September 22, 2008 | In Politics | No Comments
They’ve been making the headlines for a few days now… the candidates who openly and decisively show their principles… then get fired.
First there was Dana Larsen, the NDP candidate from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, who was forced to resign due to previous involvement with drug culture. Then there was Kirk Tousaw, another NDP candidate from Vancouver—Quadra, who had to give up his nomination after videos surfaced of him smoking marijuana with drug legalization activist, Marc Emery.
Most recently, we’ve seen Chris Reid, the Conservative Party candidate from Toronto Centre, resigning his nomination after the exposure of several controversial articles on his blog, advocating the right to carry handguns and supporting private involvement in the Canadian health care system, among other issues.
My intention is not to defend these men… I don’t know enough about any of them to give a strong opinion, and since they are no longer candidates, their personal character traits are no longer particularly relevant. But it’s important to take note of the willingness of both the NDP and the Conservatives to brush aside and punish candidates who express principled opinions that are politically inconvenient.
Also please understand that I’m not trying to stick up for the Liberals here… when it comes to principled governance, their ship sailed away a long time ago.
But isn’t the NDP supposed to stick up for the rights of “the common people?” And shouldn’t Stephen Harper retain some of the principles of the Reform Party, under whose banner he was originally elected back in 1993?
Both Layton’s NDP and Harper’s Conservatives seem perfectly willing to suppress dissent, hoping to keep potential “problem politicians” out of office, even if it means losing a riding or two. This only substantiates Liberal MP, Keith Martin’s belief that our current parliamentary system is designed to keep MPs “stupid and busy,” preventing them from spearheading any real change.
As a libertarian, I am quite sympathetic to candidates who hold reformist views towards issues like drug legalization, gun rights, and choice in health care. Our country’s main political parties, however, seem to hold the exact opposite view.
To quote 1964 U.S. presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” That’s the message we should be giving to our politicians.
September 17, 2008 | In Politics | No Comments
Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, made an illogical and trivial proposal today to ban the sale of flavoured cigarillos (little cigars) in individual packages.
The motive behind this proposed legislation, according to Harper, is the popularity of individually-packaged tobacco products (at “kid-friendly prices”) among Canadian teenagers. But this is just one more of those dumb policies where you have to step back and ask yourself: “what are they really hoping to achieve?”
It’s already illegal to sell tobacco to minors, yet teens who want tobacco products (including good old fashioned non-flavoured cigarettes) always manage to get them. Forcing tobacco manufacturers to put cigarillos in packages of five or ten won’t prevent this from happening.
If a retailer is irresponsible enough to sell tobacco products to children in the first place, what’s to stop them from cracking open the government-mandated packages and selling individual cigarillos under the table? Ditto for private citizens who agree to purchase tobacco products for kids.
This legislation will not prevent children and teens from getting their hands on tobacco products. It will only serve to inconvenience adults who want to purchase a legal product in an individual package.
It’s parents and families, not the State, that are responsible for educating children about the dangers of tobacco products. Stupid and arbitrary regulations won’t help.
September 16, 2008 | In Law, Politics | No Comments
The totalitarian tactics of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions have been on the media’s radar for a while now, and have even caught the attention of some brave politicians. But this crucial issue, which continues to threaten freedom of speech in Canada has yet to become a visible issue this election season.
That’s why its comforting to see that Marc Lemire’s Constitutional challenge of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is finally being taken seriously (or so it would seem) by Human Rights Tribunal adjudicator, Athanasios Hadjis, who sharply questioned CHRC lawyer, Margot Blight, yesterday, about Section 13′s application to the internet, and whether webmasters should be held accountable for “hateful” and “contemptuous” comments by others on their websites.
Today it was free speech lawyer, Doug Christie’s, turn to attack the legitimacy of Canada’s most odious hate speech law on behalf of the Canadian Free Speech League. He argued that when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the John Ross Taylor case (a landmark 1990 precedent allowing for the “reasonable limitation” of freedom of expression), it did not anticipate the internet as it exists today, where multiple viewpoints can be expressed and debated.
Christie also asserted that honest debate of historical events (such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Protestant Reformation) and more recent events (including the Air India bombing and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) could potentially be chilled by Section 13. “True belief is intolerant and conflict is inevitable where people believe different things,” he said.
Closing arguments in the Lemire case will be wrapped up tomorrow, after almost five years of litigation. We can only hope that Lemire will win this battle to strike Section 13 from the law books, and all the time and effort that has gone into this case will result in greater free speech rights for Canadians.
September 16, 2008 | In Business, Politics | No Comments
A little over a week after the U.S. government bailed out mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freedie Mac, intervention has marred the marketplace yet again. This time it’s AIG, a major insurance company, that’s received an $85 billion lifeline from the Federal Reserve.
