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Calgary restaurant owners still fuming over decision to keep them closed

Premier Jason Kenney said the decision to keep Calgary establishments closed was made at 9 p.m. Tuesday. But it wasn’t announced publicly until 19 hours later at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Anger and confusion are the emotions still being expressed by Calgary pub and restaurant owners after provincial officials said they couldn’t open this week.

Ervin Bushi, owner of the Broken Plate in Willow Park Village, said he spent $12,000 on food and $6,000 on booze in hopes he would open May 14.

Premier Jason Kenney said the decision to keep Calgary establishments closed was made at 9 p.m. Tuesday. But it wasn’t announced publicly until 19 hours later at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Many pub owners, like Bushi, were frantically scurrying during those 19 hours getting his establishment ready.

“There were also cleaners, cleaning supplies, installing plexiglass, moving tables, printing flyers and posters, buying masks and face shields, sanitizers, rehiring nine staff,” Bushi told the Western Standard.

“It’s been very stressful and confusing. The government didn’t even put out the safety measures until two or three days before.

“This is stuff we have to order without any cashflow coming in.”

Before the COVID-219 pandemic, Bushi said the restaurant was struggling through the recession.

His takeout operation is still running but overall in March and April Bushi said business is down 70 per cent. He credits his “valuable community customers” who keep coming for takeout.

And Bushi, currently working seven days a week and taking no pay, said he knows better now to have everything ready for a May 25 opening.

“I will be more cautious this time. Who know, maybe on Sunday night they will tell us we can’t open on Sunday,” Bushi said.

The other thing battering his business is the continuing low Canadian dollar.

“Most of our vegetables come from the U.S., when the dollar is down it hurts us very bad.”

Jennifer Duffin, whose family has owned the Lighthouse Pub in Deer Run since 1999, made the decision she wasn’t going to open May 14 – or any time soon.

“For us, as a pub, it has to be all or nothing. I’m not sure how many of these politicians have been in a pub. The government doesn’t understand what the concept of as pub is,” she said.

“How do you do it? All these friends come to our pub so they can sit and talk. We are like the Cheers of Calgary.”

Duffin said operating at 50 per cent capacity for her pub would mean actually opening at 25 per cent.

“I think we are like a nightclub , in that category – when it is safe for them to open we will,” she said.

Duffin said a government rent subsidy program doesn’t work for the Lighthouse because her landlord is a huge company that is not carrying a mortgage.

Lighthouse notice

In a press conference Thursday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it was the “right decision” to delay Calgary’s full opening to May 25.

“I feel bad for restaurants that were ready to go…and had food that will spoil” Nenshi said urging Calgarians to order take out service from those establishments.

“If you have the means to do it…eat a lot this weekend.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Canada now $1,200,000,000 in debt

The projected debt will be $1.2 trillion by March 2021, up from $765 billion a year earlier.

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Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Wednesday a deficit of $343 billion this fiscal year – taking Canada’s debt to more than $1.2 trillion.

In a what he called a “fiscal snapshot”, Morneau said spending from the COVID-19 outbreak was to blame for the massive deficit.

The projected debt will be $1.2 trillion by March 2021, up from $765 billion a year earlier.

Before the pandemic hit, the federal deficit was pegged about $34.4 billion.

“Some will criticize us on the cost of action,” Morneau said in the House of Commons. 

“But our government knew that the cost of inaction would’ve been far greater.

“Those who would have us do less ignore that, without government action, millions of jobs would have been lost, putting the burden of debt onto families and jeopardizing Canada’s resilience.”

Much of the higher deficit comes from higher than projected spending under Ottawa’s two key COVID-19 financial aid programs, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

The snapshot shows that GDP will shrink by projected 6.8% this year — worst since the Great Depression. But the economy is expected to bounce back by 5.5% next year.

One of the reason the deficit is so much higher is the government predicting the amount of money it takes in will drop substantially.

Personal income taxes are projected to dip by 30 per cent and corporate taxes will be 11 per cent lower.

The national unemployment rate hit almost 14 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 but is expected that rate to return to levels closer to the pre-pandemic era — roughly 7 per cent — by the end of 2021.

“The reality is we’ve witnessed an unprecedented shock to our system,” Morneau told reporters.

“With a crisis of this magnitude, someone was going to have to shoulder the costs and the federal government was uniquely placed to take this responsibility on. We took on this role because it was the right thing to do.”

Tory leader Andrew Scheer called Morneau’s fiscal update a “dire picture of Canada’s finances.”

“The prime minister’s track record proves that he cannot be trusted to lead Canada through the recovery,” he said.

Scheer said Canada is the only G7 country that has had its credit rating cut during the pandemic and Canada has the highest unemployment rate among the group of developed nations.

“That should be a real wake-up call for this government.”

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Federal Director Aaron Wudrick said the news should alarm Ottawa.

“Unfortunately, Ottawa doesn’t seem to have a plan to manage this deep dive into debt. For all the specifics he provided today, Finance Minister Bill Morneau may as well have posted a picture on Instagram,” Wudrick said.

“Pandemic-related spending has caused the deficit to balloon by more than one thousand per cent in just four months. Much of this spending was intended to temporarily address the COVID-19 crisis, but these programs are extremely expensive and unsustainable. Minister Morneau needs to lay out a plan to turn off the taps, but he failed to do that.

“In particular, it is clear that the government must either end or significantly reform the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which creates a strong unintended incentive for people to stay out of the workforce. 

