Leave Means Leave: In conversation with Andrew Lilico, lead economist for Brexit Leave campaign

When I was in the United Kingdom last month, I was quite surprised to see how people were demonstrating daily against Brexit, despite its cemented fate.

Even so, dozens of chanters waving European Union flags took to the streets of London every day, urging the government to reconsider, or have another referendum (and keep going until they win, I suppose.)

Though it remains a certainty that the U.K. will leave the E.U., what the arrangement between the two countries will look like is still unclear. I’ve been among those advocating a hard Brexit, replaced if the parties wish with a trade deal.

Many of the Europhiles have been advocating for a role that would make it difficult to imagine that a departure from the E.U. even existed.

I sat down on behalf of the True North Initiative with Andrew Lilico to discuss all of these dynamics. Lilico is the executive director of Europe Economics, and also served as the lead economist on the official Leave campaign.

Her Excellency excels at raiding the government purse

I had no idea Adrienne Clarkson was still working for the people of Canada. Now that I know how much it’s costing, I’d rather she just retire.

I tackle the scandal of mounting expenses for former vice-regal representatives in my latest Loonie Politics column, which you can read here if you’re a subscriber.

(If you’re not, consider signing up with promo code ‘Lawton’ for a discounted subscription.)

As always, here’s an excerpt of the column:

On behalf of Canadian taxpayers, let me say on the record that I don’t think any of us were aware former governor general Adrienne Clarkson was still working for us.

The woman once styled as Her Excellency now only excels at raiding the government purse, to the tune of over $1.1 million since she left office 13 years ago.

It’s a wonder she’s not the most visible woman in Canada.  The way she describes things, she’s been on a 19-year public service binge.

I’m not saying she isn’t doing anything.  Despite turning 80 in a few months it sounds like she keeps quite the calendar.  Even so, I wonder how this robust workload justifies up to $206,000 per year in government funding for administrative support above and beyond her government pension and private sector income.

More importantly, who’s asking her to do all this for us?  I’d be content to let her rake in the money from lucrative public speaking engagements and her work with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.  Instead, I and all Canadians are subsidizing this private sector career by bankrolling the unspecified administrative services she receives.

Free Speech at Sea: Andrew Lawton on the Mark Steyn Show

Mark Steyn and I have completed our Freaky Friday role reversal. Just a few weeks after he and I sat down for a full-length interview for True North Initiative, it was my turn in the hot seat, joining singer-songwriter Tal Bachman and author Kathy Shaidle on a free speech edition of the Mark Steyn Show, filmed in front of a live audience aboard the maiden Mark Steyn Cruise.

From Tal’s background as a successful musician, Kathy’s as a published poet, and my own navigation of the world of media and politics in Canada, there was a general understanding that the threats to free speech are coming about from within the cultural sphere and not just from statist forces.

It was a great pleasure to be on the panel, so I hope you’ll enjoy watching.

NDP makes brazen pitch for censorship

As time passes, the fringe becomes mainstream. This is happening with efforts of the rabid anti-free speech Antifa types, who now seem to have an ally in a federal political party in Canada. The NDP has adopted the position that former White House advisor Steve Bannon should not be allowed to participate in a debate scheduled tonight in Toronto.

It shows how unserious the NDP really is, but that doesn’t mean it’s brazen opposition to free speech isn’t a serious problem.

I tackle this in my latest Loonie Politics column, which subscribers can read here. If you aren’t a subscriber already, use promo code ‘Lawton’ for a discount.

Here’s an excerpt:

Allowing these ideological clashes to happen is paramount for any free society to be able to challenge its paradigm.

Far too many people don’t want this or any other contentious debate to go on.  Since Munk Debates announced the Bannon-Frum square-off, self-styled anti-fascist groups have tried to get it shut down.  These calls became far less fringe when NDP member of parliament Charlie Angus said this week that Bannon’s invitation should be cancelled “out of respect” for the victims of last weekend’s horrific synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

So far as I know, Bannon had nothing to do with the attack and wasn’t even in Pennsylvania at the time, but somehow his presence in Toronto would be disrespectful to the families of slain Jewish worshippers, Angus says.

An NDP spokesperson told CBC that Angus’ comments reflect the party’s position.

I suspect the NDP’s stance was the same last week, but the Pittsburgh tragedy gave Angus the political cover to promote an agenda of silencing others.

Freedom of speech means controversial people can express controversial opinions.  It also means anyone can decide whether or not to entertain those views.  Yes, it even gives people the right to criticize a platform being afforded to someone.

This process becomes censorship when the force of the state is weighing in.  The NDP may not be in power right now, but it’s a party seeking to govern Canada.  As such, Canadians should be concerned if it has an official stance that anyone’s speeches should be shut down.  If it’s Bannon today, it’s someone else tomorrow.

In conversation with Maxime Bernier

It’s only been two months since Maxime Bernier walked away from the party he once tried to lead to launch the People’s Party of Canada.

In that time, the PPC’s membership has increased, as has its war chest despite not yet being allowed to issue tax receipts. Though Bernier has attracted continued criticism from the mainstream media, and his former colleagues in the Conservative Party of Canada.

Though no poll has shown the PPC as being near victory, the party has momentum and energy. This poses challenges for the Conservative campaign and for right-leaning voters.

It’s still not clear what impact the PPC will have in the narrative of next year’s election campaigns or in the results themselves. Even if the PPC doesn’t win, it could damage Conservative campaigns in ridings with historically narrow margins.

As a longtime conservative, this possibility hasn’t sat well with me. I wanted to challenge Bernier on the impact his party is having on the broader conservative movement in Canada, and also allow him to articulate his vision for Canada in his own words.

I supported Bernier in his leadership bid, and also supported him against critics earlier this summer when he started speaking out on immigration and diversity issues in Canada. Though I’m sympathetic to his ideas, I’m not a fan of having a fractured right again.

I explained to Bernier’s team that I wanted to tackle these in an in-depth interview for the True North Initiative. They were excited for the opportunity, as was I.

In this interview, I put the questions that matter to Canadian conservatives to Bernier.