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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

On that controversial “regulation”

I an not going to get into whether the temporary designation of an area of Toronto near the G20 summit location was necessary or whether the arrests that were made were warranted except to say that very few individuals appear to have been arrested using this regulation . I will however comment upon the manner in which it came into effect and the lack of public information as to who, what and where it impacted upon.

Lets start with this from the G&M:-
Toronto's police chief is admitting there never was a five-metre rule that had people fearing arrest if they strayed too close to the G20 security perimeter....... A ministry spokeswoman says the change was about property, not police powers, and did not include any mention of a zone five metres outside the G20 security perimeter. When asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry's clarification, Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”
Even though it wasn't accurate, the public was left to believe the province had given officers the power to demand identification and detain anyone with five-metres of the G20 site. All weekend there were reports of police stopping people throughout downtown Toronto — often in areas nowhere near the G20 zone — demanding identification and to search bags and backpacks.

Some have searched unsuccessfully to see the actual text and found this:-
Public Works Protection Act, ONTARIO REGULATION 233/10 DESIGNATION OF PUBLIC WORKS This Regulation was filed on June 14, 2010. A current consolidation of this Regulation is not yet available on e-Laws. See Source Law for the text of this Regulation. Notice of additional information: On June 21, 2010 this Regulation came into force. There may be more recent events that are not included in this notice.

However with a bit of digging I found this:-
Ontario regulation 233/10 made under the public works protection act
Made: June 2, 2010
Filed: June 14, 2010
Published on e-Laws: June 16, 2010
Printed in
The Ontario Gazette: July 3, 2010
Designation of public works
    1.  The following are designated as public works for the purposes of the Act:
      1.   Everything described in clause (a) of the definition of “public work” in section 1 of the Act that is located in the area described in Schedule 1, including, without limitation and for greater certainty, every sidewalk in that area.
      2.   The places described in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Schedule 2.
    2.  This Regulation is revoked on June 28, 2010.
    3.  This Regulation comes into force on the later of June 21, 2010 and the day it is filed.
Schedule 1
area referred to in paragraph 1 of section 1
The area in the City of Toronto lying within a line drawn as follows:
Beginning at the curb at the southeast corner of Blue Jays Way and Front Street West; then north to the centre of Front Street West; then east along the centre of Front Street West to the east curb of Windsor Street; then north along the east curb of Windsor Street to the centre of Wellington Street; then east along the centre of Wellington Street to the centre of Bay Street; then south along the centre of Bay Street to a point directly opposite the north wall of Union Station; then west along the exterior of the north wall of Union Station to the centre of York Street; then south along the centre of York Street, continuing east of the abutments under the railway overpass, and continuing south along the centre of York Street to the centre of Bremner Boulevard; then west along the centre of Bremner Boulevard to the east curb of Lower Simcoe Street; then south along the east curb of Lower Simcoe Street to the north curb of Lake Shore Boulevard West; then west along the north curb of Lake Shore Boulevard West to the south end of the walkway that is located immediately west of the John Street Pumping Station and runs between Lake Shore Boulevard West and the bus parking lot of the Rogers Centre; then north along the west edge of that walkway to the bus parking lot of the Rogers Centre; then west along the south edge of the bus parking lot of the Rogers Centre to the west edge of the driveway running between the parking lot and Bremner Boulevard; then north along the west edge of that driveway to the north curb of Bremner Boulevard; then west along the north curb of Bremner Boulevard to the east curb of Navy Wharf Court; then north along the east curb of Navy Wharf Court to the southwest point of the building known as 73 Navy Wharf Court; then east along the exterior of the south wall of that building; then north along the exterior of the east wall of that building to the curb of Blue Jays Way; then north along the east curb of Blue Jays Way to the curb at the southeast corner of Blue Jays Way and Front Street West.
Schedule 2
designated places referred to in paragraph 2 of section 1
      1.   The area, within the area described in Schedule 1, that is within five metres of a line drawn as follows:
Beginning at the south end of the walkway that is located immediately west of the John Street Pumping Station and runs between Lake Shore Boulevard West and the bus parking lot of the Rogers Centre; then north along the west edge of that walkway to the bus parking lot of the Rogers Centre; then west along the south edge of the bus parking lot of the Rogers Centre to the west edge of the driveway running between the parking lot and Bremner Boulevard; then north along the west edge of that driveway and ending at Bremner Boulevard.
      2.   The area, within the area described in Schedule 1, that is within five metres of a line drawn as follows:
Beginning at the southwest point of the building known as 73 Navy Wharf Court; then east along the exterior of the south wall of that building; then north along the exterior of the east wall of that building and ending at the curb of Blue Jays Way.
      3.   The below-grade driveway located between Union Station and Front Street West and running between Bay Street and York Street in the City of Toronto.

