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Opinion

WAGNER: Westerners need their own, homegrown media

Michael Wagner writes that with the old Alberta Report gone, the Western Standard is the only voice unabashedly standing for the Western cause.

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Having a media venue to express genuinely Western views on contemporary issues is essential to the future well-being of Alberta and Western Canada. With a few exceptions, Westerners cannot rely on mainstream media sources to effectively communicate the information and perspectives they need to understand the current political situation.

Westerners have political interests that differ from people in other parts of Canada and this fact needs to be reflected somewhere in the media. Right now, the Western Standard is doing just that, but few others.

People who live in a particular geographical territory generally share certain common political interests. For example, due to the significant role that oil and gas fills in Alberta’s economy, all Albertans have a common intertest in the success of the petroleum industry. Even those who are not directly involved in that industry benefit from the prosperity it brings to the province. Government programs funded by resource revenues are one of the most obvious ways all Albertans benefit from oil and gas.

However, just because the people of a particular region share certain common political interests doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone understands the common interests and works to defend them. Somebody needs to intellectually formulate an understanding of those interests and express them publicly.

This is a point made by University of Calgary sociologist Harry H. Hiller in his 2002 article, “Region as a Social Construction,” published in the book, Regionalism and Party Politics in Canada. Hiller points out that regional perspectives only develop when territorial interests become politicized. 

Hiller explains, “Since regionalism involves a world view based on territoriality, it is partially natural and partially the result of framing; that is, some person or group must sharply articulate and thus ‘frame’ the perspective. In that sense, regionalism becomes political and requires the mobilization of support. This means that while the regionalist perspective will be commonly known and available to residents of a territory, it may exist in a submerged state until it is triggered by changing conditions and circumstances.”

In other words, although there are natural common interests among the citizens of a certain territory, people are not mobilized in defence of those interests until those interests have been properly articulated. The articulation of those interests provides an interpretive framework to help people understand the issues involved and how they are affected. 

This phenomenon is important for understanding the Western revolt against the Pierre Trudeau and Brian Mulroney governments of the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, it fell to Ted Byfield’s Alberta Report magazine to articulate a clear and uncompromised Western viewpoint to help people understand what was at stake. Generally speaking, in those days Alberta’s other media outlets had owners in Central Canada and did not provide a genuine Western perspective. Therefore, only Alberta Report could fill the void.

Ted Byfield himself became the leading proponent of the Western cause in the media. In 1983 a collection of his editorials was published in the book, The Deplorable Unrest in the Colonies: A Collection of Ted Byfield’s Letters from the Publisher in Alberta Report. This book included a preface by Mike Byfield, Ted’s eldest son. A major theme of that preface was that Ted had become the key media champion for Western concerns. As Mike put it, “Ted Byfield is increasingly recognised as western Canada’s most effective spokesman for both provincial rights and thought-provoking conservatism.” Even more pointedly, Mike wrote that Ted’s “editorial eloquence is now the voice of the West.” 

Ted Byfield’s columns struck a chord with countless Westerners and became the rallying cry for patriotic Albertans. As Mike wrote, “Thousands of individuals, written off as gullible rednecks and fools by Canada’s Toronto-mesmerized media, feel an almost physical relief on seeing their convictions expressed in vivid, reasoned language.” The regional sentiment was already there. What people needed was someone to intelligently formulate the Western viewpoint and articulate it publicly. This is what Ted was able to accomplish, and it was an essential component of building a political movement for Western interests.

Ted’s effort was recognized by people at the top. In 1999, former premier Peter Lougheed wrote an article praising Alberta Report for the role it played in defending Alberta from Pierre Trudeau’s sinister policies. Particularly interesting was Lougheed’s observation that, “we discovered many Ottawa politicians, bureaucrats and journalists at the time were reading the magazine intensely, and collectively coming to the conclusion that Albertans were united in taking such a strong stand against this attack upon their resources.” Clearly, Alberta Report’s articulation of an uncompromising Alberta viewpoint played an important role in the fight against Trudeau.

Unfortunately, Alberta Report is long gone. Another vehicle is needed to fill the void as the “voice of the West.” As the spiritual successor of Alberta Report, the Western Standard is uniquely positioned to be that voice. Already, many Westerners rely on it for news and thoughtful commentary about the West and conservative/libertarian politics. This work of articulating and defending the West’s political interests must continue. 

And who knows? Perhaps supporters of the Western Standard will one day see the fulfillment of Western political aspirations in a way that Alberta Report readers could only dream of.

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 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.'

