Author Archive for Allen Small

Eating healthy in 2014 – gluten free?

Correlation is not cause, but note the rise in obesity with low fats.
This is the time of year we promise to change our bad habits. Canadians think they eat poorly when compared to the official government food guide. No one would ever suspect that the food guide may be erroneous. But what if it were?

I've written about this before, most recently here. Since then more evidence has accumulated and more books have addressed the issue. One of the more outspoken writers, a neurologist, David Perlmutter, suggests that both the Canadian and American food guides are upside-down. Rather than whole grains and carbohydrates being the largest component of a good diet, he suggests they be severely reduced or even eliminated from most people's diets. He points to gluten, a protein in many grains as the culprit. Interestingly, food marketers have already ratcheted up the production, distribution and sale of "gluten-free" products in North America. It's the latest fad. Deservedly or not, gluten has become what fat was from the 1970's to the present day, something to be avoided. Perlmutter and others also suggest that the demonizing of fats, and fat-like substances like cholesterol, has been all wrong.

Articles like this one from a reputable magazine, makes the decades long government sanctioned directive against fats sound like evil propaganda. But there is plenty of evidence to support the benefits of fats. That has not stopped the Ontario Liberals in cahoots with the Ontario Medical Association from regulating school cafeteria lunches and even suggesting food warnings on so-called "junk-food."

This brings up questions that need to be addressed about the fallibility of Ontario government policies. This recent Ontario government document (Memorandum 150), severely limits the sale of fats in school cafeterias while heavily promoting the sale of grain products. If this is wrong, one must ask what other government policies are wrong?       

Climate crapshoot – an Arctic free of ice? Not so fast.

Models diverging with reality but with increasing IPCC certainty
I have written many posts that comment on global warming/climate change. In fact, next to politics, my climate comments are likely the most numerous.

That's no accident, I've always thought that the whole climate issue has become a secular religion, a subset of the environmental movement which also has all the character traits of a religion. I hope I don't need to elaborate on the dangers implicit in religious belief. Any decision or conclusion grounded on faith should not be acted on and certainly no one should be forced to act on faith. Unfortunately in the case of human caused global warming, acting on faith and forcing others has already happened.

This week is the fifth anniversary of one of Al Gore's famous predictions. Five years ago Gore predicted that by 2013, for a few months in the summer, the Arctic oceans will be ice free.

Well, it hasn't happened, not yet anyway. I'm not going to rule out that it won't happen in the future. I believe the data that suggests the volume of Arctic ice has decreased. That seems to me reasonable as an extension of the warming that has been occurring since the end of the last ice age roughly 10,000 years ago. I've always believed that climate changes, and I even believe that humans have been contributing to that change. To believe that humans are the sole or even a major contributor to climate change for me is still a huge stretch. The cliched phrase of "97% consensus of scientists" believe we are the cause, is also a huge stretch.

Science doesn't work by consensus. Galileo was right on the heliocentric model, everyone else was wrong. Darwin was right on natural selection, acts of creation and intelligent design are wrong. Both proposed ideas that were contrarian. Global warming/climate change models don't jive with reality (see chart), and therefore as explanatory theories they seem to be wrong too. The skeptics may prove right. The variables on climate are too numerous and probably not all known, thats why in the chart above the observations diverge from all the models. The error will be magnified with time.

But back to Mr. Gore's prediction. The urgency of his predictions, coincident with hot summers, mild winters, Hurricane Katrina - all that, plus the religious zealotry of environmentalism, gave him undeserved credibility. He still has it. Some governments, Ontario's Liberal government to name one, could not wait to act, so urgent was the belief that something must be done. As a result, Ontario has closed (most, almost all) its coal burning generation facilities and eschewed any fossil fuel alternative (even clean natural gas) for wind and solar power. Burning natural gas of course, still produces the evil CO2. Our electrical grid is in a mess with continually rising prices and a legacy that will take generations to fix, if ever. Meanwhile, real damage caused by humans forcing global warming or climate change may not happen for decades or centuries or ever.  
  

