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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Dominion Day 2009

How shall we speak of Canada, the Conservative Party dead? Not dead literally, the old girl has got plenty of life in her, electorally speaking. The great Iggy surge has been stemmed. The relief that Michael Ignatieff is not Stephane Dion is passing. We see the Count in the light of day and are not amused. We are back to two middle aged men quarreling over who knows what. It scarcely matters. Iggy wants more money for EI. Stephen wants less. Since Employment Insurance is not insurance, or really a proper charity, it fails to do either job well. It encourages people to stay where they are, regardless of where the jobs might be. As an "insurance" scheme it is, like agencies of the state, subject to political interference. None of this matters, except to policy wonks and that dwindling band of "puritanical" libertarians and classical liberals. I hadn't heard the term "puritanical libertarian" until quite recently. It was someone's description of Barry Goldwater's objection to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The legendary Arizona Senator, and 1964 Presidential Candidate, had objected to Title II of the Act, which barred discrimination in privately owned hotels and stores open to the public. Goldwater remarked: "You can't legislate morality." 

 Oh come on, Barry? Can't you bend just a little bit? We can't always be so, er, puritanical. You're protecting the rights of bigots, eh? As The Ezra Levant Story illustrates, we start with the bigots, we end with a magazine publisher running a standard news item, about the latest bit of religiously inspired wackery. There has to be a line somewhere, and private property is about as good a place to draw it as any. Either I own something or I don't. I might be in hock to the bank, but that's between me and the suits down the road. One of the privileges of ownership is being able to exclude whomever I want, for pretty much whatever reason I want. Exceptions are granted in the case of warrants and similar intrusions, when the rights of others might be reasonable infringed. Title II inquiries as to the intent of the exclusion. Intent is hard enough to prove in a criminal court of law, in daily life it's a lot harder. In effect the state is trying to judge whether your private feelings match with those approved by the state. Whatever those beliefs might be. 

That was Barry Goldwater's objection, the state was trying to regulate private morality. Once that point is conceded, then pretty much nothing is off limits. Like the old inquisition, the new one doesn't care so much about outward compliance, it wants you to believe as well. Saying that the state can't change the human soul, only persuasion can do that, used to be par for the course circa 1867. George Brown, founder of The Globe and the Liberal Party (both of which he'd repudiate if he were alive today), helped fight for the separation of church and state in Canada. He was one of the leading opponents of the idea of state financed catholic schools. The law shall know no man's religion, was one of his slogans. While today that type of public secularism would be accompanied by the standard moral and philosophical skepticism, we can't impose the truth because we don't know it, Brown was no skeptic. He was a free kirk Presbyterian, and claimed by Canadian evangelicals of the time as one of their own. While helping to create modern Canada he hoped it would be a "Christian" country. 

The casual modern observer will shrug at this bit of apparent sanctimonious bigotry. Brown's intent was not to exclude non-Christians - a tiny Jewish community aside non-Christian immigration wasn't seen as a possibility, let alone a threat. The Chinese were still a few years away. Brown was actually trying to reach out to the Catholics, hoping to create what another generation would call a just and moral society. A believer in individual rights it would never have occurred to him to have the state pay for his particular point of view, let alone suppress the rights of others to express it. Victorian Canada was not a Golden Age. Women were second class citizens, ethnic and racial minorities were further down the ladder. Yet any of the Queen's white adult male subjects were freer then than now. It would never have occurred to even the more statist politicians of the age, like Sir John A Macdonald himself, that the future would entail Human Rights Commissions and a massive welfare state. Such institutions would have smacked of continental despotism, the sort of thing the Austrians or the Prussians got up to, not the British or - by extension - Canadian way. 

 The last one hundred and forty two years have seen liberty extended to more and more people within Canadian society. Virtually all of us are now first class citizens. What first class citizenship means has shrunk. With the redistribution of income has come the redistribution of freedom. Three years ago many of us fancied that the Conservative Party would, in its modest and mumbling way, try to expand the definition of being Canadian. Turn back the frontiers of the state and stop the increasing infantilization of adult Canadians. That hope is dead. Stephen Harper's Conservatives are somewhat less statist than the opposition Liberals. Modern politics is like a trip to the optometrist. The chap in the white coat keeps asking which of the fuzzy images is better or worse. It's getting harder and harder to tell. But then again, I am getting on in years.