I will let those more familiar with the area decide if the pre-summit spin on this was correct or not but can say that given that the police arrested hundreds of “protesters” outside of this specified area using existing legislation that it is most certainly undemocratic for officials to lie about its impact and fail to notify the public of it existence. It also appears that arrested citizens were not given the opportunity to contact someone (be it a lawyer or a friend or relative) in a timely manner. Frankly I do not know exactly what the “normal” process dictates but it would seem to me that holding someone for 24hours or more without having a chance to let family know that they are at least alive is cruel and unusual punishment on the families and individuals involved. It seems that the “processing center” was not much on due process, that too may well be an abuse of democracy. No doubt the courts will decide in due course but meanwhile I will join the call for a full inquiry into this whole fiasco.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010


Democracy and anarchy cannot coexist but stupidity is not so exclusive.

Or how the actions of a few can justify the excesses of others.

Support democracy but not stupidity.

Enough said.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Delay, Obstruct & Spin

This blog focuses upon our democracy so we will not go back to the start of this convoluted story but review it from the point where the harper regime started ignoring, and doing everything it could to avoid, the wish of the majority of parliamentarians way back in early December 2009

On Dec10 2009 The Star said:-
Under a motion approved on Thursday night, opposition parties won release of documents in their uncensored form, including:
All documents mentioned by diplomat Richard Colvin, right, in a sworn affidavit in October and all documents prepared by the foreign affairs department in response to Colvin.
All memos sent to the minister of foreign affairs concerning detainees from Dec. 18, 2005 to the present.
All documents related to a Federal Court case on detainee-treatment being pursued by Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
All documents produced to the Military Police Complaints Commission in its Afghanistan hearings and all annual human rights reports by Foreign Affairs on Afghanistan. 
Then the real ducking and weaving started........
It took till Late February before any real movement took place on this file, Harper having prorogued parliament in the meanwhile, and early in March I wondered :-

Will the throne speech bring cooperation or confrontation, will the newest motion to have the Harper regime produce the requested documents to the parliamentary committee (or be charged with contempt ) be tabled as is and adopted, 
Eventually on April 28th we came to this:-
In a momentous ruling that forcefully affirms Parliament’s ancient right and duty to hold the Prime Minister and cabinet to account on the public’s behalf, Speaker Peter Milliken has found that the government violated the privileges of the House of Commons by refusing to hand over uncensored documents that may shed light on the Afghan detainee question. The government was wrong to claim, on national security grounds, that the Commons lacked the authority to demand the files, he ruled.
Milliken wisely gave Harper two weeks to work out a political resolution that will give MPs access to the files without jeopardizing national security or international relations. The government signaled it is willing to consider that approach.
After much maneuvering trying to find loopholes to continue withhold documents from our parliamentarians a last minute “deal in principal” was reached on May 14th and I wrote this:-

A Victory for Democracy ….. or maybe not?