Remembering the wrong message

Governments wage war on people.
It may be disputed, but I think it was George Orwell who said "history is written by the winners." I mention that because a Facebook friend posted a conversation with his daughter today in which she asserted that Hitler could have taken over the whole world. My friend replied, if that happened we would be taught in school that Hitler was a good guy.

Yesterday and over the past few days, Canadian school children were exposed to a deluge of remembrances of wars past. I think teaching and understanding history are important parts of a good education, but as stated in the first sentence, history is almost entirely subjective.

Many of my social network friends think remembering and paying tribute to the fallen of past wars is a glorification of war. Maybe they believe making hero's of the dead encourages yet more belligerence. I doubt that, the human capacity for violence is as much a part of our nature as is our capacity for love. Just watch children (especially boys) playing for a little while.

For me the act of remembering is entirely valid. I wear the red poppy that is sold by Canadian Veterans to symbolize my general gratitude to soldiers, living and dead, for wars fought to preserve our liberties, though I wish I could be more specific. I don't consider nation building or peace keeping as roles that our military should have been involved with. So, while I think war is inevitable and sometimes essential, I also think it should be avoided if at all possible.

I'm sure all of the so-called hero's of war will tell you that they did not mean to be hero's in the moment of their heroic act, war is terrifying for all concerned, and if you don't believe that count all the soldiers that have returned scarred with PTSD, shell-shock.

My problem with the way our remembrances have evolved over the years is that the act of remembering has become the important lesson. Lest We Forget, Never Again, Put and end to war, don't hate etc. etc.

All of those injunctions are the wrong message. War should always be defensive, and self-defense is a virtue that we should practice. As such, a defensive war is an option, but should be a last resort.

Ending hate, is just ridiculous. Hate is a perfectly valid emotion, but no one is compelled to violent action because of hatred, and it's the worst reason to go to war.

The right message, the lesson of our remembrances, should be that war is horrible, must be avoided, but may be necessary to protect life, preserve liberty, and protect property.               

Negating your rights – Canadian Health Insurance.

Most Canadians understand the need for insurance. People buy insurance to avoid catastrophic expenses, major damage or liability in an auto collision, fire damage in a house, or life insurance. It does not make sense to insure routine maintenance. People don't buy car insurance to pay for oil changes or even major expenses like new tires, or a brake job. These need to be factored in with the cost of car ownership.  Car ownership is a responsibility and it includes paying for all associated costs.

Unfortunately, when the Canadian health care system came into existence in the 1960's, those involved in creating the legislation considered health care as a "right," a positive right.  I agree that access to healthcare is a right, and cost is sometimes a barrier. So when healthcare legislation was conceived by federal and provincial legislators 50 years ago in Canada, they realized that catastrophic health events happen over the course of people's lives and these should be insurable. That makes sense, but having the government do it doesn't. The problem was made much worse when legislation was written to provide ALL health care as a right. Even routine medical visits which are on the level of automobile oil changes were covered by insurance. Everything was covered, and the scarce resource that is healthcare became virtually "free," an obvious contradiction. The government even takes pains NOT to make the cost of healthcare known to Canadian consumers. We have no idea what anything costs and they won't tell us.

Nothing is free, and its almost axiomatic that whenever a government gets involved in mitigating an expense, you can be certain that expense will increase, beyond all good intentions.

"Free" healthcare is the number one budget expense in Ontario, and probably every province. Why? Because in the rest of economy free markets and competitive innovation are the primary forces that reduce prices and keep them as low as possible. When a government monopoly takes over any aspect of the economy, the government sets the price and taxpayers have no option but to pay. Every routine procedure is theoretically covered by our Canadian health insurance, which at the same instant tries to control costs, while increasing wages and benefits to employees, and its all controlled by a small cadre of bureaucrats. Exactly the opposite of an innovative free market.

What the government has determined as a "right," actually negates rights. Access to healthcare is a right, but as governments try to control costs they ration care, and access becomes a problem. Canada is exceptional as one of freest countries in the world with some of the poorest access to timely healthcare.

The original intent was to make healthcare available to everyone, even the poorest in our society. The result is that we are all treated as equally poor and our right to timely care is out of our hands.

