Monday, February 15, 2010

On "Bold" Policy

The Liberals are asking for bold ideas, in the lead up to the Montreal Thinkers Conference. A few months ago, I submitted a rethink on our euthanasia laws, within the context of "bold". I argued that the public mood was such, that the Liberals could address this potential landmine issue, without the amount of risk one would first assume.

Today, Angus Reid has released a new finding on the euthanasia question, and the results are nothing short of compelling:

An overwhelming 67% of Canadians support the general idea of legalizing euthanasia. What these numbers demonstrate, addressing this issue isn't the political powder keg many queasy politicos fear. In fact, if one looks electorally, the numbers are even more soothing, downright advantageous, if the Liberals were to adopt a reasonable reform. 75% of British Columbians, 77% of Quebecers, 67% of Ontarios, even two to one support in Alberta, numbers which show that Canadians are receptive to a "bold" rethink.

When the question turns to assisted suicide, not surprisingly the numbers change somewhat. Only 25% favor prosecution, 41% do not, but a large 33% remain unsure, which denotes some referral to situation. It is within this part of the debate that arguments become more problematic, and I would submit any reform should avoid this aspect.

However, on the broader question of whether an individual should have the right to determine his/her own fate, there is a receptive audience, waiting for a progressive idea. Just as the "state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation", as Trudeau eloquently argued, it also has no say in how free individuals determine their own destiny. Strict rules, which address terminal illness and the mental capacity to make an informed choice, are entirely doable, both morally and politically. While the issue is "heated", the above finding demonstrates fertile ground for a party "bold" enough to ponder. In reality, this policy isn't really bold at all, one could say its promotion could be an electoral asset. A targeted, succinct, narrow definition can and could fly. On this issue, the public is light years ahead of the current policy, one can be daring, without really being bold at all.


On second thought, NEVER MIND :)


JimmE said...

Notwithstanding this information, & with respect, I admire & mostly agree with your posts. If this were to become Liberal policy, I would:

1-Terminate my association with the LPC (active since 1968) & cancel my Victory Fund contributions
2- Draft a letter to the press to that effect & have other like minded Liberals in my community co-sign it.
3 - Join the Green Party & actively campaign for them either in my riding or in one where my efforts might be more effective in Defeating a Liberal candidate.

This is not taken lightly, I have held EVERY position one can have in a riding at one time or an other. I have managed Local Federal, Provincial & Municipal campaigns & would bring those skills (and money & people) to defeating Liberal candidates.

Sorry Steve, I no more want to see the present PM continue than I would like to see W back in Washington. I think Iggy would make a great PM but this issue is a deal breaker for me. It is not about choice, it is about right and wrong.

Jay said...

I think a great policy would be to eliminate interest on federal student loans. Danny Williams did it to the provincial side and in one year I noticed a significant dent taken out of the remaining principle. The rich have had quite enough breaks especially when it comes to taxes. Lets give a serious break to those just starting out. Free up a little extra cash for them to spend in the economy on such things as homes, etc. You'd probably end up with fewer people defaulting on the loans also.

Steve V said...

I'm surprised at how irrational your reaction. You have the right to do whatever you want, but you seem to think you have the right to tell me what I can do with my existence. It strikes me in the same unseemly "kine in the sand" mentality of the wingers and abortion.

JimmE said...

Steve, love ya; but for me this crosses the line between a choice on how to live & die to active murder. We can do lots to make one's end of the road dignified & less painful without resorting to putting gramps on the ice flow.

Steve V said...

Gramps doesn't need your advice.

The Rat said...

What's irrational? I think it is quite rational to think that in legalizing euthanasia we will end up someplace we did not expect. When the Supreme Court struck down our abortion law did anyone suspect that we would have no law at all? That it would be perfectly legal in Canada to whack a baby so long as one toe was still in? Or that legalizing same sex marriage would lead to defacto legalization of polygamy? In fact, I distinctly remember being ridiculed by some for that one and yet the charges in Bountiful have been dropped. What next, is it enough that two adults, say a brother and sister, consent?

