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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

MORGAN: Supply management is bad policy in good times. It’s terrible policy in bad times.

We can immediately reduce the food bills for all Canadians simply by ending our supply management system.

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My wife grew up on a small farm near Rockyford, Alberta. Her father had a small dairy operation with a dozen cows. Cream would be separated from the produced milk and sold. Remaining milk would be used to feed the household and supplement livestock feed. There would still be a large amount of milk remaining every day as the family could only consume so much. That milk would be poured into a nearby ditch. 

Why would a farm family with limited income pour away a product which other families have to pay dearly to purchase? 

They had to. It is was, and still is the law. The family farm only had a government-issued quota to sell cream. It would have been illegal for my wife’s father to sell a single drop of milk. 

Welcome to Canada’s supply management system. 

As the world enters an unprecedented economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are going to have to find ways to reduce the cost of living for struggling families. Canada’s Soviet-style supply management system on dairy and poultry products adds nearly $600 per year to the average family’s grocery bill in order to benefit a small number of producers, primarily in Quebec. It is time to examine why we are punishing consumers with this terrible system. 

The government controls the number of producers and the amount of product they may produce through a rigid quota system. If a farmer is found to have 301 chickens on their farm without having a state-issued quota for them, the farmer can be charged. The same applies to turkeys, geese, eggs and dairy products. 

It is not an exaggeration to compare this system to that of the former Soviet Union. This is exactly how the USSR managed their agriculture, with predictable results. 

Currently, Canada’s dairy farmers are pouring milk down the drain as the Coronavirus shutdown has decimated demand for dairy products, and it is illegal for them to drop their prices in order to adapt to the change in demand. Families are literally rationed in how much expensive milk they may purchase right now, while producers are not allowed to sell them more.

Just ask any senior citizen of Ukrainian descent how well a centralized food supply management system served them in the 1930s. Governments manage pretty much everything poorly. Food is one of the areas where we least need their intervention. 

A diverse local food production system with a myriad of producers throughout the nation is the best way that consumers can avoid price and supply shocks due to global market incidents. It is impossible for producers to diversify their production under the current supply-managed system. 

When dairy supply management began in 1971, there were approximately 145,000 dairy farms in Canada. Today there are less than 10,000 and it is dropping as large operations continue to buy up limited quotas and push their competitors out of business. The average dairy farmer has a net worth of over $5 million. It’s pretty easy to prosper when the government literally makes it illegal for people to compete with you. 

In shedding our archaic supply management system, we would give agricultural producers a means to diversify their outputs while solidifying a more localized food supply. It would provide opportunities for increased local employment on these farms and competition will spurn innovation which would lead to entirely new value-added products for agricultural producers to sell. 

Dairy and poultry cartels jealously protect their monopoly through aggressive and effective lobbying of federal politicians. It was embarrassing to watch Andrew Scheer groveling to the dairy cartels as he was obligated to due to their propping up his leadership bid for the Conservative Party of Canada. The cartels have their hooks deeply embedded into the flesh of politicians in every (major) federal party and it is going to take a strong public call for an end to supply management in order to break these politicians loose. 

Federal Liberals have even begun musing about extending supply management to other agricultural sectors, citing the present crisis as their excuse. The Tories would have few legs to stand on in opposing its expansion into other sectors, since they so vigorously support its mandatory application in dairy and poultry. 

New Zealand and Australia used to have supply management systems like ours. They shed those systems and producers prospered despite the fear-mongering of their local cartels. Our agricultural producers will flourish with the constraints of supply management lifted as well. 

We are entering difficult times as a nation. We need to examine every possible way to help citizens recover from the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Food is a need and it must be kept as affordable as possible for citizens. We can immediately reduce the food bills for all Canadians simply by ending our supply management system. The only question we should be asking ourselves is why we haven’t done this already.

Cory Morgan is a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

QUESNEL: Northern B.C. Should Leverage the Buffalo Declaration

Alternatively, rocking the political boat with talk of redrawing provincial boundaries could be enough to finally awaken the British Columbia government to the seriousness of northern alienation in their province.

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Talks about Western independence and the release of the well-timed Buffalo Declaration should be leveraged by marginalized northern regions in the West to place their issues front and centre in the national conversation.

Within the wider discourse of Western alienation exists the reality of northern alienation that has existed for quite a while without finding an appropriate vehicle. For example, northern British Columbia has long felt marginalized within British Columbia politics and ignored by provincial politicians. After all, only about seven percent of B.C.’s population resides in the northern half. 

The province tends to prioritize the southern half of the province when it makes large infrastructure investments. Despite automation and changing technologies, the northern B.C. economy is still largely dominated by resource industries. Forestry, mining, and the energy sector still serve as a backbone for the rural northern economy, despite economic diversification efforts on the part of northern rural municipalities.

In terms of economic structure and attitude, northern B.C. residents are more like northern Albertans. People in Kitimat feel alienated from the latte-drinking urbanites in B.C.’s capital city of Victoria. Granted, however, that the  B.C. Premier has stood up for major projects that would benefit the north, such as the Coastal GasLink project. However, this doesn’t change a basic alienation that the north feels from the core of political power in the province. 

A similar situation has occurred in northwestern Ontario where large communities such as Kenora have felt ongoing neglect from a distant and unresponsive government in Queen’s Park and have seriously discussed joining Manitoba. Many felt that on issues such as the forest economy and on healthcare, Ontario seriously neglected them. At one point, a disgruntled community in southwestern Manitoba wanted to join Saskatchewan. 

