A Sunday Poem: “Energy”

 

Electricity in Ontario,

costlier than ever.

 

Some must choose

between hydro

and buying food, paying rent.

 

On the other hand,

Canada has more oil

than it can ever sell.

 

In Ottawa,

crews install structural steel, pour concrete

for the new electric light rail system

that will replace

our diesel powered buses.

 

(Editor’s note: poet Shai Ben-Shalom, an Israeli-born biologist, writes for Blacklock’s each and every Sunday)

Review: Pierre & The Sodbusters

When Pierre Trudeau died the Calgary Herald published a commentary calling him a Communist. As late as 1989 an Alberta Liberal running for a Senate seat drew protest after describing Trudeau as “a great Canadian.”

The provincial party has not won an election in more than a century. If voters send a handful of Liberals to Ottawa from time to time, statistically a Canadian has a better chance of visiting outer space than earning an MP’s pension as an Alberta Liberal. The last to serve three terms left office 16 years ago.

Yet author Darryl Raymaker recalls Trudeau was once cheered on horseback in the Calgary Stampede parade and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta. He was “our very own JFK,” writes Raymaker.

If Trudeaumania was muted in Alberta in 1968 – one Liberal candidate in Red Deer had his car windows shot out – there were ripples of enthusiasm. “Western Canadians with a longstanding grievance against central Canada saw that Trudeau was different,” writes Raymaker. “Not only young and exciting, he was a potential leader from Québec who could put Québec in its place.”

Raymaker is a longtime Calgary barrister and Liberal organizer. Trudeau’s Tango is part memoir, part documentary of the geographic, cultural and political divisions that are a permanent fixture of Confederation. The fact we held it together remains a world-class achievement.

Prairie residents then were their own distinct society. Many were Dust Bowl refugees only a generation removed from pioneer sodbusters. They were hard people in a hard land. Author Raymaker recalls a 1969 Kiwanis Club speech by the Chief Justice of the Alberta Supreme Court, Val Milvain. “When police brutality is played up by the news media, it is playing into the hands of those who want to disrupt law and order,” said Justice Milvain; “We will be destroyed by the noisy clamorers after what they call ‘civil rights’.”

The law-and-order speech came the same year Trudeau liberalized divorce laws and decriminalized gay sex. The two worlds were bound to collide.

In 1968 Liberals elected four Alberta MPs. By 1972 the party was decimated. “Their promise of 1968 shattered, they had gone down to a resounding defeat in every riding,” recalls Raymaker. What went wrong?

Farm protests and political foul-ups didn’t help. The provincial party contemplated a coalition with the decrepit Social Credit movement. “It was like necrophilia,” as former Alberta Liberal leader Nick Taylor once put it. And there was the Official Languages Act, passed in 1969.

“Many English-speaking people across Canada, Albertans prominent among them, were outraged at the federal government ‘shoving French down our throats’,” writes Raymaker; “English-speaking Canadians generally seemed to tolerate bilingualism so long as it included being tough with Québec or staring down the separatists.”

Bilingualism was considered alien, overbearing and Québec-centric. In Alberta today, French immersion runs at 6 percent. More than a third still oppose the Languages Act, according to federal polling.

Canadian history is much more than vanilla-bland observances. Trudeau’s Tango is a fresh and lively account of politics with sharp elbows.

By Holly Doan

Trudeau’s Tango: Alberta Meets Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968-1972 by Darryl Raymaker; University of Alberta Press; 244 pages; ISBN 9781-7721-22657; $24.95

Freeland Tax Called Job Killer

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s luxury tax on planes, boats and automobiles will cost jobs and generate less revenue than estimated, the Parliamentary Budget Office said yesterday. The ten percent tax takes effect September 1: “There would certainly be job losses.”

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Sting Cites Bank Misconduct

Aggressive sales tactics remain commonplace at major banks, according to an undercover sting operation by a federal agency. Auditors posing as customers were routinely oversold products they neither sought nor required: “The Agency expects banks will not misplace this trust.”

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Beer King Gets ‘Nature’ Grant

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault yesterday approved a six-figure climate change grant to Canada’s largest beer maker. Guilbeault’s department paid $250,000 to replace a diesel boiler in a St. John’s brewery: “We are a company based in nature.”

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Internet Rate Appeals Vetoed

Cabinet will not overturn a CRTC decision blamed for high wholesale telecom rates, the Department of Industry said yesterday. “It would be irresponsible,” André Arbour, director general of internet policy, told reporters in a technical briefing: “That does not mean to say there is not room for improvement for competition.”

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Vax Status Nobody’s Business

Vaccination status is “fundamentally private,” a national broadcast ombudsman said yesterday. The Canada Broadcast Standards Council ruling came in the case of an Edmonton announcer Lochlin Cross who outed a listener as unvaccinated: “Revelation of this private, confidential medical information was not only careless but egregious.”

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Claim Kabul Files Are Secret

Liberal MPs last evening invoked national security in concealing records concerning Reid Sirrs, Canada’s last ambassador to Afghanistan. Sirrs was the first G7 ambassador to close the embassy and flee Kabul with staff aboard a half-empty military plane, according to eyewitness accounts: “What went wrong?”

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Lament Anti-Media ‘Trolling’

A federally-subsidized report yesterday complained media are subject to “online abuse” from Canadian social media users and Freedom Convoy sympathizers. Authors stopped short of endorsing federal censorship of Twitter and Facebook: “We are holding this event here on Parliament Hill, a place where so many journalists have been exposed to trauma and harassment.”

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Gave Contract To Old Friend

Small Business Minister Mary Ng faces questions for a second time over contracts to Toronto friends and ex-colleagues. A Conservative MP uncovered a sole-sourced contract awarded by Ng to a former campaign aide and CBC pundit: “This is regrettably just another installment.”

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Chief Clerk Critical Of MPs

Janice Charette, a federal executive critical of the Commons over a China spy scandal, yesterday was appointed Clerk of the Privy Council on a permanent basis. “Janice’s leadership and expertise as head of the public service of Canada is vital,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.

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Big Spenders Win Pig Prizes

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation yesterday named annual winners of its dubious Teddy Awards for wasteful spending. Canadians face a “huge tax bill” for record deficits, said the Federation: “Canadians want to leave their kids and grandkids with a shot at financial success.”

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Press Bailout Is ‘Confidential’

Cabinet is invoking confidentiality in refusing to detail actual cash payments to individual publishers under a $595 million press bailout. Newspaper executives mandated to help cabinet design terms of the bailout in 2019 agreed to conceal payments: “They chose the people they wanted to get the answers they wanted.”

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Predicts Political Witch Hunts

A cabinet bill detailing legal grounds to search travelers’ cellphones and laptops may lead to political witch hunts, says a Liberal-appointed senator. “Travelers could be targeted for phone and computer searches based on their political views,” Senator Paula Simons (Alta.) said yesterday: “It will put the privacy rights of thousands of Canadian travelers in real jeopardy.”

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Sued Green Car Of The Year

A Québec court will rule on whether to certify a class action lawsuit alleging poor performance of electric cars in winter driving conditions. The allegations target the Chevrolet Bolt once hailed by auto writers as Canada’s 2017 Green Car of the Year: “The range of the Bolt electric vehicle does not even reach 300 kilometres.”

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