Lister Block

Heritage Ministry Should Designate Lister Now

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 26, 2008

To: The Honourable Aileen Carroll, Ontario Minister of Heritage
Re: Lister Block

Dear Minister Carroll,

As you probably know, negotiations between the City of Hamilton and Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) over a new deal to restore the Lister Building have broken down over the stipulations of a condition bond to guarantee a second phase of development.

In accordance with the recommendations of the Ontario Heritage Trust report on the Lister Block, and given the danger that LIUNA may decide to demolish the Lister building, it is incumbent on the Ontario Government to designate the Lister Building as a provincial heritage site to prevent further neglect and/or demolition.

Designation will accomplish several constructive goals:

  1. It will formally assert the building's established heritage value;

  2. It will clarify the rules under which the owner of the building must operate;

  3. It will give the province powers under the Heritage Act to enforce property standards and prevent demolition; and

  4. It will eliminate the threat of demolition as a bargaining tactic.

LIUNA Vice President Joe Mancinelli suggested on a recent radio interview with 900 CHML's Bill Kelly that LIUNA may proceed with redeveloping the Lister without municipal or provincial involvement.

In this case, it is imperative that LIUNA understand they are dealing with a heritage building and may not demolish it.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 11:51:20

this building is coming down. I'll be shocked if it doesn't.

For the umpteenth time the city voted to go along with LIUNA's latest proposal only to have them change their minds yet again. They were never interested in getting a deal done to save it. If council had lowered the bar once again last night, LIUNA would have changed their minds again this morning.

there's a reason a demolition company had scaffolding already set up before this past weeks council meetings. The city did their darned best, and should be applauded by everyone for for being, well, 'business friendly'. There's no chance of making a deal when the business your dealing with doesn't return the courtesy and good faith.

Fire up the 'Vanished Hamilton' printers!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 12:09:54

I love the irony here. LIUNA represents the "righteous worker", and yet they are acting in the same selfish manner they criticize business for. I guess being virtuous only applies to successful businesses.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2008 at 12:23:46

Jason wrote:

For the umpteenth time the city voted to go along with LIUNA's latest proposal only to have them change their minds yet again.

In the interest of accuracy, it was Council that raised the terms of the condition bond beyond what LIUNA had originally proposed.

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By frank (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 13:06:37

Ryan in the interest of pure fairness, when a contract is proposed, there's generaly something in the order of a 10% bid bond or something of that sort. 1 mil is nothing!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2008 at 13:20:05

Agreed, Frank. I was responding to jason's claim that LIUNA changed its mind about accepting the condition bond.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 13:28:49

Ryan...if you read the transcripts from their meeting 2.5 months ago, Mancinelli stated that they would have no problem with the $1million guaruntee and promised adjacent construction.
What the city voted on this week (unless I've completely misread something) is 100% what LIUNA presented to them a mere 2 months ago.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 13:29:52

I think what Ryan's getting at is that City Council asked LIUNA to put their money where their mouth was and they didn't want to...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2008 at 14:07:14

Interesting. I thought LIUNA had proposed a lower amount and more lenient conditions. Do you have a reference to a particular document?

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By A-Lister (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 14:19:52

Well stated letter to the minister. Carroll has been totally MIA throughout this ordeal, at least Di Cocco set some things in motion (the OHT report and Alan Wells' working group). Carroll can't keep hiding forever, the province needs to take a stand before it's too late.

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By Sage (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 16:46:53

Again, you miss the point. If you read Dreschel's column on Monday, he points out that Mancinelli had agreed to the $1M. It was the condition of size, which would trigger the penalty, he objected to. I believe the city wanted a footprint large enough to generate $600T in annual asssessment. Mancinelli proposed a footprint that would bring in $185T.
How silly for the city to say no. The money for the building didn't change, what changed was the speed of the payback: $185T Vs. $600T. With the lower number we would have had a restored Lister and money coming in. Now? Nothing! Fred was right on this one.

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By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 17:50:10

I have to agree with Sage on this one. As much as it would have killed me to reward people who've shown nothing but bad faith since they purchased the Lister, saving the Lister is more important. Let's pray the province steps in now.

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By Baystreeter (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2008 at 23:16:12

Asking the Minister to designate the building now without a plan to do anything with the building is silly. It will enshrine the wreck in perpetuity.

I am so discouraged. We needed a win here for the downtown and all we got was fuzzy thinking, weak leadership and stagnation. I feel for all those businesses who have waited, hoped and believed. They too must be discouraged.

Go ahead Minister, designate a ruin. That will really help Hamilton!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 26, 2008 at 23:45:48

I understand your frustration, Baystreeter, but I think it's still premature.

  1. The Lister is not a "ruin" by any stretch. Several architects and engineers have confirmed that it is structurally sound and a good candidate for restoration and adaptive reuse.

  2. It is not, however, a good candidate for conversion to office space. The ceilings are too low, and there is already an oversupply of office space downtown.

