Fingerprints tell the story

When solving a mystery, detectives often rely on the physical evidence they find at the scene. One of the most powerful pieces of evidence that can be brought forward is the fingerprints left behind by the perpetrators.

Alberta’s fight to get our energy products to market has been the subject of much debate and opinion in recent months. The debate is due in large part to the price differential Alberta receives for it’s energy products when compared to our competitors throughout the world.

Alberta’s ability to move our energy product to market in a timely fashion is, in large part, a self imposed problem. Many of the issues that have contributed to this situation that has now become critical, have the fingerprints of people who should have been working towards solutions all over it. Those fingerprints are on the agreements that saw people who openly worked against Alberta.

With people such as David Suzuki and Tzeporah Berman openly attacking all things petroleum, it makes absolutely no sense why any organization or government department would even consider contributing to their campaigns. Unfortunately that’s exactly what has been happening under Alberta’s current government. Many of the members of the Alberta government’s own caucus have for years protested all things petroleum and actively worked to shut down our energy industry.

In the fall Legislative session that just wrapped up on December 6th, there was a chorus of voices from the government side of the house declaring they now, one and all, support Alberta’s mission to get our product to markets around the world. It left this MLA wondering exactly “How did we get here?” and how did we end up in this predicament we now find ourselves in.

Some of the fingerprints weren’t hard to find, particularly when you have a government Minister going to the extent of penning the forward for a book by an extremist that has shown open contempt for our province’s largest revenue generator. Some of the other fingerprints also come back to those currently sitting in the Federal government caucus.

With forces provincially and federally working in concert against Alberta and Canada’s economic backbone, it’s almost as if they don’t understand how important the revenues generated in Alberta truly are. It’s only now that they’re getting the message loud and clear that the activities they’ve participated in previously have empowered the very people working against the most ethical oil production in the world coming from Alberta.

With billions of dollars filling the coffers federally and provincially that have the financial fingerprints of Alberta all over them. It makes the words of support from those guilty of contributing to the current situation completely hollow and absolutely meaningless.

With an election in Alberta’s near future it’s important to remember how we got where we are today and exactly whose fingerprints are all over what has kept us from creating our own wealth in Alberta.

Electoral trust

Most of us believe that we have some form of trust with the people we elect as our representatives. In order to establish and maintain that trust, it is up to a representative to be forthright and honest with their constituents about their intentions. Unfortunately, it appears that the current Alberta government doesn’t share that principle.

Alberta’s Finance Minister often mentions how his government has Alberta on “the path to balance.” Yet his government has yet to explain how they are planning to reach this balance he speaks of. He’s clearly indicating that they will somehow do this without budget reductions while still ramping up spending as they have done for over three years.

Meanwhile the government disingenuously argues that the Opposition seeks to harm Albertans – a claim severely out of touch with reality.

It doesn’t require an economics degree to understand in order to balance Alberta’s budget, the spending growth we’ve seen in recent years will need to be restrained. But does anyone believe the government has the self-control to stop their spending binge? The Alberta government is either misrepresenting their intentions, or they have another mysterious way to generate revenue in order to balance our finances which they aren’t willing to share with us.

With Alberta facing crushing debt that the government are contributing to in record amounts, something has to give. With Alberta government Ministers offering up little more than hollow rhetoric intended to distract Albertans, taxpayers are seeing their personal finances falling deeper into the red.

Now imagine if your household finances were in the kind of shape the province’s is today, with spending out-pacing income by a wide margin. Now ask yourself how you would need to respond personally?

At the same time, the government’s anti-business policies are driving away investment and much-needed revenue to pay for essential social programs. The government is only making the problem worse.

There’s obviously something the government isn’t telling us. Perhaps it’s something like what they didn’t tell us prior to the 2015 general election. Their ‘tax on everything’ we all know as the carbon tax. Can Albertans expect even more tax hikes and new taxes if the government gains a second term? With the government’s past record, we should all be very, very concerned.

