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FILDEBRANDT: Did Bernier cost the Tories York-Centre by-election?

“The Conservatives did well, but not well enough. It is nobody else’s fault. They should be proud of their strong showing relative to 2019, and learn whatever lessons they can from it.”

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A relatively inconsequential set of by-elections in Toronto turned out to be more interesting than the 2019 General Election.

With two Liberal resignations – former Finance Minister Bill Moreau among them – voters in both York-Centre and Toronto-Centre had a rare mid-game opportunity to pass judgement on the Liberal government; and while the Liberals managed to hold onto both seats, the final vote tallies tell far from the whole story.

Toronto-Centre is about as far from a Conservative stronghold as a riding can get. It is to the Liberals what Medicine Hat is to the Tories. In 2019, the Liberal carried it with a thumping 57.4 per cent of the vote, with the NDP at 22 per cent and the Tories at 12. It is a riding for which the Conservative nomination is about being the tackling dummy on the team.

On October 26, 2020, the Liberal vote shrank to 42 per cent, while the also-ran Tories collapsed to 5.7 per cent, and the NDP to 17 per cent. The big story was the Greens, surging from a paltry 7 per cent in 2019, to almost 38 per cent last night.

In tight multi-party races, 38 per cent can win a seat. The Greens walk away from Toronto-Centre as the real winner, able to point to the local result as their party making real gains, and edging out the NDP as the real party of the non-Liberal left.

Much tighter was the race in York-Centre however. There, the gap between the incumbent Liberals and the challenger Conservatives was on a knife’s edge all night, at one point separated by just a single vote. In the end, the final polls pushed Liberal candidate Ya’ara Saks over the top by 701 votes, or 3.9 per cent.

It was a disappointing night for Conservative Julius Tiangson and his leader Erin O’Toole, but it was a remarkably strong showing in the riding. Only once in the recent history of Canada has the Conservative Party won York-Centre: 2011. This is in large part fueled by growing Conservative support in the Jewish community, which has a strong presence in the riding.

In 2019, the Liberals crushed York-Centre with a 22.9 per cent margin of victory. Last night, that had shrunk to a narrow 3.9 per cent.

For much of the night, Conservative partisans could be found moaning on social media that Maxime Bernier was robbing them of their big win. And, for most of the night, the People’s Party Leader was in fact harvesting more votes than the margin between the Liberals and Tories.

In the end however, Bernier won 3.6 per cent and 642 votes, 59 votes shy of the Liberal’s margin of victory.

Mad Max’s decision to run in the wildly un-winnable York-Centre was a curious decision. Perhaps even mad. With no realistic hope of victory, Bernier said that it was an opportunity to showcase his party’s platform and air his ideas. But even if that was the case, it was setting the PPC leader up for a guaranteed failure, and thus hurting the ability of Bernier to recruit quality candidates in the future. For good reason, party leaders with no seat tend to run only where their own party has a very strong chance of success. York-Centre doesn’t fit that bill.

But did Bernier cost the Tories the by-election? Even if we take it as a given (which it is not) that every single PPC vote came at the direct expense of the Conservative candidate, it was still 59 votes shy of the difference. And while Bernier’s candidacy could possibly have been intended to be a spoiler, no party is entitled to anyone’s vote.

The CPC and PPC may both be on the centre-right and right respectively, but they offer substantively different policies on a long list of issues.

The same finger pointing was not to be found (in any significant number) on the left. While the Liberals trailed the Tories at times, one would have to search pretty hard to find their partisans blaming the NDP (5.8 per cent), or the Greens (2.6 per cent) for “splitting the vote’.

Folks in my neck of the woods might have a hard time telling what the differences are between the NDP, Greens and Liberals, but voters for the smaller of those three parties enjoy their diversity of options. It’s a political buffet, and they don’t want to order the daily Liberal special.

The Conservatives did well, but not well enough. It is nobody else’s fault. They should be proud of their strong showing relative to 2019, and learn whatever lessons they can from it.

If the Conservatives had only held onto in a suburban Calgary by-election by a few hundred votes, they would rightfully press the panic button. The equivalent has happened to the Liberals.

October 26th may have seen two Liberal victories on paper, but the ones who should walk away from it with their heads high are the Conservatives and Greens.

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

Opinion

CARPAY: Kenney’s “not a lockdown” is very much one. And it’s more dangerous than COVID.

John Carpay writes that despite the government’s claim, Alberta is very much in a lockdown that is violating freedoms without just cause.

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It seems that Jason Kenney is taking his government’s communications strategy straight out of George Orwell ’s classic 1984. The government in 1984 uses propaganda as a cornerstone of exploiting people and remaining in power, with slogans like “War is peace; Freedom is slavery; Ignorance is strength.”

Too harsh?

