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, June 24, 2012

PMO v PBO, who will be next?

We all realize by now that nobody really knows what the financial and social impacts of the Harper regimes omnibus Buget and departmental cuts are going to be, and that includes King Harper and his retinue of script readers. For some time now our fearless Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has been trying to figure out at least the financial ramifications of all these changes, originally so that our MPs would have some idea as to what they were voting upon (not that it would have made any difference to the 164 Con yes men) and now simply so that we all know where all this is taking us.

He has, as is normal when trying to get any information from the Harper regime, been blocked at every turn by specific instructions issued out of the Prime Ministers Office. Once again the actions of these dictatorial ideologues has been called illegal by those knowledgeable of constitutional and parliamentary matters.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page released a legal opinion Monday by a prominent constitutional lawyer that concluded Canada’s top bureaucrat and the deputy ministers of 64 departments are breaching the Parliament of Canada Act by refusing to release information on the spending cuts, including their impact on jobs and service levels to Canadians.”
Page has been in an ongoing tussle with the government for details on spending cuts. He issued two separate calls to 82 departments and agencies for details of their spending cuts following the federal budget, and only received responses from 18.
The battle took a turn when Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters, the country’s top bureaucrat, stepped in and told Page deputy ministers couldn’t provide those details because of collective agreements with federal unions that oblige them to first inform unions and employees about the cuts. Page sought a legal opinion from constitutional expert Joseph Magnet, who concluded senior bureaucrats had breached the law and should turn the information over. “

The only grounds for refusing are if the PBO request involves private or personal information that is restricted under the Access to Information Act or if the data is part of a cabinet confidence.
Wouters doesn’t cite any of these legal grounds for these exemptions and instead argued that the contractual obligations of collective agreements with the 18 federal unions prevent the release of any further information.
But the unions have strongly backed Page’s efforts to get details on the cuts. They argue nothing in the contracts prevents the release of details of the cuts as long as the names of people losing their jobs are protected. The major unions have written to Treasury Board to urge the release of information that Page is seeking.”

All this has, as expected, produced a renewed attack upon Mr Page and his office who like so many other critical departments that are not totally under the thumb of the Control Freak, such as Elections Canada, has had his budget cut.
When pressed in the Commons Tuesday over the Tories’ refusal to cooperate, Baird suggested that Page had overstepped his bounds in doing his job.
I have to say with great respect, I believe that from time to time and on occasion the Parliamentary Budget Office has overstepped its mandate,” Baird said.
Asked about Baird’s comment, Page said he can barely keep up with his office’s sweeping responsibility — analysis of the economy, federal finances and costing of programs.
How can I overstep that mandate. That mandate is huge relative to my resource base and staff,” “The thing that keeps me up at night is that we just don’t have the capacity.” Page said.
As Bob Rae said in the House “It’s completely preposterous to suggest that when a parliamentary budgetary authority asks for information from government departments he’s somehow overstepping his bounds,” No doubt the next thing we will be told that Yves Côté, the “low-key” bureaucrat just appointed to be the new Commissioner of Canada Elections is overstepping his mandate by investigating election fraud, if that 'investigation' ever finds out the truth which we all know will point to the Cons.

Without {winning his battle in the court of public and political opinion} “we’re dead in the water, anyway,’’

Amen to that!

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, June 17, 2012

This is NOT Democracy

The Opposition pushback over Bill C-38 — driven in part by the Green Party caucus of one, Elizabeth May — is about far more than political partisanship. It's about whether Parliament can prevent being pushed into complete irrelevance by a government which abuses its power. Andrew Coyne, June 14 2012.

Remember that date for it is the day that 164 conservative MPs decided that their allegiance to King Harper and his regime is greater than to their Country, that their need to satisfy the directives from the PMO is greater than the need to represent their constituents, that parliament is just a meaningless charade to be dismissed as irrelevant. Not one, NOT ONE, conservative MP voted for any of the 100s of amendments, apparently every word and comma is without error and they have no problem with ANY of the measures contained within this 452 page bill. That is beyond believability and thus makes them all 'enemies of the state of Canada'. I repeat ANY MP that voted for this bill and against all amendments is either brain dead or is an enemy of the people of Canada and our democratic institutions, care nothing for the diversity of wildlife, the flora and fauna, the rivers and oceans that make Canada so special.

That this regimen then accuses the opposition of 'playing games' in their efforts to bring further debate and clarity, split it into more acceptable portions and reduce the egregious elimination of many of our environmental protection regulations is nothing short of disgusting and turns my stomach.

