Submitted by Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan
COVID-19, let’s have more hope and less fear
While COVID-19 should be respected, I am concerned there is too much fear, contention and polarization; hope is so much better.
Relying on true principles results in more happiness and better choices, carrying us through challenging times to better days. I know this is true.
One foundational principle of the United Conservative Party is to “[a]ffirm the family as the building block of society and the means by which citizens pass on their values and beliefs and ensure that families are protected from intrusion by government.” I love that.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is intended to protect families from intrusions by government.
When I was studying the Charter in law school, I learned that Section 2 of the Charter recognizes “fundamental freedoms” including freedoms of “association” and “peaceful assembly.”
The freedom of association allows for the “achievement of individual potential through interpersonal relationships”.
What interpersonal relationships allow for more opportunities for “achievement of our potential,” individually or collectively, than in our families?
The freedom of assembly protects the “physical gathering of people”. What physical gatherings are more important than with our own families?
Belonging to, and gathering in, our families are not mere fundamental freedoms, they are also among the highest, most important, expressions of these freedoms.
Families are the fundamental unit of society. More than ever, families need each other and need to be supported.
Section 1 of the Charter requires “minimal impairment”, “rational connection” and “proportionality” between the objective of reducing harms from COVID through public health orders and the harms of imposing limits on the freedoms of families to gather and act in ways to support each other in these challenging times.
I am blessed to be the father of two adult sons and a teenage daughter who I love.
Like many parents, I am concerned about the impact health orders are having on the mental and emotional health of our children.
I feel joy watching my sons become independent of their parents, to seek happiness as they individually see fit.
Yet, like many parents, I see the work and effort of young adults threatened by lockdowns or shutdowns with devasting social and economic consequences.
This ought not to be. Some of the loudest voices calling for more lockdowns or shutdowns, will not lose a penny of pay, while those impacted may lose it all.
No child under 20 has died from COVID-19 in Alberta. A single positive COVID case in a high school should not automatically result in 118 other students sent home to isolate, just because they were in the same classrooms, notwithstanding physical distancing may have been maintained throughout, and notwithstanding a student is in good health and exhibiting no symptoms.
Public health measures require these school children to go home and isolate for up to 14 days, avoiding close contact with household members, including parents, not leave their properties, even for walk, and even if they have no symptoms. For some children, all of this can be very unhealthy. Parents seeking the well-being of their children may be compelled to respond differently.
The WHO defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Orders, lockdowns and shutdowns impose long term physical, mental and emotional health costs, especially on our children.
Children should never be made to fear. Truth is an antidote to fear. Truth is a knowledge of things as they are and as they are to come.
Perspective is integral to understanding truth.
Interpreting facts in isolation, or with selective fact emphasis, distorts perspective, allowing fears to take root.
Providing facts in context, with a balanced emphasis, supports healthier perspectives.
Vaccinations are increasing and the observed cyclical incidence of COVID-19 lessens as summer approaches.
Selective fact emphasis should not be used to magnify risk. Media hysteria, and those seeking to leverage a narrative of fear are not serving the truth.
While we should vigilant, fear should not be used as a tool to coerce compliance to restrictions. Great leaders lead in love and inspire hope and the best in those they serve.
Prescriptive approaches used for unhealthy individuals, should not be used for healthy populations. Prescriptive approaches can deny responsible adults the opportunity to make personal judgments appropriate for their own circumstances, their families, and their children.
A principled vision of hope trusts Albertans to govern themselves and their families in respectful ways. We will have more hope, and we will be healthier and happier.
We can love truth and trust that it will prevail.
Writer opposing Free Alberta Strategy in national article confuses chartered banks with financial institutions
From the Free Alberta Strategy Team
In a new article published in the federal-government-funded “The Conversation” publication, Robert L. Ascah, a researcher at the also-federal-government-funded Parkland Institute, attempts to lay the hatchet to the Free Alberta Strategy.
In his piece, entitled “What the Free Alberta Strategy gets wrong about Canada’s banking system,” Mr. Ascah argues that the Alberta Independent Banking Act that is proposed in the Free Alberta Strategy report is unconstitutional because banking is an entirely federal area of jurisdiction.
Here is the key quote from Mr. Ascah:
“The Free Alberta Strategy, however, purports to allow Alberta to incorporate and regulate banks, which is clearly unconstitutional. There’s no mention that this proposal is beyond the powers of the provincial legislature.”
