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 29, 2013

Quantity not Quality

Quantity not Quality is apparently the Harper regimes measure of 'success' Mr. Van Loan recently extolled the virtues of the 34-day fall session, which started late because of prorogation and was adjourned early. He said 2013 was the most productive year on record, with 40 bills receiving Royal Assent. “ “That’s something we can all be proud of. It shows how Parliament is working better than ever right now,” he said.

So it seems that passing bills that have had debate curtailed or where the Harper regime has dictated that “their” MP's shall vote for it regardless of their constituents wishes is 'parliament working better'

Blocking committees both in the Commons and in the Senate from being able to hear from senior bureaucrats or experts on the matters being considered is 'parliament working better'

Designating a spokesclown to make a mockery of question period by answering questions with disrespectful nonsense is 'parliament working better'

Reducing the ability of independent and minority MP's to amend legislation at the committee stage is 'parliament working better'

Enabling the PMO to interfere with senate business and dictating both the subject and the outcome of investigation “without the Prime Minister knowing” is 'parliament working better'

Jamming hundreds of pieces of unrelated legislation into omnibus budget bills, refusing to split it so that fuller debate can take place and then forcing final vote on it all is 'parliament working better'

Making agreements with foreign governments which give them more rights over our industries and resources than Canadian companies and citizens without any parliamentary consultation is 'parliament working better'

Spending millions on self promoting TV advertising extolling the virtues of the oil industry whist simultaneously cutting funding for environmental monitoring and scientific research is 'parliament working better'

Doing every thing possible to block the investigation by parliamentarians and Elections Canada into electoral fraud during the last election is 'parliament working better'

Failing to replace the Parliamentary Budget Officer with an independent full time knowledgeable individual is 'parliament working better'

I fully expect the next thing we will be told is that abolishing the Senate and recalling Parliament for a week before the summer break and perhaps a couple of days in the fall will be 'parliament working better', after all those pesky opposition members who represent some 60% or more of Canadians just make it more difficult to ram through our agenda so why bother to consult with then at all!

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Gift of Democracy for Christmas

For those who may not know Leadnow is “an independent advocacy organization that brings generations of Canadians together to achieve progress through democracy.” They are particularly focused upon building “a stronger democracy that protects our environment, creates economic opportunity while increasing equality”
Leadnow has become THE organization for those concerned with these things, and who cannot be, to support and become involved with and their “plan' is outlined below as distributed with their latest fund raising appeal. It is an unfortunate reality that it is going to take not only thousands of concerned citizens to spread the word to defeat the current corrupt and antidemocratic regime but also money to organize such efforts. Please consider supporting Leadnow in whatever way you can.
Here is their plan and the reason it is needed.
Connect people who want to make a difference: In the new year we’ll host kick off events and trainings to bring people together, share our plan for action and train people to organize in their communities.

2. Keep growing opposition to contain the damage: We’ve already stopped or delayed this government time and again. We’ll keep running campaigns to hold this government accountable on the issues that matter most to this community.[4] Together, we’ll create a list of the worst damage done by this government and build a powerful campaign to get the NDP, Liberals and Greens to commit to undo that damage after the election.[5]

3. Create a program for action on climate, democracy and inequality: We’ll ask people who didn’t vote in the last election about their concerns and see how their answers connect with the Leadnow community’s big picture goals on democracy, climate and inequality. Together we’ll create a program for action that will motivate people across the country.

4. Organize in ridings across the country: We’ll work together to get out and build support in communities across the country. We’ll focus efforts in places where a hundred, or a few thousand, votes will make the biggest difference. We’ve done a detailed analysis so we can spend money wisely.

5. Build support for crucial reforms: As we reach out to more and more Canadians and focus organizing in key ridings, we'll make sure the political parties respond to our community’s program for action on democracy, climate and inequality with strengthened commitments in their campaign platforms.

6. Cooperate, endorse or support before the next election: Before the next election, we’ll either secure local cooperation agreements between the NDP, Liberals and Greens, or we’ll find a community-driven strategy to focus support behind the key candidates in strategic ridings. We’ll work together to find the best solution.[6]

7. Get out the vote during the election: During the next election we’ll focus our efforts on mobilizing in key ridings to inspire hundreds of thousands to vote for the candidate who has the best chance of representing their values in Parliament.

8. Undo the worst damage: After the election, we’ll work with the new government to undo some of the worst damage that’s been done in the last few years.

9. Pass crucial reforms: Now the real work begins! We’ll work together to ensure the new government passes crucial reforms to fix our broken electoral system, make Canada a climate leader and build a fair economy that reduces inequality.

As they say “This fall, Prime Minister Harper kicked off his campaign for the next Canadian federal election - and the stakes could not be higher. The question is: Will Prime Minister Harper be able to lock in his anti-democratic agenda - with all the consequences for our country and our way of life - or will Canadians come together across party lines and organize to reboot our democracy and make progress on the major challenges facing our society?”

The Harper Conservatives are using the power of our government to stack the deck in their favour. From spending $113 million on Economic Action Plan ads to putting people like Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin into the Senate so they can charge you for expenses when they hit the Conservative fundraising circuit, the Harper Conservatives are using your money to cement their political control of your country.”

Indeed all the power and money that the Harper regime is pouring into ensuring that they and they alone will have control over the future of our country may well be successful in spinning the facts to confuse enough citizens to let them retain power under our flawed voting system which encourages conflict not cooperation. Only a realization that conflict is exactly what the Conservatives thrive on and cooperation will return us from the brink of democratic destruction will bring about change for the better.

Further information on Leadnow may be found at http://www.leadnow.ca/en/index
and you may donate to their cause here.

Lets make a gift of democracy to our children and grandchildren!

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Santa is Canadian & Harper is an idiot?

We know that our Government scientists and bureaucrats are not able to make any public statements without being 'approved' by the Harper regimes spin machine in the PMO so we will probably never know if the study and collection of data for the Arctic claim was indeed complete two years ago or the victim of another of Harper’s antiscience cuts. What we do know is that he said two years ago that the data collection was complete and that just a few days before the ensuing submission was due to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf Harper suddenly said the submission was incomplete because it 'did not include the north pole'. No doubt the scientists will be told that their data had best show that Canada has a claim to the pole no matter what the science shows or else! In responding to a question in the House Harpers spokesclown Calandra said “All of a sudden the Liberals are suggesting that Santa Claus is no longer Canadian and that they would abandon the North Pole and abandon Santa Claus. On this side of the House, we are going to stand up not only for my daughters, but for your family as well, Mr. Speaker, and for all those young Canadians, in the spirit of Christmas, who are waiting for Santa Claus to come and visit.”

Seriously, perhaps we should send a scientist to the pole on the 25th to confirm that Santa lives there and ask for his drivers licence to confirm he is Canadian?

All Harpers sudden desire to make Santa's home Canadian seems to have accomplished is to piss off our neighbours to the NW, you know the ones that actually have ships capable of patrolling this area.