The video that follows needs to be shared and widely distributed among all your friends. Dr. David Gratzer of the Montreal Economic Institute explains what is good about modern medicine and bad about Canadian Healthcare.        

   

Rights versus Duties

People often misuse the term "rights."
Many people, even political parties and governmental or nongovernmental organizations, advocate for individuals to have an assortment of rights other than the commonly held right to life, liberty and property. In philosophical jargon those three are considered negative rights. Yes, you have a right to those three, but no one is required to provide you with anything. That's different from the photo above which implies that the right to an education can be legislated. This means that someone has a duty or obligation to provide it. This is a positive right. In the libertarian tradition, negative rights are the rights that governments should be protecting.
Of course there is nothing wrong with someone volunteering to provide an education to those unable to obtain one. This idea of voluntary charity is a virtue that most libertarians would support. The idea of providing positive rights to individuals usually involves infringing on the rights of those who must provide the rights.
Here is an explanation of that view of Positive vs. Negative Rights:

    

Horse manure piled 60 feet high……

There is an apocryphal story about futurologists in 1860 New York City, predicting that NYC would not exist in 100 years because the present (1860) growth rate indicated that 6 million people would need 6 million horses, and that NYC could not handle the amount of manure produced.

Indeed the amount of manure produced in NYC was prodigious. In SuperFreakonomics, this section is worth reading because it graphically illustrates the problem. In 1900 there were 200,000 horses, and each horse could produce 24 pounds of manure or 5 million pounds a day, so manure lined city streets like banks of snow, and up to 60 foot piles of it was stored in empty lots. Summer heat must have been fun. And you thought cars were polluting.

I mention all this because the future is tough to predict and sometimes the errors made are spectacularly laughable in hindsight. There is even a webpage that collects and displays erroneous predictions. Here, have a look.

When governments make these errors which are paid for from coerced taxes and which create huge "malinvestments," it's just that much worse. Lately the Ontario government has made some doozies, from subsidized wind turbines to poorly placed gas generators. Money is wasted.

The newest government craze in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is mass transit. An arm of the city government wants to expend $50 Billion to create a mass transit system to relieve traffic congestion in the GTA over the next 25 years. Given the rate of change of technological development, the problem may be alleviated best with much cheaper solutions. This article by Lawrence Solomon points to solutions that were used in Singapore for similar issues. Building more highways and luring people out of their cars to take transit are both partial solutions at best, and the article continues.."As Singapore and others have shown, software can turn our now-clogged roads into smart roads, creating effective new road capacity that eliminates the need for either major new highways or mass transit." Here is a link to Intelligent Transport Systems used in Singapore.

The collision of smart transport systems in congested cities with self driving cars is likely to happen BEFORE the last mass transit line is in place in Toronto in 2038.

Technology and innovation are disruptive when allowed to happen to solve problems. The City government of New York did not need to find storage for more manure, the free market solved the manure problem and saved New York.

Where are the Atlantic Hurricanes of 2013?

Not that I miss large destructive storms but, there has not been one named Hurricane in the 2013 season as yet. We're half way through the six month June 1 to November 30 Atlantic Hurricane season, a season that was predicted to be "extremely active" last spring. There were lots of warnings in media, but so far nada.

Now its too early to start criticizing the computer models that were used to make this prediction, but things look fairly quiet through to the middle of September. In fact 2013 could produce a record for the latest named storm in the short history of hurricane prediction. That is, assuming a storm happens. Wouldn't it be something if NOAA's prediction was wrong? I guess climate science models need some revisions?   

Exploiting the worker

Just to follow up to my Labour Day post. One of the primary reasons for the existence of unions was to prevent workers from being exploited by capitalists. If markets were free, does that make it inevitable that workers are exploited? Not according to the video below:

In fact, the chances of workers being exploited are far greater in the present situation where free markets do not exist. Today in most Western democracies (including the US and Canada) governments do favours for capitalists and capitalists provide donations to political parties on the "understanding" that favours will be done. This crony capitalism is far more exploitive than a free market would be as explained here:
  

Labour Day & the Zombie Apocalypse?

