Perhaps the best thing that will come out of this strange season is an awakening to the fact that governments are not all-knowing and all benevolent, and that citizens are far more capable of carrying on without the hand-holding that governments are so happy to offer.

Society is a finely tuned relationship between those governing and those governed. Over hundreds, if not thousands of years, we have learned something vital to how governments and citizens work together to create a thriving future for all. Forgive me, but some lessons are just too important to forget, and it seems like this present state of COVID-fuelled emergency is causing some unfortunate forgetfulness in government ranks.

There is a reason why we have a government and an opposition, (supposedly) robust system of checks and balances, separate branches of government, a constitution, and traditions. These are not holdovers from a bygone era that we’ve somehow outgrown; these are the hard-won fruit of generations who, for good reason, made sure governments stayed in their lane. Left or right, each aspiring political movement needs a balance. There are no dreamy all-knowing sages sitting on Parliament Hill, no matter the fluorescence of their socks.

Simply put, it is a relationship of trust with solid guardrails to keep us moving forward. Both sides need to trust in the goodwill of the other. Citizens have a role to play, and we trust them to do their bit by playing by the rules, paying taxes, and stepping up to serve their country well. Likewise, governments have their work set out before them, and we offer them trust to do just that as they craft laws and uphold the rule of law for the good of all. It’s a balance, and it seems this balance is teetering in Canada.

We give our governments the power to call a state of emergency, because it’s in the best interest of all (or most) people. But it’s a power we don’t give lightly, and most definitely, don’t withhold the right to criticize the government when those powers are misused. The fact is that governments in Canada have used these powers to utterly transform the daily lives of her citizens. We are restricted in our ability to provide for our family, to travel, to gather, to worship, to play, to see family, and run businesses. This is profound. But make no mistake, Canadians fought hard to make sure that these powers, and impositions, are measured and revoked if necessary. 

So, thank you, dear governments, for trying to protect us. But know this, citizens are not numbers to be moved around; we are partners. We can be trusted to do what is right. It might seem crazy for government officials in their board rooms to trust citizens, but that’s how this works. Canadians are sensible people who can follow directions and make good choices. Threats of prison time, tickets for rollerblading with family, citations for basketball, and threats of police interference when neighbours stop (at a distance) to see how each other is doing on park pathways – all of these are happening right now in Canada. Each an example of government forgetting the relationship they have with their citizens. It should be a wake-up call for everyone. Make no mistake, this is classic government overreach.

Governments love holding the reins of power; and wresting them back into the hands of citizens can take generations – history reveals how this goes. Governments in Canada at all levels – municipal, provincial, and federal – need to be very careful with every move that restricts basic freedoms. The trust we as citizens have given the government is not a free ticket to impose at every turn, we will and must demand account for every action that limits Canadians under these emergency measures. 

A word of wisdom to our government: trust us, treat us like adults and we will stand by our government. Mistrust us and impose gross over-reaching punishments, and we will not forget those checks and balances that we created to keep you in line. 

Perhaps the best thing that will come out of this strange season is an awakening to the fact that governments are not all-knowing and all benevolent, and that citizens are far more capable of carrying on without the hand-holding that governments are so happy to offer. Perhaps COVID-19 is teaching us all more than we know.

Read the original article on Western Standard Online at this link: https://www.westernstandardonline.com/2020/04/mcallister-protective-or-punitive-why-government-measures-are-an-overreach-of-power-1/

Bruce McAllister

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