Albertan voters can only trust that they are putting their mark beside the electoral candidate that most honestly represents their views. They only get those chances every few years. They need to be able to trust that person.

Can Albertans trust our present government?

The tale of the tax on everything

Once upon a time there was a land that had endless potential due to its vast resources that lay at its feet. This enriched province saw varied machinations of managerial ideologies that, in one way or another, came with intended and, yes, unintended consequences, directly related to the people’s actions or lack of actions. This land was so rich and held so much potential, it’ potential was almost mythical in its stature among its neighbors.

After years of cronyism and insider decisions, the people that called this land home decided it was time for a change, however, that change was not what it first appeared to be. Without a word or warning, the agents of change the people empowered, suddenly and without prior notice, levied a tax on everything in the land; for the purposes of this column, we will call it the “a tax on everything.”

This tax had an immediate and profound effect on the very things that generated the wealth in the land that provided the necessities of life for the people. When asked to justify this burden to the good people of the land, it was only met with a contemptuous bout of name-calling and bullying.

The improperly presented intention of this tax was to force the people to cut back on the necessities of life that they rely on to survive. With resulting increases in basic life costs such as heating their homes, feeding their families, and getting to and from work, the people were angry. The peoples’ anger was rooted in the open deception by their government, who for reasons only they understand; they neglected to inform the people that they would be implementing their tax on everything.

As time passed and the peoples’ income was negatively affected, yet another insidious consequence threatened to further harm the people of this land. As time passed and investment dollars dried up in this land of opportunity and wealth, the people were hit with yet another consequence of the tax on everything.

This richly endowed land had resources that people in other lands sought. Now however, the past actions of some of their agents of change had dire negative long-lasting impacts on getting those products to other lands. Between their tax on everything and their past actions protesting the very things that contributed to their own enrichment, the once prosperous land saw its people unemployed at record levels.

The government of this land liked to regale the people with tales of woe when pressed about their fiscal status and the negative effects they have had on the people of their land. The tale they spun was one of fantasy with no acceptance of personal responsibility.

Perhaps if the people in this land’s current government had spent more time moving things forward in the peoples’ best interests rather than protesting and putting a tax on everything, the people of that land would not be facing the current fiscal slide they’re currently on.

Once upon a time there was a land of promise and unlimited potential. I’m confident that the people of that land will be more cautious and they won’t make the same mistake again.

Your plebiscite decision, the other side of the story

 Producers have an opportunity to exercise their opinion on the direction beef producers will go with the presently voluntary check off. I feel it’s important that consideration is given to both sides of the discussion. This letter to the editor  takes into consideration the other side of this decision.  We are presenting this with his permission;

Dear Editor,

Cattle and beef producers in Alberta are currently able to vote in a plebiscite on a non-refundable service charge (check-off) model for Alberta Beef Producers (ABP). Through this plebiscite, producers will make a decision on the future of their industry and funding of their organization. You will not be making a decision about the type of organization ABP will be, but about the funding model that will support the work we do.

ABP is, and always will be, a producer organization. We are an organization of producers, funded by producers, run by producers, speaking and working on behalf of producers. We hear suggestions that a refundable service charge makes ABP more accountable, but refunds don’t make accountability. They create uncertainty and make it difficult for ABP to make long-term investments based on direction from producers. Accountability comes from the democratic process in which our delegates and directors, first and foremost grassroots producers, are elected by producers in their respective zones.

ABP and our partners work diligently to ensure that producers receive substantial value for their investment of check-off dollars. A significant amount of the provincial service charge provides funding for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) which was influential in ensuring that the USMCA kept our duty-free access to U.S. and Mexican markets, and that the parliament and senate of Canada made us one of the first six countries to ratify the CPTPP. Provincially, ABP has been actively working with the provincial government and veterinarians to find dispensing options that will give producers timely and affordable access to prescription only antibiotics, working to address the wildlife conflict issues that are costing many cattle producers large amounts of money, and working to protect the interests of cattle and beef producers on grazing lease issues, OHS guidelines, and OHS Code requirements. ABP and CCA also lobby governments because producers tell us to do this work on their behalf.

