I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Tim Moen, the Leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, about libertarianism in Canada, its growth and future.
While it hasn’t yet reached the kind of growth that we’ve seen in the United States with the Libertarian Party polling at around 13% and Gary Johnson receiving a lot of media attention for his positions, libertarianism in Canada is seeing a steady rise especially after Ron Paul’s run for President in 2008 and 2012. Paul’s message struck hearts and minds around the world, and has played an important role in bringing interest to libertarianism and the cause of Liberty.
I’ve met with Tim several times over that last year or so, and I have to tell you that personally I don’t know anyone who has more integrity and who cares about liberty for the individual and the nation than Tim Moen.
For those in the party here in Canada, I hope this helps bring a better understanding of where we stand and what still has yet to be accomplished. For those who didn’t even know there was a libertarian party here in Canada, I hope this helps to raise awareness, that it helps you understand more about what it means to be libertarian. This is for you if you are someone who loves freedom in your own life, and also recognizes the desire for liberty that is inherent in all of us.
I’ll take this opportunity to stop putting my own thoughts on (proverbial) paper and start with a few questions and Tim’s answers.
First off Tim, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Why don’t we start with hearing a bit about you? What originally attracted you to libertarian ideology?
Even as a fairly young child I had the feeling that people in charge of me at church, school, home and in government were incompetent to make rules and enforce them. I could tell that many stories were simply made up, that a lot of rules were dumb and couldn’t be followed all the time without negative unintended consequences, and that the people in charge could never come up with satisfactory reasons why I should listen to them. None of this is to say I was a disobedient or rebellious child at all. I followed the rules, I didn’t create conflict, but I always had to work hard to find reasons I should respect those in charge of my day to day living.
When I discovered the libertarian ideology I was engaged in the skeptic movement. I had gone through a period where I had discovered that there weren’t any good reasons to believe the claims of the religion of my childhood, and I had the epiphany that it was my family and culture that had implanted me with these beliefs and that I had not reasoned them from first principles. I have never viewed libertarianism as an ideology but rather as an anti-ideology. It was a philosophical framework for me to exam extraordinary claims about the morality of institutionalizing force to solve problems. This had appeal to me because I felt like I had been taken for a ride by snake oil salesmen my whole life and now I had a way to protect myself from them in the realm of politics.
You are the Leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, how did that happen, and how do you feel about taking on that role?
I was very skeptical about political action. In fact for nearly a decade I stayed away from political action because a lot of anarcho-capitalist activists that I admired decried it and seemed to make good points. I even wrote an article explaining why voting might be bordering on immoral about 6 months before I found myself running for Prime Minister. So the question is; what happened to change my mind?
The first thing that happened is that I almost died in a house fire. I’m a firefighter and I became lost and disoriented in the basement of a hoarder’s house. I thought for sure I was going to die and I had a lot of regrets in that moment, mostly around my family, but also about the general trajectory of my life going through the motions and not challenging myself to live a life of full potential and meaning. After that moment I started changing the way my day to day life looked. I sold my business and started focusing on projects that I would do for the intrinsic sense of meaning they brought me rather than the money they brought me.
The next thing that happened is that another activist encouraged me to run for parliament. I resisted heavily at first. I repeated the an-cap mantras against running for office and saw it as a self-defeating activity. The argument I could never adequately dismiss was that political action would allow me a stage from which to preach a message I care deeply about. Eventually I realized I was being irrational in refusing to take an opportunity to get out the message and I committed to running.
A few days after committing to run my Member of Parliament resigned and I was thrown into a by-election. I had no idea what I was doing but I attracted some talent to my campaign and we were soon churning out memes and the one that really put me on the map was, “I want gay married couples to protect their marijuana plants with guns!”
This went around the world, got me a lot of media attention and allowed me a soapbox to stand on. Party membership noticed and nominated me for leadership at our convention a couple months later and I soon found myself leading a federal political party having gone from being anti-political action just months before.
Life is funny and I feel very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to live a life that gives me a great sense of purpose ever since that fateful fire. Memento Mori.
How did that translate into you helping to build up the Libertarian Party of Canada? Was there much of a structure in place before you got involved?
The Libertarian Party of Canada has been around since 1973, and the degree to which we are having success is the degree to which people before me have done a lot of hard work. The party has had its ups and downs over the years. Just before I got involved there was a base structure necessary to keep the party going and organizing conventions.
When I was elected leader I made a real effort to try and grow the party and expand our team.
I got the sense that there were a lot of people, likely inspired by Ron Paul, that wanted to get involved in a similar movement here in Canada and so I think a lot of our success over the past 2 years can be attributable to the general rise of libertarianism thanks to the work of other party members and of movement leaders like Ron Paul.
