George Jonas, 1935-2016, was arguably Canada’s greatest polymath. Fittingly, for his great insights towards making ours a better country he was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2013. In 2018 he was further memorialized via the newly minted George Jonas Freedom Award, a now annual June event in Toronto.
It would be nice if freedom needed only yearly reflection, but these days there’s no shortage of issues and daily news that continues to beg the question, “What would George have said about that?”
Such a question would not arise, the memory of a man so strongly linger, nor the need for an award even exist except for freedom being constantly under attack within our public discourse while too few Jonas-worthy sages remain to eloquently come to its defense.
The problem is that a basic tenet of our modern Western world, liberty, requires a basic foundation of that same world—enlightened rational thought. There’s an ever waning supply of this commodity now, seldom found in politician or pundit, rarely advocated by media or magistrate, and infrequently demonstrated amongst professor or pupil.
Enlightened (vs. naïve) rational thought requires a thorough knowledge of history and a deep insight into the nature of man. Learned on both fronts, George Jonas had the unique ability to look at the world and clearly see things for what they were. For example, when pundits and politicians became ecstatic that toppling of oppressive dictators would spring forth democracy far and wide, George casually pointed out that merely breaking eggs doesn’t lead to omelets (that’s been tried before); democracy does require one essential ingredient though—democrats.
Rationality of the truly enlightened kind is not emotive. Rather, it is clear and concise, eminently astute, and able to guard against being willfully subjective, wisely conceited or subconsciously motivated. Such perspicuous thinking can be aptly demonstrated in George’s talent for aphoristic brevity: Totalitarianism—“coercion without cosmetics”; The Canadian version— “statism with a human face”; The Supreme Court’s definition of hate speech —“speech we hate”; The Academy’s curriculum—the dogma of the day.”
Rationality might invoke the notion of intellect (or intellectuals), but it’s really that of wisdom. No doubt a University graduate has intelligence, but their Degree confers no insight as to their sagacity. Or as George would say, “You need a PhD to teach ‘the novel’ to graduate students, but for writing the greatest novel you need nothing, not even a high school diploma.”
Well, perhaps nothing except wisdom and insight as evidenced by the non-PhD pearls from Jonas: “Right and wrong are only reflected by the laws, not determined by them.” Eradicating falsehood is not the same as finding truth. “If you write down your rights and freedoms, you lose them.” Do not choose something in the marketplace of ideas until you know both its value and its price. “Misdeeds don’t invalidate ideas any more than ideas validate misdeeds.”
A famous Declaration once stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident”, but unfortunately the concepts and complexions of liberty and good government are not self-evident (if they were, we wouldn’t have needed a Jonas to point them out to us). As such, we need to curate these ideas, cultivate them and pass them down to our children and grandchildren so that the next generation remains aware of freedom’s value (and forewarned as to the price of alternatives).
Some basics: our inherent rights are those of “freedom from” not “freedom to”; good government aims to conserve the citizen’s conscience, not compel it; a good constitution serves not to sanction the dogma of the day, but to safeguard against it.
Regrettably we’ve been long drifting away from this mind-set. Today individual rights are progressively trampled upon by newly tiered collective “rights” with many political, corporate, academic and special interest groups toiling to impose their ideology on every man, woman, child and institution.
To them, society is comprised of the oppressed or the exploiters; naturally this requires justice, and if you’re on the wrong side of this equation you lose. Losers need not appeal for recourse to the media or judiciary as these estates increasingly accredit this new math (or this old history).
The thing that enables this perspective is the establishment of preferred groups and favoured viewpoints, duly hierarchized from progressive deserving angel to anachronistic callous demon. Since neither conceit nor compassion confer wisdom, this kind of calculus is not a product of enlightened rationality: for groupings and subdivisions are endless, life itself is simply imperfect, and the greatest enemy in a free society will always be oneself.