If producers vote to make the $2 service charge non-refundable, ABP has committed to investing the majority of the amount currently being refunded, 40 cents per head or about $1.4 million annually, in the Alberta Beef Industry Development Fund (ABIDF). The ABIDF will make strategic investments in research, market development, education, consumer advocacy and industry collaboration activities to make the industry stronger and more profitable. ABP and the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) are already focused on informing and educating producers, consumers, government, and the public at large. We are seeking a non-refundable service charge to increase the funding we have available to do this important work.

The producers who run ABP and ACFA support a non-refundable service charge, but all cattle and beef producers in Alberta can participate in this decision by voting in the plebiscite. You are able to vote in the plebiscite at AFSC offices or by mail until November 27, 2018. We encourage producers to make your voice heard and please vote in the plebiscite.

Sincerely,

Charlie Christie

Chair, Alberta Beef Producers

Checkoff, your right to vote

 Producers have an opportunity to exercise their opinion on the direction beef producers will go with the presently voluntary check off. I feel it’s important that consideration is given to the possibility of “unintended” consequences. This opinion piece from one producer addresses those considerations. We are presenting this with his permission;

For some reason the voting on the Alberta Beef Producers voluntary checkoff has been extended. We are not sure why. But it is an opportunity for producers to get out and vote and for us to continue the discussion on whether it is better to have a choice or not.

We have not had an official response from the ABP defending the notion that forced engagement beats the voluntary kind. But we have received some personal communications including from ABP delegates that seem to strengthen our argument.

For instance, we have been told that it is wrong to consider revisiting the ABP’s support for the carbon tax because the matter was voted on already.

We have been told that we are pursuing a political agenda by questioning the ABP’s position on climate and carbon taxes.

Curiously one delegate wrote reproaching us over carbon taxes by saying: “as for science, who has the right to say one is absolute and the other fallacy?”

Answer:  Researchers: that is why we fund it.

This view is more than a bit silly because in supporting a carbon tax the ABP has decided that one position is right and one is wrong. And since it was not based on any research which they want you to fund, it was a political decision which they say we should not be advancing.

And that is the essence of the problem.

Our group wants ABP policy to be based on sound science and sound economics which ultimately leads to sound public policy.

The zone 8 resolution advanced by producers on climate did not ask ABP to take a position on climate. They asked ABP to facilitate an intelligent respectful discussion on the issue with speakers from both sides of the issue so that the delegate body and producers and our customers could make an informed decision after informed discussion based on research.The delegate body voted down the discussion. That was a political decision.  Our sense is that the vast majority of our producers want to be well informed and are opposed to the carbon tax as are the vast majority of voters. The ABP missed an opportunity to lead on this issue.

If democracy means citizens controlling government, or in this case the ABP, we have not just a right but a duty to form opinions on key policy issues and carbon taxes and climate change are key policy issues. Our organization is ‘out of step’ with our producers, many taxpayers and our largest trading customer on this issue.

And again, we underline that in the words of its defenders this ‘forced engagement’ apparently means you can not ask questions or rock the boat. Which is not real engagement, is it?

If they really favor people getting involved, they should not be sending snarky private notes to concerned producers telling us that we can not challenge their decisions or take a stand on principle in this outfit. They should be encouraging the involvement and the discussion.

In the meantime, we are continuing to urge producers to get out and vote to support the current refundable checkoff because nothing gets people’s attention like being told they can not keep taking your money unless they listen to your views. Especially people who say you should shut up and pay up. Please vote no to the mandatory checkoff.

