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, May 25, 2014

Ontario Election = Identification & Vouching

With all the publicity around the Federal 'Fair' Elections Act and the issue of vouching it is important to know that for the Ontario Provincial Election VOUCHING IS NOT PERMITTED. You must have proper identification in order to vote, if you are not on the voters list, do not receive a registration card indicating the poll location or do not have identification with your name and municipal address on it you may have a problem.

If you DO have the registration card you just need the card that was mailed to you with your name and address on it and one piece of identification with your name on it which must match the name on the voters list. It is unclear if the address information must exactly match if your ID has an address on it however the address information is not required to be on the ID if you have your card, just your name matching the list. If you are on the list but dont have your registration card you may be asked to compete and sign a statutory declaration before voting.

If you DO NOT get a registration card or the information on it is incorrect then you must have the voters list corrected or updated before you can vote (which can be done your poll location on the day or at your returning office any time). You will then need one piece of identification with your correct name and address and will be required to sign a form swearing as to you identity and address.
IMPORTANT – Your ID must have a street address or FIRE NUMBER on it, rural residents with ID that shows lot & concession, post office box# or RR# should be aware that it is NOT ACCEPTABLE when swearing as to residence! On Election day if you are not on the list you must also be at the correct poll location for your address in order to be put on the list OR have previously visited a returning office or satellite office location and been put on the list. (You can vote anytime at said satellite revisions offices once you are put on the list so there is no need for a second outing!)

The Notice of Registration card (NRC) may NOT be used as proof of name; the NRC may be used as proof of residence ONLY. An elector must show a second piece of identification to prove name. For more on acceptable identification go here . All of the above remains unchanged from the last Provincial Election.

Advanced polls are open from May 31st to June 6th from 10am till 8pm but it has been reported that NOT ALL LOCATIONS WILL BE OPEN ALL OF THOSE DAYS check if yours is open before you go!

Elections Ontario has a comprehensive web site with all the information you need here.

Voting day is June 12th and polls are open from 9am to 9pm. Please VOTE!

Disclaimer – The information above was taken directly from Elections Ontario sources and is believed to be correct but is given here as a guide and is not official. Any questions regarding identification required, or how and where to vote should be directed to your local returning office.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Election Act, Election Ont, Election Incentives

So the flawed “fair” Elections Act has now passed final reading with a few amendments that public pressure made the Cons include but without the dozens of amendments proposed by the opposition and without even considering the 75 amendments that the Greens were not permitted to table.

The Speaker upheld the decision of the House committee tasked with studying Bill C-23 to deny the Green Leader the right to present her amendments.
 “I am profoundly disappointed by today’s ruling,” said the MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands. “This decision undermines the ability of MPs from smaller parties and independent MPs to move amendments, our ability to improve legislation, and our ability to work on behalf of our constituents.”
Added May: "As the so-called Fair Elections Act is rammed through Parliament with debate limited at every turn, Parliament itself is diminished – Indeed, so is our democracy. Canadians need to remember that the opportunity to make this bill a positive step forward were rebuffed.

Indeed Democracy and Parliament has indeed been diminished by the way this fundamental change to our democratic process has been rammed through with no public or expert consultation, restricted debate and total disregard for the concerns of so many citizens that are directly affected by these changes. That Elections Canada is has further restrictions on their ability to Promote , Protect and Prosecute is the least of the things that remain wrong with this legislation. Almost daily the ability of our elected representatives to question and improve proposed legislation proposed by the government is diminished and the Harper Regime ignores parliamentary convention and bends the rules to consolidate their iron fisted grasp of power and democracy be damned!

With the increased interest generated by the the Harper Regimes attempt to suppress voter turn out and the recently called Ontario Election there has been a corresponding increase in calls for more fundamental changes in how we vote. The cry for 'Proportional Representation' is once again seeing more light, the ever decreasing percentage of citizens not bothering to vote whereby a majority government can be elected by less than a quarter of those eligible to vote has made some call for mandated voting. The issue of who should participate in televised debates and who should make such decisions is being discussed....again. There is little doubt that all these things and more need to be considered for we need to do SOMETHING to put the democracy back into our governance and the first part of doing that is for us to have confidence in our vote meaning something and at least some believe that those we vote for have represented their plans and intentions with honesty and integrity. These thing seem to be in steep decline and whilst HOW we elect them may improve the both the turn out and the result it is not anything that is going to happen anytime soon, the process which is not even on the radar at this point will be long and complex. That even those who advocate for change cannot agree on the type of voting system to be placed before the citizens for consideration cannot agree amongst themselves does not help. We want change but to what?

