The Trouble with Ezra Levant…

Mr Ezra Levant

Ezra Levant is a Canadian media personality, an ultra-conservative political activist, author and lawyer who has made a brilliant career out of being half right.  In a recent episode of The Source, Mr Levant outlined the flaws in Neil Young’s rationale for the Honour the Treaties Tour. 

According to Mr Levant, Neil Young’s biggest mistake was assuming that the Canadian government violated Treaty 8.  Mr Levant told the audience that he’d read Treaty 8 and “all you need to know” about Treaty 8 was contained in the following sentence.*

“… the said Indians DO HEREBY CEDE, RELEASE, SURRENDER AND YIELD UP to the Government of the Dominion of Canada, for Her Majesty the Queen and Her successors for ever, all their rights, titles and privileges whatsoever, to the lands…”

According to Mr Levant, this sentence renders Treaty 8 “…a treaty of total surrender.”  Full stop.  Stick a fork in it, it’s done.

All you need to know?  Really?   

I too have read Treaty 8.  It’s beautifully written.  It describes a need to settle aboriginal rights with “the Indians…who were inclined to be turbulent and were liable to give trouble” to gold miners and traders who they viewed as interfering with their hunting and trapping activities.

The Indian Treaty Commissioners told the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs that the major sticking point in the negotiations was the fear that making the treaty would result in a curtailment of the hunting and fishing privileges.  The Commissioners “had to solemnly assure them that only such laws as to hunting and fishing as were in the interest of the Indians and were found necessary in order to protect the fish and fur-bearing animals would be made, and that they would be as free to hunt and fish after the treaty as they would be if they never entered into it”.

I’ve also read section 35 of the Constitution Act which protects existing aboriginal rights as well as present and future treaty rights, and section 25 of the Constitution Act which says that nothing in the Constitution derogates from the Royal Proclamation of Oct 7, 1763 and any rights and freedoms granted thereunder, both now and in the future. 

Finally I’ve read the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Simon v The Queen (1985) where the Supreme Court said:

“treaties and statutes dealing with Indians should be given a fair, large and liberal construction and doubtful expressions resolved in favour of the Indians, in the sense in which they would be naturally understood by the Indians.”

Bottom line:  a sentence fragment out of Treaty 8 is nowhere near all anyone needs to know to decide whether the Canadian government has violated the ACFN’s aboriginal and treaty rights.

A treaty of total surrender

Mr Levant and I may not see eye to eye in equating the words “cede, release, surrender and yield up” with “total surrender”, but that’s neither here nor there; everyone is entitled to his or her bonehead opinion.

However I am shocked that a journalist with legal training would proffer a sentence fragment as “all you need to know” about the aboriginal and treaty rights granted to Canada’s aboriginal population, particularly in light of the 190 wins aboriginal groups have chalked up against development projects since 1985.**

Bill Gallagher, former oilpatch lawyer and treaty negotiator, believes that Canada is about to witness ”the apex of the rise in native empowerment in the Canadian resources sector.”**  He’s absolutely right.

The Pogo principle

Given the importance of protecting aboriginal rights in the face of oilsands development and the criticality of oilsands development to Canada’s economy, one would expect Canadians to be all over this issue.  But they’re not.  Why? 

Mr Rose

The answer lies in a 1994 interview between Sir James Goldsmith and veteran reporter Charlie Rose.  They were discussing whether the US should agree to modify GATT, the multilateral international trade agreement.  Goldsmith was incredulous that there had been no public debate about the issue in the US and put this down to the fact that the topic was “complicated”.

To which Rose, the savvy media man, replied “and boring”.

The protection of treaty rights, like climate change, globalization and the erosion of the democratic process, are complicated…and unfortunately our eyes glaze over when they’re mentioned.  Nevertheless these issues will shape our future for generations.

Canadians run the risk that these issues will be resolved in the shadows, without their input.  Canadians’ lack of participation is exacerbated when glib media personalities like Ezra Levant pronounce the issues not worthy of our attention.  And we dutifully turn away, eager to catch the latest update on Justin Bieber’s DUI charge.

The trouble with Ezra Levant is that he’s very good at his job.  The trouble with us is that we’ve allowed him (and people like him) to shape our opinions because we can’t be bothered to think things through for ourselves.

In the words of the great philosopher/possum Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. 


