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Social Justice

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I just find it weird that people are more comfortable with unelected judges making decisions about whether or not someone should be criminally charged based on their speech than they are with elected municipal governments reserving City-owned facilities for relatively uncontroversial and benign events.

As I've already said, the City cannot avoid using discretion in promoting certain expressions over others, even if it wanted to. The Calgary's motto "be part of the energy" promotes the oil and gas sector over other possible messages. Toronto's motto "diversity our strength" promotes multiculturalism. The City is not and cannot possibly be a neutral player in public speech. We should not expect it to be one. Rather, we should decide democratically the speech that the City should and should not provide a platform for.

I too find it weird that judges can decide whether or not someone should be criminally charged with speech. I also don't think that deciding who can speak in a public space should be put to a democratic vote, as it violates the civil rights of an individual. Democracy can be tyrannical. The dikastes of Athens voted to kill Socrates based on trumped up charges that he was corrupting the youth of Athens. The human and civil rights of an individual must be protected from the tyranny of the majority. (I wish civics were still taught in high school)

Pulling a permit to hold a speech in the atrium of a civic building is not a tacit endorsement of the speaker. I like what you said about Toronto's motto. If diversity is strength, then why not celebrate the diversity of ideas and opinions?

The world needs more freedom, and less authoritarianism.
 

darwink

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What is weird about it? It's not like there isn't an appeal system if you found the judge's ruling incorrect.
Exactly - and prosecutors would bring charges after police/RC recommendation. Why do we trust judges? Well there is the appeal system, the adversarial system of conducting the trial itself, the judges not being subject to popularity of the day to ensure they still get a pay check, plus all of the education, experience, and processes that decide who will become a judge.
 

Silence&Motion

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My emphasis was not really on judges vs the government, but rather the issue of criminal charges vs the ability to use city-owned facilities. It’s really about the difference on sanctioning speech vs privileging speech. When the government criminally charges someone or tries to get them fired because of their speech, that is a government enforced sanction and I am totally against it except perhaps in some very extreme cases.

However, when the government wants to provide some high profile platform for speech (like allowing an event within city hall or providing a cultural grant, etc), I think that is a privilege that should be awarded with discretion. I don’t think denying someone the privilege of government-promoted speech is a threat to their right to free speech.

My other point, which I don’t think has been addressed, is that the government cannot avoid using discretion over what kind of speech to support. The “all or nothing” option that people keep talking about is unworkable and no government has this policy.

Consider the “all speech” option. That would mean Pepsi Co Canada could demand the use of City Hall for a “cola appreciation day” and claim that their free speech was being infringed upon if they were denied. On the other hand, the “no speech” option would mean almost anything the government does could be criticized for promoting certain speech over others. The cowboy hat on our flag? Unfair promotion of the Stampede.

Discretion is unavoidable. But really, democracies depend on having a certain range of acceptable expressions that are thought to be in the public interest. It’s why we have museums and the CBC and government scientists. We will always fight around the edges of what should be included, but we cannot avoid it. The fact that we’re a democracy means that decisions with regard to speech need to be transparent and justifiable and can be challenged by members of the public.
 

darwink

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Providing a space is very different than providing a grant. Receiving a grant is not a right, have equal access to a public space is.
 

Social Justice

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However, when the government wants to provide some high profile platform for speech (like allowing an event within city hall or providing a cultural grant, etc), I think that is a privilege that should be awarded with discretion. I don’t think denying someone the privilege of government-promoted speech is a threat to their right to free speech.

There's a lot to unpack here. I'm still enjoying this dialogue and I appreciate your respectful responses.

City Hall is owned by the public. If there is an area in a public building that is open to speakers, then every citizen should be able to host a speaking event. It's not privilege to do that...it's a right. It's not a tacit endorsement of the speaker by city hall.

Obtaining a public grant is different than speaking on public grounds or at a council meeting.

My other point, which I don’t think has been addressed, is that the government cannot avoid using discretion over what kind of speech to support. The “all or nothing” option that people keep talking about is unworkable and no government has this policy.

When an individual speaks in a public space such as city hall, it is not an endorsement of the speaker by the city hall. You and I could pull a permit to speak in a park or at the atrium of city hall and talk about the flying spaghetti monster for the allotted time. It doesn't mean the city supports our view on the issue.

Consider the “all speech” option. That would mean Pepsi Co Canada could demand the use of City Hall for a “cola appreciation day” and claim that their free speech was being infringed upon if they were denied. On the other hand, the “no speech” option would mean almost anything the government does could be criticized for promoting certain speech over others. The cowboy hat on our flag? Unfair promotion of the Stampede.