“Russia is currently building the world's biggest nuclear icebreaker, which will add to the fleet of five it already has. The country has 10 naval ports in the Arctic, able to service its fleet of nuclear submarines, and has begun restoring Arctic airfields........
The Canadian military, by contrast, has conceded that its recent purchase of snowmobiles for the troops will be the last for nearly a decade. A long-promised winter warfare centre in Nunavut finally opened this past summer, six years after Prime Minister Stephen promised it. The command post in Resolute Bay can handle up to 100 soldiers at a time training for cold-weather operations.
But a deep-water port at Nanisivik, Nunavut, remains under the control of the federal fisheries department, despite long-standing promises of a navel refuelling station. Promised Arctic patrol ships are still in the design stage, and construction of an icebreaker has been put off until at least 2020.”

Meanwhile back in the real world of scientific research and documentation we learn that since 2012 the government has closed or consolidated more than a dozen federal libraries at Parks Canada, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Foreign Affairs, Citizenship and Immigration and Canadian Heritage. The latest of these is the Eric Marshall Aquatic Research Library at the University of Manitoba where we are told that whilst some documents are being transferred to a Federal Library on Vancouver Island “thousands of valuable books and scientific documents, some dating back to the 19th century, being sent to the dumpster over the past week” Green Party Fisheries Critic Janice Harvey tells us “This is the latest in the methodical destruction of fisheries and marine ecosystem intellectual resources,The same thing happened last year at the St. Andrews Biological Station, the oldest federal research facility in Canada.” In addition to a state-of-the-art library facility with thousands of scientific documents, the St. Andrews Biological Station lost its ecotoxicology unit, whose scientists were at the forefront of research into the ecosystem effects of toxic chemicals used in the farmed salmon industry.

It seems that gagging our scientists and destroying scientific records is only part of the control that the Harper Regiem wants to exert upon those working for us within government, it has just been revealed that there is a directive from the PMO to effectively gag all parliamentary staff including those in your local MP's office. As a condition of employment they will now be required to sign a non disclosure document that restricts “sharing any information about the inner workings of the parliamentary precinct or disclosing any information about their employer which is politically sensitive". The employee must however “disclose all outside work, including volunteer gigs.” The mere action of unofficially providing a copy of this directive to the press would be grounds for dismissal under the new rules.
The waiver is said to be a lifetime ban on disclosing information even if no longer employed in such position, whilst there is an expectation of non disclosure and digression of information gained during such employment it would seem that this latest directive is directly aimed at hiding wrongdoings by MP's and Senators and senior staff in the PMO and elsewhere. It would seem to restrict employees from even testifying before committees or the courts without loosing their jobs, kind of convenient given the current situation in both houses and the investigation into what Harper knew about what and when.

Cant have the facts coming out now can we!

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Backbenchers Grow a Backbone?

Many of us have been sounding the alarm bell for some time about the amount of power and control the Prime Minister and the PMO have over both the daily working of parliament and more particularly the amount of control exercised over MPs and senators elected or appointed under the Conservative banner. Now it would seem a few backbenchers have finally become tired of following orders and want to do what they were elected to do, represent their constituents without having to rigidly follow the scrip provided by the PMO.
Tired of being a $160,200-a-year voting machines, the group of Conservative MPs has been meeting secretly for well over a year, discussing ways to inject more democracy into the Commons.
One of the solutions they have embraced – the cause of their shackles – is the removal of the leader’s power to veto individual candidates. Because it is difficult to win an election as an independent, Harper and the other party leaders have enormous power over their MPs, since no one can run under their party’s banner without their approval.
Chong is expected to table a private members’ bill that would give veto power over a candidate to the riding association executive rather than the party leader or his designate, sources said. “

Whilst hardly a major revolt this initiative would be a small step in the right direction and a least stop the PM (and other party leaders) from overriding the wishes of local District Associations in choosing candidates. A more interesting and perhaps significant development is the recent Op Ed and subsequent interview of David Sachs, a Conservative communications consultant who has worked for cabinet ministers Lawrence Cannon and Peter Kent. He says:-

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has long employed the cynical strategy of total denial when faced with controversy, disregarding the public’s right to the truth. He knows the public will never follow the minutiae of events. As long as solidarity is maintained, Harper can ride out any storm by claiming it is just more partisan noise. Only we Conservatives have the power to break that solidarity, and take away Harper’s trump card. It’s time to demonstrate that Conservatives care about ethics and ultimately, checks on that corrupting influence of power.”
This is hardly news to those of us who have been taking notice and cannot be news to all those Conservatives out there but it is refreshing to see such a insider finally recognize that not only such things are taking place but that they are toxic to both Canada and to their own party. He goes on to say:-

The prime minister has, in the kindest interpretation, hidden the full truth. Is that acceptable to you, as a Canadian and a Conservative?
As Conservatives, there is much Harper and his government have done to be proud of. But as more power is seized by the unelected members of Harper’s inner circle; as more of his key, chosen people turn out to be ethically unsound or worse, we must ask: how far will we let our own leader go?
Some Conservatives argue this tempest is all over a small amount of money. But if the prime minister’s key people are willing to go to such lengths over such a small issue, solely to maintain (how ironic) the façade of ethics, how far would they go over big issues? Does anyone trust this government to deal openly when facing major challenges?”

Does anyone trust this government to deal openly when facing major challenges?
Remember this is a long standing Conservative talking and asking the questions that for many of us has long been decided. Do I trust Harper, the PMO, the Cabinet, this Regime to be open, honest and accountable or even do the best for Canada (as opposed to big multinationals and foreign business). NO!

Ask what is democracy if an elected leader abuses all the levers of power? If he, or his people, manipulate independent branches of government (Senate, Parliamentary Budget Officer)? If he, or people acting on his behalf, abuse the electoral process (as in the allegations of electoral fraud), and then abuse the investigative process (the independent Deloitte audit)? If our leaders hide the truth as common practice?”
If we do not act, we embolden Harper. We increase the risk of further ethical scandals. Make no mistake: if Harper continues like this, he will fall, and he will take our party down with it. It will be hard to win an election for a decade. “
Whilst removing Harper as leader of the Cons would be a good thing I cannot believe that it will make much of a difference, the rot goes MUCH deeper than the PM and the PMO, only by his fellow MPs closing their eyes to the escalating control and spin issuing from his office for years has Harper succeeded in arriving at this point. It is getting very late in the day to try and correct things now, we can only hope that Harper does 'continue like this' and does 'fall and take the party with him'!

Mr Sachs specifically mentions both the senate scandal and the election fraud and the abuse of the investigation process and we see that this abuse continues with it being reported that:-

The prime minister’s office has hired three law firms to provide legal advice to current and former employees in relation to the RCMP investigation of former chief of staff Nigel Wright’s $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy.
The PMO didn’t provide an estimate of the cost of the legal fees, but they are likely to be steep. The lead lawyer on the file, Bay Street litigator Robert Staley, a partner at Bennet Jones, is said to bill in the $900-an-hour range.”

As several articles point out there is already legal advice available to the PM from within the government, already paid for by the taxpayer but apparently that is not good enough, the PM intends to spend thousands more of OUR money to continue his coverup. If there is no wrongdoing then why o why does he need no less than three private law firms with lawyers charging in the hundreds of dollars an hour to 'provide advice'?