**Calgary Herald, Jan 24, 2014, A10

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58 Responses to The Trouble with Ezra Levant…

  1. david swann says:

    Excellent analysis Susan and helpful in two ways:
    1. people who care about our broken relationship with First Nations are looking for ways to build bridges and assist in the reconciliation that must be part of healing all of us.
    2. clear violations of both the spirit and the letter of the Treaties have been occurring for decades and unless they are confronted (and the courts are feeling the impact of the many legitimate lawsuits today) there is no chance of better protection for our waterways, land and species.
    Citizens should not confuse Mr. Levant’s ideological tirades as balanced legal opinions.

    • David, you make an excellent point when you indicate that the Treaties can be violated in spirit. This is where the concept of integrity comes in. It’s painful to read Canada’s Statement of Support on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in which Canada says it will promote and protect the rights of Aboriginal Canadians and treat them with respect when the federal environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, can’t even be bothered to list her reasons for approving Shell Jackpine, notwithstanding the high likelihood of significant environmental damage. Then to make matters worse a few days ago she said oilsands expansion will continue because that’s what industry wants. Not very respectful if you ask me.

  2. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,
    I arrived in Canada in grade 10 in the 1970s after Trudeau opened the doors to Asians —and I can’t remember learning anything about First Nations and their treaties. I am very ignorant about this entire area and I do find it very difficult to go through the information.
    But I am getting better at reading about First Nations issues.
    I have read younger boy’s social studies books which do provide simplistic summaries of the differences in worldviews of the First Nations people and the Europeans who came to Canada. It seems clear to me at least, that the worldviews explanation for the differences between the interpretation of the treaties today is not the problem but certainly the rampant desire to develop the oilsands and ignore the rights of the First Nations people does seem to be the problem.

    Folks like Mr. Levant are puppets and very good at their Synergy spin of pushing the Tory agenda of development at all costs. He may actually also believe all the stuff he yaps about.
    I would imagine he actually believes that the First Nations were dumb enough to give away their rights. I think the First Nations people were very practical. They were dying of foreign illnesses, they were being forced off their traditional lands, their kids were being indoctrinated into European mores and furthermore, being killed off in a residential schools genocide that was countenanced and ignored by the federal government of Canada and they did what they had to do to survive and keep some land for the survival of future generations. They shared their land because they had no choice and they preserved sufficient land so that they could retain their traditional lifestyle and culture. Only problem is now that there is the push for oil development and pipelines, their treaty rights are impediments to the greater glory of big oil and the Tories naturally try to write over their rights. Or use Mr. Levant to do the spin.

    I do not understand the legal aspects of the treaties because I haven’t read them through. And yes, sometimes I do find all the legal stuff boring. It is not very lively poetry.
    Even though I find the legalese tough, I do understand the ethical and moral issues that emanate from the treaties. I think the issues are all about our responsibilities to the First Nations people who trusted us to do the right and good things that would allow them to exist “nation to nation”. Their feeling was that they were a separate and equal nation to Canada. Two nations. Side by side. And we have to honor this feeling that they have.
    We are obligated and we are responsible for the First Nations people. The Tories at the provincial and federal level should be ashamed of using puppets like Mr. Levant to push through their greed agenda that in my mind is entirely designed to ensure the profits of big oil over the rights of the aboriginal people of Canada. Legal challenges will be necessary to keep the Tory wolves out of the aboriginal flocks.

    The people of Canada should support the First Nations people but most of them won’t. Racism plays a big part in this. Also jealousy. Canadians think that the First Nations folks are getting more than ordinary Canadians. These folks are wrong. The First Nations people have been ripped off, are still being ripped off and are now past the second genocide of their kids (the sixties scoop) and are now on the third genocide of their children in the foster care system. This mess is entirely our fault because we haven’t yapped to the politicians to respect the rights of First Nations people and save their kids.

    I personally do not think Mr. Levant is very nice. But certainly he is a very good puppet. Here he is in the video where he does the best acting yet:

    Ethical Oil: the Puppet Rap

    • Julie, that’s quite a video! But maybe that’s what’s necessary to bring the topics of treaties and bitumen to the public’s attention. I agree that the First Nations were practical when they signed the treaties. The Indian Commissioners who negotiated Treaty 8 said the Chipewyan Chief “displayed considerable keenness of intellect and much practical sense in pressing the claims of his band.” The bands wanted assurances that signing the treaty would not expose them to taxation or military service. And they wanted as good a deal as the bands who’d already signed up (in law we call that a “most favoured nations” clause). The fact that the provincial and federal governments are prepared to sacrifice rights that have been granted to the First Nations under our Constitution, the treaties and other instruments in the interests of the oil companies is intolerable. As my daughter said to me, if the government is prepared to rip up constitutional rights in this case, what’s next?