  3. The main reason it hasn't already been redeveloped is because LIUNA bought it expecting a big public subsidy (in 1999, when it looked like the federal offices now at Bay and Market were going to go there) and has, until now, refused either to redevelop it on their own dime or sell it.

Until now, they have held the city hostage through the threat of further neglect and/or demolition - and there didn't seem to be a thing the city could do about it. The province, on the other hand, can use the Heritage Act to enforce property standards and prevent demolition, thus eliminating LIUNA's tactical ace in the hole.

LIUNA would be forced either to maintain the property or else sell it and give a more ambitious property developer a chance to convert it into street-level retail and upstairs condos. The site is then restored via the private market instead of public largesse.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 09:06:52

baystreeter - "we needed a win downtown". We did??

I mean, sure new development is great, but we don't 'need' Lister to be fixed up now the way we thought we did 10 years ago.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been/are being invested downtown over the past 5 years. It is clearly enjoying a turnaround, even with Lister sitting there. Sure, I'd like to see it restored. Hopefully now it will be, once LIUNA sells and gets the heck out of here.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 13:52:55

You use some interesting logic Ryan. You believe that when the province forces LIUNA to do what it wants, only then will the free market will be able restore the Lister.

How about letting the free market decide what happens to it right now. You are not in favour of this because you do not really believe in the free market. At your core, you like the idea of a chosen few being able to dictate how the majority should live their lives.

You may think of yourself as enlightened, and self righteous, striving to save the earth from the evils of big business, but the tools you employ are coercion and force. Without the guns that government officials carry with them, you could not dictate to LIUNA how they should manage their property.

By supporting government intervention into the realm of private property, you are displaying your affinity for threat and intimidation. You are nothing more than a bully, without the muscles to back it up.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 17:12:56

you're right A Smith. I'm going to let me weeds grow to 10 feet tall on my property and open a crack house. Maybe then I'll purchase the Cathedral of Christ the King and knock it down for a Walmart. Finally, I think we need more parking downtown. I'd like to knock down the Pigott Building and create a little parking lot. After all, what right does the government have to protect our heritage buildings and why is the city allowed to interfere with property standards. Once I'm done here, I'll head over to Rome and get to work. I hear they have a lot of useless old buildings just waiting to be flattened.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 27, 2008 at 20:57:18

Jason, if you want to destroy the value of your property that is your prerogative. However, the vast majority of people want to increase the value of their investments if possible, and this entails keeping them in good repair.

In some cases, it also means demolishing existing structures, and replacing them with more valuable buildings. All of these decisions, however, are the domain of the landowner, since they are the rightful owners, and have the most to lose if things don't work out.

As to your comment about government protecting "our" heritage buildings, I was unaware that you were a part owner in these so called heritage buildings. Perhaps I misunderstood you, and by "our" you mean that ALL properties are communal, and that nobody truly owns anything except the government. In that case, I need to park my car on your lawn for a couple of months, I hope you don't mind.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 11:54:38

well, we certainly don't see eye to eye on this, but yes I do view heritage buildings as 'ours'. Just like all Romans view the Colesseum as 'theirs' and all Parisians view the Eiffel Tower as 'theirs'. Despite the notion in our 'modern' society that there is in fact no society anymore, I don't believe it or live it. Some choose to live in isolation in front of TV's and drive-thrus but the fact is, we all live in a society and our history and heritage should be treasured by all of us. I'm thankful for past generations who protected Dundurn Castle, the Pigott Building and plethora of beautiful old churches downtown. They understood society, history and what makes a community great. Heritage designations and enforcement is necessary when rogue, selfish individuals attempt to wipe out valuable pieces of history. If I purchase a heritage building I know exactly what I can and can't do. I don't have the benefit of the city's daily paper acting as my PR firm on the front pages day after day if I attempt to break the law. If LIUNA doesn't like dealing with a heritage property they need to sell it, just like you or I would have to.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 28, 2008 at 16:52:29

A Smith wrote:

By supporting government intervention into the realm of private property, you are displaying your affinity for threat and intimidation. You are nothing more than a bully, without the muscles to back it up.

It would be nice if we could debate policy without the predictable straw man attacks.

I've already explained in considerable detail why I don't believe that unregulated markets either a) represent the truest expression of individual freedom or b) produce optimum economies. See, for example, here:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1007#comm...

and here:

http://raisethehammer.org/blog/1007#comm...

Since these explanations don't seem to have registered with you, I'll try one more.

Broadly speaking, there are three different dynamics that can characterize human relationships:

  1. Sharing - the sharing dynamic is a shared sense that your problems/needs are my problems/needs, and that my resources are your resources. In this kind of relationship, people don't keep score - they just look after each other. E.g. families and very close friends.

  2. Exchange - the exchange dynamic is a quid pro quo: people voluntarily trading goods and/or services of roughly equivalent value. In this kind of relationship, people do keep score - debts must be paid, obligations kept, contract terms honoured. E.g. market transactions.

