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Opinion

FERNANDO: Amid the pandemic, government has vastly overstepped its role

Spencer Fernando writes that governments have abused their powers to overreach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The desire for the government to “just do something,” has reached a level we’ve not seen in a long time due to the ongoing pandemic.

And yet, it is becoming clearer that the state neither possesses the competence, nor the justification for the vast overstepping the powers given it.

If someone told you a year ago – that due to a virus from China that the government spent months claiming was “low risk” and refused to close the borders to prevent when it could have been stopped – we would be listening to politicians tell us whether Christmas is “on” or not, where we can buy things, who we can buy them from, what is “essential or not,” and heavily fining anyone who “resists” these restrictions, you probably would have dismissed them as a conspiracy theorist. 

It also would have seemed entirely out of step with our values, and with our rights.

Now, some may not want to hear talk of “rights” and “freedoms” right now, as they claim we have to set those aside during this crisis.

But that is what the statists claim during every crisis, be it a pandemic, natural disaster, or war. 

But what is the point of having freedoms if they are “set aside” whenever times are challenging? They endure, even when it may seem difficult.

Worse still, there is growing evidence that politicians are taking these draconian measures out of a fear of being attacked for not “doing enough,” rather than actually following science.

For example, while governments announce the virus death toll daily, they don’t announce the daily number of suicides – which have gone up alarmingly across the world.

They don’t announce the rise in poverty from collapsing businesses. They don’t announce deaths due to overdoses – which have also been surging.

In August, more people died of opioid overdoses in that one month alone in Alberta than had died during the entire pandemic up to that point.

But since those numbers don’t get announced daily, there is no pressure on politicians to act.

They also don’t mention the fact that cases are surging worldwide, in places with all different types of mandates and restrictions.

We are seeing record profits for large international corporations, while small businesses get butchered. Many international box stores have exploited a loophole – another sign of the incompetence of government – that let them stay open to sell both “essential and non-essential items,” while the government shut down small businesses selling what they have declared to be “non-essential items.”

Of course, to those small businesses and the people who put their heart and soul into making a living, all of those items and all of their sales are “essential.”

As a result, we may exit this pandemic and come to find that our communities have been completely hollowed out of the small businesses that make them unique and truly special, with global corporations taking their place in an ever larger display of centralized dominance.

It has also been disturbing to see how many people have been demanding that their individual freedom be taken away, wishing for an authority to ‘take charge’ and restrict what they and others could do.

Yet, those demands for new and ever-expanded government authority come from many of the same people who originally opposed the government using their already-established authority to close the borders and protect ports of entry early in the pandemic, when it truly could have been mitigated.

In fact, one of the few truly proven ways of mitigating the spread of the virus has been strong borders, something that few countries have implemented, even as they impose draconian crackdowns on their own citizens.

At this point, individuals and families know about the virus, we know about the importance of wearing masks in appropriate circumstances, and we know about social distancing. With all of that information, it is time for government to step back, and remember that its job is to serve, not rule.

The government is not our parent. They should be considered a third party hired to deliver a service and defend our rights.

What we need now is for governments to recognize that instead of damaging government-enforced lockdowns and restrictions, it is up to individual responsibility, each person and family making their own choices about their own personal level of risk. That is the approach that can both keep people safe, and remain true to our rights and freedoms.

Spencer Fernando is a columnist for the Western Standard and the owner/author of spencerfernando.com from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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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