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FILDEBRANDT: Western support for Lewis defies the Laurentian media’s stereotypes

As Publisher of the Western Standard, I owe Leslyn Lewis and her supporters an apology for not taking her seriously enough. The government-sponsored Laurentian media, owe Western Conservative members an apology for considering them too bigoted to vote for her.

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To listen to the homilies of the CBC and Toronto Star, media consumers in the East can be forgiven for writing off Westerners are a bunch of racist, knuckle-dragging hillbillies. It’s a stereotype so embedded in the Laurentian consensus as to be an article of faith. 

“Conservatives are racist”, and “Westerners are racist”, ergo, Conservative Westerners will vote based on their racist worldviews. 

But for two federal Conservative leadership cycles in a row, Western Conservative voters have defied this alleged truism. Beneath the government-sponsored media’s obsession with the two “front-runner” candidates, ran the insurgency campaign of Leslyn Lewis. The evangelical Christian black woman from Toronto came within a stone’s throw of becoming a possible prime minister. To the old media, Conservatives – most especially Western Conservatives – would never vote for a black woman. 

Instead, the CBC filled its airtime with fawning praise of U.S. Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris; who, depending on the day of the week, is either America’s first Indian-American senator, or America’s first African-American candidate for Vice-President. Almost ignored, was Leslyn Lewis coming close to becoming the first person of colour to lead one of Canada’s two major political parties, and first (elected) female prime minister. 

To be fair, Lewis came out of nowhere. She had never before held elected office, or had any public profile beyond her local community. Admittedly, the Western Standard did not take her campaign as seriously as we should have. But unlike the old media, this had nothing to do with Laurentian perceptions of Western Conservatives. But simply – that without any backing by the Tory establishment – that she couldn’t get over the line. Something which ultimately proved true. 

So how did the hillbilly Westerners vote? On the first ballot, Lewis carried snow-white Saskatchewan by a commanding lead. In B.C., she was locked in a near three-way tie with Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay. Same goes for Manitoba. In Alberta, she placed a close second behind Erin O’Toole. 

Things became much more interesting on the second ballot. Social conservative Derek Sloan’s down-ballot choices went to Lewis in overwhelming numbers. In every single Western province, Lewis pulled ahead, leading from Victoria to Winnipeg. Her biggest leads were in Confederation’s pariah prairie provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

In fact, had it not been for MacKay’s precious “weighted-by-riding” voting system – which massively waters down Western votes to pump up Quebec and the Atlantic – Lewis would likely be the leader today. On the second ballot, Lewis won the popular vote with more than 60 thousand votes, beating out O’Toole at 59,000 and MacKay at 54 thousand. But the voting system being what it was, she was dropped off the ballot and her voters’ second choices redistributed. Considering the hostility between the two “front runners” (who were in second and third place in the popular vote), chances are that MacKay’s second-choice votes would have gone to Lewis, pushing her over the line. 

In consolation to Lewis, she has gone from an ‘also-ran’ candidate in an unwinnable urban Toronto riding, to the clear rising star of the Conservative Party. She is now the party’s clear standard bearer of the conservative-right.

This is now the second Conservative leadership election in a row that the West has voted for someone other than their own. 

In 2017, Maxime Bernier carried every Western province, less Andrew Scheer’s home of Saskatchewan. The heavily accented Quebecer’s strongest performance was in the hyper-Anglo rural southern Alberta, the beating heart of Wildrose Country. That Bernier won over the most rock-ribbed conservative corner of Alberta was a testament that whatever dislike of Quebec politics, prairie conservatives counted Bernier’s policies and principles first. 

Western Conservatives have voted successively for a Francophone Quebecer and a black Toronto woman. They did so in defiance of the Laurentian view of them as backward, toothless rednecks, and because people here vote less on identity politics, and more on policy. 

As Publisher of the Western Standard, I owe Leslyn Lewis and her supporters an apology for not taking her seriously enough. The government-sponsored Laurentian media, owe Western Conservative members an apology for considering them too bigoted to vote for her. 

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

Opinion

WAGNER: Kenney needs to follow Moe’s lead in putting someone in charge of provincial autonomy file

Michael Wagner writes that Scott Moe’s appointment of an MLA responsible for the autonomy file should be replicated in Alberta.

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Shortly after an election that saw surprisingly strong support for the new independence-minded Buffalo Party, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe assigned his new legislative secretary the task of exploring how his province could “exercise and strengthen” its powers within Canada. This legislative secretary, MLA Lyle Stewart, explained that “there is more work to do in standing up for Saskatchewan’s interests within Canada.” 