  3. Connie Jensen says:

    It boggles my mind that anyone, in general, and Ezra Levant (shudder) in particular can get away with telling the population that anything is “all they need to know” on any topic. Oh people! How Orwellian.

    • Normally one has a moderator who’d challenge anything this blatant, but this show is Mr. Levant’s own, so he’s free to say anything the Sun network will broadcast.

    • Connie, it’s an amazingly arrogant comment. In the Levant video, he flashes the words “cease, deliver, surrender and yield up” across the screen. Levant points out that they’re in full caps (as if that makes a difference) and voila, he’s made his case. If it were that easy why are there 190 cases in the First Nations’ “win” column?
      As David Collier Brown points out: this man needs a moderator! Now!

  4. carlosbeca says:

    In very few words you just defined this man. He is a bad lawyer and a bad journalist but he has one trait that is very in demand for the political class – deceiving for personal benefit. He is now popular in the ultra right wing elites and a semi-god for those that are not able to think for themselves. He will sooner or later be buried under the avalanche of his misinterpretations. Unfortunately these people do a lot of damage before they reach their shelf life.
    He is one of those people I cannot wait to see gone. He does nothing constructive for Canada, he just lights the fires that burn for the wrong reasons.

    • Carlos, I never cease to be amazed that celebrities like Ezra Levant and Rush Limbaugh or politicians like Rob Ford manage to attract any supporters. What’s their appeal? Is it that they actually say the awful things that no right thinking person would say, thereby giving those awful things the illusion of credibility? I certainly can’t figure it out, but I think we need to do everything possible to demonstrate that they’re mistaken. (This could be the naive hope that reason will triumph over prejudice, but we’ve got to push on nevertheless).

      • Carlos Beca says:

        It is definitely not naive to hope that reason will triumph over prejudice but history tells us that in mnay cases it does not. The consequences are quite nasty of course but it is a reality. Many failed countries in today’s world are a good example of that. In any event I totally agree that push on is fundamental. I never think of any other way.

      • Carlos, it’s interesting to me that a number of the main stream political parties have picked up the “protect the middle class” mantra. It’s true that the NDP have always had a piece of this philosophy in their efforts to protect the rights of unions, but I’m not aware of a general across the board concern with the middle class as a whole–until now. Justin Trudeau based his leadership campaign on this message and has continued with it ever since. The federal Conservatives, provincial PCs and WR are silent. I’m waiting to see what the Liberals, Greens and Alberta Party will say. I’m not sure how far the Canadian political parties are prepared to push this because it lands them on the “wrong” side of the debate when it comes to eliminating “corporate welfare” and increasing royalties and corporate taxes. If we can keep this front and centre it will be a very interesting 2015 federal election and 2016 provincial election.

  5. Mr. Levant engages in a form of argument that has a technical name in logic: the lie direct (;-))

  6. John Gulak says:

    Good piece, Susan. Ezra never lets the facts get in the way of a good bit of showmanship – he’s a consummate performer!

  7. Pingback: | Treaty 8 and Ezra Levant: A mismatch made in media

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan – interesting that you refer to the Greens, Alberta Party and Liberal party. In case you do not know Alvin Finkel has an article on the Alberta Views Magazine titled ‘Cooperation or Bust’. I have not read it yet but it is about the Progressive parties in the province. Alvin is never for jokes and he is usually pretty realistic. This is my reading on the way home tonight on the bus. 🙂

