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Opinion

ROYER: The more we want democracy, the more it slips between our fingers

Royer writes that while research shows that Canadians want a greater democratic say, the opposite trend has steadily eroded it for the last 50 years.

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Democracy has taken to the streets, but yet, autocracy is ascending. People want more freedom, yet government activism gains ground. Those who support free enterprise and personal initiative have no answers for the changing mood.  They need to consider the big picture for new ideas. . 

Two huge, fundamental changes are happening. They are like two massive tectonic plates moving imperceptibly slowly toward each other. At the collision point, the serene landscape is being thrust upward like the formation of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Once buried layers long hidden below the surface, are becoming exposed.

One plate is what sociologists have identified as a demand for a greater say by individuals in democracy.

Ronald Inglehart (University of Michigan)  identified and verified a spontaneously emerging trend (in the 1970’s). He labeled it ‘Post-Materialist thinking’. Its predecessor, ‘Materialist thinking’ was dominant from the Age of Enlightenment (late 1700’s). His research showed that those born after 1950 have an ever likelier probability of having this new world view. 

Materialists deferred to authority, sought personal advantage, acquiesced to government and expect it to help their journey to material advancement. Political structures were built with this in mind.

Post-Materialists distrust authority and seek societal solutions, rather than individual benefits. Change comes from social action groups. As time advances and materialists pass-on, this view is becoming increasingly common.

This should mean a more democratic country, but that isn’t happening. 

The other plate is that our democratic system is becoming more autocratic. Shuttering of Parliament, the PMO undermining Ministers, governing by press conference, and gagging committees are only recent examples of the advancing executive.

It started with Trudeau I. Previously we had a British Westminster system with no codified constitution and supremacy of Parliament/people. His US-style constitution made our system more American.

A US-style executive emerged in Canada. Parliament diminished in relevance. The Prime Minister’s Office went from what was then a scandalous 120 people, to about 10 times that number under his son. The Privy Council – once non-partisan – now simply enforces the PM’s bidding. Input, especially from the regions has been discarded. 

US-style checks and balances between Congress, the judiciary and the president don’t exist here. Everyone serves the PM. He even appoints judges, the leadership of the RCMP, and military, unilaterally.

The electorate seems unwilling to stop him. The PM has abducted the desire for social change for his own advantage. The PM virtue signals that social change can only happen through him.  Useful voices are amplified (waiting weeks to address railway blockades); voices of no value are disregarded (Alberta trekkers wanting jobs). Each social group perceives that if they are loyal to Justin (a friend enjoined in fighting old authority), they will get the weight of the state behind their goal.  

The history of Western civilization is littered with this strategy. The elite have used everything new to extend their command and control over the people, seldom to the benefit of the people at large. 

Disruption and absolutism will continue to advance. Voting for conservative parties will not solve  it (see the US). Dismembering the country into parts will not change anything (it’s rooted in every province). 

The political system no longer meets our changing desire for improved democracy. But the top just continually concentrates control. Inglehart’s post-materialists want more democracy but all that’s on the table are ideas that kneecap free-enterprise, reduce liberties and deliver ever larger government. 

Those that want a different outcome need to look outside the box of their current thinking act entrepreneurially and propose systemic improvements where freedom, self-initiative and democracy can all come together, maybe even benefit everyone. 

Randy Royer is a Columnist for the Western Standard, a Calgary businessman, and the author of ‘Alberta Doesn’t Fit.’

Opinion

How the CBC presented a rosey view of the Soviet Union during the Cold War

“The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history.”

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Some conservatives and libertarians like to joke that the acronym of Canada’s national broadcaster – the CBC – stands for “Communist Broadcasting Corporation.” But a post-Cold War study by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper presents information and analysis that may leave people wondering how much of a joke it really is.

Cooper studied the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for several years, and the most significant result of his efforts was the book, Sins of Omission: Shaping the News at CBC TV which was published by the prestigious University of Toronto Press in 1994. From the evidence presented in this book, it is clear that CBC TV had an affinity for the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

To conduct this study, Cooper poured over a large number of transcripts from TV broadcasts and compared what was said with the political reality of the situation being portrayed. When he began this work in the 1980s, he decided to focus on coverage of foreign affairs, and in particular, issues related to the Cold War and the Soviet Union. 

