Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Election 2006: The London Fog endorses…
The London Fog!

One brief utterance, barely a sentence, roused me from a disturbed slumber during the leaders debate last night and, although it dealt with constitutional matters, it was not Paul Martin's posturing attempt at populist subterfuge by disposing of the notwithstanding clause (a subject that was ably dealt with by Bob Tarantino). Rather, what stirred me was a glimpse, although mingled with the crude taste of grasping for power, of a fundamental principle that once informed liberal democracy — that the government must somehow be restrained from infringing on the natural rights of individuals.

I think there should be property rights protection in our Charter[,]
teased Stephen Harper. Property rights in the Charter would, of course, be worth only the paper on which it is written — which is to say, not very much with the swaggering host of vague, implausible and collective rights competing for the attention of the broad and generous interpretations and applications of the courts in this country. The acknowledgment of property rights will remain nothing more than a token as long as income and property taxes exist — as long as they do, your property is subject to expropriation and exists such as it is entirely at the discretion and indulgence of the government. Even if the definition of property were restricted to the more conventional one of real estate, the constitutional protection of property rights has certainly not yielded results consistent with its intention in the United States. However, Americans at the very least do have recourse to a textual reference to their liberties — which has been used opportunely on many occasions for their defense as well (see this recent book, Leviathan, by Clint Bolick). Moreover, that constitutional protection, as much or as little as it is actually worth, serves as a catalyst for placing the distinction between private property and public use within the broad debates of the land, a novelty sorely lacking in Canada. Jay Jardine may not agree, I suppose, but I wouldn't hesitate to avail myself of an instrument for individual protection, even if it were to count for less in the halls of power than in the court of opinion.

The upcoming election is often cast as a choice between different values. To the extent that this is true, and I won't argue that it isn't for all that it matters, the pronouncement of such a concept of property rights, while radical in political debate in this country, I think would resonate more with the values of most Canadians who own property and would not care much its arbitrary expropriation. The London Fog never endorses candidates or parties, or even voting for that matter. But if you are going to vote, it may be constructive to contrast Harper's suggestion above with a couple of comments made by other party leaders in last night's debate…

Paul Martin, just to let him be clear and painfully blunt:
Fundamentally, our tax system has got to make sure that, in fact, we take the money from the well off and that we redistribute it to those who don't have it…
And Jack Layton:
People work very hard to pay their taxes.
Well, I guess there had to be some reason. Added bonus — the harder you work the more you get to pay!

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

I turned off the TV and went to bed in disgust as soon as I heard the Paul Martin quote you used. I'm thinking about quitting my job and getting the Liberal government to support my husband our three kids and me now that I know they will happily take all that extra money from those who don't need it and give it to those who do. Where is my initiative to work hard if the government will never let me get ahead.