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NAVARRO-GENIE: Stalling Frontier’s approval is the most likely cabinet decision

When push comes to shove, the Liberals are likely to kill the Teck Frontier mine slowly, through delay and regulatory red tape.

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Albertans shouldn’t hold their breath for Ottawa’s approval of the Frontier oil sands mine.

Reports of massive opposition within the Liberal Party caucus and rumours of an appeasing “economic aid” packagefor the province are strong indicators that the federal cabinet will not approve the Frontier mine in northern Alberta later this month.  

Frontier represents hope for Alberta. It promises $20 billion in investment, which in four decades of operation will generate $70 billion in taxes for all levels of government. Some 2,500 permanent jobs will remain from the 7000 sparked during the construction phase. 

The project has been through all the hoops and complied with all the requirements under law and regulation. It enjoys the endorsement of all 14 adjacent indigenous communities.

But the project chafes against those wishing for Alberta to leave its oil in the ground – to phase out the oil sands as Justin Trudeau said – and to transform Canada into the world’s eco-Nirvana. They are strong ideological voices inside the Liberal, Bloc and New Democratic parties. These are the same folks to whom the prime minister and the finance minister regularly tweet to say the Canadian economy is doing wonderfully well.

The real culprit, however, is the Laurentian regime; that is, the current structures of power that dominate Canada. Without this arrangement, the imposition of Laurentian dominance over Alberta’s natural resources would not be possible. 

The present House of Commons has 338 Members, from which only 34 represent Alberta. Contrast that number with 199 MPs from the Laurentian provinces, Quebec and Ontario. Regardless of who may be in power, Laurentians have nearly seven times more voices in the House of Commons than Albertans do, and eight times as many in the Senate. This will not change.

Of course, not all Laurentian MPs are doomsday environmentalists, but they don’t have to be. If only a third of them were so, it would make them twice as numerous as all Alberta MPs –and this will not change any time soon.  But it gets worse. The MPs who will decide on Teck’s Frontier fate are in the federal cabinet, with no Albertans among them.

Ottawa has tried to extort political gain from Alberta in exchange for approval, pushing more job-killing policies and punishing the province for “fighting [the] federal government on the issue of the pricing of pollution,” as Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Environment and Climate Change minister, expressed it. They know Edmonton won’t surrender, thus setting things up to blame Alberta for the rejection, exactly as Finance Minister Bill Morneau now blames Kinder Morgan for “walking away” from TMX. 

Cabinet has three choices: it can decide to approve, reject or delay. 

Approval isn’t an option for the government. It would cost them crucial seats in Laurentian urban centres such as Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, as well as in Atlantic Canada and BC’s Lower Mainland. Conversely, they would lose zero seats or have negligible gains in Alberta. 

So, a new version of “Screw the West, we’ll take the rest” will do. The minority government cannot survive without the other eco-nirvana Bloc and NDP. 

The prime minister wants to avoid the collapse of his minority government. And he needs to safeguard – for his party and for himself – the chance of regaining majority power in a not-too-distant future, for which he must avoid the wrath of Laurentian eco-doomster voters.

However, the typical seat-computation will have to be mitigated by the real and present danger of further fuelling Alberta independence sentiments. The effect of cancelling Teck’s Frontier mine outright will be worse in Western Canada than passing over Winnipeg to favour Montreal for the CF-18 maintenance contract – the decision that finally sparked the Reform movement in the late 1980s. Frontier rejection will sting as most illegitimate, absent any Alberta elected representative among the decision-makers. 

Yet, no Laurentian PM, however indifferent or callous to Western concerns, wishes to have the country collapse on his watch. 

That leaves stalling as the most plausible option. 

As consolation, the feds will offer Alberta an economic aid bailout package. But Alberta voters are not for sale (much less bought with their own money). They want private sector jobs and autonomy instead of subjection to Laurentian dependency. No amount of Ottawa spend-and-spin will make Albertans receptive to an effort to deliver a deadly blow to the province’s largest employment generator. 

