Where's Ezra Levant now that we need him?
Levant, after all, is frequently billed as Canada's foremost "free speech advocate," although mostly by himself and his friends in the headline writing department at the National Pest.
Still, establishing his free-speech-defending cred is an effort the celebrity Sun News Network entertainer seems to take seriously, going so far as to have a whiny website called StandWithEzra.ca at which he catalogues his various efforts on behalf of freedom of expression and solicits donations to assist with the legal contretemps that can sometimes afflict those who speak freely.
Meanwhile, out here in Alberta, Levant's home province as it happens, we are facing some pretty serious free-speech challenges of our own.
Astonishingly, though, Levant seems to have nothing to say about them!
Alert readers will recall that the provincial government of Premier Alison Redford, who apparently aspires to be known as Canada's answer to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, has made the helpless MLAs in her timorous caucus pass legislation that takes a swipe at Alberta's public sector unions and in the process restricts the free-speech rights of all Albertans.
This is weird, because unlike the Midwestern Republican governor south of the Medicine Line, a pretty good case can be made that Redford scraped back into office in 2012 thanks for those very same public employees she and her ministers are now trying to kick to the curb.
Well, maybe it wasn't Redford who made all those promises to the public sector and its supporters! Maybe it was just something her 2012 campaign supremo, Stephen Carter, cooked up on his own and didn't tell her about. Regardless, I'm sure it's OK with Redford if Carter gets to wear the rotten tomatoes now that she's decided to flop-flop on public services and flip off Alberta's pubic servants!
The important thing to remember is that the Redford Government's big entry into the field of drafting labour legislation includes a provision that makes it illegal for any Albertan to express certain opinions about labour issues of which Redford disapproves.
Under Bill 45, the Public Sector Services Continuation Act, which has precious little to do with continuing public services, it is now illegal for anyone, no matter what motivates them, to suggest that a public employee might be justified to strike illegally -- which, since strikes by public service employees were already illegal in Alberta, presumably means it's illegal to say it makes sense for a public employee to strike, period.
Maybe you're wondering about those physicians who sometimes tell the health-care employees they work beside, "Man, you ought to go on strike!" Well, technically, they're now subject to a $500 fine just for saying it, and another $500 every day they say the same thing. This goes on every day after that until the $500 fines start to cut into that zero-per-cent increase the docs supposedly got, but didn't really, from Redford and her finance minister.
Actually, I misspoke. They're not subject to the new law yet -- which is why I'm writing about it here today. Redford's crack legal team made sure that while the Public Sector Thoughtcrime Act was passed and given Royal Assent, it was not proclaimed into law -- presumably as a gambit to make this obviously unconstitutional law more difficult to challenge in court.
Still, since everyone figures it's going to take five or six years of stalling by the government's lawyers before the Supreme Court punts it, umpires in the civil service softball league are going to have to start yelling "Ball" and "No-Ball" instead of shouting "Strike!" at slow-pitch games next summer.
The problem with this is that every time the ump calls "No balls!," a worried looking member of the Tory caucus is likely to show up expecting to be told to cast a vote against his constituents!
Where was I? Oh yeah. Ezra.
So what does Levant, Canada's greatest friend of free speech, have to say now that the most direct attack on free expression since the imposition of the War Measures Act is taking place in his home province?
Not a peep! Nada.
I know, I know. Levant is no friend of unions. Indeed, he calls anyone who works for one a "union boss," which is a bit of a stretch in certain cases.
Still, it's that thing Voltaire didn't say, but guys like Levant won't stop saying, right? "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it…" Yadda-yadda.
So now that it's illegal in Alberta to express certain opinions Redford doesn't want to hear on pain of a fine of $500 a day -- $10,000 a day if you happen to be a union boss -- isn't it mildly surprising that Levant's got nothing at all to say about it? What's with that?
Instead, the celebrity commentator is beating up an old rocker like Neil Young for saying things Levant disagrees with about his other favourite topic -- the wonderfulness of Alberta's Bitumen Sands. Talk about finding the easy way out!
So where does all this get us, you wonder?
Well, it gets us here: If Levant doesn't say something soon about the most serious attack on free expression in Canada in the last half century, presumably because he doesn't particularly like the people who are being victimized by this offensive law, I think we're within our rights to reach the conclusion he's full of … you know, stuff.
And if he's full of stuff about free speech, maybe he's full of stuff about everything else he goes on about too.
Free speech still matters in Ukraine, so why not in Canada?
Apparently concern about a lack of free speech in Ukraine continues to grow in Canadian Conservative circles that are completely untroubled by the same thing in Canada.
The latest example is federal Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who according to the unblushing stenographers at the Toronto Sun, told a demonstration of Ukrainian Canadians in Toronto Sunday that Canada is considering economic sanctions against Ukraine for that country’s legislative crackdown on protesters, which includes a ban on wearing masks during demonstrations.
Uh, isn't this the same Canadian government that last summer enacted legislation cracking down on protesters that … bans wearing of masks during an unlawful assembly, on pain of a 10-year jail sentence?
If this is evidence that Ukraine is "moving away from Western-style democracy," as the Sun reporter put it, does that mean Canada is also moving away from Western-style democracy? Actually, there is plenty of evidence for just that proposition.
As noted, Alexander's example of official Canadian doublethink on the topic of public protest in Ukraine is not unique. Last month, Alberta's then deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk expressed his distress at the attacks on free expression in Ukraine.
Lukaszuk is one of the principal architects of Bill 45, unconstitutional Alberta legislation that attacks the free-speech rights of all Albertans. Like Alexander, he was also speaking at a demonstration by Ukrainian Canadians worried about what’s happening back on the steppes of Eurasia.
The difference? Kiev is 7,000 kilometres from Ottawa and 8,000 kilometres from Edmonton, I guess. Plus, Canadian Conservatives apparently don't think Ukrainians are stupid.
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.
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