  3. Power - the power dynamic is a struggle for power, the ability to constrain or coerce. It is always unbalanced, in that one person always has power over the other. It is also relative; I can have power over you, but Bob can have power over me in a cascading hierarchy. E.g. military chain of command.

Libertarians seem to believe either explicitly or implicitly that these dynamics are - or at least ought to be - separated in different domains, and that enforcing the exchange dynamic is the only legitimate role of government.

You assume that any government role in the economy - either to regulate markets or to provide goods and services - is necessarily an exercise of the power dynamic and therefore an abuse.

The thing is, that's not how human interactions work. The dynamics are mixed up across the various domains and the distinctions are fuzzy.

Neoliberal theory holds that labour markets are free, but in the real world, power dynamics distort those markets and act to limit the choices of workers. Similarly, families experience both exchanges and power struggles as parents and children push and pull over obligations and freedoms.

Government, in turn, is not necessarily or exclusively an institution of power. The overwhelming majority of Canadians strongly support universal health care - not because they feel coerced into it but because they believe that their political relationships should be characterized at least in part by a shared sense of obligation for everyone's basic well-being.

People who support universal health care do so because they believe we're all in this together, and they agree with the idea that people who have more should help out people who have less - not only because it's ethically sound but also because, as John Rawls argued (however clumsily) in A Theory of Justice, no one knows ahead of time what the future will hold, and it's nice to know that people will be willing to support you if you need it, just as you're willing to support them.

My grandmother used to see people suffer and struggle and say, "There but for the grace of God go I". There's a profound sense in there that much of the affluence and comfort we take for granted is accidental - an accident of birth, or opportunity, or ability, or whatever.

As a young, healthy, affluent man, I know that I'm a net contributor to the Canadian health care system. I'm happy to do so, because I want to live in a society where people look after each other, where people have a shared sense of basic values and are committed to providing opportunities for everyone.

You may argue that if people feel this way, they can donate to charity, but that misses the point: charity by definition is sporadic, piecemeal, catch-as-catch can. That's simply not a good way to provide for people's education or health care - it's wealth poorly spent since it doesn't accomplish its goal.

People support taxation for universal education, universal health care, protection of culturally and historically significant buildings, etc. because they recognize that it's the best way to protect these things for everyone. It's the most effective expression of our shared sense of obligation for each other's well-being.

Democratic government is the political means through which people consider, discuss, debate, and express these shared values. When you use words like "intimidation" and "bully" to try and describe this process, you reveal only the limitations of your narrow ideology.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 19:12:53

Ryan, my point about your affinity for threat and intimidation is NOT a straw man, it is a logical conclusion to your own statements. You believe that government's role is to dictate how people manage their affairs. However, the only way to enforce this is to use the threat of fines or jail. Therefore, you condone the use of force in order to achieve your goals.

You have strong opinions about what types of buildings are needed in Hamilton, and also what types of homes people should live in. I am of the opinion that people should be free to choose where they live, as long as they can pay their way. I believe that individuals are unique, and so are their likes and dislikes. You believe that your way is the best way, and that if people don't follow your way of thinking, government should force them to.

As far as government health care goes, if you believe in sharing your income to help others, nobody is stopping you. If there are enough people that are like minded, then there will be plenty of money to help everyone. The fact that you believe taxes are required to fund health care, means that you don't believe people are genuinely good. You are trying to enforce morality, but you are using theft in order to do it. In this case, two wrongs do not make a right.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 19:25:51

Jason, what if the government were to claim ownership of your physical body, using the same line of thinking. If someone needed a kidney, they could take one of yours. You could argue against it, but your claim would be subject to the collective will of the government.

Assuming that you find this proposition abhorrent, why is it hard to appreciate that property paid for by hours of hard work needs also to be protected. If government can claim ownership over the fruits of our labours, then we are all slaves. If you don't have a problem with that, then more power to you.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 28, 2008 at 22:47:03

I realize you're simply playing devils advocate, so I probably don't need to say this, but obviously there's a difference between buildings and history and someone's physical body. I'm free to do what I please with my body within the context of the laws of the land. Same goes for my property. To use your logic, I can repeat my sarcastic post from earlier suggesting I'd turn my home into a crack house. I have no problem with the fact that we disagree on this issue but let's at least try to keep the discussion someone realistic.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 29, 2008 at 00:16:01

Jason, I believe that every thing balances out, so go ahead and protect all the buildings you want. However, do not be surprised when things don't turn out the way you had hoped for. In my experience, the best way to help yourself, is to help others first. It seems counterintuitive, but it works like a charm.

The more Hamilton weakens itself, and allows business to have its way, the stronger the city will get. Ireland has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, so one would assume they are being taken advantage of by big corporations. The truth is that their per capita income is 50% greater than both the U.S. and Canada's. Their generosity to business has been rewarded with high wage jobs for its citizens.