You needn’t be an expert in high finance to recognize that this is a bad deal for the American people. The U.S. government is already more than $9 trillion in debt, and now its buying an 80% share in a company that can’t keep its own head above water. The only way to pay for such an “investment” is to borrow more money (primarily from foreign sources), or to print more money out of thin air, further reducing the value of the U.S. dollar and hitting citizens even harder with the inflation tax.
And yet, Wall Street is grateful to its federal government for this seemingly “free” cash infusion.
“Thank God,” exclaimed Loomis, Sayles & Co bond manager, Daniel Fuss. “AIG is interwoven with so many people and touches many companies around the world. This is a huge relief to many parts of the financial markets.”
But government is not God. Government does not create or produce resources or capital. In fact, it must fork out taxpayers’ money to pay for the paper on which U.S. Dollars are printed.
Every time the government issues a corporate welfare cheque or bails out a struggling company, it is only delaying the inevitable economic correction. Borrowing money on behalf the American people so as to bail out corporations does not solve the problem, it only collectivizes it, punishing those who make shrewd business decisions.
Businesses that make greedy and stupid business decisions should pay for those decisions and be purged from the marketplace, rather than expecting taxpayers (especially taxpayers in future generations) to shoulder the debt.
John Maynard Keynes’ economic theories didn’t prevent the second half of the Great Depression. They only delayed it.
September 11, 2008 | In Politics | 1 Comment
The National Post editorial board made some good points yesterday about Liberal leader, Stephane Dion’s proposed ban on “military assault weapons.”
Looking at the Liberals’ own press release, it’s pretty obvious that Dion wants to draw a fictional line between “respectable” firearms that government should tolerate (for now anyway), and “scary” firearms that “serve absolutely no purpose in our society.”
I don’t know a lot about firearms (less, I’m sure than whoever wrote the National Post editorial) but I do know stupid policy when I see it.
So called “military assault weapons” are already on the market, and are owned by a wide variety of citizens, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding, but the small minority of whom are not. If Dion gets elected and passes his proposed “Scary Weapons Act,” those few bad guys will gleefully hang on to their scary weapons while law-abiding homeowners are unjustly forced to forfeit their lawfully-acquired property, which may have proved very useful in defending themselves from scary criminals. The stubborn few who refuse to give up their lawfully-acquired property will become honorary scary criminals themselves.
The black market for guns will continue to prosper, just as the black market for drugs prospers, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the overreaching yet grossly ineffective hand of the State. The Liberals’ “war on guns” is morally and practically equivalent to the Conservatives’ “war on drugs.” Both of these policies target and punish peaceful citizens, while enabling and encouraging the real criminals, such as gang members and other violent offenders – those who don’t mind doing actual harm to you and your children.
But it’s not the politicians crafting these policies that are the stupid ones, but the people who accept them. All politicians want to appear “tough on crime,” and try to prove it with inane policies that lull voters into a false sense of security. Creating pre-crimes increases the number of needless convictions and ultimately bullies most dissenters into submission. The one thing it doesn’t do is protect citizens from actual crime.
The only legitimate reason to be “tough on crime” is to protect citizens from real criminals. The only effective way to be “tough on crime” is to be tough on real criminals. Inventing new crimes just doesn’t fit the bill.
September 8, 2008 | In Law | No Comments
I was disappointed but not surprised when I read about the BC Court of Appeal’s recent decision to maintain “bubble zones” preventing pro-life protesters from coming within 50 meters of an abortion clinic.
The Court decided that the Access to Abortion Services Act, which makes it illegal to engage in sidewalk protest in the vicinity of an abortion clinic, is a “reasonable limit” on the Charter right to freedom of expression.
Despite receiving the blind support of many Canada.com commenters, this decision was not supportive of individual freedom in any way, shape, or form. Those who claim to be “pro-choice” should be the first to understand this.
Unless one is a moral relativist, it should be easy enough to understand that there is a right and a wrong choice in many of life’s decisions. Pro-life protesters are convinced that terminating the life of an unborn fetus is always wrong. A woman who has an abortion and truly believes her decision to be the right one should be mature enough to recognize this fundamental difference of opinion and ignore peaceful protesters.
But women who are “on the fence” about abortion, particularly those who have been pressured into a decision they aren’t entirely comfortable with, should be able to hear the other side of the story. They should listen carefully to the protesters, and to their own conscience, and at the very least, make a morally informed decision.
Those who support the principle of “choice” should also respect the principle of “hearing both sides.”
September 7, 2008 | In Politics | No Comments
As Canada’s leading political parties scrambled to kick off the federal election campaign on a high note, the libertarian-oriented Freedom Party of Canada issued a short press release earlier today, attacking current campaign finance laws, which force voters to fund established parties.
