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Alberta

Redman got it right on COVID response

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Linda Slobodian

“The fear is still, I would say, in 65% of our population. They are now self-destroying their Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Emergency response expert and retired Lt. Col. David Redman tirelessly tried to warn everyone that the “incoherent” chaotic response to COVID-19 was dangerously flawed.

The powers in charge didn’t listen to Redman, a globally respected authority who led Alberta’s Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) for five years and served 27 years with the Canadian Armed Forces.

But finally, Redman’s dire warnings, concerns, and suggested response to dealing with a pandemic were validated by recommendations made by the Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel (PHEGRP) in a report submitted to the Alberta government last week.

What the government does with the recommendations remains to be seen.

But steps must be taken to hold decision-makers accountable for “gross negligence” and to help people break out of COVID’s needless “cycle of fear” that still cripples too many, Redman told the Western Standard Friday.

“Canada will pay the costs of this deadly response for decades to come,” said Redman.

Redman’s letters early on to Canada’s premiers warning them that discarding emergency management principles and placing health care officials in charge of pandemic response was dangerous, were ignored.

AEMA strategies, prepared in advance and in place to deal with pandemics, collected dust. Redman led the team that wrote the 2005 Pandemic Influenza Response Plan that was updated in 2014.

Emergency management offices — fully equipped and staffed with experts — in every province and territory were shut out.

Under the direction of health officials, the public was under siege. Punished for disobeying mandates. Subjected to unnecessary lockdowns and school closures. And controlled by a fear factor that defied a tenet of emergency management experts.

“They did it on purpose. They used fear as a weapon. In emergency management you never use fear. You use confidence. You show confidence that the emergency can be handled and present a plan to show how this will be achieved,” said Redman.

He said it is deeply disturbing that people still believe they must keep vaccines up to date and self-isolate. And that must be rectified if even possible.

“The fear that this government generated — by this government I mean every provincial, territorial government, and in particular the federal government — created for two straight years, only broken by the Freedom Convoy — will last until the children that were just entering school in 2020 die.”

Redman said the COVID-19 response was the “exact opposite” of an emergency management response.

“The pandemic response was health only focussed with terrible and deadly costs to individual mental health, societal health, our children, other serious illnesses and diseases, economic viability, and our democratic way of life simply ignored.”

“Unless there is an emergency management plan built, these costs will continue to be massive.”

Well, there’s hope.

The PHEGRP submitted its final report with more than 90 recommendations.

The panel was established by Premier Danielle Smith in January to review the government’s legislation and governance practices to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is my hope that by adopting these recommendations, the Government will be better equipped to cope with future emergencies and that the impacts on Albertans — their personal livelihoods, civil liberties and mental health — can be mitigated to the greatest extent possible,” said PHEGRP Chair and former Reform party leader Preston Manning in a press release.

Key recommendations include strengthening the AEMA through legislative amendments and budgetary provisions to make it the lead government agency responding to and coordinating the government’s response to future public emergencies.

Redman is “very happy” with Manning’s recommendations.

“There’s a lot of meat in what he’s written.”

“The first and foremost recommendation overarching his whole report is that legislation need to be changed to ensure that the emergency management process and emergency managers are in charge of every emergency including the next pandemic.”

“And that that the AEMA is appropriately funded and staffed to do their new far extended role.”

“He didn’t just say the legislation needs to be changed. He said the government needs to build and fund that organization to be responsible for response for every emergency including pandemics.”

Redman, who testified at the National Citizens Inquiry in Red Deer last April, was pleased with Manning’s wide scope.

“In the first line of each recommendation he’s covered all of the areas from fear being number one, to not doing a hazard assessment to realize that Sars-CoV-2 was really only affecting the elderly.”

“And the terrible destruction of the children and their education system, but more importantly their socialization, the effects on business, the destruction of our economy, and then summing it up with the complete destruction of rights and freedoms.”

“I think they’ve pretty much covered the areas.”

Redman said two steps must be followed immediately.

First, hold a public inquiry to educate the public and “break the cycle of fear.”

“The fear is still, I would say, in 65% of our population. They are now self-destroying their Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

“They believe Sars-C0V-2, the sixth version of the common cold, is deadly. And they will keep believing it until we do a full, open, transparent public inquiry to teach people that what we did was absolutely wrong and why it was wrong.”

“Step two, there must be a process-driven full-recovery plan … That recovery process has to be complete, covering all the points in the Manning report and any that he might have missed.”

“Again, it must be transparent. And that plan has to be fully implemented with the ability to hold accountable everyone responsible for the gross negligence and criminal negligence that was done during COVID.”

“That will show to the public that what was done wasn’t just wrong, it was criminally wrong, and they can stop the fear.”

The inquiry must address what was done, why and “how do we recover from all of the damage we’ve done.”

“Let’s use children as an example. How do you overcome the loss of academic training. And how do you overcome two years of lack of socialization?”

If the emergency management recommendation is implemented by Smith’s government, citizens can be confident if/when the next pandemic hits.

“Emergency management is made up of professionals who are experts who evaluate daily hazards. They use a disciplined process to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recovery from all hazards in their jurisdiction,” said Redman.

“The process they use ensures that all required experts, across the public and private sector, are involved in making a plan that evaluates the cost versus the benefits of all possible actions, making a coherent plan that is issued to the public for their engagement and feedback.”