Labour (Labor US) Day traditionally celebrates the contributions of workers in the US and Canada. Nothing wrong with that. It's become an annual parade event, celebrated mostly by unionized labour, especially in Canada.

Unions are in trouble all over the world. In almost every OECD country there has been a decline in union representation since the mid-1980's. In some countries the decline has been huge over the last 30 to 50 years, in others things have changed little. In the US 30.9% of workers were in unions in 1960, only 11.6% by 2007; in Canada, 29.2% in 1960, 29.4% in 2007. In almost every OECD country recent trends have been downward. Lately Canada has up-ticked because of a growing public sector. Globalized labour markets have shifted jobs to lower wage centres around the world. The unions see the writing on the wall, their position has been made even worse by the financial crisis after 2008, followed by recessions and austerity moves in Europe and elsewhere.

So how are unionists and zombies related? Zombies are difficult to kill, they frequently operate in large groups, seek brains to consume, and most compelling, they seem mindless with respect to their opposition. 

The strength of unions in Canada makes them virtually indestructible without an act of Parliament. Their ability to collect fees, and control labour markets are enshrined in a variety of arguably illegitimate and ill-considered laws that have accumulated over the years. Today most of the reasons for these protective laws have been enshrined in other laws, which makes them unnecessary, redundant. The fact that union membership represents 30% plus (extended family) of the electorate, makes it political suicide for any government Party to contravene union legislation. They are unstoppable.

Lately, noises made by some Canadian governments, and unfriendly legislation by others, have forced unions to amalgamate into much larger groups; strength in numbers.

But underlying much of the thinking amongst union leadership, both public and private sector, and transferred to their masses, is a distorted theory of value. What is the actual worth of the labour provided by their workers public or private?

When I was a young teacher, I spent enormously long hours trying to work out effective lessons for my students. This went on for years. I often thought that if I were paid at the hourly rate of my actual teaching time, I'd make a lot of money. But I knew I was not worth it. My job was protected by my union, and the teaching job market was controlled by the union together with the government. No one could have my job without their say-so, and I would have to screw up pretty badly to get booted out of teaching. This is typical of government monopolies.

Was I even worth what I was being paid? How was that determined? That number was determined by negotiations in what is called euphemistically collective bargaining. If someone was a better, more experienced teacher than I, but lacking certain credentials, applied for my job, they were out of luck even if they tried to underbid for my job.

The compensation for my job had little to do with reality, it was contrived. I understood that as a young teacher, very few of my colleagues did. The entire government public school teaching profession is based on the Labour Theory of Value. The worth of your job is based on the effort you put in to get the credentials (the years of schooling etc.) plus your experience. That sounds fair, but its wrong.

It would mean that each job could be assigned some objective value unrelated to the market place. That's the way union shops and their leadership think. If that were true, my junior years should have been my best in terms of effort expended and salary paid.

Zombies seem mindless and unwilling (unable) to even acknowledge those who appose them.

The truth is my job should have paid, much, much less if it were bid for by parents in a competitive market place. This should be the way to think about value in a job. How much would a competitive marketplace of parents looking for teachers actually pay for the service of teaching their children. It's a purely subjective value, worth something to some, and nothing to many others. This Subjective Theory of Value, makes every union negotiated settlement (by collective bargaining), a distortion of the labour market in that field or market place.

It's early days yet, but the Zombie Apocalypse is coming.      

Church of Atheism?

Here is an example of how unnecessary government interventions create unintended consequences.  According to this newspaper report, atheism is a creed that requires protections much the same as other religions do. So, atheism is equated to religion. In the actual paper copy, on the front page (see photo), the National Post makes light of this. I guess to pander to their social conservative patrons.

I'll skip over whether religions need protection, I don't think they do. I'd like to examine atheism as a creed.

According to Dictionary.com "creed" is defined as:

1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.
2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.
3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.

As far as I know, to be an atheist one is not required to join a group that has an atheist code or formula. Atheists typically don't meet regularly to fulfil belief obligations. They don't construct massive buildings as places of worship, nor do they get tax breaks from local governments for doing so. Calling atheism a belief system is a huge stretch and distortion. If I don't believe in fairies, is that a belief system? Hardly!

