Why Dig in? Clues to the Liberals’ Stubbornness over the Summer Jobs Program

need a job

There’s a lot not to like about the Summer Jobs Program fiasco. The Liberal government’s insistence that employers conform with its ideology in order to gain tax dollars to support student employment has been eviscerated from coast to coast.




What abides, however, is its weirdness, and the weird intransigence of the government. What really is The Wrong that it is meant to put right, and why do they keep defending their stance?

According to the Prime Minister and the Employment Minister, they had “reports” of two problems they wanted to fix.

The first was that at least one organization (Just a second: an entire federal policy change to deal with one organization?) employed students to press a pro-life campaign. That campaign included the photos of aborted fetuses (typical of such crusades) that shocked complainants.

So what precisely is wrong with that?

Even from a prochoice point of view, surely the federal government should support, not oppose, organizations playing an active role in a civic discussion of a vexed—and unsolved—political matter. Shouldn’t a responsible government, in this age of low voter turnout and decreasing engagement in political life, want to encourage young people to get involved in serious public questions, even if they are (for now) on a side different from that of the current government?

What about those offensive photos, however? Now we’re getting into censorship of free speech, and a form that is almost silly, as well as sinister: “You can express your point of view, but only by means that don’t bother other people.”

But besides that non-trivial matter—which is a genuine Charter question—what photos would be more germane to the issue? These pictures document exactly what prochoice spokespeople characteristically deny: that there is another human involved along with the mother.

How else to demonstrate that “safe abortion” isn’t safe for the fetus? How else to help adults make adult decisions, which means facing the full implications of their choices—to practice, indeed, “informed consent”?

The rejoinder from the Liberal government has been that prolife views contradict the rights of Canadians and laws of the land. But as legions of journalists, lawyers, and professors have pointed out, they don’t. There is no “right to abortion” in Canadian law. Indeed, there is no law governing abortion at all.

Okay, but what about the previous Conservative government restricting overseas aid to those in line with its own policies on reproduction and reproductive rights?

Good question, but it’s a different question. It’s one thing for a government to conduct foreign relations according to the platform on which it was elected. It’s another for a government to restrict funding to the citizens to whom it is accountable and who provide those funds through their taxes.

It turns out, then, that the Liberal government simply wants to curtail political activity on behalf of a view it doesn’t happen to hold at present. That is not the high moral ground so officiously claimed by Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Hajduk.

What about the “whole bunch of complaints” about groups not hiring “LGBTQ members”?

Beware when an official substitutes colloquialisms for information. How many complaints, really, were there?

Any?

If an organization refuses to hire someone because of his/her/zir sex or gender, it can and should be prosecuted according to, indeed, the Charter. The fact that no organization was in fact prosecuted, however, makes one wonder about that “whole bunch of complaints,” which is sounding more and more like office gossip…or the current American President: “Well, not me, but lots of other people are saying….”

Now that virtually every editorial in the country has come out against them, why have the Liberals chosen to dig in, rather than back off?

Because they’re right. Or, at least, they are convinced they are, and that’s all that matters to them. And here is the crucial issue at the heart of this mess.

Do we want our governments to lean toward liberty, or toward righteousness? Liberty means there will be room for our views, our expression of those views, and our campaigning for those views no matter who is in power at the time. Righteousness, however, tolerates only what agrees with it, or what it deems too trivial to bother with—and if you’re not on the side of the current government…what then?

On some matters, we as Canadians have chosen the way of righteousness. We deplore racism. We support the rule of law. We hate child abuse. We support private property. And so on…but not indefinitely, not out to the horizon.

For we also have chosen liberty. From Confederation forward, we have chosen to let each other believe very different things about very big matters, from the nature of God and the universe to what constitutes good education for our children. We have only increased freedoms since then—in, as the Prime Minister’s father famously said, “the bedrooms of the nation” and in many other spheres as well.

A liberal democracy curtails liberty only as a last resort, only because to allow liberty in this zone would be to harm some or all of us in a clearly defined way. Otherwise, we are supposed to let each other be—and talk, and campaign.

It is not enough for the Liberals to think they’re right. It is not enough for them to have made prochoice a plank in their platform. Being elected does not simply mean that they get to impose all of their views on the rest of us with the force of law. Minorities have rights, too, and fundamental in those rights—actual rights, right there in the Charter—include the freedom to disagree publicly with the government without being penalized as we go about our business.

We need the Prime Minister and his government, and not just God, to keep our land glorious—and free.

 

 

25 I like it
2 I don't like it

John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 800 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book has been released this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).