Pierre Poilievre is basing his whole campaign around Canada being freest country on earth. I have also noticed recently we are seeing more and more, at least on social media, but even in public say its a violation of my freedom as a way to oppose any rule even if they make a lot of sense. This type of rhetoric was quite common with tea party in the United States and if that is the type of freedom they envision, I want no part of it and hope it never becomes mainstream here. That doesn’t make me authoritarian or anti-freedom, in fact I am very pro freedom and by and large Canada is already one of the freest countries on earth. We are ranked 6th globally so idea we lack freedom is not born out by facts.
Freedom is a multi-faceted concept and so its important to define it before saying we need more or less of it. Freedom means ability to act as you please without restrictions. No doubt Canada like every country on earth does have some restrictions. But that is because we live in a society where our actions impact others. Likewise some problems in society be it climate change, war, pandemic can only be solved collectively not individually thus requires rules. Unfortunately we have an element in Conservative party that seems to like to use any rule to serve public good as an infringement on our freedom rather than discuss the pros and cons of each rule. I don’t support making rules for sake of it and all rules should be there for a reason. Likewise most rules have pros and cons and should only be adopted if pros outweigh cons. However lets debate on that, not this silly idea we aren’t free enough. Likewise one’s freedom ends the moment you harm another. There is no right to harm another nor should there be and thus many rules we have actually protect other’s freedom. I get impression a lot pushing this are just selfish people who want the right to be selfish and don’t like idea society is telling them no you cannot. I’ve always viewed Canada as a very compassionate country and I would like to see us remain that way. I don’t want to live in a country or support a party that celebrates and normalizes selfishness. Some will say its about just trusting individuals. And there is some truth to that; but problem is even if most are responsible, just 10% being irresponsible can wreck it for everyone. So as long as our society has some who are not responsible, there is a need for some rules. There are many rules I oppose and think we should get rid of, but I do so based on them being ineffective or harm done by them exceeding benefits. Not on some silly notion they restrict our freedom. Conservatives generally tend to favour less government, but we don’t favour that just for sake of it. We instead favour it as we believe societies with less activist governments are more prosperous. If evidence showed bigger government delivered better results, most non-ideological conservatives would support it. Only those driven by ideology, which is not most Canadians, would ignore this.
On twitter, I have had many respond to my positions as you are authoritarian or how dare you infringe on my freedom. Below are a few issues on this and since tough to debunk in 280 characters I will do so here. Rights are not absolute in Canada, in fact section 1 in the charter even clearly says this. Likewise world is not black and white so its not a choice between a libertarian society or an authoritarian one. No country is the former while most of the most developed countries are not the latter so there is lots of ground in between the two. Having rules enacted by a democratically elected government and that does not violate the charter is not authoritarian. You can oppose such rules, but do so on the idea of them being bad policies, not this whole silly freedom. And remember if enough in public dislike the rules, we can boot the government out. Never mind we have right to publicly oppose them too which in authoritarian society you would not. Canada despite what some claim on right is not sliding towards authoritarianism. As someone who has travelled to 64 countries globally, I can tell you many don’t realize how lucky we are. Type of freedoms lost some complain about is minuscule compared to type people are actually losing in real authoritarian regimes like China or Russia.
Some examples of this include the following
- I have the right to own any type of firearm I wish and you have no right to tell me what I can and cannot own: Property rights are not entrenched in charter, but even if were, does not mean you have right to own whatever you wish. We have all kinds of restrictions on property, especially when it impacts others. Because guns are lethal weapons that can kill, it makes perfect sense to ban some that can kill too many too easily or are too concealable and are not necessary to hunt or sports shoot. And for those who mention vetting, its not as simple as good guys vs. bad guys. There have been far too many cases where someone who seemed alright turned out not to be. So because vetting is not full proof, we have to decide does the benefit of allowing such weapons outweigh the risk and cost. For semi-automatics and handguns, I believe the cost of ownership outweighs any benefits. Some may disagree, but argue on that, not idea it is your right to own them.
- Vaccine mandates are a fundamental violation of bodily autonomy and you are supporting segregation and humans rights violations: Science has shown repeatedly those who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are far less likely to end up in hospital than those who are not. Because we only have so much capacity in hospitals, trying to avoid them being overwhelmed is a perfectly justified reason for rules. Its same reason we have seat belt laws and speed limits. If you have a large crowd, undoubtedly some will get COVID-19. But if all vaccinated, number going to hospital likely to be very minimal and not enough to overwhelm it. If many unvaccinated, it could easily push hospitals beyond capacity resulting in triage and meaning some who have other illnesses or injuries end up dying unnecessarily due to lack of beds. Body autonomy like any right is not absolute and if harm of not getting vaccinated is serious enough, it is a perfectly justifiable limit. As per segregation, this is an over top appeal to compare vaccine mandates to racial segregation and quite frankly is offensive and insulting to those who had to suffer racial segregation. Race is not something people can choose, getting vaccinated is. And in life there are consequences for choices we make.
- COVID is over, time to drop all mask mandates and get back to living life normally: We all want to return to normal, but wanting something does it make it reality. Fact is COVID-19 is not over and sometimes in life we have to make sacrifices or change things due to unexpected events. While case for dropping mask mandates is much stronger than a few months ago, rise of BA2 in Europe is a strong warning we could be at beginning of sixth wave. And even though for most it will just be like a cold, elderly and immune compromised may end up dying. We have a moral obligation to protect others not just ourselves but each other and wearing a mask is a very minor inconvenience. Far less harmful than capacity limits or business closures. Yes we can debate when is the appropriate time to drop them, but I believe there is still a strong case for keeping them in place at moment. Some will say COVID is not going away and perhaps maybe they need to become permanent. Major events like COVID-19 lead to permanent changes.
- Free speech is threatened in Canada: Canada has very strong protections of free speech and fact one can oppose government without penalty proves this. But just as you don’t have right to yell fire in a crowd, you don’t have right to tell lies which cause harm nor do you have right to promote hate against an identifiable group. Absolutism in free speech is very much the exception which US sort of does but not fully, but they are the exception. Canada’s hate speech laws are in fact compared to other industrialized countries quite weak. Likewise there are no laws or plans to limit ability to criticize government. Those saying so are doing on paranoia not reality. In many countries around the globe it is threatened, but Canada is not one. So if big concern how about focus on countries like China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela or various others where it is actually under a real threat.
In summary, as someone slightly right of centre, I really worry about debate on the right and too many importing tea party talking points. Freedom is not threatened in Canada and we are a very free country. Having some rules does not mean we are becoming authoritarian. Otherwise if you dislike certain rules, argue why they are bad ideas on their merit, not this silly notion its an infringement on your freedom. Yes rights and freedoms very important, but we have charter and courts to protect that and by and large have done a decent job.