The news story above, reports on a decision by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), a superfluous arm of government if ever there was (theoretically in Canada, Charter Rights are already protected). It seems a Mr. Choinard of Grimsby Ontario, wanted to match the Gideon's of bible distribution fame as a protest. He wanted to hand out an atheist text “Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children,” and of course was, as expected, refused. He made a case to the HRTO alleging that the District School Board of Niagara has “discriminated against them … because of creed.” Making such a protest is simple and costs nothing to the complainant, there is no barrier to frivolity, not that I think this is a frivolous complaint.

As a result, earlier in August, the HRTO ruled on the complaint saying that the school board's policy was biased.
“The policy was discriminatory because its definition of acceptable materials violated substantive equality by excluding the kinds of materials central to many creeds.”
The school board policy blocked atheist books and other “emerging or non-traditional creeds.”

In the end, according to the news article, the HRTO descision was:
“If [the school board] is prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of Christian texts to committed atheists, it must also be prepared to distribute permission forms proposing the distribution of atheist texts to religious Christians.”
The school board has six months to draw up a new policy “permitting distribution of creed and religious publications in its schools.” So atheism is a creed.

Throughout the process Mr. Choinard maintained his primary goal was to critique the board's policy and point out that government public schools should not be in the business of supporting a religious agenda. I absolutely agree, and that illustrates the real problem. If parents had the (affordable) option to send their children to their school of choice, religious or not, this entire case would not exist.

Ideally schools should be an extension of the home. The values that parents want to instil in their children should be a parental responsibility. Busy parents should be able to obtain a service, at an affordable price, that fulfils this need consistent with their values in addition to educating their children for the modern world. To have government public schools try to be all things to all people is impossible and undesirable; and to require an HRTO to enforce this is ridiculous. Here are two arms of the Ontario government that can easily be reduced or eliminated.      

Attention Shoppers…

Out doing a bit of food shopping this afternoon. I spent the first few minutes trying to liberate a shopping cart with my quarter. That comes from habit, the cart thingy would not budge, then I read the instructions (see photo).
I did not get the memo that things had changed at my local food store.

Two observations:

1. A quarter seems no longer worth as much as it was. I've noticed this on previous shopping trips. People don't return their carts to the right spot sometimes because their time is worth more than a quarter, OR it's raining, and again, not worth it.

2. The "Cart return islands" in the parking lot had disappeared, now shoppers have to march the cart all the way back to the store. That means that the entry level job of moving carts back to the store is gone. Casualty of the minimum wage? Maybe.
How long will it be before it takes a "two-ny" ($2) to liberate the carts?



Facebook – please "Like"

This week I created a Facebook page to highlight this blog TBL, soon to be in its fifth year. 

The Facebook page ought to allow more discussion and feedback, and I can post smaller items that do not warrant a full blog post but are still very interesting.

If you are already a Facebook user, I would appreciate a "like" (in jargon of Facebook) or a (civil) comment. 

You can find the TBL page here

If you don't use Facebook, but have libertarian leanings, why not air them out in the classic libertarian way, the dreaded online argument thread. Join up. Arguing on Facebook is not quite as interactive (or funny) as the video below, but fun nevertheless. 

 

Gas (plant) pains

Flooded Highway 427
By now the story of the big rainstorm that caused flooding and power outages in the western part of Toronto, earlier this summer (July 8, 2013) is old news. Certainly the severity of the storm was unusual, and with that much rain, flooding was to be expected. But most of the flooding was cleared by the following morning leaving behind considerable damage to property.

What was unexpected was that electrical power remained offline to thousands of homes and businesses for nearly two days which added (unnecessarily) to the destruction of property in freezers and refrigerators across the region. The Mayor of Toronto even appealed to citizens to conserve electricity because the city was “hanging by a thread.” Was this a surprise to authorities, an unnoticed flaw in the system? Who is in charge?

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is in charge of Ontario’s electricity infrastructure, and the disruption in service after the recent flood was foreseen years ago.

