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, July 25, 2010


As I have said before a government cannot be called democratic if it is neither open nor accountable. Part of the openness required to fulfill that requirement is to allow officers of parliament, government commissions, the diplomatic service and the various government department and agencies to fulfill their various mandates without undue interference and censure. They ALL work for US, the Canadian Citizen, and should in a democracy be able to report to us publicly except in the case of cabinet confidentially and matters of national security. Those exceptions cannot be abused in a free and democratic parliamentary democracy.

If an agency’s mandate is to ensure that our nuclear reactors are safe, provide scientific information on weather or climate change, provide analysis on foreign affair or provide data necessary for assessing social and community needs, then it needs to do that free of government shackles.

We have seen over the last few years an ever increasing amount of “control” put upon the institutions by government, both directly by ministerial order and subtlety by budget restrictions, firings and program cancellations. This government seems to have a real problem with data that does not suit its pre-decided agenda and when an agency head insists upon doing their job and providing information they don’t want to hear they can expect to be fired shortly, especially if they should be so bold as to bring that information into the public eye. Some time ago these various agencies were told that they could not speak to their employers (that’s us, not the Harper regimes) without permission from the PMO, that any press release or other major findings must be “cleared” (read spun and manipulated) by said Office of Misinformation.

Now in the latest salvo we see that if non of those things work to stop the flow of accurate information then we simply order that the collection of said information shall cease and desist forthwith. The resignation of the head of Stats Can is not an isolated incident, there have been several such resignations, some firings, some commission disbandment, some chairs replace with less independent voices, expect more. At this point just about the only one that speaks out and provides independent information to our MPs and to the public is our Parliamentary Budget Officer, it seem severe budget restrictions and attempts to place him under tight control from above have failed thus far, you may be sure however that the efforts to silence him by the Harper regime will continue. We cant have the FACTS getting in the way of creating that country we wont recognize can we!

Bottom line – accurate publicly available data is essential for a democracy to function, be it government expenditures, the state of our communities or information on new legislation, without it we are simply a autocracy labeled as a democracy.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

In a Democracy?

In a Democracy if a government fills a “budget bill” full of non budget items and then stifles debate on it is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if a government deliberately avoids public and opposition demand for an inquiry into the largest mass arrest of citizens in Canadian history is it still a Democracy?

In a Democracy if a government adds additional tax to high priced essential items (HST to gas, home heating fuel etc) against the wishes of most of the citizens is it still a Democracy?

In a Democracy if a government uses millions of tax dollars in self promotional advertising is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if a government fails to tell its citizens that their purchases will be subject to a new eco tax prior to its commencement is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if a government withholds information for “independent” officers of parliament charged with monitoring their actions is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if a government promises to be open and accountable but is increasingly closed and unaccountable is it still a democracy.

In a Democracy if a government stifles scientific research and reporting necessary for rational decisions to be made is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if a government “forces” our representatives who are members of their party to vote in lockstep with the party is that democracy?

In a Democracy if a government suspends environmental assessments (for wind farms in Ontario) in the name of being “green” is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if opposition partys are too scared to oppose a piece of legislation for fear of precipitating an election which they are not assured of winning is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if our representatives (MPs & MPPs) turn a blind eye to the daily erosion of the democratic processes in this country is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if a government can dictate to, and select, the members of the chamber of sober second thought (The Senate) is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if the only input the citizens have is to vote for more of the same every 4 years is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy if citizens feel powerless to make change and would like to vote for “non of the above” is it still a democracy?

In a Democracy do blogs such as this have any impact at all, other that to make the writer feel that he is doing something to stop the demise of our democracy?
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Anarchist - Anarchism

One who believes in or advocates the absence of government in all forms especially one who works toward the realization of such. One who disregards laws and social norms as a form of rebellion against authority. One who promotes chaos and lawlessness.

One who promotes chaos and lawlessness “ in which a few hundred at most individuals comprising a minuscule percentage of the thousands of relatively peaceful protesters in Toronto for the G20 succeeded in fermenting beyond their wildest expectations. Which is why a FULL PUBLIC INQUIRY is necessary.

As blog about democracy I have avoided opinionating upon the G20 disaster to this point largely because of the difficulty in separating fact from opinion and true accounts from spin (on both sides of the “thin blue line”). I did however like thousands of others view much of the chaos live on television (I unfortunately do not have the ability to view the hundreds of videos posted on line) and read many of those personal accounts of what can only be described as “abuse” by individual police or groups of police.

I have read rants condemning all the police as totally ignoring the restraints of law under which they normally operate and seen equally broad opinion saying that they we fully justified in their actions. The truth lays somewhere between those two extremes, there is no doubt that SOME police officers used unnecessary force, had no respect for individuals well being and made arbitrary arrests for no apparent reason. There is also no doubt that SOME protesters caused considerable property damage, taunted police officers in a effort to escalate the confrontation, and failed to move along when requested. In short the whole thing is not one sided and we should remember that individual police officers were under orders from above (be it their own sergeants, the Toronto police chief, or some nameless government official in the “control center” in Barrie.

That said the arrest of almost 1000 citizens, of whom apparently only about 20% or so have been charged with anything, and only abt 15 have been deemed serious enough to be held over for a further court hearing before release, is enough reason in and of itself to have a FULL PUBLIC INQUIRY embracing all the other inquiry's promised..
The allegations of arbitrary arrest and physical abuse (both during arrest and whilst in detention) by numerous citizens is a clear indication that at least SOME individuals stories need to be verified and where found to be valid action taken against those who initiated the abuse, condoned it, or ordered it.

