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DOLPHIN: Kenney’s Second Throne Speech, Maitre-Chez-Nous Deja Vu

Kenney, having failed to be blessed with high oil prices, is now toying with Lougheedian models of government largesse in Gettyesque times. This too seems somehow very French.

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The Alberta government’s Throne Speech that opened the UCP’s second session of the 30th Legislature on Tuesday (Feb. 25) contained a lot of the same stuff as the last: cutting spending, supporting pipeline construction, reducing corporate taxes to encourage investment, removing barriers to inter-provincial trade, allowing for more parental choice in education. There were a number of proposed initiatives that seemed designed to assuage the growing unrest and independence sentiment driven by Ottawa’s apparent distaste for Alberta and its major industry – initiatives to make Alberta stronger and freer. And more like Québec.

The proposed measures recall the efforts of that province during the “Quiet Revolution” in the 1960s when Québec sought to take charge of areas hitherto controlled by or shared with the federal government, including tax collection, pension management, and health care provision. Québec also bought and nationalized the private electricity providers, placing all under the umbrella of the hugely profitable Hydro Québec. Jean Lesage, the premier of the day, famously referred to the process as becoming “Maîtres chez nous” (masters of our own house). And Jason Kenney – a man who never misses an opportunity to show off his French and who frequently expresses a grudging respect for la belle province – appears to be taking notes from the Lesage playbook.

Bill 1, The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, for example, might be interpreted as a rebuke of the federal government’s belated and seemingly reluctant policing of the blockades of railways and other public places by (mostly) anti-oil activists on the pretext of supporting the handful of renegade Wetsuweten “hereditary” Indian chiefs. All 20 elected chiefs and tribal councils along the route support the Coastal GasLink L.N.G. pipeline, but the media have bought the narrative that this handful of these would-be monarchs speak for First Nations. Bill 1 – which was tabled following Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell’s reading of the Throne Speech, could also be seen as a precursor to the creation – or more correctly the re-creation – of the Alberta Provincial Police force, which was disbanded in 1932, but which Alberta sovereigntists – the the Maîtres-Chez-Alberta bloc – have been pushing for several decades.

An A.P.P. was one of the initiatives discussed at the recent series of town halls held by the UCP’s “Fair Deal Panel,” which makes its recommendations in March. A proposed provincial police force is also found in the Buffalo Declaration, the long-winded manifesto presented by Calgary MP Michelle Rempel and three fellow CPC MPs last week. The police force was also recommended in the so-called “Firewall Letter” written by a future prime minister, Stephen Harper and several of his “Calgary School” fellow travellers to Premier Ralph Klein in 2001. That letter urged more provincial autonomy a-la-Québec. (Ralph – a paper tiger when it came to fighting the feds – appointed a committee to examine the firewall proposals, which rejected every one of them.)

Bill 1 creates new provincial penalties for damaging, destroying, obstructing, or trespassing on “essential infrastructure,” including pipelines, oil and gas plants, highways, rail lines, bridges, and public buildings. It specifies fines of between $1,000 and $10,000 for the first day, and $1,000-$25,000 for each subsequent day for each person summarily convicted, plus an up to six-month jail sentence.

Although analogous to federal Criminal Code laws against trespass and mischief, the provincial legislation is likely to be enforced more wholeheartedly and rapidly by a police force – currently the contracted RCMP or municipal forces – under the aegis of an attorney general less dependent on the environmentalist vote.

“These kinds of illegal protests on critical infrastructure are already illegal, but apparently those disincentives have not been strong enough for some people”, said Kenney at a presser preceding the Throne Speech. “We are using the powers that we do have to create summary offences of this nature… to give police and prosecutors additional tools to crack down on illegal blockages of critical infrastructure and we’re adding to the disincentive of that kind of lawlessness.”

Among the other sovereigntist-flavoured measures outlined in the relatively short, 2,400-word Throne Speech (3,500 words is average) read by Mitchell, 80, in her final Throner of a five-year term that ends in June were the following:

  • Legislation to replace the federal Parole Board with a provincial parole board in charge of parole eligibility and terms for provincial prisoners.
  • A citizen initiative act that will allow Albertans to put important issues to a referendum. The bill explicitly outlaws referendums of a “constitutional” nature, meaning they will not allow a vote on independence.
  • Amendments to the Alberta Senate Election Act to “update the election rules” for the next Senator-in-waiting election to be held during the 2021 municipal elections.
  • The establishment of a new “investment promotion agency” with funds set aside in the 2019 budget to expand Alberta’s profile in key capital markets around the world. This enhancement of Alberta’s existing trade missions abroad brings to mind Québec’s aggressive expansion of its presence abroad that began during the Quiet Revolution and now numbers 26 offices in fourteen countries, with several enjoying embassy-like status.

