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NATHANSON: Barnes is right, we need an Alberta Constitution

Constitutions are more than legal documents. They are also symbols.

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With the Government of Alberta’s Fair Deal report now public, a turning point has been reached. The debate over whether Alberta is being treated fairly within confederation is now over. The question moving forward is simply this: What are we going to do about it?

The Fair Deal Panel offered up 25 recommendations. Most of them are good ideas, but the report doesn’t offer much of anything in the way of teeth. Take recommendation No. 1: “Press strenuously for the removal of the current constraints on the Fiscal Stabilization Program…”

That’s a no brainer. But Alberta has been doing this for quite some time, and has nothing to show for it. What possible use is this recommendation when you’re dealing with a federal government that simply does not care what Alberta wants?

If Alberta is going to get anywhere, the focus needs to be on steps we can take unilaterally without the federal government. The report includes several of these, and they are all worth pursuing. However, there is one potential option that is noticeably absent: the creation of an Alberta constitution.

As panelist and MLA Drew Barnes pointed out in his personal letter to the Premier, the creation of an Alberta constitution does not lead directly down a one-way path to full independence. Rather it would provide an “opportunity for Albertans to lead the way, for by finding equality and fairness for ourselves, we can create the framework for others to find the same.” 

I love that quote. People don’t talk like that anymore, but they should. It is the language of statesmanship that has been sorely missing from conservative politics for many years.

Why a Constitution?

As government documents go, constitutions are unique. While the typical laws and regulations put in place by governments restrict the freedoms of citizens, constitutions are the best way for citizens to effectively restrict the powers of governments.

Laws made by the legislature can just as easily be changed or eliminated by the legislature. Take, for example, the Klein government’s balanced budget law. It was supposed to be a game-changing victory for those who sought to restrain the size of government, his own party killed it four years later and went on a decade-long spending binge that hasn’t yet ended.

The lesson here is straightforward: like the medieval monarchs of England, our elected governments of today also despise being restricted. Over time, they will use every tool at their disposal to expand their reach.

If Premier Klein’s balanced budget legislation can be turfed in an afternoon session of the legislature, so too can the Alberta Taxpayer Protection Act, which requires a referendum before imposing a provincial sales tax. And, if you are a conservative voter who voted UCP because you would support the idea of electoral recall or citizen initiated referendums, you just better hope that no other party (to its left) ever wins a majority in the legislature. 

The only way to effectively limit the size and scope of government, and to impose restrictions and accountability on politics over the long term, is through a constitution.

Why now?

There is never a bad time to restrict the size and reach of government. However, recent developments are worrying.

Of the many freedoms we enjoy dating back to the Magna Carta, one of the most important is economic freedom. We rightly believe that the individual should be the primary beneficiary of their own labour, and that individuals have the right to own and use their private property as they see fit. Ottawa’s willingness to cede jurisdiction to international organizations that do not recognize such rights should be a wake up call. In Alberta, previous governments have run roughshod over property rights.

Furthermore, the Canadian constitution is currently under attack from the Canadian government. Under the constitution, provinces have the right to develop natural resources. The oil under the feet of Albertans, belongs to Albertans. Premier Lougheed fought for this key concession from Trudeau the Elder. Clearly, the federal government does not like this arrangement, and over the past 30 years it has looked for ways to alter the deal. Not content to redistribute Alberta’s wealth through a rigged equalization program, the Ottawa has enacted a series of regulations designed to landlock Alberta’s oil. It’s a strong-arm tactic worthy of a medieval monarch. If Ottawa is willing to so brazenly flout the Canadian constitution, are we Albertans not obligated to protect their own rights through our own constitution?

What should the constitution include?

Everybody has their pet issue they would like to see included in the constitution. For me, it might be protecting the rights of disabled citizens. For you, it might be the right to recall elected representatives. But we have to start somewhere, so it might as well be at the beginning. And, as Rudyard Kipling wrote: 

At Runnymede, at Runnymede, oh hear the reeds at Runnymede

You musn’t sell, delay, deny, a freeman’s right or liberty.

The Magna Carta is considered one of the most important documents in world history for a reason. From the lowliest English serf to the authors of the American Declaration of Independence, it continues to inspire those who oppose tyranny and protect freedom. The Great Charter was about ending the divine rights of monarchs and replacing it with the divine rights of individuals. Or, as our American cousins put it, “all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

It was at Runnymede that the king first recognized the concept of private property rights. To this day, governments around the world seek to deprive free men and women of this right, including here in Canada. 

At Runnymede, the king was forced to accept the idea that no individual is above the law, and the concept of due process was born. While Justin Trudeau’s recent attacks on prosecutorial independence may seem shocking by today’s standards, the barons of Runnymede were all too familiar with this kind of chicanery.

