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FILDEBRANDT: Rick Peterson moves to outflank rivals for Western votes at Calgary stop

Rick Peterson faces long odds, but he understands that any path to victory runs straight through the unoccupied political space between Vancouver and Winnipeg right now.

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Give him an “A” for effort. If nothing else, Rick Peterson is making the most direct pitch we’ve heard so far from any of the federal Tory leadership candidates for Western support. The Vancouver-Edmonton businessman made a swing through Calgary’s Petroleum Club on Tuesday and he was swinging clubs that the other candidates thus far haven’t touched.

Peterson is introduced at the podium by his Calgary organizer, Craig Chandler. Chandler is a social conservative who’s lately been spotted speaking at Wexit rallies, but stops short of coming out as a full sovereigntist. Some fancy Tories don’t like him around, but anyone in Calgary’s political circles knows that he comes with a formidable organizing capacity. The room was filled mostly with Conservatives of the old Wildrose tribe.

Unlike in federal elections, Western support matters in the proportional representation model of the Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) leadership voting system.

To date, most Western Conservatives haven’t seen a lot of reason to be inspired in a race dominated by two big candidates from the East: Peter Mackay and Erin O’Toole. Of those two, O’Toole has been most aggressive in courting support West of the Lakehead, landing the endorsement of Alberta Premier Jason Kenney last week; but other than proudly claiming support for the energy industry, there hasn’t been much in the way of substantive policy from the big candidates that should light a fire under anyone.

Rick Peterson came in 12th out of 14 in the 2017 leadership race, but is banking on the Western and libertarian vacuum to give him a fighting chance this time.

In a February Leadership Profile by the Western Standard, Peterson was explicit in his desire to take up the mantle of Maxime Bernier, now leading the upstart People’s Party through the wilderness.

At his campaign stop in Calgary, Peterson put a little more meat on his Western and libertarian bonafides. Some of it was genuinely bold, some of it milquetoast Toryism, some of it contradictory.

In the bold category is taxes. In his own words, Peterson said he would “viciously cut taxes”, and his specifics backed that up, and then some. He pledged to move Canada to a single, 15 per cent flat personal income tax rate.

Peterson then spikes the ball with a promise of eliminating corporate income taxes. It’s a wildly ambitious policy that would put him to the right of the People’s Party on fiscal policy, straight on into Libertarian Party territory. It’s bold in the extreme for an otherwise mainstream politician, but candidates fighting from the outside have to be bold.

Speaking of Bernier policies, Peterson picked up the mantle of the crusade against Ottawa’s Soviet-style supply management system. If Peterson’s campaign were to gain enough steam to challenge MacKay or O’Toole, he can count on the remobilization of the supply management lobby to keep the natural order of things. He promises to propose a detailed compensation and transition program at a later date.

About half an hour after losing the Tory leadership by a hair in 2017, Bernier half-jokingly told his campaign team that if he ever ran again, “there would be no compensation.” In short, there is no transition which the dairy cartel will accept.

In the meantime, Peterson’s pledge to scrap the cartel is a nice reminder that not all federal Tories are willing to blindly embrace a feudal economic model in the name of vote-pandering.

Peterson’s stance on the West’s place in Canada was strong, but a bit contradictory.

He repeats that he understands why many in Alberta and Saskatchewan have embraced the independence movement, and that their grievances are real. He even gives a shout-out to the Buffalo Declaration penned by Michelle Rempel-Garner and three other Conservative MPs willing to stick their necks out.

But then Peterson goes on to say – in effect – that he won’t act on most its core recommendations.

“Opening the constitution is priority number 29.”

Most of the Buffalo Delcaration’s core recommendations revolve around constitutional reform, like the Senate, House of Commons, and Equalization.

Since the courts have shut down any Senate reform without reopening the constitution, Peterson promises to appoint better senators. It’s a promise made by every Liberal and Tory running for the prime minister’s job since Sir John A. MacDonald, less Stephen Harper in his earlier terms.