One part of the study looks at how the internal affairs of the USSR were portrayed, including the Soviet occupation and withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was a major issue at the time. The general tendency in the coverage was to make it appear that the Soviet Union was much like Canada. As Cooper puts it, “Obvious external or elemental differences, such as the absence of genuine elections, the existence of a secret police, the concentration camps, and restrictive emigration policy, were ignored, played down, or euphemized into innocuous variations of normalcy. In short, the substantive political and, indeed, cultural differences between the political regimes established by communism in the USSR and those set up by liberal democracy in the West were minimized.”

In reality, the political life of the Soviet Union was very different from Canada’s due to the brutal nature of the Marxist ideology that guided its regime. To some degree, the CBC turned a blind eye to the suffering of the people in that country, giving Canadians a misleading, sugar-coated view of the communist regime 

A major feature of the Cold War, of course, was the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. During the period studied by Cooper, there were a couple of summit meetings between the leaders of these two countries – Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan – that received considerable media coverage. Officials from both countries presented the views of their respective governments, but the CBC did not treat these statements in the same way. As Cooper puts it, “the surface meaning of Soviet accounts was overwhelmingly accepted at face value. Accounts by U.S. officials, in contrast, were severely scrutinized, and alternative visualizations were presented.” The CBC was skeptical of American claims, but rarely of Soviet claims.

There is considerably more detail in Cooper’s study carefully documenting his conclusions, but the long and the short of it is this: “The visualization of the summit meetings was remarkably consistent: the USSR was seen as a progressive and dynamic actor, the United States as a source of resistance to peace initiatives.” The CBC, Cooper writes, “advanced the vision of a progressive USSR and a dangerous United States.” 

In short, government-paid journalists in a free country – Canada – sided with one of the most oppressive regimes in history. As Cooper puts it, “CBC visualizations were ‘objectively’ in the service of Soviet propaganda.”

Cooper goes on to note that the philosophy guiding CBC coverage of US-Soviet relations was “moral equivalence.” Basically, this view assumes that the USA and Soviet Union – liberal democracy and Marxist totalitarianism – have similar virtues and vices, so one side should not be seen as morally superior to the other. 

But the “moral equivalence” position was garbage, as Cooper explains.

“The doctrine of moral equivalence, which is the articulate conceptual statement that the CBC operationalized in its coverage of the Soviet Union, ignored the most fundamental distinction in political life, the distinction between tyrannical and non-tyrannical forms of government. This omission led to such otherwise inexplicable curiosities as equating or balancing U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedeen with the Soviet invasion of that country. Moreover, some stories did more than bend over backwards or forwards to excuse the actions of a tyranny.”

So there you have it. The CBC created a smokescreen for Marxists before the fall of the Soviet Union, the ultimate “progressive” state. But it’s important to realize that during the Cold War, Canada’s taxpayer-funded state broadcaster ran interference for the most powerful Marxist dictatorship in history. 

30 years after the end of the Cold War we are left to consider: what is the CBC’s agenda for us now?

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.’

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Opinion

The NDP have become a branch of the Liberals. They may as well make it official.

“At least the Liberals got something out of it; covering up their own misdeeds. The NDP are just helping to burry the body in the woods.”

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Mark Oct. 21, 2020 on your calendars. It is the day when the federal NDP ceased to be an independent political force of any consequence in Canada. The party might hold 24 seats in the House of Commons, but it has become little more than branch plant of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals after propping his government up over an anti-corruption vote.

The NDP have long been described as Canada’s “Liberals in a hurry”. That is, that they share the Liberal Party’s fundamental convictions, but that they are more aggressive and less politically cautious in getting there. This has been true at times, as Jack Layton would use his party’s balance of power between 2004 and 2006 to exact concessions out of Paul Martin’s Liberals for more generous spending programs. It was true in much of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, when the threat of the NDP would force the Liberals to take more ardently leftist policy positions, thereby shifting the centre of political gravity.

Thomas Mulcair tried to usurp the Liberals as the dominant force on the centre-left of Canadian politics, leading to his disastrous outflanking by Justin Trudeau in 2015. Since then, the NDP has retreated to an ever more narrow brand of green-socialist purity in hopes of staying relevant in the face of a Trudeau-led Liberal party occupying most of the political space that they have traditionally settled.