Andrew has this to say in his article:-
For the first time since the last election, the opposition is putting up a serious fight against the abuses this government has visited upon Parliament: not only the omnibus bill – which repeals, amends or introduces more than 60 pieces of legislation – but the repeated, almost routine curtailing of debate by means of time allocation; the failures of oversight, misstating of costs, and abdication of responsibility in the F-35 purchase; and the refusal to provide basic information on spending to Parliament or the Parliamentary Budget Officer – to say nothing of the stonewalling, prorogations and other indignities of the minority years.
It should be noted it is not only the opposition’s interests that are being defended here. It is Parliament’s. Were MPs on the government side more mindful of their responsibilities, they would be as vigilant in its defence as the opposition. So while there is a strong element of partisanship in all this, there is also a vital question of principle; though the opposition parties may be accused of past acquiescence or even participation in some of the abuses of which they now complain, that does not preclude them from discovering their backbones now...............
Certainly it would be hard to argue the Conservatives paid much of a price for their past misdeeds: given a chance to punish them at the last election, the public instead returned them with a majority. Little wonder that the finance minister is already advertising his intent to bring forth another omnibus bill in the fall. The precedents thus set, we can look forward to a future in which Parliament would be reduced to two votes of consequence per year – one to rubber-stamp the government’s spring agenda, a second to cover the fall.

That last bit says it all, this is what our democracy has come to, a chance to place a vote via an abused and unrepresentative system once in a while for a local candidate who when elected will follow the instructions of a handful of ideologues who have delusions of wielding absolute power over all Canadians. That my friends is not democracy, that is at best is an Oligarchy and leaning very heavily towards a Dictatorship.

I am forced once again to point out that irregardless of whether you agree or disagree with the policies of a particular government so long as the systems of democracy remain in place then citizens and their representatives have a means to effect change. Once those systems are destroyed it becomes a much harder thing to accomplish, as is seen daily in certain eastern countries. This regimen is systematically ignoring, abusing and destroying our parliamentary rules and traditions, I just hope there is enough left by the time they are done to salvage. Wake up Canada your democracy has been stolen whilst you were sleeping.

This is a time of grief and mourning for anyone who has a sense of the act of vandalism known as #C38. The loss and pain is keen. #cdnpoli

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stand against the Federal Budget Bill

LeadNow urges us to protest bill C-38

Today we’re writing because we want you to be part of a historic moment for our country. By going to a 13 heroes action, you will help send a powerful message direct to key Conservative MPs that Canadians expect Conservative MPs to represent their constituents and stop the Budget Bill.

We’ve created a powerful new way to bring your voice into the House of Commons, and support opposition to the Budget Bill. At each event we’ll take pictures of ourselves holding signs that call for our MPs to be heroes, signs that call for the Budget Bill to be stopped and split apart. Then we’ll post all of those photos onto a special web page for our MPs in Parliament - and they will see your photos stream in on their laptops and smartphones in the House of Commons as they test their endurance and try to stop and split the Bill through the night.
Stand against the Federal Budget Bill

When: Today at 5:30pm local time in most locations

Where: 80 Confirmed events all across Canada at Conservative MP offices and support locations.

Click here to find the rally closest to you.


If you can’t make it to an event in person, you can still join thousands of Canadians and send an urgent message to Conservative MPs that you want 13 of them to defend democracy by stopping the Budget Bill, splitting it, and starting over.

Click here to send your urgent message now: http://www.leadnow.ca/13heroes

And tonight, as the continuous voting begins, you can join us by taking a picture of yourself with a sign, even just a piece of paper, that says “Heroes Defend Democracy, Stop C-38”, and send it to photos@leadnow.ca. We’ll post it to the 13 Heroes Live website along with photos from the rallies all over Canada, and stream it into the House of Commons to support pro-democracy MPs in Parliament at: http://heroes.leadnow.ca/live/

We know many Conservative MPs have serious concerns about this anti-democratic bill. Imagine them sitting through hours of tedious voting, watching a wave of opposition to the bill pouring in from all across the country. And, the opposition MPs who are fighting the bill will get a huge boost to know that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are standing with them.