While Equalization is in the constitution, changing the formula of its collection and redistribution can be achieved by legislative means with a simple majority in Parliament. Peterson’s “Equalization Reform” policy doesn’t actually touch on Equalization however. Four of his policy’s five points deal with the “Fiscal Stabilization Fund”, which would effectively turn Alberta into another recipient of federal largess in the short term. Only the fifth policy point on Equalization deals with Equalization, and it is to strike a Royal Commission to ask Canadians about what to do about it (Spoiler: the East says, “Nothing”).

Still, Peterson seems to understand that Westerners want to talk about it, even if most of the Tory leadership candidates don’t.

Peterson’s riff on Western themes continues to his promise to scrap the federal carbon tax. Sort of. He tells the room of (mostly) ex-Wildrosers gathered at the Petroleum Club that “climate change is real”, and that the other candidates “can’t win Ontario without a carbon tax policy”. For Easterners he says, “it’s a loser” to not have a robust carbon tax and climate change plan.

The regular interruptions of applause for his earlier statements were noticeably absent on this point.

Peterson tries to bring it closer to home. He says that he will adopt the carbon tax model of Alberta’s UCP government, which saw the consumer carbon tax repealed, but leave in place the NDP’s industrial carbon tax under the renamed TIER (Technology Innovation and Emissions Regulation). This might be Alberta UCP government policy, but it’s not a policy that its rank-and-file members are especially enthusiastic about being reminded of.

As is customary at federal political events in Alberta, Peterson showed off his (seemingly) fluent French. Judging from the blank faces in the crowd, it’s unlikely that anyone besides Peterson understood a word of what he was saying, but assuming that what he said was good, some politely clapped anyhow.

Most columnists – including yours truly – assumed that Peter Mackay had the whole thing sown up and was measuring the drapes of the Opposition Leader’s Office. Kenney’s endorsement of Erin O’Toole last week was the surest sign yet that there is significant discomfort in Western Conservative ranks with that theory.

Peterson still faces long odds for the top Tory job, but he seems to recognize that any path to victory for anyone not named Peter Mackay, runs straight through the unoccupied political space between Vancouver and Winnipeg right now.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher & CEO of the Western Standard
dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter: @dfildebrandt

Opinion

LETTER: Stop repatriating ISIS fighters to Canada

A reader says that Canada must shut the door on returning ISIS fighters.

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RE: Calgary man charged with terror crimes after allegedly training with ISIS in Syria

The arrest of a Calgary man by the RCMP on terror-related charges linked to his time with the Islamic State should be a stern reminder to Canadians that the old foe of Islamic extremism hides beneath current tensions. The RCMP say there are 190 Canadians linked to Islamic terror groups. Sixty have returned to Canada. The most notorious organization, Islamic State, butchered its way across nations and conquered sizable territory and resources.

We should never forget that these groups intend us harm. ISIS, more than any other, seduced many individuals into committing crimes for them – many of these persons were never officially linked to Islamic State. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is right to counsel Ottawa to never allow the repatriation of ISIS fighters back into this country. Last month, Human Rights Watch accused Canada of abandoning some of these people inside prison camps variously controlled by the Kurds and the Turks.

The problem of terrorist repatriation is a global one. The Kurds and the Turks, by turns, have demanded their return and an end to their unwanted global responsibility. Britain’s appellate court has been lambasted by critics for allowing its former citizen, dubbed the Jihadi Bride, an ISIS member, to return home. Shamima Begum left Britain for Syria and stayed with the terror group for three years. Now sitting inside a refugee camp, she apparently begged to be repatriated. Britain’s Conservative MPs argue her return sets a dangerous precedent. They are correct in saying so.

Global, indeed Middle Eastern, security has always depended on a powerful alliance between the U.S, Israel, and a few Arab nations. States like Egypt and Jordan share military and economic partnerships with Israel. The American withdrawal from parts of the Middle East like Syria was a mistake. They enabled the Taliban to rebound and Hezbollah to resume attacking Israel. The China-Iran alliance could enable the tracking of Western forces. 

