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LITTLEJOHN: A fall Stampede? Not under these rules.

The Calgary Stampede decided not to postpone but instead canceled because there was no guarantee that Alberta’s ban on large gatherings or international travel would be lifted by the fall.

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On April 23rd, 2020 the Calgary Stampede was cancelled for the first time in nearly 100 years. The Stampede began in 1912, and from 1923 on it was an annual event. The Stampede has carried on through two world wars, the great depression, and the 2013 flood. 

The Stampede even carried on in 1919 during the Spanish Flu, which killed nearly as many Canadians as died in the First World War. The Spanish Flu – a strain of H1N1 – arrived in Calgary in October 1918 with soldiers returning from the First World War. A second wave swept the city in January 1919 after schools and other public buildings reopened following the Christmas holiday, and it resurfaced again in 1920. Despite all this, the Stampede was held in the summer of 1919 in order to raise community spirit in a period of anguish and discontent. 

Janice Dickin, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary explains why this pandemic is different. 

“We are a very different society. We are unwilling to sacrifice lives and can actually do something about it. In 1918-19, 50 thousand to 70 thousand died, same as we lost in the war. There was little to be done if anyone got sick, no breathing machines. There was not even a microscope capable of seeing viruses, so any attempts at a vaccine were futile. We now can do something and are minded to look after everyone we can. You bet I’d have been at that victory [Stampede] parade. And you bet I’m relieved this year’s Stampede has been cancelled. “

The Stampede in 1919 was a relatively small, local affair. One hundred years later, the 2019 Stampede drew a crowd of nearly 1.3-million people. Many were tourists from outside of Canada. Given the restrictions on international travel – as well as concerns about large crowds – it was inevitable the Stampede would not go ahead in July. Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw stated, “Until we have a vaccine or some other means of ensuring widespread immunity, some of these gatherings are going to be the riskiest kinds of activities to engage in. Especially gatherings that bring together people from all over the country or all over the world.”

This is a large part of the reason the Stampede was cancelled instead of postponed.  Other large, global events such as the Boston Marathon and the Kentucky Derby have been postponed until September. The Calgary Stampede decided not to postpone but instead canceled because there was no guarantee that Alberta’s ban on large gatherings or international travel would be lifted by the fall.  

Calgary Stampede spokeswoman Kristina Barnes said, “With the safety of our community front of mind, and given the ongoing ban on large gatherings in our province, it simply wasn’t possible to plan for a postponement. The intrinsic ties with both the Western Fair circuit and North American Fair circuit, particularly with the midway [complicates matters and] is indicative of the extremely detailed coordination that is required to hold an event like the Stampede, and how our planning is intertwined with other fairs and festivals.”

This is a devastating blow to Calgary already reeling from years of recession and record low energy prices. On average over the past five years, the Stampede has generated $79.2 million in gross revenue. The 2019 Calgary Stampede contributed a $227.4-million boost to Calgary’s economy.

Many Stampede vendors worry about the financial effect. For some, such as Alberta Boot Company, the Stampede month represents half their annual sales.

President and Chairman of the Board of the Calgary Stampede, Dana Peers acknowledged that cancelling Stampede impacts many Calgary businesses including hotels, restaurants, vendors, ride-sharing services, and more. 

It will also be challenging for athletes who invest significant amounts of money in their animals and have training, farrier and veterinarian expenses. Without sponsorships or winnings it will be a difficult time for cowboys.

Charities such as the Rotary Club of Calgary also face a challenge. The Rotary club raises two thirds of their budget through the sale of tickets for the Stampede Rotary Dream Home. Without the stampede it will be a challenge to replace this.

For Calgarians, summer without stampede will be difficult but when you get bucked off, you dust yourself off and get back in the saddle. Hopefully in 2021 Calgary Stampede will do just that. 

Tessa Littlejohn is a Columnist for the Western Standard

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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