The COVID-19 lockdown sought to protect the healthcare system and the most vulnerable. Health authorities quite early identified that the elderly and those with chronic conditions were most vulnerable.
Many leaders reminded us that among those most at risk were members of the Greatest Generation, the Canadian men and women who defeated the Nazi scourge. They sacrificed much to keep us from tyranny, and this was our turn to protect them, we were told.
The virus is far from extinguished and there could still be subsequent waves, so final assessments of the COVID-19 lockdown will have to wait. But now that the infection has partially slowed down and restrictions are beginning to loosen, let’s acknowledge with honesty that we failed the most vulnerable so we can begin to find effective solutions.
Quebec officials won’t stop boasting they have a lower fatality rate than some Western countries, as if comparing with Belgium (which has the worst death record among Western countries) is better than comparing Quebec with Ontario or BC. Political spin seeking to distract from the disaster in care centers for the elderly will solve nothing. The disaster has been roughly spread out in Canada, but is most prevalent in Central-Eastern Canada.
The numbers show how dreadful things are. About 4 out of 5 Canadian COVID-19 victims (double that of the United States) lived in a long-term facility. From the 5 million Canadians over age 65, about 400,000 live in long-term facilities. Current Canadian figures (May 28) show a national death rate of less than 0.02 per cent. But it increases 75 times to roughly 1.5 percent when looking at deaths among seniors. And for more precision, when we isolate the number of seniors living in care centres, the death rate jumps up 12 times to 17.5 per cent (almost the general death rate in Belgium). In some centres, every resident was infected and about 1 in 5 were fatally infected.
A death rate for the vulnerable that is 875 times greater than the general population’s is appalling. The terrible conditions plaguing some centres are only indirectly connected to the failure to protect the vulnerable. But it is the industrial warehousing model itself that must be questioned.
The atrocious infection/death rates demonstrate the high risk among concentrated populations, but the risk precedes and does not originate with the mismanagement and abuses now documented in the Canadian Forces reports for Ontario and Quebec. To find appropriate solutions, the question of abuses needs to be separated from the inherent risk in centralization and concentration.
We need more than platitudes to solve this complex issue. The prime minister’s proposed solution is to throw money at it, and there is talk of imposing federal standards. Alberta and Saskatchewan must resist Ottawa’s desire to yet again to encroach on provincial jurisdiction. Undoubtedly, people in these facilities need better pay and better work conditions, but Albertans would deceive themselves in accepting federal money as a solution.
However, the heart of it is that elderly people choose – and some have no other option but – to live in near-industrial human warehouses. The options to place care facilities under federal regulation, installing better protocols, better ventilation, with more and better paid staff will not fully mitigate the massive risk of warehousing people in large numbers. As long these care factories exist, disaster will follow when infectious pathogens enter them.
Nor will tighter constraints inside such centres to prevent high death rates during pandemics improve the quality of life for residents. On the contrary, they will erode it.
And whatever the potential solutions, governments should not take over. That would create greater problems because bureaucracy is the poorest guardian of human dignity. Besides, the public is now wiser and many would rather succumb to a virus than be subjected to isolating oppression, robbed of all indignity during one’s last days.
That leaves us with a crucial opportunity to phase out the warehousing as the demand for long-term care spaces triples over the next couple of decades. Would-be users should demand better alternatives and push the market to offer better and more varied choices. Public policy can provide incentives (not subsidies) for small-scale alternatives, away from industrial models. Sweden and Denmark offer viable and adaptable examples, variants of which were piloted in Alberta in the mid-90s.
In the shortest term, there needs to be safer solutions in the event of a COVID-19 second wave. But long-term, a variety of small-scale alternatives that uphold the dignity of residents as a high priority is the best way to atone for the current failures.
Marco Navarro-Génie is a Columnist for the Western Standard, President of the Haultain Research Institute, and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
ANDRUS: Kenney prepares to fight “all-out war” from his knees
“A constitutional convention may be the only way to keep the country together. Without one, enflamed regional anger will continue to divide the country and the viability of remaining a single nation will continue to deteriorate.”
“The only time in the Speech from the Throne that Saskatchewan was essentially mentioned was in the phase out of our energy industry workers.”
