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A Timeline of Federal-Buffalo Relations

A brief history of the West’s struggle with Ottawa from 1879 to 2020.

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1879: Manitoba joins the Dominion of Canada as a province and elects a minority Conservative government. 

Louis Riel (source: Wiki Commons)

1885: The Northwest Rebellion is launched by Louis Riel against federal power in the Northwest Territories over treatment of the Métis peoples and several First Nations. Ottawa sends a militia to crush the rebellion and hang Riel.

1904: Northwest Territories Premier Frederick Haultain petitions Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier to create a unified province of “Buffalo” with the same rights as other provinces over natural resources.

1905: Ignoring Premier Haultain, the federal government creates the separate provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan with direct control over natural resources by Ottawa. All other provinces are allowed to control their own resources.

Alexander Rutherford, Alberta’s first premier, forms a majority Liberal government.

Walter Scot, Saskatchewan’s first premier, forms a majority Liberal government. 

1920: The Progressive Party is founded, winning 21 per cent of the vote in its first election and sending 58 MPs to Ottawa, mostly from the West.

1921: The upstart United Farms of Alberta sweeps to power in its first election. The Liberals never form government in Alberta again. 

1926: The United Farmers of Canada is founded, sending large numbers of MPs to Ottawa from the West and rural Ontario.

1929: The Great Depression hits the Prairie provinces hardest, leading many major Eastern Canadian business interests to pull out of the region. 

1930: Alberta and Saskatchewan acquire at long last dominion over their own natural resources, a right that had been denied to them but not to the other provinces. 

Bill Alberhart

1935: The Social Credit League comes to power with a massive majority government just months after being founded, and without an official leader. “Bible” Bill Aberhart becomes premier. The new party is dedicated to fighting Eastern control over the Alberta economy and a radical monetary policy.

The federal government creates the Canadian Wheat Board, forcing Western grain farms to sell their harvests exclusively to the state monopoly. Eastern farmers are exempted from the monopoly and are allowed to sell on the open market.

1938: Aberhart establishes the Alberta Treasury Branch (ATB) as an alternative to the Eastern banking interests that had largely pulled out of the Prairies. A constitutional crisis ensues when the federally-appointed Lt. Governor threatens to fire the elected government. 

1943: Aberhart dies and Earnest Manning becomes premier, moving the Social Credit League away from radical monetary reform and toward a more orthodox conservative outlook. 

Tommy Douglas

1944: Tommy Douglass leads the socialist Canadian Commonwealth Federation (precursor to the NDP) to its first victory in Saskatchewan, largely on a mandate of fighting against Eastern business interests.  

1957: John Diefenbaker of Saskatchewan becomes prime minister on a populist wave. The Liberals never again attain major federal support on the Prairies. 

1968: Pierre Trudeau becomes prime minister and goes on to win a majority Liberal government, and achieves a limited breakthrough in Alberta.

1969: The federal government passes the Official Languages Act, alienating many Westerners. 

Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau & former Premier Peter Lougheed

1971: Peter Lougheed becomes the first Progressive Conservative Premier of Alberta, ending 36 years of unbroken Social Credit rule. 

1972: Pierre Trudeau is returned with a minority government, and with no MPs from Alberta. The Liberals would never again elect a significant number of MPs from Alberta until his son Justin Trudeau’s first election in 2015.

1980: The Liberal federal government imposes the National Energy Program with the support of many Eastern Progressive Conservative politicians. The Alberta economy collapses. 

Western Canada Concept

1982: The sovereigntist Western Canada Concept Party elects Gordon Kesler an MLA in a by-election, signaling the rise of mainstream support for independence. Premier Peter Lougheed calls a snap election and the WCC loses its only seat, but comes in third in the popular vote. 

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau successfully patriates the Constitution. Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed wins provincial control over natural resources, but concedes any reform of the Senate. 

1984: Brian Mulroney becomes prime minister with a massive Progressive Conservative majority government, with a coalition of Western conservatives, Eastern business interests and Quebec nationalists. 

1985: Prime Minister Mulroney hesitates in dismantling the National Energy Program, but finally ends it in 1985. 

1986: Prime Minister Mulroney intervenes to award a major C-18 fighter jet maintenance contract to a firm in Quebec over Manitoba, despite the Manitoba firm’s lower price and better quality offer, in the name of national unity. 

Stephen Harper and Preston Manning in the Reform Party era (source: Vancouver Sun)

1987: The Meech Lake Accord is signed by the prime minister and all provincial and territorial leaders with the support of nearly every political party in Canada. The accord would entrench special status for Quebec in the Constitution.

The Reform Party of Canada is formed with the slogan, “The West Wants In.” Preston Manning is elected the new party’s first leader. 

