Collateral damage

Often times, with the best of intentions, unintended consequences befall innocent bystanders. In the zeal and excitement of achieving a goal or accomplishment, tunnel vision can often take over. An example of this could be the implementation of the carbon tax.

The Alberta government implemented the tax without the consultation of the people, other than their own political cheerleaders. We can only speculate as to what their intentions were when they made the decision to impose the tax. Regardless of their intentions, the damage has been substantial to the Alberta economy and the confidence of potential investors.

Collateral damage refers to the damage inflicted on an unintended target. Whether the consequences are intended or unintended means little to an individual that is the recipient of those consequences, and it does nothing to repair the damage that results.

As political parties in Alberta jockey for position to be the next government, a stark reality is becoming clearer, the marginalization of any meaningful public involvement or input of any kind. Albertans have witnessed an erosion of a connection between political parties and the people they claim to serve, with policy development being created and platforms implemented by the faceless bureaucracy that populates the backrooms.

The political collateral damage isn’t limited to the results of policies and legislation that bring with them unintended consequences. In many ways, the unseen damage to democracy is at the root of the carnage that ensues. Direct democracy is in serious trouble when faceless bureaucrats decide that the voter has only a choice between their carefully selected objectives.

Alberta has a growing serious deficit not only financially but democratically as well. Democracy is about choices; choices that should be left to the people, not faceless bureaucrats that are only concerned with keeping their autocratic apparatus intact.

At some point in the near future, Albertans will be faced with making another difficult political choice. As the days go by, the decision is becoming ever more clouded by a lack of clarity, as to whether candidates will represent their constituents or their party first.

In the past, democracy has been burdened with a lack of free votes for MLAs in the Legislature. The Wildrose party opened that door just a crack by passing the appropriate policy, only to have the backroom bureaucracy and leadership undermine what I considered to be one of the few beacons of democracy Albertans have ever been offered.

In both 2012 and 2015, the PCs and NDP respectively, formed majority governments. The members of both the 2012 PC and 2015 NDP caucuses have, with very rare exception, voted in favor of every government Bill that has been tabled in the Legislature. Theoretically, that means that every Bill the government MLAs have voted on was in the best interests of every riding they held. Common sense tells us this is simply not the case. This means that at the expense of direct democracy, MLAs knowingly and willingly voted against their constituents’ best interests. Not only were the parties complicit, they facilitated, and at times, coerced (whipped) them to do so.

Albertans are rapidly coming to the conclusion that these political entities are putting their self-serving needs first, leaving Albertans behind as collateral damage.

You don’t vote for the tail

In order for a society to achieve democracy it must have the ability to participate freely and equally in the political and economic affairs that affect that society. True democracy reflects the will of the people free from manipulation of the bureaucracy and backroom management of the unelected.

When the bureaucracy overtakes the elected representatives it is often referred to as “the tail wagging the dog.” That refers to the less important and vital parts of an entity becoming more important than the actual people who were elected to make decisions on your behalf. Unfortunately it is something that has become far too common on today’s political landscape.

To properly hold elected representatives to account, we must first distinguish the difference between their responsibility and the accountability we should reasonably expect from them. Responsibility refers to the duty of care the elected representative has to those who have entrusted them with their best-interests. Accountability, on the other hand, is the moral obligation to answer for their actions when carrying out the responsibilities entrusted to you which makes it very difficult to hold them accountable when they ultimately are not making the decisions.

As the elected member of the Alberta Legislature for Drumheller Stettler it is reasonable for the constituents to have that expectation of accountability from me. That accountability came of my own free-will when I allowed my name to stand in the last 2012 and 2015 general elections. My responsibility and accountability is to every constituent – with no exceptions.

It’s important to respect that the electorate has certain reasonable expectations of their duly elected representatives, but unfortunately given the chance the bureaucracy can undermine those expectations. The problem is that the expectations of the electorate have little to no value to the bureaucrats that are ultimately not accountable to voters. As we move towards the decision Albertans are going to have to make in the next provincial election it will be of great importance to avoid the pitfalls we’ve seen in the past.

The preservation of your democratic right is ultimately up to those elected to protect it. In the coming months you will have the opportunity to ask questions of those vying for a seat in the legislature and it’s important that those people understand what your expectations are. It’s important to let people that want to be your representatives know that you’re not alright with bureaucrats running the show.

Our provincial representation has evolved into a process that has become largely undemocratic. The lack of free votes by MLAs in the Legislature and the expectation to tow the party line being pushed by the unelected bureaucrats removes the democracy that should belong to the electorate.

We’ve witnessed years of government elected representatives generally having little, if any, real input into the decisions that impact the lives of those who voted for them. It’s hard to believe that anyone would find it acceptable to have their decision makers unaccountable and unelected.