Moe has already joined other premiers in launching a legal challenge to Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax, replaced the federally appointment firearms officer with a provincially appointed one, establishing trade offices in Asia, and is discussing provincial control over immigration. The legislative secretary can focus on how to build on these initiatives. Having an official charged with this responsibility sends a message that Saskatchewan is fed up with the status quo and is serious about considering new measures.

Appointing an MLA responsible for exploring provincial autonomy is a good idea and one that should be emulated by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. Last year he appointed the Fair Deal Panel to gather input from Albertans about their views on how to improve the province’s position within Canada. The panel conducted its work and released its report, which many – including one MLA on the panel – saw as being weak. Appointing an MLA dedicated to working on this file would demonstrate that the premier is serious about addressing the ongoing challenges Alberta faces from the federal government and the prime minister’s hostility to the energy industry.

If he really wanted to up his game, Premier Kenney could borrow ideas from a proposal advanced by retired University of Alberta political scientist Leon Craig. In an August 2019 article for C2C Journal entitled, “Alberta Needs A Minister Of Independence Preparation,” Professor Craig recommended creating an entire government department with the responsibility to develop a plan for an independent Alberta. As he explains, “Since declaring independence would involve major changes in how governmental business is done, it is not a step to be taken without having thoroughly thought through the practical difficulties and prepared accordingly. Thus we need a cabinet minister charged with that responsibility – the Minister of Independence Preparation (MIP).”

Needless to say, that would be a bridge too far for Premier Kenney. However, establishing a ministry, or an agency within an existing ministry, to plan and implement the best recommendations of the Fair Deal Panel (as a starting point) would be a meaningful and effective way to demonstrate that Alberta will no longer passively accept the status quo.

This new ministry could be charged with developing blueprints for establishing an Alberta provincial police force, enacting provincial control of tax collection, and creating an Alberta Pension Plan. 

If Trudeau continues to block opportunities for Alberta to develop and export its petroleum products, the ministry could expand its work into developing proposals for an independence referendum and establishing contacts with foreign governments that may be sympathetic to Alberta’s plight. Public information sessions about the process outlined in the Clarity Act could be initiated to create widespread discussions among Albertans about options for the province’s future. 

Of course, whether Premier Kenney was to appoint a legislative secretary for this purpose – or create a ministry – the obvious person for the job would be Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Drew Barnes. Barnes has distinguished himself as an outspoken advocate for Alberta, more so than any other sitting MLA.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that any such position or ministry will be established in the near future. Were he to do so, Premier Kenney could show he is serious about changing Alberta’s relationship with the rest of Canada, fire up his increasingly disenchanted base, put meaningful pressure on Justin Trudeau, and drive the NDP into apoplectic summersaults. That sounds like a winning combination to me.

Michael Wagner is a 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.’

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Opinion

LETTER: Trump is undermining democracy

A reader says that Trump intentionally lies to destabilize and undermine the people’s trust in their public institutions.

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RE: Biden projected to win the presidency (assuming courts agree)

Trump has a lot of media savvy, and his strategy is to continue to engage and manipulate the media, to make sure the cameras are on him – not Biden.

He does that by constantly baiting the media with all kinds of lies and claims a hungry media readily responds to like he was throwing them small chunks of political ‘raw meat’ because he knows the media will respond by promoting, speculating, and arguing credibilities and probabilities for days, sometimes weeks, depending on how ‘juicy’ it is, and he will continue to scream – ‘I never lost’ – till he is a shadow on the horizon:

He will forever insist he won the election while insisting Biden is stealing it.

He will continue to scream fraud and fake till he dies.

He will continue to feed the media and the public misinformation to destabilize and undermine the people’s trust in their public institutions, including the democratic process.

He is a very sick boy.

Andy Thomsen
Kelowna, BC

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Opinion

CATHCART: Know your rights on mandatory facemasks

“In short, the local municipal governments are on shaky legal ground in imposing mask by-laws. Businesses in mandatory-mask municipalities are only enforcing what they are told to do, and businesses that voluntarily impose mask requirements have a right to do so as private, non-government entities, with several “human rights” caveats.”

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Anyone who has left their house in recent months knows that the rules on mandatory face masks are hardly uniform. In some places there are no masking requirements at all. Some stores insist on masks, some do not.  

Only in situations where the requirement to wear a mask is forced on an individual by a government body, or by a government order or law, does the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply. That is, if a business is not required by government to enforce the wearing of facemasks – but does require them of their own accord – the Charter does not apply. 

