fbpx
Connect with us

Opinion

WAGNER: The hopeless task of reforming Canada

Considering all of the attempts to reform confederation over the last four decades, what other option is there?

mm

Published

on

Many Albertans and other Westerners are justifiably angry about how the West is mistreated within Canada. The federal government has been deliberately thwarting the development of the West’s energy resources, thereby suppressing economic growth and prosperity. The Liberals plan to maintain this ruinous course in their effort to fight climate change. 

Despite this – and the West’s constitutionally entrenched second class status in the constitution – most Westerners are still patriotic Canadians and want the country to work. They’re willing to give Canada another chance and try to improve the country to rectify the injustices against the them. Constitutional reform is often suggested as a way to achieve this goal.

From an abstract perspective, it is very reasonable to want to try to fix Canada before giving up on it altogether. Historically, Canada has accomplished many great things and offered freedom and a superior way of life to millions of people. Who wouldn’t want to save that?

But from an historical perspective, there is a problem with trying to reform Canada: in the post 1992 (Charlottetown Accord) era, there has been a multi-partisan consensus that constitutional reform is verboten, for fear of offending Quebec. Those who have tried to break this consensus have been ignored or written off. If these people haven’t been able to achieve the kinds of changes necessary to get a fair deal for the West, what makes others think they could achieve them now?

To state this point most bluntly: if Preston Manning and the Reform Party of Canada were unable to make the kinds of changes Western Canada needs, then it can’t be done. 

The Reform Party was the West’s best chance of getting a better deal within Canada. Many of the region’s best citizens were involved. Thousands of well-meaning Westerners put all kinds of time and money into getting the party off the ground and sustaining it for a decade. It was the dominant federal party in Alberta and most of the West until it folded into the Conservative Party of Canada. There is nothing like it in Western politics today, and even if all of the groups calling for constitutional reform were amalgamated, their efforts would look miniscule beside the old Reform Party.

Many readers of the Western Standard likely recall the Reform Party fondly. They know that the initial impetus for the party was rectifying the subordinate place of the West within confederation.

In his introduction to Act of Faith, a book published in 1991 to chronicle the initial rise of the Reform Party, Ted Byfield describes the historical injustices done to the West, making a new party necessary. As he points out, during the Liberal government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, it increasingly “began to look as though Canada was a mere con game, being played out by Ontario and Quebec at the expense of the West.” 

But instead of turning to independence, most Westerners at that time just wanted fairness within Canada. So, with the Reform Party, he writes, “No longer would the West talk about ‘getting out of Canada.’ Instead the slogan became, ‘The West Wants In,’ a phrase coined by Alberta Report columnist Ralph Hedlin. It means that the West wants constitutional changes that will enable it to play a more equal role in Canadian affairs, notably a Triple-E Senate.”

The Reform Party made a tremendous effort, but ultimately got nowhere.  

The fact is that fighting for a better deal for the West within Canada has been going on, in one form or another, for decades. Besides the Reform Party, there were various other advocates for Senate reform at least since the early 1980s. Especially noteworthy is Bert Brown and his Canadian Committee for a Triple-E Senate.

Despite such great efforts, their goal was never achieved.

These people should be applauded for their efforts. It makes perfect sense to advocate reform before proposing more drastic solutions. But they worked hard, did their very best, and central Canada offered them what Central Canada will always offer discontented Westerners – nothing. 

Does anyone really think that a new Western political movement can be organized that could equal the Reform Party, let alone improve on its achievements? Because that – at minimum – is what it’s going to take to accomplish the kinds of changes necessary for the West to get a fair deal. 

In sum, over the years there have been plenty of proposals and attempts to improve the situation of the West within Canada. They have all failed for the same reason – central Canada is not interested. Central Canada is satisfied with the status quo and knows that the West is powerless to do anything about it. 

Albert Einstein defined insanity as, “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” I am reminded of this statement when I hear calls for a new deal for the West within Canada. Again, such calls are completely reasonable and should be heeded by the Laurentian elite, but hat’s not going to happen. We’ve seen this movie before many times, and the ending is always the same.

What then, is the answer? Albertans and Saskatchewanians should be thinking about the independence option. Some of us have already concluded that’s the route to go. According to a recent poll, 45 to 48 per cent of Albertans already are. 

