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Canada, wake up … your freedom, liberty and privacy are vanishing

By Walter Robinson
web posted February 3, 2003

January 2003 may very well go down in Canadian history as the beginning of the end of democracy as we know it. Canadians better wake up from their collectivist, groupthink, government-coddled slumber before it's too late and state-sanctioned thinking takes hold. Political finance rip-offs, election gag laws and an Orwell-esque report from the privacy commissioner show that our freedoms of expression, democratic participation and privacy are under attack at every turn courtesy of the federal government.

While supporters of federal government's recently unveiled election finance reform package – ending big ticket corporate and union donations – portray it as step towards transparency, it should be called for what it really is, a broad daylight mugging of Canadian taxpayers.

Prime Minister Jean ChretienTaxpayers already subsidize parties and candidates through tax credits and election expense rebates. The plan unveiled by Mr. Chretien last week makes this abhorrent situation worse. Indeed, taxpayer fattening of the bank accounts of the five major parties and others including the Communists and Yogic fliers will jump from 59 per cent to almost 90 per cent.

Under the Chretien "fleece the little guy" scheme, political parties will net $35 million in non-election years and up to $80 million in an election year based on the number of votes cast for each party. Talk about entrenching power and a significant funding advantage for the party in power (who just happen to be the Liberals), yikes.

If Chretien and crew were really serious about ending the so-called big-money influence in politics, they should have ended tax credits for political contributions and campaign expense rebates, period. But instead the government proposes to double the maximum amount eligible for a 75 per cent tax credit from $200 to $400. Meanwhile, a similar donation to the local United Way or cancer centre merits a paltry 16 per cent tax credit. And the government has the nerve to call this fair and transparent?

American founding father Thomas Jefferson was right in 1779 when he stated: "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." Sinful indeed … so much for political freedom.

And speaking of elections, it's bad enough that the feds want us to pay for 90 per cent of their political campaign, costs, but at the same time, they're looking to deny your right to say anything during these same election campaigns.

In January government House Leader Don Boudria confirmed that Ottawa will indeed press ahead and appeal a federal court ruling which deemed that Ottawa's election gag-law effectively banning advertising by citizen groups during election campaigns was unconstitutional.

Even though the courts have struck down Ottawa's gag laws repeatedly in the last two decades, our federal government will once again squander untold millions to try and trample on our constitutional freedom of expression. At the root of this law is the assumption that voters are stupid (wrong!) and easily swayed by advertising which begs the question: Why is political party advertising OK but not advertising from anyone else? So much for liberty.

Finally, the recent annual report from privacy commissioner George Radwanski has sounded more troubling bells than a New York City five-alarm fire. His 74-page tome is more chilling than Orwell's 1984. From Canada Custom's eternal passenger database to a national ID card to the RCMP's intrusive and expanding video surveillance, our privacy is rapidly disappearing. As conservative philosopher Edmund Burke so pointedly warned us: "the true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts." Wake up Canada, our peace, order and good government are at stake!

Walter Robinson is the Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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