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The Shotgun Blog

Friday, October 23, 2009

George Jonas: A bizarre twist in Canadian liberalism, from individual equality to parity for groups.

George Jonas' keynote address on democracy, freedom, rights and identity politics in Canada at The Canadian Constitution Foundation's 2009 law conference on "Race, Religion, Equality and Freedom" (delivered by CCF Executive Director John Carpay) followed by a Q&A with vir ipse:

After describing the political developments and degradation of values since his arrival in Canada 53 years ago, Jonas concludes his prepared remarks with his pessimistic take on liberalism: "anarcho-libertarians are optimists, they believe that the state is an unnecessary evil; classical liberals are pessimists, [we] think the state is a necessary evil."

Posted by Kalim Kassam on October 23, 2009 in Canadian History, Canadian Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brian Lee Crowley: The fall of Canadian values and the birth of the welfare state

The National Post has published an excerpt from Brian Lee Crowley's Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values:

The reigning political consensus that characterized this country right up to the birth of the New Canada in 1960 took a quite different view of the role of the individual, of government and of the effects of government intervention on people's character than the one that prevails today. The view that predominates today on both sides of the border is of Canadians as kinder and gentler than their American neighbours, more willing to use the power of the state in pursuit of public goods, more welfare-minded, more socially left wing. It is also a view that could establish itself only by defeating and then consigning to a trunk in the never visited attic of our collective memory the older view that had defined Canada for almost the first century of its existence and for many decades prior to 1867.

Read the rest. And here's a review of the book by Neil Reynolds for The Globe and Mail.
I had the privilege of seeing Mr. Crowley speak at this year's Liberty Summer Seminar. I found his speech to be fascinating and I encourage you to take the time to listen to it.

Canadians are often groping for a national identity. Some point to government programs as our nationhood, others point to people with blades on their shoes and sticks as our identity. Yet most people are unsatisfied by this, we have forgotten who we were from the beginning.

Canada is free and freedom is its nationality.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on September 20, 2009 in Canadian History | Permalink | Comments (8)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Canadian Tradition

I'm currently part way through Brian Lee Crowley's latest book: Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada's Founding Values. So far so good. I hope to have a review up later in the week. The basic thesis is that Canada was founded as a classically liberal society, and then lost its way through a combination of changing intellectual trends and Quebec nationalism. It is the later that Crowley cites as vital in explaining Canada's higher than average level of statism compared to other English speaking nations. The Quiet Revolution, and its aftermath, sparked a bidding war for the loyalty--if that's the word--of the Quebecois. The thesis is not original, but Crowley brings a considerable weight of scholarship to bear on the issue. He also breaks the taboo among the Canadian intelligentsia of stating the obvious: In the main the Quebecois are not loyal to Canada. The book is endorsed by a dazzling array of Canadian conservatives: Conrad Black, Michael Bliss, William Gairdner, Barbara Kay, Tom Flanagan and David Frum. If we can speak of Canadian conservative establishment, the above is a Who's Who. From the National Post:

The state had been expanding on both sides of the border for years. When Stephen Leacock warned of the impending arrival of socialism in Canada in 1924, the state in Canada was spending 11% of GDP. By 1960, we were spending over 28%. Again, however, there was nothing in that that distinguished Canada; government was carving out a bigger role for itself everywhere. No one denies that the zeitgeist was there, no one denies that government in general and the social service state in particular were growing. What has to be explained is not the direction of change, but rather its speed and scope and timing. 

And here the parallel social and economic developments of Canada and the United States over the previous century must be given their due weight. We were two societies with a similar intellectual, philosophical and institutional endowment. We Canadians thought of ourselves as the truer guardians of the British traditions of liberty and limited government, but the Americans fought a revolution in order to vindicate what they thought of as the rights and liberties of Englishmen. The spirit of the great liberal individualist John Locke presided over America's founding debates in the eighteenth century, just as he did over the Confederation debates of the nineteenth.

Posted by Richard Anderson on September 19, 2009 in Canadian History, Canadian libertarian politics, Canadian Politics, Libertarianism | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Those were the days . . .