George Jonas understood that if we’re going to have a ranking of values, we had better get them right. For him there was no debate, freedom was simply, “the first in my hierarchy of values.” Further, Jonas was wary of wrapping up one’s identity too strongly in any group, and with good reason – membership in the collective tends to make one lose all perspective.
Group identity is divisive by definition, self-aggrandizing in affirmation, even fanatical in deportment. With groups driven by a social agenda born of estrangement, disaffection, misguided virtue or simply meaningless ennui, mass movements can arise. These justice-seeking movements (of any stripe or spectrum) can be quite pernicious, and their most obsequious, self-righteous or narcissistic adherents are no friend to freedom.
The result is the state of affairs we see today where thought is policed, speech silenced, ideas disqualified, private matters dictated, and if anyone steps out of line they’re to be deposed, fined, stripped of employment, boycotted, barred from commerce, disinvited, defunded, de-sponsored, de-accredited or de-platformed.
The most alarming thing about such conduct is when it’s no longer an occasional bullied response to caterwauling cabals, but contritely endorsed by a group’s targets and ratified by society as a whole out of a sense, as George observed, of being “socially concerned.” Once freedom has lost the higher moral ground, we are indeed susceptible to the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s “mastery of the consciousness.”
In an autonomous society views and factions will come into conflict, but they don’t have to end up in the illiberal outcomes we see today. How properly then, as Solon penned, “to let not either touch the other’s right?”
The primacy of the individual is paramount to liberty, but with liberty properly employed, personal pursuits are tempered upon realizing there are also obligations, we’re all on the same side and there’s a greater maleficent foe to keep in check. Even if a pursuit be born of piety and good intentions, take heed: the best of ideals can lead to the worst of powers; worthy principles exaggerated—to tyranny.
The key to having harmony without tyranny is finding the equipoise, a shared liberty properly circumscribed where happiness can be pursued freely and relations governed by a strong sense of moral conscience and duty—not by emotional concerns, mob rule, autocratic diktat or judicial fiat. To twist a Jonas metaphor, we’re all on a communal subway, but if groups strive to reach only their rightful destination, we forsake the far greater destination of liberty itself.
For those who favour that greater destination, there’s at least one yearly dinner event. For those who’ve offered more than just sentiments, a corresponding freedom award. And for those of us with a lingering nostalgia for enlightened rational thought—no better inspiration and namesake than that of George Jonas.
The second annual George Jonas Freedom Award Dinner returns to the Eglinton Grand, 400 Eglinton Avenue West, Toronto. A reception commences at 5:30 p.m. This year’s recipient is Christie Blatchford. There are a limited number of tickets still available.
On October 22, the temperature will plummet below zero, covering Ontario in ghostly snow. Canadians have taken to Twitter to express their discontent.
Mummies from Missaguga to Milton will have to wrap up for trick or treating as the lake-effect will contribute to even more snow than usual.
The debt gravedigger from Amherstburg, Ontario is back again in time for Halloween.
Anthony Leardi put up a video of his lawn display on Facebook to raise awareness of the humungous debt load Canadians carry of over $650 billion.
“Because it’s Halloween in Canada and nothings scarier in Canada than Canada’s federal debt,” says Leardi in the video.
Leardi says no media have taken an interest in his political statement, other than third-party advertiser and Facebook group Canada Proud.
“Ontario Proud actually covered my provincial debt cemetery in 2018 and it got almost one million views on their site.”
The federal election debates and media coverage have instead focused predominantly on other issues such as climate change, indigenous issues and cost of living.
“When I show people these numbers, they are very concerned. They are especially concerned about the interest payments. And young people really get it when you tell them, “I’m 50. I won’t live long enough to pay this debt back. But you’re only 20. You will be paying interest on this debt for the rest of your life!”
The tomb stones list ghastly facts of the national debt, such as “Canadians pay $49,500 minute on interest on the debt.”
“When my son Andrew was 10 years old, he and I were talking about making Hallowe’en decorations,” said Leardi. “He suggested a cemetery and I added the part about “debt.” To this day, he takes credit for the whole thing!”
