“Big government” is defined by how much it takes from our pockets, not by how it spends the loot.
Mr. Martin’s plan puts daycare workers on the government payroll. Mr. Harper’s puts parents and daycare companies on the government payroll. To the taxpayer, this is a distinction without a meaningful difference. To “get it right”, instead of left, one would simply tax us all less.
Paul McKeever, Leader, Freedom Party
of Ontario, Oshawa, Ont.
National Post, Letters
November 2, 2005
Re: McGuinty must make good on ‘one law for all’, Igor Ellyn, November 1.
Mr. Ellyn makes a sound case for equal fiscal treatment for all schooling choices. However, the diversity of curricula and cultures at independent schools would come under attack, if those schools were to become tax-funded. True choice and equity in schooling can be achieved only in a system in which parents pay tuition directly to the public or private school that their child attends, instead of funding education with taxes.
Paul McKeever, Oshawa, Ont.
The Chair (Ms. Caroline Di Cocco): I’d like to call the meeting to order, if everyone would like to take their seats. Welcome back to the select committee on electoral reform.
I welcome Paul McKeever, the leader of the Freedom Party of Ontario. Mr. McKeever, you have the floor.
Mr. Paul McKeever: I’ll just begin by thanking you for honouring my request to have all registered political parties invited to give their two bits on this adventure you’re on.
The rhetoric surrounding the issue of electoral reform is often couched in terms like “democratic deficits” or “making things more democratic.” I would urge the committee to consider that electoral reform has little to do with democracy per se, and much more to do with how government makes decisions.
Let me begin by addressing the first part of that assertion. Elections and voting are not, per se, democracy. “Democracy” is a term derived from the Greek word “d?mos,” meaning “people,” and “kratos,” meaning “power,” not “rule.” History is filled with examples of democracies that differed wildly in terms of who was permitted to vote or how they voted, but all of those systems have something in common. Properly understood, democracy, or “people power,” is the belief that government gets its authority from the governed. The meaning of the term “democracy” is probably best understood by juxtaposing it with the term that describes democracy’s most common competitors on this globe: “theocracy,” meaning “god power,” and “autocracy,” meaning “self-power.” In a theocracy, the prevailing belief is that government gets its power from God, whereas in an autocracy, the prevailing belief is that government is the source of its own power.
Democracy tends to be most compatible with, and defensive of, individual freedom. The reason is simple: An individual in a democracy cannot give his ruler or government more authority than the individual himself has to give. Thus while, and only while, the people in a democratic society respect individual freedom, the ruler or government in that democratic society will lack the authority to violate life, liberty or property rights of the governed. In a democracy, so long as it is wrong for an individual to murder an individual, or to offensively restrain another’s liberty, or to take another person’s property against their will, it is also wrong for the government to do so.
Because one frequently finds lawmakers to be chosen by way of elections in alleged democracies, and because candidates win elections only by winning more votes than their competitors, elections and voting widely have been confused as being synonymous with democracy. However, in truth, elections themselves are not democracy; rather, they are a very effective tool for the defence of democracy. Specifically, by removing law-making authority from the lawmakers at regular intervals, and by requiring would-be lawmakers to obtain law-making authority from the people, elections continually and effectively remind everyone that the authority to make laws comes from the people. Put another way, elections remind the people that government answers neither to God nor to itself, but to the people it governs. Elections remind us that we believe in democracy.
To illustrate my point about the difference between democracy and elections, consider that a country need not be democratic in order to have elections. Democracy exists, first and foremost, in the minds of the people and not at polling stations. Before elections can defend democracy, the people have to hold the belief that they, not God, for example, are the source of their government’s power. If one were to use tanks and guns to bring elections to a country whose people believe that God is the source of a government’s authority, the result would not be democracy. Put another way, you can export elections to Iraq but you cannot export democracy to Iraq, at least not at the present time.
