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Monday, July 12, 2010

Randy Hillier vs. Tim Hudak on G20

Last week, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak published a piece in the Toronto Star to applaud the work of the police during G20. Hudak wrote, amongst other things:

Sadly, in the wake of the violence, a number of usual-suspect special interest groups are attempting to pin blame, not on the hooligans, but instead on our police services or the federal government.

That's true, I suppose. There were "usual-suspect special interest groups" that were busy trying to pin the blame on the police and the federal government. Of course, there were also usual-suspect special interest groups who lined up behind the police and the federal government, regardless of the stench of illegality and unconstitutionality that emanated from the actions of the police and the provincial government (exactly what was going on with that five-metre rule anyways? And who's responsible for the misinformation?).

I took umbrage with Hudak's opinion piece. Mainly, I wanted to know what Hudak thought of the non-usual suspect special interest groups -- the groups whose special interest is individual liberty, both civil and economic; The pro-private property, pro-freedom of expression, pro-civil liberties types? In short, libertarians, or Rob Breakenridge / Mark Steyn-style conservatives.

Hudak's piece had nothing to say to them. And it's the arguments of these folks that need to be addressed, since we can all shrug off the idiots who insist that smashing small business windows -- or even the windows of big businesses -- is perfectly all right and an instance of free expression that should be seen as part and parcel of a free and open democratic society. Why pay attention to people who don't have a clue about freedom of expression or civil society?

Today, Randy Hillier, Ontario PC MPP from Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington, has joined the non-usual suspect special interest group, which PUBLIUS has excerpted here, calling out both Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and prime minister Stephen Harper:

[McGuinty and Harper] both use the common theme that upholding law and order required usurping our civil liberties. Any elementary school student knows these are not mutually exclusive — in fact, they are wholly interdependent. As numerous failed dictatorships have proven, you cannot have law and order without civil liberties.

Back when I wrote my response to Tim Hudak, I had mentioned that his stance on the G20 was only strike two (the first being Hudak's stance on the HST), and that the inning was far from over. I had said that, in my mind, Randy Hillier was already a home run. It's satisfying to see Hillier take this position on the G20 and do it publicly. And for two reasons:

The first is that it's the right stance on this issue, taken for the right reasons. Hillier is right that law & order is pointless without liberty. That law & order is too often used as an excuse to crush dissent, and to squelch our liberties.

The second reason is that Hillier is taking a public position on a matter of principle when it counts, and when it's difficult to do so. Hudak is the leader of the Ontario PCs, and Hillier has taken a public position that conflicts with Hudak's. Hillier is also calling out Stephen Harper, even though everyone knows that the Ontario PCs and the federal Tories are as close as can be.

In short, Hillier is choosing principle over partisanship.

This might bode well for the Ontario PCs, incidentally. If Hudak is tolerating dissenting views amongst his caucus, and if he's "permitting" party members to speak their minds on matters important to each individual MPP or to each MPPs constituents, then we might get what we should have always had in this country -- politicians immune from the crack of the Party Whip. (I put "permitting" in scare quotes because there's really no "permitting" or "not permitting" Randy Hillier, he'll speak his mind regardless).

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on July 12, 2010 in Canadian Provincial Politics, Freedom of expression, G20 | Permalink

Comments

Peter: I don't think Hillier's stance is at odds with Mr. Hudak's stance. The key criticism of Hudad's column was that he took the position that the police were to blame for nothing at all. Mr. Hillier's column does exactly the same. I quote, from Mr. Hillier's column, the key passage:

"...the police, who were acting under political orders."

Like Hudak, Hillier commits the sin of failing to blame on police officers decisions that - clearly - were made only by police officers. I am somewhat confident, for example, that neither Premier McGuinty, nor Prime Minister Harper, gave instructions that police officers should tear the prosthetic off of a one-legged amputee, and order that he "Hop!". At the end of the day, the main person you held out as saving the Progressive Conservatives on this issue ended up letting us all down by giving the police a complete pass, just as Mr. Hudak did.

Now, quite certainly, it is right to argue that, "you cannot have law and order without civil liberties" (though I'm not a fan of that concrete way of conceiving of freedom...that's a discussion for another column/day). However, how can one take seriously any advocacy of civil liberties that includes a statement to the effect of: "the police were just taking orders from political entities, so they are not to blame". Hillier's logic would, if applied to history's dictatorships, give a pass to every murderous footsoldier and military officers who - pursuant to a political leader's orders - had victims dig their own graves before being shot and pushed into them.

The Progressive Conservative party remains a party that has done us all a disservice by white-washing the role of police decision-making in the abuses that occurred during the G20, and I cannot credit anyone who engages in such white-washing to be a person worthy of being praised as an advocate of individual freedom.

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-07-12 11:05:17 AM


Paul,

Just "following orders" is not an excuse. Individuals have agency and responsibility to follow the law, regardless of orders. If you believe otherwise, than I'm assuming you take issue with the Nuremberg Trials.

I've yet to hear any of the law & order conservatives make a spirited defence of any Nazi military personnel who were "just following orders".

This is a principle that is recognized in our police and military tradition, actually. In fact, in the military, it is the duty of soldier to refuse to carry out an illegal order. And as such, military law allows subordinates to relieve their superior and place them under arrest in such a case.

Why can this principle not apply to police?

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-07-12 12:24:44 PM


I think you may have misunderstood Paul's point, Mike. He agrees with you, and is taking Hillier (as well as myself) to task for failing to lay blame at the feet of the individual police officers.

I take his criticism to heart, but I'm not a fan of making the perfect the enemy of the good. So I'll continue to praise the good, even if it falls short of being perfect.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2010-07-12 12:28:57 PM


Ah. Sorry.

Posted by: Mike Brock | 2010-07-12 12:40:00 PM


I've yet to hear any of the law & order conservatives make a spirited defence of any Nazi military personnel who were "just following orders".

Just think. That's a statement you'll never have to make again. Observe:

Admiral Karl Dönitz, the commander of the ubootwaffe (German U-boat fleet) was sentenced to ten years in prison, and could have faced execution, for mounting a form of submarine warfare that substantially reflected allied (primarily American) practice in the Pacific. Dönitz was therefore very much a victim of "conqueror's justice," when the fact of the matter is he followed the laws of war more closely than the men who sentenced him.

Dönitz and his sailors had tried to make submarine war reasonably humane. In fact, many U-boat commanders gave shipwrecked survivors food, water, a map, and a compass to help them reach land. In contrast, some American skippers, most infamously "Mush" Morton, went so far as to machine-gun survivors in the water. Morton died one of America's most decorated submariners, whereas Heinz-Wilhelm Eck, the only U-boat captain ever to commit a similar act, was sentenced to death at Nuremberg.

All of that said, "just following orders" is indeed no excuse for breaking the law. However, in the case of Dönitz, none had been broken--and they prosecuted him anyway. From sheer revenge.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2010-07-12 2:41:27 PM


Peter:

It is certainly more important to praise the good/virtuous than to condemn the evil/vicious, but it is very important not to praise the evil/vicious.

My point was that your praise of Hillier was founded chiefly upon the falsehood that he opposed Hudak on the very thing for which you had condemned Hudak: giving the police a pass. Not only had Hillier not opposed Hudak re: the police, he chimed in with Hudak in unison, giving the police a pass. Why then should Hillier be praised for the *very* thing for which you condemned Hudak?

Posted by: Paul McKeever | 2010-07-13 7:04:47 AM


G20 police behaviour: Your $1b+ tax dollars at work

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/829921--i-will-not-forget-what-they-have-done-to-me

Posted by: granny | 2010-07-16 9:31:43 AM



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