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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

All I wanted for Christmas…

…was a functional and democratic parliament where bills are debated upon their merit not upon who proposed them, where the answers during question period are actualy answered, where parliamentary committees are allowed to do their job without partisan bickering and walkouts, where the senate operates as it should as an independent non partisan chamber to protect us against poorly conceived or worded legislation. Where parliament is not suspended whenever difficult questions are asked or must be addressed.

Where our political leaders don’t whip their slave’s member MPs into line, where the PMO means the Prime Ministers Office not the Prime Ministers Oligarchy, where all those civil servants, diplomats, commissions and boards are left alone to do their job without political interference. Where the parliamentary budget officer has sufficient resources to do his job and is allowed to report to the taxpayers who supply both his budget and all the money he tracks.

It would be nice if I could also get a voting system where by I can elect the best man or woman to represent my local interests without having to also elect all the baggage of the political party he or she represents. It would be nice if I could get reliable factual information on the vast amount of moneys spent by government (supposedly on my behalf!) to “stimulate” the economy in recent times. It would be nice if I had a strong argument against those who say our democracy is dead but I fear that although not dead it is seriously sick, what miracle it is going to take to revive it I don’t know but I don’t think its going to happen this Christmas.

I hung my xmas stocking out and would have loved to see it bulging with new cooperation, accountability, access to information and other nice surprises but I woke up to see just a partisan lump of coal in the toe. Maybe next year….

May all of you have a wonderful holiday period with family & friends and forget this political crap for a few days. Let us all hope for a change for the better during 2010 in ALL of the legislatures across the country but particularly in that one in Ottawa

EDIT - For last years wish list, which I did not get either see http://ruralcanadian.blogspot.com/2008/12/all-i-want-for-christmas.html Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Democracy is Under Attack

The title of this Blog says it all, and if some readers find this post “partisan” then so be it, for the attacks upon our democracy seem to be coming primarily from one direction. That the recent total distain for the will of Parliament by the current political party in power is but one small item in a long string of such actions, make it all the more necessary to make sure that everyone realizes the import of such actions. This is NOT about prisoner abuse, important as that may be, but about our “government” hiding information and blocking our elected representatives from getting at the truth. I am so upset by this blatant abuse of our parliamentary traditions that I cannot rationally post about it. This then is a collection of recent writings on the subject from just a few of those that are as concerned as I for our democracy under the hands of the present “leader”, even if you only read a few of these opinions you will get the general idea!

Rule of law, will of Parliament - doesn't really matter

A Nation Slumbers, As Democracy Dies

Say so-long to democracy guys. . . .

elected representatives, not the executive, are supreme

constitutional crisis time once again.

PM's office holds bulk of political power

rationalizations and rogue government

Independent PS unravelling

Harper heads for constitutional crunch

A Study in Hypocrisy

Conservatives on Transparency and Accountability...

Another standoff on Hill

Harper's contempt for democracy

Are the Cons Planning to Shutdown Parliament?

Time to suspend Parliament?

Contempt for Parliament?







The online community and even the MSM is obviously starting to realize what is going on, but how many of those who just watch the evening news have a true sense of the dangers from those who would take executive powers far beyond its intended use. Call it an Oligarchy or possibly even the thin edge of Dictatorship but it sure as H is not Democracy!

T/H to all of the above authors Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Definition of Government

There are many definitions of the word "government" ranging from “A government is the body within an organization that has authority to make and the power to enforce laws, regulations, or rules.” to “Body of people that sets and administers public policy, and exercises executive, political, and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state.

For me the definition of a Democratic Government includes all those “bodies of people” responsible for making and administering decisions, laws and policy affecting the citizens of that country. That includes parliament and all our elected representatives, the senate, all those civil servant charged with overseeing and administering decisions made by parliament (particularly parliamentary officers) , our diplomatic representatives at home and abroad, and yes, the office of the Prime Minister. It is not, in my view, simply restricted to those who happen to be associated with the party who received the current mandate to administer “government”, to the leader of that party (the Prime Minister), or to that small group who the selected leader of that party has chosen to “advise” him.

That is not what most of us are referring to when we say “the government has….” or more particularly “The Canadian Government” , we are generally referring to that narrow definition that only includes those persons with the power to make decisions within the particular party currently in power. For many it perhaps does not even extend to those back benchers of that party but only to the PMO, their staff (elected or not) and the individuals in cabinet.

This examination of what we mean by “government” is brought on by the recent “request” by the majority of our representatives for the “government” (that’s the current ones with the power to instruct our civil servants) to produce unaltered historical documents so that a parliamentary committee can decide if individuals or groups of individuals have conspired to withhold information from our elected representatives. That such information may have implications for not only those that withheld the information but for the reputation of the country as a whole and possibly the individual solder putting his life on the line for “democracy” in Afghanistan, makes it essential that the truth be known. The public may not need to know all the details if such are of a “sensitive” nature, portions of the hearings could be closed to protect such, but as Robert Walsh, the Parliamentary Law Clerk recently said:-

In keeping with the principles of responsible government, no part of the Government’s responsibilities can by law be categorically excluded or removed from its constitutional accountability to the House and its committees, otherwise it would soon become only partial accountability and perhaps after some years no accountability at all.”

