Apologies for the long hiatus. This podcast was recorded back on October 26. In this episode Josh and his anonymous municipal political activist explain how municipalities work politically, including their relationship with the province. We also discuss the Sudbury bribery trial being thrown out by the judge, as well as Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario Patrick Brown’s decision to refuse to apologize to Premier Wynne for saying she would stand trial, even after she filed suit against him.
Nothing shatters the relative calm of Canadian discourse so completely as a full-throated Albertan cry for redress against the perfidious East.
When Ryan Rados raked my home province of Ontario over the coals in his justifiably harsh missive, I felt the burn.
I can’t argue with Ryan’s characterization of our out-of-control debt or how we seem wedded to the same old disastrous progressive ideas–though I did try.
I confess that my first instinct was to do what all Ontario conservatives do when called out by a Western Canadian and invoke the example of Mike Harris and his efforts to get spending under control.
But I was forced to check that impulse. Truth be told, except for a $3.1 billion drop in the bucket (and I realize how insane it is to call it that) when Highway 407 was sold to a Spanish multinational, the debt continued to balloon under the Harris PCs, though arguably not as quickly.
No, there’s no getting around it. Unlike Ontario, debt is about as welcome in Alberta as pumpkin-spice flavoured crude oil. Rachel Notley will learn this the hard way come 2019 when she’s deposed by Jason Kenney.
And while I’d love to believe that, I’m not so sure.
You see, Ryan, an addiction needs enablers and, most importantly, a belief that things will get worse if the addiction stops.
While I may be three provinces away, it seems to me that Notley is as good, if not better, than Trudeau and Wynne at scaring her unfortunate constituents into staying hooked on debt. Specifically, she knows how much Albertans hate to be stereotyped as bigoted rednecks… and she knows how to play on that insecurity to get her way.
Ryan even betrays a hint of this in his own piece when he says, “The bitterness that we have toward the East right now isn’t irrational or based on any kind of bigotry.”
Look, I’m in no place to judge. Ontarians are possibly the most reputation-conscious folks on the planet. Why, just a month or so ago it was alleged–ALLEGED–that over-concern for the Ontario Liberal Party’s “rep” was the motive for the deletion of emails in the gas plant scandal.
But I’m old enough to remember when the federal Conservative leadership race was rocked by chants of “Lock Her Up!” directed at Premier Notley herself at an anti-carbon tax protest outside the Alberta provincial legislature.
And I was interested to see how Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was re-elected to a third term despite having accumulated quite a bit of baggage–but not before he played the race card, of course.
Then there was that abrupt implosion of the Wild Rose Party in 2012–all because, we were told, of a single blog post where a WRP candidate said gay people were going to burn in an actual lake of fire.
Ontario conservatives live in fear of such unreconstructed stupidity taking over the news cycle to the point where they elect ciphers like Patrick Brown to lead.
Not that it’s doing any good, mind you. Because now the Liberals have managed to take what might have been a slip of the tongue by Brown–to the effect that Kathleen Wynne was on trial when she wasn’t–and torqued it into a narrative in which this represents a Trumpian disregard for the facts.
Laughable? Kind of. But then again, these are the same people who convinced Ontarians that the aggressively bland John Tory was a secret radical because he unwisely green-lighted a plan to fund faith based schools. So I don’t take Kathleen Wynne’s desperation moves lightly, even if Patrick Brown and his team do.
For his sake, then, I hope that the first United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney has figured out some way to keep the discussion on the subject of Alberta’s finances when–not if–his comments about gay-straight alliances come up.
And I’d especially hate to see Albertan conservatives become like their Ontario cousins, refusing to touch anything controversial for fear they’ll get steamrolled.
Because if they do somehow lose to Notley… who will be left to tell Ontarians how badly we’re screwing up?
Alberta is closing in on a $40 billion provincial debt. Our economy took the biggest hit during the oil crash, and yet we’re still sending money to Ontario and Quebec. Albertans can’t be blamed for any resentment they might feel toward Eastern Canada, especially when people like Montreal’s mayor take pride in shutting down pipelines like Energy East. If anyone thinks Albertans are angry, they’re right—but it’s not an irrational anger. We have every reason to be angry when deadbeat provinces like Ontario re-elect wasteful, big spending governments and then expect us to foot the bill.
