Jan 082011

With the birth on December 29th, 2010 of Savannah Phillips, the first great-grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II, daughter to Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly of Montreal, 12th in line to the throne and Canadian by descent, I thought it appropriate to resurrect the text (slightly edited) from “Just Right” show #127 of November 5, 2009.

Is there a role for the Monarchy in Canada today?

From The Globe and Mail of Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009, Tony Matthews of Kingston, Nova Scotia wrote:

You can grow up to become anything that you want in Canada, except its head of state.  Another reason to get rid of the monarchy.  It is an institution that perpetually keeps Canada’s head of state foreign, white and Protestant, a discriminatory policy that is definitely anti-Canadian.

(post script: The birth of Savannah Phillips demonstrates that one can be Canadian and become head of state, although you or one of your parents has to marry a royal to gain such a privilege.)

The Prince and Princess of Wales are touring our country this week and next and it seems that every time a Royal drops in to say hello, the same question arises…  Does the Canada of today really need the monarchy?

To answer that question I have to ask myself what is their role…their function in our society and in our government?  The answer I come up with is, on the face of it, not much.  But as it turns out that little bit of a role that they do play has an enormous effect on our society and how we define ourselves as a nation.

The actual power of our Sovereign the Queen is simply to appoint (on the advice of our Prime Minister) a Governor General.  Beyond that it’s all pomp and circumstance, accepting flowers from smiling children and laying wreaths on war memorials.

But let’s consider their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, Charles and Camilla, our future King and Queen.  Some of you may find it odd that Camilla, styled as the Duchess of Cornwall, is also called the Princess of Wales, a title inextricably linked with the late Princess Diana but Camilla’s title in full is Her Royal Highness The Princess Charles Philip Arthur George, Princess of Wales and Countess of Chester, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Carrick, Baroness of Renfrew, Lady of the Isles, Princess of Scotland.

When Prince Charles becomes King it is thought that Camilla will style herself as the Princess Consort rather than Queen.  In fact, of course, she will be Queen, the Queen of Canada, and Charles will become the King of Canada.

But do we need a King and Queen once Elizabeth the 2nd s reign has ended?  Would her passing be a good time to take stock of who we are as Canadians and decide if we want to continue with things the way they are?  Why fix something if it isn’t broken?

If you ask a Quebecer, only 11% want to keep the monarchy.  While the rest of Canada don’t necessarily feel that way the numbers aren’t looking too good for keeping a Brit as our Sovereign.  According to a Leger Marketing poll for Sun Media 45% of Canadians would like to see the end of the monarchy in Canada.  That’s an amazingly high number and as Canada continues to grow with immigrants from non commonwealth countries that number will continue to rise until one day, perhaps soon, a clear majority of Canadians may well be asking for a major change in how this country’s government is formed.

Consider these statistics:

According to the same poll only 2% of Canadians think Charles and Camilla would make strong monarchs.

Only 37.5% of Canadians list their ethnicity as being British. (English, Scottish, and Welsh)

32.2% of Canadians list their ethnicity as Canadian.

While the Queen is the “Defender of the Faith” being the governor of the Church of England only 8% of Canadians are Anglican.

20% of Canadians are foreign born with the majority of these coming from China and India.

The demography of Canada today is nothing like the Canada of 1867.  In fact it is nothing like the Canada I was born into.

So, with the obvious disconnect many Canadians feel with Great Britain, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, will this inevitably force us to reexamine our British Monarchy tradition?

Let’s now focus on the role of the Queen’s representative in Canada, the Governor General, a position currently held by Michaëlle Jean (David Johnston as of October 1st, 2010).

The Governor General has been in the news on a couple of occasions recently.  There was a slight rising of some eyebrows when her web-site claimed she was the “Head of State.” Some said that the Queen is the Head of State.

This is from the Governor General’s web site:

The responsibilities of the Governor General have evolved over time, along with the evolution of Canada as a sovereign and independent nation. In 1947, letters patent signed by King George VI redefine the powers of the Governor General. These letters patent “authorize and empower Our Governor General, with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada or any members thereof or individually, as the case requires, to exercise all powers and authorities lawfully belonging to Us in respect of Canada”. Since then, the Governor General has daily and fully exercised the duties of the Head of State, not only in Canada, but also abroad. As per the letters patent, the Governor General is also the commander-in-chief of Canada.

The Governor General represents Canada during State visits abroad and receives Royal visitors, heads of State and foreign ambassadors at Rideau Hall and at the Citadelle of Québec.

