Seems young Justin
Castro Trudeau has been caught out and pulled up by the Canadian opposition.
The bill would have allowed Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet to raise taxes, impose new taxes, spend and borrow by fiat, all without a vote in Parliament. Apparently the coronavirus pandemic is so dire that Liberals thought there wouldn’t be time, at least until 2022, to vote on matters of fiscal policy.
That’s a bit naughty. Luckily …
This power grab quickly fizzled. Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals won a mere 33% of the aggregate popular vote in this past October’s election, the lowest percentage for a governing party in Canadian history. Leading a minority government, the prime minister needs some support from his opponents to enact legislation. How did he imagine that conversation would go?
“Conservatives are ready to work to support Canadians in this time of crisis,” said opposition leader Andrew Scheer in a written statement Monday night. He’d already negotiated a coronavirus economic relief package with Mr. Trudeau and planned to vote for it. “But we will not give the government unlimited power to raise taxes without a parliamentary vote,” he said. “We will not sign a blank cheque.”
Just love the line – “How did he imagine that conversation would go?”.
But the irony of the Liberal Party proposing to abrogate the signal achievement of constitutional liberalism, the freedom from arbitrary political power, is enough to make John Locke turn in his grave. Mr. Trudeau’s initial plan to combine in the executive the power to create the law, finance it and enforce it—powers of the pen, purse and sword—was a recipe for abuse. It also threw out hundreds of years of English-speaking peoples’ political theory and practice. Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre rightly mentioned the Magna Carta and “no taxation without representation.”
Mr. Trudeau answered criticism Tuesday by explaining that the coronavirus pandemic is an “exceptional situation that requires extreme flexibility and rapidity.” Maybe so, but does that require permitting him to bypass parliamentary democracy? Suddenly Canadians were in the ballpark of the terrifying “state of exception” theorized by the German antiliberal philosopher Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), in which the sovereign suspends the law and uses whatever means necessary to restore order.
We need to be alert to this – here in Australia the various parliaments are prorogued. The powers of executive government are being wielded by a “National Cabinet” that in turn is being advised by two unelected committees – one being medical experts and the other a committee of business people and public servants.