Sachs told Power Play that “a lot of Conservatives” are uncomfortable with the government and how the PMO has conducted its affairs, although they may not say so publicly.
The people in the PMO have basically been running the country for years telling MPs how to vote, telling campaigns what they’re allowed to say and who they’re allowed to speak to, which is generally nobody and nothing,” he said.
In Sachs’ view, the PMO is “controlling things in such a way that was so clearly wrong.”

Thank you Mr Sachs for confirming what we all know has been the situation from almost the very moment Harper became PM, please tell your fellow conservatives that they can either stand up and be counted as ethical and honest or they can remain part of the Harper Regimes development of a dishonest and controlling dictatorship.
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Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Created Crisis?

The whole debate about the reform or abolition of the senate would not be getting the attention it is currently getting were it not for the somewhat overblown concern about just three senators expense claims and Harpers request to the courts to find out if he can do away or substantially change the upper chamber without broad agreement from the provinces and Canadian taxpayers. Is this much like the “dysfunctional parliament” that said 'leader' referred to when trying to justify his decision to shut down parliament a few years ago? Is the 'crisis', as with much of the ongoing infighting in the house and in committees, something of his own making, the senators under scrutiny are after all all highly partisan conservative individuals chosen by said 'leader' and the 'cover up' seems to be centred in his office! Is the underlying aim to abolish the senate so that the PM in a majority government can have “absolute power”?
A few days before the election of 2006, when the polls showed he was about to end 13 years of Liberal government, Stephen Harper told reporters that Canadians shouldn't be uneasy at the prospect of "absolute power" for a Conservative government because it would be kept in check by senators, civil servants and judges appointed by the Liberals.
"We have no alternative but to accept the checks," he said. "They're part of our system. Judges are named. Judges can't be removed except under extraordinary circumstances."
Seven years later, the Senate and the senior ranks of the civil service are full of Harper appointees, but judges are acting as a stubborn check on Harper's absolute power, just as Harper predicted.

Indeed some of the arguments put forward to the supreme court by the government side would seem to indicate that he has little regard for due process as set down in our constitution and would prefer to simply change thing to his liking without any consultation or agreement with the provinces or the people.

It will be interesting to see how Harper reacts when the Supreme Court justices eventually tell him that he can't reform or abolish the Senate without a deal with the provinces.
It seems likely that he will see this as a communications challenge. The prime minister can't fight the Supremes, can't reform the Senate, can't lock up everybody he'd like to lock up, but he can deliver messages that press his supporters' emotional buttons, even if he can't deliver on what he has promised them.
Some of the presentations to the court were indeed as this observer notes rather outrageous.....
So the Stephen Harper government complains to the Supreme Court that the Senate is too partisan. This is the most outrageous legal argument since the fellow who killed both his parents asked for mercy on the grounds he was an orphan. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

I have said in these pages a number of times that simply asking the provinces to submit a list of candidates to the PM and him committing to choosing from that list would eliminate much of the problem with partisan and unqualified individuals and enhance the regional representation that is the basis of the senate selection process. I am not alone in seeing this simple solution!

There is no more reason to elect senators than to elect judges. The purpose of the courts is to interpret the law. The purpose of the Senate as conceived by the framers is to act as a chamber of advice and consent. It is the House of Commons that has the unique task of representing the popular will, for which purpose that body does indeed need to be elected.................

How to choose them? We can look at how we select Judges. These worthies are also appointed by the PM (in effect – the Prime Minister’s Office passes on every name) but the problems are few because in almost every case the choice is made from lists drawn up by the legal communities in the various provinces – lists of people with a known and respected track record.
Let us choose senators in the same way. Let some great Prime Minister (will Mr. Harper step forward?) establish the precedent that with few exceptions, he/she will choose only from such lists. The provincial nominating bodies might be made up of members chosen by the governing and opposition parties in the local Legislature, by the municipalities, business and unions, the bar, universities and perhaps a few others. As with the court nominations, their work could be private and only for the eyes of the PM (which makes it easier for some to put forward their names), or it could be public.
This process would yield a truly respectable Senate. Yes, it would mark a diminution of the Prime Minister's patronage powers, but that would happen under the alternative of abolition in any case. We would be better to preserve and improve a truly useful advisory body.
Even Mr Harper has floated this idea but has said that he would not necessarily select from such lists which totally negates the whole idea but would of course allow the PM to continue to appoint partisan flacks. I think we all know where this one is going....absolutely nowhere, any major change will need constitutional change and that requires broad provincial support. Lets face it the Harper regime is not exactly renown for building broad support for anything and a PM that refuses to even meet with his provincial counterparts is unlikely to get a lot of cooperation in that regard.

The Senate and the House of Commons will continue to be a partisan war zone for the foreseeable future and we can but hope that a more 'cooperative' government can and will find a way to get consensus on bringing in Electoral, Parliamentary & Senate reform that will better serve the Canadian people than that which exists now.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Information is Power

The senate expense investigation and who knew what along with the PMs efforts to rid himself of these now disgraced conservative senators that he appointed has all but eliminated other news from the headlines. There was however some mention a couple of weeks ago of Canada's information watchdog Suzanne Legault's recent report and remarks wherein she points out that the freedom-of-information becoming “a system in crisis, where departments are unable to fulfil even their most basic obligations under the act”.

It is interesting to note that, if I remember correctly, the whole Duffy-Wallen affair came out of a FOI request way back in May. Would this have reached this level of confusion and accusations if such expenditures were publicly available on an ongoing basis WITHOUT having to request (and pay for the request) the information and then wait months for the response? It should not take a FOI request to see where OUR money is being spent, it matters not if its senators expenses, the PMs advertising budget, or how much he spends to have his hair done ALL expenses should be posted on line in a timely manner. This does not mean 3 to 6 months after the end of the fiscal year but at a very minimum quarterly and within 30 to 60 days.

Our secretive government is however going the opposite way - In a closed-door session with dozens of bureaucrats Thursday, Suzanne Legault cited a series of novel measures she says are damaging an already tottering system. "I am seeing signs of a system in crisis, where departments are unable to fulfil even their most basic obligations under the act," Legault told the group.
As an example, she cited a directive in April this year from the Treasury Board warning bureaucrats to steer clear of ministers' offices when looking for documents to respond to an access-to-information request.
In other words the bureaucrats have been told to not even look in certain places so that they can say that they found nothing!! As Legault says access to information is fundamental to Democracy
She said - that both ministers and deputy ministers in the public service must show leadership to create a culture of transparency within their departments, explaining it is fundamental to Canada's system of government, and a key tool that allows Canadians to engage in the democratic process and learn about the government's actions and decisions.
"When the access system falters," she said, "not only is Canadians' participation in government thwarted, but ultimately the health of Canadian democracy is at stake."
I would go furthest and say that with modern data systems available such information should be generally accessible without going through a bunch of bureaucratic hoops to see it and that those who deliberately hide, delete, fail to reveal, or otherwise obscure such information are democratic terrorists!