1988: Mulroney is returned with a majority Progressive Conservative government. The Reform Party attracts significant early support, but is shut out in the free-trade “referendum” election. 

The federal government passes the Official Multiculturalism Act against the objections of many Westerners.

1989: Deborah Gray wins a federal by-election in Alberta to become the first Reform Party MP. 

Stan Waters wins Canada’s first non-binding Senate election on the Reform Party ticket in Alberta, showing early signs that Progressive Conservative support was in danger of collapse in the West. 

Brian Mulroney at the Meech Lake Accord discussions

1990: The Meech Lake Accord collapses from small but growing provincial opposition in Newfoundland and Manitoba. 

Federal Environment Minister Lucien Bouchard resigns from the cabinet and forms the Bloc Quebecois with Progressive Conservative and Liberal MPs from Quebec. 

1992: Despite having the support of most major political parties, the Charlottetown Accord on constitutional reform goes down to defeat in a national referendum. All four Western provinces, Quebec, and Nova Scotia vote “no”, while Ontario and the rest of the Atlantic provinces approve. The Charlottetown Accord went too far in appeasing Quebec for many as echoed by the upstart Reform Party, and didn’t go far enough, as stated by the Bloc Quebecois. 

1993: The Progressive Conservatives suffer the worst defeat of any governing party in modern democratic history, collapsing from 196 seats in 1988, to just two. The Jean Chretien becomes prime minister with a majority Liberal government, while the Bloc Quebecois win 54 seats, and the Reform Party 52. The Progressive Conservatives will never again win significant support in Western Canada until their merger with the Canadian Reform-Conservative Alliance in 2003. 

The Liberals create the long-gun registry, upsetting many Westerners and rural Easterners who view it as an attack on them. 

Ralph Klein becomes Premier of Alberta with a majority Progressive Conservative Government, and would go on to chart a somewhat more independent course from Ottawa than had his predecessor. 

1995 Quebec Referendum “Unity Rally”

The federal government refuses to appoint any more elected Alberta Senators-in-Waiting to the upper house. 

1995: Quebec votes by a razor-thin margin to remain in Canada after a massive political and financial effort by federalist forces to convince them to stay.

1997: The Reform Party’s attempts to break into Eastern Canada fail, as it loses its single seat in Ontario that it won in 1993. The Progressive Conservative re-emerge as a largely Atlantic and Quebec-based party in the House of Commons. 

Four Progressive Conservative and four Liberal MLAs unite to form the Saskatchewan Party and challenge the NDP’s hold on power. 

1998: Alberta elects Stan Waters, Bert Brown and Ted Morton as Senators-in-Waiting. Jean Chretien refuses to honour the election and appoints his own nominees. 

Preston Manning stands with new Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day

2000: In attempting to break into Eastern Canada, the Reform Party dissolves and is folded into the new Canadian Reform-Conservative Alliance. Prime Minister Jean Chretien calls an early election in which he paints the Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day as the stooge of Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

2001: Stephen Harper and several prominent conservatives publish the “Alberta Agenda”, which proposed that the province “build firewalls” to keep out a hostile federal government from areas of provincial jurisdiction. The Alberta government strikes a committee to study the proposals, but rejects them all.

2002: The federal government signs the Kyoto Protocol, which many Westerners fear will hurt the energy industry. 

PC Leader Peter Mackay and Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper announce an agreement to merge their two parties into the Conservative Party of Canada

2003: Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay agree to merge the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Party into the Conservative Party of Canada. Stephen Harper is elected the new party’s first leader. 

2004: Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin calls a snap election in which he is reduced to a minority government, while the Conservatives make gains on their Western base in the East. 

Albertans elect Bert Brown and two other Senators-in-Waiting. Prime Minister Paul Martin refuses to honour the election and appoints his own nominees. 

2005: Alberta Premier Ralph Klein launches his “third way” healthcare reforms that include limited private sector involvement. Under pressure from Ottawa, Klein aborts the reforms. 

2006: The Liberals are defeated and Stephen Harper forms a minority Conservative government. On election night, he proclaims from Calgary, “The West is in.” 

Stephen Harper on election night 2011 (source: CBC)

The federal government outlaws “income trust” corporate structures, causing significant financial panic in the Alberta energy industry. 

Ralph Klein is succeeded by Ed Stelmach as Premier of Alberta and Progressive Conservative Party Leader.

2007: Brad Wall defeats the NDP to become premier with a majority Saskatchewan Party government. Wall quickly becomes the leading Western voice after Stephen Harper. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoints Bert Brown as the second-ever elected Senator from Alberta.

2008: Under threat of a Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition, the Conservatives introduce tens of billions of dollars in “economic stimulus” and bailouts, targeted mostly at Eastern Canadian industries. 