A store doesn’t have to follow the Charter, they aren’t the government. However, they are required by law to comply with the applicable provincial human rights code. Businesses and private companies are legally allowed to require that employees, customers, clients, or visitors to their premises wear face masks. Stores and companies have a general right to refuse service to anyone, provided that they still comply with human rights legislation. Businesses cannot discriminate based on grounds like race, religion, creed, physical disability, mental disability, etc. 

If someone is unable to wear a mask because of a mental disability, such as claustrophobia, a business would be engaging in illegal discrimination if it denied services to such a person for not wearing a mask, and did not provide some form of reasonable accommodation. 

A requirement to wear a mask as a condition of employment, or as a condition to receive a service, may be discriminatory toward people with exemptions. If a business denies such a person service or employment because they refuse to wear a mask, that denial may form a legally valid basis for a human rights complaint. 

Some people refuse to wear a mask for religious reasons. Other people cannot or should not wear masks because of various medical and health conditions. Many of the municipal bylaws are worded broadly enough to exempt those with “health concerns” or ” health conditions”, including mental conditions like claustrophobia. Laws must not disproportionately punish the vulnerable who are unable to wear masks. 

There are jurisdictional questions regarding mask bylaws, as well. Cities have no inherent jurisdiction to enact laws because they are entirely creatures of statute: their power is delegated from provinces through legislation. If a province has chosen not to enact mandatory masking requirements, then what empowers a municipality to do so?  The answer may well be “nothing”. 

Despite the poor drafting of mask bylaws and jurisdictional and constitutional issues, a legal challenge to them is not guaranteed to be successful. Hard data now demonstrates that the virus has a survivability rate of 99.98 per cent, but the mask requirements remain. 

If a store or service accommodates non-mask wearers with curbside pickup, online shopping, or some other alternative, a provincial human rights commission would likely rule that sufficient accommodation has been provided. 

An individual is typically not required to disclose his medical condition to any store, service, restaurant or facility, provide proof of exemption, or discuss religious beliefs. Individuals are not required to prove that they have a mask exemption. 

If asked to wear a mask, you can reply, “I can’t wear a mask.” A store or company can ask if you have a doctor’s note due to ignorance of the law, however, you are under no legal obligation to provide a note, discuss your medical condition, or get into detail about why you cannot or will not wear a mask. The exception to this is if you file a Human Rights Complaint. You are likely going to be required to provide proof as part of the complaint process. 

The mask exemption cards that are circulating on the internet are merely symbolic. While some stores may accept them because they look like an “official” piece of paper, they have no legal weight. 

Legally, the question of mask bylaws remains circumstance-dependent and uncertain. Scientists and doctors disagree on the benefits of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ultimately, the constitutionality of requirements to compel non-medical masks can only be determined by a court after it considers all factors, including the fundamental rights of liberty, security of person, freedom to make ones’ own medical decisions, and the right to control ones’ own body and bodily integrity. 

Some insist that masks are like seatbelts, and since the government requires seat belt use as a precaution, it also ought to require mask use. The comparison between face-masks and seatbelts is a poor one, however. Seatbelts are extensively standardized, factory- and crash-tested and customized for each age group, weight, model of car, etc. Non-medical masks and fabric masks are not tested, standardized or even customized, and there are zero studies on the safety of masks for children, or long-term wearing of masks for eight hours or more a day, seven days a week. Further, seatbelts do not interfere with an individual’s breathing, or cover one’s face, which is a fundamental and personal part of existence, and also involves the most visible part of human identity.

No one can physically force you to cover your face in a free country, however you may have to shop in stores that welcome all customers regardless of disability or condition. Stores may choose to enforce the mask bylaw on their premises, but customers will likewise choose not to spend their hard-earned money in that store. In this economy, can stores afford to turn away customers?  

Importantly, medical offices, hospitals, and nursing homes are the most difficult places to exercise a mask exemption. These are places full of sick people, where the risk of catching any kind of cold, flu or virus is high and can result in death. However, Alberta Health Services produced a COVID information instruction sheet  which clearly stated: “No patient shall be denied service in AHS because they cannot or will not wear a mask.” This has since been removed from the original website.

In short, the local municipal governments are on shaky legal ground in imposing mask by-laws. Businesses in mandatory-mask municipalities are only enforcing what they are told to do, and businesses that voluntarily impose mask requirements have a right to do so as private, non-government entities, with several “human rights” caveats. 

Know your rights.

Marnie Cathcart was a reporter and journalist for more than 15 years and is Director of Communications at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms

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