A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Study in Tyranny (Part 1)

"Message Control and Vetting"

A guest post by Pamela Mac NeilCanadians for the first time in our history must confront the menacing truth, that our Prime Minister is a dictator and the Conservative Government for the most part are enabling him in turning Canada into a dictatorship, incremental or otherwise. There are some who are aware of Harpers authoritarian agenda and some who have even written and written well about it. What many Canadians tend to do though when talking about his desire for power and the extreme control that he executes over his government, the media and policy making , to name a few areas, is to judge his tight fisted control as , more of a personal governing style, a way in which he gets things done. We don't seem to see that his pursuit of power is all pervasive, implicit in everything that he does, the fundamental modus operandi that drives him. Power is his core value, central to his identity and the exercise of that power is what he lives for day in and day out.
Sometimes in our families, sometimes in our work or even in our everyday dealings in society most of us have had experience with dictatorial people. If someone grows up in a home with an authoritarian culture created by dictatorial parents they will be obedient rather than independent , fearful instead of confident, develop insecurity in the place of self-esteem and use their minds to survive the authoritarianism instead of for thinking and learning. They will learn how to survive, instead of learning how to live and if they go to a school with a dictatorial culture their growth is doubly threatened. Watching these people up close, seeing when and how they control others, we can also see how much damage they cause. So too with a democratic country. What happens in a country like Canada when citizens find they have voted a man, who becomes their Prime Minister and has now shown himself to be a dictator? What do we do? I think we must first understand how we got to this point by understanding how Harper has acquired his power.

In Lawrence Martins book "Harperland" one of the controls instituted across the board for everyone in Harpers government is message control and vetting. Martin goes on to explain " The new regime called for all public pronouncements by civil servants, diplomats, the military, cabinet members and Conservative MPs to be approved by PMO or the PCO." If a government official or a caucus member wanted to say something publicly, he or she would have to fill out a Message Event Proposal (MEP) and submit it to central command. This form has sections with such titles as Desired Headline, Strategic Objective, Desired Sound Bite and the like. It also has areas for supplying details on the speakers backdrop, the ideal event photograph and even the speakers wardrobe." Once submitted the MEP is studied by the PMO/PCO for approval or not and this is not done in a timely fashion. Under Harper, departments exercising such freedom as creating their own news releases and scheduling events for ministers is not allowed. No matter how minor the occurence or event, ALL government communications are to be approved by one of Harpers censors. This is how, as one example, the government scientists were muzzled. Controlling the message was implemented incrementally starting with the Prime Ministers events and then gradually expanded throughout the government.
By doing things incrementally, a Harper strategy, neither the media nor the public will notice and by the time when and if they do notice, the new policy of message control and vetting will have been in place and operational. This policy also applies to the media and to the controlling of the access-to-information requests a crucial tool made available to citizens in a democracy like Canada. Also, implicit in controlling the message is Harpers silencing of dissent. This is not just a management tool, put in place to make government communications more efficient. This control and vetting system gives the Prime Minister, PMO, PCO and government the power to decide what information, after it has been vetted, will be told to the Canadian public. This is the beginning of the breaching of one of our most important democratic freedoms, the right to know. Not to know a rewritten, censored, talking point, sanitized truth, but to know the truth period. Harper and Company have not set up this all inclusive government communication system so that at the end of the day they can tell Canadians the truth. They have set it up so that at the end of the day they can control the truth and than decide what they will tell us. Controlling the truth usually means hiding the truth and putting a partial or complete lie in its place. Studying how this communication policy is created, than implemented, more importantly, reveals a concrete example of how Harper and his cons go about acquiring and taking power.

