Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Walking Dead-Advocacy Group

I didn’t mean to get into an ideological Twitter battle with the National Citizens Coalition, but I did.

It all started when I wrote a column criticizing the conservative advocacy group for its decision to actively support the Sun News Network’s application for a “mandatory carriage” license. My point was that such support runs counter to the NCC’s stated conservative principles.

To me, it’s obvious: forcing citizens to pay for a TV channel they may not want to watch violates an individual’s right to free choice. Conservatives are supposed to support free choice.

At any rate, a few hours after my column appeared, NCC director Stephen Taylor responded to my argument with a well-reasoned, thoughtful defence of his group’s action.

Ha, just kidding! 

 What Taylor really did was go on Twitter and lob personal insults my way.

That didn’t surprise me. After all,  on page  one of the Big Book of Cheap Political Tricks it says: if you can’t attack the message, attack the messenger.

But there was one Taylor tweet in our exchange that did astonish me.

After I suggested the NCC was betraying its principles, Taylor responded thusly: “Keep up the good work. You're making us less free by holding reality-based pragmatic actors to a fruitless idealistic standard.”

When I read that, my jaw dropped. Here was a senior officer in the NCC basically saying his group’s core mandate was a “fruitless idealistic standard.” Amazing.
I wonder if NCC fundraising letters start something like this:

Dear NCC supporter:
Please send us your hard-earned money so we can waste it trying to achieve a fruitless, idealistic standard.

Anyway, to my mind, Taylor’s odd tweet confirms what I have long suspected: the NCC has lost its original motivational spirit, not to mention its sense of purpose.

I happen to know a thing or two about the NCC’s original spirit, because I worked for the organization for 22 years.

And when I worked for the NCC, we were proud to set “idealistic” standards. We fought unabashedly for free markets, smaller government and individual freedom.

Nor did we think fighting for our values was “fruitless”, even though we often faced overwhelming odds.

As they say in hockey: it’s not how many you win — it’s how many you show up for.

But sadly, today’s NCC is apparently less about fighting for principle and more about pursuing what Taylor calls “reality-based pragmatic” goals.

So I suppose that means on one day the NCC will push for less government and on the next it will push the government to limit consumer choice.

Come to think of it, that’s not reality-based or pragmatic. It’s just confused.

The question is, does Canada really need a confused organization like today’s NCC? I say that because we already have plenty of reality-based, pragmatic organizations that spurn principle. 
We call them political parties.

What we do need is an organization that has the courage to push political parties to do the right thing, even if the right thing is unpopular or difficult to achieve.

We need what the late libertarian academic Benjamin Rogge called “an island of sanity in an increasingly insane world.”

Oh well. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that the NCC has dramatically changed since my time. It’s the nature of any organization to evolve. And the NCC has clearly evolved into a kind of organizational zombie.

It still staggers along from issue to issue and reacts from time to time, but it no longer has a soul.

This article originally appeared in Ipolitics. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

Medal Envy

Not to exaggerate or anything, but I am the victim of an appalling, terrible injustice, the likes of which the world has never seen.

Get this: I am the only person in all of Canada who has not yet been awarded a Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Or at least it seems that way.

In fact, so many people seem to be getting these Diamond Jubilee medals, that for a while I thought they were handing them out at subway stations, along with those free newspapers.

But then I learned you actually have to be “nominated.”

And really that’s about all I do know about the Diamond Jubilee Medal, except for two other key facts: it has something to do with a) diamonds and b) jubilees.

At any rate, it’s a terrible feeling not to be nominated for this medal.

Every day I dream of draping it around my neck, or pinning it to my chest, or hanging it on the wall next to my “Perfect Attendance” certificate from sixth grade.

To make matters worse some of my friends have received the Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Imagine the embarrassment I’ll feel when I am the only medalless attendee at the next “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy” meeting. (Note: I am never invited to Vast Right Wing Conspiracy meetings, but it’s the principle that matters.)

And let me be clear, I am not asking for something I am not qualified to receive, like I did when I demanded a literary Pulitzer Prize for my erotic novel, 50 Shades of Gerry.

Just check out the “eligibility criteria” to get a nomination:

* The nominee must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada.

* The nominee must have been alive on February 6th, 2012, the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the Throne.

* The nominee must have made a significant contribution to a particular province, territory, region or community within Canada.

I handily meet the first two requirements in that I am a Canadian citizen and as far as I know I was alive on February 6, 2012, though my memory can sometimes play tricks on me.

As for the requirement about a “significant contribution”, I would suggest that my plastering of cartoon pigs on negative attack ads significantly contributed to lowering this country’s standard of public debate.

Hey, the rules don’t say it has to be a “good” contribution.

So again, I ask, why no medal for me?

Well one possibility is that I have made too many enemies.

In fact, among the groups I may have inadvertently offended over the years include:

  • Anyone who thinks Prime Minister Stephen Harper is God.
  • Anyone who thinks Prime Minister Stephen Harper is Satan
  • The entire state of New Hampshire
  • “Artists” who get government subsidies for creating “art” that looks like stuff found at the local trash dump.
  • The David Suzuki Fan Club
  • Diamond Jubilee Medal winners.
 All I can say is, can’t we let bygones be bygones?

Indeed, in the spirit of friendship, I make the following promises.

To right-wing nominators I say, give me this medal and I solemnly promise to effusively praise our monarch, and, if I have time, I will also say a few nice things about Queen Elizabeth.

To left-wing nominators I say, give me this medal, and I promise to get all self-righteous about some trendy cause and will threaten to give it back.

And if that doesn’t convince you, consider this: the nomination process lacks any sort of transparency, meaning if you nominate me, no one ever needs to know about it.

It’ll be our little secret.

So what are you waiting for nominators, put the pedal to the Jubilee Medal.