Justifying the Liberal party’s existence

Michael Den Tandt proposes a dozen policy directions for the Liberal party.

Make the first $25,000 of income for anyone earning their livelihood as artist, or a farmer, tax-free…

Design a system of proportional representation, perhaps based on the Australian model, that works for Canada. Draft accountability reforms that restore the traditional powers of MPs in the House of Commons, and that cannot be scrapped or ignored if you get back into power…

Declare that the Indian Act is racist, an abomination in modern Canada. Dedicate yourself to its speedy and complete abolition in a way that respects First Nations concerns about losing even more than they’ve already lost. Wherever possible, and if local people approve, give title to existing reserve lands to the people who live on the land, to do with as they please.




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Justifying the Liberal party’s existence

  1. I have problems with at a few of Den Tandt’s suggestions but he’s asking Lib Party and its members to completely change their core beliefs and that’s just not realistic. Libs don’t believe in ideology or thought or ideas, they believe in Libs being in power and enacting completely random, and often contradictory, policies while rewarding themselves handsomely. Liberal Party is superfluous as long as The State remains liberal.

    • “but he’s asking Lib Party and its members to completely change their core beliefs and that’s just not realistic. Libs don’t believe in ideology or thought or ideas, they believe in Libs being in power”
      That’s one heck of a contradictory statement Tony.

      • Best ever, I’d venture!

  2. Of those three, there are a few big problems.

    First, even though the First Nations hate the Indian Act, it is the only thing that ensures their identity and rights as being enshrined in law. To repeal the Indian Act, you have to draw up legislation that supersedes it, and to be respectful to the first nations while discarding racial ideology you have to negotiate that legislation nation by nation because they all have different needs and desires.

    Second, Farming is a business, so how does the 25,000 dollar tax free credit work with being incorporated (which most farms either are or will be). A payout for 25,000 for a husband and wife (for a combined household income of 50,000) is pretty standard practice on a farm, with the rest of it being kept in the corporation to grow the operation. Being exempt from personal income taxes would be nice for a farmer, but as sound economic policy it would be best to simply have the corporate tax rate of the farm, or the income taxes of a farmer that isn’t incorporated be paid in a 5 year cycle. That would recognize the fact that there are good years and bad years in this business while still paying their fair share. You know the way it used to be before a certain prime minister of a particular political party cancelled that tax policy and made farmers pay year to year.

    Third, what is an artist? Is a man who makes cabinets an artist? Is a graphic designer for a software company an artist? Who decides? Would it just be people who make art for art galleries? If that’s the case, why not just grant more funding for art galleries? Plus, it seems that if you are an artist who is making enough of a living to pay income tax in the first place, you are probably gainfully employed. If you are an artist that isn’t making enough money it would seem you need more opportunities (or more talent) to make it work rather than tax cuts.

    I have to say, I don’t really think that Mr. Dandt has really thought things through on the rest of his list either.

    On legalization/decriminalization: Perhaps, but legalization has its downsides as well, which is why Holland is moving in the other direction.

    On reducing prison sentences for petty crime: I can get behind this in theory, but what is a petty crime? Is a mugging a petty crime? Is burglary a petty crime? Is theft under a $1000 dollars a petty crime? What redress is there for the victims in such a scenario if we move away from prison sentences? If he is talking about drug possession and trafficking offences, why not just say drug offences, which was included in his previous point?

    Clamping down on handguns would be a lot easier than clamping down on rifles, but really handguns are already registered and have been for a long time. That is what makes it especially baffling that long gun registry was so expensive, given that the registry was already built and just had to be expanded to include long guns. There is no way that a billion dollars was spent on that without theft or gross waste being involved. But really, instead of clamping down on gun owners or banning hand guns, it would just be easier to put that resources into gang intervention strategies and more money for schools and school programs in troubled areas. Those things will also reduce death by guns, and it would be popular with everybody.

    Number 5 would require large spending cuts if you want to both lower taxes and pay down the deficit and debt. Or increase the consumption taxes to pay for income tax cuts, but I don’t know how popular that would be with economists or the middle class.

    Number 7 is rather silly as well. Small farms like he is envisioning are already doing their business like that or they aren’t making a living at it. For commercial farming go big or get out was already a fact of life in the early 90′s, so he is 20 years to late for that policy idea to have any merit.

    • Your points about the Indian Act are well taken on the whole but the Indian Act isn’t the only thing that ensures their identity and rights in law, as it’s also in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      • The constitutional documents (BNA to Charter) deal with the rights of the First Nations in a vague general way. The Indian Act is much more specific and deals directly with how those rights are implemented as government policy.

        • The caselaw from Sparrow onward shows that the provision is fairly robust and can be exercised in meaningful and concrete ways, though.

          • There are limits to what case law can “legislate” and I doubt that anyone wants to build a distinct society with thousands of court cases. After all, the standard idea among the first nations is that they are “citizens plus” which means they have the rights of Canadian citizens plus the rights granted to them by treaty. I’m kind of leery about that myself, because that just sounds like aristocracy to me, but keeping them as a subject people to the Department of Indian Affairs is also intolerable to my democratic spirit.

