Liberal Government Hostility To Free Expression Will Have Severe Economic Consequences

In a world that is becoming more and more competitive, creativity and innovation are essential to success. The chilling effect brought about by a government hostile to free expression will ensure that Canada falls further and further behind jurisdictions that are more open and free.

When we discuss legislation like Bill C-11 and C-36, the focus is often on how the Liberal government (with the support of the NDP) will damage Canada’s democracy by weakening freedom of expression.

Even without that legislation in place, the Liberal government’s use of the Emergencies Act has created a chilling effect across the country:

“Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s unwarranted and arguably illegal use of the Emergencies Act has created a crisis for some Canadian public interest groups, and it is unclear if the revocation of the emergency will undo that damage.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) is a legal charity dedicated to defending fundamental freedoms in the courts of law and public opinion. The CCF is one of the organizations challenging the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act on the basis that the criteria set out in the act was not met, and that the orders under it were unjustified violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since announcing the challenge, the CCF has been inundated with interest about the case — so much that its website crashed due to the surge in traffic. The public response to the CCF’s legal challenge was overwhelmingly supportive, but one disturbing trend has emerged: a widespread fear that donating to causes that advocate for fundamental freedoms and civil liberties, and challenge government overreach, will result in the freezing of bank accounts and seizing of assets.”

We aren’t supposed to be dealing with a ‘chilling effect’ in a free and democratic nation.

After all, the idea of ‘liberal democracy’ is that the government fears the power of the people, not the other way around.

But as we’ve watched the Liberal government freeze the bank accounts of protestors, accuse their critics of being ‘foreign funded,’ and push ahead with legislation that would expand government power while narrowing the bounds of speech and expression, there’s less and less about our country that is ‘liberal’ in the traditional sense of the word.

While this has serious implications for democracy in this country, something that hasn’t received as much attention is the economic impact.

Creativity is key

The pace of change in the world continues to increase.

Two years ago, the world was plunged into a pandemic, the economic consequences of which were exacerbated by power-hungry governments who heavily restricted rights and freedoms.

As countries exit the pandemic – with even most Canadian provincial governments moving on – the world is facing a new crisis from Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Neither could have been perfectly predicted or prepared for, but had the government followed a few common-sense principles such as fiscal responsibility, embracing the energy sector, and strengthening our national defense, there would be a lot more room to respond and maneuver in response to what is taking place.

In order to succeed in such a rapidly changing and unpredictable world, a society must be open and creative.

Decentralization and a trust in freedom is essential to success.

In one respect, we are seeing aspects of that in the Russia-Ukraine war, where the much larger but more rigid and centralized Russian military is struggling against the much smaller but more decentralized Ukrainian military.

In a broader context, this is true when it comes to economic competition.

Look at how investment and wealth is flowing into places like Texas & Florida, which happen to be some of the freest parts of an already free nation. By contrast, in places like California where a more rigid and centralized form of high-tax governance is being imposed, many people are seeking to leave and investment is moving elsewhere.

How will Canada compete?

What does this have to do with free speech?

Well, the ability to speak freely is highly correlated with the ability to think freely.

As mentioned above, the chilling effect of the abuse of government power seeps into people’s minds and leads to people holding themselves back.

Over time, a chilled society begins to worry more about ‘not saying the wrong thing’ and ‘not getting into trouble,’ rather than taking intellectual risks and challenging the status quo.

This may have been sustainable for a while when a society transitions from agrarian to industrial, but Canada has long since made that shift, as has much of the world. Even in that case, liberal democracies made that shift more rapidly (and with far less suffering) than authoritarian states.

And now, with the ruthlessness and speed of economic competition having rapidly increased, a risk-averse, fear-based, centralized system is absolutely disastrous.

The greatest periods of wealth creation happen when people are free to ask questions, free to share ideas, and free to debate, without the fear of centralized power punishing them for ‘wrong-think.’

It’s no coincidence that Greece – and particularly Athens – became such a successful civilization, as it was very open and free relative to its competitors.

The same was true of the British Empire, and the same is true of the United States.

Ironically, China became richer as their government stepped back and allowed more freedom, and their growth is now declining as Xi Jinping moves back towards Mao-style communist totalitarianism.

And again, the world is watching as Russia – having remained authoritarian rather than embracing a more free society – faces economic disaster after years of stagnation and a falling per capita GDP, now cut off from much of the technology it needs from the West as sanctions hit.

It’s the height of ironies that Justin Trudeau is trotting around Europe talking about freedom and ‘listening to those we disagree with,’ when he has been so willing to demonize his opponents here at home, and doesn’t see disagreement as legitimate.

“The same guy that jailed political dissidents and froze the bank accounts of peaceful Canadians is now lecturing the world on democracy.

Trudeau says those who hold “different political views” deserve “infinite dignity.”

The world is laughing at us.”

Trudeau can say whatever he wants on the world stage, but that doesn’t change the fact that his hostility to free speech, and his willingness to use government power against his domestic critics moves Canada farther away from our historical core values, and closer to the kinds of stagnating authoritarian states we are all so loudly condemning.

With our economy already struggling and the cost-of-living surging out of control, we can ill afford to watch as our country becomes mired in the kinds of state-imposed fear and self-censorship that has crippled the standard of living of other nations.

We need to embrace openness and free expression in order to adapt, thrive, and compete in a rapidly changing world.

Spencer Fernando

Photo – Twitter

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