Posted by Richard Anderson on July 1, 2009 | Permalink


"The chap in the white coat keeps asking which of the fuzzy images is better or worse. It's getting harder and harder to tell."

Tom Flanagan once gave this prescription for setting Conservative policy: Be far enough to the right of the Liberals, so as to be clearly distinguishable from them. But not too far to the right, so as not to be seen as scary.

But that was before the Coalition replaced the Liberals as the de facto Conservative opponent. One unfortunate result was that Flaherty's fall economic update was blown apart, which later ushered in the Coalition-lite stimulus package of January.

It is no longer appropriate to compare Harper's moves to what the Liberals alone might do. Instead, voters have to imagine what an Ignatieff/Layton/Duceppe troika would foist on them.

Posted by: Macky Avelli | 2009-07-01 7:55:23 AM

Alberta should have its own national holiday. I recommend October 28, the day of the NEP.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-07-01 8:48:39 AM

Macky, that was true, but I believe no longer is. Ignatieff is a self serving politician and he would clearly recognize the problems with doing this.

Posted by: TM | 2009-07-01 9:07:14 AM

TM -- Iggy came out in February? and disavowed the Coalition. But his credibility has since taken a hit, given what we have seen of him backtracking so far from his strong advocacy of EI-360.

Harper told the MacLean's editorial board that he will campaign against the Coalition. Essentially that Canadians will end up with either a Conservative majority, or a Coalition majority.

I fully expect Iggy to reject Harper's narrative. But what will Layton have to say ? And what about Duceppe, or better yet, loose cannon Parizeau ? The media is sure to press Iggy over the Coaltion possibility. Eg, What kind of post-election result would make a Coalition "necessary" ?

Also, the spin from Libs (and Dippers) has been that Canadians don't understand how Parliament works, they don't vote for a PM, a PM is chosen by the MPs who comprise the Parliament, yadda, yadda.

And then there is the tape of Layton talking to his caucus re the Coalition negotiations. There is still 75 % of that tape which hasn't been make public by Harper.

All of those words (plus Iggy's signature on the Coalition document) will be used by Harper against them.

Posted by: Macky Avelli | 2009-07-01 9:46:55 AM

"The chap in the white coat keeps asking which of the fuzzy images is better or worse. It's getting harder and harder to tell."

I look at it a little differently. We are being asked to choose between what comes out of the back of a horse or what comes out of the back of a dog. At the end of the day both options stink with those on either side of the debate arguing that while this may be true the other side stinks more. Little wonder that less people are bothering to vote at all.

Posted by: Farmer Joe | 2009-07-01 10:21:13 AM

the problem with Canadian conservatism is the lack of any kind of anchor which defines it.

what defines a conservative in the US is its Constitution, a blend of libertarian and populist ideals. while Democrats have always sought to "progress" away from the Constitution, Republicans have, until recently, tried as much as possible to remain true to it.

our conservatism is a kind of tangled, vague ideology based on a loose interpretation of moral, economic and socialist principles, contradictory and nebulous. and while US libertarians and conservatives are Republican brothers in arms who quibble about certain issues, Canadian conservatives treat libertarianism like some kind of strange exotic creature, provoking wariness and, like our social liberals, a fundamental fear of having to stand alone with no government help.

i mean, come on. soon we'll have state daycare for the infants. we have state run schools for the kids, state healthcare for the adults, and state funded pensions for the old.

...cradle to grave government coddling.

how many conservatives will deny that they are not entitled to the benefits of at least one (if not more) of these institutions.

there's simply nothing that truly defines conservatism in Canada, and to paraphrase Farmer Joe regarding the different parties, "it's all the same shit".

Posted by: shel | 2009-07-01 12:53:51 PM

shel, I think you are spot on!

Posted by: TM | 2009-07-01 1:00:20 PM

Shel and Farmer Joe nailed it. And sinse we are no longer (if we ever were) a Dominion. Its definately time to reassert "real" Canadian values. You know, hard work = rewards, responsibility and a "Justice" system would all be nice to see in the land of welfare again.