The Governor General presents honours and awards to recognize excellence, valour, bravery and exceptional achievements. The Governor General is also the head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

As it turns out that the Governor General has a considerable amount of power in our country and it is only by tradition that most of her reserve powers as they are called are not used.

It is the Governor General who summons, prorogues and dissolves Parliament, delivers the speech from the throne, and gives royal assent to acts of Parliament.  She can also

  • dismiss a Prime Minister;
  • refuse to dissolve Parliament;
  • refuse or delay the Royal Assent to legislation. To withhold the Royal Assent amounts to a veto of a Bill. To reserve the Royal Assent in effect amounts to a decision neither to grant or refuse assent, but to delay taking a decision for an undetermined period of time.

The reserve power of dismissal has never been used in Canada, although other reserve powers have been used to force the Prime Minister to resign on two occasions: The first took place in 1896, when Prime Minister Charles Tupper refused to resign after losing the 1896 election, leading Governor General The Earl of Aberdeen to no longer recognize Tupper as his prime minister, disapproving of several appointments Tupper had recommended. On the second occasion, known as the King-Byng Affair, in 1925 The Viscount Byng of Vimy refused to dissolve the new Parliament after his Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, looking to avoid an upcoming non-confidence motion, had advised. In fall of 2008, Governor General Michaëlle Jean used her reserve power to prorogue Parliament instead of dissolving it to avoid another election 2 months after one had already been held. No modern Governor General has disallowed a bill, although provincial Lieutenant Governors have. [wikipedia]

You have to scrutinize the histories of the commonwealth countries over hundreds of years to come up with a “constitutional crisis” involving the monarch or a Governor General.

One of the most notable comes from a country which weathered the controversy quite well and is still a very stable and prosperous democracy….Australia.  “The Dismissal”, as it known in Australia, is worth studying.

So, with that bit of background to our Governor General I’d like to bring up a proposal by Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail.  Mr. Simpson wrote on Saturday, October 31st, 2009, that “Canada should cut its ties to the British Monarchy.” His reason is simple.  “They are British, and we are Canadian.”  He proposes that Canada should “make the Office of the Governor General the office of the head of state, period.  No constitutional debates about whether the Queen or Governor General is head of state, de jure or de facto.”

Personally I could accept that but I could equally accept leaving well enough alone.

Despite the changing demographics, the antics of the Princess of Wales, the personalities of the other Royals, there is no pressing need for change.  The current system has worked for such a long time why mess with it?

Canada is not alone having a Governor General represent the British Royals.  Currently 15 of the 54 Commonwealth nations have Governors General.  All of these countries share, to varying degrees, our system of government and virtually all of these countries are stable secure democracies.  We share something in common with each and every one of them.  Why destroy that?

(Originally aired on Just Right show #127 November 5th, 2009.  To download the show visit //www.justrightmedia.org))

Sep 022010

General Douglas MacArthur was a leader.  In this case a military leader, but a leader who could command men to their deaths, change the course of history with his words and deeds, and do so with dignity and style.  In his speech to Congress of 1951 his language was not colloquial but formal and romantic in style.  He spoke with directness and it was impossible not to understand exactly the meaning of his words or his intent in saying them.  In the half hour speech to Congress MacArthur was speaking of the horror of war but yet its absolute necessity against potential advisories like Communist China and the Soviet Union.  The enemy was clear and the real in 1951.

Contrast MacArthur’s speech with the speech given by Barack Obama on winning the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire In 2008 and you will notice a marked difference in these two “leaders.”  Obama’s speech is the speech of a man vying to be the Commander in Chief of the American Forces yet also of a politician.  He too could command men to their deaths and change the course of history with his words but not with dignity and style for in his speech his enemy is the American people, not some foreign aggressor.  He spoke not with directness but with evasiveness, with nebulous platitudes and clichés.  It was difficult to understand what he meant for example when he said “we can stop sending our children to schools with corridors of shame and start putting them on a pathway to success.”  What is meant by corridors of shame?  How are you going to put them on a pathway to success? … by paying teachers more?  If the teachers are great why do schools have “corridors of shame?”  What is meant by the “tyranny of oil” when it is oil that got us out of horse and buggies and into cars and trucks and created a modern nation?  How exactly is he going to save our planet from a point of no return?