The relevance of this to electoral reform should be noted. Different electoral systems may differ in how effectively they “kick the bums out,” but it would be utterly false to suggest that one electoral system is itself more or less democratic than any other electoral system. Just as elections are not democracy, electoral systems do not differ in how democratic they are. As this committee drafts its final report, I would urge it to keep one thing in mind: Do not let your endorsement of one electoral system over another be based on the false notion that the electoral reform will lead to “greater democracy” or the elimination of a “democratic deficit.” Though it may lead to a better or worse defence of democracy, it will not lead to more or less democracy.
Having made that point, let me move on to my second one, that electoral reform has more to do with how a government arrives at its decisions. Specifically, I am referring to majority versus minority governments and to single-party government versus government by a coalition of parties. On this issue, the implications of electoral reform are truly immense.
As you know, the term proportional representation, or PR, is a reference to a situation in which the percentage of seats in the Legislature have been distributed among political parties roughly in proportion to the popular vote received by each party’s candidates. PR is a reference to an electoral outcome, not to any given electoral system. It is generally acknowledged that whereas the single transferable vote, the multi-member plurality, and list PR all lead to PR outcomes, our current single-member plurality system does not lead to PR outcomes.
Among the most common arguments made by proponents of PR — any of those versions: STV, AV, list PR — is that PR reduces the influence of political parties by making minority or coalition governments the norm, and majority governments the exception. Instead of a party doing what it believes is right for the province, the party is required to negotiate with other parties, so as to build sufficient numerical support for a given legislative change. This, the advocates of PR tell us, will make government more democratic and will cure a supposed democratic deficit. Their theory is that with PR, the decisions made by government are more reflective of the wants of the governed. However, the point has been put more forcefully and honestly by others who have said that PR is more likely to facilitate majority rule or majoritarianism, and they actively campaign on that basis sometimes.
This panel may well remember Canadian comedian Rick Mercer’s humorous Internet poll, in which he asked Canadian viewers to vote on whether to change Stockwell Day’s first name to Doris. Mr. Mercer’s point, made in the form of comedy, should not be overlooked. Specifically, he was making the point that a true majority rule is a system in which anything goes, and in which freedom can be trampled beneath the feet of the whims of the majority. I think, in fact, the vote was in favour of changing his name to Doris, by the way. The reason is simple enough. For the whims of the majority always to be obeyed by government, it is necessary that government’s authority be completely and utterly unbridled. It is for this reason that many advocates of PR are among the harshest critics, by the way, of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which they find to be a horrible obstacle to their wishes. In a true system of majority rule, there could be no right that would protect the individual from the whims of the majority. If you could force a man to change his name to Doris, you could, by the same logical and horrifying extension, force a woman to have an abortion or not to have an abortion.
In completing its report, I would recommend that the committee not fall into the trap of equating majority rule with democracy. Indeed, majority rule can be very anti-democratic. To revisit the light-hearted example, in our society no individual has the right to force Stockwell Day to change his name to Doris. Hence, if our society is truly democratic, we cannot give government the power to change Stockwell Day’s name to Doris. We don’t have that power to give to the government. If we move to an electoral system which, by design, subjects individual freedom to the pressure of unbridled majority rule — and make no mistake, that’s what a lot of people want you to recommend — we have done something that is not only anti-freedom, but potentially anti-democratic as well.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’d like to address one other point relating to electoral reform and how government makes decisions under each system. I’d urge this committee to view the results of elections that use electoral systems other than the system we currently have, the single-member plurality system. Australia, for example, uses alternative vote, and the results there have consistently been, with the odd exception, that coalition governments are formed, not majority governments. The same can be found with the single transferable vote in Ireland. Of course, in those countries that use list PR, again, majority governments are the exception, not the rule. If Ontario moves from the current system to almost any other system, majority governments will become much more rare.