Christopher Mansour
Barrie, ON

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Opinion

LETTER: There won’t be any accountability for WE in this Canada

A reader says that Canadians shouldn’t hold their breath that any accountability will come in the wake of the growing WE Scandal.

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The Kielburger brothers are like the prime minister; they think most people would believe the WE charity along with the founders wouldn’t benefit from administering a near $1 billion dollar program. The Conservative’s have called for a RCMP investigation of WE and Trudeau’s involvement. I can’t see that happening.

Brenda Lucki, the RCMP Commissioner in the SNC-L affair, could have applied to the courts for release of cabinet documents, but she chose to hide behind the PM’s cabinets privilege. The Ethics Commissioner has no teeth to impose any real penalty on these ministers who again, abuse Canadian finances. This is a failed federation, lead by a corrupt PM and finance minister along with the PMO that has its head in the sand.

On another point.

WEXIT is sounding better, every day, for Albertans, but I don’t think Premier Kenney had any intention of taking the next step to give Albertans a say. Premier Kenney changed his tune after he was elected to the Premiership. I am not impressed with him as he was all fire and brimstone prior to the election, but now I feel he is just another politician who pulled a bait and switch on his real intensions. To bad I didn’t hear him tell Albertans that he was a committed Federalist prior to saying he was fighting for Alberta. I would have changed my vote for sure. 

Steven Ruthven
Calgary, AB 

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Opinion

BARNES: Time to replace the RCMP with an Alberta force

Drew Barnes writes that Alberta should immediately begin the process of creating its own police force.

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Guest opinion column from Drew Barnes, MLA

In the Fair Deal Panel report, it was recommended that Alberta create its own police force. It is what we heard loud and clear from Albertans across the province. It is imperative, now more than ever with the overreaching policies of Ottawa, that we have control over policing in our own land. Premier Kenney – in the government’s response – has committed to conducting a further analysis of the panel recommendation to move to an Alberta Provincial Police. This analysis will support why we should have our own police force that is overseen by a directly elected Alberta Chief of Police. An Alberta Provincial Police force is a constitutional right that we have, and it should be exercised. 

Historically, Alberta had its own police force from 1917 to 1932. During that period, Alberta saw an increase in arrest rate and conviction, and a decrease in movement into Alberta by those with criminal intent. The reason for this increase has been attributed to the institutional difference in focus and priorities of a national vs an Alberta entity. 

This history serves to underscore why we need a police force that is familiar with the Alberta experience. One of the issues the RCMP have that makes it difficult for them to effectively police the province is the constant in-and-out of its members in communities, which nullifies the benefits that come with being familiar with an area and its particular challenges. An officer raised in Jasper, Ontario will be less familiar with the issues and concerns of Jasper, Alberta, than an Albertan. While some RCMP recruits may be from Alberta and may land a position in Alberta, that is too often not how it works. The lack of familiarity with community, and short-term posting protocol of the RCMP is an ongoing, acknowledged hinderance, for both the officers and the community.

The costs to operate the RCMP increase at a higher rate than provincially run police forces. A study comparing these costs found that over the span of eight years, the cost of operating RCMP detachments rose an average of $44.50 per capita. The costs for the Ontario Provincial Police force rose only $37.10 per capita on average during the same period.

We can cancel the contract with the federal government and the RCMP with two years notice. Providing notice that we will cancel the contract can take place as early as March 31, 2021. This would allow us to terminate the contract as of March 31, 2023 at no cost. Within that two-year gap, we can work out the details, such as settling accounts over buildings and equipment, which the current contract provides a road map for.

As a province, we even have a basic template in place that make this easier. The Alberta Sheriffs already perform many police duties in our province with 950 sworn members and 16 stations. We would simply need to look at expanding them into the areas that presently utilize RCMP service. 

The RCMP is a proud and iconic symbol of Canada, made up of proud, hardworking members from across Canada, however, it is time for Alberta to consider taking back it’s policing, to create local ownership, accountability, and to hire Albertans to police Alberta. Albertans should determine their own policing priorities based on their particular needs. It is time to bring back the Alberta Provincial Police.

Drew Barnes is the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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