Ontario’s debt is near $300 billion. There isn’t a chance in hell we’ll let Rachel Notley take us that far. Albertans have elected conservative governments for over 50 consecutive years before her, so when we see Ontarians and Quebeckers re-electing leftist governments, it doesn’t make any sense to us. We’ve consistently elected governments that have spent and taxed less and we’ve rarely expected anyone else to pay our bills. The bitterness that we have toward the East right now isn’t irrational or based on any kind of bigotry—we genuinely feel used and abused by bureaucrats in Ottawa and Ontario. We also fear for Ontario’s future, a province that’s fourth largest expense is servicing its ever-ballooning provincial debt. When (not if) Ontario goes bust, who’s going to end up paying for it?
While we were paying off our debts in the 1990s under Ralph Klein, Ontarians were accumulating theirs. (Ontario Premier Mike Harris cut spending but the debt barely went down.) It wasn’t until our Progressive Conservatives got trapped in a series of spending scandals that we rage-voted them out of office. Looking at Ontario, we see a long history of big spending and scandals that were never addressed by voters. Instead of kicking the Liberals out after all that Dalton McGuinty did, Ontario voters essentially re-elected the same government that rebranded itself under Wynne’s identity as a minority, LGBT woman. Now, as Albertans struggle to find work while banks foreclose on their homes, there’s a legitimate level of anger directed at Ontario and Quebec—two provinces that never bothered to clean up their acts via the electoral process, taking Alberta’s equalization payments for granted.
Albertans made a big move when they elected Notley’s NDP. As her approval ratings show, there’s a sense of buyer’s remorse in Alberta. Once 2019 comes around, history books will retell how Rachel Notley single-handedly unified conservatives and returned Alberta to its former glory days of promoting small government, liberty and fiscal/personal responsibility. When Alberta returns to true conservative principles, Notley’s election won’t be viewed so much as a mistake as it will be seen as a pivotal moment where Alberta cleansed itself of a corrupt government and started a renewal as Canada’s most prosperous province. After Rachel Notley, there won’t be much of an appetite in Alberta to return to the kind of politics that has destroyed both Ontario and Quebec.
This is what makes Alberta different from the East. While we’ve continued to learn from our mistakes, the East has stubbornly repeated theirs. This includes most of Atlantic Canada, which has suffered under high unemployment, high taxes and big spending. Despite the failures of their governments, most Eastern provinces have been too cowardly to give conservatism a try. They’ve accumulated unsustainable debts, increased spending, increased taxes, let their credit ratings sink and then expected Western provinces to bail them out. Even during our roughest times, Albertans are paying Eastern Canada’s bills.
Ask us again why we’ve had enough of your parasitic tendencies.
Albertans would have no problem sending equalization payments to Eastern Canada if Eastern Canada put some effort into cleaning up its act. Instead, we see the mayor of Montreal boasting about shutting down Energy East, a Prime Minister who sheds tears for a Canadian rockstar but carries on with dry eyes when addressing Alberta’s economic woes, and a series of Liberal governments in Atlantic Canada that shut down their own economic potential in the energy industry. And let’s not forget the time Justin Trudeau forgot to mention Alberta in a Canada Day speech.
If Alberta were a person, he/she would be angry as hell.
It looks like Ontario is angry at Kathleen Wynne, but they were angry at the Liberals in 2014 and then they gave them another majority—so what are we to expect? Patrick Brown is far from an ideal conservative replacement, but if Ontario doesn’t fix itself, expect Alberta and Saskatchewan to become more hostile. If Quebec keeps demonizing our oil industry while enjoying their furnaces in January, expect the West to become more enraged. If Justin Trudeau continues to pander to the East and shrug off Alberta’s hardships, expect the Wild Rose Country to retaliate.
It might be time for Canada to experience a new kind of separatist movement. If Alberta isn’t able to shake off this Liberal disease in 2019 with enough federal seats to wield power in Ottawa, the fractures might get so deep and wide that Quebec’s 1995 separatist vote will look like amateur night. If Eastern Canada wants to keep testing Alberta, we’re more than happy to fight back. A glance at social media, a conversation at a pub and a chat over a neighbour’s fence is all it takes to get an idea of the general sentiment here in Alberta right now. We aren’t happy and we’ve had a suitcase packed since 2015.