Danny Hozack Past Chairman Alberta Beef Producers

 

Their sacrifices will never fade

The 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, marked the end of what is known as, “the war to end all wars” or “the Great War.” Remembrance Day 2018 is a milestone in Canadian Military history; a century since the end of World War I. Canada’s contribution was measured in numbers that are barely comprehensible with 61,000 Canadians losing their lives and another 172,000 wounded, making it the costliest wars in Canadian history.

Many returned from their experiences in the Great War, not only suffering physical wounds, but rather from what was called “shell shock” or as we know it today “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome” (PTSD). Their sacrifices, in some cases, were not physically apparent but none the less they were every bit as life- altering.

Canada’s last World War I veteran, John Babcock, passed away on February 18, 2010 at the age of 109.  John was the last survivor of the almost 650,000 enlisted personnel who served during the war. He was a mere 15 years old when he joined the 146th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Sydenham, near his home in Kingston, Ontario. A short time later, he arrived in England and was then transferred to reserve battalions and ended up with the Boys Battalion, which was known as the “Young Soldiers Battalion” in 1917, moving on to the front lines shortly after his 18th birthday.

The story of John Babcock and the loss of our last connection to an important part of our history, reminded me of the loss of another great Canadian. In early September, Hanna, Alberta and Canada lost a precious piece of our history, World War II veteran, Mr. Charlie Fielding at the age of 99 years. Charlie served with the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, attached to the Governor General’s Foot Guards in Europe during the World War II.

Charlie’s legacy is well known in Hanna and the surrounding area, in large part to the time he spent visiting schools and sharing his experiences with the children. By sharing connections men like John and Charlie made in their lives after serving were a gift to those who were fortunate enough to be in their audience.

The sacrifices today’s men and women make in our Armed Forces are as important now as they were during World Wars I and II. November 11th is a day of reflection and a time to put into perspective how significant the sacrifice of those who served to protect our freedom.

The loss of brave soldiers like John Babcock and Charlie Fielding as time passes cannot diminish the significance of the sacrifices that have ultimately shaped our daily lives.

There’s an old saying, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,” they may indeed faded away, but their sacrifices will never fade.

Lest we forget.

 

What’s up?

What’s up? A popular phone answer phrase my son likes to use. In a recent, widely read agriculture publication, numerical prairie grain stats were quoted. Off farm deliveries were 28% higher than historical values. The formerly stagnant system would be plugged from prairie to port with approaching 6 million tonnes instead of a now reported 2.67.

Question period in the Alberta Legislature is an opportunity to ask the Premier and her Ministers questions that affect the constituents of our ridings and the province. On Wednesday, October 31st, I used that opportunity to ask the Agriculture Minister about the NDP party’s stated intention, to “formally examine the impact to Canada’s international reputation that has resulted from the changes to Canada’s grain marketing storage and handling system.”

The question I posed to the Minister was as follows;

 Minister, in all your travels I have never heard you publicly say that Canada’s reputation and, by extension, Alberta’s grain growers have somehow been diminished by any recent changes in that federal policy. Have you?

As Albertans have come to expect, the answer was nothing more than bafflegab and misdirection that avoided the question completely.

As producers successfully move on with their marketing abilities, the NDP’s want to revisit the government control of grain handling and marketing.

What’s up? Exports of American wheat products were down 15% for soft wheat and 49% for hard red! What’s up? Canadian, net to producer prices, Vancouver freight discounted, is equal or above American, exchange calculated prices. Fortunately, what the Chicken Little Canadian Wheat Board loyalists were crying was wrong, that being, grain cost would have monopolistic pricing powers.

It was then that I followed with the following supplemental question;

Given that that resolution goes on to recommend, and I quote, “to put into place any additional government oversight needed to ensure that Canada’s grain marketing, storage, and handling system, works efficiently to the mutual benefit of all,” Minister, to this third generation son of a rich farmer it sure sounds like your party is advocating that Alberta’s farmers and our friends across Canada will once again be forced into a 1943-based monopoly, formerly called the Canadian Wheat Board. Is that your government’s intention?

