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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).

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.

Source: Facebook

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.

Features

Search for a Western Anthem: “All Hell for a Basement” (Heaven in Alberta)

You must hear this song to understand why it speaks to so many Albertans on a visceral level

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The Western Standard put out a call for our readers to help us pick the unofficial anthem for Alberta (or more broadly, Buffalo or Western Canada). We asked you to submit songs that would inspire us during hard times, would speak to our distinct Western culture, and would be good for crowds to sing together. You didn’t disappoint.

We received many great anthem ideas: some familiar classics, some newer hits, and many excellent rarer songs which I had never heard before. Many are strong contenders, and some a little off mark. I have been sifting through reader e-mails and social media comments, and narrowed it down to the best handful of songs. We will not be able to cover all of them, but over the next few weeks we will be selecting some of the best suggestions and explaining why we think they would make a great pick to become the unofficial anthem of the West.

As expected, one of the top submissions was “All Hell for a Basement”, also known as “Heaven in Alberta”, by Big Sugar. Originally released in 2001, the song features thrashing drums and electric guitars. For some listeners, this original version evokes the feeling of driving an F350 to a rig site, across the empty prairie landscape before the sun comes up.

In my opinion, the unofficial acoustic version does the most compelling job of capturing the song’s emotions. Like all anthems, you can’t just read the lyrics. You must hear this song to understand why it speaks to so many of our people on a visceral level.

The title “All Hell for a Basement” sounds odd at first. The phrase actually comes from a quote by Rudyard Kipling, the novelist and poet famous for The Jungle Book. Upon visiting Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1907, Kipling was impressed by the region’s massive quantities of underground natural gas. He remarked, “This part of the country seems to have all hell for a basement, and the only trap door appears to be in Medicine Hat.”

Gordie Johnson wrote this song when he was the front man for the Big Sugar. Johnson was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Ontario before his family moved back west to Medicine Hat.

The song is simultaneously tragic and hopeful. The opening line, “I am a working man, but I ain’t worked for a while,” captures a reality that requires no explanation for our readers. The writer feels discarded “Like some old tin can, from the bottom of the pile.” As the song understands, unemployment is not only a crisis of material means, but also of identity and meaning. So many of us derive much of our sense of self-worth from our work and from the ability to feed our families.

But there is hope in this song as well. The lyrics to the chorus are as follows:

“I have lost my way / But I hear tell / Of Heaven in Alberta / Where they’ve got all hell for a basement.”

There’s no question why this song was requested by so many of our readers. Alberta used to be a beacon of hope that attracted hard-working people from struggling economies far and wide. Many working men who had lost their way came here to find it. Of course, this song and its underlying drive hails from a time when Alberta’s economic engine was not under direct assault by Ottawa.

So yes, let’s acknowledge the tragedy that this song captures for us in the West: unemployment, loss of purpose, and the feeling of being discarded “like some old tin can” by those in power who no longer have a use for us. But let’s also take this anthem as a reminder of the hope that we in Alberta once provided for a hopeless people. Let’s reawaken that sense of hope within ourselves, and begin to take the necessary steps to get on the right path toward prosperity. Start with yourself as an individual by reclaiming who you truly are: not “some old tin can” to be discarded by the Laurentians, but a “working man” whose skills and work ethic are still valued by us here in the West.

So how does this song stack up as an anthem, based on the three main criteria we established? First, does it inspire us? Yes, in its call to face the tragedy of unemployment and reclaim one’s self-worth as a working man, this checks out. Second, does it speak to our unique culture, heritage, and experiences? Yes, at least to some aspects of our experiences (oil & gas: check). Third, is it good for crowds to sing at public events? That’s where I think this song may fall short of anthem material. The lyrics are simply not designed for that. With lyrics like “My words are like a rope / that’s wrapped around my throat,” people might see only the tragic side, and not the redemption part of the story.

Based on the reader responses, this song will no doubt make the top 10 list. Can I see it being the song that Westerners sing with their hands over their hearts at a hockey game? Personally, I don’t think so. The lyrics are applicable to the working man, but what about school children in their weekly assembly? An anthem needs to have wider appeal, in my opinion. But what do you think?

My verdict: Great song, but I’m not sure if we have found our anthem yet.

The search continues!

Do you have your own idea for the unofficial anthem of Alberta? It’s not too late. Leave a comment below, on social media, or send us an e-mail, and we will consider featuring your anthem idea in another column. Email your submissions for an Alberta, Buffalo, or Western anthem to anthemsearch@westernstandardonline.com

James Forbes is the Western Heritage Columnist for the Western Standard

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Features

Working from home with dysfunctional ‘co-workers’

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Need to put a smile on your face amid nothing but bad, worse, and awful news? Read on.

A North Carolina mom started working from home and decided to ask Twitter for ‘co-worker’ stories.