Opinion

McCOLL: Ending Alberta’s paid plasma ban is the right thing to do

Tany Yao’s private members bill would lift the NDP’s ban on people being paid for giving their own blood.

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On October 26, UCP MLA Tany Yao’s private member’s bill – Bill 204: The Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act – was debated in the legislature. It is now only one step away from repealing the previous NDP government’s 2017 law that banned private paid plasma clinics.

In an interview with the Western Standard, Tany Yao outlined how this issue has been important to him since he was the opposition health critic in 2017. Back then, Yao said that the law “does more harm than good.” 

History has proven him right, as the NDP law made it illegal for pharmaceutical companies to make plasma medicines in Alberta by paying donors like they do in the United States and Saskatchewan. Proposals to build paid plasma clinics and laboratories to manufacture plasma medicines in Alberta were cancelled.

Yao stated that the goal of his bill is to “attract those companies to develop these life saving medications right here in Alberta.” When it came to objections from the NDP, Yao lamented: “I do find it unfortunate that only labour groups are fighting this. Their arguments are from the 1980s and from the tainted blood scandal.” When asked to explain the opposition from public sector unions and Canadian Blood Services (CBS) – even though CBS imports paid plasma products from the United States and has testified that paid plasma products are perfectly safe Yao said, “Labour is trying to protect their monopoly given to them by the NDP. [CBS] admits they cost more versus private companies.”

Over seventy per cent of global plasma comes from paid donors in the United States. It’s a $26 billion (USD) industrythat should grow to $40 billion by 2040. Plasma medicines make up a greater share of US exports than steel or aluminium. This is a high-tech growth industry that saves lives, creates high paying jobs, and could attract billions of dollars in pharmaceutical company investment to Alberta. 

During Monday’s debate, UCP MLAs Jackie Lovely, Mark Smith, Devinder Toor, Michaela Glasgo, Ronald Orr, and Richard Gotfried all spoke in support of bill 204. As Yao predicted, NDP MLAs Richard Feehan, Marie Renaud, Lorne Dach, and Shannon Phillips spoke against the bill voicing debunked public safety concerns. NDP MLA Marie Renaud argued that it would be morally wrong to allow low income Albertans to be paid for their blood. She didn’t say how rich you had to be for it to be moral to earn an extra $2000 per year for weekly donations of life saving plasma.

One NDP critique of the bill was that all paid plasma donations made in Alberta would be exported to other countries. If the NDP MLAs had paid attention to Dr. Peter Jaworski’s July testimony to the Standing Committee on Private Bills, they would know that Canadian plasma is exported because CBS refuses to buy it – even when offered lower prices!

“Canadian Plasma Resources was only Health Canada-certified when they first opened… It is only when Canadian Blood Services rejected their offer of all of their plasma in 2016 at $166 per litre, which was 20 per cent less than the price in the United States, that Canadian Plasma Resources sought to get European Medicines Agency approval, which means that they are allowed to sell their plasma within the European market… Canadian Plasma Resources has made two subsequent offers to Canadian Blood Services. In 2018 they offered all of their plasma at $195 a litre for a term of seven years and then most recently in 2019, $220 per litre for a term of 20 years.”

CBS unpaid plasma donation centres cost the taxpayer about $412 dollars per litre. The answer to this problem is clear: first pass Bill 204, then open paid plasma centres in Alberta, and finally shame CBS and Ottawa into ending the irrational policy of importing American paid plasma instead of buying Canadian paid plasma.

Alex McColl is the National Defence Columnist with the Western Standard and a Canadian military analyst

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Opinion

Sask PCs Say “no” to merger with Buffalo Party

With 17 candidates, the BP won 2.9 per cent of the vote. The PCs with 31 candidates won 2 per cent. In ridings in which they ran, the BP averaged 10 per cent, and the PCs 4 per cent.

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A recent column in the Western Standard proposed the idea of uniting Saskatchewan’s Buffalo and PC parties. Progressive Conservative candidates and leadership responded quickly with a hard ‘no.’ 

“Won’t happen Lee,” PC leader Ken Grey posted on Facebook below the article. “We will welcome ex-Buffalo members but merger is a no go. We are a federalist party and from what I see Buffalo wants to broker left and right wing ideologies. We are different parties with different mandates.”

Grey cited the Buffalo Party’s approach of reaching out to both left and right policy goals. “That’s distasteful to me,” said Grey, whose party slogan is “True Conservative.”

The Buffalo Party – despite being just a few months old and running in a handful of ridings – finished as Saskatchewan’s third-place party on October 26th. With 17 candidates, the BP won 2.9 per cent of the vote. The PCs with 31 candidates won 2 per cent. In ridings in which they ran, the BP averaged 10 per cent, and the PCs 4 per cent. 

