FERNANDO: The Liberal War On Free Speech & A Free Press

What Happened To The Liberals’ Respect For Freedom Of The Press?

By Spencer Fernando, Exclusive to the National Citizens Coalition


As I’ve noted before, there isn’t much classical ‘liberalism’ in the Liberal Party under Justin Trudeau.

But, since words have significant power, the Liberals – and the New Democrats – benefit from the fact that their names sound synonymous with Canada’s status as a ‘Liberal Democracy.’ Both parties would be more accurately defined as socialist (democratic socialist if we are being exceedingly generous).

By contrast, the Conservatives under Pierre Poilievre are far closer to the ‘Liberal Democratic’ ideal understood as support for freedom of expression, relatively unrestrained commerce, low taxes, individual rights, and limits on state power.

Nowhere do we see this more than in the ongoing effort by the Liberals – with the support of the NDP – to put the state in a commanding position when it comes to the media.

The Liberals have significantly increased CBC’s funding, have spent over $600 million bailing out media companies, and have pushed legislation that is designed to weaken growing independent outlets while further propping up struggling establishment media outlets.

The long-term goal is to restrict the bounds of acceptable speech while turning the remaining private-sector media outlets into quasi-government-controlled outlets through financial dependence.

There is nothing about this that is ‘liberal’ or ‘democratic.’

It resembles what we see in authoritarian states, the merging of media and the government, something antithetical to the traditional understanding of ‘liberalism.’

Why mention all of this?

Because it is important for the Trudeau government to be held politically accountable for what they really are, not what they claim to be. (Especially as they also seek to make illegal legitimate questions surrounding residential school 'mass graves.')

The Liberals may talk a good game about freedom of the press and respecting journalists, but their actions say otherwise.

With that in mind, let’s look at how Liberal MP Ryan Turnbull berated reporter Sam Cooper:

Jesse Brown of Canadaland described the moment well:

“This is disgusting. No politician has the right to berate and bully a reporter from their seat of state power, as @TurnbullWhitby did to @scoopercooper today. A shameful act of revenge for daring to embarrass and expose this government.”

To get a sense of how backwards this all is, remember that the Liberals initially said that the entire story surrounding China’s interference in Canada’s elections was false. They dismissed initial reports. They dismissed stories from multiple media outlets. They tried to claim the whole thing was about ‘racism.’

Only when it become impossible to deny that something was going on did they finally shift away from total denial, but that shift took the form of delay after delay. Then, they tried hiding behind the ‘special rapporteur,’ which bought them some time while ending in Johnston’s resignation after his credibility collapsed.

At any moment, the Liberals could clear all of this up by releasing relevant documents on China’s interference efforts and holding an independent public inquiry. So far, they have refused to do so.

And now, the Liberals are at the point where they are trying to demonize journalists.

When we consider all of this alongside legislation like Bill C-11 and C-18, it becomes abundantly clear that the Liberals have no real respect for freedom of the press or the profession of journalism. Rather, they only ‘respect’ the media when it’s something they control and when it shares the message the government wants shared. That’s the same attitude seen in nations where freedom of the press is completely non-existent.

You would think we would want to move in the opposite direction of authoritarian states, but the Liberals apparently disagree.

Doing nothing is the answer

One of the challenges of being in favour of limited government is that it’s difficult to explain to people that ‘nothing’ is often the answer to the question of ‘what should be done.’

Yet, doing nothing is exactly what Canada needs from the government when it comes to freedom of the press. No Bill C-11, no Bill C-18, no media bailouts.

By definition, a free press should have nothing to do with the government. It evolves organically from the populace. The only role for the government is to safeguard Canadians’ right to freedom of expression. That’s it. If a media company fails, it fails. If it thrives, it thrives. Neither should happen because the government chooses to intervene.

Our nation must return to a true understanding of what freedom of the press means, because our ability to defend our rights and freedoms more broadly depends first and foremost on being able to speak openly and challenge the government.

Spencer Fernando is one of the most popular and prolific political voices in Canada. He is a Campaign Fellow for the National Citizens Coalition. For more from Spencer, visit his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter

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