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, February 24, 2013

Ohh Canada!

The following short excerpts from some news and opinion this week need very little further comment!


Do you remember when Canada was seen as a friendly, socially progressive country? Well, perhaps not, but I will bet that your parents do.
We have lost ground and are now a reactionary anti-science- pro military, right wing led and controlled country.

In the nightmarish world of Harperland it was just another bizarre photo-op. Stephen Harper in a hockey arena, standing in front of yet another group of human props. And behind yet another absurd sign. Selling himself, and peddling defibrillators. But I thought this one was particularly symbolic eh? Because nobody needs a defibrillator more than Canada does, after what he has done to it.

At best freedom of religion is a derivative right — because we have freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, that means we must be free to believe things about the divine and to speak about those beliefs. The religious have it exactly backwards here: religious freedom flows from our other basic human rights, not the other way around.

Which is why the skeptical among us wonder why there’s an Ambassador for Religious Freedom and not an Ambassador for Freedom of Conscience, an Ambassador for Freedom of Expression, or even, for that matter, an Ambassador for Democracy.

I’ve seen the BC Liberals do some pretty cruel, heartless things over the years, but this is one of the worst.

They are cutting more than 50% of the money that supports adults with fetal alcohol disorder and autism, while giving snowbirds a 7th month of medical coverage for living in warmer climates over the winter.

The Quebec government says its language watchdog was a little too aggressive in chasing after an Italian restaurant for excessive use of Italian on its menu. ........

And finally from the fellow who who has not visited his cottage in PEI for months, now says he rents a place, who is not registered for health care in PEI and in fact may not even be eligible to sit in the senate, and was not the day Harper appointed him......

That’s not the only thing that's unclear Duffy!

Ohh Canada!

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Will our 'watchkeepers' be watching in the future?

As the frustration level builds with the ongoing lack of accountability and response to concerns about various watchdog departments and officers the number of articles condemning this 'governments' approach to these things increases. Its getting so hard to keep up that once again I will simply post a few clips from a few that have caught my eye.

You will have read my concerns about the renewal of the Parliamentary Budget Officers mandate and perhaps were aware that the NDP brought a motion before the house to extend Mr Pages tern untill such time as a new officer was appointed. Naturally the cons defeated that one.

Showing their burgeoning disdain for accountability, transparency, financial oversight and the independence of federal watchdogs, the Harper Conservatives earlier this week nuked a progressive NDP motion on the role of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).  The motion, tabled by the Official Opposition’s Finance critic, Peggy Nash, sought to extend the mandate of Kevin Page, the current PBO, until a competent replacement is found.  Page’s term ends March 25.

No doubt this bit had a lot to do with it:- More importantly, the NDP motion would have guaranteed the independence of future PBOs. It would have required Parliament to boost the PBO position to a fully fledged Officer of Parliament. Would not do for the PBO to be clear of any interfearance form those of whoom he is reporting upon now would it!

Next up the environmental commissioner is resigning two years before the end of his mandate, he says its not due to frustration but we have to wonder when just before leaving he points out some major 'gaps' in in the environmental policies of the Conservative government. As Tim Harper of the Star points out “More often than not, those gaps are more like chasms.“

As he pointed out, about 30 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product is fuelled by exports, and natural resources account for half those exports. More than 750,000 Canadians were working in the resource sector in 2010 and that number is growing. Ottawa estimates more than 600 major resource projects, representing $650 billion in new investments, are under way or planned across the country for the next decade.........

He pointed to Canada’s lack of preparedness for a major offshore oil spill on its east coast and warned of a potential 300 per cent jump in tanker traffic on the west coast.
He reminded us the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil and the clean-up and other costs of civil damages has hit $40 billion.
In Canada, the corporate liability for such spills is $30 million on the east coast, and the liability for the nuclear industry is $75 million and has not been updated in more than 35 years, something Vaughan called “pretty shocking.” The liability limit in the U.S. for a nuclear accident is $12 billion.
Then there is the way in which the Canadian Charter is being ignored, indeed deliberately circumvented, by the 'government' when formulating new legislation aided and abeted by the Ministry of Justice :-

The minister of justice is required to inform the House of Commons if any new bill or regulation is inconsistent with the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, yet researchers say no such report has ever been made. In a statement of claim filed in court, Mr. Schmidt suggests the reason for that is because lawyers in the minister’s department are given instructions that set a very low bar.
Rather than expressing concern to the minister and Parliament if a draft bill likely violates the Charter, Mr. Schmidt says lawyers in the department are given a much different standard.
According to his court filing, government lawyers are told to not raise concerns with the minister “… even if the probability of inconsistency is 95 per cent or more, but some argument can reasonably be made in favour of its consistency – even if all arguments in favour of consistency have a combined likelihood of success of five per cent or less.”

These three are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things that highlight our ever declining democracy, right to know where our tax dollars are going, declining protection of our lands and resources and inability of any of us to stop the Harper regime from making a mockery of our parliamentary traditions.

If you are not frustrated, depressed and increasingly 'concerned' about where we are being led then you are not taking notice or believe all the spin and BS issued from the PMO and should check your mental health.
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Senate is not the problem

Its not the institution, its the self serving and partisan people appointed to it....

