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MORGAN: Coastal Gaslink Pipeline is do or die after UN decree

Canada’s economy is doomed if we allow a few self-appointed “hereditary chiefs” and the UN block any projects they like.

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The Coastal Gaslink Pipeline Project did everything right.

Over eight years ago they began the application process to build a natural gas pipeline from Dawson Creek, BC to Kitimat where an Light Natural Gas (LNG) terminal is under construction. TC Energy did all the environmental assessment work. They applied for and acquired the myriad of requisite federal and provincial permits. They consulted with and made agreements with all 20 of the First Nations bands who have traditional lands within the right of way.

Despite all of this, construction remains chronically stalled on the pipeline due to a small group of protesters. If the state does not definitively intervene to get this pipeline built, we will never see another energy project completed again in Canada, no matter how many hoops the applicants may jump through.

TC Energy has been mired in the courts for years getting one injunction after another to try and resume construction which has been blocked by a small group of illegal protesters. It was just over a year ago now when the RCMP acted upon an injunction, cleared out an illegal blockade and arrested 14 protesters. Since then, charges against all 14 of the protesters were dropped and unsurprisingly the protesters resumed with their actions to block the project.

Crews have been brought to a standstill as protesters have been cutting trees and dropping them across the road required to access the project. A group of protesters then approached the work camp with a ridiculous, extra-legal eviction notice of their own design. Sadly the company complied with the “eviction notice” and cleared their crews out of the camp in hopes of avoiding a confrontation. They knew that it could take months and more time in court to get the RCMP out to defend them should they choose to try and remain in their legal camp.

Trans-Alaska Pipeline (source: WikiCommons)

TC Energy is trying again to resume work this week, but time will tell if they can manage to get anything done. The state is terrified to intervene despite having multiple court injunctions in their favor on this issue.

This week, a the United Nations Committee for the Eliminations of Racial Discrimination (UNERND) demanded that Canada stops all work on the Site C dam, the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, and the Coastal Gaslink project. Evidently, these projects are racist. Alberta’s government slammed the UN, but as of publishing time, the federal government has been silent.

Small protests against the Coastal Gaslink project erupted across Canada as extremists felt emboldened by the baseless UN committee suggestion. They have good reason to feel empowered in light of the deathly silence from our federal government on this issue.

Environmental extremists have wrapped their opposition of the Coastal Gaslink project around the concept of “hereditary chiefs”. There are two levels of First Nations government in that region. One is comprised of chiefs and councils who are elected by First Nations citizens. The elected chiefs deal with governance issues and negotiating on material issues such as resource development. The “hereditary chiefs” hold a symbolic role which is ceremonial but holds no real authority in modern law. All of the elected chiefs in the region of the project have given their approval. The hereditary chief’s views should be considered about as important as that of Prince Charles.

It is impossible to negotiate with “hereditary chiefs”, as their positions are fluid and the determination of their status is utterly arbitrary. This was demonstrated when five male “hereditary chiefs” stripped three female “hereditary chiefs” of their status due to the three women having been in support of the pipeline. When a committee of five can apparently overrule the status conferred upon three others due to bloodline, how can their authority be taken seriously? How can any arrangement with this group be considered binding? When negotiating trade agreements with the United Kingdom, do we require the intervening political support of the monarchy?

The First Nations traditions and laws of the region as interpreted by the “hereditary chiefs” are completely orally based. That means these laws are whatever the self-styled “hereditary chiefs” want to say they are. They can and do change on a whim.

If our federal and provincial governments continue to let this small group of activists hogtie the construction of a simple gas line, the damage to Canada’s economy could be irreparable. Who on Earth would want to invest in a nation which refuses to enforce its own laws in the protection of legal commerce? Any project of any kind could potentially be canceled if a local indigenous person or two presents themselves as being in opposition to it, and claims to be some sort of hereditary chief. How could we contradict their oral history?

Canada has decimated the energy industry to the point where there are now only two remaining major projects left. One is the Kitimat LNG facility – which needs the Coastal Gaslink pipeline in order to operate – and the other is the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Every other large LNG and pipeline project has had the investment driven from our country due to unreasonable regulation and the government’s cowardice in the face of environmental opposition.