A report issued in October 2007, recommended “the siting of new gas generation in the southwest part of the Greater Toronto Area (Southwest GTA)” and that OPA intended to “procure such generation by 2013…to address capacity needs…expected by 2015 in the western half of the GTA.” Of course the proposed Oakville and Mississauga gas power plants that were supposed to mitigate the problem were canceled for political reasons.

The same report foreshadowed the recent power failure: “Extraordinary events or major failures on the transmission system could lead to inadequate supply capacity or voltage stability issues. The risk of such events is significantly reduced with internal generation capacity. As an example, New York City requires an installed generation capacity that is 80% of the city load.” How does Toronto, the financial capital of Canada, compare? Only about 10% of its electricity is generated locally. The city is on tenterhooks.

The best available guess is that the cancellation of the two aforementioned gas power plants cost about $600 million. The recent economic ($850 million) and societal losses during the power failure should to be added to that estimate. Indeed, the cancellation of those plants was not the decision of experts, and not done in the interests of the people of the Southwest GTA. It was a calculated decision designed to save two political seats weighed against the best interests of hundreds of thousands of hard working citizens.

In a recent committee hearing on the gas plant debacle, Dalton McGuinty reiterated his position that the power plant cancellation was “the right thing to do.” Yes, it was for the Liberal Party, but what about the ratepayers and citizens of western Toronto, and the rest of the province?

This is the Libertarian platform plank on electrical energy generation.

Convenience Cartel

 Most people think that the government sells all alcoholic beverages in Ontario. That's not exactly true.

The Beer Store (TBS) is a government sanctioned cartel (they call it a consortium) of three private companies (two of which are 98% owners of TBS). TBS is controlled under Ontario's Liquor Control Board Act which gives the LCBO the power to set price floors, set how much beer may be discounted during a "sale," and just about everything else to do with sales and distribution. TBS's employees are all members of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Recently OCSA (Ontario Convenience Stores Association) paid for a study that showed "that the average price difference in a 24-bottle case of beer between (Ontario and Quebec) is about $9.50, or 27 per cent lower in Quebec.  This was blamed on the Ontario cartel, and the study implied that allowing convenience stores to sell beer would lower the Ontario price by creating "efficiencies." What a good idea I thought, at least a start to move away from government imposed monopoly. So I called up a spokesperson for  OCSA to see if they would be interested in providing a speaker and supporting a conference that I'm organizing. I told him the conference was apolitical but would have many libertarians that will support his cause. "No, not interested," and he went on to explain how liquor and beer sales are important income to the provincial treasury, about $1.7 billion in 2012. Right. It was a short phone call.

So what is OCSA trying to accomplish? They have a campaign on Facebook, and here, which purports to argue "Free Our Beer." They're plying the idea that most people want convenience and a bit of a lower cost, which is certainly true. As for competition, they don't really want to "free our beer" they want to get in on the action and become part of the cartel.

Celebrating our Liberty

Today, of course is Canada's 146th birthday, and this week our American cousins will be celebrating their birthday too.


I've been reading some of the postings on social media by my libertarian "friends," both Canadian and American. Many of the wishes are genuine expressions of hope that everyone has/is having, a "Happy Canada Day." 

There are a few of my friends who look at this as a celebration of the "state," so they are resentful that such a day exists. They say that this is an arbitrary celebration of a piece of property, divided from other properties by imaginary lines, where the people are forced....etc. etc. etc. I get it, in some ways it's a bit like saying that each of our personal birthdays should be viewed as being one year closer to death rather than of a celebration of birth. I'd hate to be a their birthday parties.

I'll be the first person to tell you that there is something wrong with our "state," our country and our various governments as they exist now. 

But, is it wrong to commemorate the actions of a group of people who came together voluntarily to enact a law (a constitution) designed to protect the natural rights of individuals? 

Is it wrong to have imaginary lines that delineate the territory where those individual rights can be protected and defended?

Is it wrong to set aside one day each year to celebrate that event?

It would be wonderful if there was no need for an arbitrarily delineated state, no boundaries, and the whole planet would be our country. Alas, that is not reality.

What would NOT be wonderful is, if laws that protect individual rights did not exist, and it would NOT be wonderful if people had to fend for themselves to protect their own rights, unassisted.

