From Facebook. Richard Toews sent us this open letter to MP Ed Fast; a brief summary of Fast’s reaction; and, a follow up response.
Cover photo of Richard Toews by Elaine Innes
Dear Hon. Ed Fast:
No doubt, you and your government are aware of the growing concern over Bill C-51. We have learned that over 60 businesses across the country are opposed to the passing of this bill; we have learned that the Canadian Bar Association has denounced this bill. Indeed, the numbers of people across the country calling on Stephen Harper to rethink this madness are growing daily.
It is my considered opinion that should your government pass this legislation, your government will abrogate its right to call itself a defender of the freedoms that come with democracy. At first glance, you may smirk at the suggestion that in such a case, your government will embrace the principles of tyranny. It is a very easy road from the point at which your government now embarks to its logical conclusion; our country will no longer own the right to call itself a safe haven for anyone except an oligarchic few.
I urge you and your government to take seriously the mandate Stephen Harper has always claimed to value above political ambition (indeed he came to power on that very platform); to place the will of the people ahead of political gain. Please join with so many and staunch the flow of your leader’s arrogance.
Richard Toews (a member of your constituency)
Some of you may have read my open letter to the Hon. Ed Fast, my MP. Some of you reposted it.
Mr. Fast has responded. No big surprise. He disagreed. He didn’t like some of the words I used, like: “Tyranny” “arrogance,” “oligarchic,” “madness.” Here is my response. It’s longish
Dear Hon. Ed Fast:
Thank you for your response. I appreciate your speedy reply.
It comes as no surprise that you find the words, “madness”, “tyranny”, “oligarchic”, and “arrogance” problematic. Indeed if they were words you might be comfortable with (although who, in their right mind, could possibly find these words comforting?), such a condition would most certainly challenge your own integrity for defending a piece of legislation over which even members of the RCMP have grave concerns as reported by Canadian Press:
“The resource challenge is ‘negatively impacting’ the force’s ability to do everything it’s expected to do, says Mike Cabana, deputy RCMP commissioner for federal policing.
‘As a result, the RCMP recognizes that it needs to find a longer-term solution to be able to respond to the breadth of its federal policing mandate,’ Cabana told the Senate national security committee Monday.
‘I can’t tell you what our solution is because we don’t have a solution right now. So we are looking at options.’
“Concerns about the threat of homegrown extremism have prompted the RCMP to move more than 600 officers to the terrorism file from organized crime cases and other areas” (Canadian Press, April 22, 2015).
Indeed, I would be a fool to think you might take my comments with any degree of veracity for that would place you in a very uncomfortable situation. How could you legitimately, then, remain in Cabinet, or even stand alongside this government and still be true to your own self, your sense of dignity and integrity. I am assuming, of course, you still operate with some principles that have a measure of integrity built within.
You take issue with the words “tyranny,” and “oligarchic.” To begin, let me assure you that I use words as carefully as I can, I try to avoid bandying about words that are highly charged. My sense, from reading your response, is that you prefer a more gentle approach, a civil approach.
We are long past the point of civility, the need for gentle language. That our country is in crisis is in no way disputable. We have witnessed on our home shores acts of violence against out most cherished tradition, Parliament itself. We have heard from reports that there exist those who would love nothing more than to bring hurt to our land. In times like these, a fear has descend[ed] upon the land; but it is a fear that has been most deftly manufactured, managed and manipulated by your government; a fear, I fear, that becomes a pretext to your government’s seeking greater power. That, Mr. Fast, is the mark of cynicism rather than honourable governance.
But to return to the point at hand. Why do I use words such as “tyranny,” and “oligarchic?” Aldous Huxley once said: “A democracy which makes or even effectively prepares for modern, scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic. No country can be really well prepared for modern war unless it is governed by a tyrant, at the head of a highly trained and perfectly obedient bureaucracy” (Ends and Means). Continuing along this vein, James Madison wrote: “The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans, it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people” (Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention 07 1787). To dismiss the charge I made in my first letter to you, as a device to weaken my argument is an indication that you are either, uncomfortable because there may be a modicum of truth, or nothing more than the ravings of a lunatic, suggests to me some measure of arrogance on your part. If true you are bound to do something responsible about it (perhaps challenge our Prime Minister, but I suspect that might be more difficult – I have no evidence for this, but I suspect he does not harbour discontent with any degree of magnanimity). If, then, true that tyranny exists and you choose not to act, it is only by arrogance that you make this choice. If, however I am, by your perception, a lunatic (although not legitimately determined), then in either case it is beneath you to take my concerns seriously.