    • Carlos, I too read the Alvin Finkle article in Alberta Views. He makes a very sound argument in favour of in creased cooperation among the progressive parties in order to break away from the right/far right hold on this province. I was surprised to read that the NDP tossed him out of the party for daring to push for cooperation in the last election. I fear that the NDP will be even less willing to consider cooperation in the 2016 race given that many of the progressive parties think that the PC party is losing its grip on the province, some of the PCs will go to the WR and the “progressive” PCs will go….where? To the NDP?
      The excerpt from Christoper Charlton’s thesis (p 28) was fascinating. He describes how the AUPE partnered with the Alberta Building Trades Commission and the Alberta Federation of Labour on a campaign strategy in the 2008 election and did the whole thing without consulting the NDP first. The unions was pushing for cooperation among the progressive parties because they recognized that the NDP alone couldn’t protect them from the PCs (I think this is even more so today with the rise of the WR who may supplant the PCs in 2016). Brian Mason was furious when he found out what the unions were up to and according to the article “condemned the non-partisan approach of the AFL and denounced the AFL campaign”. This doesn’t bode well for any form of cooperation among the parties in 2016.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I too was a bit surprised with Alvin Finkel being tossed out of the NDP but it just reinforced my belief that Brian Mason will never get anywhere. Like I said before, he is one of the politicians I respect in Alberta because of his integrity and his commitment to the Province, but that is about as far as I go. He is stuck in the type of politics of the 1930s and that will not work today even if we had not moved to the right as a society. Unions have a definite place in any society but their objectives and their responsibilities have to change. It is not any different for any of us anyway. The world has changed and without evolving, it is quite difficult to make a difference. I do not believe there is any chance of what Alvin suggests in the article, to happen here in Alberta. Both the Liberals and the NDP are not interested even though they have very similar objectives for the most part. Like Alvin writes in his article, megalomania plays a big part and I truly believe that is the case here.
        Too bad because none of them will ever win anything but a few seats. It would have been a bit different with a proportional representation, but with this system they are done. So the Wildrose will take it next time.

      • Carlos you nailed it.

    • David Grant says:

      While I agree that cooperation here is a worthwhile thing, a political merger is difficult to do with parties that differences that sometimes are hard to reconcile. The bigger issue here as I see it, is that there is an awful lot of cynicism that keeps people from even believing that a political merger or any type of action proposed here on this site and others will ever change anything. I am not sure if this is part of the phenomenon of the “petro-state” to coin a phrase from Andrew Nikiforuk, but it is something that needs further exploration.

      • David, your comment about cynicism is very valid. David Swann started a blog called Politics Sucks. In his first post he sets out 5 reasons for the mess we’re in. These are (1) lack of faith in politicians, (2) the concern that if you join a political party you’ll have to agree with everything the party stands for or suffer the consequences, (3) the complexity of the political system which creates confusion and boredom, (4) the media’s lack of neutrality which further muddies the issues and (5) public apathy. Frankly I think the public is apathetic because of the first four reasons—they’re cynical about the likelihood that they’ll be able to influence things so why bother. So maybe we start with baby steps, cooperation among the progressive parties. Cooperation, if successful, will build trust. Trust is essential if merger talks are to bear fruit.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I was not contemplating a merger. That is certainly not necessary. Just like in Europe they could form a temporary alliance with a different name, for example – the Progressive Alliance – they negotiate the terms of the Alliance and so for the period of 4 years they govern or are the opposition as the Progressive Alliance. It is way easier than a merger but can work very effectively especially if the parties are not that far apart. Only because we have become so individualistic, makes this possibility so difficult to put together.

  9. Mary Thygesen says:

    While the “progressives”, at least those who can make up their minds about whether they are progressive or simply pragmatic, are busy ‘sacrificing the good for the perfect’, the right grows stronger.

    • Oh Mary, this is so true!

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Mary I wished I could say so much in one paragraph. Right ON. These people are not progressive, they are thirsty for power. If they were real progressives they would sacrifice their egos to the common interest. But this is the world of politics and hard to understand what these people really have in mind. In my opinion they are Regressives. Do they really believe they have all the answers? Especially in today’s society? My goodness, one has to be arrogant.

  10. Carol Wodak says:

    “I was surprised to read that the NDP tossed him out of the party for daring to push for cooperation in the last election.”
    So was I.
    I was a voting member of the Council at that meeting; the issue for the decision to refuse Mr. Finkel’s application for membership was not his promotion of the concept of electoral cooperation.
    Whatever else, Mr. Finkel does not deserve the mantle of scapegoat or martyr. And he had already removed himself from the NDP, and subsequently from the Liberal party
    He’s not the first historian to bend the truth to fit the hypothesis. And he is certainly prolific in defense of his hypothesis.
    There are many other members of the NDP who supported and still support the tactic of “cooperation”, usually without defining that term or the details of how it would work in both short and long term, who have not been “exiled” or “excommunicated – or, like Mr. Finkel, have had an application for membership refused
    Perhaps the most accurate public version of what happened at that meeting was Sheila Pratt’s column in the Edmonton Journal : Provincial New Democrats shut out dissident – Apr 24, 2013 []
    One needs to be careful about vested interest in academic work…

    • Mary Thygesen says:

      Thanks for the link to the article Carol. I never liked strategic voting because it backfires so often and I would rather support positions I agree with than engage in the increasingly futile game of strategic voting. Unfortunately,without proportional representation and/or a coalition of progressives (I prefer the former but I can’t see one happening without the other) I can see strategic voting continuing to replace choice.
      As for Ezra Levant, I think he just recognizes the fact that people are swayed less by reason and more by emotion and ‘tribalism’. Critiquing the ‘other side’ is often just giving more play to their arguments/myths.
      I wish moderates,progressives, leftists could put together a vision as an alternative that appealed to hearts AND minds. It’s tough to do when you’re perceived as amoral by many on the “right.” I’m a big fan of Chris Hedges who continues to call for moral voices and I think he understands that morality, and a moral vision is completely possible and doesn’t have to be left to the fundamentalist Christocapitalists to use as a weapon.