We already see with the euthanasia debate that a lot of people make poor choices when they are sick, mentally ill, or in grief. Think of the lady in Switzerland who killed herself at the same time as her husband because she could not envision life without him. How romantic! Will we be able to euthanize someone who cannot consent if three doctors agree? Will the handicapped and marginalized be able to decide for themselves or will family pressure them into making the "right" choice?

The Liberal party has attacked the Conservatives (Reform mostly) for being populist, for not doing the right thing, and here you propose exactly that and for the selfish reason of finding a wedge issue that will bring you back to power. At least Reform believed populism was a form of democratic representation.

JimmE said...

Gramps may not care about my POV, however; if you push him out, Gramps may want a second opinion.

Steve V said...

Brutal analogy.

What a waste of time....

Steve V said...


Sorry if I don't take anyone coming from KKKate's cesspool seriously.

John said...

What I find amazing about this kind of polling, is that it always serves as a reason for those who support these wacko ideas to make them into public policy. On the other hand, when something isn't supported by polling it is of course not up to the oppressive majority to decide since its the rights of the minority that are most important.

Steve V said...

Wow, imagine if that made any sense.

This thread is a write off, with the braindead SDA contingent pouring in.


Someone on the cesspool said I can't engage in intellectual debate. Let me know when one starts...

Steve V said...

CathiefromCanada said...

Unfortunately, if the Liberals got behind this, then the Conservatives would gleefully start saying that Iggy wants to set up "Death Panels" in Canada. Regardless of whether people support this in theory, it leaves a bad taste in our mouths. In the end, I think this would just turn out to be a harmful distraction from the important economic solutions that the Liberals should be using to distinguish themselves from the Cons, such as support for innovative university research, creating research jobs, etc.

Steve V said...

Fair enough, this is hardly the domain of calm reason. It will be interesting to watch the debate in Quebec.

Gayle said...

"When the Supreme Court struck down our abortion law did anyone suspect that we would have no law at all?"

I think it is clear that no law is necessary.

You might want to try to find a better example.

Josh said...

I think this is grossly premature and wrongheaded. I do NOT support legalization of euthanasia in general - if it were to occur, it would be only under the most stringent of conditions. As it stands, it is far more appropriate to ensure that terminal patients and their families sign advance directives indicating the extent of resuscitation desired, i.e. whether "heroic measures" should be employed. Further federal support of palliative care programs is a far more pressing need, to say nothing of home care, or investment in long-term care facilities. This is a bad path to take for the sake of something "bold".

Steve V said...


I don't suggest support just to be bold. I support it on moral and philosophical grounds. What I'm saying is that this policy, crafted properly, isn't necessarily risky. I will concede that having a calm discussion might be optimistic. For instance, I learned tonight that a free thinking individual can murder themselves. Hysterics.

JimmE said...

So without the juvenile emotional reactions perhaps we can look your proposal like adults. Forget for a moment LONG TIME Liberals like me will work against this policy,
What is the upside of this proposal?

Sorry, I'm waiting,

Oh, two life long Dippers decide to vote Liberal.

And the downside? Well, what about the conference of Catholic Bishops having a letter read the Sunday before an election urging their members to vote against a party that advocates this policy? Or Muslim & Sikh clerics preaching against this policy? Conservative Jews & Protestants sustaining a campaign against this policy.
So let's just say that the two Dippers makes this a wash, what is the up side to the party going through a fight that makes the Muldoon era look like a jamboree?

In the past you've argued 50% or 90% support in Alberta does not glean one more seats. Pissing off a significant pool of one's potential supporters looks to me like the opposite of that premis, and some stuff.

Flip me the bird if you like, but, respectfully, I think this is vote and seat

Steve V said...

If you want to posit it as though great swaths opposed, how do you explain this entirely one sided result (which isn't the first btw)? And, would those be the same bishops going nuts over Iggy's recent abortion comments?

Anyways, I find it entirely disappointing that people are so closed and dogmatic, that they react with threats. You're not the boss of me Jimme, you don't have any right to IMPOSE your view onto my choice. My body, my decision.

JimmE said...

sorry, sorry, sorry!
They captured this policy on Video!
See it here:

JimmE said...

At this point it is all sophistry, in the context of an election all the nuts will fall from the trees.
I don't want to be your boss.(I got trouble being my own boss.)
But I also don't want overworked civil servants handing out draino to depressed 19 of 91 year olds.
this dog won't hunt.