It doesn’t matter that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion hasn’t moved a teaspoon of dirt in BC yet – despite over a decade of effort. The Coastal Gaslink pipeline is much more important right now. If we can’t even get a natural gas line constructed when all the regulatory hurdles have been passed, we don’t have a hope in hell of getting the Trans Mountain expansion built.

Let’s pray that the federal government understands the importance of standing up to this minority of environmental activists right now. If these projects do not get completed, the economic fallout will last for generations.

Opinion

MORGAN: It’s time for Joe to go

Cory Morgan writes that other politicians have been driven from office for much, much less than what Joe did.

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With news that the Calgary Police Service has asked the RCMP to begin an independent investigation into Councilor Joe Magliocca’s expense scandal, it becomes clear that it is time for Mr. Magliocca to step aside from his council seat.

Citizens have little patience for well-heeled politicians abusing expense accounts on the backs of taxpayers. In 2012, a $16 glass of orange juice expensed by Conservative cabinet minister MP Bev Oda caused such outrage that Oda eventually resigned in disgrace. It may have been small peanuts and the controversy overblown, but it was a symbol of disrespect to taxpayers, rightly or wrongly. Magliocca’s abuse of his expense account is much worse than anything Oda did.

This wasn’t a one-off – or even an accident – for Joe. A forensic audit concluded that there has been a pattern of personal expense abuse carried out by Magliocca for years. From room upgrades to luxury hotels, to airline seat upgrades, to what appears to be the outright fraudulent efforts to cover up the event hosting expenses by falsely adding names of attendees who were never there, it is clear that Magliocca has a serious and ongoing problem with abusing the taxpayer’s trust. Any private organization would have fired Magliocca years ago.

Conservatives are few and far between on Calgary’s city council. Councilor Joe Magliocca had been considered one of them. That makes Magliocca’s repeated and flagrant abuse of taxpayer’s dollars for his personal benefit all the more odious and damaging. Nothing undercuts calls for fiscal restraint more effectively than hypocrisy. How could or would anybody take Magliocca’s calls for the city to tighten it’s fiscal belt when he has so brazenly gorged on the taxpayer’s flesh himself?

It’s not as if Magliocca wasn’t paid enough as a counselor to begin with. With a base salary of $113,416 plus benefits and pension, along with an already generous expense policy, there was no excuse for Maglioca’s abuse his expense account so flagrantly. It is a slap in the face to taxpayers who are currently wondering how they are going to make their mortgage payments in light of ceaseless city tax increases and who can’t afford to go on vacations, much less lavish ones fully expensed by their employers.

So far Magliocca has been silent and keeping a low profile. Yes, he paid back a few thousand dollars, but that was of course only after he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Joe knows he can’t justify this, so I am guessing that he hopes that if he keeps his head low that this will blow over. This is not going to blow over.

At this point, the only acceptable response from Joe Magliocca should be his immediate resignation as a city councilor. This may even serve Joe’s interests in a sense, because if there does indeed turn out to be criminal wrongdoing found and he is convicted, at least some evidence of remorse will have been shown prior to sentencing.

The next best thing at least would be for Magliocca to openly announce that he will not be running in the next election. His brand is befouled and there is no way he could win his seat on council again. It would leave Joe as a lame-duck councillor, but at least the path would be cleared for for principled candidates to begin campaigning to replace him in 2021.

If Magliocca does run again, he could cause damage to the entire outcome of the election. Joe could split the vote with a real conservative and put yet another free-spending councilor at the table at a time when Calgary can least afford one. Magliocca’s presence in the election would likely turn into a sideshow where his ill-behavior is used to try and discredit conservatives running in other wards or even for Mayor.

Joe Magliocca’s political reputation is irreparably damaged even if he doesn’t know it yet. The best thing Joe can do for the city of Calgary now is to step aside. This election is much too important and we can’t allow this circus to keep us all from finally getting the fiscally responsible mayor and council that we so desperately need.

Politicians have been driven from office for much, much less than what Joe did. It’s time for Councilor Magliocca to do the right thing.

Cory Morgan and a columnist for the Western Standard and a business owner in Priddis, Alberta.

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Opinion

BARNES: Albertans deserve the right to make the big decisions in referenda law

Guest column from Drew Barnes says that Alberta’s referendum law should be expanded to allow votes on big constitutional issues.