      • Mary, I’d heard that the progressives are perceived as elitist over educated snobs who think they have all the answers and are better than the common man (hence the ongoing support of Rob Ford). What I hadn’t twigged to was the suggestion that we were also “amoral”. Why is that? Just asking because I’d never considered that as part of the perception problem. Is it things like “excessive” taxation which gives my hard earned money to deadbeats? Something else?
        PS Clearly I need to read some Chris Hedges!

      • carlosbeca says:

        Susan I think the AMORAL comes from the abortion issue. The very right wing Republicans, are against abortion. I just read at lunch time that apparently the right wing government in Spain banned abortion again. It could also be what you suggest – after all higher taxes are according to them stealing from the rich to give it to the bums.
        Chris Hedges is a good writer and he has one quality that I truly like which is ‘reality’. He says it the way it is and not many concerns with being politically correct. His books are very heavy though. Reality is not easy. He is a great threat to our scandalous political class and I am surprised he is still alive.

  11. Carlos Beca says:

    This is unbelievable. I did not think this possible in a party like the NDP but I was wrong, very wrong. It did it for me that is for sure. If the reason to refuse the membership was not election cooperation I wonder what it was. Interesting.
    If this represents in any way the political atmosphere in the NDP here in Alberta, they may as well fold it and forget about it. They will never go anywhere here in Alberta with the best of possible atittudes.
    Too bad. Unless Danielle Smith does anything unimaginable, which is possible, the next election is hers and I will be on my way to different pastures. It will be very difficult to put up with extreme right wing politics and possibly some nastier social events judging by the caliber of some of their people.

    • Carol Wodak says:

      Read the article; that’s why I included the link…

      • I too agree that strategic voting is a crap shoot. Especially when the concept extends to voting for the PCs in an effort to hold off the WR scourge–that guaranteed the PCs four years in power.

        Carol I read the article at the link. It sounds like the ND’s rejected Finkel’s application for membership for two reasons (1) because he called the NDP “weak” and (2) because he wanted to continue pushing for cooperation after he re-joined the NDP notwithstanding the NDs rejection of the proposal at two successive party conventions. If that’s the case I can see why the NDs rejected him (they want to uphold the no-cooperation policy), but I think he’s correct in asserting that’s the reason he was rejected.

        Having said that, I would disagree with Finkel’s assertion that the party is dishonest if it puts all its funds into a handful of ridings but still says everyone has a chance to win everywhere. Everyone does have a chance to win, if they can round up the donations. I would support the ND’s decision to focus its funding where it has the best chance of delivering a candidate and suggest that if the “slim chance” candidates can bring in outside funding and lots of volunteers then they’ll have demonstrated to the party that they do indeed have a good chance of success and the matter of party funding can be revisited.

        I’ve had many conversations with David Swann on the topic of cooperation. He’s clear that given the dynamics of the day, it’s unrealistic to expect the parties to merge. He suggests cooperation is possible and characterizes it as (1) NOT trashing each other, (2) sharing resources if possible and (3) realistically evaluating your party’s chance at success in a particular riding and bowing out if another progressive party candidate is stronger (why would anyone go up against Rachel Notley or Kent Hehr?).

        This sounds like a good approach. Where we stumble is when we get two good progressive candidates in a riding. In my riding, Calgary Centre, two excellent candidates, Harvey Locke (Liberal) and Chris Turner (Green), stepped up in the last bi-election. Had one or the other stepped down my MP would be a strong progressive and not Joan (I do what my PM tells me) Crockatt. The tough call is how to figure out which one should bow out.

        Thorny issues, not sure how to resolve them.

      • carlosbeca says:

        I will, I will – sorry too much to read

      • carlosbeca says:

        I actually had already read that article and I am more on Alvin Finkel’s side.