After declaring a new public health emergency in Alberta this week, Kenney said: “Let me be clear, we are not moving into a lockdown.”

He then proceeded to make all indoor social gatherings illegal; impose fines of $1,000 or more on people gathering “socially” outside of their homes (including weddings and funerals) in numbers larger than 10; limit religious gatherings to one-third capacity while requiring masks and prohibiting singing; shut down all banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, auditoria, community centres, children’s play centres and indoor playgrounds, and all team and individual sports; place onerous and profit-killing restrictions on restaurants, pubs, bars, and lounges; harm retail establishments by reducing them to a fraction of the capacity needed for profitability; limit museums, galleries, libraries, movie theatres, indoor entertainment centres and indoor fitness centres to 20 per cent capacity; severely damage “personal services” businesses providing haircare, esthetics, wellness services, professional services, taxi and rideshare, hotels/motels, and private lessons; and keep grade 7-12 children away from school for six weeks (November 30 through to January 11).

This, maintains Premier Kenney, is not a “lockdown.”

Our caring and compassionate premier magnanimously acknowledges that these severe restrictions on our Charter freedoms to move, travel, assemble, associate and worship will be “disruptive to businesses and to all Albertans.”

Not a lockdown; just “balanced” measures that are a bit “disruptive.”

Not that our premier would know what it’s like to have to take care of children at home when you are used to them attending school from 9:00 to 3:00. Not that our Premier’s own public sector salary will in any way be impacted by his own measures. Not that he would ever need to survive on only $2,000 per month in government benefits while shouldering the responsibility of supporting a family and paying for rent or a mortgage.

Premier Kenney wants to “thank all Albertans in advance for [our] understanding and what [we] have done personally” to “stop the spike and protect each other.”

Premier Kenney ignores Alberta Health Services (AHS) data which does not justify or support the daily fearmongering perpetrated by him and by Chief Medical Officer Deena Hinshaw.

As of Tuesday, November 24 there were fewer than 500 COVID-19 deaths in Alberta since March, in the context of more than 27,000 Albertans who die each year: more than 2,000 per month and more than 500 each and every week. Of course, the 492 COVID-19 deaths are troubling, but so are the other 26,500 deaths from cancer, drug overdoses, cancelled surgeries, suicides, lack of access to health care, and other causes of death. Many of these 26,500 deaths are caused directly by the government’s lockdown measures, like cancelling 22,000 medically necessary surgeries and delaying thousands of vitally important CT scans and MRIs to diagnose cancer.

Only 348 COVID-19 patients are currently in hospital according to AHS, leaving more than 8,100 hospital beds available for more COVID-19 patients, and for patients suffering from the various conditions that cause 98 per cent of deaths in Alberta. COVID-19 patients are occupying 4 per cent of Alberta’s hospital beds, which is pretty close to the 2 per cent of deaths in Alberta that result from COVID-19. Why and how is this a crisis that justifies the lockdowns we have been suffering under – to various degrees – since March?

Is it Jason Kenney’s goal that our 8,500 hospital beds remain empty? If yes, why bother spending more than $7,500 per person on health care each year? Is the health care system here to serve citizens? Or are citizens supposed to refrain from using it, as though we wish to avoid troubling our masters? Overcrowding, bed shortages and delayed surgeries have been serious problems for many years, long before COVID-19 arrived. Why is it a crisis when COVID-19 patients occupy 4 per cent of available hospital beds? Is this percentage actually higher than when flu patients enter hospital each winter, of which we are told there are “zero” this year?

What applies to hospital beds also applies to ICU capacity. AHS tell us that COVID-19 patients are using 66 ICU spaces, which is 5 per cent of the 1,300 total ICU capacity. And we are to accept the destruction of businesses, livelihoods and mental health because of some danger of the health care system being “overrun”?

With COVID-19 patients occupying 4 per cent of hospital beds and using 5 per cent of ICU capacity, there is obviously no danger of our health care system being overrun. We are now hearing in November the same misinformation that Jason Kenney and Deena Hinshaw told us in March and April.

Media-supported fearmongering about large numbers of “cases” is misleading in the extreme. Aside from the small number of people who actually require hospitalization, 97 per cent of these “cases” concern healthy people experiencing no symptoms, and a small number experiencing symptoms which they can take care of themselves at home. Not my opinion; check the data for yourself.

There is no excuse for Premier Kenney and Deena Hinshaw to ignore AHS data on COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations. There is no excuse for fearmongering about meaningless and irrelevant numbers of “cases” of perfectly healthy people.

If George Orwell were writing his novel in Alberta today, he could have added a fourth slogan to his government’s list of mantras: “War is peace; Freedom is slavery; Ignorance is strength; There is no lockdown.”

Lawyer John Carpay is a columnist for the Western Standard and President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca).

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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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