Perhaps we are already at that tipping point?

To clarify, I view the governing party and more particularly the PMO and cabinet as the “Executive branch of Government” as such they are PART of Government. A part that has special executive privileges it is true, but still a part, not the whole. A part that should be no less accountable for their decisions and actions than the various departments and individuals that they oversee on our behalf. It is perhaps the more narrow definition that we all refer to when saying, The Government did that or did not do this, that has led to our current executive branch referring to themselves by prefacing the word government with the current leaders name. Is it that they believe that they and they alone comprise The Government of Canada? Could it be that the current leader of the party charged with those “executive responsibilities” believes he has absolute power to do as he wishes despite the wishes of the majority of those parliamentarians charged with representing our wishes?

As with many things in our parliamentary democracy the lines between the power of the executive branch of government and the power of the people and their representatives to hold them to account is far from clear. What is clear however is that when those charged with that responsibility deliberately withhold, obscure, are less than truthful about, or otherwise seek to block information affecting both their own reputation and that of the country then we are well down that slippery slope towards oligarchy.

I am however somewhat encouraged by the number of bloggers who have picked up on this attack upon our democratic processes, it is increasing clear that the internet is our best tool to disseminate information and pressure those in power to “play by the rules”.
I hope to dedicate a post in the very near future to the link between the public use of the internet and the protection of our democracy. Your input is invited by comment or email,

T/H to Impolitical and DrDawg for this one… Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Are our Representatives Listening

Its been another strange week on the political front which makes it all the more difficult to keep these pages relatively non partisan, they are after all supposed to be about democracy which SHOULD be independent of political ideology but in actual reality is closely tied to the efforts each party puts into ether supporting it or subverting it.

The refusal of the Ontario Government to hold public hearings on the HST proposal for that province and the support for that proposal in our Federal Legislature despite broad public outrage made me wonder if any of those who purport to represent us are listening.

Our PM releasing his Economic Action Plan update on a plane to China rather that in the House of Commons coupled with his refusal to call a public inquiry into the possible withholding of information on the Afghan prisoner affair, despite a motion to that effect having passed in the HoC, make me wonder how the public can make voting decisions when the facts are withheld or misrepresented.

The one body that I am not (yet) completely in despair of is the Senate, there is still a great deal of good work coming from that chamber, however the efforts to subvert it for political purposes increases daily. That most senators are “political appointees” and a good number of them look at legislation with this in mind rather than the actual wording and impact of the propose legislation is an ongoing problem with this body. I am not the only one who thinks so below is part of a post by dale_smith which highlights both sides of that conundrum.

Sober second thought just won't do

The Senate has actually been doing its job – sober, second thought on the technical aspects of legislation – and the Conservatives are not happy. There are two bills in particular – Bill C-6 on updating the consumer product safety laws in this country, and Bill C-15, which imposes harsher mandatory minimum sentences on drug crimes. But while both bills passed the Commons unmolested, the Senate has been a different story, and they’re taking a far more critical look at these bills, and *gasp* they’re doing their job and proposing amendments.This just won’t do.So the Conservatives have been on the attack. The Health and Justice ministers go on television to denounce the Senate (those awful, unelected Liberal hacks – though the unelected Conservative hacks are all a-okay). During Members’ Statements yesterday, the Conservatives were on the warpath about how Michael Ignatieff needed be a real leader and get his Senators into line (even though they’re an independent chamber).Liberal Senator Joseph Day appeared on Power & Politics last night, and gave probably the best explanation for the Senate and its role in recent memory:

The House of Commons is a house of politics, and they balance things on politics. They look at all the matters that are before them, what they want to get out, what they want to fight. We look at each piece of legislation, and we’re somewhere between the judiciary – the judges – and the political body, the House of Commons. We have a role to play that is quite different from the House of Commons, and we do our job and they do theirs. I don’t think anybody should think that we are just the other side of the coin of the House of Commons.

And he’s absolutely right – they have a different job to play, and far too often, the House will pass bad bills because it’s bad politics to be seen to vote against it – and Bill C-15 is certainly proof of that. I know plenty of Liberals who were not happy that they were whipped into voting for it, but they can’t be seen be “soft on crime” in the current political climate. So it falls on the Senate to pick up the pieces – exactly like the chamber was designed to do back in 1867. Imagine that. The Conservatives can huff and puff all they like, but the Senate has a job to do, and as much as they don’t like it, it’s called a part of our democratic system.

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers