Monday, March 30, 2009

What does Randy Hillier stand for?

Unless Frank Klees has also unexpectedly dropped his policy planks on everyone's lap and I just didn't notice, Randy Hillier is the first to release the principles on which his campaign will be founded. They've been posted on his official leadership campaign website, which I assume was launched when he announced this morning. (The Shotgun covered Hillier's announcement here.)
HIllier's picked three "Common Sense" (calling all Harrisites!) planks to hang his suspenders on - freedom of association, freedom of speech and senate elections in Ontario. The policy pages are fairly content-rich, answering questions that potential supporters might have about each proposal for the "Randy Revolution." (I laughed, but in a good way.)
Hillier proposes provincial legislation to protect medical professionals and marriage commissioners from having to perform acts that they are morally opposed to. It's hard to argue against this policy from a libertarian perspective. It's a smart way to reach out to the so-cons in the PCPO.
Shotgun readers will be happy to hear that Hillier is proposing abolishing the Ontario Human Rights Commission and moving human rights cases to civil courts to help preserve due process and, one can only assume, reduce the number of frivolous human rights complaints. I predict that Hillier will need to skirt any attempts to paint him as opposed to protecting human rights in Ontario by both forces outside the party and probably also his opponents in the leadership race.
Finally, Hillier would enact legislation to start elections for Ontario's senators - following Alberta's lead by using a single transferable vote ballot to choose Ontario's candidates for the Senate.
It's not quite what I was expecting, but there you have it. Hopefully the other candidates will offer some substantive policy planks for PCPOers to dig their teeth into.
Two candidates officially in - let the games begin.
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Today's political grab bag.

The "homeless cons" make the news, spurring more talk of a fracture in the Conservative Party, but with Harper at the helm and in the PMO it's all premature if you ask me.

Pollsters and Buzz Hargrove interpret a returning of the Liberal base to their party after the disaster that was Stephane Dion as weakness on the NDP's, and more specifically Jack Layton's part.

Pierre Poilievre noticed that Google Street View exists and threw the hissy fit that everyone else got out of their system a few years ago.

And Frank Klees did a cannonball into the Ontario PC leadership race while we were all facing the other way waiting to watch Hudak, Hillier and Elliott dive in. For more on this one read Hugh's post yesterday, since he was reporting from the ground.

UPDATE: It seems like it belongs here - pollsters have, I think for the first time, found that Canadians think Iggy is the leader best suited to handle the economic crisis. I know it's a poll. I know you can make them say almost anything. But they do provide some indication of public opinion, and they haven't said this before, so it's noteworthy anyway.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

B.C. Supreme Court strikes down gag law.

British Columbia's Supreme Court struck down some of the province's laws limiting third-party spending on advertising outside of the writ period.
Justice Frank Cole told lawyers involved in the case Friday he will release a written ruling on Monday that will lift all restrictions from third-party advertisers from now until the writs of election are issued on April 14.
Between April 14 and election day May 12, third-party advertisers are expected still to be allowed to spend up to $150,000 each.
The so-called gag law "was found unconstitutional," said lawyer Joe Arvay, who challenged the law on behalf of a group of labour unions.
It's very unfortunate that the restrictions weren't lifted during the writ period. These laws are an affront to freedom of speech in Canada. This is why Stephen Harper took on Canada back in the day to fight the national election gag law brought in by Chretien. He won in 2000 but lost in 2004, and unfortunately his government hasn't moved to scrap or alter a law that gives politicians the only real voice during an election campaign.
Still, a victory is a victory, even if it's incomplete. B.C. residents have reason to celebrate today.
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Canada won't throw more money at stimulus.

Or at least the government won't commit to doing so.

That's good news. Let's hope they stick to it.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!