So, delay it will likely be. Yet, short of full approval for Teck’s Frontier mine, the stalling will only stoke among Albertans the already incandescent fires of the desire to go it alone.  

Marco Navarro-Génie is President of the Haultain Research Institute and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

Marco Navarro-Génie is a Columnist for the Western Standard, President of the Haultain Research Institute, and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Opinion

MORGAN: It’s time for Joe to go

Cory Morgan writes that other politicians have been driven from office for much, much less than what Joe did.

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With news that the Calgary Police Service has asked the RCMP to begin an independent investigation into Councilor Joe Magliocca’s expense scandal, it becomes clear that it is time for Mr. Magliocca to step aside from his council seat.

Citizens have little patience for well-heeled politicians abusing expense accounts on the backs of taxpayers. In 2012, a $16 glass of orange juice expensed by Conservative cabinet minister MP Bev Oda caused such outrage that Oda eventually resigned in disgrace. It may have been small peanuts and the controversy overblown, but it was a symbol of disrespect to taxpayers, rightly or wrongly. Magliocca’s abuse of his expense account is much worse than anything Oda did.

This wasn’t a one-off – or even an accident – for Joe. A forensic audit concluded that there has been a pattern of personal expense abuse carried out by Magliocca for years. From room upgrades to luxury hotels, to airline seat upgrades, to what appears to be the outright fraudulent efforts to cover up the event hosting expenses by falsely adding names of attendees who were never there, it is clear that Magliocca has a serious and ongoing problem with abusing the taxpayer’s trust. Any private organization would have fired Magliocca years ago.

Conservatives are few and far between on Calgary’s city council. Councilor Joe Magliocca had been considered one of them. That makes Magliocca’s repeated and flagrant abuse of taxpayer’s dollars for his personal benefit all the more odious and damaging. Nothing undercuts calls for fiscal restraint more effectively than hypocrisy. How could or would anybody take Magliocca’s calls for the city to tighten it’s fiscal belt when he has so brazenly gorged on the taxpayer’s flesh himself?

It’s not as if Magliocca wasn’t paid enough as a counselor to begin with. With a base salary of $113,416 plus benefits and pension, along with an already generous expense policy, there was no excuse for Maglioca’s abuse his expense account so flagrantly. It is a slap in the face to taxpayers who are currently wondering how they are going to make their mortgage payments in light of ceaseless city tax increases and who can’t afford to go on vacations, much less lavish ones fully expensed by their employers.

So far Magliocca has been silent and keeping a low profile. Yes, he paid back a few thousand dollars, but that was of course only after he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Joe knows he can’t justify this, so I am guessing that he hopes that if he keeps his head low that this will blow over. This is not going to blow over.

At this point, the only acceptable response from Joe Magliocca should be his immediate resignation as a city councilor. This may even serve Joe’s interests in a sense, because if there does indeed turn out to be criminal wrongdoing found and he is convicted, at least some evidence of remorse will have been shown prior to sentencing.

The next best thing at least would be for Magliocca to openly announce that he will not be running in the next election. His brand is befouled and there is no way he could win his seat on council again. It would leave Joe as a lame-duck councillor, but at least the path would be cleared for for principled candidates to begin campaigning to replace him in 2021.

If Magliocca does run again, he could cause damage to the entire outcome of the election. Joe could split the vote with a real conservative and put yet another free-spending councilor at the table at a time when Calgary can least afford one. Magliocca’s presence in the election would likely turn into a sideshow where his ill-behavior is used to try and discredit conservatives running in other wards or even for Mayor.

Joe Magliocca’s political reputation is irreparably damaged even if he doesn’t know it yet. The best thing Joe can do for the city of Calgary now is to step aside. This election is much too important and we can’t allow this circus to keep us all from finally getting the fiscally responsible mayor and council that we so desperately need.

Politicians have been driven from office for much, much less than what Joe did. It’s time for Councilor Magliocca to do the right thing.

Cory Morgan and a columnist for the Western Standard and a business owner in Priddis, Alberta.

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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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