Therefore, in endorsing one electoral system over another, I would encourage the committee to give deep consideration to the implications of majority versus minority government. That, ultimately, is the most powerful effect that any electoral reform will have. In a majority government, the party in power has the opportunity to govern by doing what it believes is right, even when it’s unpopular for it to do so. In a minority or coalition government, the process is almost entirely different. The issue is not one of right and wrong, but of compromise and negotiation. On its face, that sounds very friendly and up-with-people. But in reality, the difference between majority government and minority or coalition government is dramatic. Specifically, when we replace majority governments with minority or coalition governments, we move from a system that accommodates ethical decision-making to a system based on the rejection of ethics and the substitution of whims and numbers — ballot-counting, or hand-counting, if you’re talking about the Legislature. We move from a government guided by reason to one guided by emotion; to one guided not by what’s right, but simply by what you want.
I’d urge the committee to consider the words of author-philosopher Ayn Rand, who wrote, in 1965,
“If some demagogue were to offer us, as a guiding creed, the following tenets: that statistics should be substituted for truth, vote-counting for principles, numbers for rights, and public polls for morality — that pragmatic, range-of-the-moment political expediency should be the criterion of a country’s interests, and that the number of its adherents should be the criterion of an idea’s truth or falsehood — that any desire of any nature whatsoever should be accepted as a valid claim, provided it is held by a sufficient number of people — that a majority may do anything it pleases to a minority — in short, gang rule and mob rule — if a demagogue were to offer it, he would not get very far. Yet all of it is contained in — and camouflaged by — the notion of `government by consensus.'”
Ms. Rand’s point applies with equal force to electoral reform. Only majority government is capable of facilitating government decision-making on the basis of ethical considerations, as opposed to numerical ones; a minority or coalition government simply cannot do so. All negotiations on matters of right and wrong are, by their very nature, clashes of implicit or explicit ethical codes. Therefore, to the extent that opposing negotiators have both compromised their stance on an important matter of government policy, they have both acted contrary to their own ethical codes. Therefore, to the extent that opposing negotiators have both compromised their stance on an important matter of government policy, they have both acted contrary to their own ethical codes.
In closing, I would urge the committee, in making its report, to be cognizant of the fact that it is not truly dealing with the issue of democracy. It is dealing with the issue of right versus might, with the issue of ethical rule versus majority rule, with the issue of individual freedom versus tyranny of majorities. If we are to protect democracy, we can do nothing more important than ensure that ethical limits be placed on government authority. Those limits, I submit, are facilitated only by an electoral system that makes majority governments the rule rather than the exception. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. McKeever. You certainly provided to us 15 minutes of interesting discussion. Thank you very much for your input. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for questions and answers at this point in time, because the time has expired, but I thank you very much for your very valuable input, which we’ll certainly consider in our deliberations.
Mr. McKeever: Thank you very much.
On September 12, 2005, the National Post ran an editorial that endorsed the idea of replacing progressive rates of income tax with a single rate: the so-called “flat” tax. In support of the flat tax, the paper essentially argued that a single-rate income tax works well for lower-income individuals because they can be provided with a large personal exemption: the Post impliedly endorsed Alberta’s $15,000.00 personal exemption as an example.
I will not suggest that income taxes are good things: they are not. The point here, however, is that a large personal exemption only adds insult to an already injurious tax.
In a country that taxes the populace, representation without taxation is as bad as taxation without representation. A personal exemption from taxation turns a proponent of low taxes and limited government into an opponent of both. The higher the exemption, the greater the popular opposition to limited taxation and government.
The quickest way for all citizens to be crushed by a government is to relieve some citizens of the burden of carrying its weight.
On September 2, 2005, the National Post ran a column penned by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, the leader of the provincial Liberal party. In that column, the Premier bemoaned the fact that “the politics of the moment, the heat of the debate, or the emotional impact of that day’s headline” tends to derail the search for a better provincial-federal fiscal relationship. He explained that, to keep the search from getting “lost” in the politics, he proposes a royal commission to study provincial-federal fiscal arrangements. However, having so far conducted his free-spending government’s quest for a federal bail-out by angrily pointing the finger at Ottawa, Premier McGuinty’s sudden request for dispassionate, depoliticized research is, to say the least, hypocritical.