Of particular concern on this file is the obscuring, withholding or failure to collect scientific facts, be it regarding the state of our population and their well being or the condition of, and action required to upkeep, our natural heritage of parks, rivers, oceans, air and other resources.
This is a government waging a quiet legislative and administrative war on science — especially those fields of science dedicated to gathering and analyzing data on the health of Canada’s natural environment — and it has undone a century of good work with alarming efficiency since the passage of its sweeping omnibus budget bill in June 2012 ............
So what is the nature of this war on science? Above all else, it is a sustained campaign to diminish the government’s role in evidence-based policy-making and environmental stewardship in three simple ways: reducing the capacity of the government to gather basic data about the status and health of the environment and Canadian society; shrinking or eliminating government agencies that monitor and analyze that evidence and respond to emergencies; and seizing control of the communications channels by which all of the above report their findings to the Canadian public.
The ultimate goal is equally clear: to induce in the federal government a sort of wilful blindness, severely limiting its ability to see and respond to the impacts of its policies, especially those related to resource extraction.
Do No Science, Hear No Science, Speak No Science — this is the essence of the Harper agenda. And its list of alterations and diminutions is alarming in its length and breadth.

There is a very small piece of good news, the Federal Liberals have instructed their MPs to post their person expenses on line, something the lone Green party MP did way back in July, it a small step and long overdue but that they have also called for the following is even better:-
  1. Require Members of Parliament and Senators to proactively disclose travel and hospitality expenses made by them and their staff. The Liberal Caucus’ proactive disclosures can be viewed on their individual biography pages at Liberal.ca.
  2. Introduce legislation to make meetings of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons open and transparent to the public. The ability of the committee to go in-camera where necessary (for example, on sensitive HR matters) will remain, but not as is currently the case, as a default. The Senate Board of Internal Economy is already public.
  3. Create a common, quarterly and more detailed online expense report for spending by Members of Parliament and the Senate that is also more easily accessed and usable by the public from the home page of the Parliament of Canada website.
  4. The House and Senate Boards of Internal Economy should work with the Auditor General  to develop mandatory performance audits of the House of Commons and Senate administration every three years, and public guidelines under which the Auditor General is called in to perform more detailed audits of parliamentary spending.
It remains to be seen that if and when they are in a position to bring such policy into being implemented it actually happens, we may be sure it will not under the Harpler regime, at least not unless the PM, the PMO and the cabinet members were exempt from such requirements.

Information is power and Mr Harpler wants that all for himself!

Update--- The Conservative government has agreed to stop requiring information about a person's background before processing their requests for documents under the Access to Information Act.
----Must be already on file!
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Sunday, November 3, 2013

An Insidious Sickness

Canadian Democracy is sick. It has been showing alarming symptoms for some time now, they range from the inability of a large portion of our MPs to speak out without first consulting the PMO and a failure to listen to those with opposing or alternate opinions, to totally ignoring the rules and conventions built up over years of parliamentary debate and development, and a total lack of ethics and honesty. A new symptom appearing just this week is the removal of independent and small party MP's right to intervene at the report stage of proposed legislation and at the Con convention the ruling regime came out AGAINST proportional representation and for 'riding equality' whatever that means!

Other symptoms include
the starvation of many government departments essential for the well being of the country, environment & science, information services, parliamentary and electoral watchdogs, etc etc whilst at the same time other less essential departments such as the PMO and their advertising budget are being well fed and becoming obese.

As with most sicknesses there are those that are alarmed by the development and try to intervene and suggest some possible remedy’s, those who are so disconnected that they are unaware that the patent is sick, and those who say its nothing to be alarmed about, the symptoms are meaningless, ignore them there is nothing wrong. Some would have us believe that the current affliction of the senate is part of the sickness, and indeed it is, but the removal of that organ will not stop the spread of the sickness for it has spread far too wide within the body political to be cured by random amputation.

Only the removal of the cancerous tumor in the Prime Ministers office will set us on the road to recovery but even then it may take years to get back to good heath and in fact we may never recover all that is lost, we may indeed not recognize our country even after the tumor is removed, democracy will be but a shadow of its former self for years to come. We can only hope that the cancer is not terminal.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Rules and Conventions, Lies and Punishment

I will not dwell in great length upon the ongoing soap opera that is the 'Senate Scandal', there is quite enough commentary out there without my adding to it. I will instead examine how and why such thing are even possible in a 'democracy' and I contend that it is, at least in part because the 'rules' are not clear, documented for all to see, and that no clear penalties exist for those ignoring the rules and conventions that do exist.

Be it what does or does not constitute a legitimate expense for a senator, or an MP for that matter, and whether partisan content in a speech makes the travel to that event non-elegable as an expense, or if a governments advertising promoting itself and giving little real other information is acceptable on the taxpayers dime, the 'rules' are unclear. There is little or no oversight, there are no set penalties for abusing the system or even a way, in a majority government situation, of bringing the government, the senate or the prime minister to account other than in the court of public opinion.

It may well be that the senate can remove appointed members from their seat but it is pretty clear that as it is now proceeding it is far from an independent and equitable process. I have no great love of the conservative senators currently under examination but it is pretty clear that both their appointment and the attempt to fire them is a purely political decision and has little to do with the real job of senators to closely examine and recommend changes to proposed legislation. In this instance Ms Wallin is correct when she saysThe Government has truly put the cart before the horse – the sentencing before the trial – and that is why it would be both unfair and troubling if his motion proceeds.
If it does, each and every one of you will seriously have to consider whether this is a place of sober second thought, or a place where anyone who enters must blindly follow a political master’s dictates. ” That is not to say that that is not what she and most other conservative senators have not been doing for years and continue to do as we speak. It is not even about unacceptable expenses, which there is not much doubt did occur, it is about were the rules clear from the start, were these senators encouraged to bend the rules or told (by the PMO or Senate Leaders) that everything was OK. If not why did not those responsible for signing off on these expenses pass them through for payment without question, or were they too blindly following a political master’s dictates.

Which brings us to the lies part of the equation, it has become standard practice to deny any wrong doing whether it has in fact occurred or not. This is hardly a new phenomenon in political circles “plausible deny-ability' is a fixture in government across the world but our current regime seems to have brought it to new heights, along with the old adage that 'if you say it often enough it becomes true'. It used to be that if the principals involved destroyed any paper trail the matter became a he said she said debate which could be sloughed off in most cases. With the advent of email and electronic communications it is much harder to 'destroy all evidence' and even the most powerful may not be able to wriggle out from under. It remains to be seen just how much off the 'evidence' in the current scandal will come into the public purview, we have hardly been overwhelmed with such documents in the robocalls election fraud case or any of the other Harper regime messes and spending fiasco’s. We can only hope Duffy, who says this current scandal goes all the way to the top, and others fight dirty and shows their hands to the press, the RCMP obviously cannot and will not release documents in an ongoing investigation.

