Hard Choices

In Canada, Bill-51, the federal government’s Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 is raising the blood pressure of many.  Police state references abound.  Even those who believe in government as a way to solve problems, think it goes to far.  Perhaps it does.

One side of the problem is the intrusion of government in new and perhaps unwarranted ways.  On the other side of the equation we have the prospect of unchecked anti-society acts by persons who have little fear of early detection.  Pick one.  There is no neutral choice.

A difficult balancing act and certain political death for the ones who strike the wrong balance.

If government is to provide a reasonable level of safety for the citizens, what tools should they use to do so?  If not these, then which? 

I think the problem is deeper even than it appears.

I could be convinced that the tools in the act are reasonable if I trusted the bureaucratic security arm of the government to act responsibly.  But, I do not.  How many examples are there of police and others using no judgment whatever?  Mounties taking properly stored guns during the floods in Alberta.  Inability of the courts to process simple cases expeditiously.  Immigration taking months and years to resolve cases that appear on the surface to be completely transparent.  In some things, like terror, process is not an appropriate solution.

You cannot reasonably give power to people who are more interested in their position, power and methods than they are in their duties.  Especially ones who cannot be disciplined or removed.  Most especially if the behaviour is subjected to micro-managing, absent or contradictory rules, and lengthy delays.

I believe that government has reasonable duties and safety is one of them.   I further believe that it is necessary to implement well-founded policy. 

Problems arise when policy becomes a popularity question and bureaucracies exist to nourish the needs of the bureaucrats.

To be fair, the safety question is an intractable one.  There may be no answer that will work.  As we know, problems for which there is no desirable solution, are invariably ones that cannot be decided.  Maybe we should agree on an acceptable casualty level and do nothing.

Woody Allen offers insight.  “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

The security problem is too important to become politicized or a “rice bowl” for some bureaucrats.  Please do your best to think it through before you personally politicize it.

Contact: don@moneyfyi.com  

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.


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