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EXCLUSIVE: UCP MLA says Albertans will want independence vote if Teck turned down

An Alberta government UCP MLA says an independence referendum should be held in the province if the federal government gives the thumbs down to the giant Teck mine project.




Alberta UCP MLA Drew Barnes says Albertans will demand an independence referendum if the federal government gives the thumbs down to the giant Teck mine project.

The Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA – also a member of the province’s Fair Deal Panel – told the Western Standard on Friday afternoon that rejection of the mine would leave the province with no options for a “fair deal” if Ottawa kills the project, and that Alberta needs to build “leverage.”

Barnes pointed out that Alberta had lost another 18,000 jobs in January and said the economy is “moribund.”

“As a longtime Albertan & member of the Fair Deal panel it is clear that federal interference in approving Teck’s Frontier application will drastically heighten Albertan’s desire to hold a referendum on independence,” Barnes said in a statement issued by his office.

“During my three terms representing Cypress-Medicine Hat it is clear Albertans want and deserve opportunity, self-determination. Alberta should be the freest and richest place in North America. In fact, federal governance interference has done more to hold Albertans back than anything, ever before.”

“I ask Premier Kenney & the UCP government to turn down any comparative scrap of compensation offered to Albertans to negate Albertan’s opportunity to fully develop our best in the world oil and gas industry. Let us continue to work towards Alberta being the place with the most opportunity & best place to live and raise a family.”

He said federal rejection of the mine would “be a sign there is no Fair Deal to be had,” and that he expected to have some support in caucus for his position.

Poll on referendum vote

Barnes also said any aid package offered by the feds should be turned down.

“Ottawa needs to stop reaching into Alberta business. People may not realize the depth of despair Alberta is in but it’s a politician’s job to make sure all regions in the country are looked after.”

He said hundreds of people at Fair Deal hearing across the province have expressed frustration with Ottawa and wanted to have an independence vote, and that rejection of the mine would ramp up those calls.

The mega project in northern Alberta has already been approved by the non-political regulators, but Liberal the natural resources minister said last week that the federal government may delay approval of the project unless Alberta drops its opposition to Ottawa’s carbon tax. Adding fuel to the fire were several Eastern Liberal MPs lobbying to kill the project outright.

Reports of an aid package for the beleaguered province appear to confirm that the federal government is seriously considering nixing the mega project, which Teck says will create 7,000 jobs and significantly add to the provinces GDP.

In place of allowing the private investment project to go ahead, federal sources say that direct government spending on infrastructure projects and well cleanup is in the mix.

EarlierThursday, Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs tweeted, “A political rejection of this project by the Liberal cabinet will be perceived by most Albertans as a final rejection of Alberta by Canada.”

Teck itself issued a statement this week saying it also hoped it would become a net-zero emitter by 2050.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

Twitter: Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years.


UPDATED: Alberta MPs issue declaration on province’s future

Four Alberta MPs are speaking out – with what they are calling their Buffalo Declaration – aimed at fixing the province’s role in Confederation.




Four Alberta MPs are speaking out – with what they are calling their Buffalo Declaration – aimed at fixing the province’s role in Confederation.

Saying “Canada is in crisis”, Michelle Rempel Garner, of Calgary Nose Hill, Blake Richards, of Banff-Airdrie, Glen Motz , of Medicine Hat-Cypress and Arnold Vierson, of Peace River released their manifesto to the Western Standard on Thursday afternoon.

Buffalo Declaration

The group said there are four main reasons why Alberta is not working within Confederation.

They say Alberta has not been recognized as being culturally distinct, it has never been an equal partner, is physically and practically separated from power structures and is “treated as a colony”.

Michelle Rempel Garner
MP for Calgary Nose Hill

“Our federation has reached a crossroads at which Canada must decide to move forward in equality and respect, or people in our region will look at independence from Confederation as the solution,” the four write.

“We believe a Canada united in equality is in the best interests of its inhabitants. However, that is not the current state of Canadian federation.  Immediate action must be taken to permanently correct inherent inequities that privilege some at the expense of others.”

Blake Richards
MP for Banff-Airdrie

“The economic and social challenges faced by Canada today are not the cause of the strains on our union, but rather are the symptom of the colonial power structures from which Alberta and Saskatchewan were born.

“Defeating the incumbent Liberal government, or building a pipeline, will not permanently address the systemic inequities Albertans face. For confederation to be sustainable, Canada must commit to permanent nation-building structural change within its institutions of power.”

Glen Motz
MP for Medicine Hat-Cypress

The quartet has listed numerous points in order for the situation to be resolved.

• Recognize Alberta is not an equal partner in Confederation.

• Balanced representation in Parliament, including an elected Senate.

• Recognize Alberta – or Buffalo – as a culturally distinct region within Confederation.

• Acknowledge, in the House of Commons, the devastation the National Energy Program caused to the people of Alberta.

• Fix the Equalization program.

• Retrench and clarify free-trade provisions in Canada in the Constitution.

• Constitutionally entrench resource projects as the sole domain of the provinces. 

• In the event Alberta begins to collect its own taxes, enable the province to also collect federal taxes and remit the federal share to Ottawa.  

• Enact structural change within Canada’s federal government to ensure all regions have a voice within its political and justice system.

• Mandate regional balance in all federal infrastructure funding programs.

