Defending liberal democracy

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.

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10 Responses to Defending liberal democracy

  1. dopey

    If we’d moved quicker on the Indigenous Voice they’d have the whole thing sorted already.

  2. nb

    Castro is dead. Long live Castro.

  3. Pyrmonter

    NSW is at least attending to the legislative authorisations, though the regulation-making power limited mostly by time:

    https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/acts/2020-1.pdf

  4. BorisG

    Maybe so, but does that require permitting him to bypass parliamentary democracy?

    If parliamentary processes cause delay and hence cause more deaths, then perhaps yes. But these extra powers must be limited to narrowly defined policies related DIRECTLY to saving lives. Not taxes, stimulus etc.

  5. John A

    Mr. Trudeau answered criticism Tuesday by explaining that the coronavirus pandemic is an “exceptional situation that requires extreme flexibility and rapidity.”

    Bulldust! We’ve had these things before. They do not require police-state levels of power to deal with them.

  6. Tim Neilson

    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.

    Are they real business people or crony-capitalist lobbyists?

  7. DaveR

    I hope people are as vigilant if premier Andrews tries to use the Coronavirus crisis to effect the coming (but secret) massive Victorian crown land transfer to Aboriginal peoples, also without an election or referendum.

  8. Anthony

    In fairness to David Brooks, his Atlantic article on the (American) family was pretty insightful, though was too long to read the whole thing.

    Guessing I may have time in the coming days to get back to it.

  9. Twostix

    If parliamentary processes cause delay and hence cause more deaths, then perhaps yes.

    You can take the Boris out of Soviet Russia, but you can’t take the bolshevik out of the Boris.

  10. Squirrel

    Once again, we are left to ponder how the snowflakes would cope with a shooting war.

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