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FILDEBRANDT: Ottawa is at war with Alberta, and There’s no “Fair Deal” to be had

Ottawa isn’t just unfriendly towards Alberta. It is a colonial government at war with it. And the sooner we realized it, the fast we can begin to fight back with equal force.

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On February 6th, I wrote on these pages that “If Trudeau kills Teck, It’s War“. Now, on February 23th, it’s war.

This marks the day when many at the Western Standard and elsewhere predicted, the Liberals would kill the $20 billion Teck oilsands mine investment, eliminating 7,000 jobs in the process. As predicted, the Liberals would not risk the political backlash of stabbing the Teck project in the heart. Instead, they would put it in a torture chamber of a thousand regulations and political hurdles that would be impossible to meet, forcing Teck to kill itself.

While the Liberals were not found standing over the body, they have been stalking it for months, warning that it would not be approved, and floating the prospect of an “economic aid” package to pacify angry Albertans once it was dead.

Teck Resources President and CEO Don Lindsay, explained in the politest language he could find why the project was being shelved.

“Global capital markets are changing rapidly and investors and customers are increasingly looking for jurisdictions to have a framework in place that reconciles resource development and climate change, in order to produce the cleanest possible products. This does not yet exist here today and, unfortunately, the growing debate around this issue has placed Frontier and our company squarely at the nexus of much broader issues that need to be resolved. In that context, it is now evident that there is no constructive path forward for the project.”

In short, warnings that the federal government’s butchering of Canada’s once sane energy approvals process is politicized, and there is no path forward without being required to meet unreasonable demands.

Lindsay continued, “Frontier, however, has surfaced a broader debate over climate change and Canada’s role in addressing it. It is our hope that withdrawing from the process will allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward. Ultimately, that should take place without a looming regulatory deadline.”

That is, it is no longer about the merits of a given energy project, but about the global crusade against fossil fuels, and Teck Frontier is public enemy number one. The “looming regulatory deadline” which the Liberals dragged to the last minute, made the decision politically explosive.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement after word seeped out. He laid blame at the federal government’s feet, and was none-to-happy about it, but he shied away from more heated language. He refrained from calling out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by name – something he did daily before winning the 2019 election – and went to pains to emphasize how cooperative he has been with Ottawa on the Teck front.

“The Government of Alberta agreed to every request and condition raised by the federal government for approving the Frontier project, including protecting bison and caribou habitat, regulation of oilsands emissions, and securing full Indigenous support.”

It’s surprising that Kenney would admit openly that his government largely capitulated to many of Ottawa’s demands in an area of Alberta’s clear domain of interest, but he must believe that it is better to have appeared the victim that tried, than the victim that resisted compromise.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley took a different approach, blaming the entire thing – lock, stock and barrel – squarely on Kenney.

“The heated rhetoric and constant conflict generated by Jason Kenney and the UCP is the primary reason for withdrawal of Teck’s application.”

It is a bizarre line of attack most likely written by an over-caffeinated NDP staffer drinking the bathwater of the “Kenney is a crypto-fascist” cult.

If Keneny has any fault in the matter, it is for not taking a much harder line in forcing Ottawa’s hand. Since the October federal election, Kenney has radically changed his tone with the Trudeau government, and has gone out of his way to deescalate the rising tide of sovereigntist support in Alberta. While he has commendably commissioned the Fair Deal Panel to explore ways in which Alberta might better assert its autonomy within confederation, he has shied away from drawing a line in the sand.

Michelle Rempel Garner and three other federal Conservative MPs took up that challenge last week, when they issued the Buffalo Declaration. Not content to merely withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan and RCMP, the Buffalo MPs demanded constitutional reform to make Alberta – and the West – equal partners in Confederation. The strong implication of their declaration, was “or else”.

While not quite coming out for independence themselves, they made clear where things are headed if things don’t change: “they [Albertans] will be equal or they will seek independence.”

This is the clear and unmistakable line in the sand that many Albertans believe it is past time to draw. Justin Trudeau being nicer, or Peter MacKay reversing some of the most explicitly anti-Western policies is no longer enough. The constitution must be reformed to stop federal governments in Ottawa from attacking Alberta, or Alberta must take matters into its own hands.

Kenney would serve Alberta well to take up this call. UCP MLA and Fair Deal Panel Member Drew Barnes already has, coming out in support of the Buffalo Declaration.

Ottawa’s strangulation of the Teck Frontier oilsands mine isn’t just another injury that Alberta can abide. It is a clear and unmistakable sign that Ottawa means to “phase out” Alberta’s oil and gas industry, as Trudeau himself has put it. This isn’t a policy that would be tolerated towards any other region of Canada, but was welcomed with joy by throngs of eco-radicals in the East, and by a large segment of the minority federalist-left in Alberta.

Left powerless for all their tough talk, is Alberta’s federalist-right.

Alberta can no longer afford to brace itself and keep skating after hits from Ottawa. These attacks are deliberate, and in the long term, fatal to our exsistence.

Ottawa isn’t just unfriendly towards Alberta. It is a colonial government at war with it. And the sooner we realized it, the faster we can begin to fight back with equal force.

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

Opinion

BARNES: Albertans deserve the right to make the big decisions in referenda law

Guest column from Drew Barnes says that Alberta’s referendum law should be expanded to allow votes on big constitutional issues.