And again the question was met with a non-answer that for the most part completely avoided the actual question.

My final question on this subject was aimed at the Minister’s intention going forward;

Given that several farmers, including myself, were thrown into jail for daring to take our own property, our commodity, wheat and barley grown by us, into the U.S.A. and giving it to a 4-H club; Minister, is this how your government would like to rebuild the tattered relationships with rural Alberta farmers and ranchers going forward into 2019?

Again the actual question was not addressed.

What’s up? Why was the Agriculture Minister avoiding the question? Is this another intention the NDP has that they don’t want to reveal? If I recall prior to the 2015 provincial election there was no mention of their job-killing carbon tax; is this what Albertans can expect?

What’s up? It seems to me that only Albertans can answer that question and they will have the opportunity to do just that in a polling booth during the next provincial election!!

It’s only money

Alberta’s premier is calling on the federal government to buy more rail cars to ship our oil to market. After years of participating in activities that hindered this very thing, it seems somewhat odd that only now the Premier understands how important our energy industry is to this provinces financial well-being.

Once again a lack of fiscal understanding is getting in the way of coherent decision-making by the Alberta government. Adding additional railcars to the system will only increase the investment that taxpayers will unnecessarily be making, to accomplish what private industry has been trying to do for years, get their product to market. For years, private energy companies have been attempting to build pipelines but have been prevented by a narrow ideological mentality that now sees Alberta’s Oilsands landlocked.

In recent years, we’ve seen the consequences of displacing products that cannot be moved by pipeline in favour of petroleum products that can be. For every railcar that carries oil, it takes the place of the grain cars agricultural producers’ count on to move their product.

The suggestion is that the government should further invest in industrial infrastructure will only create a further dependence on taxpayer’s funding for private industry. When you realize that private industry was fully prepared to invest in and build the Trans Mountain Pipeline, it becomes clear that the need for government intervention is unnecessary and completely unproductive.

If the federal government is going to invest taxpayer’s money in infrastructure, the life of that infrastructure has to be considered. An example of how this was not done is the approach being taken with Alberta’s power plants. The early decommissioning of power plants will cost Albertans billions of dollars and only contributes to an already out of control provincial debt.

The confusion here seems to be that if we’re moving forward with a pipeline, as the Premier claims, then why the need for more rail cars? Let’s assume we end up owning a bunch of rail cars and let’s also assume that the pipeline is completed in a timely fashion; does this mean taxpayers will be left with billions more in wasted assets?

As a conservative, I believe strongly in smaller government, which also includes less government involvement in private industry. As a rule, if something is financially viable and worthwhile, private investors will usually make it happen on their own. This belief that nothing worthwhile can happen without the government there to backstop it, couldn’t be farther from reality. What makes anyone believe that unnecessary government involvement will fix a problem that the government created?

When we look at this situation from a broader point of view, it’s then that we realize that we are the proud owners’ of a pipeline that doesn’t exist and has yet to have a definite start date. Premier Notley was one of the loudest voices in favour of purchasing Trans Mountain and now she wants to put more of your money towards another asset that will end up on the junk pile.

Oh well it’s only money, your taxpayer money.

No right way to do the wrong thing

The last article stated “It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing,”¹ the timing of doing something you know is wrong is just as futile as thinking that there’s an actual right way to do the wrong thing. A shining example of attempting to do the wrong thing the right way is the carbon taxes implemented by both the Federal and Provincial governments.

The Alberta version of the carbon tax has made businesses less competitive simply by increasing input costs to these wealth creators, regardless of how you look at taxation, it does not create wealth. The Federal carbon tax set to take effect January 1st, 2019 is already creating financial uneasiness within some industries.

In a letter sent to three federal Ministers, the National Airlines Council of Canada is warning that “A carbon tax is probably the worst tool that you can envisage for aviation if you want to reduce emissions.”² They also went on to say that it would result in price increases and possibly even a reduction in service.

