Congratulations on your recent historic victory!
You have certainly come a long way from your days at the National Citizens Coalition.
Do you remember back in January 1997 when you joined me on the staff of the NCC.
In our first conversation after you joined up you asked me how I would describe myself ideologically.
My answer was that I considered myself a “conservative libertarian.”
I wasn’t sure if you knew what I meant, but you did. You told me that’s what you considered yourself too.
And as conservative libertarians, both you and I agreed at the time that individual liberty mattered, that it was wrong for the state to coerce its citizens, that maximum freedom required minimal government.
But for you this wasn’t just some “abstract ideological” notion. You wanted the NCC to fight for individual liberty.You wanted the NCC to be about more than just plastering pigs on billboards and exposing government waste.
In fact, you made promoting individual freedom a high priority for the organization.
Your idea was to use the courts to fight for freedom. I remember this idea was a little controversial for some NCC supporters, who like many conservatives mistrusted our court system.
But you believed conservatives could and should use the courts to achieve their ideological goals, just as the left was using the courts to achieve theirs.
Anyway, under your leadership the NCC become involved in several historic court battles aimed at curtailing the powers of the state and promoting the democratic rights of citizens.
We took on the Canada Wheat Board monopoly, election gag laws and Quebec’s anti-English language legislation.
All these case had one thing in common: they were about freedom — freedom of the individual to speak out during elections, freedom for western farmers to make economic choices, freedom for Canadians to express themselves in the language of their choice.
And I have no doubt that had you stayed on at the NCC a bit longer, you would have also gone to court to take on the Human Rights Commissions.
Indeed, here’s what you said about the HRC in 1999, “Human Rights Commissions as they are evolving are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society … it is in fact totalitarianism.”
I mention all this because now you’re Prime Minister of a majority government. That means you don’t need the courts anymore to protect our freedoms. Nor do you have to worry about politically bloody battles in the House of Commons.
Now you have the power to make Canada a freer, better place.
That’s why I hope there remains in you at least some of the “conservative libertarian” principles you once held dear.
I hope you move quickly to scrap election gag laws, to end the Wheat Board monopoly, to speak out for English-speakers in Quebec and to rein in the Human Rights Commission.
And yes, I know many of your advisors, pollsters and people in the media are telling you to avoid “ideological issues.”
But promoting freedom isn’t so much about ideology as it is about doing what’s right, about standing up for citizens.
If you as Prime Minister don’t use this opportunity to do what’s right, who will?
You’re our last chance.
Gerry Nicholls is a communications consultant and writer who has been called a “political warrior” a “brilliant strategist” and one of the “canniest political observers in Canada.” He has worked as a consultant in both the United States and Canada and was formerly a senior officer in the National Citizens Coalition, Canada’s largest organization for the defence of economic and political freedoms.
Gerry just returned from the United States, where he worked as a consultant on a Republican Senatorial campaign. His columns on political issues have appeared in major newspapers like the Globe and Mail, the National Post and in the Sun Media chain; he has also been a guest on countless TV and radio public affairs programs.
He is the author of the book, Loyal to the Core, Harper, Me and the NCC. Gerry has given presentations to such groups as the Fraser Institute, the Liberty Summer Seminar, Civitas and the Alberta Law Society. He currently resides in Oakville.