The Fairness For Persons with Disabilities Act (Bill C-399) pushed by Conservative MPs David Yurdiga, and Tom Kmiec seeks to accommodate Canadians living with mental and physical ailments better, including those with Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Diabetes.
Kmiec, like Yurdiga, who has been pushing for regulatory changes to disability assistance since submitting his private members’ motion (PMM 192) last year in parliament, sees the need for a better “safety net.”
Both propose better financial supplements as well as reducing eligibility requirements for at-risk and vulnerable Canadians.
Notably, Bill C-399 would reduce the required hours of therapy for a patient to be eligible for a tax credit. In changing the parameters from 14 hours to ten hours per week, those who suffer from episodic disabilities like multiple sclerosis, or face limitations in accessing the Disability Tax Credits due to the time they must take off work, would face less of a pinch financially.
According to estimates by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PMO), the proposed changes would make 35,000 additional claimants eligible for the tax credits each year, with 22,000 expected to make assistance claims each tax year.
During a parliamentary session in March 2018, Kmiec spoke for those writing to him in support of Bill C-399, saying that, “[My constituents] want to protect diabetics and patients with rare diseases so they can apply for the disability tax credit. They want to ensure that they receive the benefits they deserve and are entitled to.”
The Fairness For Persons with Disabilities Act would also allow for the time taken to measure and balance nutrition content for dietary disorders as part of the time in therapy.
In an interview with The Post Millennial, Yurdiga explained that people who suffer from disorders like PKU, have to “weigh [their] food very carefully, which takes a lot of time to do if you are mixing different foods to get to the right dosage. All of those things were not allowed to be included in the [therapy] calculation,” clearly showing the gaps in the current disability legislation Tom and himself are trying to fill.
The PMO stated that Bill C-399 would only cost Candian taxpayers $39 million annually, of which $25 million would be incurred from lost tax revenue by those newly qualified for assistance.
When speaking about the cost of Bill C-399, Yurdiga emphasized the meagre cost of his proposed legislation regarding what he called the Liberal government’s “corporate welfare.”
“We’re trying to make sure that Canadians are getting ahead while liberals are making sure that their corporate friends get ahead…We’re trying to leave money in the pockets of people with disabilities who are trying to make ends meet,” Yurdiga explained.
Their continued advocacy of episodic disabilities and other ailments facilitates much-needed discussions on the difficulties patients face. Given the symptoms are not always visible, it can be hard to portray the needs of vulnerable populations.
First-hand experiences inspired Yurdiga’s private member’s motion with episodic disabilities. His wife, Kathy, has multiple sclerosis, and their daughter is diagnosed with epilepsy.
As for Kmiec’s inspiration, he states, “My three little kids have a rare kidney condition called Alport syndrome, so I’ve always been paying attention to the different costs associated with living with a rare disease. My oldest son has hearing aids, my youngest son is probably going to get hearing aids, and my youngest daughter passed away. She had lots of other medical conditions while she was alive. So I have always been involved in trying to figure out how to make life more affordable for people with disabilities.”
Kmiec has worked closely with the MS Society, and other like groups, where they hold an advisory role in helping shape his legislation on disabilities.
The Fairness for Persons with Disabilities Act seems like a common-sense move, and the motives and financials behind it are nothing but responsible and researched.
But beyond its logistics, the continued advocacy projects compassion and strength.
This proposed legislation has the power to bring parliament together, bettering the lives of thousands of Canadians.
Disclaimer: Ashley Teixeira is a Director for the VP Internal for the University of Calgary Campus Conservative Club, and is a volunteer for CPC candidate Pat Kelly.
As the Conservative candidate in the Northern B.C. riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Claire decided to run for federal office after a successful term as a Kitimat councillor, having escaped the clutches of homelessness and poverty eight years prior.
Delving into the topics of resource development, women in politics, as well as the adversity she has faced, Claire provides her take on the Conservative movement in Canada.