If you like, you can also spread the word by posting your support photo as your facebook profile picture, and adding a link to the petition, http://www.leadnow.ca/13heroes so your friends can add their voice. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, June 10, 2012

You wont recognize Canada

You wont recognize Canada or Parliament by the time Mr Harper and his oligarchical regime is done, that’s not news but is now reality. What I fear most is that we will become a democracy in name only and that any semblance of us being a 'Representative Democracy' will just be a historical note. I like many others have struggled with the real meaning of democracy and it is difficult to define, it has many forms in a governmental sense, but it is NOT the chance for a minority of citizens to delegate absolute power to one individual or even one group of individuals.

When I started this blog some 4 years ago in response to the cynical and manipulative suspension of parliament and democratic process late in 2008 Senator McCoy in responding to our, at that time, rather limited header, said democracy is “a multifaceted phenomenon, a much richer texture than just voting” and that “the rule of law is the single most important aspect of democracy” also that “freedom of speech, freedom of association & freedom of information are part of it. David Kilgour MP (retired) said:- “All too often in Canada and elsewhere there has been a tendency to equate democracy with the holding of elections, forgetting that democracy must be continuously nurtured – not just once every four or five years. Democracy demands vigilance, and a willingness to pose difficult questions and to take risks. I do not mean by that only taking to the streets to complain about what is wrong, but also advocating constructive alternatives.”

The above is a preamble to expressing the thought that the Omnibus Budget Bill is not only an attack upon the Canadian environment, the Canadian family, the Canadian social fabric and Parliamentary convention, but also is actually undemocratic. Not in the sense that it does not follow parliamentary rules, although there is now some debate about that, but in that it violates the very spirit of democracy. It changes the very fabric of our country in a myriad ways without the public, or for that matter the MPs actually charged with deciding, even having a full and detailed idea of the impact of these proposals. Those that oppose these changes are told by the Prime Minister of Canada and his Cabinet Ministers that they are 'an enemy of the state' are 'terrorists' and that if their views are considered 'political' their charitable status, and thus much of the funding for their work, will be subject to 'scrutiny'. Perhaps even 'investigated' by the new oil pipeline police. Even the Parliamentary Budget officer has been stonewalled in trying to get the necessary information to put before our 'representatives' in order that they may consider this from a position of knowledge and not rely on the Harper regime spin & sound bites.

Elizabeth May, who has done much to bring the FACTS of what is contained in this bill before both her collegues and the public in her preamble to her challenge to the bill C-38 on a point of order quoted James Travers, she says “I recall the words of the late journalist, a great Canadian, James Travers.  We were both on CBC Sunday Edition in the spring of 2009, discussing the threats to our institutions.  He commented that we really no longer have democracy in Canada. He said (and I am paraphrasing) “you can visit Ottawa and what you’ll see is a democracy theme park. The buildings are still there. You can tour Parliament, but you will no longer see democracy.”

That Mr Travers said this about the time that I found it necessary to start writing here about the threats to Canadian Democracy is no coincidence. The rise of the Harper Regime and the disdain shown by him and his followers very rapidly became obvious about that time. James was a staunch supporter of our democratic institutions and an outspoken critic of the manner in which it was being abused. I continue to admire his work and in particular commend you to his Shamocracy Series written back in 2009/10 which clearly show that the current abuse of both parliament and the Canadian citizen is nothing new from this lot. That I have provided links to his work on both occasions, about this time of year, when I become overwhelmed with despair in having any impact upon the dismantling of our parliamentary systems and erosion of our democracy is no coincidence either. His work stands as a stark reminder of how few citizens know or care about such matters, will all the publicity around this so called budget bill finally wake enough of us up to stop this 'want to be King' from solidifying power over everything and everybody in the PMO? I doubt it but we just have to keep hammering away at it if we want to continue to say that we live in one of the most open and caring countries in the world.

Many citizens are protesting in front of their Conservative MPs offices throughout the week and one such protest was greeted with a 'no trespassing' edict when trying to approach their MPs office, is this the sort of response we can expect from these megalomaniacs who accepted absolutely NO amendments to this 425 page bill in the conservative dominated committee stage and now face more than ONE THOUSAND proposed amendments tabled in the House of Commons by the various opposition partys, of which more that 500 will probably be deemed to be not "repetitive, frivolous or vexatious" and have to be voted upon.

Unless some conservative MPs grow some backbone, take the blinkers off, and vote against this bill it will eventually pass and we will have clearly moved into a new era whereby our MPs have indeed become simply performers in a theme park run by an uncaring oligarchy. They may as well walk out now, for NONE of their concerns, amendments, proposals or other efforts will have any effect upon this regime. So long democracy it was nice knowing you.