For others, it will be very difficult to reach the same conclusion because of their love for Canada – and that’s understandable. But considering all of the attempts to reform confederation over the last four decades, what other option is there? Central Canada is not going to accept constitutional reforms giving more power to the West. Whatever our attachment to Canada, the failure of reform leaves pursuit of independence as the only remaining viable alternative to the status quo.

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include 'Alberta: Separatism Then and Now' and 'True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.'

Opinion

CAMERON: Canada has embraced medical authoritarianism

“We are a long way from a free and democratic society right now. There is nothing “democratic” about public health officials’ orders. Canadians are living in a state of medical authoritarianism where the rule of law is in tatters, and constitutionalism and democracy with it.”

mm

Published

on

As Canada faces winter 2020 and the citizens of this country are threatened by politicians with a new wave of lockdowns, it is time to take stock and consider. 

There has never been a similar six-month period in the history of Canada like the period from April to September 2020.  The massive collateral damage from the lockdowns is akin to the national self-amputation of a limb.  The self-inflicted damage has been followed by an infuriating political nonchalance at all the blood.

With each passing day, it feels more and more like a stern reminder is needed for the ruling elite: that this figurative blood flows from real people. And it is still flowing.   

Over a million jobs have been destroyed, and with them the independence and hopes and plans of millions. The despair of families thus affected is stark and palpable.  I’ve met with scores of them recently, and they stare bleakly at their prospects for the future.  

The response from the political elite? More pontification about the benefits of the lockdowns. While Doug Ford bloviates and threatens, and Justin Trudeau administers the next dose of the globalist agenda, ratings agencies like Fitch and Moody’s quietly consider the ominous implications of Canada’s ongoing hari-kari.  

Against this grim backdrop stands another ugly truth: without a shot being fired, Canada, once renowned for its liberty and constitutionalism, has submitted to medical authoritarianism. 

In Canada, the Constitution Act, 1867 apportions law-making power to either Parliament or the provincial legislatures. The Constitution requires that people have representatives who consider, debate and make laws on their behalf.

There is nothing democratic about the oppressive rule of public health officials. 

The doctors have been in charge for over six months.  In that time, it has become obvious that they are unfit to make decisions on civil governance. They know nothing about tourism. They know nothing about commerce. They know nothing about transportation or agriculture or industry. They know nothing about the Constitution or its importance to Canada’s liberal democracy. They appear to also know nothing, or at least be willfully ignorant about the social consequences of their policy decisions, like domestic violence, suicide, a failing economy and growing civil unrest. 

It turns out that public health officials do know something about authoritarianism, however. 

Public health officials made the orders that forbade walking or exercising alone in the park, or sitting alone on park benches.  A public health order prohibited the gathering of citizens in Alberta to protest the economy-destroying lockdowns, where peaceful protesters were arrested and issued $1200 tickets. It was a public health order that authorized the $900 ticket to a lone teenager in Ottawa with ADHD playing basketball by himself.   

From east to west, contradictory and confusing orders have been issued by health officials regarding everything from churches to golf courses. And, of course on masks. 

On masks, we’ve heard it all. You don’t have to wear them, they don’t do any good. No, they are like a super power – you are safe if you wear them. You must wear them if you can’t socially distance. No, you have to wear them and socially distance. You have to wear them in church, but not in the restaurants. You can go to the gym and not wear them.  You must wear them during sex.  

The inanity of it requires that doctors be deposed and the legislatures resume governance.  

A frightening progression in this medical authoritarianism was seen two weeks ago., when Dr. Jacques Girard, leader of the Quebec City public health authority, held a press conference to brag that he had ordered the arrest of two citizens and had them incarcerated at a secret location. Dr. Girard announced that the police participation was “exceptional”.  

Citizens ought to take notice of the total lack of due process in Dr. Girard’s actions. No lawyers made submissions on behalf of the “accused” persons, no impartial judge considered the constitutional issues. There was no bail hearing. The Crown was not required to “show cause” as to why the liberty interests of two Canadians should be overridden. Dr. Girard alone decided two people were “guilty”, and he decided what their “sentence” would be. 