Just say when, Canada.
Photo Credit: CTV
Normally you wouldn’t use the expression “spoiled for choice” to describe Ontarians, but when it comes to reasons to hate their Premier, they’ve got more options than they can count.
And that’s a problem.
One list I saw floating around Twitter this week included actionable items as diverse as school closings, the Hydro One “fire sale”, the gas plant scandal, cuts to health care, and kicking children with autism off the list for IBI therapy.
Add to this laundry list whatever your beef with the Ontario Liberals might be, as well as the beefs of everyone you know and everyone they know, and it quickly becomes too much for the short-term memory of even the most devoted and practiced Wynne-hater to contain.
To systematically walk your average voter through even one of these boondoggles — each of which on their own is a good enough reason to boot Wynne from government — requires time and brain space that most people don’t have to spare.
Kathleen Wynne, like many politicians past and present whose reach exceeded their grasp, has been doing such a lousy job as Premier that she’s actually doing a great job of confounding her critics. They can’t pick one issue she’s screwing up and rally behind it without leaving everyone else with a bone to pick in the blinding dust.
Wynne would blanche at the notion that she and Donald Trump have anything in common (which, of course, is why I’m making the comparison), but while watching the recent Stateside scrimmage over NFL players sitting, standing, or kneeling for the national anthem to protest whatever got stuck in between their cleats that particular day, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the local efforts to move the ball down the field against the Premier which always seem to end in an interception, or wandering out of bounds.
Recall, if you can, through the mists of time and social media fury, that those gridiron protests were ostensibly started to speak out against police brutality in America. Once the football got awkwardly rolling, however, we had everyone from Auston Matthews to LeBron James to Trump himself weighing in and turning the kneeling protest into whatever they wanted it to be.
Ironically, what the protests needed was a single quarterback to call the plays, especially when Trump, the singular avatar of American anger, was tweeting against them.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to stop police brutality or stop Liberal brutality perpetrated against Ontario: disorganization will be the kiss of death in either case.
Hate the 45th President all you like. He was, and is, a symbol and a brand for all those around the world who are tired of the lies and inadequacy of government and who are fed up with being tinkered with and nudged about by technocrats.
Despite this, opposition politicians have taken a knee of their own when it comes to being the face of anti-Wynne discontent, while non-governmental organizations, Facebook groups, and #onpoli are clearing houses for free flowing anti-Wynne anger.
From this swirling miasma, the Liberals can choose from comparisons between Wynne’s appearance and that of Orville Redenbacher, high-minded insults such as “McWynnie The Milch Cow”, or even statements made in a fit of pique by Patrick Brown himself to redirect the discourse and present herself as the victim, or dismiss critics such as Ontario Proud as a “hate movement”.
Thus the government is spoiled for choice as well. When hateful or angry statements are the only real crime, instead of inducements provided to candidates in Sudbury, or the deletion of emails pertaining to the movement of gas plants, and incompetence is easily handwaved away with references to the Mike Harris or Stephen Harper governments, the Wynne government is under no obligation to get even the basics right so long as her critics are getting it so wrong and confused.
Despite the eternal optimism of the opposition that the voters of Ontario will eventually deliver the province into their hands and all they have to do is show up to be the beneficiaries, the hard truth is that only a stone-faced, determined movement, organized to the point of mechanistic efficiency, brooking absolutely no dissent from within and centered around a single idea or symbol or even a word, will stop the Ontario Liberal reign of terror.
But in Ontario. where diversity is our strength, and where opposition parties must continually advertise how modern and inclusive they are lest anyone’s feelings be hurt, singular focus on one goal to the exclusion of all else seems too far of a cry.
There’s a reason why the two most activist Premiers in Ontario’s history — Mike Harris and Bob Rae — are the two most hated Premiers.
There’s a reason why any semblance of “ideology” causes voters to recoil in horror.
