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FILDEBRANDT: Buffalo MPs draw a line in the sand with Ottawa

It’s a far fetch for the Liberal prime minister to take up the call of the Buffalo Declaration, but what of the Conservatives? What if they don’t?

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At 5,922 words and 22 pages, the Buffalo Declaration is a bit of a read, but for any Alberta or Saskatchewan patriot, it’s a page-turner. Four Alberta Conservative MPs: Michelle Rempel-Garner, Blake Richards, Glen Motz, and Arnold Viersen, broke with the routine bland talking points that infect most politicians and penned the most bold statement Parliament has seen since the Bloc Quebecois was formed in 1991.

The Buffalo MPs laid out in considerable detail the long history of Ottawa’s colonial approach to the West, and to the Prairie provinces in particular. It reads as one-part history lesson, one-part manifesto. The language is serious, and bold, and, shockingly for something written by politicians, actually says something.

“They [Albertans] will be equal or they will seek independence.”

If this wasn’t intended to make the collective heads of the Laurentian consensus’ spin, it still had the effect. The Toronto Star ran an unsympathetic story quoting Mount Royal University professor Lori Williams, who said it was “sort of wing-nutty”, and “reflects a failure to understand” the constitution of the country.”

“This isn’t inviting, it’s not persuasive, it’s demanding, it’s entitled.”

That’s to be expected. Less predictable was Brad Wall quickly coming out with his support.

“You and your colleagues deserve credit for this Michelle. There needs to be national attention to and action on the abiding unfairness in the confederation toward Alberta, Saskatchewan and the west in general.”

The former Saskatchewan premier is a member of a group calling itself the “Buffalo Project”.

Rempel-Garner has been touted by many as the only possible contender left standing for the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership that could challenge Peter MacKay. Her drawing of the line in the sand not just with the Liberals – but with the Laurentian federalist establishment – appears to have closed that door. She and three other signatories instead decided to put their careers on the line to try and force the current leadership contestants to see things their way.

“Any leadership contestant for the Conservative Party of Canada who seeks the support of Albertans should be prepared to address this declaration.”

“We are open to engage in bilateral meetings with any interested party to seek a productive resolution to this situation.”

That sound you hear is Peter Mackay and Erin O’Toole running down the halls of Centre Block to their offices to seek their endorsement. If they are willing to meet the bar they have set or not, is another matter.

The declaration lays out 12 “structural solutions” and 5 “policy solutions”, few of which Eastern establishment politicians are likely to be thrilled about.

Three of the structural solutions are largely symbolic, recognizing that Alberta is not yet an equal partner in Confederation, and recognizing “Alberta – or Buffalo – as a culturally distinct region within Confederation.”

The final symbolic solution would be a bit much for Justin Trudeau to swallow:

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

Justin Trudeau might be adept at apologizing for the actions of dead men hundreds of years ago, but apologizing for the devestation wreaked by his father could be more difficult.

Constitutional change might be verboten for Ottawa’s political class, but the Buffalo MPs demand it happen as a necessary condition for keeping Alberta in the federation.

They want Parliament rebalanced, ideally through Senate reform. There are several models to choose from, but Eastern Canada likes the deck stacked just the way it is. In the meantime, they want Trudeau to only appoint Alberta senators elected by its people. Even that easy ask might not pass muster with the Chief of all the Canadas.

They want Equalization abolished, or significantly overhauled. There are many good reasons for the have-not provinces to welcome Equalization changes, but none of which they are likely to accept.

They demand that Canada’s free-trade provisions in the Constitution be “entrenched and clarified”. That sounds easy on the surface, but the robber-baron premiers putting up roadblocks to trade are happy with the status quo.

Alluding to the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Teck oilsands mine, they want to entrench control over resource projects as the sole domain of the provinces. This should be easy for other provinces to accept, but the climate apocalyptics won’t easily relinquish their most blunt instrument with which to bludgeon Alberta’s energy industry.

After the big, structural changes, they list a page of easier, policy changes. The first is a six-part set of legislative changes mostly concerning the energy sector, including the repel of bills C-69 and C-48, approving the Teck Frontier oilsands mine, and building a national energy corridor.

