OTTAWA - America's foremost libertarian, Ron Paul, received a standing ovation Friday from Canadian conservatives gathered for an annual conference, after a speech that advocated the abolition of central banks, income tax and social programs.
But on the sidelines of networking conference, sponsored by the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, some Tories noted that Paul's views were disconnected from the more moderate Canadian conservative movement and the nation in general.
A survey released at the conference indicated Canadians still count on government to handle the economy.
"We're not Americans in that sense — (Canadians) regard government as a positive force," said longtime conservative pollster Andre Turcotte, adding that the public is looking for more innovative ways of service delivery.
Few Conservative parliamentarians attended Paul's morning speech, in which he encapsulated his views on the primacy of individual liberty and the problems with current economic models — all centred on the concept of government getting out of the way of people's lives and the free market.
Paul — formerly a Republican leadership candidate and congressman— is an opponent of centralized monetary policy, government support for industry, federal social programs and the regulation of illicit drugs. At home, he has advocated for the abolition of the federal health and education departments.
"Wouldn't it be correct to assume that the fruits of your labour are also yours to keep?" Paul said, interrupted by applause.
"My goodness, that would be a challenging thought. What does that mean? There wouldn't be any income tax? That's right, we wouldn't have income taxes, because it would be your money.
"Then everyone would start worrying then how would you pay for the government? Well, why don't we have a lot less government and we wouldn't have to worry about that. That's what I'd like."
Preston Manning, the former Reform party leader and host of the conference, later asked Paul questions but did not challenge his views. Much of the conference agenda was dominated by guests associated with the more libertarian Reform party-Canadian Alliance side of the Tory family.
But the current Conservative government under Stephen Harper has heavily branded its stimulus project — the Economic Action Plan — as the cornerstone of the government's agenda. Its skills programs, funding for seniors and snowmobile clubs, and various industrial subsidies would appear antithetical to Paul's non-interventionist policies.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford won last year's provincial election with a firmly progressive conservative approach, defeating the favourite of the Reform-Alliance camp, the Wildrose Party's Danielle Smith.
Harper himself, at a speech to the conference in 2009, explored the weaknesses of dogmatic allegiance to libertarianism, and ignoring the "realities of real people."
"The libertarian says `Let individuals exercise full freedom and take full responsibility for their actions.' The problem with this notion is that people who act irresponsibly in the name of freedom are almost never willing to take responsibility for their actions," Harper said at the time.
Manning attributed the exuberant response to Paul's speech as evidence that conservatives are willing to explore tough questions.
"What you should observe from this conference is that conservatives are not afraid of self examination," Manning said.
"We don't just have conferences to self-congratulate ourselves on previously established positions, which I would argue is the dominant characteristic of the Liberal leadership conference right now."
Former cabinet minister Chuck Strahl said another conference panel that featured a debate between a "red" and "blue" Tory over degrees of government intervention was more relevant than Paul's speech.
"I always love that people are allowed to speak their mind. That doesn't mean I have to agree with it, and I don't," Strahl said.
"It's nice to hear how he thinks and how that segment of the American population puts their ideas together, but ... we fish in a pond that's really narrow. It's centre left and centre right."
Also on HuffPost:
The Two Sides
"One side doesn't give up one penny on military spending, the other side doesn't give up one penny on welfare spending. While both sides support the bailouts and the subsidies for the banking and corporate elite, and the spending continues as the economy weakens and the downward spiral continues."
"Some decide what and whose freedoms to be limited. These are the politicians whose goal in life is power. Their success depends on gaining support from special interests. We don't need more isms. The great news is the answer is not to be found in more isms. The answers are to be found in more liberty, which costs so much less."
"The insidous nature of the erosion of our liberties and the reassurances our great abundance gave us evolved into a dangerous period in which we now live. Dependency on government largess. Today we face a dependence on government largess for almost every need, our liberties are restricted and government operates outside the rule of law, protecting and rewarding those who buy or coerce government into saving their demands."
Erosion Of Rights
"The PATRIOT Act and FISA legislation passed without much debate, resulted in a steady erosion of our fourth amendment rights. tragically, our government engages in preemptive war, otherwise known as aggression with no complaints were the american people. The drone warfare we are pursuing worldwide is destined to end badly for us as the hatred builds for innocent lives lost."
