There has been a lot of talk about freedom in the last year or so. It has caused me to think about what freedom really means. Does it mean being free to do whatever we want? Does it mean being free from the rule of law when we disagree with it? Does it mean putting individual freedom ahead of public safety?
I had a letter this week from Pierre Poilievre, the apparent front runner for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. It was personalized, but without a doubt, it also went to hundreds of thousands of others. I found it interesting because to me, it cloaked freedom in a mantle of control and I really wonder just how that works.
In his latest pitch, Poilievre said that Bill C-11, legislation to control the Internet, must be repealed. I actually agree with that.
Poilievre put it this way. “Trudeau’s on-line censorship law C-11 is designed to force everyone to return to consuming state- sanctioned legacy media. It is a censorship law… But Liberals and their friends in the media want Trudeau to pass this law, so they have to protect Trudeau. And this means biased coverage.”
There is a lot of political hyperbole there, but basically, the bottom line for me is that any attempt to limit public discourse within the rule of law related to hate speech, libel, and slander, especially when it is critical of a government in power, is dangerous and fundamentally undemocratic.
But then, Pierre Poilievre goes on to complain about his treatment in the media. He says this: “Recently Global News launched an extraordinary and baseless attack against me. Tired columnists in all legacy newspapers routinely publish attacks on our movement and what we stand for. The only way to stop these desperate attacks is to stand up and call them out, not apologize and beg for forgiveness as so many Conservatives have done.”
I am not sure what Mr. Poilievre means when he calls on his people to “stand up and call them out.” Another Convoy?
And so, I am unclear about what Pierre Poilievre really means when he talks about freedom. He speaks against government censorship, and I agree with him on that. But does he really believe in it? Does he really believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press or is it just when they are not disagreeing with him, his policies, or his movement? He also says in his letter he will defund the CBC. He believes they are Liberal toadies and there is some truth in that, but what does that say about freedom of the press?
In my view, Pierre Poilievre has his own definition of freedom. It is somewhat selective, and it is indeed cloaked in control. To me, ‘my way or the highway’ is not freedom.
On the World Index in 2021, Canada was rated at the very top of the list for the best quality of life. That didn’t happen overnight, and no federal government can take exclusive credit for it. Certainly, we have our warts and our tragedies and sadly, we have people who are left behind. When it comes to politics, there is no such thing as perfection. But over decades, there can be little doubt that Canada, on balance, has evolved into one of the best countries in the world in which freedom and the public good are synonymous.
One of our greatest freedoms is our unfettered right to decide who we will allow to govern us. We do not do this by guns and bullets, or by oppression. Convoys and blockades don’t cut it either. We change governments, when we feel the need, by ballots and peaceful transitions.
And that time may be coming again soon, not likely this fall as some have predicted, but soon. The latest polling shows the Conservatives with their support at 35 per cent, this without a permanent leader, and the Liberals with support of 30 per cent. How these numbers will change when a new leader of the federal Conservatives is elected in September, is a matter of conjecture.
There is little else more fluid than politics and anything can happen between now and an election, including a new Prime Minister, should Justin Trudeau decide to take a walk in the snow late this fall or winter. However it turns out, we need to be careful and circumspect in what we wish for.
Freedom, in many ways, has become a buzzword in the populist movement. It can be enticing to people who are tired, frustrated, angry, and concerned about the future. But it can also be an alluring term to embrace and capture the minds and hearts of people who feel that way. There are plenty of examples in history where populist sentiments have been used by those seeking power, only to be completely abandoned when power is achieved.
I do not believe in big government, attempting to be all things to all people. I do believe though, that government has a key role to play in ensuring our safety, protecting our human rights, safeguarding our traditional institutions, and providing the programs for people who need them in order to live with dignity.
I also treasure my freedom to vote as I see fit. I believe in as much personal freedom as possible, the freedom to succeed, the freedom to take risks, and yes, the freedom to fail. I believe in the freedom to control our own lives as long as it’s done within the realm of also protecting the common good. I also believe that living in a free society comes with the responsibility to protect everyone’s rights and to offer support to those who need it.
We are fortunate to live in Canada and we are fortunate for the freedoms that we have. We need to beware of those offering false promises that would only serve to further divide this country.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.