Hamilton has attacked business for over fifty years now, and the negative effects are obvious. Why don't we do the opposite and start catering to businesses, the effects will be a huge increase in jobs, wages, and quality of life.

It's as easy as following the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you".

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By Jelly (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2008 at 04:31:26

Coming Soon:

listerblock.ca

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 30, 2008 at 08:20:45

A Smith wrote:

Ryan, my point about your affinity for threat and intimidation is NOT a straw man, it is a logical conclusion to your own statements.

No, A Smith, it's merely a logical conclusion to your own insistence on redefining everything according to a discredited ideology based on the 17th century notion of "natural rights" deriving from property.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted June 30, 2008 at 23:28:10

Ryan, I called you a bully, and I based this on your affinity for using force rather than cooperation to achieve your stated goals. Whereas I look at force as being a tool for self defense, you see it as a means to push your individual agenda.

Whether it is in protecting buildings you do not own, or limiting individuals choice to purchase the home of their dreams, you believe government's role is to control people's lives.

You frame your love for government with the idea that democracy represents consensus across the citizenry. However, you also believe that government can be co opted by narrow business interests. If this is the case, it can also be hijacked by narrow citizen interests like yourself.

I recognize that government can be manipulated by all these groups, and that is why I believe government power should be limited to protecting basic rights. Self defense is inherently moral, whereas coercion, even if it is exercised by the majority, is immoral.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 01, 2008 at 01:24:04

Still you insist on attacking the person from narrow dogmatism instead of engaging the issues.

You are a libertarian: you regard freedom as the absence of external constraints. I am a democratic liberal: I regard freedom as the means and ability to make choices and to act.

Which is more "correct"? That is debatable (though probably not provable); but until you can move beyond personal attacks, it will not be possible to have a constructive debate.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 01, 2008 at 12:23:22

If by "narrow dogmatism" you mean having a moral compass, then I agree with you. If you want to live in a world where results are all that matter, then you are lost, and I feel bad for you. Don't be surprised when the monster you support comes after you.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 02, 2008 at 08:41:25

By "narrow dogmatisim" I mean you write as though you have a monopoly on morality, or as you call it, "a moral compass".

Results may not be all that matter but results certainly do matter, as even pragmatic, consequentialist libertarians like Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek would argue - and as you yourself have implied steadily in your ongoing defence of libertarianism, e.g. "Things always balance out," and "I believe that all good things come at a price."

I have simply drawn different pragmatic conclusions from the evidence than you have - but you still can't seem to distinguish between the argument and the person making it.

The evidence strongly supports my thesis that libertarianism leads to gross inequality, widespread misery, private tyranny (of corporations over individuals), and the steady erosion of freedom as that same private tyranny takes over the reins of government and turns it into an adjunct of corporate power. Since citizens have no role to play in a libertarian government, they can't countervail the influence of corporations - which, after all, only want "free markets" when it suits them.

Because you can't seem to draw a distinction between moderate, evidence-based regulations with strong public support - say, a minimum wage, workplace safety standards, or protection for heritage buildings - and authoritarian state tyranny, you can't comprehend how someone could support using the government to achieve some public goods without also being a "bully". You can't see how these things produce strongly positive outcomes - positive for liberty in itself as well as for guaranteeing subsistence and creating opportunities.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2008 at 13:37:52

Ryan, do you believe there are any principles that supersede majority opinion? If so, what are these principles?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 02, 2008 at 14:54:15

I think the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does a pretty good job:

http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 02, 2008 at 22:31:01

Ryan, I especially like this part...

Equality Rights 15.2

Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race,national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.

...In effect, what this is saying is that there are no fundamental freedoms, since helping poor people trumps all other freedoms. I also find it curious how there is no mention of private property rights in this document.

This same proviso applies to mobility rights, which means that it is possible for the government to ban individuals from moving to another province to find work.

I ask you once again, are there any principles that rise above legislative decree? I will start you off with a few: murder, assault, rape, theft. Do you agree with me on any of these?


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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2008 at 08:19:34

A Smith,

I believe you're misreading the Charter.

what this is saying is that there are no fundamental freedoms

The subsection you quoted pertains to section 15, which guarantees equal treatment before the law without discrimination, particularly on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or disability. (Aside: I would be inclined to add sexual orientation to the list, though it is already arguably implicit in "sex".)

15(2) simply means that equal treatment does not preclude attempts to ameliorate disadvantage on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or disability.

I find it interesting that in your search for a gotcha, you skimmed right past section 2, which guarantees the following fundamental freedoms:

a) freedom of conscience and religion; b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and d) freedom of association.

You also skimmed past sections 3-5 on democratic freedoms, but of course you've already stated that you don't believe people should have the right to democratic government.

This same proviso applies to mobility rights

This section is somewhat controversial. Section 6(4) was added at the behest of Newfoundland and Labrador so that people who had lived there for a long time would have first crack at scarce jobs, e.g. in the offshore oil industry. Otherwise, the subsection prohibits limiting mobility on the basis of discrimination.

