Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two attacks on Canadian liberal values

Classic liberalism in Canada is taking a beating in its old home—the Liberal Party—and in its new home—the Conservative Government. One is thinking about further abridging freedom of expression and the other is ignoring the proposition that each vote must weigh the same in a popular democracy.
First, it is reported that the federal government is considering additions to the Anti-Terrorism Act that would outlaw “glorifying” terrorism.
Andy Ellis of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service clearly worries that “radicalized individuals” are more willing to commit crimes.
“Frankly speaking, security agencies do not yet fully understand why and how a seemingly ordinary young man or woman can grow up in Canada yet come to reject the Western, liberal and democratic values that underpin Canadian identity — instead replacing them with the violent, anti-Western ideology of al-Qaeda,” said Mr. Ellis, the CSIS assistant director of policy and strategic partnerships.
“What we do know is that terrorist ideologues who are the vectors of radicalization seek to promote an ‘us versus them’ storyline.
“Speaking at the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies conference in Ottawa, he said to tackle radicalization CSIS would have to work with other government agencies, police and at-risk communities. “We need to expand our efforts into longer-term, preventive programming that will foster individual and community resilience to extremist discourses.”
What would they like to do: criminalize Chairman Mao T-shirts, Che Guevara’s posters, and Bin Laden beards? Turn intelligence agents into liberal proselytizers?
Security professionals everywhere loath radicals—it’s their nature. They would love to shield us from the “vectors of radicalization.” The Royal Canadian Mounted Police kept silly thick files on Canadian socialists simply because they used radical, anti-capitalist language in public.
However, a liberal democracy shouldn’t ever give such professionals all the powers they want. They should only be free to act against concrete efforts to incite specific individuals to undertake criminal acts of violence. It’s no excuse that the British Government has tried to criminalize the “glorification of terrorism.” It’s still a dangerous idea.  
At the same time, Quebec MP Marc Garneau formally advised Parliament that the Liberal caucus will vote against expanding the House of Commons by 30 seats in order to accommodate major shifts in Canada’s population. (He did not endorse the only equitable alternative: almost 30 seats are taken away from low or no-growth regions and given to growing regions. Those living in growth areas would eventually enjoy equivalent political representation. However, a constitutional amendment, with the consent of all the provinces, would first be required.)
By hitching their support for the status quo to the need for “fiscal restraint,” Susan Delacourt of The Toronto Star argues that the Liberals are “staking out a position that taps into long-standing populist discontent with politicians and Parliament.”
Sorry. Populists can go overboard but they don’t fudge basic principles.
New Canadians in Mississauga and Calgary want the same political respect as founding families in Montreal and Halifax. Angry populists certainly want their votes to weigh the same as those of old elites.

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