  12. Carlos Beca says:

    Gosh Susan if those two reasons are good enough to reject a member I am not sure what parties and democratic values are for. My opinion. Party politics is so darn outdated that I cannot even understand it anymore. Anyway this is just an opinion. It is their party and I guess they can do whatever they think works for them but in today’s world they will go nowhere. The only person that was able to get the NDP to any status at all was Grant Notley and that was already in the 1980s.

    • I suspect the inhabitants of the traditional parties are going to have to take a good look at themselves and say “what in the world have I done to justify being elected to parliament?”
      I’m mildly impressed at young Mr. Trudeau giving up the power to whip his party members in the Senate, and somewhat more impressed at the EU “Pirate” parties setting policy from the grass-roots up, instead of the reverse. Whether they’ll turn their back on that, as Reform did, remains to be seen.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        David I agree with you. People that cannot join forces to be able to give their own home lands the best possible government want so desperately to have a seat for what? I suspect to get the gold hand shake, that is about it. The NDP or the LIberals cannot do anything on their own. Absolutely nothing. The other MLAs do not even notice their presence. So what is the point? We have to find ways of governing for real, not for anybody’s bank accounts or other interests. If we do not do that we may linger for a while but it does not take a lot of brain to know what the future of all of that is. It is happening in other places already, just take a good look. It does not take much for a societal tsunami. The problem is that we have been so comfortable for so long that we thnik we are immune.

        Yes Europe is going through some noticeable changes politically but for the most part unfortunately it is to more right wing to more extremism. Some good may come out of that because it causes fear and discomfort to the established parties but like you I would rather wait and see.

      • Young Mr Trudeau is going to be very interesting to watch over the next two years.

  13. Carol Wodak says:

    The relevant quote in Sheila Pratt’s article referred to “trashing the party in public” – and there were egregious examples provided of Mr. Finkel’s rhetoric, in public venues, concerning the party and specific candidates. This is a question of fact, and I was there. You may reach different conclusions about the reasons for the decision I and others made.
    An apology or even a commitment not to repeat that activity would have been in order, and was suggested – indeed, requested – several times by persons concerned to be fair, but was not provided.
    If I needed any further assurance that I and others had made the right decision after long and painful deliberation, I am reassured by the continued trashing of the party by Mr. Finkel. Clearly his commitment and allegiance is with the Change Alberta and the Democratic Renewal Project. So be it.
    There may be more ways than his version of strategic voting to work together on issues. I’ve listened to Mr. Finkel and others for a number of years now, and still have not been able to get anyone to explain how this single progressive candidate, however selected and if elected, will represent a [blended?] constituency. Without a range of agreed policy positions, that could be pretty unwieldy and unsatisfactory.
    The federal Tories are still working that through – and I’m not betting that that merger will last.
    BTW, Grant Notley was the sole NDP MLA from 1968 for 11 years; he was joined in 1982 by Ray Martin, who became leader after Grant’s death in 1984 and led the NDP to an increase from 2 to 16 seats in 1986 and 1989.

  14. carlosbeca says:

    Carol I do not know the details and I do not doubt your good judgement. I made my comments based on what I read. I have a hard time understanding the in works of parties and that is why I have joined only once and it was not a good experience at all.
    I see that you also are not in favour of the coalitions as per your comment on one of the paragraphs. I can tell you one thing though, they work as I have seen them do and they are sometimes the only solution for a bad situation. I think the problem is that we are so individualistic and so megalomaniac that contemplating some like that seems unreal. This is my opinion of course and I fully respect yours but I leave a question though – Do you think that the NDP is ever going to be able to form government in Alberta?
    Politics in our great Canada just like many other things are falling behind due to lack of real democratic values and we are going to pay a dear price for this. People like Alison Redford and Harper do not miss an opportunity to take way piece by piece what we need to operate a balanced democracy. We are missing opportunities to make a real change.

    • Carol Wodak says:

      Carlos, I don’t know where or when I have said I am not in favour of coalitions. I certainly do want to know the details of any such agreement, for the long as well as the short term, and for when things don’t go well or as hoped….and I don’t believe the end will justify the means.
      My professional work included negotiating agreements to settle disputes usually involving a breach of legislation; that often involved compromises, and one had to be very careful not to create new problems.
      I don’t know whether the NDP will form government in Alberta; we do, however, make a difference sometimes. I’d settle for the time being for a minority government with the balance of power in progressive votes. Speaking of Canada, you do know that public health care and most other social security programs were the result of NDP influence on either Tory or Liberal governments fearful of losing power?