How long can people be confined in these new secret isolation centers? No one but the health officials know.   

That’s scary. It ought to be much scarier than COVID-19, which from recent statistics from the Canadian government has a death rate thus far of .009 percent of Canadians below the age of 60.  

In Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that laws which infringe constitutional rights can only be justified in accordance with the law (meaning laws which are duly enacted by democratically-elected members of Parliament or the legislatures) and within the parameters of a free and democratic society. 

We are a long way from a free and democratic society right now. There is nothing “democratic” about public health officials’ orders. Canadians are living in a state of medical authoritarianism where the rule of law is in tatters, and constitutionalism and democracy with it. 

Jay Cameron is a guest columnist and the Litigation Manager at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. 

Continue Reading

Opinion

TERRAZZANO: It’s time for Kenney to act on citizens initiative referendums

“Citizens’ initiative is a powerful tool to give voters more influence over the laws that govern all Albertans. Kenney promised citizens’ initiative about a year ago and his government must fulfill that promise during this fall’s legislative session.”

mm

Published

on

Last November, Premier Jason Kenney promised Albertans to introduce a citizen-led referendum law, or citizens’ initiative, to “give Albertans the power to hold this and future governments to account if we do not keep our commitment to stand up for Alberta.” It’s time for Kenney’s United Conservatives to make good on their promise and pass citizens’ initiative during the upcoming fall legislative session. 

Citizens’ initiative is based on a simple, but very important principle: if legislation belongs to the people, then the people should have a direct ability to introduce laws, hold politicians accountable and repeal bad legislation. 

Citizens’ initiative has been successful in British Columbia where it allowed voters to defeat the HST after the government bungled the transition process. While not through the formal citizens’ initiative process, the power of referendums was on full display in Calgary when taxpayers voted against the Olympic bid boondoggle and in B.C. where voters shut down the proposed TransLink tax. 

After Alberta’s New Democrats imposed their carbon tax without mentioning it in their 2015 election platform, citizens’ initiative would have given Albertans the opportunity to repeal the tax.

Citizens’ initiative would also help advance Alberta’s agenda in Ottawa. On constitutional issues such as equalizationOttawa has a legal duty to negotiate with the province if a referendum results in a clear majority on a clear question. Is there any doubt that Albertans would have had that referendum by now if we had citizens’ initiative? Importantly, Alberta’s legislation must allow citizens to initiate referendums on constitutional issues. A restriction against citizen-led constitutional referendums would mean that critical issues to Albertans such as equalization and internal free trade would be off the table unless the government of the day allows it.

Citizens’ initiative in Alberta also brings us one step closer to citizen-led referendums at the federal level. Albertans need a federal party willing to include citizens’ initiative in their policy mix, and the more provinces that have citizens’ initiative on their own, the more likely we are to have a federal party adopt the policy. If, for example, Albertans pushed for a referendum to abolish the No More Pipelines Act, that would at least put the issue on the national stage more than a simple opinion poll. In fact, that may be one of the best ways to bring our energy issues into the national spotlight.

A common concern with citizens’ initiative is that it may lead to a never ending cycle of referendums. Fortunately, there’s many different referendum laws we can follow to make sure Alberta’s model doesn’t lead to political chaos while still giving citizens a fair shot at passing our laws. 

When the UCP first promised to introduce citizens’ initiative, it said that it would follow B.C.’s example where citizens must collect petition signatures from 10 per cent of registered voters in 90 days to force a referendum. That doesn’t sound so bad at first glance, but it meant collecting more than 320,000 signatures in B.C.’s last initiative attempt, which translates to more than 3,500 signatures per day. These onerous rules explain why only one referendum attempt has collected enough signatures to trigger a referendum in B.C. since citizens’ initiative came into effect in 1995. 

Contrast B.C.’s rules with the rules in California, which has a population similar to the size of Canada, but requires less than double the amount of signatures to trigger a referendum than B.C. does. If Kenney wants citizens’ initiative to be more than just window dressing, he’ll need to make sure the rules are less onerous than B.C.’s.

