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MORGAN: Kenney may have been politically incorrect, but he was right about infections in some communities

“Premier Kenney may have been somewhat insensitive in how he said it, but he didn’t say anything untrue when he spoke to the issue of the outbreak in the South Asian community.”

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney stepped in it. He dared to address the exploding infection rates of COVID-19 within Calgary’s South Asian community and of course, is now being called a racist, with demands for an apology. Caught between libertarian-minded Albertans resisting lockdowns and statists demanding ever-more paternalistic restrictions, the blows are coming at the premier from all sides.

Kenney’s opponents smell blood, and they would love nothing more than to try to tie Kenney’s policies to racism, as they try with anything mildly conservative. Unfortunately, this political reaction and opportunism may increase the infection risks in vulnerable communities as public figures fear to address them frankly.

We need to be blunt about the numbers. Infection rates in Calgary’s South Asian community are rising at triple the rate of other communities. Shouting down and deriding leaders for daring to address this issue as being racist is absurd, and damaging. How can we find out why the infection rates are rising so quickly in these communities, and how can we bring those rates in line if we can’t openly talk about it?

I spoke with Calgary cardiologist Dr. Anmol Kapoor about this sticky issue.

Dr. Kapoor created an initiative called “Dilwalk” which was modelled to bring awareness to some of the health consequences that can come with South Asian dining. While Indian food is indeed fantastic, like so many things it can be harmful for people if not consumed in moderation. With food being so tightly tied to our cultural fabrics, it takes an approach with sensitivity and understanding in order to communicate to the South Asian community on these concerns. Dr. Kapoor has worked hard to bridge that gap.

“Premier Kenney could have used different words.” said Dr. Kapoor, referring to the now-infamous radio interview. The South Asian community is proud, but can be sensitive. Things need to be presented in a “culturally appropriate” manner.

I asked Dr. Kapoor why case counts were so disproportionately high in Calgary’s Northeast district where a large portion of the city’s South Asian community live. He explained that there are a number of cultural factors at play.

Many people in the South Asian community live in multi-generational households for both cultural and economic reasons. Because of this, it can be difficult for any member of a family unit to isolate within their own household, even if they feel they may have been infected. It is difficult to find personal space and this makes family transmission difficult to avoid.

There is a language barrier for many new Canadians from the South Asian community. While Dr. Hinshaw has been communicating regularly and in detail on how we can work to get the pandemic under control, there is a lag in communications getting down to people who may need to get the messaging in a different language. More efforts should to be made to get resources to the community in different languages and in a timely manner. If it takes weeks for messaging to get out, the impact of the messaging is often lost.

Many people in the South Asian community work in jobs which can’t be done from home and often involve a lot of public interaction. This puts them at a higher risk of catching and transmitting the virus. Many people in these workplace situations either don’t have supports should they need to take time away from work, or don’t know what supports are available. People need to be reassured that they aren’t risking bankruptcy by self-isolating. It’s not so simple as closing the doors of your business or walking away from work for a couple weeks. Social supports are required and if they already exist, they need to be effectively communicated to people.

The common theme I heard was that communications need to be better and that they need to come from trusted sources. Community leaders should be tapped to help reach out to the impacted zones and get health messaging out there. Compliance with health measures and suggestions will be much higher when the suggestions come from familiar and trusted voices.

Dr. Kapoor expressly offered to take part in just such a role. If any UPC MLAs or AHS members are reading this, just reach out.

The pandemic is a nightmare for all of us in every possible way. It is a battle with multiple fronts which needs actions on the part of government which are clear and unhesitating. Clear communications are key and we can’t hesitate in targeting areas where outbreaks are occurring for fear of political backlash.

Premier Kenney may have been somewhat insensitive in how he said it, but he didn’t say anything untrue when he spoke to the issue of the outbreak in the South Asian community. If we want to knock this thing down, we need to be able to identify and target the hot spots. Along with the many other things the government needs to do, they need cultural ambassadors to help speak to impacted communities on their behalf. We can’t let political correctness put people at risk.

Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a columnist for the Western Standard

Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: $131 Sloan donation leak was an inside job – Conservative MPs tell us so

Conservative MPs say O’Toole’s office has been caught clearly trying to set Sloan up. This is amateur House of Cards.

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What I’m about to write here doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to put together. But since nobody has yet – at least publicly – let me connect some very clear dots.

On the evening of January 18, federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole announced that he was “asking” his MPs to kick fellow Ontario Tory MP Derek Sloan out of the party’s caucus.

Far-left gotcha-propaganda website Press Progress said that they have proof that Sloan accepted a $131 donation from a man named Paul Fromm.

Who the hell is Paul Fromm? Until a few hours ago, I – and probably 98 per cent of Canada – had never heard of the guy. Turns out that he’s a particularly loathsome white supremacist.

The Press Progress hit piece was complete with lots of colourful pictures of Fromm doing his best impression of a Nürnberg rally. The intention was clearly to link Fromm with Sloan.