If Parliament and Canada’s premiers took these demands seriously and passed them into reality, Alberta (and Saskatchewan) could probably live with Confederation. There would be quarrels with ups and downs, but no longer would the very existence of the Praire’s economic livelihood be put at stake every time the government changes in Ottawa. Federalists in the Rest of Canada would do the national union they love justice by taking up the challenge of the Buffalo Declaration.

But they probably won’t. Even friendly premiers in the East will wish to keep the constitution box closed, for fear of the ghosts of Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords escaping. It all hinges on Quebec; as usual.

Speaking to the Western Standard’s Dave Naylor, Rempel Garner said: “I sit three seats down from the leader of the Bloc, who speaks only on issues of concern to Quebec.” It seems his daily venom towards Alberta has grated on her.

And while the Bloc’s daily attacks on Alberta and the Teck oilsands project goes on, Justin Trudeau can be seen across the aisle, often nodding in approval.

It’s a far fetch for the Liberal prime minister to take up the call of the Buffalo Declaration, but what of the Conservatives? What if they don’t?

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President & CEO of Wildrose Media Corp.

Opinion

CAMERON: Canada has embraced medical authoritarianism

“We are a long way from a free and democratic society right now. There is nothing “democratic” about public health officials’ orders. Canadians are living in a state of medical authoritarianism where the rule of law is in tatters, and constitutionalism and democracy with it.”

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As Canada faces winter 2020 and the citizens of this country are threatened by politicians with a new wave of lockdowns, it is time to take stock and consider. 

There has never been a similar six-month period in the history of Canada like the period from April to September 2020.  The massive collateral damage from the lockdowns is akin to the national self-amputation of a limb.  The self-inflicted damage has been followed by an infuriating political nonchalance at all the blood.

With each passing day, it feels more and more like a stern reminder is needed for the ruling elite: that this figurative blood flows from real people. And it is still flowing.   

Over a million jobs have been destroyed, and with them the independence and hopes and plans of millions. The despair of families thus affected is stark and palpable.  I’ve met with scores of them recently, and they stare bleakly at their prospects for the future.  

The response from the political elite? More pontification about the benefits of the lockdowns. While Doug Ford bloviates and threatens, and Justin Trudeau administers the next dose of the globalist agenda, ratings agencies like Fitch and Moody’s quietly consider the ominous implications of Canada’s ongoing hari-kari.  

Against this grim backdrop stands another ugly truth: without a shot being fired, Canada, once renowned for its liberty and constitutionalism, has submitted to medical authoritarianism. 

In Canada, the Constitution Act, 1867 apportions law-making power to either Parliament or the provincial legislatures. The Constitution requires that people have representatives who consider, debate and make laws on their behalf.

There is nothing democratic about the oppressive rule of public health officials. 

The doctors have been in charge for over six months.  In that time, it has become obvious that they are unfit to make decisions on civil governance. They know nothing about tourism. They know nothing about commerce. They know nothing about transportation or agriculture or industry. They know nothing about the Constitution or its importance to Canada’s liberal democracy. They appear to also know nothing, or at least be willfully ignorant about the social consequences of their policy decisions, like domestic violence, suicide, a failing economy and growing civil unrest. 

It turns out that public health officials do know something about authoritarianism, however. 

Public health officials made the orders that forbade walking or exercising alone in the park, or sitting alone on park benches.  A public health order prohibited the gathering of citizens in Alberta to protest the economy-destroying lockdowns, where peaceful protesters were arrested and issued $1200 tickets. It was a public health order that authorized the $900 ticket to a lone teenager in Ottawa with ADHD playing basketball by himself.   

From east to west, contradictory and confusing orders have been issued by health officials regarding everything from churches to golf courses. And, of course on masks. 

On masks, we’ve heard it all. You don’t have to wear them, they don’t do any good. No, they are like a super power – you are safe if you wear them. You must wear them if you can’t socially distance. No, you have to wear them and socially distance. You have to wear them in church, but not in the restaurants. You can go to the gym and not wear them.  You must wear them during sex.  

The inanity of it requires that doctors be deposed and the legislatures resume governance.  

A frightening progression in this medical authoritarianism was seen two weeks ago., when Dr. Jacques Girard, leader of the Quebec City public health authority, held a press conference to brag that he had ordered the arrest of two citizens and had them incarcerated at a secret location. Dr. Girard announced that the police participation was “exceptional”.  

