Saturday, March 01, 2008

Shrewd Advice for Conservatives

The London Free Press
March 1, 2008

Beleaguered conservatives would do well to ponder the sage policy advice advanced by David Frum in his latest book, Comeback: Conservatism That Can Win Again.

While Frum hopes and believes that future generations will render a positive judgement on the mixed record of the presidency of George W. Bush, he has no illusions about the current plight of the Republican Party. “Conservatives were brought to power in the 1970s and 1980s by liberal failure,” writes Frum. “Now conservative failure threatens to inaugurate a new era of liberalism.”

Among the more conspicuous shortcomings of the Bush administration has been failure to improve the living standards of low- and middle-income earners. Frum notes that while labour costs for employers have risen by close to 25 per cent during the Bush years, the entire increase has been absorbed by the soaring costs of health insurance.

A large part of the problem is perverse government regulations that mandate universal coverage for nonessential services such as acupuncture, marriage counselling and hairpieces. As a result, health insurance can cost as much as five times more in a highly regulated state like New Jersey than in low-regulation Kentucky.

Frum urges Republicans to come up with a plausible plan for holding down health care costs, while assuring universal coverage within the framework of a competitive health-care system. In particular, he commends the reforms initiated by former Republican governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts that make comprehensive and affordable private health insurance compulsory for all state residents.

Canada’s ruling Conservatives should take note: They, too, cannot expect long to remain in power, if they fail to satisfy the demands of voters for an end to the intolerable delays that plague Canada’s state-run, medicare monopolies.

Frum is also concerned about the failure of the Bush administration to reverse the decline in the United States fertility rate to a bare replacement level of 2.1 children per woman of childbearing age. He counsels the Republicans to promote larger families by means of a refundable tax credit of $1,000 per child indexed to inflation.

Canada confronts a much worse demographic crisis, having a fertility rate of barely 1.5. The Harper Conservatives should give priority in the next round of tax cuts to increasing the Canada Child Tax Benefit and transforming it into a non-taxable entitlement for children in all families regardless of income.

Frum maintains that to win again in the United States, conservatives should seize the initiative on environmental issues. To this end, he calls upon the Republicans to endorse a hefty tax of $50 per ton on carbon emissions that would fall mainly on oil, natural gas and polluting coal.

This new levy would serve to cut carbon emissions and reduce United States reliance on oil imports from politically unstable countries, while appealing to voters who are caught up in the global-warming hysteria.

In British Columbia, the province’s nominally Liberal, but in many ways conservative government has recently imposed a more modest carbon tax of $10 per tonne. Conservatives in other oil-importing provinces should consider the introduction of a substantial carbon tax in conjunction with an offsetting increase in child benefits.

Just a few months ago, the Iraq war was the most conspicuous failure of the Bush Administration. The United States-led coalition was making so little headway in combating the Islamist terrorists who prey on the people of that sorely oppressed country that the Democrats looked all but unbeatable in this year’s presidential election.

Today, the outlook for the war is much different. The belated decision of the Bush administration to authorize a surge of military force in Iraq has had remarkable success in curbing terrorist attacks and clearing the way for another free and fair Iraqi election in October.

As an early exponent of increased military force in Iraq, John McCain is the presidential candidate who inspires the most confidence on issues of national security. But to retain the White House for the Republicans, he will have to broaden his appeal, by also embracing the kind of sound and innovative domestic policies proposed by Frum.

Human Rights Commissions Target Christians

The Interim
By Rory Leishman
Every federal and provincial human rights code in Canada prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, so why do not faithful Christians take advantage of these laws to protect themselves from anti-Christian discrimination?
To anyone who is at all familiar with human rights litigation, the answer is, or should be, obvious: Canada’s human rights codes are a two-edged sword that is much less likely to be wielded for than against Christians, especially those who affirm the plain teachings of Sacred Scripture on the sinfulness of sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman.
Let us recall some of Canada’s more notorious human rights cases. In 1997, Dianne Haskett, a lawyer and devout Evangelical Protestant who was then serving as mayor of London, Ontario, was convicted and fined by an Ontario human rights board of inquiry for refusing on religious principle to issue a gay pride proclamation.
In 2002, a three-judge panel of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice unanimously upheld the ruling of a human rights board of inquiry which found that Scott Brockie, a Toronto print-shop owner and sincere Christian, had violated the Ontario Human Rights Code, by refusing on religious grounds to print letterheads and other materials for an organization that promotes gay, lesbian, and bisexual lifestyles. Having already run up close to $100,000 in legal bills and standing little chance of winning upon further appeal, Brockie gave up and complied with the order of the tribunal that he must pay $5,000 in damages to the homosexual complainant in the case and never again refuse to print such materials for a homosexual client.
Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan, Hugh Owens was ordered by a provincial human rights board of inquiry to pay $1,500 in damages to each of three homosexual complainants for having hurt their feelings by publishing an advertisement in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that featured a list of Bible verses condemning homosexual acts. Owens lost on appeal to the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, but won in 2006, in the provincial Court of Appeal, which found that his advertisement did not transgress the limits of freedom of expression permitted by the province’s human rights code.
In the aftermath of this court-of-appeal ruling in Owens, can faithful Christians rest assured that they have nothing to fear from Canada’s human-rights thought police? Most certainly not. In 2005, the British Columbia Court of Appeal held in the Chris Kempling case that a Christian teacher has no right to point out the risks of homosexual sexual behaviour in a letter to the editor of his hometown newspaper. How the Supreme Court of Canada might eventually settle these contradictory rulings is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, while Christians have been losing case after case in human rights tribunals, the Canadian Jewish Congress has been going from victory in victory. The Congress is especially proud of having used the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the courts to expose Ernst Zundel as a holocaust denier and get him extradited to Germany, where he is serving a sentence of five-years imprisonment for incitement of hatred against Jews.
No one should have any sympathy for Zundel, but are his prosecution and incarceration really a victory for Canadian Jews? Ezra Levant, the former editor of The Western Standard and an Orthodox Jew, does not think so. He points out that prior to the prosecution for hate crimes, Zundel was only an inconsequential and obscure bigot. Levant charges: “The Canadian Jewish Congress, and its executive director, Bernie Farber, are the super-agents who turned Ernst Zundel into an international figure.”
Alan Borovoy, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, likewise opposed the prosecution of Zundel. In a recent interview with the Edmonton Journal, Borovoy said: "Nobody ever thought the commissions would have anything to do with expressions of opinion or the dissemination of news reports. I think it's awful that a law could be used to muzzle that kind of expression. That's the stuff of what democratic polemics are about."
Christians should heed Borovoy’s warning. And we should join with him and Levant in urgently calling upon Parliament and the provincial Legislatures to enact legislation to eliminate at least the censorship powers of Canada’s oppressive human rights commissions.