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WAGNER: True Patriots – New book portrays a violent fictional Alberta independence movement

Michael Wagner reviews ‘True Patriots’, which depicts a fictional Alberta independence movement employing terrorism to get its way.

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A few short months after the October, 2019 election – and the explosive rise of Wexit – a new novel about the Alberta independence movement was released. True Patriots by Russell Fralich, a Montreal business professor, was published by Dundurn Press, one of the largest Canadian-owned publishers. 

While timely, True Patriots unfortunately portrays supporters of Alberta independence in the worst possible way. In this story there are two main components of the movement: an organization actually named the Alberta Independence Movement, and the leadership of the Alberta Conservative Party. The first is comprised of knuckle-dragging white supremacists who are gathering American military weapons to defend an independent Alberta following a referendum; the second is comprised of sophisticated political operatives, motivated by personal ambition and lust for power. There’s nothing sympathetic about any of these characters.

In contrast, the two protagonists of the story are Daniel Ritter, a business professor in Halifax, and Lieutenant Commander Claire Marcoux, a Royal Canadian Navy ship’s captain, originally from Montreal. 

Marcoux becomes involved in this story when her coastal patrol ship intercepts and sinks a small vessel smuggling weapons from the United States to the east coast of Canada – weapons which are destined for the “the good ol’ Brownshirt boys” of the Alberta Independence Movement. 

Ritter – the professor – becomes involved when a prominent business leader he is scheduled to meet is assassinated moments before the meeting. As it turns out, the assassination was carried out on the orders of the businessman’s estranged son, Garth Haynes – the manager of the pro-independence side of Alberta’s upcoming sovereignty referendum.

Early in the book Haynes explains to CTV News that, “Our message is merely the natural continuation of a movement that’s taken decades to prepare. It all started with the CCF, then Social Credit, the Reform Party, and the simple cry of ‘The West Wants In.’” He then states that Eastern Canadians have become “mostly a smouldering pile of Socialists intent on confiscating the West’s bounty as their own.”

Haynes works under Premier Brewster of Alberta, the provincial Conservative leader and also the leader of the Yes side in the Alberta referendum. Brewster explains what he plans to do after winning it: “First, we have to negotiate with the Americans. Otherwise, they’ll just roll over us. Our oil will help guarantee that they have enough for at least a generation, even if there are problems with the Saudis or Iran or Venezuela. We could become their fifty-first state. I’ll become governor. We’ll have two senators and a dozen or so congressmen.”

While managing the independence campaign, Haynes is also secretly organizing weapons shipments from the U.S. to be used to arm the “goose-stepping goons” of the Alberta Independence Movement. Commander Marcoux, however, intercepts both shipments. Haynes’ weapons gambit, as well as his responsibility for a terrorist bomb attack in Halifax, are discovered by Daniel Ritter, who is able to publicly reveal them – in the nick of time – when he’s interviewed on TV the day before Alberta’s referendum. 

With the Alberta independence movement exposed as a bunch of terrorists, the referendum fails: “CTV, Global, and CBC announced that the referendum was officially defeated, with the No side winning by a narrow margin of 2.7 per cent. Premier Brewster resigned thirty minutes later, holding his distraught-looking wife, their two photogenic blond kids, but not holding back his tears.” Canada is saved.

The distasteful part of this book is that Alberta independence supporters are portrayed in just about the vilest way possible – essentially, they are all terrorists and/or narcissists. People who are familiar with Alberta’s real independence movement will not be able to recognize its proponents as they are characterized here.

In terms of literary quality, however, the book succeeds. It is well-written and exciting, making it easy and enjoyable to read (if you can overlook the way Alberta patriots are depicted). And it is noteworthy that the book completely avoids any gratuitous sex scenes, which in this day and age is a significant accomplishment for a novelist. 

Here again – like the earlier book Alberta Alone – a novel portraying the Alberta independence movement as sinister and violent highlights the need for a new stream of creative writing from someone familiar with Alberta – someone who can express the frustrations many Albertans feel about the province’s inferior status within Canada. Properly done, a novel with a plausible portrayal of Alberta independence from a sympathetic perspective could contribute to a broader understanding of Western grievances and the need to start a new country.