Two small rightist parties merge to form the Wildrose Alliance in Alberta. They fail to win any seats in their first election, as Ed Stelmach increases the Progressive Conservative majority.

2011: With a collapsing Liberal Party and surging NDP, Stephen Harper is returned with a majority Conservative government. 

The federal government ends the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly over Western farmers. Eastern farmers were never brought under its control. 

Allison Redford succeeds Ed Stelmach as Alberta Premier and Progressive Conservative leader. She charts a course of close federal relations. 

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith in 2013 (source: CBC)

2012: The federal government withdraws Canada from the Kyoto Protocol, and repeals the long-gun registry.

The Wildrose Party breaks into the Alberta political arena and its leader, Danielle Smith becomes the Leader of the Official Opposition. The Progressive Conservative majority is reduced, but faces a new, Ottawa-skeptic party on its right.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appoints Doug Black and Scott Tannas as elected Senators from Alberta. 

2014: Two-thirds of the Wildrose Party caucus defect to the Progressive Conservatives under its new leader Jim Prentice. 

Alberta Premier-Elect Rachel Notley, 2015 (Source: CBC)

2015: Alberta Premier Jim Prentice cancels Senate elections which were supposed to take place in conjunction with the next provincial election. 

Rachel Notley forms a majority NDP government in Alberta, while the Wildrose Party rebounds to official opposition, and the Progressive Conservatives collapse to a distant third place.

Rachel Notley officially discontinues Senate elections.

Justin Trudeau defeats Stephen Harper and forms a majority Liberal government, with four seats in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan. 

Former Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (source Flickr)

Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau form a close alliance, agreeing to a carbon tax and strict regulations on the Alberta energy industry. 

U.S. President Barack Obama rejects the Keystone XL pipeline without major protest from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. 

The Wildrose Party begins to agitate for Equalization reform. 

2016: The federal government cancels the Northern Gateway pipeline without major protest from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. 

Jason Kenney leaves federal politics to attempt to unite the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties in Alberta. 

Brad Wall retires as Premier of Saskatchewan and is succeeded by Scott Moe, who is re-elected with a majority Saskatchewan Party government. 

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean and PC Leader Jason Kenney announce an agreement to merge into the new UCP

2017: The Energy East Pipeline is canceled after failing to win federal and Quebec support without major protest from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. 

The Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties merge to form the United Conservative Party of Alberta. Jason Kenney defeats Brian Jean to become the new party’s first leader on a platform of confronting Ottawa and holding a referendum on Equalization. 

2018: Facing major court setbacks and strong protests from environmental groups, Kinder Morgan announces that it is pulling out of the TransMountain pipeline expansion. The federal government nationalizes the project with the support of Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney. 

Anti-Kinder Morgan pipeline protestors

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau again ignores Alberta’s most recent elected Senators-in-Waiting, and appoints his own nominees. 

The sovereigntist Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta is founded and gains its first MLA with former Wildroser Derek Fildebrandt. The party calls for “Equality or Independence”. 

2019: Jason Kenney becomes Alberta premier with a majority United Conservative Party government on a promise to fight Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, turn the economy around, build pipelines, and hold a referendum on Equalization. The NDP is reduced to official opposition. The Alberta Party, Liberal Party, and the new Freedom Conservative and Alberta Independence parties are shut out.

Premier-Elect Jason Kenney on election night 2019

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney repeals the consumer portion of the carbon tax, but strikes a bargain with Ottawa to leave it in place for large industries. 

The federal parliament passes Bill C-48 (dubbed the “No More Pipelines Bill), and C-69 (West coast oil tanker ban).

Source: Facebook

Justin Trudeau is returned to power with a reduced minority Liberal government, relying on support from the Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Green Party. The Liberals lose every seat between Winnipeg and Vancouver.

A new group calling itself “WEXIT” is formed, gaining huge overnight support on social media. 

Wheatland County passes a motion calling for an Alberta independence referendum if constitutional reform is not achieved within a year. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney commissions a “Fair Deal Panel” to explore ways in which Alberta could assert more control over its affairs within Canada.

A conference debating independence is held in Red Deer attracting several hundred delegates. 

2020: Michelle Rempel-Garner and three other federal Conservative MPs issue the Buffalo Declaration, laying out demands for constitutional reform. The document says Albertans “will be equal, or they will be independent.”

Federal Liberal cabinet ministers and MPs speak openly about canceling the $20 billion Teck Frontier oilsands mine project, and propose an economic aid package as a consolation. Days before the approval’s deadline, Teck walks away from the project citing the uncertain policy environment.

The Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta and Wexit Alberta announce an agreement to unite into the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta.

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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