New York will be repealing many of the Rockefeller drug laws implemented in the 1970s, including mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug offenses. New York Governor David Paterson and state legislators say the laws have been discredited:
After 35 years of stuffing prisons with minor drug felons, state legislators have judged the law's mandatory sentencing provisions as expensive and ineffective.
It's part of a reassessment of "tough on crime and sentencing" laws taking place across the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the developed world. Canada, ironically, is bucking that trend.
"Canadian policy-makers have picked up the cudgel of minimum mandatory sentences at the same time as Americans are trying to extricate themselves from them because they have proven to be so destructive," says Craig Jones, director of the John Howard Society, which reintegrates inmates in the community.
So why is Canada starting to bringing in these very same "expensive and ineffective" policies?
Canada's Conservative government last year increased the minimum prison time judges must impose for gun crimes. Last month, it reintroduced a bill that imposed minimum sentences for a long list of drug crimes. It includes a six-month sentence for someone caught growing even one marijuana plant for trafficking.
The toughest minimum sentence under the proposed drug law is three years for anyone creating a public safety hazard in a residential area by producing Schedule 1 drugs – such as cocaine, heroine or methamphetamine.
Micheal Cust wrote some time ago about the fact that tougher enforcement of prohibition may actually lead to more violence in the drug war. At a time of national reassessment of a failed experiment in drug policy in the United States, it's baffling to see our government shutting its eyes, plugging its ears and shouting "tough on crime!" to convince Canadians it's doing something to make them safer.
Read the full article here.
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

We might be contradictory, but at least we're not backpeddling!

At a time when Ontario PCs are ramping up for a leadership race (that's about to start in earnest on Monday) in an attempt to make themselves something resembling relevant again, members are (or should be) paying attention to where their likely leadership contenders stand on the issues.
It might be a bit confusing for some to see Tim Hudak, the perceived front runner in the race, coming out against further minimum wage increases (and rightly so when Ontario jobs are already disappearing) but insisting that they must be implemented if they were announced in this week's budget.
Ontario Progressive Conservative finance critic Tim Hudak, whose party doesn't support an increase to the minimum wage, said he expects the government to stick by the budget they present.
Minimum wage has increased in Ontario extremely quickly since McGuinty became Premier in 2003. It wouldn't be politically difficult to consistently oppose this job-killing policy, even if it is in the Liberal budget.
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Coyne vs. Flanagan on polygamy

Apparently there is some sort of court challenge to polygamy laws going on and two heavyweights in small-government thought have weighed in on the topic.
Tom Flanagan favours keeping polygamy illegal by striking down the court challenge of Winston Blackmore and James Oler from Bountiful, British Columbia. According to Flanagan, the Charter shouldn't be a problem.
[...] the Charter also says all rights are subject "to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."
Many other "free and democratic" societies, including the United States and many European countries, have criminalized polygamy, and their courts have always upheld such laws against legal challenge. What the U.S. Supreme Court said in its 1878 Reynolds decision is still compelling: Religious freedom means the state cannot punish people for religious opinions, but it can certainly regulate secular institutions such as marriage.
(Emphasis mine. Take note, all those who don't want to see churches forced to perform same-sex marriages. This isn't good for anyone.)
Flanagan believes that decriminalizing polygamy would lead to something resembling complete havoc, including the breakdown of democratic society, the undermining of equality, the overwhelming of the immigration system and the creation of an even slipperier slope than gay marriage could conjure up for the expansion of legal rights to another group of people. (Oh noes.)
I have more faith than Flanagan apparently does in the persistence of democracy and equality, and I don't think that "but the U.S. does it that way!" is much in the way of justification, but hey, if everyone agreed with me this blog would be boring.
Andrew Coyne, on the other hand, can't figure out why, exactly, polygamy ought to be a criminal activity.
It isn’t the discriminatory impact of Sect. 293 that condemns it, but simply that it is overkill. We don’t need to criminalize polygamy, not because we think it’s right or even acceptable, but because it is not the sort of behaviour properly addressed by the criminal law, and because we have other, less intrusive means of registering society’s abhorrence. And if we don’t need to criminalize a thing, we probably shouldn’t.
[...] consider the kinds of things that are not prohibited between consenting adults. A man may have sex with as many women (or men) as he likes, serially or coincidentally, individually or all at once. He may father children with any or all of them. He can marry one of them, and have sex with the rest. He can live together with all of them and their children, so long as they don’t marry or have sex. All of these things he can do without being charged with a crime. The only thing the law prohibits him from doing is marrying (or living in “conjugal union” with) more than one woman at the same time.
Coyne points out an (unfortunately) rare point - if we don't like polygamy, that's no reason to criminalize it. We can, for one thing, refuse to recognize it. We can also shun, roundly condemn and scowl at those rascally polygamists without spending the time or resources to put them in jail.
What on Coyne's laundry list of non-criminal activities is so different from polygamy? And assuming the husband and all the wives (or all the husbands... do people do that?) entered into their marriage (or marriages? I'm clearly not up to speed on polygamist lingo) willingly, where's the victim?
We can, and should, go after anyone who forces someone into marriage or sex or takes advantage of a child. Mixing this up with criminalizing polygamy more generally encourages polygamists to live in compound-like communities without outside influence - something I can only see increasing the chances of those sorts of abhorrent and legitimately criminal behaviour taking place.
Besides, woudln't we all rather the police spend their time investigating, arresting and prosecuting one murderer than a thousand polygamists? If nothing else, this should be a matter of priorities.
Full Flanagan and Coyne articles at the links.
h/t Ker for sending me another great Coyne piece.
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bush II's spending record.

