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FILDEBRANDT: Trudeau must refund his Illegal carbon tax

As of press time, the Trudeau government was silent about any return of the ill-gotten loot.

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In the Greta Thunberg Cup, the series is Carbon Tax: 2, Taxpayers 1.

But the score of justices ruling in the Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario appeals is just 8-to-7 for Ottawa. In Ontario, Ottawa won 4 justices to 1. In Saskatchewan, Team Carbon won 3-to-2.

Upsetting the series was Alberta, winning 4-to-1. The federal carbon tax now heads to the Supreme Court, which will sit in final judgement of its constitutionality.

The opinion of the Alberta Court of Appeal was stinging.

“The act [carbon tax] is a constitutional Trojan Horse…Almost every aspect of the provinces’ development and management of their natural resources would be subject to federal regulation.”

This means that if the carbon tax is allowed to stand as is, Ottawa would have almost limitless power to pick and choose which provinces to tax and regulate. In short, it would be the end of any pretence of division-of-powers federalism.

It’s the first big victory of the anti-carbon tax coalition after being lectured by leftist politicians and pundits that Ottawa could do anything it liked, and so it made no sense to resist as provinces.

Rachel Notley made this argument as premier, regularly lecturing the opposition Wildrose and PCs that their opposition was hollow. The appellate court’s ruling punched a hole straight through her argument, and left her smarting.

“As long as we have a government here in Alberta that resists significant, meaningful effort that can be consistently relied upon by international investors to address climate change, while setting out clear rules for how we grow our oil and gas resources in a responsible way, Alberta will be left behind.”

She couldn’t come out and say it, but she was cheering for Ottawa’s right to shove its carbon tax down Alberta’s throat. She has reasons to do so.

First, she sincerely believes that a carbon tax on Alberta would help to save the planet. Be your own judge.

Second, she would like nothing more than for the carbon tax albatros around her party’s neck to be off by the time she runs to re-take the Premier’s Office in 2023.

And third, the federalist-left has always welcomed greater federal power as a means of neutralizing Alberta’s reactionary, backward, conservative instincts. It’s an old play that began with Alexander Rutherford, through Alison Redford, to the NDP leader today.

But try as she might, the vast majority of Albertans that want no carbon tax half-won. I say “half-won”, because Alberta still has a large carbon tax. They just renamed the old NDP tax, removed it from consumers (home heating and gasoline), and kept it on most industry.

But I quibble. We aren’t supposed to care about that carbon tax. The point is that this carbon tax has been repealed, and it was a great day in court for good guys.

But this begs the question: If the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional (that is, very illegal), why are we still paying it? Why – pray tell – is Ottawa keeping the money that they have illegally shaken down from Albertans (and all Canadians in provinces in opposition to the tax)?

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe were both right on the money when they said that Ottawa should reimburse taxpayers for the illegal collection. Posthaste.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer asked the federal government in a letter to “work out a process for the reimbursement to Albertans of taxes paid.”

That could prove more complicated than at first glance.

Unlike income taxes, there’s no real way to know how much each individual household pays in the carbon tax each year. It’s not just a matter of counting every single gas station receipt and home heating bill in the country. It’s also the passed-on costs from more expensive groceries and consumer goods, which we don’t see directly. Albertans that live in colder climates and rural areas, or drive to work, pay far more than a barista biking to his/her coffee shop in balmy Vancouver.

One option would be a flat rebate to each household, where governments can do their best to calculate the average tax paid. But that is the problem with the current “rebate” program, since it doesn’t really know how much each individual household paid in carbon taxes.

The other option would be for Ottawa to “rebate” the revenue collected to each province from which it was plundered. The provincial government could then decide on a one-time income tax reduction or payout, but again, this system doesn’t have any way of know what people paid in the first place.

There’s no right way to do it, but any option is better than leaving it in the kleptocratic paws of Ottawa.

It could all be a moot point though. As of press time, the Trudeau government was silent about any return of the ill-gotten loot. They may just decide to keep it in their wallet until the case is finally decided at the Supreme Court.

And Team Carbon Tax has a strong chance in the final round. Although the majority of the Supreme Court was appointed by Stephen Harper, many of them regularly side with the Liberal appointees in making dubious decisions. Their decision to allow governments to fine otherwise innocent people for transporting beer between provinces comes to mind. The Supreme Court has a poor institutional record of deciding federal-provincial matters in line with the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s a hopeless case. Or even if it was, that it isn’t worth fighting.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and the 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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