Another major change dating back to the Magna Carta was the idea that there can be no taxation without the consent of the “council of the realm.” The Americans rephrased it as “no taxation without representation.”

This quickly became the real source of all power behind our parliamentary system. Monarchs and dictators around the world despise this change more than any other. To this day, there are many who game the system to allow the expenditure of tax dollars without proper transparency or accountability. As the world veers towards globalism, the principle of “no taxation without representation” must be retrenched. 

Another concept born at Runnymede was the individual’s right to engage in trade. At first, this freedom was restricted only to the lords and it took some time for the lower classes to fully realize their rights. Local lords would accept bribes to sell monopolies to the various guilds in their towns, and the guilds in turn would restrict every aspect of the trade, from worker training, to prices, to how many goods could be produced. Not only did the system gridlock the economy, but also reinforced a rigid class system that kept the peasants “in their place.”

Of course, the innate human desire for freedom resists such tyranny and eventually the peasants started producing goods outside of the towns, creating what is still known as “cottage industries.” They sold their goods in black markets located just outside of the towns, in areas known as “liberties.” These markets quickly became hot beds of activity where people could do and speak as they chose. For example, William Shakespeare’s plays were performed in theatres located in liberties. The economy flourished, prosperity was born, and with it the rigid social class structure of the day began to dissolve. In the end it was trade, not politics, that freed the peasants. 

Social mobility continues to be a major issue in our modern world. The divide between the rich and poor is growing, despite the fact that more wealth is now redistributed than ever before. Part of the problem is that we have failed to learn the lessons of history, and allowed governments to increase their control over the economy. Through regulation and corporate welfare, our governments continue to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, and award monopolies to their supporters. At the same time we have allowed supply management organizations and labour organizations far too much control over certain segments of our economy, to the point where individual liberties have become unfairly restricted. If Alberta is to have its own constitution, we must look for ways to restore the rights of all citizens to freely engage in in our economy.

A gift to future generations

In recent days, much has been made of Premier Kenney’s statement that he would never pursue sovereignty from Canada because, either you “love your country or you don’t.”

While I appreciate his candor, this is exactly the wrong sentiment for the times. When I look back at the generations who fought for the freedoms we enjoy, I wonder how many of them were accused of being traitors. I wonder how many times they were told, “either you love the Crown, or you don’t.” 

These folks, like frustrated Albertans of today, did not hate their country. Rather, they loved their families and communities, and they wanted to bestow future generations with the greatest gift that can be given: freedom.

Constitutions are more than legal documents. They are also symbols. The creation of an Alberta constitution would help us renew our commitment to both our ideals, and future generations. 

For, as Mr. Barnes said, “By finding equality and fairness for ourselves, we can create the framework for others to find the same.” 

Patrick Nathanson is a guest columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

Nenshi’s threat to annex surrounding communities is petty bullying

Bruce McAllister writes that Nenshi’s is threatening to annex surrounding communities to sap competition.

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi isn’t happy to rule his meagre plot of land; he wants to extend his reach beyond Calgary’s borders over rural and small town Albertans not yet under his direct watch. He’s doing such a good job keeping taxes and spending under control in Calgary that he wants control of neighbouring lands as well. Y

You can’t make this stuff up. During discussions at the Priorities and Finance Committee meeting on October 19th, Mayor Nenshi dropped the bombshell that their intergovernmental affairs committee is preparing an annexation strategy to secure new industrial lands outside their borders for the next 30 years. 

He wants to “protect” agricultural lands from simpleton farmers who do not know how to use their own land. He’s read a book and he’s ready to make it a protectorate of his city. This from the same mayor that approved 14 new communities in Calgary last year and is eyeing up the approval of 11 more. This municipal government chews up land faster than the legendary Kobayashi chews through hot dogs. 

But while expansive development on rural lands is fine within Calgary city limits, Nenshi will go to any end to stop or retard it in neighbourling municipalities. 

This should not be surprising. It is the same language of those who have his ear. Trico homes vice-president Wanda Palmer believes that rural Albertans east of Calgary represent a market loss to Calgary. These “smaller satellite communities outside Calgary” are merely a barrier to be overcome in the great Calgary sprawl experiment.

These are not protectors. They are preventers. Preventers of their neighbours from working their own land as they see fit. If you can’t beat them in the market, take control of their land, regulate it, and ensure that it does not have the same opportunities for development.  

Calgary’s mayor wants to protect agriculture lands about as badly as the rest us want to hear about a second and third COVID lockdown. This is the same mayor that loves agriculture so much that he threw a tantrum trying to stop Harmony Beef from setting up in Rocky View. In this, he attempted to quash development of a facility that have allowed ranchers and farmers excellent access and employ 500 Albertans within sight of his city. But because it would not pay taxes into his coffers, Nenshi tried to can it. Hardly the great agriculture protector in the region.