It has been frustrating to watch Republicans with newly acquired fiscal brains (some already had one, I'll give them that) kicking and screaming over the increases in spending Obama is proposing without recognizing the disastrous record their party has had over the past decade.
Well, the Mercatus Center recently released a report on the Bush spending record. Since a picture's worth a thousand words, I'll save you the quotes today and go with the following instead:

     

Note: those 2009 numbers on the second chart are, I think, a combination of Bush/Obama numbers since they use the FY2009 budget estimates. The point is Republicans shouldn't feel all high-and-mighty over Democrats historically on spending, even if, as Matt Welch put it, "Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton."
Anyway, now I can feel good about myself while I laugh condescendingly at both parties in the states (while being a little frightened by the implications), but you ought to read the overview yourself and make up your own mind.
h/t: Reason
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

An open letter to confused c/Conservatives

Often I feel as though Conservatives are always wondering what the heck libertarians are always so upset about. I've developed a theory that libertarians just think in a completely different way than partisans -- maybe because libertarians think in terms of philosophy and Conservatives think in terms of practical politics, or maybe there is something fundamentally different about the way libertarians look at the world that makes things obvious to one side and baffling to the other.
The latest -- or at least the most recent and prominent example of this was Harper's speech last week. I know that there are a lot of conservatives who were unhappy with the speech, but there are still many who don't understand why libertarians feel insulted.
Since I've heard this or similar comments a lot, I thought I'd adapt a short exchange with a friend who I won't identify (unless he'd like me to) in which I thought did a pretty good job of clarifying what all the fuss is about. His question/comment was as follows:
After listening to the audio of Harper's speech on David Akin's blog, I realised that there may have been some misunderstanding.
Did he turn his back on his classical school roots? Absolutely, unequivocally, many times over. Did he incorrectly lay the blame for the sub-prime crisis on the private sector rather than on the government that created the perverse incentives and misguided mandates in the first place? You bet.
But did Harper lay a cheap low blow on libertarians? I don't think he meant to say that libertarians support the bailouts, or socialised medical assistance for drug addicts, or personal irresponsibility in general. Rather, I interpreted him as saying that they fail to take into account those who do.
My response to "confused Conservatives" (and I mean that in the nicest way) making this argument to what they must only be able to interpret as "confused libertarians" is as follows:
Dear Conservative,
I've heard others make the same argument over what Harper meant when he addressed libertarians on Thursday night. I think you might be right about what he meant but I still think there is reason to be upset because I know that Harper knows two things:
First, Harper knows how libertarians think and what upsets them. He chose to address the libertarians in the room directly and then, at best, say that their ideology is a naive, head-in-the-clouds one you can only have with no understanding of the real world (this is how I interpreted it) or, at worst, that libertarians are personally irresponsible and therefore the reason their ideology could never work. (This is how Mike Brock and others who were at the speech interpreted it.)
Either way, he definitely made it clear that there is no point in libertarians staying with him if they care about small government or more overtly libertarian policies and that he had no desire to convince them to stay on board. I interpreted his statement as, "I know some of you consider yourselves libertarians, and I'm not sure why on Earth anyone would be stupid enough to do that or why you're *here,* of all places, if you do consider yourself one."