To sum it up, there are few rules governing the actions and spending habits of either our politicians or governments, there are few penalties for those who break or ignore the rules that do exist, and there is little the opposition or general public can do to stop such abuse except to wait for the next election and try and elect honest and principled representatives. And that is increasingly becoming an oxymoron!
We are reliant upon the MP's, The Prime Minister and his cabinet, and the Officers of Parliament to have due regard for our Parliament traditions and unwritten rules of conduct, unfortunately such reliance upon these individuals to respect out democracy no longer is sufficient. The only good thing about the current Senator Expense Soap Opera, about what in the scheme of thing is a piddling amount of money – probably less than the daily budget for Harper's self promoting ads, is that it may signal the start of some parliamentary reform. But NOT under this government if you want to retain some semblance of democracy, and not without Provincial approval it would seem.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

TV or Democracy

With the next set of promises recently presented in the House after several days of targeted leaks of some of the content which highlighted 'more choice of cable & satellite TV channels' I wonder if Canadians are really as shallow as the Harper Regime seems to think. Can we really be bought by a promise to give us more choice in selecting TV channels and similar meaningless goodies, is this such an important thing that it needs to be in the throne speech and have legislation brought forward to force the companies concerned to open up more choice, a move that will cost taxpayers nothing but will undoubtedly increase subscriber fees. Will such a promise really make voters forget how this regime has gutted the rules and ministries that protect our land, lakes, oceans, fish, flora and fauna? Will this suddenly make the missing census data that our social and local governments organizations rely upon, and that the regime does not want to interfere with their ideological agenda, suddenly appear? Will those channels suddenly have our government employees, our scientists, our diplomats and those Conservative backbenchers speaking out and providing us with reliable information without being inundated with Harperland spin & lies?

Perhaps the voters will forget the bad stuff (if they even knew in the first place) and blindly watch as the current regime feed them self congratulatory adverts, paid for with our money, telling us how our entire future depends upon selling our unimproved resources to China and continually telling us “we have a plan”, “we have a plan”!

Given the general disinterest in politics and the ever increasing disenchantment with our elected representative by those that do take any notice I begin to wonder where the Canadian populations priority’s lay. The views on my two blogs add to my concern, here are the top 3 posts on this site - Canadian Coup d'etat? Sep 19, 2010, 613 views - Canada is a corporate plutocracy Mar 29, 2009, 470 views - Democracy is Under Attack Dec 20, 2009, 385 views. Now compare it with these top 3 from my personal blog - Rural Satellite TV Aug 24, 2012, 5247 views - Thousands of Lakes and Rivers left unprotected. Oct 23, 2012, 1392 views - Broadcast TV in Grey Bruce Jun 21, 2011, 954 – and even the fourth item was another post about television broadcasts ending with 903 views. Hardy a reliable poll but it sure shows where the interest of many of out citizens lays!

Having taken a break from writing here over the summer, mostly to combat the depression brought on by following the direction that the Harper Regime is taking this country, I can understand how the average citizen would not want to dig too deep, just the little sound bites on whatever Canadian TV channels you get are enough to make all but the most concerned turn off.

The choice may well be TV or Democracy but I fear that many will choose TV, and it wont be the parliamentary channel.........

Meanwhile for those that are taking notice, once again Harper is flaunting parliamentary democracy by introducing an omnibus bill to reinstate all the bills (except those which HE does not now want) that are normally dropped, and reintroduced individually with due process, when the house is prorogued. He said he prorogued because “most of the promises the Conservatives made in the last election have been fulfilled........ “ apparently not, although I don’t remember him promising to ignore parliamentary tradition and ram through bills with minimal debate!

Finally the Green Party of Canada has published an alternative Throne Speech which in my estimation should be a must read for all citizens but particularly those that are charged with representing the electorate in the House of Commons. I urge you to read it and consider the possibilities if any (or all) of the other opposition partys were to make such a commitment.
See http://www.greenparty.ca/green-speech-throne

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Voting for a New Voting System.

Of late there seems to be an increased interest in bringing forward a new way of electing our 'representatives' in the House of Commons no doubt brought on by the possibility of the Harper regime winning another majority with a minority vote in 2015. Given their expertise in spinning the truth, using taxpayers money to beat their own drum and fool most of the people most of the time this is a real possibility.

There is little doubt that both electoral and parliamentary reform is needed and that the debate about what is needed and how to accomplish it will be difficult and divisive, it has been already. Even those that agree that First Past the Post must go cannot agree upon what should replace it. In my view any of the alternative would be preferable but as opponents of the various choice will point out all have their flaws and the devil is in the details. In previous provincial efforts to select a new voting system there has been one major flaw – the vote to perhaps remove the FPTP system with a more democratic system was presented as a FPTP choice, voters were only given one alternative which naturally was not supported by the partys who thought they had disproportionate chance of being elected by the old system.

The whole debate is a little silly in that the chances of any party elected via FPTP would have any great incentive to put a new system up for consideration to the voters, something that would in all probability not happen until the NEXT voting cycle. In other words it aint gona happen anytime soon!

That said there is a way to eliminate at least part of the dilemma if and when we can persuade a government to actually ask us what we want, and that is to give us a variety of choices and vote upon them using a ranked ballot. That is – your choices are FPTP, MMP, STV, AV etc - now rank them in order of your preference and if, as is probable, none get 51% of the vote then the second and possibly the third choices come in to play. This is of course the system (Alternative Vote or Ranked Ballot) that many are now proposing as a compromise system for elections until such time as we can agree upon a more proportional system, there will no doubt be those that would prefer just a choice of their preferred system verses FPTP. Such a choice of one or the other hardly seems democratic to me!

Lets get the various political partys who are talking about this voting method or that voting method being the one they might support if we ever got that far stop, and have them all agree that if elected they will give us a chance to vote for change by presenting all the various viable choices to us. Should that ever happen the challenge will be to educate the voting public as to the various advantages and disadvantages of the various choices something that the various supporters will no doubt have lots to say about.

The point I first made some four years ago or more still stands....
All the electoral reform in the world, everybody getting out and voting, more partys represented in the mix, even a better quality of representative will not make one iota of difference if the current “if he said it, it must be wrong, If I say it, it must be right” confrontational, non co-operational, my job is to prove the other guys wrong attitude remains unchanged. We need a quantum change in attitude from both our representatives and the partys that they purport to represent (damit, they are supposed to be representing us!) before we can wrest what is left of our democratic processes out of the hand of the politicians and their corporate lobbyists and back into the hands of our citizens where it belongs.

This is reflected in the Conservatives report on Canadas Democratic Institutions way back in 2007 where those few who had a say in this 'National Survey' were much more concerned about what our Representative were doing than how they were elected. Little has change over those 3 years except perhaps the 'parliamentary dysfunction' has increased! I am increasingly leaning towards that view myself, whilst electoral reform MAY change the outcome of any election the question remains will it change in any way the partisan nature of our Parliament that is stifling free debate and producing flawed legislation. As Elizabeth May says we need to Save Democracy from Politics.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Save Democracy from Politics

The title says it all, our very democracy is in danger of being totally subverted by partisan actions which are aimed at keeping or gaining power with little regard to the well being of Canadian peoples or our country. Elizabeth May is correct when she says there is no consensus on how to achieve the replacement of the flawed and highly biased first past the post electoral system. I fully support the Green party in their long held view that the system is broken and requires a major reform and applaud Ms May's efforts to leave partisan politics behind and seek common ground in moving forward with change.

