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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