Again, no document is ever going to be perfect, but I think the Charter does a pretty good job.

I also find it curious how there is no mention of private property rights in this document.

Section 6 asserts the right "to pursue the gaining of a livelihood", which implies the right to property. Unlike the ideology of libertarianism (which is based originally on John Locke's second treatise of government), Canadian law does not recognize property as the foundation for human rights.

Rather, the Charter sets out those rights that are considered "essential to preserving Canada as a free and democratic country". That neatly sidesteps both the naturalistic fallacy (e.g. libertarianism) and the mysticism of divine ordination.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 13:13:28

Ryan, I stand corrected, you believe in everything but my right to private property. Therefore, as a Canadian, I can vote, speak my mind (assuming a human rights commission approves), hold a rally, but if the government decides to take my home, money, and anything else I own, I am legally bound to give it to them.

The democratic rights that you are enamored with, mean nothing if they do not guarantee sovereignty over the fruits of my labour. The logical extension of this line of thinking is to make me a slave to government.

Furthermore, Section 6 , Subsection (2) does nothing to guarantee property rights. As I mentioned previously, Section 6, Subsection (4) trumps this right, if and when the government decides it needs your wealth to help "disadvantaged" people.

Therefore, unless you want to clarify your position, I will assume you also support the government's ability to seize a person's wealth and property at any time.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2008 at 13:42:22

A Smith wrote:

you believe in everything but my right to private property

Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion called: they want their Strawman back when you're finished attacking him. :)

You continue to assert a false dichotomy between absolute property rights and no property rights. As long as you persist in this 18th century absolutism, you will continue to misconstrue documents like the Charter as being somehow an attack on freedom.

The Charter is a reasonably successful legal effort at ensuring those legal principles that preserve freedom and democracy: freedom of conscience; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression; freedom of the press; freedom of assembly; freedom of association; the right to participate in the composition of government and the formation of its policies (which are constrained by having to conform to the Charter); freedom of movement; freedom to pursue the gaining of a livelihood; freedom from unreasonable search or seizure; freedom from arbitrary detention; the right to self-defence in a fair, timely, public trial; freedom from cruel and unusual punishment; freedom from self-incrimination; freedom of language; the right to communicate with the government in either Official language; freedom from discrimination; and the right to seek redress if one's rights are violated.

The Charter also seeks to reconcile possible tensions between those legal principles. Again, the only way to imagine that there can be no tension between rights is to select a single right arbitrarily (e.g. the right to property) based on an arbitrary and unprovable notion of "natural rights" and infer other rights from that arbitrary assumption (e.g. right to life justified because my body is my property).

Other than your own heated insistence that this must be the case (and that anyone who feels differently is a "bully"), you have no justification for the a priori assumption on which you build the rest of your ideology.

Therefore, unless you want to clarify your position

I have clarified my position repeatedly. What prevents you from comprehending it is your insistence on interpreting what you see and read through the prism of your 18th century political ideology. Unless and until you're willing to subject your ideological assumptions to some kind of critical analysis, I don't see any way this discussion can move forward.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 14:16:14

I base my belief in property rights on basic morals. I agree to not take your possessions, and you reciprocate.

The alternative is to grant certain groups, in this the majority, the right to control the individual. If you feel comfortable in allowing the majority, or the well connected, to impose their will on the individual, then it speaks volumes about what type of person you are.

In your world, the majority opinion is correct because democracy equals truth. When you begin with the assumption that democracy equals truth, then whatever the government does has to be right.

What happens if the majority decided it didn't want a certain ethnic group around, would you fall in line because it reflected the common good?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2008 at 14:35:54

I base my belief in human rights on basic morals. I agree that you should enjoy fundamental human rights, and you reciprocate.

The alternative is to grant certain groups, in this the people who own the most property, the right to control the individual. If you feel comfortable in allowing the rich, or the well connected, to impose their will on the individual, then it speaks volumes about what type of person you are.

In your world, the rich have freedom because property equals freedom. When you begin with the assumption that property equals freedom, then whatever the rich do has to be right.

What happens if the rich decided it was okay for the desperately poor to sell themselves into slavery, would you fall in line because it reflected their property rights?

See what I did there?

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 15:25:05

Ryan don't waste your time on this troll. He showed he either has no morals or no thinking skills when he wrote "What happens if the majority decided it didn't want a certain ethnic group around, would you fall in line because it reflected the common good?" I guess he missed the part in the charter of rights that says it's ILLEGAL to disciminate on the basis of ethnicity. Smith doesn't want an honest debate, he just wants to bog you down. Interpret his posts as damage and route around them.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 15:58:50

Defining property is clear cut, but how do you define fundamental human rights? Is it the right to have other people go to work so they can pay you to sit at home? Is it the right to petition government to limit other people's plans because you disagree with them? Is it the right to get free health care and education, even though somebody else is forced to subsidize it?

