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EDITORIAL: Liberal survey makes a mockery of democratic reform

At all cost, governments must prevent the people from asking, "What do they take us for?". This is the question provoked by the latest iteration of the Liberals' however-we'll-spin-it-this-week strategy on electoral reform. invites Canadians to answer a few dozen questions – or perhaps more accurately: a dozen questions asked a few different ways – about their values regarding the electoral system and other matters of democratic reform. Unfortunately, the poll avoids the most important matters of concern to both sides of the electoral reform debate, and should not be taken seriously as an effort at advancing the discussion. This survey would not have been so terrible had it not seemed so obviously an effort to make a pesky election promise go away. The Prime Minister has already said – in a French-language interview with the Devoir from October – that ditching first-past-the-post is now less important, given that it has delivered his own party to power instead of Stephen Harper's. This confirms a disappointing but fundamental insight about the politics of electoral reform: first-past-the-post is an unmatchably convenient system for the party that has won power. To any such party, dismantling FTFP rightly appears against its self-interest, and using bad excuses to keep it in place seems politically justifiable. Directly polling the population was once treated by the government as some kind of offence to the country's minority groups – this is the reason for which Minister Monsef would not entertain a referendum. Now, the Liberals' chosen alternative – community outreach and a cross-party committee – has produced recommendations for a referendum with an option to allocate parliamentary seats in better proportion to the popular vote. The government's language has implied great respect for Canadians and their democracy. It is time that the government's actions live up to its words. Neither… Read More

EDITORIAL: Castro was a test, and Trudeau failed

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's fawning statement for the deceased Fidel Castro is an embarrassment to our country. In portraying one of the 20th century's cruellest dictators as a flowery figure, he has brought gratuitous ridicule upon Canada and supported his critics' portrayal of him as a bubble head. Some of his remarks are so hilarious, they could be easily confused for satire. Being Cuba's "longest serving president" might have meant something if Castro had ever stood for election. A "legendary" orator? Only if one considers six-hour long, cult of personality nonsense to be entertaining theatre. Maybe Trudeau should have asked Jean Chrétien, who was hosted by Castro on a state visit to Cuba in 1998, how great a speaker he was. Trudeau makes Castro out to be some kind of bold policy reformer, delivering the indigent from poverty despite his "controversial" political style. But of course Castro is responsible not for the achievement of a prosperous country but the conversion of one of Latin America's richest nations into a poor and decrepit country. The resorts where Canadian tourists vacation do no justice to the damage wrought by communism. The prime minister should need no reminding of Castro's totalitarianism, nor of the mass murder, torture and imprisonment that befall dissenters to Cuba's Stalinist government. Nor should he be ignorant of how close the Cold War powers came to liquefying the planet in 1962, ushered in by Castro's insistence that his Soviet patron threaten to strike the United States with nuclear weapons stationed in his country. One might have been able to forgive the prime minister had he confined his remarks to the personal instead of the political. While in office, his father developed a friendship with Cuba's dictator and America's local adversary, producing a fondness that Justin clearly inherits. The younger Trudeau might have… Read More

EDITORIAL: Rooting for Brexit

Tomorrow, Britain votes to leave or remain part of the European Union. “Brexit,” as it has come to be known, could be a defining statement in a years-long decline of the dream for an “ever closer union,” one in which national boundaries are erased in favour of a “supranational” series of institutions. As a Canadian publication, it is scarcely our business to tell Britons how to vote. But we can describe the principles we see to be at stake, and see where they fall in the referendum debate. To be sure, there is a danger given the level of integration already implemented that a withdrawal of the UK from the EU would invite economic consequences. Apart from the fundamental problem of market forces turning against Britain (occasioned by an upsetting of the proverbial Union applecart), there is the privileged trade status enjoyed by the UK as a present member, which would be lost if Britain were to leave the Union. Options such as free trade deals and customs unions — theoretically enjoyable as a non-member state, with Norway and Iceland as exemplars — would have to be negotiated. And to the degree that Britons may be banking on these negotiations coming through in voting to leave, they may be gambling on their short-term economic health in an age of economic uncertainty.   If any country and culture is capable of “going it alone” without the pretences of a universal, homogeneous state, it is Britain. And yet the rhetoric of the “Remain” campaign has seemed utterly impervious to the status of Britain as a fundamentally liberal, modern society, if not the most so.   But the nature of Britain as an old country and old democracy. One could argue that without resort to either utopianism or forfeiture of independence, the UK… Read More

EDITORIAL: Internal trade barriers have no place in Canada

A small battle has been won in the movement to secure liberal trade between the Canadian provinces. In R. v. Comeau, a New Brunswick judge has ruled that provisions in the Liquor Control Act that restrict the transport of alcohol across New Brunswick’s borders are unconstitutional. We say a small battle because it is just that; likely, the province will appeal and the long process of litigation will leave such laws – on the books throughout the country – in limbo for some time. You might think that a political union, founded with the express purpose of federating the British North American possessions into a single dominion, might have managed to get the common sense of free internal movement for goods, services, and people down to a science. The men who authored our constitution understood this well; they could not have written the relevant clause in clearer language. Goods shall be “admitted free into each of the other provinces.” In fact, the protectionist national policy that characterized early Canadian trade – jeopardizing pre-Confederation reciprocal trade arrangements with U.S. states – could only have been premised on prioritizing internal economic activity over international trade. Without the premise of a free trade “zone” between the Canadian provinces, the national policy would never have been thinkable in the first place. The judge in the Comeau case recognized how adamant the Fathers of Confederation were that no future generations should veer away from unhampered internal trade. Expert historical testimony was heard regarding the Fathers' intentions, bringing new evidence to an old debate. The first draft of Section 121 only stated that “All Articles the Growth or Produce or Manufacture of Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, shall be admitted free into all Ports in Canada.” By removing the name of the provinces and the mention of… Read More

EDITORIAL: Where is the old, cynical media of the Harper era?

When the media suspected nefarious motives behind every move of the Harper Government, they were at times unfair and cynical. But at least their attitude reflected the kind of relationship that a government and the media ought to have: namely one of mutual distrust. With the Liberal government now six months into office, the threshold between an adversarial and sycophantic press has been crossed. Last week, political journalism in this country reached a new low with its coverage of Prime Minister Trudeau’s elementary explanation of quantum computing. Due in part to news outlets wanting to pump out as much pointless, viral content as possible, a cut video of the Prime Minister seemingly “schooling” a reporter on basic science was posted on the CBC’s website. It then made international headlines, impressing audiences who clicked on links such as The Independent’s “Justin Trudeau shuts down sarcastic reporter with an impromptu explanation of quantum computing.” Viral content is amusing. BuzzFeed and platforms like Vine have turned quick videos and dumb quizzes into entities that are actually profitable. And yet while the live stream of a watermelon exploding under the pressure of rubber bands and the broadcast of a newsroom trying to beat Homer Simpson’s cheese-eating record is harmless fun – we’re looking at you, National Post – the value of content “virality” becomes more sinister when actual news is misrepresented for the sake of internet clicks. The video seen around the world showed Justin Trudeau answering a journalist’s question, yet it removed the context of Mr. Trudeau telling his audience, “When we get to the media questions later, I’m really hoping people ask me how quantum computing works.” Surely enough, the first reporter there brought it up as a joke, and the Prime Minister saw his chance to wow the crowd with a… Read More
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