When Obama speaks he doesn’t speak of clear cut and real enemies to America, like Communist China, or North Korea, or the Jihadists.  He has to make up enemies to rally the crowd.  The enemies are pharmaceutical companies, big business (how big is big is left for you to decide), capitalism, the education system, the health care system.

The chant of “we want change” by the crowd is equally as unintelligible.  Change from what to what? How? When I first heard it I thought it was chilling, like the chants of a mob in Tehran or in 1937 Berlin.

The crowd was giving Obama a blank cheque for change.  What change?  It doesn’t matter just change.  Change for the better?  It doesn’t matter, just change.  Change at any price?  It doesn’t matter, “we want change.”  So when Obama spends a trillion dollars and sends the nation into a prolonged period of increased unemployment (which he has done) and recession (which he has done) the crowd that shouted “we want change” has only itself to thank for the change for the worse.

I’d like to quote from Leonard Peikoff…

“Niccolo Machiavelli was the first influential theoretician of power politics in the modern world, and tutor to a whole string of dictators in the centuries that followed.  Men, in his view, are irrational, passion-ridden, power-seeking creatures; “realism” therefore demands that political leaders dispense with moral idealism and with any ethical considerations, and confine themselves to a cynically amoral manipulation of men “as they are.”  In his famous manual for aspiring rulers, The Prince, Machiavelli outlines the techniques by which a sufficiently ruthless man can use force and lies to gain and keep political power.”

Nazi Politics by Leonard Peikoff – Excerpt from The Ominous Parallels reprinted in The Objectivist May 1969

You might be thinking that Machiavelli’s advice was to men like Hitler and Stalin, which it was.  But his advice is just as religiously followed by men like Barack Obama, George Bush, Stephen Harper, David Cameron, Angela Merkel and every other political leader in the world.  These people are creating enemies were none exist and  destroying western civilization bit by bit with the sole motive of staying in power.

Again from Leonard Peikoff…

“The American system is not a democracy.  It is a constitutional republic.  A democracy, if you attach meaning to terms, is a system of unlimited majority rule… a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights… The American system is a constitutionally limited republic, restricted to the protection of individual rights.  In such a system, majority rule is applicable only to lesser details, such as the selection of certain personnel. But the majority has no say over the basic principles governing the government.  It has no power to ask for or gain the infringement of individual rights.”

Leonard Peikoff, “The Philosophy of Objectivism” lecture series (1976), Lecture 9.

According to Peikoff once you have a system of government in place with a constitution and a clear set of laws and values it only remains to select “certain personnel” to administer the system.  Over the past hundred years, with rare exception such as with war and the expansion of individual rights (for example to blacks and women) there has been no need for any of our so-called leaders to change laws, to increase regulations, to restrict people’s rights, to tax us into submission and servitude to the state.  These are not leaders, they are looters.

When I listen to the speeches of men such as General Douglas MacArthur, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Sir Winston Churchill I get a sense of awe at their passion for being reluctant leaders for positive change in difficult times with clear enemies.

On the other hand when I listen to speeches from Barack Obama, Dalton McGuinty, Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff I get a sense of revulsion.  I know that I am not listening to leaders I am listening to men out to harm me.  I know that every time they open their mouths they are lying to me.  I know that with every word they are planning to rob me of more of my freedom and wealth and are planning on taking the country down a path of destruction towards a police state.

The modern political leader is a demagogue.  To quote the definition – demagoguery is from the ancient greek  (dēmos “people” and agein) “to lead”.  It is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda.

Unless the issue up for discussion is war – when you hear of someone calling themselves a “leader” or being called a “leader” by others you better run for hills because in this day and age what you are going to get instead of a leader is a demagogue.

(Originally broadcast on Just Right September 2, 2010.  To download the show visit //www.justrightmedia.org)

Jul 222010

Queen's ParkA proper government is one whose sole reason for existence is the protection of man’s individual rights.  The protection of a man’s right to his life, his liberty, his property, and his pursuit of happiness to name a few.

A proper government is one whose goal is to eliminate the initiation of force in society.  It is able to do this if it acts as our agent for our own right to self-defense.  A proper government therefore would be the only institution that holds the exclusive power to use force (as a consequence of our individual right to self-defense).

To quote Ayn Rand — “A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control —i.e., under objectively defined laws.”

What would such a government look like today?  To think about what it would look like we might take a look at our own Provincial government and then start peeling away all of the non-essentials, all of the areas our current government  that are not proper functions for the only institution permitted to use force in society.  The same exercise could be performed on the federal government.