Private property assumes that possessions are earned in a lawful manner, and there has been a voluntary exchange by two or more parties. Your "fundamental human rights" omits the part about voluntary exchange, in fact it uses coercion to force one party to help the other.

That is the big difference between your values and mine. You don't believe that coercion is a bad thing, whereas I do.

As an example, if someone decides to buy gas from the big bad oil company, that is a choice. It may be the best choice among many bad choices, but it is still a choice. In fact, if you don't like having to buy gas, you can start your own company that sells bio diesel, or anything else you can think of.

However, when people are forced to pay a large percentage of their income to the government, there is zero choice in the matter. If a person refuses to pay the tax, he/she is sent to jail.

I do not define freedom as having property, I define freedom as having the right to earn and keep property. If you are poor, you have as much freedom as a rich person has to earn more wealth/property. The fact that Bill Gates is extremely rich, does not limit my ability to be rich as well. It's not a zero sum game.

Furthermore, it's not up to the rich to decide whether it is alright for the poor to sell themselves into slavery, it is up to the person who is selling themselves. I personally think it's a stupid thing to do, but if someone wants to do it, that is their choice.

I would hope in time that person would come to their senses and break such a contract, and if they did, I would support them. If a rich person held a slave against their wishes, then that would be morally wrong, and force would be justified in ending it.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 16:03:52

nobrainer, your name suits you. Did you ever hear about Japanese internment camps in WWII, or the residential schools fiasco? Government has a long track record of abusing minorities when feel it is appropriate.

Come back when you have a brain.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2008 at 16:26:10

Defining property is clear cut, but how do you define fundamental human rights?

Ah, I get it: you base your political ideology on property because it's easier. Thanks for clarifying.

When I was a child, I had a Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids book where one of the kids goes missing. It's night, and Weird Harold and Bucky are walking down the street looking under streetlamps. Another character asks, "Why are you looking under the streetlamps?" Harold and Bucky answer, "Because we can see under the streetlamps."

You can look for human rights under the floodlight of property, but you're not going to find them all there.

Is it the right to have other people go to work so they can pay you to sit at home?

I support the right to public assistance so you don't starve to death if you can't find a job or find yourself unable to work.

Is it the right to petition government to limit other people's plans because you disagree with them?

I support the right to petition government to limit other people's plans because they're harmful.

Is it the right to get free health care and education, even though somebody else is forced to subsidize it?

Education and health care are not explicitly mentioned in the Charter, but I would argue that both are basic rights, because it's not possible to preserve freedom and democracy if citizens don't have access to them.

there has been a voluntary exchange by two or more parties

If the choice is to submit to a bad deal or starve, you can't say the exchange is voluntary. Many market transactions, especially between individuals and large corporations, are highly unbalanced and coercive. People with more property have more bargaining power and hence more freedom. That's why a society needs a basis for rights that is not based on property.

You don't believe that coercion is a bad thing, whereas I do.

No. You simply have a big ideological blind spot about sources of coercion.

If you are poor, you have as much freedom as a rich person has to earn more wealth/property.

If you don't have access to education, healthy food, a safe home, medical treatment for illness, etc., your capacity to earn wealth is severely, in many cases fatally, constrained.

The simple fact is that markets do not produce the conditions under which voluntary market exchanges flourish.

if someone wants to [sell themself into slavery], that is their choice.

You would have made an excellent apologist for indentured servitude, which not coincidentally was popular during the 17th and 18th centuries when the concept of natural property rights was in its ascendancy.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 17:29:56

Ryan, you use the term "fundamental human rights", because you know it can mean whatever you want it to mean. In that way, whatever you want government to do, you simply have to label it as a "fundamental human right", and there can be no opposition.

That is why you don't like the term "private property", since it implies that there are areas of the public sphere that are off limits to government control.

In your world, government's job is not to protect people's right to freedom, it is to force everyone to be equal. Therefore, if a poor person can't afford to pay for an M.R.I, than rich people shouldn't be allowed to either.

It is a philosophy based on envy, rather than compassion, and it reflects a person who can't, or is unwilling to carry their own weight. It is a philosophy for the weak of spirit.

The sad reality is, beneficiaries of government assistance always end up weaker, and more reliant on the government than if they hadn't drank the cool aid. The proof of this statement can be seen in areas of high welfare rates, places where multiple generations only source of nutrition has come from the nipple of the taxpayer.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 21:14:27

Hey nobrainer! Stop discouraging Ryan, I'm selling popcorn over here! Oh and A Smith, stop equating greed and selfishness with "morals" and "values". You're making everyone too nauseated to buy my popcorn!

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 03, 2008 at 22:28:25

Highwater, I agree with you to a certain extent. I am being selfish, but it is because I want to help poor people. I believe that things have a way of balancing out, therefore if I routinely give money to a poor person, it makes them reliant on me, as if they are small child.

Assuming that people have food to stay alive, and shelter to keep them healthy, every extra government dollar is poison. I believe that charity and food banks could take care of the bare necessities, therefore welfare is unnecessary.

