Montréal, 19 février 2000  /  No 56
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Ralph Maddocks is a retired textile executive and former management consultant. He lives in Cowansville.
by Ralph Maddocks
          Imagine that a federal election is just about to begin this month. No, this isn't wishful thinking, just an exercise. We could expect to hear the usual claptrap about living in the best country in the world, presumably the result of our paying more taxes than most. Statements about how our taxes are being carefully and well spent will ring out throughout the land. There will be the usual protestations from the NDP about the Liberals taking notes at the conferences of the Canadian Council of Business. The Progressive Conservatives, who no longer hold their caucus meetings in a telephone booth, would talk about tax reduction and propose the establishment of debt to GDP ratios and so on.
          A new party, let's call it the Canadian Freedom Party, making its first appearance might talk about the need to reduce taxes, about a free market economy, it may speak about having Supreme Court judges no longer appointed by political parties. There might be proposals to change political campaign financing methods and proposals to abolish the pension scheme which provides lavish pensions to MPs and Cabinet Ministers after a short time. There might be calls for revising the country's immigration policies with a view to making it harder for the criminals to get in, etc. There would be calls for a crackdown on crime and proposals to promote high-tech industry. All the kinds of proposals espoused by many free-market think tanks; policies which readers of this journal might find unexceptional and unobjectionable, and perhaps even to find some of them to be a welcome breath of fresh air. 
          Imagine again, that this new party receives about a quarter of the vote and elects some members to Ottawa. Then, because there was no overall majority for the other barely right of centre parties, they are invited to join with the PCs, Reform (or the Canadian Alliance if it got off the ground in time) to form the next government, Would this accession to power be greeted with cries of « fascist » or « xenophobe? » Would shouts of « xenophobic, anti-immigrant » ring out through the land? Would there then be a similar outcry from the rest of the world? Would this action trigger the recall of diplomats and ambassadors from Canada? Would they hear vilification in the august assemblies of Europe? Would there be denigration by the leader of that democracy directly to the south? Canada is, after all, a democracy and the people have expressed their wishes in a democratic manner. 
It happened in Austria 
          Yet a couple of weeks ago, we were all invited to view the spectacle of just about all of the above taking place. All of it triggered by the election of the Austrian Freedom Party by some 27% of the electorate. It is true that the leader of the AFP, the ambitious, opportunistic and coldly calculating Dr Joerg Haider, is given to issuing strange statements; statements which people may not like or even agree with. 
          This previously little known Governor of the Province of Carinthia in southern Austria, a province with a population of a something over half a million, has made some statements allegedly claiming that the SS veterans were « decent people of good character, » that the concentration camps were « punishment camps » and has spoken of Hitler's « orderly employment policies ». 
          Statements which seem in some cases to have been selected out of context. When Haider proposed cutting welfare benefits to encourage recipients to find jobs in the private sector, there was an immediate outburst by the left wing. The socialists claimed that this would be returning to the policies of the Third Reich. Haider replied, perhaps unwisely, pointing out that, unlike the Social Democrats, Hitler had actually increased employment. 
     « These same people from the radical left who are denouncing Haider are keeping remarkably quiet on the subject of other renowned democrats such as Fidel Castro or Vladimir Putin. »  
          Dr Haider is not himself a member of the new government, although six members of his party are. Prior to their taking office, Dr Haider was obliged to sign a document renouncing Austria's Nazi past. This document which can be found on the Austrian government's own web site contained the following phrase: « Austria accepts her responsibility arising out of the tragic history of the 20th century and the horrendous crimes of the national socialist regime… » This does not seem to be the action of someone intent upon creating a Fourth Reich. 
          Astonishing enough was the reaction of the Israeli government who demanded international action against the Austrian government, alleging « racist » statements. Presumably razing the homes of Palestinian Arabs isn't a racist act. There seem to have been few or no concerns expressed about racism when Jesse Jackson described New York as « Hymietown ». 
What about Castro, Putin, Fini...? 
          These same people from the radical left who are denouncing Haider are keeping remarkably quiet on the subject of other renowned democrats such as Fidel Castro or Vladimir Putin. Both of them men who seem to repress dissidence quite forcefully. In 1994 there was a coalition government in Italy that included Gianfranco Fini's Alleanza Nazionale. Fini is on record as having said that Mussolini was « the world's greatest statesman of the 20th century » (which is a lot more than Haider has ever said about Hitler) and Fini has never apologised for it, as far as I know. A « centre-right » coalition in Italy tomorrow would almost certainly include Fini's Party, as well as, most probably, Bossi's Northern League, and Bossi is a friend of Haider's and pursues anti-immigration policies. There was no such uproar when the Italian government had Communists in it. They seem to have forgotten that their hero, Stalin, killed many more people than Hitler ever did. I don't know about you but I find this all rather odd. Could it be that policies of repression are acceptable only if applied by the left? 
          Confirmation of a sort came on the floor of the European Parliament from certain British Labour MEPs a week or so ago. In response to a question by Jeffrey Titford MEP [United Kingdom Independence Party], they claimed that they would not hesitate to overturn a legal, democratic vote in Britain if it opposed the creation or continuance of the political system they are trying to create throughout the EU. Very interesting. Could this be the much vaunted « Third Way » espoused by Tony Blair? It reminds one a bit of our péquiste friends who apparently intend to hold referendums until they win. 
          On British television, a lady MP said that Austria should be forced to hold another election. Interesting, in view of the fact that this same UK government seems happy to hand over power in Northern Ireland to an assembly of rather « dubious » characters. In the so-called Western democracies, free speech has not been eliminated yet; or so many of us believed until a fortnight ago. But it must cause a chill to enter the hearts of anyone who ponders the implications of some of these recent statements. 
          After the initial flurry of outrage at the election of Haider's party had died down, slowly a few tentative voices began to express less hysterical views. One read of suggestions that the EU reaction was designed to draw attention away from the developing Kohl scandal in Germany. The real reason seems to be more likely to be fears that Haider's anti-immigration views may lead to calls by other EU countries for a refusal to admit the next batch of economically weak Eastern European countries. Countries such as Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are being considered for admission to the EU and Austria may well fear that the entrance of these low-wage immigrants flooding into their country may drive down wages. 
          Perhaps the best way to conclude this article is to quote the words of Rabbi Morton H. Pomerantz who said a few days ago. « As for the nations of the European Union, who were such cowards in the face of the real Nazis, who are tongue-tied in addressing Communist dictatorships today and who have tolerated Communist members in the various parliaments of their countries, and to all of their liberal friends in the media and elsewhere, let me offer a friendly word of caution: You are in grave danger of giving hypocrisy a bad name. » 
          Just so. 
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