Singapore is a modern, clean, prosperous city-state of about 5-million. Ontario is a modern, clean, and (until recently) prosperous province of about 13-million. Singapore has progressed from a cultural tradition of despotism to mere authoritarianism, which is an improvement. Ontario is reverting to authoritarianism from a cultural tradition of liberty. This is hardly an improvement, although some people may think so.
The issue is paternalism. How far can the state go even in the best of causes before it crosses a line? Where does a parliamentarian end, and Big Daddy begin?
“We owe it to our kids to take the kinds of measures that ensure that they will grow up safe and sound and secure,” the Premier was quoted as saying this week. “If that means a modest restriction on their freedoms until they reach the age of 22, then as a dad, I’m more than prepared to do that.”
Had the Premier of Ontario been speaking as a dad, it would have been one thing, whether or not his proposals made sense. But he was speaking as the Premier of Ontario. It wasn’t Daddy McGuinty restricting the freedoms of his children, modestly or otherwise, sensibly or not, but a provincial leader proposing to eliminate the freedom of some Ontarians to have a sip of wine at lunch or to decide how to distribute themselves in their own vehicles.
Once liberal democracy becomes a mere veneer on the surface of a Singapore-style autocracy, common sense and equity, let alone respect for individual liberty, vanish. All that remains is the public policy ambition of paternalistic politicians who, at best, can no longer distinguish between their roles as dads and parliamentary leaders.
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