“Under Canada’s relatively new political party welfare system, every ballot cast for Canada’s larger political parties gives them a guaranteed $1.75 per year”, commented Paul McKeever, leader of the Freedom Party, which will not be able to run candidates this election cycle due to “objectionable changes to party registration and finance laws,” according to the party’s website.
“Feeling compelled to vote for the lesser of evils, many Canadians vote for parties they do not like,” McKeever added, noting that political funding should come from voluntary contributions, not government-mandated subsidies. “When political parties are funded voluntarily by voters, they serve voters. When they are funded by the government, they serve the government.”
McKeever is correct of course, in pointing out that funding parties based on the number of votes they receive is a recipe for maintaining the established order, and preventing small, grassroots-oriented parties from gaining a voice in government.
I have believed for some time, however, that the issue goes much deeper than that, and that the current policy of funding parties on a per-vote basis is Constitutionally problematic.
Section 3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, after all, states that “every citizen of Canada has the right to vote in an election of the members of the House of Commons or of a legislative assembly.” Given that voting is a Constitutionally-protected right, it shouldn’t be something that we’re forced to pay for. Over and above the basic administrative costs of conducting an election, voting should be free.
If the government were to set up a toll booth at every polling station and force each voter to fork over $7 (that is $1.75 x four years), would that be Constitutional? I doubt it. It would certainly run contrary to the spirit of Section 3 of the Charter.
So why should taxpayers be forced to collectively shoulder the same burden? Canada seems to be governed on the assumption that forcing individuals to pay for things individually (i.e. user fees) is morally wrong or exploitative, while collectivizing that same exploitative burden is completely acceptable.
In my view, spending that is not absolutely necessary for the maintenance and security of a free and democratic society should be both individualized and voluntary.
If you support a political party then by all means, send them $7, or send them $700. But don’t expect taxpayers to fund your party of choice, via an involuntary poll tax.
September 2, 2008 | In Politics | No Comments
A quick review of Canadian punditry over the last few days (now confirmed by party leaders) suggests that a federal election is coming next month, despite the rather familiar standings of the major parties in recent polls.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party consistently polls between 33 and 38 percent, while Stephane Dion’s Liberals lag anywhere from one to eight points behind. The left-leaning NDP, meanwhile fluctuates in the mid teens (13 to 17 percent), the separatist Bloc Quebecuois continues to hold the most support in Quebec, and the environmentalist Green Party flirts with 10 percent, nationwide.
All of these figures with the exception of rising Green Party support (which may or may not convert into actual votes) look very similar to the election results in January 2006, when the Conservatives won a minority government with 36 percent, followed by the Liberals with 30. If one looks purely at the nationwide polls, it would be difficult to imagine a Parliament that looks much different from the one we have now.
But most of the underlying fundamentals, it would appear, point to gains for the Conservatives, which is probably why they’ve suddenly become so eager to force an election.
Stephen Harper isn’t overwhelmingly charismatic, but he seems much more sure of himself than Stepahne Dion (giving him an edge on the campaign trail), and has the advantage of nearly three years in office without any major scandals or disasters.
The Liberal argument that Harper has a “hidden agenda” and favours “Americanization” or “theocracy,” holds much less water now that Canadians are used to his relatively moderate style of governing. In a question on who (as Prime Minister) would do a better job of “standing up to the United States” (whatever that’s supposed to mean), Harper won the confidence of 42 percent of respondents, versus just 29 percent for Dion, in a recent poll by The Strategic Counsel for CTV and The Globe and Mail.
On dealing with tough economic times, which is apparently the top issue on voters minds, 45 percent of respondents selected Harper as the man for the job, versus a mere 21 percent for Dion.
Even in “making progress with climate change,” the only major issue where the Liberals score better, the Liberal’s Green Shift plan to tax carbon emissions is likely to backfire big time. In proposing such a tax, Dion has created a classic wedge issue, given that Conservative-leaning voters are relatively unified in opposing the plan, while a good percentage of Liberals have voiced strong doubts. Overall, only 44 percent of Canadians support the Green Shift, and we can be fairly sure that at least half of those are Bloc, NDP, and Green Party supporters.
The Green Shift isn’t just bad policy; it’s bad strategy, and virtually ensures that Dion will lose supporters to the Conservatives. Even if he backs down on the plan, he’ll appear alarmingly weak and unprincipled.
On the flip side, of course, the memory of the Liberal sponsorship scandal isn’t as fresh, and probably won’t figure as prominently into this campaign as it did in 2006. Additionally, Harper will look like a hypocrite if he calls an election early, violating a law that he himself made.
Nevertheless, the fundamentals do favour the Tories, making a Liberal victory unlikely and a Conservative majority a very distinct possibility.
After the election is called (which will supposedly happen before next Sunday), I’ll tackle some of the issues and principles that the major parties (especially the Conservatives) should be paying attention to in order to gain admiration rather than rather than simply being the lesser among evils in the eyes of their supporters.