This might be the perfect time for northern British Columbians to raise the stakes in the discussion by raising the “S” word. The real possibility of separation might be what the out-of-touch B.C. provincial government needs to prioritize northern concerns. 

In November of last year, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy released a major policy paper that discussed redrawing the provincial boundaries of Alberta and Saskatchewan to provide tidewater access to both provinces. 

Residents of Northern B.C. – both from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities – should consider and perhaps leverage such proposals, such as joining Alberta. First Nations in northern British Columba might have more success in forwarding their issues of self-government and nation-to-nation dialogue, especially with the focus on reconciliation.  

If residents of northern B.C. entertained the possibility of joining Alberta, Alberta would need to extend an offer to northern British Columbia residents explaining the benefits of joining Alberta. Northern B.C. would need to inform the Alberta government of the problems they are facing which propelled them to leave British Columbia. Alberta could then address those problems and offer residents of Northern B.C. a better deal. 

During the Quebec secession crisis, there were some Quebec Indigenous leaders who did not reject the sovereigntist cause completely, instead, asking the leaders of the Quebec sovereignty movement what they would offer them. Being pragmatic, they realized that if they could not stop or fight the secession vote, they would settle for a better deal from a sovereign Quebec government than the one they had with a united Canada. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in northern B.C. should adopt a similar attitude and posture. 

A very attractive element of northern B.C. joining Alberta would be the promise of permanent coastal access for Alberta’s energy sector, which would greatly benefit many communities and First Nations of northern B.C. 

Alternatively, rocking the political boat with talk of redrawing provincial boundaries could be enough to finally awaken the British Columbia government to the seriousness of northern alienation in their province. This could finally force the province to adopt a serious plan for the north, that includes investment in necessary infrastructure.  

Mayors in northern B.C. communities should be able to get the premier on the phone and receive attention on pressing matters. Industries such as forestry, mining, and energy should receive as much attention as issues that concern Metro Vancouver and among suburbanites in the Lower Mainland. 

Raising the spectre of redrawn borders might just be enough to force the province to deal with its Northern Alienation problems.

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LETTER-ANGLIN: Buying KXL pipeline shares opens it up more legal troubles

Now that the UCP has blindly jumped into this project as the primary investor and guarantor of the XL pipeline, they may have doomed the project.

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RE: Alberta government will spend $1.5 billion in KXL pipeline to kickstart construction

The absurdity of Alberta investing $1.1 billion in the [Keystone] XL pipeline and guaranteeing another $7 billion + in loans is nuts! TC Energy claims they will buy back Alberta’s equity interest after the pipeline is in service. However, no one has provided any specific details how that buy-back would occur. The announcement should set off alarm bells across Alberta. In the UCP announcement, Kenney claims construction will begin as early as April 1, 2020. This is absolutely not true! The latest court challenge that TC Energy inflicted upon itself has yet to make its way to the Court of Appeals. There are many more court challenges to come, and most all of these challenges are self-inflicted by TransCanada’s previous efforts to circumvent environmental laws. To be clear, there was nothing wrong with TC Energy’s strategy to prolong the project in the courts. They had every right to take that risk. Now come Kenney and the UCP!

By signing this agreement, Kenney and the UCP downloaded the project’s liability onto the Alberta taxpayers. If the project succeeds, TC Energy shareholders profit. If the project fails, Alberta’s taxpayers take the loss. Stated another way, Alberta practices capitalism in times of growth, and socialism in times of economic contraction, but only for the select few. Without getting into the weeds of the legalities, courts routinely disregard the separate legal personality of a corporate entity when a corporation is completely dominated and controlled by another (used as a shield) for an improper purpose. Whether it can proved or not, a logical argument can now be made accusing the Alberta government of hiding behind a corporate shield (improper purpose) to advance a pipeline project for its benefit in the United States. The insanity of thinking a foreign government – Alberta’s UCP – could through their proxy, TC Energy, expropriate or take by eminent domain private property in the United States for a pipeline to benefit Alberta is a constitutional sitcom that is too far-fetched to contemplate. Didn’t anyone in the UCP government even think to consult with a U.S. corporate and/or a U.S. constitutional lawyer before signing this agreement? 

It is very likely, the first court cases to be filed will seek to pierce the corporate shield, and this may take years by way of state action in each of the states affected by this pipeline. Forget any environmental court challenges, which there are many. It will be seven years before the first “property rights” challenge reaches the U.S. Supreme Court. By signing this agreement, Kenney and the UCP opened a constitutional can of worms for opponents to challenge this pipeline. Politically, I can say with significant confidence there will be no Republican or Democratic politician in Nebraska, Montana, or the Dakotas that will support the expropriation of its citizen’s private property for the benefit of Alberta. Now that the UCP has blindly jumped into this project as the primary investor and guarantor of the XL pipeline, they may have doomed the project. If this agreement is reported correctly, TC Energy will receive a $1.1 billion cash injection, and should they default on their debts, Albertans are stuck with the bill. Is this what TC Energy intended all along?

The irony has not escaped me. For the last four years, Trump’s leadership – or lack thereof – has divided Republicans and Democrats like never before. With the stroke of a pen, Kenney and the UCP’s agreement with TC Energy may just well unite them. You just can’t write this stuff!

Joe Anglin is the former Wildrose MLA for Rimby-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre

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