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, 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!

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Take Your Shirt Off for Democracy.

I am not sure that any of the major political parties gets it, but Harper definitely does not, attacking the leader of a party as if he and he alone is responsible for decisions of policy or as if he alone would be responsible for proposing or passing legislation is ridiculous. Effective perhaps, but totally without merit. True the Harper Regime is VERY centralized and VERY autocratic but even they must surely come to some kind of consensus within their inner caucus and thus we must criticize the “Harper Regime” not just Harper.. There are two extremes of leadership 'style' Autocratic and Democratic, Harper’s style is very much the former whist most of us would think that in a democratic society the leadership style should lean much more towards the latter. Only if the leadership is totally autocratic can we lay the blame for decisions and policies entirely in his (or her) lap, generally others with positions of influence and power must also take responsibility be they elected or appointed to the 'inner circle'.

In an autocratic leadership style, the person in charge has total authority and control over decision making. By virtue of their position and job responsibilities, they not only control the efforts of the team, but monitor them for completion –often under close scrutiny
This style is reminiscent of the earliest tribes and empires. Obviously, our historical movement toward democracy brings a negative connotation to autocracy, but in some situations, it is the most appropriate type of leadership. That, of course, doesn’t mean a blank check to ignore the wellbeing of his subordinate. “

The democratic leadership style is a very open and collegial style of running a team. Ideas move freely amongst the group and are discussed openly. Everyone is given a seat at the table, and discussion is relatively free-flowing.
This style is needed in dynamic and rapidly changing environments where very little can be taken as a constant. In these fast moving organizations, every option for improvement has to be considered to keep the group from falling out of date.
The democratic leadership style means facilitating the conversation, encouraging people to share their ideas, and then synthesizing all the available information into the best possible decision. The democratic leader must also be able to communicate that decision back to the group to bring unity the plan is chosen. “

Our Parliamentary Democracy system is meant to be much like the latter style of leadership where issues are discussed openly, various point of view considered and the best decision possible made after considering all options. Needless to say it does not actually operate that way particularly when the leader is highly autocratic AND has a majority. Although we are told we vote for individuals to form a parliament in reality we nearly always vote for a party as represented by its policy’s and its public face in the form of its leader, with a strongly autocratic leader who dictates to or ignores the majority of his “subordinates” what they can say or do how can it be otherwise.

I would hope that in the future we elect individuals whose leaders lean much further towards the democratic style of leadership for it would solve much of the parliamentary 'dysfunction' currently in evidence. Is Justin Trudeau such a leader? I have no idea but I suspect he is, his perceived “lack of leadership experience” may in fact be just a less autocratic and more democratic 'style' than we are currently used to, and if so is in my view a major asset. The power invested in the PM will not change anytime soon but the manner in which it is used can - with the right 'leader'. Let us hope that we have some better choices when next we try and decide who or what we are voting for.

This post was inspired by those attack ads from the Harper Regime upon Justin Trudeau that try and cast doubts upon his skills and style before he even has had a chance to display them. They do NOTHING for Canada except cast doubt upon the conservatives methods and judgement! With that in mind I offer this 'tag line' to those Liberals out there looking for way to respond to such things.

Justin Trudeau, He will give you the shirt off his back whilst Harper turns his back on democracy”
(or, parliament, our scientists, the environment, accountability, etc, etc, etc)

Take your shirt off Justin and fight for Canadian Democracy!

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

This is Democracy?

As per Bill C-38 – last springs omnibus budget bill....

Members of the public who want to send a letter with comments to the NEB about a pipeline project must first apply for permission to participate – by filling out a 10-page form that includes a request for a resume and references. 
Under the new rules, any Ontario resident who lives along the 639-km pipeline route who wants to send in a letter about their concerns must first apply to the NEB for permission to send in a letter. As of today, the public will have just two weeks to fill out a 10-page form which asks for a resume and references.
Line 9 runs directly through the most populated part of the country, through backyards, under farms and next to schools. The pipeline crosses every Canadian river flowing into Lake Ontario, threatening the drinking water of millions.

The new rules for public participation include:

Members of the public must ‘apply for permission’ just to send in a letter.
Participants are limited to those who are ‘directly affected’, or have ‘relevant information’ neither of which are clearly defined.
There is only a two-week window for the public to apply to participate, after which members of the public will be excluded from the hearing process. This means that if a resident along the route finds out about the project after that window, they have no voice.
Applicants are asked to provide qualifications, such as a resume or reference letter.
The application form is 10 pages long.
The application is very difficult to find online.
The basis on which participants will be rejected or accepted is unclear.
In addition to the new barriers for public participation, Enbridge’s proposal won’t undergo an environmental assessment, also thanks to Bill C-38 which gutted environmental laws.

The above extracted from The Canadian Progressive World
By: Greenpeace Canada & Environmental DefencePress Release:
Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, April 7, 2013

An exercise in futility?

I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that my efforts in these pages to shed some light upon the various attacks upon our democracy, the ever increasing centralization of power in the hands of a few, our right to details of government spending and decisions, and our right to express our opinion upon those decisions both publicly and at the voting booth is an exercise in futility. I am fairly certain that the majority of those that read this blog are already well aware of such antidemocratic moves by governments and whilst the Harper Regime leads in such malfeasance it is by no means limited to the federal government, both provincial and municipal governments across the country are following their lead. Those that are not are probably beyond redemption. The attitude from many in a position of power seems to be 'if Harper can get away with so can we' , and many are 'bending' the rules on conflict of interest, public disclosure, the use of public funds and many other such things that used to be rare occurrences but now are 'the new normal'. There always has been, and always will be, those who abuse power but it now seems that be it federal, provincial or municipal politics the daily news contains a fresh 'allegation' of the abuse of power. Its outrageous, antidemocratic, and very very depressing for those of us that are taking any notice.

There will come a time for each of these governing bodies when the public will be given an opportunity to select new citizens to repression us in the various institutions but will those who are privileged to make such choices even bother, will they have the information to make informed choices, will the voting process be free of attempts to manipulate the vote? I think not.

Will those with the most money and thus the most 'advertising' budget fill the airwaves with stories about how good they are and how bad the other guy is, will such media overload contain little but personal attacks on the other guy and promises that will not be kept? There is no doubt about it.

Will any of them (apart from the Greens) make the reinstatement of honesty, integrity and democratic values a key part of their platform? I doubt it.

Will there in fact be anything worth salvaging on the federal scene in two more years, each piece of legislation jammed through the House removes more protection of our natural environment and resources, removes our ability to know about such actions and to be able to do anything about it should we object. Each day we see more and more power placed in the hands of a few, to the point where even those MPs who are members of the Harper caucus are starting to see that they are but pawns. They are perhaps the only ones who can stop the gradual slide towards dictatorship in the short term, but will they? They all seem to be in thrall with he of the smirk and glued on hair!

Here are a few of the recent items that I was going to write about but am too pissed off and depressed to find words to express my thoughts upon .....

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Kevin Page Reflects upon the Past 5 years.

I took the job when it was agreed that a few amazing and fearless public servants would join — namely, Mostafa Askari and Sahir Khan. We signed in proverbial blood. We vowed to give Canada a true legislative budget office. Nothing less. I chose career suicide. It was a very small price to pay. After all, I had lost a son; I was “out of range.”

Our institutions of accountability are in trouble. Parliament does not get the information and analysis it needs to hold the executive (the prime minister and cabinet) to account.”
What’s in it for the government to have a strong legislative budget office? Not much. What’s in it for Parliament and Canadians to have a strong budget office? Maybe a great deal. If it matters to you, please tell your elected representatives.”

Whats in it is indeed a great deal, if our parliamentarians do not have the facts how can they make informed decisions? Which is of course exactly why this department will go the way of our scientific and environmental government departments if the Harper regeme gets its way.

Thank you for speaking out Kevin, and thanks to all you staff who have supported you over the past 5 years. You are all true Canadian Hero's in my eyes. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers