Advance voting starts Monday, October 4: Vote NO to the equalization referendum

This post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter, “The Missive” on Nov. 19, 2021. Subscribe for free at: https://jodymacpherson.substack.com/ or access background info and special content with a paid subscription.

Now that the federal election is behind us (thank goodness), we can re-focus on our current nightmare in Alberta – Jason Kenney and the feckless UCP caucus he has under a strange hypnotic spell.

Despite mounting COVID-19 cases and the fact that Albertans are dying at close to three times the rate of anywhere else in Canada (except Saskatchewan, it’s bad there too), the majority of the UCP caucus continues to meekly follow Kenney into oblivion.

Their idea of taking action was to reschedule the leadership review from later in 2022 to the spring of 2022. You heard that right. Not exactly what you would call responsive.

Albertans are suffering. People are dying. This cannot wait another six months.

Just yesterday, it was reported by Alberta Health Services (AHS) that there would be no obstetrical services at the Edson hospital over the weekend due to the number of COVID patients in hospital.  

Women can’t go to the hospital in their own community to deliver their babies because the system is overwhelmed right now. They have to drive to Hinton (almost 90 km) or Edmonton, the nearest urban centre, which is 200 km away.

UCP party president Ryan Becker said in an email to constituency association presidents, “the the best way for members to be heard at this time and for our party to uphold our member-driven, grassroots tradition is for the 2022 AGM and leadership review to take place in the spring.”

Really, the “best way?” Of course, the suggestion came from Kenney himself and they just accepted it.

Meanwhile, they also decided to fire the party’s former vice president of policy who publicly called for Kenney to resign. The message is: “line up behind the premier or you’re out.” That’s some good old “member-driven, grassroots” tradition right there.

Here’s a grassroots suggestion for you.

The advance voting starts Monday for the municipal elections across Alberta. As we know, Kenney and his cult-like followers in the UCP caucus have added a fake referendum question to be answered by voters. You can read what I’ve written previously about this here. I don’t want to go over the same ground. There’s so much more to say that it warrants a second post.

The question is: “Should Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 — Parliament and the Government of Canada’s commitment to the principle of making equalization payments — be removed from the Constitution?”

It’s a yes or no answer that begs an even bigger question – “how much do you trust Jason Kenney?”

He’s asking you to trust him on this one. He says he wants to use this question to get a “fair deal” for Albertans in negotiating with the federal government on the equalization formula, a formula that was last revised by the Stephen Harper government (of which Kenney was a prominent member of cabinet).

He’s asking you to trust him that it doesn’t matter that the wording actually says equalization should be “removed from the Constitution.” He wants you to vote NOT on the actual words in the question but on his word. Like he has any credibility.

He doesn’t. He’s currently the most unpopular premier in all of Canada. In fact, the Conservative Party of Canada fell almost 15% in the popular vote in Alberta in the most recent federal election, and some are blaming Kenney.

He has failed in every imaginable way. He has cost lives and the damage he has done to this province is undeniable. His word isn’t worth anything right now.

One big question is why didn’t the premier just ask a more straightforward question? He could have gone with a question like, “Should Alberta continue to negotiate with the Government of Canada for a fairer equalization formula in Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982?”

He didn’t. And there has to be a reason.

It may be because equalization is a foundational principle of Canada. Rejecting that principle could play to his more right-wing base of western separatists who reject Canada.

There’s even a new version of this isolationist nonsense emerging via Rob Anderson’s “Free Alberta Strategy,” as reported in The Western Producer.

Anderson is a former Progressive Conservative MLA who crossed the floor to join the Wildrose party, only to cross the floor back to the Progressive Conservative party. A bona fide “double crosser.”

In 2016, he apologized to the Wildrose party and said he supported Kenney’s leadership bid. He also called for unity and said he was definitely done with politics.

“The Free Alberta Strategy outlines how the provincial government could take unilateral action through introduction of the Alberta Sovereignty Act to remove itself from federal decision making.”

“This will grant the Alberta legislature absolute and total discretion to refuse any provincial enforcement of federal laws and court rulings that, in its view, interfere with provincial areas of jurisdiction or constitute an attack on the interests of Alberta,” said Anderson.

In Anderson’s mind, Alberta doesn’t need to separate (at least not right away) but could simply declare itself a sovereign entity while remaining in Canada.

Someone should let Quebec politicians know this. It could have saved them a lot of trouble over the years.

Now even Drew Barnes, the former UCP MLA kicked out of caucus, is urging people to ignore the wording of the question and just trust Kenney, despite the fact of “Kenney’s failures” and the impact it had on the conservative showing federal election. Just get on board the bus, he pleads.

In an unparalleled feat of cognitive dissonance, Barnes urges his followers to ignore all the negativity about Kenney and vote yes to “winning a fair deal from Ottawa.” To be clear, answering yes to the question would suggest Alberta wants nothing from Ottawa, which is what removing equalization would actually mean.

Also, Kenney would get a boost from a yes vote. He may even try to claim it is a vote of confidence. Barnes wants us to support Kenney now?

So, we’ve now established there seems to be no limit to the amount of ridiculous things people will believe and do. I’m left wondering what other causes could Kenney bolster with a winning yes vote on the equalization referendum.

We don’t know what he has planned, but there is certainly an intention to use the result of the referendum for some purpose, or several. He even went so far as to change the Alberta Elections Act to allow members of the cabinet to campaign for the yes side.

It seems like they really, really want this referendum win.

Well, this is where you come in.

You can stop this in its tracks by voting no. Think of how good it will feel, too.

Vote no and shout it to the rooftops – on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – or choose your social media poison.

This is not a question about a “fair deal.” It’s a rigged question to be used for unknown political purposes by Kenney.

Do you trust the man who has yet to do anything right as premier? He is not backing down, not apologizing and is sure to continue causing mayhem until he either is removed by his party (don’t hold your breath) or voters (more likely).

Your no vote to removing equalization (which is the actual wording) is crucial. Every no vote counts. It’s going to be a close race, as one poll in Calgary has shown. The yes side is winning in Calgary by a margin of 49% to 32%. Fully 19% said they would not be voting on the question.

A spoiled or refused ballot will not help defeat the no side. These votes are needed.

If you need another reason, vote no to the dishonesty of the question since it is impossible to remove equalization by a referendum in Alberta.

Don’t play along with Kenney’s game. Don’t give him the satisfaction of a “yes” vote. As some have suggested, reject the premise of the question.

Definitely don’t vote yes for something other than what is written in the question. No matter what anyone tells you, the question does not include the words “fair deal” anywhere. Ask yourself why they didn’t ask a different question or include those words?

Kenney is definitely NOT admitting the question is about removing equalization. He’s saying the question is about something else altogether – keeping equalization but making it better. So why didn’t he just ask that directly? Why is it written one way, which anyone can see with their own eyes, while he’s spinning it another way?

You wouldn’t sign a contract ignoring what is written in it, basing your agreement on what the other party verbally tells you it means, would you? I didn’t think so.

I know it is overused, but there’s no other way to explain it. It’s blatant gaslighting. Trying to tell us we’re not seeing what we can plainly read with our own eyes.

While you’re planning on voting no, please explain why whenever possible. Say no to dishonesty and incompetence, which are the real problems we face in our political leaders.

Let’s give Kenney and his band of zombie MLA’s the decisive middle finger.

That’s it. I’m done.

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