The Rat said...

"I think it is clear that no law is necessary."

No, what is clear is that in the absence of a law there is no crime, no police involvement, and no story. Just because we don't read about it in the news doesn't mean it doesn't happen. But then I'm sure you're perfectly OK with any abortion, any time. Still, just because you can live with it that doesn't make it right.

CanNurse said...

I love this post because it opens up the issue to general debate, which is what needs to happen, imo. I absolutely support Choice in the issue of euthanasia, & am with you on that. However, I don't think it would fly right now in an election in Canada's present climate of right-wing and fundamentalist back-lash & bushian republicanism. But I do think, particularly as the Baby Boomers age, we will have this conversation & I desperately hope that it will be without religious institutions ordering their members to follow this or that path.
Btw, I have to respectfully and strongly disagree with JimmE. I am a nurse who has seen patients put through months & months of TORTUROUS AGONY when there is absolutely not even the faintest hope for any recovery or of their living. I have had patients beg me for Death to end their unrelenting anguish while they are terminally ill. You have no idea. Your view is very simplistic.

Gayle said...

"Just because we don't read about it in the news doesn't mean it doesn't happen. But then I'm sure you're perfectly OK with any abortion, any time."

And I am sure you worship satan.

Now that we have the baseless character smears out of the way, how about some evidence that "it" "happens".

What do you mean by "it", and how do you know it happens?

Gayle said...


As much as I agree with you in principle, I cannot see this being a winning proposition for the LPC.

Fact is doctors commit euthanasian all the time, and almost anyone who has ever loved someone who is in great pain and is dying will tell you they are grateful for that.

Steve V said...

Maybe something you don't run on, but something you consider once in power. A hidden agenda if you will ;)

900ft Jesus said...

An issue that should be addressed. I would like to have the choice to end my life if I want to without having to get someone who loves me to commit a crime on my behalf. I had someone I loved dearly beg for death - he knew that he had was terminal. Most of us have enough compassion to recognize that it is more compassionate to end a pet’s life than let it suffer for no purpose. And don’t give me that crap about a soul or humans being something more sacred. Even if one believe’s that, why does that mean we have to extend our suffering? And our laws cannot, must not, be based on religious beliefs.

However, having said that, I don’t think the Libs or any party would do well politically introducing this issue right now. The nenadercons would just go on a massive scare campaign, confuse people, talk about death panels as someone mentioned.

We need a healthier Parliament to put this one up for debate, not only so that it can get anywhere with a reasoned approach, but because of the details to prevent abuse that such a Bill would demand.

Good on you for taking this one on, Steve V.

RuralSandi said...

CanNurse - my mother was a nurse and I remember her coming home sometimes saying we treat animals better than we treat people when she's had a patient going through hell.

I don't know if I'm ready a policy about this yet. My parents had instructions about no heroics - no machines and meds to keep them alive. When they died, they were made comfortable but nothing was done to force them to hang on longer and longer.

Rat: so easy to look at the world as black and white isn't it? Don't have to think.

As I said my mother was a nurse. I remember when I was a kid and patients (young woman had died) - she was told by doctors that if she had another child (she already had 5) she wouldn't survive the pregnancy. Well, the priest told her it was God's will that she have more children and she again got pregnant. Well, she died and the "baby died" and left a young man alone to bring up his 5 children. It stands out in my mind because my mom and some other nurses collected clothing and toys, etc. to help the father out.

You seen Rat - life isn't simple.

JimBobby said...

I ain't a Liberal but I have voted Liberal in the past and would consider doing so in the future, depending on the strategic benefit.

I'm not sure I would call 67% "overwhelming." One in three are opposed and that most likely crosses party lines. The 33% opposed include would-be Liberal voters. You could not hope to have them continue voting LPC if they are morally opposed to euthanasia.

Contentious does not equal bold. Just as I think Ignatieff put his foot in it by raising the abortion issue, I think it would be a colossal mistake for the Grits to campaign on this issue.

It could be an issue for parliamentary debate and consideration but all-in-all, I think it will cost its supporters more votes than it will get them.

