Imagine a place where private homes contained government-monitored smoking rooms, citizens were not allowed to purchase more than one cheeseburger a month, and you needed a special drinking permit to consume alcohol. Where the only dog you could own was a neutered chihuahua, and where daycare was compulsory for all children from ages 2 to 5.
Welcome to Canada, 2020, otherwise known as Regulation Nation. A place where individual liberties are a thing of the past. A country where, in the name of the collective good, bad habits have been disallowed, or made so difficult to practice that people simply give them up. A place where the objective of a healthy, well-behaved population takes precedence over silly things like freedoms (wasn’t there a Charter for that, once?), and where the government knows better than you how to raise your kids.
Smoking was the first habit to feel the wrath of the state. In 2020, smoking is not only regulated in public places, restaurants and workplaces, but in private homes as well. In households with children, smoking is illegal, even on porches. Adult-only dwellings must contain a ventilated enclosed smoking room monitored by closed-circuit cameras hooked into a state tv system. Only four people at a time are permitted to use the room, to reduce the risk of fire and assure the ventilation systems are not over-taxed.
Next on the list was fatty food. In 2020, fatty food is rationed, and all citizens must report to their local Cholesterol Monitoring Station every two months. Random tests are also practiced at work. If your cholesterol rises above a certain level, your cheeseburger credits can be withdrawn for up to an entire year. Of course, this has created a huge black market for such credits. Cheeseburgers can also be purchased in unlimited quantities on aboriginal reserves, which have enjoyed a corresponding surge in the number of McDonald’s franchises.
Alcohol also made the government’s hit list. Thanks to a new Temperance Movement, modelled on the gun control movement of the latter part of the previous century, you now need a special Alcohol Permit to purchase and consume liquor. Anyone who has a history of mental health problems, or has been through a separation or divorce, cannot obtain the permit or can have their permit taken away.
Other aspects of citizens’ lives, such as child-rearing, are also regulated. After successfully campaigning for a universal state-run daycare system, activists went one step further and demanded that attendance be made compulsory. They cited statistics showing that children in daycare could read earlier, were more independent, and had a higher opinion of labour unions than children reared at home.
More importantly, daycare tots were less exposed to the potentially detrimental influences of their parents, who, after all, had no formal training in how to raise children! That was now left to professional child-care workers, enabling all parents to work and pay taxes to fund the “free” daycares. Some people contend that parents who can prove they are properly qualified should be allowed to keep their kids away from daycare until they enter kindergarten at age 5. The federal government is ready to compromise on this and has set up a Royal Commission to study the issuance of “Early Parenting Permits” to parents who have followed the necessary training in licensed Parenting Academies.
This scenario may seem extreme, but unless citizens question and check the power of an ever-growing government, it might sadly yet become reality. Back in the early 21st century, some saw Regulation Nation coming, but were either ignored or dismissed as crazy. Their warnings started when Ontario banned pit bulls and junk food from school cafeterias back in 2004. Smoking bans in many provinces’ bars and restaurants began taking effect around the same time. Though the gun registry looked like it would be repealed in 2006, a change of federal government reinstated it, and also brought in state daycare. Next the government started regulating trans-fats. But since all these measures were deemed “good for you”, citizens who opposed them were vilified, and failed to mobilize enough support to repeal them.
There is nothing wrong with educating people about the benefits of healthy lifestyles, or preventing them from causing direct, provable harm to others. But we must demand that the state strike a reasonable balance between the exercise of one’s personal freedom and the infringement on the freedom of others. Government must respect the rights attached to property ownership, one of the cornerstones of a free society. It must also respect the right of other institutions, such as the family, to decide what is in the best interests of its members.
In the end, it’s up to us to stand up and speak out. Let’s make sure that Regulation Nation remains an Orwellian dystopia, and never becomes the Canada of 2020.
Tasha Kheiriddin is Executive Vice President of the Montreal Economic Institute.