Mr. Apps begins with a description of the party's roots in the classical liberalism of the 18th and 19th centuries:
The Liberal Party of Canada's core assumptions in politics are about power. We believe that the inexorable progress of mankind, the constant expansion of freedom, demands the ever more democratic disbursal of power. That the primary ongoing role of the state should be to transfer power from the powerful to the less powerful. And because we believe in the primacy of the individual, we think of that power being placed in the hands of individuals to the maximum extent possible.He then proceeds to negate that very freedom that classical liberalism stands for. Are free individuals really the fundamental units of Canadian society? Not so much, according to Apps. Individuals are important insomuch as they are members of various "marginalized and ignored" groups, which he suggests should be the focus of future Liberal policy:
Just as we need to bring Liberals who have been marginalized and ignored back into the life of our party with a massive outreach exercise, we need to bring Canadians whose agenda has been marginalized and ignored by the current government back into the centre of our political life. This means our aboriginal population, especially the young. Women, especially single mothers and working women with families. New Canadians. The urban poor. Rural and remote Canadians. Those who are fighting for a clean environment and against climate change. People suffering from mental health issues. Volunteer caregivers. All Canadians who believe that Canada's international mission can no longer be undermined by its reputation abroad for how its treats the poorest of citizens within its own borders.What policies, then, would the future Liberal Party enact to reach out to the powerless? Well, amending the Constitution to include "positive rights" in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for starters:
Two hundred years after the American Revolution, and more than a century after Confederation, under prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada followed the American example and, in 1982, engrafted a Charter of Rights and Freedoms into the Canadian Constitution. Some of these new rights were positive rights -the right to minority language schooling, for example. In order to more properly empower Canadians, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be amended to include more positive rights for economic, cultural and social freedom.This is a breathtaking suggestion and, coming from someone who purports to believe in the "primacy of the individual", an amazing example of cognitive dissonance.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men." He proposed, but was never able to enact, a bill of rights that would have a guaranteed all Americans' health care, education, housing, and income and retirement security. Roosevelt died a year after making this revolutionary proposal, and the plan died with him.
Canada should take up where he left off, and we have a home-grown example of how to do it. One of the few jurisdictions to have accorded positive economic, social and cultural rights to citizens was Quebec, under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms enacted by the Bourassa provincial Liberal government in 1975. It guaranteed a range of rights including the right to child care, public education and environmental security. This law only has quasi-constitutional status as it is amendable solely by vote of the Quebec National Assembly. Still, it provides a uniquely Canadian benchmark worthy of reinforcement as we push toward a new frontier of Liberalism.
Adding "positive rights" like child care, environmental security, housing, and income and retirement security to the Constitution is the exact opposite of empowering individuals. Enshrining them in the Charter creates an obligation for the state to provide these benefits. Massive government bureaucracies would by necessity need to be set up to monitor and run gargantuan state programs for universal child care and housing, and all the other rights suddenly guaranteed by the Constitution. This would remove any incentive for individuals to provide these things for themselves, or for corporations to offer them as benefits to their employees.
It would also create the necessity for pervasive income-redistribution schemes to pay for it all, since individuals would have no incentive any more to pay for them. We would truly be living in a cradle-to-grave nanny state where every aspect of a citizen's life is monitored and managed, and income inequalities are taxed away to "empower the powerless", primacy of the individual be damned. What better way to limit the rights of the individual than to take away his income? And yet, Apps suggests that this can all be done with "fiscal prudence within a mixed market economy in a global marketplace". Nonsense. This vision of Canada's future is only possible in a command economy supported by massive government spending and ruinous taxation. In other words, we would become like post-war Europe and eventually face the decline and collapse that is now unfolding in Greece, Portugal and Spain.
If this is the party president's vision of the future of Canada, then the Liberal Party of Canada is truly a spent force. A party that still worships Franklin Roosevelt and Pierre Trudeau while at the same time claiming to be the guardian of individual liberty can't be taken very seriously.