But, as so often seems to happen, this latest Free Alberta Strategy critic clearly doesn’t appear to have read – or taken the time to understand – what the Free Alberta Strategy is actually proposing.
While it’s true that “chartered banks” are federally regulated, that doesn’t mean that any type or form of “banking”, as the term is colloquially used, must be federally regulated.
Credit unions, for example, offer “banking” services, while not being “chartered banks” that are federally regulated.
This definition, while technical, is the crux of the issue.
And while we admit that this is very technical, when you’re talking about writing laws, technicalities matter a lot.
To be clear, here is the exact proposal from the Free Alberta Strategy report itself:
1. Expanding the number of provincially regulated financial institutions and credit unions;
2. Promoting private ownership of these new financial institutions; and
3. Mandating that all provincially regulated financial institutions and credit unions (including ATB) remain compliant with the Alberta Sovereignty Act as it relates to the non-enforcement of federal laws and court decisions deemed to infringe unduly on Alberta’s provincial jurisdiction.
You will note, very clearly, that this proposal in our Free Alberta Strategy report talks about “provincially regulated financial institutions” not “chartered banks”.
This is because the authors of the strategy understand (unlike Mr. Ascah, apparently) that while “chartered banks” must be regulated by the federal government, “financial institutions” can be regulated by the provincial government.
This is exactly why our Free Alberta Strategy report suggests modelling any new “banks” in Alberta on ATB Financial (previously known as Alberta Treasury Branches), which is a long-standing Alberta financial institution.
(Note: Although ATB is a crown corporation, our proposal envisages privately owned and operated financial institutions, not more government-owned and operated financial institutions. Just in case anyone was worried we were suddenly advocating for bigger government!)
Just as Alberta’s credit unions are not “chartered banks” and so are not federally regulated, ATB Financial is not a “chartered bank”, and so it is not regulated by the federal government.
ATB Financial is a “financial institution” that is provincially regulated by the Alberta government under the ATB Financial Act.
This is precisely what the Free Alberta Strategy report proposes – an increase in the number of provincially regulated financial institutions in Alberta.
We can clearly see then that, despite the claim by Mr. Ascah that provincial regulation of banking is unconstitutional, the mere existence of ATB is proof that our proposal is, in fact, constitutional.
The remainder of Mr. Ascah’s article goes on to argue that if Alberta unconstitutionally incorporated its own new “chartered banks”, the federal government would cut those banks off from being able to transfer funds to other banks in Canada, making them impractical for the public to use.
Maybe it’s true that the federal government would cut off any unauthorized provincial “chartered banks” from payment mechanisms.
But, given no one is proposing Alberta incorporate its own new “chartered banks”, this entire second half of the article is an irrelevant straw man argument.
Again, the Free Alberta Strategy proposes to incorporate new provincially regulated financial institutions, like ATB.
And, in case you haven’t noticed, ATB has not been cut off from being able to transfer funds to other banks by the federal government, because – shock – the existence of ATB is perfectly constitutional.
The real question then, is whether or not the first half of Mr. Ascah’s article, where he claims we are proposing to do something unconstitutional, is simply a misunderstanding, or a deliberately misleading diatribe.
Either way, such a fundamental error really makes you wonder why the Parkland Institute would allow the article to be published at all!
Are Parkland Institute staff no longer expected to read the thing they are publicly criticizing anymore?
Are The Conversation editors no longer expected to check whether their authors have their facts straight?
Perhaps the oddest part of this whole situation is that the Parkland Institute, where Mr. Ascah works, has previously written about the benefits of having an Alberta-based, Alberta-regulated financial institution!
They did so in a report that goes into detail explaining the difference between federally regulated chartered banks and provincially regulated financial institutions!
Even stranger still – which Parkland Institute researcher do you think it was who wrote this report?
Yes, you guessed it, it was Robert L. Ascah!
It gets worse…
Once upon a time, Mr. Ascah worked at Alberta Treasury, the government department that is responsible for regulating ATB.
Then, after he worked at Alberta Treasury, Mr. Ascah went to work at ATB itself, where he was responsible for government relations, strategic planning, and economic research.
That’s right folks…
Our Free Alberta Strategy critic, who attacked us by claiming that provincially regulated financial institutions are unconstitutional, actually worked as a senior executive at both the organization he claims is unconstitutional, and the organization that is supposed to regulate the thing that he claims is unconstitutional.