This mayor is creating one thing: economic uncertainty in the region. Investors are pulling out. This should come as no surprise to those of us following the going’s on of the Calgary Metropolitan Regional Board (CMRB). This board was set up for one reason; to quash competition and limit growth in the rural regions around Calgary. Municipalities should compete because we all win when there is choice and competition in the marketplace. If the “smaller satellite communities outside Calgary” offer better tax rates, a better way of life, and better business environments, so be it. Compete. But the CMRB eliminates this competition and NEnshi gets to decide what goes where and who gets water and servicing. It’s downright un-Albertan.

There is a way to stop this, but it requires the UCP and Premier Kenney to show renewed courage and end the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board. The premier will have to do some of the things he told us he stood for during the election campaign: enable free enterprise, protect the autonomy of local governments, defend property rights, and eliminate government systems and unnecessary boards that stop up progress. The premier can still do this by putting principle ahead of politics on this issue and stand up for rural and small-town Albertans facing Mayor Nenshi’s latest land grab.

In 1995, Premier Ralph Klein and Municipal Affairs Minister Steve West had the wisdom to eliminate central planning boards. So far, Premier Kenney, former Minister Kaycee Madu and current Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard seem incapable of doing the right thing. They’re turning a blind eye while the mighty mayor is eye-balling the land rights of rural Albertans.

Bruce McAllister is a columnist for the Western Standard, Executive Director Rocky View 2020 & is the former Wildrose and PC MLA for Chestermere-Rockyview

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Opinion

It’s time for a “Made in Alberta” economic strategy

Guest columnist CW Alexander writes that independence gives Alberta the ability to decide its own trade and economic development.

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It’s time to end the economic surrender of Alberta’s interests to foreign and Eastern interests in favour of a “Made in Alberta” strategy.

Career politicians – both federally and provincially – are quick to jump on any bandwagon, as they are “front run” by foreign jurisdictions years ahead of their own narrative, as geopolitical decisions are made, all putting international interests ahead of Alberta’s interests.

The Chinese own over 136 Alberta companies, most of which are fronts by state-owned corporations controlled by that country’s communist dictatorship. They do this to steal Albertan-developed technology, then covertly block pipelines like Northern Gateway to prevent access to competitors like Japan in the growing Taiwan-Asia border disagreements.

The Saudis buy depressed shares in Alberta’s energy companies, as Alberta’s energy businesses are crushed by sabotaging federal policies like C-48, C-69 and carbon taxes, while supplying Eastern refineries with foreign oil using shipping lines owned by Eastern Liberal family businesses.

The USMCA trade agreement maintains Quebec and Ontario’s interests while the Americans strip $25-35 billion annually in lost differentials from Alberta’s energy sector. 

U.S. President Donald Trump has backed the proposed Alberta to Alaska (A2A)rail line. If completed, this line will see commodities like grain, sulphur and potash moving in part through Alaskan ports, rather than Vancouver; another reason for Trudeau to threaten to block it

The Americans operate an under-utilized, high-cost heated pipeline in Alaska, and are looking to fill it with Alberta bitumen. The Americans will use A2A to secure their long-term position in the oil sands, as it consolidates under the stress of regulatory strangling from Ottawa.

The Chinese strip coal from Alberta to power plants in China (that have no carbon tax) for a low-cost competitive edge, and the Americans strip low valued bitumen by rail to process in similarly un-carbon taxed U.S. refineries.

Are either any different or acting in the sole interest of Alberta? They are acting in their own interests, as rational states do. 

While Canadian conservative federalists and their support for an energy corridor across Canada is 20 years behind, and the Liberal-Green-NDP alliance touts no pipelines at all. Both the Tories and the leftist bloc are either too far behind the geopolitics to make a corridor ever happen in time, or have outright disdain for Alberta respectively.

Albertans have been ripped off for decades. It’s time to get Ottawa’s, the Chinese, and at times even the Americans, out of Alberta’s proverbial cookie jar. It’s time for a made in Alberta resource strategy.

An independent Republic of Alberta would no longer be subject to federalist trade deals that sacrifice Alberta’s energy industry; freeing Albertans to maximize value of our resource wealth.

Albertans could immediately build strategic oil reserves, paid for by an Alberta military budget out of the net $41 Billion per year saved in federal taxes no longer paid to Ottawa, eliminating “end of pipe” spot pricing. This will create improved returns for Alberta businesses and the Alberta treasury, attracting additional resource investment.