TPM: Claire, having moved from Vancouver to Kitimat as a 19-year-old, you went on to serve as a Kitimat municipal councillor as well as own and operate a tattoo shop. Can you delve a little into what shaped/influenced your political values today?
CR: Yeah. I think that being a small business owner and understanding the value of fiscal responsibility [where I made] sacrifices to ensure that my employees were paid on time and paid well – all of those factors, while also running a household, helped to shape my views. That was one of the key things that I carried forward into my work as a school councillor, I paid a lot of attention to where we were spending money, where we were getting the most effective use for it, [and that] we were operating not only within our means but within what would be best for the community.
TPM: How has this journey been for you, as a CPC candidate, compared to your term as a councillor in Kitimat?
CR: Well, I think there are distinct differences. I mean, the sheer size of the riding, the number of people that you could potentially be representing, the number of contacts that you have to make, and that’s why I put so much time and effort into my door knocking.
I’ve been on the doors every day, thousands of doors. We’re getting closer and closer to 10,000 doors, which in a riding of this size, and this type of geography is monumental. It’s not an easy task by any means. I think that that is one of the biggest differences, and then also coupling that with the fact that you’re not just looking at one community issue, you’re looking at issues from a very, very wide variety of communities that are facing unique struggles, and finding ways to find solutions for all.
TPM: The importance of the $40 billion investment into the BC LNG project was crucial for your riding. What discussions are you having at the doors regarding the importance of resource development?
CR: I would say that the majority of residents in this riding are in favour of the energy industry. That’s been made pretty evident by the amount of community support the project has had among First Nations that have signed on to agreements with them. The fact is, this project has unprecedented levels of community support. And I think that there’s a couple of reasons for that.
I mean, one is the LNG Canada has been a fantastic partner to work with. They have invested in the community, and [are] good corporate citizens. They spend the time to educate people on what the realities of liquefied natural gas are and ensure that they mitigate as much of the possible negative impacts as they can. So by and large, the majority, the vast majority of people in this riding, are very much in favour of the LNG project.
I’ve also had a few conversations with people that weren’t so in favour or were sitting on the fence. And the majority of those people don’t understand the differences between liquefied natural gas and oil [and their subsequent impacts]. So they assume that it’s very similar to oil being put in a pipeline. With just a little bit of that education in this area, people realize that some of their fears were unfounded.
TPM: For the past few years, conflicts between B.C. and Alberta have persisted regarding TMX. Given private investment has helped rejuvenate Haisla First Nation in the past decade, is there any hope for constructive dialogue on the environment and resource development, moving forward?
CR: I’ll be honest. I very rarely hear about it. It rarely comes up at the doors. It did come up in one of the debates we’ve had so far, just very briefly, and it was only centred around how do the candidates feel about the federal Liberals and the pipeline. So that’s not a big topic in my riding; people are much more focused on LNG. I think the [uncertainty felt] was simply because of the Enbridge project. And people believed that this LNG project is very similar to the Northern Gateway pipeline, which of course it isn’t.
When it comes to that environmental piece, I think that again, it just comes down to education and helping people to understand the significant positive impact that a project like this will have on our environment. When you look at things from a global scale, which we should be doing when it comes to our environment because the environment and climate change don’t know boundaries of countries and continents.
We, in Canada, only produce about 1.6 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. When we look at countries, specifically China, for example, where they’re burning a lot of coal, projects like liquefied natural gas can help them transition away from coal-burning and do more good for the environment overall. At the same time, we have the economic benefit that comes along with having a project like this, because we get more educational opportunities, more employment opportunities, there’s more money being invested back into our local economy here. So it’s a win-win on both sides.
TPM: How important is it for the CPC to continue attracting more women to run for office in a profession once dominated by men?