It’s even harder to believe that they would want the tail to be wagging the dog!

 

How not to get it done

Ronald Reagan once said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

His quote aptly describes the typical inefficiency of government. Where government fails, private industry, more often than not, will prosper. In order for prosperity to have a fighting chance, it requires an atmosphere that is free of market manipulation and over regulation.

Examples of over regulation and government manipulation are currently on display across Canada. Governments across this country have bogged down pipelines for generations. They are attempting to remedy that with; you guessed it, a higher level of government involvement!

The Trans Mountain Pipeline project is a shining example of how government can over regulate and allow objections to halt a project and make it no longer viable for private investors to pursue. Although it’s important to protect the environment, land owner rights and ensure companies are accountable for their actions, there has to be reasonable limits to how far those actions can go.

Both the Alberta and Federal governments have failed to prioritize the importance of the energy industries contribution to the Canadian economy. Now, average Canadians are beginning to feel the negative effects of government overreach. If Alberta and Canada are going to climb out of the self imposed regulatory purgatory, a vastly different approach needs to be taken.

The difficulties investors in Canadian energy have encountered have had inevitable negative consequences for the Canadian economy. 2018 has seen the unprecedented exodus of investment dollars to other locations throughout the world. It appears that this will continue in 2019.

The Canadian energy industry dilemma has accomplished only one thing, self imposed hardship. Consumers of the energy products that have been the foundation of our economic success in the global market depend on a consistent and reliable supply of those products. Canadian energy policies are now creating an impression that our supply is unreliable and inconsistent.

While government plays a vital role in protecting Canadians and their assets from harm, in recent years they have grossly overstepped their role in our lives. Time and again we are seeing corporations that meet requirements to engage in their line of production, effectively blocked from moving forward by endless regulations that add unbudgeted costs and delays.

Nowhere are the words by Ronald Reagan exemplified better than right here in Alberta. Overarching Government regulations have been at the root of most, if not all, of the province’s current economic woes.

If this government truly would like to help move industry and Albertans forward, their best course of action would be to create and stick to a reasonable set of regulations that allow our industries to fairly compete in the global market.

 

Contempt for capitalism

Some time ago in a column entitled, “The DNA of the NDP,” we revealed the origins of the party we see before us today. Its origins lay in the C.C.F. (Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation), an organization that laid out its intent clearly in what was known as, “The Regina Manifesto¹”, which was published in 1933. This manifesto stated in plain language, their desire to “replace the current capitalist system.”

The C.C.F., having limited elected success, eventually merged with the NDP in August of 1961, which is still the modern-day party we see today. As you can imagine, the marriage was based on a lot of commonalities in philosophy and ideological vision.

Within the Regina Manifesto¹ that the C.C.F. adopted at its founding convention in 1933, they spelled out their utter contempt for capitalism and the free market. In the opening statement of the preamble of the Manifesto it says;

“WE AIM TO REPLACE the present capitalist system.”

 That visceral contempt can be found throughout the Regina Manifesto with the final paragraph beginning with, No C.C.F. Government will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism.”

 The modern-day NDP has since replaced the original C.C.F. Manifesto with what is known as the LEAP Manifesto². The Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, is still listed as a signatory of the document which includes the who’s who of radical eco-activists, who have openly stated they are determined to destroy Alberta’s oil and gas industries.

Like the Regina Manifesto, the LEAP Manifesto openly advocates ending the capitalism and free market activities that generate the revenue that fund Alberta’s Education, Health Care, and Infrastructure that greatly contributes to the higher quality of life of all Albertans. Within the document it clearly states,There is no longer an excuse for building new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. That applies equally to oil and gas pipelines.”

 Does this sound like something a person that is earnestly advocating for pipelines would put their name to? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Rachel Notley did and her name is still on the registry of signatories³ to this very day. During the fall session, Minister after Minister, while avoiding the actual content of the questions, took great pleasure in stating that they were fighting for pipeline development to get Alberta’s oil to market. Never once mentioning that their leader had signed on to a document that openly advocates against pipelines explicitly!

In order for Albertans to make an informed decision in the next election, they need to be fully aware that the NDP have fully embraced their belief in the LEAP Manifesto and all that it stands for. Capitalism and the opportunity to create personal wealth drive the incentive that fosters innovation that allows us to be self-reliant.

The fact that the Premier’s name still is associated with a document that shows that same contempt for capitalism as the C.C.F.’s Regina Manifesto, should deeply concern all Albertans as we move forward toward a provincial election, I know it concerns me greatly.

¹ https://www.socialisthistory.ca/Docs/CCF/ReginaManifesto.htm

² https://leapmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Manifesto-en.pdf

³ https://leapmanifesto.org/en/whos-on-board/

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