go into this Confederation with our hearts and minds filled with suspicions? Is it a foregone conclusion with us that all the other provinces will unite to do injustice to one particular section of our common country?” 

Gray went on to declare that these suspicions could not be held by “liberal and enlightened men.”

But with all due respect to Gray, he was not living in Canada in 2020 under the present Liberal government. He did not know Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet who don’t care about jobs in the West, or the long-term health of its energy sector. Gray was speaking from his time and place where good was more plentiful than it is now. 

Canada is in trouble when one region seeks to undermine another region. 

People from the Prairie provinces have reasonable reasons to harbor suspicions. The Liberal government is funding a B.C. group opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion project. An Ontario Liberal MP is using his office to promote an electronic petition aiming to stop the Teck oilsands mine. Finally, the Bloc Quebecois has tabled a motion to kill the Teck mine

If Gray was alive today, he would see how one region of this country is seeking to do clear harm to another one. 

During the confederation negotiations, many framers saw an appointed Senate as a check against such action. The Senate was designed to assure regional equality, especially for regions prejudiced by the rep-by-pop formula of the House of Commons. 

The original distribution of Senate seats involved the four colonies that joined confederation at the outset, and obviously did not include later B.C. and the Prairie provinces. Thus, the four Atlantic provinces, with seven per cent of Canada’s population, have 30 senators. The four Western provinces, with more than 30 per cent of the population, have 24 senators. Alberta alone has twice the population of the four Atlantic provinces, but barely more than half the senators of New Brunswick. 

Sir John A. Macdonald spoke of an active Senate possessing independent power and ability to affect legislation. He argued: 

“There would be no use of an upper house if it did not exercise, when it thought proper, the right of opposing or amending or postponing the legislation of the lower house.” 

“It must be an independent house, having a free action of its own, for it is only valuable as being a regulating body, calmly considering the legislation initiated by the popular branch and preventing any hasty or ill-considered legislation.”

Bills C-69, C-48 and C-242 could easily be added to the list of “hasty or ill-considered legislation.” 

Individual senators played a prominent role in speaking out against legislation counter to the West’s economic interests. 

Independent (and elected) Alberta Senator Doug Black introduced S-245, a bill declaring the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in the national interest. The Senate – through Western members – played a significant role in introducing amendments to Bill C-69, a bill seen by the energy sector as introducing onerous requirements to major projects by adding nebulous criteria to approve future projects. Western Senators – including independent ones – were very vocal in opposing Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium bill. Although the Senate committee studying the bill came out opposing the bill – calling it discriminatory – the full Senate voted to pass it, albeit narrowly. Still, many Liberal-aligned Senators (including nominal “independents”) toed the government line.

The only bill that senators were also able to successfully kill was Bill C-242, legislation designed to harmonize laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (U.N.D.R.I.P.). Significant concern was raised over the flaws of the bill, including the lack of a working definition of the right to “free, prior, and informed consent” that appears in U.N.D.R.I.P. itself. This lack of definition concerned senators enough that they allowed the bill to be defeated. 

If the Senate saw its role differently, perhaps Bill C-69 and C-48 would have also been dead in the water. An emboldened Senate focused solely on regional equality could secure a fair deal for the West, or at a minimum act as check against anti-Western legislation. 

Prime Minister Trudeau’s goal of a more non-partisan Senate is positive in theory, but in practice, he has appointed individuals that are ideologically aligned with his liberal agenda, thus explaining why these senators overwhelmingly side with government legislation, even against the interests of their provinces.

The Supreme Court ruled that changing the composition or selection of the Senate would require the consent of the provinces and territories; in short, a verboten constitutional amendment.

However, the Senate can adopt a “gentleman’s agreement” to change their role to one of stronger regional equality. This would involve a joint resolution affirming a suspensive veto. Right now, a gentleman’s agreement is what allows the Senate to delay, but not defeat, legislation.

For the sake of the continuation of the federation, we need political will to reform the Senate into a serious deliberative body that will protect regional equality. An encouraging sign was the announcement of the formation of a Senate caucus to represent regional interests, made up mostly of conservative, Western Senators. 

But real change in the Senate inevitably means reopening the constitution, something that every national politician has been loath to do since the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords of Brian Mulroney. Since then, there has been an unofficial cross-party rule that the constitution is off-limits, but this political consensus only cements the place of the West as a second-tier region. In the name of repairing national-unity, it’s time to break the consensus. 

A new Canadian Senate should first and foremost, rebalance its provincial and regional representation. One option is the American and Australian model, where each state has an equal number of senators, regardless of population. 

More suited to Canada however might be Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat (federal council). Rather than be appointed by the federal government (as in Canada) or directly elected (as in the U.S. and Australia), they are delegates of the länder (state) governments. The number of seats each state receives is based on “degressive proportionality.” That is, that smaller provinces receive more seats than their population would otherwise grant, but not an equal share. This would solve Ontario and Quebec’s objection to having equal Senate representation as Prince Edward Island. 

A reformed Senate may also include representation for First Nations. In New Zealand, its Maori indigenous people have their own seats in parliament, serving as a kind of quasi constituency. Including First Nation seats alongside provinces could be an important component of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. 

Alberta is the only federation in the democratic world without a democratic upper house to represent the regions, and the only country in the world where smaller areas can have much greater representation that larger regions. 

There is no silver bullet to repairing the fabric of Canada’s union, but creating a democratic and regionally representative Senate is a critical ingredient if it is to be saved. 

Joseph Quesnel is the Indigenous Issues Columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

LETTER: Nurse says CTF wrong on Sunshine List

A nurse on the sunshine list says the CTF is misleading in its statement.

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RE: Hundreds of nurses on Alberta’s top paid staff list, one tops $240,000/year

Just a note regarding the erroneous quote on premium pay and benefits. The figure is misleading.  The nurses who are on the sunshine list are there not because of premium pay (the figures are easily obtainable on the UNA website through the public collective agreement) – the high compensations are a direct result of overtime hours worked.  

I can’t guarantee there aren’t RN’s out there who are capitalizing on ‘extra hours’ to be worked, but I can guarantee that there are many who do it so that their “unit” isn’t working short handed, because the employer has refused to staff appropriately for over a decade (if not longer) by filling a robust casual pool to cover vacation, and short notice relief.  

The nurse who made $240k did NOT do so with $2.00-$5.00/hour collectively bargained premiums. And, benefits do not increase once full-time equivalency has been attained.  Please research this a little more.  Your article is misleading, particularly based on your financial quotes.

Jim Nicol
An Alberta RN on the Sunshine List

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WATCH: Scheer’s Non-Non-Confidence Vote

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In this episode of The Pipeline, Paul, Derek and Deirdre discuss the latest with the blockades happening around the country, and the non-confidence vote that was (almost) introduced as a result.

We also look at The Western Standard’s biggest story this week – the Bloc’s motion on the Teck mine approval.

We delve into the befuddling state of the gaffe-prone propaganda tool of the Alberta government, the Canadian Energy Centre.

And we wrap up with the story about the Edmonton Eskimos professional football team, and their recent efforts to clear their name – literally – with the Inuit of Canada.

Related News – Bloc Quebecois to propose motion to kill Teck

Related News – Tories back down on no-confidence motion against Trudeau

Related News – Edmonton Eskimos keeping their historic name

The Pipeline is The Western Standard’s weekly national affairs program. Each week, The Western Standard Publisher Derek Fildebrandt and Digital Editor Paul Holmes break down the issues from the week, discuss them in-depth and examine some of the broader implications, focusing particularly on how they affect Western Canada. We were also joined this week by Dierdre Mitchell-McLean, Senior Reporter.

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