It’s not only the airline industry that has to worry about business being driven outside the jurisdictional carbon taxation boundaries; this is a burden that seriously affects the competitiveness of every business in Alberta and Canada. The unintended consequences of trying to do the wrong thing the right way is inevitably going to show up on the balance sheets of businesses across Alberta and Canada.

Convinced that the economy does not work the way it does, the Alberta government increased minimum wage forcing many small businesses into no-win situations. The recent increase prompted one small business owner to post a sign asking his patrons which would they rather see – a raise in prices or a decrease in staff? I can assure you no business owner wants to face a dilemma like this but it’s the new reality of poor policies that promote the wrong things.

As a lifelong conservative, I feel that the best way to create wealth is to leave as much as you can in the hands of the innovators and wealth creators. The notion that wealth can be created through taxation has debunked itself throughout history. Sir Winston Churchill summed it up best saying, “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

If we conducted a poll on the amount we pay in taxes, I’m sure you’d agree that the majority of people would say taxes are too high. So exactly how is the right way to implement a tax that the vast majority of Albertans would most definitely say is unnecessary?

Regardless of how you do the wrong thing, the end result is inevitably a negative one; which I guess you could say would be difficult if not impossible to do the right way.

¹ http://www.rickstrankman.ca/2018/10/17/its-never-the-right-time-to-do-the-wrong-thing/

² https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/airlines-carbon-tax-1.4870808

 

It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing!

A good friend of mine once said “It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing!” The first time he made the statement it struck a chord, but after having time to reflect on the deeper meaning, it becomes profound. Most of us live under the shadow of the consequences that naturally come from governments that choose to knowingly put people who will do harm in sensitive positions.

The Premier made such a choice with the appointment of Tzeporah Berman to the Oilsands advisory group. She knowingly put an individual who actively has shown Albertans that she will disrupt any prospective pipelines that will get product from Alberta’s Oilsands to the world market. That decision and decisions like this have resulted in the situation Alberta finds itself in today.

The financial situation Alberta faces is directly related to the price for Western Canadian Select crude which fell to just $26 USD a barrel this past Thursday, while benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude closed at $71.98 USD. The combination of a rise in production and a lack of pipeline capacity and a reliance on foreign refineries have compounded an already serious price differential. According to some financial analysts, the prices being paid for Western Canadian Oilsands bitumen have fallen so far that many producers are losing money on every barrel sold.

These are the consequences that are plaguing Alberta’s already faltering finances due in large part to knowingly doing the wrong thing. Tzeporah Berman is only one of many that the Premier has surrounded herself with that she knew full well were not acting in Alberta’s best interest. Berman’s extreme anti-oil stance is documented as far back as the early 1990s and yet she was still appointed to an Oilsands advisory group. It defies logic that any person trusted to act in taxpayers best interest, could not understand that this was just plain wrong.

Everywhere I go these days it’s clear that Albertans understand that we must get our products to market if we are going to have any hope of easing the pressure of the current fiscal income crisis. Doing the right thing isn’t always clear but in this case it was crystal clear. Attempting to rationalize the appointment of Tzeporah Berman to the Oilsands advisory group is openly denying the facts.

The Legislature begins sitting on the 29th of October and rest assured, questions about how the Premier and her government knowingly did the wrong thing will be asked, and rest assured, they will dodge those questions or give answers that have nothing to do with the question that is on the floor.

A $90 billion-plus debt is evidence enough that it’s never the right time to do the wrong thing, but for those who need more evidence look no further than the billions of dollars in stranded assets that are now landlocked in Alberta. Its one thing to make a decision in good faith and have it go sideways, it’s quite another to knowingly invite the failure to the table.

“It’s never the right time to do the wrong thing!” My good friend shared this quote with me and it has stuck with me because I’ve seen how profound the consequences can be when people knowingly choose to do the wrong thing.