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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

LETTER: No social conservatives for next Tory leader

A reader says that Peter MacKay should be the next Tory leader because he is a social progressive.

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Outgoing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer recently stated his belief that the PM can be “socially conservative” and that only the Trudeau Liberals “demonize such views”.

Wrong Mr Scheer, as a card carrying member of your party, I can tell you for a fact that we lost the last election precisely because you would not publicly support both existing abortion rights and LGBT equality. I am already convinced that the Trudeau Liberals will win the next election too, because all of your would be successors have stated that as PM, they would allow their backbencher MPs to bring forth anti-abortion legislation, although both MacKay and O’Toole have stated that they would not personally support such motions when they come up for a vote in Parliament.

We are never going to beat the Trudeau Liberals in this day and age, especially in the large cities & suburbs, until we finally make peace as a political party with existing abortion rights and LGBT equality.

MacKay may be marginally better than the rest of the pack in this sense. 

Frank Sweet
Brandon, Manitoba 

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Opinion

GRAFTON: Trudeau cannot lead a nation that he doesn’t believe in

“Distrust in government, a disproportional electoral system, mass immigration, and other factors are poised to meet at the polls next election in a perfect storm of disunity.”

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In November 2015, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave an interview to the New York Times. It was an historic interview, during which the Prime Minister signaled his disdain for Canada as a nation with any kind of unique cultural identity. He said that Canada has no core identity, and that it is “becoming a new kind of country, not defined by our history or European national origins, but by a pan-cultural heritage”. He went on to say that he sees Canada as the “first post-national state”. 

Almost six million Canadians – mostly east of Manitoba – supported his vision at the polls in 2019.

The critical take-away here is the clear statement of a “post-national” goal. Post-nationalism involves the global replacement of national identities and nation-states with multicultural supranational entities such as NATO, the UN, the EU, and multi-national corporations.

Disunity now threatens Confederation.

DART poll conducted on February 24th shows that an alarming sixty-nine percent of Canadians believe “Canada is broken”. Eighty-two percent of Canadians believe that politicians represent their own partisan interests rather than those of Canada. 

The Electoral Map resembles a cancerous MRI scan, vividly coloured tumours highlighting patches of tribal discontent from coast to coast. 

poll conducted for the Western Standard in May found that between 45 and 48 of Albertans back independence, depending on how the question was put. Soon after, Wexit Alberta and the Freedom Conservatives merged to form the Wildrose Independence Party, also with a credible leader in the original Wildrose’s first leader, Paul Hinman. 

The Bloc Quebecoise holds 32 seats in the House of Commons, giving it the balance of power on national legislation. 

What led to this great divide?

We could attribute it to a lack of national leadership, however blaming it all on Trudeau would be too easy. There are other causal and contributing factors.

One is the electoral system. The “plurality system”, also known as “first-past-the-post”, is responsible for the 2019 re-election of the Trudeau government, with only a third of the popular vote. More Canadians voted for Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives. This marginalized the West – which had voted solidly Conservative – and contributed immediately to the formation of the Wexit Party federally, the Wildrose Independence Party in Alberta, and the Buffalo Party in Saskatchewan. Trudeau had campaigned in 2015 on a platform promising electoral reform, but abandoned his promise after taking office. Of course, had he followed through with electoral reform, he would have lost to Scheer in 2019 and we would have a Conservative government in Ottawa, or at the very least, a Conservative plurality of seats. 

The reality of the first-past-the-post system is that Ontario (121 ridings) and Quebec (78 ridings) can  determine who wins an election. With 338 ridings across the country, a plurality of 199 seats invalidates the other eight provinces and three territories (with only 139 seats combined). The electoral system therefore sows disunity.

Another causal factor may be found in demographics. A 2019 poll conducted for CBC showed that while indigenous voters were abandoning the Liberals, immigrants overwhelmingly support Trudeau and the Liberals. According to the poll, “Forty-five per cent of new Canadians polled say they voted for the Liberals in 2015 and 39 per cent say they currently intend to vote for the party in 2019.” Under the Trudeau government, immigration levels have soared to record high levels, with the 2022 annual target set at 361,000 (comparable to adding a city the size of say London or Halifax every year). Using the CBC numbers, that represents an influx of 141,000 to 162,000 new Liberal voters annually to Canada. 

The 2011 National Household Survey revealed that most immigrants (86 per cent) are from non-European countries, and that 20 per cent of the population (6.8 million) were born outside of Canada. Almost all (95 per cent) move to Ontario, BC, Quebec, and Alberta; most (91 per cent) in large cities, and most of these in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Unfamiliar with Castor canadensis, new immigrants are a large voting block inhomogeneous with national voting trends. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver voted Liberal in 2019. Forty-five of fifty ridings in the GTA alone elected Liberal members. For comparison, there are only thirty-four ridings in all of Alberta. This trend will continue to marginalize the West.

Contributing to national disunity is an erosion of trust in the democratic process. Globally, voters are disengaging from mainstream politics and polarizing toward niche parties serving special-interests (Bloc Quebecoise, Green Party, and Wexit

Distrust in government, a disproportional electoral system, mass immigration, and other factors are poised to meet at the polls next election in a perfect storm of disunity.

 It may be a tipping point for Canada’s future.  

Canadians awoke on the morning of October 22nd, 2019 to a crisis of disunity. The prime minister cannot recognize a national crisis if he does not recognize the nation. 

Ken Grafton is a freelance columnist

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Opinion

LETTER: BLM mural is expensive virtual signalling

A reader says that Calgary’s mayor and councillors that want the BLM mural can pay for it themselves, and shouldn’t paint over what’s there already.

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This BLM [Black Lives Matter] progressive virtual signalling by Calgary City Council has gone too far.  Look farther into BLM and you will see a well organized political movement. Now, funded by City Council to the tune of $120,000 of our taxpayers dollars for BLM murals in Calgary that helps this political movement. How does that help taxpayers Mayor Nenshi? 

 A respected Calgary artist, Doug Driediger, gave us (1995) Giving Wings to the Dream. Which in my opinion deserves respect from a virtual signalling city council. Our city is in a financial crisis, but city hall seems to find cash for pet projects that make little sense to hard working people who are just making it.  

Why are we, as a city funding this mural? It’s not public art, but it is a political statement from a BLM political movement! If BLM wants to paint murals, then BLM can fund that themselves and I hope not erase (paint over) a mural that may Calgarians have enjoyed over the years in downtown Calgary.  

Easy to virtual signal for a cause when it comes out of the taxpayers pockets Mayor Nenshi. You and city council want BLM murals then chip in and pay for it yourselves.  

It’s time for a change at City Council, time for a change from progressive virtual signalling councillors to fiscal responsible councillors who won’t get caught up in political movements and then pass the bill onto the taxpayers so they can pat themselves on the back. 

Respect of cultures all cultures.  

Steven Ruthven
Calgary, AB

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