Everyone knows of Harpers ignoring and sidelining of the main stream media the reason is said to be because he believes the media to be biased toward the liberals, but that's not the real reason he avoids talking to the press. Everything with Harper is calculated and choreographed, right down to the most minute detail. Press conferences are spontaneous, the questions can't be controlled. Answering questions spontaneously shows Canadians whether their Prime Minister can think on his feet or not. It's also much harder for Harper to lie when he has a group of journalist monitoring his answers, therefore press conferences are out and also sit down interviews except for the select few where all is choreographed beforehand including what questions can be asked. Harper is terrified of having to discuss the policies, trade deals or legislation that are created behind closed doors, in secrecy. All unplanned communications are strictly banned. So the cons have come up with another way to bypass the MSM and have Canadians focus on Harper, by creating an entire TV network called 24 Seven, devoted to Harpers life and paid for by Canadians. I held my nose and went to review the 24 Seven website so I would know what I was talking about. This is what I found. It opens by playing a few bars of "The Maple Leaf Forever", while showing Harper, door open , ready to climb into the backseat of an SUV. The site is comprised of videos about Harper's daily and/or weekly time spent in showing the various events that a PM attends and various announcements about legislation or policy, like a bill of victims rights, legislation about "life means life" where the accused once sentenced to life, will never get out of jail. There are various videos covering various topics that Harper and government are working on like free trade, law and order, taxation etc. In these videos Harper announces his new policies, programs, and legislation, but he keeps the announcement of them very limited no discussions allowed.
Then there are the videos that say? "Rhona Ambrose Minister of Health 24 questions," where the same woman who narrates all the videos asks the questions. Questions like: "What's your favorite gadget"? " What's the last movie you watched"?, "What's your favorite meal"? The same type of questions are repeated in other videos with other various cabinet ministers . I kid you not! Something I also noticed is that the word Exclusive is used on all video descriptions, including the intro, stating 24 Seven Exclusive as if other TV networks are competing for this information about Harper and 24 Seven was the only network that got the exclusive. This format though is exactly what Harper wants. Canadians have to go to him and he and his staff are controlling only what they want Canadians to see . The words and images are completely controlled by Harper and his staff. This is not communication this is manipulation! Manipulation is Harper and his regimes favorite form of communication. It is used almost every time they have something to tell the Canadian people. Harper and the PMO through information control and vetting, controls every facet of government including the press, it is the most important tool in Harpers arsenal of tools used for acquiring power. And what is Harper and his cons ultimate goal in their pursuit of power? Why taking away Canadians personal freedoms and turning Canada into a Fascist Dictatorship of course. And if he gets 4 more years, this time, he won't be taking incremental steps. He'll go straight for the prize running by leaps and bounds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Careful what you vote for....

As with all of the Conservative Regimes legislation one must CAREFULLY read each word......

.......this House continues to support the Government?s decision to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against lSlL, and terrorists aligned with lSlL, including air strike capability with authorisation to conduct airstrikes in lraq and Syria;
supports the Government's decision to extend the mission to a date not beyond March
30, 2016;
notes that the Government continues not to deploy troops in a ground combat role;
and offers its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the
Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us.

NOTE: Does NOT say they will not deploy ground troops in the future, just 'notes' that they are not right now!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Harper History, Part 4 - Con Minority, Prorogued x2

Oct 2008 – Dec 2009,

With conservatives reelected with an increased minority we begin to see their true colours with increased self promotion on taxpayers money using 10%ers, the start of those iniquitous Economic Action Plan TV ads and clear disdain for parliamentary procedure. It becomes increasing difficult to obtain information from them be it by the press whose questions are carefully screened or by parliamentarians be it in the House or in committee. Any semblance of listening to alternative ideas and considering amendments to legislation is rapidly falling by the wayside.

The Conservatives were reelected Oct 14 2008 with an increased minority having spent the inherited surplus of 13.8 Billion and well on the way to the 2008 5.8 Billion deficit.

Oct. 10, 2008: In a prediction that would soon come back to haunt him, Harper says: "This country will not go into recession next year and will lead the G7 countries." The country promptly plunged into recession.
Nov 2008, With the Conservatives fiscal update being strongly criticized over various contentions issues including ending the per vote subsidy and other election rule changes and with 5 years of surplus forecast despite strong signs of a recession already visible the opposition parties all threatened to vote against the measures.

Early in December the Liberals and NDP signed an agreement with the support of the Bloc on proposed coalition government to replace the governing Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper. A non confidence vote was scheduled and Harper promptly prorogued (suspended) Parliament until the end of January thus killing both the vote and the proposed controversial legislation. It would be later be reintroduced but with some of the more odious proposals removed.