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Guest opinion column from Alberta MLA Drew Barnes

“I am and I will remain a populist, because those who listen to the people are doing their job.” Matteo Salvini.

At its core the word populism is the action that government policies should be determined by the will of the people, not the will of the elite. Direct democracy is the institutional populism in action.

There is debate over whether populism should be termed as a movement or an ideology. Since the actions of populist engagement can transcend the ideological spectrum, I believe it should be viewed as a movement, that can sometimes manifest itself ideologically. As a movement, populist participation can take place on all points of the spectrum. Ultimately, that is what is wanted from a democratic society – engagement from all points of the spectrum.

Now more than ever, we need a new grassroots-populist approach to politics. Grassroots politics by its nature suggests that it is a movement that is sparked from the bottom-up. Politicians who came from grassroots movements must never forget where they came from, or lose sight of what they came to do. We need more of the bottom-up approach to politics, and make listening to the people that elected us a priority.

This is taking place in some measure here in Alberta. Political party policy processes allow for constituency associations to generate policy proposals for conventions, where they are voted on by the membership. Every party in Alberta – with the exception of the NDP – uses a ‘one member, one vote’ system.

Another grassroots/populist tool is referenda, that when used the right way are a valuable democratic tool. Referendums however, must stay true to their purpose, and the process for bringing them forward must allow for citizens to craft their own – fair – wording on a question. This is not to say that any question – however subjectively worded – that anyone wants to ask should be put to a referendum. Therefore, the rules on the use of referendums must not be overly onerous, nor overly temperate.

Switzerland is a prime example of a country that takes full advantage of referendums, including citizens’ initiative. In their democratic system, referendums can occur up to four times annually. All citizens registered to vote can cast their ballot on issues affecting decisions within both their federal government and their cantons (autonomous provinces). Before each vote, all registered voters receive a package of booklets in the mail which provide details on the coming referendums. Since these referendums began in 1848, just under half of the referendum proposals have passed. Even if they don’t always pass, the process is crucial to starting conversations and keeping citizens involved in debate. Referendums also force political parties to reach beyond partisan lines to reach consensus.

Alberta’s legislature recently passed a bill that guides referendums on non-constitutional matters. While this is a positive step forward, there are issues in this bill that need improvement. 

For example, Albertans initiating a referendum might go through the process of collecting hundreds of thousands of signatures, only to have the cabinet alter the wording the question. While fair wording of the question is critical to the integrity of direct democracy, that issue is not best dealt with by politicians who may have a stake in the result. Instead, clear guidelines should be established in law on question wording, and left to non-partisan officials at Elections Alberta. 

And while the new referendum legislation is a big step forward over the status quo (that is, nothing), it deliberately bans citizens-initiated referendums on constitutional questions. This means that if Albertans wished to force a vote on adding property rights to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that they would not be allowed. Similarly, Albertans are barred from forcing a vote on reforming the Senate, equalization, or internal free trade. Ominously, Albertans have no right to force a vote over the heads of the legislature on independence or other forms of sovereignty. 

I believe that Albertans can be trusted with the right of citizens’ initiative on all questions, both constitutional and non-constitutional. 

We trust the people to elect a government to run our systems, so why can’t we trust them to bring their own questions forward? 

Drew Barnes is the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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Opinion

LETTER: Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East

A reader says that Erin O’Toole isn’t “woke” enough to beat Trudeau in the East.

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In this ‘Era of Wokeness” along with the ascension of Black Lives Matter into the public consciousness, I believe that it would be detrimental to the Conservative Party of Canada to have Erin O’Toole as
it’s leader.

Mr O’Toole recently refused to use the word ‘racism’ and did not answer clearly when pressed on whether he believes it even exists. Erin O’Toole will hand the Trudeau Liberals an easy victory during the next election, should he become Tory leader. Canada cannot afford another four years of Justin Trudeau. 

Like it or not, most people in Ontario and Quebec (where all federal elections are ultimately decided owing to their number of allotted seats), are very much ‘woke’ on the issue of racism, as well as
sexism, homophobia, ect. In my experience, this also includes most Conservative Party of Canada voters in Eastern Canada.

Right-wing populism and social conservatism does well in Western Canada – but centrist Red Toryism is all they are prepared to accept in most of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. CPC members in Western Canada need to keep this in mind when voting for their next leader. 

CPC members need to be sensible and realistic if they want to win the next federal election. 

Gila Kibner 
Edmonton, Alberta

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Opinion

LETTER: While Trudeau mislabels regular guns “military-style”, he is handing real assault weapons to the police

A reader says that Trudeau is militarizing the police while disarming Canadians.

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RE: Canada’s cops worried Liberal gun ban will hamper training

I enjoyed your article on the gun ban and how it will affect cops. A point of view the CBC would never share.

Perhaps another topic should be brought to the public is this: Although Justin Trudeau said there is no place for these weapons in Canada and Bill Blair said these  weapons have only one purpose – and that is for one soldier to kill another soldier – they gifted more deadly weapons to our local police forces through the Canadian Armed Forces., as was done recently in my hometown of St Thomas, Ontario.

What is the government’s agenda in giving true military assault weapons to the police and banning “military-style” (no legal definition) weapons from civilians. 

John Siberry
St. Thomas, ON

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