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

GRAFTON: Wexit’s morph into the Maverick Party a big missed opportunity

“Westerners are looking for alternatives, and one can’t help thinking that Wexit has missed an opportunity to become a mainstream, credible party, with a real chance of sending members to Ottawa following the next election.”

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On September 17th, Wexit Canada leader Jay Hill announced that they were jettisoning their catchy portmanteau, and had registered a new name with Elections Canada. Wexit Canada is now the Maverick Party.

The new name immediately became fodder for satirists, who drew comparison to the popular Tom Cruise character in the 1986 blockbuster action-drama “Top Gun”. Hill denied any intentional connection. 

“Maverick” seems an odd name for a party, considering the definition of the word, “an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party” (Merriam Webster), and could be interpreted as conceptual confusion. Certainly, it does not convey any particular political orientation.

Hill’s own explanation, “There’s (sic) mavericks in the business world, in virtually every occupation you run across what is referred to as mavericks — people who chart an independent path,” seems to align with the dictionary definition of mavericks as individuals who can’t work together. 

In his message to members, Hill explained that the name change was designed to give the party an individual identity, separate from other movements like Brexit. In a CBC interview he said that the Wexit brand had been tainted by previous connections, and confusion among similarly named political entities. “We polled via Facebook, our members and some of the general public that would be interested in whether we should change our name or not,” Hill said. “It came back that (a) two-thirds majority thought it would be wise to change the name.” No argument there.

But, what’s in a name? As Juliette famously lamented, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

As it turns out, names can be important.

A 2017 CBS article entitled “What’s in a name? Plenty” quoted New York University Professor of Marketing Adam Alter; “You’d think it should just be a label, an idle label that doesn’t affect anything. But that’s not how the world works. It turns out it matters a huge amount.” Alter has a PhD in Psychology from Princeton University, and has analyzed and written about the impact of names. “There’s evidence that a good name is a simple name,” Alter said, “In law firms, people with simple names tend to make partner faster. In politics – with the notable exception of former President Barack Obama – fewer syllables generally mean more votes. People vote more for people with simpler names. We’ve got some results showing that.”

Dating back to confederation – excepting a blip in 1918 when the wartime Unionist Coalition under Sir Robert Borden formed a government, there has never been a governing party in Canada other than the Liberals or the Conservatives. The two brands offer serious credibility, and convey a clear and simple message of political orientation to voters. This became briefly muddled in 1920, following the demise of the Unionist Coalition, when the Conservative Party changed its’ name to the National Liberal and Conservative Party. 

The closest that any other party has come was with the decimation of the Liberals in 2011, when the New Democratic Party (NDP) became the official opposition. Formed in 1961 as the love-child of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and sometimes described as “Liberals in a hurry”, perhaps the brand may have resonated more with Canadians with a simpler name…the Democratic Party of Canada perhaps. “New” sounds…well, inexperienced. And nearly 60 years old, a bit inaccurate. 

The point is, a niche party has never come close to forming a federal government in Canada. Niche parties are easily identifiable by their names. Elections Canada currently lists twenty registered federal parties, most of them niche parties – the Animal Protection Party of Canada, the (festive but now obsolete) Marijuana Party, the Green Party, and the Rhinoceros Party. These parties will never form a government. In the serious game of national politics, you need a serious name to play. 

Bloc Quebecoise is a serious name, and it worked for them…thirty-two seats.

Should Wexit should have gone with something else? The Western Independence Party seems an obvious, credible-sounding alternative.

Westerners are looking for alternatives, and one can’t help thinking that Wexit has missed an opportunity to become a mainstream, credible party, with a real chance of sending members to Ottawa following the next election.

“Maverick” is also defined as “an unbranded range animal, especially a motherless calf.” 

Ken Grafton is a freelance columnist

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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: Horgan’s early election is the worst kind of opportunism

“In the strange bedfellows of Canadian politics, BC’s socialist NDP government is more aligned with Quebec’s conservative CAQ government.”

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British Columbians will go to the polls on October 24th. Throwing the spirit of the province’s fixed election date law to the wind, Premier John Horgan just couldn’t help but capitalize on strong polling numbers for his party.

