Originally published in the Edmonton Sun
This upcoming weekend I am giving a speech on a beautiful but isolated wooded estate near Orono, Ontario.
That’s where they hold the annual Liberty Summer Seminar, a wonderful event where libertarians gather to ponder such deep questions as: “What is the nature of freedom?” and “Is liberty a universal right?” and “Where the heck is Orono, Ontario?”
The seminar is also about celebrating liberty. And there is something symbolic about celebrating freedom at a secluded location because when it comes to mainstream political debate in Canada, liberty is essentially a forbidden topic.
Think about it. When was the last time you heard the leader of a major Canadian political party talk about the need to protect individual liberty or freedom? It doesn’t happen.
Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper rarely mentions the importance of freedom, which is surprising since individual freedom is the cornerstone of conservative ideology.
And his reluctance to talk about freedom certainly sets him apart from other conservative leaders.
Leaders, for instance, like Margaret Thatcher. When she was Britain’s Prime Minister, Thatcher certainly wasn’t afraid to say things like: “There can be no liberty unless there is economic liberty.”
Ronald Reagan, a former U.S. president and another conservative once said: “Freedom is one of the deepest and noblest aspirations of the human spirit.” In fact, in his first inaugural address Reagan mentioned the words “freedom” or “liberty” no less than 11 times. By contrast, Harper’s swearing-in ceremony address failed to mention either word even once. And in his government’s first Throne Speech, the word “freedom” was mentioned just once.
What’s going on here? Why has freedom become such a dirty word?
Well the answer is simple. Freedom started becoming a dirty word when, under Pierre Trudeau, Canada started becoming a “socialist paradise”.
As Fidel Castro can readily tell you, freedom has no place in socialist paradises.
Freedom, in fact, is to socialism, what SUVs are to David Suzuki. The two just don’t mix.
Imagine what would happen to our political landscape if Canadians started demanding freedom from high taxes, freedom from burdensome regulations, freedom from social engineering and from all the other big government schemes that underpin socialist paradises. It would trigger a revolution.
To prevent this from happening our political establishment , elite opinion leaders took action. They decreed freedom was actually unCanadian.
Freedom, they told us, might be something those nasty Americans value and treasure, but here in Canada we have different values. We want and need the government to coerce us and to tell us how to run every aspect of our lives..
Talking about freedom, in other words, was deemed downright unpatriotic.
But as they discovered in the old Soviet Union, you can’t keep fooling all of the people all the time. Sooner or later, Canadians will come to see socialist paradises aren’t all they are cracked up to be and that freedom isn’t just an American value, but a universal human ideal. Eventually and inevitably, Canadians will begin to demand more freedom and less government.
And that’s a good thing. Just ask those of us attending the Liberty Summer Seminar … if you can find us.