Then there’s the business of state capitalism, otherwise known as “crony capitalism”. Kenney isn’t about to nationalize the oil industry like Québec did to its Hydro, but rather as the Notley government did with petrochemical plants. He has opened the door to using taxpayers’ money to fund energy projects that are having difficulty finding investors. And like Notley before him, Kenney invoked the sainted name of Peter Lougheed, who, during a time when the booming province was swimming in cash, created the Alberta Energy Company (AEC) – among other government investment corporations – to find ways to spend it. The AEC was jointly owned by the government and by members of the general public who bought shares, and it invested in energy projects, most famously the fledging Syncrude oilsands project, of which it owned 10% (the federal Liberals had 15%).

At his press conference, Kenney said his government would be setting up an AEC-like agency in which the public would be able to buy shares.

“When regulatory uncertainty, hostility by the federal government, or pressure from special-interest groups inhibits investment in Alberta resource development, my government will act,” Kenney’s Throne Speech read. “Like the government of the late Premier Lougheed, Alberta is prepared to invest directly and support companies and indigenous groups, when necessary, to assure the future of responsible resource development.”

This recalls Lougheed’s remarks in defence of his state capitalism policies, which many harder-line conservatives called socialist. He said he would use the government to do what the private sector “can’t or won’t.” And in an interview for the Alberta in the 20th Century history series in 2001, Lougheed admitted, “We were not a conservative government, never pretended to be. We were an activist government wanting to get things done.”

Yet while Lougheed’s investment in Syncrude worked out well – the initial $200M investment returned a profit of $1B over ten years – other investments by he and especially by his successor Don Getty, who was handed the reins as the economy galloped into recession, proved to be costly mistakes.

Lougheed had the money to gamble and his mistakes – the purchase of Pacific Western Airlines comes to mind – got lost in the green wash. Getty’s failures – the purchase of the Novatel cell phone company subsequently lost taxpayers $900 million – contributed to what history remembers as a failed premiership.

Kenney, having failed to be blessed with high oil prices, is now toying with Lougheedian models of government largesse in Gettyesque times. This too seems somehow very French.

Ric Dolphin is the Alberta Political Editor of the Western Standard. He has had a long career in journalism with Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Alberta Report, and the original Western Standard. He was previously Publisher and Chief Editor of Insight into Government.
rdolphin@westernstandardonline.com

Ric Dolphin is the Alberta Political Editor of the Western Standard. He has had a long career in journalism with Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, Alberta Report, and the original Western Standard. He was previously Publisher and Chief Editor of Insight into Government. rdolphin@westernstandardonline.com

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Barnes blasts own government over proposed EMS dispatch changes

This is just the latest run-in Drew Barnes has had with Premier Jason Kenney and his government.

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Rebel UCP MLA Drew Barnes is voicing concern with another of his government’s moves – to centralize EMS dispatch across the province.

“The best way to get the safest service is to keep it local, not to centralize,” said Barnes, a former Wildrose health critic and current UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat.

When Barnes was in Opposition, he also blasted NDP moves to centralize the service.

The move would see all calls for EMS handled by Alberta Health Services (AHS) dispatchers in Edmonton, Calgary and Peace River.

“In terms of cost effectiveness, centralization never saves money,” said Barnes in an interview with the Western Standard.

Alberta Health has said the move should save about $6 million.

“Another of the problems is that if you’re as small rural service, sometimes your ambulances get pulled in by the big cities when it’s busy,” said Barnes.

“Rural Albertans will suffer. A lot of local knowledge in terms of addresses and areas will be lost.”

Barnes said he has seen nothing from the health minister or members of the cabinet that shows any benefits of the move.

Barnes is the second in the UCP caucus to be skeptical of centralization.

Tany Yao, the UCP MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo, told the Fort McMurray Today he had a “mixed opinion” on the topic.

“In particular, our region is unique in that it’s so isolated and for that reason alone I think we can manage it,” said Yao, who is also a former firefighter and paramedic with the Fort McMurray Fire Department. 

“It’s a difficult one, but it’s one that I prefer stay within our local community.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and other Alberta mayors have also voiced concerns about the move.

This is just the latest run-in Barnes has had with Premier Jason Kenney and his government.