Like former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, Horgan sees the province’s fixed election date law as, more of a guideline, than a law. If it suites him. But unlike Jim Prentice, Horgan is likely to be rewarded for his opportunistic early starting shot.

Polls consistently show Horgan’s NDP with a massive lead over their rivals. The most recent poll conducted by Angus Reid puts the BC NDP at 48 per cent, far more than enough to elevate his government from minority to majority status. The BC Liberals are far back at 29 per cent, while Horgan’s one-time coalition partners, the Green Party, are at 14 per cent. The sometimes semi-relevant BC Conservative party sits at 8 per cent.

Campaigns matter, and poll numbers often change during a writ period. But they normally don’t. Even if Horgan lost 10 per cent between now and Election Day, he would almost certainly secure at least another minority, if not a slim majority.

The biggest victim in this is respect for the basic laws that govern BC’s democracy. Fixed election date laws are an awkward fit in Canada’s Westminster-style parliamentary democracies. Prime Ministers and premiers have always been able to call elections on their whim, and still technically do under most of these laws. Therefore, the fixed election dates are technically not binding – in a legal sort of way. But the public expects those in power to live up to the spirit of them. Once they are broken, the goodwill that gives fixed election dates meaning, is lost.

When Prentice broke Alberta’s law to go a year early in 2015, it caused irrevocable damage to the credibility of the law. For all four years of former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s administration, speculation was rampant that she would break it, albeit by delaying the election by a year. To her credit, she stuck to the law, but it will take a long time before people believe that the fixed election date has any credibility again.

The second major casualty of Horgan’s early start is his spurned partners in the BC Green Party. With their three seats holding the balance of power after the last election, they made a pact with Horgan to prop him up in an effective coalition government to oust Liberal Premier Christy Clark, despite not having the most seats.

From a constitutional perspective, there was nothing wrong with this, but from a political perspective, the Greens were naive to put their trust in Horgan. Horgan got what he needed from the Greens: the government. All he had to do was wait for the right moment for his polling to rise into strong territory, and he could pull the rug from under them. The Greens could put Horgan in the Premier’s Office for a term, but they couldn’t keep him there.

With their own polling slagging, the Greens now stand to lose not only their balance of power position, but even two of their three seats. In the off-chance of another minority government, they are unlikely to be so trusting of Horgan again.

What happens in BC matters to the rest of Canada, and the West in particular. Horgan is the only NDP Premier left in Canada after the party’s defeats in Alberta and Manitoba. It’s graduation from minority to majority status in BC will hearten their fellow social democrats elsewhere. It also ensures that the NDP has a national base from which to keep activists on the payroll as staffers, something useful for the party nationally.

A re-elected Horgan government will also continue to keep Alberta isolated in confederation. While Alberta has a strong ally in Moe’s Saskatchewan, its ally in Ford’s Ontario has so far only extended to nice words. But nice words are more helpful than Horgan’s outright hostility. In the strange bedfellows of Canadian politics, BC’s socialist NDP government is more aligned with Quebec’s conservative CAQ government.

British Columbia’s democracy has been hurt by Horgan’s greedy power grab, and the effects will be felt beyond its borders.

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

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Opinion

LETTER: Farkas vs. Nenshi and the establishment

A reader says that Lori Williams speaks for the establishment and Nenshi in her comments about Farkas.

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RE: Farkas announces run for Calgary mayor

Nice run over of Farkas by the political establishment at Mount Royal University, Lori Williams.

Honest leadership is what we need at silly hall and I haven’t seen that in a decade.

In fairness, Lori Williams, having been a colleauge of Mayor Nenshi prior to his election to Calgary Mayor. I think she needs to disclose if she has a personal investment in the article wrote by Mr. Naylor, on Mr. Farkas.

In the article that Mr. Naylor wrote, Lori Williams came down very hard on Mr. Farkas and I think unfairly, compared to some of the moves Mayor Nenshi has made over the years that has brought embarrassment to the City of Calgary.

“It is an out-of-touch establishment,” Farkas said of council, adding now is the time for “honest leadership. I agree.

Steven Ruthven
Calgary, AB

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