Our new borders would unlock access to tidewater as we provide permission to international interests, such as China, B.C., the U.S. and the rest of Canada to cross our strategic boundary both by land and air. As others have discussed, Canada and B.C. need to cross Alberta’s borders much more urgently than Alberta need to cross theirs. 

Our energy deals will no longer be one-sided as we choose to ally with the U.S. as a logical market proximate to our borders, while remaining cognisant of the need to cultivate an international market to maximize resource value.

We will acquire strategic international assets to secure a home for our bitumen and upgraded products as we refine our own bitumen at home to the best fuel standards on Earth, building a vast hydrogen network for the future from abundant natural gas and renewable biomass. 

The economic fortune of Alberta will shift course in Albertans’ favour once a united independent Alberta is achieved. Only then will our future be in our own hands. 

CW Alexander is a guest columnist and the Executive Director of Alberta4All

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Opinion

After today’s murder, the Western Standard is republishing the “Muhammad cartoons”

In 2006, the Western Standard was one of the only media outlets on the planet to publish the blasphemous cartoons. After another murder for showing them, we are pleased to republish them again.

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In 2006, radical Islamists around the world launched a long series of riots in response to a cartoon from Denmark portraying Islam’s founder Muhammad. Most Westerners in the advanced world were left bewildered at how so much violence and death could erupt over a mere cartoon. 

Despite the widespread curiosity, nearly every single media outlet on the planet refused to reprint the blasphemous cartoons that were at the heart of the biggest story in the world for months on end. 

Every single media outlet in Canada – and almost globally – except for one: The Western Standard

While the Toronto Star and CBC were cowered by “cultural sensitivity” (sensitivity that they showed for no other group), the Western Standard ran an entire special edition on the cartoons, including the front cover. 

Rioters burn the Danish flag in protest of cartoons

This simple act of journalism landed the Western Standard in the courts, as the Canadian Human Rights Commission tried to enforce what amounted to a medieval blasphemy law under the guise of “inciting hate”. 

The cartoons were perhaps offensive to some, but they hardly constituted “hate”. In reality, this was the Canadian justice system enforcing Islamic law’s forbidding of any portrayal of their prophet.

I was a chirpy student at the radical-left Carleton University at the time. I remember proudly posting a few of the cartoons clipped from the magazine on a wall, just to see what happened. 

Since then, there have been a long string of murders related to these cartoons, and others, like the mass murder of Charlie Hebdo staff in 2015. 

In October 2020, the cartoon-blasphemy murders continue.

Reuters wire service is reporting that a Paris-area school teacher was brutally beheaded by an Islamist extremist. His crime? During a class on freedom of speech, he showed his students the cartoons forbidden by God. 

The man is believed to have screamed the traditional battle-cry, “Allah Akbar!” before beheading the blasphemer. 

The alleged killer’s Twitter account posted, “o Macron, the leader of the infidels, I executed one of your hellhounds who dared to belittle Muhammad.”

Several reports out of Europe claim that the attacker managed to upload a picture of the beheading to his Twitter account before it was taken down.

He was apprehended by police, and resisting while still armed with his knife, was shot dead. 

Blasphemy murders happen more frequently than we in North America know, because most of them are in Europe. Only when the body count reaches toward the double-digits (like the Charlie Hebdo massacre) do we read about it here.

The 2006 blasphemy charges against the Western Standard were dropped in a humiliating retreat for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and since then, there is reason to hope that at least segments of the Canadian (and Western world’s) media have been shamed out of their complacency. The coming days will tell. 

But we owe it to the victims of these murders, and to our own fundamental freedoms, to openly defy threats from medieval thugs that would take would take them away. Media outlets that claim to defend freedoms of speech and of the press, have a duty to publish them; or in the case of the Western Standard, republish them. 

Understandably, some media outlets will fear for the lives of those working there. This is a very real threat. And I can understand not publishing the cartoons on those grounds. It isn’t the right thing to do, but it is understandable. 

But media that refuse to publish these cartoons – that continue to reverberate around the world – on the grounds of sensitivity, should hand in their “free press” credentials now, and apply for a government media license

In honour of the victim of today’s blasphemy murder, and in defence of a free press, I have decided that the Western Standard will again publish some of the cartoons that have motivated the murder of so many. 

This has nothing to do with Islam, or religion for us. If anyone was murdered for displaying Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ, we would would publish it as well. Allas, 33 years and counting, nobody has.

So sit back, lock your doors, and enjoy some blasphemy.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and President of Wildrose Media Corp. dfildebrandt@westernstandardonline.com

Muhammad cartoon
Muhammad cartoons
Muhammad cartoon from Charlie Hebdo
Muhammad cartoon from Charlie Hebdo after the mass-murder of its staff
Muhammad with Jesus and the Buddha in South Park

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