Early in the week we were watching a television news report on an anti-mask protest in Steinbach, when we heard possibly the stupidest comment ever spoken in Manitoba.
The reporter (from Global TV if memory serves well) had plucked a young woman out to represent the anti-protest sentiment. She said she recognized that the protest was about "individual rights" but, she continued, 'individual rights were not the mountain you want to die on.'
WHAT???? We leaped out of our chairs as one. WHAT????
INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS LIKE THE RIGHT OF FREE SPEECH ARE EXACTLY THE MOUNTAIN YOU WANT TO DIE ON! we shouted.
What made the shocking statement even more appalling was that it was made only days after Remembrance Day. You know, the day we set aside to honour the thousands who died fighting a world war to preserve individual rights. And spoken only weeks before we mark the 30th anniversary of the end of Communism in the Soviet Union and the return, after 50 years, of individual rights to millions enslaved by communist dictatorship.
How were we to know that the foolish woman's comment would soon be topped by an even bigger fool.
What happens if you give a little man big power? You create a tin-pot dictator.
Individual rights were all well and good, declared Manitoba Premier-cum-Emperor Brian Pallister, just not now. Not when they challenge his imperial diktats in the war against the Covid-19 virus.
Pallister vowed to crush any dissent to the official version of truth. We Have Ways To Make You Obey!
With that, he crossed a red line. He officially declared war on the public. Without a true Opposition in a functioning Legislature or an operating news media, Pallister unveiled his coup d'etat.
He started by seizing the power of justice authorities. Anyone attending the Steinbach protest would soon be punished, he said. They would feel the full weight of Pallister law. They would be ticketed, at the very least, and brought to court and convicted and fined.
Remember the controversy over whether the Premier of the Province could order the RCMP to clear railroad tracks of protestors? There was only dead silence when Pallister declared that now he was police, judge and jury.
To up the ante, Pallister rushed out Minister of Municipal Relations Rochelle Squires, who once purported to be a reporter herself, to wave some boiler-plate code of conduct bylaw to show that the Reeve of the RM of La Broquerie who spoke at the Steinbach protest was guilty of heinous breaches of ethics that could--hint, hint--have him suspended for months. Oppose Pallister's personal rulebook and you just could lose your job, pal.
That was just the beginning of Pallister's campaign against the people.
Before the week was out, Pallister had hired his own policing force---90 members of a private security firm authorized to ticket and otherwise harass protestors (if the RCMP wouldn't do it). Again---dead silence from the public watch dogs.
He opened a snitch line to get citizens to inform on their neighbours, Stasi-style. If that wasn't disturbing enough, Pallister blatantly equated opponents of his decrees with terrorists. His snitch line tells Manitobans "if you see something, say something", a catch-phrase adopted in New York City following threats by Muslim terrorists after the 911 attacks.
If you have some friends over to watch an NFL game and share a pizza, you might as well be wearing an explosive suicide belt and beheading teachers, in Pallister's view. Immediately press option three if you see someone visiting his elderly mother without a pass from the Pallister police.
To beef up the intimidation, Pallister gleefully announced that hundreds of government employees would henchforth be authorized to disrupt public protests---bus inspectors, liquor-licence inspectors, sheriff's officers, conservation officers, you name it.
But what are public protests but free speech? Pallister, his government, and even Chief Public Health Officer Dr.Brent Roussin have forfeited their claim that they know the truth after months of flip-flopping. Masks-no masks, shop-no shopping, school-no school.
Protestors are asking serious questions. Free speech requires that even the Premier listen and respond if he's claiming a health emergency gives him total power. If you have an answer, give it. Threatening people who want answers tells you all you need to know about the intellectual position of the officials uttering the threats.
One sign at the Steinbach protest stood out. "If masks work, open everything."
Well, what's the answer? What study is the government relying on to prove that masks work to stop the Covid-19 virus. Where can we read that study ourselves? That's free speech in action.
The public watch dogs have abdicated their position, permitting, and even applauding Pallister's war on the public.
What's next? A curfew? Forcing people to wear masks in their own homes? Mandatory testing? Will we have to wear symbols sewn onto our jackets to show we tested negative in order to ride the bus or visit a library or go to the bank?
Will private security guards stop you on the street and demand your personal information under threat of fines? Will you need a pass to walk the street with another person beside you? Will that bus inspector have the right to enter your home without a warrant to check everyone's ID's because a neighbour claimed you had friends over for a drink at Christmas?
Awww. C'mon. That would never happen. Right?