So which prominent Canadian recently said this?

“When I studied Canadian history in my last year of high school, we concentrated a good deal on the evolution of our system of government from the Royal Proclamation of 1763 through the Quebec Act of 1774, right up to the Statute of Westminster of 1931 and the Letters Patent of 1947. This last document – the Letters Patent – is of vital importance and set in place the contemporary powers of the governor general which it transferred from the monarch. Yet it is virtually unknown to the general public. We also focused heavily on the King/Byng crisis of 1926; our entire class, contrary to most current opinion, thought that Lord Byng had done the right thing!"

If you want to know the answer, head over to Janet Ajzenstat's always interesting blog.

But before you do, please pause to marvel at the fact that once upon a time Canadian high-school students actually received a rigorous education.

Posted by Craig Yirush on June 30, 2009 in Canadian History | Permalink | Comments (3)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Letting go


A Quebec sovereigntist association is demanding an apology for a tract published in 1849 by the Montreal Gazette that the group contends incited 1,500 anglophone Montrealers to burn down the city's parliament.

The St-Jean-Baptiste Society commemorated the fiery episode yesterday in the very place where the three-storey parliament once stood -- now a parking lot ringed by grey stone buildings in a popular tourist districts.

The arsonists were protesting a bill introduced by Louis Lafontaine meant to compensate Canadians who had lost property in armed political uprisings of 1837 and 1838. 

Publius, of course, relishes any mention of obscure details in Canadian history. Burning down parliament sounds like a very unCanadian thing to do. Cliches of polite deferential Canadians are mostly American stereotypes reimported into Canada. Victorian Canada was a violent, unstable and dangerous place, like all frontiers. Most Canadian cities experienced riots -- real riots, not a bunch of professional agitators throwing rocks at well protected police -- and ethnic and religious tensions were always just below the surface. Not just English and French, and Protestant and Catholic, but today half-forgotten sects of Protestants quarreled with one another.  

The burning of the legislature -- this was the Province of Canada's legislatures, not the Dominion Parliament created in 1867 -- culminated in a two day riot, itself provoked by the Rebellion Losses Bill. Generations of Canadian students, back when history was still taught, were compelled to memorize that name and the date, 1849. The granting of assent, by the GG Lord Elgin, has been seen by historians as the moment in which responsible government came to Canada. 

Responsible what now? Previously the Governor General, and the respective Lieutenant-Governors, could refuse to grant assent to bills passed and could appoint cabinets regardless of the composition of the legislature. In other words, just because a party won a majority of seats in the legislature did not mean that it would form the actual government -- i.e. the cabinet or ministry -- or that its legislation would become law. Elgin's decision, despite his personal reservations, established the precedent that bills passed by the Canadian legislature would be granted assent (made law). Elgin's decision marks the beginning of liberal democracy in Canada and our path toward independence.  

The Bill in question compensated those Lower Canadians (residents of modern day Quebec) who had lost property during the Rebellions of 1837-1838, including rebels against the crown. This naturally annoyed many anglophones, especially in the Montreal area where fighting had been the greatest. The legislation was modeled on an earlier act to compensate the participants of William Lyon Mackenzie's Rebellion in December of 1837. That act had provoked far less hostility, the suggesting being that the riots which took place in Montreal were basically anti-French in character. After the fire, the capital was moved from Montreal, alternating between Toronto and Quebec until 1867.

Posted by Richard Anderson on April 28, 2009 in Canadian History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wilfrid Laurier and Repeal Day

Today the United States celebrate repeal day. It is the day that the constitution was changed to end the prohibition of alcohol. Today I encourage all of Americans and Canadians to celebrate their freedoms by choosing to get drunk (or by choosing freely not to get drunk).

There is an interesting moment in Canada’s own prohibition history that I didn’t know about before. In 1898 there was a plebiscite in Canada to decide if alcohol should be banned. The yes side won but the Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier refused to enact the law. He said that the margin of victory was too small.