We must either believe, then:
- That Mr. Ascah, who has written about the benefits of provincially-regulated financial institutions, has worked for a provincially-regulated financial institution, and has worked for the organization that regulates provincially-regulated financial institutions, is somehow entirely unaware that provincially-regulated financial institutions are legal.
Or, we must believe:
- That Mr. Ascah perfectly understands that provincially-regulated financial institutions are legal and that that is how ATB is established, but that it’s somehow, all of a sudden, now beneficial for him to pretend that he doesn’t, and that anyone suggesting other financial institutions be regulated in that way is suggesting something “unconstitutional”.
How could it possibly be beneficial for Mr. Ascah to pretend that this idea is unconstitutional all of a sudden, I hear you ask?
Well, the answer to that question is actually the least confusing part of his article.
Contained right at the bottom of the article, under “Disclosure statement” (and conveniently excluded from most re-publications of the piece by the media) are 9 little words:
“Robert (Bob) L. Ascah is affiliated with Alberta NDP.”
Of course, affiliated with is a little bit of an understatement in this case.
Mr. Ascah has donated thousands of dollars to the Alberta NDP for many years, while several of his Parkland Institute colleagues are actually running as Alberta NDP candidates in the 2023 Alberta election!
Now, as a non-partisan organization, we generally try to avoid pointing out the political affiliations of individual people.
As an organization, we base our support for ideas on whether the ideas are good or not, rather than on who is proposing them.
But, in this case, we’re not criticizing the person proposing the ideas, but the lack of independence and the conflict of interest inherent in a situation where federal-government-funded researchers are published by federal-government-funded websites and re-printed by federal-government-funded newspapers.
Unfortunately, in a world where government-funded academics get government funding to write government propaganda published in government-funded media, there’s really no incentive to cover the truth anymore.
As to why the federal government would want to fund researchers to write propaganda for them, and fund media outlets to publish it for them, we’ll leave that one to you to answer!
In the end, this is exactly why we need more independent research and independent distribution of ideas in our society.
The Free Alberta Strategy jealously guards our independence.
That’s why we never accept any money or resources from any government, regardless of political stripe.
But that’s also why we need your help.
We need your help so that we can continue to do research and analysis on ways in which Alberta can fight back, such as the Sovereignty Act.
We need your help to further our work to protect Alberta’s interests from a hostile and divisive federal government in Ottawa.
We need your help to grow our supporter, activist, and volunteer network across our great province.
We need your help to share our work with like-minded friends and family in order to get the word out to as many members of the public as possible.
If you’re ready to help, click here:
Former Alberta premier Jason Kenney accepts role in Calgary advising law firm
By Dean Bennett in Edmonton
Jason Kenney, more than three months after stepping down as Alberta’s premier, has landed a new role as a Calgary-based adviser in law firm Bennett Jones.
Kenney, who is also a former federal cabinet minister, will work in the public policy group.
Kenney says on Twitter he looks forward to the new job and that his work won’t include lobbying the provincial government or its agencies.
He says Alberta’s ethics commissioner has signed off on his new role and Kenney says he won’t be accepting any other jobs without first checking with the commissioner.
Kenney announced last May he was stepping down as premier following a lukewarm 51 per cent vote of support in a United Conservative Party leadership review.
Kenney was instrumental in creating the UCP in a merger with his Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party, but he fell out of favour with many in the combined party over COVID-19 restrictions and what was seen as a top-down management style.
It was a not an amicable departure.
Kenney publicly clashed with his eventual successor, Premier Danielle Smith, over her plan to introduce sovereignty legislation to challenge what she considers federal intrusions into provincial areas of constitutional authority.
Kenney challenged the legality and economic effect of such a bill, and resigned as a legislature member on the day Smith’s sovereignty act was introduced last November.
Bennett Jones, with offices across Canada and in New York, said Kenney will provide advice on attracting investment in Canada’s energy sector and with Indigenous communities.
“I’m thrilled to be joining this iconic firm, which has both deep Alberta roots and a major national presence,” said Kenney in a statement Wednesday.
“Bennett Jones’ Public Policy group has the greatest policy depth of any Canadian law firm, and I look forward to working with several former colleagues from both senior elected and public service roles.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023
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