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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Dominic LeBlanc said a funny thing on Wednesday.

First, to the Toronto Star, the Liberal cabinet member said, “I’m very confident in our chances of forming a majority government.” And then a little later he told reporters much the same thing.

“I’ve said from the beginning of the campaign that we’re campaigning to win a majority government,” LeBlanc said.

It’s an interesting thing to hear with just five days left.

It was around last weekend, when the release of excerpts from former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book were making their splash in the newspapers and the SNC scandal was once again raising it’s head that I thought, “Hmmm, smells like a Liberal win, maybe a big one.”

I hashed this out a bit on Twitter, but essentially my logic is this: However wretched that SNC Affair was, and how ever horrible the issues around ethics and the interplay between corporations and government, too much has happened since then for JWR to be the focal point of a day or two of the Conservative campaign.

More than 26,000 people are dead — more are still dying! — from COVID-19. Homes are increasingly unaffordable. There’s been a major economic shock because of the pandemic. And oh yeah the world is on fire.

And yet, here we were, after a few days of ethics talk.

It looked to me, and still does, like a Conservative campaign that had lost its way. Plus, the Liberal sink in the polls seems to be bouncing back. The polls aren’t fully there yet, and many of the projections give it a low probability of there being a Liberal majority. And yet…

Which brings us back to LeBlanc. From the start it was clear winning a majority was the point of this whole exercise. That’s why we’re having an election. The trouble was, as soon as the election was called the Liberal poll numbers dived and so even thinking the word majority was libel to sink the whole enterprise.

And now here we have a senior Liberal not just thinking about a majority, but talking about it to reporters.

But here we are, on the other side of the debates, where Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau walked away bruised but not broken. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole wasn’t a disaster — nothing like his predecessor — but he flubbed his answer about daycare in in the French-language, and didn’t really stand out in the English-language debate. And by that point O’Toole’s momentum seems to have stalled out.

So is it really that crazy to think that after all this Trudeau might pull off his dreams of a second majority? I’m inclined to think not.

But I think the Liberals have halted what looked like a terminal slide out of government. Instead, Trudeau and his party seem to have hit their stride at just the right moment. Summer has ended* and kids have gone back to school, and life has entered a period of sort-of normalcy where people are more focused on ‘real’ things, rather than summer leisure.

Voters seem to have given Erin O’Toole a look, and found him wanting. The Conservative Party leader made an interesting pitch to voters, that he was a different, nicer kind of Tory.

Pitching a sort-of compassionate conservatism — though it’s unlikely he or the party would ever invoke George W. Bush — O’Toole has made the case that he wasn’t like those other Conservatives that have come before.

People do not seem to have bought it. Sinking in the polls, increasingly firing off random attack lines and policies, his campaign seems to have peaked too early.

It’s possible if he was able to run in another campaign voters might come around to his vision of Conservative governing, pitching the same program twice tends to convince people you’re serious, but that would require his party to both want to keep him on and stay together.

Big changes — even if they’re just rhetorical ones — so soon after the last election are a lot to get a handle on. Especially when O’Toole is a former Conservative minister.

It’s tough for people to believe you are a kind and gentle party when they’ve seen how you’ve governed before, and how your allies have governed as premier in provinces across the province. It’s an interesting tactic, but one that doesn’t seem to have worked this time around. It’s an interesting play, and will be even more interesting if his party gives him another shot at it.

In any case, I don’t think it’s a certainty that Trudeau has his majority in hand. But I no longer think it’s an impossibility. Enough so that I put a $5 wager on it happening — figured I might as well put my money where my mouth is.

Now all we have to do is wait for Monday.

*Yes, yes, I know summer ends Sept. 21, but we all know what I mean here.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

The ongoing ruckus over Bill C-10’s effort to impose censorship indicates the arrogance as well as incompetence of the people we now trust to manage our affairs and, it seems, us. And with so many such examples nowadays it’s hard to know where to start. But I’m going with free speech because if it one slips away we won’t be in a position to discuss the others.

If I say I’m starting with Bill C-76 some smart-aleck will say I already started with Bill C-10. But I started with censorship, and C-76 is the 2018 bill where the government tried to stop you from saying bad stuff about them during an election.

The effort was inept and ineptitude is a big issue nowadays. Chris Selley reports in Thursday’s National Post that the Canadian Medical Association was on the verge of calling for four more months of lockdowns before someone somewhere somehow convinced them that it wasn’t a smart thing to say. But they’d already drafted the press release, and then the Post got hold of it. But I digress.

The point is that same government currently trying to control what you can post online slipped the word “knowingly” out of its law against publishing false information about a public figure during an election back in 2018. The arrogance and hypocrisy are breathtaking, given the systematic way the Liberals publish false information about their adversaries. But of course they aren’t covered: One law for thee and another for me.

So it was bad enough with the word “knowingly” in there. Especially since the election gag law said you were just some shabby citizen who really ought to shut up anyway. The one Stephen Harper railed against in opposition then decided was pretty keen once he had power.

Of course its censorship was indirect. They didn’t throw you in the calabozo for calling the PM a bozo. They threw you in the calabozo for raising enough money to be heard saying it. It was, to steal a phrase from Churchill, like being smothered by a feather mattress.

Oddly, the sensation didn’t seem to bother many Canadians. Lots of us inhaled the government view that without such laws, sinister rich people would take possession of our minds. Which rather amounts to admitting you need to be protected from ideas by wise guardians. Especially since it’s OK for politicians to spend vast sums hypnotizing us, presumably not because their ads are too stupid to persuade but because they’re better than us.

There’s the rub. As with all restrictions on free speech, the fundamental notion is that we ordinary rubes can’t handle the truth, intellectually, morally or both.

I do not know whether those in power have considered and rejected the other view or never heard of it. Before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights back in 2019, beside Mark Steyn and Lindsay Shepherd, I got to remind MPs, as I politely put it, of John Stuart Mill’s brilliant advocacy of free speech on three key grounds: 1) an unfamiliar idea might turn out to be true; 2) if it’s false, sunlight will destroy evil; and 3) in vigorously defending correct ideas, a citizen comes to hold them as living truths not dead dogmas. But the MPs with few exceptions were either uninterested or so overtly hostile that one NDP MP filibustered us.

In a way it’s not surprising. Those in power tend to favour censorship because it favours them. Most aren’t consciously malevolence or hypocritical, just too busy and arrogant to put up with citizens heckling them while they’re talking down to us. Then they think wow, they wanted to heckle, what a rabble, we better stop them posting vile rubbish online as well.

Luckily they’re bad at it. On Bill C-10 the minister responsible doesn’t seem to know what’s in his bill or why. And on C-76 they didn’t notice it was a Charter violation, or perhaps thought courts would happily let it slither through the giant Section 1 loophole. But when the Ontario Superior Court said no, the Liberals went well, OK, I guess. But in explaining why he still needed to regulate hostile comments, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc told the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee he trusted the elections commissioner and federal prosecutors to exercise discretion in applying the law.

He did not say he trusted citizens to exercise discretion in what they say and what they believe. Because he doesn’t. So after saying “The last thing the government obviously would want to do is put a chill on free speech,” he proceeded to explain why it wanted to, before admitting that “prosecuting somebody for what’s in his or her mind is not a simple thing to do.”

In a simpler age, Queen Elizabeth I declared that “I have no desire to make windows into men’s souls” and would use the law to regulate action not belief. But for Leblanc, it’s just a matter of technique. And while their incompetence tends to save us from their philosophy, we ought not to count on it doing so indefinitely.

Photo Credit: Vox

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.