Posted by: The original JC | 2009-07-01 1:51:32 PM

Blame Harper all you want but Canadian conservatism operates at an extreme advantage. The right hasn't pulled over 40% in a federal election since 1988. Only twice(1958, 1984) has the right outpolled the left in a federal election since 1935. The problem is that most Canadians have brought into the socialist economic policies of the Liberals, Bloc, NDP and even the Greens. That's right! The Greens are like watermelons! Green on the outside and red on the inside! Canadian are first brainwashed in the politically correct public education system. Where is the counter force? This brainwashing continues at universities with no real opposition. The Canadian media is virtually all left-wing. Where are the large center-right newspapers to counter the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and the Vancouver Sun? The National Post hasn't been center-right since Conrad Black left. Where is the right-wing counterbalance on TV? How come Canada doesn't have a homegrown version of FOX News? We have Charles Adler, Lorne Green, and Roy Green on talk radio. However, talk radio has failed to take off on the scale of American talk radio. Only Adler broadcasts nationwide to counter the CBC drivel. Roy Green is nothing more than a John Tory clone. Let's remember that the guy voted for PC leader Charest in 1997. So, Adler is pretty the only arrow that the right has nationwide to counter the left's control of education and media(thereby controlling the society). This media talks about a supposed"secret agenda" and over 60% of the people buy it. Come on, Harper is no right-winger. However, we have to develop the apparatus to fight the current rigged system if we are ever to get a true Reform Party like government! Otherwise, Harper will be as good as we get. So, don't just blame him! Fight for Canada's future! Defeat the socialist establishment!

Posted by: Jim | 2009-07-01 3:13:50 PM

Jim, you just don't get it. Harper is now part of the socialist establishment.

Posted by: Farmer Joe | 2009-07-01 4:58:22 PM

You guys have to cut Harper more slack. He's done quite well, considering the difficult political environment he is operating in--no natural allies in the House, a Liberal Senate majority, and an overly hostile media.

Sure, we would all like to see him move the conservative football further down the field, and move it faster. But he still controls the football, and he's moving it in the right direction.

He needs more time for all his strategies to play out. Including what Flanagan calls the "war of attrition" with the Libs. If Harper can eliminate the $1.95 per vote subsidy, that will greatly speed up the demise of the Libs.

Posted by: Macky Avelli | 2009-07-01 7:30:12 PM

"But he still controls the football, and he's moving it in the right direction."

That would be left, to hard left give or take a few degrees.

"If Harper can eliminate the $1.95 per vote subsidy, that will greatly speed up the demise of the Libs."

The last time he tried the whole country was behind him and at the end of the day the big tory chiefs made him wave the white flag of surrender anyways. Cowards don't stay in charge long, if they don't show us that they have any lead left in their pencils by the time the next election roles around I predict a Liberal minority.

Posted by: Farmer Joe | 2009-07-01 10:47:12 PM

Fair enough Macky, but how many politicians really put together cogent arguments for a truly conservative or libertarian approach to governing? People embrace the left because they "think" it provides them with something they want and would not otherwise receive. they have never been convinced that there is a better way. Until they are hit between the eyes with that better way they will not change. Likewise, politicians will take what they perceive the easy route. It is just too much work to capture the voter's attention to deliver the proper arguments.

Posted by: DML | 2009-07-01 10:55:00 PM

"People embrace the left because they "think" it provides them with something they want and would not otherwise receive. they have never been convinced that there is a better way."

That's because people associate libertarianism with conservatism. In the US, many democratics refer to libertarians as pot-smoking republicans. That's the price libertarians pay for working with the republicans.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-07-02 5:49:01 AM

Treaty making was not made up in 1850 it was around for a long time to empower areas connecting us all to live in peace and map out land ownership to develop our own comunities to trade with others … The candian crown treaty room… Theirs room in the White house called the treaty room also... land management…

We don’t have that in Canada and the boarders were set up back in 1794 between Canada and the USA and England had a copy in order to keep the peace…It had to do with people trying to claim things they did not own… A validation point for world peace to end the fighting over land….

But someone took out the Canadian treaty room…

Robinson-Superior (RS, 1850 ) is an illegal treaty it was set-up to create consecration camps…. the first act pass 1867 was the re-education program and anyone believed to be or look native were push onto the reserve to divide the Canadians…

Like I said it’s a military occupation they can’t claim to be Canadians… Just look at the map from Champlain from 1613 explaining to the king of France who we were… Canadas….

The validation point they use is the British North America Act 1867…

How dose a monarch claim control….Its an act of war…The relation we had with briton was to validate land ownership not land control so both sides would not fight over land…

The Crown logo on our military uniform was about the aborigenal comitment to uphold the treaty room here…

So my question is when will thier military operation end?

Posted by: ZorroIsGod | 2009-07-02 7:58:37 PM

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