To state the obvious we need leaders we can trust to put the needs and values of Canadians before the thirst for power and ideological agendas. We need our local representatives, some of whom may actually have those values to be able to speak out, and vote, without censure for their constituents and not the party. We need better oversight of those who would break or bend the rules both elected and unelected party members, and the means to investigate and prosecute when appropriate, and yes, we need to reinstate and enhance Elections Canada ability to do those thing in regard to elections. We need to encourage folks of all ages and all social status to support our democracy by, as a minimum, getting them to vote, preferably from a position of knowledge not the 'stick a pin in the donkey' method.
Am I expecting any of these things to happen in the next 5 years, no, perhaps in the net decade if we all can keep those who can effect change from sliding down the slippery slope towards Oligarchy and Dictatorship.

Finally in a blog about democracy I can hardly ignore the fact that Ontario has been forced into an unnecessary, expensive and probably less than decisive early election. The spin, attacks and promises are well underway with little regard to whether they are factual, possible or will in fact be implemented if that particular party comes to power. With another minority government very probable such promises may well go the way the current minority government has gone.... down the tubes!
I will be very interested to see if Elections Ontario has dealt with two of the problems which reduced the turn out last time around, that of rural addressing and poll locations. I wont go into detail here but to say that so far as identification goes something with your fire code (same as a street number in urban areas) may be needed and as many folks documentation shows lot and concession or rural route number folks should check their ID and update it if necessary. The issue with poll location concerns the lack of 'wheelchair accessible' available buildings in rural areas resulting in residents having to travel some distance to where Elections Ontario have deemed a suitable location. If onIy we couId get a reIiabe on Iine voting system up and running. More on these issues as we get nearer the election date, I do note that revision and advanced poll locations will be open May 1st.
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Garbage in, Garbage out?

Having publicly available information on the well-being of our local communities and national numbers on employment, business viability, population etc etc is essential not only to keep the government 'honest' but to make local and governmental decisions affecting these things. At first glance then it would seem that the ongoing project to make such government data more readily available is a good thing, is it as Tony Clement would have us believe “proof of the governments openness and transparency”. Or, is it proof of the Harper Regimes inability to do anything right and a further coverup of the real data.
It seems that the data is not only incomplete due in large part to the cancellation of the long form census but is still almost impossible to find unless you know the exact details of the listing you are seeking AND it cost more to to collect this incomplete data.

The complaints echo an audit last week from the auditor general of Canada, who found the voluntary National Household Survey in 2011 cost taxpayers $22 million more than the mandatory long-form census it replaced — and produced far less reliable data.”
Statistics Canada eventually withheld the release of survey data for one of every four municipalities and other census sub-divisions because of the poor quality of the numbers.
"As a result of data not being released due to quality concerns, potential users of this data for approximately 25 per cent of geographic areas do not have reliable National Household Survey data available for their use," said Michael Ferguson's report.

So even if you can find details of how your area of the country is doing its all but useless in that it does not reflect the actual situation in your community.
'The single greatest complaint about the Federal Government's Open Data Portal was the quality of its search.'- Report to Treasury Board
"Almost without fail, the single greatest complaint about the Federal Government's Open Data Portal was the quality of its search," says the document.
"Participants talked of searching for data sets they knew existed but could not find without typing an exact phrase or knowing a key term."

Non of this is helped by the lack of links on much of the data to a particular area by postal code and the
reluctance of some researchers to use it brought on by a lawsuit launched by Canada Post against a small Ottawa company, Geolytica, claiming copyright on postal codes. SAY WHAT! So a public corporation (Canada Post) wants exclusive use of the postal code system, are they nuts and why is the Harper Regime wasting our money with lawsuits on such nonsense!

