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Two mistakes we should avoid with this election Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 21 June 2004

It was interesting to watch Conservative leader Stephen Harper dodge and fudge his way around the big questions in last week's debate. I don't blame him. He had no choice.

He refused to give a short answer on opting out of the Charter of Rights over gay marriage and abortion. And he evaded questions about giving control of social programs back to provincial governments.

Will Harper allow Parliament to override the courts on gay marriage? The straight answer would have been, "Yes." Instead he kept trying to outflank Martin by changing the issue to child pornography.

To Paul Martin's phony declaration that Supreme Court judges are the final arbiters of new rights, Harper could have said, "No, Mr. Martin, under section 33 of the Charter, MPs - not judges - have the final say about personal rights. The definition of marriage should be settled by a free vote in Parliament."

Unfortunately, most people have no knowledge of this stuff.

And when Jack Layton accused him of "hiding behind free votes," Harper should have let fly with, "The Prime Minister isn't supposed to control Parliament. Parliament is supposed to control the Prime Minister. We call this 'democracy.'"

But, as I said, Harper's indirect approach may have been wise. Subsequent polls show them still edging slowly ahead of the Liberals. An upset now seems likely.

One indicator is the demoralized mood of frustration and factionalism inside the Liberal campaign. They gambled on making Harper's alleged "extremism" the issue, and it hasn't worked.

Another is the genuine dismay being voiced by our governing elites. Tom Axworthy warns that "Trudeau's Canada" really will vanish if the Liberals lose. Heritage Minister Helene Chalifour Scherrer frets that a Harper government will vaporize Canadian culture as we know it (or at least as she knows it). Anxious professors of law warn that Harper will "politicize" Charter law, as though it wasn't politicized all along.

But the strongest sign of all is the absence of public reaction. It's as though people are just quietly moving ahead, and thinking, "Well, yes, things will probably change, and maybe it's time they did."

Liberal strategists like David Herle lose the game when they tell reporters the public is missing the "real" Conservative agenda. It bespeaks an attitude that the problem must be with the voters, not the Liberals.

When they released their horrible "conservatives are ugly and insane" advertisements, Harper shrugged. The Liberals, he said, still don't get it. People no longer believe anything they say.

If he's right, this election may result in far more than another brief exile of the Liberals to the opposition benches.

It may indeed signal that at long last we are moving beyond "Trudeau's Canada," with its impossibly big government, ruinous taxes, ridiculous social transfers, politicized bureaucracy, dictatorial judges and foolish minority rights entitlements.

 Those of us who are not in favour of Big Government can make two mistakes right now.

The first is to conclude if things go badly on June 28 that all is lost. The other is to assume, if things go well, that all is won and all our problems are solved.

It will take a long, long time to restore freedom and democracy to this country. But it looks like maybe, just maybe, the process is about to begin.

- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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