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Guest opinion column from Alberta MLA Drew Barnes

“I am and I will remain a populist, because those who listen to the people are doing their job.” Matteo Salvini.

At its core the word populism is the action that government policies should be determined by the will of the people, not the will of the elite. Direct democracy is the institutional populism in action.

There is debate over whether populism should be termed as a movement or an ideology. Since the actions of populist engagement can transcend the ideological spectrum, I believe it should be viewed as a movement, that can sometimes manifest itself ideologically. As a movement, populist participation can take place on all points of the spectrum. Ultimately, that is what is wanted from a democratic society – engagement from all points of the spectrum.

Now more than ever, we need a new grassroots-populist approach to politics. Grassroots politics by its nature suggests that it is a movement that is sparked from the bottom-up. Politicians who came from grassroots movements must never forget where they came from, or lose sight of what they came to do. We need more of the bottom-up approach to politics, and make listening to the people that elected us a priority.

This is taking place in some measure here in Alberta. Political party policy processes allow for constituency associations to generate policy proposals for conventions, where they are voted on by the membership. Every party in Alberta – with the exception of the NDP – uses a ‘one member, one vote’ system.

Another grassroots/populist tool is referenda, that when used the right way are a valuable democratic tool. Referendums however, must stay true to their purpose, and the process for bringing them forward must allow for citizens to craft their own – fair – wording on a question. This is not to say that any question – however subjectively worded – that anyone wants to ask should be put to a referendum. Therefore, the rules on the use of referendums must not be overly onerous, nor overly temperate.

Switzerland is a prime example of a country that takes full advantage of referendums, including citizens’ initiative. In their democratic system, referendums can occur up to four times annually. All citizens registered to vote can cast their ballot on issues affecting decisions within both their federal government and their cantons (autonomous provinces). Before each vote, all registered voters receive a package of booklets in the mail which provide details on the coming referendums. Since these referendums began in 1848, just under half of the referendum proposals have passed. Even if they don’t always pass, the process is crucial to starting conversations and keeping citizens involved in debate. Referendums also force political parties to reach beyond partisan lines to reach consensus.

Alberta’s legislature recently passed a bill that guides referendums on non-constitutional matters. While this is a positive step forward, there are issues in this bill that need improvement. 

For example, Albertans initiating a referendum might go through the process of collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, only to have the cabinet alter the wording the question. While fair wording of the question is critical to the integrity of direct democracy, that issue is not best dealt with by politicians who may have a stake in the result. Instead, clear guidelines should be established in law on question wording, and left to non-partisan officials at Elections Alberta. 

And while the new referendum legislation is a big step forward over the status quo (that is, nothing), it deliberately bans citizens-initiated referendums on constitutional questions. This means that if Albertans wished to force a vote on adding property rights to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that they would not be allowed. Similarly, Albertans are barred from forcing a vote on reforming the Senate, equalization, or internal free trade. Ominously, Albertans have no right to force a vote over the heads of the legislature on independence or other forms of sovereignty. 

I believe that Albertans can be trusted with the right of citizens’ initiative on all questions, both constitutional and non-constitutional. 

We trust the people to elect a government to run our systems, so why can’t we trust them to bring their own questions forward? 

Drew Barnes is the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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Opinion

LETTER: Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East

A reader says that Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East.

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In this ‘Era of Wokeness” along with the ascension of Black Lives Matter into the public consciousness, I believe that it would be detrimental to the Conservative Party of Canada to have Erin O’Toole as
it’s leader.

Mr O’Toole recently refused to use the word ‘racism’ and did not answer clearly when pressed on whether he believes it even exists. Erin O’Toole will hand the Trudeau Liberals an easy victory during the next election, should he become Tory leader. Canada cannot afford another four years of Justin Trudeau. 

Like it or not, most people in Ontario and Quebec (where all federal elections are ultimately decided owing to their number of allotted seats), are very much ‘woke’ on the issue of racism, as well as
sexism, homophobia, ect. In my experience, this also includes most Conservative Party of Canada voters in Eastern Canada.

Right-wing populism and social conservatism does well in Western Canada – but centrist Red Toryism is all they are prepared to accept in most of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. CPC members in Western Canada need to keep this in mind when voting for their next leader. 

CPC members need to be sensible and realistic if they want to win the next federal election. 

Gila Kibner 
Edmonton, Alberta

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