• Mandate equitable regional distribution of funding to arts and culture as part of federal spending programs. Ensure Western art is prominently displayed in national museums.

• Recognize rural areas of Western Canada are isolated from the power structures of urban Eastern Canada and face unique challenges.

The Declaration continues: “The tone has changed because gains made during previous governments were erased in the first months of the current Trudeau Liberal government, and worse, more inequities have been put in place.

“Therefore, we acknowledge without immediate and permanent structural change, this cycle of paternalism towards Alberta is doomed to continue. This is especially true as Eastern Canada continues to urbanize, and the divide between our way of life and the power elites of the Laurentian consensus becomes more acute.”

Arnold Viersen
MP for Peace River

“The path forward starts today. One way or another, Albertans will have equality.”

In an exclusive interview with the Western Standard, Rempel-Garner said she came to the realization after the last election something needed to be done.

“After the last election it was just a case of history repeating itself. Nothing was going to change and that’s a statement of fact,” she said.

She praised the three other Alberta MPs for signing onto the declaration.

“A lot of people in our caucus have expressed their concerns. I think others will sign on,” she said.

Asked how optimistic she was about getting the declaration accomplished, Rempel Garner said: “It has to be done.”

And any further talk about Alberta independence would depend on “how the rest of Canada reacts.

“I worry about independence. Unless a clear effort is made in all of Canada to address these inequities, I think, in a very short period of time, that’s a question my constituents will be asking themselves.”

And she said it was critical that candidates in the federal Tory leadership race discuss the issue.

Former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall praised Rempel Garner in a tweet.

The Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta also lauded Rempel-Garner.

The FCP fully supports this action and is encouraged to hear that mainstream politicians in Alberta are beginning to champion the ‘Equality or Independence’ stance. We know all to well that it takes guts to break from a party line and defy establishment politics. We support this 100 per cent,” said FCP president Bill Jones.

The entire Buffalo Declaration can be read here.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor on the Western
Twitter: Nobby7694

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Alberta health minister announces new funding framework for doctors

Alberta doctors were using the complex modifiers in more than 50 per cent of patients but the Minister said that only 25 per cent of the population has additional complexities.




Changes to medical billing and physician wages go into effect in April 2020 and 2021 but there are also changes to insured services.

“To protect the safety of patients, we will limit the amount of patients doctors can see to 65 per day,” Shandro said.

The impetus for this change was research out of the U.S. which showed doctors suffer from burnout and that affects patient care. The new rules will not apply to either rural practices or emergency rooms.

Shandro said that even with a freeze on expenditures, the government expected billing to increase by $2 billion dollars over three years. Currently, physician wages and benefits cost $5.4 billion annually.

The complex modifier billing will be reduced from $18 to $9 at minute 16, and $18 at minute 26 and will come into effect in April. That will be phased out in 2021 with only one complex modifier being allowed at minute 26 of $25. The complex modifier is in addition to the base rate of $41 per patient.

Alberta doctors were using the complex modifiers in more than 50 per cent of patients but the Minister said that only 25 per cent of the population has complexities that should require additional billing.

“The patient population in Alberta is not that complex,” Shandro said.

“The billing model was definitely being used incorrectly.”

Other changes include discontinuing clinical stipends for physicians who are also being paid by AHS, disallowing additional billing for overhead, and eliminating the continuing education reimbursement.

There will also be a reduction in insured services. Referrals coming from chiropractors or physiotherapists will no longer be covered by Alberta Health, and driver medical exams for seniors will not longer be covered.

Shandro said talks with the Alberta Medical Association broke down last week and since there is no mandate for the province have an agreement with the Alberta Medical Association, the government will end the requirement with an Order in Council, effective Feb. 20.

Doctors will still be able to bill for their services and they will still be paid, he said.

Deirdre is a Senior Reporter with Western Standard, @Mitchell_AB on Twitter

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Chocolate money tastes bitter to taxpayer’s group

Chocolate money tastes bitter to taxpayer’s group




A Sherwood Park chocolate shop is getting $116,238 of government money to expand its operations.

The decision was quickly slammed Thursday as being unpalatable by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Minister Devin Dreeshen needs to stop smiling in photographs like he’s Willy Wonka handing out Golden Tickets to businesses,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director of the CTF.

“Alberta has a $70 billion debt – this will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of taxpayers.

“We need to stop this nonsense. Government needs to get out of the business of being in business.”

Minister Devin Dreeshen smiles Thursday with representatives from Jacek Chocolate Couture Government handout

The $116,238 comes under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership – a five-year, $3 billion investment by federal, provincial and territorial governments, to strengthen the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector

Jacek Chocolate Couture will use the funding to upgrade its operations, increase exports and create new jobs under the partnership’s Value Added Products Markets program.

“We are very grateful for the support of the local, provincial and federal government over the last 10 years. This support has allowed us to not only grow our business, but it has helped us improve our systems to ensure food safety, access new markets and most recently advance our environmental stewardship goals,”said company founder Jacqueline Jacek.

Dreeshen, Alberta minister of agriculture and forestry, said: “Small businesses are critical to Alberta’s economic growth. Our government is supporting local businesses by helping them reach the global market and remain competitive.”

Dave Naylor is News Editor of the Western Standard

Twitter: Nobby7694

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