If we really want to help people, let them build up the motivation to help themselves. Government freebies kill the hunger to break from poverty, because the pain they feel isn't strong enough.

I go back to the analogy of the human body, exercise and stress make it stronger, but doing nothing will make it atrophy. Poor people should be asked to work if they want to accept the kindness of strangers. In doing so, they will not only build their bodies, they will build their self worth.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 03, 2008 at 23:20:43

you use the term "fundamental human rights", because you know it can mean whatever you want it to mean

I've already stated what it means: rights that are essential to preserving Canada as a free and democratic country. That becomes the basic test of whether a law promotes or obstructs individual freedom and democratic governance.

Part of the political process is citizens discussing, debating and considering laws in this context. Another part is courts doing the same. Yet another part is political contests among parties, each arguing for why their platform does the best job of preserving freedom and democracy.

I trust citizens, on balance, to be smart and ethical enough to make good choices, even if they aren't necessarily what I personally would have chosen. (You, evidently, do not.) My experience and observation tells me that diverse people bring personal experiences, perspectives, and analyses to bear that no single individual and no single ideology can anticipate in advance from a priori assumptions.

That's why I like the fact that the Charter is not absolutely simple, clear and unambiguous. That simplicity and clarity comes at the expense of the kind of wisdom, insight and open-mindedness that produce good, ethical, effective governance.

Unfortunately, you're like the Dwarfs at the end of CS Lewis' _The Last Battle_. There's a whole world of valuable political discourse around you, but your dogmatism shrouds you in an impenetrable darkness of suspicion and loathing.

That is why you don't like the term "private property"

I never said I don't like the term "private property". I own some property and feel, well, proprietary toward it. What I don't like is the discredited 18th century notion that property rights are absolute and that all rights flow from the concept of property.

No right is absolute and unlimited: not the right to speech, which is limited against defamation and harm; nor the right to democracy, which is limited by the fundamental freedoms; nor the right to property; which is limited in part by the necessity of collecting enough tax to preserve a free and democractic country for all citizens.

As the Charter states, "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

In your world, government's job is not to protect people's right to freedom, it is to force everyone to be equal.

So it's acceptable to collect enough tax to pay for a police officer to protect your property, but it's not acceptable to collect enough tax to keep a sick person alive? Thank you for explaining your "basic morals".

f a poor person can't afford to pay for an M.R.I, than rich people shouldn't be allowed to either.

On the contrary: in a well-funded system of universal health care, everyone has equal access to an MRI based on medical need, not based on ability to pay. Why do you think a rich person has more of a right to life than a poor person?

It is a philosophy based on envy, rather than compassion

Because nothing says "compassion" like letting the poor and the sick starve and waste away. It's okay, I see where you're coming from.

and it reflects a person who can't, or is unwilling to carry their own weight. It is a philosophy for the weak of spirit.

I consider myself very fortunate that I'm a net contributor to the Canadian social security system. I'm young, healthy, and well-paid for the work I do in a challenging, enjoyable and respectful work environment. I have a healthy family who are in full possession of their physical and mental capabilities.

I take some, but by no means full, credit for my good circumstances. I am conscious of the fact that I was raised by a loving, affluent family in a safe, healthy neighbourhood. I went to good public schools and have always had full access to medical care when I needed it. My workplace is regulated by federal labour laws that guarantee basic rights, including the right to refuse unsafe work without losing my job.

Further, I benefit materially from living in a society in which most (though by no means all) citizens have been raised in broadly similar circumstances: safe, healthy, loved, cared for when sick, well educated, and protected from abuse. As a direct result, Canadians are among the most productive workers on earth, and I benefit from living and working in a healthy, robust economy.

I am living proof, if such proof had any chance of penetrating your dogmatism, that being a beneficiary of government assistance does not always make people weaker.

Thanks to the public goods of which I have been able to partake, I am wealthier and more prosperous than I would otherwise have been - in fact, despite paying higher taxes than I would in a more libertarian state, I am probably still wealthier overall, without even counting the benefits of access to those public goods.

Further, I feel a generalized sense of empathy for, and communion with, my fellow citizens. As a nation, we have embraced the ideal that we're all in this together and that we need to look after each other to make sure no one is left behind or cast aside due to circumstances beyond their control.

The simple fact is that I am healthier, happer and freer for living in a humane, civil society, not only because our economy benefits and I have more opportunities but also because I know that should tragedy befall me or my family, we won't be abandoned either.

Of course, there are still many serious problems. Despite our national commitment to freedom, democracy and equality too many people are still left behind and cast aside. Too many children grow up in homes and in neighbourhoods that are not conducive to healthy physical, mental and emotional development. Too many people lack opportunities or the means to take advantage of opportunities. Too many people despair that life will treat them fairly.