From the Green Party of Canada
The Green Party of Canada today launched its Save Democracy From Politics 2013 Tour. The Tour will see Green Leader Elizabeth May visit 15 communities in one month starting in Halifax tonight.
“With Stephen Harper shuttering Parliament once again, I decided to reach out directly to Canadians. The Greens have ideas about how to fix our broken democratic system, but I want to hear what Canadians across the country have to say,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“Electoral reform has always been a priority of the Green Party. I think most Canadians would now agree First Past The Post has to go. But there is no consensus on how to achieve this vital reform. I don’t think it can happen unless political parties cooperate for the higher good of the country,” said May.
Ms. May also launched a new website about electoral reform and party cooperation: www.truemajority.ca. The site will allow Canadians to debate the pros and cons of our current First Past the Post system and offer alternatives that will allow every vote to count.
“I really hope people will take advantage of this initiative. We launch this debate platform with a non-partisan approach. On a fundamental issue like this one, people expect us to put country before party,” said May.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dysfunctional Legislatures

Is there any such thing as a fully “functional” legislature in Canada? I am starting to wonder. I do not follow all the various provincial maneuverings but it seems to me that many of our governing institutions across the country are in disarray. Certainly the only time our federal government can be called somewhat functional is when the legislature is not sitting, which situation appears to be the preferred option of the Harper regime and now the BC government. I cant speak to the rest of the provinces but it seems to me that they will take note that if they can effectively silence the opposition, eliminate debate and rule by executive order many 'leaders' will prefer that option. Democratic debate, cooperation, sharing ideas and seeking a consensus on proposed legislation is all but a thing of the past, its now 'my way or the highway' with not even a pretence of trying to work together for the betterment of our population.

Even those legislatures that are back to work with the government leader saying the right thing and calling for cooperation are in disarray due to to political posturing, it is after all far more important to make political points in an attempt to get that much valued majority during the next election rather than get on with the job you were elected to do. Others would restrict freedom of expression be it in whatever language or personal choice. No matter which side is to blame our legislatures are increasingly all about getting elected, individual or party power, forcing their ideas on the public with little regard to opposing ideas and blocking any alternative amendments simply because they are not 'our' ideas. It has always been thus but it seems to me that the harper era has brought in an increased disdain for the democratic process not only within the House of Commons but in other legislatures across the country. There even seems to be an increase of this affliction in municipal government which in previous times was largely apolitical but now sees an increasing right left split and political posturing rather than simply working together for the benefit of the municipality being managed.

With the advent of deciding upon actions based upon political ideology rather than factual needs the few individuals who try to make decisions based upon facts & needs are now seriously hampered by the lack on reliable data. That decision the the harperites to do away with the long form census is now coming home to roost with Census Canada not only saying that much of the data released from the 2011 census is less than reliable but that in many cases it is so unreliable due to low participation that the data will not even be published. This is not just a federal problem, provincial governments, municipalities, social support organizations and even small business need reliable data on the communities they serve to make informed decisions. How does one decide where to build a new school (or close an old one), expand a hospital, decide upon future municipal services etc if one does not have reliable population data. How does one decide upon the need for food banks, public transportation, housing needs etc if one does not have reliable income level information on you local or regional population. Quite simply without such information you cannot make an informed decision but must make an unsupported guess, which unfortunately no one can oppose with factual information because it is not available.....which of course is what those who govern by ideology want.

Dysfunctional Government indeed, and if anyone thinks changing the incumbent in any legislature is going to change much they are far more optimistic than I.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Prorogued Again........

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he intends to prorogue Parliament, which means the House of Commons will not resume in September as planned. Harper, who is currently on a week-long swing through northern Canada, says a speech from the throne will likely be delivered in October, kicking off a new parliamentary session.
The prime minister says most of the promises the Conservatives made in the last election have been fulfilled........
He promised we would not recognize Canada and in that regard he has fulfilled his promise. Naturally the fact that many of the Conservative Senators expenses are under close scrutiny and the Regime does not want to face questioning by the opposition partys has nothing to do with this decision!

Parliament is just an inconvenience to be avoided as much as possible to this Oligarch!
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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Standing Up for Nature and Democracy

This week Forest Ethics Advocacy, launched a constitutional challenge to new requirements in the National Energy Board Act that have the effect of silencing citizens concerned about tar sands pipelines. As pointed out by West Coast Environmental the severe restrictions placed upon public comment by Bill C-38 whereby any citizen wishing to comment upon such projects, even those directly affected, are effectively prevented from doing so. Whilst SOME restrictions MAY be necessary in the interests of such hearing not going on forever, the restrictions now in place are clearly undemocratic. I will let WCEL take it from here.......

“We have previously written about these undemocratic limits on public comment, which were introduced last year in Bill C-38, and how the National Energy Board (NEB) has relied on them to create substantial procedural hurdles for citizens who wish to participate the review of pipeline projects –in particular with respect to an application by Enbridge to reverse a portion of “Line 9” in order to transport of bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the east.

As we previously reported, concerned citizens were required to complete a lengthy form applying to the NEB before they could submit even a letter of comment, which the NEB retained the discretion to deny. Furthermore, the Notice of Application to the Federal Court in the recently launched challenge details how individuals and groups who applied and disclosed that they intended to make submissions on matters related to the tar sands were denied the right to participate or were downgraded from intervenor to commenter status. This is because, according to the form, the NEB had already closed its mind to considering the relationship between the pipeline and the development of the tar sands, despite the fact that increased pipeline capacity is a key enabling factor for tar sands expansion. As Forest Ethics Advocacy notes:
Comments by people who live up or downstream from the tar sands and are experiencing serious health impacts, or people who are concerned about health risks posed by increased toxic emissions at tar sands refineries, or people who want to expose the link between the tar sands and climate change are forbidden from expressing any analysis of a project's impacts.
Information about health and environmental impacts from citizens and scientists have therefore been excluded by law from the analysis of a project's impact.
The applicants in the federal court case, Forest Ethics Advocacy and two citizens who were impacted by the new NEB rules, submit that the new section NEB Act (s.55.2) violated their freedom of expression under the Charter and should be struck down.
This court case is an important test of the constitutionality of steps taken last year by the federal government to silence citizens concerned about tar sands pipelines, and one that the West Coast Environmental Law Association is pleased to support. Please consider doing so as well.”

- Remember that this Environmental Advocacy group is one that the Harper Regime has called “enemies of the state” for their work in making us aware of the risks and possible ecological disasters associated with the oil industry’s plans.

Bill C-38 repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and replaced it with a new Act (CEAA 2012).  CEAA 2012 introduces the new rule that, for certain environmental assessments, only “interested parties” will be able to participate.  Interestingly, CEAA 2012 says that the NEB (unlike other government bodies conducting assessments) is not required to consider written comments received from the general public.
The NEB Act was also amended.  Section 55.2 of the Act say:
... the Board shall consider the representations of any person who, in the Board’s opinion, is directly affected by the granting or refusing of the application, and it may consider the representations of any person who, in its opinion, has relevant information or expertise. A decision of the Board as to whether it will consider the representations of any person is conclusive.
It’s pretty clear that the NEB – through its new 10 page application procedure – is implementing the definition of “interested party” and directly affected found in the new CEAA 2012 and in the amended NEB Act.  So the procedure is clearly intended to address the changes in C-38.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Jeff Said.......

