A Conversation With Danny Hozack
January 5th, 2020 | JH
Danny Hozack is a long-time fixture on the Alberta political scene. He’s an ambitious, friendly and enthusiastic gentlemen with a can-do spirit and an entrepreneurial zeal. His biggest projects over the last few years have been his Freedom Talk conferences. He brings together conservatives of many stripes to talk about current issues at weekend conferences held around the province.
With the rise of separation reaching white-hot levels of energy, his latest conference tackled the subject head on. It was an overwhelming success and featured some of Canada’s heavy hitters on the political scene. We had the chance to chat with him after the event and get his take on Alberta’s independence movement and the current situation in Canada.
Jeff: You’ve been doing Freedom Talk for quite a few years. How many is this now?
Danny: This is our 7th conference, but we’ve had two this year. They have grown every time. We did one on climate change. We did one on debt and deficit. We did another on things that matter to Alberta. We’ve had some great speakers like Patrick Moore.
Jeff: Oh yes, he’s great.
Danny: We’ve had business leaders like Brett Wilson, economists like Jack Mintz. Jack Mintz from the Calgary School of Public Policy says the flight of capital from Alberta’s energy industry is literally breath taking. From the perspective of future government revenues, it means we’re going to have a lot less money in the future. Nobody wants to invest in Alberta with Justin talking about meeting the Paris climate commitments, the tanker ban bill, the pipeline problems…there’s no reason for money to come here.
Now that Justin has won again there’s no hope that money will be invested here. In fact, even if a Conservative wins next time it won’t matter because money will sit on the sidelines so long as the Liberals are waiting in the wings. It’ll take two consecutive Conservative wins in order to attract capital back to Canada. We’re in a hole. We really are.
Jeff: I agree. That goes provincially as well. I think a lot of naïve Albertans thought that Jason Kenney would win, and we could all go back to the good times again, but it’s not going to happen this time.
Danny: Ralph Klein could cut taxes or subsidize companies and the result would be that you’d get back what you put in. Now none of that works.
Jeff: It’s a death spiral. You cut taxes and get less revenue, but companies want to leave anyway, so they do. Now you’ve got less tax revenue due to lower taxes that don’t create jobs or spur investment.
Danny: The deficit remains.
Jeff: Calgary is starting to realize this, I think.
Danny: In the late-1960s, the economy of Detroit was so hot that it was one of the most successful cities in the world. It was one of the highest income jurisdictions in North America. When it started to decline people thought, “Oh, it will be better next year.”
It never did get better.
A lot of people look at what is going on here and there’s two things they worry about. Number one, the good times will never be back or, number two, these are the good times. This is as good as it gets.
The only thing we can do is get on with it.
Jeff: It’s funny you mention Detroit. I have a friend that used to work for Husky and he said that Calgary could be the next Detroit.
Danny: I was in a meeting in Banff and someone said that Calgary’s office space will take 30 years to fill up. There’s so much empty commercial space out there. Those buildings downtown are going to be empty for decades.
I’m not sure people yet realize the misery that is heading our way.
Jeff: Especially if the decision making gets taken out of the hands of politicians and put into the hands of bankers and bondholders like it did in Saskatchewan in the 90’s.
Danny: I’ve been there in my personal life. In the 1970’s I borrowed a bunch of money to expand my farm and 10 years later the bank took back the land I bought plus a bunch that had been in my family free and clear. Once things start to go wrong there’s no easy way out of it. Interest costs escalate.
I was a Wildrose candidate back in 2012.
Danny: The total cost of all education in the province was $7.5 billion. We’re now heading towards $4 to $5 billion on interest costs for the provincial debt.
Jeff: We should default on the debt and separate.
Danny: I was talking to a lady at the University of Calgary and she said we could never separate. I told her to never tell Alberta what we can and can’t do. It’s like the saying…“In America the difficult takes awhile and the impossible takes a while longer.” In Alberta we’ve done just that.
The oil sands were untouched for two million years and they would still be untouched if it was up to the left. Fortunately for us, some young entrepreneurs headed to Fort MacMurray with a half ton and a dream and figured out how to get oil out of the sand.
Look at the pioneers that came out here with a shovel and an axe and turned Western Canada into the breadbasket of the world. We went from living in a dirt house and eating lard to where we are today! There’s nothing we can’t achieve!
Jeff: When my great-grandfather came to Saskatchewan to farm, he got there too late in the season to build a house, so he just dug a hole in the ground and that’s where he stayed for his first winter.
Danny: Can you imagine that?
Jeff: No, I can’t. So, I agree with you. Going from that to what we have today was far more challenging than taking what we have and running it independently as a country in the future.
Is that sentiment what you heard at the conference?
Danny: We did a poll at the conference to see how people felt about separation before the conference and then polled the crowd again after it was over. The first morning of the conference it was 57% of people wanted to separate from Canada. Then on Saturday Maxime Bernier gave a speech defending federalism. Support for separation fell to 49%, so it’s pretty evenly split.
We think that a date needs to be set for a vote on separation. Everyone agrees the status quo has to go. We either want the country fixed or else take our chances with separation. We don’t want this to drag on for 3 or 5 or 7 years. Someone said Quebec took 15 years to go from talking about it to having a vote the first time around so we should have patience, but the big difference is that Quebec was comfortable and sucking up billions of dollars from Canada. At the end of the day where are they going to get their money from if Canada doesn’t give it to them?
We’re the other side of that coin. Albertans are not living a comfortable life right now. There are 400-800 houses for sale in Lloydminster right now. 25% of those houses are foreclosures. Businesses are closing. Restaurants are closing. One third of the crops are still out in the field. Suicide rates are way up, especially for young men. A lot of people aren’t living a comfortable life and doing something tangible can’t wait.
Can we have the groundwork for separation done in six months? One year? Let’s get at it and start laying the groundwork. Let’s get our own pension system. Let’s start our own police force. The sooner we stop sending all our money away the sooner we can get things going here.
John Robson said that in economics things take longer then you ever thought they would, but once things start happening, they can happen a lot faster than you ever thought it could!
We had 400 people in Red Deer. Wexit had 1700 people in Calgary. Ezra had about a 1000 in Edmonton and Calgary. That’s 3000 people in a week going to a meeting about separation!
To compare this, consider that in 2011, I was working with Danielle Smith. I was driving her around northern Alberta to meet people in the communities and hold meet and greets for the Wildrose Party. For two weeks we had two meetings a day…roughly 28 meetings. We averaged about 10 people a meeting, so 280 people over the course of two weeks! You see what I mean?
Jeff: When’s your next event?
Danny: Hopefully April. We need to put more meat on the bone and work things out. We know what we need to do, but we need to take it up to the next level. We know what the challenges are. We know that we need winning conditions. We need allies inside government. We need business, labour and professional institutions on side. We need our Ottawa representatives on side. We need strong support from ordinary Albertans…
People say we aren’t there yet, and we aren’t, but we have $20 billion a year to save and if we put in the work, we can solve this crisis that we’re going through.
Jeff: What about you, personally, Danny? Do you want to see an independent Alberta?
Danny: At this time, I’d vote for separation, but my vote would be cancelled by my wife, so it doesn’t really matter. I’d like to see the country fixed, and we just can’t send another $600 billion to Canada over the next few generations again. Quite frankly, when you see some of the things that people down there are saying you think, “Let’s just go for it!”
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