"It's now the law of the land that the military can arrest American citizens, hold them indefinitely without charges or trial."
Medical Marijuana & Hemp
"Why are sick people who use medical marijuana put in prison? ... Why can't American manufacturers make rope made from hemp?"
"Why is it the TSA is permitted to abuse the rights of any American travel by air?"
Drug War & Prison System
"Why should there be mandatory sentences, even up to life for crimes without victims as our drug laws require? ... Why haven't we given up on the drug war since it's an obvious failure and violates the people's rights? Has nobody noticed that the authorities can't even keep drugs out of the prisons? How can making our entire society a prison solve the problem?"
Foreign Intervention & War
"Why do we sacrifice so much getting this -- getting necessarily involved in border disputes and civil strife around the world and ignore the root cause of the most dangerous deadly border in the world -- the one between Mexico and the United States? ... Why can't people understand that war always destroys wealth and liberty?"
"Why did the big banks, the large corporations and foreign banks and foreign central banks get bailed out in 2008 and the middle class lost their jobs and their homes?"
Trust In Government
"Why should anyone be surprised that Congress has no credibility since there's such a disconnect between what politicians say and what they do? Is there any explanation for all the deception, the unhappiness, the fear of the future, the loss of confidence in our leaders, the distrust and anger and frustration? Yes, there is. And there's a way to reverse these attitudes. The negative perceptions are logical and a consequence of bad policies bringing about our problems. Identitification of the problems and recognizing the cause allow the proper changes to come easily."
"Why does the use of religion to support a social gospel and preemptive wars, both which require authoritarians to use violence or the threat of violence, go unchallenged?"
Strangers With Badges
"No one claims it's permissible to go into one's neighbor's house and tell them how to behave, what they can eat, smoke, and drink, or how to spend their money. Yet rarely is it asked why is it morallly acceptable that a stranger with a badge and gun could do the same thing in the name of law and order. Any resistance is now [met] with brute force, even imprisonment. This is done more frequently every day without a search warrant."
"Since 9/11, monitoring speech on the Internet is now a problem, since warrants are no longer required. The proliferation of federal crimes. The Constitution established four federal crimes. Today the experts can't even agree on how many federal crimes are now on the books. They number into the thousands."
"Due to the ill-advised drug wars and the endless federal expansion of the criminal code, we have over 6 million people under correctional suspension, more than the Soviets ever had and more than any other nation today, including China. I don't understand the complacency of the Congress and willingness to continue their obsession with passing more federal laws. More sentencing laws associated with drug laws have compounded our prison problems. The federal register is now 75,000 pages long and the tax code 72,000 pages, and expands every year. When will the people start shouting enough is enough and demand Congress to cease and desist?"
"Those who take us into undeclared wars with many casualties resulting never lose sleep over the deaths and destruction their bad decisions cause. They are convinced that what they do is morally justified in the fact that many suffered just can't be helped. When the street criminals do the same thing? They do have no remorse, believing they are only taking what is rightfully theirs."
Productivity & Creativity
"I never believed that the world, our country can be made more free by politicians if the people had no desire for freedom. Under the current circumstances, the most we can hope to achieve in the political process is to use it as a podium to reach the people to alert them of the nature of the crisis and the importance of their need to assume responsibility for themselves. If it is liberty that we truly seek, without this a constitutionally protected free society is impossible. If this is true, our individual goal in life ought to be for us to seek virtue and excellence and recognize that self-esteem and happiness only comes from using one's natural ability in the most productive manner possible, according to one's own talents. Productivity and creativity are the true source of personal satisfaction."
Changing Hearts & Minds
"It's also become clear why progress is best achieved while working with coalitions which bring people together without anyone sacrificing his principles. Political action, to be truly beneficial, must be directed toward changing the heart and minds of the people, recognizing that it's virtue and morality of the people that allow liberty to flourish. The Constitution or moral laws, per se, have no value if the people's attitudes aren't changed. To achieve liberty and peace, two powerful human emotions have to overcome. Number one is envy, which leads to hate and class warfare. Number two is intolerance, which leads to bigoted and judgmental policies. This must be replaced by a better understanding of love, compassion, tolerance and free-market economics. Freedom, when understood, brings people together. When tried, freedom is popular."