In the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s presentation to the province’s Democratic Accountability Committee, we advocated the Alberta government take a more middle-ground approach and follow the rules in Idaho, which require signatures for six per cent of voters to trigger a referendum. The citizens of Idaho also have 18 months to collect the required signatures. Based on the number of registered voters from the last provincial election, Albertans would need to collect about 157,000 signatures to trigger a referendum, or less than 300 signatures per day. 

Kenney should also implement a signature threshold for each electoral district to ensure interests in big cities and rural areas are both considered. 

Citizens’ initiative is a powerful tool to give voters more influence over the laws that govern all Albertans. Kenney promised citizens’ initiative about a year ago and his government must fulfill that promise during this fall’s 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.

Continue Reading

Opinion

WAGNER: W. P. Kinsella – Alberta’s famous “redneck” writer

Michael Wagner profiles the Alberta man that wrote the book behind ‘Field of Dreams”, scorned by Canada’s literary establishment.

mm

Published

on

One of Canada’s most famous fiction writers was Alberta born and bred W. P. (William Patrick) Kinsella. He’s probably best known for the fact that his book Shoeless Joe was made into the 1989 movie Field of Dreams that starred Kevin Costner and received nominations for three Academy Awards. Because of Shoeless Joe, Kinsella also won a couple of major book awards.

Kinsella’s stories tend to focus on either baseball (such as Shoeless Joe) or the lives of First Nations people. His book The Fencepost Chronicles, with fictional stories about the lives of “Indians” from Hobbema (now known as Maskwacis), won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour in 1987. Kinsella was criticized for his portrayal of First Nations people and for the offence of “cultural appropriation.” Nevertheless, he rejected such criticism, and considered the fact that his books sold well as vindication of his writing.

Interestingly, Kinsella was politically conservative and this set him apart from Canada’s literary elite. His political views are described by University of Calgary Canadian Studies professor George Melnyk in Volume Two of The Literary History of Alberta which was published in 1999. 

Literary figures in Canada tend to be leftists, with Margaret Atwood being a prominent example. Partly because of his political views, Kinsella was disconnected from Canada’s literary establishment. As Melnyk put it, “His pro-Americanism, his rejection of political correctness on such issues as appropriation of voice, and his championing of right-wing causes such as the Reform Party have isolated him from many members of the Albertan and Canadian writing community.”

Kinsella was not at all bothered by such isolation. For as Melnyk explains, “This lone-wolf image is rooted in his solitary childhood (he has acknowledged that ‘childhood is the most influential part of a writer’s life’) and an American-influenced individualism in which writing is simply a means to an economic end.”

Melnyk points out that Kinsella’s writing has been well-received by the reading public – it’s only Canada’s literary elite that found him wanting…”As a novelist, Kinsella has successfully blended both American and Canadian contexts; but the price of this popular success has been a certain ostracism by the Canadian literary establishment, where neither Kinsella’s personality, his political and literary pronouncements, nor his writing have found much favour. Despite the controversy, his writing remains popular with the general public.”

According to Melnyk, there are three distinct elements influencing Kinsella’s fiction. The first is an affinity for the loner and the outsider. “The second feature is his right-wing, pro-American sympathies which are reflective of popular sentiments in Alberta, but which are anathema to the Canadian academics with whom he has waged an ongoing battle for more than a decade. Kinsella certainly has not been averse to identifying with the image and values of a traditional Alberta redneck.”

The third element is his view of the value of commercial success: “In private-industry-oriented Alberta, he shares the popular conviction that the marketplace is the great judge of real value and success.” This view contrasts with the idea that success is determined by the favourable judgment of the academic community. Kinsella’s emphasis on the market as the standard for success reflects a much more populist view than that of many scholars in the Canadian literary establishment.

It’s likely that most successful fiction writers in Canada are left-wing, so Kinsella is very much an exception to that pattern. But if there’s going to be an exception to the leftist conformism of Canada’s literary elite, it’s only fitting that he should be an Albertan. One could even say that he was a bit of a maverick. 

Michael Wagner is columnist for the Western Standard. He has a PhD in political science from the University of Alberta. His books include ‘Alberta: Separatism Then and Now’ and ‘True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada.’

Continue Reading

Sign up for the Western Standard Newsletter

Free news and updates
* = required field

Trending

Copyright © Western Standard owned by Wildrose Media Corp.