March 2nd, 2021

MLA Report: Don’t look back. Get involved

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on February 19, 2021.

Despite the government’s economic restrictions, $100 billion in provincial debt and bottlenecked resource movement, Alberta is in a wonderful spot. This is because North Americans everywhere know Alberta is one of the last places where strong, societal, conservative values like truth, economy, charity and freedom are still valued and part of culture.

Albertans also value fairness, community and risk taking. Three examples where these values are working to give citizens more

freedom, a louder voice and equity are Switzerland, Wyoming and Australia.

Switzerland is known for its banking, skiing and commitment to direct democracy. In addition to an amazing system where the presidential role is rotated annually among some canton (provincial) leaders, it takes just 50,000 of 8.5 million Swiss to place a question on the ballot for a national referendum.

That is comparable to just 25,000 of 4.3 million Albertans being able to be directly involved in our future. Switzerland’s “Friends of the Constitution” easily achieved 86,000 signatures to place a question challenging their government’s COVID-19 economic lockdown on a June ballot.

The Swiss will have their voices heard. This is true whether they believe lockdowns caused too much economic and societal damage, or perhaps should have been more focused on long-term care and the vulnerable. Some Swiss are also saying lockdowns are a tactic too easily enforced for future emergencies. Citizens who feel lockdowns should have been sooner and more severe will also be heard. The direct engagement of 8.5 million Swiss and the often-amazing accuracy of the “Wisdom of the Crowd” will be front and centre.

I was talking to a friend in Wyoming. I asked what he liked so much about Wyoming. The answer was the beauty, freedom, wide-open spaces and a jurisdiction with no income tax. No state income tax. Yup, my friend said, “because of state royalties on coal, oil and gas development.” Alberta has all that and more. That more is irrigation, technology, forestry and billions of bottlenecked barrels of oil. In contrast, Alberta has provincial taxation of up to 15 per cent of income, on top of Ottawa’s taxation.

Recently, I have discovered a political party in Australia called The National Party. It is 100 years old and its main conservative focus is on improving the services provided to, and lifestyles of, Australians who do not live in the capital cities and rely on agriculture and mining industries.

I was interested to learn of a movement focused on representing voices that are often not heard in the halls of power, where larger population centres are often listened to first. This is especially relevant to me as an MLA representing both urban and rural populations. This is an important reminder that all citizens’ voices matter and deserve to be included in the decisions of government, whether they’re a mechanic in Medicine Hat or a welder in Walsh.

Three examples out of many, where freedom-loving people found ways to be directly involved in their future, enhance choice by limiting government taxation and overcome regional disparities for lower populated areas.

The future is Alberta’s values. Don’t look back. Get involved.

Drew Barnes in the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat. He can be reached at Drew.Barnes@assembly.ab.ca.

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