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Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

I wouldn't have expected Tim Hudak to put forward a really nuanced post-G20 treatise on the balance between security and civil liberties. That's not the way opposition politics tends to work.

Still, I would have expected something a little more sophisticated than this.

The Conservative Leader's op-ed in Tuesday's Toronto Sun came off like something on that paper's letters page, or like a transcript of a kneejerk call to a talk-radio station.

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It's not that Hudak thinks violent criminals should be prosecuted, though I'm unclear who he thinks he's debating on that front. It's not even that he manages to work in "hooligans" five times, and "thugs" another three, which offends me as a writer if not a reader.

What bothers me is that those who dare complain about any police conduct whatsoever are dismissed as "usual-suspect special interest groups" engaged in an "orchestrated attempt ... to demonize our police forces."

Those nefarious "special interests," I suppose, would include Western Standard bloggers who complain that they were harassed by police without cause. Not to mention diners who apparently were handcuffed in a cage overnight because they left The Keg at the wrong moment. And photographers from the notoriously left-wing National Post.

Even when Hudak passingly takes aim at the secret law that didn't exist, he lays all the blame - that is to say, the little bit he bothers ascribing - with the province.

For reasons I've explained at considerable length over the past nine or ten days, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals certainly deserve any hit they take on that front. But it's a little absurd not to lay any responsibility at all with a police force that asked for a law, proceeded to misinterpret and misrepresent it, and then failed to publicly correct the record when it was informed of its mistake.

It would be perfectly reasonable to argue that police should be given some benefit of the doubt on their controversial behaviour over the course of the G20 weekend, and to express sympathy for the very difficult position they were put in. But Hudak went a step further, effectively arguing that if you defend your civil liberties - or even talk about them - you're no better than the idiots who were smashing up storefronts.

It's obvious that Hudak came at this from the perspective that Conservatives (and their voters) unwaveringly support police, embrace law and order, and don't have any time for shades of grey. In terms of playing to some of the base, which makes up a disproportionate share of the Sun's readership, that probably sells. But it doesn't reflect the kind of seriousness or sense of responsibility that you'd like to see in a potential premier.

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Nor, for that matter, is it very conservative. As Rod Breakenridge argued in a very good piece in the Calgary Herald, those on the right have as much reason as anyone else to worry about an infringement on their freedoms.

If Hudak and his strategists didn't see any political advantage in trying to convince their supporters to come around to that line of thinking, fair enough. But it's disappointing that the leader of the Official Opposition actively discouraged Ontarians from looking at relevant issues in a more serious way.

I'm not sure if he took his position because he genuinely believed it, or because he thought it would be the easiest way to score points. And I'm honestly not sure which would be worse.

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About the Author
Political Feature Writer

Adam Radwanski is The Globe and Mail's political feature writer. More

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