Here is a quick list of some of the items in Ontario’s 2010 budget that would not appear if Ontario had a proper government whose only role was the protection of our individual rights:

  • Health care – It wouldn’t be difficult to eliminate this expense considering that health care provision and administration is only a recent misuse of government power.  State control of health care only came about in my life time.  In Ontario it was in 1967.  Cost $44 billion.
  • Education – Education used to be privately provided by employers to their employees and their families.  But around the turn of the twentieth century the government took it over because they saw too many American influences in the curriculum.  Only later on did they deem this service to be a role of government. A proper government would not provide money for the building of schools, the salary of teachers, student loans, or the purchase of text books.  Cost $20 billion.
  • Government involvement in the economy – A proper government would be completely separated from the economy.  No subsidies to individuals, no subsidies to corporations or business, no setting of interest rates via a central bank, no wealth redistribution of any kind.  A proper government would be a referee in the economy, not a player.

To continue the list:

  • Aboriginal Affairs
  • Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs,
  • Community and Social Services
  • Consumer Services,
  • Economic Development and Trade,
  • Energy,
  • Environment,
  • Office of Francophone Affairs,
  • Health and Long Term Care,
  • Health Promotion
  • Labour
  • Housing
  • Natural Resources
  • Northern Development, Mines and Forestry,
  • Research and Innovation
  • Tourism and Culture,
  • Training, Colleges and Universities
  • Transportation
  • Liquor Control Board of Ontario
  • Human Rights Commission

Here are some of the items which would remain in the budget

  • Community Safety and Correctional Services – Cost $2.3 billion
  • Office of the Lieutenant Governor – Cost $1.3 million
  • Ministry of the Attorney General – Cost $1.5 billion
  • Citizenship and Immigration – Cost $112 million
  • Office of the Premier – Cost $2.8 million

As well as a few other items such as a much scaled back Ministry of Revenue, a smaller Ministry of infrastructure etc.

Total cost of a proper Ontario government would probably not exceed $5 Billion.

The 2010 operating expense of the Ontario government is over $105 Billion, or 21 times the expense of a proper government.

Currently the government gets its revenue in the following way:

Revenue ($ billions)
Taxation Revenue 71.6
Personal Income Tax 25.9
Sales Tax 19.1
Corporations Tax 7.4
Education Property Tax 5.3
Ontario Health Premium 2.9
All Other Taxes 10.9
Government of Canada 23.7
Income from Government Business Enterprises 4.2
Other Non-Tax Revenue 7.4
Total Revenue 106.9

While all taxation, by definition, requires the initiation of force and is therefore immoral, of all of these forms of taxation the only one with any legitimacy as a means to fund a proper government would be sales tax.  In a free society there is only one thing that we owe each other and that is JUSTICE.  That being so if everyone were to pay for the service they uniformly receive from the government in order to see that everyone benefits from a just government without discrimination or favoritism a sales tax would fit that bill.

A sales tax is also appropriate because it is directly tied to the social activity of trade, of entering into contracts with each other with the government acting as referee and not a participant.  The purpose of government is to ensure an environment where individuals can trade with each other with a degree of trust and with the knowledge that such trade is protected by law, where one party in a dispute can go to the government for redress because he has paid for that service via his sales tax during the transaction.

The Provincial portion of the HST (8%) is estimated to take in $19.1 billion in 2010.  Four times what a proper government would require from this single tax alone.  If we cut the Provincial portion of the HST from 8% to 2% we could fund all the needs of a proper government and would then, as individuals, have $100 Billion dollars to spend between us each year on many of those things the government provided at hyper-inflated prices.

Except for direct fees for discretionary services or voluntary contributions to government a sales tax would be the only moral way to fund it. The most immoral way is income tax which, through its progressive nature, penalizes people for participating in society and being productive.  An income tax is even more intrusive into our lives than the long-form census.  Consider all of the receipts for personal claimable expenses we submit which the government records and then keeps on file.  Don’t forget to submit your birth control pill receipts under medical expenses, and that anti-itch powder your doctor prescribed, or the soccer school fees for your kids.

The list of personal activities the government is privy to due to income tax is extremely invasive.  Besides that, the government knows where you work, what you make, what you spend your money on, your personal medical history, your education history, and what you spent to renovate your home last year.  All of this information is in the hands of the government.  None of this information should be in the hands of a proper government.

(Originally aired on Just Right show #161 July 22nd, 2010. To download the show visit //www.justrightmedia.org)