Doing their best Pravda knock-off, Press Progress has done this before, libelling mainstream – even moderate – conservative politicians in Alberta as a 21st century sturmabteilung. It’s what they do best.

O’Toole did his best surprised face and tweeted furiously.

“Derek Sloan’s acceptance of a donation from a well-known white supremacist is far worse than a gross error of judgment or failure of due diligence.”

Conservative MPs tell me that they all learned about it in the press.

Now you don’t need to be on Team Sloan to smell a rat here. You just need two eyes and half a brain. Let’s examine the evidence.

One: Almost no candidate is aware of every – or even most – of the donations that they receive. It is processed by the campaign’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO). For small campaigns like Sloan’s, that position is often a volunteer, or at the least, not a professional. I could have accidentally accepted blood diamond money while I was in politics for all I know.

Two: No candidate – and I repeat no candidate – is aware of the details of donations the size of Paul Fromm’s: $131. It’s a rounding error. I only ever ran to be an Alberta MLA in my time in politics, and I did not know who was giving me $131. I knew if someone was giving me $1,000. Maybe even $500. Never, ever, $131.

Three: I have never heard of Paul Fromm before. Unless you’re a full-time Nazi hunter, you probably have never heard of Paul Fromm either. I’m doubtful that Press Progress had heard of him until they had this gently brought to their attention.

Four: Paul Fromm’s big $131 donation was processed not just by the Sloan campaign, but by the Conservative Party of Canada itself. Had the CPC had recognized this name, they would have flagged it. They didn’t. They do apparently expect Derek Sloan’s CFO to however.

Five: If the Conservative Party of Canada – with its legendary resources – could not flag this $131 donation, then it is not reasonable to expect a fourth-place also-ran campaign to have the resources to do it.

Six: Elections Canada only requires the disclosure of donor names for contributions over $200. It is illegal for them to disclose donations under that amount. The only two entities that would have had any awareness of Fromm’s donation are: Derek Sloan, and, the Conservative Party of Canada’s staffers.

Seven: Press Progress could not have legally obtained information about the donation except from: Derek Sloan, or, the Conservative Party of Canada. Take your best guess about which one gave the information to Press Progress.

Sloan is not a centrist Tory in the mould of O’Toole, and has a reputation as a bit of a maverick. Leaders do not like mavericks in their caucus.

And Sloan is the only rival that O’Toole faced for the Conservative leadership that currently has a seat in the House of Commons.

Multiple Alberta and Ontario Conservative MPs the Western Standard has spoken to tell us that they and Sloan found out about this in the media. They also tell us that they believe that this was entirely an inside-hit job by O’Toole via the Leader’s Office or party HQ.

One veteran Conservative with inside knowledge of the matter says that several MPs intend to vote against O’Toole’s demand to expel Sloan…if they get a secret ballot.

The Reform Act legally requires that they do, but I’m sure smart people in Ottawa can find a way around that.

And even if his caucus showed some spine, O’Toole has unilaterally declared that Sloan will not be allowed to seek the CPC nomination in his constituency again, even if his local members want him. Grassroots stuff.

From the MPs we have spoken to at least, the Conservative Caucus is bitterly divided. While Sloan has his share of enemies in the party, they see – without much need for a tinfoil hat – that this is clearly instigated at the behest of their own leader. And they tell us that they are afraid that O’Toole could come for them next on trumped-up charges (no pun intended).

What could O’Toole possibly be thinking? There are other ways for leaders to purge troublesome underlings. They can bring forward better false charges of impropriety. They can do a better job of covering their tracks. They can just go the route of Andrew Scheer via Brad Troast, and rig the nomination against them.

This is amateur hour House of Cards.

Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard

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Opinion

MORGAN: Alberta needs less talk, and more action from Kenney

“Premier Kenney needs to pick a lane and to stick to it with authority.”

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Support for the United Conservative Party under Premier Kenney’s leadership has collapsed. Exclusive polling for the Western Standard has the UCP languishing at an abysmal 26 percent support while the NDP is at 41 percent while the new and still leaderless Wildrose Independence Party has climbed to 9 percent province-wide. This trend is nothing less than catastrophic for the UCP and they will need to make some major changes if they hope to be re-elected in 2023.

With nearly two years in power now, it is tough to point to any concrete changes or policies from the Kenney government. While Jason Kenney talked a great game at campaign time, we have seen little follow-through. Where is the promised democratic reform through citizen’s initiated referenda and recall legislation? Where is the fiscal conservatism and moves to get the budget under control? When will the government act on even one of the Fair Deal panel recommendations?

While Premier Jason Kenney continues to try to be everything to everybody, he is losing support on all fronts. The NDP-left will never learn to love the UCP, yet Kenney remains reticent to take on the government unions which are opposing all efforts at fiscal reform or efficiencies. Kenney has talked tough with unions, but won’t act. It’s time to take a stand and start cutting spending, not just haircuts. We are running out of money and taxpayers are running out of patience. It won’t become any easier for waiting.