A corporation such as Pepsi Co. Canada is not an individual or a citizen, and thus does not have the same rights as a citizen (Unfortunately powerful interests are trying to change that).

The Cowboy hat on our flag is a symbol. Symbols mean something different to everyone.


Discretion is unavoidable. But really, democracies depend on having a certain range of acceptable expressions that are thought to be in the public interest. It’s why we have museums and the CBC and government scientists. We will always fight around the edges of what should be included, but we cannot avoid it. The fact that we’re a democracy means that decisions with regard to speech need to be transparent and justifiable and can be challenged by members of the public.

Here's is the issue. Who decides?

A dusty bureaucrat looking to move up in ministry? Sounds Orwellian to me.
The general public? The enlightenment would have never happened. All the scientist would have been burned as heretics.
A judge that does not want to upset the social norms? There'd still be Jim Crow laws in the south.

For a democracy to function there must be a constant flow of new ideas and opinions entering the public space. This means any idea, no matter how ridiculous or odious it appears at first inspection. It acts as a positive feedback loop, where people are constantly thinking, debating, discussing. It makes the society stronger. Just you said about Toronto's motto. Diversity is Strength.

I need to take you to task on this. You didn't answer me before. Earlier you were praising Toronto's motto. If diversity is strength, then why not celebrate the diversity of ideas and opinions?
 

Silence&Motion

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City Hall is owned by the public. If there is an area in a public building that is open to speakers, then every citizen should be able to host a speaking event. It's not privilege to do that...it's a right. It's not a tacit endorsement of the speaker by city hall.
City hall is not "owned by the public". It's owned by the City of Calgary, which is an organization that is governed by a particular set of rules set out in the Municipal Government Act. There are various mechanisms by which the public can hold the leaders of the organization to account, but 99% of the decisions made in the running of the City of Calgary are done so by "dusty bureaucrats".

Even the rules for speaking at council have been established by the City of Calgary. Almost anyone can talk, but they have five minutes and need to address the agenda established by council. They have to follow certain procedures. And council has the right to ban people from speaking (e.g. Larry Heather was banned for 2 years). The City of Calgary (and council) has the right to exercise this discretion.

Here's is the issue. Who decides?
A dusty bureaucrat looking to move up in ministry? Sounds Orwellian to me.
The general public? The enlightenment would have never happened. All the scientist would have been burned as heretics.
A judge that does not want to upset the social norms? There'd still be Jim Crow laws in the south.

For a democracy to function there must be a constant flow of new ideas and opinions entering the public space. This means any idea, no matter how ridiculous or odious it appears at first inspection. It acts as a positive feedback loop, where people are constantly thinking, debating, discussing. It makes the society stronger. Just you said about Toronto's motto. Diversity is Strength.

This is all hyperbole. You realize that the enlightenment and civil rights movements occurred under much stricter rules against free speech, right? I've said many times, if anti-LGBTQ bigots want to take to the street to protest gay rights, I wouldn't want any criminal laws standing in their way. But, I'd be happy to join a counter protest to drown them out.

There have never been fewer barriers to the expression of ideas than there are today. People can say whatever they want and publish it on the internet. Again, I don't see how restricting the use of the City Hall lobby to relatively benign, inclusive expressions is a threat to anyone's free speech. It's certainly not a threat to democracy as a whole. It seems to me that the bigger threat to democracy is the disappearance of a singular, well-regulated arena for public debate and discussion, which used to be provided by the mass media.

I need to take you to task on this. You didn't answer me before. Earlier you were praising Toronto's motto. If diversity is strength, then why not celebrate the diversity of ideas and opinions?
I don't think I praised Toronto's motto earlier (though I prefer it to Calgary's motto, which is just a sales pitch for oil and gas). Anyway, just as the productive exchange of ideas requires a well-regulated area for public discussion, the maintenance of social diversity means that we cannot tolerate discrimination that targets people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender, etc. And I don't want my government to assist in the spread of discrimination even if that means issuing a permit for an event that advocates discrimination.

Trust me, I am very interested in hearing new ideas that challenge my preconceptions on a variety of issues. However, I do not think it is useful to me (or to democracy) to entertain ideologies that advocate for the inherent superiority of one group over another. I'm happy to argue over the minimum wage, but I want no part in a debate over whether gays are going to hell or on the preservation of the "white race".
 

Social Justice

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City hall is not "owned by the public". It's owned by the City of Calgary, which is an organization that is governed by a particular set of rules set out in the Municipal Government Act. There are various mechanisms by which the public can hold the leaders of the organization to account, but 99% of the decisions made in the running of the City of Calgary are done so by "dusty bureaucrats".