Frank Serfas, a founding signatory of the Western Independence Party and its interim leader in 2015, placed third as the PC candidate in Moosemin. He commented on my Facebook post, “Any talk of PCs and Buffalo merging are completely [p]remature and [h]alf [b]aked.”

In an interview, Serfas said that he joined the PCs in 2018 to support Ken Grey’s leadership bid, but also bought a membership in Wexit Saskatchewan (the Buffalo Party’s original name). He said the Buffalo Party lacks the needed foundation to last.

“No constitution, no membership-adopted platform. There is no elected executive, no elected leader,” Serfas said. “I’ve been watching this a long time, since the early 80s. The only time western separatist parties or independence parties had any traction is when their leaders were legitimately elected by the grassroots.”

Serfas said the party initially indicated they would do these things, then gave reasons why it did not. “Covid. Not enough people. Oh, and my favorite one was not enough time,” he said.

“They’re two different parties in two different places, organization wise, leadership wise, stuff like that. Things still need to be settled in both camps before you can even start dialogue.”

Ironically, a PC press release on August 13 already called it a “merger” when former Wexit candidates such as Harry Frank decided to run as PC candidates. “This merger comes after complaints of top down decisions, candidate removals without reason, and dictatorial style leadership within the Buffalo Party.”

The press release quoted Frank saying, “By uniting the right we have a greater chance of being in a position to challenge this liberal leaning SaskParty and pushing for the changes the residents of this province have been needing.”

The two parties share common policy ground in supporting MLA recall, a provincial police force, and a referendum on equalization to trigger a constitutional convention, all welcomed by Serfas.

“They’re willing to explore other avenues of autonomy. That’s a good start. But the thing you have to remember is that the PCs are a party with one foot in the past and one foot trying to reach into the future,” Serfas said.

Serfas said the PC Party trust fund was one example of control by legacy PCs.

“The party leader does not control that. The party executive does not control it. There is a trust executive that is basically made up of PC luminaries of the past, and they control it.”

PC candidate Tony Ollenberger was a founding member of the Alberta First Party and ran as a candidate in 2001. His former party eventually was refounded in 2018 as the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta. The FCP would later merge with Wexit Alberta to form the Wildrose Independence Party. 

Ollenberger does not want the Saskatchewan PCs to follow suit. 

“Buffalo is a flash in the pan. This is exactly what happened with the Alberta Independence Party in 2001,” Ollenberger said. “When they come onto the scene, and not even as a registered party, immediately the media just jumped all over them because they were just the next great thing. And you know after the election in 2001 they went nowhere.”

Ollenberg said his decades of observing independence movements in both provinces suggests some Buffalo Party members will eventually challenge interim leader Wade Sira’s position of “secession if necessary, but not necessarily secession.”

“He’s going to find someone come along and saying, ‘Well we need to separate now,’ and they’ll factionalize, and then they’ll refractionalize… until there’s six parties that need to get registered,” Ollenberger said.

“I’ve seen this movie before and I’ve seen exactly how it ends,” said Ollenberger. “We’d be shooing ourselves in the foot if we wanted to hitch our wagon to the Buffalo Party because I see the same fate unfolding again.”

Ollenberger, who placed third in Saskatoon Fairview, said the party’s message of balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility had a positive response at the doors.

“We certainly need to do more to get our main track on the political radar, get our messaging out there, and make sure that people understand that there is a difference – that when people hear the word ‘Conservative’ they think of us again and not the Sask Party.”

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Correspondent for the Western Standard

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Opinion

LETTER: Canada’s electoral system is broken

“There is more than one good reason for getting rid of this destructive and un-democratic FPTP electoral system beginning with the ballot that makes voting extremely challenging and unfair, because voters are forced to chose between party or candidate.”

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RE: Horgan leads NDP to majority government in B.C.

Another election, producing another fake-majority government most of the people do not want, and conducted a year before it was mandated, by law.

Our system of government is called parliamentary democracy, because the party or coalition with the greatest number of elected Members, will form a majority government while it only represents a minority of the people.

That is very different from the true democratic governments they have in Scandinavian and European countries, where the political power is vested and exercised by the people directly or indirectly through the elected Members of government.

There is more than one good reason for getting rid of this destructive and un-democratic FPTP electoral system beginning with the ballot that makes voting extremely challenging and unfair, because voters are forced to chose between party or candidate.

Canada has a very dysfunctional multi-party system, that continues to erode any semblance of democracy.

Andy Thomsen
Kelowna

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