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Election Canada to Review Processes.

It was recently reported that Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand appeared before the Procedure and House affairs committee and responded to questions regarding both “the voter registration and voting processes based on what transpired in Etobicoke Centre” and the status of “1,100 complaints about misleading election calls, which redirected voters to the wrong polling stations”.
Upon checking the parliament web page for said committee I was rather disappointed to see NO reference to said meeting, NO transcripts or in fact anything to say it even took place. It is possible that said information is there somewhere as the Parl site is hardly the easiest site to search but for now I will have to rely upon reports from the news media.

It seems that we should get an “update” on the robocall thing sometime this month but there were no promises as to when the investigation would be complete or if anyone would be held responsible. No surprises there! The focus of his remarks seems to have been regarding a report to be presented sometime next spring “to suggest improvements to the Canada Elections Act in order to deal with a number of issues relating to new technologies and social media, as well as to how political entities communicate with electors during a general election.” and "among other things, it will address issues such as voter contacts, either through automated or live calls, and whether, or to what extent, these communications need to be regulated,"

As regards to the Etobicoke Centre election results which were declared invalid by the Ontario Superior Court and which ruling is now being appealed by the Conservatives (again no surprise there) Mayrand said:- “we have readjusted our plans, to place a major priority on strengthening measures aiming to improve compliance with the procedures and standards applicable on voting day,"
"Our intention is threefold: first, to review the voter registration and voting processes based on what transpired in Etobicoke Centre," Mayrand said.
"Second, to assess the effectiveness of existing checks and balances; and third, to engage key stakeholders in implementing solutions for the 2015 election. We believe this is critical regardless of the outcome of the appeal."
I can find no problem with this, as I said before it is obvious that established procedures were not followed in this case but I would still like to know who ignored the rules and why.

More troubling is his concern that Elections Canada may not be able to afford its salaries by 2014, so the agency is going through a zero-based budget exercise, meaning starting from scratch and allocating money from there. It seems that the agency is dealing with its $7.5 million cut is by delaying planned programs. The agency cut its budget by about eight per cent and that the program delay means a pilot project on internet voting will wait until the next federal election in 2015, rather than happening in a 2013 by-election.

I have said before that voting by electronic means MAY be the answer to both the low number of citizens who bother to vote and in reducing the opportunity for malicious interference with the voting process. It will take a long time to develop and bring in to place such a system and the sooner such methods are explored the better. Putting Elections Canada in a position where budget restrictions reduce their ability to not only explore such future voting systems but limit their ability to investigate current electoral malfeasance does nothing to give me any confidence that the Harper regime gives a shit. Nothing new there either! Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rally to Protect our Democracy & Environment.

Readers of Democracy Under Fire are reminded that citizens across the country are gathering at Conservative MP offices this Saturday to show their opposition to the Omnibus Budget Bill which guts many environmental protections and includes many other measures that should be considered and debated separately. That the hundreds of changes to these regulations are contained in a bill that is declared a 'confidence' bill and thus all but forcing Conservative MPs to vote for it despite the wishes of their constituents is all the more reason to pressure said MPs to stand up and voice their opposition to such undemocratic legislation.  

Lead Now has organized gatherings all across Canada to encourage these MPs  to grow some backbone and do what is best for Canada and the Environment NOT Harper and his multinational friends.

Since the Harper Conservatives announced their Omnibus Budget, more and more Canadians are rallying against a bill that would put a black mark on our democracy. Now, we’re writing to invite you to join a national day of action at Conservative MP offices, and supporting locations across Canada, this Saturday, June 2nd.

Even some traditional Conservative allies are now saying that the Harper Conservatives have gone too far. Last week, David Wilks, a Conservative MP, told a small group of his constituents that he, and many other Conservative MPs, were deeply troubled by the Budget Bill and that he would consider voting against it if 12 of his colleagues, enough to stop the bill, stood with him.[1]

It’s time to stand up. This Saturday, we’ll gather at Conservative MP offices and support locations across the country to bring Canadians together in opposition to a Bill that contains a sweeping agenda to remake Canadian society. And, we’ll shine a spotlight on the Conservative MPs who can stop the bill, split it apart and start over by inviting Canadians to help them make better laws.

Join Canadians at confirmed locations across the country, or sign up to host an action in your area.

Click here to search for an event near you.
...or view the events taking place across the country at http://blackmark.leadnow.ca

An overview by Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader, of some of the regulations effected by this bill  can be found here and on the GPC website..

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers