Standing for Alberta – The Fight for a Fair Deal Within Canada
A new organization called Fairness Alberta has recently joined the ongoing national conversation discussing Alberta’s role in the Canadian landscape as a major contributor to the wealth and general prosperity of the country. Arguments surrounding the value of Alberta, which position it as Canada’s neglected province, have long been a contentious topic at the regional and national levels.
In 2016, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel famously made waves at parliament when she accused the federal government of treating Alberta like a “fart in the room, that no one wants to acknowledge or talk about” (1).
In October 2019, the results of the Canadian Federal Election saw the outrage of many across western Canada, giving rise to the popular Western Exit, better known as WEXIT, movement. Based on fundamental principles of economic liberty and social stability, WEXIT advocates for Western Canadian sovereignty through the secession of the western provinces from the rest of the country.
In January 2020, Alberta Proud hosted The Value of Alberta: A One-Day Conference on Alberta’s Future, featuring keynote topics such as “The Economic Value of Alberta”, “Is there a Canadian Manifesto without Alberta?” and “Reasons Alberta Struggles to fit and Where we go Next”.
On Monday, May 25, Fairness Alberta joined the ranks of Albertans dissatisfied with the federal government’s treatment of Alberta, seeking to take a stand against biased policies and regulations. This Proudly Canadian, Fiercely Albertan organization operates on non-partisan, factual fundamentals, seeking not to deepen the divide between Alberta and the rest of the country, but to bridge the gap through education, discussion and understanding.
Bill Bewick, Executive Director Fairness Alberta, brings extensive experience to the organization with a PhD in Political Science from Michigan State University and years spent working as a political consultant, as well as within the Alberta legislature. “It is entirely outside of our mandate to speculate about separatism,” says Bewick of the WEXIT movement, “our goal is to get a better deal for Alberta, within Canada.”
At the core of their organization, Fairness Alberta believes Canadians should recognize how a prosperous Alberta benefits Canada as a whole. According to Bewick, FA founders and members share a fundamental frustration regarding “how little people and politicians seem to understand about the amount of money leaving Alberta every year.” The Alberta Transfer Meter, operated by Fairness Alberta, features a running total of Alberta’s net contributions to other provinces in the form of federal taxes and EI premiums over the last two decades. According to the Meter, Albertans have seen an estimated total of $324 billion of their tax dollars spent in other Canadian provinces from the year 2000 to 2019.
Dedicated to informing the rest of the country about “the importance of Alberta’s contributions to Canada, and about the unfair nature of various federal policies, actions, and decisions from Ottawa”, Fairness Alberta hopes to help level the Canadian playing field in regards to fiscal, trade, energy, procurement and infrastructure issues.
“Alberta’s contributions are taken for granted,” says Bewick, “We want to encourage investment in a place that has shown high levels of productivity in the past and has a lot of potential for the future.” In achieving this goal, Bewick adds, “we really think education and open discussion are critical in reaching a common ground and having any significant change take place.”
Since their official launch, Fairness Alberta has experienced positive pick-up and feedback from the Alberta public, and is committed to continued growth and expansion throughout the rest of Canada. Dialogue based and donation driven, Bewick encourages the public to reach out, share feedback and join the conversation surrounding Alberta’s future.
For more information on Fairness Alberta and how to get involved, visit https://www.fairnessalberta.ca.
For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.
Canada under pressure to produce more food, protect agricultural land: report
Canada’s agricultural land is under increasing pressure to produce more food as demand grows domestically and internationally, while the industry grapples with limited resources and environmental constraints, a new report found.
“We need to grow more food on less land and in a volatile climate,” said Tyler McCann, managing director of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute.
The report by the institute released Thursday looks at the pressures on Canada’s agricultural land to produce more food while also mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, said McCann.
Despite Canada being a big country, it doesn’t have as much agricultural land as people might think, said McCann, with the report noting that agricultural land makes up only around seven per cent of the country.
Because of that, we can’t take what we do have for granted, he said. “We need to be really thoughtful about how we are using our agricultural land.”
In 2020, Canada was the eighth largest country in terms of cropland area, the report said, with that cropland decreasing by seven per cent over the previous two decades.
Canada is a major producer and net exporter of agriculture and agri-food products, the report said, exporting $91 billion in products in 2022, and one of the top 10 exporters of wheat, canola, pulses, pork and beef.
In the coming years, Canada will face increased demand from countries whose populations are growing, the report said.
“With population growth on one side and climate change on the other, Canada will be amongst an increasingly smaller number of countries that is a net exporter,” said McCann, noting that Canada’s own population is growing, and farmland also needs to be protected against urban sprawl.