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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Critics slam Kenney’s patronage appointment of Rodney

Dave Rodney gave up his Calgary Lougheed seat in 2017 for Jason Kenney to run in when he became leader of the UCP.

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Critics are lambasting Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for giving the man who originally gave up his seat so Kenney could get into the Legislature a plum government posting earning  $9,635 bi-weekly.

Dave Rodney gave up his Calgary Lougheed seat in 2017 for Kenney to run in when he became leader of the UCP.

This week he was named Alberta’s new trade envoy to the city of Houston for a three year term.

“This quarter of a million dollars taxpayer funded salary would be extremely hard to justify even during the best of times. But it’s completely out of touch with the realities facing the many jobless Albertans who will be paying Rodney’s salary,” said Franco Terrazzano, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Alberta Director.

“The United Conservatives are supposed to be fixing the government’s spending problem, so when are they going to tighten their belts?

“The government should stick to attracting investment by cutting taxes and red tape.”

The government said Rodney will work to establish closer business relationships and pursue new investment opportunities that will revitalize Alberta’s energy sector and create jobs, since the province is a major supplier of energy resources to Texas and other states.

“I am pleased to announce that Dave Rodney has been appointed as Alberta’s agent general to Houston. Texas is Alberta’s second-largest export market in the United States, and it is vital we have an in-market presence to lead Alberta’s efforts to expand our commercial ties to the region. With his extensive government experience and his personal drive, Alberta needs someone like Dave who will engage with American business leaders and investors and put Alberta’s interests first. I have the utmost confidence he is the right person for this role,” said Kenney.

“As economies gradually reopen, Alberta needs to be equipped and ready to rebuild its economic relationships with our trading partners. I am pleased that Dave Rodney has agreed to take on the role of agent general; we are beginning a new chapter in Alberta’s relationship with the United States and we need a person of his calibre to seek out new opportunities for Alberta’s businesses,” said Ministe of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Tanya Fir.

Rodney, the first Canadian to summit Mount Everest twice, said: “I am humbled by the trust that Premier Kenney has placed in me, since he has asked me to assist as Alberta’s agent general to Houston, U.S.A. It is an honour to serve the people of the province as we seek to advance the interests of Albertans in this invaluable market. Together, we will prove that investor confidence in numerous sectors is best placed in Alberta; with the resultant improvement of the livelihoods and quality of life of thousands of Albertans.”

Quick facts

  • During his mission to Houston in November 2019, Premier Kenney announced that Alberta would formally establish a presence in Houston.
  • Texas is Alberta’s second-largest export market overall, and Alberta’s exports to Texas in 2018 totalled $11.6 billion worth of goods. Energy exports accounted for $8 billion.
  • Alberta is one of the largest suppliers of imported oil and gas to the United States.
  • In 2018, Alberta’s crude oil exports accounted for about 38 per cent of U.S. crude oil imports.
  • Alberta is the largest supplier of natural gas to the U.S., providing about 70 per cent of the country’s imports in 2018.
  • In 2018, Alberta and Texas signed a memorandum of understanding to seek opportunities to enhance trade and investment and to explore prospects for economic development that could contribute to job growth in Alberta and Texas across several sectors.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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UCP has no plans to debate their own anti-independence motion: source

Sources tell the Western Standard that the UCP motion meant to skirt an NDP anti-independence motion will die on the order paper.

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A UCP motion intended to shut down debate on rejecting Alberta independence is likely to die on the order paper without any debate or vote, sources tell the Western Standard.

On Monday, NDP MLA Heather Sweet introduced a motion  asking for the Legislature to reject independence and support a united Canada.

But the UCP refused to give it the unanimous consent needed to allow debate. Instead, the UCP gave a notice of their own motion, which makes no explicit mention of the independence question.

The resolution would “affirm its [Alberta’s] loyalty to a united Canadian federation, and urge the Government to obtain a fair deal for Alberta within the Canadian federation.”

But now, sources inside the UCP tell the Western Standard that the government has no plans to allow their own motion to come forward for debate, instead letting it die on the order paper.

Government House Leader Jason Nixon did not respond to requests for comment, however after this story was originally published, a spokesperson told the Western Standard, “Oral notice for the motion was provided yesterday, and the motion is now on the Order Paper. This is standard procedure.”

Nixon’s spokesperson did not say if and when the motion would be debated.

The NDP motion appears to have been an attempt to try and divide the UCP caucus between its federalist leadership and sovereigntist-leaning elements in the backbenches; most notably, MLA Drew Barnes who said that a referendum on independence should be on the table in negotiations with the rest if Canada fail to secure Alberta a fairer deal within confederation

“Repeatedly, UCP Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes has, without challenge or objection  from Jason Kenney or any member of the UCP Cabinet and Caucus, supported the idea of Alberta separating from Canada,” the NDP said in a release on Canada Day.

Kenney slammed the independence movement after Barnes’ first comments were made public.

Heather Sweet, NDP House Leader, said, “This motion will force Jason Kenney and the UCP to finally take a stand. Fanning the flames of separatism is this Premier’s way of distracting Albertans from his failed $4.7-billion corporate handout, which hasn’t created jobs or drawn in new investment.”

In an earlier interview with the Western Standard, Barnes dismissed the motion at NDP politicking.

“I am very, very disappointed the NDP with the motion would try and diminish the role of Alberta within Confederation,” Barnes said.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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