What is your opinion on the state Libertarian thought in Canada? Unlike the United States, here in Canada we don’t have the same constitutional basis of libertarian thinking, and we’ve had a much heavier socialist/statist influence for quite some time; do you think Libertarianism has an appeal for Canadians and in what ways?
I think that Libertarian thought is very much in its infancy here in Canada. I get the impression, based on use of the word “libertarian” to describe politicians from Justin Trudeau to Stephen Harper in the mainstream media, that libertarianism is seen as a bit of a cool philosophy to be associate with.
That is progress, however the fact that the word is being used to describe people who have no real commitment to the principles or philosophy tells me that generally people don’t really understand the philosophy and its ramifications. We have many new and enthusiastic party members and people involved in the movement who have been newly introduced to the philosophy; but we have a lot of work to do to give them a grounding in the scholarly philosophical work and intellectual trust that anchors the movement. So we see a lot libertarians get into heated debates about red herring topics like the best ways to manage socialist borders and roads and whether feminism is good or bad.
Canadians can all find something they like in the libertarian philosophy. Generally speaking people don’t want the government interfering in their own lives, unfortunately most people seem to want the government interfering in the lives of other people. So people get libertarianism in their own lives but when it comes to people they worry the most about they want government to step in. Most Canadians don’t grasp the basic concept that government is force and my experience is that if you can connect them with this fact alone they start to imagine how a problem, that they have anxiety about, might be solved without using violence to solve it. At the end of the day the task of overcoming 12 plus years of government schooling is a daunting one. Canadians are so thoroughly confused about political philosophy and the nature of government that they can’t imagine how something like healthcare could possibly be trusted to people who aren’t employed and controlled by the government.
Canadians may not even be aware at the violations of privacy and the rights that are being stripped away by our government. The Repealing of bill C-51 is a big part of the party’s platform, are there other aspects of violations of privacy and the stripping away of rights in Canada that concern you? Do we need a more concrete proposal of individual rights in Canada (like the Bill of Rights & Constitution in the United Sates); are there any particular provisions you would like to see added to the Inherent rights Provided to all Canadians?
Bill C-13 and C-51 are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to government surveilling your every move. The Transpacific Partnership mandates ISP spy on and report you and sets up a globalist extra-judicial tribunal that isn’t beholden to any national laws or constitutions. The UN is taking over the registering of domain names. There seems to be a concerted agenda to remove national sovereignty and place sovereignty into the hands of global national corporations. This is troubling as a libertarian, I’d prefer to see sovereignty decentralized instead of centralized in a pseudo-global government that monitors everything and can impact our lives in ways that leave us powerless.
I’ve always been a big proponent of putting Private Property rights into our Charter of Rights, but in reality these are pieces of paper that have less and less meaning to people. The problem is not what is written on the paper we call laws and constitutions, the real problem is what is written on the hearts and minds of our countrymen. Unfortunately there is very little in the way of principle, reason and rationality written on our hearts and minds. Government reflects culture more than culture reflects government and so our struggle as libertarians isn’t to wrestle with government but to wrestle with culture which is made up of individual belief systems. When people demand a government that protects their countrymen instead of imposes on them then we will have freedom. We are a long way from that, but I can’t think of a more meaningful life than engaging in that struggle.
(For more information on bill C-13 click here: https://openparliament.ca/bills/41-2/C-13/)
(For more information on bill C-51 click here:http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=8056977&File=29#1)
Regarding the War on Drugs: should use of all illicit drugs be legalized in Canada? There is precedent in countries like Portugal and Holland as well as in several States in the US with differing ranges of “legalization”. Where do you see the benefit of legalizing drug use in Canada? The Trudeau government promised to legalize Marijuana during their Campaign in 2015; yet they’ve run into several roadblocks when trying to change those laws. Apparently there are certain treaties that Canada is a co-signatory of which make it difficult to effectively end the “war on drugs” what would can be done to fulfill this promise?
As a paramedic I regularly respond to people who have overdosed and even died from fentanyl overdose. I attribute this directly to the drug war. Almost all of the OD’s I attend are due to individuals seeking out Percocet or some other prescription opiate. Percocet can be taken relatively safely, however these people are getting their “perc’s” from black market drug dealers. These drug dealers are cutting costs by getting ultra-cheap fentanyl powder and pressing this fentanyl into pills that look just like prescription Percocet. Fentanyl is very dangerous and if the dealer mixes in a few to many grains of powder in one pill compared to another the users can get a lethal dose from one pill that last week would’ve barely given them a buzz.
Imagine if users could get high without having to go to the most unscrupulous people around? There is a reason people don’t get their alcohol from Al Capone types these days and there alcohol is no longer laced with arsenic and lead. In the white market dealers of any good or service has their self-interest tied to their ability to provide their users with a good product and avoid conflict and complaint. In the black market dealers can get away with defrauding their customers and poisoning them because they know there is no recourse. They aren’t going to get a bad review on Yelp or have their business subjected to a lawsuit.