Second, Harper knows that bad government policies don't fix the problems he was talking about. In fact they often actually make problems worse (ie, drug policy, the sub-prime crisis) and encourage people to stop taking responsibility for themselves (ie, socialized medicine, bailouts). To me this was an opportunity to pay homage to the ideas of classical liberalism -- at least in the market -- even if he doesn't think they're practically possible. Not every libertarian would be happy if he did this, but they wouldn't feel attacked the way they do now, either, and some would have felt like he was at least reaching out.
That said, this weekend I took away two feelings from the Manning Centre conference: that (small-c) conservatives in general would like to bring libertarians into the fold in the movement to move towards smaller government, lower taxes, etc. (with the exception of some social conservatives who are violently opposed to the ideas of personal liberties being included with economic ones), but partisan (big-C) Conservatives want libertarians -- and even some fiscal conservatives -- to shut up or ship out.
Harper's speech might not have been a direct attack on the moral character of libertarians (though I maintain that it was at least an attack on their intellectual capacity to interpret the world), but it was clear to me that we're not welcome with Conservatives unless we're willing to throw principle aside, grab some pom-poms and start cheering no matter what Harper does because, theoretically, it might be worse to have a Liberal government with significant pressure from a Conservative opposition than a Conservative government that only has opposition pulling it to the left.
Anyway, I hope you understand why I think libertarians have cause to be upset and don't feel as though it's just anger at Harper manifesting as not being receptive to anything he says.
I know some of the commenters here on this blog sincerely hope that Harper's speech was meant to attack and drive libertarians away. This post isn't for you. But there are some genuinely concerned conservatives (and even Conservatives) that want to reach out to anyone who will work with them to support the ideas of smaller government, and they should know where their would-be allies are coming from.
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Harper trashing libertarians?

My phone started buzzing off the hook tonight with claims that Harper was trashing libertarians in his speech. Stephen Taylor's twitter reports:
Harper: sympathy to libertarian ideal - but libertarians often unlikely to take respnsibility. eg drug abuse and unreg'd mrkts
but also
Harper: conservatism is the three f's... Freedom, family, and faith
Does not compute. If you don't trust people to be moral or responsible, then there is no room for freedom in your philosophy.

It will be interesting to hear the partisan spin on this speech tomorrow. I've heard that some didn't interpret it this way. I can come back with the Tory take, but while I think some Conservatives can claim ignorance - as they don't even realize that Harper's statement is insulting to libertarians (though it should be obvious) - Harper knows better and doesn't have that luxury.

An attendee of the speech offers a clarification: Harper wasn't saying that libertarians are more likely to engage in drug abuse, but that it's an example of how people are not worthy of freedom. These are the things that can get lost in Tweetlation.

Anyway, it's a good thing we have laws, otherwise we might have drug abuse and unregulated markets in Canada. Right? Right? ha.


Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The right: Against arbitrary authority... except for the police.

Father Raymond de Souza had an interesting article last week in response to the Dziekanski inquiry. In it he wonders openly why, until this inquiry, so many conservatives were willing to defend the RCMP they would have publicly condemned any other body of government from the beginning.

Just last week in Vancouver, the Conservative government announced tougher anti-gang measures to acclaim from the law-and-order crowd. No one seemed to think it a bad idea to give the most coercive branch of the state more power still. No one wants to be seen as soft on crime.