Many of the recent headlines have been proclaiming a win for democracy including some Liberal blogs and even the Liberal Party web site after an all-party deal was reached on the Afghan detainee files , I am not so sure about that.
As a number of observers have noted this may well be but a small step forward in an ongoing war, Poggie sums it up quite well like this :- A deal "in principle" is not a final deal .........
......"Panel of Arbiters" will make its own "final and unreviewable" determination as to what will actually be released”a . This tentative agreement would seem to leave much room for yet more “maneuvering” and takes the final say about what will or will not be released out of the hands of the parliamentary committee......
Members of Parliament will be able to look at them both in their redacted and unredacted form,” Nicholson said, adding the parties agreed to a May 31 start.......

Then just a week later I said its Not worth the paper its written on!
Anything agreed to by the Conservative regime that is!
The Star reported just last week that the agreement in principal regarding the Afganistan Documents included this:-
Committee members will have access to government officials from appropriate departments to provide briefings and contextual information and reasons for protecting information.”
The Globe and Mail reports today that :- “The Conservative cabinet has decided to ban its political staffers from appearing as witnesses before committees................”
Now on June16th a “Final Deal” is reached (with NDP dissenting & some observers saying that the Harperites still have too much wiggle room) just days before the summer recess. Will the yet to be chosen committee sit over the summer, will the existing redacted documents be placed before the "Panel of Arbiters" (who have yet to be named) for consideration before parliament resumes, will every document requested result in a long drawn out struggle before being seen? Will all the militarily documents being “processed” in Kandahar be repatriated in a timely manner and how many will get “lost” in transit? Will it all be further “delayed” with a election call, a proroguing or a vote of non confidence upon parliament resuming in the fall? There is altogether to much room for further delays, obstruction and spin to feel optimistic about anyone being held accountable on this file in the foreseeable future.

This whole saga is far from done but I think it is safe to predict three things. 1) The harper regimen has something VERY damaging to hide, 2) We will not get to the bottom of this and learn the truth for several years - if ever, and 3) Our parliamentary democracy will never be the same again.
When a governing party goes through this much trouble to avoid the wishes of our elected representatives and is not found in contempt of parliament then I for one can only hope that a more democratic friendly regime (yes, a coalition would be good) comes to power. I am not holding my breath on that happening any time soon either!
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Conflict of Interest.

As the happenings in parliament become ever more bizarre, most of the attention focuses on the banality of the government caucus. But a greater mystery is: why is the opposition letting the Conservatives get away with such abuses? Both Micheal Ignatieff and Bob Rae have danced around all the real issues in Bill C-9, the Budget Implementation Bill, which comes to a critical vote this week. They seem resigned to accept the incidental aspects of the bill which will eviscerate the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act as a consequence. And in a radio interview this week, Liberal house leader Ralph Goodale seemed almost pleased that the Conservatives continue to stall on an agreement for full disclosure of the Afghan detainee files. When pressed on any of these issues, Liberals say they don't won't an election now. Their real reason is that many of their number stand in a serious conflict of interest: responsible government versus their own pension benefits.

Let's look a little deeper.
Canada had a general election (the 38th) on June 28th, 2004, almost but not quite six years ago. The election brought about 98 new members the the House of Commons for the first time, 37 for the Conservatives, and 61 for the three other parties. Most of these members are still sitting in today's 40th parliament, and mostly they sit on the opposition side. If they serve a full six years, they will be immediately eligible for a pension, which in most cases will increase their financial gain over their lifetimes by more than half a million dollars per member. “Should a Member retire with less than six years of service, the Member receives a withdrawal allowance in a single payment” (quoted from http://www2.parl.gc.ca/marleaumontpetit/DocumentViewer.aspx?Sec=Ch04&Seq=13&Lang=E ).

