Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Liberal Entropy: The Challenge of Doing Nothing

Conservative, Liberal, Socialist:  The Basics

I used to baseline the three dominant political positions this way:  a conservative wants the country to stay more or less the way it is or has been, a socialist wants society to change and a liberal believes that everything will turn out fine if we do nothing.  Logically, the Conservative Party tends to attract the well-to-do who are enjoying the status quo.   A left-leaning party like the NDP (the only party I've ever been a member of) will find its numbers in the working and lower middle class.  The Liberal Party enjoys the advantage of the middle-class, middle ground while appearing socialist in public and being conservative in private.  The problem of the Liberal Party isn't so much hypocrisy (though some might rightly call it such) as coherence.  (See Truth and Coherence.)


Me a Liberal?!!  Okay, Maybe Sometimes.

My lefty friends have occasionally accused me of being a liberal.  My conservative friends think I'm a lefty liberal.  I have to admit that, in politics, I often think "nothing" is the right thing to do.  I'm rarely disturbed by what goes on (or doesn't go on) in Parliament, because I understand that "doing something" in politics means forming a committee, or writing a letter, making a phone call, or, in most cases, publicly expressing disagreement, disappointment, and even outrage to the point that a phone call, or a letter or a new committee might be required.  It is easy to forget that the principal reason we elect our parliamentarians is for them to vote, and most of the time their votes have absolutely no effect on outcomes because the issues are always decided in advance of a parliamentary vote.

Doing Nothing Isn't Easy

When the Liberal Party wins 39.5% of the popular vote and therefore 100% of the power in our lopsided democracy (see Are Canadian Elections Democratic?), as they did in our last election, we might imagine we can all relax because nothing is going to happen for the next four years.  However, "nothing" isn't as easy to do as you might imagine.  To begin with, there are those nagging little promises made during the election campaign in 2015.

The Liberal Waltz:  One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Having promised "that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system," the Liberals had the challenge of pretending they were interested in reforming the electoral process while insuring that nothing actually changed.  The Liberals quite rightly and righteously expressed outraged at the imprisonment and torture of Raif Badawi  in Saudi Arabia, then ratified the contract to sell that same Saudi government 15 billion in armoured military vehicles. Liberals never quite being able to pass on a photo op, Chrystia Freeland was there at the airport to welcome a young Saudi woman claiming refugee status.  (Who knew that there was only one young woman in Saudi Arabia who wanted to claim refugee status? Or was this photo op about distracting us from the Meng house arrest?)  On another front, after pledging to "phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term," it appears that the plan is to hope that no one notices that we are in the end-term and the subsidies are still in place.  Additionally, there is a semantic argument that buying the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan, the Texas oil and gas infrastructure company, for five billion dollars isn't really subsidizing "the fossil fuel industry"--it's more like a gift.

Here I Go Again

Yet, when the perfect opportunity arose to do nothing and doing nothing would serve the interests of Canada and Canadians, the Liberal Government failed to follow through with its own most basic tenant and mantra.  Imagine the scene when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was informed, three days in advance, that  Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CFO, was going to be arrested on a warrant from the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Minion:  Mr. Prime Minister the Americans have issued a warrant for the arrest of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver.

PMJT:  Uhhh. Wow.  Uhhh. Holy cow. Uhhh.

Minion:  Don't worry, Mr. Prime Minister, this extradition request is not political.  [Wink, wink].  If it was political we would have to refuse the request.  It's definitely not political so you don't have to worry about it.

PMJT:  If it's uhhh not political, why uhhh are you uhhh telling me about it?

Minion:  Well, we like to notify the PM about these things that are non-political.  When it's political we just call the cops . . . ha, ha, ha!

PMJT:  So Trump wants this Huawei executive arrested.

Minion:  God no.  Trump doesn't want her arrested, or maybe he does.  Actually we don't know what Trump wants, but the extradition request was from Richard Donoghue.

PMJT:  Who's Richard Donoghue?

Minion:  He was the Chief Litigator for CA Technologies.

PMJT:  You mean we are going to uhhh arrest one uhhh tech company exec on a warrant from another tech company exec?

Minion: Donoghue just became a US Attorney, so the warrant should be legit.

PMJT:  So uhh what did this Huawei executive do?

Minion:  That's a bit complicated, but basically she is accused of moving money in Iran.

PMJT:  Is that against the law?

Minion:  Not any more, but it was against the law in 2014 when she is accused of doing it.  The Americans are calling it "bank fraud."

PMJT:  "Bank fraud!"  Shit, Minion, why didn't you say so?  Sort of like that uhh Bernie Madoff guy, eh?

Minion:  The Americans are talking about similar sentencing guidelines.  Thirty years in prison for each count.

PMJT:  Wow wee!  Have a lot of people been doing this uhh illegal money thing in Iran?

Minion:  A ton.  A half dozen major banks have already been convicted.

PMJT:  Geez.  So all these bank execs have been sentenced to multiple thirty-year prison terms.

Minion:  Oh no, Prime Minister. [Stiffing a laugh.]  No one has ever been sent to jail for this.  The banks pay a fine.

PMJT:  So we'll extradite her to pay a fine?

Minion:  No, the Extradition Act requires that it be for at least a two-year prison sentence.

PMJT:  If uhh no-one has gone to prison for this before, why are they talking uhh about prison this time?

Minion:  Uhh, Prime Minister [wink, wink], she's Chinese.  Huawei is a Chinese company.

PMJT:  Can we arrest and extradite someone for being Chinese?

Minion:  Not since the Head Tax.  Today it would be against the law, against the Canadian Extradition Act, to extradite someone because of her ethnicity or nationality or for political or purely commercial reasons or if we thought she was going to spend less than two years in prison.

PMJT:  But we are going to arrest her because she is Chinese, from China, a Communist country, and because Huawei is stealing business from the big tech companies, and even though we know she is never going to spend two years in jail.

Minion:  Yes, but you know, the Chinese, the whole "dangerous" and "national security" thing.  Need to worry about "censorship," "backdoors" and that sort of stuff.

PMJT:  So who's in charge of extradition?

Minion:  Jody.

PMJT:  Our Jody?  Why?

Minion:  Because she's the Minister of Justice.

PMJT:  Still?

Minion:  What do you want her to do, Sir?

PMJT:  Nothing.

Minion:  That sounds like a sound policy, Mr. Prime Minister.


Epilogue

"Doing nothing" would have been the perfect policy in this instance if the message had been passed on to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and the RCMP.  The warrant would not have been served with ample justification for not serving the warrant in the overall circumstances and the Canadian Extradition Act.  Sabrina Meng Wanzhou would have continued her itinerary to Mexico and France.  Neither country, I'm willing to bet, would have served her with the American warrant and, most importantly, Canada would not be in the mess our Liberal government's actions have put us in, when we specifically elected them to do nothing.


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