So here we have a system of socialized medicine where the incentive is to get patients in and out the door quickly. “You tell me your problem, and I write a script to fix it,” one physician told me. So patients get symptom relief rather than having the root cause of their suffering dealt with. Opiates get overprescribed and we end up with a lot of addicts looking for a fix. Then we make it nearly impossible to get without standing in a long healthcare line and they get rations that they use up quickly and we wonder why they go to the black-market.
There are so many ways the system is sick and corrupt and feeds into this problem.
If we ended prohibition and allowed users to get the type of drug they wanted we would see our fentanyl and heroine problems go away. Nobody would use these drugs in the unsafe ways they are being used now.
There are no roadblocks to end cannabis prohibition. We can break immoral treaties. The government has an obligation to do no harm, if it signed a treaty to do harm then that treaty ought to be broken.
I doubt we would face any repercussions from countries that we trade with. These treaties were written decades ago and I can’t imagine any serious politician in a country we trade with would have a problem with legalizing cannabis, and if special interests and big pharma has a problem it is not the government’s job to pander to their business interests but rather to protect human rights. I suspect this was mostly an excuse to stall.
Canada is a very Liberal minded country in many ways; what Libertarian Party policies do you think appeal the most to Canadians?
I think that lower taxes appeal to many Canadians but, they don’t want to decrease spending so this is a challenge.
I think most people can relate to keeping government out of their homes, bedrooms, and pocketbooks. More and more surveys are showing that millennials are socially liberal and fiscally conservative and while they care more about social freedoms than fiscal freedoms, chances are as they enter the workplace and see the ways in which government screws them over they will become more concerned with fiscal freedom as well.
So I think there is an opportunity to connect with younger generations and appeal to them.
I know that there is a need to get as many of the 338 candidates for the LP in place before the next Federal election in 2019, which I’m sure is a daunting task! How many do we have in place at the moment and what strategies are being considered to help fill those roles?
We are just coming off a convention and we plan to have another one before the 2019 election. Currently no parties have candidates in place, it’s difficult to do this far in advance because they can only be official when the writ drops in a few years and a lot can happen between now and then in a particular riding and in a candidates life.
Ideally we would want to have 338 active electoral district associations (EDAs) in place doing the work of recruiting, vetting and nominating candidates. Unfortunately we have only really started getting EDAs off the ground in the past year or so and have a lot of work to do.
So right now we have the challenge of how to recruit, vet and nominate candidates. Our first step is to hold regional caucus meetings across the country and establish a decentralized organization of party organizers.
We are on schedule to have these caucus meetings done by the end of October and from there I expect our executive will organize with regional coordinators to develop a plan for recruiting and nominating candidates.
It’s not as easy as it sounds; we often get an expression of interest and then have that person fall off closer to election, or have another potential candidate express interest and have to turn them down, or have a turnover in our volunteer staff and lose some local information about the state of recruiting and vetting in that area.
So the next year or so will be crucial in establishing a system that is robust enough to deal with the comings and goings of volunteers.
The good news is that we have a very capable new party president in Nichole Adams who brings with her a lot of experience in board governance and I think we are in a better positions than ever to get close to a full slate.
How can we get more exposure? What can we do as an organization to raise awareness around the country?
I wish I knew. A guy flew his lawn chair over the Calgary Stampede this summer tied to a bunch of balloons. I wish I’d have thought of that. He got lots of attention.
In all seriousness I don’t think there are any shortcuts. Political stunts are ok but they don’t necessarily have the kind of power we need to change hearts and minds. I’m afraid we won’t shift culture unless we have meaningful conversations with people around us in our own individual spheres of influence. Our party is a gateway to these conversations but it really requires all hands on deck doing the work.
Finally, what can Liberty minded Canadians do to help in their areas of the country, how can the individual get involved in helping to build the cause of liberty here in Canada?
Go to libertarian.ca and sign up to volunteer. Send me a message directly firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider running as a candidate. Start building a team right now. Establish an EDA in your riding and start fundraising and holding meet-ups. Libertarians often tend to stick to going to meetups and huddling together to engage in conversations that they could never have in their day to day lives. I get it, this is like going to Church and is necessary, but we are the missionary wing of the church.
We need to get out into the streets and do the work necessary to connect with hearts and minds and shift culture.
It doesn’t have to be a grind or be scary we can help it be fun for you, Call me!
I’d like to finish up here by saying thank you to Tim Moen and the Libertarian Party of Canada for doing this interview with us! If you’d like to volunteer or learn more about the Libertarian Party of Canada you can click here to redirect to the official website: https://www.libertarian.ca/
This post was written by Arthur Cleroux.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
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