On the other side of the coin those “anarchists” who by their actions precipitated much of the police (re)action, if and when identified, should be treated as terrorists for their agenda is (by reason of their self proclaimed anarchist affiliation) to ”promotes chaos and lawlessness” and if thats about as close to a definition of terrorism as you can get. That due to the lack of action by the authorities when they were actually creating the havoc it is rather doubtful that any but a token few will be charged or convicted is yet another reason for a FULL PUBLIC INQUIRY.

One final note here to our police officers. In order to do your job you need the respect of the public, if every citizen you deal with refuses to cooperate, if the public fails to report wrong-doing, if we are reluctant to open our doors to an officer, then your job becomes all but impossible. Our democratic society rely upon a respectful cooperation between those who are protected by the law and those who must enforce it. This spectacle has done great harm to that mutual respect even amongst those of us who realize what a difficult but necessary job you do. That respect can be regained, let those of you who witnessed wrong-doing or abuse by your fellow officers speak out, you are no less a citizen than any other, if you value democracy (and as a police officer I would hope that you do) that thin blue line must not become a wall of silence. Our police cannot turn into a military junta and if those that were on the front line and saw abuse do nothing about it then that is the direction we are headed. Doing nothing is condoning those abuses, by all means support your fellow officers where the actions were justified but support our democracy by speaking out when they are not.

“Whether the police were right or wrong, if the public believes we have done something wrong, we have fences to mend,” he said. “You can’t have the public saying ‘we hate the police.’ We just can’t ignore them – we need the public.” Deputy Police Chief Keith Forde during an interview with The Globe and Mail

Democracy requires dialog, let us have it at a FULL PUBLIC INQUIRY.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Digital Government Access

Recently Senator McCoy brought the senate report on Digital Communications from the Standing Committee on transport & communications to our attention. Whilst I have yet to read the full report, the Executive Overview and recommendations give a good idea of where they are going with this. They start by saying “Over twenty countries in the world have comprehensive digital strategies. Every country the committee visited had one” they avoid saying “but Canada does not!”
They seem to have been impressed by Estonia “who began implementing its program a dozen years before Canada launched consultations” they have it seems “introduced paperless cabinet meetings, e-voting, digital IDs, online and secure citizen access to government files.” Also a program called Tiger Leap to help citizens become familiar with the technology.

Unfortunately I am not so impressed by their recommendations which although moving in the right direction seem to be missing a more focused set of recommendations, NOTHING is said about “citizen access to government files” in the recommendations. I find it all rather wishy-washy. Here then is a quick overview of said recommendations and some of my comments on same.

Canada should present a strategy for an inclusive digital society and appoint a Minister for Digital Policy, who should focus on the broadband speeds necessary to bring essential digital services to 100 per cent of its citizens.

I am not sure that appointing a minister has any effect upon actually getting things done, there are already programs designed to bring high speed Internet to rural areas but they are moving very slowly and are not affordable to many residents. In that these schemes are left in the hands of private companies the coverage, cost and conditions vary greatly across the country, perhaps a minimum service level and a maximum cost should be set for this “universal” network.
See this update from Hullabaloos for some news on that front, also of interest is that the Liberals have said they “will achieve the goal of 100 percent high-speed internet connectivity within three years of being elected, and expand mobile phone coverage for rural and remote Canada.” .

The Minister for Digital Policy should receive an annual report from each department outlining its progress in making its programs more accessible and easier to use over the Internet and should work to develop a secure Internet platform that would allow citizens to review their government files over the Internet.

Great except we must be able not only to review OUR files but THEIR files also, it all very well making programs more accessible but at the same time said programs and ministries must be held accountable by publishing as much data as possible on expenditures and decisions. We know our current regime is going in the opposite direction on this one.

Elections Canada should move expeditiously to develop major test projects involving e-Registration and e-Voting and (the government) examine the possible necessity of having digital IDs to have a viable, comprehensive and secure digital society.

I believe EC are already working on this and provided that the security and recount / review issues can be addressed it may do much to increase the participation in our electoral process.

Industry Canada, in establishing policies to allocate and price spectrum, promote wireless service in currently unserved or underserved areas and consider pricing regimes in other countries as well as provide incentives for the efficient use of spectrum.

This could mean almost anything, if as they say they want 100% of the population to have access to broadband Internet then the word “affordable” should be included as a minimum. That of course means different things to different families and regions and for many includes the cost of a computer. If you want to move to a digital society then programs must be put in place to provide low cost equipment and connections, that may include communal connections and equipment at librarys, schools or even post offices as suggested by the Liberals . I note that in Ontario the addition of federal tax upon the implementation of HST has just raised the cost 8%!

Within one year from the release of the Digital Strategy, cabinet meetings should be paperless.

I don't know where this came from or what it has to do with having a digital “society” but given the current regimes penchant for hiding and withholding paperwork that may hold the accountable for past actions one wonders if this is a good idea. We know cabinet matters are not generally available for review but could this set precedent and is there sufficient control over paperless documents in place?

Finally, I find it ironic that the committee VISITED a number of country's to find out about DIGITAL communications strategies.

NOTE: I have written extensively about both access to Internet and access to information and readers may wish to view the following articles.

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