That was Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s response to the massive shift in direction signaled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Throne Speech on Wednesday. His words rang true across the West and the fight for the heart of the energy industry has ramped up yet again.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney described the Throne Speech as a “full-frontal attack” on the constitution.
“There were more policies that invade provincial jurisdiction than I could count,” said Kenney. “Alberta will continue to work with our allies across the country to focus on lives and livelihoods.”
From the reaction of the premiers, it is now clear that national unity hangs in the balance.
The announcement of ambitious legislation guaranteed to be detrimental to the interests of Westerners, pits Moe and Kenney against the full might of a federal government targeting the heart of the energy industry.
The rhetoric both have displayed in recent days highlights the rage bubbling amongst their electorates, already concerned about their futures, but rhetoric is just that.
While both premiers have talked the talk, angry citizens await firm action. In Alberta, Kenney has slow walked his Fair Deal plan to a crawl. Two of his best options – a provincial pension plan and referendum to abolish equalization – have been delayed until next fall at the earliest. Constitutional challenges, while bold in rhetoric, will take years to unwind. Strong letters are just words on a page; empty threats unless backed up with strong action.
More than ever, the need for bold leadership is of vital importance. The constitution is under attack. Western alienation, scoffed at by the Laurentian establishment and Trudeau himself, is on the rise. Further delays will only see that anger redirected at provincial governments and Premiers that are seen to be waffling. Watering down messaging in a time when strong action is needed will further weaken the fabric of national unity.
The next few months will demonstrate clearly that constitutional reform is required to strengthen national unity and provide equal footing for provinces wary of federal intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. The current constitutional order is designed to favour voter-heavy provinces, with no real defence available to smaller provinces.
A constitutional convention may be the only way to keep the country together. Without one, enflamed regional anger will continue to divide the country and the viability of remaining a single nation will continue to deteriorate.
These reforms are long past due. It’s time to recognize gravity of the situation and act. Words will simply fall on deaf ears.
Josh Andrus is a columnist with the Western Standard and the Executive Director of Project Confederation.
BYFIELD: An open letter to Jason Kenney
Vince Byfield writes that the UCP risks losing power if it does not let Albertans vote directly on its future.
Editors Note: The following guest column is an open letter from Vince Byfield
Dear Premier Kenney,
A recent Alberta poll showed the NDP tied for support with your UCP at 38 per cent, and the remaining 24 per cent broken into a variety of smaller parties, several of them sovereigntist. It appears from this poll that your unification of the right is unravelling, with some Albertans now turning to independence, and some to socialism.
The fault of this splintering of the right falls squarely on your shoulders, and your refusal to explore and explain to Albertans all of the political options available to them.
Instead, your decision to schedule a non-binding referendum on equalization two-and-a-half years after your election just isn’t good enough. You’re moving too slowly, sir. You have to do more, and you have to do it now. That’s what you were elected to do, and with each passing week you are wasting your mandate. Your base is now abandoning you, and you risk re-electing the NDP. Your foot-dragging carries the very real risk of Alberta falling into a socialist oblivion from which it may never recover.
All because you are not doing the right thing for Albertans. Clinging to a confederation that is so unbalanced, so unstable that it has to rob Albertans en masse to bribe Quebecers to stay in Canada is madness. And yet this, Premier Kenney, is precisely what you are perpetuating with your procrastination. Wasting precious time like this effectively buries our children and grandchildren with $200 million more crippling debt every single week.
Enough is enough. This must to stop. By continuing to do nothing constructive to correct Alberta’s biggest grievance, conservative Albertans are left with no choice but to chart a future with someone who will.
As I see it, Albertans have three options: one, remain in confederation; two, become an independent nation; or three, become Americans. Yet of those three options you support the first, dismiss the second, and ignore the third. Why is that? Why do you appear to be going to great lengths to hide the third option from Albertans?
We have tried and failed with option one. We have been a part of confederation for 115 years. There are clear inequalities which we have endeavored earnestly for decades to repair. Time and time again, the rest of Canada has rejected us. Now they don’t even bother to respond. It’s clear to any Albertan with any semblance of common sense that further attempts to work within option one is futile and hopeless. Ottawa politicians are tired of listening to useless whining, and quite frankly, so are Albertans.
Option two is by no means the cure all. Becoming an independent nation of four million souls surrounds us with one nation ten-times our size (the rest of Canada, now angry at our departure) and the other a hundred-times our size (the United States, now self-sufficient in oil and protectionist). History shows us how large nations typically treat much smaller ones, and it is not pretty. Yet, in spite of this dismal future, many Albertans are now so mad about Canada that they see independence as their only recourse. They believe this because their leaders – like you – are not informing them of the third option.
You promised transparency in your government, but then you choose to black out 134 pages – or 90 per cent – of the Fair Deal Panel’s documentation. The idea of conducting a public inquiry and then refusing to let the public see what it found is confusing a great many of your supporters. It is clear you are hiding something. What are you so desperately trying to keep away from Albertans? Why was the third option not even discussed?
When Albertans carefully consider all three options – when the fog of anti-American rhetoric is given time to clear – becoming part of the United States stands out as the only really sensible solution.
Here is the roadmap to Alberta statehood as I understand it. First, we must hold a referendum on independence. The United States cannot recognize or negotiate with Alberta until we sever ties with Canada by having the majority of Albertans vote in favour of independence from Canada. This referendum essentially serves as a declaration of independence.
The biggest benefit of a successful independence referendum is that it effectively serves notice to Ottawa that the equalization and other transfers are over. The Canadian government and its revenue agency would no longer have any standing on Alberta soil. Albertans will file their income taxes – all of their income taxes – with the new national Alberta government. Along with the end of equalization payments the begging to Ottawa will no longer be necessary.
Once we declare ourselves independent, Albertans are well advised to schedule a second referendum swiftly to determine how many Albertans would then want to become a part of the United States of America. If passed, Alberta would then formally apply to be admitted as a territory or protectorate of the United States.
This is not a new path. It has essentially been followed in the vast majority of cases since the first 13 colonies declared independence and formed the United States of America. Other than the original 13 Colonies, most states that joined the union were first unincorporated US territories. We would be following in the footsteps of what would later grow, prosper, and become powerful states in their own right, like California.
Alternatively, Alberta could follow the path of Texas, which was admitted directly to full statehood quickly after declaring its independence from Mexico.
Being a territory or protectorate of the United States is not the same as being a state. Statehood would be an option at a later time and would require a third referendum by Albertans. However, US territorial status gives Albertans at least three very important benefits right away.
First, instant US citizenship to every Albertan and the freedom to travel, work and trade anywhere in that great nation. Furthermore, Americans are free to travel and, more importantly, invest in Alberta. This means badly needed jobs will return. Business will be able to thrive. Albertans will be able to enjoy real freedom and real prosperity once more.
Second, immediate US military protection. When the most powerful nation on the planet vows to defend Alberta, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knows that sending Canadian soldiers onto Alberta soil would be impossible. Therefore, US territorial status assures a peaceful resolution for Albertans whatever they decide to do next.
Third, freedom to leave the United States at a later date. Being a US territory – and not a state — means Albertans are not obligated to remain a part of the United States. Albertans would be given the freedom and time to heal and consider the future that is best for ourselves.
As a US territory, we even have the freedom to return to Canadian confederation, should Albertans decide to forgive Ottawa and Quebec for their swindles of the past 115 years.
Critically, Alberta would have the right to negotiate the terms of entering the American union. This contrasts with Alberta’s entry into confederation in 1905, which was unilaterally dictated by Ottawa without any negotiation or consultation.
We may also decide to remain as a US territory. This gives us all the freedoms and benefits described above, but US territorial status does have one important price: no political representation in Congress. As a territory, we may not be able to elect Alberta senators or Albertans to the House of Representatives, but we will be able to vote for the next president. This means that Alberta’s liberals and socialists will be free to vote for the Democrats, and conservatives for the Republicans.
Most importantly, as a US territory – and no longer crippled by Quebec’s multi-billion-dollar ransom payments – Albertans would be able to focus on what we do best: working hard and prospering.
Premier Kenney, you still have time, but not much. I propose you schedule a referendum on our independence to be held no later than Alberta Day, August 3, 2021. If you do this, I predict that your base will return – their confidence in you restored – and the nightmarish possibility of another NDP Alberta reign of error banished to the realm of socialist dreams.
Failure to follow through on this proposal puts your supporters in a difficult situation. Failure to show real leadership for Albertans means we have little choice but to find a real leader with the guts to do the job. Are you that leader? I hope and pray your answer is yes, but am prepared to act if you are not.