Even if it could, Senate reform shouldn’t proceed without the provinces – or the people

To the surprise of everyone in the Ottawa bubble, Her Majesty’s Minister of State for Democratic Reform, Pierre Poilievre, held a press availability Wednesday not to slam the Liberals for some alleged sins, but to actually speak to an issue of policy substance: the government’s Supreme Court reference on Senate reform.
The minister discussed the factum the government has presented to the court outlining its position, marking the first time the words “Pierre Poilievre” and “factum” have appeared in the same sentence. The government has put several questions to the court, essentially seeking clarity around what reforms Parliament can make on its own, what reforms would require provincial approval, and what level of provincial approval would be required for outright abolition, ie. unanimity, or seven provinces with half the population.
The Harper government’s position is that it can proceed unilaterally on Senate reform. I’m not a legal expert, but most of those I’ve seen weigh-in say, while it can proceed unilaterally in some ways, substantive reform does mean constitutional reform. And while the feds can make some changes to areas of sole federal interest on its own, substantive reforms would likely go beyond that.
But I’ll let the legal experts, and of course the Supreme Court, hash that one out. There’s what’s legal, and what’s right. And even if the courts said the feds could substantively reform or even abolish the Senate without the provinces, I’d argue they lack the moral authority to do so and would be making a mistake if they tried.
I’ve written extensively on the Senate in the past. Most recently I’ve argued what I’d like the Senate to be – an upper chamber with equal representation by province or region with clearly defined powers, to serve as a regional counter-weight to what should be a purely representation by population lower chamber in the House of Commons. With uneven population growth across the country, I think that’s an important piece to have in our parliament. The provinces have an undeniable interest in ensuring regional voices are heard and represented fairly in parliament; it’s difficult to argue this is purely a federal matter.
However, I would go beyond just requiring provincial approval through the amending formula for substantive Senate reform or unanimity for abolition. The people must be involved too. When Stephen Harper first came to Ottawa as a staffer and later a Reform MP in 1993, he was a leader in a party that believed in consulting the people on such matters via referendum. It’s time he returned to his roots.
Before we proceed down the road to reforming or abolishing the Senate, which would be a pretty major change to our democracy, the people must become involved. We need to have a debate in this country around how we want to be represented, and what we want our democracy and our parliament to look like.
And then we should vote in a national referendum, and the federal and provincial governments should proceed as the people direct.
All I can add is that the Federal Ministry of Democratic Reform is, just like so much else coming out of this government, just window dressing. Let us dress up the dummy in the window in various outfits and see what the public reaction is and then just ignore them anyway!
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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For!

Abolish the Senate? Be careful what you wish for, we all know that it has become highly partisan and some of those appointed feel they are entitled to their entitlements and take even more, reform is needed but do away with it entirely? I maintain that it is not the institution that is the problem but the people who are appointed to it and the manner of appointment, despite his appointment of many undeserving and unprincipled conservative flacks to ensure that he can jam questionable legislation through Mr Harper would like nothing better than to remove this impediment to his plans. I begin to wonder if all this recent expense scandal was not deliberately created to bring the senate into disrepute in order to sway public option against the senate and for abolition.

Without a bill having to be sent to the Senate it would be much easier and quicker for a majority government (any majority government) to push legislation through without sufficient examination and debate. Is this a good thing, I dont think so. Many of these bills are complex and written in such a way as to be all but impossible to fully understand the full ramifications, MPs have little time to fully dissect such legislation and all to often simply take their partys word upon both the content and upon how to vote. True the Senate is becoming a similar partisan rubber stamp despite the ability to more fully examine and debate a bill, but that once again is a problem with those appointed not the senate itself or for the most part its way of doing things.

Reform yes, abolition no. Besides the fact that it would be almost impossible to meet the conditions set down for such a move it would simply put more power into the hands of a majority PM who it would seem has very few checks and balances upon his power, many of the 'rules' be convention not requirements, and there being no consequences for ignoring such 'conventions'. Senators are meant to represent their Province not a particular party, if the next PM were to simply say to the Provinces 'I will accept you recommendation for filling this position (subject to the normal checks and debate) we would at least have a broader range of individuals appointed.

But is abolition any more feasible than reform? It has proved hard enough just to change the length of senators’ terms. How is it supposed you could abolish it altogether? Indeed, whereas major reforms to the Senate — including changes to its powers, the numbers of senators from each province or the method of their selection — would invoke the Constitution’s general amending formula, requiring the support, not only of both Houses of Parliament, but of seven provinces with 50 per cent of the population, abolition would seem to require unanimity.”

The issue of the length of term, compensation & pensions is, in my opinion a separate issue and one that needs examining for both the Senate and the House of Commons. It is difficult for Canadians who struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis to justify the amount of money these folks receive both during their time in Ottawa and after they 'retire' from the legislature.

Thats just one opinion, the debate continues......probably for years and most certainly beyond the next election!
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Electoral Fraud Occurred!

But no results overturned.........

Just hours ago the long-awaited Federal Court ruling on election fraud was released...

In a clear and bold statement,
Judge Richard Mosley wrote: "I find that electoral fraud occurred during the 41st General Election."

While his ruling stopped short of annulling election results, this is a powerful victory for
Kay Burkhart, Ken Ferance, Yvonne Kafka, Bill Kerr, Sandra McEwing, Tom Parlee, Jeff Reid and Peggy Walsh Craig – the eight brave Canadian voters who launched their legal challenges and the thousands of us who continue to stand behind them.

The judge raised grave concerns that
the fraudulent calls "struck at the integrity of the electoral process by attempting to dissuade voters from casting ballots for their preferred candidates. This form of 'voter suppression,' was, until the 41st General Election, largely unknown in this country."

From the outset, the eight applicants argued that the fraudulent robocalls were widespread, targeted and centrally organized – which is precisely what Judge Mosley found. "I am satisfied that it has been established that misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country, including the subject ridings, and that the purpose of those calls was to suppress the votes of electors who had indicated their voting preference in response to earlier voter identification calls," and that "
the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the CPC [Conservative Party of Canada], accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this Court."

Of course the CPC will try to paint this as a victory, but they have nothing to celebrate. That is unless an attempt to steal the election using their database, to which only senior Conservative Party members have access, is a cause for rejoicing. This is a serious indictment of the CPC.

Judge Mosley himself praised the eight applicants for their virtue, while chastising the Conservative MPs. "
It has seemed to me that the applicants sought to achieve and hold the high ground of promoting the integrity of the electoral process while the respondent MPs engaged in trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits."

And Mosley even made special note of their shameful obstructionist tactics, stating, "
Despite the obvious public interest in getting to the bottom of the allegations, the CPC made little effort to assist with the investigation at the outset despite early requests. I note that counsel for the CPC was informed while the election was taking place that the calls about polling station changes were improper. While it was begrudgingly conceded during oral argument that what occurred was "absolutely outrageous", the record indicates that the stance taken by the respondent MPs from the outset was to block these proceedings by any means."

