Saturday, May 07, 2011

My Open Letter to Stephen Harper

Dear Stephen:

Congratulations on your recent historic victory!

You have certainly come a long way from your days at the National Citizens Coalition

Do you remember back in January 1997 when you joined me on the staff of the NCC.

In our first conversation after you joined up you asked me how I would describe myself ideologically.

My answer was that I considered myself a "conservative libertarian."

I wasn't sure if you knew what I meant, but you did. You told me that's what you considered yourself too.

And as conservative libertarians, both you and I agreed at the time that individual liberty mattered, that it was wrong for the state to coerce its citizens, that maximum freedom required minimal government.

But for you this wasn't just some "abstract ideological" notion. You wanted the NCC to fight for individual liberty.You wanted the NCC to be about more than just plastering pigs on billboards and exposing government waste.

In fact, you made promoting individual freedom a high priority for the organization.

Your idea was to use the courts to fight for freedom. I remember this idea was a little controversial for some NCC supporters, who like many conservatives mistrusted our court system.

But you believed conservatives could and should use the courts to achieve their ideological goals, just as the left was using the courts to achieve theirs.

Anyway, under your leadership the NCC become involved in several historic court battles aimed at curtailing the powers of the state and promoting the democratic rights of citizens.

We took on the Canada Wheat Board monopoly, election gag laws and Quebec's anti-English language legislation.

All these case had one thing in common: they were about freedom -- freedom of the individual to speak out during elections, freedom for western farmers to make economic choices, freedom for Canadians to express themselves in the language of their choice.

And I have no doubt that had you stayed on at the NCC a bit longer, you would have also gone to court to take on the Human Rights Commissions.

Indeed, here's what you said about the HRC in 1999, "Human Rights Commissions as they are evolving are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society  ... it is in fact totalitarianism."

I mention all this because now you're Prime Minister of a majority government. That means you don't need the courts anymore to protect our freedoms. Nor do you have to worry about politically bloody battles in the House of Commons.

Now you have the power to make Canada a freer, better  place.

That's why I hope there remains in you at least some of the "conservative libertarian" principles you once held dear.

I hope you move quickly to scrap election gag laws, to end the Wheat Board monopoly, to speak out for English-speakers in Quebec and to rein in the Human Rights Commission.

And yes, I know many of your advisors, pollsters and people in the media are telling you to avoid "ideological issues."

But promoting freedom isn't so much about ideology as it is about doing what's right, about standing up for citizens.

If you as Prime Minister don't use this opportunity to do what's right, who will?

You're our last chance.


Paul Blair said...

Harper is not 'our' last chance, as long as our children, and our children's children, are thought of as being part of us.

Edmund Onward James said...

I posted the follpowing on Dr. Roy's weblog piece but you ought to know that I am pissed off with the HRC, too. And also for another reason.

I agree about your view of the HRC. Because if they read my little weblog with hard-assed comments well then there would be battles. But even though people in many parts of the world somehow got to know about my blog the HRC haven't done a damn thing. What? I am insignificant? Maybe I should go after them for not going after me.

John Collison said...

Harpo is "our last chance"?

Then we'd best forget about gun rights and doing anything about the threat to free speech posed by the CRTC, as these are two other areas the prime minister is notoriously weak on.

Anonymous said...

I'm no Harper fan but I appreciate GN's letter.

It's an open challenge that will go unanswered.

Bet on it.

Don Sharpe said...

Great article. Linked

Cytotoxic said...

If Harper is our last hope, we are categorically doomed. Seriously, just throw in the towel at the federal level already.

Rotterdam said...

Excellent article.
I trust the PM is thinking in that direction, as he should.

Miles Lunn said...

The Canadian Wheat Board monopoly will end and when one considers the Tories have always said they wanted to do this and still won by massive margins in the Prairies, I think they have a clear mandate here. As for human rights commissions, that is a tougher one as most of the outrageous decisions have been at the provincial level so it is really provincial governments who need to scrap these although the feds could lead. Many of their advisors will probably say it will cost them amongst ethnic voters who helped deliver the gains they got in the GTA and thus their majority but I have found those in ethnic communities most likely to use these and be fans of them are ones who would never vote Tory in the first place. The ones who vote Tory are strong believers that minorities should have equal rights, not special rights and so I doubt it will hurt them as much as some say. After all their crackdown on bogus refugees hasn't cost them either.

As for the Gag laws, I suspect those will stay as unions and various left wing organizations will probably spend a fortune trying to defeat them. A more likely thing to happen is the Tories will cut funding to all those left wing groups and then once they have gone under, then maybe change this. They will also scrap the gun registry.

As for Quebec language laws, they won't go near those. Even if Harper was against them in the past, he is also a strong believer in respecting provincial jurisdiction so he would argue such laws are up to each province not the feds and from a strictly constitutional sense he is right.

And I should add as a long-term bonus for your side, with Quebec swinging to the left and English Canada to the right, Quebec may separate and although this would cost them in the short-term, long-term it would make it a lot easier to adopt conservative policies. After all, if you took Quebec out of the picture, the Tories, not the Liberals would have won the majority elections in the 20th century. One columnist somewhere argued the main reason the US is so much more conservative than Canada is because the South pulls the US to the right and Quebec pulls Canada to the left. You take Quebec and the South out of their respective countries and the differences would be much less.