Even the rules for speaking at council have been established by the City of Calgary. Almost anyone can talk, but they have five minutes and need to address the agenda established by council. They have to follow certain procedures. And council has the right to ban people from speaking (e.g. Larry Heather was banned for 2 years). The City of Calgary (and council) has the right to exercise this discretion.



This is all hyperbole. You realize that the enlightenment and civil rights movements occurred under much stricter rules against free speech, right? I've said many times, if anti-LGBTQ bigots want to take to the street to protest gay rights, I wouldn't want any criminal laws standing in their way. But, I'd be happy to join a counter protest to drown them out.

There have never been fewer barriers to the expression of ideas than there are today. People can say whatever they want and publish it on the internet. Again, I don't see how restricting the use of the City Hall lobby to relatively benign, inclusive expressions is a threat to anyone's free speech. It's certainly not a threat to democracy as a whole. It seems to me that the bigger threat to democracy is the disappearance of a singular, well-regulated arena for public debate and discussion, which used to be provided by the mass media.

I don't think I praised Toronto's motto earlier (though I prefer it to Calgary's motto, which is just a sales pitch for oil and gas). Anyway, just as the productive exchange of ideas requires a well-regulated area for public discussion, the maintenance of social diversity means that we cannot tolerate discrimination that targets people based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender, etc. And I don't want my government to assist in the spread of discrimination even if that means issuing a permit for an event that advocates discrimination.

Trust me, I am very interested in hearing new ideas that challenge my preconceptions on a variety of issues. However, I do not think it is useful to me (or to democracy) to entertain ideologies that advocate for the inherent superiority of one group over another. I'm happy to argue over the minimum wage, but I want no part in a debate over whether gays are going to hell or on the preservation of the "white race".

I get what you're saying. No likes these whack jobs speaking. You don't have to take part in any debate you don't want to be a part of and I mostly agree with you. I think that it's easier to fight back against these ideas in the sunlight than in the darkness. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

However, my biggest fear is the threat of creeping authoritarianism. What is acceptable speech? Who decides what is acceptable speech? Where and when can I say it? Who decides what area is suitable for well regulated discussion? Who regulates it? Who determines what is discrimination?

Forgive me, but I'd rather not let the corporate media(mass media) or governments make these decisions for me. I have faith that people will act on good conscience and use logic, reason and the Socratic method to defeat odious ideas and opinions.
 

Cowtown

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As we don't have a general municipal politics thread (that I can see at least), I am putting this here:
Interesting. I don't like him or or policies, but I suspect he'll get a fair amount of support. Scary part is that if Nenshi doesn't run again, Farkas has a decent chance of winning.
 

darwink

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Take away the reflexive lowest common denominator stunts (lets vote to lower taxes even though there is no way I know of that we could every really do it), and the grand standing over secrecy, and I think he is actually one of the better councillors we have. I think he'd actually be a fine Mayor, as long as we had a council with a majority that didn't hold the views of the Manning Centre, and Farkas understood that meant he needed to build a majority on council to achieve things.
 

darwink

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a social progressive (for an extreme fiscal conservative) that asks administration and applicants very good and on topic questions, and often seems to change his mind based on deputations by the public that are fact heavy and not entirely sentiment/angry NIMBY based. and I don't think he is middle aged. when does that start these days?! AM I MIDDLE AGED?! Oh no!
 

MichaelS

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I believe he is 35 now. And if that is middle aged... no, I won't accept that title yet!
 

CBBarnett

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I don't doubt Farkas has some support (arguably he's been running for mayor with Rick Bell's Calgary Sun ongoing and enthusiastic endorsement since about 2016). I liked this post from twitter documenting their relationship :) link:

1600357072905.png



But Farkas really hasn't shown an ability to compromise or build coalitions - critical to getting any agenda done. I'd go as far to say as I don't know if he has much of an agenda other than pointing out the easy wins (*wave arms wildly at taxes and government idiosyncrasies the public doesn't have a good grasp at*) to slide into being another life-long municipal-provincial-federal Albertan conservative politician.

With Calgary's weak-mayor system (the mayor has only 1 vote) neutering much of the power of the office to propose new things and set agendas, so him being an ineffective mayor or ineffective Councillor might not matter as much as his supporters or detractors think.

Nenshi has also been criticized in the same way for failing to build coalitions effectively - but his track record is light-years ahead of Farkas'.

My guess would be that a more "moderate" - boring old white guy corporate conservative type - could sweep in an suck up most of what Farkas is going after and just sell the better, more effective version of the same thing. Not that we are lacking that representation in local politics....

But who knows, with the Province's meddling in the 2021 elections - tons of rule changes to allow more money, stacking the election with conservative plebiscite questions to push activist conservative voters to the polls for unrelated issues - anything is possible.
 

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