One final word on tyranny, though. This is reserved for a man much more intelligent than I, a man who has no problem with using uncomfortable, impolite terms to bolster his argument. The man is Chris Hedges. Here are words he wrote about Bill C-51:
“There are no internal constraints left to halt totalitarian capitalism. Electoral politics is a sham. The media is subservient to corporate power. The working class is being disempowered and impoverished. The legal system is a subsidiary of the corporate state. Any form of dissent, no matter how tepid, will soon to be blocked by an internal security apparatus empowered by anti-terrorist laws that will outstrip anything dreamed of by the East German Stasi state. And no one in Ottawa or Washington intends to help us. Opposition parties, such as the Democratic Party, may cry foul when out of power, but once in power they bow to the demands of the omnipotent military and security organs that serve our corporate masters” (They have won, and it is up to us, March 17, 2015)
As to oligarchic? Let’s define oligarchy, shall we. Oxford dictionary defines oligarchy as: “A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.” Does such a condition exist in the country? Perhaps the first question ought to be, who controls Stephen Harper. The best answer to that is how (or from who) does Stephen Harper get funding; how is the Conservative Party funded? Quite obviously, there are those party members who contribute but the real funding comes from somewhere else, and nobody really knows. Why is our Prime Minister so silent on this point? We (Canadians) were lead to believe that this man was all about open government and yet, as Linda McQuaig points out:
“With a federal election looming, two pressing questions involving the role of money in Canadian politics are attracting surprisingly little media attention.
“The first: who owns Stephen Harper?
“This isn’t a philosophical enquiry. It’s a straightforward question about the identity of the secret donors who paid the bill for Harper’s rise to power, first as leader of the Canadian Alliance and then the Conservative party.
“Donors contributed more than $2 million to the prime minister’s two leadership bids, but the identities of some of the major donors have never been publicly disclosed, according to Ottawa-based corporate responsibility advocacy group Democracy Watch.
“The group notes that there was nothing illegal about the donations under the election laws of the time. But anyone who believes that those secret donors don’t have a favoured place in Harper’s heart (such as it is) probably also believes that Mike Duffy has always lived in a little cottage in PEI.
“In the 2002 Canadian Alliance leadership race, Harper disclosed some of his donors but kept secret 10 of the major ones. A list of donors to Harper’s Conservative party leadership race two years later was at one point posted on the party’s website but has since been removed” (https://nowtoronto.com/ne…/features/who-owns-stephen-harper/, Feb. 4, 2015).
I’m not quite sure, Mr. Fast, how one negotiates around this problem, how does one maneuver past the hint of something closely resembling an oligarchy. I’ll leave that to you to ponder. To help you along, you may want to refer to McQuaig’s point:
“The law – under which Ottawa paid political parties a small $2 subsidy for every vote they received – was widely recognized as by far the most democratic aspect of our election financing framework, since it ensured that every vote cast in a federal election had some impact. Even if someone voted for a party that didn’t win, that voter managed to direct a small government subsidy to his or her chosen party. These subsidies added up to millions of dollars and were a key source of political funding, having the effect of giving equal weight to every vote no matter how rich or poor the person casting it.
“So, naturally, Harper scrapped it. The next federal election (expected in the spring or fall) will be the first in which this quintessentially democratic aspect of our election financing laws no longer applies.
“Of course, poorer folks still have the full legal right to take advantage of other government subsidies in our election financing system – except that they lack the money necessary to do so.
“Individuals making contributions to political parties receive generous government subsidies through the tax system. An individual donating $400, for example, gets $300 back in tax savings. But you have to have a spare $400 in order to play this game.
“That’s why only 2 per cent of Canadians make political donations. Not surprisingly, most of these contributors are in the upper income brackets.
“So the bulk of the tax subsidies – which totalled $20 million in the 2009 election – go to this wealthier group, which enables them to increase their influence over our elections.
“In fact, all aspects of our election financing system involve government subsidies. But only one – the now-removed pay-per-vote subsidy – distributed the subsidy in a way that didn’t favour the wealthy” (https://nowtoronto.com/ne…/features/who-owns-stephen-harper/, Feb. 4, 2015).
Tell me, Mr. Fast, is Linda McQuaig wrong, or is the tenor of her argument too impertinent?
In your email to me, you suggested that the word “arrogance” was beneath me; that is to say inappropriate. You have issues with my calling your government arrogant. I’m not sure how to marshal a proper defense here other than to point out that your government has, since 2006, made a concerted attack to silence voices of discontent, voices critical to our survival.
“Since 2006, the Harper government has made bold moves to control or prevent the free flow of scientific information across Canada, particularly when that information highlights the undesirable consequences of industrial development. The free flow of information is controlled in two ways: through the muzzling of scientists who might communicate scientific information, and through the elimination of research programs that might participate in the creation of scientific information or evidence” (http://www.academicmatters.ca/…/harpers-attack-on-science-…/ May, 2013).
And again: “In the absence of rigorous, scientific information— and an informed public—decision-making becomes an exercise in upholding the preferences of those in power.
In Canada today, as in most of the developed world, power has become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands— hands which are inevitably attached to the bodies of big business and the state….” (http://www.academicmatters.ca/…/harpers-attack-on-science-…/ May, 2013).
I’m not entirely sure, Mr. Fast, how one reads this evidence other than rampant arrogance.
As to my use of the word madness, you have me there. Probably not sufficient enough.
Richard Toews (a constituent).