Citizens ought to take notice of the total lack of due process in Dr. Girard’s actions. No lawyers made submissions on behalf of the “accused” persons, no impartial judge considered the constitutional issues. There was no bail hearing. The Crown was not required to “show cause” as to why the liberty interests of two Canadians should be overridden. Dr. Girard alone decided two people were “guilty”, and he decided what their “sentence” would be. 

How long can people be confined in these new secret isolation centers? No one but the health officials know.   

That’s scary. It ought to be much scarier than COVID-19, which from recent statistics from the Canadian government has a death rate thus far of .009 percent of Canadians below the age of 60.  

In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that laws which infringe constitutional rights can only be justified in accordance with the law (meaning laws which are duly enacted by democratically-elected members of Parliament or the legislatures) and within the parameters of a free and democratic society. 

We are a long way from a free and democratic society right now. There is nothing “democratic” about public health officials’ orders. Canadians are living in a state of medical authoritarianism where the rule of law is in tatters, and constitutionalism and democracy with it. 

Jay Cameron is a guest columnist and the Litigation Manager at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. 

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Opinion

TERRAZZANO: It’s time for Kenney to act on citizens initiative referendums

“Citizens’ initiative is a powerful tool to give voters more influence over the laws that govern all Albertans. Kenney promised citizens’ initiative about a year ago and his government must fulfill that promise during this fall’s legislative session.”

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Last November, Premier Jason Kenney promised Albertans to introduce a citizen-led referendum law, or citizens’ initiative, to “give Albertans the power to hold this and future governments to account if we do not keep our commitment to stand up for Alberta.” It’s time for Kenney’s United Conservatives to make good on their promise and pass citizens’ initiative during the upcoming fall legislative session. 

Citizens’ initiative is based on a simple, but very important principle: if legislation belongs to the people, then the people should have a direct ability to introduce laws, hold politicians accountable and repeal bad legislation. 

Citizens’ initiative has been successful in British Columbia where it allowed voters to defeat the HST after the government bungled the transition process. While not through the formal citizens’ initiative process, the power of referendums was on full display in Calgary when taxpayers voted against the Olympic bid boondoggle and in B.C. where voters shut down the proposed TransLink tax. 

After Alberta’s New Democrats imposed their carbon tax without mentioning it in their 2015 election platform, citizens’ initiative would have given Albertans the opportunity to repeal the tax.

Citizens’ initiative would also help advance Alberta’s agenda in Ottawa. On constitutional issues such as equalizationOttawa has a legal duty to negotiate with the province if a referendum results in a clear majority on a clear question. Is there any doubt that Albertans would have had that referendum by now if we had citizens’ initiative? Importantly, Alberta’s legislation must allow citizens to initiate referendums on constitutional issues. A restriction against citizen-led constitutional referendums would mean that critical issues to Albertans such as equalization and internal free trade would be off the table unless the government of the day allows it.

Citizens’ initiative in Alberta also brings us one step closer to citizen-led referendums at the federal level. Albertans need a federal party willing to include citizens’ initiative in their policy mix, and the more provinces that have citizens’ initiative on their own, the more likely we are to have a federal party adopt the policy. If, for example, Albertans pushed for a referendum to abolish the No More Pipelines Act, that would at least put the issue on the national stage more than a simple opinion poll. In fact, that may be one of the best ways to bring our energy issues into the national spotlight.

A common concern with citizens’ initiative is that it may lead to a never ending cycle of referendums. Fortunately, there’s many different referendum laws we can follow to make sure Alberta’s model doesn’t lead to political chaos while still giving citizens a fair shot at passing our laws. 

When the UCP first promised to introduce citizens’ initiative, it said that it would follow B.C.’s example where citizens must collect petition signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in 90 days to force a referendum. That doesn’t sound so bad at first glance, but it meant collecting more than 320,000 signatures in B.C.’s last initiative attempt, which translates to more than 3,500 signatures per day. These onerous rules explain why only one referendum attempt has collected enough signatures to trigger a referendum in B.C. since citizens’ initiative came into effect in 1995. 

Contrast B.C.’s rules with the rules in California, which has a population similar to the size of Canada, but requires less than double the amount of signatures to trigger a referendum than B.C. does. If Kenney wants citizens’ initiative to be more than just window dressing, he’ll need to make sure the rules are less onerous than B.C.’s.