What differences that now exist between the Liberals and NDP are mostly rhetorical; that the NDP sounds slightly more strident than the Liberals because it is in opposition, and does not need to govern.

Because the NDP have never formed government federally, they have never been tarred by the brush of corruption or major scandal. This has allowed them to present themselves as the “left without corruption.” Even when Paul Martin tacked left, Layton was successfully able to make this case as the Liberals melted down over the Sponsorship Scandal. Voters on the left could still vote for a party that shared their values, without being complicit in the graft of the Liberal establishment.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh put an end to that for his party on Oct. 22, 2020. A Conservative motion to create an all-party “Anti-Corruption Committee” to dive into the WE corruption scandal had the support of all opposition parties until the Liberals made the unprecedented move of declaring that if the House of Commons voted to create it, that they would consider the matter a vote of non-confidence in their government, and therefore trigger an election.

Normally, only financial matters (like the budget) and explicit motions of non-confidence, are considered confidence votes. This re-writing of constitutional convention by Trudeau now means that the Liberals can demand that Parliament – despite its minority status – pass all of their bills or else face an election.

The Conservatives as official opposition are naturally expected to oppose the government. They also have money in the bank, have completed their leadership election, and actually have at least some ideological distinctiveness from the Liberal government. They aren’t confident of winning the next election, but they can fight one in reasonable shape.

The Bloc Québécois play a different role in Parliament. They present themselves as Quebec’s home team, and have more freedom of maneuver to protect their constituent’s interests. While they (obviously) have never formed the federal government, they have consistently opposed corruption at the federal level, except in cases where it presents Quebec in a negative light (see SNC-Lavalin scandal). They don’t want a federal election, but they can likely come through one intact.

The NDP however are not election-ready. They have little money in their war-chest, and they know well that voters might not see much point in “splitting the vote” for a party with little ideological difference from the Liberals at this point. If serial “black face” photos and videos of Trudeau wasn’t enough to move woke progressives in their direction, then little will.

But by backing the Liberals in voting against the creation of an Anti-Corruption Committee, they have surrendered the last major point of distinction between themselves and the Liberals: ethics.

At least the Liberals got something out of it; covering up their own misdeeds. The NDP are just helping to bury the body in the woods.

Going back to the NDP’s roots in the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the party has had a real cultural difference from the Liberals, apart from matters of ideology. While the Liberals were the party of Laurentien bourgeois interests, the NDP/CCF began as a genuinely (if misguided) working-class party, with its base on the Prairies.

As the left became more urbane and “green”, and rural voters identifying more with the right, the party’s base shifted from a party of class warfare, to a party of urban social progress. The typical NDP voter in 1970 may have been a Saskatchewan farmer named Hank, but the typical NDP voter in 2020 is a Vancouver anti-oilsands activist named Zoe.

The NDP may still have close ties to established labour-unions, but most working-class people no longer belong to these unions, and are mostly uninterested in class warfare.

Much of this is also less to do with ideology, than to do with populist and regional politics. Until 1993, the NDP was a major player in Western Canada, and often dominant in BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. It’s often forgotten that the the Reform Party didn’t just destroy the PC Party in the West, but also the NDP. In the West at least, the NDP held the banner of anti-establishment populism, but was usurped by the Reform Party. And while the Conservative Party is a long ways away from the anti-establishment chip on the Reform Party’s shoulder, it has effectively established itself as the party of the West.

After the 2011 election, the NDP looked poised to become the party of Quebec nationalists, but found that Quebec’s ethnic politics were incompatible with its secular-egalitarian politics in Anglo-Canada. Their Quebec gains quickly melted down to the advantage of the Liberals and Bloc.

In 2020, the NDP is no longer the party of the populist anti-establishment. It is no longer the party of the West. It blew its chances at becoming the party of Quebec. It is no longer the party of the working class. It shares most of its ideological space with the Liberals and Greens. And critically, it no longer has a claim on being untrained by corruption.

In short, there is no longer a compelling reason for the NDP to continue as an independent political entity, separate and “splitting the vote” from the Liberals. The NDP would best be served at this point in making their absorption with the Liberals official.

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

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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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