MLA Mark Smith. Pipestone Flyer file photo.

MLA Mark Smith. Pipestone Flyer file photo.

MLA Mark Smith: Ordered Liberty

MLA Mark Smith, Devon and Drayton Valley

Our Canadian parliamentary system of democracy is the result of a series of long struggles between ideas, powerful kings, the people and the exercise of political power. Through it all we have evolved a system of government that pursues ordered liberty. These two words would appear to be in opposition and yet the balanced combination of these two critical democratic values are foundational to protecting our way of life and will help us to live peacefully together. Unrestricted liberty results in societal anarchy only when individual freedom is bound by reasonable restrictions will all individuals in the wider society have true freedom. Ordered liberty is articulated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it says,

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Freedom is the foundational value in a democracy and in our Charter of Rights. Placing restrictions on our democratic freedoms should never be done lightly, yet it is sometimes necessary. When our freedoms are restricted those restrictions must meet the standard of reasonableness for a free and democratic society.

Recently, some constituents exercised their rights as engaged citizens and taped a series of posters of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a series of messages all over the front of the Drayton Valley-Devon Office in Drayton Valley, the Town Hall of Drayton Valley, and the Brazeau County offices. They believe that the recent pandemic restrictions placed on Albertans and their businesses are an unreasonable restriction of their Charter Rights and they exercised their right of free speech to send their message to me, their MLA.

So this begs the question, is the government acting unreasonably when it places COVID restrictions upon Albertans?

During this COVID pandemic the Alberta government has argued that it has a duty to protect both the lives and the livelihoods of Albertans. For me, the ordering of these two duties is important to recognize for it speaks to a hierarchy and to when a government can reasonably place restrictions on people. The primary reason I supported the latest round of temporary restrictions was to protect life, by temporarily placing restrictions on Albertans being able to congregate. It was regrettable that we had to temporarily enact these restrictions but it was, in my view, reasonable because we had to protect the lives of all Albertans by safeguarding their access to emergency care.

Are Albertans split on this issue? Absolutely, in this constituency I have had conversations and correspondence that represents all positions on this issue. For those Albertans who disagree with the COVID restrictions you are right to be concerned any time government unreasonably restricts democratic freedoms. Are these temporary restrictions unreasonable or do they meet the standard of reasonableness? I believe they are reasonable but I will also support your right to disagree with that conclusion. Good people can disagree but that disagreement needs to remain within the boundaries of the law and maintain our ordered liberty.

— MLA Mark Smith