We have an aging population. We baby boomers are moving into the ranks of the retirees. As we do, health problems invariably crop up and the idea of euthanasia becomes more reality than abstract notion. I've heard many of my aged relatives and friends declare in their younger years that they'd rather die than suffer. Yet, when they are diagnosed with a terminal illness, they seek out whatever treatment is available.

The disabled community would mount a massive campaign against any form of euthanasia. Persons with disabilities (PWDs) have successfully fought for equality and accessibility at many levels. Euthanasia is seen by many PWDs as a slippery slope thing. Comatose individuals will not be able to register their wishes, one way or the other. Recent research is revealing that comatose patients may be much more aware of their surroundings and situation than was previous believed. Ditto for severely disabled, communication-challenged PWDs.

This is a losing issue and WADR, it is a powder keg. It's far too complex for the sound bite, sloganeering that a successful campaign requires. I suspect it would be a lot easier for the 1/3 opposed to win over some of the 2/3 in favour than vice versa. We would rather err on the side of caution. Those opposed have their heels dug in. Those in favour are susceptible to opposing arguments when they are talking about taking life or death decisions into their own hands.

Hot potato. Drop it. You'll do much better with a bold proposal to legalize marijuana and rationalize drug laws. Baby boomers are pot smokers, too. ;-)

JimmE said...

I respect your POV & that you have more experience with the issue than I do however; I do not take this issue lightly, nor is it simplistic. My opinion is based participating in the end of life with loved ones.
Frankly, dismissing an opinion one disagrees with as "simplistic" undermines one's own POV.
For what it's worth I think JimBobby has it right.

xyz said...

For bold policy ideas, the liberals don't need to look any farther than the 'Young Liberals', young liberals have voted for tons of bold policy ideas both within themselves and at the liberal convention. If liberals officially adopt some of these ideas it would be a huge political win. Ideas like legalizing prostitution and legalizing marijuana. Esp in the case of marijuana polls have shown overwhelming support for it to be legalised, it's a huge policy win. I would be a huge economic boon in this economic situation

Northern PoV said...

In the middle of a fascinating critique of web-culture I found one of the best rationale for disliking polls. Thought I would share it

" "The Wisdom of Crowds," he, as well as other theorists, say that if you want a crowd to be wise the key is to reduce the communication flow between the members so they do not influence each other, so they are truly independent and have separate sample points."

Steve V said...

Why not just accept reality, instead of this alternate universe which will never exist?


Wise words.

Tof KW said...

JB left plenty of detail on why the Libs shouldn't even think of touching this one. Agreed - an excellent post. Especially like this line...

You'll do much better with a bold proposal to legalize marijuana and rationalize drug laws.

Agreed, the Libs should bring back decriminalization of personal amounts, and increased sentences for actual dealers. And for cripes sakes grow a pair and oppose bill C-15 the next time it's tabled. What a colossal waste of tax dollars this would be, and with absolutely no effect on reducing crime. Hell, they even debate this amongst themselves on the flogging bories forum. If the Liberals want to do bold (which I doubt) then this would be a good start.

Dame said...

What I am Missing in the Liberal Policy proposals is missing action On White Collar Crime generally the abusers of TRUST / not just about money related Crimes/ has To be punished much much Harder .

This is a sore Point needs attention.

the consensus on euthanasia is Not there ...

Steve V said...


Is there a consensus on any issue? Anyways, I appreciate the dissenting point of view, it actually demonstrates how heated this argument can become. Upon reflection, I withdraw this suggestion, this finding doesn't capture the tea party debate we would surely have.

Josh said...

No, what is clear is that in the absence of a law there is no crime, no police involvement, and no story. Just because we don't read about it in the news doesn't mean it doesn't happen. But then I'm sure you're perfectly OK with any abortion, any time. Still, just because you can live with it that doesn't make it right.

Attitudes like this reflect extreme ignorance about the availability of abortion services in much of the country. It is extremely limited in availability in New Brunswick, available only at one centre in Halifax in Nova Scotia (and only up to 12 weeks gestation), and not available at all in PEI. I can't speak to the rest of the country, but that's a population of almost two million for whom abortion services are not easily obtainable.

Steve V said...

They are laws in Ontario as well, it isn't anarchy.

I'm not sure how the two issues meet, apart from the most superficial of connections.