      • Carol, Carlos and David: I like the fact that we’re talking about these issues. My sense is that all of the progressive parties, not just the NDP, think that 2016 will be their break through year, that they’ll get many more seats but won’t form government. I worry that this will drive them to pit great progressive candidates against other great progressive candidates (a repeat of the Harvey Locke/Chris Turner race) with the result that either the PCs or the WR will form a minority government. I agree that we can expect the progressive MLAs to vote as a bloc on social issues. I also agree that the WR has been surprisingly supportive on a number of issues including mistreatment of seniors, children in care, and Bills 45 and 46 and so on. But I don’t know how far the WR will come down the social spectrum when it sees the potential for forming a majority government in 2020. I’d say the same holds true if it’s the PCs sitting on our side of the aisle.

        Carol, it’s clear you’ve given this considerable thought. How do you feel about David’s Swann’s framework for cooperation? It addresses the issue that got Finkel into trouble—if you can’t badmouth the other guys you certainly shouldn’t be badmouthing your own party.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Carol I read your sentence that starts with ‘I have heard Mr. Finkel…….get anyone to explain …’ – I interpreted that as meaning that a single progressive candidate, which to me means coalition candidate, is not something you seem to be very inclined to believe in. By the way I am not criticizing your position. Many people do not but in my opinion it is missing a good opportunity.
        Yes I do know about the NDP influence on health care and social security programs and those were very important accomplishments without any doubt but we can do more. That was 4 decades ago.
        I truly do not mean to be disrespectful at all, but do you really believe there a possibility of a minority NDP government in Alberta?

  15. Carol Wodak says:

    “I’d settle for the time being for a minority government with the balance of power in progressive votes. ” – I didn’t intend that to mean an NDP government in Alberta – but a minority government with the progressive parties holding the balance of power. That is possisble IF the Tories implode.

    • Carol Wodak says:

      Susan, I’ve just made a quick attempt to update myself on David Swann’s framework – found only That was some time ago, and he is no longer leader. Do you have any updated info on the details or the status?
      I have the same concerns – what happens then? How does it work? If you were drawing up a partnership agreement, what would it look like?

      • Carol, I think David’s idea of cooperation is an informal concept not a party policy. In fact I believe the Liberals debated the idea of cooperation at a policy meeting and decided against it. But the idea didn’t die because Kent Hehr explored it further after that meeting. I’m not sure where it stands now as a party position, but I know that David is certainly in favour of the parties “cooperating” at least to the limited extent he’s sent out in his three points. I’ll follow up with him and see what else I can find out.

  16. david swann says:

    Great discussion. I have little to add except to say that PR (proportional representation; single transferable vote, in my personal view) is the better solution. The Alberta Liberals have long supported a referendum and implementation of this if we were in a position to do so. A minority government might be an opportunity – if Albertans were active in pressing for this – to pass a Motion to this effect in 2016; my fondest hope!

    • Carol Wodak says:

      I’m with you on this, David. Band-Aids like tinkering with the local electoral process, with unpredictable unintended consequences, will only make a solution to the underlying problem more complicated and difficult, in my opinion.
      Are we even agreed on the underlying problem we want to correct?
      My suggestion: electoral results which do not reflect the actual vote is the first.
      Then we have issues around transparency, omnibus bills, absence of informed public discourse on public policy issues…
      We’re way off topic, aren’t we? But perhaps not really; what Ezra Levant has done re: the treaties is no different from what others have done with the purpose of government (the economy, or the safety and well-being of the people?], or a myriad of issues. Sometimes we get lost in the details.

      • Carol and David: Excellent discussion. Just so I have it clear David you’re suggesting that if there’s a minority government in 2016, all of the progressives MLAs should work together to propose a motion for proportional representation together with the call for another election now (ie, not wait until 2020) that would be conducted under the proportional representational model. Right?

        I like the sound of that. The challenge will be to convince Albertans that it’s a good idea. First we need to find an easy way to explain what proportional representation means. Second we need to justify having a second election so close to the first one (what’s the rush, why waste taxpayers’ money, etc). Third we need to start now by floating the idea with our politically engaged friends in order to get as many people on board as possible before 2016 so that all of the progressive parties understand that this is what their members want.

        Okay, now we need to get working on this. We need to explain what proportional representation means in simple clear language. We all agree that electoral results not reflecting the actual vote is undemocratic but many Albertans may not see it that way. Also we need to be sure that when we’re talking about PR we’re all saying the same thing or the PCs will kill us with the allegation that we’re trying to sell Albertans a wasteful, undemocratic pig in a poke.

        Anyone care to take a stab at a PR definition that we can use with our neighbours, coworkers and family?

  17. David Grant says:

    I agree with Susan about her analysis of this article, but I am hardly surprised at the kind of drivel that he spews on a daily basis on almost every issue. The problem is that his views are not too different than many Albertans and other non-aboriginals. Over my life I have listened to a litany of lies and distortions about aboriginal people in general that is just sickening. There are many people who think that because aboriginal people don’t pay tax on reserve that they are living high on the hog or that they have rights that as Susan points out, they actually don’t have . What is also distressing is that you have people being taught by professors like Tom Flanagan who has expressed views very similar to Ezra’s. What to do about it? Well, to keep speaking out on this issue and try to explain to people the facts of the matter and point them to better sources of information. Taking your opinions on aboriginal issues from Ezra Levant is as bad as taking your opinions about the political situation in Quebec from the late Mordecai Richler. In both cases you should take them with a pitcher of salt(although in Mordecai’s case he contributed a lot with his fiction and he should have stayed with that).

    • Well said David. Mordecai Richler…now there’s someone I hadn’t thought about for a long long time. I just googled the man to refresh my memory and was surprised to learn that he’d written Barney’s Version which was based on his unfortunate luck in meeting the love of his life on the eve of his marriage to another. Interesting.

      • David Grant says:

        I have only read a short story of his and “Oh Canada, Oh Quebec”. While he makes some good points about the parochialism of Quebec nationalism, he got into real trouble with some comments about Anti-Semitism suggesting that I was worse in Quebec than in other parts of Canada-something even the Canadian Jewish Congress disputes. The thing is that many English-speaking people got their impressions of Quebec based on his writings just as many will probably get their ideas about aboriginal rights from Ezra. What is worse is that he is a lawyer and should know better, but he is letting his ideology get in the way of looking at the issues. One thing is for sure is that these issues are complicated and it seems that even lawyers who spend their times studying these issues find it so. That is why we need some clarity here.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I hope we are not putting Mordecai Richler and Ezra Levant in the same box. If we are I totally disagree. Mordecai Richler has made some very controversial statements but in many cases they were just the hard truth and difficult to take by Quebecers and Jewish people. Barney’s Version, to me, it is a very nice book and I am sure that the revelation you talk about Susan, is not something that it is that unusual. The concept of ‘love of ones life’ and ‘soul mate’ is what it is the controversial concept that to me he intended to raise.

        David I struggled all my entire adult life with what you refer in your post about lawyers. Interestingly enough when I try to discuss this issue, no one seems to like to touch it or even reason on it because maybe it is too stinky. Lawers, at least the world I know, are just not educated at all to what a democratic society should move towards to. If they are, then their education is a complete failure. All I can understand is that they are people trained like anyone else and if they happened to be crooks, they become exceptional good at taking advantage of the judicial system they so well know and can manipulate. I would love to know Susan’s opinion on this and I have tried but again she has never said a word on this. I am sure she has an opinion and maybe the profession itself is as secretive as the doctors and others and things just become tabu and we just march along as a society full of myths. Most people believe that when lawers swear to protect Canadian law and democracy just no longer means anything. We are basically a floating society where the concepts of loyalty, justice, commitment, reason …etc mean – which is financially more advantageous to us. We all know the future of this but just the environment, the economy, health …etc we just continue until the wall shows up one day and we realize we are on the wrong ladder. I can now understand why previous societies have totally disappeared and we today find hard to believe. We will be next.

  18. David Grant says:

    Don’t get me wrong about Mordecai, I think that he made some great literary contributions to the literary world. While I think that he made some interesting points about the extremes of Quebec Nationalism, the statements he made Anti-Semitism were criticised not only in many quarters who had separatist leanings, but by many supporters of federalism. I would read his fiction, but I would take his nonfiction writings with a picture of salt. My point was that neither should form their opinions on the statements on aboriginal rights(in regards to Ezra)and Quebec history(in regards to Mordecai Richler. While I respect Mordecai and not Ezra, I would be skeptical of the things that they say on these matters and try to find some other sources. In terms of lawyers, what I find difficult is that they are trained to win the arguments and that is what makes them successful but they push it a bit too far. When I encounter them in social settings, they can’t turn it off. I have a lot of exposure of lawyers and law students and that is an observation that I would make.

  19. Natasha says:

    Horrible man who gets off by slandering well meaning Human Rights Commission members by making FALSE accusations.

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