What is worse, the premier is not looking for answers. Rather, he wants the federal government to admit that there is a problem with provincial-federal relations. The striking of a royal commission by the federal government would constitute just such an admission.
The premier would do well to stop begging for federal money and admissions of guilt. The federal Liberals have the support of Ontario voters. And, as the premier knows, he is crying foul now only because of the utter failure of a health care system with which he refuses to part for ideological reasons.
In 1969, Ontario’s PCs imposed a government monopoly in health insurance and introduced provincial income taxation to pay for it. That failing system now consumes 40% of Ontario’s budget and climbing. Ontario’s personal and corporate income taxes combined are insufficient to pay the cost of socialized medicine in the province.
This is no time for politics and royal commissions. With the ongoing loss of Ontario’s manufacturing base to low-cost jurisdictions like China, the time has come for Ontario to question the wisdom of both Ontario’s health insurance monopoly and its income taxes.
On August 29, 2005, the National Post ran a column written by Ontario Progressive Conservative party leader John Tory. In it, Mr. Tory continued not only to advocate measures that will not give us safer streets, but to side-step the cause of the violence.
Mr. Tory said he wants to “send a strong message to criminals that gun crimes mean serious jail time” and that “that’s why” he is urging tougher sentencing for “gun” crimes. Two things. First, consider that 50% of murders in gun-controlled Britain (which does not share a border with the USA) are committed with kitchen knives. Murder, not weapons, is the issue. Second, the murderers walking our streets are not deterred by longer sentences: they do not expect to live into their 30s. In fact, the “I’m livin’ hard and dying young” attitude is a huge part of their tough-guy image.
Mr. Tory suggested that if we “beef up” our border security, we can “make a difference”. Yet, according to a 2001 publication by MP Garry Breitkreuz, there are an estimated 7,000,000 to 11,000,000 firearms in Canada already. If it were even remotely possible that tougher border security would stop murderers from importing guns, the only difference we could rationally expect would be slower border crossings that will harm Ontario’s economy.
Mr. Tory called for better organized youth “programs” to “prevent crime”. This is a vague reference to the notion that recreation centres and basket ball courts for the poor prevent murder by keeping would-be murderers from getting bored. Boredom and poverty are not the causes of murder. Almost all human beings will be bored many times in their life: almost none of them will murder someone. To imply that poverty makes one a murderer is to slander and marginalize the poor, almost all of whom will never murder anyone.
The single problem that lies at the root of all of these murders is that the murderers among us view themselves as being beyond good and evil. As they see it, civil society is weak because it distinguishes between good and evil. Civil society is, for them, a sucker; a host to be occupied, intimidated and looted by armed, anti-moral macho men.
It might play well in the pages of the National Post, but those who cast these animals as the victims of a society that did not build them enough entertainment centres; those who share the murder’s twisted philosophy that guns, not people, commit murders; are excusing – even justifying – murder. The murderers of tomorrow hear those justifications loud and clear as they load their pistols and clear their minds of any vague ethical doubts about the acts they are about to commit.
To stop the murders, we must strictly enforce even minor laws so as to imprison murderers and would-be murderers alike. Period.
On Friday, August 26, 2005, the Globe and Mail ran an editorial about Ontario possibly falling into “have not” status among the provinces in coming years, and the role that federal equalization payments might be playing. It concluded:
“Do the current program and other federal transfer mechanisms need reform, accountability and an accurate means of measuring their impact on all provinces? Absolutely. Should the rich provinces get back all the dollars their taxpayers send to Ottawa, thereby eliminating the so-called fiscal imbalance? Absolutely not, because that would reduce federalism to nothing more than a financial balance sheet and effectively turn the central government into a non-profit collection agency for the wealthier provinces.”
To my knowledge, Ontario has not proposed that it receive “all” of the money its taxpaying residents pay to the federal government. Ontarians and their government recognize that, as Canadians, they must contribute to exclusively federal matters like the military, for example. However, Ontario is indeed losing under the current equalization scheme, and it is losing unjustly.