CR: In my experience, my party has in no way been trying to specifically recruit within that environment for something that is a requirement for some of the other parties. We’re looking at people that are qualified to do the job, and that want to step forward. So I wasn’t in any way recruited. I came forward and said, this is something I want to do. And I’m very grateful that the party has accepted me so well, mainly because I’m not just a woman. I’m also young and a little “alternative looking” because I’m covered in tattoos and piercings. The response I’ve received has been so warm and so welcoming.
I believe we’re seeing more women stepping forward, because we [elected] a fake feminist Prime Minister, who espouses his views of gender equality and gender parity in his cabinet. He was all about what builds women up, and yet, he didn’t attract women that were, for the most part, qualified for their positions. That is why we’re in some of the situations that we are now in Canada, because people were elected to positions that they weren’t ready to take on.
Something that I’ve always really admired about my party is that the women that we have in this party are more than capable. They’re absolute powerhouses. They have proven time and time again that women are capable of doing these things, bringing their A-game. They know what they’re talking about, do their research, and have great role models.
For me, that’s been Michelle Rempel, who I’m so grateful to call my friend and my mentor. Watching her give speeches is what motivated me to get involved and realize that I can be taken seriously. That I can do these things. People shouldn’t vote for somebody simply because they’re a woman. You should vote for the person if they’re the best for the job. I’m the only woman running in this riding, if that were a valid argument, I would be using it, but I’m not.
TPM: The leader of your party was quoted, saying, “Diversity is the result of our strength, and our strength is and has always been our freedom.” How crucial is this sort of messaging, moving forward, during and after the election?
CR: Yeah, I think it is important that people realize that – and it’s one of the biggest stigmas that I like breaking about my party because I think there’s been there’s been this stigma that we are a party of middle-aged white men and that there’s no diversity. But there truly is, and I have an excellent little anecdote to share with you, that kind of sums that up for me.
During my time as a municipal councillor, I’m sure most people already recognize that, for the most part, municipal politics is dominated by more left-leaning politicians. I attended many different conventions, UBCM, FCM, and CLGA and had the opportunity to speak with many other municipal councillors and mayors and connect. So at every single one of those that I went to, at least once during the event, I would have somebody say something just absolutely awful to me.
People have mistaken me for a waitress quite often and tried to get me to bring them drinks. I had people tell me that there’s no way I could have been elected, I must have been acclaimed. People that didn’t believe me and tried to get me removed from events because they thought I was lying about being a municipal councillor. There was a lot of verbal abuse from people in those settings.
I remember one specific time that I was at FCM, so all across Canada, we’ve got municipal councillors, and the mayor’s at this event. And I’m going up an escalator, and there was a well-known mayor from another community coming down the escalator with a friend of his, and he looked me up and down and looked at my tattoos and said that I was “everything that’s wrong with this country.”
And so I went into politics, thinking that I would struggle to have anyone take me seriously and give me the chance to speak before they made a judgment based on my appearance. And so again, that’s why somebody like Michelle Rempel, stood out to me, and I realized that I am capable.
The biggest thing for me that opened my eyes up to this is I attended the Conservative convention last year in Halifax. This was the first convention of a political nature that I did not have a single rude comment from anyone. People that I didn’t know were coming up to me and told me how excited they were that I was there. And that it made them very proud to see this younger generation getting involved and that they understand our values. The amount of positive reinforcement I received, if my mind wasn’t already made up, it was then.
I think that quite often we hear left-leaning politicians speaking loudly about how they are so tolerant, and yet, their tolerance only goes so far as you agree with them. If you disagree with them, they’ll pick on you for anything, whether it’s your gender, your age, you know, the way you look, it doesn’t seem to matter. They are only tolerant to a certain point, and that’s about as far as it goes if you agree with what they think.
So the irony to me is that I’ve had a lot of abuse throughout this. It’s been from people making fun of the way I look or saying that I’m too young or inexperienced, or I’m a woman and picking on me for that. So I think it was a stark parallel between what people have come to believe, just from what they hear in the media and things of that nature and my actual lived experience with that.