There is a purpose for our "state" at this point in human evolution, that purpose is to provide the framework for each of us to enjoy our liberty free of unwanted intrusions by others. Maybe one day we will evolve beyond that. 

Yes, we live in an imperfect state, but here in Canada, we still possess the freedom to fix it and that gives each of us purpose.

Be happy celebrating your liberty. Happy Canada Day!

WHIPPED: Just a more obvious flaw in our democracy.

Sean Holman is shopping around his documentary WHIPPED, The secret world of party discipline.

I saw it in Toronto (June 22/13) and stayed for the panel Q&A that followed.

Mr. Holman is a passionate well meaning individual with a clear idea of how our Democracies in Canada should operate. He used his journalistic training and nine years of experience covering the Legislature in Victoria B.C. to produce this documentary. It's very well done, as far as it goes. Mr. Holman will be on The Current (CBC) this Wednesday, and the documentary may be viewed on CPAC at some point.

Though the entire documentary is set in British Columbia, the concept of whipping and the party whip are common to all Westminster style legislatures in Canada and around the world (in Britain there is a bit more freedom). By way of contradiction, Canada has two exceptions: Northwest Territories and Nunavut, no parties, no whips.

During the Q&A, Mr. Holman pointed out he has no bias as to whether whipping is a good or bad thing, which I found disingenuous. Why bother making the documentary? Going to the trouble of making an exposé uncovering a "secret world," seems to me to be taking a side.

Mr. Holman, the Q&A panel, and the sponsor of the showing, all had an obvious bias. In fact I found the representative from the sponsor, Duff Conacher, somewhat biased toward the new Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, but maybe that's just me.

By the end of the evening it was obvious that whipping occurs in most of Canada's legislatures and is not necessarily in the best interests of Canadians as voiced by the panel. Wherever it happens, MP's, MPP's, MLA's, MNA's whatever, all the elected representatives of the various legislatures, vote along party lines because they are coerced (whipped) into doing so. The coercion takes the form of ostracism from the party caucus, or having the possibility of advancement within the government or party hierarchy blocked if the party line is not toed. The general belief voiced by the panel and the audience at this viewing was, legislators should be able to vote their conscience or at least vote in the best interests of their constituents without coercion.

Sounds reasonable, wouldn't you say?

Of course this begs the questions what are the best interests of constituents on any given Bill presented by a government in a legislature, and how would a legislator know this? I suspect that most of the people present for the viewing would be satisfied and resigned to accept Churchill's famous comment that: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” But I wonder is that the best we can do? I prefer this Churchill quote: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." My view is, that practiced as it is now, democracy is overrated.

For example, in the most recent Ontario election only 49.2% of qualified voters bothered to vote, and the elected Liberal minority government attracted 37.62% of those that cast ballots, or just 18.5% of qualified voters. What kind of democracy is that? It was not quite a majority mob that formed this government, but a small cobbled together bunch of special interest groups that are dependent on the spend-thrift ways of the governing party. Clearly in Ontario at least, government is not really democratic at all, along with being apparently unlimited in its reach. Maybe the whole idea of being whipped is mere small potatoes? But its nice to know that the advocates of our democracy (at this viewing) can spot this flaw. There may be hope.

A Facebook comment from my Party colleague Jim McIntosh, sums up the situation that legislators are faced with very nicely: "[I]t isn't clear to me that your representative knows what is in your best interest, let alone what is in the best interest of all his constituents, or even the ones who voted for him. Typically any Bill he must vote on may help some constituents and hurt others. That is why the (Ontario) Libertarian Party advocates that the force of government only be used to protect life liberty and property of residents."

So maybe Sean Holman's next documentary should be about limiting the size and scope of government rather than unleashing legislators. That would really be in the best interests of all Canadians.

A Postscript: Just to be clear, as leader of a political party (Ontario Libertarians), if we had elected representatives in the Ontario Legislature, I would require those MPP's to vote along party lines. We advocate limited government and would expect those members of our Caucus to vote against any Bill that reduces choice or increases the power of government. However, in the present context, I would hope that any libertarian members of any other party make their position known to their Caucus and either vote against or abstain from Bills that reduce the liberty of citizens.