Does being tough on crime require being soft on the police? If government bureaucrats at, say, the Canadian Wheat Board, had acted unprofessionally and then cooked up a story to excuse their malfeasance, conservative commentators would have flayed them mercilessly. But dress the government officials up in red serge and give them a gun, and the benefit of the doubt is to be extended — even over the body of a dead man.

[...] State bureaucrats of all types frustrate the rest of us on a routine basis when they put their own priorities ahead of their public service. The difference is that police possess deadly weapons rather than the office supplies with which most government clerks do their damage. The Mounties... expressed regret over the incident, but also said that they would react the same way if they had to do it all over again.

Other state agents — the police-friendly prosecutors — have seen to it that there will be no criminal charges, despite the catalogue of lies told by the officers involved...

It’s the kind of bureaucratic fiasco that does not surprise conservative-minded Canadians when it comes to health care, the postal service, military procurement or the gun registry. So why, when it comes to the police and the prosecutorial state, are we so willing to extend the benefit of the doubt?

A good question. Read the full article here.

h/t: Lawrence.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

the first train wreck of the 2009 PCPO leadership race...

... appears to be a tribute site to Tim Hudak's leadership run. No, thank goodness, it's not actually Tim Hudak's website - read the fine print at the bottom. (Note, you might want to turn down your volume before visiting that site.)
"Draft Randy Hillier" has a halfway decent looking website up and running, though it is also, and I quote: "Not Authorized by Randy Hillier, or anyone else for that matter."
h/t: Ken.
Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What part of "tell the truth" doesn't the RCMP understand?

With the long-overdue inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski under way, it's hard to go a day without seeing another Mountie from the incident shown on the evening news changing his official story to better reflect, you know, reality.

It's painfully obvious at this point that almost nothing the Mounties responsible for Mr. Dziekanski's death put on the record about that day has escaped creative editing to make them look as though they were in the right. What really boggles the mind is that none of them seem to have even been willing to deal with the reality that the whole sordid affair was caught on tape. The only thing they don't seem to be denying is that they took none of the actions they could have to help him once they realized he had stopped breathing.

Richmond Fire Capt. Kirby Graeme has testified that as the first paramedic on the scene, he was shocked to see Mounties "standing around" not monitoring Mr. Dziekanski, who was lying motionless and blue, "not in anything remotely resembling a recovery position."


Kelly McParland has an excellent editorial on the inquiry at the National Post's Full Comment blog. Here are a few excerpts:

"The 40-year-old Mr. Dziekanski did not grab a killer stapler and wave it threateningly over his head, as the police claimed. He did not advance on four officers with threatening gestures. He did not stay on his feet after the first jolt of the Taser they fired at him. He did not have to be wrestled to the ground. He did not, it appears from the testimony of the officers who were there that day, represent any kind of threat at all. [...]"

"[...] How many times have Canadians heard police testify that they were forced to take aggressive action because of threatening action by a suspect, backing up the claim by reading from the notes they made at the scene? How many court cases have turned on judges accepting the validity of contemporaneous notes made by police, backed up by the corroboration of their colleagues at the scene? The Dziekanski hearing suggests such “evidence” is no more valid than the claims of a shoplifter, caught with a toaster oven in his back seat, that “someone must have put it there.”

Without the video evidence in this case we'd still think Robert Dziekanski was some kind of violent and unstable brute, throwing around furniture and smashing windows, who had to be subdued by four RCMP officers at risk to their own safety. His death would be written off as the tragic result of his own unfathomable actions, just as was obviously intended by the Mounties' tale. It's not even remotely true, and the next time a police officer takes the stand backed solely by his notes and his own testimony, it will have to be called sharply into question. Thanks to the RCMP and their role in the death of Robert Dziekanski."

Read the rest here.

It's impossible to stop police who are going to manipulate their reporting of events to wash their hands of any wrongdoing from doing so. Hopefully, though, the uncovering in such a high profile case that that's exactly what these officers attempted to do will help to make judges and juries in the future take into account that they need to be wary of this possibility.

h/t for the McParland article: Ker.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.