H/T to The Disaffected Lib for the above

The judge had harsh words for the tactics the Conservatives used in fighting the case.
The Conservative party’s lawyer, Arthur Hamilton, sought to have the case thrown out several times, relying on an argument that the council was engaged in “champerty and maintenance,” an ancient legal principle that prevents vexatious lawsuits by people who have no legitimate interest in a case.
Mosley ruled that “there is no evidence that the applicants acted for any reason other than to assert their rights to a fair election as Canadian citizens and electors.”
Mosley had harsh words for the legal tactics employed by the Conservatives during the case, saying they indulged in “trench warfare in an effort to prevent this case from coming to a hearing on the merits” while the council sought “the high ground of promoting the integrity of the electoral process.”
The judge points out that the Conservatives “made little effort to assist with the investigation despite early requests,”

Read more from the Ottawa Citizen

Note – I have returned only briefly to post this, it is too important to not do so. That despite the efforts of the CPC to suppress information during this case electoral fraud was found to take place is a partial victory. Will Elections Canada ever find and prosecute those responsible and will such practices be prosecuted in the future is the larger question.
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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Summer Sabbatical

After closely following the decline of our democracy for more more than 4 years and posting over 200 articles at Democracy Under Fire detailing just a few of the ways in which the Harper Regime and others continuously demean and diminish the democratic systems built up over many years I am frustrated and tired of beating my head against the wall. I am finding it increasingly hard to discuss or comment upon such issues in a calm and rational manner and am taking a summer sabbatical from that effort whilst I regroup and recharge, how I do this without totally withdrawing from watching or reading any news articles remains elusive!
Expect content to be sparse here for the next few months, guest posts are always welcome.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Good' The Bad and The Ugly!

Its been a roller coaster ride this week on the political scene, between the Conservative attack ads and the response to them, the speakers ruling on the right of MPs to be heard in the house and the Liberals voting with the Conservatives on a bill to delay the signing of the china trade deal its been hard to keep up. I will try and bring a little light to these and a few other issues this week.

First up a couple of bits of good news, not wonderful but in these days of nothing but negative news at least something a little positive.

The court has ruled upon former PBO Kevin Page's request for financial information from the Harper Regime, despite not being able to rule on this particular specific issue due to “no request for information” (?) from Mr page, they never the less made it quite clear that he had the right to that information.

By establishing the PBO position and enshrining its mandate in legislation, Parliament intended that independent financial analysis “should be available to any member of Parliament, given the possibility that the government of the day may be a majority government with strong party discipline,” Harrington said.
Parliament not only intended that the parliamentary budget officer be answerable to it and to its committees, but also to every backbencher irrespective of political stripe,” he said. “In my view, the purpose of the statute is to shield any given member of either House of Parliament from the will of the majority.
If the majority wants to abolish the position of the parliamentary budget officer, or define his or her mandate somewhat differently, so be it! However, it must do so by legislation. Having made that law by statute, it must unmake it by statute. In the meantime, Parliament has no right to ignore its own legislation.”
Then there is the ruling by Conservative Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer in response to a complaint by one of his colleagues of being denied a chance to speak during the time set aside for members statements in the House.

The right to seek the floor at any time is the right of each individual member of Parliament and is not dependent on any other member of Parliament,” Scheer said.
If members want to be recognized, they will have to actively demonstrate that they wish to participate. They have to rise in their places and seek the floor.”
Not perhaps all that the backbenchers would have wanted but a step in the right direction and there are now moves afoot to wrest the control of who speaks from the party brass and institute a more equitable system. Its long past time that our MPs emerged from under the part thumb and perhaps this very small rebellion is a glimpse of thing to come, I do hope so!

The province is working with the Conservatives, the Manitoba government and the International Institute for Sustainable Development to keep the area operational this year and ensure longer-term operations.

With Harper’s brother in ideology Tim Hudak foaming at the mouth for an election and saying he will not vote for the budget before even been presented and the NDP pushing the limits of proposed items to be included in order for them to not to do the same, it remains to be seen if the Ontario Liberals are able to follow through with their 'save'! Which brings me to the not so good news........

On Monday the NDP presented a motion “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should inform the Government of the People's Republic of China, that it will not ratify the (deeply flawed, nu-debated and anti-Canadian) Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement".  Naturally the Conservatives voted en-mass against this motion but so did the Liberals, it seems that they also think that it is ok to sign a deal that can let a foreign nation sue a municipality (or any other government entity) that give preferential treatment to their local workforce, contractors or service industries and gives them equal rights to our natural resources as our own peoples. The crazy thing about this is that with the Con majority it was not going to pass anyway so why on earth would the Libs, who apparently were 'in negotiations with the NDP' not vote for this along with the Greens.

Even more troubling is that despite the apparent soft support from the Libs for delaying the ratification of this treaty the Liberal members ALL voted against the motion. I had mused last week that perhaps the new liberal leadership would be less authoritative and more collaborative in their approach, it would seem not. The voting along party lines with no exception is still in full force for ALL the partys with very few exceptions. Take a quick look at the voting records so clearly presented at the Open Parliament Website, which site I highly recommend as THE site to go to for information on bills, voting results and debates in the House of Commons and you will see that voting the party line is clearly 'locked in'. Why do we even vote for and pay for these 'representatives' if all they do is follow like sheep wherever their 'leader' takes them.....even if its over a cliff?

To add insult to injury it now seems that the Harper Regime is once again proposing to use taxpayer funded MP mailings for political attacks upon opposition. Not satisfied with spending millions of dollars of party money to attack the newly appointed leader of the Liberal party before he had barely had time to hang his picture on the office wall (oh, wait thats the other guy, the one still in the PMO, with the king complex) they now are preparing to blitz us with householder mailing doing the same. It seems to me we went through this before and despite it being generally agreed that the privilege of free printing and delivery (free to the party that is, WE pay for them) was abused with the use of “10% ers” for political commentary was contrary to the intent of that privilege nothing was done to stop it, in fact the Speaker ruled it was Ok!. I for one strenuously object to being bought with my own money, each of these attack make me more determined to oppose these manipulative oligarchs. As always the Harper Reginae continues to show how little respect they have for democracy, parliamentary procedures and the Canadian taxpayers, nothing new there!

Finaly we have the emails sent out to RCMP officials, telling them they need to get approval from the commissioner or the public safety minister’s office before talking to politicians. In response to a question in the House Candice Bergen (MP, Portage-Lisgar) said:-.
“If parliamentarians need to or want to meet with RCMP or other officials, the appropriate place for them to do that is in Parliamentary committees. If that member has a concern about any RCMP member, they can speak with myself or the minister of public safety,”
Liberal John McKay replied:-.
“Mr. Speaker – only in paranoid, conservative Canada should the police be forbidden from speaking with the people’s representatives, so will this minister choke down his paranoia and reverse?” .
Lets see, the control list now includes MPs, Police, Scientists, Diplomats, Bureaucrats, Civil servants, Military brass and who know how many more that we do not know off. No wonder the PMO budget keeps going up, message control is so important in a 'open and accountable' government eh!

The Ugly? The fact that there is still considerable support for this anti-Canadian, anti-Democratic regime across the country and that a recent poll in Ontario shows that his little brother Hudak who seems to have a similar 'King Complex' has enough support that he wants to force an election upon the residents of that province. Unfortunately the Non of the Above Party will once again not be on the ballot!

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