Montreal, September 14, 2002  /  No 109  
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Harry Valentine is a free-marketeer living in Eastern Ontario. He can be reached at
by Harry Valentine
          Quebec Premier Bernard Landry has recently announced that Quebec will seek independence from Canada within 1,000 days, if the PQ wins Quebec's next provincial election. If people in Quebec, or in any other parts of Canada choose to secede from the confederation, they would need a valid reason to do so in order to win the support of their fellow citizens who live in the same region. They would need to identify some serious and unresolvable fault in confederation, to which secession would be the only solution. The secessionist forces would have to be able to offer their supporters a worthwhile political alternative to the Canadian system.  
          The present Canadian system certainly does have its political flaws. Canadians are witnessing a slow and steadily erosion of their economic freedoms through increasing number of economic regulations and restrictions placed on their peaceful and productive activities. Non-elected bureaucrats formulate most, if not all these regulations and restrictions on an ongoing basis. Most, if not all of these restrictions and their changes come into effect on an ongoing basis. This occurs routinely, without any discussion before any elected body, before being signed into law, usually by order-in-council. Most Canadians seem content to live with this state of affairs, until they find themselves caught up in, or entrapped by the changing regulations. 
          The expanding volume of economic rules and regulations has grown to such an extent that with the exception of a few lawyers, most private citizens would never even be aware of the kinds of restraints the state is continually imposing on their peaceful economic behaviour. Bureaucrats routinely revise regulations, as well as how such revisions may be interpreted. Unsuspecting and otherwise innocent private citizens can easily fall victim to overzealous officials eager to impress a superior or to boost their ego. Overnight, any peaceful and productive citizen and their associates can suddenly find themselves being classified as a criminal and become subject to the punitive measures of the state, including the suspension of their political and even constitutional rights.  
Bureaucrats change rules 
          A case recently emerged from Northern Ontario (reported in Truck News Canada magazine) of a trucking company that was shut down by the state, after the tax department decided to change the rules regarding brokers (independent owner/operators of highway tractors, who have one steady customer for whom they haul semi-trailers). Several innocent people including the tractor owner/operators and company employees were thrown out of work (loss of economic rights as well as cruel and unusual punishment) as a result of state action. 
          In the regime of economic regulation in Canada and its provinces, the document that claims to be the supreme law of Canada, the Constitution of Canada, is considered to be irrelevant, if not totally null and void by most government bureaucrats and the political appointees who serve on the marketing boards and related tribunals. The Constitution states that "all citizens are equal before and under the law." Yet these marketing boards, tribunals and agencies connected to economic regulation and taxation routinely act in the capacity of administering "law" when they enact punitive measures in the form of sanction against peaceful private citizens. 
          These tribunals effectively restrict the activities of private citizens in certain fields of economic endeavour, even prohibiting them from earning a living by becoming service providers or producers in these fields. That such punitive regulation stands in contradiction to the constitutional requirement for equality before and under the law seems of no consequence to them. 
     « Canadians may eventually discover that the nation has been slowly evolving into a totalitarian state, one controlled and manipulated by non-elected bureaucrats. »
          The theory of regulation stems from the (misguided) belief that an unregulated market is imperfect. No fewer than three prominent Nobel laureates in economics (Friederich Hayek, George Stigler, Ronald Coase) have shown by different methods, that economic regulation rarely, if ever achieves its intended objectives. Canada has in fact shown the world a glaring example of how economic regulation and economic management by the state can fail with its East Coast cod fish industry. 
          The government regularly consulted with "experts" in the field and based their regulatory decisions based on the research findings of the "experts." Despite all the expertise in the field of economic regulation, the Canadian East Coast cod fish industry is now decimated, with little hope of recovery in the foreseeable future. In response, the Government of Canada chooses to disregard the failure of government economic control and the devastating consequences such regulation has delivered to a regulated sector of the economy and the industries related to it. 
A nation manipulated by bureaucrats 
          The majority of Canadian citizens are perhaps too content to be concerned about the steady erosion and undermining of their rights and freedoms. By the time the majority of them finally do become aware that non-elected government personnel have undermined their economic and political freedoms, it's often too late, as was the case with the Northern Ontario trucking company.  
          Canadians may eventually discover that the nation has been slowly evolving into a totalitarian state, one controlled and manipulated by non-elected bureaucrats. The present political regime, which governs Canada at both the federal and provincial levels, is very supportive of the practice of economic regulation, despite most of it being in blatant contradiction to statutes written in the constitution, as well as having been a disastrous failure in the East Coast cod fish industry and other sectors of the economy.  
          Political behaviour emanating from Ottawa has been the cause of secessionist movements appearing in no fewer than three Canadian provinces: Quebec, Alberta and more recently, British Columbia (see Secessionist proponents in all three provinces have identified the political behaviour of Canada's federal government as their raison d'être. General support for their cause, in the population at large, is still very limited.  
          Secessionist support in Quebec was almost equal to federalist support, not long ago. All the secessionist forces would need from Ottawa to rally support is a federal bungling of cod fish proportions. A federal mishandling in implementing the Kyoto Accord across Canada could become the trigger behind a sudden surge in renewed secessionist support. Ottawa's own reluctance to implement widespread economic deregulation across all economic sectors could serve to sustain a renewed secessionist fervour. 
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