Never before have I heard anything that underlines the difference between individual liberty and the principles of democracy. Laurier’s refusal was undemocratic. The majority of the electorate had made their decision and Laurier, one man, was refusing their ‘general will.’ At the same time it was the right thing for Laurier to do.

A tyranny of the majority is still a tyranny, and in many ways it is worse than the tyranny of the one. Laurier acted to protect individual freedom against the tyranny of the ‘general will.’ He ensured that each person would have the ability to come to their own moral and philosophical conclusions when it comes to alcohol. Local municipalities could still vote to make themselves dry, but Canada as a whole would never prohibit alcohol.

So on this repeal day celebrate with the Americans for the restoration of their freedom, and give one toast to Wilfrid Laurier.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on December 5, 2008 in Canadian History | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Friday, August 29, 2008

Was Beijing's Olympic model Montreal?

I know I'm in the minority in my analysis that the Olympic Games were a failure for the regime, but based on the latest news that the tourist dollars just didn't show had me thinking about the Montreal Games in 1976.

I was too young to remember the Games themselves, but the legend of a city bankrupting itself over them lasted for years afterwards.  Did Montreal really get whacked as badly by the Olympics as the legend goes?  Or was it myth?  I'm curious to know.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on August 29, 2008 in Canadian History, International Politics | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Question: How do you know it's a bad day for the CCP?

Answer: When its best friend in Canada comes to its defense, only to find Canadian media use it as an excuse to interview the leading espionage whistleblower from his era.

Actually, that's not even the half of it.

Posted by D.J. McGuire on August 19, 2008 in Canadian History, Canadian Politics, International Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Ric Dolphin Writes Again

Although loath to use another of those horrible words  concocted by the geeks  who, sadly, have inherited the world, there seems to be no avoiding it. I now have a "blog" which I shall endeavor to update at least every Monday and which you are invited to visit at, ricdolphin.com
Be aware that, unlike when I wrote for Western Standard magazine, I am not being  censored for language. I am also not specifically writing about politics, although the subject may be broached on occasion.  Be assured, however, that I shall never  use "blog" as  a verb.

Posted by Ric Dolphin on July 9, 2008 in Aboriginal Issues, American History, Books, Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian History, Canadian Politics, Canadian Provincial Politics, Crime, Current Affairs, Film, Humour, International Affairs, International Politics, Media, Military, Municipal Politics, Religion, Science, Television, Trade, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Western Standard, WS Radio, WStv | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What an Awesome History

Given that Canada Day was this week, I decided to recount this country's recent history.

My effort was published as a column in today's Sun Media chain.

By the way, I conclude Canada is a pretty awesome place to live, despite the best efforts of the politicians who run the place.

Posted by Gerry Nicholls on July 3, 2008 in Canadian History | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

July 1, 1916 - Remember Beaumont Hamel

It has been some time since I posted to the Shotgun. My legal practice and my political activism have kept me away from the bloggy bog. My apologies.

I realize that today many Canadians celebrate Dominion Day or some new beast of a holiday known as Canada Day. For me and for many other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, this is not a day for celebration. For many in Newfoundland and Labrador, this is a sad day, but it should also be a time when we pay tribute to the great fighting Newfoundlanders who gave so much for us.

This is the day we mourn the loss of most of the Royal Newfoundland regiment at the battle of Beaumont Hamel on July 1 1916.

That battle cost us some of our brightest leaders. The Dominion of Newfoundland spent more per-capita on the war effort than most allied countries. Yet it is my understanding that it was one of the very few countries NOT to have a sizable part of its war debt forgiven.

This debt contributed greatly to the need for a commission government from 1934 to the late 1940s. It contributed greatly to the forces that, in a less than fair way, swept Newfoundland into Confederation. For those who believe Confederation was a mistake and who also mourn loss of statehood for the Dominion of Newfoundland on March 31, 1949, there is perhaps a painful connection between that date and this one.

While celebrating Dominion Day, please take a moment to think about the men who lost their lives at Beaumont Hamel.

Posted by Liam O'Brien on July 1, 2008 in Canadian History | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack