By Cal Braid
Westwind Weekly News
Todd Loewen is the only MLA in Alberta who joined the Freedom Convoy in early 2022, albeit not in a big rig. He travelled by camper van with his wife and told the story like this:
“I travelled to Ottawa with the truckers. I left about a day and a half later than the truckers and caught up with them in northern Ontario. It was kind of a life-changing experience because I was able to see first-hand what was going on.”
“It was amazing to go through these small communities and little towns and see hundreds of people lining the highways cheering and trying help anybody who was in the convoy,” he continued. “When we got closer to Ottawa, people were lining the overpasses. When we got to the second one, I have to admit there was a tear in my eye because I realized what a big thing was happening. So many Canadians had gotten together, and they were starting to feel hope.”
“A lot of people had lost their businesses or lost their homes, and families were divided by Covid vaccine mandates. I believe that if Justin Trudeau had come out when the truckers arrived and said, ‘Let’s sit down and talk’, that he would have been a hero. Instead, he decided to attack and discredit and call names. By doing so, he made himself the laughingstock of the world. He could have changed things dramatically by listening. Those politicians had their minds made up even before the truckers arrived.”
Loewen and his wife travelled there in a camper van and stayed in it most nights, even as temperatures sank to between -20 and -39 degrees Celsius. He said there were only two things that didn’t work in the camper van that he wasn’t aware of when they left.
“One was the horn, so nobody can accuse me of honking the horn too much in Ottawa! The other thing was the furnace, so that made for some cold nights. We had really good sleeping bags, so we weren’t cold ourselves.” His water bottle at his bedside froze solid in an hour though.
“We spent two days on Parliament Hill and never felt so much love, appreciation, and hope. After we left, we stopped at my wife’s friends place to visit. The news came on and we got to listen to the Prime Minister talk, and I honestly thought that I must have been at a different rally.” To him, the difference between the experience and the rhetoric was that drastic.
Loewen is an outfitter, MLA, family man, and former caucus member from Valleyview. He has entered the candidate’s race to be the leader of The United Conservative Party by paying his entry fee of $75,000 and has submitted the required signatures and paperwork. He arrived in Raymond on July 20, for an engagement at the Raymond & District Seniors Club. His week was a whirlwind tour that began in Red Deer and hit Coutts, Milk River, Raymond, Cardston, before heading back to Edmonton and Westlock.
In his travels, he’s noticed that “There’s a couple of things that keep coming up over and over again. Inflation, our response to Ottawa, health care, and our freedoms.
“What I would like to see moving forward is the removal of the small business tax in Alberta. Small businesses have suffered for years. They’re so important to our community. You’ll see a lot of candidates in this race talk about giving handouts, and what I would like to see, rather than giving money out like that, is lower personal taxes, because that way everybody can benefit. When we look at Conservative values, we’re not handing out money, but we do believe in lowering taxes so we can create a playing field that is fair and just.”
“Another thing that we see is a lot of talk about a provincial sales tax, and I’m not in favour of (it). I travel around Alberta, (and) I don’t hear people asking for a sales tax. I don’t believe that’s an answer to any of our problems, in fact I think it’ll cause even more issues. It’s one of things that we’ve had as an Albertan advantage.”
He said our relationship with Ottawa has been a concern for some time. “What we’ve seen in the past is lots of talk and no action, and that’s a concern. We see what Ottawa’s done to us with Bill 48 and Bill 69, the no more pipelines bill and the tanker ban on the West Coast. What was our response from the Alberta government? A strongly worded letter. When we (don’t) see the stabilization money—we were supposed to receive $2.4 billion in stabilization money, and we only received $ 400 million of it—what was our response to that? Another strongly worded letter. When we see the cancellation of the Teck Mine in Fort McMurray that would have brought in (massive revenue) to Alberta. What was our response to that? Again, another strongly worded letter.”
“We’re sitting in a situation now where the Federal Government doesn’t believe we’re going to do anything in here in Alberta, so they will continue to walk all over us.”
When you look at things we can do, we could have our own pension plan. Our own pension plan would save Alberta taxpayers $ 3-4 billion a year and likewise it would cost the federal government $3 – 4 billion a year because they would have to make up for the difference that we’ve been paying. We could do our own unemployment insurance plan, and that would save several hundred million dollars per year because we have a higher rate of employment than the rest of Canada, so we pay more into than we receive. We could have our own police force. All those things, we don’t have to have a constitutional battle over with Ottawa. Quebec is already doing those things. Each of those things would bring us step closer to being like Quebec and having the kind of autonomy that they have.
In terms of health care, he said that “I believe that AHS is the biggest problem that we have right now. I would like to see AHS blown up and started from scratch. If I put that on Facebook, I’d be banned for a month, so I’ll use the term ‘dismantled’.”
He said that we’ve seen health services diminish and the costs rise. “It isn’t that our frontline staff isn’t doing all they can; it has to do with the process and the bureaucracy.” He believes that top level managers should be empowered to make decisions without having to work their way through multiple layers of bureaucracy. He said that at about $ 24 billion a year, the results in AHS don’t measure up to the amount of money being spent.
Loewen is also big on the idea of an Alberta Constitution being “something that we need to have. A lot of people talk about property rights. Our Federal Constitution doesn’t protect our property rights. If we have our own constitution here in Alberta, we can put property rights in there.” As an example, property rights would cover gun legislation.
“When we ask Albertans and we do these things, there has to be an action at the end of it, instead of just another report to toss out the window and ignore. A little over a year ago, in May of 2021 is when I wrote the letter to the Premier of Alberta asking him to resign. At that time, I resigned from caucus and that resulted on me being kicked out of caucus,” he said, leaving the contradiction between ‘resigned’ and ‘kicked out’ unclear. “When I did that, I was standing up for my constituents. If I’m elected as the leader of the UCP and the Premier of Alberta, I will stand up for Albertans the way I stood up for my constituents.”
In closing, he said, “Right, now we have MLAs representing the government to their constituents, instead of representing their constituents to the government. This is your Alberta, and I’m committed to doing it your way.”