One came on the heels of a dissenting report from Barnes, who was a member of the premier’s Fair Deal Panel. That dissenting report included calling for an independence vote if Alberta was unable to secure a fair deal within confederation, prompting the NDP to demand that Barnes be thrown out of the UCP Caucus.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Seattle’s police chief resigns after BLM rioting, cuts to the force

Seattle has been the scene of weeks of BLM rioting following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

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In a shocking move, Seattle’s police chief has resigned after the city slashed her salary and defunded other parts of the department.

Seattle has been the scene of weeks of Black Lives Matter rioting following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Anarchists also set up their own autonomous zone for several weeks before it was taken back by police.

Chief Carmen Best, Seattle’s first black, female chief, even had her home surrounded by BLM protestors.

“This was a difficult decision for me, but when it’s time, it’s time,” Best wrote in an email to her 1,400 officers, hours after the Seattle City Council voted to cut SPD’s budget by $3 million, including 100 sworn officers, the SWAT team, Navigation team, and her own salary.

“I am confident the department will make it through these difficult times. You truly are the best police department in the country, and please trust me when I say, the vast majority of people in Seattle support you and appreciate you.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan who wrote to SPD staff members in an email late Monday night said: “While I understand the Chief’s reasons, I accepted her decision with a very heavy heart.”

In her 28-year career, Best rose through the ranks from a patrol officer to sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and deputy chief.

Best said it was not her decision to have officers flee the East Precinct in rioting in June, when the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” took over several blocks surrounding the building for weeks.

After two people – including a 16-year-old boy – were shot and killed around the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone – police moved in on Canada Day and cleared up the area.

CHAZ was just 24 hours a day of protesting, music, dancing and communing without a cop in sight. They quickly run out of food, putting out a plea for “vegan meat alternatives” and other soy-based food donations.

At the heart of the CHAZ is a Seattle police precinct, abandoned by officers and now being used by gun-tooting warlords who have established themselves as the new keepers of law and order.

They had a list of demands, including the “abolition” of the Seattle Police Department and its attached court system, free college for all people in the state, as well as “the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking, but especially the abolition of both youth prisons and privately-owned, for-profit prisons.”

The streets were apparently controlled by a hip hop artist-turned-warlord by the name of Raz Simone, who has established an armed private police force that does not hesitate to dole out beatings to communal scofflaws.

U.S President Donald Trump and Durkan engaged in a war of words over the Zone.

“Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will,” Trump warned Durkan and Washington state governor Jay Inslee – both Democrats – in a tweet, calling the protesters “domestic terrorists” who have taken over Seattle.

“This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stooped (sic) IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST,” he said in another tweet.

Durkan replied, telling Trump to “go back to his bunker” a reference to when Trump sheltered in the White House bunker after D.C protests and riots got too close.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Popular Calgary mural to be painted over by new BLM one

A mural called Giving Wings to the Dream, done in 1995, has graced the outside of the downtown CUPS building.

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One of the most popular pieces of public art in Calgary for the last 25 year is about to be covered up by a new Black Lives Matter mural.

A mural called Giving Wings to the Dream, done by Calgary artist Doug Driediger in 1995, has graced the outside of the downtown Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) building.

But after city council approved more than $120,000 for four BLM murals in Calgary, Driediger’s mural will be painted over.

Calgary Arts Development has set aside a budget of $20,000 for the first mural.

“(I have) an unease over the idea that something that’s valid and vital would be covered by another artist’s work,” Driediger told Global News.

“Surely there should be some professional respect for work that exists, so that just leaves me a little concerned.”

Driediger said he supports creating Black Lives Matter murals, but added there are plenty of other sites that could be used.

 “I cautioned the organizers, you know, you might get a bit of backlash by removing something that is so well-liked, even with an excellent alternative going up there,” he said.

The mural measuring nine metres feet in height by 41 metres in width is seen by an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Calgarians per day due to its location opposite the Centre Street LRT station.

But a Black community activist said the new mural would have widespread benefits.

“It’s a great effort by the city and a great step toward showing representation of the variety of Calgarians who live in the city,” activist Daudi Kawooya told Global.

“When you look at Calgary murals, not so many visible ethnic groups have a chance to identify with themselves, so once they start seeing themselves, the next question is going to be can they see themselves in leadership positions, can they see themselves in the local office, which is a great way to start conversations and it’s very important.”

The CDA wants the murals done by the end of October. Artists have until Aug. 17 to submit their proposals.

Their ad states: “Candidates must be representative of Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities. Two Spirit, Indigiqueer, and Black LGBTQQIP2SA+ artists will be given priority for the Phase I mural. No mural painting experience is necessary to apply—we will work with artists of any experience level to achieve their design.”

CDA has been contacting for comment but haven’t responded yet.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter.com/nobby7694

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