The wildfires clouding Canadian skies this week are a “vivid reminder” of the pressure that extreme weather and the changing climate are putting on the agricultural sector, said McCann.
“We need to clearly mitigate … agriculture’s impact on climate change. But we also need to make sure agriculture is adapting to climate change’s impacts,” he said.
One of the ways the world has responded to demand for increased agricultural production over time is to create more agricultural land, in some cases by cutting down forests, said McCann. But that’s not a viable option for Canada, which doesn’t have a lot of land that can be sustainably converted into farmland — and even if it could, doing so could have a variety of adverse environmental effects, he said.
Some of the practices used to reduce emissions and sequester carbon in agriculture can also improve production output on existing farmland, the report found, such as precision agriculture and no-till practices.
However, intensifying the production of current agricultural land also comes with potential environmental downsides, the report said.
For example, McCann said fertilizer is an important part of sustainable agriculture, but there’s a balance to be struck because excessive use of fertilizer can quickly turn food production unsustainable.
“We need to be a lot more thoughtful about the inputs that we’re using,” he said, adding the same can be said about the use of technology in agriculture and the policies and programs put in place to encourage sustainable intensification of Canadian agriculture.
The report recommends that Canada adopt policies that provide financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers and develop regulatory frameworks promoting sustainable land use, as well as promoting education and awareness campaigns, so that the country can “ensure the long-term sustainability of its agricultural sector while protecting the environment.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.
Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press
Lawyer tells Alberta’s highest court review board biased in de Grood’s case
A family member of five slain students holds a heart sign with their names on it following a court decision in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, May 25, 2016. Alberta’s highest court is being asked to overturn a review board decision on the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party that confined a man to a supervised Edmonton group home. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
By Ritika Dubey in Edmonton
Alberta’s highest court is being asked to overturn a review board decision that confined a man to a supervised Edmonton group home after the stabbing deaths of five young people at a Calgary house party.
The lawyer representing Matthew de Grood argued Wednesday the review board’s decision was biased, citing what she described as political interference from Alberta’s former justice minister.
“The appellant says, ‘I think the conclusion about me is wrong. The board’s conclusion is incorrect and not supported by evidence,”’ Jacqueline Petrie said before the Alberta Court of Appeal. “He says there’s no significant evidence that he’s a risk.”
De Grood, 31, was found not criminally responsible in 2016 for the killings two years earlier of Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter and Lawrence Hong because he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time. Petrie said de Grood has been stable on medication, is at low risk to reoffend and should be allowed to live with his parents while being monitored under a full warrant.
She argued the review board misunderstood medical evidence during the September 2022 review, which deemed de Grood a significant risk despite the assessment showing improvements. She said the board is supposed to recommend the least onerous disposition compatible with public safety and did not do that for de Grood.
The defence lawyer has said the review had been influenced by former justice minister Doug Schweitzer, who weighed in on de Grood’s case in October 2019 after the panel allowed de Grood to transition from institutional care to a supervised group home.
He has been under supervision at a group home. His case is reviewed by the Alberta Review Board yearly to see whether he can transition back into the community while maintaining public safety.
Petrie pointed at de Grood’s “exemplary record,” and that he has been “compliant to the (medical) treatment team.”
“Nobody knew he had schizophrenia (at the time of the stabbings) and needed medication.”
Crown prosecutor Matthew Griener said the board considered a conditional discharge but dismissed it, citing a relapse in schizophrenia symptoms in 2021.
Griener said de Grood’s relapses were brief and happened at the hospital, providing an early window for medical professionals to intervene.
Justice Kevin Feehan said de Grood may be low-risk, but the consequences of even one relapse could be significant.
Reading from an expert’s report, Feehan said: “A low risk to offend doesn’t mean the reoffence would not be severe.”
Some family members of the victims drove from Calgary for the hearing.
Segura’s mother, Patty, said the last nine years have been about de Grood and his rights.
“He should be thankful that he ended up NCR (not criminally responsible) rather than end(ing) with five life sentences for murdering five people,” she said. “He should not be appealing.”
Hunter’s father, Barclay, opposed a potential full release.
“The idea that he wouldn’t be monitored for the rest of his life seems to defy logic, it doesn’t make any sense,” said the father.
Hunter’s mother, Kelly, said the family has had “no healing.”
“We do this every year, at least once. Now, this is the second appeal,” she said. Barclay
Hunter said although there are attempts to reintegrate de Grood into society, he hopes the man is not left on his own with an absolute discharge.
“Regardless of what they say, he killed five people. If that doesn’t stand on its own as a risk factor, then I don’t know what does.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2023.
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