Voter-surveys show top issues this election being the post-COVID economy, housing affordability, and the environment. These are big areas of concern, it’s true. But these surveys, commonly presented as a pre-set list to voters by pollsters and media groups, are missing an issue that is absolutely fundamental to our free, open, and democratic society: the freedom of political expression. This can’t be lost on candidates and those critical of Trudeau’s recently-tabled anti-“hate speech” bill—which, if the parliamentary vote on his bill to regulate social media is any indicator, means the whole Conservative Party and the heroic Jody Wilson-Raybould—and the issue has to be dragged into every stump-speech, debate, and election discussion before polls close on September 20.
Trudeau’s Liberals pro-censorship bill
As University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist recently warned, although Trudeau’s Liberals were late in unveiling their pro-censorship bill last session and it died before getting a vote in Parliament, it still signals what’s high up on their agenda if re-elected.
As many older classical liberals are no doubt saying these days, where is Alan Borovoy when you need him. The late social critic and founder of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association penned numerous books and articles before his death in 2015 warning Canadians about their potential slide towards humanist intolerance and progressive totalitarianism. His best book on the issue, 1999’s The New Anti-Liberals, does an expert job explaining the folly of trying to ban “hate speech” and the threat such laws pose to Canadian civil liberties.
Borovoy asks at the outset of The New Anti-Liberals, when it comes to empowering a regulator of public expression, who should we trust? Traditional liberals like letting members of the public, not the authorities, decide what they themselves get to see and hear. It isn’t, he writes, “that we necessarily have boundless faith in the people; it’s that we have less faith in the authorities.” To give authorities the power to vet what’s already available to the public, he adds, “is profoundly anti-egalitarian.” Amen.
I’d second that it’s also anti-egalitarian to let “anyone” bring a civil hate-speech complaint against a person without the threat of paying up if they lose—as Trudeau’s bill will do. Such a system, in reality, will pit powerful advocacy groups and those with lawyerly know-how against the poor and defenseless who lack the resources to navigate the tribunal system. more