In a free and democratic country, a government may spend only what the country’s constitution gives it authority to spend. Canada’s constitution gives the federal government only the authority to pay out the amounts set out in the Constitution Act, 1907, which is still in force and binding. The Constitution does not give the federal government authority to redistribute wealth via the current federal equalization payments. If the federal government wants to engage in such spending, it should be seeking a constitutional amendment.
Because the federal equalization payments are unconstitutional, Premier McGuinty is wrong to ask for federal money . However, Ontario would be in the right to demand an end to equalization payments, and a corresponding reduction in federal taxation. This it could rightly do in the name of freedom and the rule of law.
National Post, Letters
August 25, 2005
Re: The Case For Surrender, Andrew Coyne, Aug. 24.
Mr. Coyne is right that Canadian provinces are subsidizing timber, and that those subsidies are bad for the economy. They also encourage environmental harm and poor forest management. He also has a clear-cut case on the wrong-headedness of domestic retaliation: imposing more taxes on goods imported from the United States would only lower the Canadian standard of living.
However, I cannot agree that Canada should simply surrender. There is another, quite peaceful, option. Canada should buy some commercial time on major U.S. media networks so that we can speak directly to hardworking, overtaxed American homebuyers.
I can see the commercial now: happy, smiling, Canadians waving their Canadian flags in front of their newly built homes. The overdub: “By overtaxing imported Canadian lumber, the U.S. government has made it more costly to build a home in the United States. But there is an upside: by paying more to build your home, you have made it possible for Canadians to build their homes at lower rates. We, the new home owners of Canada, thank you for your ongoing financial commitment to the housing of Canadians.”
It would not be long before Americans demanded the axe be taken to U.S. taxes on Canadian wood.
Paul McKeever, Oshawa, Ont.
On August 25, 2005, the Toronto Star published an editorial saying that Canada should speak directly to the American people about the consequences of US duties on imported Canadian lumber. I agree with that part, but disagree with the Star’s suggestion that Canada threaten to “launch a painful trade war”.
US duties already impose a painful consequence for Americans: the duties force American consumers to pay a higher price for their lumber and their new homes. Were Canada to retaliate by imposing duties on imported US goods, Canadians would similarly suffer an unjust hike in their cost of living and a decrease in their standard of living. A trade war would be “painful” to Canadian consumers of US goods, first and foremost.
Our federal and provincial governments must not lose sight of the powerful fact that the Canadian lumber producer’s greatest ally is the American consumer. The appropriate response is to give American consumers an honest and true perspective: that the US lumber producers’ war on Canadian lumber is actually a scheme to loot the pocket books of American consumers.
National Post, Letters
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Re: A City Stunt that’ll Play Well in the ‘Burbs, Adam Radwanski, Aug. 5.Contrary to Mr. Radwanski’s speculation, Stephen Harper’s promise to make drivers, cyclists and pedestrians subsidize GO Transit and Toronto Transit Commission fares will not “endear” him to those living in the 905 belt. Mr. Harper does not propose that drivers receive a similar subsidy for their gasoline, licensing fees, artificially inflated auto insurance premiums or car maintenance costs. Nor can I imagine that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians will discontinue their current mode of transportation for a chance to give Mr. Harper a peck at the GO’s Kiss ‘n’ Ride.
To make residents of Oshawa, Ont., or Flin Flon, Manitoba subsidize GO and TTC riders is not merely something that will turn off Harper’s “conservative base” — it will rightly turn off anybody who believes that it is wrong to hitch your wagon to another person’s horse. Each individual should pay the full cost of his own freight, and should choose only the method of transportation that he or she can afford.
Mr. Harper would do well to advocate the tried-and-true policy of personal responsibility: “Pay only for what you get, and get only what you pay for.” The something-for-nothingers displeased with that message have already parked their votes and their Volvos elsewhere.
Paul McKeever, Uxbridge, Ont.