So here's the situation. The House is set to adjourn on June 23. If the government is defeated before that date, about one in three of the opposition members (and some government members) are each at risk of a loss of roughly $500,000 in pension benefits. Of course, they will let Mr. Harper do anything rather than suffer that risk. And Mr. Harper knows it very well.
How did we get in this position, one that places so many MPs in a conflict of interest at this time? When the MP pension plan was last revised, two things were generally assumed which are no longer true:
  1. That parliaments last for about four years. To qualify for a pension, an MP should be elected at least twice.
  2. Most people will hold the same career throughout their working years, with few job changes. Their pension earnings should come from their principal job and occupation.
The bedrock principal on which our parliamentary democracy is meant to function requires that the opposition hold the government accountable at all times; when the government loses the confidence of the House, it will be removed from office. An election or a new coalition of existing members will be required to form a new government.. Tragically, this is not happening and will not happen before the autumn of this year due to this conflict of Members' interest.
To prevent this hiatus in responsible government from recurring, a change in the MP pension rules will be required. MP pensions should be payable commencing at age 65, for as little of one year of service, with benefits proportional to the time served as a Member.

As posted by Chris Aikman on his blog at Greenparty/Blogs , perhaps Chris has found the true reason for the Oppositions lack luster performance!

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Is this dialog?

Our header declares “Democracy Requires Dialog”, part of such required dialog is that between those charged with the responsibility of representing our interests in parliament. This last week there have been a number of instances where the “dialog” has been less than cordial, less than circumstances required and even highly disruptive. It has been in fact not so much a dialog as a simply a waste of time and effort on the part of those participating in the committee “dialogs”!

Let us first look at the parliamentary committee examining bill C9 , the omnibus budget bill. As our friend over at Accidental Deliberations has so ably pointed out this 800 or so page bill contains much that should be considered separately and at length but our parliamentarians under the urging of the Harper Regime not only failed to split the non budgetary items off but spent an average of less than 30 seconds per clause in “debating” the merits of this legislation. That’s not a dialog, that’s a rubber stamp.

It now goes before the Senate and whilst there are those who are calling for a more rigorous examination (most notably Senator McCoy) it is improbable that those few who are genuinely trying to do their job will succeed in overriding those increasing numbers of Harperites in the red chamber who will simply do as the dictator says and add their rubber stamp to this enormous and far reaching bill.

The way in which the Harper Regiem wishes for our parliamentary system to run was show quite clearly in another committee this week when total chaos ensued in the inquiry into the Jaffer affair. Not only did the Harperites prevent the requested officials from attending said inquiry in contravention of the established rules and practices of such committees, but they sent certain Ministers to deliberately disrupt the meeting by interrupting the chair with points of order despite not having standing in said meeting. The ensuing shouting match reminded me of the pictures we have seen from other less democratic parliaments where fistycuffs have broke out. Are we to descend to that level of “dialog” in parliament, it seems that there are those who would do anything to stall proper debate and accountability in the House and so I would not be at all surprised if that happens soon. I wonder what loophole in the rules and procedures the Harper Regime will use to justify that?

Just to highlight just how little respect these folks have for democracy and the rule of law we have these two totally avoiding any dialog:-

“Two government officials are playing cat-and-mouse with a Commons committee bailiff trying to serve them a summons. MPs at the ethics committee are hearing how Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications, and another political aide, did not return repeated calls from the bailiff over two days. The bailiff also told the committee clerk that he had shown up at their government offices, but was barred entry and could not deliver the summons.”

As for respect for the public, lying about the status of legislation hardly seems respectful or meaningful dialog:-

PMO Communications Director Dimitri Soudas: “We have a minority in the Senate, and since Parliament has resumed, not a single bill, including the budget bill, has been passed into law by the Senate.” Senator Cowan notes that 6 bills have been passed by the Senate since parliament resumed and that the budget bill has not yet arrived there.(h/t Kady O'Malley via Twitter and http://shorternet.blogspot.com/ )

If this post is rather more critical of our MPs that usual it should be no surprise to those who saw the above exchange. I felt physically sick when I saw a brief clip on the news, this is not debate or dialog, this is what the final death spasms of our parliamentary democracy look like. No party and few MPs are free of complicity in its demise for if you don’t protect and nurture our democracy but just stand by and watch you are no less guilty than those who are actively providing the poison and those who support the killer.

Would that more Canadians could see what an insidious poison the Harper Regime is and recognize the sickness brought on by it!

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