Recent events have once again brought calls for the senate to be abolished or reformed and whilst the latter is no doubt needed, the former is not IMHO on the cards if for no other reason than it takes time for the process to take place. There is nothing in the constitution that forces the Prime Minister to appoint conservative hacks to warm the seats, there is nothing to stop the Prime Minister from asking the provinces for their 'recommendations' as to new appointees to represent that province and to follow those recommendations (to be fair Mr Harper has asked the provinces to do just that). There is no rule that says that senators must slavishly follow the dictates of he who appointed them no matter which Party they were 'rewarded' by with a lifetime income. As with the House of Commons it is the quality of the individual that counts, we need those who put the good of the country before their own greed, individuals who think for themselves, people who actually read and understand the implications of the legislation before them and do not rely upon the PMO's crib notes and directives. There are a few such folks in both houses but they are rare and all too often overwhelmed by the cacophony of partisan rhetoric coming from the rest of the flock.

"The Senate could easily be fixed, without any constitutional amendment, by a prime minister brave and principled enough to announce that he or she will no longer select Senators for their partisan political credentials but for the experience and wisdom they can bring to the country’s chamber of sober second thoughts." 
Peter Russell, Canada's foremost constitutional expert.

The PM has asked the Supreme Court of Canada on a ruling regarding some proposed changes to the Senate. I would suggest this is simply a distraction from the real problem which is the choices that Mr Harper and his corrupt regime have made since coming to power, not that previous governments have not made partisan appointments but they did perhaps generally appoint a better class of citizen. It is clear without waiting for the court to rule that any major change to the senate will require the agreement of the provinces and so if change is to take place then put a proposal before them and get on with it. Meanwhile how about seeking non partisan knowledgeable citizens who fall within the current rules – like actually living within the province that they represent for instance – for future appointees. Unfortunately there is little we can do about those already filling these seats under false pretences, even Herr Harper cannot toss them out of the Senate once appointed although he can it seems decide that they are no longer 'conservative' senators before being convicted of anything.

It is a reflection of Harpers modus operandi that Senator Brazeau, who we know is not exactly the best senator in the upper chamber, was tossed out of caucus before he was even charged with anything. We have seen before this reaction to MP's in his caucus whilst at the same time those in his inner circle can do no wrong and can lie, cheat, defraud the taxpayers and break the law with impunity.

So let us not be too hasty in calling for the ablution of the Senate and in doing so put even more power into the hands of any majority government to ram flawed and partisan legislation through. Let us first examine where the real problem lays, with the those who have been appointed to the upper chamber and he who does the appointing! As Scott Tribe points out other countries with parliamentary democracy’s have succeeded in creating systems that solve many of the problems that some say that an elected senate would bring, but as he also points out it is the partisan nature of Canadian politics that is the stumbling block.

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Let the Games Begin ...... Again!

With our Federal MP's now back in the House and the Ontario Legislature about to resume under a new leader I am not optimistic that we will see any change in the political gamesmanship and constant efforts of each party to trample each other in the blind rush for power. We here in Ontario just saw a particularly fine example of this from one Tim Harper Hudak and his provincial Cons.......
Within hours of her victory on Saturday evening, Ontario premier-designate Kathleen Wynne was the target of two new Progressive Conservative attack ads that labelled her “another McGuinty Liberal Ontario can’t afford.” That these unproductive personal attacks were aired so quickly after the announcements tells us that they were planned, and probably produced, proir to the new leader even being chosen, a taste of things to come perhaps.

The new Premier Designate, Kathleen Wynne is making all the right noises regarding 'cooperation' in the legislature and getting on with governing the province but in a minority situation that requires ALL Partys to at least show some inclination to work towards that goal. There is little doubt that there are some thorny issues left over from the sudden suspension business some 3 months ago not the least of which is the apparent polotical decision to cancel a half built generating station just before the last election. Wynne won't say if she'll agree to an NDP demand for a public inquiry into the Liberals' decision to cancel two gas plants at a cost of at least $230 million.

The NDP also are proposing new rules requiring debate by MPPs to prorogue for more than a week — and a firm recall date, something whicch with governments of all stripes increasingly using proroguing as a 'get out of jail' card certainly needs looking at. However I do hold out hope that Kathleen and Andrea can find common ground and move forward without too much political posturing. I hold out no such hope for the PC's Timmy Hudak, he seems to have learned his political lessons at the knee of his federal counterpart and we all know how cooperative and forthcoming that gentleman demigod can be.

Which leads me to this little rant by E May about our new currency, which I would suggest is the least of our problems however as usual she makes some great comments about the remaking of Canada by said demigod. If you believe as I do that Stephen Harper and his supporters, both in the house and across the nation are leading us down the path away from democracy as we know it and towards the sort of regime that we have seen in Germany before the war then perhaps Elizabeth May's thoughts regarding the emperor having no clothes strikes a chord.

Finaly I cannon leave without passing this on from our hero Kevin Page....

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer (PBO), told host Evan Solomon the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer will never truly be independent until it reports directly to Parliament.
"The legislation is flawed," said Page, who was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Canada's first parliamentary budget officer for a five-year term.
"I'm appointed by the prime minister and yet I'm supposed to be the watchdog for how the prime minister spends money. The office is not independent."
With more and more 'watchdogs' becoming lapdogs of their respective governments across the country do not expect the next appointment by this or any other legislature to be any less partisan than those that preceded it for the opposite will undoubtedly come to pass.

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