In January 2009, the Government of Canada launched its much flaunted but poorly implemented Economic Action Plan , those receiving funds for projects were required to erect huge signs recognizing the 'governments' contribution to the project. The Harper regime also spent millions upon a series of advertisements touting their 'plan', a series which continued for many years past the scheduled end of the program in 2011.

In February 2009 John Baird surprised the CBC's Don Newman in the lobby of parliament by telling him that "we intend to go over the heads of the House of Commons and the Governor-General." When challenged, Mr Baird elaborated: The Conservative government gains its mandate directly from the people of Canada. Only elections count. This attitude that parliament is irrelevant continued throughout the Harper Regimes rule and is strongly evident in all their actions in The House.
With regard to the the Throne speech, he said "We're going to ask Parliament for a mandate. Once we have that mandate, we're going to consider that basically gives us the right to consider those matters confidence going forward and to get results and get things done."
Harper had signalled for some time that he has little interest in the usual process by which minorities run. Parliamentary committee work met with obstruction by conservative members. A number of key pieces of legislation that were shaped and moderated by committees died on the order paper when Harper prorogued Parliament.
The amount of public money spent on telling Canadians that 'we have a plan, we have a plan' continued to rise with $34 million budgeted for just the first quarter of 2009 slated for advertising associated with the “Economic Action Plan”, over half of their already inflated self serving Ad expenditure.
Also in February with the above in mind Democracy Under Fire was started with the first few months dedicated to fully understanding how parliament was MEANT to work. By the fall it was evident that the Harper Regime had no regard for Parliamentary Conventions and along with many other progressive bloggers I began detailing the specific wrongdoing by Harper and his inner circle.
In May Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government again received the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Code of Silence Award for “muzzling civil servants and cabinet ministers, blackballing reporters who pose tough questions and building a huge spin machine designed to staunch the flow of information.” and for “excluding [the press] from events they used to cover.”

In June Information Commissioner Robert Marleau abruptly resigned for "entirely personal and private" reasons, raising doubts about the pace and direction of reforms to Canada's access to information laws that he was spearheading. In his resignation letter he said “The President of the Treasury Board, as the designated minister under the Act, must provide the political leadership to change a transparency adverse culture.

Throughout 2008 – 2009 the Conservatives increasingly abused the parliamentary mailing / printing privileges by exceeding the volume of 'free' mail outs permuted to individual MPs and by including partisan material in said mail outs. The 'printing' costs by Con MPs was more that double that of the other MPs.

In August it was reported that a Conservative cabinet minister says most of the folks in his party "can't wait" to put a choker on the parliamentary budget office and its dogged bloodhound, Kevin Page. The only thing yet to be decided, the minister says, is whether to eliminate the office, or put Page on a short enough regulatory leash to render him harmless. "The guy has become just a complete pain in the ass," the minister said. "We can't put up with that anymore."
In other words, Page has been doing his job far too well.

In Oct 2009 The new Parliamentary Budget Officer says in trying to see if the “action Plan” is working “Many missing data correspond to implementation and outcome indicators that the GC collects as part of its standard due diligence process and should be readily available. Failing to include these data could hinder Parliament’s ability to provide meaningful oversight of the economic stimulus package.”
It was to become standard practice for information necessary for the PBO to produce accurate estimates to be withheld or delayed thus denying MPs accurate information upon which to base their decisions regarding the country’s finances upon. Whilst the government maintained that 90% of the funds had been “allocated” it appeared that only slightly more than 10% had actually flowed throughout the summer.

In November allegations of the abuse of Afghan detainees surfaced and the opposition began to ask for documents regarding this but were stonewalled by the government as being too sensitive for parliamentarians to see them.

On 8 December 2009, General Walter Natynczyk testified before a parliamentary committee regarding the abuse of Afghan detainees contrary to the governments claims. Two days later the House of Commons passed a motion requiring the release of unredacted documents concerning the Afghan detainees to the special committee hearing the issue. However, the government refused to abide by the motion.

On 30 December 2009, Parliament was put on hold, or 'prorogued' at the request of Prime Minister Harper. According to his spokesman, he sought this prorogation to consult with Canadians about the economy however it was generally agreed that the suspension was to avoid further questions on the Afghan affair..

Next up 880 page Omnibus Budget, withholding information.