For the accountants and bookkeepers:

Dieticians:

For the upwardly mobile:

For the artistically inclined:

Sanitation:

Lunchroom dramas:

When to call human resources:

And some things stay the same..

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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Features

Two Alberta businesses – different challenges in a pandemic

“Whatever has happened elsewhere is what we’re barreling towards,” Jacobs said.

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Bryan Orr, a drilling engineer in Alberta, is employed with NBC Technologies, who subcontracts with larger operators such as Tamarack Valley.

“I love drilling but it’s about to fall off a cliff,” Orr said. “The oil price coupled with challenges relating to chemicals and materials from China…”

During the drilling process, water, or a mud mixture, is pumped down through the bit. Barite, one of the chemicals used in that process, as well as chemicals used to make cement, come from China. Orr says the supply is getting low.

There’s also other materials such as pipe which is also becoming more scarce. Piping used both in the drilling process so the rock doesn’t collapse itself and pipe that is used to transport product. Orr said some of the storage companies are setting to close and that’s going to cause a problem.

“Reasons for Canada running a fraction of the rigs of the US aren’t geologically driven but based on pipeline access and other regulatory issues that are solvable by a supportive federal government.”

But Orr says there are further difficulties with the changes enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially when it comes to working remotely.

“Unique challenges with the pandemic lie with decision-makers – getting rapid approvals can be difficult.”

In a business that has been about face-to-face meeting and relationship building, the idea that all work can continue via email isn’t as welcome to those used to running the show in person.

Even with those challenges, however, Orr said he is still optimistic.

One positive of the rapid changes in oil that have been happening is that these issues also help drive efficiencies. Orr says the cost of drilling wells has gone down substantially in Canada – comparatively – to the U.S.

“We’ve been lucky (at Tamarack and NBC Technologies) because we had a huge success last year that’s been driving a lot of production this year. Even though it’s a reduction in drilling, we were able to prove that we could reduce our footprint with three-mile Tamarack wells that allow us greater access.”

The new drilling process is nominated for a Collaborative Trendsetter award at the Global Petroleum Show.

Orr admits the majority of his work, while reliant on a customer-base, isn’t reliant on in-person transactions. Others – who are reliant on the physical presence of consumerism – are facing additional challenges that aren’t just based on the point of sale.

Jonathan Jacobs owns a Fort Lanes, a bowling and virtual golf business in Fort Saskatchewan. He purchased the business after he was laid off from his job in the oil patch in 2015. Jacobs could see that times were changing for his trade and he and his wife decided to invest in a local business.

Jacobs says the family wasn’t likely to get rich but they made a living. He had enough business to hire some employees and, all in all, had a successful small business.

“We had a ‘soft’ year (in 2019),” he said. “We looked at 2020 and said ‘it’ll be fine as long as nothing goes wrong’.”

The small entertainment business Jacobs runs still has employees but a lot less customers.

“I underestimated (the impact of COVID-19) until right now,” he said. “As of last Wednesday, there was no reason to believe this was coming.”

“This” is mass cancellation of classes and people being told to self-isolate. What bothers him most is the apparent mixed messaging.

“The government response has been rapid fire and all over the map. It’s hard to get your feet under you,” he said. “And that’s just week one – what happens in week two?”

Jacobs said people are being told to stay home but the government is also saying businesses can remain open. He said it doesn’t help him to stay open if there’s no customers. It’s something he’s also hearing that from other business owners in the area.

“We (local business owners) talk every day right now,” he said. “I can’t work from home – I can’t deliver bowling pins to your house to play there.”

His alley hosts leagues for all ages and special Olympics training. Jacobs said they cut the league play but his alley won’t hold 250 people so he stayed open. Now the government is saying no more than 50 people should gather but they’re also saying people need to adapt to a ‘new normal’ that is based on social distancing.

Special Olympics is on hold until April 13, Jacobs said. but public health messaging is saying things will be on hold for “months”.

Jacobs said he’s getting a better idea of what to expect from watching what’s going on in other provinces – like Quebec – who just asked bars and restaurants to close.

“Whatever happened there is what we’re barreling towards,” he said.

He said he wished that business owners had better communication from the leadership in terms of what to expect. Jacobs said he realizes this is unprecedented but feels like a more coordinated effort to communicate, especially when so many businesses are reliant on customers being physically present, would have been beneficial for him – especially when it comes to planning.

“There were 29 cases when we implemented the social distancing. What are the parameters for ending this?” He asked. “Not knowing is the worst. I have employees. Is it going to continue until May? June? At least then I’d know it’s not April.”

“They have issues managers making a quarter of a million dollars per year – why don’t they manage some real issues?”

Jacobs said he’s hoping the communication will get better, particularly in terms of how “this ends”.

“What will they be looking for to ease the restrictions?” He asked. “How will we know if we should hold on or close up?”

Deirdre Mitchell-MacLean is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard
dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter @Mitchell_AB

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