Please accord Albertans the courtesy of a response and your reasons. If those reasons are examined and found wanting, be assured that conservative Albertans will not sit idly by while you continue to wreck our province. We will act.
Jason, no one would regard your position as enviable. Your love of Canada is without question. We all love Canada. But when put to the test, when forced to choose between Canada and the calculated destruction of Alberta, the needs of Albertans must be your highest priority.
Vincent Byfield is manager of SEARCH, publisher of the 12-volume history series “The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years” and other history books. Since 1973 Vince has worked with his father, Ted Byfield, to publish Alberta Report Newsmagazine and his brother, Link Byfield, who was elected in 2004 as an independent senator-in-waiting for Alberta.
TERRAZZANO: Alberta needs recall legislation now
“Recall rules would be a big step towards reaffirming the role of citizens as boss. It’s time for Kenney to make good on his promise and pass recall legislation during the upcoming fall legislative session.”
When most of us stink at our jobs, we get sent packing. That standard doesn’t apply to politicians, who don’t need to worry about impressing their boss, taxpayers, outside of an election every four years.
Fortunately, Premier Jason Kenney promised to change that by introducing recall legislation.
“Albertans want their MLAs to be accountable to them. That’s why a United Conservative government would introduce a Recall Act allowing voters to fire their MLA in between elections if they have lost the public’s trust,” Kenney said while on the campaign trail ahead of the 2019 provincial election.
“Empowering citizens to hold their MLAs to account will strengthen Alberta democracy.”
The most obvious benefit of recall legislation is allowing voters to hold misbehaving politicians accountable more than once every four years. Recall legislation in British Columbia helped citizens give former MLA Paul Reitsma the bootwhen he got caught sending fake letters to the editor.
There are several examples where recall could have been used by Alberta voters.
Take the case of former premier Allison Redford. It took months of mounting political pressure over expense scandals, including the infamous $45,000 South Africa trip, for internal political machinery to finally force her to step down. Or consider former Lethbridge coun. Darlene Heatherington, who refused to step down after being charged with fabricating a story about a stalker. In both cases, recall could have been a handy accountability tool for voters, who should be the ones making these decisions.
The on-going scandal over Calgary’s Coun. Joe Magliocca’s expenses is another example where citizens should have the ability to hand out a pink slip through the recall process.
Ensuring citizens can hold their elected officials accountable is crucial, but just as important is the role that recall rules could play in discouraging politicians from messing up in the first place. It doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to understand that a politician will think twice before blowing tax dollars on steaks and martinis if there’s a chance they could have to face the voters immediately rather than in four years.
Alberta’s recall rules must be extended to the local level, so voters have the same ability to hold local councillors and mayors accountable as they will with MLAs. Fortunately, the government’s last throne speech promised exactly that.
“To further make life better for Albertans, my government will undertake significant reforms to strengthen democracy in Alberta, including the tabling of … a recall act, allowing constituents to remove their MLAs, municipal councillors, mayors, and school board trustees from office between elections,” reads the speech.
When designing recall legislation, Kenney must make sure the requirements to force a by-election aren’t too onerous. Beyond the Reitsma example, there hasn’t been any successful recall campaigns in B.C. This is partly because of B.C.’s onerous requirement to collect signatures for more than 40 per cent of eligible voters in that district in 60 days.
This threshold puts B.C. at the upper limit when compared to American states, where the most common requirement is to have 25 per cent of votes cast in the last election to sign the petition to trigger a byelection. A 25 per cent threshold would be a good starting point for Alberta’s recall rules to balance political stability with accountability, and is what the Canadian Taxpayers Federation recommended in our presentation to the Alberta government’s Democratic Accountability Committee. The most important thing to remember when thinking about signature thresholds, however, is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Albertans need recall now, and politicians can always tinker with the requirements down the road to make improvements.
Recall rules would be a big step towards reaffirming the role of citizens as boss. It’s time for Kenney to make good on his promise and pass recall legislation during the upcoming fall legislative session.
Franco Terrazzano is the Alberta Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. This column is an abbreviated version of the presentation he made for the Alberta government’s Democratic Accountability Committee.
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EXCLUSIVE: CN Rail to send emergency propane shipments to Quebec
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ANDRUS: Trudeau has bet double-or-nothing on Freeland to pacify with West
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