"Connecting data to geography is one of the most popular uses, both for analysis and application development," says the 13-page report from last June.
But users said they were spooked by a lawsuit launched by Canada Post against a small Ottawa company, Geolytica, claiming copyright on postal codes.
Through Geocoder.ca, Geolytica provides a downloadable database of postal codes that includes geographic boundary information. Canada Post launched its suit in March 2012, later claiming the phrase "postal code" is also a trademark.

So, if you find and use the data will you be sued for using it and is it accurate?

Treasury Board has since relaunched data.gc.ca, saying it has fixed most of the problems cited in the consultation sessions, including improved search functions and quality of metadata.
Time will tell if the 'improvements' have made the data easier to find bur how you can 'improve” the quality of the data when it has not been collected in the first place is questionable. Given that this data is (presumably) used by the Harper Regime to make decisions related to the workforce, the economy, social services etc that’s kinda scary. Or do they simply let political ideology lead the way? Oh, OK, no wonder the data is crap!

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

This and That – Distractions and Obfuscations

The ongoing Elections act cluster fk has successfully distracted from the latest omnibus budget from the Harper Regime, hardy a word has been seen about the 350 page “Harper Government Creating Jobs & Growth While Returning to Balanced Budgets With Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1.”. Yep, we are back to that H*&^%$# Government thing again to describe our Canada Government as run by the Harper Oligarchy and hardly a word about all the hidden things about food safety, rail safety, the appointment of judges and altering military ranks, and other stuff which has nothing to do with budgeting and should be (but wont be) dealt with separately.

With the S**t hitting the fan on the new rules and lack of oversight for the longstanding use of temporary foreign workers and the regimes insistence that Canadians don’t want the lower paying jobs whilst 1000s of families struggle to find ANY job to feed their families they have discontinued their use of Kijiji Ads to estimate the number of jobs available. Perhaps they should reinstate some funding for Stats Can and actually get some real figures. The government has said it is needed to fill a growing labour shortage, but experts, including the C.D. Howe Institute and numerous economists, have said the quality of Canada’s labour market data is so poor that it is impossible to know for sure whether there is a serious labour shortage. This may be a reflection of the jobs listed on the Government site which are not a real indication of anything, if you are looking for a job it is far more probable that it will be listed on a private site than the government site. That even their newly created job search engine is all but useless does not help, one cannot even search within a certain radius of your residence but land up looking at jobs 150miles away (but still within you “region” but not showing any closer but in another “region”). Of course they have now ruled that such workers cannot be used for low paying restaurant jobs but little is said about more meaningful and better paid jobs being filled by said part time residents from overseas.

The Ontario budget recently tabled is turning into another story of brinkmanship with the opposition partys in election mode = maybe, perhaps, if we can win! With the NDP and The Cons saying NO the Libs have now pulled the plug and we go to an election which almost certainly will result in another minority government (which is not at all bad) but they will ALL continue to put their own agenda and thirst for power BEFORE the ever struggling electorate. As with the federal scene we may well soon have a hard choice to make between the 'trying to make it work' the 'not sure about anything' the 'everything any one else does is bad' and the 'don’t stand a chance in hell' parties! Ah politics at its finest eh! Working together for the benefit of the electorate is the last thing on their mind, thats not news that’s reality! Let the over the top rhetoric and personal attacks begin......

Hardly unexpected, in the end, the clock ran out. A committee tasked with combing through the government’s 244-page overhaul of its election law altogether cut off its debate, no further through the bill than Page 47.
The government had set a May 1 deadline for the committee’s work, but it hadn’t finished with the divisive Fair Elections Act. And so the Conservative-dominated committee sped through the rest, with only voting and no debate. The government’s 45 amendments were passed and more than 200 from the opposition – all but a few minor ones – were rejected.
So for the second time debate on what well be the most important piece of legislation in decades and one that goes to the very root of our democracy was cut off. Not only that but at a point where only 47 of the 244 page bill was even looked at! What kind of democratic debate is that?
That ALL of the government amendments (mostly forced upon them by public and senate pressure) were debated and passed but few, if any, of the oppositions changes speaks loudly to the Harper Regimes disdain for due process and firm control over its flock of sheep. We could hope for a better result from the senate but given that their 'pre-study' recommendations have been taken up I don’t hold out much hope. As always the legislation will be jammed through despite unanimous opposition from all but the most diehard brainwashed Harper followers.

Oh Canada, wherefore art thou?

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