To the extent that democratic action can help to address some of these problems and alleviate some of these disadvantages, I believe it's incumbent on us as a nation committed to preserving Canada as a free and democratic country to seek fair, pragmatic, evidence-based solutions that are consistent with the Charter and extend freedom to as many people as possible.

You will doubtless reject such efforts as illiberal "theft" of your property to the extent that they require public investments of money collected through taxation, not to mention a weakness or mollycoddling of people that ought to be Strong and Tough enough to solve their own problems.

I wonder if your judgment and intolerance would persist if some horrible calamity fell upon you and you could no longer take care of yourself. I certainly hope such a calamity does not befall you or anyone else, but I know that it will happen to some people at some time - and I would like to know that those people won't be left to suffer, starve and die in abandonment and despair.

Even John Locke acknowledged that people need to agree on some basic rules grounded in justice - a social contract - so they can coexist peacefully and prosperously. As John Rawls argued, justice means "Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all."

Improving the lot of the least advantaged without harming the lot of the most advantaged: that seems pretty damned fair to me.

Highwater: I'll have a medium popcorn with extra butter, if you please.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 10:06:27

OK highwater, I guess it is pretty entertaining to see Smithy dig himself deeper and deeper.

Ryan wrote, "Too many people despair that life will treat them fairly."

The funny thing is, cognitive research tells us that when people are raised to believe that life is unfair and no one will help them, they see unfairness and just shrug their shoulders and say, 'that's life'. But people who are raised to believe that life is basically fair and people are decent, will see unfairness and want to do something about it. Who knows, maybe Smith wasn't cared and nurtured enough as a child and that's why he doesn't understand why care and nurturing are so important. Tough Guy macho insecurity...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 11:21:49

Ryan, you have attacked the idea of private property because it is a "simple" concept to understand. Therefore, the true test of any concept is how complex it is. That would mean simple concepts such as love, charity, hard work, common decency, friendship, dignity, are all without merit as well.

This argument strengthens my view that you are an elitist. You believe that PhD's are required to teach people how to live their lives. The average person is incapable, since he lacks the I.Q., or the formal training required to understand the complex terms, and principles, so vital to the functioning of a free and democratic society.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 04, 2008 at 11:42:43

A Smith,

I claim that private property is not the foundation on which liberty rests. You interpret this as an attack on the concept of private property, even when I have explicitly and repeatedly acknowledged the legitimacy of property among liberties.

I claim that people have the right to education and health care so they can reach their potential. You somehow manage to interpret this as an "elitist" belief "that PhDs are required to teach people how to live their lives."

I claim that the best way to solve political conflict is through citizens discussing and debating legal issues in a constitutional framework dedicated to preserving freedom and democracy. You somehow interpret this to mean "the average person is incapable" - i.e. the exact opposite of what I wrote.

Your relentless insistence on inventing straw men and knocking them down is truly astonishing in its reach and tenacity.

Since you persist in distorting my arguments until they're unrecognizable and then attacking your distortions (whether through deliberate malice or sheer dogmatism is anyone's guess, but at this point I'm actually hoping it's malice) there's simply no more point in continuing this discussion.

If you're merely taking the mickey, then please accept my congratulations on a truly epic troll.

If you're actually serious, I can only shake my head in wonder and incredulity.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 12:34:07

Ryan, don't back down from your own statements. You mocked my fondness for private property on the basis of its simplicity. In your own words "Ah, I get it: you base your political ideology on property because it's *easier*."

You were implying that only complex ideas, such as "fundamental human rights" were worthy of discussion. Now that you recognize the flawed logic behind those statements, you are trying to deny you said them.

Your chameleon like behaviour doesn't surprise me, since most of your ideas are nothing more than reflections on the political correctness of the day.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 04, 2008 at 13:17:01

don't back down from your own statements.

Nonsense. The only statements I reject are your strawman distortions.

You mocked my fondness for private property on the basis of its simplicity.

No. I disputed your contention that property should be the basis for liberty because it's easier to understand property rights than to understand human rights.

It's not wrong merely because it's simple: it's wrong because it oversimplifies a complex issue by boiling it down to a few abstract, a priori premises.

You were implying that only complex ideas, such as "fundamental human rights" were worthy of discussion.

No. I was stating that multifaceted issues require an approach that takes those facets into account. Your 18th century property rights model offers a false simplicity by dismissing anything that falls outside its doctrinal scope. It's classic ideology: abstract, normative, and dealing exclusively in one-dimensional caricatures.

I'm done with this thread. If you want to reply, go ahead - you're welcome to the last word.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 04, 2008 at 16:40:02

A Smith,

I was just cleaning up a bit of spam and accidentally deleted your last comment on this thread. Sorry about that - it was quite unintentional, and I invite you to re-post it. (As I recall, it had to do with my being an avowed servant of the tyrannical state.)

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 04, 2008 at 20:59:32

Ryan, my last post was rude, and I apologize for the personal attack. At least we both believe that words are the best way to solve disagreements. I will be challenging you in the future, so until then, keep on frustrating me with your big government viewpoints.

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