In the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s presentation to the province’s Democratic Accountability Committee, we advocated the Alberta government take a more middle-ground approach and follow the rules in Idaho, which require signatures for six per cent of voters to trigger a referendum. The citizens of Idaho also have 18 months to collect the required signatures. Based on the number of registered voters from the last provincial election, Albertans would need to collect about 157,000 signatures to trigger a referendum, or less than 300 signatures per day. 

Kenney should also implement a signature threshold for each electoral district to ensure interests in big cities and rural areas are both considered. 

Citizens’ initiative is a powerful tool to give voters more influence over the laws that govern all Albertans. Kenney promised citizens’ initiative about a year ago and his government must fulfill that promise during this fall’s legislative session. 

Franco Terrazzano is the Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. This column is an abbreviated version of the presentation he made for the Alberta government’s Democratic Accountability Committee.

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Opinion

WAGNER: W. P. Kinsella – Alberta’s famous “redneck” writer

Michael Wagner profiles the Alberta man that wrote the book behind ‘Field of Dreams”, scorned by Canada’s literary establishment.

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One of Canada’s most famous fiction writers was Alberta born and bred W. P. (William Patrick) Kinsella. He’s probably best known for the fact that his book Shoeless Joe was made into the 1989 movie Field of Dreams that starred Kevin Costner and received nominations for three Academy Awards. Because of Shoeless Joe, Kinsella also won a couple of major book awards.

Kinsella’s stories tend to focus on either baseball (such as Shoeless Joe) or the lives of First Nations people. His book The Fencepost Chronicles, with fictional stories about the lives of “Indians” from Hobbema (now known as Maskwacis), won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1987. Kinsella was criticized for his portrayal of First Nations people and for the offence of “cultural appropriation.” Nevertheless, he rejected such criticism, and considered the fact that his books sold well as vindication of his writing.

Interestingly, Kinsella was politically conservative and this set him apart from Canada’s literary elite. His political views are described by University of Calgary Canadian Studies professor George Melnyk in Volume Two of The Literary History of Alberta which was published in 1999. 

Literary figures in Canada tend to be leftists, with Margaret Atwood being a prominent example. Partly because of his political views, Kinsella was disconnected from Canada’s literary establishment. As Melnyk put it, “His pro-Americanism, his rejection of political correctness on such issues as appropriation of voice, and his championing of right-wing causes such as the Reform Party have isolated him from many members of the Albertan and Canadian writing community.”

Kinsella was not at all bothered by such isolation. For as Melnyk explains, “This lone-wolf image is rooted in his solitary childhood (he has acknowledged that ‘childhood is the most influential part of a writer’s life’) and an American-influenced individualism in which writing is simply a means to an economic end.”

Melnyk points out that Kinsella’s writing has been well-received by the reading public – it’s only Canada’s literary elite that found him wanting…”As a novelist, Kinsella has successfully blended both American and Canadian contexts; but the price of this popular success has been a certain ostracism by the Canadian literary establishment, where neither Kinsella’s personality, his political and literary pronouncements, nor his writing have found much favour. Despite the controversy, his writing remains popular with the general public.”

According to Melnyk, there are three distinct elements influencing Kinsella’s fiction. The first is an affinity for the loner and the outsider. “The second feature is his right-wing, pro-American sympathies which are reflective of popular sentiments in Alberta, but which are anathema to the Canadian academics with whom he has waged an ongoing battle for more than a decade. Kinsella certainly has not been averse to identifying with the image and values of a traditional Alberta redneck.”

The third element is his view of the value of commercial success: “In private-industry-oriented Alberta, he shares the popular conviction that the marketplace is the great judge of real value and success.” This view contrasts with the idea that success is determined by the favourable judgment of the academic community. Kinsella’s emphasis on the market as the standard for success reflects a much more populist view than that of many scholars in the Canadian literary establishment.

It’s likely that most successful fiction writers in Canada are left-wing, so Kinsella is very much an exception to that pattern. But if there’s going to be an exception to the leftist conformism of Canada’s literary elite, it’s only fitting that he should be an Albertan. One could even say that he was a bit of a maverick. 

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

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