Alberta’s pandemic plan is designed to control the spread of disease, reduce mortality, mitigate societal disruption, minimize adverse economic impact, and support efficient and effective use of recourses during response and recovery.

The Manning report recognized the delicate balance in protecting Albertans during emergencies and honouring rights and freedoms.

It recommended amending the Alberta Bill of Rights, Employment Standards Code, and Health Professions Act to protect the rights and freedoms of all Albertans, including workers and healthcare professionals and freedom of expression during emergencies.

Manning noted that too many Canadians suffered losses — including loved ones, jobs due to “rigorous health protection measures,” businesses, and freedoms.

How different would things have been if people like Redman had been listened to at the time…

Linda Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard based out of Winnipeg. She has been an investigative columnist for the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, and Alberta Report.  This originally appeared in the Western Standard here.

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Alberta

TDF funds defence of the “Coutts Three”

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The “Coutts Three,” Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen

News release from The Democracy Fund

A jury trial is expected to proceed after pretrial applications.

LETHBRIDGE: The Democracy Fund (TDF) is funding the defence of three men charged with mischief in Lethbridge, Alberta. The men, known as the “Coutts Three,” are Marco Van Huigenbos, Alex Van Herk and George Janzen. All three are alleged to have been leaders of the 17-day trucker protest against COVID-19 restrictions that shut down the Coutts border in February 2022.

The matter is expected to proceed to a jury trial after pretrial applications are heard over the next few days. Jury trials are only available for serious criminal matters where the accused faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment or more.

The men should not be confused with the “Coutts Four,” who were among the twelve persons arrested in connection to an RCMP raid that resulted in the seizure of weapons and the end of the protest. According to Van Huigenbos, the message of the Coutts protesters “had been lost” following the arrests and the border blockade was voluntarily dismantled.

Donations for the three men can be made on this page.

About The Democracy Fund:

Founded in 2021, The Democracy Fund (TDF) is a Canadian charity dedicated to constitutional rights, advancing education and relieving poverty. TDF promotes constitutional rights through litigation and public education. TDF supports an access to justice initiative for Canadians whose civil liberties have been infringed by government lockdowns and other public policy responses to the pandemic.

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Alberta

Low emissions, Indigenous-owned Cascade Power Project to boost Alberta electrical grid reliability

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The Cascade Power Project. Photo courtesy Kinetcor

From the Canadian Energy Centre

By Will Gibson

New 900-megawatt natural gas-fired facility to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s power needs

Alberta’s electrical grid is about to get a boost in reliability from a major new natural gas-fired power plant owned in part by Indigenous communities.  

Next month operations are scheduled to start at the Cascade Power Project, which will have enough capacity to supply more than eight per cent of Alberta’s energy needs.  

It’s good news in a province where just over one month ago an emergency alert suddenly blared on cell phones and other electronic devices warning residents to immediately reduce electricity use to avoid outages.  

“Living in an energy-rich province, we sometimes take electricity for granted,” says Chana Martineau, CEO of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) and member of the Frog Lake First Nation.  

“Given much of the province was dealing with -40C weather at the time, that alert was a vivid reminder of the importance of having a reliable electrical grid.” 

Cascade Power was the first project to receive funding through the AIOC, the provincial corporation established in 2020 to provide loan guarantees for Indigenous groups seeking partnerships in major development projects. 

So far, the AIOC has underwritten more than $500 million in support. This year it has $3 billion  available, up from $2 billion in 2023.  

In August 2020 it provided a $93 million loan guarantee to the Indigenous Communities Consortium — comprised of the Alexis Nakota Sioux NationEnoch Cree NationKehewin Cree NationOChiese First NationPaul First Nation, and Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation — to become equity owners. 

The 900-megawatt, $1.5-billion facility is scheduled to come online in March. 

“It’s personally gratifying for me to see how we moved from having Indigenous communities being seen as obstacles to partners in a generation,” says Martineau. 

The added capacity brought by Cascade is welcomed by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO), which is responsible for the provinces electrical grid. =

“The AESO welcomes all new forms of generation into the Alberta marketplace, including renewables, thermal, storage, and others,” said Diane Kossman, a spokeswoman for the agency.  

“It is imperative that Alberta continue to have sufficient dispatchable generation to serve load during peak demand periods when other forms of generation are not able to contribute in a meaningful way.” 

The Cascade project also provides environmental benefits. It is a so-called “combined cycle” power facility, meaning it uses both a gas turbine and a steam turbine simultaneously to produce up to 50 per cent more electricity from the same amount of fuel than a traditional facility.  

Once complete, Cascade is expected to be the largest and most efficient combined cycle power plant in Alberta, producing 62 per cent less CO2 than a coal-fired power plant and 30 per cent less CO2 than a typical coal-to-gas conversion.  

“This project really is aligned with the goals of Indigenous communities on environmental performance,” says Martineau. 

The partnership behind the power plant includes Axium InfrastructureDIF Capital Partners  and Kineticor Resource Corp. along with the Indigenous Communities Consortium. 

The nations invested through a partnership with OPTrust, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.  

“Innovation is not just what we invest in, but it is also how we invest,” said James Davis, OPTrust’s chief investment officer. 

“The participation of six First Nations in the Cascade Power Project is a prime example of what is possible when investors, the government and local communities work together.” 

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