And there’s a reason why we have allowed our debt to bloat out of control, our energy sector to become a mess of tangled wires, our health care system to become a crazy quilt of bureaucracies and fiefdoms, and our school system to become an unassailable white elephant despite school closings in rural areas and out-of-control trustee behavior, which should be due to leap back into the news spotlight any moment now.
We would rather trouble heaven with our bootless and fruitless cries than actually organize.
We would rather be spoiled for choice, and act spoiled besides, rather than solve problems.
Deep down, the Wynne government is the government we want and deserve. Big, bland, and broken beyond repair.
For who among us would stand against the storm of millions of Ontarians who fear the loss of what little entitlements they have?
Who would risk their reputation, the thing Ontarians hold more dear than life itself?
Who would match the determination of Kathleen Wynne as she works to uphold the supremacy of the nanny state that she holds so dear, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, even as the walls crumble around her?
Who would lose so much — to win so little?
An analysis of Canadian Heritage’s proactive disclosure of the distribution of Canada 150 grant money in the past two years shows the western provinces (Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia) and Nova Scotia have thus far received significantly smaller portions of overall grant money in comparison to their respective proportions of the national population.
By the end of last year, Canadian Heritage had approved and distributed a little over $151 million in Canada 150 grants to Canadian businesses, schools, municipalities, NGOs, charities, etc. The Canadian Heritage department is still in the process of dividing the remaining $49 million of the $200-million Canada 150 Fund, but so far some provinces and territories have fared a lot better than others in the division of the fund.
Ontario has thus far come out the big winner with $75,261,117 or 49.8 per cent of Canada 150 grants being given to the province’s businesses and organizations in the last two years, despite the province only making up 38.3 per cent of the overall population. Quebec ($38,957,426 or 25.8 per cent), Prince Edward Island ($3,141,507 or 2.1 per cent), Northwest Territories ($683,500 or 0.5 per cent), Yukon ($1,473,000.00 or 1 per cent), and Nunavut ($1,069,255 or 0.7 per cent) also did well in comparison with their population sizes respectively at 23.2 per cent, 0.4 per cent, and about 0.001 per cent cent for all three territories.
Alberta fared the worst, receiving only $5,483,514 or 3.6 per cent of the Canada 150 fund thus far distributed, despite 11.6 per cent of all Canadians living in the prairie province. Other provinces that received disproportionately less in the last two years were New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia.
Certain cities also fared far better than others, receiving disproportionately higher amounts of the Canada 150 Fund compared to their population sizes. Cities like Edmonton and Hamilton make up 2.7 per cent and 1.5 per cent of Canada’s total population respectively, but they only received 0.8 per cent and 0.0002 per cent. On the other hand, Toronto and Ottawa make up 7.8 per cent and 2.7 per cent of the population respectively, but received 18.7 per cent and 15.6 per cent of the Canada 150 Fund given out thus far.
Before some readers in certain areas of the country get upset, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s press secretary Pierre-Olivier Herbert explained why there has been a disproportionate division of Canada 150 grant money between the provinces and territories thus far.
“As they come in they are sent to the departments in batches and evaluated. We still have over a thousand applications that are still being assessed. It’s normal that we don’t see a provincial balance yet, but it is something we are striving towards,” explained Herbert.
Yet over 75 per cent of the Canada 150 Fund has already been given out, so its unlikely the fund will be completely balanced proportionately among the provinces, let alone cities. Herbert said the program was extremely over-subscribed. “We got billions of dollars in asks for a $200 million budget.”
For local initiatives alone, the department received a deluge of 3,285 applications. So far the department has approved 365 projects and declined 1,883 applications, and is now in the process of sifting through the remaining 1,037 applications over the next couple of months.
The Canada 150 Fund is separated into three types of grants. $80 million is set aside for “Signature Initiative” grants, which are pan-Canadian sesquicentennial celebratory activities that reach communities across Canada. So far these types of grants have been largely benefiting businesses and organizations based in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.
Another $20 million is for major events, and the remaining $100 million is for “Community Driven Act” grants, for regional or local Canada 150 projects. When analyzing the distribution of just these regional grants, again, certain provinces tend to fare better than others.
Canadian Heritage aims to have all the money allocated and proactive disclosures completed for the Canada 150 Fund by April or May.
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