            Then each nation has different opinions on how they want to be organized within Canada. Some simply want municipal powers and to be integrated in the local governments and school systems. Some want what amounts to sovereignty association in all the senses that the PQ did in the last referendum. So legislate them as a group and replace the Indian Act is pretty much going to ensure an effort that is pretty much another racist Indian Act under another name, because the only thing they have in common is race. Not language or common purpose… race.

          • That’s an arguable point but I was only speaking to your statement that the Indian Act was the only thing that enshrined aboriginal rights in law.

    • Economists generally prefer consumption taxes to investment taxes, as the latter are less efficient and more distortionary.

  3. Aaron, just out of pure curiosity…there is a lot of interesting stuff there. What was it about these particular 3 that led you to highlight them in the blog post?

  4. On the whole, this is the same old stuff that’s been kicked around for half a century or more.

    Libs need to be a whole lot more forward thinking than this merry-go-round.

    As do they all.

  5. “Develop an environmental policy built simply on protecting clean water,
    clean air, the oceans, fish and wildlife and the natural landscape.”

    - In other words, admit that AGW is a dead duck, stop the climate change scare-mongering.

    “Rededicate your party to the principle of equal treatment for all under
    the law, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, language group
    or creed…do not be afraid to defend it in the face of complaints by any who demand exclusionary treatment.”

    - This one needs a lot of explaining. Wondering where den Tandt thinks the Liberals are falling flat on this now? Does he mean “Stop bending over for Quebec”?

    “Write off the long-gun registry as a well-intended but unworkable idea that cost too much and had no effect”

    - Yeah…there’s an awfully large media narrative invested in the opposite of this idea. That’s a lot of crow to ask the media to swallow. What do you think Aaron…are you media guys prepared to drop your enthusiastic support of the gun registry to follow the Liberals? Or to trash them if they head down what you all no doubt would consider a reckless path?

    • Eh, on crime, there are solutions and then there are solutions.

      Sure, you can lock up a whole lot of offenders, but that costs a lot of money and ensures that a lot of your population is unproductive. Given that 20% of Canada’s prisons are aboriginal for example, you could less resources into jailing them, and more resources into reforming reserves from the socialist snake pits that they were forced to be by bureaucrats.

      • Actually, I just removed the justice part from my comment…when I read closer what he wants to do (harsher penalties for violent criminals such as pedophiles, rapists and murderers, particularly when their victims are children, alternative approaches for petty criminals)…well, that’s pretty much exactly what I hope would happen.

  6. Rating the ideas
    1 (marijuana) – Good idea. They should do this.
    2 (crime) – Sure.
    3 (long-gun registry) – Good idea, in general the lost battles of the past should be given up.
    4 (environment) – A non-starter. Liberals don’t believe this.
    5 (essentially a conservative agenda on taxes/regulation/productivity) – Not a bad idea, in that they can outflank the Conservatives when they get populist. But they get populist for a reason. I don’t think this position would help appeal to voters, and would surely close the door to co-operating with NDP.
    6 (special tax rules for artists/farmers) – Dumb idea. Policy-wise, why special treatment for these people? Politically, why pander to two small groups that are already locked into your opponents’ base? The rest of your policy package might appeal to one or the other, but likely not both.
    7 (agriculture) – Probably wise, and makes me wonder if #6 was a joke.
    8 (democratic reform) – Decent ideas, but as always the problem is most democratic reforms empower the opposition, which is why opposition parties put them forward but so rarely put them into practice once they’re the government.
    9 (military) – I read this as “spend on the military but keep it close to home.” That’s a decent rhetorical dance that might appeal to very different voters. It’s probably also wasteful and easy for both opponents to outflank.
    10 (Indian Act) – Obviously a lot of fresh thinking is needed on this file. I won’t specify any agenda, I really don’t know enough to do so, but thoughtfully consider anything. Unfortunately this has been a problem too long to take any political heat for failing to fix it, and there’s not much political benefit in making hard choices to fix it.
    11 (Katimavik) – Small potatoes, but sure. This is a promise to run on Justin Trudeau’s personal narrative and charisma, which might not be a bad idea but is also likely to mean he won’t be bold on policy like many of these items suggest.
    12 (Equal treatment for all) – Motherhood that everyone thinks they believe. What does it mean practically, right now?
    Ultimately I think 11 describes the state of the party right now. Justin Trudeau’s personality is the only asset the party has left and they are going to live and die with it, and that means no adventurous policy.

  7. A good justification for the Liberal Party’s existence is to provide an alternative to the RepubliCons — almost anything would be an improvement.

    That being said, I agree with most of what Mr. Den Tandt said — such a logic based, principled platform would make such a vivid contrast with the current government the Liberals would stand a good chance of returning to government.

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