On the democratic reform front, Kenney needs to implement the promised referenda and recall legislation. It has been nearly two years and this doesn’t need to be studied any longer. We know what we need and we know what we voted for. Give it to us already.

On the Western alienation front, Kenney has been at his most disappointing. This again has been clearly indicated in the recent polling commissioned by the Western Standard. Support for independence is exploding to new records in Alberta. While the UCP was not elected with a mandate to pursue independence, they were elected as a party expected to stand up to Ottawa. It is time that they did it.

Ottawa has more control over Alberta today than when Jason Kenney came to office. Tough talk is clearly not working.

No more panels. No more “expert” studies. No more kicking the can down the road. Albertans want some leadership and they want somebody to protect Alberta’s interests from an increasingly hostile federal government.

We have made it clear that we want a provincial pension plan. I doubt that I will see it implemented before I am old enough to collect it, and I am only 49 years old.

Why more study on whether or not we want a provincial police force? We know we want it. Now start working on what it will take to create it. What did we get? The province commissioned yet another study.

Where is the Alberta Chief Firearms Officer we were told we would get? How hard is it to appoint somebody? Instead, we got an Alberta Firearms Advisory Committee. More talk.

We are getting a referendum on equalization at least, but Kenney has made clear that there will be no ‘or else’ consequences if Ottawa and the other provinces fail to make reforms.

We are living in tough times. Citizens want to see leadership and that means seeing leaders making tough, definitive decisions. Wishy washy approaches to issues aren’t acceptable.

Premier Kenney needs to pick a lane and to stick to it with authority. If you oppose lockdowns, don’t impose them. If you support lockdowns, do it unapologetically and do it in full. Trying to appease both sides only alienates both sides.

Talk is cheap and we are tired of hearing it. If the current government can’t discover how and where they want to actually act on things, they will be replaced in the next election, and I fear for what that replacement may be.

Cory Morgan is the Podcast Editor and a columnist for the Western Standard

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Opinion

OUELLETTE & SHAW: Freedom of expression is under attack in Canada

“While Canada is a relatively free country, the pandemic has exacerbated our pre-existing shortcomings in terms of freedom of expression.”

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Our freedom of expression is under attack. In recent years, there’s been a significant trend toward censorship in the media, in academia, and among the general population. The controversy at the University of Ottawa over the use of the N-word is one example among others. Why do we need to worry about this trend? For one thing, an attack on our freedom of expression is also an attack on our standard of living.

The virtues of freedom of expression are widely recognized: It improves the quality of our democratic institutions, facilitates the exchange of ideas, and leads to sounder, more transparent public policies.

But aside from these benefits, there is also a strong link between freedom of expression and economic growth. This is confirmed by the economic literature and by many academic papers from different researchers at Stanford UniversityDartmouth College, and the University of California, Berkeley, who all arrive at the same conclusion: The exchange of ideas stimulates innovation, and innovation is one of the main engines of economic growth and rising living standards.

Encouraging the exchange of ideas and the protection of freedom of expression is therefore intuitively beneficial, and this is confirmed by the scientific literature. But concretely, what would the average Canadian stand to gain if our governments put in place public policies encouraging greater freedom of expression?

According to our calculations and our econometric model, individual Canadians would be an average of $2,522 richer each year. Obviously, this amount wouldn’t be deposited directly into one’s bank account, but rather, a gradual increase in our living standards would result from the effects of more freedom of expression.

In the sample of 132 countries used in our study, Canada is among the top 15 per cent in terms of freedom of expression. But while it is true that we live in a relatively free society, taking this good ranking for granted would be a mistake.

Indeed, governments have a lot of room to grow when it comes to improving freedom of expression, especially if we compare ourselves to Norway, the top country in the ranking. There, it is standard practice for politicians to make constant efforts, encouraged by citizens, to better protect freedom of expression.

In contrast, in Canada, and especially in certain provinces like Quebec, the government can arbitrarily decide to subsidize one media outlet rather than another, which can potentially hinder media independence and lead to biased and less reliable information. Not to mention that it is increasingly difficult to obtain information from our governments through requests for access to information, which hampers proper public debate. This situation should alarm us.

In order to improve the country’s performance in terms of freedom of expression, thereby also improving our standard of living, we have three recommendations:

  1. Favour media independence from government by limiting arbitrary subsidies and, in their place, creating a regulatory and fiscal framework favourable to all media;
  2. Encourage Canadian public universities to protect freedom of expression in order to truly allow their researchers, professors, and students to express themselves freely without risk of reprisals;
  3. Increase the information and data available to the population by reducing the need to make requests for access to information, in order to facilitate public debate.

While Canada is a relatively free country, the pandemic has exacerbated our pre-existing shortcomings in terms of freedom of expression. We must not allow the current situation to become the new normal. For the sake of our standard of living and the wealth of our country, we must do more to promote and protect the freedom of expression of all Canadians.

GUEST COLUMN: By Miguel Ouellette, Director of Operations and Economist, and Maria Lily Shaw, Economist, Montreal Economic Institute

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