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, 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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